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Let It All Out by genhp
Chapter 8 : Awkward Situations
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 3


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* * *



I barely register my surroundings as I stalk off towards the castle. My mind is reeling and I am overcome with anger and humiliation.

“It’s ruined, it’s all ruined,” I say aloud to myself, choking as the angry tears return. I trip over a stray rock just as I come to the hill up towards the castle and stumble forward. Could this night be any worse?

When I finally reach the Common Room inside the castle, it is dark and deserted. Everyone is either still at the Shack or else asleep by now. I storm up the steps to my dormitory. Emmeline and Marigold’s beds are empty. There’s a small fire crackling in the corner for warmth from the chilly air outside, but my face is flushed still and I feel hot.

I dash over to the window as quickly as my drunken state will allow and throw it open, and let myself lean against the windowsill. I remove my coat and throw it angrily over the edge of bed. The clock above my bed chimes one a.m. I close my eyes for a moment, letting the cool air calm my reeling head.

After a while, I gently open my eyes to survey the grounds below. The mist, still low hanging over the grounds, does not reach up farther than that, and I can clearly see the stars and moon above the highest turret of the castle.

I sigh, as I identify my favorite constellations. I outline them in my head. I recite all of the names of the stars. This calms me for a moment, as I am comforted by the familiar patterns in the sky. This is what I always would do when I was younger, in times of great fear or anxiety. I’d just recite the stars, just like my father taught me on winter night with telescopes. Nothing else had ever quite calmed me in the same way.

My eyes scan further, searching for new star systems to identify until finally I come upon one of the brightest stars in the sky: the Dog Star. Sirius.

And suddenly I feel sick to my stomach. I bend over double, clutching myself. I desperately grab for the washing bowl near my bedside table but it’s too late; I am sick all over the floor.

I groan and fall back on my bed, my head spinning faster and faster. I take out my wand and weakly point it to the flour “Scourgify,” I mutter, hoping it did the trick because all my energy is gone to the point that I can’t bring myself to check.

As I lay there, eyes closed, my mind drifts back to the party. How Sirius had kissed me, how he had looked at me all night. The way his eyes eagerly scanned my body as I removed my jacket. Like he wanted me. Like he really noticed me for the first time.

The hot tears are back again as my mind flashes to what I saw upstairs; the redheaded girl pressed against him, how they were laughing and kissing. How he clearly wanted and chose her over me, this random sixth year girl. How the shock and envy pulsed through me when I saw them.

And I had all but ruined any chances of being Sirius’s friend anymore, no less his girlfriend. He knew my foolish feelings for him now.  He is probably laughing at me, for being so presumptuous and immature.

I want nothing more than to disappear. To erase this night from my memory.

As I finally drift off to sleep, I curl up into the fetal position, clutching my knees inwards to my chest, the sharp feeling of humiliation still fresh.

* * *



The next morning I awake with a pounding in my head. I roll over to be greeted with a bright streak of sunlight beating in from the window near my four-poster bed. I take my pillow and put it over my face to shield my sensitive eyes and groan.

“Rora…you up?” a groggy voice floats over from the bed next to me.

“Barely.” I say, yawning loudly. I feel absolutely foul. The long and deep sleep had not washed away the uneasy feeling from my stomach. Whether from my drinking the night before, or the way the night ended, I wasn’t sure.

I glance to my side at Marigold, whose hair is frizzed out and haphazard in the extreme, her mascara smeared under her tired eyes, and her dress (unchanged from the night before) is on inside out. She stretches out her body, as she leans over the side of the bed with a yawn and untangles her feet from the curtains above her four-poster bed.

“Well last night was a complete wipeout,” she says with a beaming smile.

I mutter bitterly, “Yeah, maybe for you. I just feel utterly ill.”

I hear her rise from her bed and walk over to me. “I know, I heard that you left early,” she says with a knowing and patronizing glance over to me. “Spill, now.”

I sigh and groan. This is not what I’d prefer to be talking about. “I just…wanted to leave. I was tired,” I say, avoiding eye contact with her.

She snorts with a quick laugh, and folds her arms in what I assume is meant to be an intimidating fashion. “As if, Rora. Come on, tell me the truth!”

“I don’t want to talk about it, okay?” I snap.

Marigold raises an eyebrow and purses her lips. “Fine, but if you don’t want to talk about your night, don’t you want to know about mine?” She gives me an impish grin.

I sigh. “Fine, when’d you get back last night?”

“I got in this morning around seven,” Marigold says slowly, her voice unmistakably smug. Her grin deepens as she says in a faux-offhand tone, “Me and Alexander went up to his dormitory last night.”

I am silent and unsurprised. She is still watching me, expecting me to probe her further. So I humor her. “And? Was it…nice?”

She giggles. “Oh my Merlin, Aurora! It was the best I have ever had.” She leans back now with a dreamy sigh. “I think I’m in love,”

I roll my eyes and mutter, “Well I’d hold off. Love’s rubbish,”

But Marigold isn’t listening. She’s rolled on her back now, gazing dreamily up at the ceiling and twirling a piece of her golden hair in his fingertips.

I hear another stirring from across our dormitory. Emmeline has awakened.

“Ugh...what…urghh.” I hear a sputtering of unhappy sounds. I have to hold back a sudden laugh as I see her slowly rise from her bed, hair disheveled, eyes squinting.

“What happened to you?” Marigold asks at the sight of her.

“Shove off,” she mutters sourly in reply, wildly reaching around for the water cup on her bedside table without looking, which only caused her to knock over her wand and picture frame. “Bloody hell…”

“When did you get back last night, Ems?” I ask. In a strange way, I am curious how the party went after I left. How they had continued on without me.
 
“Around two or three I think?” she answers as she finally locates her water cup and heartily sips it down. “I came back with Remus and Peter.”

“And what happened to everyone else?” Marigold inquires eagerly.

“Oh, most everyone left when I did.  But James and Lily stayed behind for a bit.” Emmeline says through a yawn. “Sirius left with some girl. They went off together to Merlin-knows-where in the castle. To shag, or whatever, probably,”

There it was again, the silent pang somewhere between longing and envy. I get up suddenly, feeling even more ill than I had before, and make my way to the bathroom to brush my teeth and make myself presentable.

As I get my toothbrush out from my spot in the smooth stone cupboards, I can hear Marigold and Emmeline quietly talking about me. Their voices are being carried into the bathroom through the cracked open door. Without turning on the tap, I lean closer to eavesdrop.

“So why she leave? Did she tell you?” I hear Emmeline ask.

“No, she refuses, naturally. So like Rora to not talk about anything,” Marigold replies.

“Well I think it had something to do with Sirius, I saw him chase after her and I think they fought or something,”

“Over what?”

“I dunno,”

“So strange. I thought everything was going well last night too….”

“Me too. “

I quickly turn on the tap, drowning out their voices. My cheeks flow red-hot as I stare into the slowly steaming flow of water below me. How could I even explain my stupid schoolgirl embarrassment to them? I had made a huge mess of something that wasn’t even a thing. It was all just a stupid mistake.

And I certainly hoped they wouldn’t pester me further about it.

After I’m done washing up, I reenter our dormitory, making a careful effort not to look at Marigold or Emmeline.

“Well, shall we go grab breakfast?” Marigold suggests quickly when she sees me walk back in. “I don’t know about you, but I’m starved,”

“I’m not hungry,” I mutter, not moving from my bed, which I have firmly laid back down on. “I still feel sick.” In reality, my stomach was uneasy not because of the aftereffects of the alcohol, but rather the nerve racking realization that I would have to face him again soon. And going to breakfast now would be a sure fire way to do so, and I wanted nothing to do with that.

“You need food to combat your hangover, Rory,” Marigold prodded, attempting to grab my arm to lift me up. “Trust me, I know these things,”

My heartbeat skips merely at the thought of dealing with another confrontation with him. But my hungry stomach gives a rumble at that moment and Marigold pointedly raises her eyebrow at me.

“Fine, but can we just make it a quick breakfast?”

“Oh stop being so difficult, really,”

When we enter the Great Hall, I follow Marigold and Emmeline quietly towards the Gryffindor table. I scan the seats, willing Marigold not to sit with the Marauders this morning, so I won’t have to face him now. But, seeing as there was rarely an occasion when we didn’t sit with them, I knew I’d be pushing my luck with such hopes.

But before we get a chance to go any farther, Remus and Peter come up behind us. “Hey Aurora, hey Marigold,” Remus greets us amiably. I turn and give him a weak smile. He is looking at me knowingly, the concern from last night returning to his expression. But I am too busy examining him to respond. He looks worse for wear this morning, his face pale and sickly. I was used to seeing Remus this way every once in awhile; that boy had quite the awful immune system. But today was one of the worst states I had yet seen him in.

“Remus, you feeling okay?” Emmeline inquires slowly, seeming to be thinking the same thing as I had. He just waves her off.

“Oh yes, just hungover. I’ll be fine once I get some food and water in my system,” he replies brightly. But Emmeline and I exchange a skeptical glance as we follow him over to the table.

As we near James and Sirius, who have chosen a seat on the far end as if to make the experience of slowly walking towards them even longer and more torturous for me, I begin to feel the uneasy feeling return.

“Oh hiya Goldy, Ems, Rora!” James says brightly as we sit down. “Did you enjoy yourselves last night?”

I make sure to sit as far away from the end Sirius is on as possible, but I am still less than five feet from him. I avert my eyes, hoping he won’t notice me. But out of the corner of my eye I notice him shift uncomfortably in his seat.

“Oh yes, it was the best party yet!” Marigold exclaims in reply, as she grabs a large steaming pot of tea from across the table, leaning over Peter as she does so. I notice his eyes grow large.

 “Marigold sure had fun with Alexander Nightingale last night, too,” Emmeline taunts.

Marigold silently gives a nonchalant smirk, as if she didn’t wasn’t secretly giddy inside, and James raises his eyebrows.

“Fraternizing with the enemy team, are we?” he accuses. But Marigold just giggles as she daintily pours a teaspoon of sugar in her mug of tea, the smug look still on her face.
 
“I thought you had your heart set on Professor Lancaster,” Remus teases lightly from across the table.
 
“Oh, I still do, don’t you fret Remus,” Marigold winks at him.

The boys now have loaded their plates with potatoes, toast, eggs and sausage and they’re gorging themselves. I give Sirius a furtive glance for a fraction of a second. He hasn’t said anything yet.

“Merlin, nothing beats a hangover like meat and potatoes,” James says a moment later, his mouth overflowing with food as he digs in eagerly. I notice that his hair is mussed, and he’s wearing the same clothes from last night, his shirt collar unbuttoned at the top and his shirt untucked.

“Where’s Lily this morning?” Marigold asks slyly, she too no doubt noticing James state of dress.

James stops his gorging for a moment to look up at us. “Freshening up I s’pose,” he says nonchalantly. “She had quite the night last night, if I do say so myself,”

Sirius snorts. “I still can’t believe it,” he mutters, shaking his head. My head snaps up towards him at the sound of his voice, but he’s not looking over at me.

“You offend me with your constant doubt, Padfoot,” James says with a boyish grin plastered across his face as he continues eating.

Right on cue, the Great Hall doors open once again and we see Lily striding through. She looks worse off than James, clearly hung-over and looking quite dastardly.

“Good morning, my Lily flower!” James calls loudly from across the Great Hall. Many student look up in surprise at his exclamation.

Lily doesn’t so much as flinch an eyebrow at this. Instead, just as she is passing our group, she replies with an acidic tone, “Shove off, Potter,”

“Oh, playing hard to get, are we?” James laughs, beginning to rise from his seat.  “Come over and join us, Lils.” I haven’t seen James this gleeful since the year he managed to attach five midget owls onto the back of an enchanted broomstick that flew across the classroom corridors, much to the shock and dismay of the professors.

But Lily snaps her head back to him and shouts, for all the Hall to hear, “I would rather drink hippogriff piss, Potter.” And then she seats herself instead on the far end of the table, picks up a newspaper and promptly ignores us.

James’s smile falters for an instant. He looks to be in shock as the Hall erupts into laughter and surprise.

“Tough luck, Prongsie,” Sirius says in mock consolation, clapping his friend on the back. “You’ll get her next time,”

“But…” James mutters weakly, looking quite bewildered. “Last night…”

“Can you say, rebound?” Peter pipes in, sending himself into a fit of giggles. I give him a sharp look, and he quiets.

“Downright embarrassing!” comes Rodolphous Lestrange’s booming voice from the Slytherin table adds. The rest of his cronies burst into laughter.

James sinks low into his seat, his ears turning a bright red.  

Remus shrugs and consoles James. “Perhaps she’ll come round if you go talk to her alone…”

 “Oh screw the lot of you,” James hisses at us, looking quite grumpy now. He takes another colossal bite of sausage.

We all quiet and as the laughter and voices in the Hall return to the normal level of noise, we all chew in awkward tension, each of us trying to figure out a way to change to subject.

Peter, surprisingly, is the first one to act. “Rora, why’d you leave so early last night anyway?” he asks, turning towards me.

I want to punch him. The whole table is quiet now. I stare at Peter, cursing his words as I try very hard not to look at Sirius.

“I was tired,” I mutter uncomfortably, not meeting any of their glances. “And sick. I drank too much,” Blimey, I sound like a sackful of lame excuses.
 
“That’s too bad,” says Peter, obviously unaware of the resulting tension in the air. I look down at my porridge, willing someone to change the subject.

“So, lads. We need to talk Quidditch,” James offers hurriedly. Clearly he too wants attention deflected from any discussion of the party.

“What’s to say? We’re going to cream those Slytherins, plain and simple,” Sirius says, he too casting his eyes downward to his breakfast.

“Yes but we need to strategize,” James answers, pulling out something that was stowed in his pocket. It’s a piece of parchment. He lays it out on the table in between the plates of food and positions a quill at the top. “We need to make some plays,”

“Can’t this wait until practice tomorrow?” Sirius says, annoyance becoming more apparent in the tone of his voice. I wonder if that’s really the source of it. “I want to eat in peace,”

“Absolutely not,” James says, eyebrows raised. “You of all people should realize that! Plus, I’m calling an impromptu practice later today.”
 
Sirius rolls his eyes. “For fucks sake, Prongs. It’s Sunday. Day of rest. Ever heard of it?”

Not for us, if we want to win!” James declares. He is now manically scribbling on his spare bit of parchment, organizing plays. “We need to beat Slytherin if we want to progress towards the Cup!”

While the boys are distracted going over Quidditch stuff, I take the opportunity to buss my table setting and slip off. “See you back at the common room,” I mutter to Marigold and Emmeline before hurriedly heading off. I wouldn’t miss the chance to escape.

Much to my dismay, however, just as I’m entering the hall of portraits, I hear a call from behind me.

“Rora! Hey, wait up!’

I stop in my tracks, though I don’t turn around. The light is low in the hall, the watery sleet and hazy clouds outside casting a gloomy shadow over the shapes inside. I take a deep breath, my insides seeming to writhe in anxiety.

 “We should talk,” he says when he’s finally reached me. I feel his hand on my shoulder.

“About what?” I answer unhelpfully, not bothering to turn around still. My stomach feels foul again.

“Last night,” he says pointedly. I turn around to face him now. His hands are shoved in his pocket, his face somewhere between perplexed and hopeful. “I don’t like how we ended the night.”

“I don’t know Sirius. Just forget about last night, okay? I was drunk.” I say, not meeting his bright gaze.

“Maybe you were, but you said some things I want…clarification on...” he says slowly. “And I think we need to talk…”

“Just forget about it, okay?” I snap. I can’t handle facing this right now. I feel ready to explode from the awkward tension. I want nothing more than to disappear.

“Rora, come on-” He grabs hold of my arm now. This makes me angry.

“I will not,” I snap again, jerking myself away from his grasp. “You’re the one who should work out what happened, not me.”

And before I give him the chance to respond, I yank myself away and practically run up the stairs from him.
 
* * *


I sit in my four poster bed that evening, curtains drawn. I am pouring over my star charts, attempting to distract myself. My feet are crossed and my hair is falling over my face in messy waves. Marigold is off pursuing Alexander again, and Emmeline is probably downstairs in the common room with the boys. But that is the last place I want to be right now.

The clock strikes eleven. My stomach gives an uncomfortable and loud growl.

I shouldn’t have skipped dinner, I sigh angrily to myself. But there was nothing for it. I couldn’t bring myself to deal with his questions. If I had to endure the horribly awkward tension between Sirius and I again, I might spontaneously combust. At this rate, I may never eat again.

But I was so hungry. I angrily throw down my quill and fit my feet into the slippers at the foot of my bed. I grab a cardigan and pull it over my skirt and blouse. I walk down the stairs, preparing myself to ignore the Marauders. But when I reach the bottom, I realize that they’re nowhere to be seen. Only a handful of younger students catching up on Sunday night studies litter the plush chairs. Emmeline is over by the fire, quietly reading. I call over to her:

“Hey Ems, want anything from the kitchens? I’m gonna go grab some food.”

“Nah, thanks though,” she calls back absentmindedly, not looking up from her book.

So I continue out the portrait hole. When I am out, I glance cautiously around. The corridor is deserted. Only the infinitesimal flicker of the candle lanterns along the walls give any sign of movement. I take a step out.

“Do be careful, it is a strange night tonight, the full moon is high,” The Fat Lady warns. I turn to her and shrug. “I’ll be alright, I’m just going to the kitchens,”

She simply shrugs in response as she closes the hole up again. “Suit yourself,”

I take a few more steps. “This would be a great time to have that bloody map of theirs,” I mutter to myself as I scan the corridor for any sign of Filch or professors. Nothing in sight. I gently move out of the portrait hole and head towards the kitchens.

As I glance distractedly to my right, I suddenly barge into something very solid and person-shaped. I start and look up. And it is the last group of person I want to be seeing right now; Sirius. He is with Peter ahead of me; and to add insult to injury, the body I was now awkwardly wedged against and nearly tipping over belongs to Sirius.

“Oh for fucks sake,” I mutter angrily as I jump to right myself and neaten my sweater and skirt. “Where did you come from?”

“Didn’t see you there, sorry.” he says quickly. “You alright?”

“I’m fine,” I answer. I survey Sirius, holding the map out in his hand and Peter, who is holding a silvery looking cloth. I am perplexed.
 
“What the bloody hell have you lot been doing?” I ask. I was used to the Marauders sneaking about and talking in code. I had known them nearly three years now and had observed their strange behavior; nightly jaunts on the grounds doing Merlin-knows what, and always having an air of secrecy and adventure about them. So this didn’t come as a surprise. What caught my eye was the bloody scratch extending down Sirius’s torso. It had ripped through his sweater and shirt and was a bright and angry red.

Sirius’s eyes follow my gaze to his wound and he quickly tries to cover it up. “Oh nothing, just an accident. I’m fine,” he explains. But he sounds vaguely nervous. I don’t think they meant to be seen here.

“How did that happen?” I inquire. I cross my arms. My recent frustrations coupled with my agonizingly grumbling stomach has caused me to become somewhat irritable. I wouldn’t be having any of their skirting and excuse-making tonight.

“Just an accident, like I said,” Sirius answers casually. “

“Why are you out so late?” Peter asks nervously. “You’re not going out on the grounds, are you?” For some reason, Sirius gives him a swift elbow in the side.

“I was hungry,” I say simply, still raising a skeptical brow at the pair of them. “I’m headed to the kitchens to get some late night food…”

“Well, we’ll stop distracting you then, you’re clearly is in a rush,” Sirius says firmly and almost coldly, ushering Peter through the portrait hole.

“Right…” I reply, a bit surprised as I watch them disappear as suddenly as they had appeared.

Somehow, I feel a bit miffed at him leaving so suddenly. As if he had been mad at me. I hadn’t expected that. Somehow, I thought I should only be allowed to be mad at him, not the other way around.

“Fine, whatever, I don’t even care anymore,” I mutter to no one in particular, as I make my way to the kitchens.    

I trudge down the long staircase, cautiously. Though I was confident that I wouldn’t suffer too much of a punishment for getting food when I was so obviously hungry, I still didn’t fancy getting apprehended by a teacher in my current angry state.

When I enter the corridor where I knew I would find the painting of the bowl of fruit leading to the kitchens, I suddenly hear lowered, hurried voices ahead. I stop dead and press myself against the wall.

I see two figures on one side of the corridor. I can’t make out who they are, but they’re definitely students. I can just make out pieces of their conversation.

“It was a mistake, James…”

“No, no, don’t you dare say that…”

They’ve moved closer now, their voices louder and once their forms are illuminated by the warm glow of the lanterns on the wall, I finally see that it’s James and Lily.

Lily’s arms are crossed as she stares at James with a furrowed brow.

“I was drunk, it happened, it’s over. Forget about it.”

James is pleading now, and he grabs one of her arms as she attempts to turn away.

“No, not If you just gave me a chance-“

“I’ve given you plenty of chances, James!”

“Please Lily, I’ll do anything-“

“For the love of Godric Gryffindor, you won’t give up will you?” Lily stops to look at him. I hope they don’t notice me. I want nothing more than to avoid getting caught up in their argument.

“Never, Lily. I care about you…a lot.”

“Well you need to stop caring, James.” Lily’s speech is firm now.

“I can’t. I won’t.” James says, his voice weakened. Almost saddened.

I am surprised when I hear a strangled sob followed by Lily saying, “Merlin…this isn’t fair. I-I can’t do this.”

She turns around from James and puts her head in her hands. I can see the glistening of tears on her face. She starts to make her way down the corridor. Towards me.

Panicked, I back away slowly, trying hard not to be seen or heard. I wildly try to come up with a good excuse for why I’m standing in the dark eavesdropping on their conflict.

But Lily mercifully turns in front of a portrait, one I had no idea even lead anywhere, mutters an unintelligible password and disappears suddenly.

I glance back towards James. He is standing, staring at the spot Lily had been just seconds before. His shoulders are slumped, his face downcast.

I hesitate. I consider saying something to him, to comfort him, as a friend who can certainly empathize. But I decide to save him the embarrassment. I creep back the way I came.

“Rora?”

I freeze. Merlin, it’s too late now.

“Uh…yeah?” I turn around a give him a weak smile. “Hi James.”

“Why are….where…?” he asks, confused riddled across his bespectacled face.

“I…um.” I consider lying, telling him I was just now getting there, on my way to the kitchens, that I hadn’t seen or heard anything. But I know he realizes that I had to have overheard.

 “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to overhear, I was on my way to the kitchens and I didn’t know what to do so I just waited and-I-I just….“ I blurt out.

But he just sighs and shrugs. “It’s alright, Rora dear. These things happen.”

“I’m sorry about…Lily,” I say quietly after a moment. “I know how that can feel.”

But he shrugs again,. “I’ll get her one of these days, don’t you worry your button nose.” And with that he holds out his hand to me with a smile and continues, “Shall we make a kitchens run together, then? I think we could both use a pick-me-up…”

I, relieved that he isn’t angry, slowly smile back and nod. “Yes, that’s just what I need.”

We walk over to the portrait that leads to the kitchens. James bends down and slowly tickles the pear in the bowl. It gives a small, high-pitched giggle and the painting swings forward, granting us access.

When we creep in, we see that the kitchens are more or less deserted; all the house-elves seem to have gone to bed by now.

James, looking to know exactly where he was going in the expansive room, strides right over to a high wooden cabinet on the right end and opens the door. Rising onto tiptoes, he reaches into the back and pulls out a luxuriantly colored canvas box.

“Here,” he says, holding it out to me.

I smile and pop open the box’s lid. Inside there are two rows of delicately made chocolate truffles. I pick one out and pop it in my mouth, reveling in the rich chocolaty flavor.
 
“These are delicious,” I say through my mouthful. “How’d you know where they were?”

“They’re the best kept secret in Hogwarts history. Found the supply my third year here,” he says with a wink as he himself takes a hearty bite of one.

“Nothing heals heartache like chocolate,” James says, gesturing for me to sit down at one of the stools by the large stone counter. “Or at least that’s what Moony always tells me…”

“Remus does have the strangest fondness for chocolate…” I agree with a smile. “Personally, I prefer hot cider.”

“James immediately drops his truffle and dashes over to another cabinet. “Well why on earth, Aurora, didn’t you say so?”

He returns with a goblet of piping hot apple cider.

“Ah, thank you, you’re the best,” I say, taking the warm goblet from him gratefully. “You really should consider a career in hosting parties,”

“I am the best of the best at that, it’s true,” he agrees haughtily with a laugh.

James gets himself a mug of butterbeer and we sit together for a few moment, drinking our warm beverages and nibbling at the truffles some more.

“Really though…you have a knack for presentation,” I say between mouthfuls.

James just gives me a tip of the head. “And you have knack for stars and maths. Everybody’s got their something.”

“Hmph. I wish I could use maths to sort out my problems at the moment,” I mutter darkly.

“So you and Sirius still aren’t talking, then?” James asks, somewhat exasperatedly. As if our issues were somehow impeding on his life.

I nearly choke on my drink. “I thought we came to the kitchens to escape our love problems?”

“Come on Rora, don’t act like I don’t know. He is my best mate, and you would be too if you weren’t a girl.”

“Hey!”

“No offense meant.”

“Well Sirius has proven himself to be a supreme twat, and I am over it,” I say enigmatically.

“A twat? For what?” James asks casually.

I look at him in disbelief. Was he not too present at the party, or am I going mad?
 
“He snogged another random girl not a half hour after kissing me,” I explain flatly.

I was expecting James to be surprised, outraged even, at this. But instead he merely shrugs and takes another vigorous gulp of butterbeer.

“And? You’re surprised?” he deadpans with a smirk.

“Um, yes?” I say incredulously. Was I the only one upset by this behavior in the whole bloody castle?

“But it’s Sirius. He’s been like this forever. You of all people should know this by now,” James explains with a knowing look at me from behind his spectacles.

I did know that…when it was a random girl he didn’t spend more than a week thinking about. But not his best girl friend. Or at least I had come to foolishly expect that.

“But…I just thought that I would be…different…somehow,” I mumble.

“And you are, Rora!” James suddenly stresses. “Don’t get me wrong. You are more intelligent than half of the girls he’s shagged believe me. We all know that-“

“Then why did Sirius treat me like all the others?” I point out, shoving two truffles in my mouth at once.

James is silent for a moment, pondering this. He takes a long swig of his butterbeer. “Well, maybe he doesn’t realize that yet?” His statement is more of a question.

“Oh, thanks,” I mutter.

“No, hear me out!” he says, and continues, “Maybe he hasn’t realized he likes you more than those other girls yet…just give him time."

I say nothing. I didn’t want to give him time.  I thought it was obvious. But apparently not.

“Well you certainly are optimistic,” I say promptly, wanting to turn the subject off of me. “You seem to believe that people will always come round, don’t you?”

“I believe that because it’s true, dear Rora,” James says with a sly smile. “People change.”

“Maybe,” I agree lightly. “But not without a fight.”

This makes James choke on his drink with a laugh. “Oh Rora, you are probably one of the most unintentionally amusing girls I have ever had the pleasure of encountering,”

“Thanks?” I say, unsure of how to take his comment, but I’m mirroring his smile.

Just then there is a creaking sound as the door to the kitchens opens again, and I flinch, readying myself for the inevitable teacher who will probably be marching through to scold us.

But instead, a small and frantically moving figure enters. It’s Peter.

“Oh, hey Pete. You nearly frightened us to death!” James exclaims when he spots his friend.

Peter, whose face looks white and more frightened than I felt at his appearance, freezes at the sight of us.

“What are you guys doing here? I thought-I need-“ he stammers, breathless.

James furrows his brow, taking in his friend’s obviously distraught state.

“What’s the matter, Pete? What d’you need?"

James,” Peter says, his eyes nervously flicking from me and back over to him. “You were supposed to meet us tonight…at the Willow.” He almost whispers the last part.

There is a silence as James contemplates this, and he must realize something because at once he leaps up and puts down his bottle.
 
“That’s tonight, Merlin’s left soggy-I forgot-I saw Lily and-OH blimey where’s Moony?!” He jumbles his words, frantically collecting his things in some strange state of panic. He runs over to a cabinet and pulls out a jar of Merlin-knows-what and throws it to Peter, who catches it hurriedly.

Peter gestures for James to hurry. I look on in confusion.

“Is everything…alright?” I ask slowly.
 
James turns back to me and practically shouts an apology, “Oh yes! Grand! Got to be going, but we’ll talk later!” And with that, he grabs his things and the last I see of the pair of them are the tails of their cloaks as they exit the door and a glimpse of the old blank parchment of their special map.
 
Alone now, I sigh. Bloody Marauders and their midnight adventures.

I turn back to the kitchens. Though the cider and chocolate had begun to fill me up, I still needed real food. So I troll through the cupboards, surveying the many boxes and jars full of various ingredients. But nothing that seems to suit my fancy.

Finally, in a large metallic ice box, I find a small minced pie. Perfect.

The kitchens’ cold temperature, large and tiled as they were, has begun to affect me, so instead of eating the pie there, I quickly stash it under my sweater and creep back towards the door.

Once I make it back to the portrait, I mutter the password and inch forward, expecting the Fat Lady to open and let me pass.

But instead she only raises her head lightly from her slumber and says, “Sorry, dear but the password changed at midnight.”

“Fine, what’s the new one?” I ask impatiently.

“Oh dear, I can’t tell you that!” she laughs, as this were the most obvious thing in the world.

“But…how am I supposed to get in?” I ask faintly. I am not in the mood for this at the moment.

“You can’t without the password,” she answers simply.

“But I’m a Gryffindor! You know me, I’ve been here for seven years!” I complain, my voice rising.

“I’m terribly sorry my dear, but rules are rules.” She almost looks sympathetic towards me, but her portrait stays sealed tight.

“Can’t you make an exception? I’m so tired…please?” I practically beg. But she purses her lips and gives a sharp shake of her head.

I let out a frustrated groan. In all of my years at this school, I have never once encountered this problem. Probably because I usually was in bed at a reasonable hour like normal people and usually found out the new password from other students or prefects the next morning. But here I was, trapped.

“Well how am I supposed to go to bed?” I ask angrily.

“You’re the one who’s out past curfew…” she says, contempt obvious in her tone. She tended to get annoyed at prolonged conversation. I glare at her and turn around with a sigh.

“Well, I guess I will be sleeping out here then,” I mutter dejectedly. I really was in no mood to even bother. I was done with it.

So I sit myself down on the red carpet that lines the corridors and pull out my minced meat pie.

“Really, my dear, must you eat in front of me? Can’t you go somewhere…else?” I hear the Fat Lady mutter from above me. I only turn to shoot her a dark look. She scoffs and turns away as I bite quite purposefully into my pie and chew loudly.

 I shouldn’t be mad at her, really. It’s not her fault. But still. This certainly was not my day.

As I sit there, slowly chewing on my pie and not really enjoying it, I begin to drift. My eyelids droop and I have to startle myself into sitting back up straight to keep from altogether falling asleep. All I can think about it my nice, warm, cushiony bed only a mere staircase away. Oh, how I would love to be snoozing away in it right now instead of on the cold and scratchy carpeting…

Just as I am about to let myself fully fall asleep and face the consequences the next morning, I feel a prodding at my side. I jump and roll over.

“Aurora!?”

I open my eyes to find Lily Evans and Marlene McKinnon standing over me, looking quite surprised to say the least.

“What on earth are you doing?” Lily asks, her face riddled with confusion and concern.

“Wha…I…what time is it?” I ask groggily.

“Just after one,” Marlene says, holding out a hand to lift me up. I take it and sit myself up.

“Oh.” I say stupidly. Suddenly, I feel embarrassed at my state, laying sprawled out in front of the common room entrance holding a half eaten pie in one hand.

“The password changed, and I was stuck…” I mumble in a lame explanation, not meeting their eyes. My cheeks redden.

“Well here, let’s get you inside,” Lily says, grabbing my bag for me. “Carpe Lacuna.

The Fat Lady, looking smugly in my direction as she does so, leans forward and we are free to enter the common room.

“How’d you know the password?” I ask weakly in surprise.

“You forget, I am Head Girl,” Lily says with a smirk.

The three of us quietly make our way up the stairs. We reach the door that leads to my dormitory. Marlene and Lily share the one next door, so I expect them to continue on without me. But instead, Marlene gently grabs my wrist.

“Hang on one second, come with us…” she whispers with a smile.

I crease my brow in skepticism, but I follow them quietly through their door.

I had only been in their dormitory room a handful of times, but never for long. Though I was on somewhat friendly terms with the lot of them, I wasn’t exactly late-night-girl-talk status with either Lily or Marlene.

Their dormitory room is more or less identical to the one I share with Marigold and Emmeline, only instead of only three beds there are four. Marlene and Lily share this room with Mary MacDonald and Alice Foster. But their beds are mysteriously empty this evening,

“Where’s your roommates?” I ask them.

“Out.” Lily says simply.

“And by out, she means they’re staying at their respective boyfriend’s tonight,” Marlene teases with a wink at me. I raise my brows at Lily. As the Head Girl (not to mention a usual stickler for rules and whatnot) I am surprised at her. Not that I’m judging, though.

“I prefer to remain ignorant of their escapades,” Lily says sternly, but there’s a twinkle in her expression.

“Here, sit,” Lily gestures to the end of one of the four beds circling the fire heater in the middle of the room. I’m assuming it’s hers, because as soon as I do she plops down on the other end of it beside me.

Marlene, whose bed is directly opposite Lily’s, lays on her stomach across its surface so that she is facing us.

“So, why on earth were you outside of the Tower so late, anyway?” she asks.

“I went to the kitchens for food. I skipped dinner, so I was starved,” I explain quickly.

“Why’d you skip dinner?” Marlene inquires. She immediately grabs something from underneath her bed and offers it to me. I see that it’s a bag full of chocolate malt balls. Though it would seem I’ve had my fill of chocolate this evening, I politely accept and take a couple in my hands.

“I…er, well…” I struggle for an excuse as I chew one of them. I didn’t really feel like admitting to them that I had been avoiding Sirius.

“I felt ill…” I explain simply.

“From last night?” Lily prods on.

“Well…yes, you could say that,” I answer dryly.

Lily gives a scoff-like laugh. “I’m with you there. I would prefer to erase last night from existence,”

Marlene gives a giggle at this.

I suddenly feel the urge to ask her about what happened with James. But I know it’s not really my place, so I stay quiet.

But, Marlene, it seems, is similarly interested.

“How did you end up with Potter, Lils? I still can’t believe it,” she asks with a sigh.

Erasing last night, remember?” Lily snaps.

“Not likely, half our year was at that party…” Marlene points out.

Lily gives her a sharp look. “Marlene, you of all people should sympathize with me wanting to forget about a certain shag, am I right?”

“So James was really that bad, was he?” Marlene erupts in fits of giggles as she pops another malt ball in between her lips.

“For the love of Godric Gryffindor, Marlene!” Lily snaps. But I notice that there is a distinct pink sheen to her cheeks now.

“Well?” Marlene prods further.

Lily looks over to me. “Sorry Rora. For subjecting you to this trifle gossip,”

I just smile. “It’s not like I’m free from similar situations,” I mutter.

“Oh?” Lily’s interest seems to have caught. “What’s happened with you lately?”

“Don’t skive the attention off you, Lils!” Marlene jokes. But Lily gives me a look of encouragement to continue.

“Well…” I hesitate. Did I really want to be having this conversation with two girls that I barely know that more or less detest two of my best friends?

“I don’t know. I’m just…confused. Lately.” I say.

“Boys? Confusion? Who would’ve thought,” Marlene says sarcastically. I smile weakly.

“Yeah…well it seems I’ve been…overlooked, I guess you could say. When I thought I was…more than that.” I say slowly.

Marlene stops chewing her malt balls and comes over to sit next to me, cross-legged. I can smell her lavender perfume.

“It’s Sirius, right?” she says bluntly. I am a little surprised. And, to be honest, uncomfortable.

“Well…yeah.” I admit, biting one corner of my lip.

“I’m not surprised. I would have thought this would have come up between you two mates earlier….you’re practically best mates.” Marlene says.

I just shrug, unsure of how to respond. So Marlene continues, “Look, Sirius is a playboy. He always has been. You just have to learn how to deal with him games.”

“I know but…I never would have imagined it to feel so…shit,” I say, my voice barely above a whisper to keep from breaking.

“I know the feeling better than anyone, Aurora. Believe me.” Marlene says quietly. It was then that I realized that perhaps she does. She had been one of the only girls Sirius had stuck around with for longer than a week or two. They had been seeing each other off and on over the last year or so, but their final encounter (or clash, more like) had not ended kindly.

“You deserve better, if you ask me,” Lily cuts in now, stealing herself one of the shiny malt balls from Marlene’s stash. “You’re too sweet for the Marauders’ games.”

“Thanks but, really, they’re not so bad. Usually,” I say. I felt a certain kind of loyalty to them; like I had a need to defend them in conversations like this. And I had had to do this more often than not.

“Well, Potter certainly is enough for me to know to stay away,” Lily mutters.

“You know,” I say. “James can actually be kind of….sweet.”

“Sweet? Hah! I’d like to see that for myself,” Lily mutters bitterly.

“Well, you could, if you just gave him a chance…” I respond. And suddenly, I want to put my foot in my mouth.

Lily’s eyes narrow and face whitens a bit. She stands up and quite purposefully checks her wristwatch.

“Well, it’s getting quite late, Aurora. We should probably be getting to bed soon,” She says stiffly with a quick smile. I hastily get up and give them an awkward smile in thanks. I can see Marlene smiling apologetically from behind Lily’s shoulder

“Well, er, goodnight then. Thanks again,” I say as I am shown out the door. I silently curse myself for somehow managing to befriend and alienate Lily within a half hour.

As I sneak back into my bed, I lay awake for a moment. Did this all really even happen? The last few days seem to be someone's sick idea of a joke. And I was definitely not finding it funny.

* * *



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