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You Belong With Me by Cherry Bear
Chapter 6 : Crazy Mates
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 18


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Crazy Mates


I planned to be outside the portrait hole five minutes before eleven, but Dorcas took such a long time getting ready that we ended up stumbling out of the common room fifteen minutes late. She seemed unfazed by the four blokes we found waiting there, but I was grumpy and nervous and more than a little terrified of them.

Remus sent us a warm smile, and I felt a surge of gratitude toward him, even if he was just being polite. He was the only one who was smiling. Pettigrew was glancing between Sirius and James with a frown on his face, disheartened and puzzled by their unhappiness. Sirius was glowering at James with his hands balled into fists at his side, and James was staring sulkily at the ground.

The tension was so thick I could practically hear it crackling in the air.

"Shall we go?" Dorcas said obliviously. Pettigrew looked uneasily at the rest of the group; when neither of them answered, he nodded, dug a worn piece of parchment from his pocket, and carefully unfolded it. I inched closer curiously, wondering if this was the same parchment that Sirius had kept hidden from me that night behind the greenhouses.

But before I could see so much as a speck of ink, James roughly pushed past me to stand next to Pettigrew and block my view of the parchment. Any shred of confidence I still had shriveled under the venomous glare he sent me, and I shrunk to the back of the group as we started softly pattering through the corridors.

I probably would've run back to the dormitory out of sheer humiliation if Sirius hadn't noticed my burning face and quickly latched onto my arm. "Don't," he seethed, as though he could sense what I was thinking. I looked at him innocently, but his voice didn't soften. "Running won't solve anything; you're here to actually try, remember?"

"How can I forget?" I grumbled under my breath. Why had I ever thought it would be a good idea to have Sirius-bloody-Black as a mate?

He ignored me, keeping one of his hands firmly wrapped around my arm as he fished around in his trouser pocket with the other. I was on the verge of outright asking him what he was looking for when he finally pulled his hand out of his pocket. He was clutching a small silver flask; by the flickering light of the candles that lined the corridor, I caught a glimpse of the letters 'SB' engraved on one side in an elegant script.

Sirius thrust it into my hands. "Drink this," he whispered.

"What is it?" I said suspiciously, unscrewing the lid to take a sniff. It didn't smell like any drink I was familiar with.

He didn't answer my question; instead, he gave me an exasperated look and replied vaguely, "It'll help with the nerves." I stared at him. He sounded so sincere that I was almost tempted to believe him, except I was still regretting listening to his last piece of advice: that I should go on this stupid Hogsmeade trip. And I couldn't forget the fact that, however good his intentions were, he had lied to me about his best mate hating me.

"No." I tried to shove it back into his hands, but he wouldn't take it. I narrowed my eyes at him and hissed, "Are you trying to get me drunk or something?"

He shook his head. "Please just trust me and drink it," he said. He didn't have time to say much else; Dorcas had suddenly realized that I wasn't walking right next to her and had slowed her pace to walk beside us. Sirius dropped his hold on my arm and frantically motioned for me to hide the flask, his eyes pleading.

I was going to oblige him; I really was. I had every intention of slipping the mysterious flask under my cloak, but my hand hesitated. I was still wrapped up in remembering what had happened in the library earlier, and, even though I thought I had gotten all my anger and frustration about it out before we left the dormitory, it turns out I hadn't. Because the memory was still very painful and I was still very angry, and Sirius telling me to do something ignited a vindictive flame inside of me. He wanted me to drink out of his stupid flask just because he told me to, to trust him? He hadn't even trusted me enough to tell me the truth about James.

That moment of angry hesitation was all that was necessary to draw Dorcas' attention to the flask. "What's that?" she asked.

My eyes flickered to Sirius' face, half-expecting him to cave and answer, but he wasn't even looking at her. His gaze was still fixed on me, and it was clear that he was surprised by my actions; he hadn't expected me to not listen to him. For some reason, that only fueled my anger. I'll show him just how surprising I can be, I thought furiously.

"Sirius thought we might want a little pick-me-up. Want some?" I offered her the flask, hoping she wouldn't notice how much my hand was shaking. I wasn't used to being this reckless.

I chanced a look at Sirius; his expression had shifted from surprise to horror, and I thought he was going to protest - snatch the flask right out of my outstretched hand - but he didn't. He pursed his lips and watched, as though he couldn't bring himself to tear his eyes away.

If Dorcas thought it was weird that I was so quickly abandoning my rule-abiding ways, she didn't say anything. She gratefully grabbed the flask and took a large swig; when she lowered the drink from her lips, her nose was scrunched up in disgust.

"What is it?" she asked Sirius. "It tastes rather rubbery and...and..." she trailed off, and her eyes got a far-off look in them. When they re-focused on Sirius, there was a peculiar look on her face. "You're so handsome!" she swooned with a random giggle, attaching herself to his arm.

"What did you give her - a love potion?!" I said accusingly, remembering only at the last second to lower my voice. The last thing we needed was the attention of the other three blokes. "I cannnot believe you'd be so irresponsible, Sirius."

At Dorcas' sudden exclamation, Sirius had let out a bark of laughter, and my anger seemed to only amuse him further. "Bloody hell, no," he said with a grin, grabbing the flask out of Dorcas' hands before she could drop it. "It's only a Courage Concoction. Slughorn has a whole shelf of them." He said it casually and carelessly, but, when the full meaning of his words washed over me, like a bucket of cold water, I felt my jaw drop open.

We had learned about Courage Concoctions at the end of fifth year. I remembered Slughorn's explanation of them so clearly that I could practically hear his voice in my head.

"One sip of this," he had said as he held up a small vial of metallic-looking liquid, "and you would have the courage to do whatever you want, and say whatever thoughts you're thinking, without any regret. You would, essentially, have no control over yourself; your courage would take over for you." I also remembered thinking that it was a silly potion that only a truly stupid person would think it was a good idea to take.

Clearly, I had overestimated Sirius' intelligence.

As confused and embarrassed as I was by the fact that, apparently, Dorcas still rather fancied Sirius, I was more overwhelmed by fury that he had been trying to get me to drink a Courage Concoction. So I pushed aside my muddled thoughts about Dorcas for the time being - a rather difficult feat, considering the way she was acting - and focused on just how furious I was at Sirius. "And how in God's name did you expect that to help me?" I sputtered, slapping the dark-haired boy on the back of the head.

"How wouldn't it help you?" he retorted, looking at me as if I was the stupid one. "You're so nervous I doubt you'll say more than two words to James tonight. That potion is the only way you'll get over being self-conscious and actually talk to him."

My fingers itched to slap him again, but since the previous one hadn't really had any effect on him, I settled for curling them into fists at my side instead. "How thick are you? The only thing that stupid potion would do is make me start blabbering to James about how much I fancy him. I'm sure he'll be much more inclined to fancy me then," I said sarcastically.

Sirius didn't have much of a chance to say anything back because, at that point, the three others stopped walking. I glanced around, trying to discern where we were; I had just reached the conclusion that it was simply another ordinary corridor on the fourth floor when James lifted up the large gilded mirror we had stopped in front of to reveal a secret passageway. My mouth dropped open.

Dorcas was equally amazed, but much more verbal around it. "Blimey! That's incredible," she said loudly. James gave her a rude look and Pettigrew shushed her, but her blunt exclamation made me realize just how bad of an idea this was. Trying aside, I couldn't just let Dorcas make a fool of herself. What kind of mate would that make me? And if bringing her back to the common room saved me from the same humiliation - without the help of some ridiculous potion - then, well, that was just an added bonus.

"You know what," I began as the rest of the group slipped inside the passageway, drawing their eyes toward me, "you all go ahead. Dorcas isn't feeling too well, and I think it'd be better if we just stayed behind." I tried not to be offended by the unbearably smug look on James' face.

Sirius looked livid, and I couldn't deny that I felt a tiny amount of satisfaction that I had foiled his daft plan. But before he could protest us leaving, someone else did it for him. "I'm feeling perfectly fine, Lily," Dorcas said, grabbing my hand and all but dragging me after the four lads. "You're always such a worrywart, do you know? I really think you should learn to loosen up a bit. Hogsmeade will be ace, we'll all get smashed - it'll be good fun," she blathered, refusing to listen to any of my protests and ignoring my attempts to turn around and go back to Gryffindor tower. Bloody hell, she was strong.

Sighing, I glanced over my shoulder at the mirror, which had swung shut behind us, and resigned myself to the fact that I was going to Hogsmeade and, if her rambles so far were any indication of what was to come, Dorcas was going to regret it in the morning. She would really only have herself to blame for it.

But my resignation didn't make me any less cross with Sirius. This whole thing was his fault, and if he thought I was just going to forget that, he had another thing coming.

Between Sirius' smug smirks and Dorcas' blunt statements - they didn't embarrass her, but I was embarrassed enough for the both of us - the journey through the dark passage was exceedingly painful. When we finally reached Hogsmeade, I was in a foul mood. And the angry looks James kept sending me certainly weren't making me feel any better. If only he would realize that I was just as annoyed about this as he was.

"Where to?" Pettigrew asked James when we had slipped quietly out of the Post Office, which was where the passage had abruptly ended.

I expected him to say the Three Broomsticks, or maybe even the Hog's Head, so I was more than a little surprised when he answered, "What about the Poisoned Apple? We haven't been there since January last year." He glanced slyly at Remus, who groaned.

"Anywhere but there," he insisted. There was a faint blush on his cheeks.

Sirius grinned and threw his arm around Remus' shoulders, although the other one remained firmly wrapped around Dorcas' shoulder - where she had shamelessly insisted on placing it at some point. "Oh, come on, Moony. I doubt that bird even still works there," he said reassuringly, ignoring his friend's dubiousness and beginning to steer him down the street. "Besides, they've got the best drinks in town."

With Sirius at the head of the group with Dorcas and Remus, I was left to walk next to Pettigrew and James in uncomfortable silence. I wrapped my arms around myself, partly to block out the unexpected chill and partly to ward off the suspicious looks a certain messy-haired bloke kept sending me.

And even though I had never heard of this Poisoned Apple place and was more than a little wary of it and exactly what type of 'drinks' it had, I knew it had to be preferable to the awkward trek through the village and I was grateful when we finally reached it.

It was different from the Three Broomsticks, to say the least. A bunch of tables had been pushed against the walls so that the center of the pub served as a dance floor, and the music - playing out of a battered Wizard's Wireless sitting on the bar counter - was so amplified that the entire place seemed to shake from it.

We grabbed one of the few empty tables. The lights were ridiculously dim, so I didn't realize I had snagged the seat next to James until I was already sitting down. But at least I couldn't make out his face, which was sure to be twisted into a scowl. Dorcas sat on my other side, bouncing excitedly in her seat and singing along to the song that was blaring in our ears.

"I'll get the drinks," Sirius said, shouting to be heard over the music.

"I kissed a werewolf and I liked it," Dorcas screeched, quite loudly and unabashedly, "the taste of his sloppy wolf spit." Despite how not funny the night had been so far, I laughed at her clumsy singing; Dorcas always insisted that she hated the song, and yet she seemed to know the lyrics quite well.

I was surprised when I absentmindedly glanced over at the three blokes, only to see flashes of white teeth that told me they were rather amused as well. Even James was smiling at her singing. In fact, he seemed to find it the most humorous out of all of them, and kept laughing and nudging Remus in the side. Er, at least I thought that shadowy shape was Remus.

I found myself thinking that maybe this night wouldn't be so bad after all.

When Sirius returned with a tray of overflowing mugs, he scarcely had time to distribute them before Dorcas was latching onto his arm and insisting he dance with her. I didn't expect him to let her drag him out to the packed dance floor, but he did, and with relatively no complaints - although, I suppose he was probably just worried about what courageous Dorcas would do if she was rejected.

"Dorcas is acting a bit strange tonight," Remus observed to me when they had left, leaning over James so that I could hear him.

I shrugged, not really sure what I could say to excuse her bizarre actions. "Errr," I said uncomfortably, "I suppose." The only reassuring thought I had was that at least none of them knew Dorcas well enough to know that this was beyond just 'a bit strange' for her. Hoping he wouldn't say more on the subject, I lifted the mug Sirius had given me and took a large swig.

I had already prepared myself for the possibility that he would try to slip me some alcohol, and I felt a rush of gratitude toward him when I realized that the drink in my mug was not firewhiskey. But that gratitude disappeared just as soon as it had come when I realized that it wasn't just Butterbeer, either; there was a hint of something else in it, too - something rubbery.

I had scarcely enough time to recall Dorcas' first words after she had accidentally taken the potion earlier - "It tastes rather rubbery and...and..." - and not nearly enough time to be angry at that damn meddling Sirius Black, before the potion took full effect and, quite suddenly, I didn't think there was anything wrong with Courage Concoctions. There was a warm feeling in my tummy that spread all the way down to the tips of my toes, and I felt as light as a feather. What was there to worry about, anyway? I could do anything I wanted.

"This is amazing," I gasped, wrapping my hands around my drink and swallowing the rest of it in one gulp. I wanted more of that warm fuzzy feeling - ahhh, yes, there it was.

James, Remus, and Pettigrew - no, Peter, that was his name, yes, yes, Peter like the High King of Narnia - were all staring at me with their mouths open when I finally lowered my mug to the table. I giggled and reached over, wrapping my fingers around James' chin and using it to clamp his mouth shut without a second thought.

"You look much more attractive with your mouth closed," I said matter-of-factly.

Before any of them had time to react, a waitress sashayed over to us and propped her elbows up on the table. "Hello, boys!" she chirped, but she was looking at Remus. "I haven't seen you here in a while. How are you? Can I get you anything else to drink?"

I giddily concluded that this must be the girl poor Remus was trying to avoid and, hoping to save him some humiliation, I waved my arms in the air like mad to try to get her attention. "Yes, please! We'd like some more firewhiskeys." Now that my drink was gone, I saw nothing wrong with getting another one.

She raised an eyebrow at me coldly, but smiled sweetly at Remus. "Anything for you all." And then she disappeared into the crowd, appearing just a few minutes later with an armful of drinks. She looked like she wanted to stay and chat a bit more with Remus after she had placed the bottles on the table, but a customer at another table was waving to her and she regretfully moved away.

I drank half of a bottle in one go, not even caring that it stung my throat and sent me into an awful coughing fit. When I had finished pounding my chest, I glanced over at James to tell him that he should loosen up and have some firewhiskey, but I froze when I heard the song that had just started playing. It gave me a new idea.

"I love this song!" I exclaimed, hopping out of my seat and turning to James. "Dance with me!" I was reaching across the table to grab his hand as I spoke, but he was glancing at Peter with an unreadable look on his face and, before I really knew what was happening, High King Peter was leading me out on to the dance floor instead.

"I don't want to dance with you," I complained as he awkwardly wrapped his arms around my waist. "I want to dance with Jaaaaaaaames."

Peter shifted uncomfortably, not quite meeting my eyes. "James doesn't like to dance."

"Well, that's too bad," I retorted happily, "because I quite fancy him and I'm going to make him dance with me eventually. You'll see." The blonde boy had no response to that, as he was too busy staring at me incredulously. I resisted the urge to reach over and close his mouth too. Instead, I added, "And that's really not a very good look for you. It makes you look rather like a...like a - "

But Peter never got to find out what it made him look like because, at that moment, I felt something peculiar snaking up my throat. Before I could even get out an, "Oh, bugger," I had leaned over and retched all over Peter's shoes.

And, quite suddenly, I didn't feel very courageous or carefree anymore. I just felt humiliated. "I'm so sorry," I sputtered, glancing between Peter's shoes and his face frantically. My mind felt weird and fuzzy and I struggled to remember why I was even dancing with Peter in the first place, but I couldn't come up with anything except a single word: drinks. Drinks, drinks...now what was so important about drinks?

As soon as I saw him, I knew; everything that had happened came rushing back to me. "Sirius Black!" I screamed. I now had the attention of not only the people who had seen me vomit, but everyone else on the dance floor as well, but I didn't care; I could only see his face, and the insufferable smirk that was on it. "I am going to kill you!" I marched over to him, clenching my hands into fists and preparing to pummel that bastard to death.

But Dorcas stepped in the way. "What happened?" she asked. "I know Sirius didn't do anything; he was with me the whole time." I stared at her disbelievingly for a moment, before I remembered that she hadn't vomited; while the potion was still in her body, she wouldn't take my side.

"Move aside, Dorcas; this has nothing to do with you," I hissed, retrieving my wand from my pocket. "This is about me and him and how I'm going to bloody murder him." But if I had expected Sirius to be scared by my threat, I was sorely disappointed. In fact, the arsehole had the audacity to look amused.

"You might want to use that wand to clean up Peter's shoes, first," he teased. Grudgingly deciding that he had a point, I spun around to cast a quick Scourgify on the mess I had made.

When I turned to face Sirius again, still gripping my wand tightly in my hand, I had every intention of hexing him into another universe, but the opportunity was gone. The other members of our group had apparently seen what was happening from the sidelines and made their way over. Fantastic.

Remus, always the peacemaker, was the first to speak. "Everything alright, here?" James was watching me angrily and he had his hand burrowed in his pocket. I realized it was probably wrapped around his own wand and, knowing that I would never get a good hex in if his mates decided to interfere, I regretfully slipped my wand in my pocket.

"Fine," I snapped. "I think we better head back now." I was surprised at how steady my voice was. I was so overwhelmed by emotions - embarrassment, anger...some more embarrassment - that I felt about ready to burst into tears. But I didn't, if only because I didn't want to humiliate myself any further. As it was, Peter decided to do it for me.

"I think I'm ready to head back too," he agreed, glancing down at his shoes with a funny expression. "They look clean, but they still smell a bit like vomit." I was grateful for the dark lighting then, because it meant no one could tell how red my face was as we made our way out of the pub.

The trek back from Hogsmeade was even more painful than the one there had been. Dorcas clung desperately to Sirius' side the entire time and Remus stayed at the front of the group, studying that ridiculous piece of parchment, so that I was again stuck walking uncomfortably close to Peter and James. They both kept looking at me, the former as if he thought I was going to vomit on him again and the latter as if he thought I was going to Avada Kedavra everyone in the tunnel. I couldn’t decide which was worse.

Maybe I was so exhausted and upset that I wasn’t thinking quite properly, or maybe some of the potion was still in my body, or maybe I had just finally had enough; whatever the reason, I found myself growing more and more cross - not just with Sirius, but with James, the one bloke I thought I could never feel any amount of hatred toward. This disastrous night was all his bloody fault.

And it only took a particularly venomous glare from him for me to snap. “What are you looking at me like that for?” I had always been unbelievably tongue-tied around him before but, now, words came effortlessly to me.

To say that James looked taken aback by my outburst was a severe understatement. He stared at me with wide eyes for a moment, before they again narrowed into vicious slits. “I’m just making sure you don’t go crazy on all of us again.”

“I did not go crazy,” I retorted instantly, even though I kind of had.

“I beg to differ,” he said with a snort. We walked on in silence for a few moments before he suddenly burst out with, “Are you bipolar or something?”

“What are you talking about?” I asked, bemused.

“Well, just five minutes ago you were telling me how attractive you think I am, and now you’re practically spitting fireballs at me,” he reminded me.

“Only because you were glaring at me first!” I interjected childishly.

James ignored me - everyone seemed to like to do that - and continued, “If you’re not bipolar, there’s something wrong with you.” He leaned in and, in a confidential whisper, suggested, “That time of the month?”

“No!” I blurted out a bit too loudly. He was perfectly nonplussed by what he had said, but it absolutely mortified me. I glanced down at my feet, partly to avoid his inquisitive stare and partly to hide the blush creeping up my cheeks as I struggled to come up with some response, some explanation for my actions. Wasn’t there some disease that made people spout things they didn’t really believe or think about at all? Dragon pox? No. Spattergroit? No, not that either.

The truth would have to do. “The only reason I said that was because your stupid best mate up there,” I gestured vaguely to Sirius, “gave me a Courage Concoction.”

James studied me suspiciously, as though trying to discern what I would gain by lying about this. “Why would he do that?”

I floundered, knowing I couldn’t tell him the complete truth here and squirming under his scrutinizing gaze. “Because he’s mental?” I finally bit out. James didn’t say anything to that; I couldn’t even see the expression on his face, as we had reached the end of the passageway and he had slowed so that Peter and I could climb out into the fourth floor corridor.

But I didn’t want our conversation to be over - not yet. I was fairly certain this was the longest conversation we had ever had, and even though it wasn’t completely civil or anywhere near what I had envisioned our first conversation being like, I didn’t want it to end. In a desperate attempt to prolong it, I added, “I don’t know how you can stand to put up with him half the time.”

It had been the wrong thing to say. James retreated into defensive mode, bristling like I had insulted him and not half-jokingly insulted his friend. “And I don’t know how he can stand to put up with you half the time,” he told me snidely.

My face reddened again. I should’ve just dropped it - normal me would have dropped it - but there must’ve still been some of that Courage Concoction in me because I just couldn’t sit back and watch him be so unreasonably unpleasant to me. It just wasn’t right.

“And you think there’s something wrong with me?” I said with a bitter laugh. “You can’t go one minute without making me feel like the scum of the earth - for no good reason, might I add. I don’t know why I even bother talking to such an insufferable prat.” Before he had the chance to respond, I stomped up the corridor to walk in between Remus and Sirius and Dorcas, where none of his angry looks or rude remarks could reach me.

And even though the night had been completely crappy and that conversation with James should have made it just a hundred times crappier, it didn’t. For the first time, I hadn’t just accepted James’ stupid hatred of me; I had fought back, and it felt fantastic.

When we reached the common room, I didn't bother saying goodnight; I just grabbed Dorcas' arm and dragged her forcefully up the stairs to our dormitory before she could start blowing kisses. I didn’t glance over my shoulder at James, but I was sure I felt his eyes on my back.

Maybe I hadn’t made quite the impression I had wanted to, but I had made an impression; that was something, at least.

----

The first thing I said the next morning was, "Urgh," because my mouth tasted like old tires and I was absolutely knackered. The second thing I said was, "Bugger," because I remembered everything that had happened last night - including the things I would much rather forget.

Mary, who had shaken me awake, looked at me questioningly. "Alright, Lily?"

"Yes," I answered automatically. And then, after pondering whether I really was 'alright', I rolled over and buried my head in my pillow. "No."

Either Mary didn't hear my muffled response, or she was too wrapped up in her own little world to be too concerned about the fact that my world was obviously crumbling underneath me. Instead of bombarding me with questions about what was wrong, she started humming under her breath - a cheery tune that sounded disturbingly like I Kissed A Werewolf. I might've ignored this odd behavior if I hadn't also glanced up from my pillow to see her twirling across the room in a very un-Mary fashion.

As it was, I was forced to sit up in my four-poster and openly stare at her. This was definitely not the reserved, solemn Mary I was used to. "What are you so happy about?" I said suspiciously.

She smiled at me. "Do I look happy? I suppose I do. I just had the most amazing time with Reggie last night," she gushed, and I felt a pang of guilt. I had been so preoccupied with my awful night that I hadn't really remembered that it had been the night of Mary's date as well.

"Really? That's great," I said lamely. I glanced past her at Dorcas' empty bed, and furrowed my eyebrows; she was almost never awake before me. "Where's Dorcas?" A part of me was grateful she was gone, if only because it saved me - albeit temporarily - from having to face her anger about the fact that I accidentally gave her a Courage Concoction last night.

"Oh, she went down to Quidditch try-outs already. I told her we'd be down there in a bit to cheer her on," Mary replied.

I groaned and anxiously ran my fingers through my knotted hair, dreading having to see James and fret over what he thought of me now, as I inevitably would. "Already? I wasn't planning on facing any of the sixth year Gryffindor blokes until at least tomorrow."

Mary's expression turned from dreamy to inquisitive. She fluffed her pillow and sat primly on her bed, in the manner of one who knows she's going to have to counter someone's irrationality. "Was last night really all that bad? Dorcas wouldn't tell me a thing about it."

And even though a part of me didn't want to tell her a thing about it either - even though just thinking about it made my face burn in embarrassment and my hands shake in fury - there was also a part of me that was absolutely dying to get the whole thing off my chest. So, as I got dressed and we headed down to the Quidditch pitch, I told her everything that had happened.

I couldn't help but be a little peeved when, after I had related the entire night to her, instead of being all sympathetic and comforting like a good mate ought to be - and like she usually was - Mary started laughing. She seemed particularly entertained to hear that I had vomited on Peter's shoes; by the time we were seated safely in the Quidditch stands, she was still giggling to herself about it.

"Oh, stuff it already," I huffed, pointedly turning my back toward her and crossing my arms over my chest. "Don't forget Dorcas practically threw herself at Sirius. That's loads more entertaining."

Mary shrugged. "I suppose. But she's been so touchy lately, I wouldn't feel safe teasing her," she said, nibbling thoughtfully on her lip. "I wonder if she plans to tell Sebastian about last night." I followed her gaze to the field, where the small group of Gryffindors trying out for the team were assembled. I saw a flash of messy black hair before I turned my eyes to Dorcas and forced them to stay there.

I snorted, watching as she mounted her broomstick along with the rest of the students trying out for Beater; her 'boyfriend' was among them, but they weren't standing anywhere near each other. "I doubt it," I replied wryly. "I don't think they're even still together. I wish she'd at least tell us."

Mary sighed. "She has been acting very strange lately," she agreed. We both watched silently as the group of students kicked into the air.

"Maybe we can talk to her about it later?" I suggested, spurred by a spontaneous surge of irritation with Dorcas. I missed how she was when she was happy: her too-loud laughter, her blunt remarks, her overall fearlessness - and not the forced Courage Concoction kind. I wanted her to glance at us and wink jauntily from her broom, like she had done last year at Quidditch try-outs, and probably the year before. I watched her hopefully, but she didn't look our way; she was more determined to smack the Bludgers than I had ever seen her before. It was as though she was channeling all of her anger into Beating. The result was impressive, to say the least.

Apparently, I wasn't the only one who thought so. "She Beats almost as well as she snogs," a voice remarked in my ear.

I didn't have to turn around to see who it was. "If you aren't at least twenty feet away from me in five seconds, you are going to be missing a part of your body that I imagine you cherish very much," I said flatly, ignoring Mary's warning look. I moved to retrieve my wand from my pocket - at the very least, I could brandish it threateningly at him - but Sirius wrapped his cold fingers around my wrist before I could.

"Now don't you think you're overreacting just a bit?" he asked.

This reply alone annoyed me so, combined with his blatantly amused smirk, it absolutely infuriated me. "Overreacting?" I repeated hysterically. "Overreacting? You gave me a Courage Concoction. Excuse me if I have a problem with that."

He shook his head, his smile flipping into a frustrated frown. "That's the problem with you, Lily - that's why I didn't want to tell you what it was. You have no idea how to live or take chances - "

"Do you have any idea how ridiculous you sound?" I cried, leaping out of my seat in outrage. I would've stormed out of the stands and all the way back to Gryffindor tower if Sirius had loosened his death-grip on my wrist. "That potion is dangerous, Sirius. I have half a mind to go straight to Professor Dumbledore and tell him all about this."

Sirius smirked again. "But you won't. I know you won't," he said matter-of-factly. "If you did, you'd have to tell him what exactly you were doing in Hogsmeade at midnight." I opened and closed my mouth, trying to come up with a retort and failing miserably. He had a point; I couldn't very well expose Sirius' misdeeds without exposing mine as well. While I was imitating a fish out of water and grudgingly acknowledging the validity of his statement, he tightened his hold on my arm and started leading me down the stands. "Come on; let's go for a walk," he cooed. "There's a good Lily."

I ignored his demeaning treatment of me - honestly, what was with him and shepherding me around like a lost puppy? - and glanced apologetically at Mary, who was still sitting in the stands and blinking rather owlishly at us. When she realized I was staring back at her, she lifted her hand in a confused wave.

I felt another pang of guilt - not only because I was abandoning her, but also because I had a weird feeling that Mary didn't approve of Sirius or my friendship with him. I made a mental note to talk to her about it later, and then turned my full attention to the boy who was dragging me away from the Quidditch pitch.

Instead of leading me back to the castle like I had been expecting him to - or, rather, hoping he would, as I hadn't eaten breakfast yet and my stomach was beginning to grumble - Sirius started toward the lake. He released my arm only when we were a safe distance away from both the castle and the pitch, presumably because he didn't want me to run away. I debated making a run for it anyway, but I wasn't quite done being cross with him.

"I'm still angry at you," I told him bluntly as I rubbed my sore wrist. "You made me humiliate myself. I vomited on Peter, I may as well have told James how crazy I am about him, and I know I told Peter. Thanks to your bloody plan, I am doomed."

He rolled his eyes, burrowing his hands into the pockets of his trousers as we walked. "There you go overreacting again," he murmured. I shot him a dirty look, but he ignored it; he was probably used to them by now. "First of all, it's your own damn fault you vomited. Don't you know that alcohol and potions don't go together? And second of all, you're not doomed. I already talked to Peter and he's sworn to secrecy."

"And what about James?" I retorted. "What am I supposed to do about him now, Mr. Try-To-Get-To-Know-Him? In case you didn't notice, he didn't give me much of a chance to get to know him last night. He was too busy hating me." I put an extra emphasis on the last two words, hoping I could drag Sirius back into the discussion he had so smoothly side-stepped last Wednesday.

Unfortunately, he didn't rise to the bait and try to argue that James didn't hate me; maybe he had realized that he was fighting a losing battle. Instead, he tugged his hand through his shaggy hair and said, "Just give me some time. I'll figure out a new plan." He plopped down in the shade of a nearby tree and stared into the distance pensively.

I sat down next to him, fidgeting in the itchy grass and still hoping he would suddenly admit that James hated me and explain the reasons behind it. I toyed with the idea of blurting out that I had overheard them talking about me in the library - just to see what he would say back - but the expression on Sirius' face stopped me. His grey eyes had stopped skipping aimlessly across the grounds, and were fixed on a cluster of people sitting near the lake. There was a vicious glint in them, and I didn't have to look very hard to see why; among the students was Regulus Black.

Sirius looked so upset at the mere sight of his younger brother that I was tempted to put my arm around him or say something reassuring - anything to wipe that misery off of his face.

But before I could make an awkward and probably unsuccessful attempt to comfort him, he spoke. "Oh, how it cheers me to see my brother hanging out with those slimy Slytherins," he said. There was an edge to his voice that hadn't been there before and, when he turned to me, his eyes were burning with emotion.

"Erm, yes," I mumbled bemusedly, mostly because I couldn't think of anything else to say.

If Sirius noticed my discomfort with our suddenly serious conversation, he didn't care. "You know that night behind the greenhouses, when you told me you fancied James?" he asked suddenly. I nodded, unsure where he was going with this and how he thought I could ever forget that night. "Well, I wasn't lying. I had actually gone out there to think. I ran away from home during the summer - went to live with the Potters - and that day was the first time I'd seen Regulus since then. And do you wanna know what he said to me? Do you?"

I wanted to shake my head, but I couldn't; I was paralyzed in the face of this new Sirius, with his burning eyes and thoughts and words. It was as though the filter between what he thought and what he said - which I had already considered fairly weak - had completely disappeared. Or maybe it was just that I wasn't used to hearing him talk about himself; it seemed like all we ever talked about was me and James.

"He told me he hated me. There's brotherly love for you."

I knew about the Blacks; practically every student at Hogwarts did. And I knew that Sirius, for all his confidence and sense of humour and popularity at Hogwarts, was an outcast in his family. But I had never thought it was all that bad, and I found myself staring at him with wide, disbelieving eyes.

I got the impression that he forgot I was sitting there next to him, because he just kept on talking, more fervid than I had ever seen him before. "And do you know what the worst part is?" he asked, without waiting for my answer. "Knowing that maybe I could have stopped him from turning into that - knowing that, maybe, if I had tried a little harder, I could have saved him."

Something in my mind clicked. Suddenly, I knew what he was talking about; I knew what he was feeling...because I had been there too. Maybe I didn't have a deranged family, but I knew what it was like to have to watch someone you love turn into someone you have to hate - to wonder, day after day, if you could have stopped them from changing. Because that was exactly what it had been like with Severus.

I took a deep breath, convinced that he would laugh at my weak attempt at comforting him but determined to try anyway. "Or maybe there's nothing you could have done differently. Maybe you tried the hardest you could. Maybe it's not your fault at all," I offered, ripping pieces of grass out of the ground as I spoke. "Maybe it's his fault; maybe he didn't try hard enough and then one day you realized he would rather spend time with his stupid Slytherin friends learning about the Dark Arts than with you, even though, you know, he was supposed to be in love with you," I rambled, punctuating each of my words with an angry tearing of grass.

It took me a moment to realize what I had said; when I did, I glanced up from my grass massacre to see Sirius staring at me. He cocked an eyebrow at me knowingly and, despite the fact that we were in the middle of a solemn conversation that was not at all humorous, I found myself laughing.

"Or maybe that's just me," I added, relieved to see a grin spreading across his face. Being around a somber Sirius was almost as upsetting as being around a somber Dorcas.

"How very self-centered of you - turning the conversation back to you," he observed, casually falling back into the grass and folding his arms under his head, as if everything was completely normal and he hadn't just been raving about his family problems. He really could be absurdly bipolar sometimes.

I bit down on my lip, not quite ready to abandon what was probably the only personal conversation I would ever have with Sirius Black just for some mindless teasing. "Are you okay now?" I asked tentatively. "I know it must be hard for you."

He made a pained face. "Merlin, Lily, you're not going to turn all sensitive and girly, are you? I just got carried away by my thoughts," he insisted.

"Look, I know I'm not the best at these things, but I at least know that it's better to talk things out sometimes," I said slowly. "I mean, it's only fair, what with you listening to my problems all the time." I waited warily to see his response, uncertain why I was even trying to get Sirius Black to talk about his feelings - and to me, of all people. Sure, we pretended we were mates, but the reality of the matter was that we barely knew each other.

Sirius seemed to be thinking the same thing. He glanced away from me, his grin fading. "Just let it alone, will you?"

I could see his lips twitching in irritation, so I nodded and clamped my mouth shut, trying not to show how disappointed I was that he had turned down a potential bonding moment between us. How long we sat there in uneasy silence, I couldn't say, but the group of Slytherins had disappeared from by the lake before either of us made a noise. It was such a sudden contrast from the peaceful sounds of birds chirping and the Giant Squid splashing that I nearly jumped in surprise, and my eyes swiveled from the tranquil stretch of blue sky above us to look at Sirius. I was bewildered to see him laughing.

It wasn't a quiet sort of chuckle, either; it was gravelly and thunderous and I was surprised the tree behind us didn't start shaking from the sheer force of it. "What's so funny?" I demanded, giving him a weird look. How could he go from being so serious to laughing his arse off?

He grinned up at me, his words interspersed with bouts of laughter. "It's just that...we've got more in common than I thought." If he thought his explanation would clear up my confusion, he was sorely mistaken; I was even more baffled than before. His revelation, although true, wasn't funny at all.

"You're bonkers, do you know that?" I told Sirius, abruptly pulling myself off of the ground and brushing the grass from my clothes. I would've liked to sit outside and enjoy the nice weather all day, but not when my companion was laughing like a loon and my stomach was grumbling for food. "I'm heading back to the castle." I didn't extend my hand to help him up or make any indication that I wanted him to come with me, but as soon as I started walking toward Hogwarts he hopped up and dashed to my side.

We made our way to the Great Hall together, but neither of us said a word. Sirius was still chuckling at nothing and I was lost in my musings about the bipolar personality of my newest mate.

----

A/N: The song Dorcas sings in The Poisoned Apple is based off the Katy Perry song I Kissed a Girl, although the lyrics are slightly altered, if you didn't notice ;) I hope this chapter was well worth the extra-long wait and, if not, I have good news to make it better! First, I'm a Trusted Author now. Yay! That means marginally faster updates. And, second of all, I now have an awesome beta, Sarah (DemetersChild). Yay! That means less stupid mistakes and more good plotty moments. I'll also be going through the un-betaed chapters with her, so don't be confused if a few new paragraphs are added in or whatnot.

Thanks oodles for all the reviews and favorites so far, and please let me know what you think of this chapter too (:

Next chapter: Lily gets some answers from Dorcas.


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