"Miss Montague, what exactly are you reading?" Professor Vaughn leaned over my desk and whispered threateningly in Defense Against the Dark Arts.
"L-Lolita," I stuttered. Professor Vaughn was a terrifying man, but I'd chanced getting a bit of reading done during the ten minutes he'd allowed us at the end of class to work on the essay he'd just assigned.
"Tell me, have you even begun your essay?" he hissed.
"Y-yes, professor," I quickly handed him the essay on the unforgivable curses I'd finished over the holiday. He straightened up to skim through it, then looked down at me with an arched brow.
"Two points from Ravenclaw, and by all means, get started on the next chapter of the text."
"Yes, Professor," I hastily exchanged books, deciding it wasn't worth it to tell him I'd already read the entire textbook, not to mention completed all the coursework through April. The fact he'd only taken two points away was a good sign though; if the essay would have been bad it would have been a lot more. Halfway through rereading the first chapter, a rolled up piece of parchment landed in the center crease of the book.
I glanced to my left to see Sirius' unconcealed grin and flattened out the note, which read: Nice going. Trying to land double detentions? Vaughn had given him one at the beginning of the lesson for being ten minutes late. I didn't respond to the note, as class would let out in less than five minutes anyway.
"What were you thinking, relaxing in Vaughn's class?" Sirius fell into step with me as I set off towards the library.
"Just trying to make good use of the time," I turned pink. Although I was getting much better at forming sentences when Sirius was around, I still couldn't help blushing.
"Do you ever do anything but read?" his tone was only half joking.
"Yes," I responded defensively.
"Like what?" we'd taken seats in the library and he brushed a stray hair out of my face.
"I--er--like to write. And paint. Dance. Other… things…" I trailed off as I pulled homework out of my bag, completely thrown off by his touch. He didn't say any more so I could concentrate, but I still got distracted whenever his skin brushed mine, which was often. He'd told me he enjoyed watching me study; I thought that was rather odd.
"I have one more question," he interrupted a few minutes later.
"Hmm?" I asked, continuing to work.
"How do you know what the assignments are going to be through the whole year?"
"Well, I just--" but before I could say anything else, Lynn interrupted.
"Hello!" she said brightly handing me a small roll of parchment, "for you!"
"Thanks," I said, though my face fell as I opened it and saw yet another invitation to join Professor Slughorn for a drink after the quidditch match the coming weekend.
"What is it?" Sirius asked, so I handed it to him. "Ah, old Sluggy. Wanted me in the Slug Club until I demonstrated my complete lack of interest in potions. Or maybe it had something to do with my family being a bunch of lunatics," he shrugged and tossed the scroll into my bag.
"What do you mean? Your mother is such a delightful woman," Lynn couldn't say it with a straight face, "last time I met her, she offered to snap my wand in half for me," she half explained.
"Yes, charming," he rolled his eyes.
"Really?" I looked to Lynn for the whole story, but before she could answer we were interrupted again.
"There you all are!" James rounded the corner, not bothering to keep his voice down, "Mulciber just got a months worth of detention for attacking Agatha Timms from behind! Fortunately McGonagall was behind him--the woman was furious I tell you!--he did a fair bit of damage. Ravenclaw better stomp them flat in the quidditch match this weekend."
How quidditch had anything to do with it was beyond me, but I didn't say anything.
"Hey guys! Did you hear about Mulciber? He can't play in this weekends match!" Octavius had found us as well.
"Prongs has just told us," Sirius was grinning madly. All three of them were. Lynn and I exchanged a look that clearly meant she was thinking the same thing I was--did anybody bother finding out how Agatha was doing?
"Wow, hi everyone," Lily rounded the corner to see the already large group of us at my usual table in the library. James jumped up and offered her his seat, which she slid into without a word. Everyone chorused a greeting and the guys began discussing what this current event would mean for the coming match. Lily, meanwhile filled me in that I had an easy out for Slughorn's latest get together, as I was coming to her birthday party instead. Everyone was making so much noise, it was a wonder Madam Pince wasn't on top of us… but as soon as I thought it, she came bustling around the corner.
"Out! Out! Everybody out!" she screeched, "This is a library not a meeting place to discuss current events! Out!"
Everyone started filing past her, and I sighed, repacking my bag. I was the last in line.
"Oh, Jane, come up to the front before you go. I've got the next few books you wanted all ready. What do you have left now dear?" Pince ushered me over to her desk.
"Just this last shelf, I think," I said promptly.
"How wonderful! Here you are," she handed me a stack of five books, which I took carefully.
"Thank you, Madam Pince."
"No problem at all dear. I'll have the next five ready next week."
"Thanks," I said again before joining the others.
"What was that all about?" Sirius looked at me with an arched brow, "What shelf?"
"Oh--I've read everything in here except what's on that shelf right there," I pointed at the one closest to the exit, "Haven't read the restricted section either…" I frowned, wishing I had access to the volumes of information there.
"You're not joking…" his eyes were wide.
"Jane never jokes about reading," Octavius interrupted, "you should see her bookshelf at her parents' house."
Professor McGonagall had had enough come Wednesday's double Transfiguration lesson. As I was leaving with Sirius, she asked if she could have a word in private.
"Miss Montague," she gave me a stern look over her spectacles, "you have not been paying attention to any of my lessons since we returned from holidays. Now, I can't help but notice you and Mr. Black have been--"
"Please, Professor," I whispered, daring to interrupt, "it's nothing to do with Sirius."
"Then what is it?" she'd forgotten to look stern in her surprise.
"I… well…" I wasn't sure how to get this out, "can I show you something? It--It'll explain everything. I can just run and get it from my room."
"Certainly," she was clearly confused, but consented to wait. Sirius was waiting outside, but I told him I'd meet him for dinner. I hurried up to Ravenclaw tower, luckily got a question that wouldn't require an argument with the knocker ('Where do bezoars come from'--though he was clearly annoyed by my brief explanation of how they come to be there), passed Octavius without a word, and knelt down at my bedside table. Deciding to take the extra time, I carefully repacked my bag with the neat stacks of parchment that had slowly gotten taller and taller. Back through the common room and out the door, through the castle, and back to McGonagall's office took almost no time at all.
"What is this?" Professor McGonagall asked as I placed the stacks neatly in front of her; she picked up the first stack labelled 'Ancient Runes' and began flicking through.
"All of my homework assignments through the end of the year," I whispered, beginning to regret this already. Her eyes widened and her lips thinned as she leafed through the stacks of parchment, but she didn't say anything until she reached the end.
"But… this all looks like outstanding work as far as I can tell," she neatly piled everything back as it had been and turned to me, "Have you spoken to Professor Flitwick about this?"
"No. He, well, he doesn't seem too keen on me after I--er--accidentally lit him on fire," I finished unceremoniously and turned a deep shade of red.
"Yes, I heard about that," a faint smile spread across her face. Luckily I hadn't ever had a major accident in Transfiguration, "Jane, would you mind if I submitted these assignments to each of your professors for immediate marks?"
"Not at all," I agreed, and immediately regretted it. I would've liked to go through it all once more just to make sure it was accurate and complete.
"Very well. I will keep you updated. And please, do try to pretend to pay attention," Professor McGonagall swept out of the room with my tidy stacks of homework before I could change my mind.
"We're going to have a celebration for you if you beat Slytherin," James told us excitedly as we made our way down to the quidditch pitch to watch the Ravenclaw versus Slytherin match.
"Looking forward to it," Octavius replied, brimming with confidence I wished I had. As I wasn't laden down with books for once, Sirius had caught my mittened hand and was holding it firmly. I was certain it was what was attracting all the stares and whispers around us. I was fairly certain one of the bundled figures that had passed us was Fifi; up until now I had been sure she had no knowledge we were officially dating--our only overly public display thus far had been our brief outing at the Christmas Ball. Sirius seemed to sense my nerves and gave my hand a squeeze. That coupled with the reassuring smile on his face made me relax ever so slightly.
"You aren't tarnishing my seventeenth birthday with a Ravenclaw quidditch victory," Lily snapped at James, then glanced at Tavi and I and added, "no offense."
"None taken," I smiled, not caring in the slightest about the outcome of the match.
Just as we settled, the game began. The sky in the distance looked dark, and I hoped the match would end before the snowstorm arrived. Evidently the players were hoping the same thing. The game got fierce quickly, but Ravenclaw was winning by forty points.
Sirius put his arm around me after our seventh goal. I was quick to snuggle into him, for once not caring about any onlookers--I was starting to freeze. Three goals later, it seemed as though Ravenclaw's seeker had seen the snitch. I tensed, thinking she would fly straight into the center goal post on the Slytherin end, but she neatly avoided it, the snitch clearly fluttering in her hand as she circled back around.
The crowd erupted, and in his pleasure, Sirius lifted me off my feet and planted a kiss right on my lips. When he pulled away, my face was burning.
"Sorry, I couldn't resist," he grinned.
"Get a room," Lynn swatted Sirius' arm and winked at me.
We joined the crowd filtering out of the stands and back to the castle. Light flakes had barely begun falling as we crossed the threshold into the warm entrance hall. Sirius had apparently decided to abandon all pretense of giving me time to get used to all the touching and pulled me close as we ascended the marble staircase.
"Care to have a private celebration before Lily's party starts?" he whispered in my ear.
I nodded assent, and he suggested we meet in the room of requirement in half an hour. After Octavius had told me about Sirius' request, I'd sought him out and taken him into the room to give him my answer. It had been a blissful few hours of solitude, filled with whispers and heart pounding kisses--at least it had been after I had a slight panic attack and tried to ascertain whether or not his feelings were real. Obviously, I'd concluded they were, but I still couldn't help being skeptical. Girls ogled him everywhere we went.
I hurried back to Ravenclaw tower to deposit my cloak, thinking about nothing but the fact that I would soon be quite alone with a beautiful man, who for some strange, wonderful reason fancied plain Jane. After stripping off a few layers of clothing, I hastily checked my appearance before heading back downstairs. The celebration in the common room already seemed to be in full swing when I crossed to the spiral staircase out. I could see Tavi's red hair standing out in the middle of the huddle supporting the team captain.
I rounded the corner towards the flight of stairs leading to the sixth floor when a spell came hurtling out of nowhere and hit me in the face. The impact site felt like I'd been punched with immense force. Blood trickled onto my lips and I looked up in time to see the unmistakable pale hair and pink high heels disappear around the corner at the opposite end of the corridor.
It felt like my nose had been broken, so I pointed my wand at it and thought episky. The pain of the break instantly vanished, but the blood didn't seem to have stopped flowing. Just as I made a cloth appear to wipe my nose, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. Without hesitation I whirled around and aimed my wand directly at Professor Flitwick's heart.
"Oh, sorry Professor," I quickly lowered my wand and stowed it in my pocket.
"What happened here?" he had raised his own wand defensively.
"Just a random nosebleed," I began mopping up with the cloth.
"Do you need to go to the hospital wing?" he eyed me suspiciously.
"No, no… I'm sure it will stop in a few moments," I said as confidently as I could.
"Very well, but you may want to go lay down for a moment," he squeaked, "get some rest."
"Thank you, Professor, I will," I made to go back to Ravenclaw Tower, but when he'd disappeared around the corner, I turned and rushed up to the seventh floor without meeting anyone; I cleaned the blood up as best I could. Sirius was waiting in the corridor with a large basket, which he dropped when he saw me.
"Jane, what's happened?"
"I--I don't think I can do this," I choked, "This… I made a mistake. I'm sorry," I turned away quickly before he could see any tears fall and ran back down the corridor.
"Jane! Wait!" he called after me, but I just kept running. Only when I was confident I was well away from him did I slow down. Blood still poured out of my nose, and I felt sick. My chest was heaving and I leaned against the wall to stop the dizziness that was taking over.
I almost collided with a large vase, but drew my wand and pointed it at the newcomer, who turned out to be Remus Lupin.
"Are you okay?" he edged towards me when I lowered my wand.
"I hardly know," I whispered. I looked down at the cloth I'd been using to stopper my nose, and was horrified to see it was now completely a deep crimson rather than it's former white.
I looked into his soft, concerned, light brown eyes and opened my mouth. At the same time, my entire body shuddered. The last thing I saw was my paler than usual hand reach out unconsciously as Remus moved to catch my limp form.
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