It seemed no matter how many times I rubbed my hands against my pants they remained wet. I had to set my parchment on a table because I was afraid my sweat would soak through the parchment and the words would wash away. Maybe I was being dramatic but my body was shaking as if I was having an internal earthquake.
I peaked out of the curtain and saw over fifty people seated in front of the stage I would soon be standing on. I looked and saw Cassi, Peter and Remus. Peter was talking and Cassi was looking at him with admiration, a look that Peter rarely ever received. Remus was looking around the room, having been left out of the conversation. He looked at the stage and locked eyes with me. He gave me a reassuring smile and for a moment my breath steadied. My calm exterior quickly diminished when my name was called from behind me and I was informed I would be going on stage in a minute.
I frantically looked around for a trash bin, I was almost positive I was about to throw up. I wasn't given the opportunity to dispose of the contents in my stomach, someone had taken me by the shoulders and pushed me towards the stage. They opened up the curtain slightly and gave the thumbs up to a person across the stage.
"Ready to go kid?" The woman asked me. My mouth felt dry as I nodded my head. "Alright, the president of the VRS, Sarah Grayson, is going to introduce you and then its your turn to go."
I stood by the side of the stage and watched Sarah announce me. Her demeanor was relaxed as she stood in front of the witches and wizards. "Tonight we are proud to present one of Hogwarts brightest. She has devised an excellent strategy for Venislew restoration and I can't wait for her to share it with all of you. Please gather a warm round of applause for Avery Muze."
Fear gripped me like an iron vice. Every part of me trembled and I feared that if I took a step forward I would crumble. Panic settled in, what I thought was fear before was only the eye of the storm. Somehow I managed to move my feet in front of each other until I stood at the front of the stage. I laid my parchment on the pedestal and looked at the crowd. A bright light was shinning in my eyes and all I could see were silhouettes at first until my eyes adjusted. I looked to my friends and Cassi gave me the thumbs up.
I sucked in a deep breath and was about to talk but a person in the corner caught my eye. From the large stance I knew the person was a man. I squinted in the distance and my heart leaped into my throat when I recognized the shaggy black hair and casual elegant stance. For a few short moments I was sure that if I leaned closer to the microphone the crowd would be able to hear my heart beating. Then it felt as if a cool bucket of water fell on top of my head and the sensation was alarming at first but then I felt calm.
I took a calming breath and started talking. "Thank you Sarah for the introduction, I'm honored to be here today. When we were first assigned the project I was immediately drawn to the animal and my passion for this creature is what drove me to succeed in this restoration idea." I paused and looked around the room, surprised that everyone was leaning towards me paying attention. I could hardly believe that people were wanting to hear what I had to say. For so long I was used to standing in the background and never voicing my opinion. For once I was in the spotlight and I've got to say, I didn't mind it.
At the end of my speech I was greeted by a large round of applause and a few people even stood up, admittedly more than half of the people contained Cassi, Remus and Peter, but I was still chuffed nonetheless. After I made my speech there was a social gathering afterwards. It was an opportunity for me to meet the members of the VRS and get their feedback on my idea.
Cassi was the first to greet me after I stepped off the stage and towards the mass of people. She quickly enveloped me in a hug. "You did great," she squealed into my ear. "At first I thought I was going to have to run up on the stage and catch you, you looked seconds away from passing out. Then all of a sudden you pulled it together. I must say I was relieved."
"You and me both," I laughed. "I know this is an odd question but is Sirius here?"
"No," Remus answered looking at me oddly.
"Oh," I said. I swear I had seen him, maybe it was just my imagination getting the best of me.
"I didn't realize that nerves made you hallucinate," Peter scoffed. Cassi laughed loudly at Peter's joke and placed a hand on his shoulder as she threw back her head. The gesture was over the top but Peter looked chuffed at Cassi's attention and he smiled at her.
I noticed how Peter and Cassi's bodies were facing towards each other and they kept smiling at one another as if there was a secret they shared. I didn't seem to be the only one noticing and when Peter and Cassi went to get punch Remus was quick to bring up the subject.
"They're getting cozy," Remus chimed.
I nodded my head, "Cassi has fancied him for ages, I'm glad she's finally getting results."
"Really," Remus said in shock as he stared at them. My initial reaction had been the same as Remus's, usually Peter wasn't the Marauder to get noticed and he was the one pursuing girls, not the other way around. "Well good for him, I'm glad he's finally gotten over you-"
"What?" I declared loudly. Remus looked embarrassed as he looked around the crowd, refusing to meet my eyes.
"Ah, yeah," he said scratching the back of his head awkwardly. "He's sort of fancied you for quite some time now."
"Did Sirius know?"
"Merlin no," Remus said quickly. "I'm pretty sure Peter wouldn't have eyes if Sirius knew. It's a good thing that boy can be as unobservant as a flobberworm."
Remus and I laughed and we went to meet up with Cassi and Peter. Peter was retelling a prank they had pulled a few years ago and Cassi had his undivided attention.
The rest of the night went smoothly, the worst of my fears vanished after I had made my speech. The president of the VRS was impressed with my idea and said that once I graduate from Hogwarts I should contact her. The idea that I possibly had a job prospect sent my head spinning, it also made the future that much more real for me. After all that had been going on the fact that NEWT's were only months away hadn't really been a major concern for me, but now it was all I could think about.
You would think that after the busy day I'd had today I would want to go lay down in bed and sleep well into late Sunday. Instead, once I got to Hogwarts I went up to my room and grabbed my school books and headed down to the library, firmly deciding that I would start studying for the NEWT's that night. It was going to be a short study session, I only had an hour until curfew but I figured it was better to get some work done than none at all.
I wasn't surprised to find that there was no one aside from myself in the library. It was a Saturday night and close to curfew, any other normal person was probably in their common room enjoying having off from class and being able to sleep in the next day.
Every noise I made in the library was exemplified in the silent room. My chair dragging against the ground as I pulled it out from the table sounded like a loud screeching, echoing in the deserted space. I sat down and pulled out my Potions book, the sound of my own breathing the only noise that could be heard. I vaguely noticed Madame Pince checking up on me, probably ensuring I wasn't up to anything devious.
Ever since I had become affiliated with the Marauders teachers had a tendency of watching me closer, as if through their association I would in turn would start pranking. Aside from turning Snape into a canary during dinner I had no other pranks under my belt, nor did I have any intentions of pulling more pranks. Unless Snape decided to be a right git again.
I was thirty minutes into my studying when I heard someone walk up to me. I looked up and saw a flushed Nial looking at me.
"Avery, thank Merlin," he panted, sounding as if he had been running. Judging from his flushed face and sweat trickling down his face, I figure he had been.
"Nial, how did you know I was here?"
"I asked Remus, anyway, I need your help."
"What is it now with Lelani?" I asked, the only reason Nial ever urgently needed my help was when it concerned Lelani Michaels.
"I asked her out."
"That's brilliant Nial!" I said truly happy. Nial had been pursuing her for a couple of months now and I had seen their friendship develop. Nial was kind but also a little bit of a nervous wreck around her. He reminded me of a slightly less frantic version of myself. Although, I doubt I was endearing as he was.
"Not brilliant," he said.
"Oh no, did she say no?"
"No, she said yes."
"Then what's the problem?"
"As soon as she said yes I was so shocked that I ran away from her and came to find you!" Much to the dismay of Nial I burst out laughing. This was just too bloody funny. He reminded me so much of myself it's no wonder that we became friends. "Stop laughing, it isn't funny! She probably hates me now and I've buggered any chance of dating her."
"Oh get off of it, I'm sure she'll find the situation amusing. Go find her and explain what happened, if anything she'll find it cute."
"Are you sure?" Nial asked looking at me doubtfully.
"Positive," I wasn't entirely positive but Lelani seemed like nice enough of a person where she wouldn't completely rule out Nial after this incident.
"If she says no I blame you for giving me false hopes."
I put a hand to my heart, "I have the utmost faith in you. But in the event that this all goes up in flames you cannot hold me responsible, it wouldn't be fair to our friendship."
Nial laughed, "alright, thanks Avery, I'll let you know what happens." Nial waved goodbye and left the library, I looked at the clock and sighed. Only ten minutes til curfew. I figured there was no point in studying any longer and packed up all my things, saying goodbye to Madame Pince, she returned the gesture with an icy glare.
The hallway was deserted and it was slightly eerie. I hadn't ever been by myself in the castle this late at night before. My footsteps echoed off the walls and ahead of me I could hear voices. I thought nothing of it, figuring it was people on patrolling duty. However, once I turned the corner I came face to face with Bellatrix and Lucius.
I fished in my pocket, desperately searching for my wand and panicked when I realized I had left it in my dormitory. Bellatrix gave me a leering smile when she noticed me standing there searching for my wand and coming up empty handed.
"Well look what we have here," she said, her voice ringing with victory. "Where's your pack of morons to defend you?"
I said nothing to Bellatrix and matched her victorious stare with a glare of my own, knowing this was the only thing I could do in this situation.
"I think with us always running into you has become some sort of ritual, wouldn't you agree?" Lucius chided as he withdrew his wand. "It is actually quite convenient that you are here, Muze. Bellatrix and I were just talking about how Dumbledore has been holding secretive meetings with your friends for quite some time now. It all seems very quiet and we wonder what these meetings could be about." He rounded in on me, his voice becoming softer. "You wouldn't have any idea what these meetings are about, would you?"
I stared up at Malfoy, straitening myself to full height to show I wasn't going to back down. He noticed my efforts and a small smirk formed on his face. "Even if I did Malfoy, you know there's no way I would ever tell you."
"You're pretty confident for someone who is all alone," Bellatrix sneered. "Lucius, was kindly asking you a question."
"Bellatrix is quite right, I was using every polite nature I possess in trying to extract some information from you. If you do not relinquish this information gracefully I'm afraid we'll have to resort to other techniques."
"You'd have to kill me before I betrayed any of my friends." I said strongly, not backing down despite their threats. Outside I tried to remain powerful and in control, but inside I was shaking more than I had earlier today while making my presentation. This situation seemed all too familiar only this time I didn't have Sirius near me.
Lucius smiled and stepped back, aligning himself with Bellatrix. "Don't make such requests, they may be fulfilled someday. Crucio," he cried.
Pain gripped me and I immediately fell to my knees. I clenched my fists and kept my mouth closed, trying to not scream. I would not let them see me in pain. I remained strong. My nails were digging into the palms of my hands and tears fell out of the corners of my eyes as I squeezed them shut, trying to ignore the pain.
"She does not scream," Bellatrix said is astonishment. "It must not be strong enough, let me help you Lucius. Crucio!" A second wave of pain hit me, more intense then the last. My whole body shook and I fell to the ground, my hands hitting the floor as I laid on all fours. Small murmurs of pain escaped my lips and I knew I would not be able to hold out much longer.
"This can all be over in a matter of seconds if you would just tell us what Dumbledore is planning." Lucius said.
I shook my head in defiance, I was afraid if I opened my mouth I would start screaming and give them the satisfaction. I pushed myself off the ground and stood up. My entire body screamed and my head had grown fuzzy but I tried to fight through it. If I passed out I would surely be killed.
I could hear them talking but their voices became little buzzed whispers, their words not reaching my ears. It felt like my body was on fire, I wondered when this pain would go away, if it ever would. I heard someone scream but didn't have enough time to register what they were saying. I felt my feet leave the floor as I flew backwards down the hall. My head hit the ground first, a sickening crunch falling on my otherwise deaf ears. The burning faded and I could no longer feel anything. In the distance I heard another voice but couldn't make it out. Blackness enveloped me and the world faded away.
Oh sodding bloody hell shit wanker.
Avery was laying motionless on the ground, a pool of blood surrounding her head. "Avery wake up!" I yelled as I shook her shoulders in an attempt to wake her. No response came from her. Her face was deathly white and her skin was cold to the touch.
I looked behind me as Lucius and Bellatrix slithered away, a look of satisfaction on their faces. I wanted to murder them but I knew I couldn't just yet, I had to get Avery to the hospital wing. I conjured a stretcher and bound her to it, knowing that I would have to run to the hospital wing and couldn't afford to be cautious and slow. Avery was loosing blood fast.
I turned the corner and saw Lily. She looked at me smiling but once she saw Avery on the stretcher and the trail of blood following behind her her face paled. "What happened!"
"No time to talk, go get Dumbledore." I said running past her, "and Sirius," I added as an afterthought. I don't know why I told her to get Sirius but I knew that Sirius still loved Avery and if she was in trouble he would want to be there.
It seemed like years before I reached the hospital wing. Luckily Madame Pomphrey was still in the infirmity, putting away potions. She took one look at Avery and ran over to us, helping me set her down on a bed.
"Wait outside Mr Potter," she said turning her back on me.
I did not protest against her request. I walked outside of the infirmary and sank against the wall, putting my face in my hands, trying to steady my breathing. My whole body was trembling, I had never been so scared in my life. It wasn't until that moment did I realize how much Avery had come to mean to me. She started off as just a person I could basically play around with and use her as a pawn. Without realizing it Avery had slowly wormed her way into my life, she had been the person to get me and Lily together. She put her friends before herself and I'm sure that for whatever reason Lucius and Bellatrix had hexed her had something to do with us.
My fists tightened when I thought of Lucius and Bellatrix. They had done this to Avery, they had left her on the ground, bleeding and in pain. Who knows what they did to her before that. Never had I had a stronger need for revenge than in this moment.
I was about to get up and hunt down Bellatrix and Lucius but Dumbledore, Lily and Sirius were rushing towards me. Without a word Dumbledore went inside the infirmary, telling Lily and Sirius to wait outside.
"What happened, is Avery okay?" Lily asked, her face worried. She sank down next to me and I wrapped an arm around her and pulled her towards me.
"She was attacked by Lucius and Bellatrix. I found her lying on the ground, surrounded in a pool of her own blood, unconscious."
I looked up at Sirius whose face had turned pale. His eyes were blank as he registered what I was saying. He stood in front of me looking helpless. I had no idea what to do. This was the closet I had come to Sirius since the Snape incident. Sirius walked towards the door and rested his hand on the door knob.
"Sirius, you can't go in mate." I told him.
Sirius didn't seem to hear me, but he didn't move to open the door. He stood in front of it, his hand still placed on the door knob as if in some sort of trance. I stood up and walked over to him, placing an arm around his shoulder. He froze under my touch and after a few minutes his hand dropped from the doorknob. He hung his head and I could feel his body shaking.
We stood like that for a few minutes. None of us said anything as Sirius shook, he wasn't crying, it seemed his emotions were coming out in other ways. I kept my arm around his shoulders, not caring what anyone would think if they saw us like this.
The door started turning and Sirius and I jumped away from it. Dumbledore stood before us, looking down at us from his half-moon spectacles.
"She is stable," he announced. I felt Sirius relax and dropped my arm from his shoulder. "She has not regained consciousness but she should be fine. She lost a lot of blood, it's good you found her when you did Mr Potter, if more time had passed who knows what would've happened." The implications of the situation settled in from Dumbledore's last words. "Sirius and Lily, you may visit her. I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to come to my office Mr Potter so you can tell me about the events that occurred."
I nodded my head and followed behind Dumbledore as Sirius and Lily walked inside of the infirmary.
I hadn't been to the infirmary many times, usually only if I had the flu. I looked at Avery who was laying still, her eyes closed and her face so white she almost looked like a ghost. As I neared her bed I noticed Sirius hang behind me as if not sure what to do anymore.
I rested my hand on Avery's and her skin was ice cold, I would've thought she were dead. A tightness restricted my chest as I saw the bandage on her head, slightly stained with blood. I had never been close with Avery, she usually just hung around Sirius but she was always kind. If it weren't for her James and I would never be together. I had so much to thank her for and I never had, I don't think Avery gets enough credit for the things she does. When she helps out people she's silent, as if afraid to take credit for anything she's done.
"How could they do this," I said to no one in particular. "Why Avery, she does nothing wrong." I looked behind me and Sirius remained at the end of her bed, staring at her. I saw him longing for her, I could tell he wanted to reach out and touch her but couldn't. His hands laid by his side twitching. "Don't be afraid of her," I told Sirius.
His eyes flicked to me momentarily before going back to Avery. He stiffened and made his way to the opposite side of her bed where I was sitting. He kneeled down by her side and rested his face against her hand, looking up at her all the while.
The moment was so intimate that I felt like I should leave but I was afraid that if I left Sirius would leave to, I think he was using me as an excuse to stay there. Instead I stood up and hung back from them, allowing Sirius to be worried for her.
Sirius's eyes were glazed over as he stared at Avery. I could see worry and panic filling them but I also saw how much he truly loved her in that moment. It seemed that if Avery were dead he would stop existing. I never thought I'd see Sirius care for someone so much in his life. It was a little scary, how quickly he had changed and how much he cared for her.
I was so absorbed in watching Sirius interact with her that I didn't notice Avery stirring until Sirius jumped away from her, hanging back from her bed. Her eyes flittered open slowly and I slowly walked over to her. She looked around and seemed surprised that me and Sirius were in the room, we were certainly the odd welcoming committee.
"Avery, how are you feeling?" I asked immediately rushing to her side.
"Thirsty," she said in a hoarse voice. I smiled and handed her a glass of water that was sitting by her nightstand. She smiled at me appreciatively before drinking half the glass in one gulp. "Pomphrey probably thinks I'm trying to commit suicide from the amount of times I've been in the hospital wing with injuries this year."
I smiled and sighed in relief, Avery was okay. I looked over at Sirius whose lips were twitching as if he wanted to smile but he was fighting the urge. "Do you want me to get Madame Pomphrey."
"No," Avery said shaking her head. "I would like to recover a bit before having her fuss over me."
She looked over at Sirius and her face became stony as she looked at him. Sirius looked embarrassed for the first time in his life as he scratched the back of his head nervously. "Bit of a nasty fall you had there."
"It wasn't a fall," she said.
"What happened?" I asked, interjecting the awkward conversation.
"Bellatrix and Lucius used the cruciatus curse on me. And then I don't know what spell they used but they sent me off of my feet and I soared across the hallway until I came in contact with the floor."
I gasped and felt slightly nauseous. I've never understood how anyone could be that cruel, especially to someone as defenseless as Avery. "Why did they do that?"
Avery looked at Sirius and I nervously before she started speaking. "They wanted information. They wanted to know why you guys were meeting up with Dumbledore so often."
I looked over at Sirius and his face fell, I knew that he was feeling responsible for what happened to Avery. He was blaming himself for all the times Avery had been attacked. I saw Sirius twitch towards Avery and his motions didn't go unnoticed by her. She watched him intently, her eyes not leaving his face, a look of relief and love flooding it. The moment felt so private I almost turned to leave until Madame Pomphrey came bustling in, disrupting the moment and causing Sirius to jerk back. Madampe Pomphrey shoo'd us away. Sirius and I stood by Avery's bed, unwilling to move until Dumbledore came into the infirmary and took Pomphrey's side by asking us to leave.
James was hovering near the entrance of the infirmary, peeking his head around the door to try and get a look at Avery. "She alright," he asked once Sirius and I approached him.
"She seems fine from the looks of it," I said sparing a glance over my shoulder to Avery. "Won't know for sure until Pomphrey has fussed over her.
James nodded and turned to Sirius, "you alright?"
Sirius looked at James with blank eyes as he robotically nodded his head. James hesitated for a moment before walking over to Sirius and embracing him. Sirius stood shocked for a few moments before he reached his arms around James and clapped him on the back. "It would be good to have you back mate," James said as he pulled away from Sirius. A small smile formed on Sirius's face as he beamed at James.
"Glad to be back, mate." The two boys exchanged happy smiles and I couldn't help but shake my head. I knew the boys couldn't be separated for much longer.
The separation was taking too much of a toll on them, especially on Sirius who had not only lost James but Avery. It had become clear a few nights ago how deep Sirius and James' friendship ran during a conversation with Peter.
I had been sitting in the common room with Peter and James. I was helping Peter with his Transfiguration essay while James was reading through a Quidditch book. Sirius had walked into the room, not sparing anyone a glance as he walked up to the boy's dormitory. James had looked like he wanted to yell out something to Sirius but remembering the current state of their friendship he bit his lip and sighed heavily. He had then closed his book and left the common room without a word to either Peter or I. I looked out at James' retreating form as he left the common room and sighed audibly.
"It's like he's lost a relative or something," I had muttered under my breath.
"You don't seem to get it, do you?" Peter chimed unexpectedly.
"Get what, exactly?"
"James and Sirius aren't just friends, they're brothers. As much as you mean to James, Sirius will always mean more. While he has a girlfriend and other best friends, Sirius is his brother," Peter sighed and a dark look casted on his face. "Remus and I have always realized that while they both care for us as well it will never be the same. Neither Remus or I could sooth either of them currently. Remus can be reasonable, and I can break the tension with a small laugh but what they really need is each other.
"It's a bit hard, following them around, you know? While Remus is occasionally outcasted by them he can stand on his own, he's perfectly content being alone and independent. I sometimes feel a little weak in comparison, you know?"
"Peter, no one thinks you're weak." I said in an attempt to calm his nerves.
Peter gave an unhumored laugh. "I know how people see me, the other Marauder. I'm fine with it, Cassi seems chuffed enough by me." Peter said with a small smile playing on his face.
Despite Peter's word I couldn't help but feel in that moment that he was jealous of Sirius and James' relationship. I had never noticed it before until now but it all seemed so obvious as the years had continued and James and Sirius's relationship and popularity grew while Peter seemed to stay in the same spot. In that moment I had admired Peter, that despite the fact that he knew he came second to his best friends he accepted it and his loyalty would always lie with them.
A/N: I'm really trying to build Peter's character, I hope you guys see this. This chapter is only meh in my opinion but it has laid down the foundation for future chapters. Please read and review :)
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