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Chapter 6 : Sirius: Good riddance to bad rubbish
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We checked the map every day for a couple of weeks, and finally it bore fruit – Aubrey and Esther Davies were at it again, this time behind the tapestry of Andros the Invincible on the second floor. The one with the passageway that led towards the kitchens. Prongs immediately set everyone into action.
“Right, Wormtail, you transform and set up behind them to make sure they don’t escape that way,” he instructed. Peter nodded, looking almost apprehensive. Really, that guy was a nightmare sometimes. What did he think was going to happen? “Moony, you and I will stand guard in the corridor underneath the Cloak, and Padfoot, once we’re all set, you go and get her.”
I smiled to myself a bit – James had set up the roles very deliberately. And I would have expected no less, I would have done the same if this was about Lily.
Anyway, as soon as James and Remus were set up in the corridor I headed back to the tower, where Laura was bound to be, finishing some assignment or other. It was kind of nice, her being so conscientious, because it meant I always knew where to find her.
I ran through the portrait hole and looked immediately at the table they usually sat at, the one by the window, but some second-years had got to it first. Damn it! Where was she? I looked around in a panic, but found her soon enough. “Laura, I am so sorry, but you’ve got to see this,” I said, holding out my hand for her to take.
She just sat there, looking confused, and I realised I probably hadn’t explained it well enough. Oh well, that could wait, so long as she came. “Come on,” I urged, getting more and more agitated. What if she didn’t come? Everything would be ruined. “NOW!” It came out rather louder than I’d meant, but it had the desired effect – she put down her textbook and got up to follow me. I grabbed her hand and pulled her back through the portrait hole.
“Got her,” I whispered into the mirror so Prongs would know we were on our way. “Don’t let them leave.” Her hand felt tiny in mine, almost like I might break it if I held on too tight, but it was soft and warm and no doubt not as delicate as it felt.
I kept hold of her all the way down to the second floor, taking her through some of the most secret passageways that only the guys and I knew about. While it would have been nice to take the long route, especially since I still had her hand, time was of the essence and I had to get her there before Aubrey and Davies left. She had to see it.
“Are you going to tell me what this is about?” she asked on the way down.
I shook my head – she might not believe me if I just told her. “You’ll have to see,” I said quietly. “So long as we’re not too late …” And I quickened my steps to get us there sooner.
Finally we arrived and I stopped, not completely sure where Prongs and Moony were since they were underneath the Cloak. Sure enough, they appeared almost immediately only about five feet away. Prongs immediately noticed I was holding her hand and raised an eyebrow, as though suggesting that it might not be a good look for when the tapestry came down. And he was right, of course – she had to be standing alone when she saw it.
“I am so sorry,” I said quietly again, half meaning what she was about to see and half the fact that I’d had to let go of her.
She was panting a little and looking very confused, but James put a finger to his mouth to stop her from saying anything. Fortunately she was pretty quick off the mark, as usual, and closed her mouth immediately. Right, this was it. Prongs got his wand out and tapped the tapestry, and the whole thing came crashing to the floor.
Sure enough, there were Aubrey and Davies, snogging as though their lives depended on it. Half their clothes were off and his hands were all over her – good thing he and Laura were about to break up, if that was the sort of thing he was up to. No wonder she’d been so uncomfortable. And frankly, the very idea of his hands on her at all just made my blood boil. He didn’t deserve to be in the same country as her, let alone be close enough to actually touch her.
Laura just stood there, gazing at them as they broke apart and looked at her. And Aubrey, to his credit, looked horrified.
She spoke first. “Something you wanted to tell me, Bertram?” Her eyes were flashing and I knew that I never wanted her to look at me like that, full of hurt and anger and betrayal. How could he do that to her? Did he not realise how special she was?
“Laura! It’s not what it looks like! I can explain!” Aubrey sounded panicked, and well he should have. He was about to lose her, I was sure of it.
“I think it’s pretty obvious what it is,” she said coldly.
“No! Please!” He looked hopefully at James, Remus and me, like we might offer him support. As if! Why would we do that? After what he’d done to her?
“I’ve seen enough,” she said, still coldly. “How about you just keep on doing whatever you think it is that you’re doing. Do whatever you like – or whoever you like. I don’t care. I never want to see you again.” She turned around and walked down the corridor until she’d rounded the corner and was out of sight.
Well, I’d guessed right. She’d ditched him on the spot. That is, I’d hoped she would, but she might have been fonder of the creep than I’d realised so there was always the risk she might have stuck it out with him. But this was fantastic – she was single again! And maybe there might be a chance for me if I played my cards right.
But first things first. She had taken off alone down the corridor and I wasn’t sure how far she’d gone. I had to admire the way she had kept her dignity in a situation like this, but she had to be hurting. I hurried around the corner after her to offer some support.
I found her not far past the corner, sitting on the floor, leaning against the wall. She looked both furious and exhausted, as though this had taken a lot out of her, and I had to check the impulse to put both arms around her and let her collapse onto me. (Would have been nice, though … no, mustn’t think that, can’t move in too soon.)
Instead I sat on the floor next to her. “Geez, I am so sorry,” I said gently. “But you had to know.”
She looked at me scathingly. “Did I? What if I was happier not knowing?” Right, settle, I thought, she’s not mad at you, per se, she’s mad at Aubrey. You just happen to be here.
“It would have hurt more in the long run,” I said reassuringly, allowing myself to put an arm around her shoulders and giving her a squeeze. It was just for reassurance, of course, nothing else, though I noticed with some satisfaction that she relaxed into me like she belonged there. “Would you rather have gone on, maybe for months, and then found out about it?”
She sat there quietly for a while, probably considering the answer. “Probably not,” she said eventually. “But why would he do that?”
I shook my head. “I can’t work it out either,” I said. “He needs his head read. He must have known what would happen.” Oops, did I just say that? Did I let out too much? Did she guess I had ulterior motives beyond just friendship in doing this? But anyway, I meant it. Honestly, he had Laura. Beautiful, funny, smart, incredible Laura. How could he even look at someone else? Let alone Esther Davies, who was absolutely nothing in comparison. But then again, who was?
Fortunately she appeared to have not noticed I might have said anything unusual and sat there quietly for a while, still letting me keep my arm around her. I admired her fortitude in keeping calm like this – most girls would have collapsed into a sea of tears by now, confronted with the evidence like that, but not Laura. She’s strong, I thought. Doesn’t look it, doesn’t even feel it, but she is. Though I had to admit, if she had started crying it would have been a great excuse for wrapping both arms around her and holding her to me for a while, on the pretext of comforting her. Sometimes, you have to take what you can get.
Eventually she appeared ready to stand up again and I helped her to her feet. She still needed comforting, I told myself, and I put my arm back around her as we walked back around the corner.
Oops. Too early. Aubrey was still there, suffering from the curses we had agreed on, and Prongs was pushing him down the hall. Laura stopped dead as she saw them.
Amazingly her fortitude continued, and she still didn’t cry. “Thanks, guys,” she said instead, her voice sounding weak and strained. I looked at her with concern - maybe this was taking more out of her than I’d realised.
Prongs turned around and looked at her. “How’s she doing?” he asked me.
“Holding up,” I said, though it occurred to me I might be trying to convince myself. She looked at me and nodded, and I went on. “I think she needs food though.”
James seemed to agree with me. “Chocolate. She’ll feel like she’s been through a Dementor attack. Take her down to the kitchens. I’ll find somewhere prominent to dump this git.”
The kitchens were a bit of a walk away and I wasn’t convinced she’d make the distance. Though I could always carry her if it came down to it … I looked at her, trying to work out how strong she actually was. “You all right to walk? It’s not far, just down from the Great Hall – do you think you can make it?”
She took a deep breath and looked at me steadily. I could have dived right into those eyes and gone for a swim in them, but again, this was not the time. “Should be able to.”
A good start, she intended to try at least. Still refusing to fall into the ‘damsel in distress’ mentality, insisting on standing on her own two feet. One of the things that made her so special. “That’s the spirit,” I said with a smile. “Let me know if you’re having trouble, though, okay?” Meaning, you know I’d be more than happy to carry you. I reluctantly dropped my arm from her shoulder, realising that if we took the short cut (which was probably the best way to go, as we were less likely to be bothered by Filch or anyone else) we would never fit two abreast, but instead took her hand on the pretext of guiding her.
It wasn’t like before, she didn’t grasp my hand with nearly the same energy she had on the way down from the tower. But she was obviously determined to go as far as she could on her own, so I just led the way, albeit a bit slower than usual. Soon enough we reached the still-life and I tickled the pear to open the door to the kitchens.
As always it was mayhem inside, and I hoped that the sudden noise wasn’t too loud for her. In any case I calmed the house elves down as quickly as I could and placed the order.
“Now, everyone, this is Laura,” I said, thinking, remember that name, hopefully you’ll get to know her reasonably well. “Laura has just had a bad shock. I was thinking she needs chocolate, maybe some treacle tart, that sort of thing. What can you do for her?”
True to form, the house elves immediately started cramming food into her hands. She looked a little overwhelmed so I took the tray and mug of hot chocolate from her and started to lead her towards the exit. Maybe bringing her inside wasn’t such a good idea, she looked a little paler than she had before and I didn’t want her collapsing on me. So I thanked the house elves and took her back into the castle proper.
We were a bit close to the Hufflepuff common room, which I was sure she knew well but wouldn’t want to see right now, so I led her to an empty classroom that was well out of sight of the corridor that went there. The last thing she needed was to see one of Aubrey’s friends wandering around, which for all I knew they could be. After all, the map was in my pocket and both hands were full, so I couldn’t exactly check. I knew she wouldn’t see Aubrey himself, as James still had him, but he was bound to have friends around. Even him, though I wasn’t sure he deserved them.
She sat down on a table, still looking exhausted, but still trying to make conversation. “So, that was the kitchen,” she said wryly. “Is it always that chaotic?”
I had put the tray down next to her so she could start eating, and she promptly began taking a chocolate frog out of its wrapper, catching it deftly before it hopped away. “Pretty much,” I said with a shrug. “They’re always really keen to help.”
She finished the frog and reached for another. ““And I used to think you lot were so smart, raiding the kitchens for food all the time,” she said, already sounding a little stronger. “You’re not exactly forcing them at wandpoint to hand it over, are you?”
I watched her eat another chocolate frog and start on the treacle tart, noticing her hand brush the clasp I’d bought her that she always wore. Not that she knew I’d bought it, but that didn’t matter, what mattered was that she liked it. And the chocolate was working – she looked more like herself already, with the colour coming back to her face and her breathing more regular. “You feeling better now?”
She hesitated, like that was a difficult question. And maybe it was, she’d just had one hell of a shock and it would take some getting over. Finally she smiled – how beautiful that smile was! – and spoke, sounding stronger still. “Yeah, I am. Thanks.” Unwittingly I let my mind wander as I gazed at her lips, imagining how it would feel to have those against my skin, wondering whether they were as soft and tender as they looked.
I let her eat in silence for a while, unsure what I could say that wouldn’t reveal too much. After all, the last thing she needed at a time like this was another bloke throwing himself at her. So I decided to play the friend card for a bit longer, though I did try to push my hair back off my face a bit. Had to look as good as I could, just on the off chance she noticed. “I meant what I said before,” I told her, forcing any thought of her lips to the back of my mind for the time being. “This way will be easier in the long run.”
She looked sad, and I felt awful for bringing it up again like that. I wanted to kill Aubrey for hurting her like this. Still no tears, though – she was holding up pretty well. “I know,” she said eventually, sighing slightly. “Doesn’t make it easy now though.” She was looking at the tray next to her but raised her head suddenly and looked me full in the face. “How did you know about it?”
Ah. The map. I had always intended that she know about it, of course – I intended that she would know all my secrets eventually – but I wasn’t sure that now was the time. But then again, it might offer a distraction. Ignoring the fact that James might not be too impressed that I let her in on it, I pulled it out of my pocket and unfolded it, laying it on a spare table and muttering the spell that brought it to life.
She was watching me with a confused look on her face so I beckoned her over. “It’s a map. The guys and I wrote it.”
I couldn’t help but notice the awe and admiration on her face, and thought how nice it would be to have her look at me like that in another context. Patience, Padfoot, give her time. “But this is incredible,” she said, her eyes darting all over the parchment. “It shows everybody at Hogwarts on it!” I looked for us, in the room by the kitchens, and found the dots quickly – ‘Laura Cauldwell’ and ‘Sirius Black’. Nice to see the names together like that. Hopefully eventually that’ll happen much more often.
It was good, having the map out, because it gave me something to do with my hands so I could keep them off her, particularly with her being so close now. To make sure she didn’t realise what I was thinking I kept talking. “We were checking the map to come – well, down here, actually, to the kitchens for a night-time feast – when we saw them in a small enclave behind that tapestry with the dancing trolls on it. Well, what else would they be doing in a place like that at nine o’clock at night? So we sent Wor- Peter out to check – he’s, er, good at sneaking around without being seen – and he came back and confirmed it.” Oops, almost said Wormtail. She knows about the map but it’s much too soon to start letting things slip about the Animagus stuff. She took advantage of my taking a breath to speak again.
“You’re saying this has happened before?”
I nodded, having forgotten she didn’t know that. Did she need a hug? I snuck a look at her but she looked fine, so I probably couldn’t justify it. Instead I answered her question, going to sit on a nearby desk. “Yep. We found out just after the holidays. I was going to tell you straight away but Pr- James pointed out that it might’ve been a one-off, that these things can happen even in the best relationships. You know, caught off guard, a moment of weakness, that type of thing. And you never know, he might have got a fit of the guilts and told you himself… So James thought we should wait … and if it happened again … then we’d … tell you …”
My voice trailed off as I again got distracted by the vision in front of me. In this instance she was leaning in close to the map, so much so that I could see down her top. Lovely round breasts with soft white skin and just the hint of lace on the bra … More than a little distracting, let me tell you, and I admit that I felt a bit guilty but I just couldn’t stop looking. Prongs was wrong, they didn’t need to be any bigger at all. They were just perfect. I admit I’d been hoping she didn’t straighten up anytime soon – I’m only human, after all, and for all I knew this might be the closest I’d ever get – but she noticed I was a bit distracted (okay, a lot distracted) and looked up at me. Well, that definitely shook me out of my stupor. “Right. Well, since then we’ve been checking periodically to see if they did it again, and, well, tonight they did. So we put Pete inside the tunnel to stop them escaping that way, and James and Remus stood guard in the passageway under James’ Invisibility Cloak, and I – ” I stopped again as she looked up at me.
“James has an Invisibility Cloak?” I’d forgotten she didn’t know that, either – it had been part of my life for so long it was something I didn’t even think about. In any case it was an interruption and I should be going on with the story.
“Yeah, yeah, he has an Invisibility Cloak,” I said. “Anyway, they stood guard and I came to get you. You know the rest.” Don’t stare at her tits. Don’t stare at her tits. If I repeated that enough it might just sink in.
My eyes went back to her face, which had become very solemn all of a sudden. “I’m glad I dumped him, then,” she said. Music to my ears, let me tell you, and not just because of the Welsh accent that made everything she said sound musical. “James is right, once you can sometimes explain away, but twice …” Her voice trailed away but she didn’t need to say anything else, I knew what she meant. Unfortunately she also chose that time to go back to her original seat, away from me, so I had to gaze from a distance again, wondering if that skin really was as soft as it looked, jealous that someone like Aubrey knew the answer to that and I didn’t. Really, what kind of world allowed a prick like Aubrey to get someone like Laura? I knew I wasn’t the best catch in the world but while I hadn’t really cared about the girls I’d gone out with, at least I’d respected them enough not to cheat on them.
Laura, though, she was different. I thought I might care about her. Actually, I already did care, otherwise I wouldn’t be here with her in the first place. And I’d certainly never cheat on her. Hell, if I could even see the parts of her that Aubrey would have seen, I’d die a happy man. Never mind touching them … though of course I wouldn’t say no to that either …
My mind was going so determinedly along this path and Laura was focusing so completely on the tray of food I’d organised for her that when she spoke again it took me by surprise. “What did you do to him?”
This brought me back to reality again pretty quickly and I tried to cover up what I’d been thinking. Fortunately it was an easy question to answer, though it was probably redundant anyway – surely she knew what we’d done? Not to worry, she was still in shock so it was forgivable. “Full body bind, simple Engorgement Charm.” Not enough, I thought, but Prongs had put his foot down, saying it was quite sufficient to be getting on with. “We wanted to make his head a more appropriate size, considering what he thought he was good enough to get away with.” I’d wanted to curse him to kingdom come, of course, but then again I didn’t always think rationally where Laura was concerned.
She attempted a smile, but it turned out not as bright as the one earlier had been. “And where did James leave him?”
I tore my eyes from her and looked at the map. There they were, on the second floor by Dumbledore’s office, so I said as much, adding, “He’ll find him when he comes out in the morning.” Ah, staying all night on the cold floor with a head double normal size. It couldn’t happen to a nicer bloke. However just then I saw Filch’s dot come across them and shortly afterwards Dumbledore himself came out, so it looked like we’d be paying. Oh well, I thought, shrugging. Anything for Laura.
Laura, gem that she was, looked horrified. “But you’ll get in trouble!” Like she was the one worried about me.
I just looked at her. Wasn’t it obvious that a detention was the least of my concerns? Hell, I’d do any number of detentions if it meant I might be able to push her up against a wall and snog her senseless at some point in the near future. (And the nearer the better, if she could turn me on like that just by being there.) “So?” I asked. “We’ll cop that. It was worth it.” She still didn’t look convinced so I went on, pushing my hair out of my eyes so I could see her better. “Look, Laura, it’s not like we’ve never done detentions before. It will probably even be fun, if they don’t split us up again. And he deserved it, he should never have done that to you in the first place.”
Oops, might have said too much again. Fortunately she didn’t seem have caught on – so quick off the mark with some things, not with this. I wasn’t sure if I was pleased or disappointed – while it was useful now, it could make things more difficult in the long run.
She stood up again and looked at me as firmly as she could. I was a bit worried about her still – she was clearly still not at her best – but she looked determined. “I think I’d like to go back to the tower now,” she said, still a little feebly but sounding a bit stronger.
Well, Laura, your wish is my command. “Of course,” I said, grabbing her hand again. It was warm in mine and she gripped it with more strength than she had on the way down to the kitchens, so she was definitely feeling better as well as sounding it. “I’ll get you back in one piece.” Hang on, I thought, better mention the map. Not that I thought she’d say anything but it’s best to make sure. “Oh – and Laura?”
She looked up at me, her eyes wide. “Yes?”
Those eyes distracted me and I almost forgot what I was going to say. Oh, right, the map. That was it. “Would you mind not mentioning the map to anyone? We don’t want word about it getting out, we’d never hear the end of it.”
She nodded, looking surprised. “Of course not. I’d assumed that went without saying.” I smiled to myself – I’d guessed right, she knew when to keep her mouth shut.
I still had her hand but needed to pick up the map and hold it right to illuminate our path back to the tower. Not good thinking, Padfoot. But dropping her hand was almost impossible – it was so soft and warm and, well, Laura – so I tried to flick the map one-handed to get it to the right spot. Fortunately it worked – she might even have thought I’d planned it – so I didn’t have to let go of her at all.
At least, not until we got back to the tower, which was all too soon. As soon as we climbed through the portrait hole she thanked me, but then dropped my hand and headed straight up to the dorm, leaving me to just watch her go.
Once she’d disappeared from view, for lack of anything better to do I headed upstairs to my own dorm, where the others were already in bed. “What happened?” James asked.
“She’s okay,” I said with a shrug. “Holding up pretty well. She’s not happy, though.”
“Not going to take him back then?” Moony asked.
I shook my head. “Doesn’t look like it.” I had almost reached a smile when I remembered what I’d seen on the Map. “Hey, what happened with you? I saw Filch catch up with you.”
Prongs nodded, sitting up in his bed. “Yep. You and I have double detentions tomorrow night. Separately.” He chuckled suddenly. “Though once Dumbledore heard the story, I got the impression that he thought Aubrey deserved everything he got.”
“Good. I knew I liked the man.” I grinned, but got more serious almost immediately as I thought of something. “But double detention? Tomorrow night? The timing could have been better …”
“You’re telling me,” Prongs agreed. “I have to miss Quidditch practice because of it. So I’m damn pleased she’s not taking the jerk back because that would have made it a bit of a wasted effort on our part.”
“So what happens now?” Peter asked.
I shrugged again. “Not sure,” I admitted. Yes, she was single, but for how long? And would she ever see me that way anyway?
“Wait for her to get over the git,” Moony said. “Then move on in. I reckon you’ve got a decent chance.”
“And how do I know when that’s happened?” It felt like a dumb question but I just didn’t know the answer. I really had to get more experience in these things, I realised.
“When she stops reacting to him,” Moony explained. “If she bumps into him and doesn’t flinch, that’s your chance to jump in.”
“Right.” I didn’t know what to think. To avoid it entirely, I started getting ready for bed. “Oh, and Moony? Here’s the map.” I pulled it out of my robes and threw it onto his bed. “It’s your turn to look after it, isn’t it?”
Prongs was looking at me curiously. “You showed it to her, didn’t you?”
I took him on. “Yes, I did. So?”
He just looked at me, and even without his glasses on I could tell he was thinking hard. In the end, though, he just shrugged. “No, that’s fine. I’m okay with that. I think we can trust her.”
“Damn right we can trust her,” I said without thinking. Though, if I’d thought about it, I probably would have said it anyway. Anyway I must have looked angrier than I’d realised because Prongs backed off immediately.
“Okay, okay,” he said, hands out in front of him in surrender. “You win. Tell her what you like. Your girl, your decision.” Within reason, of course, but that was so obvious he didn’t need to say it.
My girl. I liked the sound of that. All I had to do now was make it true.
Author's note: If you choose to leave a review for this chapter, please remember that "tits" is not a 12+ word and will result in your review being deleted. I hate losing reviews so if you could please keep it all family-friendly I'd be most appreciative. Thanks again.
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