Over the next week, I found out just how persistent Gryffindors could be; they seemed to pop up everywhere, never ceasing to get me to say at least a few words to them. I was on edge all the time--not even the library was safe.
On the Monday after her birthday, Lynn had gotten me to agree to be her study partner while carelessly flinging a sharp garden tool through the air.
"So you're probably really smart, right?" she had asked, "you're in Ravenclaw and all."
I didn't know what to say so just shrugged. Lily had taken matters into her own hands and informed Lynn that I had gotten the highest grades in the entire school on my O.W.L's. At this, she exuberantly flung her arm in the air and caused some dragon dung compost to fly across the greenhouse and hit Peter Pettigrew in the face.
Ever since, she never failed to join me in the library every evening--not even Octavius would study with me that much. I found I didn't get as much studying done as I normally would've with Lynn around. Every five minutes she'd start a conversation. Madam Pince, who had previously been nothing but a wonderful help, would now shoot nasty glares at Lynn and look at me as though she was severely disappointed; Pince didn't like talkers.
While I was still awkward and jumpy, Octavius had merged into the group so well it was like he'd always been friends with them. I constantly wondered how he did it. Their pack tendencies made it much harder for me to go anywhere not accompanied by at least one of them. A few students had begun eyeing me suspiciously if I passed down a corridor--the one Ravenclaw surrounded by Gryffindors. I never noticed anyone eye Octavius the same way. Thankfully when I went places on my own, nobody seemed to take any notice of me--or so I thought.
As I headed to the library thinking of starting the essay I knew Professor McGonagall would be assigning tomorrow, a nervous looking second year stepped into my path.
"Are you Jane?" he asked timidly. I was pretty sure he was in Ravenclaw too.
When I nodded, he thrust a roll of parchment tied with gold ribbon at me and tripped over the hem of his robes in his haste to get away from me. I frowned slightly until he was out of sight, then looked at the parchment. With slightly shaking hands, I unrolled it, hoping it wasn't what I thought it was.
I sighed as I scanned the short note which was from Professor Slughorn, the potions master, just as I had dreaded. Horace Slughorn never failed to invite me to a single meeting of the Slug Club, though I generally avoided them at all costs. Apparently tonight he was having a small gathering in his office for a private dinner.
"Oh, you got invited too, then?" an excited voice said right next to me.
I jumped into the stone wall before I realized it was just Lily Evans. She pulled a small roll, exactly the same as mine, out of her pocket.
"Think you'll go then?" she asked.
I shook my head no.
"Aw, why not?"
"Right, I forgot he always puts you in the spotlight whenever you can't weasel your way out of going," she grinned, "when I first met you, I didn't realize you were the same person until you turned bright red when Sirius offered you a butterbeer. You should come, though. It's always more fun when you have a friend or two to go with."
"I don't really know anybody there…" I trailed off.
"What does that make me, a nobody?" she nudged me and smiled.
"No--I just meant--"
"It's okay, I'm only joking," her grin widened, "think about it this way, if you go to this one early on, your quota for this term will be filled."
"When you put it that way," I rolled my eyes.
I couldn't shake Lily off for the rest of day, as our last two lessons were together. She even followed Lynn and I to the library to get in some study time before dinner.
"Yes, fine, I'll go," I finally consented after almost five minutes of her raving about how good it would look to any jobs we applied for to be in the Slug Club--most members had turned out to do something worthwhile.
"Really? That's great! You won't regret it!"
You bet I will, I sighed and put the finishing touches on the series of complex equations Professor Vector would assign two weeks from now.
Ten minutes later, Lily and I entered Slughorn's office together. It looked like we were some of the last few to arrive.
"Miss Evans! Glad you could make it!" Professor Slughorn boomed when he saw us, "and is that actually Jane Montague I see? What a pleasure! Come in, come in!"
I quickly took a seat that was far from where Slughorn himself was sitting, not wanting to get drawn into a conversation with him. Lily sat across from me and winked before placing her napkin on her lap.
"Well I think this is all of us," Slughorn beamed around the table, "let's eat, shall we?"
Just as the food appeared in the great hall, it appeared on the makeshift table that was set up in his office--taking up most of the space. I had barely helped myself to some roast chicken when Slughorn addressed me.
"How are your studies going this year, Jane?"
"Good," I whispered, though I needn't have said anything--Slughorn just continued talking over me.
"Jane was at the top of the entire school in her O.W.Ls last year," he announced to the entire room, "made a hundred and four percent in Potions, and even more in Herbology, wasn't it?"
I nodded, feeling my face turning redder and redder.
"This one is going to be doing some great things after Hogwarts, mark my words--"
Slughorn went on and on. Finally the conversation turned to somebody else, but continuously returned to me; each time I heard my name, I jumped in fright and dropped anything I happened to be holding. He asked me what I wanted to do when I left Hogwarts, and without waiting for an answer began hinting about various connections he had within the Ministry of Magic.
The main course seemed to take three hours, and we still hadn't gotten through dessert and tea. The boy on my right, whom I thought was in Hufflepuff, introduced himself as Roddy Pontner, but I was much too nervous to try and converse with him, despite his continual effort.
When students finally started departing for the evening, Lily gave me a significant look that I took to mean she was ready to go.
"Leaving so soon?" Slughorn frowned when Lily and I stood.
"Yes, we've got a bit of work to get finished," she said apologetically, "but thank you so much for having us, Professor. It was a wonderful evening, as always."
"No, no, thank you for joining me!" he said jovially, "I hope to be seeing more of you this year, Miss Montague," he added.
"Right-er-thank you," I stumbled over my words.
"That wasn't so bad, was it?" Lily asked once we'd cleared his office.
"Speak for yourself," I sighed.
"At least he wasn't insulting you," she shrugged, "you really should be proud of yourself. You've no reason not to be. I might tell everyone if I'd gotten over a hundred percent on three of my exams last year."
I looked over at her, shocked. She turned bright red. Slughorn had only mentioned two, but I had also gotten over a hundred percent in Transfiguration. The only person I could think of that would know that, aside from the teachers, was Octavius.
"I… well, I asked Professor McGonagall about you," she admitted sheepishly, "you showed me up in Potions and that is my best subject!"
"I'm sorry," I didn't know what to say. Part of the safe world inside my brain seemed to have collapsed; I'd thought the only people who could've told you my name would be a handful of Ravenclaws, and now I hear that Lily Evans of all people asked her head of house about me--specifically about me.
"It's nothing to be sorry about," she giggled, "I'm just competitive--I got a hundred and two in Slughorn's class."
"I--well that's good…"
"Not as good as you," she smiled.
"I just study… a lot…"
"A freakish amount," she nodded seriously, "we'll have to work on that. See you tomorrow!"
We'd reached the fifth floor, and she turned and walked the opposite direction. I stared after her until she rounded the corner. Since when do people like Lily Evans know who people like me are? And just what exactly did she mean by 'we'll have to work on that?'
Octavius was sitting in an armchair completely immersed in his Muggle Studies book when I got back to the common room. I sunk in the chair next to him, not in the mood to do anything, what with the taxing Slug Club dinner and the realization that I might not be as invisible as I'd thought.
"My gods, Jane, how long have you been sitting there?" Tavi suddenly jumped and dropped his book on the floor.
I shrugged. "Fifteen minutes, give or take."
"I'm really going to need you to stop doing that to me," his hand was on his chest, "just say something when you sit down next to me, you know I have a weak heart!"
"You're heart's fine," I whacked him in the chest as I bent to pick up his book for him.
"How was old Sluggy?" he asked, completely changing the subject.
I made a face.
"That bad, eh? Well at least now you don't have to go for another couple months," he said encouragingly.
"Lily Evans asked Professor McGonagall about me," I blurted.
"I mean--my academic performance," I looked at him, hoping he'd get the point without my having to explain myself further.
"So she's as freakishly into school as you are?" he grinned.
"I--she knew who I was before I met her. Before we were introduced…"
"Jane, I hate to break it to you, but a lot of people know who you are."
"Yeah, now that the Gryffindors--"
"It has nothing to do with them," he cut me off, "people have known who you are before any of the Gryffindors came along and befriended us. Trust me."
"For someone who is usually so smart and observant, you sure are dense about human relationships when in relation to yourself," he said matter-of-factly.
"I am not… I just--"
"Open your eyes, Jane," he smiled and started leafing through his book to find his place, "you'll be amazed what you see."
A/N: I'm not too fond of the chapter title. What do you think?
Write a Review Six Degrees of Separation: Open Your Eyes