Maybe it’s #6. Or maybe #7, or even as high as #10 or #20. I lose count, especially when it’s of my failures. After all, who wants to be reminded of those?
Anyway, this one’s a doozy. Not only did I not have any success, but incredibly enough (or not, when you look at how my luck generally goes) it went entirely the other way and now she hates me.
Let me tell you what happened. It was this afternoon and I’d made up my mind to just do it. Find her alone somewhere and ask her out. Or snog her, or something. Anything that would stop this stupid impasse that’s come up because I always chicken out.
It was Moony’s idea originally. “Try this afternoon,” he said at lunch time. “She usually heads to the library after Ancient Runes so you might be able to cut her off on the way. Those corridors are usually pretty quiet.”
I thought about that, stealing a look at her down the table where she sat, eating lunch, totally oblivious to my predicament. “I guess I could try …” I said doubtfully, thinking I would probably end up losing my nerve like I did every other time I tried to say something. What if she turned me down? That didn’t bear thinking about.
Anyway, I did decide to give it a go. Those passageways were fairly quiet, like Moony said, and it was unlikely that we’d be interrupted. Maybe it might actually work out, you never know your luck. So at about the time Runes would finish I made my way to that part of the castle, Marauder’s Map in hand, hoping to run into her before she made it as far as the library. Far too many people there to say anything to her; I didn’t want this to be overheard.
I was halfway there when I heard footsteps behind me. Just what I needed - a witness. It was the wrong direction to have been Laura and there wasn’t anyone else I wanted to see. However I turned around, curious to see whether it was just Filch or whether Prongs or someone had come to find me, to see a girl I’d never seen before almost sprinting towards me. Young, maybe fifth or sixth year, but I didn’t know the face. Didn’t really want to, either, by the looks of her.
I moved to one side of the corridor to let her pass – after all, if she was in that much of a hurry then I didn’t want to keep her – but it appeared to be me that she was after. Don’t tell me, I thought. Not another giggler. Not now.
Unfortunately it appeared that that was exactly what she was – a new recruit or something, going by the fact that I didn’t recognise her. And she didn’t want to get past me, she wanted me. I could guess what for but really, could the timing have been worse? That is, it was flattering and everything, but I would really have preferred it if they were a bit quieter about it all. Especially when I was trying to get my bottle up to approach Laura at long last.
It didn’t take long for her to reach me, and when she did she pretty much attacked me, jumping up with her legs around my waist and her arms around my neck like a noose and trying to get a snog out of me. I had to hold onto her to stop her from falling but I needed to get out of this. Fast.
Just then, though, Laura came around the corner. The timing couldn’t have been worse. It would have looked awful – this girl hanging off me and while I’d been trying to get rid of her it probably looked like we’d just been hard at it. And there I’d been trying to get the guts up to ask her out, and she would be thinking that I’d been getting busy with some other girl I’d never even seen before.
Laura stopped and stared at us in shock. I managed to get rid of the giggler but she kept coming back to me and trying to make it look like we were a couple or something, while all the time Laura just stood there and looked at me, so reproachfully I felt like I’d been torturing puppies or something. “It wasn’t what it looked like,” I said hurriedly, pushing the giggler away impatiently.
She raised her eyebrows doubtfully and I could tell she didn’t believe a word. And the bloody giggler just came back to me and tried to get her arms around me and said something like of course it was what it looked like. “Why don’t you want to admit that we’re together now?” she asked, a stupidly soppy look on her face.
“Because we’re not,” I pointed out irritably. I looked back at Laura, hoping against hope that she would believe me. “Honestly, Laura, there’s nothing going on here.”
She was still gazing at me, but she didn’t look shocked any more, more a little angry, though I wasn’t really sure. I didn’t really trust myself to work out what she was thinking, I tended to get it way wrong. But then she spoke, and each word was like a knife in my heart. “Why should I care who you’re snogging, Sirius? Do what you like. It’s no skin off my nose.”
Please, no, I thought. Please care. Please maybe even be a little jealous. Anything but this. “But we weren’t,” I said desperately, still trying to rid myself of the infernal giggler who had probably ruined everything. “Laura, honestly, we weren’t.”
“Right,” she said, still obviously not believing any of it. “Whatever. I don’t really care.” And she left. She didn’t even look back. That was it.
Well, it looked now like every hope had been in vain. She didn’t see me that way. She probably never would.
The giggler was trying to climb on me again and this time I didn’t care if she got hurt, I just hurled her away to get rid of her once and for all. I had the awful feeling that she had just ruined my life.
“That hurt,” she said accusingly as she picked herself up from the floor.
“Tell someone who cares,” I snapped at her. “You’ve done enough damage for one day.” And I pulled out my wand and pointed it at her. “Stay here for one second longer and you’ll regret it,” I said ominously.
Fortunately she didn’t need telling twice and she hurried away from me, in the opposite direction Laura had gone in. I put my wand back away and punched a suit of armour, so hard that it collapsed on the floor with a rather satisfying crash that masked the sound of my swearing. Not only had it gone badly, but Laura doubtless thought I was having it off with some nameless giggler and had absolutely no idea how hard I’d been trying to get close to her. Everything was going wrong.
I stomped my way back to the classroom on the fourth floor where Prongs was planning the next prank on Snivellus, scowling at everyone on the way. How could it get screwed up so badly?
Moony looked up as I came in. “How’d it-” He stopped abruptly when he saw my face.
“Bloody gigglers,” I grumbled. “Bloody jumped on me and now she thinks that I’m shagging one of them.”
“What??” James looked horrified.
“Yeah, well, I got ambushed. And then Laura walked in on us at just the wrong time. It would have looked terrible.”
Moony looked at me thoughtfully. “Hufflepuff girl, maybe sixth year, blonde?”
I nodded. “Sounds about right.”
“That would explain that,” he went on. “I heard her telling someone that she’s going out with you now. I wondered why anyone would be saying that.”
“She’s WHAT??” I shouted.
“You heard,” Moony said. “Looks like we’re going to have to do some damage control.”
I shook my head resignedly. I’d never end up with Laura at this rate. Not if this sort of crap kept happening. “Yes, well, Laura would believe her,” I said bitterly. “Honestly, she could not have come across us at a worse time.”
“Cheer up,” Prongs said bracingly. “I’m sure it’s not as bad as all that. And anyway, you can explain it all at supper tonight, right?”
So it’s supper time and I’m keeping an eye out for her, hoping that she doesn’t baulk at the sight of me or anything. Let’s face it, she didn’t look impressed this afternoon and I can understand that – if anything, one would hope I had better taste than that. And more style than just getting it off with someone in a corridor; at the very least you find somewhere you can close a door. After all, anyone could walk down a corridor, Dumbledore and McGonagall included, and Merlin only knows I don’t want to put on a display for them.
Anyway, soon enough the girls all come in en masse, sans Laura. My eyes dart to the main door but there’s nothing to see – she doesn’t appear to be coming late. Actually, she doesn’t appear to be coming at all.
My heart sinks and I can’t stop myself from asking the question. “Where’s Laura?”
Lily shrugs as she takes her place by James. “She wasn’t feeling well so she decided not to come down,” she says. “She didn’t sound too good so we just left her.”
I look at Mary Macdonald in case she knows any more – as Laura’s best friend she might have some more insight – but she appears to simply agree with Lily’s summary.
“Shouldn’t she be with Madam Pomfrey then?” I ask. After all, if she’s ill then she needs to be looked after. And besides, if she’s in the hospital wing I can go and see her, which I can’t really get away with if she’s stuck in her dorm.
“Not that ill,” Lily says, laughing. “She’s just worn out from studying too much and needed a rest. I’m sure she’ll be fine in the morning.”
Well, that’s a relief. What a night for her to be feeling ill, though – just goes to show how my luck’s panning out. Not that I like her not being well at all, but if it had to happen, why did it have to be tonight? Now I’ll have to wait till tomorrow to explain things to her. Assuming she’s feeling any better then, of course.
“Calm down,” Prongs mutters quietly. “It’s not the end of the world.”
Yeah, you can say that, I think, because you didn’t see her face this afternoon. Not the end of the world? It sure feels like it.
The next morning’s just as bad. She doesn’t show up for breakfast, either, and I’m ready to head up to her dorm, obvious or not, just so I can make sure she’s okay. But then Mary explains that she is coming, she’s just running a bit late. Very late, by the looks of things – she’s not made an appearance by the time we finish our breakfast.
Moony’s completely unconcerned and he’s poking through his bag looking for something. “Damn,” he says eventually. “Forgot my Transfiguration homework. How about I dash upstairs to get that and meet you guys outside the classroom?”
“Fine,” I say dully, registering vaguely that maybe I should do the same and spend the time looking for Laura instead. This misunderstanding is really eating away at me – I even had trouble sleeping last night – and I want to make sure that she completely understands that it wasn’t what it looked like. That is, she should know that by now, with the other girls knowing the score, but you never know. I have to be sure.
Anyway Moony takes off and the rest of us take our time finishing up. I’m loathe to leave because if Laura’s coming late, I don’t want to miss her, so I string it out as long as I can. Eventually, though, even I can’t make excuses to hang around any longer and we head out into the Entrance Hall.
Suddenly we stop dead. At the top of the stairs is Moony, with his arms around Laura, and she’s hanging off him like the giggler was hanging off me yesterday. Moony. With Laura. That bloody bastard …
Before I can say anything though they’ve disappeared and Prongs puts a hand on my shoulder to stop me going after them. “Don’t make a scene in front of her,” he says warningly, and I realise he’s right. But still … I never thought Moony would ever break the code like that. He KNOWS what she is to me. How he could dare lay a finger on her …
I’m going to kill him. I swear, if he’s made a move on her, I’m going to kill him.
“And I’m taking that,” Prongs says, taking my wand out of my hand. I hadn’t even realised I’d got it out. “I don’t want you killing either of us over this – we’re not the ones who broke the code.” I look at him and he gestures towards himself and Wormtail. “When Moony gets back, though, he’s fair game.” His face is dark and he looks furious – almost as furious as I am.
We don’t have to wait long. After only a few minutes Moony’s back downstairs, looking a bit apprehensive. Prongs grabs him by the collar and pulls him into an empty classroom, closing the door and making a point of giving me my wand back before he lets rip.
“WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?” He’s pointing his wand right at Moony’s face and I hope he doesn’t hex him too badly just yet. Not that I don’t want Moony to suffer, more that I want to be the one who does it.
“It was nothing,” Moony protests feebly. He looks pretty scared, and for good reason. We’d thought he was our friend! And then he goes and does something like that? He’s lucky he’s still in one piece.
“Sure as hell didn’t look like nothing,” I snarl, my own wand joining Prongs’ on his temple.
“Yeah, you’d better have a damn good reason to fudge the code like that,” Prongs adds, giving his wand a flick.
Moony ignores the fact that he’s just been given a Hair-Thickening Charm and tries to look resolute through the bushes that were once his eyebrows. “It was nothing,” he repeats. “If you’d just hear me out …”
“Fat chance of that,” Wormtail says.
“Actually,” Prongs says loudly, talking over him, “I want to hear this. How he tries to worm his way out of it. So go on, Moony, explain yourself.” His voice is like ice and if looks could kill Moony would have been dead ten times over already. We don’t see Prongs this angry very often, and if we needed reminding how hard he can be this is a good example of it.
“I haven’t fudged the code,” Moony says helplessly. “I didn’t break any rules. Not one. Come on, I helped write them, why would I break them?”
I push my wand further into his forehead. “Not good enough,” I snarl. “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t curse you into next week right now.” My blood’s boiling – the very idea of him getting his hands on Laura, when he KNOWS what she means to me, is eating away at me and I need to see him punished. More than the Hair-Thickening Charm. I start wondering if Crucio would make him suffer enough …
“It’s Laura,” Moony says quickly, his voice loud like he wants to make sure we all hear him. “She’s in the hospital wing. I took her to the hospital wing, she got hit by a jinx and fell down the marble stairs and needed to get fixed up. That’s all it was.”
I take a step back and my wand falls out of my hand and clatters to the floor. Laura’s been hurt?
“You’re sure about this?” Prongs is saying doubtfully. “She’s in the hospital wing?”
“Yes,” Moony says, the colour coming back to what we can still see of his face. Wormtail says the counter-jinx for the Hair-Thickening Charm and his hair starts receding again. “Go up there and check if you don’t believe me,” Moony goes on, looking encouraged. “When I came out of the Great Hall she was at the bottom of the stairs covered in blood, she’d been hit by a Trip Jinx and fallen. So I cleaned her off and helped her get to Madam Pomfrey. That’s all. Marauder’s honour.”
“She’s okay now, though?” I have to know. “She’s going to be okay?”
“I’m sure she’ll be fine,” Moony says, looking relieved.
“You’re sure?” I hiss. “What does that mean? Didn’t you wait to find out?”
“Well,” he points out, “I kind of wanted to get back to you lot and explain what you saw before you jumped to any conclusions. I knew what it would have looked like.”
My mind is going at a million miles an hour. “She fell down the marble stairs? Those ones, just outside here?” I gesture helplessly at the door. “How badly was she hurt? Why didn’t you conjure up a stretcher or something? What if you did even more damage by making her walk?”
Moony finally relaxes as he can see that we do believe him. “She had a busted ankle,” he begins, screwing his face up as he tries to think about it. “All red and swollen. That was why she was leaning on me to walk. And she was worried about her ribs, too, she thought they might have cracked. And a few cuts and bruises.” He looks helplessly at me. “I didn’t even think of a stretcher, Padfoot,” he continues apologetically. “If I had, I would have done it. But I’m sure she’ll be fine, those are the sorts of things that Madam Pomfrey can fix in a jiffy. She might even make it to Transfiguration.”
I smile grimly. If anyone knows what Madam Pomfrey can fix, it’ll be Moony. “Hang on,” I say sharply, something having just occurred to me, “she got hit by a Trip Jinx? Who did it?” And wait till I get a hold of them, too. Hurting Laura is completely unacceptable.
“Alecto Carrow,” Moony says. “Yeah, I was surprised too,” he goes on quickly. “But apparently it was her. So if you want to curse anyone …”
“Believe me, I will,” I say, hearing the menace in my voice and finding my wand in my hand again. I don’t even remember picking it up but there’s something comforting about holding it. If I can hurt Carrow as much as or more than she hurt Laura, it might start to make up for what she did.
Moony’s looking at James now. “All okay?” He clearly wants to make sure there won’t be any lingering issues from this.
“All okay,” Prongs says, clapping him on the shoulder. “Though you can understand why we reacted like that …”
“Of course, of course,” Moony says. “But really, it was entirely innocent. I wouldn’t touch her. You know that.”
I pick up my bag and open the door, ready to head up the marble staircase. “Well, I’m off.”
Prongs looks up at me. “Uh, Padfoot, Transfiguration’s that way.” He points beyond the Great Hall.
I shrug. “I’m going to the hospital wing.”
“Is that a good idea?” Prongs says sharply. “Look, Madam Pomfrey probably won’t even let you in.”
“Well, where’s the Cloak then?”
“No,” he says. “You’re not using the Cloak for this.”
I stare at him. “Why not? You would if it was Lily.”
“She may not even be there,” Prongs points out. “Like Moony said, this is the sort of thing Madam Pomfrey just fixes straight away. So you’d be better off going to Transfiguration because she’ll probably be there anyway.”
“And speaking of which, I really do need to dash upstairs and get my homework,” Moony says. “Meet you there?”
“Right,” says Prongs. “So come on, you two. Off we go.”
Conceding defeat, I allow myself to be led to the Transfiguration classroom.
Halfway through the lesson, I come to the conclusion that I shouldn’t have bothered.
I’m not normally one to skive off a class, especially not one as easy as Transfiguration, but I just can’t keep my mind on the job. Thing is, of course, that Laura’s not there. Which means she must still be in the hospital wing, which means that she’s still hurt . And all I want to do is be able to go to her and hold her and make sure she’s okay – and if she’s not, help her get there. As a result, my brain just isn’t in that classroom, and unfortunately McGonagall notices.
“That’s the fourth time I’ve had to repeat a question to you, Black,” she says tersely, bringing me back to reality with a jolt. “Please see me afterwards to organise a detention.”
Great. Detention on top of everything else. And if I have to see her after class that gives me less time to run over to the hospital wing to check on Laura. “Yes, Professor,” I say dully, realising belatedly that the rest of the class have their textbooks out. Oops. I dig around in my bag and find mine, checking Prongs’ to work out where it’s supposed to be opened at. Too soon though my mind starts wandering again and I don’t even realise that the lesson’s over.
“Here,” Prongs hisses, pushing something into my bag. “Now go see McGonagall.”
The detention she sets is fairly standard – Thursday night, cleaning out the Owlery (without magic, of course) – and I say as little as possible so I can get out of there quickly. I have an inkling of what Prongs has put in my bag and, once outside the classroom, I check. I had guessed right – it’s the Cloak. So without further ado I pull it on over my head and rush to the hospital wing.
Laura’s the only one in there, and she’s asleep. I was being extra quiet but now I see it’s not necessary, though of course she might wake … would that be a good or a bad thing? Still with the Cloak on, I sit next to her bed and try to work out whether she’s still hurt or whether she’s just resting. She looks gorgeous - lying on her side with one arm outside the covers, her hair partially covering her face. A vision of peace and tranquillity. I brush some hair away from her nose and mouth, feeling the softness of her skin as I do so, and I even get up the guts to pick up her hand and kiss it. If she wakes up, I think, so be it – at least it will be out in the open. But she doesn’t, she just sighs a little and keeps on sleeping.
I could sit here for hours, I realise. Of course, Charms is on in five minutes, and I consider skiving off, but eventually the sensible part of me concludes that I should probably do the right thing. After all, she might need a hand catching up that class, and if I can help out …
I don’t want to leave her, though. Not without knowing whether or not she’s actually still hurt. Torn, I stand by her bed for at least a minute, trying to decide what to do. Eventually the rational side wins – it’s what she would do if it was her, after all – and I go to Charms, but not before I’ve stroked her hair one more time. After all, it might be the closest I ever get so I want to make the most of it.
As I’d feared, she never comes to Charms either, and I’m beginning to despair of seeing her – awake, at least – at all that day. And even though I’m watching the doors of the Great Hall like a hawk at lunch time, I’m genuinely surprised when she walks through them, seemingly unharmed. So she’s okay! Oh, thank Merlin. I realise how tense I’d been when I feel myself relaxing and, when she seems pretty much the same as always, I really let myself breathe out. She’s still not really talking to me, though, so I can’t be sure if she knows that disaster yesterday was all a misunderstanding.
Finally, as we head to the greenhouses after lunch to tackle Herbology, I’m able to get a word in.
“Look,” I start, “about yesterday …”
She cuts me off. “What, that giggler thing?”
Oh thank goodness. She does know it wasn’t real. “Yeah, that,” I say. “You know she was a giggler, then?”
She nods, looking a little confused, maybe as to why I’d even be bringing this up. “Yeah, I know,” she says. “It did look like something else, though.”
And that’s been haunting me ever since, I think, groaning. “That was the worst possible moment you could have chosen to interrupt us,” I explain. “Any other time and it would have been obvious what was going on. And I didn’t want you to think …”
Think what? What was I going to say? I don’t even know any more. Think that I’m going out with anyone else? Anyone who’s not her? I’d love to say that but I’m really not getting the right vibe from her – if anything, she’s almost hostile.
She talks over my thoughts. “Really, what does it matter what I think? It’s your life, you can do what you like.”
Because what you think matters enormously, I want to say. Because what you think can determine what I think. And as for doing what I want … well, she has no idea what she just said.
“But …” I trail off again. I really want to say something that lets her know how important this is to me, but I can’t find the words. And if I’m honest with myself she’s not exactly being encouraging. I’d hoped this would go so differently.
“Look, Sirius, I can understand you not wanting anyone to think you snogged a giggler,” she says. “That would open up way too big a can of worms. But aside from that, what difference does it make?”
NO, I want to shout, you’ve got it all wrong! It’s not about who the girl was!! It’s about who saw it! It’s about you!
I try again, realising that we’re nearly at the greenhouses so I have to make her see as quickly as I can. “There was nothing there. I had absolutely nothing to do with it. I just wanted you to understand that.”
She doesn’t even look at me. That’s how unimportant this is to her, she doesn’t even bother to look at me. Instead she quickens her step to reach Mary Macdonald. “Fine,” she says as she walks away. “I understand.”
And that’s unsuccessful attempt #6. Or #7. Whatever.
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