Chapter 22 : Betrayal
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Violets white cat, Mozzie, was sleeping contentedly at the end of my bed near my feet – though its owner was nowhere in sight. I hadn’t seen Violet in our dormitory since the night of the Masquerade, though I could tell by the different states of disarray that her bed was in every morning that she was still sleeping here. I merely assumed that she crept in at night after we were all asleep, and was nothing but grateful that I didn’t have to deal with the stupid wench.
My stomach grumbled lowly and I realised for the first time that I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. I glanced at my clock and knew that dinner would have been served by now. I was deathly nervous about meeting any of my friends in the Great Hall – but my stomach was protesting too much to delay.
I chanced a look in the mirror first and found I looked an absolute mess. I had dirt smeared across my face and knotted through clumps of my hair – and the marks left by Greybacks claws were smeared red with blood. I stumbled my way to the bathroom and ran myself a scorching, hot shower – scrubbing every inch of my body to rid myself of the dirt, and using Violet’s entire bottles of shampoo and conditioner that she had left lying around.
After scrubbing my skin raw I stepped out of the shower, wrapping a fluffy, white towel around myself and throwing the wet, empty containers on Violet’s mess of a bed as I went back into the dormitory. I rummaged through the trunk at the end of my bed, searching for something that would hide the scars on my neck, which were still painfully red and swollen, as well as the smaller fingernail marks on my arm. I settled on a grey, high-necked sweater dress with a pair of warm, black tights and my favourite boots.
I tied my hair up into a ponytail and coated my eyelashes in a million coats of mascara before tramping out of the dormitory.
The common room was empty; I guessed all of the students would be at dinner by now. It wasn’t until I stepped through the entrance to the stone corridors that I was met by a sight that set my heart pounding furiously.
Bellatrix, Rodolphus, Evan and Lucius were standing in a group, speaking in hushed whispers. Their heads jerked upwards at the sound of me and Lucius said a quiet word to the other three, giving me a pointed look through narrowed ice-blue eyes before turning on his heel and walking in the other direction.
In an instant I was met by a wand unfalteringly thrust in my direction.
“How could you!” Bellatrix shrieked madly as she advanced on me – her black eyes wild with anger. I recoiled instantly, my mouth dropping in disbelief.
Rodolphus was standing a little behind Bellatrix – looking torn between whether he should hold his girlfriend back from me, or allow her to carry on. Evan stood further back, leaning against the stone wall – his arms folded across his chest and his head turned away as he refused to meet my gaze.
“I’m sorry, Bella – ” I started, my eyes warily dancing between the tip of her wand which was shaking in her trembling grasp as she pointed it at me, and the deranged look etched upon her face “I thought you’d understand”
Bellatrix scoffed in disbelief “Understand what, exactly? That you’re a blood-traitor? That you betrayed us for those Gryffindor low-lives! Merlin, I can’t even look at you – you make me sick”
“Give me a chance to explain!” I countered as she lowered her wand and turned abruptly from me, running her hands madly through her mass of dark, curly hair. I could hardly believe that she would ever think that I had betrayed her.
“Save your breath – I don’t want to hear your pathetic excuses” She spat in return as silent tears of rage began to trickle down her pale face “What happened to you, Alex? You were supposed to be my sister”
I had always hated the sight of Bella being upset – as it was an awfully rare occurrence. I swallowed the thick lump that was forming in my throat as threatening tears began to prickle at my own eyes.
“You know I always will be – nothing’s changed”
“You’ve changed!” Bella screeched in response. Rodolphus moved to stand behind her, rubbing his hands up and down her slim arms consolingly.
“I thought that this was what you wanted? The purification of the Wizarding World was what we always dreamed of” She choked out, almost pleadingly, through her tears.
It was then the tears began to spill thick and heavy on my own cheeks “I don’t know what I want anymore” I answered her honestly, quite unable to meet the disappointment in her eyes.
Her jaw clenched at once – a spark of anger flashing across her usually beautiful face “It’s because of that blood-traitor, Black, isn’t it?” She questioned furiously, spitting his name as if it was a foul taste on her tongue “Because he took it on himself to save you from the Dark Lord, as I’m sure he thinks he has – and you were stupid enough to let him poison your mind against us!”
“I’m not against you, Bella! How could you even think that?” I countered, the sound of my voice rising with my temper.
She snatched her arms away from Rodolphus, advancing on me once more “Because you turned your back on us the moment you Apparated!” She shrieked at me – her raven curls falling over her shoulders wildly as she did so “You made an enemy of me the second you decided that you wouldn’t fight with us!”
I closed my eyes tight though the hot tears continued to squeeze out of them as I shook my head in desperate disagreement.>
“No...” was all I managed to choke out through my tears as both an answer to her accusation and to the cruel realisation that no matter what I said – I was going to lose my best friend.
“And now Greyback’s on your trail and there is nothing that I, or any of us can do to help you” Bella whispered harshly, her voice straining through her tears “I’d rather you were dead than disgraced like this”
I let out a disbelieving gasp – hardly believing the words that had just come from her mouth. How could she hate me so much that she wished I were dead? She swept past me and through the entrance to the common room before I could say another word.
“If you’re not with us you’re against us, Ally” Rodolphus spoke quietly, his head bowed as he followed behind his girlfriend and my hand immediately flew to my mouth, attempting to stifle the painful sobs that had started and now refused to cease.
I had an awful stab of pain in my chest which I knew, beyond doubt, was the feeling of my heart breaking.
“Don’t cry, Alex” Evan spoke lowly as he pushed himself off of the wall, and for the first time fixing his sapphire-blue eyes on me “You’ll make this so much harder for me”
“Then don’t do it” I pleaded, my voice low and trembling with my crying “Please, Evan – I-I can’t lose you too”
Evans eyes flashed with a sudden anger – an unmistakable sign that his temper was flaring up “I have no choice, Alex! You brought this on yourself – how could you abandon us like that?” He questioned – his bright eyes searching my own for any hidden answers.
“I didn’t mean to abandon you! I just... I couldn’t go through with it” I answered, quite unable to meet his unnerving gaze.
“Is it because of Sirius Black?” He asked bitterly “Because he asked you not to?”
“No! Why would you even-“
“Don’t lie to me, Alex!” Evan interrupted with an impatient growl, and I recoiled at his harshness “I heard from Lucius’ own lips that he helped you get out of Hogsmeade today”
“I-I...” I stuttered in my loss for words – quite taken aback by Lucius’ damned lucky guess. Clearly he was more perceptive than I had given him credit for.
“You what, Alex? You have no more lies to cover yourself this time?” Evan snapped and I instinctively stepped back as he advanced on me, until I was very much cornered against the cold, stone wall of the corridor.
“I was willing to wait for you” Evan whispered harshly down at me as he leaned both hands against the wall on either side of me “To wait for your heartbreak over Lucius to pass – but it seems I was a fool for thinking that you could ever love me”
“You know I love you, Evan – just not in the way you want me to”
In an instant, Evan had struck his fist hard against the stone wall in fury – my gaze dropped down instinctively as he let out a furious groan of pain – I couldn’t bear to face him when he was so angry.
I could clearly see the scarlet blood trickling down from the wounds on his knuckles before he shoved his hand under my chin, forcing my head up and my eyes to meet his own.
“Love means nothing now!” He growled furiously and my eyes squeezed closed tightly in pain as his large hand grazed the tender wounds on my neck “Look where it got me – nowhere! You have no idea how much I loved you – what I would have done for you!”
The pressure of his hand on my neck grew stronger and I had barely managed to choke out his name before he let his arms drop to his side submissively.
“I have no choice but to forget you” Evan spoke lowly, half turning to walk away from me before I grabbed him by the arm to pull him back and spoke through my tears which had began to fall thickly once again.
“No – Merlin knows that we have our petty fights from time to time. But we could never be enemies!” I reasoned, trying desperately to make him understand that it didn’t have to be like this.
Evan let out a low sigh “I’m afraid that decision is no longer in my hands” He said, almost apologetically, as he raised his uninjured hand to my face, gently this time, and my eyes flitted closed at his cold touch as my tears fell over his fingertips.
“It’s a direct order from Travers. None of us are to be associated with you anymore”
I inhaled sharply as he spoke “And you’re listening to him?” I asked blankly – quite overcome by the numbing feeling that was spreading itself through every inch of my body “You’re seriously letting him tell you what to do?”
“He’s a trusted servant of the Dark Lord – I must listen to what he tells me. My father would never forgive me if I didn’t” Evan answered – his voice barely above a whisper as he gently wiped the tears away from under my eyes. Then, he lowered his lips to my own and I let him kiss me softly – one last time.
“You said you’d always be there for me” I whispered shakily against his lips before he pulled away from me – stepping back as if he would pull himself out of the moment before he got lost in it.
Evan shook his head slowly, and dejectedly “I can’t do that anymore”
He gave me a last apologetic look before he turned to walk off down the cold corridor – and I couldn’t help but break as I realised that I hadn’t lost just my best friend, who could barely look at me for all her shame of me – but now my greatest protector. My one friend that had always given me the strength and courage I needed to face anything.
“Then you’re the traitor!” I screamed after him, expecting him to take the bait and turn back “A traitor to me!”
Instead, he put both hands in his pockets, bowing his head as he continued to walk away and I buried my face in my hands, all but tearing my hair out in both anguish and fury as the pain in my chest spread like a coursing fire through my body.
“Evan! Please... don’t do this”
But it was too late – he was gone. And as my heart broke in that stone cold corridor I started to wonder if refusing my loyalty to the Dark Lord was really worth all of this.
I ran through the Entrance Hall, past the open doors of the Great Hall where the students of Hogwarts were eating dinner – happily chatting and laughing with their friends, without a care in the world. My previous hunger was forgotten – replaced instead by the feeling of wanting to vomit.
I slipped through the entrance doors and stumbled out into the cool, night air where I was met by the cold rain that had began to drizzle lightly over the grounds. I knew that being out after dark was strictly forbidden – and that I would more than likely be caught and thrown into detention – but I didn’t care. I needed to be out in the fresh air.
I found a large tree not too far away and sat against the trunk, concealing myself from the castle and cloaked by the protective darkness of the night. I shivered a little as the cold drops of rain dripped down from the barren branches of the tree and onto my face. I brought my knees up to my chest, wrapping my arms around them for warmth before I let the tears fall heavily once again.
The numbness snaking into my mind made me feel like I wasn’t in the real world anymore – but that I was stuck in some incredibly horrid nightmare that I might never wake up from.
My entire body was aching, not with pain but with a kind of grief. I felt like my world was slowly but surely falling apart, and I was powerless to do anything about. I buried my head in my arms, letting the frustrated sobs overcome me as I cried for the loss of my friends.
Bellatrix had been my best friend at Hogwarts – her and I had been through everything together – first loves, troublesome families, the daily battle of school-life. No matter what, we had always protected each other – and it broke my heart to know that she could call me her enemy and wish me dead rather than disgraced, as she so labelled me.
Lucius had been my first love – always the most perfect man in my eyes. And though I hated him for how he had betrayed me with Violet, it still hurt to know that he revelled in the idea of Greyback hunting me down.
Evan had been my first... well, you know. And although I could never return the feelings that he had for me that didn’t mean that I didn’t care about him any less. Forever fearless and resolute – Evan had very much been my strength through a lot of hard times – including the time I had walked out on my own family.
And Rodolphus... well, through thick and thin, Rodolphus had always been there – silently watching and protecting me over all these long years.
And now, it was over. As Sirius had predicted – my friends had turned against me. It made my stomach churn to think how right about my life Sirius Black had been these days.
Hastily, I wiped the mixture of tears and raindrops from my face with the back of my sleeve – turning to face the dark shadow of a figure walking towards me.
“Alex, I saw you run past the Hall – I need to talk to you”
It was Severus – pausing to lean on the trunk of the tree and catch his breath as he had clearly run out onto the grounds after me.
“Not you too, Sev” I whispered lowly, my voice trembling at the thought of yet another person I loved turning against me “Please, not you”
Severus sat down in the dirt next to me and leaned back against the tree trunk – lighting the tip of his wand so that I could see the small, sad smile on his thin lips “I’m not mad at you – if that’s what you’re talking about”
I stared at him disbelievingly “Y-you’re not?”
“Nah – I understand why you did it” He answered, taking my hand in his own and giving it a supportive squeeze “And besides, who am I to judge you?”
“B-but... won’t you get in some sort of trouble for talking to me” I asked incredulously – knowing that if Lucius knew what Severus was saying to me right now, he would be less then displeased.
Severus shrugged his shoulders dismissively “I don’t care. You’ve been there for me through everything – every time the Marauders were complete prats to me, whenever anyone bullied me for being a half-blood. I’ll be damned if I’m not there for you now”
The corners of my lips twitched into the makings of a smile as Severus threw an arm around my shoulders and pulled me close.
“Keep your head held high, Alex. If the others want to judge you for turning the other way, so what? I know who you are – and that’s all that matters to me” Severus whispered encouragingly and I rested my head on his shoulder – thanking Merlin that I still had at least this one courageous friend to support me.
“Thanks, Sev – you don’t know how much that means to me” I breathed in utter relief, closing my eyes as the drops of rain continued to trickle down my face.
“We should get back to the castle – it’s freezing out here” Severus spoke, getting to his feet and reaching his hand down to help me up “Do you want to go get some dinner?” he asked, though I shook my head dismissively.
“I think I’ll head back to my dormitory – see if I can sleep this all off” I answered, feeling utterly exhausted.
I parted with Severus in the Entrance Hall as I tramped back to my dormitory – hoping that perhaps in the morning I would indeed wake to find that it had all just been a bad dream.
I didn’t leave my dormitory for three days.
Hell, I barely even left my bed for three days. Sometime around Sunday morning I had woken to the pain of loss still very much fresh in my mind – and knew that no matter how hard I wished against it, this was my life, and I was very much stuck with it.
The girls of my dormitory treated my unusual lie-in in different ways. Kendra and Isobel hovered around occasionally – whispering to me from the other side of the curtains drawn around my bed – though I never replied, or leaving various snacks and goblets of pumpkin juice on my bedside table.
Bellatrix never spoke a word to me – though I could hear her huffing and puffing around the dormitory every night – more moody and volatile than usual. I thought a couple a times about speaking to her and wondered if she was feeling just as horrid as I was.
And Violet... well, I had almost forgotten that she had even existed. Almost.
In wasn’t until Wednesday, around lunch-time that the curtains of my four-poster were rudely ripped open and streams of sunlight poured into my eyes. Immediately I pulled my covers up over my head, attempting to hide from the light – only to have them dragged back off me.
“Alex-would-you... cut-it-out!” Kendra growled as she fought against me to gain control of the covers, which she had soon hurled off me. Isobel was hovering around behind the curly-headed girl, looking awfully concerned in her ridiculous pearl necklace and wavy, blonde hair.
“Ugh – lemme alone you bints” I mumbled, proceeding instead to bury my head under my pillow and pray to Merlin for them to sod off.
“We’re not leaving without you, Alex” Kendra persisted, snatching the pillow from my hands and adding it to the pile of blankets on the floor “We have double Potions in half an hour and if you’re not there, Slughorn will have your head – as well as mine”
I let out a low groan, turning on my back and glaring at the two girls through my mess of dark hair “I don’t wanna...”
“C’mon, Alex – I’m sick of Sirius Black asking me where you are every in damned class. Today you can explain to him yourself about this cave you’ve been living in” Kendra ordered, wrinkling her nose distastefully at the mess of my bed, before letting out a deep sigh.
I turned away from her, and soon felt the bed sink down a little as she sat beside me and rubbed my back comfortingly “You know, Black told me what happened to you in Hogsmeade in the weekend” She spoke softly and immediately I turned to face her.
“He what?” I questioned incredulously – inwardly cursing Sirius and his damned big mouth. I didn’t exactly want the entire school knowing of my run in with Greyback – I knew that only thing people would say was that I deserved it.
“He’s worried about you, that’s all” Kendra covered quickly, as if that was an acceptable excuse for him blabbing to her “And he knows that Izzy and I share your room”
“I think it’s kind of sweet how he cares so much” Isobel piped up, and I rolled my eyes lazily in response.
“It’s not sweet, Iz – it’s creepy” I muttered, rubbing my eyes sleepily and laying my head back down on my pillow “I can’t go to class, Kendra – Bella and Evan hate me. I just... can’t deal with that right now”
Kendra pushed a few stray curls from her jade eyes “I know it’s hard, Alex – a lot of people are being affected by all this, well, You-Know-Who rubbish. Violet hasn’t spoken to me in days” she confessed, hesitating a little before speaking again “She’s become... well, almost obsessed with Lucius. She’d do anything he asked her to – even believe in all that Pure-blood supremacy crap”
I felt my heart skip a beat as she spoke – I wasn’t exactly thrilled that my roommate was prancing around with my ex-boyfriend. And I could understand why Kendra wasn’t either. From what I knew, her Grandfather was a Muggle – making Kendra a half-blood.
Still, I rolled my eyes lazily “You’re not doing a very good job of convincing me to go”
“If you don’t come I will give Sirius Black the password to the Common Room and have him drag you out himself”
I narrowed my eyes at the petite girl “You wouldn’t”
“Oh yes, I would” was Kendra’s reply as she flicked her auburn curls back over her shoulders.
I let my head roll back dejectedly before I was rudely pulled from my bed and pushed into the shower, where under orders from Kendra I washed every inch of myself before tiredly stumbling back into the dormitory, only to have Isobel attack my hair with her wand – thoroughly drying and fussing around with it.
Kendra rummaged around in my trunk, then after throwing my uniform at me she ordered me to change. Reluctantly I stomped over to the bathroom once more, slamming the door behind me before changing.
When I emerged I was immediately swooped upon by Isobel once again who directed me to sit on her bed while she busied herself with caking on my face with several different pots and vials of makeup.
I complained my arse off the whole time, naturally, though dreaded having to actually leave the dormitory for class when Kendra and Isobel were done fussing over me.
Soon enough, however, I found myself being all but dragged through the door to the Potions classroom where I was met by a vast collection of curious stares. I tried to ignore the lot of them as Kendra pushed me down into the chair next to Sirius with an awfully smug look spread across her face, before taking her seat with her Gryffindor Potions partner at the table behind me.
I could feel Sirius’ unnerving stare burning into me as I crossed my arms across my chest and slumped down into my chair – wishing I was anywhere but there.
“Where the hell have you been?” Sirius questioned me – the concern evident in his tone.
Still, I ignored him – slumping down even further, hoping he’d get the message and leave me alone. The last thing I wanted was for Bellatrix or any one of the other Slytherins to see me speaking to Sirius – especially when they thought he was the reason behind my betrayal.
Sirius cleared his throat loudly before speaking again “What’s wrong with you?”
When I didn’t reply again, Sirius let out a loud sigh before turning in his chair and clearly mouthing something to Kendra. I couldn’t see how Kendra responded but as Sirius turned back around I saw him raise his eyebrows questioningly and looking over in the direction on Bella and James – who were sitting as far apart at their table as was physically possible.
Bella, obviously sensing his gaze on her narrowed her black eyes at Sirius – and then at me. I growled lowly, wishing Sirius wouldn’t draw so much attention to the pair of us.
He soon turned to lean closer to me and spoke in a soft whisper “I’m guessing they didn’t take it too well then?”
I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at his ignorance, yet was spared having to answer him by Professor Slughorn who bustled into the room to begin the lesson – giving me a pointed look the entire time which I took to mean that I was in big trouble for skipping classes the past couple of days.
Since we had double Potions that day the first half of the lesson was spent listening to Slughorn ramble on about various ingredients used in advanced Potion-making while making notes on them. I distracted myself with twirling my quill around my fingers the entire time as I drifted between listening to Slughorn prattle on and getting lost in my own thoughts – having written nothing on my parchment but the date.
I could sense Sirius watching me out of the corner of my eye the entire time, of course, though I paid little attention to him. When Slughorn had finished with his lecture we were given a short break before we were to begin our practical and I took the chance to bolt from the classroom – ignoring the stares of my classmates as I hurried past them.
I pushed my way out through the door – standing in the cold corridor and taking a few deep breaths to compose myself. Soon enough I heard the shuffles of students as they filed into the corridor behind me – either heading to the bathroom or merely stretching their legs. I slipped around a nearby corner that I knew no-one would use, not wanting anyone to bother me.
At once I sunk down onto the stone floor – shivering a little as the cold penetrated my legs through my thick stockings – and rested my forehead on my bended knees. I had never felt so utterly alone in all my life. I meant metaphorically, not literally – as I found myself hardly alone when someone plunked himself down beside me.
I only had to inhale the rich smell of him to know that it was Sirius. He cleared his throat softly to announce his presence and I turned my head a little to look at him – his forehead was creased into a frown as he stared at me through his stormy eyes.
I let my head lean against my knees as I looked up at him “They hate me” I managed to whisper softly, forcing my voice not to break as threatening tears began to burn my eyes.
Sirius didn’t answer – he merely nodded his head in understanding, accepting my explanation for being missing in action the past few days. And then he did the strangest thing. He wrapped his arm around me, grabbing me by the waist – and reluctantly I was pulled against him. Though the warmth that his body provided was welcome, the sudden affectionate gesture was not.<
“Quit squirming around” Sirius ordered after a moment as I attempted to free myself from his grasp. I let out a small groan of displeasure, though after realising he didn’t plan on letting me get away from him so easily, admitted defeat and resigned myself to sitting nestled beside his warm body, stretching my legs out beside his considerably longer ones and letting put a low sigh.
I found it strange how the disgust and pure anger I was so used to feeling whenever Sirius was around had failed to rise in me. I guessed that I was feeling so hurt and not to mention confused from my friends turning on me – that I just didn’t have the strength in me to fight against him anymore. Also the fact that he was no longer trying to curse me but more comfort me didn’t help the matter.
I was suddenly seeing a different side of Sirius – and I was starting to think that maybe... just maybe, it wasn’t all that bad.
For a few minutes we sat in silence – my eyes fixed on a spot on the stone wall opposite me as I fell into deep thought. I could hear Sirius’ steady breathing beside me, and feel the rise and fall of his chest against my shoulder with each deep breath he took. I couldn’t help but find the feeling strangely comfortable, and somewhat hypnotic. It wasn’t until I felt his hand tighten on the side of my waist that I felt compelled to speak up.
“You know, I still think you’re an insufferable prat” I said, meeting his gaze only to find his eyebrows raised in amusement. For the first time I noticed the specks of ice-blue hidden among the misty grey of his eyes, and the light scattering of freckles across his nose that I found myself thinking only made him look even more handsome.
“And I still think you’re a psychotic wench – but what else is new, huh?” Sirius countered and as the corners of his lips twitched into a knowing grin I couldn’t help but let a small smile form on my own lips.
Sirius pushed a few strands of raven hair off of his face. His smile slowly began to fade, replaced by a look that I had never seen on him before. His lips parted a little as if he wanted to say something – but then closed again as he hesitated.
I found myself quite unable to turn away from him – something about the way he was looking at me was so intriguing and unguarded. I know it was crazy of me, but I didn’t want him to stop.
He raised a hand, brushing the back of it lightly against my cheek and I let out an involuntary shudder at the warmth of his skin as my eyes flitted closed for a short moment – feeling quite unaware of anything other than his touch that made every inch of my skin feel like it was on fire.
I felt the pressure of his other hand on the small of my back, and instinctively I let him pull me harder against him – my heart pounding fiercely in my chest as I found my hand resting against his knee. I opened my eyes once more and he lowered his face a fraction closer to mine. I could feel his warm, ragged breath on my lips and his hand gently running through the length of my dark hair – my head had begun to spin lightly, a cloudy kind of feeling invading my mind.
“W-what are you doing” I managed to whisper, quite transfixed by the way Sirius’ eyes darted between my own eyes and my slightly parted lips.
Sirius didn’t answer – instead, he continued to lean closer until the very tip of his nose brushed against my own and a strange kind of electric surge ran through me. At once, I let out a low gasp – pulling back instantly as I suddenly realised the dangerous position I was putting myself in. I let my eyes squeeze shut as I spoke rather unsteadily.
“We should get back to class”
My breath was still escaping unevenly as I let my eyes meet his own once more and found his expression very much changed – he eyes held a look of confusion... or maybe it was disappointment, I couldn’t quite tell. All I knew was that my own head was racing with a thousand different thoughts.
Sirius let out a low sigh before getting to his feet, offering me his hand to help me up. As we wordlessly walked side by side back to the Potions class I couldn’t help but take notice of how Sirius moved alongside me. How he slowed his pace if I walked slower, or moved faster if I sped up – and the way his hand rested on my back for the briefest moment as he shuffled behind me to get to his seat. It was almost as if he thought Greyback was lurking somewhere under a table or in a nearby cauldron – ready to jump out and attack without a moment’s notice.
Professor Slughorn had organised for the remainder of the class a potion for us to work on in our pairs. To say I couldn’t concentrate on making any potion was an understatement – I was so absorbed in my thoughts that I didn’t even know what kind of potion we were supposed to be making.
My body was filled with a torrent of emotions – so much that I barely knew how to keep them all contained. I was sure that Sirius had tried to kiss me out there in the corridor – but what I couldn’t understand was why. We had been enemies for so long, and even though now we seemed to have come to some sort of mutual understanding of each other – that was as far as it went.
I certainly didn’t have any feelings for him – whether they be friendly, or something more.
Sirius didn’t say a word about whatever it was that had happened between us– instead he busied himself with trying to get me involved in the potion-making. However, when he finally realised that I was going to be no help – as I was slumped down in my chair, clearly ignoring everything around me– he spent the time instead trying to make me laugh by purposely sabotaging our potion with various ingredients to make it hiss and steam, bubble and overflow all over our table – and then finally, explode with a loud bang.
I have to say that he had certainly done a good job at diverting my attention – and by the end of the class my grey skirt was drenched from the contents of our cauldron I was forced to bury my head in my book as I laughed in hysterics at the utter failure of our work.
Slughorn bumbled past our table – shaking his head and tutting at our cauldron before telling us we had failed the lesson, only serving to fuel our laughter even more.
I could distinctly see the sharp eyes of Bellatrix as she glared at us from her nearby table – making me feel incredibly uneasy and cease my laughter at once. I couldn’t explain it – but she made me feel almost guilty for laughing with Sirius when she looked at me like that.
When the class was over, I was throwing my bag over my shoulder when Slughorn bustled over to me. I groaned inwardly, wondering what punishment I would be dealt this time.
“Miss Cortez – may I have a word with you before you go” He asked sternly – his gingery-blonde eyebrows burrowed into a frown as he surveyed me through his small eyes.
I gave Sirius a knowing look before following Slughorn to the front of the class, where he stood before the large blackboard and waited for the last of the students to leave before speaking.
“I’ve been notified by your other Professors that you have been absent from your classes this week” Slughorn spoke gruffly and my stomach dropped – I knew that eventually I would be confronted by him for skipping classes.
"Now, I haven’t received word from Madame Mellick that you’ve been ill – so I wonder, Miss Cortez – could something else be the matter?”
Something about the tone of Slughorns voice made me think that he didn’t wonder at all – that he had his own idea of why I had been absent, though I didn’t know what exactly.
“I just... I haven’t really been feeling up to it the past couple of days, Professor” I answered honestly, hoping that he wouldn’t press for too much information.
Slughorn nodded his head, as if in understanding. He clasped his large hands behind his back before speaking again, this time very lowly “I know that some students, particularly ones of my House, are having a difficult time dealing with the new threat of, well, You-Know-Who” he all but hissed the name and I wondered why people weren’t just saying “Voldemort” – as I guessed that was who he was speaking about.
“Some students may think of me as just a bumbling, old fool” he continued – a hint of amusement evident in his tone “But I assure you, Miss Cortez, I do care very much for the welfare of my students. If you are having any problems, whatever they may be, I hope that I can do my best to help you with them”
I suddenly felt an unexpected surge of affection for my old Professor as he smiled at me and I knew that he was genuinely worried about me.
“Thank you, Professor, I appreciate that – but I’m fine now, really” I lied, grateful for his concern but not particularly wanting to divulge any information to him about my meeting with the Death Eaters – information which I knew could land me in a lot of trouble.
Slughorn nodded softly in reply and I couldn’t help but wonder if he was entirely convinced.
“You know, Miss Cortez – I think that too often we Slytherins are misunderstood. We always hear that old Hat of Professor Dumbledore’s ranting on about Slytherins being cunning and power-hungry – and perhaps sometimes that may be so – but that doesn’t mean that we don’t possess any other worthy traits” Slughorn spoke, watching me very seriously “I’d say that we hold great ambition, and determination – wouldn’t you agree? Confidence, charm, forward-thinking – these are all merits that the students of Slytherin House possess and value”
“But even with all of that, you should never let anyone define you by your House alone – remember that you’re free to make your own path in life. And if you should ever decide that you need someone to talk to, just remember that my door is always open” He spoke kindly and I nodded gratefully in reply.<
His words definitely did have a way of making me feel better about myself and I realised that maybe because I had no intention of joining the fight against Muggle-born Witches and Wizards, didn’t exactly mean that I had failed in the name of Salazar Slytherin.
“Also, I’d appreciate it if you would attend all of your classes from now on – this is an important academic year for you, Miss Cortez, what with N.E.W.T’s coming up and all” Slughorn added, more sternly this time as he wagged a stumpy finger at me “By the way – have you given any more thought to which career you may pursue upon graduating from Hogwarts?”
I shook my head in reply – in truth, I had given no thought whatsoever to that subject – and I didn’t plan on it anytime soon. Right now all I wanted to do was make it through this year – hopefully in one piece if I could continue to elude that damned beast, Greyback – and I would worry about the topic of my career when it was all over.
“Well, it’s getting a little late now but I’d like for you to let me know as soon as you have decided so that we may plan a new study path for you if need be” Slughorn replied in a clearly disapproving tone.
“Yes, Professor – I’ll do that” I answered rather falsely – yet Slughorn seemed satisfied enough with my answer as he dismissed me and I hurried from the classroom before he decided to give me a detention or two.
After an uncomfortable dinner in the Great Hall which consisted of Kendra, Isobel and I huddled at the end of the Slytherin table, receiving unwanted, questioning and bitter stares from a number of different people including certain Slytherins, Gryffindors and one particular Ravenclaw, I spent some time hiding away in a corner of the library with both girls – pretending to catch up on homework now that I no longer had Bellatrix to take care of it for me.
Though what I was really doing, as Kendra and Isobel had their heads bent over their parchments writing furiously, was just writing random words with my quill every now and then to make it look as though I was busy when really I was trying to figure out my mess of a life.
I couldn’t think of any other way to prevent Bellatrix and Evan hating me but to join Voldemort again – which I most certainly could not do. My only comfort in this situation was knowing that I still held the friendship of Severus, which I was most grateful for.
Rodolphus, I knew, would most likely go along with what his girlfriend and best friend would do, mostly being too lazy and unwilling to decide for himself. Lucius had already made clear his disapproval of me and Regulus and Rabastan I could only guess would be made to turn against me as well. I thought then that perhaps Narcissa, seemingly having no part so far in Voldemorts uprising may still be with me – but I knew deep down that she was easily swayed by her sister’s harsh instruction.
And then there was Sirius Black. I knew that Evan and Bellatrix’s anger towards me was fuelled even more by the sudden closeness between Sirius and I. I couldn’t even put a label on it myself, which served to confuse me even more.
We weren’t friends, though we weren’t enemies – and we certainly weren’t anything that the supposed rumours going around were depicting us as. So where the hell did we stand? And why the hell did I care about the answer to that question?
All this caring about people and trying to figure them out crap was beginning to do my head in. I thought maybe I could consider finding a nice cave in a mountainside somewhere where I could live my life as a hermit and not have to worry about anyone other than myself. Merlin knows that would make my life a hell of a lot easier – even if I would miss things like electricity, and beds and personal hygiene.
I had just began contemplating how to tell Professor Slughorn my desired career path was to become a hermit when there was a loud ‘pop’ in front of me and I almost fell out of my chair in fright.
Perched in the middle of the table was a small House-Elf, with large furry ears and a little, knobbly nose. I noticed immediately that the elf – dressed in a white, linen cloth which tied over one shoulder – looked considerably better off than the ones that served the Black household at Bellatrix’s house.
The little elf, it seemed, had knocked Kendra’s bottle of ink over the parchment she was currently writing on, though neither Kendra or Isobel had seemed to notice as they were gawking at the creature almost as stunned as I was at its sudden arrival.
“Miss, Miss!” The elf shrieked at Kendra in a voice I clearly recognised as feminine “Nelly has a message for you, Miss – from Master Black”
Kendra’s eyebrows burrowed into a dark frown “You have a message for me – from Black?” She asked disbelievingly – her tone clearly convinced that the elf had made a mistake.
“Yes, Miss – Nelly has a message for Miss Alex, from Master Black” Nelly squeaked and Kendra could barely stifle a giggle as she pointed a slim finger past the elf and at me.
“That is Miss Alex” She answered Nelly who turned to stare at me through eyes that were as large as saucers and a deep shade of purple. They seemed to twitch rather oddly as she surveyed me.
I raised my eyebrows at Nelly “You have a message from Sirius?” I asked, wondering why on earth he would need to commandeer a House Elf to get a message to me.
“No, Miss!” Nelly squeaked, moving hurriedly across the table towards me and leaving a small trail of ink-stained footprints behind her “A message from Master Regulus – he asks that you meet with him at once”
A/N: Sooo... any thoughts? Ugh, it took me ridiculously long to edit and finish this chapter because no matter what I was still not happy with it. I just feel like maybe it's not... enough? Does anyone know what I mean?
Also sorry if anyone's like 'ugh' at the whole Evan kiss haha but I was trying to see things from his perspective and think well if he's basically saying goodbye to the girl he's in love with what would he do? I hope that's a good enough explanation!
Pleeeease review I love reading every single one of them you reviewers are awesome xo
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