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Chapter 5 : Story Time
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Well, almost alone. I expected Black to head up to the boys' dormitories, but instead he sat down next to me, staring into the fire.
"Not really," he shrugged in response, conjuring a cloth with his wand and holding it on his arm to stop the bleeding. "It's your fault we're stuck here."
I opened my mouth to argue, but what good would it do? Nothing I said would penetrate his thick skull. Besides, it didn't matter who was right and who was wrong; we were still banned from the ball.
I glanced down at my beautiful dress that no one would get to see. I thought of my mother; all of this had been for her, and it turned out to be a waste of time and energy. Then I thought of my father, who would be shaking his head at me if he were alive.
"Letta," I imagined he would say, "if you can't go to the party, start your own!"
That made me laugh out loud, but I ignored Black's confused stare. Before I knew it, I was standing up and twirling about the room to a beat in my head. It had taken me hours to find this dress. I'd be damned if it didn't get some dancing time.
"What in the name of Merlin...?"
"Shh!" I said to Black. He was ruining my magical memory.
When I was five years old, my parents had dragged me to a party at one of their wealthy friend's houses. I wanted to dance, like the rest of the children, but my mother made me stay by her side at all times. My dad, on the other hand, was a party animal.
"Come on, angel," he'd said to me. "Let's dance!"
I stood on his feet as he twirled me gracefully around the dance floor. My happy laughter made my father smile and spin me faster. This was the earliest memory I had of feeling truly loved. Under the bright fairy lights with my daddy's arms around me, I thought it would be that way forever.
Suddenly, I felt real strong arms wrapping around my waist. It snapped me out of my memory and pulled me back into the Gryffindor common room where I was gazing up
"What are you doing?" I asked.
"I'm dancing with you, McKinnon," he said, as if explaining something to a very slow child.
"Why?" I said stupidly. Ten minutes ago we were at each others' throats, and now he wanted to dance with me?
"You looked pathetic dancing by yourself," said Black, flashing a crooked grin. Leave it to Black to cover up an insult by doing something nice.
We danced around the common room for a while. Our moves were a bit awkward; since there was no music, we were dancing to different tunes in our minds, causing us to move out of sync with each other.
I laughed. "We must look ridiculous."
"Speak for yourself," said Black seriously. Finally, we pulled away from each other (a bit awkwardly) and sat back down on the sofa.
I looked at him. Really looked. I couldn't figure him out – Black was like a roller coaster. One minute he was up, joking with his friends and acting at least civil towards me. The next minute he was down, way down, insulting me and cursing me and treating my friends like crap. Not that I really cared about his moods. I hated this bloke; he was rude and selfish, mean and arrogant. Just like you...said a tiny voice in my head, but I ignored it.
"Black," I said quietly, debating whether or not to ask him. I decided to do it; what did I
have to lose? "Would you...tell me about your family?"
He didn't even flinch. It was almost as if he was expecting me to ask that question. "Why?" he said calmly.
"The last time I made a comment about your family, Lily told us both that we shouldn't run our mouths about things we don't understand. I want to understand. I want you to tell me."
Black thought about that for a minute. "Okay," he said finally. "You were right about my family. The House of Black is...messed up. More messed up than you can imagine," he muttered bitterly. "My parents raised me and my brother to be perfect purebloods. We were taught at a very young age that we were better than muggleborns. At that time, they didn't hate witches or wizards who didn't have pure blood. It was just the way things were.
"But then, Voldemort started to gain power. He wasn't well known, like he is now; there were no disappearences, just crazy ideas about pureblood status. These ideas spread that muggleborns didn't deserve to have magic, that they weren't good enough. My parents bought into that crap. They believe that anyone who isn't born from magical parents has dirty blood. My entire family has been in Slytherin since the beginning of time, and they wanted to keep it that way. By the time I was old enough to go to Hogwarts, I had started...questioning what my parents were telling me. I was still young, so I wanted to believe that my parents had all the answers. But something about it didn't seem right.
"When my cousin, Andromeda, started dating a muggleborn, the entire family visited to tell her what a disgrace she was. Her parents even hexed her." At this point in his story, I had another question to ask, but I decided to wait until he was finished. "She was the first to be disowned. I remember thinking that Andromeda was a great person. She was by far my favorite cousin. She still is." Black smiled briefly. "By the time I met James, Peter and Remus on the train ride to Hogwarts, I'd decided that my parents' beliefs were rubbish. You shouldn't be judged just because of who your parents are. People had even judged me because my parents were the meanest purebloods around." I knew he was referring to me when he said that. For the first time, I felt guilty for being so cruel to Black.
Black sighed and ran his fingers through his silky hair. I suddenly had the strange urge to touch it. "When I was sorted into Gryffindor, my parents had a fit. They even tried to get Dumbledore to put me in Slytherin, but he wouldn't do it. Every summer when I went to stay with them, they tried to beat the Gryffindor attitude out of me. Literally. But I was already rebelling against them, hanging up my house banner in my room and telling them what gits they were for believing in all of that pureblood rubbish. My brother, Regulus, and I used to be close when we were young. But he believed in every word my parents said, including the bad things about me. Now look at him; a Death Eater in training. It's disgusting."
Black looked right into my eyes. "Last summer, my parents and I had another huge fight. It wasn't anything new, since we fought every single day. This time, I ran away to James's house. I got the letter a few days later that I had been officially disowned. The Potters were great about it and they're letting me stay with them until I finish Hogwarts. Before my Uncle Phillius died, he left me a pretty large amount of gold. I know I can make it on my own, but thanks to my best mates, I don't have to."
There was silence in the common room when Black stopped talking. I really hadn't known anything about him, and I still felt that twinge of guilt for making assumptions. Now I really understood what his friends meant to him. They were his family.
"Did your parents ever..." my voice trailed off uncertainly. For some odd reason, I didn't want to push it with Black. Not now, anyway.
"Did they ever hex me?" he asked, guessing right. Black smirked and pushed up the sleeves of his dress robes. There were dozens of scars, going all the way up his arm and onto his shoulder. "They used burning hexes when I was younger, but once I was sorted into Gryffindor, they started with the heavy curses. Last summer, I got the Cruciatus curse about five times a day." He actually grinned at this, letting me know that I hadn't offended him.
"Oh," I said blankly. I knew he wouldn't want any pity, so I didn't offer any, 'I'm sorry's or, 'you poor thing's. I just nodded and thought to myself, he's still arrogant and rude, but I had him all wrong. He's nothing like his family.
Black nodded thoughtfully to himself. "Now it's your turn," he said eventually.
"My turn?" I said, surprised. "For what?"
"To tell me about your family...and what happened with your mother."
I stared at him, my face impassive. Of course he would want to know about what happened. It was only fair. And before I could think it through any further, I was began my story:
"My family used to be happy. When I was little, I mean. I was born a Metamorphmagus and I've always liked to wear my hair in wild colors. My dad thought it was crazy, and he loved it. Dad always encouraged me to be myself. I took after him in so many ways, but I guess that changed as I grew up. I can't find him in myself anymore."
I realized this made me extremely sad. It was almost as if I were forgetting him. "My mum was the complete opposite of my dad. She hated when anything was out of order and wanted everything to be perfect all the time. Including me. Sometimes I found myself wondering how they had ever fallen in love, much less got married and spent their lives together.
"My dad was an Unspeakable at the Ministry of Magic, and I'm sure he knew some important information that Voldemort would have loved to get his hands on; at this point, about four years ago, his followers were starting to make their presence known in the magical world. One night, when I was about twelve, Death Eaters came to the house. Me and my mum were out somewhere. When we came home, we found him lying there in the kitchen. His eyes were still open."
I took a deep breath and moved on. "After his death, my mother became really...odd. At first, she wouldn't even look at me. It was as if I didn't exist in her world...as if she didn't have a daughter. I felt completely abandoned. I'd always been her Little Flower, and then all of a sudden it was like she wanted me dead. I remember when my dad was alive, he would always bring her violets when he came home from work. They were her favorite flower. Her name, Jolanda, meant violet flower. And when she had me...she hoped I'd be just like her."
Part of me wanted to stop talking, but I had to tell this story. I needed to. "After a while, she snapped out of it. But she was more controlling than she'd ever been. She was always telling me I wasn't good enough, always trying to get me to be perfect. One night, during spring break of third year, we had a huge fight. It was worse than any fight we'd ever had. I was fed up with her being so ashamed of me. We were right in each other's faces and...I told her I hated her. I screamed it so loud, it tore my throat. I left the house and went to Lo's...three days later, I got the letter. My mother had committed suicide. She'd slashed her throat with her own wand."
I turned to face Black, who had inched closer to me while I was talking. "Remember that night, after the incident in the trophy room?" I asked grimly.
"You told me that I did it. That I killed my mother," I said, jogging his memory. I saw his eyes get wide. "You were right," I said. "It's my fault she's dead. Maybe if I hadn't said that I hated her...maybe if I'd stayed...she would still be here."
"No, Letta," said Black. "No. That's not true. I was wrong, it's not your fault. Your mother did it. Not you."
I shook my head. He'd called me Letta. "It doesn't matter now," I said, still not believing him. I knew deep down, in the center of my heart, it was my fault. There was something missing in the story, a piece of the puzzle that hasn't been put into place. I
just didn't know what it was. I wasn't sure I wanted to know.
There was a silence as we both absorbed what we'd learned about each other tonight. Something was different between us now. I didn't like the guy; he was still rude, selfish and arrogant. And I'm sure he felt the same way about me. But I couldn't pretend that nothing had changed, because it was obvious that something had. We weren't friends. I didn't know if we ever would be. But tonight, in this moment, we were neutral.
We sat in the quiet common room for a few minutes, not looking at each other. I wanted to say something, anything, to break the eerie silence. But there was nothing left to say. I stood up suddenly, looking down at the handsome boy on the couch. "It's getting late," I said softly. "I'm gonna head up."
I turned and walked over to the girls' dormitory staircase. I didn't hear him get up, but I felt Black's hand close over my wrist, stopping me for a moment.
"I still don't like you," he grinned.
"Well I still don't like you," I said.
"Okay. Goodnight, Letta."
"Goodnight, Sirius." I started to climb the stairs but his barking laughter stopped me.
"What?" I asked. He was smirking again, shaking his head. "What?" I insisted.
"You called me Sirius." He turned around and headed to his dormitory, leaving me with my hair slowly turning red.
It was late. I was sitting up in my bed, waiting for Lily and Lo to come back from the ball. I couldn't get the conversation I'd had with Black out of my head. Why had I told him that? Why? Now he had something on me. He could use that against me. I hated making myself vulnerable, and I'd just become the weakest thing in Sirius Black's eyes. Merlin, I hated him.
There was a clatter on the stairs and the dormitory door opened to reveal Lily and Willow standing on the stairs, giggling. I noticed that Rachel Bruin and her dim-wit friend hadn't come back to the dormitory yet. They were both probably hooking up with some creep in a broom closet.
"Oh, hey, Letta," said Lo. "Why are you still up?"
"Couldn't sleep," I said, smiling slightly. "How was the ball?"
"It was fantasitc!" said Lily, coming into the room and twirling around. I wondered idly if someone had spiked the punch.
"She danced with James," Lo explained. "That's why she's so happy."
"That is not why I'm happy," Lily denied. "I just...it was just...I had a really good time, okay?"
"Oh, come on, Lils," I said, grinning. "You can come up with a better excuse than that." She was blushing so hard, she looked like a tomato.
"How was your night?" she asked, changing the subject.
The smile melted off my face. "It was alright," I said carefully. I didn't know how I was going to tell them this – no, that's not it. I knew exactly how I would tell them, I just didn't know how I would live it down. "I hung out with Black in the common room."
They both froze; Lily was in the middle of taking off her makeup and Lo was putting her pajama pants on.
"And?" said Willow, watching my face carefully.
"I told him." It was amazing how they knew exactly what I was talking about. I guess that's why they were my best friends. But what I didn't understand is why they glanced at each other and grinned. It wasn't just a grin, though – it was a secret grin, a smile that I was definitely not supposed to see or understand. You know what I mean?
"What?" I said blankly.
"Oh, nothing," said Lily quickly, turning back to the mirror. Lily never was a good liar.
"What?" I repeated, looking straight at Lo.
"Well, now that you've told him about your mum, maybe he'll stop bugging you about it," said Lo. But she wouldn't look me in the eye. "That's going to reduce all the fights you two manage to start."
"He told me about his family, too." I took the pins out of my hair and let the curls cascade down my back. I thought back to when he told his story, the look in his eyes. He was so different from them. He was different in my eyes, now, too. Well, sort of. He was still Black, after all. One night wouldn't change that.
"You know that he's going to run straight to the other three and tell them about your family," warned Lo. I thought about that, but I decided I didn't care much. If you were friends with one of the Marauders, you were friends with all of them. They were like a package deal. It was the same concept; if you told one of them, you've told all of them. They should have been girls, the way those four gossiped.
"So it looks like you two got to know each other better," said Lily.
I shrugged. "I guess. I still hate him, though. Just not as much as I used to."
There was that look again. The same secretive, don't-tell-Letta-what-we're-up-to look. Was I going crazy? I wanted to ask what was going on, but I decided I'd just keep a close watch on them. One way or another, I'd find out what those looks meant. But hopefully I'd find out my way.
Sirius's Point Of View:
I waited up for my friends in the dormitory, wide awake. I thought about going down to the grounds for a run, but it's no fun being an Animagus unless you've got someone to share it with.
I looked out the window. It was a half moon, which meant the full moon would be coming up in a week or so. Poor Moony. I was glad he went to the ball with Lo. He deserved to have some fun.
No matter what I tried to think of, no matter how many stupid and pointless distractions came to my mind, nothing could keep me from thinking of McKinnon. Bloody McKinnon. Bitchy, rude, snobby McKinnon. Guarded, strong, beautiful McKinnon.
What? No. She wasn't beautiful. Well, okay. Maybe a little. Just tonight. Her hair was it's normal color, which I wasn't used to seeing, although I did love the bright rainbow of colors she usually wore on her head. It wasn't a bad sight. And that dress tonight was very flattering...not that I was looking.
The story about her family had surprised me a little. I didn't think she would actually take it seriously when I said she killed her mother. I guess McKinnon is full of
surprises. I definitely didn't think she could be so...real.
McKinnon had always been difficult and easy to provoke. I hated her since first year, but it was pretty fun to argue with her. We only dueled if things got serious, which had happened a lot lately. We fought more this year than any other. Well, we dueled more this year than any other. Normally I would never hit a girl, but McKinnon...she was a special case. It's not like I wanted to beat her senseless or anything; I wasn't abusive. But sometimes I just wanted to jinx her so she'd shut up, or give her jelly legs so she couldn't sock me in the face. Not that I was scared of her.
I shook my head, as if trying to shake away my thoughts about her. Then, I heard a racket on the stairs. That would be Prongs, Moony and Wormtail. They'd get my mind off that stupid –
"Padfoot!" called Prongs as soon as he entered the room. "Paddy, my best mate, you were right!"
"I always am," I snorted. "What was I right about this time, exactly?"
"Lily!" he practically screamed in my ear. I could tell he was excited. "You said she'd come 'round!"
"What happened?" I asked Remus.
"They danced together," said Moony, shaking his head at James.
"Is that all?" I said. "From the way you were acting, Prongs, I'd have thought you shagged her." Peter let out a giggle, obviously trying to make sure we didn't forget
"Shut up," muttered James. "Even you can't ruin tonight for me. It was amazing. She looked...amazing. She is – "
"Yeah, yeah, she's amazing," I grumbled. "We get it. Honestly, mate, when I said she'd come 'round, I didn't think she actually would." I grinned at James's frowning face. "I was just trying to give your ego a boost. You looked like a sick puppy the last time she went nutters and screamed at you."
He knew I was joking, but he just had to shove the pillow in my face anyway.
"How was your night?" asked Remus.
I shrugged. "Alright, I guess. I was with McKinnon in the common room." That got them to shut up.
"You were what?" asked James, raising his eyebrows.
"I said, I was with – "
"I know," James cut me off, "but why? I thought you hated her?" Then, the strangest thing happened. Remus looked at James. James looked at Remus. Peter just looked...confused. But the other two...they were up to something. And it was definitely not a prank, otherwise I'd be in on it.
"What?" I demanded. They just grinned.
"Nothing, Sirius," said Moony, patting my shoulder. "Nothing at all."
I narrowed my eyes at them. Something was up. "I do hate McKinnon," I reminded them, "but there was nothing else to do and you know I get bored easily. I told her about my family," I added. They nodded, and I saw James's face darken. "And she told me about hers..." Now that got a reaction out of them. James was gawking, Remus had to sit down on the bed before he fell over and Peter...well, Peter had his usual face on. You know the one I'm talking about.
"She told you? And you're still alive?" said Prongs.
I laughed. "Yeah, but it's not exactly a funny story. I was wrong about her, and the whole thing with her mum."
"I told you so," muttered Remus.
I rolled my eyes at him. "Her mum killed herself," I told them, feeling a little guilty for telling them McKinnon's secret.
The guys didn't say anything, and neither did I. There was nothing to say. I had been wrong, as hard as that was to admit. But it was done with. Now I knew a little bit more about the girl I hate. Speaking of girls...
"So, Moony, how was your date with Lo?" I grinned when he blushed.
"It was good," he said, trying to sound casual.
Needless to say, we spent the rest of the night teasing Remus about his new girlfriend.
"Sirius Black, she is not my girlfriend!"
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