Chapter 33 : breakfast and brotherly advice
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“People are staring aren’t they?” I muttered under my breath to Lily Evans – who believed it to be her personal duty to guide me to breakfast the next morning. Lily clucked her tongue.
“No, of course not,” she cooed. I looked up and was met by several pairs of curious eyes. I turned to glare at her. “Well, a few people may be looking but it’s not like…”
I banged my head on the wooden table a few times before aquiring my breakfast. When I looked up, I was surprised to see Lily still sitting across from me - albeit looking highly hesitant about her decision.
“Are you eating with me?” I asked Lily in surprise. She seemed startled.
“Well, I was going to.” Lovely. Lily Evans felt obligated to eat with me because she had witnessed my pathetic deterioration over the past twelve hours.
“What about your friends?” I pointed out. “No offense, but…” I faded off. Was there a nice way of saying ‘I have no social skills and so the thought of eating with the rest of our dormmates makes me want to have an anxiety attack’? I didn’t really think so.
“It’s fine,” she grumbled and took the seat across from me.
I got why people were staring. While I may be clueless in the whole relationship department, I knew how to take Sirius Black down a few pegs when he was being a git. And last night, he was being a right git. I saw Tabitha saunter into the Great Hall with a smug look on her face. She still had leftover sparkles on her cheeks but everything else about her was perfect. I, however, looked like I had been hit by a bus and had spent the morning retching into the toilet with Lily Evans rubbing my back and attempting to pull back my mess of hair.
I ate silently, but Lily didn’t seem to mind. I was too absorbed with my own internal thoughts and didn’t feel comfortable sharing them with anyone.
Once again, James Potter had saved me because once again, Sirius Black had let me down.
The whole situation was getting pretty bloody annoying. I glanced over at Tabitha, who was gossiping happily with her friends. Maybe I should just give up. She was girlfriend material – she could be at Sirius’ side during parties, Quidditch matches, Hogsmede trips. Me? I spent more time in public with his best friend, and wouldn’t even let him stand within a foot of me in front of people.
But really, could anyone blame me for being paranoid? The boy was as unpredictable as a rouge bludger. And I was like a first year who had never been on a broom before.
I was jolted back to the Great Hall when I felt a body slide into the seat next to me. Sirius’ body warm was eminating from him, and he looked amazing – albeit slightly hungover. The shiner James had left on his eye appeared to be bruising quite nicely, making him look more recklessly attractive then normal.
“Hey,” he murmured into my hair. I stiffened. Lily was watching the situation unfold with a hesitant curiousity. I nodded curtly towards Sirius, and attempted to stomach some toast. He didn’t appear to notice my awkwardness. “I was thinking,” he whispered to me, “that we should just spend the whole day resting in bed.”
Oh, Sirius Black, the last place I want to be right now is in a bed with you, I thought.
“I’d rather not,” I muttered back. He looked at me curiously.
“Whatsa matter, Hope?”
“Whatsa matter, Sirius?” I mocked him, and furrowed my eyebrows. He frowned. “Why don’t you ask Tabs?” I paused. “Or James.” I snorted. “Or maybe even Vivica.”
He was silent.
“I’m quite over trying to change myself for you.” I snorted, disregarding how unladylike and unattractive it was. “A party, really, how did I convince myself it wasn’t going to be a complete disaster?” My stomach felt sick again. “Ugh, I’m going back to bed.”
“Hope, I,” he stood to follow me but I turned around and placed a finger to his lips. I could practically hear heads whip towards us in the Great Hall.
“Don’t worry about it,” I plastered a fake smile on my face – not wanting to give my peers the satisfaction of a fight. “It’s not like I’m your girlfriend or anything.”
And with that, I turned on my heel and stormed back to bed.
Sirius left me alone for about, oh, a day.
He was learning, in a sense. He was getting to know my emotional process. He was finally understanding that I was a bit of a nut.
He found me in the library.
Shocking, I know. Hope Khol, in the library! I was re-writing my History of Magic notes. I think I was the only person who found History of Magic fascinating. I found Professor Binns charming. He was actually quite friendly, and funny, it just seemed that no one ever took the time to speak to him.
Yes, that’s right, I maintain a friendly relationship with the most boring man ever – living or dead. No, I don’t have living friends. Yes, one of the few people I feel comfortable talking to is a dull ghost.
Sirius slapped himself down in the seat next to me, causing both myself and James to look up. Oh, why yes, in case there was any question, James and I were still study buddies. And, yes, it was still really friggen’ awkward. We studied together until the library closed, and most nights – thank Merlin – we didn’t speak. We even walked back to the Common Room in silence. It was weird.
“So,” the world dripped from Sirius’ mouth and I bit my lip unwillingly. Just one measly word and I already got the tingles. It didn’t seem fair. I snuck a peak at him. He was still in his school uniform, his tie was loose around his neck and his hair was pulled back. I took in his side profile, getting goose bumps when I looked at his sharp cheekbones.
My life would be so much easier if the boy I was in love with wasn’t so bloody gorgeous.
I would stand my ground way more.
I was shocked back to reality by a snort from James Potter. Sirius glared at him.
“Something to say, Prongsy?”
“Nah, I’m alright,” James smirked. “How’s the eye?” Sirius shrugged, put his hands behind his head and tipped the chair back.
“Nothing the house elves in the kitchen aren’t dying to put a steak on,” he said casually. James nodded, and tried to go back to his DADA essay.
“So, you’re here to grovel for forgiveness?” James stopped writing momentarily, crossed his arms in front of his chest and stared at Sirius. They were both smirking. I momentarily wondered if Sirius had come to check up on James and not me.
“I’m a Black,” Sirius stated grandly, “much to Walburga’s dismay,” both boys laughed, “therefore I don’t grovel.” He gritted his teeth and the laughter stopped. “You know that.”
I looked back and forth between the two of them in utter confusion. It was so obvious that they knew each other almost better then they knew themselves, but there was a weird tension in the air.
“You were a right git on Halloween, Paddy,” James muttered. “Leaving her like that, when you know she doesn’t even like parties,” Oh, I do love when they talk about me like I’m not sitting right there with them. It’s one of my favorite Marauder things, just underneath throwing innocent girls into pools and above convincing me they had planted a tracker in me because of their freakish ability to find me at any moment. Sirius interrupted him.
“Well, luckily, you were there to pick up the pieces.” He paused. “Again.”
Yep, definitely tension.
This was getting weirder.
“How’s Lily?” Sirius spoke casually. James’ eyes turned into squints.
“Still hates me,” he smiled. “But I think I’m wearing her down.” Sirius chuckled. “Are you going to apologize to Hope now?” I threw my head into my History of Magic notes and felt both boys look over at me.
I wanted to melt into the floor.
Why, oh why, did James Potter feel the need to be my personal bodyguard? Against his best friend of all people?
I guessed I was just lucky.
“Perhaps, if you would give us some privacy,” Sirius mused with an annoyed huff. James shrugged and gathered his books. He stood, but then stopped beside me.
“Don’t let him off the hook, completely,” James muttered under his breath. I shot him a small grin.
“Wouldn’t dream of it.”
I waited for Sirius to speak. He was better at making the first move in these situations. When I made the first move, it was usually an emotional rant about how I loved him.
“I’m sorry about how I acted,” he began, “I was drunk. That isn’t an excuse, I know, I was being a git.” I shrugged.
“You’re going to act the way you’re going to act.” He looked at me. It was an awfully mature standpoint for me to take.
“You’re not mad?” he asked me, grey eyes looking at me curiously. I squinted at him.
“Well, yeah, I’m mad. But I’m more so mad about the fact that you so quickly seem to find Tabitha in these sort of situations.” I paused. “I mean, I’m not your girlfriend. I don’t want to walk around a party, holding hands and snogging.” I shuddered. “But, perhaps next time, you could just,” I shrugged. “I don’t know, hang out with me instead of running off to dance with my streetwalker cousin?”
He grinned at me.
“Deal,” he laughed, kissing me on the nose.
One of the side effects of being in a coma for three months and missing the last month of school?
I didn’t make it into Honors Ancient Runes.
Yes, I was a horrible nerd, but I had been dying to get into Honors. It was a small class, only six or seven students, and I had wanted to be in that class since third year when I accidentally stumbled into it. The students looked so mature and put together, and they discussed their thoughts in such a professional manner.
I blinked myself back to reality – where I sat in regular old Ancient Runes, in a class that was a mix of sixth and seventh years. It was still a small class, so they mixed all of the houses together. I guess not everyone shared my love for Ancient Runes. The only other person I knew who took it was Remus.
He was in Honors.
I had gotten to class early – something that happens when you don’t have a life – and took a seat in the middle of the classroom. I watched as the classroom filled up and, shockingly, the seat next to me stayed empty.
I tried not to be bitter when I thought about how, if I were in Honors, I would be sitting next to Remus having delightful discussions about Ancient Runes, it’s theory and practice. I bit my bottom lip and began readying myself with my notes.
Professor Haynes called the class to attention, and I heard the door open for one straggling student.
“I believe there’s a seat left next to Ms. Khol, Mr. Black,” Professor Haynes drawled lazily.
Isn’t there always?
I didn’t even look up but felt a noticibly stiff body slide into the seat next to me. For the rest of the class, I was focused on writing down every symbol perfectly. When the class was dismissed, I rose to leave but felt a strong yet gentle hand grab my arm.
I looked up and was shocked to be met by a pair of eyes that I knew.
Those were Sirius’ eyes – grey, startling and brooding – staring back at me.
But that wasn’t Sirius.
The eyes belonged to a boy who appeared to be a slighter version of my non-boyfriend. His hair was longer and more ragged, his body was the same sort of build – slight and athletic, his bone structure was that same aristocratic makeup that made Sirius so devastatingly handsome, and his eyes. If it was possible, they showed more hurt, pain and devestation then Sirius.
My breath hitched.
“Who are you?” My voice was a whisper. He seemed to notice my shock and dropped his hand from my arm.
“Regulus,” his voice was firm, deep and handsome. Was it possible for a voice to be handsome? “Regulus Black.”
I had heard Sirius complain about his brother. “Brain-washed follower of the Dark Lord and Walburga Black.” He was supposed to be a slimy, Slytherin git – obsessed with the Dark Arts and Pureblood-mania. The boy who stood in front of me didn’t appear to be any of those things. Chisled, handsome and brooding - yes. Slimy - not quite. I should have known that a Black would never be slimy or unattractive. I was almost convinced they were born as fully-mature sexgods. The Blacks were like demigods of the Magical World. Hercules had nothing on the Black brothers. No wonder Walburga Black was such a nut, I'd think I was better then everyone else too if my gene pool could do that.
“Could I bother you to speak with me for a moment?” he asked me politely in a quiet, smooth tone.
“Me?” I pointed to myself and grabbed my bag. “Why?” His mouth set in a firm frown.
“I’m sorry, I don’t mean to bother you,” he was taking my answer as a ‘no.” I felt my hand reach out on it’s own to grab his retreating figure.
“No, I didn’t mean,” what was I doing? “I didn’t mean no. I have a free period.” I saw a quick smile flash across his face. “Maybe down by the Black Lake?” Regulus nodded.
This was so weird.
It was early November, so the air was crisp but not too cold. Regulus and I sat on the far end of the Black Lake, closest to the Forbidden Forest. We hadn’t discussed picking the distant location, but both had subconsciously realized we shouldn’t be seen together. “Um,” I rubbed my hair awkward. Those Marauders were really rubbing off on me.
“What did you want to talk to me about?” I had never seen a Black blush, after all the only one I had interacted with was Sirius, but I swear Regulus did. It was kind of nice, making someone blush. I was constantly blushing, so it almost made me feel powerful.
“My brother,” Regulus mumbled.
Awkardddd. I nodded at him, waiting for him to continue.
“You seem very nice,” he began again. I looked at him curiously. We had been in class together for two months and I had been oblivious to it. I didn’t speak to anyone expect Sirius, the Marauders, and Lena. It made me dreadfully uncomfortable that Regulus had noticed me enough to suggest that I “seemed nice.”
“I’m kind of looney,” I admitted. Regulus laughed. It was a nice, gentle laugh – different from Sirius’. I loved Sirius, his bark-like laugh was one you could pick out of a crowd. Regulus’ laugh was softer, more intimate.
Ooh, I am in over my head right now. One Black is more then enough for me.
“I find it endearing, actually,” he smiled at me. I was so confused. This boy was nothing like I had expected, completely the opposite of what I had heard. I chewed on my bottom lip. “So many people end up being what others want them to be, but you – Hope – you’re exactly who you want.”
I thought about this for a moment, and wondered if he was talking about himself.
“Which is why I think you should stay away from my brother,” Regulus continued. My head shot up so quickly that my neck hurt.
“I think you should stay away from my brother,” he looked me deeply in the eyes. “He’s only going to break your heart.” He paused for a moment. “It’s what he does. He doesn’t necessarily mean to but,” he frowned at me. “He will break you.”
I was speechless, shocked and completely caught off guard. I shakily made it to my feet.
“You’re a little late,” I began – not really knowing what to say, “Sirius has already broken my heart.” I shrugged my shoulders. “Multiple times,”
“Not like he will,” Regulus interrupted. “Hope, I shouldn’t even be seen speaking to you, but you need to understand. A life with Sirius will be a life of pain, sadness and desperation.” I shook my head.
“You don’t know him.”
“I don’t know him? I’m his brother.” I watched a vein throb in Regulus’ neck. I pulled my sweater, Sirius’ sweater, tighter around my thin, trembling body.
“James is Sirius’ brother.” I glared at Regulus. Regulus hung his head.
“And he thinks you should leave him too, doesn’t he?” Regulus offered. My breath caught in my throat. “James Potter has been against the two of you being together from the start, hasn’t he? He just won’t come outright and say it.”
Confusion swirled around me, and I couldn’t respond to Regulus’ claims. Instead, I turned and ran back towards the Castle. I didn’t turn around once. I didn’t stop until I collided into the chest of the only person I wanted to see at that moment.
I didn’t know how he knew to meet me. In the back of my head, I assumed it was the hypothetical tracker I had thought up. He didn’t ask why I was crying, or why I had been outside. I was pretty sure he was supposed to be in class. His jaw was firmly set, his steel eyes glared out at the Hogwarts grounds, and I could feel him bristling with anger. But Sirius said nothing. He just held me tightly, in a possessive hug, while I tried to calm myself down.
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