“V? Are you still up?” Manny’s voice interrupted my self-wallowing. For some reason, all I can think of is that look Wood gave me before he left me in the corridor. A look of absolute disappointment.
“Yeah,” I said, sitting up so that I could part the drapes. When I opened it, Manny was sitting on her own bed, her long legs curled up underneath her. Sometimes Manny reminds me of a cat. A very long-limbed cat that is capable of curling up into a tiny ball whenever need be. She’s kind of adorable in that way.
“I’ll be fine.”
“You’ve been avoiding all of us.”
I sighed. “I have this feeling everyone’s going to say that to me.”
“Probably,” she said with a slight smile. “But really, are we going to talk about this?”
She had such an earnest look on her face as if nothing I said or did could be without reason, and she was willing to listen completely. Whatever reservations I might have had about telling her anything disappeared.
“I’m sorry,” I began, “I don’t know...”
Manny chuckled. “I do.”
“Come on. Seven years, and you think I don’t know how you think? I’m not that clueless, V,” she laughed. I couldn’t help but smile a little.
“I know you know I broke up with Oliver because I could tell he liked you. I did like him a lot, and it hurt to do it.”
“I’m so sorry, Manny,” I started. She held up her hand to silence me, and I shut my mouth.
“It hurt, but I knew I was doing the right thing because once I knew for sure that you two would be better together than we would, I didn’t feel terrible. It would have made me feel worse to make Oliver stay with me while knowing that he had the potential to be so much happier and so much better a person with you. You’ve looked out for me for years, V. I had the chance to do the same for you.”
I didn’t know what to say, and I was pretty sure words wouldn’t be able to convey anything near what I would have wanted to say. Instead of speaking, I rushed forward, and pulled her into an embrace. “I missed you,” I said.
I pulled away after a few moments and let out a little laugh. “It’s all for nothing, though.” I sat down beside Manny.
“What do you mean?”
“Wood made it very clear to me today after the meeting with McGonagall and Snape that we are not even friends anymore.”
“Oh, V, he’s just saying that. He’s upset. He doesn’t really mean it.”
I dropped my head on her shoulder. “I don’t know why it even matters to me. It shouldn’t.”
“Are you so sure?”
I didn’t reply, but I think Manny knew what I was thinking even without an answer. No, I wasn’t sure. I wasn’t sure if he liked me or even so much as saw me as anything more than a speck of dirt now. I wasn’t sure how I was going to apologize to all my friends who I had inadvertently gotten into detention. I wasn’t even sure if Manny was telling the truth. Maybe the only thing I was sure about was that I had to do something about the detention. I owed my friends and Wood that much. Of course, at the moment, all I could think about was how to erase that look Wood gave me because I never wanted to see it again, that look of utter disappointment.
“What about your knight in shining armor?” I asked, wishing to change the subject.
“Oh, him? Prince Charming? He’ll come for me some day,” she said, feigning a wistful sigh. “He’ll come riding up on a big, white horse, and he’ll call up to me from hundreds of feet below the Gryffindor Tower.”
“Manny, oh, Manny, let down thy golden locks?” I quipped, glad that it was so easy to fall back into a friendship. Manny giggled a little bit.
“I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure that I am never going to have hair long enough to drop down a tower the height of ours. Maybe when we were First Years, but now that we’re high and mighty Seventh Years? I don’t think so.”
“Plus has it ever occurred to anyone how painful it probably is to have some guy yanking on your hair up fifty feet?”
“Ouch. Speaking of hair...V, your hair still smells like mashed potatoes.”
I groaned. “No! Still?” Ugh. Another shower it is.
I’ve been able to resolve things with Manny, and that’s the first step for everything. Now that I’m certain that Manny is fine, I can find a way to make up with everyone else. I went to go visit Professor Lupin the very next day to see if I could get the detention punishment lifted for the Gryffindors team.
“Ms. Cohen,” Professor Lupin sounded surprised to see me standing at the door of his office. “What are you doing here?”
“I came to ask you for help,” I said, walking into his office, and taking the seat he offered with the gesture of his hand.
“Well, I’ll help in any way I can. What seems to be the problem?”
“The food fight yesterday...” I started, and I saw the slightest smile twitch on his face. He controlled it well, but it didn’t escape my notice. Who knew Professor Lupin could be a bit of a troublemaker, enjoying the occasional food fight? “Well, yeah, that was just because I did something kind of...foolish. It was naive of me, but I just wanted to get back at the Slytherin Quidditch team.”
“Get back at the Slytherin team for leaving you unconscious and covered by broomstick straws?” he eyed me sternly as if he were reprimanding me for not telling him the truth.
I dropped my eyes to the ground. “Yes,” I conceded quietly. I should have known Lupin wasn’t nice enough to let that one lie slip by unnoticed.
“Professor McGonagall told me about it yesterday evening. If you’re trying to find a way out of detention, I’m afraid it’s rather impossible.”
“No, not for myself! For the Gryffindor Quidditch team. They don’t deserve the week of detention, Professor. They’ve got the Ravenclaw match in a week, and it’s going to determine whether they’ll have a shot at the Cup still. The whole thing was my fault. I shouldn’t have allowed it to continue, and they shouldn’t take the fall for my childish behavior.”
“I don’t know, Ms. Cohen...Professor McGonagall is your Head of House. If you should be speaking to anyone, it ought to be her.”
“Yes, but I thought perhaps if you came with me, you might help me convince her?” I said hopefully. Professor Lupin surveyed me in silence. “It doesn’t hurt to try right, Professor? Please. I’ve been a horrible friend these past few weeks, and I’d give anything to give my friends what they want and deserve the most.”
Professor Lupin sighed. Pushing his chair out, he said, “I’ll come with you.”
“Thank you, Professor!” I jumped up, scurrying out of the room, waiting impatiently for him. If I knew Professor Lupin had such quick and long strides, I would have just given myself a head start, but as it is, I thought he’d be much slower. He always looks tired, but when he walks, there’s something very smooth in his gait. His long legs cover practically three of mine, so his one leisurely step translates into my three very hurried steps.
Of course, his quick walk did get us to Professor McGonagall’s much faster than I had expected, and the two of us waited as she finished up with her Transfiguration class. As the last of the Second Years filed out, Professor Lupin and I made our way into the classroom. It’s a sad, sad testament to my health that I was already out of breath, and Professor Lupin looked like he could have walked another fifty miles.
“Ms. Cohen. Remus. What brings you two here?”
“I believe Ms. Cohen has something to say.”
I wheezed and held up my hand to signal I needed a moment. Professor Lupin had a half-smile on his face. It was almost as if he enjoyed the fact that he was torturing me and that Professor McGonagall was looking at me like she wasn’t quite sure whether I needed Pomfrey or not.
“Professor...McGonagall,” I huffed, “I need...to...ask you to...take the detention...from the Gryffindor Quidditch team.”
“Ms. Cohen, they are just as culpable as you are.”
“No, no,” I said, my breath finally evening enough so I could talk. “They aren’t! It was my fault! I started it.”
Professor McGonagall raised an eyebrow, and she waited for me to continue.
“Well, technically, the Slytherin team started it, but I fanned the flames by breaking into the Slytherin Quidditch locker room,” I admitted. “So, it’s my fault. The Gryffindor Quidditch team was caught in the cross-fire, that’s all. They didn’t know what they were getting into. Please, Professor, I know you want Gryffindor to win this Quidditch House Cup just as much as Wood wants to win it. You know this match is crucial. Please, I’ll take the detention they have. You can compound it until the end of the year, but just don’t take this week away from them. I’ll take all the responsibility.” I finished breathily, feeling like I was talking a million words per minute. My heart was pounding, and I felt like I was awaiting some sort of jury sentencing. Professor McGonagall eyed me suspiciously.
“That won’t be necessary, Ms. Cohen,” she said. “Their detention will be canceled. Yours, however, Ms. Cohen is still continuing for this week. In lieu of absolving their detention, you won’t be having detention with Mr. Filch, but rather with Professor Snape. You are to report to the dungeons every day at 8.”
Oh...Snape. I closed my eyes, willing myself to not be angry at Professor McGonagall. She’s letting them off. I have to concede this even if Snape makes me clean dirty cauldrons for an entire week.
“Okay. I’ll take that. Thank you, Professor. Thank you so much.”
Professor McGonagall nodded curtly, and she took her things, heading to the door. Suddenly, she stopped and said, “Ms. Cohen, if that was all you wanted to say, why did you drag Professor Lupin with you?”
Oh. I didn’t think of that. I had just assumed Professor McGonagall would need more coercing than one person could handle. Apparently, I was wrong. “I...don’t know,” I said slowly. Professor McGonagall shared a look with Professor Lupin before addressing me one last time, “Ms. Cohen, although you have detention with Professor Snape, I’ll have you remember that you are still expected to turn in your essay at the end of the week.”
Minerva McGonagall. Ever the curt, but secretly affectionate woman. I have no doubt she’s got a much softer side to her than she’ll probably ever show any of us. I chuckled a little to myself, forgetting that Professor Lupin was there.
“Well, it seems everything has been resolved,” he said, startling me.
“Yes!” I said, with a wide smile, “Thank you. I’m not sure why I asked you to come, but I’m glad you did.”
“It was my pleasure,” Professor Lupin nodded, heading for the door as well.
“Professor,” I called out just as he reached the doorway. “Why did you come?”
Professor Lupin half turned and smiled coyly. “It seems as though some of my past Gryffindor pride is not entirely dissolved. Also, I can’t say I particularly like any of the Slytherin Quidditch team. Flint alone is a headache for me.”
“He is for everyone. I doubt Snape even likes him,” I laughed.
“Enjoy your detention,” Professor Lupin said, with a nod and a kind smile.
Who would have known? Professor Lupin’s got a lot more to him than I thought. He just flitted past my attention for most of the year, but he seems to have something boyish about him. Some part of him seems to be just as much a young boy like Fred or George Weasley, running around, playing pranks on people. I sighed, pushing myself off of a desk. Well, at least I had one thing to look forward to. I can torture Snape just as much as he can torture me.
I arrived at the dungeons at 7:50, and Snape was already sitting at his desk, grading papers. I knocked on the open door, and without even looking up, Snape pointed to the pile of dirty cauldrons and flasks sitting to the side. Have to give it to Snape. He knows how to give a time-honored Potions-related detention. He lacks imagination as far as I’m concerned.
“Without magic. Put your wand up here,” he said, tapping his desk impatiently. I trudged to his desk and placed my wand on the table. “Get to work.”
I surveyed the tipped cauldrons. I wonder if I’m allowed to wear gloves or if my hands have to become blackened with soot and other oddities found in the bottom of cauldrons. There’s a bucket of water, a few sponges, and some soap. Well, this ought to be fun.
“What seems to be the problem, Cohen?” Snape asked, not sounding like he really cared at all.
“Do I get gloves?” I asked.
“Just for asking, you do not,” he snarled, smacking one of his graded papers to the side.
I grabbed one of the smaller cauldrons, feeling an odd ooze stuck to the inside of the cauldron. My stomach turned, but I grabbed my sponge and started to work. I was halfway through the small cauldrons when I was faced with one that was particularly nasty. It had what looked like a mixture of guck that used to be a reasonable potion and then a whole score of ingredients that just wreaked havoc when combined. I’m pretty sure parts of rat tail are cemented into the sides of it.
I groaned out loud by accident, making Snape peer up from his grading. “That is courtesy of Seamus Finnigan. He’s in your House, I believe.”
No need to sound so snide, Snape. Snide Snape. I snickered a little, but stopped as Snape sent me a very pointed glare. “Cohen, this is an easy detention. If you behave, you’ll finish by the week, and I won’t make you clean the rest of the dungeons.”
I nodded, turning back to the cauldron. Fifteen minutes later, I paused in my work, which Snape for whatever reason was automatically aware of, and he snarled another “get to work!”.
I smirked. “The water’s murkier than the cauldrons themselves. A new bucket of water might be nice.”
Snape growled, but waved his wand. The water became clean and clear. A pointed look told me to get to work. Ten minutes later, I spoke up again, “Out of soap, Professor.” So the detention went on with me taking every chance to annoy Professor Snape, and him taking his lovely sweet time grading his papers so as to keep me as long as possible.
It was nearing midnight when he finally set down his final paper. I had been so concentrated on getting what looked like it used to be mandrake root out of the side of a cauldron that I didn’t notice he was finished and gone until I finally looked up to ask for another sponge.
“That’s nice of you, Snape,” I muttered as I looked up to the empty desk.
“You’re free to leave, Cohen,” his cold voice came from across the room, where he was standing looking out at the moon. Odd. I didn’t peg Snape as one to look at the moon at all or enjoy any sort of scenery.
“Sure thing, Professor,” I said in a fake, chipper voice whilst grabbing my wand off of his desk. “I just want you to know it’s been an honor serving detention here in this-”
“Get. Out. Cohen. Or I will pull you out by your ears,” Snape threatened, whirling around to stare at me.
“Right-o, sir! I’m gone!” I said, ducking out of the classroom quickly. Well, it might take me weeks to wash off the stains my hands are going to have by the time my detention is over, but it’s worth it because nothing is more fun than annoying the hell out of Snape.