Chapter 3 : Hell at your Heels
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I opened my eyes and took in the thick maroon hangings above my head, momentarily confused as to where I was. Then it all came rushing back to me, the hectic week following my arrival at my new school.
I still couldn’t believe that I was actually here. I had been told about my future marriage as a very young girl, so it’s not like I didn’t know this was coming. But I suppose when I was younger playing dress up and imagining my future husband this day seemed very far off in the future.
Yet here I was, about to begin the first day of my last year of education. I let out a heavy sigh as a single tear made it’s way across my cheek, the only sign that I mourned the loss of a full and complete education.
When I had been younger the idea of an arraigned marriage had seemed much more romantic. I mean, what little girl didn’t dream of her very own prince charming coming to rescue her from her old life. And my parent’s had found a prince charming for me! I had spent years dreaming of what he would be like, and constantly pestered my parents for information about the mysterious stranger that would one day be my husband.
But as my questions were answered throughout the years it seemed my excitement dwindled. Throughout the years I had come to understand the true expectations of my parents. I was to be an obedient heir provider and little else. And with this realization came a growing resentment of my parents and their lifestyle and beliefs.
Who were they to put this sort of pressure on me? And all to maintain their lavish lifestyle. Because sure I was a pureblood, one of the few in fact that went to her school in America, as very few British pureblood wizards chose to live in the United States, her father apparently being the exception. But they were by no means wealthy. My father’s job allowed them to live the lifestyle my parents loved, but secretly my family’s years of “old money” inheritance was dwindling daily. Therefore there was even more pressure upon their only daughter to marry rich and well and keep my families good name in tact.
I let out another sigh and rolled over. Deciding I could no longer lay in bed, reveling in my own despair.
kicking the blankets from myself, earning a curious glance from my sleeping companion at the end of the bed and padded across the room to the bathroom. Mumbling grumpily to myself about being pushed onto the farthest bed from the bathrooms, and nearest to the door of the 6th year girl’s dormitory. Then again, I thought to myself, what else should I expect? Barging into this school 6 years late.
I reached the shower and turned the water to hot, letting steam fill the room and my skin turn pink under the hot water. I scrubbed at my skin, trying to rinse all thoughts of my parents and my family down the drain with the soapy remains of my shampoo.
I turned the water off and grabbed a towel just in time to hear a high-pitched scream coming from the dorm. wrapping the towel quickly around myself I ran to see what the emergency was.
The scene in front of me was far from what she expected. Peeking out from my half open bed curtains was the familiar face of my dog, Bensi, and standing across the room, face white as a ghost and finger pointing accursedly towards my bed was one of my new roommates, the one from the bed next to me if the disheveled covers/hangings of the bed beside my own were any indication.
The other girls in the room were sitting straight up in bed, obviously startled into wakefulness by the same screech that had me running into the room. The pale girl pointed her finger from Bensi, to me, and back again. Opening and closing her mouth as if words just refused to leave her mouth before she managed a strangled “Dogs aren’t allowed at Hogwarts!!!”
There was a shocked silence before I managed to reply, “Umm yeah, Dumbledore mentioned that when he gave Bensi special permission to come with me to school.” I explained, cheeks turning red with embarrassment at the attention I was getting from these girls who I didn’t even know.
“well, I think he’s cute.” Came a soft voice from one of the beds, looking over I noticed the mousy girl who had spoken, she had soft blonde hair that barely grazed her shoulders and bright blue eyes. Though she covered the lower half of her face with her comforter in apparent embarrassment.
“Cute?!” The original screecher screeched yet again. “I’m not sharing a room with that… that… thing!!” She stomped her foot angrily to emphasize her point.
“Fine. Sleep outside. Because Bensi isn’t going anywhere.” I bit out angrily, eyes flashing in anger at this unnamed enemy, daring her to challenge me. We locked eyes angrily for a few hard seconds before she sighed and looked away angrily.
“Get over it Bridgette,” so much for unnamed enemy I thought to myself, “It’s just a dog, he seems pretty well behaved too.” Came another, stronger voice to my rescue, turning around I met eyes with the same red head who had taken me on an incredibly long tour of the castle just the night before. I remembered she was in some position of power, Head Girl I think?
“What are you doing here Evans?” The girl named Bridgette spat back, looking even more enraged at the appearance of the pretty red head.
“I heard a lot of screaming and wanted to make sure everyone was okay. And you can watch your attitude or I’ll have to give you a detention for insubordination. Now quiet down in here and control yourself.” She turned to leave but as if remembering something turned and faced me directly. “Oh and Charlotte” she continued “McGonogal wanted me to tell you that your petition to take 7th year Potions, Transfiguration, and Herbology was accepted, and those courses will replace their 6th year equivalents on your time table.”
I could feel the other girls incredulous eyes on me again and blushed. Managing a small “Thank you.” At which the kind girl smiled and retreated from the room.
Once she was gone the tension was tangible after the door closed with a soft click. And I quickly changed into my new school robes and grabbing my book bag and Bensi’s leash, we quickly excited the room. Him wagging his tail happily by my side, completely unaware of the tension he had just escaped.
We made our way through the common room and out into the halls, still quiet as breakfast hadn’t even started yet, a quick glance at my watch told me it was only 6 in the morning, meaning breakfast wasn’t for another half an hour. Which was perfect as I needed to take Bensi on his morning walk before breakfast anyways. We made our way down to the entrance hall and then out onto the grounds.
We made our way down to the shore of the lake, and turned to examine our surroundings, picking out trails that would be perfect for our ritual of an early morning run, something that Bensi and me looked forward to on a daily basis.
Deciding that the next day I would get ready earlier to do exactly that, we made our way back to the castle slowly, breathing in the cool morning hair, and relishing the nip of the cold dewy air on my skin.
I had always loved early mornings, the sense of solitude and peace that hung in the air seemed more magical to me than all of Hogwarts.
I reached the great hall again and noticed that students were starting to enter the Great Hall, the early risers making their way to breakfast. I hurried back up the staircases to the common room and let Bensi off his leash, I quickly set up a bowl of water and food for him, and his travel dog bed in the common room in front of the fire where I knew he would be comfortable. I then bid him farewell and then raced back down to catch the end of breakfast.
I got there just in time and McGonagall handed me my timetable. There were pretty slim pickings so I satisfied myself with a couple slices of toast and some warm coffee. A quick glance at my timetable told me my first class of the day was 7th year potions, followed by 7th year Defense Against the Dark Arts, then lunch, followed by 7th year transfiguration. The next day I would start with Charms, followed by History of Magic, and finally 7th year Herbology. Not a bad schedule. I had decided to only focus on the things I might need to survive in life after school, hence me being ahead in Defence, Transfiguration, Potions, and Herbology.
I realized it was rather quiet around myself and looked up to see the last persons back disappear out of the Great Hall. Blanching I realized I would be late to my first class and scrambled to get my things together.
When I finally managed to find the potions classroom the professor was already explaining the potion we would be working on today. And everyone turned at my entrance.
“Ah! Miss Rouse I assume?” I nodded, and the professor smiled largely at my, though I doubted he could do anything small considering his massive size. And indicated for me to take a seat, “Welcome to seventh year potions! You must be exceedingly talented to skip a year, eh?” He asked congenially, at which I shrugged, not sure if I was meant to respond, and taking the only available seat in the room, which was in the back of the classroom next to a rather greasy looking Slytherin.
The boy gave me a curt nod before turning his attention back to the front of the class. I did the same.
“So as I was saying, last year we had quite a few interruptions,” At these words his eyes flicked around the room, most likely at said troublemakers. “And therefore this year I will be assigning parters, and these partners will be the same for the rest of the year. So no complaining!” He said loudly over the grumbles of the class.
I had to say I was pretty relieved to hear this. I had feared that I would have to partner with the boy sitting next to me, and not only did he look menacing and unfriendly, but I was relatively sure that he was a friend of Regulus’, which made me feel as if I was being spied on, even though the boy honestly didn’t seem to be paying any attention to me whatsoever. In fact he seemed to be staring fixedly at the back of a head of familiar red hair…
“So without further adu,” Continued the professor whom I just remembered name is Slughorn after a rather pregnant pause, “Your partners are as follows. Erwin Sandars and Elizabeth West, Lilly Evans and James Potter, Severus Snape and Nora Ringwood, Marlene McKinnin and Alice Lockwright, Sirius Black and Charlotte Rouse, Remus Lupin and Miranda Wisen, Rebecca Smith and Jason Simmons, Mark Mahill and Jenny Soho. Now partner up everyone and complete the potion on the board by the end of this period” And with a flick of his wand the directions appeared on the blackboard behind him.
I was in shock. Had he said I was partnered with Sirius BLACK? What were the chances of there being two Black’s in one school who weren’t related? Oh god. There’s like no chance right?
And then it hit me like a ton of bricks, unfortunately that was at the same moment that the person in question slid hesitantly into the seat next to my own, for I hadn’t moved an inch since Slughorn had announced whom my partner would be. I looked up into his face and was stuck dumb instantly.
His brother. His OLDER brother. But, that meant that… But then why? I quickly glanced down at his robes and was surprised to see that he was in Gryffindor. But then that makes sense doesn’t it? I reasoned with myself, obviously on the verge of a possible mental breakdown at having arguments with myself. If he’s in Gryffindor he probably doesn’t believe in all this blood purity nonsense, Regulus had informed me of Gryffindor notoriety for producing vehement opposers of his dark lord. Apparently while it didn’t really matter which house I was sorted into (again a sentiment from my dearest betrothed) it mattered which house the Heir of the Black fortune was in, and where his loyalties lied must have played a part in his disinheritance.
A hand was waving in front of my face, and I blinked, meeting the stormy grey eyes of my fiancés brother. Who smirked arrogantly at me.
“Yeah, I have that affect on a lot of women.” He said, amused by my comatose state.
I blinked and looked down at my lap, trying to contain my mix of confused emotions. I chanced a glance around the room at Regulus’s mate Severus and was relieved to see him deeply invested in his potion and paying no attention at all to this side of the room. I looked back at Sirius and managed to finally find my voice.
“Hello. I’m Charlotte.” Good Job! You can talk! Sort of obvious but still, basic meet and greet thing to say. Kudos schitzo. I ground my teeth and told the critical voice in my head to mind its own damn business and was surprised to hear a soft chuckle come from my partner.
“Yeah. We met yesterday on the train. You sort of crashed into me and my mates compartment, remember?” And I did remember, but I didn’t remember him. Surely I would have remembered him? Recognised him? For he looked hauntingly like his younger brother, or I suppose it’s that his younger brother looked like him? Either way. The resemblance was striking. But while Regulus was slightly shorter and broader, Sirius was tall and thin, the classic rock-star build, and of course their eyes, probably the most striking differene, while Regulus’s eyes were a dark unforgiving brown, Sirius’s eyes were a deep misty grey.
“Um yeah, right.” I said, once again pulling myself out of my own thoughts. That was a nasty habbit I would have to break… “Sorry about that, I was sort of…in a rush.” I ended lamely.
“In a rush to jump out of the window if I recall correctly”
“Oh… erm, yeah. I was just kidding about that.” I said, embarrassed by yesterdays rash escape attempt/confession to random strangers.
“No you weren’t.” He said shortly. Shocking me. I figured he would just accept my obvious lie out of common courtesy, apparently I was wrong. I was trying to come up with something to say when he turned toward the board and began pulling out the needed ingredients out of his supplies. I decided that rather than responding the safe thing to do was let it drop and just try to get through this potion in one piece.
And I did. In fact we got through the potion splendidly considering we started 5 minutes after everyone else in the class. But we weren’t the last ones finished and our potion certainly wasn’t the worst. In fact Slughorn smiled and rose a triumphant eyebrow when he took a sample of our work at the end of the period.
I rushed out of the class at the end of the period, wanting to have as little interaction with the handsome boy I was bound to for the rest of the year as possible, but apparently the universe had different plans for me because I had barely made it through the door when the tenacious Head Girl had linked her arm through mine and slowed me down to her leisurely pace.
“He likes you, you know.” She said cheerfully, shocking me so greatly my eyes nearly popped out of my head. “Slughorn, I mean.” She continued without noticing my initial mistake. “That’s a good thing, even if it doesn’t seem like it. He surrounds himself with the students he deems will be successful after school, I’ve been told he has excellent connections and can really help his favorite students career-wise after they graduate.” She explained quickly as we made our way leisurely to Defense Against the Dark Arts, Lilly’s pace was so slow in fact that we had been passed by new potions partner and his friends, and I was trying extremely hard not to watch the back of his head as he walked.
“I don’t think any of Slughorn’s connections will help me after school.” I replied without thinking twice.
“Why is that? Are you going to move back to America?” She asked curiously.
“Huh? Oh no… It’s just, I won’t be working is all. It wouldn’t be seen as proper.” I burst out laughing suddenly at the mental images that had come unannounced into my mind, “It would be quite amusing if he did help me though, can you imagine me coming to Slughorn because my husband wouldn’t agree to my choice of living room curtains,” I burst out into another fit of giggles, “Or asking his for advice because he’s bringing his mistress with us on vacation! Oh…” I frowned suddenly, “I just made myself sad.”
Lilly let out a surprised laugh before asking, “Are you serious? You are a weird girl Charlotte Rouse, but I like you.”
“Ummm thank you,” I returned her friendly smile, “I like me too.” I smiled as another surprised laugh burst from her smiling lips.
“I think we’re going to get along just fine” She concluded as we finally made it to class. To my surprise Lilly followed me to the front of the room and took the seat next to me. I guess I had made a friend, and without even trying! I thought to myself with a small smile.
I was surprised yet again as the seat on the other side of me scraped back and I turned to see a boy with shaggy blonde hair and a kind smile taking a seat next to me as well.
“Good morning,” He smiled politely at me. “Do you mind if I join you guys?” He asked.
“Of course Remus, have you met Charlotte?” Lilly responded, taking the initiative to introduce me, which I appreciated, it was always awkward being the newcomer.
“I haven’t actually, I’m Remus Lupin, and it’s nice to meet you.” He smiled warmly at me before turning to Lilly, “So how was potions? You and James managed not to kill each other I see.”
“Just barely.” Lilly mumbled angrily making Remus and I laugh, even though I wasn’t exactly in on the joke. “I can’t believe Slughorn paired us together for the whole year! It’s bad enough that he’s Head Boy this year.”
“He said you two got along well yesterday.” He said, shooting her a questioning look, at which Lilly sighed heavily.
“I’ll admit it wasn’t half bad working with him yesterday, and in potions he didn’t bug me as much as he usually does. I just can’t stand all of the Marauder bullshit!” She said suddenly very passionate, before she turned apologetic eyes upon the boy next to me and continued, “No offense, of course…”
“None taken, trust me. I can see why you don’t like them, and I can myself admit that the pranks can be rather childish.”
“Then why do you participate? Honestly Remus, for such a stickler I sometimes forget you’re a marauder at all…”
“Honestly? Because it’s fun.” He replied with a grin and a boyish twinkle in his eye that I admired.
“What’s a Marauder?” I asked, feeling extremely out of the loop.
“A Marauder is an immature, inconsiderate, moronic young boy who is such an attention whore he isn’t satisfied with the entire female population drooling over him and therefore is forced to take part in juvenile pranks that are usually not only a serious safety hazard but a completely unnecessary distraction from school!” Lilly answered vehemently. Her loud rant had caught the attention of the majority of the class and I could feel eyes on us, the tension was driving me insane so finally I replied.
“Wow. That was…passionate?” I tried. At which both Lilly and Remus burst into laughter, at first I was sort of confused, but found their laughter to be contagious and soon joined myself.
Our professor entered the room to three quite hysterical teenagers in the front row and immediately reprimanded us, but I enjoyed myself for the first time in days, so I didn’t care.
The rest of the day passed rather uneventfully. At lunch Lilly insisted that I sit with her and her friends, though I didn’t really participate much in the conversation, it was nice to feel included none-the-less.
Finally the end of transfiguration marked the end of my first day of classes. It had been a rather long day, and I couldn’t wait to get back to the Gryffindor common room and see Bensi, and as tired as I am from classes I’ll need to take him out for a little TLC. I’m afraid he won’t adjust well to life at a new school, especially one so far away from warm and sunny California.
Finally I reach the common room and climb through the portrait hole. I’m greeted by a happy woof and Bensi is bounding towards me. I instantly drop to my knees and scratch behind his ears happily accepting the many kisses he bestowed upon me. “Heeey Boy, you have a good day? Huh?” I ask as he wags his tail happily in reply. “Let me go drop off my bag and change and we’ll go on a walk yeah?” I ask. It’s always been my habbit to talk to Bensi and ask him questions, some people found it odd, but he was my favorite companion, how could I not talk to him? Therefore I was surprised when an answer came from in front of the fireplace where I had placed his dog bed this morning.
“That’s a cool dog, Charlotte, he’s yours?” I jumped a little, although I don’t know why I was so surprised to have someone interrupt me and Bensi’s conversation, after all I was in the common room after class hours, of course I wasn’t alone. I looked over and met the sparkling brown eyes of Remus Lupin, my new found friend in Defense Against the Dark Arts. But he wasn’t alone, sitting with him were three other boys, one of whom was Sirius Black, one had messy brown hair and glasses, and the other looked very out of place considering he was much less handsome than his companions and was pudgy and pale.
“Yeah…” I replied, thinking anyone who had just witnessed my conversation with Bensi should have surmised that he was in fact my dog, but knowing he was being polite I just smiled and answered, “How’d you guess?” I asked bemusedly at which the boys seemed to chuckle.
“It’s usually people only bring cats and owls to school, but I’ve always had a soft spot for dogs,” Remus said, smiling mischeviously at his friends, whom all found his comment much more hilarious than I did, “What’s his name?”
“Bensi” I replied, suddenly feeling awkward, still standing next to the entrance to the common room, having a conversation with Remus while his friends all watched on, not really participating. Was I supposed to introduce myself? I wondered anxiously, damn you social anxiety!
“Benny?” The chubby boy questioned, confused.
“No. Bensi. B E N S I” I repeated, trying to annunciate the syllables phonetically before spelling his name out loud.
“That’s an interesting name.” Commented the bespectacled boy with a Grin “I like it. I’m James by the way, James Potter. And this is Peter, you’ve already met Sirius right?” He asked politely. I shot Sirius I quick glance before nodding and shooting them all a smile.
“Right. And I’m Charlotte. I guess you guy’s have already met Bensi…” I trailed off, not knowing what to say, luckily Bensi let out a small whine from next to me and I was reminded of my promise. “Well, I promised this guy a walk so… It was nice meeting you guys. I’ll see you in class” I added as an after thought as I made my way up to my dorm to quickly change and drop off my school supplies.
I pulled on my favorite pair of forest green track pants and zipped up my white jacket as I made my way down the stairs and then across the common room and out into the halls. Bensi and I made our way down seven flights of stairs and finally out into the rapidly cooling evening.
The sun was still out, although it was dipping ever closer to the horizon in the west. Once we made it out of the castle I stopped to take a deep breath of the fresh air before we started off at a jogging pace down the slopes of grass towards the trail around the dark lake. By the time we made it to the trail we had picked up the pace and we looped once, twice, three times at the pace I had dubbed in my head hell at your heels pace before finally slowing back into a jog and making our way back up the sloping lawns towards the castle, just as the sun began to set beneath the horizon.
Upon entering the castle I realized dinner must have just started, as there were a few students entering the great hall to the right. I blanched as I recognized the strong profile of Regulus Black, and by the look on his face he had noticed me as well. I self-consciously tucked some loose hair behind my ears, suddenly aware of my disheveled appearance.
Regulus made his way towards me, eyes scanning my messy hair, extremely casual attire, and face flushed from the cold air whipping my skin. I hadn’t realized I had frozen like a deer caught in the head lights until he was right in front of me.
“Charlotte...” He acknowledged with a disapproving frown, “What were you doing outside?” He questioned, although I felt it was pretty obvious what I had been doing considering my attire and the dog leash in my hand. Bensi was sitting at my side patiently, if not somewhat tensely, he hadn’t yet warmed up to Regulus.
“I was just taking Bensi for a walk… although it ended up being more of a run. I didn’t mean for you to see me like this.” I ended lamely; color rising in my cheeks as I once again tucked loose hair behind my ear. To my relief he seemed pleased by my embarrassment, and even reached out to my cheek affectionately. This took me off guard, although we were engaged there had been very little to no courting in our relationship, and to my embarrassment my cheeks flamed red again under his touch. I hadn’t expected that, or the goose bumps that broke out along my neck and arms.
“That’s alright.” He chuckled lightly at my reaction to his touch, before bending closer to continue. “But in the future I would appreciate it if you would keep these…runs, in hours where others won’t see you in such an unladylike state?” It was posed like a question, yet we both knew it was a demand. I nodded meekly, ashamed at myself for being attracted to such a domineering man. “Oh and that reminds me, I’ve caught word that you are partnered with my dear brother in potions.” My breath caught in my throat, so Snape had told him after all, of course he would. “I understand it was out of your control, unfortunate as it may be that you share his house and therefore some classes, but I would like to make it clear that I do not want to hear of you socializing with him, or any of the other Marauders. They are a bad influence, do you understand?” He asked, face only inches from mine. It was all I could do to nod under his intense stare, so unlike his brothers I couldn’t help but think even as he turned to walk away, most likely to dinner.
“Oh and Charlotte?” He asked before I made my way up the main staircase.
“Yes?” I replied, turning back to him.
“Green suits you.” He said with a smirk, before turning to dinner.
As I made my way back up the endless flights of stairs, I couldn’t help but think that this year was going to be much more complicated than I had ever foreseen.
A/N- Just to clear up any confusion this chapter, and most chapters in the future are going to be from Charlottes perspective, although there will still be a few from Sirius and other Characters perspective in the future, hopefully it will be obvious enough for everyone to pick up on it! Anyways I hope you all enjoyed this chapter! Dramatic enough for you? I appreciate any feed back I get so thanks for reviewing!
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