A/N: Sorry for the long wait guys. This is a bit of a filler chapter again but I hope you enjoy it. Please send me you'r feedback, authors thrive on reader reviews!
Disclaimer: All that you recognise is not my work but the work of genius JKR! .
Once I had figured out whom my heart should belong to, I thought my life would be a lot easier. Sadly I could not have been more wrong.
With every passing day I had to deal with a new complication. Either Sirius and Jason both wanting to finish their homework with me or them both wanting me to join their friends for our next Hogsmeade outing and so on and so forth. All in all I seemed always to be caught in the middle of it. On top of it all the homework and pressure from teachers kept increasing.
Although I was suffocating with stress the air became steadily colder and frostier. The best part of the decision I made was that I was guilt free. I enjoyed Jason’s company without a thought about Sirius. The closer our relationship grew the easier it was to enjoy it without regrets.
My only worry was Nora. When I told her the news of Jason and I being official her reaction was surprise. I could clearly see that she thought I was making a big mistake by letting go of Sirius. She never told me this in person but I knew my best friend and I could tell. Still, like Aunt Agatha, Nora was supportive and allowed me to enjoy my relationship with Jason.
I spent a lot of my free time with Jason but since he was a year senior to me I didn’t get to spend much time with him during classes. Since he was also a Prefect he was not open to the idea of skipping classes either. But I liked that he was serious about his studies and had a clear idea of his future. It was a sign that I was aware of what was good for me.
The classes, I spent flanked by my two best friends, Nora and Sirius. Sirius was still his usual charming self. He winked at girls and joked with them as they passed him in the hallways. But I noticed lately that he didn’t relinquish his time with me in favour of their company as he had done previously.
It made me happy in a way. We had a lot fun during the times we got to hang out. We talked and played stupid games like the old days and both of us laughed for no reason. We were ourselves again. I had missed that. Only then did I realise just how much.
I woke on Friday morning eternally grateful that the weekend was upon us. The past week had been very busy with all the extra homework and the extra practice session James had added to the middle of the week. I was among the last to wake up in our dorm and therefore had to hurry to get dressed.
I was at the foot of the stairs when I realised I’d forgotten my Potions essay and had to head back up.
Nora shook her head at me “I’ll save you a seat”.
I thanked her and ran back up the stairs. My essay sat on my bed next to a black velvet cushion.
My beloved cat had been not returned to my dorm for a week but I wasn’t worried as she had been gone longer before on her exploratory excursions around the castle. Casper invited me with a sweet meaow.
When I pulled the essay from under her tummy she rolled over onto her back and clawed at it. I opened my trunk and threw her favourite pink toy mouse at her. She caught it as it flew toward her and seemed content at clawing at it. “Wish I could stay honey, but I gotta run!”
I packed my essay into my bag I realised I was late for breakfast so I hurried out of the dormitory down the stairs to the common room. I looked up when I heard footsteps on the opposite set of stairs. Stephan and Sirius were coming down the stairs talking about something related to Shrinking Charms.
“That’s great! Thanks for all the help Sirius” said Stephan as they reached the common room.
“Hey Capri” Stephan smiled as he saw me, I smiled back warmly.
Sirius looked up halfway through knotting his tie.
I was still standing where I stood so Stephan waved as he left the common room.
I turned back to Sirius smiling “Need help with that?”
“Errr...” he debated with himself for a second, pulled off the tie and dropped it onto an armchair “Nope, I’m good to go”.
I couldn’t help but laugh as we both headed out of the common room to the Great Hall.
“How come you’re late? Where’re the rest of the princesses?” Sirius asked as we reached the bottom of the marble staircase.
“They went down already. I had to go back up, Casper stole my essay”
“Your cat?” Sirius laughed “Ingenious: cat stole my homework!”
I rolled my eyes.
Breakfast at the Gryffindor table was rather quiet. James in particular sitting accidently directly opposite Lily beside Sirius was unusually subdued, no doubt eager to avoid another conflict with Lily so early in the morning. Nora and Kate were having a quiet discussion over the morning Prophet next to me. I leaned over to join in.
“What’s going on?” I asked Nora.
“They found another one” she said in a grave voice showing me a small article on the folded newspaper below a considerably large article with the heading that read Minister Congratulates Winner of ‘Britain’s Largest Pumpkin’!
“Another what?” I asked and she pointed at the article below the picture of the huge pumpkin with its grower.
It was a small heading and a few paragraphs that had caught Nora’s attention. I picked up the news paper and read.
Webber and Hoggins Missing No More
Mr. Alfonso Webber, Ministry correspondent for Muggle Prime Minister’s office along with cousin, co-worker and Ministry of Magic employee Mr. Richard Hoggins were reported missing two weeks ago.
To the deep distress of their friends and family Mr. Webber’s body was discovered yesterday evening in a graveyard in Ravenport. The body was witnessed by three wizards and a muggle.
The Ministry officials who arrived at the scene said Mr. Webber had been killed using an unidentified spell. In response to speculation if the curse in question could be the infamous Killing Curse and if the death of Mr. Webber is the work of an organised group of criminals or a singular person the Officials had no comment.
Mr. Hoggins is now feared dead. Officials continue to search for clues that may help find him and possible motives for these crimes. Meanwhile the Minister alerts the magical population to be cautious of their neighbourhood.
Ministry officials now search for Mr. Hoggins with the hope that they are not too late.
The death of Mr. Webber brings the total of missing persons found dead this year to sixteen.
After finishing the article I realised the hairs on the back of my neck were standing up.
“How long has this been going on?” I asked Nora urgently in a whisper.
She swallowed her bite of toast, “A few months now. The Ministry is trying to keep it quiet so the people won’t panic you know.” Her voice was still serious as she continued “Every few weeks someone is reported missing. A few weeks later they find their bodies... No one knows why this is happening and who’s responsible for this.”
I nodded, too dumbstruck for words. I had barely touched my food.
For a long time I had thought the Wizarding world, my true home, was safe. Bad things did not happen here. I thought there was nothing I had to fear. But as this information that I had been too preoccupied to notice sank in I realised how naive I had been.
The world I belonged to was in fact in many ways much more dangerous than the muggle world I’d left behind.
Sixteen disappearances... Sixteen! And no leads as to who could be behind this.
“Cappie, we’re late! Let’s go!”
I shook my head to dislodge the disturbing thoughts swimming in it, picked up my bag and followed Nora and Lily to the Care of Magical Creatures classroom.
An hour of taking care of young Pygmy puffs (quite adorable multicoloured little furballs ) managed to drive the horrible morning news out of my head. It was thoroughly enjoyable to watch the boys trying to be gentle and nurturing with the little Pygmies. After some draining Transfiguration next I was gladly waiting for lunch.
After stuffing myself with steak and kidney pie I headed to the library to meet Jason during my free period. I was just turning toward the Library entrance when someone called me from behind.
I turned around bewildered as a rather plump boy ran toward me across the corridor. He stopped in front of me holding his knees, completely breathless.
“Are you alright?” I asked him genuinely concerned while I waited for him to catch his breath. He nodded vigorously and pulled himself up finally.
“I’m so sorry... I had to run up... four staircases... to reach you!” he explained in a cheerful tone while panting.
“That’s ...alright. Errm can I help you?”
“Oh no no... I have a message for you!” the boy pulled out a small envelope from his pocket and handed it to me. “It’s from Jason!” he added in a whisper leaning close to me.
“Oh!... thank you!” I said as politely as I could so he would respect my personal space. He smiled, nodded happily and left.
I pulled out the envelope and read.
I’m terribly sorry but I won’t be able to make it to the Library today. I’ve some charms I need to practice before 4th period or Flitwick would eat our brains. I promise to make it up to you. I do hope you’ll forgive me for the sudden change of plans.
Hope your day is going wonderfully. I miss you, today the smell of your hair in particular.
With love, J
I was smiling as I finished the letter. He didn’t have to make it up to me. His thoughtfulness was enough to show how much he cared for me. If I was dating a certain someone else I would have waited aimlessly for an hour at the Library at the end of which I would get a “Sorry Cap, something came up!” I smiled again and pocketed the letter heading back to the Gryffindor tower.
The common room was empty except for a few seventh years and of course the troublesome foursome.
“Hey! Aww no conjugal visit today?” asked Sirius who was leaning on the couch passing a Quaffle to James on the armchair opposite him. James and Peter snickered.
I pulled a face at them while taking a seat beside Remus who was finishing an essay of his. Together we finished the remainder of our homework before the end of the period. Nora and Kate returned from the tutoring to get their books for potions and all of us headed to class.
The boys made jokes and played pranks all the way to the classroom but then fell silent at the door. I followed their gaze to see Lily standing in front of the classroom door chatting merrily with none other than Severus Snape.
Severus hadn’t changed much since I’d first seen him. He’d grown taller, but that was about it. He still had the same sallow skin, greasy hair and the same unreadable expression on his face.
He had been friends with me and Nora in our first year but as time passed like all Slytherins he developed an aversion towards us. His association with less than human friends like Mcnair and Avery made us gladly return the feeling.
But not Lily. No, Lily was the one exception. She did not look at Severus the way she looked at the rest of the bloodthirsty Slytherins and Severus never looked at Lily the same vengeful way he looked us.
I was standing at the front of the crowd as we reached the pair of them and was suddenly pushed aside when James walked up to stand in front of Severus. Both were the same height but the fact that Severus hunched a lot while clutching his books to his chest made it appear as though James towered over him.
“What are you doing lurking here, Slimeball? Where are all the Reapers you follow around” James said through his clenched jaws.
James had always been genuinely kind and soft tempered. But Severus was his blind spot. They had hated each other for as long as I could remember. James could never tolerate him no matter how much he tried and the fact that Lily always took Severus’ side poisoned his temper further.
Severus rolled his eyes, clearly bored. It was obvious that James’ threats meant nothing to him now.
“I wouldn’t know. We’ve all grown up and fallen out of following each other all day long like a pack of mutts” said Severus carelessly. Lily laughed softly and I immediately scowled at her.
I could hear James grinding his teeth. Sirius pushed me further aside and stepped forward to stand beside James. Severus had straightened up and his hand in his cloak meant he was gripping his wand and was ready to strike. As usual James and Sirius had their wands out in plain sight. I knew right then this would only end when all of us had gotten detention. Detention!
With a sudden idea in mind I stepped forward to stand between James and Severus. Severus looked confused and Sirius tried to hold me back but I shook his hand off me.
“James!” I said quietly but urgently.
“Potter!” warned Lily more loudly.
“Not now Cappie” he said through his teeth but I pressed on.
“James he’s a Prefect. We’ll get detention for two weeks! Two weeks without Quidditch practice! You know we need to train, there’s no way we are ready to beat Ravenclaws yet.” Sirius snorted and I threw him a look for being so unhelpful.
“James, do you really want to let them have the last laugh?” I turned to look at Severus over my shoulder as I said ‘them’. I knew this would work, if there was one thing I could use to get through to James it was Quidditch... and Lily of course but in this case that was a moot point.
He stared coldly at Severus for a long second and then sighed and walked inside without a second glance at Lily. As I stood there I gave Lily what was probably a look of disappointment at how trivially she treated James’ feelings for her.
Sirius put his arm around my shoulders and steered me toward the classroom. He turned back over his shoulder to look at Severus one last time.
“You really think she’ll stick by you when she finds out what you’ve been up to? She doesn’t know about all the night time Astronomy classes you’ve missed does she?”Sirius’ smirk though I couldn’t see it was evident in his voice. “Believe me, when we find out she’ll be the first to know. Say your prayers nightly, Snivellus!”
Lily didn’t scream at Sirius for the pet name for Severus she detested so much. No doubt she was questioning the truth about Sirius’s statement from her best friend. I was wondering about the same.
When we entered the class Professor Slughorn walked in though his office and asked us all to be seated. I was about to set my bag down on an empty seat when Sirius pulled me toward him.
“Do you mind sitting with Nora and them today? I should check on James” he said. I looked at James sitting right at the front tearing his Beatshoot leaves apart with excessive force.
“Of course” I nodded. Sirius smiled and left to join James.
An hour later, amid a lot of gossip and some good laughs, Nora and I managed to brew a perfect Relaxing Draught. It’s clear pale pink surface shimmered just as expected in the final finished potion.
“Well done ladies!” exclaimed Slughorn as he reached our table. He ladled some of the potion as he examined it “My word! It’s very good indeed!” Nora and I exchanged a triumphant grin. Slughorn then leaned closer towards us and said in a hushed tone “Both of you must join me tonight at my party! I look forward to seeing you two there! Well done! Well done indeed! 20 points apiece!”
Nora and I had never been invited to a Slug Party before. We exchanged bewildered glances as he walked off to another table.
“Is he serious?” I asked her.
Nora simply smiled and shrugged.
A few hours later, the invite to party with the Slug Club was all too real. Nora wore my peach floor length dress and I wore the new green dress that Aunt Agatha had bought me. Kate helped us charm our hair into thick curls. I let mine bounce loosely around my shoulders while Nora pinned hers to the side.
When we arrived at Slughorn’s party, it had already started and we could see a few familiar faces. Sirius and James were laughing at a joke the Hufflepuff Quidditch captain was saying. I was surprised to see none other than Jason not too far away, deep in conversation with an out-of-place looking Professor Flitwick. I hoped he had managed to practice the charms he had mentioned in his letter. I didn’t want to barge in so I scanned the room for another recognizable face.
The room was circular and decorated with green drapes of all shades. Glittering green and gold baubles hung in midair across the well lit room. The walls were lined with tables full of all types of food, fruit and bottles of wine. The centre of the room was cleared and a few couples danced in slow circles.
Lily was a short distance away from us and seemed to be having an interesting conversation with Amir Patel, a Gryffindor sixth-year. Lily and Severus were already members of the Slug Club. They were always invited to these parties. She smiled and waved as she saw us and Amir turned to see who had caught her attention.
“Nora! Hi! I didn’t know you were coming” he exclaimed as he caught sight.
“I didn’t know you’d be here!” Nora said in the same pleasantly surprised tone.
I stood there completely stunned wondering how they knew each other so Nora took the initiative.
“Cap did I tell you? I’m tutoring Amir on some Charms topics. He’s missed some classes over the holidays last year”
“Oh!” I was genuinely surprised but I caught how Nora’s voice went up an octave as she said his name “Wow, I didn’t think fifth year’s could tutor sixth years! That’s interesting!” I said turning a raised eyebrow at Nora. Lily too seemed to be catching on and we both continued to stare at Nora who was obviously blushing.
“I would have asked a sixth year for help but Nora is very good and she helps me understand the theory a lot better” Amir said as he praised Nora making her blush even more. Lily and I suppressed our smiles.
“It helps that you’re an excellent student” said Nora in response.
“Evans!” Professor Slughorn’s voice came from behind us, “Oh, there you are Waltham! Come along both of you I’ve got some people I want you to meet. Where’s Reese? Oh there she is! Patel why don’t you ask her to dance? Evans, Waltham come with me. Come along now” and with that Professor Slughorn led the way through the dance floor while Amir Patel led Nora onto the dance floor.
Slughorn then coaxed Lily to accept a surly looking Slytherin fourth year and they soon followed Nora and Amir. I watched the happy carefree people dance in revolving circles. James soon joined them with Giselle Walter, a girl commonly thought of as the most beautiful sixth year girl of Hogwarts. With her long straight silver-blonde hair and her sharp features many contemplated if she was part Veela.
“Miss Waltham” Slughorn said again “I suppose you know Mr. Black?” I smiled and turned expecting to see Sirius’ carefree smile and characteristic smirk. My eyes fell instead upon the eyes of the person before me.
“Miss Waltham” he made a short courteous bow acknowledging me and straightened up. “Would you like to dance?” he offered his hand and I could only accept, to be polite. The liquid silver of those stormy grey eyes were so familiar to me now and yet my bones chilled as I gazed into the face of Regulus Black.
Regulus held my hand softly as he led me to the centre of the dance floor as if I was brittle and fragile. I was abnormally aware of every small movement I made and even more aware of how his eyes studied me as I avoided contact with them.
My hand rested on his shoulder while my other was trapped in his grip. His arm circled slowly along my waist making the hairs on the back of my neck stand up again. And we began to dance, revolving slowly to the music. Over his shoulder I saw Slughorn raise his glass to me, completely oblivious to the palpable tension between us. Fool.
I chanced a glance at Regulus. He continued to stare over my head. Regulus was handsome, there was no denying that. But he was still only a shadow of Sirius. Regulus had the same long hands and fingers as his brother, the same sharp jaw line, the same straight nose and the same liquid silver stormy eyes.
But these eyes were different. There was no life in them. They were unfathomable but depthless and cold. Something inside him was dead and it was reflected in his chaotic beautiful eyes. He was finally looking at me.
I hastily looked away from his gaze once more and stared over his shoulder. Jason was dancing with Abigail, a Ravenclaw friend of his. When our eyes met, he was surprised and happy to see me. His eyes then fell upon my partner and they became suddenly anxious. He silently questioned if I was alright, if he should intervene. I smiled at him and he nodded understanding I was fine.
Oh please. He’s just a boy. I can handle Regulus Black.
But it didn’t explain why I was so stiff and uncomfortable in his presence. I shook my head slightly.
Hey if I can handle big brother I can handle little brother any day! They are both birds of a feather.
“On the contrary, I’m nothing like my brother” Regulus’ voice spoke in my ear. A chill ran down my spine. I swallowed.
He’s listening to my thoughts.
I began to hyperventilate. I tried not to think of anything except staying in the room where my thoughts would only stay with the present, where I was safe and he couldn’t see anything the whole world could not.
But then I saw Sirius’ face. He paid no attention to his partner. His eyes were on us, watching, his face was livid and worried at the same time. I wanted to tell him I was alright. I wanted to tell him not to worry about me. But I couldn’t say the words.
Jason caught my eye again and again with one look he questioned me. Again I pacified him.
Regulus’ voice was quiet yet strong when he spoke again. “You’re failing at both your endeavours” he said. His breath made my skin crawl.
I ignored him not wanting to give him the satisfaction of making me curious. A wondered when the dance will end as we continued to turn to the music. I realised then that Regulus was smiling. This time I couldn’t catch myself fast enough.
“What amuses you so much?” I asked him without looking at him. He turned to look at me while I avoided his gaze.
“You forget” he said softly, “I already know how desperately you want to know what I meant”
I tried very hard not to swear in my head but I failed. He smiled lightly again as he read my thoughts. I was more of a sneer than a smile.
“You may think you are showing off by invading my privacy, but all you are really doing is showing my how low and pathetic you really are” I said evenly. His smile vanished, he was breathing harder and his grip on my hand tightened lightly. I held my breath wondering if I’d gone too far.
“Still does not change the fact that you’re lying to yourself and that the compromise isn’t worth it” he replied through pursed lips.
“Enlighten me, I’m breathless to hear your theory” I said sarcastically continuing to look over his shoulder.
“You’re a typical Gryffindor” he started.
“Fascinating, I had no idea”
“Typical Gryffindor, self-proclaimed hero who won’t use anyone or exploit anything to achieve what you so desperately want. Completely in denial that the world is unfair to its core and the only people who stand to get what is rightfully theirs are the people who squash the chances of it belonging to anyone else. You still live in a world where you think you have a chance to live if someone somewhere decides you shouldn’t. Brave, naive and dim-witted.”
With every word he said my blood boiled and my face became hot. I wanted to sink my heel into his foot.
“However” he continued and I breathed deeply to stay calm. “I wasn’t talking about your bravery. I was talking about your cowardice and your error of judgement.” More useless garbage, I thought. I was contemplating on pulling my hand free when he said the words that shocked me.
“While you cling to someone who is not a threat to your object of desire, he will have no motive to fight for you. And while he displays no desire to steal you away your compromise has no reason to indulge you.” I stared at Regulus’ face, wide eyed at his statement.
“You are not worth pursuing, to neither the one you desire nor the one you settled for.”
My eyes stung and I wrenched them away from his face and again looked over his shoulder at the crowd. The music stopped and the dancing couples came to a standstill.
On either side of Regulus, Sirius and Jason watched my face apprehensively.
As the depth of the words sank slowly into me my lip trembled and a lone tear slid down my cheek.
For the first time since the night I lay on the Quidditch grounds beside Sirius, I questioned myself again.
Once again I was lost, standing in the middle of crossroads.