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Chapter 8 : Mysterious
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"So..." I said to Black, a bit sheepishly.
"Oh, I'm sorry, are you speaking to me?" He smirked wickedly.
"Well, no, not really," I lied. "I was just...thinking out loud, and you happen to be sitting next to me." We were both leaning against the stone wall that branched off from the opening of the dungeon entrance.
"I see," said Black, rolling his eyes. "Admit it, you stubborn troll, you want to talk to me."
"Did you just call me a troll?" I said with mock anger.
He shook his head quickly. "Forgive me, did I say troll? I meant to say fairy. Yeah, a sweet, innocent little fairy."
I made a face. "I'd rather be a troll. It's better to be scary than helpless. Fear is a powerful emotion, my friend."
He snorted. "You? You're not scary."
I raised my eyebrows at him. "Oh, really?" I said in a warning tone.
"Okay," he sighed, "you're a little scary." I laughed at him and stood up, going to check the dungeon's corridor again.
"Still nothing," I said with a yawn. I heard Black's stomach grumble from where I stood.
"Starved," he said, putting a hand over his belly.
"Typical." I shook my head.
"You know, the kitchens are right around here..." His voice trailed off hopefully.
"Really?" I said curiously. Some nights, when I was thinking too much or I couldn't sleep, all I needed was a midnight snack. It would be useful to know where the kitchens were.
"Yeah," he said cheerfully. He stood up. "Come on, I'll show you."
I followed him around a corner or two and came face to face with...a dead end. There was a painting on the wall of a bowl of fruit.
"Now we just tickle the pear right...here." Black stroked the painting lightly and the pear let out a high pitched giggle. The painting swung open and we climbed through the opening and into the kitchen.
House elves immediately swarmed around us, offering plates of food and trying to take our orders.
"Good evening, Mr. Black," said a tiny female elf. He must come here a lot, I thought to myself.
"Hello, Misty." Black smiled fondly at the house elf.
"What can Misty get for you?" she squeaked.
Black looked at me. "Can you please get me some pudding?" I said without
hesitation. The elf nodded. "Thank you," I said as she scurried away.
"Pudding?" asked Black. He pulled out a chair and sat down at a large table pushed to the side of the room. House elves were darting about and pretty soon, Misty came back with some chocolate pudding.
"What? I like pudding," I said as I dug in.
We sat in silence for a few moments before Black grabbed a spoon that was lying on the table and helped himself to some of my pudding.
"This is a Marauder secret, you know," he said before I could protest. "You can't tell anyone about it, especially the guys. I'll never hear the end of it if they find out I took you here. It's against the Marauder's code."
"The Marauder's code?" I laughed. "What's that?"
"Just a set of rules we have. You can't know about them unless you're a Marauder." He smirked. "Incidentally, one of them involves not sharing any of the Marauders' secrets with anyone, unless you have permission from the entire group."
"And you guys take this whole 'Marauder's code' seriously?"
"Of course," he said. "We wrote it back in first year. It was the basis of our friendship back then, and their friendship means everything to me." He was solemn now.
I nodded. "They're your family."
"Exactly. But anyway, we know loads about the castle. No one does as much exploring as we do," he said proudly. He'd went from somber and complex, to bright and enthusiastic in an instant. His change in moods were always so disconcerting.
"I don't doubt that," I said, amused. "So how's Remus? Lo's been worrying about him.
We all are. He looks really ill."
"He's okay." Black shrugged.
I looked at him suspiciously. "Another Marauder secret?"
Black grinned. "Nah, it's not a secret. He's just having a hard time 'cause his mum's sick. He goes to see her once every month."
"Oh," I said. "I didn't know that." I'd have to tell Lo later.
"Well, now you know." He continued to shovel pudding into his mouth at an alarming rate.
"Honestly, you act like you haven't eaten in days," I commented.
"I'm a growing boy, McKinnon," he said cheerfully, raising his spoon in the air. I rolled my eyes for the thousandth time that night.
"Aren't we supposed to be doing patrol duty?" I pressed, worried about the potentially dangerous Slytherins going by unnoticed while we were stuffing our faces in the kitchen.
"We were out there for hours and didn't see a thing. I'm sure Dumbledore won't mind if we take a little break," said Black, grinning.
I bit my lip. "Still..."
"I knew it!" he crowed. "I knew you weren't as rebellious as people think you are."
"What?" I yelped, firing up at once. "For your information, Black, I am every bit as rebellious as you are. But Dumbledore gave us a job to do, and it is not to be sitting here eating pudding."
"As I recall, you didn't exactly say no to coming here, did you?" Black said smugly.
"Whatever," I mumbled, resisting the urge to punch him in the face. The night had been going fairly well, all things considered, and I didn't want Dumbledore to be disappointed in us. I could handle a few hours alone with Black, no problem. I suddenly remembered something I'd been wanting to ask him.
"Hey, have you noticed anything strange about our so-called friends?"
Black thought for a moment, actually putting down his spoon in the process. "Yeah," he said slowly, "I have, actually."
Lately the boys, Lily and Lo had been pretty secretive. They were getting together when Black and I weren't there, discussing Merlin-knows-what. Whenever one of us went over to them, they shut up and acted all chipper.
"I wonder what it's all about," I said thoughtfully. I was amazed that Lily was being civil towards James, much less trying to hide something from me.
"Yeah, it's getting a bit odd," said Black. "At first the guys were just blowing it off as if it were nothing. But now, they keep looking at me and grinning in this creepy way. It's...frightening."
"Same with Lily and Lo, except they keep bringing up Hogsmeade. There's a trip in a couple of weeks and Lo has been pushing Lily to go with James." I paused, trying to remember what Lily said to me yesterday. "When Lo brought it up yesterday, Lily kept looking at me when she said, 'I'll only go with James if two certain people decide to go together.'"
Black just shrugged, useless as always. "I dunno, McKinnon. Maybe they're trying to set you up on a date with someone." He grinned. "But that doesn't explain why my friends have been acting this way."
"No, it - " It felt as if my blood had turned to ice inside my veins. Were my friends trying to set me up with someone? Were they trying to set me up with...Black? No, they wouldn't try that, they knew we hated each other...
"What's wrong?" asked Black, his eyebrows furrowed.
"Nothing," I said blankly. "We should get back to the corridor and finish our patrol."
"Oh, Lilykins!" I called out, coming down the stairs to the girls' dormitory the next morning. Lily was sitting on the couch with Lo and the Marauders, minus Black. He was probably still sleeping, the great lump.
"Hey, Letta!" she said brightly, standing up quickly and smiling. Lo coughed and pushed her hair away from her face, looking up timidly. She knew that I knew that they knew something. If that even makes sense.
"Morning, Letta," said Remus, grinning that creepy grin that Black had been talking about the night before.
"How was – " I held my hand up to cut James off.
"Enough with the chit-chat," I said brusquely. "I need to have a word with these two." I jerked my thumb and Lily and Lo, who looked a bit frightened now.
They followed me across the common room into a tiny aclove. The three Marauders looked over at us nervously.
"What do you think you're doing?" I hissed, turning to face them and putting my hands on my hips. "Why won't you tell me what's going on?"
"Letta, we don't know what you're – " Lily started, but Lo cut her off.
"Oh, give it up, Lils. She knows." Lo sighed. "What did you hear?"
"Nothing, really," I said, calmly now. I knew Lily and Lo would never intentionally hurt me or try to piss me off. "Black and I were talking last night on patrol duty, and we both noticed that you were all acting strange. He says that they keep grinning at him like nutters and you two keep bringing up Hogsmeade." I narrowed my eyes. "Plus, whenever we come into the room, you lot stop talking and act all happy. Too happy."
"Well..." Lo trailed off, laughing nervously. "Here's the thing: James asked Lily to Hogsmeade and she said no, of course." She paused so we could both roll our eyes at the redhead standing next to us. "Anyway, Lily came up with a bright idea. And by bright, I mean really dumb."
I looked over at Lily. "And?"
Lily sighed. "Well...I told James that I would only go to Hogsmeade with him if you and Sirius went together. I gave him my word. I knew you two wouldn't want to go, so...I thought it was the perfect way to get out of a date with Potter."
"It kind of backfired though, didn't it?" I said thoughtfully, working it out for myself.
"Since you said that to James, he's convinced Remus and Peter to help him out. And he thinks he can get Black to go along with it, since they're best mates and James has been after you since first year."
"Yeah," said Lo sheepishly. "Now all we had to figure out was how to convince you because...well, you're the most stubborn person alive. We knew you wouldn't want to do it. In all fairness, Lily did try to stop us."
"Only because she doesn't want to go on a date with James," I pointed out. "So why did you do it, Lo?" I wasn't really mad anymore. I could never stay mad at my friends for long. Now I was simply curious.
I think Lo noticed that because she loosened up a bit. "Well, Remus and I had a talk..."
"You had a talk, huh?" I grinned. "I'm sure your tongues got quite the workout from all that talking." Lo blushed prettily. I looked at her, one of my best friends. I knew she wouldn't ever try to hurt me but...would she lie if she thought she was doing the right thing? Lo was a better liar than Lily...was there something I was missing? Something she wasn't telling me?
Lo shifted under my searching gaze, turning her face away. She was hiding her real motive for going along with this plan. But I trusted Lo, didn't I? Of course you do, I thought to myself angrily. She's your best friend. If you can't trust her, you can't trust anyone.
"So...will you do it, Letta?" Lily asked cautiously. "You know I think you shouldn't, but it's up to you of course." She hesitated, then gave up with trying to be nice about it and got straight to the begging. "Please," she said, getting on her knees and hugging my legs. "Please, please, please don't make me go to Hogsmeade with him! I'll do anything, Letta, anything!"
"Gravelling doesn't suit you, Lily-pad," said James as he strutted over to us, followed by the rest of the group. Black had gotten out of bed at some point during our discussion and by the expression on his disgruntled face, it looked like the rest of the Marauders told him what was going on.
"You better not try anything funny on this Hogsmeade trip," he grumbled at me.
My eyebrows went up in surprise. "You agreed?"
"Prongs sucked me into it," he said, still grumbling. "Why, you didn't?"
"No...I wanted to think about it," I admitted. After all, I wasn't just going to run around Hogsmeade with Black for no good reason. Then again, we've all been waiting for Lily and James to get together since second year, so that was a pretty good incentive.
"Letta." James grabbed my arm and pulled me away from the group. The others looked at us curiously, but they were out of earshot before James began. "Letta," he said again, "please. Please do this for me. This may be my only shot to show Lily who I really am. I need this shot. Don't you think everyone deserves a chance?"
I was taken by surprise again, for the second time that morning. Merlin, I hadn't even had breakfast yet and they were dumping all of this mushy stuff on me.
"I'm not really that bad, am I?" James asked quietly.
"No, James," I said truthfully, "you're not."
"Well then do me this one favor. I know you won't believe me, but Sirius isn't that bad either." I snorted, and James laughed. "I'll try to convince him to be on his best behavior. C'mon, Letta. Let me show Lily who I can be."
I sighed and led James back to our friends. I looked around, pausing – for dramatic effect, of course. "Okay," I said, looking Black straight in the eyes. "I'll do it."
It was about a week before the Hogsmeade trip when Lily, Willow and I were sitting in the common room, catching up on some homework we had been neglecting. The fire was crackling merrily and all that could be heard was our quills scratching upon parchment. Until –
"Prongs, if you say Lily's name one more time, I'll murder you myself."
"Sorry, mate. C'mon, Wormtail, hurry up! We're already late."
Black, James and Peter came bounding down the boys' staricase. James was carrying some kind of cloak, and they were talking in hushed tones.
"Hello, boys," I said loudly, making them jump.
"Oh, hey, Letta," said James, glancing nervously at Lily. He obviously didn't want to screw up his chances before even going on the Hogsmeade trip.
But right off the bat, Lily asked a question that James didn't want to answer. His face said it all. "Where are you going?"
"Uh..." James just stood there, looking at his friends for help. "Well, Lily, we're, uh – "
"Going to the kitchens," said Black smoothly. "What's it to you?"
"I'm Head Girl," Lily reminded him. "Plus, you're Head Boy, Potter! It's my job to know where you're going. And it's both of our jobs to behave responsibly, especially since it's after curfew."
"What?" yelped Peter, staring wide-eyed at Lily. "You can't stop us, not tonight!"
"Lily," said James in a low voice, completely serious now. "We have to do this. It's not a prank, I promise. But you can't stop us. Please." Lily looked confused and slightly startled by his intense gaze.
"How about this, Lils," I said casually. "You give them a lecture on why they shouldn't be out after curfew. Then, me, you and Lo will go upstairs and pretend we never saw these troublemakers. If they choose to go out, it's their problem. You warned them."
Lily still looked unsure. "Come on." I grabbed her arm and yanked her off the couch. "You boys should be ashamed of yoursleves!" I said in dramatic Lily fashion. "How dare you break the rules! I'm warning you, if you go out after curfew, you'll get caught." Then I smiled at the three Marauders, who were now all grinning in relief. "Goodnight, boys."
Lo and I dragged Lily up to the girls' dormitory and we all changed out of our school clothes.
"Hey," said Lily suddenly, "where was Remus? He wasn't in the common room with the other three."
"Oh, he went to visit his sick mum for a few days," Lo answered, climbing into bed.
"He looked really worried. I was afraid he was catching something himself. He was all pale and clammy..."
I gave her a sympathetic look. "I'm sure he'll be back and feeling better in no time," I told her, going over to the window and looking out at the grounds.
Only half of my mind was on the conversation with my friends. The other half was wondering where those boys could have gone. I didn't believe for one second that Black was telling the truth; kitchens my arse! Something was going on with them, something big. I could see it in James's face when he begged Lily not to stop them. Yeah, something was going on, alright. But what?
"Hey," I said slowly, turning back to my friends, "do you ever wonder where the Marauders go when they sneak out at night?"
"Sometimes," Lily admitted. "If someone sees them, they just make up some pathetic excuse and say they're off to the kitchens or something. But I don't buy that rubbish."
Lo nodded enthusiastically.
Then, a thought struck me. "Let's follow them."
"What?" screeched Lily.
Lo just looked at me. "Letta, if they're sneaking out they'll definitely be under James's invisibility cloak."
"Well they can't have gotten far," I pleaded, only thinking this through halfway. "If they're under the cloak it'll take them forever to get wherever they're going." It was true; those boys were huge, they wouldn't all fit under the cloak unless they moved carefully.
"Well..." Lo's voice trailed off thoughtfully. I grinned. She was actually considering it.
"We'll have to hurry," she said finally, her eyes burning with curiosity. She wanted to know where they were going just as much as I did.
But Lily had put her foot down, literally. "Absolutely not," she said, horrified. "I refuse to let you two sneak out after curfew. We don't have one of those fancy invisibility cloaks; we'll get caught for sure."
"Come on, Lils," I said, biting my lip. If we didn't hurry, we'd never be able to find them.
"No," said Lily adamantly. "I'm Head Girl, for Merlin's sake!"
"Fine," said Lo, winking at me. "We'll go by ourselves. You can stay here, Lily. We'll see you when we get back."
I nodded and followed Lo down the dormitory staircase and into the common room.
The last few embers of the fire were just dying out as we reached the portrait hole.
Lo and I looked around, spotting Lily as she hurried from the dorm. "Changed your mind?" I grinned.
"Shut up," she grumbled. "If we get caught, I'm blaming this entire thing on you, Letta."
"What else is new?" I sighed. I led my friends out of the common room and into the cold, dimly lit corridor.
We were finally going to find out where the Marauders mysteriously disappeared to.
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