Chapter 13 : This Domestic Spell Marlarkey
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The stream of sunlight against my eyelids was like two vicious pokes in the eyes.
I tried to roll over but before I’d moved my head even a fraction I let out a moan of agony. It felt like my brain was rolling around inside my skull.
Instead of risking any brain injury from moving my head I cracked open one aching eye to find something to block the sun with. Something lumpy, possibly a pile of clothes or some bed covers, was lying in between me and the window but failing to block out the cruel, evil beam. I slowly lifted a hand, not wanting any other stupid body parts to hurt me, and tried to rearrange the pile of clothes so that it blocked the light.
I blindly patted and prodded it, trying to mould it somehow, but it kept shrugging away from me.
Stupid inanimate objects weren’t going to get the better of me. I pulled harder an edge of fabric. It still refused to budge. My eyes were in agony damn it! I patted again and nearly jumped out of my skin when my hand met something soft… but hard… and a little hairy.
“Eurgh! What the fuck?” I cried, forgetting about the killer headache for a moment and sitting bolt upright before shrieking in distress when a delayed wave of pain pounded in my head.
My ‘inanimate pile of clothes’, or the bare chest that I’d been attempting to rearrange, jolted awake and rolled over. “There was me thinking I looked quite good in the mornings,” Sirius gave a lopsided smile and sleepily rubbed his eyes.
“I’m here… what… where are, who… ow!” I babbled, falling back onto the pillows. The red pillows. I was in Sirius’ dorm. With no recollection of how I got there…
“Which pathetic excuse for a question do you want me to answer first?” Sirius asked with a smirk.
“Any. All. Just keep your voice down,” I groaned.
“Right, well. Yes, you are in my dorm and you are here because you gave an awe-inspiring performance of projectile vomiting last night -”
“Morning all!” A mocking, sing-song voice pierced the air and I cracked open an eye again to see…
“James,” I immediately panicked. James was here. I was here. In Sirius’ bed. We… did we tell them? Think! Remember… we were going to tell them… Sirius was about to say and then I…
“Cracking display last night, Deb,” James grinned, arranging himself cross-legged on the end of the bed. He was so at ease… we must not have told them. We can’t have. My little, erm, incident must have interrupted things… Well thank fuck for that. “Never seen so much vomit released from someone so small.”
“Eurgh,” For the first time I realised how tender my throat was. I remembered it now. “I was sick…”
“And then you fell in it,” James informed me, helpfully.
Well, that I did not remember.
“Oh God.” I glanced down my front and at my hair… all clear. No sign of vomit in it. Then I did a double take back down at the t-shirt I was wearing. I was pretty sure that I didn’t own a t-shirt that read ‘Rock out with your cock out’… with a picture of a cockerel on it.
“Yeah we had to change you…” Sirius clocked the look of alarm on my face and swiftly added, “Well I say ‘we’, I mean Lily. And I say ‘change you’, I mean dump you in the shower and throw some clothes in the bathroom after you.” He grinned sheepishly.
“You put the t-shirt on backwards,” James added, “And inside out.”
“Well… I, um… thanks. It is a… lovely garment,” I remarked.
“I hope you didn’t like the clothes you were wearing,” Sirius continued, “Because we burnt them. I’ve never smelt anything so bad as firewhisky on the way back up…”
“Oh God.” I griped, pulling the covers up over my head. “Why aren’t I in Lily’s dorm?”
“She couldn’t carry you up there. And we couldn’t get up the girls stairs without our brooms. So we had to bring you up here. And I chivalrously surrendered my bed to you.” Sirius grinned, catching my eye.
“You’re in it too.” I pointed out.
“Well I wasn’t going to sleep on the floor…”
“Well you two looked very cosy.” James chimed in, “Mystery Girl wouldn’t be a happy bunny…”
Sirius smirked in a secretive and shifty way so I made up for it with an exaggerated derisive yelp of laughter.
They both looked a little oddly at me.
But that might have been because I followed the laughter with a scream of pain when the loud noises affected my headache.
“So last night.” I swiftly changed the subject just in case Sirius decided it would be a good idea to tell James now how wrong he was. “Tell me about it. I got as far as the throwing up part and then it’s all blank…”
“Well,” James seemed in his element. For once someone had fucked up worse than him, I suppose it was a big moment for him. “You fell in it –“
“Yes I got that part thanks,” I grumbled.
“I think you were, like, passed out. But you kept mumbling that you were fine. We couldn’t get you to stand up. We tried – but then you fell in your sick again.”
Why did he keep repeating that part?
“Smashing,” I gestured for him to keep going, allowing the automatic blush from the mortification of it all to spread over my cheeks. There was not a sodding thing I could do to stop it, after all.
“So then Lily got all Florence Nightingale on us –“
“Who?” Sirius said, blankly.
“- and was all set to drag you up the stairs to her dorm but we, being the heroic and manly gentlemen that we are –“
I snorted. Attractively.
“- Carried you up here. You were ready to fall asleep but… well, no offence but none of us wanted you on our bed in that state. So Lily threw you in the shower and all that. Then she put your clothes on properly after you made a crap attempt at dressing yourself and left you here to sleep and went off to her own bed.” James finished.
“You forgot a part,” Sirius was grinning wickedly.
Oh what now? Did I fall in my sick again? Heaven forbid we shouldn’t all be reminded of that.
“Oh, what, about us burning the clothes when she was in the shower?”
“Nope. The part where you offered oh so generously for Evans to stay here to keep an eye on her mate.” Sirius corrected him, chuckling at the memory.
“Oh yeah,” James said glumly, before adding unnecessarily, “She said no.”
“Really?” I asked, pokerfaced.
“So anyway.” James, as usual, recovered quickly from his brief bout of depression, “Hogsmeade today!”
Eurgh. Images of the Three Broomsticks flashed up in my mind, bringing with them a familiar sense of nausea. Usually I loved the cosy little pub, but just to even imagine the smell of alcohol… My stomach gave a frightened gurgle of protest.
“Awesome,” Sirius had sat up and was stretching. The covers fell away from his torso and I accidentally caught an eyeful of slim but strong chest and abs, paler than his tanned arms but just as beautiful… all the way down to the waistband of his boxer shorts…
I jumped and hoisted my eyes up to a more appropriate level. Bollocks. He’d been talking.
James looked a little confused but Sirius had an evil smirk on his lips and his steel eyes glimmered, somehow managing to be both mischievous and smug.
“I was just saying,” Stupid smirk. “I can’t wait to get to Hogsmeade. The four of us. A bit of a break, you know. Food, drink, conversation…” He raised an eyebrow pointedly.
My already protesting stomach didn’t like this. It gave an uncomfortably lurch as I registered what Sirius was, rather obviously, hinting at. I thanked the lord for James’ lack of observation skills right then. Not only had he conveniently forgotten about Sirius’ little announcement last night, he was currently half switched-off to the conversation and was tugging his fingers through his knotty hair.
“Uh-huh, right,” I rambled vaguely, “Apart from, you know, this was meant to be mine and Lily’s girls day. We were going to meet up and go shopping and… fuck! What time is it?”
“Um.” Sirius reached towards his bedside table, losing even more of the covers. I could see his hip bone jutting out just over his boxers… Damn it. Focus. “It’s half ten.” He fumbled with his watch.
“Half past ten?!” I echoed in a slightly more frantic voice. “Lily’s going to kill me! We were meeting for breakfast at, like… now! I still need to get to my dorm and -”
“Woah, chill for a second Deb,” James had apparently finished combing his hair with his hands. I personally could see no improvement. “You can borrow some stuff from us if you don’t have time to go to your dorm.”
Bless. He didn’t even question my need to get to Lily before she freaked out. He’d had enough experience of that. Unfortunately he was being a complete boy about the whole thing.
“Do you really think I’m going to go to breakfast sporting a t-shirt that reads ‘rock out with your cock out’?” I asked coolly.
Sometimes I think I need more female friends.
“Yes?” James looked nonplussed. It was probably his favourite t-shirt.
“No.” I replied. “I need to borrow The Cloak.”
“No!” He whined, “Deb please just wear the -”
“I am not wearing the t-shirt!” I practically shrieked.
“Fine! Go down naked -” James thankfully didn’t notice Sirius choke halfway through a yawn. “- Like I care! You’re not borrowing the clock again!”
“Please!” I appealed.
“You’re not careful enough!”
“That was an accident.” It was. How was I supposed to know that you really needed to tie your hair up when you wore it? It’s not like any of their hair was long enough to get in the way. There were rumours that some sort of hairy beast haunted the corridor to the kitchen for months.
Quite offensive, really.
And I only crashed into that first year kid once. And trod on his toe.
“Deb,” James groaned.
“Just give it to her,” Sirius was bored by the exchange.
“I’ll be really careful,” I promised.
James still looked torn. Bloody thing meant more to him than was healthy. “Look I don’t… fine. Fine. On one condition… No two…”
“Go on then,” I humoured him.
“Ok, one, you have to be really careful not to get caught. I’m not having it confiscated,” James said, sternly.
I nodded obligingly, fidgeting with the covers. Lily was going to bloody murder me, this was taking forever.
“And two, you and Lily have to take a break from your girls day to come for a drink with us,” He grinned self-importantly.
“Are you serious?” I rolled my eyes. I could just picture Lily’s expression at pure joy when I tell her that. “You’re pathetic. Look, I’ll mention it to her but I’m making no promises…” There was no chance she'd agree, she wouldn't even consider it, surely James knew that?!
“Good enough for me,” James bounced off the bed and delved into the clutter around his own for some relatively clean clothes, “Now weren’t you late?”
“So we were trying to pick you up from the floor but then…”
I was starting to see a pattern in these stories. I interrupted Lily’s description of last night.
“Let me guess, I fell in my sick?”
“Yeah… you remember? God, I didn’t think you’d remember anything. You were a mess -”
“Yeah I’ve heard.” I griped, glaring resentfully in the various windows we were passing. “James took great delight in thoroughly describing each of my many blunders to me this morning. I still can’t believe you left me in their room on my own…”
I really couldn’t. I mean, she wasn’t to know that the bed I’d stayed in just so happened to be my favourite bed in the world, was she? To her I was just left at the mercy of two not-so-bright boys who, well, despite what they insisted I knew for sure that at least one of them didn’t have such honourable intentions.
“Well I couldn’t drag you up to my dorm on my own and I didn’t think you’d want any of the other girls involved -”
“Oh why ever not? That would have just been the cherry on the cake that was my elegant and dignified night.”
“- And you’ve stayed in there before, anyway.”
I did a miniature double take and stumbled a little in the cobbled street.
Was she referring to The Night? Christmas Eve? Or… erm… New Years Eve… Either of them wouldn’t be all that great for her to know about. But she didn’t, right? She couldn’t know. James certainly didn’t have a clue this morning and why would Sirius have told Lily and not James? He’d been pretty firm on the whole ‘telling them together’ thing, I didn’t think he’d let me use unconsciousness to get out of it… Unless he had told James and James had forgotten? That did sound like something James would do… but…
Oh, my head was in too much pain for this.
“You know,” Lily waved a hand dismissively, “Last year. You always used to just crash in their room if you’d been hanging around in there too late with them. I remember because you always used to have to sneak back to your room in the morning… There were all those rumours…”
“Oh yeah,” I remembered. Those innocent times. They seemed so long ago, I couldn’t remember ever being so… so innocent with Sirius. “They used to share a bed so I’d get one to myself. Then they’d wake up screaming most morning when they forgot where they were.”
“And we took that photo one time.”
“Ah yeah. That was cute.” I grinned, reminiscing about one of the few times that Lily and I had managed to prank the idiots back. “What ever happened to that photo? I feel we didn’t quite go as far as we could have on the blackmail front.”
“I don’t know,” Lily answered abruptly. “Shall we get some… chocolate?” Before I could reply she’d disappeared into the doorway of Honeydukes sweet shop. By the time I caught up with her, her cheeks had a slight pink tinge to them. Though that may have been because of the heat of the crowded shop on a hot summer day.
“Are you alright?” I asked, studying her face curiously. She was reading the ingredients on the back of a packet of Chocolate Frogs. No one reads the ingredients in a freaking sweet shop.
“Yes!” She sounded defensive, “Of course I’m ok! I’m glad we finally get some girl time, you know? Lately I just feel like James and Sirius are always there and sometimes I feel like I see James more than I see you! It’s a nightmare…”
“Yeah… um, about that…” I began, feeling rather guilty. She wasn’t going to like what was coming. Not only was I going to ruin our girly day by suggesting we meet the boys, but I suspected that the ‘conversation’, as Sirius had put it, when we got there wasn’t going to be an easy one.
“What?” She put down the Chocolate Frogs and eyed me warily. “You’ve been acting weird all morning. Are you still drunk?”
“No!” I protested, “I’m fine! I mean my head feels like its been used for bloody bludger practice and I’m pretty sure that if I get even a whiff of food I’ll vomit everywhere but I’m fine!”
I was getting sidetracked. Or, more accurately, I was wimping out. James, and not to mention Sirius, would kill me.
“Ok…” Lily looked even more suspicious.
“Ok look. I didn’t want to say anything… because I didn’t want to do it, I mean it wasn’t my idea. But I’m supposed to hint in a really subtle way that we go and meet the boys for a drink in the Three Broomsticks but I just can’t be bothered with all the subtlety and whatnot so I’m just telling you.” I said all of this in a bit of a rush to just get it all off my chest at once.
Lily looked a bit stunned by the sudden bombardment of information.
“I know it interrupt our girls day and everything, and we still don’t have to if you don’t want to,” I added in a hurry, “But James is quite likely to murder me if we don’t go. I had to borrow his cloak this morning to get back and -”
“- He had a big old hissy fit about it because of the last time when I battered that first year and we nearly got caught and… what?”
“Ok. I said ok.” Lily rolled her eyes.
“Ok? You want to meet them?” I asked incredulously.
“No… I mean yes. I mean no. I mean… well I don’t want to but I don’t mind. You… erm, I just… don’t want you to get into trouble with James.” Lily babbled.
I was quiet for a second. “You are acting really weird, you know that?”
She didn’t dignify my comment with a response. “When are we meeting them then? Now?”
“Uh, yeah I guess. Well we didn’t say a time but they’ll probably be in there all day, won’t they. Ogling that pretty barmaid…” I didn’t get a chance to finish my sentence.
Lily was already dragging me across the street by the wrist.
I was right.
The moment we stepped through the door I saw them. Propped up against the bar as if they’d been there all day. They probably had. Two tankards half-filled with golden butterbeer sat in front of them as the two of them gesticulated haphazardly as they told whatever story or joke was on their minds.
For a moment I watched them with a fond smile. James was saying something but then Sirius let out a great bark of laughter and interrupted him with a punch to the arm. James stopped abruptly with an outraged look on his face and raised a fist to return the punch but then buckled against the bar with a roar of laughter of his own at whatever Sirius was telling him between bouts of hilarity.
I glanced at Lily and saw a similar smile on her own face, but then it hardened, setting into an annoyed frown. I followed her gaze, my eyes landing on the young barmaid. The one that Sirius and James were regaling with their stupid story or joke.
“Having fun?” Lily asked icily as we approached.
James jumped and his hand flew to his hair. “Evans… um, Lily… I, um…”
The barmaid was leaning against the beer taps, watching the scene with apparent amusement. I had to admit it never ceased to amuse me to watch James transform from the arrogant, easy-going entertainer to this stuttering fool.
“What are you doing here?” James managed to emit a coherent sentence. Not a great one though. Sirius, the barmaid and I winced simultaneously, waiting for Lily to blow up in his face.
“What am I doing here?” She asked, in a dangerously low voice, “You asked us to come here you absolute prat.” She seized his arm in a vice-like grip and steered him over to a free booth away from the bar.
We just watched them go in silence for a couple of seconds.
“Um, ok.” I said, to fill the quiet, “I guess I’ll be getting the drinks.”
I then realised where I was and for the first time registered the faint scent of alcohol and food in the air. Thankfully my stomach only protested a little, the gurgle was barely audible. Enough for Sirius to grin like an idiot though.
“You could have warned us you were coming, love,” He said, picking up his own tankard and James’ abandoned one and resting his head on my shoulder in a weird sort of hug with no arms, “Then we could have grabbed us a table like good boys…”
I glared at him.
“Ok, ok. I’m going. Someone’s got to stop her murdering him…” He smirked in the direction that James was madly protesting to Lily. “Thanks Rosmerta,” He called back to the barmaid.
“No problem,” She watched him walk away, her eye line dangerously close to his bum.
I opened my mouth to protest, God knows why – what was I going to say? Stay away from my fella’? The one that I haven’t even told my best mate or my brother about yet? But thankfully I was cut short before I could even speak.
“Hey, lady!” A self-important voice rang out from the midst of a group of lads next to me. “Are you going to serve us or do we have to wait for you to finish flirting some more? Do you want us to call Potter and Black back over so you can get it over with now?”
For a second I felt a spiteful little spark of pleasure at raucous laughter from the boys as her face flushed a deep red. Serves her right. Flirting with my boyfriend indeed…
Then she bit her lip in embarrassment and the anxiety was so clear in her face that I felt bad for her.
“Shut up, Diggory,” Another voice came from the crowd and shoved the guy nearest to me, the one who had spoken originally, “Sorry, don’t listen to him, he’s a prat,”
There was more boyish laughter and the barmaid looked even more uncomfortable. She caught my eye but I shook my head.
“Don’t worry,” I said, “Serve them first, they were here before me.”
It wasn’t like I was in any hurry to get over to the Booth of Doom. I glanced over my shoulder, suddenly overcome with fear that Sirius had decided to tell them without me to spare the hassle.
I really didn’t need to be concerned. He was grinning lazily with his arm stretched over the back of the booth as Lily got into her rant at James. Not as such preventing the possible homicide, but whatever. At least he wasn’t telling them.
I was perfectly happy to spend my last couple of minutes of life being barged a bit by the boisterous group of boys – I think they were Hufflepuffs. Anything to put off the next few minutes, which were sure to be some of the most uncomfortable I’d have to endure.
“So that’s… hang on, lads how many of us are there? Five… no six… six butterbeers, love.”
It made me cringe a little to hear the way that this Diggory prat was talking to the barmaid. Alright, so Sirius called me ‘love’ more often than not but he was my boyfriend for crying out loud. And he said it in a nice way, that made me feel all sort of protected and content. The way Diggory said it made me feel even more sorry for the poor barmaid. She may have just been flirting with my boyfriend but no one deserved to be leered at like that, and she could only have been a few years older than me.
“And what are we eating?” Diggory’s pompous voice carried on. “I know I fancied some chips… but will we have to wait another half an hour for that? We haven’t got all day you know -”
“Cut it out, Diggory.” The same voice that had reproved him before spoke up again, “We’ll just have the drinks for now, please.” It said in a kinder tone to the poor girl. Then there was the dull thud of someone being punched in the ribs and Diggory was rammed into me a bit by the force of it, “Stop being such a prick. We have actually got all day, we haven’t got anything better to do…”
I recognised the voice. I tried to see around Diggory’s bulk, trying to see who it was. I couldn’t put a name to it but it flared up some sort of recognition in my head, along with a slight feeling of awkwardness for some reason…
Diggory huffed a bit and snatched up a tankard as soon as it was placed in front of him before stomping off to find a table. I got the impression he wasn’t used to being ticked off, despite how laid-back about it the other guy had been.
“Oh well done, Quinn, he’s going to be a nightmare all day now…” A new voice moaned.
“Yeah, yeah, my bad.” The voice didn’t sound in the least bit bothered, “I can never tell when he’s in a mood with me anyway. Last week he informed me that he’d forgiven me for something I’d done a month or so ago; didn’t even realise he wasn’t speaking to me…”
“Must have been a pretty good month,” The guy next to me laughed, picked up his drink and took off with a couple of the others towards Diggory’s table.
“Was a bit of a relief, I’ve got to say,” The voice said mostly to himself, and now that the guy between us had moved I saw who it was. It explained the vague recognition and the awkward feeling, because as soon as I took in the cropped fair hair and the easy smile the awkwardness just about quadrupled.
I looked away, instantly feeling colour flood to my cheeks. I really didn’t fancy another mortifying interaction with this boy…
Well, it wasn’t to be unexpected. Anything with the potential to be hugely humiliating tended to happen to me.
“Oh, hi Ray.” I said airily, as if I hadn’t seen him there. If you can being in the slightest bit cool with crimson cheeks.
He turned to pay the barmaid and for a moment I thought I was going to get away with it. I thought he might just pay and leave, maybe forget I was here or at least pretend to.
That was a stupid thing for me to hope. For one thing, as we already established, bad things happen to me. And for another, well I’d just witnessed that he was just so… nice. How he’d stuck up for the barmaid and told his friend off. And how he’d… erm… tolerated my psychotic tendencies the times – plural – I’d screamed at him. But all in that effortless, polite way that suggested that he was like that the whole time.
People like that frustrate me.
“So, what are you doing here?” I blurted out as he turned back to me. Of course he turned back to me. Bloody polite prat. And, by the way, why was I blurting out accusations? I sounded like James, for crying out loud.
“Um, I don’t know if you noticed this but I am actually over the age of thirteen,” His eyes crinkled up in a bemused smile. Oh well, at least he didn’t look scared. Well he wouldn’t, would he – I wasn’t yelling at him this time. Yet. “I’m allowed to be here. Hence why I said the other day that I’d maybe see you here?”
“Oh. Yeah.” I really was good at these intelligent answer things.
“So maybe I can finally make it up to you,” Ray continued as if I wasn’t being the most difficult person to talk to in the world, “You know, for the drinks incident. Even if it was about six months ago. I’ll get you a drink now if you like,”
“Oh no, it’s fine,” I said, noticing that the barmaid, who was waiting for me to order, “I’m not actually in a hurry, you can serve those other people first…”
“But you were here first,” Ray looked puzzled.
“No…” I denied. Not very convincingly.
He broke into the confused smile again. It made me automatically smile like a loon in response and I had to drop my eyes in embarrassment.
“Oh fine, look I just don’t particularly want to go over there right now. There’s a conversation about to happen that I really have no issue about putting off for as long as possible.” I found myself saying.
The barmaid looked just as baffled as Ray but hurried off to prepare another order, not complaining seeing as she had a bit of a backlog of impatient customers.
“That’s… weird,” Ray commented. I couldn’t work out if he was being judgemental or merely commenting on how it appeared. Because, let’s face it, it was weird. “But fine. I can wait with you. You know. If you want.”
“It’s really fine.” I said, hastily peering over his shoulder to where Sirius, James and Lily were sitting.
Fortunately Sirius wasn’t paying any attention to me to realise that I was speaking to someone of the male gender. Let alone one that he’d already got his knickers in a twist about. From the evil expression on his face and the annoyance on Lily’s face he was probably having far to much fun ribbing her about James to notice me for a while.
“The boyfriend giving me death stares again?” Ray asked, noticing where I was looking but deliberately keeping his back to them.
“No, he’s actually not,” I said in mock surprise, without thinking. Then my brain decided to work and sent out alarm signals to my mouth, which then got into a panic and babbled on. “Not that he’s my boyfriend. He’s not, you know. Or… well not… I don’t…”
“Ok.” He had an annoying smile. Like something was really hilariously funny but he was choosing not to share it with me.
“He’s not my boyfriend.” I settled on.
“Ok.” Stupid smile. Stupid secret joke.
“Stop judging me,” I said, irritably, even though it wasn’t really a judgemental smile. More like he was trying to work out what was going on in my head. Well, good luck mate, and let me know when you do because it’ll be news to me.
“Ok.” The smile broadened.
“You’re annoying.” I informed him.
“Ok…” He laughed at my scowl and leaned on one elbow onto the bar beside me. “Sorry. But if I’m so annoying why are you still here?”
“Because it beats going over there,” I replied, jerking my head in Sirius’ direction.
“To the not-boyfriend?”
Eurgh. Had I really thought that he was nice just five minutes ago? He was possibly even more annoying than Blakely. And Londy. Put together.
“That’s right.” I said, loftily.
“You know, for a not-boyfriend he seems a little too bothered that you’re over here talking to me instead of with him,” Ray was glancing sideways at Sirius’ table. I followed his self-assured stare.
Sirius locked eyes with Ray, who grinned annoyingly at him – probably just to be annoying. Because that was what he was. Annoying. Sirius’ mouth set in a firm line but he switched his gaze to me and pulled what I considered to be a pretty fake grin turned to recommence what looked like a pretty forced conversation with James. Trying to prove that he was a good boyfriend that didn’t throw a tantrum whenever a guy spoke to me. Ah well, at least he wasn’t hexing the poor sod.
“See?” The secret-joke smile was back.
I take it back. I wanted to bloody hex him now.
“He’s just… he… I…” I couldn’t think of an excuse, partly because I was so shocked that Sirius had had the self-control not to storm over and threaten Ray for even speaking to me, but partly because there really was no excuse. “He’s my best mate.” I ended up saying.
“Uh-huh.” I really was going to have to resort to violence if he didn’t stop smiling.
“Oh, whatever. I don’t care what you think. I probably won’t live to see you ever again anyway,” I said, turning back to the bar.
“This ‘conversation’ is going to be that bad, huh?”
“Worse,” I said, “Death would be the easy way out.”
“It does.” I glanced back over my shoulder. Sirius quickly averted his eyes. “Damn it. I’ve probably wasted about as much time as I can…”
“Talking to me is a waste of time?” He didn’t look even a little bit offended. Just amused.
“I wouldn’t call it ‘talking to’ you,” I said, “Maybe ‘being terrorised by’ -”
“Then you’re maybe too easily terrorised.”
“Or maybe you’re just that annoying.”
“Oh, that’s nice.”
“I don’t have the strength to be nice,” I took in a breath. “I’m about to be the most stressed I’ve been in a long, long time. Well, since last night. But that doesn’t count because I barely remember it. Oh God. Here goes…”
“Good luck,” Ray grinned at my pained expression, “So I still owe you one. Next time.”
“Or you could just make sure there isn’t a next time,” I said sweetly, “That would more than make it up to me.”
“Flattered as I am, I’m sure I can come up with better. So I’ll leave you to it.” I watched him join his friends who were all looking at me in a range of expressions from curiosity to shrewd little smirks. He ignored the mocking comments that I was certain he was getting as he sat down, with his secret smile and not looking even a little uncomfortable.
I scowled again at how effortless every little thing he did was. Well that certainly showed how wrong first impressions could be. Nice. Ha. I’d never met anyone who could be so annoying using just a smile.
But Lily had seemed so convinced that he was ‘nice’, that time she tried to set me up with him. And she had actually spent time with him at prefect meetings…
Oh God. He was a prefect. How could someone so irksome be a prefect? Maybe he acted nice at meetings. And polite. Just like he had to me to begin with, and the barmaid. And then he just waited until the time was right to let his annoying side out.
“Can I get you anything now?” The barmaid approached me again uncertainly, “Or are you still, um… avoiding…”
“Oh, no I suppose I should go over there now,” I said, remorsefully. She still looked baffled. “I’ll just have -”
“Excuse me,” A rather rotund third-year butted in. Although his words were polite his voice couldn’t have been more rude. “You’ve given me a barleybeer. I clearly asked for a butterbeer about ten minutes ago, and then when I finally get the drink it’s the wrong one,” He was about five foot tall but that didn’t stop him being obnoxious. I wondered if he was related to Diggory.
“Oh, I’m sorry, let me…” The barmaid took the bottle from him and dumped it behind her before reaching for butterbeer bottle.
“See, that took you ten seconds,” The obnoxious git said pompously, “Why did it take you ten minutes before?”
“I’m sorry,” The barmaid said again, before turning back to me with a weary expression on her face.
“That’s not good enough -” Obnoxious git started to say.
“Oh what are you going to do, midget,” I snapped at him. He gawked at me with his mouth wide open. “You’ve got your sodding drink, now run along. And learn some manners while you’re at it.”
He opened and closed his mouth a few times in shock.
“Shoo.” I said.
The barmaid gave me a grateful look but before she could say a word someone else spoke up.
“Excuse me,” Why did people think it was ok to say ‘Excuse me’ in a snotty voice? It may have been a polite phrase but it really didn’t come across as such when said with that much contempt.
“Yes?” The poor girl gave me an apologetic look before turning to this new complainer, this time a middle-aged woman who could have been a hag, I wasn’t certain.
“I ordered a plate of chopped liver over twenty-five minutes ago,” The hag grumbled, “Where is Madam Yates? She usually gets our orders to us in under five minutes…”
“Madam Yates has had to go away for the day,” The barmaid said, and I looked at her face properly for the first time and saw the lines of nervousness and exhaustion etched on it. She looked close to tears. “So it’s just me. I’m really sorry I’ve just had a lot to do at once and it’s a Hogwarts weekend -”
“That never stopped Madam Yates,” The hag said, sneering unpleasantly, “I don’t know what she was thinking, leaving a pathetic, careless little girl in charge -”
“I… I’m sorry.” The girl choked out, “I’ll get your meal to you right away I just have to -” She ducked through a small wooden door into what I presumed was a kitchen or a cellar or something. I could swear I heard a frustrated sob as she went.
“Stupid girl.” The hag sniffed to her companion.
I was torn. It didn’t look like I’d be getting my drinks any time soon, and in any case I really didn’t want to add to this poor girls stress. So I had two choices.
One, I could forget the drinks and go over to Sirius, James and Lily and endure The Conversation. Without anything to hide my awkward fidgeting behind.
Or two, I could go and comfort this complete stranger who was completely out of her depth, despite the fact that she’d only minutes ago been gawping at my boyfriends bum.
It was barely a decision. I knew what I was going to do. Take the cowards route, obviously.
I slipped around the side of the bar, ignoring the protests and grousing of the abandoned customers and through the wooden door. I was pretty sure this wasn’t allowed but she’d said she was on her own and she was crying…
It was a kitchen, not a cellar. A tiny one. There was barely room for me to duck into the room without hitting into the cluttered counter-tops, hanging pots and pans and charmed utensils at work.
She was leaning against one of the counters with her head in her hands. Her elbow was dangerously close to a chopping board, and by ‘dangerously’ I do actually mean at risk of being harmed – there was a large breadknife unevenly hacking at an enormous loaf of bread about an inch away from her.
“Hey, um…” I recalled what Sirius had called her, “Rosmerta?”
Her head jerked up in surprise at her solitude being intruded upon. She wiped her face quickly with her sleeve. It dragged a little makeup across her cheek but I didn’t say anything.
“What’re you doing here?” She asked, but in a more submissive than hostile way.
“I just wanted to see if you were ok,” I said, feeling a little foolish. I didn’t know this girl – it was a bit weird. I should have thought this through…
She stared at me for long enough to make me uncomfortable before asking, “Why?”
“Because… because those people out there were being pricks. And you’re on your own. It looks… this looks… stressful.” I gestured around the kitchen at the utensils working chaotically.
She sniffed but smiled, “It is. Usually there’s two of us, and Martha at the weekends too, but they both had to go to London. It was an emergency, Martha’s father…” She shook her head, “I bet you think I’m useless – not being able to do this on my own.”
“No,” I said, honestly, “I think it’s bloody amazing. You are doing it on your own. All this stuff all charmed to do what you want… I couldn’t do it.”
She looked a little brighter, “It’s easy once you get told how. Just stuff you take for granted in school, just mixing together the different charms and stuff. I can do the magic part, I just can’t keep up…” She looked mournfully at the stack of orders that had attached themselves to a pinboard. “What am I doing? I’ve got to get that woman her liver… and there was those guys wanting the chips -” She jolted into action, flicking her wand in various directions and grabbing plates and cutlery.
“I’ll help.” I said.
“What?” She said, distracted. “Don’t be silly, it’s your only day off from school. You don’t want to -“
“No, I do,” I said, taking off my jacket and hanging it over the back of a chair, “Honestly. You don’t know what’s waiting for me out there, I’d rather make myself useful here.”
She smiled but didn’t stop what she was doing, “You’re Debbie McKinnon, right?”
That threw me. “Huh?”
“I don’t mean it in a creepy way,” She added, hastily, “I just… Sirius Black, he talks about you.”
“Sirius talks about me?”
“Yeah. Since I first bloody started here. The number of times I’ve told him I’m a barmaid, not an agony aunt for lovesick teenagers…” She grinned at my shocked and slightly mortified face. “I’d love to say that I don’t mean that in a creepy way either but that boy is obsessed.”
“Um,” Ah, the familiar sense of blood rushing to my cheeks. Wonderful.
“Anyway I just meant… I’m guessing he’s the one you’re avoiding. But don’t be too hard on him, yeah? He’s… he does care about you.”
My mouth was still hanging open.
“If I was you I’d go out there now,” She carried on.
If I even considered that I got the odd sense of my stomach viciously kicking the air out of my lungs. And I did actually like breathing, thanks very much. I knew that I should just go out there and get it over with. But did I ever do the right thing? What I should do and what I wanted to do were two very different things. And what I wanted to do right now was avoid the topic forever. So that was what I was going to attempt to do.
“Not happening,” I said, apologetically, “I’m helping, you don’t get a choice. But I can’t do any of this domestic spell malarkey so how about you that and then send me out with the orders, does that sound about right?”
“Thank you,” She said, sounding so genuinely grateful that I felt almost guilty that I wasn’t only doing this out of the goodness of my heart. “And if you could take some orders for me… all you have to do is tap the Quick-Quotes Quill and the food orders will come in here, the order pad’s charmed already. And the drinks… just, if you have time…”
“It’s fine,” I said, grabbing the first few plates.
“And, um, you have to be… polite,” She said, tentatively, “You can’t tell customers to… er, sod off like you did to that kid…”
“He was a snotty git,” I said, “But I’ll try. Right, where to?”
I spent the next twenty minutes or so running out the backlog of food orders to various tables. I got some extremely odd looks from students that recognised me, but I was in too much of a rush, and too busy planning what I was doing next to really be bothered about it.
I didn’t even get much of a chance to consider what Rosmerta had said… about Sirius talking about me… since she’d first started working here. How long ago was that? I couldn’t really remember her from school, I didn’t know what House she’d been in let alone what year…
It wasn’t long before Rosmerta and I were about up-to-date with the orders and the crowd of angry customers at the bar dwindled down to about the usual size. I didn’t pause for a second to talk or even to think. I should have known it wouldn’t be too long until someone asked me what the hell I was doing.
“So. I don’t even really know what to ask.”
I’d just given a customer her change and it was lucky that I’d already dropped the coins into her hand because the familiar voice would have caused me to scatter them on the floor.
“Hey Freddie,” I reluctantly met my brothers eyes, repressing the bout of nausea, guilt and trepidation that threatened to overcome me. It was irrational but all I was thinking was oh shit, he knows. Which was ridiculous. Of course he didn’t know that. Like Sirius would have the courage to tell him on his own, he barely even dared talk to him when I was there…
“I’m confused.” Trust Sirius Sodding Black to contradict my thoughts. He appeared at Freddie’s side and for a moment they wore identical bewildered expressions.
“You and me both, mate.” Freddie answered, not noticing Sirius start in alarm at my brother referring to him as a ‘mate’.
“I’m helping,” I explained, thinking it was kind of obvious.
“Yeah, I can see that…” Freddie still looked confused. “Um… why?”
“Because she needed it,” It wasn’t a lie. It was a half-truth. “Rosmerta, she’s on her own.”
Both of them were still looking at me like I wasn’t quite all there.
“She was upset.” I defended myself.
“Do you even know her?” Sirius asked.
“No. Not really. Well she knew me, which was a bit weird…”
Sirius cheeks coloured a bit. It wasn’t fair. Why did he get to blush so subtly whilst I did it like a freaking beetroot?
“Ok, well can you… stop?” Freddie said, “It’s weird seeing my baby sister behind a bar. It’s the sort of thing I have to put an end to, you know, up there with meeting the brother-in-law…”
I fought valiantly to keep my face straight. It would just not do for the expression of pure dread to form on my face right now. Sirius had an inconspicuous coughing fit and had to excuse himself.
“Let me just get everything sorted for her,” I managed to say, quite normally. “Then you never have to see me here again.”
“Awesome. Because I want a drink but I’m not -”
“What can I get you?” I asked brightly, in my best new barmaid voice.
“No. I am not having my sixteen-year-old sister serve me in the pub.”
“I’m nearly seventeen!” I protested.
“Nope. In my head you’re still twelve, and that you shall be forever, sweetheart,” Freddie grinned. “I’ll wait till the other girl -”
“Don’t be an idiot. Butterbeer?”
Freddie glared at me for a few seconds. “Fine. Two please. Then I have to leave before Marles comes over and gives you a Head Girl speech. Which I should be doing, by the way, as Head Boy.”
“Is it against the rules?”
“It’s not in the rules,” He said, “Because no-one does it.”
“Well, there you go then, no speech needed,” I plonked the two tankards down in front of him, “These’re on me. I’m meant to be getting me and Lil’s some drinks anyway… I’ve only been about forty-five minutes…”
“Eurgh. Having you buy me drinks is even worse -”
“Quit your whining. I’ll see you later brother dear.”
“Uh-huh, and get out of there now, please.” Freddie shook his head incredulously and made his way over to the other side of the pub. I watched him sit opposite Marles in the far corner before I almost collapsed in relief that they were so far away from our booth. I couldn’t cope with telling them as well today… and the thought of them overhearing… I shuddered.
Well, that was the last civil conversation I would be having with my brother for quite some time.
Rosmerta emerged from the kitchen looking considerably more dishevelled and worn-out but also happier.
“Debbie, I can’t thank you enough,” She said, sincerely. “I don’t know what I’d have done without you… probably still be hiding in the kitchen…”
“Don’t mention it,” I said, “It’s actually been fun. Got to confuse some customers, scare my brother…”
She looked confused.
“He’s Head Boy.” I explained.
“Oh I hope you didn’t get in trouble?” She asked, anxiously.
“Nah, he’d never get his baby sister in trouble,” I wrinkled my nose in distaste at the term. Baby indeed.
“Are you done yet?” Sirius appeared at the bar again, apparently fully over his coughing fit. “Oh, uh, hi Rosmerta,”
“Sirius,” She smiled knowingly, “Well, as you can see I’ve met Debbie -”
“Uh-huh that’s great,” He interrupted and cleared his throat, “Can I steal her back now?”
“Oh, already? We were having such a good chat…” She chuckled as Sirius muttered that he’d wait at the table for me and departed uncomfortably. “It’s so easy to wind him up,” She commented.
“Tell me about it, I seem to do it by accident most days,” I said.
“Well, to be fair you’re the only thing I could ever wind him up about,” She smiled, “It’s good to have finally met you.”
“Um, sure,” Now I was uncomfortable.
She chuckled again. “He’ll kill me for telling you, won’t he?”
“Ah well, it’s fun to have dented the pride of Sirius Black. Quite an achievement, really.” She smiled mischievously, “Ok, well thanks again for helping Debbie, I owe you big time. If there’s ever anything I can do… and you know, if you’re ever short of a job when you leave,” She laughed, “I’m sure you’ll get the hang of that ‘domestic spell malarkey’ some day.”
“I wouldn’t count on it,” I laughed as well, “But yeah, I had fun. I guess… I guess I’ll see you next Hogsmeade weekend. Whenever that is. Next year, probably.” I felt weird saying that. I got on with this girl so well it was as if she was at school with me.
“Definitely. Pop in and see me when you can,” She gave me the two drinks I’d been queuing for originally, about an hour ago, plus two more for ‘the boys’ and waved off my attempt to pay with a dismissive hand.
Then I faced the table.
Three heads looked up expectantly. Sirius scooted up to make room for me and took the tray from me to distribute the drinks. I was grateful because to be quite honest my hands were shaking so much that I was surprised I’d managed to make it the short distance to the booth without dropping the tray.
“That was so nice of you, Deb,” Lily said, earnestly, “To help that girl out like that -” She seemed to have gotten over her annoyance at Rosmerta talking to James earlier, “Although it’s probably against school rules…”
“Nah, Freddie reckons it’s not,” I said, my voice only wavering slightly as I tried to keep the conversation light.
“Like Freddie would ever get you in trouble anyway,” James scoffed a little resentfully, probably thinking of the fair few detentions Freddie had landed him in. My brother hated giving out detentions or taking points too; he conveniently only ever seemed to use his power against those that gave him any cheek…
“Like Remus ever gets you in trouble,” I retorted.
James grinned, “I am like a little sister to him…”
“That is all too true.”
“So anyway,” Sirius put a stop to the light-hearted teasing that was putting me so at ease. Damn it. Just when I was comfortable he had to go and remind me in two sodding words why we were here. “We’ve been here practically all day and we haven’t had a chance to talk…”
I gulped. I knew what was coming next. Exactly what had happened last night – he was going to tell them we had something to tell them so that there was no way of backtracking. But this time I was pretty certain that I didn’t have a hope of throwing up to distract them all, because I hadn’t eaten today.
But, to my surprise, the next voice that spoke wasn’t Sirius.
“Oh yeah, well actually there was a reason that I wanted us all to meet up today…” James said, uneasily.
I had to do a double-take to make sure that it was him. Sure it was James’ voice, but I’d never heard him sound so uncomfortable. If I ever had to recall his voice there was always an element of ease and just… laughter really.
James was so rarely serious. Even when he asked Lily out – which was part of the reason she hated it, I thought, because he treated it as a joke – and even when he was telling me about the thousandth rejection. There was always a sort of carefree tone to his words. That was why it was so easy to make fun of him. He wasn’t actually as dumb as he came across; I knew from how he kept his grades above average despite how he spent the majority of his time entertaining rather than working. But whenever he did something stupid, he could so easily laugh at himself. He didn't get embarrassed, he didn’t get defensive and he certainly didn’t get uneasy…
“What’s up?” I asked, at once.
He opened his mouth but didn’t say anything for a few seconds. It looked as though he was weighing up what to say. That shocked me too. James Potter actually thinking about what to say!
I glanced at the other two to see if they were just as stunned as me. Sirius’ mouth was hanging a little open and his forehead was furrowed in confusion.
Lily didn’t look so stunned. In fact she looked a little like she was going to vomit. I recognised that look well because it contained the traces of dread, anticipation, guilt and nausea that I had felt on my own face just seconds ago.
Why the hell would she look like that unless…
It couldn’t be.
It just couldn’t.
“James?” I asked, pushing him to speak.
“Well, uh…” He took a deep breath, “Well you know things have been pretty different between the four of us since New Years Eve…”
Sirius and I both took in a sharp breath at that. Surely he couldn’t be talking about us? He was smart, sure I just admitted that, but he didn’t have the basic common sense to put things together and realise…
Unless. Lily. But even with her help… Sirius and I had been so careful… Well, I had.
“Really?” I squeaked, “I hadn’t noticed.”
“Oh come on, Deb,” James said, “I thought it was obvious.”
We’re doomed. They totally knew. And they were going to hate us forever for not telling them. Quite ironic really… on the day that we were going to tell them…
“What was obvious?” Sirius’ forced calm voice was slightly more casual than my high-pitched squeak, I had to admit.
“You didn’t notice either?” James asked.
I was a little puzzled. Of course Sirius had noticed – he was the one who asked me to be his girlfriend in the first place… That was a bit of an odd question to ask…
“Oh, I guess we were better at acting normal than we gave ourselves credit for,” Hang on. James was looking at Lily. With an inappropriate amount of tenderness. Well that wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. What was out of the ordinary was how she was smiling back at him…
We’ve already established that it couldn’t be.
“What’s going on?” I demanded. “You two are acting like…”
“Yeah.” Sirius added, backing me up most helpfully.
“Well,” James looked uneasy again. I couldn’t get used to that expression on his face, “That’s because we kind of are.”
For a full ten seconds Sirius and I just stared. From James to Lily to James again. I don’t know if Sirius was choosing to keep silent but I know that I had no choice. My brain was coming up with no words.
James and Lily. James. And Lily.
It couldn’t be.
“Well, not really,” Lily spoke up for the first time hastily. “We’re not like…”
“We kind of are,” James protested.
“No we’re not, Potter,” Lily glared at him.
“But we -”
“We’re not.” Lily said, firmly.
“Ok, well she says we’re not, but there’s definitely something -”
“I’m confused,” Sirius complained.
“Uh-huh.” I agreed.
“Well we just wanted to tell you both that we’re…”
“That you’re what?” Sirius asked in frustration, “Stop using partial fucking sentences!”
“Ok,” James gave a rueful half-smile and ran his hand agitatedly through his hair, “Shit, I… you got mad at that part…”
“Are you telling me that you and Evans…” Sirius said slowly.
“It’s not like he’s making out!” Lily hastened to butt in. “We’re not, like, together,” She sounded thoroughly repulsed. Poor Jamesie.
“But?” I sensed that that wasn’t all. I couldn’t get my head around it. James and Lily. But not James and Lily. I had no bloody clue what they were talking about.
“But we… we…” James lifted a hand to nervously ruffle his hair again but Lily slapped it down. The gesture was so coupley that I stared.
Lily saw me staring and hid her hands in her lap immediately.
“We kissed alright?” She said, blushing a beetroot colour almost worthy of me and ducking her head in shame.
“You kissed?” Sirius and I exclaimed at the same time.
“Yes,” Lily and James answered at the same time. Lily sounded miserably but James sounded indignant at our shock.
Well. This wasn’t what I expected the outcome of The Conversation to be. Instead of me and Sirius it was… Lily and James?
But at the same time it wasn’t really all that unexpected. It was… well, it was Lily and James. Lily-and-James. Everyone had always known that they’d end up together, it was just a question of when. Now that I thought about it there’d been hints at it for ages…
They’d been spending more time together since Christmas, that was obvious. I’d thought it was because me and Sirius had been together more but obviously not… And they’d been getting on so much better. There was the time in the snow when they’d gotten a little too close. I knew that something was off when Lily hadn’t hexed him. Then how defensive she’d been about it. And all the flirting, obviously, that spoke for itself. Then…
Of course! Then there was New Years Day, when Sirius was taking the piss out of the likelihood of Lily ever kissing James… the awkward joke James had made about it… Because it was true! It had happened. And he was awkward because it took all his energy not to jump and scream and tell the world.
Of course. So obvious, when I thought back.
“Of course,” I voiced my realisation. Lily jerked her head up.
“I just… it’s not that much of a surprise, Lil,” I said, gently, not wanting to enrage her.
“It’s not a…” She echoed my words blankly, “It’s a huge surprise! I was surprised and I was there!”
“Well, alright, it was a surprise that it happened so soon; I was thinking it wouldn’t be until we left school, maybe. You know, the time apart and all that,” Sirius grinned. “But it’s awesome that you two are…”
“No!” They said together again. Aw. They even thought the same. Alright, Lily said it with some kind of horror in her voice and James sounded more mournful but still…
“No,” Lily repeated more calmly, “We’re not together. Nor will we ever be -” James didn’t look perturbed at the finality. It wasn’t anything that had knocked his confidence the million or so times she’d said it before, I suppose. “- We just thought we should tell you both. So you knew why it had been so strange between us for the past few months. God, no, we’re not actually together.”
Again, James wasn’t disconcerted by the way she said this. In fact he laughed. “You thought we were together? God, imagine it. What kind of friends would we be if we’d been together all this time and not told you two, huh?”
Sirius and I exchanged glances. I was pretty sure the sinking sense of guilt I felt in my stomach wouldn’t be unfamiliar to him.
“So anyway,” Lily said, obviously trying change the subject in an effort to make us forget her confession, “Didn’t you two have something to say too?”
A.N. Yay! This is the quickest i've got another chapter out in a while.. alright it hasn't actually been that quick but yay anyway? I'm trying! So what does everyone think? I don't blame you if you hate me at all for putting off the whole confessing to James and Lily thing AGAIN.. but we have to bide our time people!!
So I'd love to hear what you think about anything -
the aftermath of the party,
finding out why Lily's been a weirdo,
it's not just Sirius&Dee's fault that they're drifting apart,
the (slightly mean) ending?
Thanks for reading!
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