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Chapter 4 : Betrayed by the Bribe
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"Please, please don't do this to me," I whined as Lily, Lo and I made our way off of the school grounds. It was a week before the Ball and we were finally going shopping for our dresses. Dumbledore had scheduled a Hogsmeade trip so the students could get what they needed.
"Shut up, Letta," warned Lily.
"I can't believe you," said Lo, laughing. "It really shouldn't be this hard to take you shopping with us. You're a girl, Violetta. Act like it!" I made a face at her, which only made Lo giggle again.
"Exactly," Lily grumbled in agreement. "We practically have to take her hostage just to have some girl time."
"Oh, Lilykins, you can take me hostage any time you like," I joked, winking at her.
She rolled her eyes at me, but I could see her trying to hide a smile. I couldn't help but smile back - I felt so free. It was the first Hogsmeade trip of the year and I was spending time with my best friends. What more could I want? Well, I suppose the death of Sirius Black would be too much to ask for.
We reached the tiny village of Hogsmeade, where witches and wizards were bustling about, doing their shopping. I had no idea there was even a dress shop here; the only stores I really knew about were The Three Broomsticks, Honeydukes and Zonko's. What can I say, my life consisted of butterbeer, candy and torturing my friends with obnoxious joke-shop toys.
"C'mon, let's head over to Madame Quirky's Shoppe," said Lo excitedly. I followed the two down the street and in about five minutes we were standing in front of a cutesy little shop with an awful lot of pink inside.
As soon as we entered the store, a tiny lady with extremely long, gray hair came hurrying over to us. "How may I help you?" she squeaked cheerfully. I assumed this was Madame Quirky.
"We're looking for dresses," Lily told her. "Hogwarts is having a Halloween Ball this year."
"Oh, how lovely!" Madame Quirky exclaimed. "I have quite a few dresses to choose from. They're all in this section in the back. Help yourself."
Lily and Lo pounced onto the dress rack immediately, but I shuffled along behind them, glancing around at the different colored material.
Since it was a masquerade ball, we weren't really required to have costumes. It was a formal dance, but people could bring whatever kind of mask they wanted; scary, pretty, or just a plain one. Honestly, I didn't plan on making a big deal out of this stupid ball, so I didn't really mind what dress I bought – as long as it didn't itch. For some reason, no matter what dress or material I happened to buy, all of the dresses that I owned made me scratch myself raw. I hated itchy material.
I picked a few dresses off of the hangers and tried them on, but none of them seemed to fit right. Lily and Lo threw even more dresses over the door, but according to my friends, there was something wrong with every single one of them.
We finally left the shop empty-handed, and silly old me thought we were done for the day. But no, I was dragged into another store. And another. And another. We went to six shops. Six. I felt like I was drowning in scraps of lace, chiffon and silk.
My head got stuck when I accidentally put it through the arm hole – this happened a lot, actually – and the halter straps on a few of the dresses nearly strangled me in the process of getting them off. Plus, nearly all of the dresses itched like crazy!
"Just one more store, Letta," coaxed Lily. Easy for her to say; she and Lo had found their dresses in the third store we went to. Now we were standing outside another boutique and, even though it pains me to admit it, this shop didn't look half as pink and girly as the rest of them.
Lo grabbed my arm and guided me towards the door. I started to pull my fist back, preparing to hit her like I would anyone else, but I put it back at my side almost immediately. I couldn't hit Lo. I mean, sure, I wanted to sometimes; but she was my best friend, despite how bloody annoying she was being at the moment. I just couldn't. It was virtually impossible to be mean to Willow Addams. Impossible. She was just too damn sweet and innocent.
We entered the store and repeated the process I'd been going through all day. When I finally came out of the dressing room, still without a dress, I literally dropped to my knees in front of Lily and Lo. I folded my hands in front of me and raised them up, as if I were praying to the Shopping Gods. "Please don't make me go back in there," I begged, looking up at their amused expressions. "Look, obviously I can't find anything, so let's just – " And then I saw it. It was draped over a hanger on the rack right in front of me, practically calling my name.
"Letta?" said Lily curiously. I held up a finger at her and Lo.
"This is it." I scrambled over to the dress and checked the tag; there was only one of them and it was my size! A reasonable price, too. I whisked it off the hanger and marched determinedly back into the Torture Chamber – A.K.A. the dressing room. If I didn't like this one, I was definitely giving up.
But I could already tell, as the cool fabric slipped over my body, that this was the dress I was going to buy. Glancing in the mirror, I studied the dress critically, loving what I saw.
It was creamy white and strapless, and it hung to just above my knees in a thin swish of floating material. The back of the dress was laced up with silky white ribbons, like a corset, and across the chest in the front were intricately laced pearls and silvery beads sewn into the fabric. I quickly changed my hair back to its normal color and realized that the dress went perfect with my deep, chocolate brown hair. But the best part was, it didn't itch!
"Letta, are you okay in there?" called Lo. "Come out so we can – oh!"
I stepped out of the dressing room and twirled around a bit so they could see every angle.
"Violetta! It's beautiful!" Lily gasped. I smiled and thought of my mother. She had always wanted me to act like her pretty little princess. Here you go, mum, I thought, it's just like you always wanted me to be. I bought the dress immediately and left the shop with my friends chattering beside me.
The most amazing feeling came over me as we walked through the sunshine back towards the castle. It felt as if my mother was looking down at me, finally seeing how hard I was trying to make her proud of me. I had never tried this hard when she was alive, and I always thought that maybe if I had, she would still be here. I knew it was my fault, but even if she couldn't be here to share it with me, I wanted to do this for her. I wanted to be the daughter she always dreamed of having. You know what they say – better late than never.
It was finally Saturday, the day of the Halloween Ball, and the excitement around the school was tangible. Everyone was either talking about their dress, or their mask, or their date – which I didn't have, by the way.
It was kind of sad, really. It's not that I couldn't get a date, but a lot of the blokes in the school were a bit afraid of me. Good, I thought to myself, run away while you still can. I doubted that I'd be a great girlfriend anyway. I'd had boyfriends before, but it was nothing special, thank Merlin. Fortunately – or unfortunately, depending upon how you looked at it – my luck in the dating department was about to change.
Lily, Willow and I were sitting with the Marauders at breakfast, doing the usual: talking, laughing, arguing and the others entertained themselves by watching Black and I bicker. Somehow, the subject had turned to our dates for the Ball.
"Who're you going with, Padfoot?" James asked his best mate.
"Elise Roberts, from Hufflepuff," he answered indifferently. "You?"
"No one," responded James, glancing at Lily as he said this. "I'm just going to see who's there, I guess."
Black shook his head with pity. "Remus?"
"Well, uh." Remus looked a bit uncomfortable. "About that...see, I was gonna ask...uh," he paused, glancing at my best friend. "Lo?"
Willow looked up quickly, her face turning red. "Yes?" she squeaked.
"D'you want to go to the ball with me?" he stammered.
Everyone was silent, waiting for the answer we knew would come. "Oh," said Lo, "yes. Yes, I'd love to." She beamed, positively glowing with happiness.
"Finally," I muttered, smiling at Lo's blush. "I was wondering when you'd ask her, Remus."
"This is great!" exclaimed Lily. "Now we've just got to find you a date, Letta."
"Who're you going with?" yelped James.
"If you must know," Lily replied coolly, "I'm going with Ryan Nichols, from Ravenclaw." James grimaced and looked away from her. I felt bad for the kid; he tried so hard to get on her good side, but Lily absolutely refused to warm up to him.
"You don't have a date, McKinnon?" Black grinned, almost triumphantly. "What a shame," he said with mock pity. "I thought a great catch like you would have found someone like that." He snapped his fingers.
"I hate you," I said, forcing myself to stay calm.
Before he could answer, the most amazing coincidence happened: someone tapped me on the shoulder. Not that an annoying finger jabbing into my shoulder blade was the most exciting thing that ever happened in my pathetic life, but it was the person poking me that made the entire situation amazing. It was a boy from Ravenclaw that I'd seen round the school before, but never really talked to. I think his name was Tommy? Trevor? Definitely something with a T.
"Hey, Letta, right?" he said quietly. I could tell he was a bit shy. "I'm Travis Rolland. Could I talk to you for a minute? Alone?"
"Oooh!" said Peter Pettigrew, teasing me.
I gave him a dirty look and got up from the table. "Lead the way," I told Travis. But before I got up, I shot Sirius a smirk. How's that for not getting a date? Not to be concieted or anything, but I think we all knew what was coming. I followed Travis out of the Great Hall and into a secluded corner of the Entrance Hall.
"What did you want to talk about?" I asked.
"Well, the Halloween Ball is tonight, and I was just wondering..." His voice trailed off.
"You were just wondering..."
"If you would be my date," said Travis quickly. "I know everyone says you're the Ice Bitch of Hogwarts, but...I want to give you a chance. And I hope you'll give me one, too."
I considered this. I was the Ice Bitch of Hogwarts, whether I liked it or not. So I guess it was nice of him to ask me out. And he was really cute...
"Sure, Travis," I grinned, actually getting excited about the ball for the first time. "I'll be your date."
We both walked away smiling.
The girls' dormitory was a whirlwind of activity that night. Everyone was hurrying to get ready, and there were girls flying about all over the place, including me. Rachel Bruin and her bonehead friends were putting on their ten layers of makeup, along with the sluttiest dresses imaginable (then again, I was a bit biased) but no one paid any attention to them. I was too focused on trying to get my hair to stay in its place.
I told Travis to meet me in the Gryffindor common room at seven o'clock. He was a Ravenclaw, so he had to knock on the portrait of the Fat Lady and get someone to let him in. I had made it Remus's job to open the portrait hole, and thank Merlin he agreed to it.
I put on the last of my jewlery at three minutes to seven and finally deemed myself ready. Everyone else had already left the dormitory except for me, Lily and Lo.
Lo came out looking like a goddess; she was wearing a shimmery sapphire blue dress, and every time she moved it looked as if thousands of stars were winking back at us through the material. She wore matching high heeled shoes and the color made her gorgeous eyes pop through her shiny silver mask. Lo's hair was was usually always wavy, but tonight she had made it pin-straight and parted it to the side so it gracefully fell over one shoulder. Remus would drop dead after taking one look at her.
Lily was equally as beautiful in a long, emerald green dress that complimented her eyes and her perfect figure in all the right places. Her dark red hair was curled elegantly around her face, silky enough to make any girl jealous. Lily's mask was also green with only a few silver undertones woven in so it didn't look too much like Slytherin colors.
My dress was just as gorgeous as when I tried it on in the store, and my hair was its natural chocolate brown color. It was piled on top of my head in elaborate curls with just a few strands framing my face, making my features look softer. My mask was gold, enhancing the cream color of the dress, and beaded with pearls. I charmed it so the mask didn't have to go around my head; instead, it had a gold handle so I could hold it up to my face.
Once we gave each other the appropriate compliments, we all headed downstairs to our awaiting dates. I didn't think I would be this excited, but I realized this night would be fantastic. Getting Travis as a date was just an added bonus.
When we reached the common room, we found all of the Marauders standing there, staring at us. Remus was grinning so wide, I thought his face would split, and James merely looked dumbstruck at Lily's appearance.
"Willow, you look stunning," I heard Remus compliment her, and her giggle in response.
I saw Lily meet up with her date, Ryan, who also looked amazed by what he saw. I glanced around the common room for Travis, but he was no where in sight. I thought he would have come with Ryan since they were both in the same house and needed to be let through the portait hole.
"Looking for someone?" Black came up behind me, smirking insufferably.
"What's it to you?" I demanded, turning to face him. He was wearing all black dress robes with a collared white button-down underneath. His hair was in its usual style, casually swept across his face and falling into his eyes, which were peeking out behind a simple black mask. To be honest, Black did look hot. Too bad his personality was so foul.
"It's nothing, really," he said, grinning manically.
I ignored him, trying not to let his stupidity get to me; tonight was going to be great. I stood there talking with my friends for over ten minutes before Ryan started complaining.
"We should get going," he said to Lily.
She frowned at him. "But Letta's date isn't here yet." I'd been listening for a knock on the portrait hole while we talked, but it didn't come. Where was Travis?
There was suddenly a small choking sound coming from behind me. I whipped around to find Sirius with red cheeks and tears in his eyes from trying not to laugh.
"What's so funny?" I hissed at him.
"Oh, nothing," he said, chuckling. "I just thought you'd like to know that your date won't be joining us this evening."
"Why not?" I asked in a low, deadly voice. Our friends were gathered around us, listening intently.
"Travis had a change of heart." His smirk grew more pronounced.
"What do you mean?"
"I had a little chat with him earlier," said Black indifferently. "Told him what a mistake he's making. He agreed with me when I told him what a complete psychopath you are. Travis knows all about your bitchy attitude, Letta, and he was willing to ignore it. But I think I talked him out of it. Plus, bribing him to stand you up didn't hurt."
"You...you didn't," I said, my face getting hot from anger.
"Sirius Black!" exclaimed Lily. "That was a terrible thing to do!"
"Why did you have to go and ruin her night, Sirius?" said Lo sharply.
According to the bewildered and slightly frightened looks I was getting, my hair had turned tomato-red. My friends were about to scold him some more on my behalf, but I decided to take matters into my own hands.
"Diffindo!" I shouted angrily, snatching my wand out of my handbag and aiming it at Black. His sleeve was ripped open by the curse and a gash appeared on his bicep. He stared at his bleeding arm for a few seconds, wide-eyed, before he looked up at me, glowering.
"My robes are ruined now," he snarled. There was a cut on his arm gushing blood and the only thing he cared about was his robes. Pathetic. Black hastily raised his wand, ignoring the injury. "Locomotor Mortis!" My legs were instantly stuck together; I couldn't move them at all except to try and hop around the room.
"You bastard!" I screeched. "Waddiwasi!" Black's body rose into the air and was thrown back into the wall. He slumped down for a moment, but was right back on his feet in a matter of seconds.
"Letta, Sirius, stop!" I heard Lily call out, but I decided to ignore her. This was between me and Black.
"Flagrate!" I felt a sizzling burn mark appear on my left forearm. The skin was red and shiny from the blister caused by Black's wand.
It barely hurt, so I paid no attention to the minor injury. I was about to shoot another cutting jinx at him when I heard a familiar yell from across the common room.
"BLACK! MCKINNON!" It was the head of Gryffindor house, and she was pissed. Someone must have run to get McGonagall when we started dueling.
My heart sank when I saw the Professor's face. It was stark white and her lips were pressed into the thinnest line I had ever seen. This would not be good.
"Explain yourselves," she whispered ominously. The entire common room had gone silent, and I really didn't have anything to say. Somehow, I knew she wouldn't like my explanation that we started dueling because Black had sabotaged my date for the ball.
Black seemed to be thinking the same thing, since all he said was, "well..."
I thought it would be best to start off with an apology. "Professor, I'm really sorry about the duel. But Black is always – "
"Stop right there, Ms. McKinnon!" McGonagall snapped, her eyes flashing. "I have had enough of this! I see no reason why you two can't put aside your differences for one night to let the rest of your house enjoy the ball. You are both embarrassing yourselves and your house by acting so foolish." She took a steadying breath, trying to control her shouting. "I am hereby banning you both from the Halloween Ball. If you can't act properly towards each other in your own common room, I'd hate to see how you act in public."
"Banned?" I repeated incredulously.
"But Professor – " Black started, but McGonagall cut him off.
"Enough!" she barked. "You brought this upon yourselves." Professor McGonagall left through the portrait hole, leaving a dead silence in her wake.
We were banned.
Don't worry, this isn't the last of Letta and Sirius's adventures on Halloween night! The next chapter is kind of important, so keep reading! And review to let me know what you think :)
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