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Chapter 4 : Silence
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Leah woke up Saturday morning to find all four girls in her dormitory staring wide-eyed at her. If that was not enough, they were also gathered around where she had been laying asleep. If she didn’t know better, Leah would have assumed a gut-wrenching event had just occured.
She yawned. “Did Hestia’s cat finally put an end to that old hag in Hogsmeade?” No one found her joke particularly amusing and it took several moments before anyone uttered a word at all.
“This is it,” said a nervous Gina eventually from where she stood leaning against the bedframe.
Hestia Jones, a youg lady with black hair and rosy cheeks gazed at a spot a foot above Leah’s head mournfully. “The day of truth is here.”
Leah threw back her blankets. “For God’s sake, this isn’t my funeral. It’s just a date—no commitment—no borders...nothing.” She did not feel that it was necessary to mention the “experiment” she had planned. She didn’t want to start an outright frenzy. “Just two people getting to know each other.”
There was a snort from the other side of the room. It was Allison Reeds, a transfer student from Poland during their second year with waist length blonde hair and a wide array of freckles. She wrinkled her nose skeptically. “Sirius Black doesn’t ‘get to know.’ He’ll let you talk about whatever you want but then only say a few words in response. He’ll do whatever you want. If you kiss him he’ll kiss back, there there’s nothing there for him. It’s like dating a corpse. The only reason he still gets girlfriends is because everyone thinks they’re the one. Are you going to do that too, Leah?”
Leah climbed out of bed. “Well not exactly. I just want to...see.”
Allison nodded. “We’ve all seen.”
It was then that it struck Leah that every girl in the room, except Gina and herself had dated Sirius at least once. All had ended horribly. Allison’s attempt had been the previous year and had concluded with her crying herself to sleep every night for a month and a week. Hestia had two attempts under her belt, one breakup sending Pretty Boy to the hospital wing with half of his rib bones missing and the other with his face contorted to resemble that of a large wasp.
Seeing that Leah had made up her mind, there was another timid voice from the bed two down. There stood Summer Lysons, one who had dated Black for mere hours before quietly dumping a goblet of pumpkin juice on his head before retiring to bed. “Stay away from personal topics with him.”
She walked to her wardrobe as the others behind her picked up on this topic.
“Definitely,” remarked Hestia. “Don’t ask him about himself. He won’t respond. Or his frends. He doesn’t like to talk about what his friends are like.”
“Oh yeah!” said Allison. “ I tried to ask him about James...not pretty.”
“But don’t talk about yourself all the time either,” said Gina, pulling a top out of the wardrobe and holding it up against Leah. “It’ll look like you’re full of yourself.”
“Above all,” Summer piped up again before Leah could open her mouth. “Don’t ask about him. No background—no asking where he’s from—no family.” She shook her head. “Bad stuff.”
“But why?” asked Leah, suddenly curious with this new onslaught of information. “What does he say?”
“Well, after he sends you a death glare, he says that they’re fine. It’s just the way he says it, like he wants to ensure I don’t ask any more questions. I mean, everyone knows he and Regulus Black are brothers, but it’s like we’re not supposed to mention it or anything.”
Leah shrugged, vaguely remembering a slight boy in Slytherin with similar features to the Pretty Boy, though having nothing of his ambience. “It’s not a big deal. I’m just going to test the water today. I’ll talk about plants if I have to. They’re perfectly boring, and from the sound of it, so is he!”
“Still,” said Allison. “Don’t go personal with him. It’s safer that way.”
Thirty minutes later Leah descended the staircase from the girls’ dormitory. The rest of her roommates followed several steps behind her, somehow believing this made them look inconspicuous and as if they had not been offering Leah advice the entire time.
“So what’re you going to do while I’m gone?” Leah asked Gina, trying to divert the topic from her upcoming meeting.
Her friend shrugged. “Dunno. Probably meet up with Xeno or something.”
Leah gave her a cheeky grin. “Ah, so you two have hit if off?”
“Maybe. We’ll see today.”
They climbed out of the portrait hole and down towards the Great Hall.
“Do you want to stop for breakfast?” Gina asked.
“Nah. I don’t have much of an appetite.”
“Ha! I knew you were nervous.”
“Yeah...well...you would be, too.”
They both stopped in their track.
“You know,” said Gina after a second’s silence. “For someone who is supposed to be the worst boyfriend on the planet, he sure is punctual.”
Leah followed her gaze and saw that Sirius Black was leaning against the wall of the Entrance Hall looking more like a Roman god to anything else. It was quite understandable that so many girls had fallen for him. It was hard not to notice the way his hair curled around his ears or the slight cleft in his chin that somehow accentuated every other dip and turn along his body.
Leah narrowed her eyes. “He’s not punctual! He’s early.”
“Or maybe you’re just late,” her friend suggested slyly.
“That’s not possible. I never even specified a time.”
Gina gave her a dry stare. “We cannot seriously be arguing about this. Go with him.” She gave Leah a small push. “...and tell me everything later.”
The girl walked hesitantly toward Sirius, who had just noticed her, and tried quite hard not to stare at the way his button up shirt fit him. That is for lower girls than me, she told herself.
There was a pregnant pause as they both stared at each other.
“Well,” Leah said at last, dreading the words as they left her lips. “Let’s go.”
They were in the Three Broomsticks, each with a set of eggs and bacon on their plate.
“It’s so cliché to get butterbeer here,” Leah observed as she took a bite of her food and then a sip of orange juice. “There’s so much other good food and drink...and yet everyone insists on getting butterbeer. It’s like how Willy Wonka has all this amazing candy, but everyone has to get chocolate because it’s a ‘chocolate factory.’” That was grasping straws, she knew it, but the last ten minutes had been like having a conversation with a tree stump. Pretty Boy’s responses were usually one or two words, if he gave one at all.
Then he spoke and Leah was suddenly grateful that her chocolate factory analogy had not gone to waste. “Who is Willy Wonka?”
Four words! And a question.
“You’ve never heard of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?”
He shook his head once in each direction.
“It’s a muggle story about a poor boy who won a golden ticket to visit the famous Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Willy Wonka hadn’t been seen in years and his candy was famous. Then the kid and a few others visit and there’s a chocolate waterfall—”
“That’s absolutely bonkers.”
“It’s a muggle story. They’re all bonkers, yet still a little fun when you take the time to read them!”
So far Leah had done as the girls in her dormitory advised her. No personal topics or family. But it was still hard to come up with safe matters of conversation.
“So,” she started again. “Have you ever been to Madam Puddifoot’s?”
Sirius’ handsome face immediately darkened and he looked as if he had swallowed several gallons of sour milk. “Unfortunately.”
“It’s quite horrid, isn’t it?”
He briefly looked relieved when he realized Leah wasn’t going to drag him there. “Definitely. Too many frills.”
Leah peered past his head, trying to think of a new conversation topic and saw James Potter, Remus Lupin, and Peter Pettigrew all sitting in a booth by the window and watching them.
When they caught her gaze they all lifted menus to obscure their faces.
Leah could not help but smile slightly. “Your friends are spying,” she pointed out.
Her companion raised one eyebrow. “That’s not unusual. Flip ‘em the bird and they’ll stop.”
She did the math in her head. Ten words! Twelve if you counted the contractions.
Trying to contain her excitement, she said, “Nah. Not my style. From me it’ll come as more of a laugh than an insult.”
Pretty Boy stared at her and then waggled his own middle finger towards his friends. “They’re gits.”
“Why do they insist on following you?” Leah immediately bit her tongue, knowing she was not supposed to talk about his friends, but it had slipped out.
But Sirius seemed unphased by this. “It’s a hobby of their’s.”
She laughed nervously. “You’d think they’d get tired after a while. Especially seeing as nearly every girl at school has taken you here. Don’t they get tired of the same show over and over?”
“Every performance is different.”
Leah thought for a moment. “Well, what’s been the best one? For them, at least?”
But Sirius didn’t answer, merely shrugging his shoulders and taking a sudden interest in a pair of doves outside. He shook his leg steadily to a rhythm unheard by either of them and tapped his fingers carelessly on his left knee. Leah did not know how he could stand the silence. To her, it was so loud. Each moment punctuated with nothing but their breathing brought to light the babbles that took place around them. Suddenly the girl at the next table chatting about her boring boyfriend back home became ever the more present in her head. An elderly man’s order of butterbeer to Madam Rosmerta echoed from every wall in the room. To Sirius, though...to Sirius it was nothing. He wasn’t fazed at all.
The young girl swallowed uneasily, hearing the gulp glide down her throat. “So...this hobby of theirs? Something like Poker or Go Fish?”
Again, Sirius didn’t answer—only stared at her. And to her utmost amazement, Leah did the same thing right back at him. If her goal was to get him to show some sort of emotion, the key way to do it would be to play his game.
So with that, Leah did not speak, merely stared. The buzzing of neighbouring conversations pressed upon her ears, but she did not let them in. She didn’t let her mind wander off or her eyes become unfocused. She concentrated on even breathing and not fidgeting. Sirius gazed back at her, his eyes perhaps a bit narrower, but otherwise unchanged. Maybe it was shock? Or just his muscles relaxing?
With each instant, the urge to speak bubbled up inside Leah’s throat, but she resisted. Part of her knew that as long as she kept quiet, the more awkward it would be once they resumed their conversation. But, though Leah, then why isn’t he saying anything? It can’t just be awkward for me. This sentence fueled her silence and gave her a reason to keep her lips pressed firmly together. This wasn’t a one way pause, so it couldn’t be just her who was feeling the pressure to speak.
Finally, after what seemed like an entire Ice Age and then a month, Sirius gave a small inclanation of his head and spoke, looking as if he had just recalled something—not as if he and his date had just had a very long stare off. “Are you muggle born?”
Leah sucked in her breath, thinking for a moment she had forgotten the ability of human language. She had won! Forcing herself not to linger on this point for too long, Leah stuttered out an answer, “N-No, just a fan of their stuff.” When he didn’t say anything she continued, “Most wizards condone muggle appliances and ideas because there’s no magic. But when you really look at it, muggles are fascinating. The very fact they don’t have magic seems to put them a step ahead of us, doesn—” She broke off, suddenly extraordinarily aware that the boy sitting across from her was not only a pure blood, but one of a very anti-muggle family. If there was any chance at getting him to continue speaking, this certainly was not it.
She needn’t have worried however, for Sirius merely crinkled his eyebrows a little bit before responding, “I suppose so. Never really gotten a chance to know much about them. I’m sure there’s a little more to them than meets the eye.”
Trying to make the situation less awkward (if that was even possible,) Leah grinned at him. “Well now’s a perfect chance. Here, grab your mates. I’ll teach you guys how to play Go Fish.”
He stared at her. “What?”
Leah stood up and faced the three other Marauders who were all of a sudden trying to busy themselves with braiding Remus’s hair. Very incospicuous. “Hey, you guys,” she called. “Come on over here.”
James timidly glanced at her and immediately adverted eye contact, furociously attempting to
look as if he was very intersting in getting the french braid just right. It may have come to a shock to him, but he wasn’t fooling anyone.
Leah shrugged. “Alright then. We’ll just have to join them over there.” She stood up and walked over to the other side of the table where Sirius was sitting. She grabbed his arm and hauled him to his feet. “C’mon, it’ll be loads of fun.” She seemed to have been compensating for her silence by speaking even more so than usual.
The two of them lumbered over to where the other Marauders were sitting and joined the table. “Do you mind?” Leah asked the other boys. “I was going to teach Sirius here how to play Go Fish and while you can play with just two people, it’s funner not to. We can leave though, if you’d like.” She eyed Remus. “I know braiding hair can be awfully fun.”
The boys began to stammer, gesturing wildly and stumbled their words while trying to get out that they were, in fact, much more manly than they had otherwise appeared. While none of them could form coherent sentences, Peter managed to shove over their empty butterbeer bottles, signaling the boys’s willingness to take part in the game.
Leah grinned. “Alright. Game on.”
After a quick explanation and an assurance that they would pick it up as the game progressed, Leah extracted a pack of muggle playing cards from her purse and divied up the deck amongst the five of them playing, and then scattering the remaining cards on the table in front of them.
“Don’t look!” she snapped at James, who was craning his neck in an attempt to look over Sirius’s shoulder.
“He has threes!” James cried triumphantly. “I’m going to remember that for when I need threes!”
“Brilliant,” Leah muttered. “Real sportsmanship right here, boys.”
And on the game went.
A/N Hi! Firstly, I'd like to apologize ahead of time for any embarrassing spelling mistakes I may or may not have made. My spell check is all messed up so it's possible I missed something in my proof reading.
Secondly, I'd like to thank you all profusely for all the wonderful reviews you left last chapter. They have been extraordinarily encouraging and I really, really appreciate them. I haven't gotten a chance to answer all of them, but I will do so as quickly as I can.
I hope you liked this chapter. It was originally going to be longer, but I decided to cut it short and include what WAS going to be in it, in the next chapter.
Anyway, I would really appreciate if you left a quick review. Just take a minute and let me know what you think of the story so far. Is Leah boring? Is the plot at a standstill? I welcome all criticism.
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