Marlene’s party began early that night, thanks to Remus who stumbled into the Common Room already tipsy before dark. “Padfoot! Wormy!... Help! Prongs!” he called as he took a few graceless steps into the Common Room.
“What happened?” James asked, jumping up from his seat to support Remus. “Did you meet with Rita Skeeter? Merlin, Moony. Your breath smells foul.”
“She got me drunk, Prongs,” Remus said, trying to whisper. “She was so... weird.”
“Why didn’t you let me go?!” Sirius demanded, pouting.
Remus put a hand to his head. “All of the lights are so bright... Do you guys have Sobering Solution? I have a date with Cora, and I can’t go like this--”
“Stay with us!” Sirius said. “We can break out the bubbly--”
“It’s Valentine’s Day,” Remus interjected. “I shouldn’t have had so much... But I was trying to give a good first impression.”
“Did Rita Skeeter like that you were stumbling all over the place?” Peter asked, frowning.
“Oh yes!” Remus said, giving an exaggerated nod. “She liked me more than 2500 galleons much.”
James, Sirius, and Peter’s jaws dropped.
“Our book? Our piece-of-shit book?” asked James.
“That’s it. It’s finally a good day!” Sirius said. “I don’t care if it’s hardly after dinner. Our party starts now.”
Remus shook his head adamantly. “What am I going to do about Cora? I have to meet her for Valentine’s Day... I can’t go like this. Help me.”
“But it’s a victory party! And Marlene’s birthday! And our book launching party!” Sirius exclaimed. “You can’t meet the lost puppy. You have Marauders’ Duty tonight!”
“Padfoot! Dammit guys...” Remus said, as Sirius disappeared up to their dorm to bring down the alcohol he had taken from the kitchens.
Even Peter and James turned their attentions away from Remus when Sirius appeared at the top of the stairs, holding a bottle of champagne and levitating a crate of other drinks behind him. “Where’s the birthday girl?!” he yelled as he bounded down the stairs, catching the attention of everyone in the Common Room.
Marlene appeared at his side, wrestling the bottle from his hands and popping the top off. The drink sprayed everywhere, soaking Marlene and Sirius who fell into laughter and opened their mouths, trying to lap the drink up. “You’re seventeen!” he yelled, hugging her tightly and swinging her around.
James and Peter abandoned Remus to join Sirius and Marlene. They set up the bottles on a table and began passing around cups for everyone. Peter tuned the radio to the latest Whizz Hard Rock. Most everyone but the younger students lined up to get a cupful of mysterious liquid from James and Peter. When Lily wasn’t around, the Gryffindor Prefects typically had an understanding that anyone in the Fifth Year or above could take alcohol, so long as they didn’t get out of hand.
The longer Remus waited, the fewer people who could help him get to Cora... And the less he actually felt like leaving the Common Room.
“Hey. I brought you a present,” Sirius told MJ as she bounded down the stairs holding onto the railing; her face was buried in a book. She looked up when he spoke to her, suddenly aware of the party around her.
“A present? But it’s Mar’s birthday, not mine,” MJ said skeptically, taking the last two stairs before noticing the cup that Sirius held in his hands. “No thanks. I’m okay.”
“Do you want something else? There’s a lot of choices,” Sirius said, gesturing to the makeshift bar.
“I’m fine,” MJ told him again. She would have said something else, made another hasty attempt to avoid alcohol, but a sudden outburst caught her attention. James was standing on a couch, giving a piggyback ride to a girl in Hufflepuff robes. He was threatening to jump off the couch, and she was shrieking with laughter and kicking her legs. “Is that a friend of James’?” MJ asked, turning back to Sirius.
“Probably not,” he said before following her gaze. As soon as he recognized the girl, he erupted into uncontrollable laughter. “Oh my God. That’s Ursula Chandler from Hufflepuff... She’s into really kinky things--werewolves, vampires, probably Death Eaters...”
“Charming,” MJ frowned as James finally let Ursula--who looked a little heavy, even for James-- off his back, only to grab her by the waist and pull her toward him. MJ felt appalled at James and looked back to Sirius, who was smiling slightly down at her. “I’m actually on my way out. Studying...” MJ wouldn’t have minded taking a break from her book to hang out with her friends, but she didn’t know how to tell Sirius that the idea of hanging out at a party was making her feel uncomfortable.
As she took a step forward to leave, Sirius grabbed her arm and pulled her back around. The drink sloshed onto the floor. “Hey. You should stay.” His hair hung in his eyes just barely, but his gaze was fixed on her. “It’s Saturday. Give yourself a break.”
“Padfoot!” called Remus, stumbling over into their conversation and interrupting their eye contact. “I’m fifteen minutes late for Cora... I’m really dizzy. Should I go to her?”
“I don’t know, Moony,” Sirius said, rubbing his head and visibly annoyed to be interrupted. “Do whatever you want.”
“I have to go,” MJ said quietly, stepping around the two boys.
“Don’t,” said Sirius, calling her back. “Did I do something wrong? Why are you avoiding me?”
“What? Why would you think that?” asked MJ, spinning on her heels and narrowing her brow. She looked to Remus, noting their conversation wasn’t exactly private, but he had taken a few steps back to lean against the wall and rub his head.
“You’ve hardly been talking to me,” Sirius replied. “I don’t know... it’s just sort of jarring. You’re one of my friends, and I’m not used to being ignored by friends. Especially close ones.”
“You’re acting weird too, you know,” MJ said. “All of your questions seem really forced--”
“--I know! Because you’re not responding like a normal human being! What’s up with you?”
“Nothing,” MJ replied. “I’ve been busy lately.”
“With what? It’s a Saturday night. It’s one of your best friend’s birthdays,” he argued. “Why would you leave?”
“You’re not in charge of everything I do, Sirius!” MJ said.
“Obviously. If I were, I’d order you to talk to me,” Sirius replied, a smile twitching on his face.
“That’s not funny,” MJ said, crossing her arms. “Lately you’ve been talking to me in this really condescending way... like everything I do is just so naive and adorable. Just stop it. I can make my own decisions!”
“Why are you so mad?” Sirius asked. “You are naive.... and adorable too, objectively of course. Like a kitten or something. And you know you are. I’ve literally just tried to strike up friendly conversations so we can start talking like normal again. Sorry if I’m interfering too much in my friend’s life!”
“A kitten? You think of me like I’m a helpless house pet?” MJ asked, feeling inexplicable fury.
“You know that’s not what I mean!”
“Just... back off. I’m not a child. You’re asking too many questions... and I’m exhausted... and I’m... I’m upset, okay?”
“Well, what’s wrong?” Sirius asked, setting the drink down. He reached his arm out to rub her back--possibly to comfort her--but his hand landed in her long hair, and he twisted the already-tangly strands in his fingers.
They were so close that it scared MJ. Already, she felt nervous and uneasy, but she didn’t want to reconcile--or do anything else--with Sirius after he had been drinking. It didn’t seem genuine enough. She tensed up and took an unintentional step away. “I can’t say,” she said.
It was true--there was no way she could tell Sirius that she was sick thinking about Regulus as a murderer... or herself as a murderer’s passive friend... or herself as a Death Eater’s target. It wasn’t really a conversation for a party. Hell, it wasn’t really conversation for anywhere. If Sirius found out that she secretly met with his brother in the Room of Requirement, well surely, he’d call it betrayal. And if Sirius ever found out who Regulus had become... MJ knew he would never admit it, but Sirius would be heartbroken, ashamed, angry.
“You can’t say?” Sirius said slowly, skeptically. “Look. Maybe I’m a little tipsy, but you can still talk to me.”
Marlene, Rory, and Lily often alluded to Sirius’ feelings for MJ. She had always been so hesitant to believe it. He was the boy that almost every girl pined for, admittedly herself included. Yet, she never believed there was any way he would pick her. Her hair was too tangly. Her eyes were too big and bug-like. She liked to eat, unlike the majority of girls he dated.
But MJ thought she recognized the spark in his eye. It made her stomach drop, her body feel cold, her eyes widen, but also it ignited a feeling of intense dread. She was keeping things from him; she wasn’t sure she was trustworthy anymore after spending so much time listening to tales about the Dark Arts. Plus, there was that little thing that kept nagging at her. Sirius was so romantically experienced, and she wasn’t at all. Embarrassed and confused, she turned away from him and fled.
She ignored his calls after her and taking desperate steps out the Portrait Hall, down the corridor, down two flights of stairs--
“MJ! As a Prefect, I’m supposed to stop you for being out after curfew...” Lily said. They had almost run right into each other, but Lily had the agility to jump out of MJ’s way. “Oh no! Why are you upset?”
“Does it show?” MJ asked without bothering to deny it. Lily was exceptionally good at reading people and would know if MJ lied. “A lot of reasons, I guess... I needed to get out of Gryffindor Tower. I wish people wouldn’t drink or scream or dance around... I wish they would just leave me alone--”
“Mary Jane,” Lily said soothingly. “I’m getting back from patrol now, and as a Prefect, I can break up any parties in the Common Room... even if it is Marlene’s.”
“No. It’s fine,” MJ said, continuing down the stairs and picking up her speed. “Don’t worry about it.”
Lily was soon out of view as MJ headed for the dungeons, with one person in mind.
Remus’ vision had long ago gone blurry. He’d have to thank Rita Skeeter later--if he remembered. He could hardly focus his vision on his watch, which told him he was an hour late for meeting Cora in their favorite aisle of the library. His friends had been no help at all, and now had even abandoned him to make him fend for himself. He wildly scanned the party for them:
There was Rory, jumping up and down on the couch, her hair whipping around her face. She was screeching lyrics to the song playing on the radio...
Then there was James, off in a corner with a Hufflepuff girl... oh God, Ursula the Prefect. They looked to be having a serious conversation, but if Remus had learned one thing about Ursula during Prefect Patrol, she was probably telling her theory that bondage was the only way to show someone you loved them. So desperately, Remus tried to glue that image of Ursula and James into his memory so that he could tease James later. On the plus side of the situation, Remus predicted her crush on him had faded in favor of a crush on James...
Peter was surrounded by Bertha Jorkins and company. He seemed to be telling a fictitious version of how James saved Snape. The girls around him were ooh-ing and aww-ing. Peter flushed pink at the attention he was getting...
Sirius was sitting at one of the study tables that he had turned into the “bar.” He poured liquid into two small glasses and slid one to the girl next to him--Marlene actually. Remus watched as they counted to three and both gulped their shots down. Sirius’ back was turned to Remus, but he watched Marlene’s profile as she turned to Sirius, her face contorted in disgust. She began to poke Sirius’ chest, blaming him for the foul taste...
Remus kept looking at her hair, the loose black curls that fell to her chest. Most girls in the school were wearing their hair feathered or pin straight these days, but Marlene had resisted the trend. Everyone had always called her a classic beauty, and Remus agreed. Her black hair contrasted with her smooth, pale skin. Plus her features were perfectly sculpted--crescent-like eyes, heart shaped lips, and a thin, long nose. She always looked like a goddess, even when she was yelling at Sirius. There was a certain grace in the way she turned around and crossed her arms, pretending to be angry at him for tricking her into drinking something she called revolting. When she spun back around, she began to laugh, throwing her head back so her hair gently fell on her lower back--
At just that moment, the Portrait Hole flew open loudly, and there was Cora. Her face was pink; it seemed like she had been crying. She didn’t see him at first, and immediately went up to Peter to ask him a question. Peter pointed over to Remus, and Cora headed toward him.
Remus began to stutter an apology, “I’m sorry--”
“--If you’re so sorry, why are you just sitting here? You didn’t try to owl me or anything? You’re hiding out at a party that you didn’t even bother inviting me to!”
“I’m drunk,” he said. “And if I don’t get any Sobering Solution, I’m going to fall asleep.”
Cora looked furious. “You came to a party to get drunk before our date.” Though it was more like a question, it sounded like a statement. Her words were loaded with anger and indignation.
Remus had not had anything to drink since he had left his meeting with Rita Skeeter, but he couldn’t imagine trying to explain the situation to Cora. He would have to tell her he had snuck into Hogsmeade--she wouldn’t want to hear that anyway. Cora loved rules. Then, he would have to say that he had had a business meeting about a book he and his friends had written. Oh, and there was that little thing about the book; it was on his experiences as a werewolf.
No. He couldn’t tell Cora anything.
“I’m sorry,” he repeated.
“I’m so angry with you... I just don’t know what to do,” she said. “You choose this over me? This is disgusting! Everyone is drinking themselves into a stupor.”
“I don’t know what to tell you,” Remus said quietly. Her tone of voice was hurting his ears. “I’ve already apologized.”
“It doesn’t feel like enough,” she said.
“I’m sorry... I want to talk to you. I just feel horribly sick...” Remus began. He put a hand to his mouth.
He couldn’t really remember much more of his night other than Cora dragging him up to his dorm and holding him up over the toilet.
By midnight, both Marlene and Sirius were the only ones still stirring--but just barely. Because the party had begun so early, most everyone else had already retired for the night. The few people who hadn’t yet gone to sleep--like James and Ursula--were pressed together in conspicuous hiding places. In the instance of James and his new friend, they were sitting in a windowsill, the curtains drawn around them.
Sirius and Marlene both were seated at one of the study tables, their heads resting on the table so that they faced each other.
“Happy seventeenth,” said Sirius. To Marlene, his eyes had dark circles, his hair was disheveled, and he was paler than usual. Still, of course, he maintained his nonchalant, casual good looks. Marlene never thought it was fair; she knew her makeup had smudged long ago and her hair was sticky from when she had spilled a drink on herself.
“Thanks,” said Marlene. “Seriously. Thanks. I know you did a lot for this.”
“My pleasure,” said Sirius. One side of his face was squished against the table, and Marlene laughed. He laughed too.
“I hope it was what you wanted. Seventeen’s a big deal,” Sirius said.
“Yeah. It was great,” Marlene said.
“That doesn’t seem too sincere--Oh!” Sirius said, finally prying his head up from the table. “Oh... you were expecting Remus to pay you some attention. Is that it?”
“No,” said Marlene indignantly, also sitting up. “Okay. Yes. I mean, I know he has a girlfriend, so he’s obviously not going to be fawning over me... But god! It was my birthday, and he didn’t even wish me a good one! And then, I had to watch him take Cora up to your room... They still haven’t come down.”
“I was hoping you wouldn’t notice that,” Sirius said.
“Whatever. Remus can do whatever he wants. He obviously doesn’t think about anyone besides himself,” Marlene said. When she realized that she seemed to be ranting, she tried to pull Sirius back into the conversation. “And speaking of being selfish, I saw MJ walk out on you while you were trying to talk to her--”
“--What? Oh, MJ,” Sirius said, scratching his cheek. “Do you know what’s up with her lately? She’s stopped talking to me. Really abruptly too.”
“What’s up with MJ? What’s up with the both of you?” Marlene replied. “You’ll be mad when I say this, but I thought you and her... well, I thought it would be tonight.”
Sirius rested his head in his hand, his elbow on the table. Still, he sat sideways facing Marlene. “Nothing ever works like that.”
“Come on, Sirius. Yes it does. Everyone meets at parties. Take James and that Badger for example,” Marlene said.
“That’s different,” Sirius said. “Nothing that lasts ever begins at parties. They’re usually just mistakes. In the morning, James will think back on tonight with Ursula as the worst night of his life.”
“So you’re saying that you want something that lasts with her?” Marlene asked.
“I didn’t say that. I just said that since she and I are so close, it would be a mistake. Plus she’s MJ and likely wouldn’t want to get together with anyone behind a tapestry. It doesn’t fit her,” Sirius said.
“Do you like her? Tell the truth. It’s me. I’m one of your best friends. Tell the truth,” Marlene said, poking Sirius’ chest with her finger.
Sirius didn’t answer her question for a long time. “Everyone expects something is going on,” he said. “But like you and me, MJ and I are just really close... platonically.”
“Nothing for her?” Marlene asked.
Sirius didn’t respond except to shrug his shoulders ever so slightly. He sat up straighter, and instinctively, so did Marlene. She was waiting for him to explain, but he was taking forever to answer. He was just staring at her, and Marlene wasn’t sure if she was supposed to discern his answer in his grey eyes. Everyone knew that reading Sirius Black’s face and emotions was impossible anyway. His grey stare was impervious and always the same--even when he was sad, angry, happy. Lots of girls confused his gaze as romantic interest, but after so many years of close friendship, Marlene knew it never was. Well, she had an idea that when he looked at MJ, he looked at her with adoration, but his stare was so subtle that she could never be sure.
After everything she had confessed to Sirius about Remus, she expected him to trust her with his confession of real feelings toward MJ. She waited for it to come, but nothing was happening.
Except that both she and Sirius were inclining their heads toward each other.
Sirius’ eyes squinted slightly at hers, and that was it. She wasn’t sure who initiated it, but suddenly, she was kissing one of her closest friends. The friend--besides James--who had been there for her for the longest. The friend who was probably crushing on MJ though he had yet to admit it. The friend who shared a room and a fierce friendship with Remus.
She was kissing Sirius. It didn’t make sense, but Marlene knew that if she pulled away now, everything would be so awkward. So she grabbed at his arms, his shoulders, his back. If she pulled him closer, maybe she could forget who she was or who he was. Maybe she could imagine him as Remus or anyone else even. Maybe she could tangle herself into Sirius and no one would know it was her.
Maybe she could pretend that one drunken kiss hadn’t complicated so many things.
As soon as MJ had reached the dungeons, she realized how irrational her plan had been. It was a Saturday night; Regulus had probably snuck away from Hogwarts right after the match to do work for the Death Eaters. Plus, she didn’t know exactly where the Slytherin Common Room was. Even if she had, she wouldn’t have known the password. Then, if by some miracle, she had gotten inside, well, she was a muggleborn. And then people would discover she was friends with Regulus.
She could have gone to the Room of Requirement, but se doubted Regulus would be there. He was the seeker on the Slytherin team, so even if he was at school, he was probably the center of a party or something... In defeat, MJ decided that her whole plan was half-baked and stupid. She rounded a corner, looking for the stairs to take her back to her own Common Room.
“Well, if it isn’t Mary Mudblood!” exclaimed Adam Mulciber, who was walking toward her. He tapped his wand against his palm and gave her a squarish grin. “Goodie!”
MJ looked behind her. She could run, but she knew Mulciber would follow. She froze in her spot, gaping at him, hoping he would let her go.
“Mudbloods like you have no place at Hogwarts... much less in the dungeons,” he said, taking a step toward her and raising his wand. “You’re quite the wanderer. It will get you into trouble if you keep stumbling into places where you don’t belong.”
MJ’s eyes widened, and instinctively she wrapped her arms around her chest, forgetting she could also use her wand. “It won’t get me into nearly as much trouble as the mark on your arm.” she said, softly, but finding some sort of inner courage.
Mulciber opened his mouth, and MJ sensed he was going to ask how she knew.
“Lucky guess,” MJ explained.
Mulciber swept closer, “How would you like to be put under the Imperious Curse?”
“How would you like to be expelled only to be sent to Azkaban?” MJ asked quietly. “It’s illegal.”
“You seem to know an awful lot about the Defense against the Dark Arts,” Mulciber said, curling his lip. “But facts about laws will only get you so far. Let’s see what you can actually do. Draw your wand.”
Wildly, MJ wondered how she could escape... how she could run twenty feet without Mulciber throwing any hexes her way?... And if she somehow managed that, how she could keep running and dodging his spells until she found someone to help her? She reached into her pocket.
“Atta girl,” he said patronizingly. “Now answer me this. How did you manage to get away from your little band of Gryffindors? They’re always surrounding you, just waiting for something like this to happen. It’s like they know you can’t help yourself--”
But his condescending words ignited a burning rage in MJ’s chest, just ready to flow out. “Shut up!” she yelled, raising her wand quickly, aiming it straight at Mulciber’s heart.
“On three we bow,” Mulciber said, smirking. “I can’t wait to see this... what the fuck can a mudblood do any way?”
“Stop talking and duel. One. Two. Three,” MJ said with impatient anger. She began to incline her head, but noticed that Mulciber had not; he was already making a great sweeping gesture with his hand.
“Sectumsempra!” he bellowed.
MJ again forgot about the wand in her hand and physically dodged the spell, crumpling to a squatting position. As she watched the curse hit the wall behind her, she racked her brain. For weeks she had been poring over the Defense book that Regulus had given her, but none of the new curses came to mind. Her mind reeled desperately as Mulciber gave a giddy laugh and shot another curse her way--this time wordlessly.
She dodged it by only a foot, sliding away to the right. The curse had been a crackly burning color, and MJ was suddenly reminded of one of the hexes that Regulus had described to her while they sat together in the Room of Requirement, their legs touching, each balancing half of the book on their knees.
“Promethian Undine,” Regulus had said while thumbing through the book, pointing out one of the curses. “It’s more of a myth than a spell though. Harboring one element is difficult enough, but two... that’s the stuff the greats can do--the Dark Lord, Grindelwald, some Death Eaters, maybe Aurors.”
Regulus’ words rung in her ears. In the book that Regulus had shown her, the illustration showed a huge burning flame and a tidal wave of water fading into each other. There would be no chance she could execute the Promethian Undine, but nothing else was coming to her mind and Mulciber was waving his wand once again. She dragged her wand in the air, bellowing the incantation.
To her surprise, a weak jet of something came out of her wand. At one end, it was very clearly a burning flame, but what was immediately leaving her wand was water, as if she had she just said “Aguamenti.” The spell did not travel to Mulciber, instead it existed like a line between them.
It was at that moment when Mulciber waved his own wand, spitting a curse in her direction. MJ shielded her face, desperately hoping that her own weak attempt at the Promethian Undine would do something, anything. But MJ’s magic did not work as a shield, and Mulciber’s curse hit her in her stomach.
She fell to her knees, feeling a pleasant dizziness. The corridor suddenly seemed artistically warped. Mulciber’s menacing grin seemed beautiful. In her head, she heard his voice.
“Walk across that line of fire and water. Do it.”
MJ rose to her feet, taking steps toward the Promethian Undine, aiming her steps at the spot in the middle of the line--where the fire turned to water or the water turned to fire. MJ wasn’t sure which.
“I don’t have all day, Macdonald.”
So MJ sped her steps, her right foot slipping through the Promethian Undine. For a second, she experienced a curious sensation: as if heat and cold were battling inside her. And then the feeling became painful--as if she were being physically ripped in half--each side yanking at one of her arms.
Mulciber began to laugh, his whole body shaking violently with uncontrollable laughter.
MJ looked down at her chest and stomach--at the shining blood soaking through her uniform. That feeling of hot and cold battling each other had not just been internal. It had manifested itself physically, and she had been cut down the middle as if someone had taken a blade of a knife to her abdomen. The wound was deep enough that her blood was dripping to the floor.
“Sweet little Mary Mudblood,” Mulciber said, the perverse grin still burning on his face. “It looks like you’re about to bleed to death!”
While he laughed, he pushed past her, leaving her there to clutch at her blood-soaked sweater. Right before he turned the corner, he gave her one last sentimental look. “And I really hope someone cleans this place up soon. It’s filthy with mudblood.”
like, whoa. WHOA. i don't even know what to say. maybe i should apologize to all those remus/marlene and mj/sirius fans. if it's any consolation at all, i swear that this chapter won't be the end of either of those ships, but it definitely is a complication...
note on substance use: alcohol and teen partying often plays a part in coming-of-age stories, and mine is no exception. that said, i'm not trying to glorify substance use. obviously, the characters --coughSIRIUSandMARLENEcough-- tend to make more mistakes while intoxicated than they do while sober.
disclaimer: the best parts of this story are JKR's.
p.s: also, i will be away for a long weekend. i will post the next installment (the aftermath of this chapter) when i return at the beginning of next week.
Write a Review Everything's Eventual: Thirty One. In The Heat of the Moment