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Chapter 13 : Hogwarts, February 1976
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With the utmost concentration, Althea slowly turned the doorknob; however, the door did not budge. Stupid lock, she thought and took out her wand. Please let this work. She pointed the wand at the door lock, and with a faint clink, the door was unlocked. Althea smiled with relief—she would soon have her father’s journal back. She took in a large gulp of air and winced as she turned the doorknob and slowly opened the door. To her delight, the door did not squeak as she opened it—two major problems safely avoided. Althea gently closed the door behind her and tiptoed her way through the fifth-year dormitory. However, which bed was James’s bed? It was darker than usual and Althea had to squint to see. Slowly, she tiptoed from each bed and glanced at the nightstand for her father’s journal. At the second bed, Althea found James’ nightstand, and underneath his glasses, she discovered her father’s journal. Cautiously, she lifted James’ glasses and slid her father’s journal off his nightstand. Silently, she crept across the room and slowly opened the door. Careful to relock the door, Althea softly tiptoed down the boys’ dormitory stairs and walked over to the girls’ dormitory stairs.
Althea hid her father’s journal underneath her mattress. See, there’s nothing to fear, she thought as she looked at Lily peacefully sleeping. Nothing happened and I got my father’s journal back. Althea closed her eyes and waited for satisfying sleep.
The next day, Althea spent her entire afternoon in the library as she finished her paper for History of Magic. This is the last time I wait until the day before to finish my essay, Althea thought, as she wrote the last sentence to her paper. Althea placed her quill on the table and rolled up her parchment. There’s no point reading it, she thought as she leaned back in her chair and yawned, it’s the most boring paper I’ve ever written. ‘Explain in detail, the International Statute of Secrecy, its necessity, and any amendments to the Statute and why.’ Good Lord, I hope the O.W.L. isn’t that tedious, or else I’ll end up shoving this quill in my eye, she thought as she drowsily gazed at her dull quill.
Sometimes to her, the Wizarding school programs of study were so boring. The education was so basic—did wizards believe in art? Althea rested her head against her folded arms on the table. She enjoyed listening to the stories Lily would tell of her schooling before Hogwarts. Her school had drawing, singing, and even acting in its curricula. The idea of a school play excited Althea. Her father had given her books on Muggle plays, and she would have loved to act as Antigone or Lady Macbeth. Althea had never attended school before Hogwarts—her father had taught her in his very undisciplined and unorthodox manner. She received most of her instruction from her father, and he catered to her daughter’s desires almost to the point of indulgence.
Althea reached into her bag and pulled out one of the books her father had given her for Christmas. She took out her bookmark and opened to the middle of the Communist Manifesto. Her father had written to her that Muggle Romania had a communist form of government and had sent her the book to enlighten her on different philosophies of Muggle governments. The reading was interesting, and Althea suspected that the word bourgeoisie could be replaced with wizards and the word proletariat could be replaced with house-elves, centaurs, werewolves, vampires—anything the magic world thought of as inferior or threatening. The magic world better learn quick, Althea thought as she turned the page, or this sort of revolution could happen to us. She frowned. It was happening—that wizard. She never gave much care to the Daily Prophet, but the news of disappearances and strange deaths seemed to frequent more pages of that newspaper.
Suddenly, Althea felt someone lean over her shoulder and rest his hands on the table in front of her. Althea realized who it was and gritted her teeth.
“‘A part of the bourgeoisie is desirous of redressing social grievances in order to secure the continued existence of bourgeois society,’” Sirius said and took the book from her hands. “Heavy stuff, Miss Morrigan,” Sirius added and sat on the table. He flipped through the small red book and sneered. “Starting a revolution, are we?”
“Give it back,” Althea sighed and reached for the book.
Sirius pulled the book away from her reach. “No, I think I’ll keep this,” he said, while casually flipping through its pages. “But then again, you’ll just come up in the middle of the night and nick it back,” he added and slid the book into his robe pocket. “Unlike James, I’m a light sleeper—be quiet this time, Morrigan.”
Althea frowned. “Keep it and read it. Maybe it will enlighten you to show some compassion to those you believe are beneath you.”
Althea wanted to hex Sirius, but did not want permanent banishment from the library as Madam Pince had threatened on their last altercation.
“Couldn’t you find someone else to bother? A Slytherin perhaps—look—Snape is over there with his nose in a book,” she said and pointed in the direction of Snape.
Sirius quickly turned his head in the direction of Snape. Sorry, Snape, Althea thought, but I really want to be left alone—especially left alone by Sirius.
“Ah, Snivellus,” Sirius whispered, but abruptly turned toward her. “No, I think I want to continue bothering you,” he added and winked.
Althea rolled her eyes. “What, do you find me fascinating?”
“Yes, actually,” he replied and took hold of her right arm. He gently lifted her sleeve to examine her wrist and disappointedly sighed. “Must be the other one,” he said and took hold of her other arm. He slowly lifted her sleeve and Althea caught her breath. He closely examined her exposed wrist. “So, this is what it looks like,” he whispered, as he gently rubbed his thumb over her tattoo.
Althea nervously retracted her hand. “You read my father’s journal. How dare you!”
“How could we not?” he quickly responded and winked. “It’ll be finished soon.”
Althea gasped in amazement. “How—how did you get all those things so quickly?” she asked, leaning forward in her chair.
Sirius hopped off the table and sat next to her. “Nicked them from the student stores and Professor Slughorn’s personal stores.”
Althea was about to respond, but was interrupted. “Tisk, tisk,” Narcissa remarked as she stood on the other side of the table.
Narcissa’s long, glossy blonde hair lightly brushed the top of the table as she leaned forward. Just go away, Althea thought. Of their group, which consisted of the likes of Narcissa, Snape (which Althea found laughable), Mulciber, Avery, and Wilkes—the majority of the fifth-year Slytherins and above enjoyed spouting hexes, epithets, and asides to Muggle-borns, half-bloods, and to those they deemed as blood traitors. Althea frowned, Narcissa had never been as vocal, but the rumors of Althea and a nude Sirius rolling around in the boys’ dormitory were too much for any respectable blood purist.
“What do you want?” Sirius said gruffly and folded his arms. Althea noticed his silver-tongued demeanor had instantly transformed into one of contempt.
“Dear cousin,” Narcissa responded silkily, “answer me: what do you get when you mix a Mudblood with a pure-blood?”
Althea noticed Sirius’ jaw tighten and his face redden. “Leave us alone,” Sirius said through gritted teeth.
“Well, what do you get?” Narcissa goaded and leaned on the table.
“You,” Althea responded politely, leaning forward.
Narcissa’s eyes narrowed. “How DARE you question me! You filthy Muckblood!” she responded, enraged.
Sirius immediately started for his wand, but Althea grabbed his arm and shook her head.
Althea leaned back in her chair. “Muckblood, me?” she said, pointing to her chest. “I don’t need your money. I have loads, thanks.”
Narcissa leaned over to the table as close as she could get to Althea. Althea was surprised—usually the pure-blood fanatics would keep their distance for fear of contamination. “You wait,” she whispered waspishly. “All of you—Mudbloods, Muckbloods, blood traitors—you’ll wish you were dead.”
“Bugger off!” Sirius growled, rising from his chair.
“So, I guess the rumors are true then,” Narcissa replied, feigning surprise. “You truly are a disgrace to the family, and you,” she added, turning toward Althea, “what a little Muckblood tart. I, like the others, hope you’re the first one—you’ll die just like your blood traitor mother.”
Anger erupted in Althea—no one mocked her mother’s death. Althea quickly rose from her seat—her wand pointed between Narcissa’s eyes. She glanced to her side and saw Sirius’s wand pointed at his cousin as well. Her lips upturned into an appreciative smile.
“Put your wand away, Muckblood.”
Althea did not waver. “Femèl chen,” she spouted nastily. “Chamaux ki besoin konyen pwall couri deye ou na desert,” she finished caustically and spit in Narcissa’s face.
The color drained from Narcissa’s face. Straining to maintain composure, Narcissa pointed her wand at her face and muttered a charm to remove the saliva. She slowly turned away from the table and silently walked away.
“What did you say to her?” Sirius asked as he sat down.
Althea sighed and sat down. “Oh, two Creole phrases I learned from Marie,” she said as a smile crept across her face. “Ridiculous, really, but effective when one is angry.”
“Very effective,” he laughed. He looked appreciatively at Althea. “You know, you really shouldn’t have spat in her face, but it was a nice touch.”
A small voice inside her wondered what Narcissa would do to her in retaliation. Maybe nothing, she’s too afraid I’d spit on her again, Althea thought, and I would gladly. She could always have her fifth-year friends do something. They’ll hear about it, no doubt, and want to do something.
“I know, but no one speaks ill of my mum.”
“You could have my mum,” Sirius offered and playfully nudged her arm.
Althea laughed. “No thanks, I remember the Howler from first-year,” she replied and mustered a small smile.
“Damn,” he replied, feigning disappointment. “I thought she could call someone else, ‘shame of my flesh,’ for once,” he added, and Althea noticed the bitterness he attempted to conceal.
“Oh,” she murmured and gently bit her bottom lip. “What did Narcissa mean by her threat?” she asked, and watched Sirius’s bitter expression grimly transform.
Sirius shifted in his chair and folded his arms. “What makes you think I know?” he asked quickly, frowning.
“I just thought—”
“Well, you’re wrong,” he interrupted gruffly, “as usual.”
“I just thought, as she is your cousin, maybe you overheard her or something,” she explained, disregarding his interruption, “that’s all.”
“Well I haven’t,” he replied, unfolding his arms. “Like you, I associate with her as little as possible…all of them.”
“It’s about that wizard isn’t it?” she replied, furrowing her eyebrows. “The one they say is causing all those disappearances,” she added, picking up her quill. Althea twirled the upright quill as she spoke, “Do you think she knows?”
Sirius sank into his chair and made grunting noise that Althea could not understand as a yes or no answer. Althea sighed once more with increased awkwardness and kicked the heel of her shoe against the floor. Sirius had not moved and did not seem to want to move from his place next to her. His presence confused her—shouldn’t he have left by now? Why is he still sitting here, she thought, frowning slightly. What more does he have to say to me?
“Don’t you have somewhere to go?” she asked, spinning her quill.
“Can’t I sit here?” he asked, taking her book from his robe pocket. He opened the book and began to read.
“What are you getting at?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.
Sirius sighed and placed the open book on the table. “I’m not getting at anything. I’m spending time with a fellow Gryffindor—”
“A fellow Gryffindor that you haven’t said a kind word to in five years,” she interrupted, her index finger assisting her quill in standing upright.
Sirius leaned back in his chair. “Five years?” he breathed, leaning as far back as he could. “I think I’ve said something kind to you in five years,” he added, and sat upright, his chair slamming forward.
Althea’s quill fell over and bounced slightly. “I don’t believe so,” she replied, smiling a little.
“No, I have,” he replied thoughtfully. “Winter Fête. I told you that you looked lovely in your very Muggle gown,” he added with a grin.
Althea sighed and rolled her eyes. “Fine then, one kind word in five years,” she replied, but soon frowned. Furrowing her eyebrows, she asked, “Muggle gown? How do you know it was a Muggle gown?”
Sirius folded his arms and smiled smugly. “It wasn’t filmy. The other gowns were filmy,” he explained, nodding toward Althea’s clothing.
Althea laughed. “Filmy?” she repeated, smiling wryly. “When did you become an authority on women’s clothing?” she asked teasingly, raising an eyebrow.
“It has a different feel,” he answered, smirking.
“A different feel,” she repeated with some derision, turning her head to the side. “Do you wear witches’ clothing?”
“No,” he snorted, rolling his eyes, “but I’ve touched a lot of girls to know the difference.”
Althea groaned and sneered. “Go away,” she lamented, taking a book from her bag.
Sirius shook his head. “Oh no, no,” he began, picking up her opened copy of The Communist Manifesto, “I have every right, just as much as you, to be here.”
Althea sighed as she turned the page in her book of Muggle poetry. “You do, but you don’t have to sit next to me,” she replied as Sirius loudly turned the page. “Don’t you dare lick those pages—”
“Only you’d think of licking them,” he muttered casually and chuckled to himself as he continued to read.
“What is that supposed to mean?” she asked, slamming her book against the wooden table—the sound echoed in the recess where they sat.
“Nothing, nothing,” he replied with feigned innocence and frowned thoughtfully as he turned the page. “Go back to reading your book and I’ll go back to reading mine,” he continued and smiled. “Anyway, if you’re so adamant about leaving, why don’t you leave?”
Althea straightened herself in her chair. “Me?” she huffed, resting her hands on her hips. “I was here first. You’re interrupting me.”
Sirius’s bark-like laugh echoed throughout the alcove of the library in which they sat. “Admit it, Morrigan, you don’t want me to leave,” he replied, leaning back on the back legs of his chair.
“I’ll push you over,” she muttered darkly, narrowing her eyes at the smirking Sirius.
Sirius leaned forward in his chair. “You can’t do that to the person who saved your life,” he replied with a grin.
“I’d like to forget that,” she muttered and returned to reading her book.
“Forget about a Wizard’s Debt?” he snorted and laughed once more. “Morrigan, you can’t forget about something as powerful and profound as a Wizard’s Debt.”
“Yes, I can,” she said, her grip tightening on her book. “I think the magical and mystical all powerful Wizard’s Debt could excuse our indiscretion…. I don’t want to owe you anything.”
“Do you think I’m particularly happy with this arrangement? It means you have to save my life, and I don’t enjoy the idea of you rescuing me,” he remarked with a sneer.
Althea’s stomach twisted. “I have to rescue you?”
Sirius nodded his head. “You must save me from certain death, Morrigan. Knowing you, I’m not sure you’re up to it.”
“Not up to it?”
“You’re not that strong of a witch, Morrigan,” he replied, turning toward his book. “I’ve seen your dueling.”
“What?” she snapped, her eyes widening with anger. “You cheated—”
“I did not cheat,” he interrupted heatedly, pointing his finger within inches of her face. “I have never cheated. I don’t need to cheat,” he added, his eyes narrowing. “You’re just a poor witch.”
“I am not!” she replied and reached into her pocket for her wand.
“You can’t use magic to harm me,” he sighed and with his hand lowered her wand.
“Yes, I can, now—”
“I wouldn’t use a particularly gruesome hex, Morrigan,” he warned with a slight smile. “It’ll just bounce off me and hex you…. I know how much you enjoy particularly nasty hexes when I’m involved.”
“Liar,” she growled and pointed her wand directly at Sirius’ chest.
Sirius sighed once more. “You’ve been warned.”
“Locomotor Mortis,” she said, determined.
To Althea’s horror, the curse did not cause Sirius’ legs to lock as she had expected. Wide-eyed, she fell backward as she attempted to duck the rebounded curse. Unfortunately, the curse found her and she landed on the ground, her legs locked and her pride wounded. How did this happen? He did not save her life. She had lied, had played the ultimate prank against him. From what she was taught in Charms, Wizard’s Debts were complex spells and it took years of intense study to understand them. Her knowledge of the spells was superficial and inadequate. Was it possible to fake a Wizard’s Debt? Were there different degrees of Wizard’s Debts based on the severity of the situation? Damn it, what have I done, she asked herself as she looked from her locked legs to a highly amused and laughing Sirius.
Althea looked back to her legs and attempted to move them. “No,” she said in shock, unable to move her legs—her panic quickly rising. “No,” she continued frantically, attempting to shake her legs. She looked up as Sirius laughed loudly—her contempt growing. “This wasn’t supposed to happen…this wasn’t supposed to happen,” she repeated, confused and embarrassed. “What did you do?”
Sirius knelt down and muttered the counter curse. “I saved your life,” he answered, holding out his hand to help her stand. Althea refused to take it.
Althea stood and sat in her chair. “So I can’t curse you?” she asked, shoving her wand in her pocket.
Sirius nodded his head.
“But you can curse me?”
Sirius nodded once more.
“That isn’t very fair, is it?” she replied, folding her arms.
“Well, once you save my life, we’ll be even,” he replied, leaning back into his chair. “Then we can go back to hexing one another.”
“Are you saying you won’t hex me while there is this debt?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Seems like it, Morrigan,” he answered and leaned forward, taking the book in his hands. “Now, where was I,” he muttered, quickly flipping through the pages.
Althea frowned. He was not leaving her alone. “Doesn’t Potter need you?” she asked, opening her own book.
“Nope, he’s engaged,” he replied, not looking up from the book.
“He’s not bothering Lily—”
“No, no, he’s not bothering Lily.”
“What about your other friends?” she asked as she looked once more in Sirius’s direction.
Sirius absorbed in the reading, did not look up, and did not answer.
“What about your other friends?” she asked with more insistence.
“Engaged, too,” he murmured, furrowing his eyebrows.
Althea kicked her heels against the floor. “I thought you never left Potter’s side and vice versa,” she replied, her shoe slipping off her foot. Frowning, she slid herself slightly underneath the table and slipped her shoe back on her foot.
“We are separate people, you know, despite the rumors to the contrary,” he replied, turning a page.
“You know, some girls are beginning to wonder about you and Potter,” she teased, reaching to take her book from him. Sirius shifted so she could not retrieve her book. “I think they’re jealous.”
“They have nothing to be jealous about,” he began and smiled. “I think our little rumor is disproving that one,” he continued and winked.
“You’re not doing anything to deny it?” she asked, frowning.
“Are you?” he asked with some amusement.
“Well, yes,” she answered emphatically and paused as Sirius’s grin widened. “You’re not doing anything, are you?” she asked, narrowing her eyes, “You’re letting them believe…you are such a swine!”
Sirius, placing his index finger between pages, closed his book and stretched. “When did you care about a little rumor?” he asked, scratching the back of his head.
“When it involves you, I do.”
“Well I have, don’t worry.”
“Right,” she sighed and opened her book.
Sirius sighed as well and returned to reading his book.
Damn it, why won’t he leave, she thought, as she started to read a new poem. I know I can’t—I promised to meet Lily here after her Charms Club meeting. Althea frowned at her situation, and attempted to read the new poem. However, her annoyance at his presence, and the fact that he seemed to want to be near her agitated her so greatly, those words on the page became a jumbled mess. She thought of moving to another area of the library, but quickly gave up on the idea. If I leave this table, he’ll probably follow me.
“So,” he began in a whisper, leaning closer to her, “are my lips still soft?”
Althea’s head jolted back at his question. “What?”
A small smile played across Sirius’ lips. “You know…yesterday when I saved your life,” he reminded in the same low voice.
“I was unconscious,” she replied uncomfortably and bit her bottom lip.
“Oh, come on, Morrigan,” he replied with feigned frustration, lifting his face toward the ceiling. “I felt a little…something.”
“‘A little something?’” she repeated, abashed and wide-eyed.
“Yeah, something,” he replied, squinting as he looked at the ceiling. “A quiver, really….”
Althea laughed at Sirius’s behavior. “You really want to know?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.
Sirius quickly lifted his head and turned his face toward her. “Yes, of course,” he answered, scratching the side of his face.
“They were chapped,” she replied and returned to her book.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Sirius raise his fingertips to his lips to feel them. She fought to keep from smiling—the muscles around her mouth aching from her attempt.
Althea heard the chair creak and felt Sirius move exceptionally close to her. “Well, I thought your lips were soft,” he whispered and the skin on Althea’s neck tingled.
Althea sat upright. “Sod off.”
“I would have preferred a, ‘thank you,’” he replied as he sat back in his chair.
“Don’t you have somewhere to go?” she asked with annoyance. “I’m meeting Lily here after her Charms Club meeting. I doubt she’d want to see you with me,” she explained and watched Sirius smug demeanor shift.
Sirius raised his eyebrows and folded his arms. “Oh, Miss Perfect Prefect,” he commented, leaning his chair back on two legs.
“Don’t say anything about Lily,” she reprimanded, pointing her index finger at him.
“What?” he laughed, smirking. “I’m complimenting her, Morrigan. Obviously, you haven’t received many compliments to know what they are.”
Althea frowned and Sirius’ smirk converted to a grin. “Why don’t you bother one of the girls that care about you? They’ll wet themselves with excitement if you’d talk to them,” she replied, and nodded toward a group of third-year Gryffindor girls seated four tables away.
Sirius turned his head and the four girls started to giggle. Smiling, he turned his attention back to Althea. “Now, we can’t flood the library, can we? I doubt Madam Pince has waterproofed all the books,” he remarked, his eyes briefly flickering from Althea to the books behind her.
“You’re so bloody pleased with yourself, aren’t you?”
“Actually,” he began and looked at the girls, who started to giggle again, “I am very pleased with myself.”
“Go over and talk to them—they’ll enjoy your company more than I ever could.”
How Black can reduce a girl to a stupid, silly, giggling mess I’ll never understand, she thought, looking at the four with a great amount of disdain. He’s certainly enjoying himself.
Sirius turned toward Althea. “No, I think I want to stay here, and as much as they would enjoy my company, I doubt I’d enjoy theirs,” he replied and winked.
“I suppose you enjoy tormenting me instead.”
“Tormenting?” he repeated, lazily tracing circles into the table. “You know, Morrigan, some girls consider me a catch.”
Althea rolled her eyes. “Catching a disease more like it,” she muttered and he stopped tracing circles into the table.
Sirius brought his hand to his hair, brushing back the strands that fell into his face. “That’s no way of talking to a person who saved you from mortal peril.”
“You just think you’re so bloody fantastic that now I can’t hex you,” she replied, narrowing her eyes. “Like I’m some servant to you.”
An impish smile played across his lips as he remarked, “Your ears aren’t pointy enough to be a house-elf, but I do need some servicing.”
“Berk!” she growled and slammed the side of her fist into his shoulder.
Althea felt a certain satisfaction as the side of her fist collided with his shoulder, creating a dull thump. Sirius, nursing his shoulder, looked at her with a certain amount of shock and anger.
“Ow! Why d’you do that?” he replied angrily, continuing to rub his shoulder.
Althea laughed. “There are other non-magic ways of injuring you. Obviously, Wizard Debts didn’t take into consideration Muggle Methods,” she explained smugly, leaning back in her chair.
“Damn,” he murmured, glaring at her, “only you’d find a loophole.”
Althea smiled, but quickly frowned as Sirius directed his attention toward Snape. His head bent—his nose millimeters from his parchment—Snape sat, feverishly writing his paper for History of Magic. Where did he find all those books, she thought, eyeing the large piles of books scattered across the table.
“Who does he think he is?” Sirius murmured with palpable disgust, still staring at Snape. “History of Magic—like that class is important.”
“Well, I suppose when your Great Uncle is a famous troll hunter, you don’t need History of Magic like the rest of us.”
“You forgot my great-great-great-great grandfather that distinguished himself during the Goblin Rebellion,” he replied, not taking his eyes from the unaware Snape.
“Which one?” she asked, attempting to hide her amusement. “There were so many rebellions.”
“Exactly,” he remarked and the two burst into laughter. “Right,” Sirius continued, smiling as the laughter quieted. “I bet Snape has footnotes—loads of footnotes. I bet his whole paper is just of footnotes.”
“Probably,” she replied and frowned. “Were we supposed to have footnotes?”
“I didn’t use any—bloody hell! Look at that! Three parchments!” he replied, waving his hand in Snape’s direction. Without looking up, Snape moved the third parchment to the side and continued onto the fourth parchment. “He needs more fun in his life, don’t you think?”
“Leave him alone, Black,” she warned, looking from Snape to Sirius.
“Morrigan, look at him. He’s sitting there with his greasy nose pressed to the parchment, smearing every word he writes. He hasn’t looked up to see his worthless three parchments,” he explained with mock thoughtfulness.
Althea noticed Sirius had taken his wand from his robe pocket. “What are you going to do?” she asked, eyeing Sirius and then Snape.
“A little fun, that’s all,” he answered, raising his wand. “Fonticulus,” he muttered, pointing his wand in the direction of Snape’s inkwell.
The inkwell rattled slightly, a droplet of ink leapt onto the rim of the inkwell, and danced for a few moments on the rim. Sirius, controlling the droplet with his wand, allowed it to flip and shake—almost as if the droplet was a sentient being and a droplet of ink dancing was an everyday occurrence.
“Sirius, no,” she warned, watching the dancing droplet.
“Watch,” he said eagerly, nodding toward Snape and the dancing droplet.
“No!” Althea gasped, her eyes widening.
“Fonticulus!” he whispered excitedly.
In one swift movement of his wand, the droplet of ink leapt from the inkwell and splattered across Snape’s cheek. Althea covered her mouth as droplets of ink slowly trickled down Snape’s face, the many droplets collecting into one at his sallow jaw.
Sirius, smiling mischievously, nudged the astonished Althea. “He doesn’t even realize there’s ink on his face,” he laughed as another droplet emerged on the inkwell rim.
“Sirius, stop it,” she reprimanded, resting her hand on his forearm. “It’s not funny. Stop acting like an idiot.”
Sirius laughed louder as the droplet lifted off the inkwell brim. “Come on, Morrigan…look,” he replied, and Althea turned to see the second droplet splattering across Snape’s cheek.
Althea frowned as Snape—unaware—smeared the droplets as he scratched his jaw with his quill, leaving a thick black streak across his jaw and lower cheek. “You’re a horrible person.”
“Not too horrible, I did save your life,” he remarked, placing his wand in his robe pocket.
“You only did so because you didn’t want to be expelled; otherwise—”
“I would have saved it regardless,” he interrupted brusquely, his voice tightening. “Anyway, when did you start defending Snape?”
“He’s Lily’s friend,” she replied at which Sirius laughed. “Good friend.”
“Right, her good friend that calls you—”
“A Muckblooded tart, I know,” she muttered and glanced toward Snape—the ink had smeared to his temple. “Such a bloody hypocrite!”
“Hypocrite?” he whispered into her ear.
Althea sat upright.
“Miss Morrigan, how do you know Snivellus is a hypocrite?” he asked, his voice betraying his eagerness. “Morrigan?”
She looked once more to Snape, narrowed her eyes as he glared at the pair, and turned to Sirius. “His father’s a Muggle.”
Sirius’s eyes sparkled with the utmost mischief. Althea briefly regretted the revelation, but the memory of Snape and his Slytherin friends earlier that afternoon, harassing the Muggle-born third-year Gryffindors, entered her mind. How is Lily—a Muggle-born—okay, but the others aren’t? He never misses an opportunity to belittle me.
“A Muggle,” she repeated, staring—determined—into his eyes.
“Wow,” he began, leaning closer, “that is a serious accusation to a Slytherin...especially with the lot he’s been hanging round.”
“It’s not an accusation,” she replied, leaning closer as well. “It’s a fact. Lily told me on the first train to Hogwarts.”
Sirius chuckled softly. “You’ve kept that a secret this entire time?”
“And of all the people in the world, you confide this enormously damning secret to me?” Sirius knowingly narrowed his eyes at her. “You want me to expose him, don’t you?”
“No, I don’t want that—”
“He says revolting things about you!”
“And you don’t?” she remarked with a raised eyebrow.
Sirius’s eyes widened. “I would never call you that!” he said, his voice slightly higher.
Althea let out a spiteful laugh. “Yes, you have, or have you forgotten?”
“Take that back, Morrigan. Don’t you dare lie—”
Sirius looked horrorstruck. “What? When?” he demanded, his jaw tightened. “You’re mistaken—”
Althea leaned back in her chair. “Our first-year—after the sorting,” she said, staring at her robes. “I thought some of the sweets my father sent me would cheer you up after that nasty Howler about the Sorting Ceremony, but instead, you called me a, ‘Muckblood.’”
Sirius was silent.
“I never expected it from my own House,” she said quietly, turning her face toward Sirius.
Sirius ran his fingers through his hair. His expression was one Althea could not quite determine. Horror? Confusion? Embarrassment? Althea was not sure.
“You shouldn’t expect it at all,” he muttered, his eyes downcast. “I’m sorry.”
“I should go,” she said and started to collect her things in her bag.
“Wait,” he said, grabbing her forearm.
Althea let go of the unused parchment.
“Has your father written anything more on Muggles noticing magic in other parts of the world—”
“You’ve read one of my father’s books? When did you start reading?” she asked and laughed with surprise. “And why my father’s books?”
“There’s nothing wrong with reading, is there? I can read whatever I please,” he explained, slightly agitated. “Remus used it for his paper and I read it.”
Althea threw her head back and laughed. “I don’t believe this!” she laughed, holding her side. “You’ve read one of my father’s books. This now brings the total to four people reading his books because I doubt my own father has read them,” she continued. “Honestly, I had no idea.”
“I think more than four people have read his books,” he replied, frowning at her. “The book Remus has is in its second printing.”
“Then it brings the total of readers to eight then,” she replied, still amused that Sirius would have anything to do with her or her father.
It must have been a nasty surprise when he discovered that the Morrigan of the book was the same Morrigan that is my father, she thought, stretching in her chair. Oh, would I have loved to have been there to see that look—that reaction in him.
“Morrigan, pay attention for once,” he lamented as Althea returned to her former position. “Has your father written anything else?”
Althea furrowed her eyebrows as she thought. Her father was always discovering that Muggles new more than the Ministry let on, but Muggles did not care. They viewed witches and wizards as eccentric creatures obsessed with the New Age or latest counterculture fad. Even more so, magical creatures were seen, but were written off as hallucinations by too much drink, too many drugs, or mental illness. In some areas of the world, all it would take is a wizard flying across the background of an on location news story during a television news broadcast and magic would be discovered once more. Of course, those that saw it would be shuffled to the margins along with those that believed they have witnessed UFO’s.
“About Muggles? I don’t believe so.”
“Oh,” he murmured disappointedly.
“Why?” she asked, tucking a curl behind her ear.
Sirius shrugged. “I’d like to know why magic ruins Muggle machinery,” he explained, scratching the side of his face. “I thought about buying a motorbike—”
“Yeah,” he breathed, smiling. He leaned back in his chair. “It’ll fly, too.”
“Fly?” Althea smiled with surprise.
Sirius nodded—pleased with himself.
“I don’t believe you.”
Sirius’ smile faded. “Don’t believe me?”
“No,” she teased.
“Don’t believe me,” he mouthed and reached into his robe pocket.
Sirius removed a folded piece of paper. He carefully opened and smoothed the worn, dull paper onto the table. Althea bit her lip as not to giggle at the old advertisement.
“There,” he said and pointed at the black and chrome vehicle. “Better than any broom.”
Althea peered at the advertisement from 1973. “I like brooms, though.”
Sirius made a derisive noise. “Come off it, Morrigan. Brooms? Nah, a motorbike is loads better,” he replied, taking the advertisement in his hands. He sighed dreamily. “Just imagine sitting on the back of this motorbike—”
“I will never sit on a back of any motorbike—”
Sirius threw his head back in exasperation. “God, Morrigan, imagine it?” he said and lifted his head. “As if I’d take you, anyway. You’d want me to slow…just like your broom riding.”
Althea straightened herself. “I do not fly slowly!”
“Slower than me—”
“If you remember, we hit that broom shed at equal speed.”
Sirius chuckled. “I don’t remember much about that incident.”
“Of course, you wouldn’t.”
“Oh, come off it, Morrigan, that was ages ago,” he said and looked in the direction of where Snape sat. He laughed.
Althea turned to see Snape collecting his parchments. “He has no idea, does he?”
“None,” he said.
Sirius leaned very close to Althea—his hand on the back of her chair. Althea’s eyes flickered to her right. Sirius’s cheek was very close. His mouth slightly opened and his eyes on Snape—he seemed to revel in Snape’s future discovery.
“How long do you reckon before he discovers?”
Snape continued to stuff parchments and books into his bag. “Oh, I don’t know…. Tomorrow, perhaps?”
“Before or after class?”
“Before, I’d think.”
“Right,” Sirius breathed.
Suddenly, Althea jolted upright, a feeling of dread seeped through her—she enjoyed her conversation with Sirius. What am I doing, she thought and bit her lip. We’re not supposed to converse. We’re supposed to scream, to hex, and to throw things at one another. It might have been the first civil conversation the two of them had ever had—outside the presence of Hogwarts faculty, and even then, Althea debated if it they ever truly had. She shuddered from the thought.
Sirius noticed. “What—what’s wrong?” he asked, sitting back in his chair. “You’re not feeling guilty about Snivellus, are you?”
“No, no, of course, not,” she answered. “We’re having a normal conversation.”
“Yes, we are,” he said, with a small amount of amazement. He ran his fingers through his thick black hair. “Scary, absolutely scary.”
Althea sighed. “Indeed,” she said quietly. “I hate you, you know,” she added and was surprised at the unnaturalness of her voice.
“I know,” Sirius replied and winked.
‘A part of the bourgeoisie is desirous of redressing social grievances in order to secure the continued existence of bourgeois society' --excerpt from The Communist Manifesto (Marx/Engels)
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