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Chapter 12 : I'm Fine
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Also, this chapter is dedicated to HPsmartone32 for reviewing every chapter at once, and to StepUpx Gryffindor who has been reading and reviewing since the beginning! Thanks guys!
Chapter Image by DJjazzyCarlton@TDA
“Please tell me?”
“Londy! I’m not telling you! Even if there was something to tell. Which there’s not.”
“Debbie you already basically confessed it to me. Everything apart from the name. Please! I’m begging you, this is killing me!” Her eyes were hysterically wide and she was hanging dramatically onto the sleeve of my jumper.
Londy Nara wasn’t used to not getting her own way. She was an only child, the only girl in a friendship group of mainly males, the one with the loudest, most high-pitched voice that was always heard. Oz liked to think that he was the one who didn’t let her get her own way, using his authority in Quidditch to aggravate her, but after numerous and lengthy rows she usually got her own way in the end.
Now, it seemed, I was the one with the ability to withstand her relentless nagging. It had been almost a month and I wasn’t giving in. Not a day passed without her asking me who my Mystery Guy was, and I hadn’t told her. It was driving her insane.
I was bloody proud of myself.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I smiled sweetly, grabbed my broomstick and made a dash for it out of the changing rooms. I could hear her growling in annoyance – she couldn’t follow me because she’d spent the time that I was getting changed trying to get me to confess. Unsuccessfully.
The pitch was empty. It was so tempting to just mount my broom and enjoy the feeling of speeding through the crisp, cool morning air but I couldn’t. Sighing, I made my way out of the stands and craned my neck to see where the boys were. Already on their way back from the forest. Excellent. Londy and I had some catching up to do.
It was ridiculous. Oz was sticking with his stupid ‘cardiovascular fitness’ plan and we weren’t allowed to fly until we’d run the required laps. It was alright back in the days when it was just two laps – it’s quite funny now to think how Londy and I struggled – but he increased it almost every session, especially in the run-up to matches, and now we were lucky if we were airborne forty-five minutes into training.
I considered waiting for Londy but the idea of getting the laps over with and being able to fly were more appealing than her niggling. That was the downside of our newly acquired fitness - we wouldn’t get out of breath as quickly so there was plenty of time for her to nag me.
I set off quickly, getting into the rhythm in only a few steps. I used to find running a chore. It was hard and boring and left me with nothing to occupy myself with but the regular sound of my footsteps and breathing, which I then tried to overanalyse and control and ended up convinced I was on the verge of death.
But now it was different. It must have been the practice, the way it had become a habit. I could tune out my breathing and footsteps – they’d adjust themselves – and enjoy the peace and quiet, the time to think, the powerful feel of my legs underneath me.
The boys were crossing my path on their way back, barging and racing each other in a really mature manner.
“You OK, Deb?” Freddie asked as he passed.
“Fine, you?” I asked, automatically.
“Fine.” He answered over his shoulder, having already passed.
“All right, Little Deb?” Ro asked, on Freddie’s heels.
“Yes thanks,” I would have rolled my eyes but they were both already out of earshot.
However irritated I acted with Londy and her persistent questions and mockery, it was a bit of a relief. If I didn’t have her noisy, bubbly… annoyingness, I don’t know what I would have done.
Since we’d got back from visiting our Dad, Freddie’s main concern had been for my wellbeing. Don’t get me wrong, I was grateful that he was looking out for me and everything, but it had been almost a month. I hadn’t had a nervous breakdown yet and I didn’t have one planned in the near future.
Alright, so I’d withdrawn into a silent, nervous shell for the rest of the day after we left him.
Alright, so I could hear Freddie’s words “You killed her…” in my ears as I tried to get to sleep.
But I was fine. We’d done it – severed all ties – and it was going to be ok. I had my real family, my brother and my friends.
If only they would stop bugging me.
So I had him asking after me every minute and a half, I had Sirius not at all satisfied by my reassuring him that I was fine, and just to add to the list of people keeping an eye on me, Freddie had told Ro.
That left me with three fiercely loyal boys constantly pestering me about how I was, and then Freddie had decided that because he’d told Ro, I should tell Lily. Which of course meant adding a James Potter to my list of overprotective male keepers.
I couldn’t even go to the loo without someone demanding to know where I was going and if I was OK.
Before, training used to be the part of my day that was a bit of a chore, what with all the fitness drills and laps and all that. Now it was my break from the suffocating questions and nervous looks. We were kept busy enough for Freddie and Ro to have to refrain from checking up on me more than five or so times in two hours. Which was a drastic improvement.
I even occasionally found myself seeking out Blakely’s cheerful, hyperactive company rather than my brother’s. That was a scary thought.
“So, Deb…” Freddie began, as the seven of us made our way up to the Great Hall for breakfast after training.
“Don’t even bother asking if I’m OK.” I said, sweetly but dangerously.
He didn’t even look abashed, “I was just checking…”
“Well don’t.” I kept the sweet smile on my face but my teeth were gritted.
When we got to the Great Hall I began to make my way automatically over to where I could see Lily’s distinct redhead with the two dark heads of James and Sirius, but was stopped by an arm thrust in front of me.
“Where are you going?” Oz demanded.
“Um, to sit with Lily?” I said, uncertainly. “Is that OK?”
I meant it sarcastically.
“You shouldn’t really be sitting with them.” Oz pulled a repulsed face as he nodded in James and Sirius’ direction, as if acknowledging them was equivalent to snogging them.
“I – what?”
“They’re the opposition! They’ll do anything they can to jeopardise our chances -”
“Oz, we’re not even playing them, we’re playing Hufflepuff. In two months time. They’re playing Slytherin tomorrow.” I spoke slowly, he was clearly deranged. I blame the excessively long training session and the heat – he was probably dehydrated.
“- But they’re smart –“
I looked doubtfully over to the Gryffindor table. James was seeing how many slices of toast he could fit in his mouth. Sirius was snorting and trying to poke more in around the edges.
“- They could try and manipulate you!” Oz ranted.
I could see James choking, but he still was trying to cram more in his mouth. Idiot.
“Oz, I should go before my friend suffocates on toast. But I will be on the lookout for any sly, manipulative schemes they have going.” I looked pointedly in the direction of the boys. James had spat out about a mush of toast and was currently being screamed at by Lily, who had been caught in the cross-fire of spit.
I hurried over to them, ignoring Oz’s grumblings, just in time to hear Lily shriek, “It’s not remotely funny! I have your saliva on my face!”
It was actually pretty funny. Not that I’d say that to her.
“Some people would trade their wands for that!” James claimed with a stupid grin, wiping his mouth.
“Don’t be ridiculous.” Lily glowered and pushed her bowl of cereal away from her, “I don’t even dare eat this now, it’s probably contaminated.”
“I’ll have it.” James pulled the bowl towards himself and tucked in, oblivious to mine and Lily’s looks of revulsion.
“You’re right, James, you’re quite the catch,” I said, careful to sit on Lily’s other side, away from him.
“Hey Deb,” He grinned, showing me his mouthful of cereal. Boys are lovely. “How’re you feeling?”
That was about the tenth time I’d been asked that, and it wasn’t even nine o’clock in the morning yet. I glared and didn’t bother responding.
Bad idea. That caught the attention of the idiot who was rivalling my brother for the position of Most Worried Prat.
“What’s wrong?” Sirius asked, immediately, “Are you alright? What -”
“I’m fine.” My teeth were clamped together. If I was sitting with Londy and Blakely I wouldn’t get this. Unfortunately they were sitting with Freddie and Ro. And Oz, who was probably still in a strop with me for sitting with my oh so clever and manipulative rivals.
I couldn’t bear the three pairs of anxious eyes on me. I snatched up a handful of toast and stood up. The eyes followed my movement.
“I’m going for a walk.” I announced. I could see Sirius about to make a movement so I added, “On my own.”
Lily nodded and gave a half-smile. She was perceptive enough to know that I was annoyed rather than on the brink of a delayed, traumatised collapse, unlike the boys.
Sirius’ expression was unreadable as I left the table, but I was so frustrated with the smothered feeling I didn’t even feel bad.
The corridors were almost empty, with just a few keeno’s heading to their lessons early. I took pleasure in the sound of my footsteps on the stone floor as I stomped along in no particular direction.
Stupid Freddie. Stupid Sirius. Stupid Ro and James. Why couldn’t they just leave me to cope with it all in my own way? Did they really think I was such a fragile little girl that I needed these constant reminders that they cared? I knew they cared, for crying out loud.
My hands were shaking as I turned a corner so I clenched them into tight fists.
Alright, so I may have been a little over reliant on my brother in the past. And Ro. And Sirius and James… but I was almost seventeen! I could cope on my own just fine, I hadn’t needed their protection for ages.
Apart from that time in the Slytherin match. And with that git McCann on James’ team. And –
Oh this was ridiculous. I didn’t even need them then, I didn’t get a sodding choice! I just –
I was so absorbed in my internal rant that I didn’t pause in my stamping when I heard a voice. It had to repeat itself to be heard.
“Debbie, I… are you -”
That time I took it in. Yet another person asking me if I was alright. The anger that I’d been releasing slowly suddenly flooded into my veins in one swift wave and I whirled around.
“Am I alright?” I yelled in the persons face, not taking in who it was in the slightest. “I’ll be just fucking fine if you all just leave me alone!”
I took a breath and for the first time looked at the person doing the asking.
It wasn’t Freddie or Ro. Or Sirius or James.
“Um, ok?” It was a total stranger. Poor git. “I just… you dropped your essay… I, er, it fell out of your bag and…” He looked a tad on the nervous side as he held out a couple of sheets of parchment. But I was still fuming enough to snatch it out of his hand with a death glare.
“Thanks.” I didn’t sound the slightest bit grateful. I was just about to turn around and recommence my stomping but he spoke again.
“Are you sure you’re alright?”
I suppose I couldn’t blame him. It was even quite nice of him to ask, considering I had just most likely sprayed him with spit in anger. How was this stranger supposed to know that I was asked that horrendously annoying question every other minute?
But in my state I didn’t care.
“Did you not hear me say to just leave me alone?” I practically screamed, “But of course you don’t care. Just add yourself to the growing list of overbearing males in my life -”
That halted me. Only one person in the world called me that. It stopped me in the tracks of my irrational rage at this poor randomer long enough to take in his bewildered expression and all of a sudden the anger drained out of me. I released my fists and exhaled slowly.
The anger was gone.
Leaving just embarrassment. And mortification. And humiliation. And did I mention embarrassment?
I couldn’t look at the guy in front of me, but Sirius appeared behind me and glared at my unfortunate victim. Just what the poor sod needed, another person mad at him for no good reason.
“Who are you?” Sirius asked, rudely. “And what are you doing pissing off my mate?”
He put a hand on my waist which, just moments ago would have probably made me flip my lid and smack him around the head, but now it calmed me.
What was with my bloody unreasonable reactions? First I turn on an innocent guy who was just nice enough to return my essay to me, then I don’t even get angry at the guy who I’m actually mad at.
“I’m Ray. Ray Quinn -” Hold on, I knew that name. “And I wasn’t pissing her off. Not intentionally anyway.”
Ray Quinn. The Prefect With The Gorgeous Eyes. The one Lily had been so determined to set me up with for a whole half an hour before she forgot about it. The one who I’d had to apologise to after…
Balls. The one I’d screamed bloody murder at for spilling drink on me.
“Ray, I’m so sorry!” I cut across what was probably going to be another aggressive comment from Sirius, to apologise. “I wasn’t angry at you, I just… you were just kind of in the wrong place at the wrong time… and I’m just really sorry.”
He just looked even more bewildered. Well, I had screamed at him, apologised nicely, not seen him in a good few months, screamed at him again, then apologised nicely again. Poor git probably thought I had Multiple Personality Disorder.
“Oi. Quinn. The lady apologised to you.” Sirius barked, pulling me closer by the waist.
“Don’t be such a git, Black.” I scolded him and wriggled out of his grip.
“He’s just… gawking at you!” Sirius said, as if Ray wasn’t right in front of him.
“I don’t blame him! I shrieked my head off at him! Twice. Seriously Ray, I’m really sorry…” This was getting more embarrassing by the moment.
“Listen, don’t worry about it. It’s fine, honestly. It’s, uh… interesting, to say the least. Brightens up a dull day, I guess.” Ray grinned.
“Uh, anytime?” I smiled brightly, while Sirius scowled.
“I still have to make it up to you for spilling drinks over you, don’t I?” Ray looked a little sheepish at the memory and scratched his head in an anxious way that reminded me of the way James messed up his hair.
Sirius’ glare deepened, but Ray didn’t seem to notice.
“Nah, I said you didn’t have to worry about that,” I said, thinking that now would probably be a good time to end the conversation and get Sirius out of there.
“And I insisted that I wanted to.” He definitely had some kind of a death wish. “Are you going to Hogsmeade on Sunday?”
Bloody hell, I thought Ro was oblivious to tense atmosphere’s, but Ray was in a league of his own.
“Yeah, I’m going with my friend Lily,” I emphasised, “You know Lily Evans? She’s a prefect too -”
“Yeah, I know her. Well maybe I’ll see you there?” Ray asked, keeping his gaze firmly on mine and not casting even the smallest glance in Sirius’ direction. Maybe he wasn’t so ignorant after all.
“Maybe!” I started to walk away, “We have to go to Potions… so, uh, bye!”
Sirius stood glowering at Ray’s departing back for far too long.
“Are you checking out his arse?” I asked, folding my arms impatiently.
“What, like he was checking you out?” Sirius retorted, moodily.
“It was obvious.”
“When exactly? When I was screaming at him? Or when you were ordering him to accept my apology?”
He just stood there sullenly with his hands in his pockets. Why did he have to look so infuriatingly attractive when he was brooding? I should be mad at him – he’s being smothering in every way – but instead I can’t help studying the way his hair hangs a little over his forehead casting his eyes in shadow, and the way his bottom lip is jutted out.
“You know what I’m going to say.” Sirius didn’t look up from the floor but I knew he had to feel my exasperated glare on him.
“Yeah.” I did.
“And you know what I’m going to say.” I replied, calmly.
“Dee, please -”
“We are not telling people!” I threw up my hands and hissed, trying to keep my voice down now that the corridors were becoming more crowded with people making their way towards their first lesson.
“Don’t you think we’ve kept it quiet for long enough?” He hissed in return, lifting his eyes to make them bore into mine. Cheers, thanks a lot. Not at all distracting.
“No! We said summer…” The words sounded pathetic and over-repeated even to my own ears. I’d lost count of the number of times I’d made this argument. It barely even made sense to me any more.
“How much longer are you going to make me sit and watch stuff like that?” He jerked his head in the direction that Ray had taken off in, “Because I don’t reckon it’ll be much longer before I lose it with someone -”
“Oh, listen to it,” I scoffed, “Stop being a drama queen…”
“I’m not. Look I always knew you had half the guys here after you -”
“Are you taking the piss?” I interrupted.
“What? No -” He sounded confused.
Bloody hell, he genuinely thought I was pursued by scores of blokes.
I didn’t put him right though. Let him see how it feels knowing that the vast majority of the school are lusting someone that you’re with. And the rest have already had him. Oh no, wait, that was just with Sirius.
“- I just can’t deal with it anymore, Dee, I’m sorry. I know I’m being an annoying prat but I’ve been patient long enough…”
Patient? Did that include the time he wanted to decapitate McCann? Or the time he set about beating Avery to a pulp? Or…
“Alright, there’ve been some slip-ups. But you can’t blame me, you’re around blokes all the time…”
Like my brother? And Ro? Hardly the biggest sexual predators in the school. Nope, that prize would go to you, mate.
This was ludicrous. We were arguing about the gangs of guys that hunted me down in mad lust. The ones that I was rather sure didn’t exist.
“Look,” I took the hand he was brandishing and tugged him down the corridor towards the dungeons. The halls were filling up quickly as people hurried to their classes so there was really no room for a row to break out. Especially a secret one. “You’re being stupid. We’ve just walked past about thirty girls, all of whom tried to get your attention, and thirty guys, none of whom showed the slightest interest in me -”
“They did -”
“Well if they did it’s because I probably look like I’m considering murdering you. Which I am, by the way, because you’re being dumb.”
“Yeah, but I don’t encourage The Slags -” Sirius maintained.
“And I do?” I demanded in a shrill voice, a pitch that was almost worthy of Londy. It hurt my ears.
“No, I didn’t mean -”
“Are you calling me a slag?” I whirled to a halt outside Potions before turning my back on him to enter the dungeon.
“No! I wasn’t. Stop it, you’re confusing me -”
“You’re an idiot.” I scowled at him and flounced off to my seat. Yes, I did flounce. I’ve seen Lily do it enough when she turns her back on James after a squabble, or when me, Sirius and James are pestering her for the answers for various homework assignments.
Unfortunately it didn’t have the desired dramatic effect because he sat next to me.
Still he must have at least noticed my flouncing because he didn’t say anything for the next few minutes. Either that or he’d discovered some newfound respect for Professor Slughorn and was actually listening to the Jelly Man talk.
Nah, definitely the flouncing.
I went to fetch the ingredients from the cupboard in a dignified manner and even graciously got Sirius’ for him too seeing as he was sulking. Or brooding. Very sexily.
And he didn’t even thank me. Ungrateful sod.
“You shouldn’t be frustrating me,” Sirius told me, childishly, after being self-righteously quiet for a few minutes. “James’ll kill you.”
“What?” I asked, preoccupied with finding the right page in the textbook.
“He’ll kill you for winding me up the day before the Slytherin match,” Sirius informed me, not bothering to open his own book and dragging mine into the centre of the desk to share it.
“I’m not winding you up…” I objected.
“Why do I feel wound up then?” He snapped back.
“Whose wound up?” James chose that moment to start listening. He turned around in his seat, leaving a boiling potion unattended. Rather than looking apologetic at Lily’s scolding “James!” he grinned elatedly and mouthed “She called me James!” with a thumbs up.
“Dee’s winding me up.” Sirius said at once. Tell-tale.
“I am not!”
“Deb!” James flipped into Outraged Captain mode. “He needs to be relaxed, the match is in approximately twenty-six hours -” Definite Nerd. “- He needs to be relaxed! What did you do?”
I opened my mouth stupidly, because it wasn’t like I was about to say “Oh yeah, because my secret boyfriend – your bestie, by the way – wants to go public and I’m not having it because you’ll just… yeah you’ll just explode rather like you’re doing now.”
“Is this because she told you that you couldn’t go for a walk with her?” Oh smashing, Lily also joined in the conversation.
“Um…” What? That was ridiculous! Why would he be in a mood about that?
“It is, isn’t it. You two are so petty with your arguments. Remember at Christmas when they fell out for a week over a broken broomstick?” Lily and James laughed rather rudely at our expense.
Wait, they believed that? Bloody hell, we were pathetic.
“You broke Padfoot’s broomstick?” James demanded, suddenly anxious.
“No, uh… he broke mine…” I invested hastily before that vein in James’ forehead burst.
“Oh, that’s alright then,” He looked hugely relieved. “How did he break it? They have hugely powerful charms on them so it’s usually really difficult to break them…”
There was a short pause.
Why? Why did I have to come up with elaborate lies about something that happened five months ago and cope with the hostile rays emanating from the boy next to me, who apparently hadn’t completely gotten over his hissy fit?
“He sat on it.” I came out with abruptly. Oh well done, brain, because that’s not what the bloody contraptions are actually for, is it?
Predictably, there was a moment of confused silence.
“He sat on your broomstick?”
“And it broke?”
James frowned sceptically for a moment leaving a bit more of an awkward silence that I thought ought to be filled.
“He’d just eaten.” I was an actual genius. Merlin only knows how I think of these excuse. I might write a book. It would be called “Shitty excuses for shitty twats who won’t ever get out of trouble because their excuses are so shitty.”
No one would buy it.
Lily looked a little perplexed, but thankfully she’d never picked up a broom, or a book about brooms, since her failure at flying in first year, so she wasn’t fully aware of the ridiculousness of my statement.
James on the other hand opened his mouth.
But was interrupted by a bellow of “Potter, Evans, your potion! Quick!” from a vexed Slughorn.
They spun around hurriedly to see their ominous dark brown potion frothing madly and slopping chaotically over the edges onto the desk.
Their own fault for being so keen as to have started making the bloody potion already. Mine and Sirius’ caldron was a bit on the empty side. As in completely.
Fortunately this occupied them for the rest of the lesson, along with the four rolls of parchment on how important attentiveness is in potion-making that Slughorn set them. He stopped just short of giving them both detention when Lily pointed out that Slughorn himself had actually done nothing to help, it had only been quick-thinking and teamwork on hers and James’ behalf that had stopped their potion digesting the entire desk while Slughorn looked on in horror.
Having no answer for this, Slughorn guffawed jovially and waddled back to his desk muttering about how Lily should have been a Slytherin. She politely told him to stuff it, making him chortle even more.
See, if I’d said that I’d find myself scrubbing bed pans in the hospital for the rest of the year before you could say stuff anything.
Bloody Prefect Evans.
So Lily and James were occupied, rectifying their potion and bickering about whose fault it was and who was the one who saved it. All thoughts of broken broomsticks forgotten. Thank Merlin.
However, after a period of uncomfortable quiet as we set about finishing… or starting, whatever… our own potion, this left me and Sirius free to… er… dispute in whispers.
“See, that would have been a perfect opportunity to tell them,” Sirius muttered under his breath.
“In the middle of Potions? With a fizzing concoction of God knows what bubbling over behind them? Yeah, you’re right, that would have ended well.” I whispered back sarcastically.
“I just mean, there wouldn’t have been that awkwardness.” Sirius retorted, “And you wouldn’t have had to lie. Because you’re shit at it, by the way…” Yes, yes. We all know that smart-arse. “… I don’t like it that we both have to lie to our best mates.”
He had a point. I didn’t know what to say to that. So I paid more attention to skinning my shrivelfig than I usually would have whilst he carried on.
“I know why you didn’t want to tell them in the first place, and I get that. Not what I wanted but I get it. But now don’t you think they’re just going to be more mad at us the longer we keep it from them?” Sirius persisted in the face of my silence.
“Well… yeah,” I could picture the hurt look on Lily’s face. I’d seen a shadow of it when I’d finally told her the whole truth about my Mum and Dad. But then I’d at least had a reason to keep it to myself. This sort of thing was best friend territory – the sort of thing we should have… and would have, once upon a time… shared.
“And Freddie’s going to make my death slower and more painful the longer we leave it,” Sirius joked, but I pulled a face. I could picture Freddie’s face just as clearly as I could picture Lily’s. Except his looked more homicidal than hurt.
“Oh God. Sirius we can’t. I can’t tell Freddie -”
“Dee, we have to. At some point, right? And it’s just going to get worse -”
“No, you don’t get it. He will flip. He will hurt you. He was ready for a punch-up with my Dad, and they’re related.”
“It’ll be alright,” Sirius blustered, either bravely or stupidly.
“And that’s not all. You think James and Lily -” I lowered my voice even more, “- will be hurt that we kept it from them, that’s nothing on Freddie.”
“I know, James is like my brother too -”
“Not like this,” I tried to make him understand, “It’s always been me and Freddie. Always. You know, not just in a ‘we’re so close’ kind of way, I mean how he’s always been the one to look after me and the one I go to and the one I tell everything to. And the same with me for him. It’ll kill him to find out that you’re the one I’ve been relying on, like how I’ve gone to you instead of him for anything. After everything he’s done for me…”
Sirius grimaced at the beetles he was grinding. They were already ground to a fine powder but he seemed to need something to do with his hands.
“He can’t expect you never to have another man in your life.” Sirius murmured, so that I had to dip my head even more to hear him. “He knows you can’t just rely on your brother your whole life.”
But really, that’s basically what I have done. Up until this year. Now things are changing.
“That’s how it always has been, for him,” I whispered, “He’s always protected me… don’t look at me like that, that’s how he sees it – him protecting me from you… apart from one time. The last time. When my mum…” My voice shook a little so I skipped that part. “… And then Dad hurt me. Freddie hasn’t ever forgiven himself for that.”
After one last pound at the impossibly fine dust of scarab beetles Sirius thumped down the pestle with a little more force than necessary, making me flinch. He noticed this and squeezed my hand apologetically under the table.
“I know,” He said, more gently, “I thought that when you first told me about it. It all made sense - why he’s always been so… so like, careful around you. But Dee, it’s always going to be that way, love. Whether we tell him now, or in the summer, or a hundred years from now. He’s never gonna like me.” He nudged me and gave me a wry smile.
I managed a smile in return and studied our hands entwined under the table. There were so many different ways that Sirius held my hand. There was the playful way he snatched it up ready to yank me along to show me something. The peaceful way when we were dozing off, barely even holding me, just resting his hand on my own. The seductive way he’d stoke and play with each of my fingers and my wrist when he was trying to distract me or get his own way. And the comforting way where his big, boyish hand would cover my own, holding it firmly and reliably, the way it was now.
I took in a shallow breath.
“You’re right.” I murmured.
He gave a start.
I was doing it, wasn’t I. Agreeing with him.
“You’re right.” I repeated.
“You’re serious.” Sirius released my hand from its reassuring hold and tipped up my face so that I’d look at him.
“Uh-huh.” I was smiling at the disbelief on his face, despite the uneasy, churning feeling in my stomach.
“We’re telling them?”
“Uh-huh.” I uttered, reluctantly.
We were? What was I thinking…
But he was right. We had to. We couldn’t lie anymore.
“Now?” He asked, innocently.
I glared at him. He smirked.
Ok, I agreed to tell them. Soon.
But I didn’t realise just how soon the bloody tosser meant.
Sirius had been grimly looking forward to the Slytherin match for weeks. Well, longer probably – ever since Avery put me in hospital I’d guess. I didn’t blame him, he’d put up with detention almost every night for the whole two months with Avery and his cronies and only resorted to violence on the odd occasion.
Now it was his chance to take vengeance in a fair fight. It wouldn’t be, as it had been in detention, a case of four of them against one of him. Now, it wouldn’t even be a physical fight, just a nice clean match.
If Slytherin played dirty against us, I dreaded to think what the Gryffindor match was going to be like.
I’d never felt like this before, like my stomach was slowly tying itself up in tighter and tighter knots every time I thought about the match. I didn’t think I could watch them get hurt. It was my boyfriend, my… er… James, that nice Longbottom guy who’d been so embarrassed when the team thought I was trying to sabotage their chances by being friends with Sirius and James, even – I was a little surprised at myself – that prick McCann. I despised the stupid arse for instigating the accusations but I didn’t want to see him injured.
This must have been what Sirius meant when he was on about how he’d been shitting himself whenever I opened my big mouth around the Slytherins. And how Freddie’s felt for, oh, only his entire life.
Worrying about people is hard.
“Just don’t do anything stupid,” I pleaded the next morning. The morning of the match.
We’d just had breakfast and had to leave halfway through because Mulciber had sneered some pathetic comment that had made Sirius slam his bowl down so hard it cracked down the middle. James thought it best that we returned to the common room so he could calm down or meditate or whatever it is that pretentious Quidditch nerds do.
“Don’t do anything stupid?” Sirius repeated, incredulously. He, James and Lily all burst into surprised laughter.
“What?” I demanded.
“You? Telling him not to do something stupid?” Lily sniggered, “Talk about role reversal.”
She made her way up to her dormitory to get changed for the match and I followed Sirius and James up to their dormitory.
“Well don’t!” I said again, irritably.
“I can’t promise anything, love.” Sirius grinned wolfishly.
“James! Don’t let him do anything stupid!” I appealed. Bloody hell. I was going to James Potter as the ‘sensible one’. That did not feel right.
“Oh I see, you’re worried about him and not me! Some friend you are, Deb!” James grumbled, cheerfully.
Ha. If only he knew.
“Yeah, well you’re reasonably sane -” Well, debatable. Depends which way you look at it really. “- When it comes to Quidditch. Well. Less homicidal anyway. You need to control him.”
“No one needs to control me.” Sirius complained, flopping on his bed.
“Be good then.” I told him.
“I plan to. I plan to be fucking amazing. Avery’s not going to know what hit him -”
“I’m a beater! It’s my job!”
Well, that was very true.
“But… you…” I had no coherent argument.
“Don’t worry DeeDee. I’ll play by the rules, piss them all off a bit but I won’t let them catch me. Unlike some people.” He looked pointedly at me.
“Oh. Well. Good.” Well, he had me there.
“I thought so.”
“Well you do that.”
“Well I will -”
“Thrilling though this conversation is,” James interjected, “Game’s in an hour. I’m going to round up the troops. Pads, are you calm?”
“Yes. I’m also not six years old, mate, in case you were wondering. I don’t need time-outs…”
“You broke your bowl.”
“Well yes -”
“Then threatened Mulciber with it.”
“Yeah, but -”
“And then a passing first year because he got in your way.”
“I did do that.” Sirius admitted, glumly.
“Right. Give it ten minutes then meet us down at the pitch. Deb, you can babysit him.”
“Thanks.” Sirius and I said simultaneously, and freakishly in the same flippant tone. We both then looked disgusted at ourselves for thinking the same.
“Ten minutes, mate! Don’t be late.” James departed with those final words of warning, leaving Sirius lolling on his bed and me perched on the edge of James’.
“He really does turn into his Dad when it comes to this whole Captain thing,” Sirius commented, folding his arms behind his head.
“I know. I thought you were going to tell him to screw it.”
“I was. But then I wouldn’t get to be here alone with you, now, would I?”
A smile spread across my face at how boyishly pleased with himself he looked. Smug little git. Gorgeous smug little git. I took one look at his sparkling, mischievous eyes and the way he was biting his lip to keep his smirk from escalating to a full-blown grin and I had to stop myself from leaping at him.
“We have ten minutes, Mr Black, and you are here to calm yourself down.” I told him, sternly, “And I am here to… well, apparently supervise this.”
“You would be awful at that job.” He sat up.
“That’s uncalled for.”
“I only mean,” Sirius began, getting up and approaching me, “That I feel anything but calm when you’re around, love.” He playfully entwined himself around me.
“That’s the biggest load of crap I’ve ever heard.” I told him.
“I know. Who can even get away with saying that sort of bollocks?” He asked, before kissing the side of my jaw.
“No one. Pompous drips just think they can.”
“I bet Prongs has used that line before.”
“I bet Lillers hexed him for it.”
He nodded leisurely in agreement his lips just grazing my neck. I shivered.
“Stop it.” I said, half-heartedly.
“Mmm-hmm.” He didn’t stop it.
“Sirius!” I scolded him and batted his head away. “You have a very important and scary match in an hour. And a very important and scary James expecting you downstairs in five minutes.”
“Oi, prat!” I wriggled around out of his grip, “There will be plenty of time for that later. If you win. And don’t get hurt. And don’t do anything stupid.”
“That’s a lot of conditions.”
“It’s not. Last time I told you to do all of that you ended up unconscious for ten hours. And I ended up with two months worth of detention.” Sirius pointed out. Quite reasonably.
“Ah, but you didn’t bribe me with… canoodlings.” My point wasn’t so reasonable. And I may well have made up a word there.
“That is very true.” Well, whatever – he thought it was fair enough. “Hey, about that…” Oh dear. He sounded like he knew I wasn’t going to like this.
“How about instead of a promise of canoodlings -” Oh would you look at that, the word caught on. “- We um, kind of… we, well…we-tell-them-all-about-us-instead.” He finished rather quickly. Unfortunately not quick enough for me to pretend not to hear him.
“You want to tell them tonight?”
“As in after the match.”
“As in -”
“Dee. It’s not that hard to figure out when tonight is.”
“Oh. Yeah. I just… so soon?”
“Uh-huh. You said we could. And think about it. It’s perfect. I’ve got my last detention afterwards, then I’ll come back to the party – because we’ll have won, of course – and everyone will be all pumped up and happy -”
“- Uh-huh. See, perfect. James’ll be so happy he’d forgive me if I said I was dating Evans, for fuck’s sake. Or Avery.”
“Unless you lose.”
“We won’t lose.” Sirius looked nauseated at the thought.
“OK. But have you thought about the little issue of Freddie? He won’t even be at the party. And if you guys win -”
“When we win.”
“- he won’t be happy, because that means we have to beat Hufflepuff by something-or-other. Points margins and all that. I’d know if I listened to Oz…”
“Yeah. But we can tell Prongs and Evans and then we’ll have had some practice so we’ll know what or what not to do. So we can break it to him more gently…”
I don’t know if it was because he was giving me The Look, but his ideas were starting to make sense.
“I’m right, aren’t I?” He poked me.
“Argh. Tonight.” I agreed, the knots in my stomach squeezing tighter and tighter.
The stomach knots didn’t get any better when the match started. And they were accompanied by the weird feeling that someone was prodding me repetitively in the back of the head. And there wasn’t actually anyone doing that. And I did check.
It just the nagging anticipation of what was to come. The match, the party without Sirius, then when he eventually got there… there was what we had to do.
I felt sick.
I sat with Lily in the Gryffindor stands, compulsively picking stray threads from the hem of my jumper.
“Stop that.” She scolded me, irritably. “You’re making me nervous.”
“Sorry.” I couldn’t stop. My hands just wouldn’t stay still.
“Oz is really mean.” She said, as if she was comforting me.
“What?” I asked in bewilderment. I wasn’t sure where that had come from.
“You feel bad, right? Because of what he said?”
When I’d delivered Sirius safely to James, I’d met Lily in the entrance to the stands. Unfortunately Oz and the rest of the team had arrived at the same time.
“You’re wearing red.” Oz had pointed out, oh so observantly.
“Yes.” I confirmed.
“You’re supporting them?”
“But if they win…” He was about to commence a rant about points margins. I’d become quick to recognise the symptoms so managed to cut him of before he got into his stride, or we’d have been standing there all night.
“They’re my best mates, Oz,” I butted in.
“Yeah. But if Slytherin win, then basically we win the cup. Hufflepuff have to beat us by -“
“I don’t care.” I interrupted again.
Then came an earth-shattering moment. For the first time in history, Oz was left speechless. He opened his mouth and nothing came out. Nothing came out of Oscar Dunhill’s mouth. It was a bloody miracle.
Londy giggled, breaking the silence.
“You… you don’t… care?” Oz stuttered.
“I don’t mean it like that,” I tried to reassure him, “I just care more about my friends…”
Oz scrutinized me dubiously for a moment. “You’re choosing them over us?”
“Are you even a part of this team anymore, Little McKinnon?” He demanded.
“Oz!” Londy chided him in outrage.
“Don’t say that, wanker.” Blakely added, in his quick, blunt way.
“Mate, that’s out of line.” Ro, for once, wasn’t wearing his pretty much permanent easy-going smile.
I didn’t really mind that much. I mean, yeah, it was a big deal. We weren’t just a team – we were closer than that. Friends. A group. It was just that I had another friendship group as well. Sometimes I had to choose between them, and sometimes people weren’t happy about the decision.
But I knew he didn’t really mean it. It was near the end of the Quidditch season. Oz went a little crazy at this time every year, much like James. Probably at the prospect of a Quidditch-free summer. I reckon they had nightmares about it. Their Boggarts were probably Dumbledore telling them he’d banned Quidditch.
“He’ll get over it.” I told Lily, jumping as Madam Hooch blew her whistle to begin the match. I strained my eyes to make out Sirius and James. Why did it seem like there were so many more green figures than red ones out there? They were just so much bigger…
“Then why are you shaking?”
She wasn’t wrong. I couldn’t seem to stop my knees jerking up and down and I was holding my shoulders so tense that they quivered.
“Why do you think?” I asked, keeping my eyes on the game, “It’s Slytherin. The boys are going to get hurt…”
It wasn’t a lie. That was part of the reason I was shaking and feeling sick. The other part, well Lily would have the joy of finding that out later.
Oh God, I really was going to be sick.
“Evans! And, uh… McKinnon?” A deep, cheerful voice hailed us.
“Oh, hi Jude. Deb, this is Jude Brewster in seventh year…” Lily introduced me to the chubby, jovial blond.
“Hi,” I smiled brightly. God bless awkward introductions.
“Nice to meet you, Debbie. And congrats on the last match, by the way. Excellent flying -” I liked him. “- Listen girls, we’re celebrating early…” Jude grinned wickedly and produced two bottles of firewhisky. One was half empty and the other still sealed. It was only then that I noticed his rosy cheeks and slightly bloodshot eyes. “… Fancy some?”
“That’s against school rules,” Lily said, sternly.
“Oh, come on Evans,” Another boy grinned lop-sidedly at her, “Loosen up.”
“I’m the one that would get in trouble!” Lily protested.
“It’s alright, Lil,” Oh wonderful, Mousey Mary was in on the plan. I’d never forgiven her for… well, flicking her hair at Sirius that time. Oh sure, every other female in the school had but… look, I’m allowed to hold a grudge, alright?
The anxious squeezing in my stomach gurgled into action again and I snatched the bottle from Jude’s hand and took a swig.
“Yeah, Lil,” I winced at the disgusting taste but smirked, “Lighten up.”
“What’s the score?” I spun around in my seat, making myself considerably dizzy, and shouted to the person behind me. What was his name? Joel… no Jeremy… no wait… James?
“It’s a hundred and sixty to a hundred and ten, to us” The blond-haired boy answered, a content beam on his face.
“We’re winning!” I wooped, then accused him, “You’re not James.”
“Um, no, I’m not.”
“James has black hair. You’ve got yellow hair. Blond.” I told him, “And he’s… oh, look! He’s playing!”
“Yes, he is…” Jude looked a little confused. I didn’t know what was confusing. I was right, James was playing.
“He’s my friend,” I informed Jude, pompously, “He’s a bit good isn’t he?”
“He’s scored nearly all our points, so yeah,”
“Has he?” I spun back round in my seat and slipped off it onto the floor. “Oops. Well he is good then, isn’t he? But did you know I’m better? I play Quibbi… I play Criddit… Quiddish. I play Quiddish, you know.”
“Yes, you do,” Lily hauled me up onto the seat. “And you’ve had far too much to drink.”
“No,” I pointed to her, my finger shaking and wavering slightly, “You haven’t had enough. I counted. You had one, two swigs. I had hundreds -” I threw my hands out to demonstrate just how many I’d had and backhanded Jude-Who-Wasn’t-James in the face. “Woops. Sorry! Wait, you’ve had hundreds too! We’re not drunk are we?”
“Not in the slightest, Deb,” Jude reassured me. Well. That was that then.
“You can call me Dee,” I notified him, “No, wait, no you can’t. That’s what my Sirius calls me. He’s there, look.” I flung my hand in the general direction of the pitch. I could just make out about a million green and red blurs. “Bloody hell, where is he?”
“She’s a wreck, isn’t she?” Jude asked, admiringly.
“It’s your fault!” Lily grumbled, “She was trying to match you shot for shot, you can obviously handle your drink better than her…”
“Oi! I am here you know.” I complained, involuntarily slumping down in my seat. I struggled to right myself but it was just too difficult so I stayed down there. It was quite nice really, surrounded by all these pretty red people. Cosy.
“At least it’s taken her mind off the match, I suppose,” Lily reasoned to Jude. Her voice sounded a bit funny. Like she was in a big cave and it was all far away and echoing. I giggled softly to myself. She was right there, silly! Why would it sound like that?
“Why is she supporting us anyway? Don’t Ravenclaw want Slytherin to win?”
“No! They’re my friends!” I tried to protest, but in my slumped position my voice was all squashed and anyway, I was having trouble manoeuvring my tongue.
“She doesn’t really care about all that stuff,”
I smiled to myself. At least Lily was sticking up for me. Even if her voice was getting further and further away.
“She was just nervous for James and Sirius.” Lily continued, “She thought they’d get hurt.”
“Good job she hasn’t really been watching then, isn’t it?”
Wait, what? I had been watching, hadn’t I? James had scored nearly all the goals… and those green and red blurs whizzing around everywhere…
I felt woozy.
“I know…” Lily!
Her voice was so distant I could barely hear it anymore.
There was cheering everywhere.
I woke with a jolt.
“We’ve won!” I shouted, instinctively, even before my eyes were open.
Then I took in my surroundings. Why was I in the Gryffindor common room? On a sofa in the corner? Why weren’t we at the pitch? What… the match…
I came over all dizzy again and had to lay my head back down.
I opened my eyes and groaned loudly. Why was all the red hurting my brain?
“What the sodding hell had happened?” I demanded, sitting up more slowly and squinting around the common room. It was packed. And stuffy. And noisy. And it bloody hurt my head. Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow.
“We sodding won, that’s sodding what!” James bounded over, followed by Lily.
“That’s great. Congratulations.” I said, wincing. Even the slightest raising of my voice hurt my brain.
“No need to sound so thrilled,” James rolled his eyes.
“She’s drunk,” Lily told him.
“Deb’s pissed? Excellent!” He grinned and pulled me to my feet.
“Not excellent,” I mumbled as I swayed dangerously on the spot. My stomach was churning painfully, “Eurgh, I feel like death.”
James roared with laughter, “This is brilliant.”
I glared at him, ignoring the pain behind my eyes. Then I actually took in his appearance.
“What in the name of arse happened to your face?” I demanded.
James gingerly touched the blue-black bruising covering one side of his face.
“Told you,” Lily said to him.
“Blimey, I thought you were exaggerating.” James looked from Lily to me, with a look of delight mixed with disappointment mixed with disbelief. “You actually missed the whole match then, Debs?”
“Mmmf.” Like I had any idea. I clutched my stomach, which felt like it was fighting to burst out of my ribs and shut my throbbing eyes, “How long was I out?”
That was becoming a frequent question after matches. Hell, I hoped I wouldn’t make it a hat-trick and be unconscious for hours after the Hufflepuff match too.
“Well it’s nearly midnight,” James grinned, enjoying my pain/embarrassment, “So all afternoon, after the match finished at four. Can’t believe you missed it, Debbie, epic game…”
“I can’t believe my so-called best friend let me get like this,” I threw a pained look at Lily, who shrugged self-righteously.
“I tried to take the bottle from you,” She said, “But you have an oddly strong grip. You’d have thought I was threatening your baby or something, the way you reacted. I think you actually hissed at me.”
I swayed on the spot again and staggered closer to the sofa to hold myself upright. It didn’t work. I toppled back down onto the sofa.
“Ow.” I needed to just keep very still. Then maybe it all wouldn’t hurt so much. “I need to lay down some more. Wake me up when -”
“Sirius!” James suddenly exclaimed, far too loudly for my liking. I closed my eyes in suffering.
“Mate! I’m free!” Sirius practically roared. I clutched my ears. “No more detention! Not more Avery! No more -”
“Shut up!” I pleaded, opening my eyes a crack.
Sirius stared at me. I didn’t know what was so fascinating. Had be never seen me curled up in the foetal position with my face screwed up in pain before?
“Debbie’s a little under the influence,” Lily filled him in. I could practically hear the smirk in her voice. Bloody hell, she was becoming James.
“Awesome!” Sirius declared, yanking me upright without warning.
I gagged a little as part of my pounding stomach threatened to come up.
“Don’t,” I begged, clinging to him to steady myself.
James cackled while Lily shook her head despairingly.
“Are you putting this on?” Sirius put his mouth close to my ear, “You know that might be a good plan… get their sympathy…”
“I’m not!” I protested. Then I remembered. It took a few seconds to hit me but it came back. The reason I’d had the intelligent idea to drink more than my fair share of firewhisky.
Oh yeah. That was the reason my stomach was churning so much. And the reason behind the prodding feeling in my head… that now felt like someone was pounding it, rather than prodding.
“We have to do this now, love,” Sirius appeared not to notice that I was genuinely in an unstable state.
“No…” I griped, but I was too quiet – keeping my voice down do it didn’t hurt my brain.
“Actually, me and Dee have got something to tell you both,” Sirius announced to the other two. Oh, just fantastic. I could hear in his voice that he wasn’t thinking it through. That was what he was always like when he needed to get something off his chest. He’d start off by making a spontaneous comment so that he couldn’t back out. Then he’d pause for an annoying amount of time to think of how to say it.
It caught James and Lily’s attention.
“You what?” James asked, looking from Sirius’ solemn expression to my pained one.
Every word was still piercing my skull painfully.
“Right. Well, uh…” Here it came. The long pause after he’d dropped us in it by announcing that we had news. Now we had to say it, he hadn’t given us any choice. He knew I would never have been the one to bring it up.
My stomach churned uncomfortably. All I wanted to do was lay back down again. And now he was doing this. We were doing this. Oh God…
“The thing is…” Sirius began again.
The anxiety felt like a bubble swelling up inside me. I could feel it in my head, pressing against my skull; in my chest, constricting my lungs; and worse of all in my stomach – squeezing it, stretching it, twisting it…
“…we… we’re…” Sirius’ words made it worse.
I gagged again. Heaved. My upper body convulsed and all in a hectic, messy, revolting rush…
I threw up.
A.N Hi! Sorry again for the wait... this is becoming a regular comment isn't it. I'm sorry. I'm trying my best not to become one of the authors that everyone hates because they take so long but life&writers block seemed to get in the way. But I mean it, I will try!
Anyway, what did you think? I'm not totally sure about this chapter (and thanks to everyone by the way for their positive feedback on the last chapter!) but I wanted to get something out there for you all because you've been just so lovelyyy!
So, Londy being annoying?
Boys being so damn overprotective?
Sirius getting jealous AGAIN?
And they've finally made the decision to tell Lily and James! Argh!
Thanks for reading guys, please leave a review!
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