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The Art of Breathing. by AC_rules
Chapter 40 : Descent.
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 47


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 A/N - I think I'm going to put my whole authors note up here this time, just to shake things up a bit. I've just got back from my holiday (been back in my house for about an hour now) and I've read all your reviews for the last chapter, and I think it must be the tiredness (super early flight - gah) but they actually nearly made me cry with happiness. I'm going to go back an answer them all in a mo, or maybe finish the next chapter - I'm not sure. This is a pretty speedy update I think, so if you missed the first one, you can still go back and review the previous chapter... (hint, hint...) Plot is shiftying on forwards again. Nearly have the next two chapters completely written - scary stuff. Thank you so much for reading guys, I really love you all. Reviews are verrrry well received (hint hint, again) and I'm answering them all I promise! :D

 

“Mary, I’ve been thinking.” Lily said sitting down next to me with a huge pile of parchment quills, ink and a menacing looking bag.

“That’s ominous.” I said shutting my book and looking at her with my eyebrows raised. She pulled over another sofa and a table which she placed in between us.

“Obviously, I haven’t quite accepted the whole dying thing,” Lily said. I nodded slowly. I had a feeling that this was either going to be one of Lily’s really really good ideas, or one of Lily’s disastrous ideas, and I was in such a good mood that I’d probably end up agreeing to it whichever it was. “And you know how I like helping people? Well... can I help you plan your funeral?” Lily asked. I looked at her with a slightly stunned expression on my face.

“Then you’re family won’t have to do it closer to the time, and it will ease the strain off Karen and her pregnancy, and your Dad. I mean, we don’t have too... it was just an idea.”

“No, let’s run with it.” I said going through the sheets of paper. “But... I mean... won’t it be a bit depressing?”

“Well,” Lily said reaching for her bag. “I brought something to liven things up a little bit.” Then out she pulled a clear bottle from her bag and placed it on the table.

I tilted my head at her slightly and reached for it. I unscrewed the cap and smelt the liquid inside, concluding that it was most definitely alcoholic. It was half full and read ‘Bacardi’ and then ‘60%’ under that. If I hadn’t being carefully regulating my heartbeat so it didn’t spontaneously stop then I might have had a heart attack and died.

If Lily Evans can start pulling stunts like this, then God only knows what the Marauders have got up their sleeves.

“Lily Evans, I am surprised at you.” I said with a satisfied smile. “Where did you get this from?”

“I... stole it.” Lily said and I granted her with a slow round of applause which made her roll her eyes and cross her arms. “Come on, it’s not that bad.”

“Says Miss Goody two shoes,”

“Do you want it or not?” She snapped.

“Obviously,” I answered. She smiled, pulled out some plastic cups from her bag and put them down on the table too. “Where did you steal it from?” I asked her, watching her carefully. I was genuinely shocked. Sure, she’d drank at Peter’s party but...

“Petunia.” Lily said with a tight lipped smile. “She was being especially bitchy at Christmas...”

“So you stole from her?”

“Don’t get at me,” Lily said. “Anyway, I was wondering what flowers you wanted?”

“To lay on my grave?” I asked doubtfully.

“Yes. If you’re not going to take this seriously then -”

“How’s about we propose a toast first?” I suggested. “Before getting to the depressing details.” I poured myself half a glass of the stuff and brought it to my lips. “To dying slowly!” I’d only drank a small sip before I started choking (gracefully) and found myself unable to breath. “Bloody hell that’s strong!” I wheezed when my lungs had recovered.

“Don’t drink it straight then.”

“What?” I asked as Lily pulled out another bottle, one which I recognised, helpfully labelled as ‘coca- cola’ which she filled my glass up with.

“Looks like you’re very experienced at this,” I said with a grin. “Tut tut.”

“Oh come on – we’re nearly of age, and as you never will be we have to make the most of it.”

“Let’s drink to that.” I said lifting my red plastic cup.

“Cheers!” Lily said with a strange mischievous (and strangely unfamiliar) twinkle in her eye, and then we drank together.

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

“To Funerals!” I declared wildly.

“To death!” Lily countered.

“To you!”

“To you.”

“To us!”

“To friendship!”

“To love!”

“To helping people who are beyond help!”

“To being beyond help!”

“To dead roses!”

“To diamond encrusted coffins!” I yelled and we both creased up into giggles. We lifted up our glasses and clinked them together with a simultaneous “cheers” before drinking them.

“Can I just ask one question?” Sirius asked from the doorway. “What the bloody hell happened when I was away?”

“To Sirius Black!” I said lifting my glass in my own, singular toast. Lily scowled.

“What are you doing?” Sirius asked walking over to our table, and pulling up a chair.

“Funeral planning!” Lily said happily.

“Looks like you’ve been very productive.”

“We have.” Lily said defensively.

“Go on then, tell me this plan.”

“I’m going to have a diamond encrusted coffin with spikes on the top, so if anyone wishes to throw themselves to their death after me, they’re welcome to.”

“And that’s as far as you’ve got?” Sirius asked.

“No! We’ve decided on where she’s going to be buried.”

“The graveyard my mother’s in!” Sirius said nothing. “Aren’t you going to ask why?” I taunted teasingly.

“Why?” Sirius asked, humouring me.

“It’s dead nice.” I said.

“Good location too – dead centre of the village.”

“In fact, Sirius, it’s so good people are dying to get there.” Then me and Lily were lost in peals of hysterical laughter and giggles. I clutched her arm over the table and her green eyes were watering with the pure amusement of the whole thing. “Dead centre!” Lily squeaked when she could catch her breath. “Let’s drink to that!” She declared clumsily refilling our glasses with both the clear stuff and the brown fizzy stuff.

“What is this stuff?” Sirius asked with raised eyebrows.

“Read the label, genius.” Lily hissed.

“Muggle?”

“Yep.” I answered happily.

“Good?” He asked.

“Noooo.” Lily and I said about the same time, causing us both to start laughing again. “No, it is good.” Lily said and voiced my agreement by nodding enthusiastically enough to make me fall over where I was sitting.

“You’re drunk.” Sirius said appraising our appearance sceptically.

I shook my head, whilst pulling myself up into an upright position, and waved my finger at him to show that he was very much mistaken. I stood up and sat on his lap (in a straddling sort of way) tucked my feet under the chair legs to keep me steady and kissed him, chewing on his bottom lip experimentally.

Sirius laughed and pulled away from me. “And you say you’re not drunk?”

“Not drunk,” I said smiling sweetly.

“Mary, love, I can taste the stuff on your lips.” Sirius said reaching up and putting his hand on the back of my neck to stop me from falling off and accidently killing myself.

“Tipsy – yes. Drunk – no.”

“You’ve both got quite an audience.” Sirius said nodding behind him, where everyone was sat with their chairs curiously facing towards ours.

“Let them watch!” I declared happily “I have nothing to hide!”

“Especially not your dignity,” Lily said and we both creased up again.

“Let’s play a game!” I declared realising with a jolt that it was the greatest idea every thought of, and wondering why I hadn’t thought of it before. “Let’s play... secrets!”

“How do you play?” Lily asked eagerly. She leant forward on her elbows to watch me more intently, but missed the table and ended up looking silly. I didn’t laugh though, that wouldn’t be nice and she’d probably push me down the stairs or something.

“You tell me a secret, then I tell you a secret!”

“Oh great, what a thrilling game.” Sirius commented dryly.                

“You could leave?” Lily suggested.

“Stay.” I demanded. “You start Lily – tell me a secret.”

“Okay,” Lily said. She thought for a few seconds before her eyes lit up and she told me in a hushed whisper “I kissed Snape!”

“That’s not a secret, I knew that.” I said and Lily looked sad for a minute. “But it can count anyway, okay... my secret is... I slept with Sirius. Twice.”

“Well, I knew that.” Lily said disparagingly. “Okay... My secret is... I don’t hate James anymore!”

“Ooo!” I said. “Interesting, okay... I kissed Nate’s nephew, whilst sort of dating Sirius.”

Lily laughed at that one. “When I was younger, I used to pretend I was a mermaid when I went swimming.”

“Me too!” Sirius was looking on in amusement but making no noise what so ever. I slipped off his lap and sat back down on my sofa and tried to think of another secret... “Becky is actually my real sister, and no one told me!”

“I used to wish that my parents weren’t my real parents, because I wanted Petunia not to be my sister so badly.”

“Whenever Johnny’s being an irritating git, I hit him. Then I always feel terrible afterwards because I’m scared he’ll just remember me as a horrible sister.”

“I watched some of the memories of Becky and I secretly think that you’re life has been utterly crap.”

“I think that too!”

“Alice’s Dad is a complete bastard!” Lily said before putting a hand over her mouth and looking disgusted with herself.

“In third year I fancied your boyfriend!”

“When you were dating James, years ago, I fancied him then! Do you remember? I told you that I fancied this guy, and you said to ask him out, and I did.”

“Oh my God!”

“And he said he’d never go out with me in a million years and I was pretty damn stupid to think he would, and then he asked you out.”

“What?”

“And then, he broke up with you and started asking me out to mock me for being such an idiot.”

“Bloody hell,” Sirius commented.

“And you know what? He made me cry!”

I echoed Sirius’s sentiments with a few more colourful words.

“All guys are jerks!” I said loudly. “Let’s drink to that!” I suggested and we did. “Join in Sirius,” I instructed. He shook his head and I rolled my eyes.

“I’ve got another secret!” Lily said. “Do you remember in forth year, where I got full marks in potions? I cheated.”

“I cheated in the OWL’s!” I exclaimed before putting a hand over my mouth in shock.

“What, how?” Lily asked with her eyes as wide as saucers.

“The muggle way,” I said. “I wrote the answers on my legs and, the best bit is, I still did crap!”

“Sometimes I wish that I was you.” Lily said.

“I think that you’re too good to be friends with me.”

“Sometimes,” Lily said her voice low and honest. “I think you are too. Then I realise how horrible I’m being and then I hate myself.”

“Remus knew I was dying before you.” I said, warily, because Lily’s eyes were no longer sparkling and full of life and the game didn’t feel as fun anymore.

“I’m scared.” Lily said in a hushed voice.

“Of what?” I asked quietly.

“Myself.”

“I... I...  I have underwear which says my age on it.”

“I’m not happy.” Lily said and then I knew that the game was way over. I glanced at Sirius nervously, and I noted that his eyes were slightly panicked and he was eyeing Lily carefully.

“Well,” Sirius said. “This funeral planning defiantly is a depressing business. I think you were right to spice it up a little... how’s about another drink Lily?” She downed her drink, and then mine, before starting to cry.

“Oh, Merlin.” Sirius hissed. “Nothing to see here!” He yelled and started waving people away. “Everyone back to your dormitory right now.”

“Or what?” A particularly gutsy forth year boy asked.

“Or I’ll knock your fucking lights out!” Sirius yelled which was enough to make those people who’d stayed around to watch us make a spectacle of ourselves scatter, and fast. They had seen him beat up his best friend a few hours previously, after all.

“Lily?” I prompted softly when Sirius had (impressively) cleared the whole common room out for our own purposes. “Do you want to... talk.” I suggested. With the thought of having to deal with Lily having an emotional breakdown I’d sobered up surprisingly quickly and was able to move myself onto her sofa and put my hand on her shoulder as a symbol of my emotional support.

“It’s just,” Lily began as tears started spilling out of face at an alarmingly fast rate. My God. “I don’t know what I think any more! Everything’s just so wrong and horrible, and I keep finding ways to blame myself even if it’s not my fault and like, I know it’s not my fault, but I can’t help believing that it is and  that I’m a horrible person.”

“You’re not a horrible person.”I said seriously. “Not at all.”

“But I am! I’m a horrible failure.” She chocked on her sobs and started making a noise as if she was being strangled. I looked up at Sirius in alarm who shrugged as if to say he really couldn’t help me with this. I guess he couldn’t – Lily did hate him after all.

“You’re not a failure.”

“Yes I am! If I wasn’t a failure then maybe everyone wouldn’t just l... leave. I’m such a horrible person that no one wants anything to do with me!”

“Lily, what’s all this about?” I asked rubbing her shoulder and internally panicking.

“Petunia and I used to be so close!” She wailed. “Then I found out I was a w...w...witch, and I handled it all wrong, and all I talked about at home was magic and spells and wizards – no wonder she can’t stand me anymore!”

“Petunia is -”

“Then Sev! He was my best friend for five years! Maybe if I’d stopped nagging him all the time about his f...f...friends then he wouldn’t have s...s...said that -”

“Severus Snape is the most worthless piece of filth I’ve ever had the misfortune to look at.” Sirius interrupted gruffly.

“And then you! Quite, timid Mary McDonald – you waltz in this year being this new you and you don’t want anything to do with me anymore! And then all you care about is Sirius. If I’d been more interesting, or had worked it out sooner, or if I’d -”

“All that proves is you pick crap friends.” I said.

“I’ve been deserted by every best friend I’ve ever had – it’s me! There’s something wrong with me! I’m so annoying and frustrating and everyone just gets fed up and leaves.”

“What about James?” Sirius suggested. “He’s never got fed up.”

“Only because he doesn’t know anything about me, and I’m not going to let him. I’d rather he just carried running after me, than catching me and deciding that he didn’t w...w...want me! I don’t think I could bear it!”

“That’s bolloucks!”

“I need James to like me.” Lily said her tears welling up. “But I can’t let him ever know or he’d just get fed up like everyone else in the world! So I keep trying to let him think he’s making progress ever so often, and then I just...”

“Lead him on?” Sirius asked.

“No! I don’t mean to! I don’t want to! I’m just – I’m just a mess!”

“Lily, you’re not a mess – not at all.”

“But I am,” Lily said honestly. “I keep having to stop myself from fucking up, but I want too. I kept writing crap essays to give into teacher’s just because I think that, maybe if I screw up, they’d pull me aside and say ‘Lily, are you okay?’ and then I could nod and say ‘of course professor’ but they wouldn’t believe a word of it so they’d press me further and then I could I have a completely break down and I could start yelling and crying about, well, about everything – about how I feel like it’s all just this great big pointless thing with no future and no way out because, well, that’s the way it is – life. A great big thing.” She said. The last drinks were just starting to hit her and her words were slurred and not quite making complete sense any longer, but I was just about able to understand. “And I keep writing these essays and stuff and then I have to stop myself and start all over again, and it makes me hate myself even more... and I just think,” She said still crying but now seeming calmer. “That it’s sad that only my teachers would ever notice and that would only be because of work. I thought about screwing up in other ways but, but, I couldn’t think of any other way that someone would notice. I considered everything: stopping eating, cutting myself, pulling my hair out, getting pissed.” She said gesturing wildly to the bottle of alcohol. “Not sleeping, always sleeping, skipping classes, and sleeping around – whatever. Sad thing is, I think, that I’d even fail at looking for attention.”

“Lily,” I said softly. “What’s wrong? What happened?”

“N...n...nothing!” She wailed her sobs now seeming to come from her very core. She was shaking and gasping for breath between her sobs. Several times she tried to stop herself and a noise as if she was being strangled came up from her throat as she tried to suppress it. “Nothing. That’s.... that’s the problem.”

“Lily, talk to me.” I said putting my arm around her and looking at her convulsing figure in alarm.

“I’m the problem, I – me, nothing, nothing happened.” She said through her thick tears. “It’s just me – the way I am.”

“You’ve never been like this before,” I told her, gripping hold of her shoulder tightly.

She shook her head, her breath wheezing out of her throat as she tried not to cry.

“I drive people away,” She began as hurriedly as she could before she had to gasp another breath to fuel her crying. “I drive people away because,” Her body shook, “Because... because I always think that... that I’m better, and,” She said pausing for a very long time to screw up her face and try to stop herself. “And because I’m so weak, and... people...can’t... deal with it.” Then – once she’d rid herself of this final confession – her chest stop it’s heaving, her throat stopped it’s high wailing, and she was silent and still.

“You know what I can’t deal with,” I said. “I can’t deal with myself, and the fact that I’m doing to die. Snape can’t deal with the fact that he’s in love with someone when it goes against all his beliefs and Petunia can’t deal with being the bigger sister who isn’t quite as special. It’s nothing to do with you. Nothing, Lily, nothing at all.”

“Mary,” Sirius said softly, stepping forward and brushing his fingers against my arm. “I...er... I think she’s passed out.”

And of course, as is normally the case, Sirius was right.

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

“Sirius,” I muttered as I pushed open the door of the boy’s dormitories. I’d managed to half carry, half drag Lily up the stairs with the help of Sirius’s well placed levitation spell. I’d put her to bed, tucked her in, apologised to her unconscious form, before tidying everything else up and coming up here.

I was emotionally drained from seeing Lily like that, plus Snape, plus Sirius, and I wanted nothing more than to be hugged – tightly. For once Sirius seemed to know exactly what I needed because before I could say anything more than his name, he was halfway across the dormitory and holding me against him deliciously tightly.

It was one of those hugs where you’re pressed against their warmth, inhaling their smell, and it feels like nothing could ever get to you ever again. I gripped hold of the back of his shirt and decided that I was actually never going to let go - I’d have to be pulled away from him violently with all the force of several hurricanes before I let go willingly.

“Oh God,” I said burying my face into the skin of his shoulder and squeezing my eyes shut. Sirius’s skin was warm and smelt of him. I wanted to cover myself in it and disappear.

Sirius kissed the exposed base of my neck in an ‘I’m here’ sort of way which soothed me a little bit.

“You should have just gone to bed,” Sirius said tracing familiar circles across my skin.

“Don’t you want me here?”  I asked. Sirius dropped his arms from around my shoulders and stepped back to look at my face properly. His head was tilted to one side and he looked at me with a slightly disbelieving expression on his gorgeous face.

“Are you honestly asking me that question?” I nodded. “You stupid girl,” Sirius said encircling his arms around me again. “Of course I want you here.”

I bit my lip and Sirius leaned forwards and kissed me softly. My eyes fluttered shut again and I wrapped my arms around his neck and, again, decided that I was never going to let go. Sirius scooped me up in his arms properly and carried me over to his bed before placing me down gently on it. He kissed me again before stepping back away from me and pulling out two t-shirts and his pyjama bottoms.

“What are you doing?” I asked still feeling shaky and thrown by the whole Lily-thing.

“I’m just getting ready for bed,” Sirius said – glancing at me worriedly – before pulling his school robes off.  I watched him get changed at a normal, quite slow if you asked me, pace into his sleep-wear with the added addition of a t-shirt. When Sirius had decided to sleep in a t-shirt I didn’t know and I can’t say I approved to the new addition... and if he was going to wear two t-shirts then that was bordering on ridiculous... was he trying to stop anything from happening by wearing lots of clothes or something?

After listening to Lily did he blame me entirely, as I did, for her being so... depressed that he didn’t want me anywhere near him anymore?

Did he hate me again?

“Mary,” Sirius said drinking in my appearance and looking concerned. “Aren’t you going to get changed?”

“What?” I asked, utterly confused. He nodded towards the second t-shirt... ah... okay. That one was for me. “Yeah,” I said beginning to fiddle with the button’s of my shirt without much success.

“You’re shaking,” Sirius said sitting on the other side of the bed, still staring. “Here,” His voice was as soft as satin – lovely and comforting – as he reached forwards and began undoing my buttons for me. He shuffled a little closer and pulled the material of my shirt over my shoulders, before kissing my left shoulder. His lips lingered on my skin for a few seconds before they were gone, and he said “Arm’s up,” and helped me pull on his t-shirt.

I looked up at him with my forehead furrowed in confusion and being utterly drained. He kissed my forehead too and offered me a completely unexpected soft smile.

“What... why are you being so –?” I began.

“You look like you’re feeling delicate.” He said with an added kiss on my cheek. His words were so shockingly true that it threw me completely off track again – it epitomised everything that I was feeling spectacularly; delicate.

My stomach felt delicate after throwing up earlier; my body felt delicate due to tiredness and being weak; my head felt delicate – not being able to process half my thoughts and feelings and I felt emotionally delicate after seeing Lily so... so un-lily-like and delicate herself.

“Sirius,” I said watching his features carefully. “What if I am just delicate?”

“Mary, love, you’ve thrown up this morning – you’re seeing Nate about that in the morning by the way – and you’ve had your prat of a boyfriend begging for you, you’ve told your best friend that you’re dying, you just – for reasons beyond my comprehension – decided that drinking would be a good idea, and now you just watched your best friend have a complete mental breakdown about how she’s considered doing unthinkable things to get the attention she clearly needs.”

“I had an argument with Remus too,” I said, blinkingly sleepily. “And a run in with Snape.”

“Well,” Sirius said. “Obviously you’re going to be blood exhausted. So we’re going to brush our teeth, and then we’re going to sleep.”

“What if I don’t want to?” I asked.

“Well that’s just tough shit. Also, you might want to think about taking off the other half of your clothes.” Sirius said nodding to where I was wearing my school skirt, tights and the like. I pulled myself upwards and removed them slowly; aware of Sirius’s gaze on me as I did so, before turning round to face him.

“Brushing our teeth did you say?” I asked.

Sirius smiled at me, helped me up (yes, I was feeling that pathetic) and then I followed him to the bathroom. Compared to the dorm the bathroom was filled with a bright clinical light that made my eyes hurt but made me feel much more awake at the same time. “You didn’t, by any chance, bring your toothbrush did you?” Sirius asked.

“Funnily enough, no.” I said. Sirius smiled.

 “You could use mine, or...” He began sifting through all the boy’s toiletries (which were more plentiful than I would have expected) apparently searching for a spare toothbrush. “Actually...” he said, “Give me a second.”

He looked at me for a few seconds before disappearing out the door and leaving me alone in the strange bathroom. The bathroom mirrored ours accept it was considerably less cluttered – there were multiple different deodorants, toothpaste’s, moisturises, body gels and shaving creams which filled up the tiny space provided where as in the our bathroom it was brimming full of perfume’s, exfoliators, toners, make-up, body butter, bath bombs, conditioners, hair products which claimed to eliminate frizz... piles and piles of crap.

Before I had time to continue this thought process anymore Sirius was back shredding the packet of a brand new toothbrush. “Mrs Potter never likes to leave us unprepared.” He supplied passing it to me. I smiled at the memory of Mrs Potter and the idea of her packing extra toothbrushes, deodorants and lots of socks when they weren’t looking.

I took the toothbrush, which matched Sirius’s exactly, and allowed Sirius to squeeze the toothpaste onto it. Then we stood, side by side, brushing our teeth together with matching toothbrushes. It was then it struck me how domesticated this whole thing was – getting ready for bed together, talking, brushing our teeth and finally sleeping side by side. I suddenly had visions of the two of standing side by side, at a different sink in a different house, with a double shower and a door leading off to our master bedroom.

Then, I imagined, we’d wash our faces with his and hers towel’s before trotting off to bed – me in a nightgown, Sirius in his normal attire, cuddling up to each other and sleeping the whole night through. In the morning I’d take my shower whilst Sirius cooked me breakfast, then we’d sit round a table with a gingham table cloth and eat together...

“Mary?” Sirius questioned, again glancing at me with a concerned expression on his face. “Are you okay?”

“Yes,” I answered laying my toothbrush next to his by the sink, and knowing full well that the image of them – lying innocently together – was going to haunt me long after I’d fallen asleep. “Sirius,” I asked after I’d followed back into the dingy gloom of the dormitory. “Why...” I began, watching him slip under the bedcovers.

“Yes?” He prompted.

“Why are you wearing a t-shirt? I mean... Aren’t you... aren’t you attracted to me anymore?”

Sirius answered my question with a searing kiss which made my whole body ache before pulling his lips away just a fraction of a millimetre and saying “You’re exhausted and you need to sleep. This is my pathetic attempt at a precaution against you getting ideas into your head.” He kissed me again – deliciously – for a few seconds before whispering “Sleep,” in my ear.

There was nothing I could have done, nothing, except obey.

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

The whole sleeping idea didn’t go quite as planned... I woke up having dreamt that Sirius had died in a slightly hysterical/emotional mood which had led to us having a minor argument which was resolved very quickly when Sirius pointed out that I was being a complete idiot and I was obliged to agree (mostly because in the moments before Sirius had worked out that I was emotional/hysterical Sirius had managed to lose his shirt, and it’s very hard to argue with a shirtless Sirius in the middle of the night). Then I’d pointed out that we had a nice empty dormitory...

Sirius had counted that by saying actually, it wasn’t empty, because Frank was here. I pointed out that he wasn’t otherwise he might have had some complaints about us yelling loudly, or making out loudly or whatever. Then we had a long debate about where Frank was, when he turned up.

That killed the mood a bit and then neither of us could sleep. Sirius suggested a walk. I told him to stuff that. We had a debate about what we should do/where we should go ect... when Frank kindly requested for us to shut up or at least put a silencing charm around the bed so he couldn’t hear us jabbering on about whatever. We went for the silencing charm.

So then we tested the power of the silencing charm

I really hope it worked.

Then I’d apparently fallen back to sleep, because now there was light streaming through the dorm windows and Sirius was not in bed next to me... “Sirius?” I asked blinking up at him. For some strange and incomprehensible reason that I couldn’t understand Sirius was getting dressed. “Wh...what are you doing?” I asked watching him button up a fresh white shirt, hiding his dazzling array of scars (which I was now very familiar with) from view.

“Well, love -” Sirius began.

“Before you go any further, I have to inform you that the honeymoon period is over and I now feel no qualms about telling you not to call me love – what’s the point? Say if I hated you, I wouldn’t go around saying ‘You all right, hate?’ would I?”

“Well, no,” Sirius said, “You wouldn’t ask me if I was all right, because you’d hate me.”

“Say if I fancied you, I’m not going to be all ‘hey, fancy, how are you?’”

If you fancied me?”

“It’s degrading, annoying, clingy -”

“Look at you,” Sirius said plastering a patronising expression on his face. “All naked, wrapped up in my blankets and lecturing me. Awwh.” I blushed somewhat when he pointed out my nakedness (which hadn’t registered in my mind yet). “Ickle Mary-fairy, love.”

“Pass me my clothes, and then I’ll just be lecturing you.”

“I don’t think so,” Sirius said grabbing them off the floor and holding them out of my reach.

“If you don’t give me my clothes right now I’ll tell James exactly what you told me last night.”

Sirius handed my clothes over to me sharpish, and I smiled at him sweetly. I pulled my clothes on over my head quickly and without minding that my shirt was buttoned up wrong and my skirt was wonky – I was decent at any rate.

“Anyway, Sirius, where do you think you’re going?”

“Well, I was going to go check on Remus and see if he’s okay, given I let them down last night.”

“That’s reasonable I suppose,” I agreed, pulling the duvet around me because it was comfortable and warm and smelt exactly of Sirius. I breathed it in and smiled up at him happily.

“I had much more fun than they did last night, after all.”

“Quite.” I agreed.

“So,”

“Yeah,”

“I should probably head off,” Sirius said without taking his eyes off me or making any movement at all. He was sat on my end of the bed smiling at me properly.

“What?” I asked smiling right back at him.

“I really like your hair like that,”

“Like what?” I asked reaching a hand up to my hair and running my fingers through it.

“Like you haven’t brushed it for a week.” I rolled my eyes at him.

“Bye, Mary,” Sirius said and his voice was warm and filled with honey and loveliness.

“I like that,”

“What?”

“You saying my name.”

“Well I’ve done that enough in the past twenty four hours.” Sirius said with a smirk and a wink.

“Sirius!” I said. “Go sod off to your mates, you moment-ruin-er.”

“Oh, all right... Mary.” He said reaching forward and kissing me. I locked my arms around his neck and kissed him back properly. Sirius was forced to lean over me (due me pulling him towards me by his neck) and physically couldn’t draw back any further than a millimetre.

“I should go,” He muttered but I decided he didn’t seem very enthusiastic about the idea, so I didn’t feel guilty about not letting go.

“You know Sirius, you may have let the others down last night,” I said without releasing the tight grip I had around him. “But you certainly didn’t let me down.”

“Who’d have thought it?” Mary McDonald talking dirty, well, at least attempting too.”

“That’s not what I meant! I meant, oh, never mind.”

“It’s true though,” Sirius pointed out with a humungous smirk plastered across his features.

“Maybe,” I granted him.

“You want me to stay here?” Sirius asked, kissing me in the most wonderful warming fashion that made me want to handcuff him to me so he could never leave again.

“Yes,” I told him guiltlessly. Remus Lupin could have Sirius to tend his wounds or whatever for the rest of his life; Sirius was only mine to have and to hold for another month.

“Well, okay.” Sirius said as if it were some great hardship. He let me pull him on top of me at that point and kissed the corner of my lips. He smiled and was just about to –

“Sirius!” Pete yelled and the dormitory door flew open. “Sirius!” He yelled again before stopping (somewhat comically) with his eyes widened in horror. “Oh –Sorry! Sorry!” Pete squeaked looking away very deliberately.

“It’s fine, Peter,” I said as Sirius detangled himself from me to stand up and make himself decent.

“Well it’s not,” Sirius said irritably. “We have rules about knocking, you know.”

“You can look Peter, we’re fully dressed.” I assured him because the poor bloke was turning bright scarlet with the effort of not looking in our direction.

“Only just,” Sirius muttered darkly.

“Sirius,” I complained.

“What? I’m just saying – five minutes either way...”

Peter’s eyes burst out of his sockets at this comment. I suspect the closest Peter has ever got to intimate moment with a member of the opposite sex was when he accidently got pushed into one of the midget first years in the corridor... so walking into a situation like that was sure to be highly awkward for the poor bloke, and with a comment like that you can’t really blame him for turning a similar colour to a highly embarrassed, blood soaked quaffle.  It was, however, bloody funny.

“What did you even want, Wormtail?” Sirius asked.

“It’s James.” Peter breathed.

“Care to elaborate or is that the only excuse I get for you ruining my morning -”

“Sirius, there’s no need to be such a -”

“James and Lily.” Peter said, rudely interrupting my feeble attempt at backing him up. I decided not to bloody well bother next time – prat.

 

“What? Are they engaged in a brutal but passionate display of vulgar indecent exposure, in the form of horizontal jogging, in the middle of the great hall?”

 

“No.” Peter said shaking his stupid little head from side to side. “They’re -”

 

“Well, damn, for a minute there I thought something exciting had happened.” Sirius said with another eye roll. I never realised how little Sirius liked to be interrupted before... I supposed that was sort of flattering.

“What’s going on?” I asked Peter in my kindest voice to make up for Sirius being such a sexually frustrated prat.

“They’re yelling!”

“Merlin’s saggy bum cheeks! James and Lily are yelling! Whatever next! It’s not like that’s ever happened before.”

“Sirius!” I reprimanded.

“Mary! What shall we do! James and Lily are yelling?!?

“They’re really angry.” Peter defended. “In the middle of the corridor – they’re just screaming and swearing at each other with their wands out and -”

“What were they yelling about?” I asked calmly.

Snape!”

“Oh god,” I muttered and Sirius made a non-committal noise which meant he’d realised he may have been a little bit of an arse. If they were arguing about Snape then that definitely wasn’t a good thing. Hopefully James hadn’t done anything... hopefully Snape hadn’t done anything.

“Well why didn’t you do something, Pete?” Sirius asked in frustration.

“I... I didn’t know what to do! And Remus is in the hospital wing and...”

“What exactly happened?” I interrupted.

“I don’t know!” Peter wailed. “I wasn’t listening, I was tired and then James walks ahead, approaches Lily and starts screaming at her.”

 

“Wait, James started it?” Sirius asked. Peter nodded. “Well fuck me sideways.” Sirius said thoughtfully. He appeared to have sex on the brain, not that I was internally boasting about that or anything...

Not. At. All.

“Look,” I said to Sirius (who was still gazing at the wall ‘thoughtfully’ although I had to doubt whether the thoughts contained anything to do with the new Lily/James Drama). “We should probably go and sort them out...”

Sirius sighed, shrugged, and nodded his head.

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

Peter had not been exaggerating when he said they were yelling/screaming/swearing. In fact the first thing we heard of their argument (from halfway down the stairs) was a very long stream of ugly swearwords which sounded foreign and strange when being violently forced from Lily’s lips in a heat-haze of anger.  I mean, fuck, Lily only swore on very special occasions and James must have done something pretty bad to induce that sort of cursing.

I glanced at Sirius worriedly. He bit his lip, grabbed my hand, and increased our walking pace to an almost run down the rest of the stairs. I tried to concentrate more on the stairs (given falling down the stairs with me being this feeble and pathetic state would probably kill me) than their conversation but I could still catch some of it.

I think it would have been quite comical if one of the two people screaming their heads off at each other wasn’t my best friend who had only yesterday discovered the truth about my looming death and had a complete Bacardi-induced breakdown about how she was so depressed. As it stood I couldn’t really appreciate the humour in the integrated swearwords which were placed about every other word: “You’re the most beeping, beeping beep I’ve ever had the misfortune to meet in my whole beeping life, James beeping Potter, blah blah blah.” Accept, naturally, she was substituting the word ‘beep’ for slightly more colourful language.

(Am I the only person in the world who thinks that Lily’s completely dried out of decent insults and her habit of regurgitating the same dreary unimaginative jibes was beginning to get seriously old...? She needed to grow a new imagination or just stop yelling at James and shag him already).

The foul language continued, this time from James, as we turned the corridor and found ourselves face to face with our two best mates in all their yelling glory. They were both purple in the face and standing with their fists clenched at the stop of the staircase (dangerous much?) in a way that genuinely terrified me.

“What the hell is going on?” Sirius yelled over James’s long (and very loud) explanation as to how much of a complete slut Lily was (the phrases ‘spread yourself around like jam’ and ‘you’ve scored more than Adrian Mullet’ were genuinely used in his sentence, and James was actually being serious. Ephaiyadaphia be dammned – I’d never been more fearful of dying than ever before.)

“She slept with Snape!” James yelled, waving his fist around in anger. Inside his tightly clenched fist (which had turned completely white) was a piece of very crumpled parchment. I vaguely thought about my plan and the irony of the delusion James was currently labouring under, but the thought was soon replaced with the wavering question of why the bloody hell did James think Lily had slept with Snape?

“What?” Sirius asked turning to look Lily with a mildly horrified expression on his face mixed with complete confusion. I didn’t blame him. Obviously I was completely certain that Lily had never slept with Severus Snape but if I believed for one second that she did, the unavoidable mental image caused by this thought would probably cause me to gauge my own eyes out. “No she didn’t.”

“I came down the corridor and he accosts me and starts accusing me, saying he has proof that it’s true! I don’t know what the bloody hell is talking about!” Lily yelled. “And obviously he doesn’t trust me enough to believe me! Because he’s a lying dirty -”

“Of course you’re going to deny it! You’d hardly admit it considering what a greasy -”

“Shut up!” Lily yelled. “Right now, Severus is twice the person you are!”

“See! She’s defending him! She doesn’t even regret it!”

“BECASUE IT NEVER HAPPENED, Potter! I can’t regret something that never BLOODY HAPPENED?!”

“Then why did Mary write me this fucking letter?”

And that was the point where my heart literally stopped beating in my chest. There was a moment of absolute deadly silence for a few very long seconds before I remembered how to talk. James, Lily, Sirius, Pete, and Alice (I hadn’t even noticed she was here until I noticed her gaze fixed on me) were all staring at me with wide eyes.

“What?” I said, my tongue suddenly feeling wrong and awkward in my mouth. I had no idea what I was supposed to say... it was all just so completely ridiculous that my brain couldn’t being to process the idea. “I... What?”

Okay Mary, time to think... James thinks Lily slept with Snape; James thinks you wrote him a letter informing of this... both of which things are scarily similar to the plan you accidently thought out and yelled at Snape to anger him...

I wave of unwilling comprehension hit me like a stab to the gut.

Shit. Oh bloody-buggering-fucking-shitting-shit. Shit.

Snape had set me up.

SHIT!

“I’m sorry,” James said simply. “For breaking your bloody confidentiality.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?” I asked relatively calmly (compared to how I was feeling which is beyond describing through any words that are not classified as inappropriate in most polite circles) . He waved the note in my direction and I snatched it out of his hands. Sirius was behind me in an instant. With my heart frozen in my chest and my legs suddenly feeling weaker than ever, I looked at the piece of parchment before me.

For a few seconds I was completely incapable of reading it because I was so panicky and jumpy that my brain couldn’t form the letters into words. Instead I just stared at the strange jumble of lines and shapes on the page without being able to turn it into anything comprehensible.  Once I had calmed myself to the point where I could managed to think again, I shook myself and forced my brain back into functioning. Then, I read.

James,

I’m really sorry for being the one to tell you this, but I think you have a right to know. In payment for you telling me I’d appreciate it if you never mention I told you this to anyone. I think everyone knows about your feelings for Lily, and I don’t think it’s fair for her to be leading you on like this. Lily has a thing going on with Snape – I don’t quite understand it because she never talks about it, but I know for a fact that she often spends the night in the Slytherin dungeons. I’m sorry,

Mary

Snape – the slimy Slytherin! What a complete bastard! Did he honestly beeping believe that he could forge some beeping letter and that the others would believe it? In some beeping sick attempt at payback for the fact that I’d broken his beeping nose and said all that stuff... he’d actually try and ruin my beeping life with this shoddy and messy attempt at framing me? If they actually believed that I’d written this stupid note – which obviously was never going to happen – they’d probably never talk to me again. Merlin! I was dying for Pete’s sake, was that not enough punishment to make up for the fact that I’d ruined his little blackmailing scheme?

I suddenly felt nauseas at the thought of how I’d pitied him and felt sorry for the bastard for those few seconds. I’d actually apologised. I laughed humorously about how stupid and naive I’d been to think a broken nose and a seriously wounded ego would be the end of the messy business. I’d genuinely believed he had nothing else to use against me, and handed him my weapon on a plate. I was so stup -

 “Mary?” Sirius said stepping away from me and looking at me with a utterly horrified expression – as if he’d just realised I was actually male, or that I was related to him in some way (although knowing the Black family tree, that wouldn’t bother him) . For a second I was confused before I realised one very very bad thing – Sirius had read that note over my shoulder, and I had laughed at it, and he thought that I’d written it.

I felt like someone had chucked a bucket of icy water over my head. All of sudden all my nerves were screaming and my brain was joining it (with a very articulate ‘NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! This cannot be happening!’ if you were interested). The nausea increased.

He believed it. Holy shit. He believed it.

“Sirius,” I said slowly as he took another step backwards with his eyes as wide as saucers. “I...I didn’t write this.”

“It’s in your handwriting,” He said. I glanced it again and realised that it was. It was in my handwriting. It was signed by me. As far as they were concerned, it was from me.

“I... I swear, I didn’t write this.”

“Yes you did!” James yelled. “You wrote it and you put it on my bedside table last night, while you were with Sirius!”

“No I didn’t!” I said back, suddenly panicking. The story made sense, why did it make sense – why did it have to make so much sense? Why did Snape have to be a slimy, greasy, stupidly strong-nosed Slytherin? If it had been someone from any other house blackmailing me a broken bone would have been an excellent place to draw a line under the whole business and forget about the whole shitty affair, but not Severus Snape, no... he has to frame me.

Shit. Sirius genuinely believes it. He genuinely believes it!

 My lungs seemed to freeze and stopped taking in oxygen. Sirius might love me, but he could never forgive me for doing something so astronomically bad as this. I’d just made things up with Lily... James had just started to like me... My God.

“Mary! What the fuck did you do?” Lily yelled. All the anger Lily had ever directed at me was usually the slow simmering anger that always left me wondering when she was going to blow... she very rarely lost her temper completely at anyone other than James, but I could fully see why she was angry this time.

She’d woken up one morning thinking everything was fine and dandy (bar a slight hangover, I suspected), and then came down to find James there looking angrier than she’d ever seen. It must have been a shock – the one person who was supposed to eternally be in awe of the greatness that was Lily Evans, too start yelling at her.... and it was my fault.

This was all my fault. I might have ruined James and Lily forever by some stupid plan I’d made when I was desperate, which I would never have carried out. That didn’t matter though – I’d still thought it, and I’d told Snape and then broken his god-forsaken ugly excuse of a nose. Of course he was going to do something! He couldn’t just let it be when I’d completely humiliated him.

“This isn’t my fault.” I said trying to keep my voice steady, but it was shaking violently. “I mean, it is but, it’s not...”

Sirius was glaring at me – his gaze full of fire and anger which made me shrink back. I took a step backwards away from them and took in all there glaring faces. My God. My bloody God. Snape had ruined me – ruined me.

“Well,” James said in an angry scoff. “If Lily hadn’t –”

“I DIDN’T!” Lily yelled.

“But Mary -”

“She didn’t!” I yelled. My heart suddenly started beating again and was now residing in my throat beating so loudly it vibrated my entire body and left me no room to think about what exactly was the best thing to do in this sort of situation. It was like the Snape thing all over again – I had no plan, no time to think and absolutely nothing to work with.... last time I’d just acted on instinct and look how that had turned out.

I was so screwed.

“Then why the hell did you bloody write it?” James required (loudly). I shrunk back away from him with my gaze darting between all of them, wondering who was most likely to believe me.

“I can explain!” I yelled desperately.

“Then do.” Sirius hissed sounding murderous.

“I... I...” I began.  My head was too full up of how much I hated Snape. I hated him. I hated him so much. This overpowering overwhelming sense of hate was pulsing through me and filling me up to the point where I was so angry and so hateful that I couldn’t think about anything else. I hated him more than Muliciber who’d cursed me. I hated him more than Voldermort who was the reason behind this blood purity nonsense. I hated him more than Ephaiyadaphia. Every single cell and every single atom in my body was screaming that they hated him with all the energy they possessed. Forget breaking his nose, I wanted to break his sodding skull. I wanted to rip his slimy hair off his scalp and get more than my revenge. I loathed him.

“That’s a pretty shit explanation.” Lily said now diverting all her anger on to me, which was the definite cause of the whole problem in any case. I found myself unable to explain or think due to this encompassing hate that was infecting my brain – if this is what hating feels like, how can people stand to do? It was draining me and stopping me from seeing and thinking clearly.

“Snape!” I yelled feeling my panic settle over me to the point where I had no idea where to start. It was all too farfetched that they’d never believe me. Sirius – bloody hell. “He, he... He found out about, about me being ill.” I began taking another tentative step back. “And he... he was blackmailing me.”

“Blackmailing you?” Lily scoffed. “Well, that sounds likely. What can you do that Snape would want?”

“For you and James never to get together.” Sirius said in a slow calculating voice which made my heart wither up and die. He hated me. God, he hated me. He wanted to take back everything he’d said about being in love with me and pretend he’d never said it, I could see it – he despised me.

Lily’s head snapped back towards me which somehow snapped me back into the situation at hand rather than my underlying and eternal hatred for anything to do with Serverus fucking Snape.

What?”

“No!” I protested. Tears were welling up in my eyes and spilling over onto my cheeks. My stomach was being dropped from a great height; my throat was tight and painful; my lungs weren’t working properly and my heart was half beating at an incredible rate due to panic, and half splitting painfully in my chest due to the looks I was receiving from the two people I loved most in the world.

“Why would Snape want that?” Lily asked darkly.

“Because he’s in love with you!” James yelled. “So he blackmails you... and this note is you attempting to break us up, is it?” James asked his voice had the same menacing quality and I realised I was helpless. They could pull out their wands and jinx me without realising that the force of one of their hexes when they were this angry would probably kill me. I swallowed.

“No!  I didn’t write it!” I said desperately. “Please, Sirius, you know I didn’t write it! I didn’t! I wouldn’t do that! I wouldn’t.” He shook his head.

“It’s your handwriting. I don’t know how you could do it. I don’t know how... last night, but... but that’s your handwriting Mary.” Sirius said. He looked like I’d just killed his mother and pulled his heart out in one clean sweep. I was begging him to stop and think with my eyes but he turned away, swallowing and looking at the floor.

“You can forge that with a spell! Why would I do it? I told Lily! I have no reason too – I’d love for you two to get together, the sooner the better – I have no reason! I didn’t do it!”

“Then who bloody did?” Lily yelled. “There’s no one else who would, and you said it was your fault!”

“It is! It is my fault – but I didn’t write it! I didn’t! You’re my best friend, Lily!”

“Like hell I am!” Lily yelled. “I knew were a shitty friend, but I never thought you’d ever think that some stupid little secret was more important to you than loyalty to me. I never thought you were plain evil and would do anything, just so you didn’t have to bloody tell me -”

“But, she did.” Sirius said quietly.

“What are you on about Black?”

“She told you – yesterday – which means it really doesn’t make sense.”

“You’re in it together!” Lily shrieked. “You hate me! You don’t want me to take your best friend away from you, especially as you’re going to be alone an awful bloody lot in a couple of months!”

“Is that true?” James asked.

“No!” Sirius bellowed. “Of course it’s bloody not! I’ve always -”

“You’ve always hated Lily.”

“No I –” Sirius protested glancing at Lily worriedly.

“Oh don’t worry,” She interrupted him coolly. “I detest you twice as much, but still – I’d never try to sabotage your relationship.”

“That’s not true.” I said without really meaning too. Oh my God. What was wrong with me? Why had I even opened my mouth? My head was a whirlwind of nonsense and inconceivable ideas birthed by panic. I hadn’t even meant to speak, and now Lily was turning on me and -

What?” Lily snapped.

“I just mean that... you always tried to turn me against Sirius.”

“So is this your little revenge!” Lily declared. “You little bitch!” She yelled and suddenly her wand was out and pointed at my chest. My eyes widened. I was actually going to die. I was going to die. Oh. My. God.

“Evans! Stop.” Sirius yelled.

“NO!” She screamed, and then Sirius had his wand out too, stepping in front of me.

“So you are in together!” James declared, pulling out his own wand and pointing it directly at Sirius chest.  “I’d never have believe it of you but – ”

“STOP IT!” I screamed. Apparently using every bit of strength I had with me created just enough noise that everyone shut up. They were silent. I needed to do something, explain, yell, keel over faint, throw up – anything.  Then somehow my mouth was opening and words were coming out and I was actually speaking. “Nobody’s with anybody! I found out that you were going out to Hogsmeade together yesterday, and I went running off to look for Snape! I’d made a sort of plan by accident, but I was never going to use it! I never would – never. So then I told Snape that! I told him that I’d never do anything in a million years because I cared about you too much, and that the only reason my plan would have worked was because you’d be so disgusted at the idea of James believing you actually went near him that you’d go mental! I was just taunting him! I was so angry I didn’t know what I was saying – I screamed at him, and I punched him and then I panicked! Then I ran into Sirius and I was a complete mess!  Then I told you, Lily! I didn’t write any note! He used my plan against me to get back at him! It’s my fault because... because I was stupid and didn’t tell him to fuck himself earlier, everyone just needs to lower their wands and calm the fuck down!”

And just like that... I’d done it.

I’d fixed something.

Sirius lowered his wand (which was still pointing at Lily) and shoved it back in his pocket. James glanced at Sirius briefly, before lowering his own wand but keeping it in his hand. For a few glorious seconds I genuinely believed that the whole ordeal was over and that what looked to be the biggest cock-up in the history of the universe had been prevented when I looked at Lily...

 She had lowered her wand, but was still glaring at me with her green eyes alive with fire and anger.

“The fact that you’d even -” she began, but just then I took another step backwards away from her, onto nothing. For a second my foot hovered in mid air and then I started to fall. My foot met the first step a split second afterwards, but by then it was too late – my body was already tipping backwards over the steps.

Sirius eyes widened in horror and Lily’s wand clattered to the floor before my arse hit the sixth step down, but I didn’t stop there. I tumbled over, my leg twisting painfully underneath me as I rolled and tumbled my way down the steps. Each contact I made with the stone sent a spasm of pain through me and I was very vaguely aware that I was bleeding from somewhere because there was a hot liquid dribbling down my forehead. I could feel each limb as it collided, and it felt like everything was going in slow motion – I could feel the exact way I was falling and see the steps flying past me as if the whole thing had been slowed down. Of course it hadn’t, and it was all really going at such and impressive pace that it barely took me twenty seconds to complete my descent.

I hit the third floor corridor legs first, which crumpled beneath me, and then I felt my head crash into the solid stone of the floor. “I’m...” I began attending to reassure them that at was fine... but the words died on my lips as everything went a delicious and welcome shade of black.

 


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