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The Art of Breathing. by AC_rules
Chapter 37 : Empowerment.
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 44


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A/N - I think this is a bit sooner than I planned to update... but actually, depending on the queue lenght, it could be quite awhile... so there you go. I'm back at school now - sixth form - and I'm actually really enjoying it. I think I've gone crazy over the summer because I'm actually really happy, and I don't know why. You maybe thinking that that's not really an altogether unusual occurance but... I accidently lost my two best friends (I know, how careless - ha ha.) and welll, I'm not really a happy-for-no-reason type, more the unhappy-for-no-reason... So that's good! Really good! So I just wanted to thank all you guys for your reviews and support because you actually wouldn't believe how many times I've been stuck feeling so utterly miserable, and how reading your reviews have made me feel ever so slightly better - it really makes my day. Anyway, enough of this rambling. Scary! Please R & R  :)
 

“Are you okay?” Remus asked leaning on his elbows and looking up at me with a perfect picture of intrigue and concern that was only ruined slightly by the fact that he looked completely dead. At least I understood why now. All those years of mystery and wonder were now completely and utterly solved. How dreary and unexciting.

I mirrored his actions by leaning on my elbows widening my eyes sympathetically and saying “Are you okay?” In the most patronising manner I could.

“Mood swings - check.” Remus said leaning back on his chair in the corner of the library and picking up his transfiguration text book and pretending to read it. Sirius had forced him into becoming my own personal babysitter and we now spent so much time together that there had been rather stupid rumours that the two of us were dating. That made me laugh. As if Remus and Sirius would still be on talking terms if I was dating him.

Compared to Sirius, Remus Lupin was a fantastically simple being that was so easy to read he might as well have a big sign over his head telling the world about his emotions and deepest fears and what not. Once you knew about his werewolf tendencies everything made sense.  No deeper levels. Nothing.

 It sort of pissed me off. As in a lot.

Remus turned a page of the transfiguration book but he so blatantly wasn’t reading it (his eyes weren’t moving and he was turning the page too quickly) and was instead waiting for me to crack and start talking again. He’d probably read about it in some psychology book but it seemed to be one his favourite techniques of getting me to talk and I had to admit that it worked given I got so bored of sitting and watching him that I’d just burst out with something to spice things up a bit.

Lily wasn’t talking to me and hadn’t done in the past seven days. Alice was talking to me but every time she did she kept bringing up Sirius and my feelings. Sirius was you know... completely blanking me, not catching my eyes, no longer getting at it with Nadine Fisher (according to Marlene who’s not exactly known for her truth telling) and no longer miserable. His miserable spell lasted a whole... day before he went into crazy Marauder mode and did such frustrating things as pretend to turn up to transfiguration drunk to get McGonagall mad, turn Snape’s chairs into a horses and persuade James to fly around the corridors with him in between classes to piss teachers off.

They’d now been put in so many detentions that they’d started making them do lunch time detentions too, although that was probably only to make sure that they didn’t release anymore of the magical creatures (although watching Kettleburn chase after them had been bloody funny) or try and grow various magical plants (which they’d stolen) in their dormitories, or in the middle of the corridor.

All in all I had to admit that it was getting to me, really getting to me, because he was there laughing his head off and being so sodding cheerful all the time and here was me with no one to talk to except Remus-bleeding-Lupin who was so infuriating and frustrating that it made me want to jump into the black lake with a cauldron full of cement attached to my back.

Well, not really.

I had found some ways to keep me amused in the form of abusing the hell out of him which was funny when he wasn’t pretending to read transfiguration text books.

“Planning anymore pranks?” I asked just because the silence was beginning to suffocate me and I was getting so desperate I was starting to read the transfiguration book myself (although I didn’t get far because every time I was halfway through a paragraph he’d turn the page).

Remus smirked – yes he has his own smirk, it’s a Marauder necessity – and didn’t answer for a few seconds as he ‘finished his paragraph.’

“You know if it bothers you I could ask him to stop?” Remus suggested running one of his fingers down a line I knew for a fact he had pretended to read last time we were in here. Even he wouldn’t bother reading the stupid thing twice, especially since it was his fifth year text book which he must know already.

“It doesn’t bother me.” I retorted with my voice thick with irritation at his so called ‘perceptiveness.’ Perceptive my arse. He just liked drawing conclusions from nowhere and forcing me to agree with them to feed his ego. Even Remus-bladdy-Lupin has an ego that has to be fed if you want to stop him from having a hissy fit and sodding off somewhere. I’m so fed up of male company – seriously. Well, just Remus’s company as all other male’s are now giving me a wide birth.

Now Sirius is over me I’m not interesting anymore. It’s great.

“Of course not.” Remus said turning a page and fiddling with the edge of the paper. It made me want to punch him. Wasn’t he supposed to be, you know, helping me? Not forcing me to sit and watch him molest transfiguration text books.

I decided to take matters into my own hands and slammed the book closed on his fingers.

Ow.” Remus exclaimed in such a hormonal teenage girl offended voice that I laughed. Internally. It wasn’t worth the effort of external laughter.

“Wrong time of the month?” I asked stretching back on my seat and knowing full well that the full moon was tonight.  He sent me an irritated look and shut his textbook. “Sorry, did I offend you wolf boy?”

“Could you talk any louder?” Remus asked and was now doing his old shuffling papers trick. That pissed me off too.

“Yes.” I said raising my voice so that several people turned to look at us and the scary librarian woman turned and glared at me. I lifted my hand and waved at her sarcastically. She went back to whatever she was doing with that piece of parchment a lot more violently which was nice and satisfying.

“Well how about you don’t, or I won’t bother keeping my voice down next time I walk past Lily?”

“Ooo. Blackmail. How original.”

“What are you talking about?” Remus asked and letting his irritation slip away. Damn. I’d got him good with that last one until I had to say something that pushed his facade of interest and caringness back on his stupid average-looking face.

I sighed and leaned back on the chair in irritation. Of course now I’d mentioned it he wouldn’t let go until he’d got a decent bite – werewolf tendencies. He was very persistent ; even as persistent as James is in his relentless campaign to get Lily fall in love with him, marry him... blah blah, whatever.

“Snape, McGonagall, Marlene and now you. Do I have a sign on my back? Blackmail me! Especially if you’re a slimy git, a frigid bitch or a werewolf!”

“Shush!” Remus hissed and I just smirked my own smirk right back at him. Prat. “What are they blackmailing you about?”

“Snape is trying to get me to make sure Lily and James never get it on.”

“What?” Remus asked loudly and this time the librarian turned to glare at him. He sent her an apologetic confidently charming look which Sirius had so blatantly taught him. Still, she blushed and went back to her writing.

“Remus Lupin taking advantage of his sex appeal? Who’d have thought it?” I asked which made him roll his eyes and look a little embarrassed. He should be happy; I just fed his ego and all that. “Nice to see your wild side once in awhile ...” I continued but he cut me off before I could say anything else about him being a werewolf.

“You told him to stuff it didn’t you? Snape?”

“Not exactly, it’s on my to do list,” It was true, it was on my to do list – punch Snape. Not that I’d been paying much attention to the to do list given it was Sirius’s idea and therefore I wasn’t about to touch it or anything of the sort (it was still in my bag though).

 “How did he find out?”

“Snuck into the hospital wing.”

Remus swore and banged his fist on the table. It made me jump and I looked at him utterly startled. Remus Lupin was angry. Angry angry.

“Sneaky tosser.” Remus said under his breath and I was utterly shocked. He saw my confused expression and took a deep breath. “He always has to find out.”

“He knows about -?”

“Yes.” Remus said glaring at the table. “It’s Sirius’s fault actually.” My stomach churned uncomfortably at his name and Remus sent me a knowing sympathetic look. It made me want to punch him and made me like him a little more at the same time.

“Explain.”

“You probably wouldn’t remember, but there was this incident a year or so back... Obviously we’ve never got on with Snape and Sirius and James were at the usual antics. They were...” He sighed sounding slightly disapproving. “They were making him trip up every forth step, they thought it was funny. They’d been following him around all day making him look like an idiot when obviously Snape had had enough of it and... he Levicorpused Sirius in the middle of a busy corridor and walked off. None of us knew the counter jinx so he was just... stuck.”

“Which of course dented Sirius’s pride so much that he went after Snape and did something worse?”

“Yes. He decided to go after Snape and test out the theory on whether accio would work on his clothes, in the middle of the great hall.”

“Did it?” I asked curiously and slightly horrified. The idea of a naked Snape made me want to crawl into the foetal position and blind myself with my useless wand but it would have been freaking hilarious if it worked.

“Well before Sirius had his wand out we’d all been disarmed and then Snape started yelling all this stuff about Sirius’s mother -”

“Oh god.”

“- which of course made Sirius even madder. So then Sirius told that they’d sort it out in a fair duel and told him that he’d give him the time and place at a later date and none of us thought anything of it. None of us knew that Sirius was going to... well, tell Snape how to get into the shrieking shack and tell him to meet him there at midnight.” Remus took a deep breathed and dropped his voice even more (he’d already been close to whispering). “Sirius claims he didn’t think Snape would turn up. He has a point – why would he have turned up to a midnight duel in the most haunted building in Britain against four very able students that he certainly couldn’t beat? But he did and it was full moon.”

“Oh my God.”  I exclaimed utterly shocked by this revelation. Sirius had nearly killed him.

“James saved him – pulled him back out of the tunnel and dragging him all the way to the hospital wing and Dumbledore’s office where he explained everything. Sirius stayed out and made sure I spent the whole time in the Shack. Normally they let me run around a bit – they see it all as a great big joke. They don’t understand that if one person decided to go for a midnight stroll I could accidently kill them or ruin their life.”

“Ruin?” I asked sounding startled. “So you turn into a grizzly monster once a month, how does that ruin your life?”

“You wouldn’t understand.” Remus said looking at me in agitation and glancing around to make sure no one had heard the ‘grizzly monster’ comment.

“No, I wouldn’t know anything about lives being ruined, would I? It’s not like I’m freaking dying is it? You are so selfish! As if you can sit there and talk about your life being ruined.

“I’m never going to get a job; nobody wants a sodding werewolf working for them. I’ll never be able to have children because hell if I know what will happen! I’ll have to spend the rest of my life away from people so I don’t hurt anyone! I’ll have to put up with everyone’s prejudices and unbelievable pain once a month for the rest of my life! I’ve been lucky so far not to hurt anyway because it’s not like I can control what I do! Then one day I might accidently bite someone and know they’re suffering is all my sodding fault! I’m lucky that people have actually accepted me. That James and Sirius said that they didn’t care but that’s mainly because they think it’s cool and funny. It’s all a great big joke to them and they only keep me around so they can shove me off on their temperamental exes when they can’t be arsed to deal with them anymore!”

“Fine.” I spat standing up. “I’m going to take my temperamental arse out of here and find someone who isn’t being forced to spend their time with me. Funny though. They don’t seem to be missing you all that much with all their pranks whilst you’re stuck talking to me, the temperamental ex, do they?”

“Mary,” Remus said in a resigned slightly guilty voice. I don’t think he’d meant to start ranting so much.

“No, I never did like you Lupin but I have to admit you’ve got one thing I haven’t. You know, a life. At least you’re going to make it to the next full moon. ” I said before walking out of the library and feeling decidedly less bored than I had done when I walked in it.

Was it bad that after that... argument I liked Remus a lot more than I had done before it?

Screw it. I was going to talk to Jeremy.

***************

“Hey,” I said walking over to where Jeremy Wood was sat with his legs stretched out under a tree. He had some book in his hand but didn’t seem to be reading it, and had instead watched me walk closer to him. The argument with Remus had left me in a very good mood (even though I’d been called temperamental, but well, he had a point) and now I was feeling productive and was in the mood to get some things done that I’d been thinking about.

“McDonald.” Jeremy nodded. “What brings you here?”

“Just... checking in.” I said quoting him from ages ago, before we’d gone to Hogsmeade. I decided that it was best to approach my task in a subtle manner for the time being so I wasn’t actually checked in to the mental ward as St Mungo’s.

“It’s not a hotel.” He quoted back before gesturing to the ground next to him. I sat and glanced over at the book. It was about herbology so I doubted I’d have a clue what it was on about given I’d dropped it as soon as I possibly could (there was once this plant that looked like a pineapple, and it really crept me out so I didn’t go near them again and swore to detest herbology forever). “I was trying to study.” Jeremy supplied gesturing to the book, I would have felt guilty for interrupting him but I’m selfish and he hadn’t being doing much anyway.

“That sounds fun.”                                                             

“Well the other’s are all off with their girlfriends, so...” He said shrugging and looking around at everyone with his amazing air of coolness. He was exactly what I needed right now. His subtle yet obvious ways of doing everything which made him both complicated and very simple were exactly the sort of qualities I needed to be associating myself with.

Remus was simple (or not that simple really and I just couldn’t be bother to work out the rest of him because, let’s be honest, we were never going to be the best of friends). Sirius was complicated (or he was just an arrogant arse who I wanted to see more in because I was in love with him). Okay, maybe not... My relationship with Remus was simple because he was basically being instructed to be friends with me. My relationship with Sirius, on the other hand, was decidedly not simple and hell if I knew what was supposed to be going on or not supposed to be going on.

“Didn’t there used to be another guy in your year?” I asked leaning back against the tree and looking at people like Jeremy was doing. He was surrounded with his normal air of coolness which made me feel calmer and comfortable. I liked Jeremy. Why hadn’t we talked in so long?

“Dougie? Yeah. He didn’t stay on for NEWT’s. Now he’s working in his Dad’s business.”

“What happened to his bed?” I asked suddenly and he turned to look at me with a slightly intrigued look on his face. “I mean, is there a spare bed in your dorm?” I continued realising what a strange a question it seemed, but now I was on that topic I was surprisingly curious. When I was dead, would the bed remain? An empty space?

“No,” Jeremy said still searching me for an answer. “It disappeared.”

“So is there a big gap?” I asked curiously. I could only imagine how depressing that might be – a great big gap where someone used to sleep and live.

“No, the room shrunk.”

“What?!” I exclaimed in surprise.

“The rooms change size depending on the number and age of the people in them. They get bigger as you get older too. You don’t notice though, because it grows slowly.”

“That’s crazy.”

“Not really. They never know how many people are going to be in each dorm and you can’t have the same size dorm for seven people as two. We were pretty shocked when our dorm shrunk though.”

“Say if someone died...” I began.

“Considering murder?” I was tempted to shoot back ‘no, suicide’ but that wasn’t funny in the slightest.

“Something like that.” I replied quietly. I saw Jeremy’s eyes catch sight of someone and began watching their movements. I followed his gaze and saw the Marauders walking out into the grounds behind Rachel and Charlotte and my stomach lurched uncomfortably.

 Sirius was laughing, laughing, and acting as if there was nothing wrong. Of course there was nothing wrong to him.  “Stupid bastard.”  I muttered under my breath as I watched James pull out his wand and spin it through his fingers. Remus didn’t look to be talking much and instead had his arms folded over his chest and was probably thinking about something else (our argument?). Sirius now had his own wand out and he and James seemed to be sword fighting with them. Peter was watching and laughing at them. “Stupid sodding arse.” I could hear them yelling and laughing from all the way over here.

“Why are you here?” Jeremy asked with a slight quirk of the eyebrow that meant he didn’t believe anything about me just ‘checking in.’

“Are you over your ex now?” I asked and Jeremy’s eyebrow rose a little further but he nodded all the same. “Okay.” I said looking away from him and back at where Sirius and James had now progressed to sending real spells at each other.

“Mary...” Jeremy said waiting for an explanation. I sighed. He was too perceptive.

“I wanted to... try something but I can’t with them here.”

“I don’t see why they should stop you from doing anything.” Jeremy said turning his full attention to me now and lazing backwards as if this conversation had very little insignificance in the whole wide world so he wasn’t going to worry about it. He was looking at me as if he knew what I was thinking but I knew he couldn’t possibly. “I heard.” He said simply and I looked at him startled. He hadn’t exactly specified what precisely he had heard but the definite and serious way he was saying it could probably help me work it out... “Pretty hard not to only one floor up.”

“The party?” I questioned feeling my blood freeze up a little at the very thought of that god awful night.

“Well yes, but I was referring to the drunken proclamations of love.”

“Oh.” I said finding myself feeling uncomfortable around him for the first time. It wasn’t strange considering my aversion to people knowing the truth about me and in effect knowing me (wasn’t I an odd one? Really...). I shifted uncomfortably and wondered how I’d let slip such a personal and private thing in a room full of people (and with a room full of people listening downstairs and possibly upstairs).  “I was lying.” I said and Jeremy shook his head at me and rested a hand on my shoulder. Coming from Jeremy that was like him throwing his arms around me and offering a tight warm embrace without the suffocation.

“A drunken word is a sober thought.” Jeremy said softly and I allowed myself to consider the words for a few minutes. I didn’t like them. That meant that everything Sirius said about not being bothered with me was also a supposed “sober thought” which was like being slapped in the face several times over before being pushed off a brick wall onto a slab of concrete, bum first.

“I declared that I hated him more times than I loved him.”

“You can hate someone and love someone.” Jeremy said and I found myself scowling at him. Of course you could, that’s what made things complicated. If you could just love someone or just hate someone then it would be a whole lot easier, rather than being stuck in transit somewhere in between and never quite knowing what you should do and what you want to do. “So what was it that you wanted?” Jeremy asked and I internally winced.

It had been a stupid plan. A really stupid plan.

“Nothing.”

“I’m not stupid.” Jeremy counted glancing back over in the direction of the Marauders.  I refused to look at them and instead decided to think about how big Hogwarts was. It was big. Very big.

Sirius and James were still locked in a massive duel type thing and weren’t looking in my direction at all. Stupid idiots.

“Following your train of thought – I’m male, single, older than you, a Gryffindor, I know you...”

“You’re not blonde.” I added.

“And I’m not blonde, which means there’s only one thing you could possibly want.”

“A nice conversation?” I suggested.

“You want to use me as a sort of rebound to see if it will help you get over that Black idiot.”

“Ah, you have an ego too!” I proclaimed with fake happiness. “Of course that is all I could possibly want from such a fine male specimen.” I said with my voice dripping with sarcasm. “I’m so fed up of sodding egos. If I had an ego everyone would think I was self-obsessed and up myself, but every guy in the world is allowed to be an arrogant idiot who -”

“Would you like me to feed your ego then?” Jeremy asked not sounding at all perturbed by how I’d shot down his theory on what I wanted (he had a perfectly valid and true point but that didn’t mean I liked him guessing me that easily, it was scary). His ability to take everything in his stride was... intimidating.

“Yes. Yes, I would. Sirius was always rubbish at that. I asked him to compliment me and he called me a slut. Arghhh.”

“You’re not a slut.”

“Oh yes I am. Why else would I be here?”

“My company? That doesn’t make you a slut anyway, that makes you desperate.”

“I’d rather be a slut than pathetic.”

“Are you going to do it then, or are you going to chicken out because he,” He gestured over to Sirius, “Is in the same country and might possibly see?”

“Why are you agreeing to this?” I asked sending him a curious look and not looking over at Sirius at all.

“It’s a win win situation for me. Get to piss Black off, get a pretty girl kissing me...”

I cut off the end of his sentence by leaning forward and kissing him. It was... strange. Not that he was a bad kisser, in fact I had to admit he was good (very good actually) but it was so weird to be kissing someone that wasn’t Sirius that I kept comparing the two (I never said I was a nice person).

Sirius had his own signature moves and own order of doing everything. I knew Sirius like the back of my hand (sort of) so I knew exactly what he was going to do, where his hands were going to end up next, ect... It was never boring though, never ever boring.

Jeremy was different just because I had no idea what to expect or what was going to come next but the fact that he really really wasn’t Sirius made me unsure about what to make of the whole thing.

I knew full well that I wasn’t over Sirius and probably wouldn’t be before I died (not that it bothered me, I didn’t particularly want to bother with the whole getting over someone thing because it looked hard) which meant that I couldn’t fully appreciate Jeremy’s kissing skills. He was good, very good, but it just wasn’t the same because it didn’t mean anything.

Jeremy and I were barely even friends.

Still, it did inject an element of excitement into my life (well, my life was quite ‘exciting’ I supposed) and it wasn’t horrible or anything. Anyway, I might as well carry on kissing him. There was no reason to stop. Except...

I pulled back away from him. “This is still too weird.”

 “A little,” He agreed sitting back lazily and acting as if nothing had happened at all. What a bloody strange person. “I’m thinking Black saw that by the way.” He added and I looked back over to the Marauders and swore.

Sirius was now storming back up to the castle not looking altogether impressed at all. I suppose I got a reaction which is something.

“I bet he’s going to start getting at it with Fisher now. Argh! For Merlin’s sake! Can’t he just not be such a complete arse hole for once?!”

“He actually got with Fisher?”

“Of course he did.” I said through gritted teeth. “What do you expect? He’s Sirius Black.”

“Well, I try not to believe rumours.”

“Because then you’d think I was now dating Remus Lupin and was dumped by Sirius because I was pregnant.”

“That was my theory actually.”

“What!?!”

“Well he said that he was too young to deal with it, so I couldn’t think of what else he could be talking about.”

“Oh Merlin! Is that where that rumour came from! Gryffindor’s who overheard? Great. Well I’m not by the way. I couldn’t be.”

“After the amount of alcohol you drank I think that’s safe to say.”

“I wasn’t talking about that but whatever. Wow, they do not look happy.” I said looking over and seeing James, Remus, and Peter walking back out of the castle looking pissed. They’d followed Sirius up to the castle and now seemed to have turned back again... and heading straight for us. Brilliant.

“When James kills me, would you like to make a speech at my funeral?” I asked Jeremy who shrugged and watched them approach lazily as if he couldn’t care less how angry they were.

“Thought he would have been in a better mood considering he finally managed to get that Evan’s chick to go out with him.”

“What!?” I snapped looking at him incredulously. “They’re... they’re going out?”

“Well not really, they’re going to Hogsmeade together. I thought you knew?”

“Why would I know! Why would anyone think to tell me that my best friends was...? oh shit!” I swore. Snape – bugger.

“Well, it was a pretty public request – probably to boost his oversized ego -  how were you not there? Yesterday dinner?”

“I was... in the hospital wing.” I answered with gritted teeth.

“Why, you ill?”

“You could say that.”

“So you are pregnant?”

“Shut up.”

“Mary!” James yelled storming over and glaring at me as if I’d just personally killed his mother. “What the hell was that for!?”

“Enjoyment?” I suggested gritting my teeth and standing up. I had to find Snape. Goodness knows what I was going to do once I’d found him, but I had to get there before he told Lily.

“Leave her alone, Potter.” Jeremy said.

“Don’t think you being let off for this Wood, you’re... off the Quidditch team!”

“What?”

“That’s right!” James yelled and I thought for a second about the interesting colour of his face but decided there were more pressing matters. I need to find Snape. Now.

All this time wasted with Remus and Jeremy could have meant he’d found her by now and spilled it. Then she’d be so freaking mad that I’d have to worry about murder, as well as terminal illnesses.

*******************

Of course when I actually had somewhere important to be (as in, not classes) the whole castle would conspire against me in a way which made it impossible to locate wither Lily or Snape. Obviously when I’d been staring at the castle before, it had been to distract myself and prevent staring dreamily in Sirius’s direction (gag) but my brilliant observation that it was big was still withstanding as I stood at the top of a flight of stairs on some random floor and wondered where the hell I could look.

I wasn’t much of a rule-breaker like the Marauders, so I couldn’t pinpoint the exact location of the Slytherin’s common room. Then again, even if I did find it I didn’t exactly have the option of asking for directions. After what Mulicber did to me last year (which I wasn’t even going to think about) I had learnt that it was much better to stay clear of Slytherins.

So my next thought was to find Lily and not let her out of my sight but, upon returning to the dorm and the common room, I discovered (from Alice) that she’d disappeared around half an hour ago without telling anyone where she was going which did not bode well... and now I was completely lost. I had been fine until one of the staircases had decided to change directions which meant I was at a completely deserted part of the castle and was completely mystified about where exactly I should go.

I was going to try searching for her in the grounds, given it was quite sunny and everyone else seemed to be out there, which meant I just had to go down around four flights of stairs into the main hall but now I could have been anyway. Still, I decided, I better just go down.

“Please lead to the main hall, please lead to the main hall.” I muttered as I skipped down the steps as fast as I could. Obviously the world still hates me because by the third time I’d made my whispered request the staircase started to move again. “Come on!” I hissed angrily. “Stop pissing about! I need to find Snape. I need to find Snape! Severus-bloody-Snape!” The staircases jolted again and set me off in another direction. I considered this for a second. Maybe, just maybe, the staircases had actually listened to me.

Obviously that was crazy. Staircases didn’t listen to you... except this one kind of had. It was Hogwarts after all – everything was possible but could you imagine how many hours people may have saved if they’d just known all you had to do was tell the castle where you wanted to go? That was just bloody incredible. As well as maddeningly annoying.

I hurried down the rest of the flight of the stairs whilst successfully managing to hold onto my nerve. I had been searching for about an hour and had yet to break down into tears and start wailing about unfair life was – that was good. Really Good.  Any minute now I was going to run into Snape and...

Shit.

What was I going to do?

I had the little plan I’d accidently thought up (tell James that Lily had slept with Snape so that they’d fight, be mad at each other, and not talk long enough for me to tell Lily) but I actually couldn’t do that. I wasn’t a nice person but that was far too selfish and too Slytherin. I needed to come up with a new plan, but really I needed to do it quickly.

Now I was getting slightly hysterical.

I jumped off the end of the staircase and hurried down the corridor and walked straight into... Marlene and Regulus. Occupied.

“Shit!” Marlene yelled jumping back and looking at me as if I’d just grown another head. “How the hell did you get here?!?” She seemed surprised. Was this an unusual place to be? Well, I certainly didn’t recognise it...

“The stairs.” I said pointing behind me to see that the stairs I’d walked off two seconds ago were just... gone. “They were there, obviously not anymore, I won’t tell.” I said gesturing. Secretly I was glad that, apparently, Marlene was back together with Regulus no matter what rubbish she always sprouted and the fact that I should, by all rights, absolutely hate her. I just couldn’t though. “But, have you seen Snape?” I asked.

“He’s looking for you.” Regulus informed me. I knew enough about his brother to recognise that he was highly irritated about the interruption and about the fact that anyone could just appear in the corridor, but when I mentioned Snape he became a lot more curious.

“Oh god!” I said then let out a stream of swear words. “I need to find him!”

“He was here just a minute ago.” Marlene said biting her lip. “He went left.”

She said gesturing down the corridor. I nodded before setting off at a quick walk. I had to find him. I had to think of a plan, and if he was looking for me he might bump into Lily and... No. No damn it!

What if he bumped into Sirius? Sirius was mad already thanks to my stupid plan with Jeremy (What was I thinking?) so he’d probably started hexing him and generally acting like a right prick. Then Snape might start shouting everything he knew, just in case I’d bluffed with saying Sirius knew. It would do the same thing – Lily would still find out but through some gossip. She wouldn’t even be mad at Snape that way, which would make the whole thing even worse.

I just needed to find him, very very quickly.

Then I’d sort the rest out.

Oh Merlin.

“Shit sorry!” I exclaimed turning another corner and slamming into a body.

“Mary.” Rachel exhaled.

“Sorry!” I exclaimed again and tried to side step her to get past. She stepped back into my path again and fixed me with a hard expression.

“I need to talk to you.” She said folding her arms over her chest in a way that she probably thought made her look serious and scary. I had bigger things to worry about right now.

“Well, now’s not really a good time.” I said trying to side step her again. Stupid narrow corridors.

“No.” She said and for the first time I registered that she looked pissed. Really pissed. Maybe Snape hadn’t been able to find Lily and had instead blurted it out to Rachel who was mad because...? Or maybe she’d found a distraught Lily and was angry at me on her behalf? Or maybe it was completely irrelevant?

“Okay.” I said as patiently as I could given how shaken up and agitated I was feeling. Seriously.

Then she slapped me. Round the face.

“What the hell?” I practically growled at her which made her step back in alarm. Then she folded her arms and took on a stubborn stature again, just from further away from me. “Seriously?” I asked her in a slightly more normal voice this time, but I was still utterly shocked.

I was too weak for people to go round slapping me. That was definitely going to bruise.

“Did you know that I’m going out with Jeremy Wood next weekend?” She asked in an overly sweet fake voice which was dripping with annoyance and sarcasm.

“So...? Oh.”  I said as the comprehension hit me. First Sirius. Now Jeremy. Wow.

“Oh indeed.” She said with her face crunched up in annoyance.

“I’m sorry?” I suggested attempting to step past her again. Again she stopped me in my tracks and for the first time I realised she was genuinely upset. “Look Rachel, I didn’t know that – honest I didn’t.” I said thinking back to how she’d been outside walking just in front of the... oh! That’s who Jeremy had been looking at, rather than the Marauders as I had thought. Damn. “I’ve been a bit...erm... distracted from gossip as of late so I honestly didn’t know...”

“You still did it though, didn’t you?” She said blinking very fast. Oh dear Merlin, she was going to cry on me. Today of all days. “And he kissed you back.”

“Okay, Jeremy and I go way back. Well not way back,” I said with alarm as I saw her expression. Wow. I cannot deal with crying girls any better than Lily can. Especially not with boy problems, oh dear. “I mean, when Sirius was dating Amanda,” I screwed up my face at that. “Lily and Alice set me up with him so we went on of a sort of date... but it was too weird! So we’re just friends.”

“It didn’t seem weird from where I was sitting.” Rachel said and a shinning water droplet slid from one of her eyes. She wiped it away quickly and I pretended I hadn’t seen it.

“That was different!” I said desperately clutching at strings. If she broke down on me it would be even longer before I’d be allowed to move. “It was just... an experiment!”

“But why would he experiment with you, if he’d already asked me out!?” She asked bordering on hysterical.

“I don’t know! I don’t know okay?! This isn’t my fault, I didn’t know! And I need to go right now!”

“Fine!” She said throwing her hands up in the air and bursting into tears. “Just leave!” She sobbed.

“Excellent.” I said under my breath, and my thoughts had already turned back to what I was going to do about Snape when I remembered something...

The list. Ten things to do before I die, as clichéd as it was. And there it was.  Number three – make it up to Rachel. This would count.

This would be a perfect selfless act. For the act she was accusing me of, I was completely innocent. But now I could make up for possibly affecting the demise of her relationship with Sirius and not telling her that he was the reason her father had been murdered. It might not make it up completely, but it was probably all I would be able to manage.

“Look, Rachel.” I said turning back and reprimanding myself internally. My impending death was turning me a little too nice. This could result in very very bad consequences. “It was my fault really, and he’s just a guy.”

“I know!” She sobbed. “I know he’s just a guy but...” Then her words were too incomprehensible for me to understand them anymore.

“But...?” I prompted.

“He makes me feel calm.” Wow. “And I haven’t felt calm since... s...s...since Dad. You know what it’s like, to lose a parent?” It was more of a question than a statement and I felt obliged to say something.

“It’s like someone’s torn a great big hole out of your world.” I supplied, surprising myself. I guess I had thought that my feelings towards Mum’s death, all these years along the line, had just gone. You were supposed to grieve – cry, tear your hair out, and miss them terribly and then you were supposed to move on. Right?

“Does it get better?” She asked.

“No.” I answered without thinking. Then I realised what I’d said and shook my head quickly. “It gets... different. You miss them, and you’re sad but... life has to move on. You don’t forget, you never forget, you just don’t find yourself remembering as often.”

She nodded and was silent for a few minutes.

“Jeremy doesn’t fancy you?” She asked and I shook my head. “I mean, you’re single, if he fancied you he could just ask you out. “

“Yeah.” I agreed. “He’s over his ex-girlfriend now too, he wasn’t before.” I added noting that her expression seemed to have lightened slightly. “And he kept staring at you. I thought he was staring at...” My voice caught. All this emotion talk was messing with my brain. “At the Marauders.” I said firmly. “But that was just because...”

“Because you’re in love with Sirius.” Rachel said suddenly brightening up significantly.

“Yes.” I agreed, only because it made her happier.

“You’re madly in love with Sirius. You and Jeremy are friends so... you were using him as a rebound! Just to test if you were over him! He agreed because you’re friends, and everyone knows he hates the Marauders, and then you realised that nope, you’re still too in love with Sirius and are definitely not over him and then... that was it?” She questioned.

“Sounds about right.” I said my chest constricting slightly. I felt my own eyes welling up as Rachel wiped her eyes and sniffed. Did she have to word it like that?

“So he was just being nice? Because you were desperate?”

“Yes.” I agreed again. Although, if you asked me, that was no excuse at all. He couldn’t be that into her if he’d so willingly agreed to make out with me, as a favour. She was deluding herself.

“See you around then!” She said brightly.

“Rachel?” I called after her. She turned and cocked her head to one side. “Just a piece of advice, don’t try too hard with him – he’ll see right through it.”

“Are you implying that –?”

“You know what, forget it.” I said turning away quickly and trying to escape the corridor as quickly as possible. I had tried. I had definitely made it up for her and, even though Sirius was a right idiot, I had to admit I did feel slightly more fulfilled than I had before.  Wow.

I walked down half of the corridor before stopping to pull the list out of my bag and draw a big cross through number three. It felt good... really good actually and...

Oh balls. Snape.

I shoved the list back into my bag where it crumpled and creased significantly before dashing off. Before I at least half knew where I was going (to the left) but by now Snape could be anywhere. He was looking for me. Snape, was looking for me. So all I really had to do was also look for me...

If I were Snape, where would I think I would be?

Gryffindor common room. Library. Great hall. Class (given lunch had finished an hour ago, and now I had a free period but he wouldn’t know that, would he?). Outside. Hospital wing.

It would really help if I knew where the sodding hell I was!

Then, for the second time that day, I slammed into someone else body and swore loudly, not even bothering to apologise.

“Ow!” The other person complained.

“Remus!” I exclaimed happily “Please tell me where the hell I am!” Remus, given last time I’d seen him I’d started yelling, looked slightly confused and a little alarmed and my confused request. He took a step backwards.

“Hogwarts?”

“Stop pissing around! I’m not crazy. Where exactly am I?”

“About ten meters away from our charms classroom?” Remus suggested pointing back behind him. Oh. Oh.

“We don’t have charms do we?” I asked feeling totally off balance and confused. How could I have gotten lost so easily in a place which I’d lived in for six years?

“No, I was just picking up an assignment on the way back from the hospital wing... Nate’s back from his Honeymoon by the way.”

I hadn’t even realised he’d been away, in all honesty.

“Oh. Well...”

“Mary, what’s going on?” Remus asked giving me a strange but concerned look.

“I’ve been trying to find Snape.” I said finding that my eyes were welling up again. I swear I never used to be this damn emotional. “And I told the stairs I wanted to find him and for some reason they like, put me on the exact corridor he’d just been in which is nice, but then I bumped into Marlene and, erm...” I’d almost said Marlene and Regulus. Damn. “And then Rachel who slapped me round the face because apparently she’s going out with Jeremy, and then she started sobbing on me about her dad dying and going on about how I was in love with Sirius and how I wasn’t over him and I just had to agree to make it up her because it’s on the list! And I need to find Snape right now but I don’t have a clue where he is! I need a map or something...! WAIT!” I practically yelled. “The Marauder’s Map! You’re a genius!” I yelped and threw my arms around Remus’s neck and hugged him.

“Woah. Slow down.” Remus said putting his hands on my waist and pushing me back away from him awkwardly. “Why do you need to find Snivillus?”

“Because Lily said she’d go out with James!” I hissed.

Remus swore. I liked this boy more and more by the minute. He’s stream of swearwords lasted for almost a minute and were much more impressive than mine or the rest of the Marauder’s. Remus Lupin was a hidden gem. One day he was going to make a brilliant husband for someone – what with the wolfish charm, bookishness, subtle attractiveness and amazing ability to swear.

“You’re staring at me.”

“Sorry,” I blushed. “I was just ... I need to find Snape, now. He’s looking for me! This happened yesterday evening! What happens if he tells Lily! Help me!”

“What are you going to do when you find him?” Remus asked.

“I don’t know!” I said hysterically. “But knowing where he is will be a great deal better than just standing around here thinking of a plan! Where’s the map? Who’s got it?” He sent me a sympathetic look. “Sirius, of course.”

“I could get it?” Remus suggested.

“No time. Do you know where he is then?”

“Yes.” Remus answered and I threw my arms around him again.

************

“Why would Sirius be in the trophy room? Other than detention?” I asked as we hurried along the corridor so fast I could barely talk. Thanks to Merlin that the trophy room was on the same floor as the charms corridor (and the hospital wing) but as Hogwarts is so flaming big it was still quite a walk.

“Well, he always goes there.”

“Why don’t I know that?” I asked finding myself irritated at this fact. Of course his friends were always going to know more about him than me. I was stupid to have thought differently.

“Because, you’ve never been in a possession of a map which allows you to see where he’s gone off to sulk. He doesn’t like people to know. He usually takes the map with him, but one time we tried duplicating the map so we could all have a copy. Only worked for a couple of days before the staircases stopped moving, and then people just disappeared if they went too far down in the dungeons. We couldn’t be bothered to make more after that, the first one took long enough.”

“I’ll bet.” I muttered. “Look, I’m sorry about earlier.”

“Yeah, same. To be honest, I’ve kind of liked getting away from the others.”

“Why?”

“It bugs me the way Sirius just decides he’s going to act as if everything’s fine, and nobody else is even bothering to make him admit that he’s not.”

“He’s not?”

“No, he’s not at all.” I felt a buzz of gratefulness at those words even though it was selfish and horrible and wrong. There was still hope. “What do you think all the pranks are for?”

“Expressions of how joyous and free he’s feeling?”

“He’s trying to convince himself everything’s fine and dandy, and ignoring how he’s really feeling by blocking it out with too much ‘fun’. James just goes along with it, happy to have his friend back and Peter can’t really tell the difference between fine Sirius and ‘of course I’m fine’ Sirius because he has the levels of perception as an unconscious troll.”

“Why couldn’t you have said that before?” I asked. If Remus had disclosed that information before I wouldn’t have spent the past week in such a state. I probably wouldn’t have gone to such lengths as kissing Jeremy, which would have avoided the whole Rachel situation and then I’d probably have found Snape all ready.

“Look, you better go get the map.” Remus said nodding towards the door of the trophy room. “I’m heading off to the hospital wing for the night – moons up early these days – so if he’s not there and you need me you know where to find me.” He said turning back with a sad exhausted looking smile.

I made a note to apologise to him properly in the morning. Actually, I rather liked Remus Lupin. More than James. That was surprising.

Focus! Snape. Lily. Sirius.

I pushed open the door of the trophy room quietly and found Sirius standing in the corner shoulders bent forward, arms crossed, reading some trophy or other. He didn’t look like himself. His arrogance had been completely dropped and instead he just seemed... tired.

My shoes were loud across the floor of the trophy room and I glanced at the trophy he was reading out of curiosity. Outstanding transfiguration award... I glanced down the names and saw the one that Sirius was probably studying – Orion Black. Then, a couple of names up, I saw another Sirius Black dated many, many years back... I shook myself suddenly when I realised Sirius had turned around and was acknowledging my existence for the first time in a week. I also realised that this was completely irrelevant because all I needed from him right now, was the map.

“I need the map.” I said holding out my hand for it.

“Why?” He asked.

“I’m not in the mood for your bullshit, just give me the map or I’ll hit you.” Sirius reached down into his pocket and handed it to me with the expression in his eyes emotionless. “Thanks.” I said coolly before walking straight out again. 

You know what? Having the upper hand again felt good.

“Mary?” Sirius called out after me stepping outside the trophy room but I was already down the corridor opening up the map. It had already been unlocked which made me think that Sirius may have been watching my mad progress around the castle before he’d placed it away carefully. He’d rather me think that he’d been looking at the trophy’s of his ancestors then stalking me. That pissed me off a bit.

“Snape, Snape, Snape...” I muttered casting my eyes over the surface of the map before spotting him. Fifth floor and increasing. He was going up to the Gryffindor common rooms, and... Lily was already there! SHIT!

Then I did something I didn’t think I physically could have done. I ran.

Sirius was still calling my name down some distant corridor but my feet were pounding on the floor and I was running – sprinting – down the corridor towards the main staircases. He had two flights of stairs to go up. So did I. I had to be faster than him. My breath was coming out in short sharp painful bursts and I already had a stitch which was unsurprising given how unhealthy and unfit I was. Still, I knew somewhere in my core, that I had to do this and I had to catch Snape up before it was too late.

My legs complained when I made my way up the stairs, slower than before, but I didn’t stop. My lungs were burning. There were black spots in my vision but I kept sodding going with one eye on the map and one on the stairs (as falling down the stairs would probably kill me) and before I knew it I was at the top, and there was only one more flight to go.

That gave me the strength to keep my feet pounding against the floor and pushing me forwards, onwards, so much so that I managed to reach Snape when he’d just about reached the top fifth floor staircase.

“Snape!” I wheezed realising I still had no idea what I was going to do. I thought back to my list for a few seconds (whilst catching my very unsteady breath) as Snape turned and started walking down the steps again. “Down here.” He hissed, probably in case someone saw, and dragged me down a corridor. I shoved the map in my pocket without sealing it and felt it crumple and crease. It reminded me the way the list had crushed and creased into my bag (which was still slung over my shoulder and digging in badly) and that made me remember another point on my infamous list...

5.) Punch Snape and break his nose.

The adrenaline was still pulsing through me from the running and I sent myself wondering – why the hell not? Why not?

“Obviously -” Snape began with his slimy greasy stupid voice which made me so mad. How could he just stand here and ruin my life? How could he just blackmail me? Why did he think he had the right?

Suddenly I felt that everything the Marauders had ever done to him was justified. The way he’d messed with Remus. Messed up Lily’s mind and made her cry. The way he’d been messing with my head for months.

I cut him off, mid sentence, with my fist.  He stepped back, shocked, but I think it hurt me more than him. I found myself drawing back my fist again, and then punching him, again and again till I couldn’t lift my hand up anymore. With every hit a sharp pain shot through my knuckles but I was too full of hate and anger to care. It was only when I stopped that I realised how much agony I was in.

He was bleeding and I didn’t even feel guilty. I was sickened with myself. I forced myself to stop, breathe; I took a step back and looked at him. He wasn’t too hurt, now that I looked at him properly, but looked a bit... shocked. I would be too, once I’d actually got a grip at what the hell had just happened. My head was all over the place.

“You know what Snape?” I asked breathing heavily. I still had no idea what I was going to do or say, but my mouth was opening and I started to talk nonetheless. I was kind of electrifying not to think, and just to speak, and just to let go stop over thinking and just do, but at the same time I was scared that I might be a worse person that I  previous thought I was... “I planned a way to stop them getting together, and the only reason it would have worked is because of you. You see, I was going to tell James that Lily slept with you.” I said letting that sink in to breathe a little and try to work out where I was going with this. “Then James would be so disgusted by that idea that he’d start yelling at her, and she’d be so disgusted that he’d ever believe she’d do something so disgusting that they wouldn’t talk for months. But I didn’t, I didn’t because I care about Lily and I could never do something like that too her.”

Snape was angry now. He had his hand hovering near his pocket, ready to draw his wand

“Even if you were the last person on the planet she would never love you Snape. You’re disgusting! You’re horrible! And you never deserved her!” I didn’t care about what I was yelling anymore because I was so riled up and angry that I couldn’t stop myself. My brain was spinning. My heart was pounding in my chest as if any minute it was going to burst out of my chest. I felt so alive, so full of adrenaline and anger, that it felt like my body had been numb for years and years before that moment. I could feel every single muscle in my body, and they were all aching with anger. “You never even deserved to be friends with her, and secretly, you know that. No one cares about you Snape! Not even Lily!”

Snape had his wand out now. I reached forwards and knocked it out his hands. Then I sent my fist flying at his face one final time.

And that was the one which broke his nose.

 
 


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