"Did you hurt yourself when you fell down from the sky ?"
Oh my God.
“Do you believe in love at first sight, or do you want me to walk by again?”
Okay, now this was just becoming ridiculous!
“Can you believe this guy?” Joe Chang muttered, and I noticed him use more force as he scribbled with his quill.
I glanced over my shoulder at where the Mr Pick-Up-Line himself sat; Amos Diggory, Head Boy.
“You’re just jealous,” I teased Joe, as the girl Amos Diggory let out a small giggle.
“Me? Jealous? HA!” Joe said, rolling his eyes.
“Trust me,” I said, shaking my head. “You would never be able to make a girl giggle like that, Joe,” I said, finally meeting Joe’s eyes. “Sorry to break it to you – but it’s true,” I added a little more gently.
“Vanessa Lang,” Joe said formally, shaking his head. “This is exactly why we’re best mates; you burst my massive ego at desperate times!”
I grinned, and returned to my notes. Joe was right, though; he needed someone honest enough to tell him the truth, and who would fit the role better than a childhood friend who was practically like a little sister to him?
We had known each other for a long time. Not since birth, though. He had arrived to the St Blossom’s orphanage at the age of 5. I had never lived a day in a normal family, so everything outside the walls of the orphanage was practically strange and new for me. But Joe… he had once had a family, he had memories, and was now an abandoned child. So of course he rebelled in the beginning – almost got himself killed when he refused to eat or drink.
But ever since then, we had been best friends. Even the fact that I was a year above him seemed irrelevant. Actually, it almost always felt like he was the big brother, and I was the annoying little sister – not only because he was so much taller, but because he was smarter, faster and cooler.
“Did Nana send you a sweater too, Nessie?” Joe asked suddenly.
I frowned, as I looked up at him. “Yeah, a maroon one. You?”
“The most hideous shade of mustard, actually…”
“Nana put much effort into it, you know,” I said. “She’s getting better at it, right? Remember those gloves she knit for us a few years ago? They were different sizes!”
“And you stole my gloves!” Joe accused, and pouted.
“You didn’t like the gloves, anyway,” I pointed out.
“Excuse me,” someone interrupted, and both Joe and I looked up. “A-are you by any chance Vanessa Lang?” a girl asked.
“Y-yes,” I answered nervously, and smiled unsurely.
“The Vanessa Lang? The sixth year Gryffindor who lends her notes to other students for a few galleons – that Vanessa Lang?”
“Which notes do you need?” Joe asked the girl.
“Charms,” the girl said, holding out her hand with an expectant look.
“Miss Lang is currently busy studying for her—“ Joe began.
“Here!” I said quickly, already shoving a pile of notes to the girl. “Ten galleons.”
The girl handed me the money, and walked away. Joe made a tsk! sound, as I avoided his piercing gaze.
“I cannot believe you’re still doing that,” he said. “It started as a silly joke, something to tease you about!”
“But it was a brilliant idea, and I curse myself for not coming up with it myself!” I said through gritted teeth. “Do you realize that I would actually have to give around 10% of my income to that tosser Jenny McLaughlin, because I’m using her idea?”
“Jenny McLaughlin is a heinous bitch, who got pissed off because you outsmarted her – which quite frankly is not a difficult task, considering the fact that she asked how to write her own name,” Joe said blankly. “You should think about your—“
“I’m helping others, okay?” I cut him off. “And… I’m making a little money on the side – it’s not like I want to live off the charity money Hogwarts has thanks to—“
“THE MARAUDERS!” someone shrieked, making me jump in my seat.
Everyone watched as James Potter, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew walked into the Library, like some sort of celebrities. Well, in Hogwarts, they were. Their parents – or in some cases, their entire family line! – had supported Hogwarts in some way.
The Potters had put in some money – not a small amount, either! – and rumor had it that there was an entire lounge called ‘The Potter Lounge’ somewhere in the castle
The notorious Black family was one of the remaining, ancient Pureblood families left, and pretty much supported the foundation that let people like Joe and I attend Hogwarts; witches and wizards with no money. It was mainly a publicity stunt to make people believe they were ‘good’ and ‘loving’, so that they could do whatever they wanted.
The Lupins and Pettigrews were a little more subtle. They both had distant relatives who were some kind of literature personas, or personal friends of someone important. Cool by relation, as Joe often reminded me.
But even if all this made the Marauders sound like awesome princes, they were anything but. They made pranks on other students. They hexed other students for fun, and treated them like dirt. Usually, they were never cruel. Just… playing around.
Even so, I had promised Joe to never irritate them.
Another silence stretched between us, which was suddenly interrupted by Joe’s cough. He coughed again, and I looked up at him with raised eyebrows. “Yes?”
“I’m leaving,” he said, gesturing vaguely towards the door. “You coming?”
“You want me to walk you to your Potions class?” I said with a snort. “As if. See you at dinner, yeah?”
“Fine,” he said, waving to me before disappearing.
I envied Joe in so many ways; not only was he good at Quidditch – which automatically made everyone accept him at Hogwarts, orphan or no orphan – and his studies, but he was also a seventh year student. It was November, and I had counted the days ‘till Joe would graduate, and never returning to Hogwarts again. The mere thought of it seemed so weird and… surreal. The idea of not going to Hogwarts with Joe made my stomach make an uncomfortable flip.
Sure, I had survived one year without him, when he entered Hogwarts as a first year, leaving me practically wailing behind on the platform 9¾ with Nana.
I shook the memory out of my head, brushing a dark curl from my face. Nevermind, nevermind – I would power through it… somehow. Well, I had to, if I wanted to become a Professor at Hogwarts.
My head jerked up so fast it hurt. I quickly gathered my things, not in the slightest mood to witness yet another Slytherin outburst of anger over something totally unreasonable. I rushed towards the doors, completely missing the direction from where the ruckus was coming – until I ran straight into Bellatrix Black’s narrow back.
My collision made Bellatrix’s hex miss the victim she had aimed at, and she turned to face me with a wicked look on her manic face.
“You – made – me – miss,” she hissed, her eyes wide. “I never miss.”
Someone hissed behind her in agreement, and I glanced nervously in the direction of the sound, meeting three pairs of Slytherin eyes; Lucius Malfoy, Rodolphus Lestrangeand Severus Snape.
“Aww, Bells!” came a sly voice, and everyone of us turned to stare at the person who had spoken. “Leave the poor girl out of this – cant you see she’s already terrified? Are you going to cause her a heart attack? That wouldn’t go down well with Dumby!”
I gave Sirius Black, the prick, an indignant look. “I am not terrified,” I said, my voice shaking.
“Will you shut up? Please?” Black said, staring at me as if I was completely demented.
“What’s this?” Bellatrix mused, smiling widely as her eyes flew from me to Black, and back to me again. “Is this your little girlfriend?” she purred, as she leaned in closer to take a better look at my face.
It almost felt like she was looking for the ‘Mudblood’ print somewhere on my face.
“HA!” Black guffawed, twirling his wand casually with his fingers. “I have higher standards than that!” he said, gesturing towards me with his wand. “No offence, though,” he added, flashing me a grin.
I just glared.
“Wait a minute,” Lestrange suddenly grunted, stepping around Bellatrix to get a better look at me, too. “Isn’t this one of those orphans?”
Joe and I had both put so much effort in blending in and doing well, so that people wouldn’t give us looks of pity or sadness whenever we passed them in the corridors – and a few minutes at the wrong time with Sirius Black and his bloody relatives involved, and it was all ruined.
“No,” Snape suddenly blurted, his eyes unreadable. “She’s… not.”
I glanced at Black, almost expecting him to shout out the truth, as I watched the concentration grow as a frown on his remotely handsome face. He seemed to be just as surprised by Snape’s comment as I was, not to mention suspicious.
“No?” Lestrange said, peering at me. “I could’ve sworn—“
“What, you spend more time ogling at other girls instead of paying attention to Crazy over here?” Black put in smoothly, jabbing his thumb at the furious looking Bellatrix. “Not that I blame you, if you know what I—“
“ENOUGH!” Bellatrix shrieked, her cheeks flushed. She aimed her wand at me, her thin lips curling over her teeth. “CRU—”
“BELLATRIX BLACK!” a furious voice boomed. It was like a thunder rumbling down the corridor, and it made me jump back.
I looked up just in time to see Professor Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall hurry down the corridor, every single student jumping out of their way as they went by.
I had never seen Dumbledore so furious.
“Come on,” a voice hissed, and I felt someone tug my sleeve impatiently. I looked around, my mouth hanging open, as I met Black’s bright eyes. I couldn’t move my feet, I felt frozen to the spot. “Oh for Merlin’s sake!” he mumbled, grabbing a tight hold of my hand, and dragging me in the opposite direction.
“NOBODY MOVE!” I heard McGonagall holler, just as we rounded the corner.
I let him blindly drag me along, still too mortified and shocked to move a limb. I didn’t even notice that we had arrived to the Gryffindor Tower, until I found myself stumbling up a set of stairs, somehow feeling so familiar, yet so…
Reality hit me when he burst into a messy dorm, and my eyes instantly narrowed on some dirty socks and Quidditch robes on the floor, and a few comic books on one of the beds.
And at the same time we entered, and my brain took in the boys’ dorm, three boys sat up in their beds, their comic books forgotten.
“Padfoot brought a girl with him?” James Potter said with a frown.
“Is she drugged?” Remus Lupin went on, quickly jumping on his feet to take a better look at my pale face.
“Lemme see,” the third boy, Peter Pettigrew , said. I realized that Potter and Lupin had been reading comic books, whereas Pettigrew had been immersed in something entirely different.
Something I would have nightmares of in the future.
I took a step away from the four Marauders, and another, until my back hit the door with a thud.
“She looks terrified,” Lupin commented, looking worried. “What did you do to her, Padfoot?”
“Bellatrix,” Black said with a shrug. “And then Dumby and Minnie came, and it was a party!”
“Wow,” Pettigrew said, his eyes wide.
I couldn’t help but grimace at him in disgust, pressing myself closer against the door. Black, Potter and Lupin followed my gaze, and their mouth fell open, as they noticed the magazine in Pettigrew’s hands.
Lupin was the first one to react.
“Melrin’s beard, Wormtail!” he said, grabbing the magazine and threw it under one of the beds. “Where are your manners?”
Pettigrew blushed a deep shade of red, as I reached for the doorknob.
“Hey, hey, hey!” Black said, grabbing my wrist and twisting it away from the doorknob. “Where are you going?”
I stared at him, almost ready to scream. “I want to go now,” I said in a weak voice.
This wasn’t happening; my head felt suddenly so heavy and fuzzy.
“Oh,” Black said, letting go of my wrist quickly. “Well, just be careful, and avoid leaving the Gryffindor Tower for a while – someone might recognize you from earlier, and if you want to keep your record clean of any detentions, you’ll—“
“Um, Padfoot, man,” Lupin said, elbowing his friend as he watched me. “I don’t think she’s grasping any of that, I think she—“
“She’s going to faint!” Potter called out, just as I felt everything disappear in a blur.
And then I was swept off my feet.
~ * ~
I opened my eyes carefully, and found myself inches away from a familiar, friendly face and black eyes.
“JOE!” I said hoarsely, and flung my arms around his neck. “Thank God you’re—“
I saw four boys and one girl gaze at me form the other side of the room, all of them looking guilty in one way or another.
“Nessie,” Joe said, as he unlocked my arms from around his neck. “I need you to calm down, and listen to what I have to say.”
I tore my eyes away from the group of misfits, and peered at Joe instead. “What’s going on?” I demanded, looking wildly around. “Why am I in this stinky, ol’ dorm!?”
“Oi! No mocking the dorm!” Black grunted, but was quickly silenced by a simple glare the red-haired girl gave him.
“Shut it, Black,” she hissed, wagging her finger at him. “This is your fault, anyway!”
“Oi, listen up, Evans! If it weren’t for me,” Black started, looking put out. “She would’ve hit her precious little head on the floor!”
“Why am I here, Joe?” I repeated, trying not to feel too awkward by the bickering in the background.
“I suppose the two of you ran quite fast, and lots of things happened,” he explained, shrugging. “And I suppose you missed lunch, right? Low sugar-level is pretty crucial if you have to run away from something,” he said, giving me a wry smile. “How’s the head?”
Instinctly, I touched the back of my head, wincing. “Ouch,” I mumbled.
Joe sighed, and turned to glare at the boys. “Nice work, pals,” he grunted, before facing my quizzical look. “They—“ he began, but his sentence was drowned by the noise of Potter, Lupin and Pettigrew disagreeing and protesting. “Fine – Black kind of managed to bump your head against the bedpost before he got you in bed,” he said, grimacing as the words left his mouth. “Put you down, I mean.”
“Nice save, man,” Black guffawed, as I glared at him.
“How are you here?” I asked, frowning at Joe as I rubbed my head. “You’re a Ravenclaw! You’re not--
“I was about to go to Potions, when Potter and Pettigrew came and dragged me with them,” he said, shrugging again.
Joe shrugged a lot when he couldn’t give a completely satisfying answer.
“It was my idea,” Black said, looking proud. “I thought you’d want your brother to be around when you woke up.”
“He’s not my brother,” I growled, ignoring Joe’s chuckle.
“He’s not?” Black said, looking surprised. “But… you two are always together, it’s—what!?”
“Nice one, you mutt,” Lily Evans – red-haired girls – said and folded her arms.
“He’s my best friend, you imbecile,” I snapped, trying to get up from the bed. I staggered, and was thankful for Joe being so quick to get me. We exchanged a glance, and I sighed in defeat. “Fine,” I muttered, as he kneeled in front f me, his back to me.
I silently climbed on his back, wrapping my arms around his neck as he hoisted me on his back.
The others watched in silence, as we passed them. Joe backed a few steps, until he was facing the stupid mongrel himself, Sirius Black.
“Thank you,” he said, nodding once. “If I can repay the favour in any way, just let me know.”
“No,” Black said, just as Potter said, “Actually, there is!”
“James,” Evans warned, as Black glared at him.
“You’re good at homework, right?” Potter said, peering at me.
“Yes,” I said slowly. “Why?”
“You could tutor him,” Potter said, flinging his arm on Black’s shoulder with a grin. “He needs some serious help in Charms and Herbology.”
“Joe is a good tutor, too,” I said after a moment. “Better, even. He’s a year ahead, so he—“
“Actually, I must agree with Potter on this one,” Evans cut in. “I mean, no offence, but how long has it been you’ve done these exercises, Chang? You need to concentrate on your own exams, not bother with this failure’s—“
“I’m – right – here,” Black said through gritted teeth.
“I know,” Evans said sweetly, and smiled. “So, how about it? Will you tutor him?”
“Absolutely not,” I said at once.
There was a long silent, and I felt Joe sigh under me. “Nessie? Maybe—“
“What, Joe, what?” I snapped, making him fall silent.
“I promise to protect you from the dark forces,” Black offered with a wink.
Joe’s hold of my legs tightened for a second, before he forced himself to relax. “She won’t be needing any protection,” he said calmly. “Because you won’t put her in that kind of danger ever again, do you hear me?”
“What’s that supposed to mean, eh?” Black demanded, taking a step closer, standing face to face with Joe.
“Stop it, Black!” Evans said, at the same time as the other Marauder reflexively grabbed Black’s shoulders, holding him back.
“Fine,” I said, taking in the tense atmosphere. “I’ll tutor you – twice a week; Mondays and Fridays, in the Library, six o’clock.”
“Mondays are Quidditch practice,” Potter pointed out.
“Wednesdays and Fridays, then,” I said.
“But on Wednesday—“
“Once a week, on Friday, six o’clock, the Library – that’s my final offer; take it or leave it,” I said, glaring daggers at Black who shrugged before muttering something under his breath.
Joe piggybacked me down the staircase in complete silence. Everyone in the Common Room gave us curious stares, as we crossed the room. Joe carefully put me down, but not before eyeing the staircase to the girls’ dorm almost angrily.
Both of looked down at my legs, waiting for them to cave under me. I looked up at Joe, before patting his shoulder, and standing without his support. “Thanks, Joe.”
Joe shrugged, and stepped down. “Yeah, yeah – anytime,” he said. “I’d carry you up the stairs, but—“
“Yeah,” I said, scratching my brow. “The stairs.”
“Yeah,” he murmured, and I turned to walk up the stairs. “Funny thing… this tutoring thing… with you and Black, isn’t it?” he suddenly said.
“Yeah,” I said with a frown, gazing at him over my shoulder. I watched him eye with a suspicious look on his face, before shaking his head. I sighed, and walked back down to him. “I won’t change,” I assured him, raising my brows at him. “That’s what you’re worried about, aren’t you? That he’ll have a bad influence on me, and I’ll turn into an imbecile, too? Well, it won’t happen, you know that.”
“Power through it,” he said and smiled.
“As always,” I promised, and grinned. “See you later!”
He waved once, before leaving the Common Room. I hurried up the stairs, glad to be back in the clean, girly dorm.
I was sure to be scarred for life thanks to everything I’d been through today.
~ * ~
A/N: If you have a tendency to jump to wild conclusions, then here you go; Chang. Any HP character with the same surname pop to your mind, hmm? ‘Nuff said :D
- Lily xxx