It was already the second week of December and the weather outside was ridiculous. It was twenty below zero, the biting wind was always blowing, and the clouds looked ready for another snowstorm. Unfortunately, I was being forced to go to Hogsmeade in this weather. Normally I wouldn't have minded, but being with Black all day made the offer much less appealing.
The Marauders became close friends of ours after we learned about Remus's lycanthropy, and we even started to refer to them as 'our boys.' But no matter how much fun the Marauders could be, I still had a deep rooted hate for Sirius Black.
Lily, Lo and I met up with the Marauders in the entrance hall before we left for the village. There had been a notice on the bulletin board that morning that no one was to leave until Professor McGonagall had made an important annoucement.
Lily and James seemed to be getting chummy – well, they weren't fighting, at least. Lo and Remus were holding hands, chatting about a book or something. Peter was...where the hell was Peter, anyway? It didn't matter – I was stuck with Black. Alone.
I'll admit, I was being a little overdramatic. I'd been alone with him before. But still, this was a forced friendship. There was nothing to talk about, so we just stood there in silence until Professor McGonagall came into the entrance hall.
"Attention!" she said loudly, waiting for the students to shut up. "Attention! Professor Dumbledore has asked me to give this announcement before you arrive in Hogsmeade. You must be very careful and be back before dark," she said, her voice grave. "Dementors will be patrolling the village for escaped Death Eaters when the sun goes down. As most of you know, Dementors are not tolerable creatures. There is a chance that they will attack you if you are in their way. Furthermore, there are some Dementors that have been sent by Death Eaters to do their bidding. Those Dementors will absolutely come after you if you are not inside the castle before dark."
As soon as the professor was done with her speech, murmurs erupted around the hall. "Wow," I said to no one in particular. "Dementors."
"Yeah, the Ministry is upping the security because of Voldemort," said Black, who was beside me.
"Well, let's be back before dark then, shall we?"
Black nodded seriously and led the way out of the castle. We walked down to Hogsmeade with the rest of our friends, although talking was pretty much impossible. We were all bundled up to the point where only the very tips of our noses were exposed.
"Hurry up, Black," I mumbled through my scarf. We were falling behind the others and Black was lollygagging as usual.
When we finally reached the village, the six of us split up; Remus and Lo scurried off into Honeydukes, Lily and James went straight to The Three Broomsticks, and Black and I ran into Zonko's Joke Shop.
Black didn't seem as interested in all of the prank supplies as I was, mostly because he owned all of the merchandise already. Half the store was probably back at the castle in his trunk. Although, he didn't deny that Zonko's was his favorite shop, so he humored me when I wanted to try the hiccup sweets and play with the nose-biting teacups.
"Now where to?" asked Black after we left Zonko's.
"Hmmm, what about – " I didn't get to finish, because I was suddenly knocked to the ground when someone bumped into my side.
"Oh, I'm so sorry, dear. Let me help you up." I grabbed the old lady's hand so she could help me to my feet.
That's when I got a good look at her face. "Grandma?" I exclaimed, not believing my own eyes.
"Violetta?" Her eyes went wide. I didn't get a chance to respond, however, because she let go of my hand and I fell back on my arse.
I got to my feet by myself this time, glaring at Black when he brushed the snow off of my cloak – rather roughly, might I add.
"Grandma, what are you doing here?" I was a nervous wreck after running into her like this, biting on my lip and looking down at the ground. I hadn't seen my Grandmother, Agnes, since my mum's funeral three years ago.
"I was just doing some early Christmas shopping," she said curtly. Ah, so she still didn't like me, did she? Like mother like daughter, I guess. Agnes was my mother's mum.
"Oh, thats – that's nice," I said, forcing a smile. "I'm here on a Hogsmeade trip from Hogwarts." I turned towards Black. "This is – "
"Your boyfriend?" she said abruptly.
"Oh, no," I said quickly. "This is Sirius Black. We're not – well, uh, we're just friends."
"Hello, ma'am," said Black, polite for once in his life.
"Pity," she sighed, "he's handsome. That would have been at least one thing you've done right since you were a little girl."
My fake smile fell right off my face at that. "Grandma," I said, a little angry now. Remember, Letta, I thought to myself, she's an old woman. You can't punch her.
But Agnes surprised me again. "Don't call me that," she snapped. "You don't deserve to call me that, you ungrateful brat. I know what you did," she hissed. "The whole family knows. I can't believe Mina is still talking to you, much less giving you a place to live, after what you've done to this family."
"Agnes," I said clearly, trying not to let her or Black see that I was upset. "I didn't mean to, you know I didn't. She was my mother." I whispered the last sentence, taking a deep breath and looking into my grandmother's hateful eyes. "Aunt Mina forgave me. Why can't you?"
"Because you killed her!" she cried, her voice rising with every word. "You told her that you hated her, you nasty little wretch, and then you left her there to die! You were always giving Jolanda a hard time, always misbehaving and being so – so you. How dare you even ask such a question! You killed my daughter!" she shrieked, making passerby stop and stare at us.
"Letta," said Black urgently. "Come on. We're leaving."
"No," I said, pulling my arm out of his grasp. "Wait, Agnes, I – "
My grandma stormed off without another word, and she didn't look back. I stared after her, feeling people's eyes on me, and the cold wind nipping at my face. My scarf must have fell to the ground during my shouting match with Agnes. Well, she had been shouting. I had just stood there and soaked it all in. Because I knew she was right.
"Letta," said a gentle voice, and after a moment of confusion, I realized it was Black talking to me in that tone. "Are you okay?"
I bent down to pick up my scarf and then looked up at him. "Of course I am," I said coolly. "Come on, let's go inside somewhere."
Black stared at me for a moment before taking hold of my arm. "Right," he said tersely, "come on."
I followed him up the cobbled street and into Honeydukes, where the warmth and sweet-smelling aroma washed over me.
"Chocolate is what you need," Black said in a gruff voice. "I'll be right back. Just...stay here, okay?" I rolled my eyes at him, but nodded anyway. In about five minutes he was back, carrying the largest block of chocolate I had ever seen.
"Merlin's beard," I said softly. "How much chocolate did you think we'd need, Black? I can't eat half that much."
He just shrugged. "So we'll have extra," he said calmly. He studied my face again, which I promptly responded to by sticking out my tonuge. He smiled briefly. "So, can I assume that you don't want to be around people right now?"
"Yeah," I sighed, "I guess so."
"Okay then, follow me." I frowned for a second, but followed him anyway, deciding to trust him – for now, at least. He hadn't done anything majorly stupid. Yet.
"Black, what are we – "
"Shh!" he snapped, crouching low behind a deserted shelf of candy. I mimicked his movements, peeking around the corner carefully. We were right next to the front counter, where the cashiers were busy wringing up customers.
"Come here," said Black, pulling me back behind the shelf. He rasied his wand and, before I could knock it out of the way or punch him in the face, he tapped it on my head. I felt a cold, prickling sensation start at the top of my scalp and slide down my neck.
"Black!" I hissed. "What did you do to me?"
Instead of answering, he tapped his own head with the wand. All of a sudden, he disappeared. I looked around, confused, until I heard his voice in my ear. "Keep your voice down."
I yelped in surprise. His big hand clamed down on my mouth before I could say anything else and damn, he was strong.
"I said, keep your voice down!" he muttered, annoyed. "You're invisible. Well, close to it anyway."
He let go of my mouth and I looked down at my body, even more confused. He was right – I was invisible. Well, sort of. I was completely see through. My body adapted to whatever was in the background, which, at the time, was Honeydukes. Kind of like a chameleon. I was sure people could see me if they looked closely, but if it was just a passing glance, I would be invisible to their eyes.
"Now what?" I asked. I was kind of excited to see what he'd do next. Even though I hated him, I had to admit that there was never a dull moment when you were around Sirius Black.
He didn't answer; instead, he grabbed my hand and whispered, "keep low." He pulled me along through the crowd, dodging people here and there until he reached the cashiers. There was a swinging door that led to behind the counter. Black waited, and I felt his hand tense until the moment when someone walked through. Then, he quickly tugged on my arm and ran through the door before it closed.
From there it was easy. Black led me into the back room when no one was looking and, still holding my hand, he guided me down a long flight of stairs into the Honeydukes cellar.
"Right," he said from somewhere near my left, "here you go." I felt his wand tap my head again, and this time a warm trickling sensation traveled down my body. I looked down at my hands; I was visible again. In an instant I could see Black again, standing next to me...still holding my hand.
I looked down at them, our fingers intertwined. His hand was huge compared to my little one. No, his hand was huge in general. And it was so warm against mine.
What in bloody hell? I snatched back my hand and turned away from him, looking around the cellar. "What kind of spell was that?"
"A Disillusionment charm. It comes in handy at times like this when I don't have James's invisibility cloak."
"How do you know about this place?" I asked, genuinely curious.
"James, Remus, Peter and I have known about it for years," said Black. "There's a trapdoor down here somewhere. It leads to Hogwarts."
"Brilliant." I grinned, facing him again.
"I think it'd be best if we sat behind those boxes back there." He pointed to the far side of the room. "Just in case someone comes down here."
"Good idea." Black looked surprised; I guess he expected me to argue. He followed me to the back of the room and we sat behind tall cases of Fizzing Whisbees and Cockroach Clusters. Black took the large block of chocolate out of his pocket and unwrapped it. Snapping off a large piece, he handed it to me and then began eating his portion.
It was quiet for a few minutes, just the sounds of our chewing and breathing filling the dark, damp room. You could see our breath forming in clouds because it was so cold.When it comes down to it, what's done is done. Your mum didn't want to listen to you, or accept you for who you are. You just said things you didn't mean because you were tired of it. It was a mistake. And when she couldn't control everything, she gave up. No one blames you for walking away. But like I said, what happened, happened. So you can try to turn back time, or you can accept that it's over and move on."
"Maybe this wasn't the best idea..." Black murmured.
"No," I disagreed, "I'm glad you brought me here. You were right. I didn't want to be around people, especially if we bumped into the others." By 'the others,' I meant Lily, James, Remus and Lo.
Black nodded. "So...that was your grandmother, huh?"
I laughed bitterly. "Charming, isn't she?" I shook my head. "I shouldn't have even bothered with her. When I saw it was her, I should have just walked away. But I just had to talk to her, didn't I? Even though I knew she still hates me for what I did."
"You didn't do anything, Letta," said Black, his face darkening with...anger? "She shouldn't have said any of those things to you. It's not your fault." He was angry at my grandma for saying those things? Why?
"Listen...Sirius," I said hesitantly. I'd only called him by his first name once, on accident; after the talk we had, the night of the Halloween Ball. But if he was calling me Letta now, I could at least attempt to make this 'friendship' work by using his first name. "I know what I did. I can't run from it, and I can't hide from it. It's there, all the time, right in front of me. I see it every time I look in a mirror. I hear it every time I laugh with my friends. I feel it every time I take a breath. It's always there, and it always will be."
Sirius tried to say something, but I held up a hand. "I'm not hurt by it," I continued, "and I'm not upset. But I'm responsible for what happened."
"It wasn't your fault," said Sirius exasperatedly. "It still isn't. It never was. Just because you said something stupid doesn't mean you made your mum do what she did."
"You're right," I said lightly. "I didn't make her do it. I didn't hold the wand to her throat and make her bleed. But I drove her to it. I made her want to do it. And that's even worse."
"Letta," Black sighed and shook his head. "
I stood up hastily and gave Sirius a look of deep disgust. "Don't act like you know me, Black. You don't know anything about this. No one does, and I want to keep it that way." Who the hell did he think he was, my therapist? When did he go all 'Healer Black' on me?
"Why do you do that?" he demanded angrily. "Whenever someone tries to talk to you about it, you get all hostile and act like you don't care."
"It's because I don't care," I spat at him.
"You don't care about your own mother's death?" he shot back accusingly. "Because if that's it, then maybe you are responsible."
"Of course I care about her death!" I yelled, perfectly aware that I was contradicting myself. "It was my fault, how can I not care?" I paused for a second. "But why do you?" I said, lowering my voice.
That shut him up. "I don't," he said after a minute of silence. "I don't care. I don't care about you, or your mum, or anything to do with you."
"Fine," I said, still in that quiet voice. "I don't care about you, either."
Liar, whispered a voice in my ear. I looked around nervously, but then I realized: it was coming from inside. From my head, or my conscience, or whatever. But it was creepy. You do care about him, don't you? You like him more than you let on. What the hell? Of course I don't care about Black, I thought angrily. Stupid conscience, what the hell do you know? I hate him, I thought fiercly, I hate him, I hate him, I hate him.
"What time is it?" Sirius asked suddenly.
"I don't know," I answered, irritated. "Why?"
"We're supposed to be back before dark." He scrambled to his feet and peeked out of the tiny window in the corner of the room. "Shit," he muttered. "It's dark already. Come on, we have to go now."
I followed him over to the door that would lead us back to the counter at Honeydukes. Sirius tugged on the handle, but the door didn't budge.
"What the – ?" He let out a string of profanities as he tried again and again to open the cellar door. "It's locked from the outside," he stated after five minutes of trying.
"No shit." I rolled my eyes.
"They must have closed up early because of the Dementors," he said. "We'll have to go through the trap door. That's safer, anyway."
Sirius scanned the floor for the handle. When he finally found it, he pulled on it hard. But nothing happened. He tried again and again, just like with the door handle, but it was stuck.
I took out my wand. "Alohomora!" I tried half-heartedly, but it didn't work. "Don't tell me we're stuck in here," I said, starting to bite my lip nervously. "There has to be another way out."
"There isn't," said Sirius numbly.
"Then – then blast it open or something!" I said impatiently, gesturing towards the trap door.
"I can't," he replied, just as impatient. "There'll be a huge hole in the floor. Besides, the owners sleep right above the shop. They'll hear the explosion and catch us."
"Then what are we supposed to do?" I demanded.
"Hang on," said Sirius, taking something out of his pocket. "I've got an idea." He held the thing up to his face. It was a mirror.
"Black!" I yelled furiously. "This is no time to be checking yourself out! We have to open one of these doors!"
"Calm down, woman," Sirius muttered. "It's a two-way mirror. I can call James on it. Look."
I came over and stood beside him. "James Potter!" he shouted, and suddenly, James's face appeared in the mirror.
"Mate, where are you two? You were supposed to be back a half hour ago."
"We're stuck in Honeydukes cellar," Black told James. "The door to the shop is locked and the trap door is stuck, there's no way to get it open. If we use the Bombarda spell, the owners will wake up and catch us."
James thought for a second and answered Lily's question of, "where are they?" I heard Remus and Lo in the background, too. "Alright, Padfoot. We'll come and get you. Don't go anywhere," James said with a grin.
"Wouldn't dream of it." Sirius rolled his eyes. "Thanks, Prongs."
"Anytime." James faded from the mirror and pretty soon, Sirius and I were looking at our own reflections.
"And now we wait," Black said, sliding down the wall towards the floor.
I sat down next to him. "And now we wait."
"It's g-getting really cold in here," I said after a while, my teeth chattering. The temperature had dropped significantly when the sun went down, leaving Black
– I mean, Sirius and I to turn blue with cold.
"Yeah," Sirius agreed, rubbing his hands together to warm them up. He glanced over at me and sighed, taking off his cloak. "Looks like you need this more than I do." He held it out to me.
I shook my head. "N-no," I stuttered, refusing to take it. "It's yours. I can take care of m-myself."
"I know you can." Sirius rolled his eyes.
"C-can't you just do a w-warming spell or something?" I snapped. I didn't mean to sound rude, but it was bloody cold in there. I guess he heard the aggravation in my tone, because he raised his eyebrows at me.
"If I knew one, don't you think I would have done it by now?" he said crossly. "Just take the damn cloak, Letta. Please?"
I hesitated, wondering why he was being nice to me, but that little pause was all he needed; Sirius quickly threw the cloak over my shoulders before I had time to stop him. Damn, I thought, he has good reflexes.
"Thanks," I muttered grudgingly. Ten minutes later, it felt as if I didn't even have the cloak on; the temperature in the damp cellar was decreasing by the second. Both of us sat there, hugging ourselves and trying to keep warm.
I had a sudden thought about how to save body heat – but of course, that was ridiculous. Sirius wouldn't go for that, and it wasn't like the idea appealed to me either.
"Do you think if w-we...you know, huddled together...we c-could stay warm? Sirius asked cautiously. He was looking at my wand hand from the corner of his eye, as if waiting for me to hex him. I didn't tell him that I'd had the exact same thought ten seconds ago. We were that desperate.
"Well," I said thoughtfully, "it m-might help. But I don't know if you w-want to do that. Most people d-don't see me as much of a cuddler." I grinned at him.
"D-doesn't matter," he said, returning my smile. "R-right now, I'd cuddle with the giant s-squid if it meant b-body heat."
I bit my lip, thinking hard. It wouldn't hurt, I told myself firmly. If anything, it'd give us enough strength to get out of here when James finally showed up. And if we ran into any Dementors...well, I couldn't afford to be thinking about my frozen toes.
I slid closer to Sirius, wondering what to do with my arms. Sirius, ever the gentleman, grabbed my waist and pulled me so I was nearly in his lap.
"C-careful, Black," I warned. "I d-don't like you that much."
I rested my head against his shoulder, with my face in the crook of his neck. Blimey, he smells amazing! I thought to myself, before my common sense kicked it. Get a grip Letta! His arms were wrapped around my back and he placed his hands under the cloak, but over my clothes. There was an awkward silence as I trembled from the cold.
Sirius, usually so relaxed and unconcerned, was tense under my body. After a few minutes, he loosened up a bit, but there was still an air of stiffness to the way we were both sitting.
"Hey, Sirius?" I said absent-mindedly. I was a bit warmer now and I wasn't exactly paying attention to what I was saying. In fact, I was distracted by his arms and how strong they were around me. Snap out of it, Letta, I thought fiercly.
"Hmm?" Sirius sounded as he had been thinking deeply. Or falling asleep, which seemed more like him.
He stared at me for a moment; maybe he thought I was joking. "For what?" he finally asked.
I looked him in the eye. His eyes really were gorgeous, and right now they were looking at me with such intensity that I couldn't look away. "Thanks for...well, you know. This." I gestured between us, where we were still snuggled up together. "And thanks for...what you said. When we were talking about my mother." I looked away when I said that, towards the opposite side of the room.
Before Sirius could answer, there was a noise close by; it sounded as if someone had bumped into something and was swearing fluently. We both stood up hastily, wands out and aiming towards the cellar door. The doorknob jiggled a bit.
"Padfoot, are you in there?" said the person, who I recognized to be James.
"Who are you?" Sirius demanded, without lowering his wand.
"It's me, James," said the voice. "James Harry Potter. My patronus is a stag, yours is a dog, and we often help out Moony with his furry little problem, also known as his badly behaved rabbit. I'm the only one you ever told about the time you got piss drunk in Muggle London and tried to flush your – "
"Alright, alright!" Sirius cut him off quickly. "I believe you. Just unlock the door already."
"Okay, we'll have you out in a jiff. Alohomora!"
The door swung open and my five friends tumbled in. That's right, five.
"What are they doing here?" asked Sirius, gesturing towards Lily and Lo. None of the Marauders looked happy that they had tagged along.
"They wouldn't let us out of the common room unless we agreed that they could come with us," said James, rolling his eyes.
Remus nodded. "We told them it was dangerous because of the Dementors and all but – "
" – we didn't listen," Lo finished for him. "Come on, let's get out of here."
The seven of us rushed out of the cellar, up the stairs and through the back room of Honeydukes.
"Lock the door behind you," Sirius told Peter. "We don't want anyone to know we were here."
Once we were outside, we hurried off in the direction of the castle. The village looked especially creepy at night; there was a misty fog, probably due to the patrolling Dementors. A feeling of dread came over me that had nothing to do with the way Dementors make you feel. I just knew that something bad was going to happen, and the fact that a feeling of hopelessness came over me was not helping me deal with the situation.
We had almost reached the long path that would lead to the castle when it happened: a whole swarm of Dementors swooped in and floated behind us, catching up quickly.
"Shit," muttered James, glancing around at us girls.
"You three get back," Sirius ordered, pushing me behind him. I'll admit, I was a little worried about the boys, but now I was angry. I wanted to help.
"No way," I said, aiming my wand. "You're going to need all the Patronuses you can get."
"Letta, don't argue. Not now," said Sirius wearily. "Cast your Patronus, but stay behind me."
We all turned to face the approaching danger, wands at the ready.
I saw Sirius and James glance at each other quickly before bellowing together, "Expecto Patronum!"
A large dog erupted from the end of Sirius's wand, and a stag came from James. That was odd; I knew Lily's patronus was a doe.
The Patronuses dashed toward the swarm of Dementors, driving away a few of them.
Remus had also shouted the spell and a huge hairy...thing went flying forward. Peter's Patronus was too small and quick for me to make out what it was, but now there were four impressive shadows descending upon the Dementors. The force was driving them back a little, but that wasn't enough; the boys still needed help.
Lily and Lo were casting silvery mist that scantily formed the shape of an animal. Lo's rabbit Patronus surged ahead, followed by Lily's doe.
I aimed my wand carefully and shouted, "Expecto Patronun!" My wolf Patronus wasn't as strong as James or Sirius's, but it was pretty good.
The air was alive with misty silver light. Graceful animals were ganging up on the Dementors, forcing them backward.
Suddenly, screaming echoed inside my head. My mother was yelling, cursing my very existence.
"I hate you!" I heard my own voice, louder than my mum's.
"Letta!" I heard Sirius yell, but I couldn't answer. What was happening?
That's when I saw the Dementor floating towards me; it had broken away from the pack and was getting dangerously close.
Dementors made you re-live your very worst memories. Of course, mine were of my mother. There was silence now, aside from the shouting of my friends. There were no more memories.
Until I heard Sirius's voice, low and disgusted. It was inside me, as clear as if he had just whispered into my ear. "You did it, didn't you? You killed her."
There was a pain in my chest, a pain that exploded with the force of his words in my mind. I sunk to my knees, trying to focus on the Patronus Charm.
The wolf was still there, but I didn't think I had the energy to keep it there much longer. I swung my wand towards the Dementor in front of me, guiding the Patronus toward it.
A silver dog suddenly joined ranks with my wolf, engulfing the Dementor in a glimmering mist. The Dementor backed off, overwhelmed by the sudden warmth the two Patronuses brought with them.
"Letta! Are you okay?" asked Lo, helping me to my feet. The pain I had felt was gone now, but there was still an ache in my heart that would always be there. I killed my mother.
"Yeah, I'm fine." I shrugged. "Thanks, Willow."
I looked up in time to see the last Dementor gliding away from us, back toward Hogsmeade. James and Sirius kept their Patronuses around, just in case. When they were sure there was no more danger, the animals faded and the two leaders turned to face us.
"Is everyone okay?" asked James, standing beside Lily. She immediately clutched his arm, looking at him as if he were a hero. Which, frankly, he was. Everyone nodded.
"Sorry I wasn't much help, guys," I muttered, half angry and half embarrassed.
"You actually helped a lot," Sirius admitted. "I had no idea you could produce a Patronus like that."
It had been dark for a few minutes as we stood there and caught our breath, but there was an unexpected flash of light to our right. A cat Patronus had come charging from the castle grounds and stopped in front of us, speaking in the voice of Professor McGonagall.
"Do not move from where you are. I am coming to get you and bring you to the headmaster's office." The Patronus disappeared in a wisp of smoke.