Chapter 14 : Time For a Change
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((Disclaimer: Still don’t own Harry Potter...))
I didn’t wake up until late that night. It was pitch black and dreadfully silent in the hospital wing, and it was rather creepy too. I guess I was so used to the breathing of four other people that the breathing of only one other person was shockingly quiet.
And now that I thought about it, that breathing wasn’t even regular. Looking down at my watch, I could barely make out the time: 2:37 AM. Was Sirius still awake? That seemed odd. But then again, who was I to understand the way his brain worked? I could better understand what made a Snargaluff such a vicious plant, or why manticores attacked anything that came within attacking range (I’m still not even sure if that’s a bad thing or a good thing, the fact that men’s minds were such mysteries to me). The fact remained, however, that Sirius was still awake, unless he didn’t breathe like a normal person while he slept. That was always a possibility; after all, it wasn’t like I’d ever seen or heard Sirius Black sleeping. How was I supposed to know if he was normal? Oh, wait, he wasn’t. But, regardless—
“Gaunt, are you awake?”
My muscles automatically tensed at the sound of his voice cutting through the silence. I relaxed them and whispered, “Yes.”
And that was it. Well, what a wonderful conversation! I’m being sarcastic, by the way. I mean, what kind of conversation is that?
“Why are you still awake?” I asked, more because I wouldn’t be able to sleep now anyway than because I cared. Well, I told myself so, anyways.
“Can’t sleep,” he answered simply. When he didn’t continued, I scowled in what I thought was the direction he was in.
“Why not?” I pressed, wondering if he would snap at me or just ignore me. He sighed.
“You’re very verbose in the early morning, you know that?” I said, shaking my head at the ceiling. I was obviously not going to get anywhere. He chuckled and I heard him moving in his bed, most likely adjusting his position.
“I’m not the one talking. Besides, you’ve been sleeping all day.”
“Yeah, just what I wanted to spend my Saturday doing, sleeping off a massive, bloody, broken nose slash head injury,” I groaned, stretching out my limbs to their extent, only to jerk them back to my body when something brushed my foot. Sirius laughed.
“Jumpy, aren’t you?” I kicked him, trying to push him off the edge of my bed with my feet. He obliged by standing up, and then un-obliged by sitting back down again, this time closer to me. “I think I’ll sleep right... here!” he said, laying down next to me and spreading out across my bed, regardless of the fact that I was already laying there.
“Get off me, you great prat! Do I look like a damned pillow?” I growled, attempting fruitlessly to push him off me.
“Oops, sorry,” he said nonchalantly, rolling onto his side and somehow ending up even more on top of me than before. I could feel him pressing his body closer to mine and it occurred to me that he was doing it on purpose. I pushed harder, but I still had no effect. I couldn’t even see him, but I could feel his heart pounding, hear and feel his warm breath uncomfortably close to my face, smell that delicious scent.
“I should have figured,” I sighed to myself, giving up on pushing him off and groping for my wand on the bedside table instead.
“This!” I snapped, wishing greatly that I had longer arms. I was extremely uncomfortable, and I hated being in this weak position, but my fingertips were hardly brushing the table’s edge, and it was still dark as death. “I knew you had to be plotting something, all that bollocks about Madam Pomfrey knowing best! You just decided to take the opportunity to harass me!”
“I’m not harassing...”
“Well, then, what would you call it?” I hissed, stretching my arm as far as possible. Sirius seemed to be thinking.
“Harassing,” he conceded. “Not sexual, though, just the normal kind, where I try to make you as uncomfortable as possible.”
That same feeling I’d had when Sirius was “escorting” me to the hospital wing, that disappointed, upset feeling, was back. I did my best to ignore it and snarled, “Well, you’ve succeeded, now will you get off me?”
“Nah, I’ve just gotten comfortable.”
My arm wasn’t long enough, and it was starting to fall asleep on me because Sirius was laying on it. “God, you’re annoying,” I said, realizing just how close his head was to mine.
But he was asleep. His steady breath beat on my cheek and his right arm had somehow ended up slung around my waist. It made me want to throw up.
But I liked it.
We woke up at about the same time, and we simultaneously turned bright red. Sirius rolled off the bed and sprinted across the aisle to his own bed, jumping onto it just as Madam Pomfrey came out of her office. She glanced at him suspiciously, but she didn’t say anything. Instead, she came over to me and started questioning me about how I was feeling, if there was any pain in my head, if I was dizzy or nauseous or anything else. I replied that I was fine, I just needed some food in me, and I had a ton of homework to do back my dormitory if she was done with me. She told me I was free to go, so I left.
A minute later, one floor down, Sirius caught up to me and stared at me as we walked with a troubled look.
“That didn’t happen.”
“Ha!” I let out in amusement. “That seems to be our strategy, huh? Just pretend it didn’t happen, that just completely fixes it, doesn’t it?”
“Oh? Then you tell me how you want to fix it! What’s your strategy?” he snapped.
I almost said “Just go out with me.” And then I wondered where the hell that came from, because that was like asking him if I had three heads. Instead, I said, “Fine, we’ll ignore it, pretend you didn’t just sleep all wrapped around me.”
“And that you didn’t kiss me.”
“Good. And I still hate you.”
We were both still beet red when we reached the Great Hall ten minutes later. Lily and James were already sitting down, chatting with Remus and Peter. I was surprised that Lily wasn’t with Olivia and Mira; after all, until just recently she’d hated the Marauders as much as I hated Sirius. I took a seat next to Lily and started gathering some food.
“You look loads better!” she said, watching me as I started scarfing down my food.
“Eye fee ohs butter!” I said through my food (I was starving, I hadn’t eaten since the morning before!). Lily gave me a disapproving look, which was turned on James as he roared with laughter.
“That’s good, because we’ve got to finish that Transfiguration essay to do; it’s due on Wednesday and I know you haven’t even started it.” She cast me a meaningful look, and I nodded.
“Yeah. Stupid McGonagall and her three bloody feet about human transfiguration,” I grumbled, stuffing my mouth with more porridge. James was looking between the two of us with wide eyes.
“Sirius and I—“ he started
“Hey!” Sirius barked.
“I think we ought to go to the library, personally; it’ll be quieter and we’ll get more done,” Lily commented. I grinned.
“Perfect!” I agreed. Not to mention, the library was the one place the guys (except for perhaps Remus) would not follow. Which of course was the reason she’d chosen it. Lily was brilliant. James, meanwhile, was obviously quite horrified.
“Well then, when you’re done—“
“We’ll go with you!” James exclaimed. Lily and I stared at him.
“Speak for yourself!” Sirius growled. “I’m not—“
“One second, ladies,” James smiled. He grabbed Sirius and pulled him down the table a distance. Lily and I barely had a chance to exchange a nervous glance before they were back. “We’ll go with you!” James repeated, and this time Sirius didn’t argue, though his expression had grown darker. James chose to ignore this, instead looking at Remus and Peter. “You two?” They nodded together.
So as soon as the six of us were done eating, we hiked up to the common room to collect our barely-started essays and then trudged to the library. I felt rather frustrated. I just wanted to get Lily on her own so that she could tell me where Mira was. Was that too much to ask?
Obviously. We found ourselves a table that happily sat all six of us, and somehow the seating went thus (around in a circle): Peter, Sirius, me, Lily, James, and then Remus. I ask why? James snaps that it was how we’d be most conductive. Bollocks. He would have had Lily and I separated, but I insisted that I absolutely had to sit next to her. He gave in in the end, but only after Madam Pince, the librarian, came by and threatened to kick us out. As soon as we sat down, James started talking to Lily. If I hadn’t known better, I would have said James was trying to keep Lily from talking to me.
I worked patiently on my essay, waiting for a chance to make an excuse to get the guys to leave. It never came. I finished my essay long before Lily did, thanks to James’ badgering; she was clearly getting a bit frustrated with him. Sirius and I completely ignored each other; I think both of us had had enough awkwardness for the day, and James kind of made it worse. What the hell was he trying to do?
And then, it came to me. What did guys least like to hear about? Well, hell if I know. But I knew they didn’t like to hear about girl troubles. Let’s see now... what kind of girl troubles could I come up with?
“Lily!” I cried, in a semi-quiet voice so as not to upset Madam Pince. Lily, and predictably all four Marauders, turned to stare at me. “I—I can’t take it anymore!” I was surprised at how easily the fake emotion of grief and sorrow welled up in my chest. “I—“ I sniffed loudly for good measure. “I’m in love with Hyper Paxley!” Sirius’ eyes turned into dinner plates, James’ mouth almost literally dropped to the floor, Peter gave a gasp, and Remus froze in the middle of writing “can induce excruciating paroxysms and macabre afflictions.” They looked as if I’d just expressed the desire to marry the giant squid. Lily, however, smiled.
“Oh, Ar! I knew you’d come clean eventually!”
It took me a few seconds to realize that she was actually playing along with me.
“I—I’ve been holding it in for so long!” I gasped, wondering if I should cry. “I can’t take it anymore!”
“It’s all right, Ar, we’re here for you! Right, guys?”
Said guys were looking awfully uncomfortable right now, and I felt a sense of pride in my newfound acting ability. “Er, yeah,” James answered, followed by more reassurances from Remus and Pete. Sirius leaned forward, though he was already close enough to make himself heard over them.
“No. Hyper Paxley is...” he paused and grimaced, “he’s a filthy bastard. You think men are bad now, but Paxley is about thirty times worse!”
I was careful not to appear surprised. Was Sirius worried about me? Instead I clapped my hands softly. “Oh good! You know, sometimes what you think is bad is actually good! Hm...” I looked at my essay thoughtfully. “Jordan says I have plain underwear. Maybe I ought to get more... frilly? Lacey? What do you think, Remus?”
Remus turned scarlet. I could almost hear the swear words in his thoughts. “I, er, I think—“
“No!” Sirius snapped. “I think you ought to...” he faltered, looking confused. His eyes made contact with mine for a few fleeting seconds, then flickered to James and then to Remus. Then that wicked grin that had crossed his face when he found out I was still virginal spread across his countenance. “I think... you ought to... show me before you shag Paxley. Maybe I’ll give you a few pointers.”
I think my heart stopped. The reactions to this statement were about the same as those to me declaring love for Hyper Paxley. Lily had gasped loudly, but I just stared at him unblinking. There was no way he’d just said that. But he had, judging from the reactions of the others. I licked my lips and tried to think of some sort of retort, but my mind was blank. Finally I looked at Lily and took a deep breath.
“Lily... I’m going to kill him.”
Kill him!! the voice screamed delightedly.
Lily continued to gape at Sirius as if she’d never seen anything quite like him, and I took that as affirmation of permission.
It was James that stopped me, leaping over the table to grab my wand out of my hand. Of course, I probably wouldn’t really have killed Sirius; maimed him, maybe, but I don’t think I’d have killed him. Maybe. But James didn’t give me the chance. The other three just stared on in awe while James restrained me and Sirius smirked smugly.
“ENOUGH!” Madam Pince shrieked. “GET OUT, GET OUT!”
Happy to comply, I snatched up my essay and my books and stalked out. Lily was right behind me, and so were the Marauders. Just as we passed the bathroom on the second floor, Lily yanked me inside it. “Have to use the toilet!” she called to the guys. “We’ll see you at dinner!” James sent her a horrendous look of fury, but the others just shrugged. When the door was safely shut, she leaned against the sinks and sighed. “Thank Merlin! I thought we’d never get away!”
“Tell me about it,” I grumbled, running my fingers through my hair. “I can’t believe he said that!”
“Yes, well, Sirius Black isn’t exactly known for his discretion. But going as far as to basically say that he wanted to shag you was... well, a bit too far.”
“Oh great, well at least I’m not going crazy, if you heard it too. And after he said it didn’t happen, too...” I mumbled to myself.
“What?” Lily said, perking up instantly. “What didn’t happen?”
I opened my mouth before I realized what she’d said, then stopped and gaped at her with my mouth wide. “N-nothing!” I exclaimed, waving my arms around. “Nothing happened!”
“Ooh, gossip!” I whirled around to find myself face to face with Moaning Myrtle.
“M-Myrtle! You scared me!”
“I heard you gossiping, and I thought you ought to know... I HATE GOSSIP!” she screamed, her cheeks turning opaque with her rage.
“Gossip?” Lily repeated. “No, no, we weren’t gossiping, Myrtle, we swear it! I just...” she trailed off, looking unsure of how to continue.
Myrtle looked so angry, and Lily so confused, that I sighed and said, “Black slept on top of me last night.” And then I paused to marvel at how dirty the words could sound.
Lily gasped. “You—he—you and Sirius? You slept together?”
“NO!” I yelled, rounding on Myrtle, who looked equally shocked. “Myrtle, if you spread any rumors about me around the school, I swear on Merlin’s magic wand you’ll regret it! And no, I did not sleep with Black, are you insane? He slept with me, and in the most literal sense, meaning he said he couldn’t sleep, came over to my bed in the pitch dark, lay down on top of me so I couldn’t feel my arm and couldn’t reach my wand, and fell asleep on top of me! There was most definitely no sexual inferences to be made, nothing happened, and if I start hearing rumors in the halls that I’ve shagged Black, there is going to be hell to pay!”
I stopped, gasping for breath. When I’d recovered from my short tirade, I discovered that Lily appeared to be... disappointed. I shook my head. I didn’t want to think about this anymore, though I was sure Lily felt differently.
“You know what, can we change the subject? This whole deal with Black is giving me a headache like you wouldn’t believe. How ‘bout you tell me where Mira and Olivia are?”
Lily looked as if she were going to object, but satisfied herself by saying: “We’ll talk about Sirius later then. As for Mira and Olivia... well, it won’t be much better than talking about Black, I assure you.” She paused, as if she were reconsidering telling me the truth. I gazed at her expectantly. Finally, she continued: “Mira and Olivia have started hanging out with Melanie a lot. I wouldn’t be worrying about it, exactly, except that I—well, I’m not at all happy about what I saw, and since it affects me as well...”
“You’re babbling, Lils,” I pointed out, sighing and joining her against the sinks. Lily didn’t usually babble, and I was curious to know what she might have seen that would make her do so. Myrtle had joined us near the sinks, hovering in front of us with eager eyes.
“Sorry,” Lily murmured. “I, er, I sat next to them during the match, obviously, and... when you got hit, they... er, they laughed a bit, like they thought it was funny...”
My insides seemed to go numb. Mira was hanging out with her? And Olivia too? But we’d all hated Melanie last year; what had changed to suddenly make them like her more? We all knew that she was conceited, that she was vain, that she was rude and obnoxious. None of that had changed, certainly. Melanie was the same black-hearted bitch she’d always been, proved by the fact that she was blackmailing me.
I should have seen it coming, I realized. That first Herbology lesson should have shown me where Olivia’s thoughts were: that was when she’d started treating me like dirt. She’d been seen increasingly in Melanie’s company. It should have been obvious that Olivia was turning. But Mira? That was what made me angry. Mira and I had been best friends since first year, we’d agreed all that time on almost everything. Mira had never shown any signs that she would prefer Melanie’s company over mine; in fact, we’d been spending the same amount of time together as always, doing homework, talking, Mira styling my hair regardless of my begrudging attitude. Everything had seemed so normal.
But now everything changed. I could see it already: how dinner would be; how tomorrow would be; how the rest of the year, the rest of our lives would be. Nothing would take us back to these carefree days where Mira and I were best friends who told each other everything.
I couldn’t hold back a sardonic laugh. Lily gazed at me like I was crazy. Maybe I was. Who was to say? After all, anyone who has read Catch-22 knows that the catch in being crazy is that if you were crazy, you wouldn’t know it; therefore, if you think you’re crazy, you can’t possibly be crazy. So I wasn’t crazy (or was I?); that fact was completely irrelevant, in either case. I realized now why James had looked so panicked at the thought of Lily talking to me alone.
“Huh,” I said finally, when it became obvious that Lily expected some sort of response. “I suppose it sort of was... funny, I mean. You know, you ought to join them; after all, you’re the only girls seventh who isn’t against me now, you’d be a priceless addition to Jordan’s collection, and I’m sure Olivia misses you—“
“Oh, shut it, I’m not going anywhere! In fact, I don’t approve of their actions at all! I mean, if there was any sort of problem, the best solution would be to ask you about it, not completely turn my back on you and wonder forever if you actually are or did whatever she says you are or did.” Lily huffed and folded her arms resolutely, glowering at me. “Though I think that if you did do something, you ought to tell me now, as opposed to later.”
I blushed and shrugged. Melanie had said she knew my deepest darkest secrets. Had she told Mira and Olivia I was related to Slytherin? How much more did she know about me?
“Well, the only thing I can think of...” I paused. Lily had just told me that she would stick with me, but would she feel the same if I told her? Well... if I didn’t tell her, either Sirius might or Melanie would, and then she would be mad at me, furious actually. So I sighed and continued: “I’m related to Slytherin.”
Myrtle gasped loudly, and Lily looked gobsmacked. “S-Slytherin? You?” I nodded and glared at Myrtle, who seemed to be hyperventilating while gaping at me with her huge, semi-transparent eyes. Lily’s expression suddenly became very serious. “Well, that makes perfect sense!”
I stared at her. “What?”
“I mean, it makes sense because that has to be what she told them. Mira’s been your best friend since we started school, so she must be horribly shocked by it; and Olivia, as much as I hate to say it, never really trusted you, so it must have just pushed her over to Melanie’s side.” She paused, looking at Myrtle thoughtfully. “But where did she learn it? Who would have told her?”
I’d wondered that myself before, but never came up with an answer. Now, though, having it put to me in this way, it came to me.
“Black,” I muttered, closing my eyes and shaking my head. “It must have been. Black knows; he had to have told her while they were dating. They both hated me, it would only make sense.” Lily bit her lip, and after a few minutes she slowly nodded, realizing that I must be correct.
“Then the question is: How did Sirius find out?”
I didn’t have an answer to that.
When Lily and I returned to the common room after dinner, I had to work very hard to keep from glaring at a variety of people, a task made all the more daunting as the voice in my head called for bloodshed. First on my list was Melanie. What with her blackmailing me, laughing at my Quidditch accident, and stealing my best friend, she was turning out to be a bigger pain in my ass than I’d ever anticipated. It was all I could do to stop myself from bounding over to her and strangling her. Secondly, surprisingly, was Mira. The fact that she was ditching me for Melanie over a little thing like my ancestor from one thousand years ago was rather insulting. Sirius, even more astonishingly, had vacated his usual spot at number one for number three, though he hadn’t gone without a fight. I still couldn’t believe what he’d said in the library, though I knew he’d only said it because he’d known it would rankle me.
Sirius, however, was the only one of the three who looked at me as Lily and I entered through the portrait hole. James was scowling at us with the same dark look he’d had as Lily had dragged me into the girls’ lavatory for a chat. I thought now that I knew why. After all, in James’ eyes I’d just gone back to relatively normal, and now he probably thought I’d become relatively abnormal because my best friend was ditching me for my worst enemy (except for Sirius, of course). It was a perfectly logical fear. Hopefully one that wouldn’t become reality.
Lily shot James a look full of meaning and he turned away reluctantly. ”You know,” she said, casting a nervous glance at me as we headed towards the girls’ stairway, “James has your best interests at heart.”
I laughed, the sardonic sound echoing eerily in the empty staircase. “He would, if yours didn’t completely obsess him. I know, I know, you hate him,” I said when she glared over her shoulder at me.
“I wasn’t going to say that...”
I gaped at her. “Shit, Lils, are you actually falling for him?” Her face turned beet red, all the answer I needed.
“N-no!” she stuttered, and I smiled. “I’m not! I just... I guess he’s okay...”
“Oh, Lily, deny it all you like, but it won’t change a thing.”
“Shut up,” she said flatly, marching over to her bed as soon as she was through the door. “I was going to say that you’re very important to him, and that he was right to worry because you’ve been all weird this whole year. I mean, you’ve gotten better, but you just... you’re still acting... strange.”
I sighed and ran my fingers through my hair. “I like to think it’s stress,” I muttered, glaring into the nearest vanity. “N.E.W.T.s and all...”
“Odd, I always thought you were good at handling stress. You were one of the only ones who made it through fifth year without so much as a single near mental breakdown.”
“That’s not true, Black and Potter—“
“Are arseholes and don’t come anywhere near to understanding what it means to actually care about your grades in school.”
“And yet, they’re seen as some of the brightest students in the year,” I said thoughtfully, smiling vaguely at the irony of it. “I wonder how they do it? Do you think they’re born that way?”
Lily’s green eyes narrowed, meeting mine with obvious annoyance. “You’re trying to change the subject.”
“I am. I wish you’d let it go, Lils, it’s not really important.”
“Of course it is!” Lily interrupted, her eyebrows nearly meeting as she glowered at me. “And even if it’s not, I feel like it should be!”
I groaned in exasperation and stalked to my own four-poster. “Do you really feel it’s that drastically important? Will it demolish our friendship if I maybe keep a few secrets to myself?” Lily looked like she was going to say yes, a thought that infuriated me, so I plowed on loudly. “Because if that’s how you feel, maybe I’d be better off by myself! Maybe I don’t need a friend whose only interest is to learn all my secrets! Maybe I don’t want any friends if that’s what it takes! For all I know, you could take all those little secrets and start swapping with Jordan; I’m sure she’s got loads she could tell you! Maybe she knows that when I was five, I pushed Apollo down the stairs because he stole my doll and made it into a scorpion; maybe she can tell you how I used to talk to all the snakes in my backyard because my dad wouldn’t let me talk to any of the Muggle kids who lived near us! But maybe you ought to go tell her, she might not know yet!” I finished hotly, jerking my bed curtains closed and falling onto my bed.
“Fine,” Lily snapped venomously. I heard the door slam shut, and then I was left in silence.
And then I realized what had happened and I groaned again. What the fuck was my problem? I’d just insulted the only good friend I had left and basically told her to sod off and leave me to wallow in my self pity, not to mention join Melanie in her quest to destroy my life. Damn my short temper and fucked up genes! That was the problem! I couldn’t be normal, of course; I couldn’t be born with the average temperament or the typical patience that Lily or Mira or Remus had. The voice in my head was laughing hysterically, as if it was funny that I was now completely alone. Funny, I thought. Absolutely bloody laugh-my-ass-off hilarious. I pulled my pillow over my face and made a disgusted face.
No wonder they all hated me.
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