Chapter 13 : Good News for People Who Love Bad News
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“So, long story short -”
“That was the short version?!”
Vivian blissfully ignored Dollie’s exasperated exclamation and continued her narration, “The night before I leave, we're lying on the beach and Kwame gazes into my eyes and purrs in that sexy baritone of his, ‘Miss Vivian, quiero estar contigo para siempre. Que me dejas?’ and I giggle demurely with just a hint of seduction and whisper, ‘Darling, el destino tiene otros planes para nosotros. Que no se interponerse en su camino’.”
“Is this story about to get subtitles any time soon?” Lily inquired to no avail.
“And then, well, as you can imagine -”
“I’d rather not,” Dollie groaned.
Vivian threw her arms up in the air and fell onto her bed with a sigh. “Isn’t that the most romantic story you’ve ever heard in your life?”
The question, rhetorical or not, was only met with blank stares. If she was expecting anything more, she certainly didn’t get it. Such non-response wasn’t received too well.
“You know what, both your hearts are made of stone! Cold, hard stone! Neither of you would know romance if it got down on one knee and proposed to you in the Great Hall! So you can just sod off!” She leaped off her bed and stormed out the dormitory.
“A tad miffed, isn’t she?”
Lily shrugged. “She’s been like that since before the term break.”
“Really?” Dollie’s eyebrows rose in surprise. “I hadn’t noticed anything before this.”
“You weren’t around very much. I’ve been getting the brunt of it but she shuts off every time I confront her about it.” Stroking her stuffed lion’s mane, Lily’s sad face suddenly lifted into a smile. “But her story did sound lovely, from what I could make of it anyway. Just my luck that two of my best friends got to have a romantic Christmas while I was stuck at home with my gem of a sister. She’s got a boyfriend now, can you believe it? A muggle she met at work. Wouldn’t stop talking about him the entire time I was there.”
“You’re joking. Petunia? Is the asylum for the Criminally Insane missing a patient?”
“Don’t be mean,” Lily chided but giggled anyway. “She showed me his picture. He’s no prize, I can tell you that.”
“Not surprising. But come now, Lil, you had Snape, didn’t you?”
“Sev doesn’t count.”
“Why, do you know something we don’t?”
Lily’s cheeks coloured and Dollie knew she went a bit farther than she should have. Lily hated it when the subject of Severus Snape came up, especially when they had nothing nice to say about him. She tolerated their distrust but cruelty for the sake of being cruel was something she wouldn’t stand for.
“Don’t, Dollie. Please.”
Lily knew she was. Dollie never apologised unless she truly meant it. Her green eyes twinkled, signalling that Dollie was still in Lily’s good graces. Unfortunately, that also meant she had another topic in mind, a topic she knew would make Dollie squirm.
“So how was it? Spending Christmas with Lupin?”
The memories came flooding back through her mind, not that they really ever left. Christmas day had been wonderful by itself but the days that followed were, as cliché as it might sound, truly magical. She couldn’t really explain it herself. It was as though the dynamics between them had shifted, the awkwardness almost all but gone, replaced by a sense of affinity. It was almost like they were proper friends now. Perhaps it had been all those nights together, she mused silently. She wondered whether it was because there was no one else around but them that induced him to let her in like he had. She didn’t want to dwell too much on what happened during daylight, when Shooting-Starr would insert herself and thus make Dollie feel like the sore thumb.
“It was... nice.” She tried hard to sound casual but the smile she could feel spreading across her face gave her away.
“You both infuriate me sometimes, you know that. Viv over-shares while you share hardly anything at all.” Lily threw her hands up in frustration, sending the stuffed lion flying, though some nifty wand-work managed to bring him back to her unsoiled. “It’s any wonder I haven’t gone mad being friends with you all these years.”
Dollie chuckled at this display of dissatisfaction. Feeling generous, she reached under her pillow and brought out the notebook Remus had given her. She hadn’t planned on showing it to anyone but quickly realized that such measures would have been futile. People would have eventually noticed her carrying it around all the time. At least she could trust Lily to keep a level head about it. She explained how it worked while Lily’s eyes grew to the size of saucers.
“Impressive. 50 points to Lupin. How ‘bout Black then?”
“Well, that’s the thing...”
“Don’t tell me he didn’t get you anything.”
A tapping at the window interrupted her before she could respond, startling them. They both turned at the same time to find Grimm, Sirius’ impossibly imposing large black owl perched on the windowsill. Once Lily opened the window, it soared straight towards Dollie. It landed smoothly on the bedpost and, after she retrieved the note from its leg, bowed its head solemnly and flew back out the window.
“That owl gives me the creeps. For the life of me, I can’t put my finger on why...”
Dollie barely heard Lily as she read the note. Lily eyed it with curiosity, although she knew very well who it was from. Their eyes met as Dollie shrugged guiltily, slipping the parchment into her pocket. Before she could open her mouth to explain, Lily brushed aside her would-be excuse with one simple word.
“Go.” Lily smiled as she tucked a stray hair behind her ear.
“You sure?” Dollie hesitated.
It had never occurred to her before how much she was neglecting her friends, unwittingly replacing the two girls with two boys who never gave her the time of day before that year. Vivian was too proud to make any admission of weakness while Lily was unfailingly kind when it came to people’s feelings. The realization felt like a bludger to the stomach. It almost made her not want to leave the dormitory. Almost. Lily probably saw that tiny sliver of want and refused to stand in the way.
“Positive,” Lily asserted. “I’ll just look for Sev or Mary Macdonald to ease my loneliness.” Her hand clutched her chest, the other to her forehead while she fluttered her eyes dramatically. Dollie had to admit, it was a fairly accurate portrayal of Vivian, if that was what Lily was going for. If not, well, then she just looked silly.
Once Vivian had made her dramatic exit, there were only two of them in the dormitory. Abbey-Emma Slayer was at the Pitch practicing Quidditch while Dollie could only assume that Suzanna Milton was combing the brimstone out of her hair or whatever it was she did after her annual holidaying in the depths of Hell.
“I hear Potter’s available.” Dollie could never resist sneaking in a little Potter jab every now and again. It was the easiest way to get under Lily’s skin.
“I’m sure,” Lily replied, a hint of snark present in her tone as her face contorted, resembling someone who’d just sucked a lemon dry. “Run along, Kent. Can’t keep Black waiting, can we? Oh, and you simply must show what he gave you.”
“Aren’t we being a Nosy Nancy.”
“No, just Lovely Lily, as always.”
Dollie rolled her eyes good-naturedly, though it went unseen by Lily as Dollie pulled on her Christmas jumper. It was already mid-January but the weather outside was still nippy.
“While you’re out, could you please find Vivian and talk to her? Maybe she can say to you what she can’t to me.”
The palpable dejection more than guaranteed that Dollie would do as Lily asked. With an affirmative grunt, she left, barely missing Lily’s wistful sigh.
“So, what was so important and secretive that I had to go to the other side of the castle?”
It wasn’t really the other side of the castle but it was nonetheless a significant distance from the Gryffindor Tower. A distance Remus had been forced to walk after receiving the cryptic Christmas card a few weeks ago from the rest of the Marauders. Wholly unnecessary but nevertheless, he made the trek out of sheer loyalty and, if he was being truly honest, a hint of curiosity. After all, it must be pretty big to warrant a cryptic card, especially one bordered with holly vines and bells. Of course, the Marauders being the Marauders had to take it one step further. Only they could find immense humour in jumping him out of nowhere as he wandered the corridors and hustling him into one of the castle’s many unused classrooms.
James, ever the self-appointed and unquestioned leader, was reclining on the teaching desk at the front of the classroom. This flagrant disregard of higher authority wasn’t what made Remus feel suddenly nervous. James had that glint in his eyes, a glint that was magnified by his glasses, a glint that always signalled impending mischief. Mischief that was almost certainly not the innocent kind, not that most of the mischief they instigated ever strayed towards the dangerous. A rule of thumb among them was that the mayhem they caused must never lead to extreme harm to anyone or get them expelled. It was a rule that James and Sirius had the most trouble in abiding by.
“Ah Remus, so good of you to join us. Please,” James waved languidly about, “have a seat.”
Remus stifled a snort as he slid into the chair closest to the large desk. James had an unfortunate flair for the dramatics that was both ridiculously humorous and slightly endearing.
“So how long do I have to wait to get an answer to my question? Or perhaps I should just give up now and save myself the trouble?”
“A watched cauldron never boils.”
Even Sirius couldn’t stomach anymore of the theatrics, groaning at the mention of the juvenile saying.
“Shut up and get on with it, James!”
Had anyone else said those words to James Potter, they would have most certainly found themselves at the receiving end of the worst hex he could think of. As it were, James obediently heeded the advice, miraculously enough.
“You know the party my parents throw every year on Christmas Eve? The one with all their ancient, stodgy mates?”
“Uh-huh.” Of course he knew. James made it a point to complain incessantly about it every year. It was practically a tradition in itself.
“Well, we were going to pinch a bottle of firewhisky or two and have our own vastly superior party elsewhere when we got cornered by this old fart who looks exactly like a walrus –”
“I can attest to that,” said Peter.
“He starts to tell us this longwinded story about how he just bought himself an island near Fiji or Timbuktu or wherever and how he’s going to enjoy himself more than he ever could before.”
Remus raised his hand.
“As riveting as this story is, I’m afraid I don’t see where this is going.”
“Not a question,” he replied, sounding exactly like Professor Tristram, their Defence against the Dark Arts teacher. “Of course, Peter just had to ask why’s that, so Walrus Face says it’s because he’s just about done with his training.”
“To become an Animagus!”
Remus wasn’t slow by any means but James was really starting to make him feel like someone who regularly received ‘T’s. Rather like that Slytherin who had to repeat Seventh year three times before he was finally allowed to graduate, Goyle was it? He seemed to be the only one in the room who was lost, as Sirius, Peter and James all had identical expressions of triumph. It was the worst feeling in the world, being out of the loop.
“He doesn’t get it, James. I knew I should have been the one to tell the story, I’d have told it much better,” said Sirius, pinching the bridge of his nose in frustration.
“It’s my story and my idea. Ergo, I’m the obvious choice to tell him.”
“It was OUR idea. And yeah, you certainly did a smashing job of making sense. Top notch really.”
“I’ll smash your job...”
“We want to become Animagi!” Peter cried out, having had enough of the two’s bickering.
James and Sirius immediately stopped and glared at the smaller boy.
“Thanks a lot, Peter,” James muttered darkly.
“At least he did it without ceremony,” Sirius said with an ironic smile.
“Hold on.” Remus’ head was beginning to spin as he tried to make sense of what they were all saying. “What do you mean ‘Animagi’?”
“You know, morphing into an animal at will. Like Minnie.”
“Yes, I was in that Transfiguration class as well. I mean, when Peter said ‘We want to become Animagi’...”
“It’s exactly how it sounds.” James was beaming now. “Although I would have phrased it better like ‘we’re going to become Animagi’. It’s more accurate than wanting, you see, because we’re definitely succeeding, no question about it.”
“I think I have one,” said Remus.
“Why in Merlin’s name would you want to attempt something so dangerous?” he demanded as he tried to keep his voice even.
Were they out of their minds? Hadn’t they been paying attention when Professor McGonagall stressed how complex the process was and how easily things could go horribly wrong? McGonagall herself took years before successfully perfecting the skill. What could be important enough to risk such a thing?
James stared blankly at him. “Why, to accompany you of course.”
“For your monthly transformations,” Sirius elaborated serenely, as though he were explaining what they were having for dinner later.
This calmness only managed to aggravate Remus further. This had to be one of their jokes. There was in no way, shape or form they were serious. Perhaps James sensed his growing displeasure because he gripped Remus’ shoulder in what was meant as a reassuring gesture.
“There really isn’t anything to worry about. Walrus Face explained the process in great detail and I even found some books about it in my parents’ library. Watch, we even know what animal we’re each going to become.”
“Animagus Interius Aperire!”
As they each said the incantation, a different animal emerged from their wands, similar to a patronus but more solid. James’ stag cantered around the room alongside Sirius’ large dog, while Peter’s rat scurried at their feet. Remus struggled between being amazed at their magic mastery and disapproval of their dabbling in something that was beyond their level.
“Personally, I would have liked a lion,” James said wistfully.
“Yeah, because that isn’t conspicuous at all,” Sirius laughed as James half-teasingly sent his stag towards Sirius. It evaporated into mist as it went through him, along with the others.
“I wanted something more dignified, like a snake or something,” Peter whined, twitching his nose as he did so.
“And be like those filthy Slytherins?” Sirius practically spat, making Peter shrink away at his tone.
“Anyway, it all works out perfectly. Peter will be small enough to touch the knot under the Whomping Willow, we go through tunnel and meet you at the shack,” James explained, ignoring the two’s exchange.
As much as he hated to admit it, it sounded like James had thought the entire thing through. It wasn’t just one of their crazy, spontaneous schemes. Anyway, James and Sirius were one of the most naturally talented students in the school and between them, Peter would have adequate help. If anyone could pull it off, it was them. He could slowly feel himself sway to the plan, touched by the motive behind it.
“I – I don’t know what to say.”
“We figured that if we can’t be there for you as we are, we’d have to be like you,” said James, grinning as he pushed his glasses up his nose.
“The animal part, not the contagious fangs part,” Sirius verified as Remus shoved his elbow into his ribs.
“How long will it take?” Remus asked.
“We already started practising during break so it should take a few months. We should have it down by around April or June, perhaps,” James shrugged nonchalantly.
“Walrus Face said it took him almost five years,” Peter pointed out.
“That’s because he’s ancient.”
Remus rolled his eyes. Only James’ youthful arrogance would perceive age as a hindrance rather than an advantage. As if youth determined how well one could perform magic.
“And you promise that this won’t endanger us or anyone else?”
The three exchanged a glance and wand in hand, placed on their hearts and in chorus recited, “We solemnly swear no one will be harmed through the process of us becoming Animagi or afterwards.”
Remus felt a reluctant grin spread across his face as they joined together in a group hug after the much-appreciated if incredibly naff vow was made. How could he refuse such a kind gesture that was entirely meant for him? At that moment, he felt more thankful than he ever had before for being a part of the greatest group of friends one could ever hope to have.
“Remus John Lupin, this will be the greatest Christmas present you’ll ever receive.”
“Put me down this instant!”
Having successfully convinced Remus the brilliance of their plan, Sirius rushed out to the school grounds. Seeing that Dollie was already beneath the beech tree, he crept up behind her with all his stealth. Without warning, he wrapped his arms around her and lifted her up into the air. Her demand only resulted in him spinning them around, their laughter merging into a single melody. However, her struggling forced him to finally set her back down.
“Git,” she muttered as she playfully hit him on the chest.
“Nice to see I’m the one being waited for, for once.”
“Don’t get used to it.”
She was wearing a new jumper that did wonders in bringing out the blue in her eyes. Her cheeks were flushed cherry-pink from earlier while traces of laughter lingered on her face. It astounded him that he found her growing prettier every time they met.
“What’s the smile for?” she asked, her eyes narrowed in suspicion.
“Nothing. I missed you, that’s all,” he said as he lightly brushed away a stray tendril.
“So you say.”
He froze at her curt tone. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Nothing,” she said, averting her eyes.
“Don’t make me whirl you around again,” he threatened as he snaked his arms around her waist.
“How was being at the Potters?”
“Oh no you don’t. You can’t change the subject that easily.”
He applied some pressure in his arms as he bore into her eyes, knowing full well how uncomfortable she was with intimacy, especially when it was taking place so publicly. She tried valiantly to resist but he could feel warmth emitting from her as he rested his forehead against hers. They were so close, they were practically sharing each other’s air. His hands slid up through her hair. When she still refused to yield, he ever so slowly caressed her face, savouring the quiver he could sense beneath her skin at his touch. Had he stepped back, he would have been greeted by the sight of her strawberry-ripened face. However, the clouds of his eyes were intent on filling her sky-blues.
“You promised you’d write,” she whispered huskily and if he weren’t so close, he wouldn’t have caught it.
Satisfied that he’d finally gotten it out of her, he gave her back her personal space. He didn’t want to push his luck. She was dangerous with a wand, with or without Remus’ lessons.
“Then, nothing. Not even a card.”
“Or a present?” he added, the corner of his mouth lifting.
“I didn’t say anything of the sort.”
“But you were thinking it.”
“Therein lies the difference.”
He regarded her thoughtfully. “Dollie, do you really think I’d forgotten about you?” She was about to answer, probably with a snarky remark, when he quickly cut her off. “I had gotten you something. But James, loose lips that he is, told his mum and when she saw the present I was planning on giving you, she would have none of it and insisted on taking me to the shop.”
He grinned as he remembered her words. ‘She deserves something as special as she is.’ No use arguing with such sound logic. He retrieved the box from his pocket and adjusted the ribbon tied around it before giving it to her.
“Happy Christmas, Dollie.”
As hard as she tried, the smile couldn’t be repressed. The ribbon untied and box lid opened, she almost dropped the entire thing when she saw what was inside. It was a chain-linked silver bracelet with a silver heart locket dangling beside the clasp.
He had been a bit hesitant about giving it to her, unsure if it was really her style. But Mrs. Potter assured him that every girl appreciates good jewellery. Judging by the awe in Dollie’s expression, she’d been absolutely right. Dear Mrs. Potter, he thought fondly, who treated him as more of a son than his actual mother.
“So, do you like it?” he asked as he fastened the bracelet on her wrist. Once it was secure, he brought her hand to his lips, his eyes locked on to hers again, and audaciously kissed it. What was more astonishing was that Dollie made no attempt to wrench her hand away, perhaps too stunned to react. Even when he lowered her hand, she left it clasped in his.
She regarded it for a moment, fiddling with it. The crinkle between her eyebrows was a tell-tale sign of when she was thinking particularly hard about something. When she lifted her face to meet his, the small smile from earlier had grown into a proportion he’d never seen on her before, large and unrestrained. A small noise gurgled from her throat, a noise that with his best guess was meant as a giggle. It was difficult to distinguish, as Dollie wasn’t one to giggle.
She must really like it then, if she was susceptible to such girlish glee. At least she hadn’t burst into a fit of them. As much as he liked her, nothing turned him off more than excessive giggling. Two years, around the time he finally grew into his looks, of it from random girls was already more than he could stand. As it were, the restrain she showed in that single laugh was quite cute.
When it got too cold, they went inside which, truth be told, wasn’t much better. The draft and cold stares directed toward Dollie, especially when they caught sight of the bracelet, made Sirius’ skin crawl. To avoid the latter, they went down the less frequented corridors. As they were going down one in particular, they heard a commotion further down the hallway.
“Where is the kitchen? Tell me this instant, you pathetic paranormal prick!”
“Do you kiss your boyfriends with that mouth? Then again, from what I’ve heard, you do a lot more than that,” Peeves cruelly taunted her as he cackled.
More bangs and crashes ensued as his laughter echoed through the hallway. They rushed to where the scene was taking place. As they reached there, Peeves flew overhead them, too busy chanting “Shan’t tell! Shan’t tell!” to notice the two who found his sparring partner.
Vivian was slumped on the floor, surrounded by pieces of armour and paintings that had fallen from the walls. The walls in turn had burn marks on them, obviously caused by the wand in her gripped hand. Her face was red and tearstained, her hair and clothes in disarray. Sirius had never seen the usually well-groomed girl in such a dishevelled state.
Dollie immediately rushed to her side, ignoring the cries of the paintings she carelessly stepped on. He shifted awkwardly from one foot to the other as the two girls exchanged muffled words.
“I’ll see you later?” she said, darting her eyes to Vivian and back to him.
“No problem. Bye, Dollie. Cheers, Costa.”
Vivian lifted a feeble hand in acknowledgement.
He often forgot how close-knit Dollie, Vivian and Lily were. They almost reminded him of his own relationship with the Marauders. Somehow, Dollie and Vivian always struck him as having the strongest bond between the three which was odd considering they were polar opposites. But perhaps that was what made them so close, a contrast from Sirius and James’ own almost brotherly similarities.
He left them be because he understood. She needed to be with her James.
“Alright, he’s gone. Viv, what –”
As soon as Sirius turned the corner, Vivian immediately lapsed into a fresh wave of hysterical crying. Frightened, Dollie tried her best in comforting her which wasn’t much help. An arm around the shoulder and an awkward hair stroke that was meant to be comforting was all she could manage. She wished desperately that Lily was there, she’d know exactly what to do, possessing the nurturing skills Dollie herself severely lacked. As she briefly considered whether to call Sirius back and ask him to bring Lily there, Vivian gave one more shudder before she finally tired out.
“I was trying to find the kitchen. I was feeling a bit peckish and Peter gave me directions on how to get there. They weren’t terribly helpful, he’s useless at directions.” Vivian chuckled softly. “Then I had the pleasure of encountering Peeves and, well, here we are.”
“I never knew Peeves could get you so riled up.”
“Oh, it wasn’t him so much as –”
She abruptly stopped, her brown eyes bloodshot and glistening as her wand fell to the stone floor. Dollie suddenly wondered if her meltdown had anything to do with what Lily had mentioned earlier. Remembering her promise to Lily, her mind ran through the best possible ways to effectively ask her what the matter was. Too subtle and she might fail to notice it. Too blunt and she might explode worse than before. Delicate balance was key here. But before she could settle on a tactic, Vivian made such measures entirely unnecessary.
“Dollie, what’s the worst thing that could possibly happen to me?” Vivian hoarsely asked.
Taken aback by the question, she blurted out the first thing that came to mind.
“You got expelled?”
“You caught one of your boyfriends cheating on you?”
“Worse,” she wailed.
“You found a grey hair?”
“DON’T BE ABSURD!”
Dollie was beginning to tire of the guessing game. Whatever it was, it can’t be as bad as Vivian was making it out to be. After all, it was Vivian Costa, the girl who considered a weight gain of two kilograms or mismatched socks a national crisis.
“I give up.”
Vivian cradled her face in her hands, which muffled her voice. Dollie leaned in closer, forcing herself not to gag from Vivian’s too-strong perfume.
“Sorry, what was that?”
A/N: Dun-dun-duuunnnn! I haven't had a cliffhanger in awhile so I hope you'll pardon my cruelty. Think of this as a transitional chapter, because very, very soon, stuff is going to hit the fan. Don't say I didn't warn you. ;)
I love reviews, just thought I'd mention it. *whistles innocently*
Oh, and because I'm considerate, unlike Vivian, here are the Spanish-English translations, courtesy of Google Translate:
quiero estar contigo para siempre. Que me dejas?: I want to be with you forever. Must you leave me?
el destino tiene otros planes para nosotros. Que no se interponerse en su camino: Fate has other plans for us. We should not stand in its way.
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