Chapter 12 : This is Blackmail
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((Disclaimer: I don’t own boredom.... and whoever invented it wasn’t very bright.))
When I woke up the next morning, it took me a moment to remember the cause of my stress, though Sirius was naturally the first thing to pop into my head. Rising slowly and pushing my blankets off me, it all came flooding back to me. Sirius stealing my bag, refusing to give me anything but my shirt and my wand, and the fact that we had a Quidditch game in a few hours. At the last thought, nerves filled my stomach, but not as much as Sirius having my Quidditch stuff did. Would he give them back before the game? Well, I supposed James would make him; otherwise I couldn’t play, which would obviously not make James happy. But would I get all my stuff back? I wouldn’t put it past Sirius to snoop through my stuff.
Well, now I was freaked out and worried, so instead of going back to sleep, impossible since the light of dawn was just starting over the mountains and streaming in through the curtains (I can never sleep when there’s too much light), I dragged myself out of bed and looked around at the other girls. Lily was still asleep, cuddled with her pillow and mumbling something quietly in her sleep, though I couldn’t hear whatever she was saying and I’m no great shot at lip-reading. Mira’s bed curtains were drawn, and Olivia had her face pressed into her pillow. How she could breathe that way was beyond me, but I could see her torso rising and falling with each draw of air. Melanie was stretched out in her bed, curtains half drawn, her arms outstretched and face turned toward the ceiling. Silent as darkness, and still wearing the old purple t-shirt and gray sweatpants that made up my pajama attire, I stole down the stairs. The common room was empty, which was completely expected, and the only sound as I trekked across it was the quiet sound of small fire burning in the grate.
Wondering vaguely if Apollo would be awake, and at the same time knowing that he wasn’t, I thought back on the past week. Our excursions to the library together were unfortunately not going unobserved. Gryffindors and Slytherins alike seemed unhappy with the fact that we were spending more time than was normal holed up there, and more than once, the Marauders and my friends tried to waylay me before I could meet up with my brother. Regardless, we’d still gotten a lot of research done, though none of it seemed to be very useful in my case.
We’d researched the Imperius Curse, but that didn’t seem likely because while the voice was present in my head and was trying to persuade me to do things, it couldn’t make me do things unless I completely lost control of myself. Also, the Imperius curse, once broken, resulted in no voice, and had to be re-cast upon the victim, and I was still hearing it in my head, encouraging homicide, and I was absolutely sure that no one had cast it on me recently.
We’d looked up stuff on Legilimency, mind reading, though that seemed to have very little to do with inserting thoughts into another’s mind and more to do with reading another’s mind. In addition, eye contact was almost always necessary, and a lot of times I was either alone or not looking in someone’s eyes while the voice was present.
There was a little something on a thing called a Blood Bond. That, however, sounded more like the connection that Apollo and I had, and off the top of my head, I couldn’t think of any of my kin who would want me to kill myself or others, and no one besides Apollo that I would share a bond with.
All of this pondering took place in the space of a minute, during which I was sneaking quietly up the staircase opposite the girls’ staircase. When I reached the door marked “Year 7,” I hesitated. They’d all be asleep, most likely, but if they weren’t, or if they woke up while I was nosing around in their dorm, they’d want to know what exactly I was doing, and I wasn’t keen on showing them how desperate I was for my articles to be out of Sirius’ hands. But really, I didn’t have much choice, because Sirius had my Quidditch robes and I couldn’t change into them if I didn’t have them. I had just reached out to turn the doorknob and push the door open, but the door opened before I’d even touched it. The stormy gray eyes of Sirius Black widened when he saw me standing there, but returned to normal size as he looked over his shoulder and then pushed me back to give himself room on the landing. He shut the door behind him and turned to look at me with the smug expression that one comes to expect of him.
“Up a bit early, aren’t you?” But I ignored him; I’d just noticed that my bag was slung over his shoulder, and his grip on the strap seemed to say that he didn’t plan on handing it over easy. He noticed my gaze; his smug look got smugger. “Ah, I see.”
“See what? How enormous a git you are?”
He just continued to smirk, taking off my bag and dropping it on the floor between us. I scowled at him.
“Couldn’t just hand it to me, could you? Oh, no, course not. Why would you hand it to me? There’s valuable things in there, so of course you had to drop it.”
“Oh, you shouldn’t worry, I took all the valuables out for you.” He said it as if he thought I’d be pleased, but his malicious grin destroyed all semblance of servility. I did my best to keep a false smile on my face, even though my stomach had just dropped in horror as I tried to remember what all I had in my bag.
“Oh, so you took all my knickers then? I know how much you enjoy taking girls’ knickers, after all.” I was glad to see a pink tinge in his cheeks.
“You should talk,” he retorted, and I felt my eyebrows rise above my hairline (perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration...). I blinked a couple times, trying to come up with a suitable comeback. Sirius smiled, obviously thinking he’d won.
“You know, that was rather low, but then, I suppose you have to be low. How else can you worship the ground I stand on?”
“Well, you be careful or that big head of yours will drag you right down to my level.”
“I’m pretty sure that’s not possible.”
“And I’m pretty sure you’re already on your way down. I’ll make sure to send you a postcard.”
I snorted and bent over to pick up my bag, only to straighten up, red-faced, with a yelp when he grabbed my butt. “What the bloody hell do you think you’re doing?” I hissed, hoping I hadn’t woken anyone up, as I didn’t want anyone to ask what was going on.
“Couldn’t resist, Gaunt. If you don’t want people grabbing your ass, you shouldn’t give them such easy targets.”
I could feel my nostrils flare as I inhaled indignantly and he sneered at me. Before I could start on him for being an arrogant, pompous bastard, however, he sauntered down the stairs, looking awfully chipper as he went. I shrugged my satchel over my shoulder with a glare before following him down to the common room, which was still deserted. Sirius had seized one of the comfy armchairs by the fire, reclining in it with a small smile on his face. Ostentatious little toe rag...
I chanced a glance at the window as I crossed the room, trying to ignore him, expecting to see the clear grounds and the sun shining over the mountains. Instead, I saw puffy white snowflakes, flakes that hit the glass and became a giant glob of water.
“Fuck,” I groaned. Sirius looked around at me curiously. “It’s fucking sleeting!” Sirius looked at the window too, and his smile widened.
“It’s a good thing you like a challenge then, cause that’ll definitely make it interesting.” He leaned back into his armchair and closed his eyes, smiling at the ceiling as though it were a good friend. I ignored him and trudged up the girls’ staircase to our bathroom. Stripping down and turning the shower on, I scowled at the wall. Halfway through my shower, I heard someone else come in.
“Ar?” Lily’s voice called, sounding as if she were still half asleep.
“Good morning, Lils,” I replied, scrubbing my scalp and rinsing it of shampoo.
“Excited for the game?”
“Totally!” I said, though my heart jumped with nerves and my pulse quickened at the thought of the coming match against Slytherin. “It’s sleeting.”
Lily cursed as the water came on in the stall next to me. I chuckled. “The weather’s been so nice lately. I guess it had to turn sooner or later.”
“Yeah. So, Lils, are you gonna wish James luck?”
There was a soft thump as Lily dropped her soap on the ground. “Er, I dunno, maybe if I see him...” she muttered so quietly that I barely heard her as she stooped to pick it up. I giggled. I could almost see her face turning pink.
“You guys gonna go on another date soon?”
“Are you and Sirius gonna go on another date soon?”
Now I dropped my conditioner bottle, resulting in a slightly louder thud. “Are you kidding? Lils, you saw—“
“I know, I know!” she laughed. “We don’t need a repeat of last time!”
“You’re telling me,” I mumbled to myself, thankful that the stream of water enabled me to hide my voice. I shut off said stream, pulling my towel off the rack and wrapping it around me. I dressed in silence, allowing Lily to shower in peace. When I had pulled on my Quidditch robes and my trainers, I said, “I’ll see you later.”
“Yup!” Lily yelled back.
I swept back to my dorm, where Melanie was now stirring feebly in her half-concealed bed, but Mira and Olivia were still sleeping soundly. I went directly to my bed, dumping the contents of my bag onto the mattress. There were my robes, my transfiguration book, my weathered old spare trainers; my Quidditch gloves were there, as were my spare quills, inkbottles, and parchment, and my reading book (a muggle novel called The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart). A fine amount of returned essays, Charms notes, and random letters that I had started to write to my mother and father but never finished were scattered among the items. I sifted through the former contents of my school bag, trying to figure out if anything was missing. As far as I could tell, nothing was missing. But then, what had Sirius meant when he’d said he’d taken out all the valuables?
Well, obviously he’d been taking the piss. Nothing was missing. I piled the stuff back in my bag, except for my Quidditch gloves, and threw my bag back onto the bed. I turned to leave the room, and Melanie was staring at me.
It was weird. Her bed curtains were still half-closed, but she sat propped up on her elbows, swathed in her blankets, and she was staring at me, her brown eyes wide. It seemed as though she had sat up, caught sight of me, and froze as if she’d been struck deaf and dumb. Her expression seemed to say that she had reached a sort of epiphany, some sort of realization, as if she was suddenly seeing me in a new light. The gaze was actually kind of creeping me out, so I gave her a what-the-fuck look and strode to the door.
“Wait!” Melanie exclaimed suddenly. I stopped, hand on the doorknob, and looked back at her, more than a bit surprised that she was speaking to me. Typically, unless we were antagonizing each other, we ignored each other, avoided each other in fact (as I said, unless we were antagonizing each other). She climbed out of bed, one of the straps of her spaghetti strap tank top hanging off her shoulder. I remained frozen at the door, rather hoping that Lily wasn’t about to barge in while I was standing there (that might have hurt...). She fixed her strap back on her shoulder, looking me up and down.
“Yes?” I asked when she didn’t elaborate on why I was standing at the door and not in the common room. She shook her head, seemingly coming back from Lalaland, and got a hard look on her face.
“I need to talk to you. But I don’t want to be seen doing it. I want you to meet me in that empty classroom across from that ugly statue of Erwin the Elder on the fifth floor at 9:30. If you don’t... something bad will happen.” Her face was completely serious, and so was her tone. I gaped at her, the corners of my mouth twitching while I tried to keep from laughing.
“Are you threatening me?” I asked, amused by my amused tone.
“You tell me.” She didn’t explain this further, but pushed past me to the staircase and disappeared, presumably to the bathroom.
“Okay...” I said to myself, wondering if I should heed this threat. Still contemplating this strange attitude, I walked out the door and down to the common room. It was still quite empty, though by now there were a half a dozen other students in there besides Sirius. Sirius, it seemed, had not moved from his armchair, but James had joined him, and James smiled and waved when he caught sight of me. Sirius looked around and smirked at me. I waved at the pair of them, more to James (obviously) and headed for the portrait hole, too jittery to sit and wait for the others to get ready.
I arrived in the Great Hall extremely early, so early, in fact, that I was the first one there. I took a spot at the far end of Gryffindor table, and grabbed myself some toast as I looked at my watch. 8:00 AM, it read. So I had an hour and a half to decide if I was going to meet Melanie on the fifth floor or not. I spent so much focus debating that I didn’t even notice the Great Hall getting fuller by the minute, or that James and Sirius had joined me. Well, I didn’t notice them until Sirius threw a grape at me and it hit me in the eye.
“That’s what you get for not listening to me when I’m being polite.”
James rolled his eyes as I threw the remainder of my toast at Sirius and started rubbing my eyeball. “All right, you two, cut it out, would you? Game starts in a few hours and I don’t need you two getting into some fight just because you’re both acting like three-year-olds.”
We both scowled, but obeyed. I ate the grape that Sirius had thrown at me, and then poured myself some cereal. James and Sirius mimicked me, pouring their own bowls. James, however, hardly touched his, hissing our plays under his breath at us instead.
“So if the chasers try that play on us they did last year, Ar, you go right, I go down, Padfoot goes up, and then Artemis gets the Quaffle and—“
“Prongs, we know the plays, can I please eat my cereal in peace?” Sirius begged, holding his laden spoon halfway to his mouth.
“You know, I forgot something in my dorm, I’ll be back in a few,” I said, leaving the two guys to argue about our Quidditch plays and how important last minute run-throughs were.
At the statue of Erwin the Elder, I looked at my watch again. 9:23 AM. I sighed, wondering why the hell I was doing this. Melanie was annoying. She was probably still upset about last week’s “date” with Sirius and was gonna chew my ass off for it. It would be a waste of my time, but I supposed it was better than sitting around listening to James whisper advice under his breath and to the rest of the team complain about it. Taking a great breath, wishing I were already playing in the game, I pushed the classroom door open.
I was immediately assailed by the dirty smell of dust and the darkness of the classroom pressed against my retinas. I flicked my wand and the torches along the wall immediately burst into light. The place was covered in dust, obviously undisturbed for quite a while. I wondered if this was where Sirius and Melanie had first—
I cut that thought off before it was finished and made my way to the teacher’s desk at the head of the room, which was covered in dust like everything else. “Tergeo,” I muttered, cleaning the corner of the desk off and settling myself on it to wait for the Melanie. I tucked my wand back into my pocket and gave the room another look over. It was unremarkable, however, and quickly my focus was on the nerves that were starting to make my stomach heave.
So bored... the voice murmured softly. Why don’t you just—
Sod off, damn it! I’m just fine without you!
I could feel the aggravation of the other consciousness, but at that moment the door opened and Melanie walked in.
She looked rather surprised to see me. She must have thought that there was no way that I would meet her anywhere. I wondered if she was disappointed. Now whatever bad thing she had planned had I not shown up couldn’t be put into action. She recovered and marched up to where I was sitting, looking awfully determined. She waved her wand at the door and it shut and locked itself, a fact that made me even more anxious than I already was. A locked door meant business, though I couldn’t imagine what kind she could possibly mean by it. She stopped and stared at me, the same way she had earlier. I sighed.
“Okay, I’m here. What do you want?”
She drew a haughty breath and started. “I want you to do something for me. I’ve thought long and hard about how to get Sirius to fall back in love with me, and I’ve finally come up with a good plan.”
I snorted. “You want me to do something for you? Yeah right. I’ve got Quidditch soon, I haven’t got time—“
“I know you’re busy today, so just shut up and listen. I know how to get him back, it’s a flawless plan. He doesn’t want to go out with me anymore, he’s interested in new stuff. New stuff as in stuff he doesn’t already have. So here’s what you’re going to do: you’re going to get him to go out with you.”
I burst out laughing. “You’ve got to be kidding me!” I cackled, gasping for air. She glared at me. “The day Black and I actually start going out is the day house elves revolt and take over the world!”
“You did it last week.”
“Well, yeah!” I gasped, still laughing hysterically, tears coming to my eyes. “But that was because I had to! I didn’t have a choice if I wanted Lily to go with James! What the hell would I get from this? What the hell would you get from this?”
“If you’d shut up, maybe I’d get to that part!” I made an attempt to stop laughing and succeeded (at least, I sort of succeeded; I burst out into random giggles, but it was just such a funny notion!). “As I was saying, you’re going to get Sirius to go out with you, to fall in love with you. Don’t interrupt me!” she hissed, holding up a warning finger before I could tell her that this was the stupidest thing I’d ever heard in my life. “I don’t care how you do it; you can pull out all the stops if you like, but you’re going to do it. And then you’re going to dump him. He’ll be so torn up about how cruel you are that he’ll come crawling back to me!”
I stared at her, torn between disapproval and amusement. Most of all, I was rather impressed. It was a good plan, had it not been so far-fetched and near impossible to pull off. “I see. You know, that is just low. Even I wouldn’t do something like that to him, and I hate him.” To my surprise, Melanie smiled.
“Oh, you’ll do it,” she whispered, and I swear her eyes turned red for a second. “You’ll do it, because if you don’t, I’ll tell everyone your deepest, darkest secret.”
I resisted the terrible urge to smile, but my mouth twitched and my eyebrows rose. I opened my mouth, and then shut it again, considered what I was going to say carefully. Finally, I said, “What exactly would that be, pray tell?”
Her smile widened, and I could tell that she was taking great delight in this. Her perfect white teeth flashed in the torchlight. “Oh, well, why don’t you tell me?”
“Oh, that same old answer. I can’t tell what goes on in your head, Jordan, I don’t think in stupid.” She continued to smile, which I’ll admit was extremely unnerving. “I don’t think you know any of my secrets, let alone my, er, ‘deepest, darkest secret.’ In fact, I think you’re just trying to scare me into doing something for you, and it’s not working! Like I said, I’ve got things to do, so I’m going to leave.”
I jumped off the desk and was halfway to the door when she said quietly, “You’re related to Salazar Slytherin, and I’ve got proof.” I stopped. “And that’s not all. I’ve got plenty of information on you that I’m sure everyone would die to hear, your relation to Slytherin is just the beginning.” All the imbecility of the situation had suddenly gone.
Crap. And she had proof... was it possible she was bluffing?
Kill her! the voice yelled gleefully. My hand was halfway to my wand before I stopped myself. As much as I would have liked to hex Melanie Jordan, I didn’t really want to kill her. At least, I didn’t think I did. But the voice in me did, and I had to keep control. I took a deep breath and turned back to face her.
Well, this was quickly turning into a crappy day. “Even if I agreed to do it, I couldn’t do it. It’s impossible! There is no way that Black would fall in love with me. And without that, your whole plan falls to pieces.”
And now that smug smile on her face was starting to infuriate me. “Oh, I’m sure you could find a way. Like I say, he’s after something new, something different. And he’s definitely attracted to you, if you look carefully. Course, you couldn’t tell because he only looks at you when you aren’t looking, but he is. It’s a small step from attraction to infatuation.”
“This is the stupidest thing I’ve heard come out of your mouth, Jordan, and that is saying something.”
“Maybe so, but if it works, it’ll be pretty smart, won’t it? And you really don’t have any choice, Gaunt. You either do it, or I’ll tear apart any form of a reputation that you have.”
I was silent for a few minutes. “You realize blackmail’s illegal, right?” I asked finally. She just smirked, and she knew I would do it, because I knew I had no choice. The thought that Melanie Jordan was blackmailing me into seducing Sirius Black was absurd, was shameful, and was almost physically painful. I nodded, and pain erupted in my head.
Kill her! Kill her!
Shut... up! I screamed at it. I forced myself to calm before I did something rash and either hurt Melanie or myself or got myself expelled from school. Breathing through my nose, I hissed, “Fine. I’ll do it. If you tell anyone...” I looked down at my watch and jumped. It was nearly time for the team to head down to the pitch, and James would probably kill me if I was late. I shot a final glare at the brunette and whirled around, leaving the room with a ton more nerves than I’d entered it with.
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