Chapter 4 : Meetings in the Dark
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I groaned slightly, shifting uncomfortably on the stiff mattress. This felt nothing like the bed that was in the dormitory. It felt like I had been sleeping in St. Mungos or the Hospital Wing…I slowly opened my eyes, squinting at the bright sunlight streaming through the wide windows, and realized that was exactly where I was. The painful white of the Hospital Wing had always bothered me, as well as the irritating clean, sanitized smell that just reminded me of all the sick people that had been through this room before. That had slept on the same bed as I had. I grimaced, and turned quietly, only to have my eyes rest on the sleeping blonde in the cot beside me.
She really is beautiful, I couldn’t help but think as I studied her curiously. Her long blonde hair was falling slightly in her face, enough to where I found myself reaching over and tucking it behind her ear. Laila wrinkled her nose at the touch, but continued to sleep soundly. A fresh dusting of freckles was splayed on her petite nose, and her lips were full, reminding me of the innocent, naïve smile that would sometimes grace her heart-shaped face. Her eyes were still closed, so I couldn’t see her pale eyes, but they were filled with so much wonder, so much kindness that I was sure she would be so easy to break. I frowned, and shook my head. These cheesy thoughts were surely going to be the death of me. I, however, still couldn’t stop myself from gazing down at her. And felt my body stiffen as I remembered when I had found her in the Common Room.
It had been late, and James, Remus, Peter, and I had been out setting up a diabolical prank on the Slytherins the next morning, one that James and I had been talking about for ages. We had been snickering at the thought of the look on those slimy gits’ faces when my eyes found her petite body, folded up in front of fire. A rush of cold had overcome me, and I barely even remembered walking over to her. Remus had been the next to notice, and, like always, told Peter to get Madame Pomfrey and took control of the situation. It was the bloody Prefect coming out in him, I was afraid. The look in her eyes when she had woken about five minutes after Wormtail had left had been enough to freeze my insides entirely; like she had been to hell and back, and was practically petrified of the events she had been forced to witness. The girl had one hell of a past, I thought, frowning again and hesitated before stroking my hand down her soft hair once. Remus had mentioned it before, but it seemed the only person who knew anything about what had happened to Laila was her cousin, and there was no way I was getting any information from her. Maybe I could just corner her, beg her for information about Laila so I could figure out—
Wait a second, I thought, forcing the rest of the movement in my mind to stop as well. What the hell was I doing? I barely knew this girl—I’d only met her a couple of days ago—and here I was, trying to figure out like she was some damn puzzle. No way was I going to succumb to this crazy desire and become obsessed with this girl. She was some girl I barely knew, and I couldn’t do anything to get involved with her. Call it cowardly, but she was too…innocent to be involved with the shit I had to deal with. Not to mention I didn’t need some long-term commitment. I wasn’t James, I wasn’t Remus. I didn’t want some relationship like that. I just, I just had to get out of there.
So, that’s exactly what I did. I got onto my feet, pulled on the shirt I had discarded the night before, and got the hell out of the Hospital Wing. Just as I had closed the large, wooden doors, I realized that I had completely forgotten the cloak that had been tucked around Laila’s slim form; however, when I thought of her scent surrounding me, and the warmth from her body embedding itself into the material, I shook my head and continued to the Great Hall. As soon as I entered, I looked around, hoping to find someone that could help me. I ignored the concerned looks on my friend’s faces, and found the beautiful, curvy body of the blonde Hannah Batali. At seeing her blonde head, I quickly frowned and turned to a different girl, one with brown hair and just as gorgeous of a body.
“Hey, Anne,” I said, smirking down at the attractive girl, who girlishly giggled as soon as I approached her. “What are you doing tonight?”
A heart-warming, smooth cologne lightly tickled my nose as I shifted in my bed, pulling my blankets closer around me. I frowned briefly, realizing that these blankets weren’t as soft, nor as thick, as the ones in my dormitory. Not to mention it seemed…brighter in the room. Like the walls weren’t the typical dark maroon that I had grown used to. My eyes flittered open, and I glanced around me, realizing that I was, of course, in the Hospital Wing. Last night’s events swarmed my memories, making me cringe. I groaned, and put a hand to my forehead, remembering how I had passed out in the common room, and shook my head. I glanced down at my body, and realized that, underneath the white and blue blankets, a black cloak—much longer than any cloaks I owned—was wrapped around my body, tangled at my feet.
My face blushed a bright red as I remembered Sirius being involved with last night, and instinctively glanced to the cot next to me, where Sirius had been sleeping the night before. I frowned at the empty bed, the blankets tossed aside like the person once sleeping in that bed had left in a hurry. Biting my lip, I realized that he had left. It was silly, of course, to be upset, but he could have at least waited until I woke up, to at least make sure I was okay. I understand that I sounded oversensitive, but, honestly, he hadn’t seemed like the type who would just walk out like that.
Not to Clarissa, I thought wryly, and sighed, shaking my head. I was stupid, really, to think that he would ever be interested in a silly girl like me. A girl who literally had not said a word to anyone since she was nine years old. The only talking I did was when I performed a spell, and, even then, I simply mumbled the incantation under my breath. Sirius was a popular, extremely good-looking man who was much more interested in the girls that swooned at his mere presence. Not a girl like me. I had realized this, but my heart still ached slightly at how I had been hoping that, maybe, he was different than I had expected.
The doors to the Hospital Wing pushed open, and I looked up quickly, hoping to find Sirius walking towards me with that arrogant smirk on his face, but my heart slightly dropped when, instead, I found the beautifully concerned face of my cousin. She was wringing her wrists, a nervous habit she had picked up when she had first arrived at Hogwarts. I smiled weakly up at her; she barely returned it, though, and instead threw her arms around me in a tight hug. “You silly girl,” she whispered in my ear as she pulled away and grabbed a metal stool that Madame Pomfrey had used the night before. Clarissa ran her fingers through her dark hair, her hands slightly shaking I noticed, and looked into my eyes sharply. “Why didn’t you tell me that something was wrong?”
I shook my head, staring down at my knees. I couldn’t bring myself to say anything to her; I didn’t want to see the hurt in her eyes about how I had been hiding the nightmares from her, hiding the fact that they had gotten worse the past couple of days.
“Mum and Dad know,” said Clarissa quietly, and I looked up at her, my eyes wide. They were already worried enough—they didn’t have to have the agony of wondering if I was losing my mind here in Hogwarts. “We’re all worried about you, Laila. You have to tell me if something’s wrong. If something seems off, or you need help, I want you to find me, okay? Or else I’m going to tell Mum and Dad about what you’ve been hiding from them.” I swallowed the ball in my throat, tears beginning to sting my eyes. I couldn’t bring myself to tell them about some of the details I had left out from my story to them, about the night I slowly began to lose my voice. With this in mind, I slowly nodded, barely noticing her squeezing my hand.
One week went by, and I hadn’t heard a word out of Sirius Black. I had made sure that the only time I saw him was at meals, but even then I sat as far away from his as possible, and made sure to eat quickly to go back to Gryffindor Tower. It had been easier than I had initially expected as Sirius hadn’t made it his priority to speak to me, or to even ask me if I was alright. His friends, however, had shot me numerous concerned glances, as if they were worried I would collapse on my feet and would need to be swept off to the Hospital Wing once more. Fortunately, I had managed to keep my nightmares only to myself—they sprouted up four times that week in the middle of the night, and I was forced to lay awake, staring at the ceiling and wishing that something could just take it all away.
On an early Tuesday morning, I awoke to find the rest of the girls in my dormitory still fast asleep; I got to my feet, grabbed my uniform, and headed into the bathroom, rubbing my sleepy eyes. It had been another sleepless night, and I was sure the circles under my eyes had darkened considerably. I took a long, hot shower, closing my eyes throughout the process and imagining that I was at home, by myself, and relaxing in the bedroom Aunt Louise had put together for me years ago. After the shower, I dressed and pulled my damp hair into a loose pony-tail. When I left the dormitory, the other girls were slowly awaking from their deep slumber, unaware that I had just finished getting ready.
I descended the staircase, and glanced over at the plump couches sitting in front of the dim fireplace; I hesitated when I noticed a dark head of long hair sitting there in a lazy position, and relaxed when I saw that it was only some sixth year. I thought of the rumors floating around that Sirius was now dating some Hufflepuff, a pretty girl with a name like Aimee or Annie or something like that. I hadn’t seen them together, thank Merlin, but I could just imagine what they looked like when they were sitting together or worse, even kissing. I shook my head, ridding my mind of any thoughts about Sirius, and headed to the Great Hall.
It was nearly empty, and I was relieved, so I could simply eat my breakfast in piece. Just as I was spreading some marmalade on a piece of toast, the double doors opened and I barely glanced up to see who had entered. As soon as I did, I immediately regretted my decision. James, Sirius, Lily, and a pretty brunette who I was guessing was Sirius’ new friend all walked into the Great Hall, chatting and laughing like they had no worries in life. Bile began to burn at the back of my throat, and I placed my untouched toast on my gold plate, suddenly losing my appetite. I pulled out my textbook for Potions—my next class—and began to read it closely, repeating each written word in my head slowly so my slow mind could comprehend what I was reading. It was only until I heard a tinkling giggle that I forced myself to peek to my right and see Sirius’ girlfriend laughing at something that was not so funny to the rest of her group; James and Lily were exchanging glances, while Sirius’ eyes were on…me.
I immediately ducked my head down, my long, blonde hair acting as a curtain around my face, and, after a few seconds, decided to tuck it away and make my way down to the Dungeons. I hated it down there since it was always freezing and the damp, cool air always made it difficult for me to breathe. But, it sounded better than sitting there with Sirius’ unreadable eyes watching me and making me feel like my chest was seizing up. I swear, I felt like I couldn’t breathe, like someone had just sat on my chest and stopped my lungs from working. So, I clumsily slung my bag over my shoulder and, my head still down, shuffled around the abrupt amount of students in the Great Hall and into the Entrance Hall. I felt my breath slowly come back to me, and let out a long sigh; after this, I descended the stone staircase to the Dungeons, where Professor Slughorn would be waiting for his class, unless he was in the Great Hall, eating his breakfast. I flinched as soon as I thought of this—it had never even crossed my mind that I would be completely alone in that cold, dark Dungeon. I suppressed a shiver, and ignored the knots in my stomach as I left the staircase and walked down the corridor.
“Well, well, well,” came a sudden voice, making me jump, startled at the fact that I was not, in fact, alone. A dark figure emerged from behind one of the pillars, and that slight relief that there was someone else there quickly faded as I looked into the dark, mysterious eyes of Bellatrix Black, Sirius’ cousin who was far from friendly with someone like me. I had heard numerous rumors about how she was fascinated with pushing people over the edge, and bullying them just to see people squirm. Her long, black hair—so similar to Sirius’—did not take away the slightly untamed look in her eyes. “What do we have here? A little Gryffindor who has lost her way?” She stopped when she got closer to me, and I could see her white teeth glinting in the pale lantern light. “And a Mudblood at that.”
I flinched at the tame, and tried to shift to my left, towards the Potions classroom door. I had no idea what on Earth I was going to do, since Bellatrix would surely beat me in any sort of duel, Wizarding or physical, but I just wanted to keep my distance from her. She noticed me moving, though, and brought herself uncomfortably close to my body, her voice sharper than I expected. “Are you trying to run, Reynolds? You couldn’t escape what happened to your pathetic family—what makes you think you can escape me?” she asked, and my entire body went cold. How did she know? How could she know? Only Clarissa, the Professors, and I knew about that day, there was no way she could find out. Her voice lowered to a whisper, and she hissed into my ear, “I wished I could have been there, to see it all happen. To watch them die, and to see you come so close to it.” My breath was coming in hitches now, and I was sure the room was spinning and becoming smaller all at once. I was sure my legs were about to give out, but she snatched my wrist, her sharp nails pushing into the thin skin as she glared down at me with such malice, such hatred that my heart squeezed painfully.
“Let her go.”
The words were so loud in the Dungeons that they ricocheted off the walls, repeating in my ears numerous times. Or maybe it was just the surprise of seeing the dark, seething face of Sirius Black suddenly appearing behind Bellatrix, his wand pushed sharply into the back of her neck. She, however, did not show any fear; she simply smirked at him, as well as James, who was loyally beside Sirius, his own wand drawn. “Oh, my bloodtraitor cousin has come to your rescue,” she said in a sickly sweet voice. Her eyes flitted between James and Sirius, clearly weighing out her decision. “I pray we meet again, Mudblood,” said Bellatrix finally, and she let go of my wrist and shoved me all at the same time, startling me and making me fall back; fortunately, Sirius stopped the fall, his warm hand on my forearm now. His frightening eyes never left Bellatrix’s back until she left, and then they turned on me, and softened in such a way that I was abruptly aware on the tear on my cheeks. I reached up with my left hand and wiped them away hurriedly.
“Are you alright?” he asked quietly, and I glanced at James, who was now offering me a weak smile. The pity in his eyes was shining, making my stomach clench. I turned back to Sirius, and I nodded my head once. I tried to tug my arm out of Sirius’ grip; he glanced down at his hand, and dropped my arm somewhat reluctantly.
I stared straight into his eyes, my heart thudding in my chest from my close proximity with him, and gave him the coldest stare that I could muster up, despite my tears. It appeared to have some effect, as a startled look happened on his face and he took a step back. I turned on my heel and waltzed into the Potions classroom, trying to keep my dignity even as I trembled in the darkness.
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