A/N: I know I suck at updating. Please find it in your hearts to forgive me.
Chapter Twelve: Bonding
A shout jolts me out of sleep, and when my eyes fly open to see bespectacled hazel eyes very close to my own, I let out a yelp and wriggle backwards. However, when I move backwards I manage to hit my head on the very solid headboard of my bed, causing me to jump forward and somehow sideways. The sideways factor of the jump causes me to miss my bed and land on the floor, bruising my bum in the process.
“Bloody hell!” I exclaim. I rub my now-throbbing head and look up.
I’m surrounded by four teenage boys, all looking down on me with a range of expressions on their faces. James looks like he’s about to laugh, Remus looks weary, Peter looks concerned, and Sirius . . . well I’m not sure what Sirius’s face looks like, because he’s shirtless and I’m too distracted by his chest.
“What on earth are you lot doing in my bedroom?” I cry once I’ve managed to stop looking at Sirius’s chest and get my brain functioning again. Everything’s kind of fuzzy though, due to me still being mostly asleep, and due to the fact that I think I just suffered serious head trauma.
“We’re going to the pool!” James replies before leaping onto my bed and starting to bounce on it. Clearly, someone’s morning cereal had too much sugar in it. “By the way, Mellie, nice shirt,” he says with an eyebrow waggle.
I look down and immediately feel myself blush. Thankfully, I didn’t choose to sleep in the nude last night like I sometimes do when it’s bloody hot out. Unfortunately, all I’m wearing is an oversized t-shirt that barely covers my knickers, which I am exceptionally grateful are not the usual granny-sized ones I usually wear. I’m not as grateful that my shirt happens to be the joke one that Katie got me last year for Christmas. It says “Slag” on it in big neon pink letters.
“Didn’t know you were like that,” he continues to tease while he jumps up and down. Peter laughs before sitting on the foot of my bed and bouncing slightly along with James. Remus just shakes his head.
“Oi!” Sirius exclaims before grabbing James and pulling him off the bed and onto the floor. “Stop eyeing my girlfriend!”
Is it bad that I still feel a bit giddy when I hear Sirius refer to me as his girlfriend? I mean we’ve been dating for about two weeks now, so maybe I should be over the thrill.
Today is turning into quite the day. Sirius and James now appear to be wrestling on the floor, Peter is bouncing on my bed, and Remus is finally offering a hand to help me up. I take it and then quickly climb back into bed and under the concealing covers.
“Mate, you’re the one who’s dating a slag!” I hear James say and but Sirius’s reply is incomprehensible, probably because James is sitting on his head. I sigh and glance at the clock by my bed. It reads nine o’clock, an ungodly hour.
“Um, anyone mind telling me what the hell is going on?” I ask, rather politely I think, considering four teenage boys have apparently broken into my house and then rudely woke me up by shouting in my ear, and all before noon, mind you.
“I tried to stop them,” Remus says, standing by my bed rather awkwardly. “But James is pretty hell-bent on going swimming today, and he wants to go early, because then there’ll be fewer people. The fact that your house was locked and you were asleep didn’t manage to discourage him.”
“Oh, swimming, lovely,” I mutter, trying to figure out if I’m actually awake or not.
“So are you coming, Mellie?” James shouts, or at least that’s what I think he shouts, because his voice is a bit muffled because his face is now against the floor, with Sirius’s foot forcing it down.
“Erm, I wasn’t really planning on waking up till way past noon, sooo . . .” I begin, but then I’m cut off.
“Puh-LEASE,” Peter whines, still bouncing at the foot of my bed. I give him a look because that whine just got freakishly high-pitched.
“Look, I don’t blame her for not wanting to go to the pool with you lot,” Sirius says, sitting on James’s stomach. “I mean, from the sound of it, Pete’s actually a first year girl.”
Peter jumps off my bed at that and together he and James assault Sirius. While Remus shakes his head and I consider attempting to go back to sleep, they manage to pin Sirius to the floor. James sits on his head while Peter sits on his legs.
They’re an odd bunch.
“Mellie, you have to come swimming with us,” James announces, ignoring the muffled shouts from Sirius. “Because Padfoot—”
“Padfoot?” I interrupt. Is padfoot some sort of foot fungus?
“It’s Sirius’s nickname. Anyway, he’s been spending far too much time with you, and not enough time with us, his best mates. So we’ve—“
“I’ve decided that you need to bond with the marauders,” James declares matter-of-factly. The fact that he can keep a straight face when he’s being so completely ridiculous amazes me. It’s a skill, really.
“It’s not that I don’t want to spend time with you, I just—” I attempt to explain, with what I think is incredible patience, considering they woke me at such a hideous hour.
“Meeeelllliieeeee!” James exclaims. “You have to come. Even if we have to tie you up and levita-I mean drag you there. I’ll do it. Or, I’ll have Peter do it while I restrain Sirius. We need to bond with you.”
Is “bond” on his word of the day calendar or something?
“James, honestly, how about in a few hours I—”
At this, James leaps off Sirius, who then proceeds to start wrestling Peter off him. James ignores these two and marches over to my bed, leaning over and crossing his arms to strike a menacing pose.
“Melanie Whateveryourmiddlenameis Parrish,” he starts, in a tone scarily similar to my mother’s when she’s angry. “You are coming to the pool with us now, because if we go any later it will be crowded and you’ll get a face-full of fat man again. And it’s already too bloody hot to do anything else but go to the pool today. And I know you still think I’m mental, so you need to spend more time with me to realize I’m perfectly normal . . .”
“And Remus and Pete barely know you at all, they need to spend more time with you to experience all your charming qualities and see what an excellent person you are, so they can help me write the best man’s toast at yours and Sirius’s wedding . . .”
Our wedding?! I feel my face heating up; I’m probably bright pink now.
“And I’m sure you secretly love a good excuse to ogle Sirius’s chest—” Oh dear God. “And don’t shake your head because I saw you checking him out earlier, the drool was obvious, thank you very much.”
If I was bright pink before, I’m neon pink now. I look at Sirius out of the corner of my eye and see that he’s taken a break from wrestling Peter to give me a very self-satisfied smirk.
“So. Are you coming?”
“You lot leave the room so I can change.”
And so half an hour later I find myself in the deep end of the pool, laughing as I try and hold James’s head underwater. He’s grabbed onto my arms and is attempting to pry me off him or pull me down with him, but he shouldn’t be because this is only payback for when he pushed me into the pool, which was payback for me stepping on his trainers the whole way here, which was only payback for him waking me up so damn early in the first place. So really, he should just stop fighting and accept his dunking, because I was wronged first.
But he gives my arms a yank and then pops up, gasping for air. Peter, Sirius, and Remus, who had been throwing a beach ball around while James and I struggled, laugh and clap for him.
“Aw, not fair, you’ve got a good 30 pounds on me,” I say as he mock-bows for his adoring crowd. It is a bit impressive that he can bow while treading water.
“Oh, pshaw. It’s the fantastic upper-body strength I have from years of being a Quidditch star that gave me the upper hand,” he replies while flexing. Then he giggles. “Hah! Upper-body strength, upper hand. Geddit?”
The boy has all the maturity of a five year old.
Then I remember something.
“You get upper-body strength from hitting a ball around with a broom?” I ask, dodging the beach ball Peter chucks at my head. James looks confused.
“We don’t—” he starts, but then notices Sirius frantically shaking his head and stops. “Er, yeah, you do. Or, at least I do. It takes skill.”
“I see,” I say, even though I really don’t. I slowly swim over to the other side of the deep-end to retrieve the ball so I can pelt it at Peter’s face. “So, what kind of posh boarding school do you lot go to, anyway?”
I hear many things at once.
“It’s not that posh,” from Sirius.
“It’s in a castle!” from Peter.
“The headmaster’s a bit eccentric,” from Remus.
And then, “I’M NOT TELLING YOU ANYTHING ABOUT IT AND IT’S DEFINITELY NOT SUSPICIOUS AND YOU CAN’T MAKE ME TALK!” from James.
There’s a pause while we all stare at James, before Sirius and Remus both tackle him and force him underwater.
Peter swims over to me, skirting around the mass of flailing limbs that is his best mates. He gives me a sympathetic smile.
“Mellie, I have a secret to tell you. You have to promise not to tell James I told you,” he says conspiratorially. I nod for him to continue. “No, promise.”
“I promise,” I reply wearily, because I think I’ve already had enough bonding for today.
“Alright. Well, the thing is, James is in fact, mental,” he says as if I’m supposed to be surprised at this information.
“No, I mean clinically. They never officially diagnosed him with anything, but that’s just because they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him.”
“Who’s ‘they’?” I ask. Peter glances over his shoulder to make sure James is still occupied.
Actually, I can’t really see him right now. He’s probably underwater. Maybe dead.
“Yup. Psychiatrists and psychologists and lots of people wearing white coats and holding clipboards,” he says seriously, but Peter trying to be serious is kind of like a puppy trying to be serious so I have to suppress a giggle.
“Really. It was around third year, and it was bad.” I kind of want to pinch his cheeks right now, what with this adorable serious face he’s got. “They did lots of tests and stuff, but never could figure it out. They took him away to a mental institution for a while, but James hated it there, which is why he never talks about it and gets really defensive when you say things about his sanity,” Peter explains solemnly.
That would explain a lot. But not everything. Not the weird stuff with his parents and with Sirius, and just the general sense of secrecy I’m beginning to notice more and more when I’m around James and co. It frustrates me if I start to think about it, so I haven’t been thinking about it.
“Okay,” I say, because Peter’s looking at me expectantly but I don’t know what to say. “Thanks for telling me, I suppose.”
“You’re welcome!” Peter exclaims with a grin, and then darts past me to grab the beach ball and chuck it at my head. It hits me full in the face and I let out an angry yell before tossing it back at him. I’m a hideously bad throw and the ball goes soaring over his head to where James, Sirius, and Remus have finally stopped wrestling, hitting James in the face. Okay, maybe I’m actually an awesome throw.
James makes some sort of outraged noise, and just like that, a beach ball war commences.
After the beach ball war dies down, after Sirius started using me as a human shield, Remus and I are lying on our backs, floating, while the rest of the hooligans take turns diving off the high dive and trying to make splashes big enough to capsize us. Yup, they’re really mature.
“You know, James really does mean well,” Remus says, breaking the comfortable silence between us. I’ve recently discovered Remus isn’t really a chatty kid.
“Yeah, I know,” I reply, letting my eyes drift shut. If I didn’t know James meant well I would’ve murdered the kid by now. Well, not murdered, since I know I wouldn’t do well at all in jail, but I definitely would’ve smacked him or something.
“You do?” he asks, sounding a bit surprised.
“I know he doesn’t mean to be as obnoxious as he is,” I say with a smile, “it just comes naturally.”
Remus chuckles. “True. But I meant with the whole breaking-and-entering-thing. That’s his weird way of trying to befriend you.”
“He could’ve just sent flowers,” I inform him and there’s another chuckle. Flowers, or a nice card, or some chocolate, or anything but breaking into my house and waking me up SO EARLY.
“That would be way too sensible,” he replies cheerily. “This is James we’re talking about here.”
I laugh, and then cough when I get water in my mouth. It’s surprisingly hard to stay afloat while laughing.
“But honestly,” Remus says after I’m done sputtering and he’s already swum over to me and asked a million times if I’m alright, and we’re both just floating again. “James is oddly protective of Sirius and basically does a background check on every girl Sirius dates, but Sirius dating you has thrown him.”
“Whaddaya mean?” I ask, a bit confused on how I’m different from Sirius’s previous girlfriends.
“Hogwarts is kind of a small school so every other girl Sirius has dated we’ve all known since we were eleven or twelve. But James doesn’t know you very well and that freaks him out a bit. And being James, this causes him to be even stupider than usual,” Remus explains.
“I get it,” I reply. “I’m the same way with my best mates.”
I probably shouldn’t tell Remus about the time Katie and I followed (it’s not stalking if you’re friends with the person) Liz and her date around for a good four hours, even sitting in the back of the cinema and throwing popcorn whenever he tried to get fresh with her. I mean, it was the first date, and he was from out of town, and we didn’t know anything about him, so we took drastic measures. And it turned out he was quite handsy. But I shouldn’t tell Remus about this, because he might tell Sirius, and he might think it was creepy. Even though it completely wasn’t creepy. Not at all.
“Good,” Remus says, and we fall back into that comfortable silence for a while. But then I think of something.
“Sometimes I get the feeling that Sirius is hiding something from me,” I confess.
Remus coughs and then swallows water and finally, after he’s done sputtering and I’ve already swum over to him and asked a million times if he’s alright, and we’re both just floating again, replies, “What do you mean?”
“It’s just, he sometimes stops himself from saying things, a lot of the time actually, and he’ll sometimes get a little panicky over what seems like nothing. I dunno. I can’t think of a specific incident,” I say slowly. There actually is a specific incident, I’m thinking of the P.I. But I can’t tell Remus about that or he’ll think I’m a nutter.
“Well he’s definitely not cheating on you,” Remus replies quickly.
Thank you, Remus, for that lovely thought that hadn’t even occurred to me until now.
Oh hell. He must be cheating on me. Why didn’t I see it before? He probably has a snobby other girlfriend that goes to that posh school of his and she’s super beautiful and super smart and really skinny with huge boobs. She’s probably graceful and charming and just bloody perfect. He must secretly visit her and together they laugh about the stupid things I do.
Or maybe I’M the other woman! Maybe he’s been going out with this super nice girl for years now and I’m just some summer fling hussy! And I’m going to unwittingly tear a beautiful relationship apart! And then she’ll kill herself out of grief and it’ll be all my fault! Or she’ll challenge me to a duel for Sirius and then I’ll lose and she’ll brutally stab me to death with a sword! But then again, doesn’t the other woman have to be a slag? That’s how it always is, isn’t it? Oh hell, I’m a slag!
Remus must notice the panicked expression I have now, and how I’ve stopped floating and am now frantically treading water, because he swims over to me, looking concerned. I’m trying not to hyperventilate, so I swim over to the edge to pull myself out of the pool. There’s less danger of me drowning now, so that’s good. Then again, I think I’d rather die by drowning than by being stabbed to death by Sirius’s paramour.
“Mellie?” Remus asks me, flopping out of the pool and looking alarmed at the strange wheezing sound that’s coming out of me as a result of me trying not to hyperventilate. “Are you okay?”
“Yup,” I manage to get out after several yoga breaths. “Peachy.”
For some reason he doesn’t seem to buy this, and gives me what I’m sure he imagines to be a piercing stare that’s supposed to make me confess. I, however, am stronger than that.
“Now I think Sirius is cheating on me!” I exclaim. Okay, maybe I’m not stronger. But he is really good at the piercing stare. He must practice it in the mirror or something. Remus looks away and lets out a sigh. Uh-oh, that’s a bad sign. He must have known all along I was the other woman.
“He’s not cheating on you,” Remus says, thus deepening Sirius’s guilt. “Why don’t you talk to him about it?”
He is SUCH a boy. Talk, pshaw. It’s times like these that require serious undercover surveillance.
“Oh, right, and be the psycho-stalker-accusing-rabid-jealous-suspicious-girlfriend? No thank you!” I say, and is it just me or is my voice getting slightly more high-pitched? That’s odd. Remus lets out another one of those sighs.
“You don’t have to accuse him of cheating on you, because he’s not; just talk about how you feel like he’s hiding something from you,” he explains patiently. Now it’s my turn to sigh.
“He’ll just say he isn’t,” I reply.
“You never know, he might surprise you,” Remus says, in one of those voices that imply there’s lots of hidden wisdom in the seemingly simple statement he just made. It makes me want to stick my tongue out at him. Instead, I sigh again, and he gives me a look, and I sigh again, and he gives me another look, one that says “I’m obviously much wiser than you so you’d better do what I say.”
“Fine, I’ll ask,” I huff. He grins, that cheeky “I know I’m right” grin that he and his friends seem to have all perfected. I decide the appropriate response to that grin is to shove him into the pool.
He falls in with a splash, and when he surfaces, spluttering and glaring, he grabs my leg and pulls me in too. I’m too busy laughing to offer much protest as he hauls me over to where the other boys are busy diving.
“Mellie just pushed me into the pool,” he announces. “James, sic her.”
“No! That’s too cruel!” I cry, smiling. “You can’t just turn James on me! Anything but that!”
The idiotic boys around me laugh and I join in, and as James grabs me in a head-lock I can’t help thinking that the bonding is actually going quite well.
Okay. I’m going to do it. It’s taken a day, but I have officially worked up my courage, and I’m going to go ask Sirius about his other lover. Well, maybe not in those exact words. I’ll be all cool and casual, not the mental-stalker-harpy-jealous-overreacting-beeyotch-girlfriend. Yeah.
I’m just about finished picking out the perfect “I’m so innocent and pretty, how on Earth could you lie to me or cheat on me?” outfit when I hear the noises that must be Sirius and James coming from the Potters’ back garden. Perfect, I can just go straight over there and not have to risk a run-in with mad Mrs. Potter.
I go out the back door, and, still hearing Sirius’s voice from the other side of the fence, head over to it.
“Hey, Sirius, it’s me, Mellie,” I shout as I put my foot on the bottom of the fence and start to climb over it. “Mind if I come over? I have to talk to you.”
I hear something that sounds vaguely like “sure” so I continue to climb. I drop off the fence, and turn, putting a very nice “I’m not here to interrogate you” smile on my face.
And then everything goes black.
A/N: Dun dun DUH! I know I am very evil for a cliff hanger, but the next chapter is almost completely written, so there will not, and I promise this time, be a huge gap between chapters. And let me just say, stuff happens in the next chapter. Big stuff. And I just want to say THANK YOU to everyone who has stuck with me through super long waits for chapters, and reviewed and been awesome. I really love the fact that I have such great readers.
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