Chapter 9: Aky: The Egyptian Night Hound
Isabelle felt abysmal, she felt wretched.
It took Isabelle all of two seconds to realize where she was. The memories of the previous evening were a fuzzy, a distant dream that she couldn’t quite hold on to. But now, in the morning light, everything had snapped back into a clear, harsh reality.
Her eyes darted about to assess the damage. They moved from the serpentine green hangings and her dress lying in a crumpled heap on the floor to Ari Yaxley wheezing slightly beside her. She sat upright quickly, making her head throb. The long sleeved, button down shirt Ari had been wearing the night before was now covering Isabelle’s naked body, she vaguely remembered putting it on after waking up cold and shivering. She didn’t dare check underneath the sheets to see the state of Ari’s nakedness.
Isabelle felt sick, and then an overwhelming panic consumed her. As she reached for her dress her mind went blank and she realized just how serious her predicament was. She was in Slytherin’s common room, with only a highly inappropriate party dress to wear. She knew last night’s makeup was smeared over her face, and she could feel marks from Ari’s biting and sucking forming on her neck and chest. Even if she made it out of the Slytherin dormitory and common room on this busy Tuesday morning, she still had to make it up to Gryffindor tower, and she wasn’t sure if she would rather be caught by a Slytherin or by Professor McGonagall.
“Hey,” she said. She crept back onto the bed, and kneeled next to Ari. She poked him once on the shoulder. “Wake up.” She poked him again, similarly to the manner in which one would poke a dead thing to ensure that it was truly deceased.
He groaned and opened one eye, reminding her of Hogwarts’ motto “never tickle a sleeping dragon.”
“I’m fucked,” she said, hoping he would grasp the seriousness of her situation.
“Not yet,” he tried to pull her back down into bed, “ready for round two, or is it round four? I lost track.”
It took her several minutes to shake him off. She hopped off—actually, more like fell off—his mattress. God her head hurt. “No,” Isabelle said once she had found her balance, more to herself than to Ari.
Ari reclined back on his pillows, almost bored. “Come on,” he said, grabbing for her hand, “nothing like a quick shag to start off the day.”
“Are you kidding?” Isabelle peeked out from behind the hangings, the dormitory looked deserted. She was sure Ari had cast some sort of spell last night to prevent noise from escaping the area around his bed, but what if he hadn’t cast it properly and someone like Severus Snape had heard them? Isabelle picked up her underwear from the pile made up of her boots, bra, and dress, and slid them on as she thought.
“I need clothes,” Isabelle said. She turned to Ari’s wardrobe, and started rifling through it. Ari made a noise of protest. He took the sheet with him, wrapped around his waist as he slid off the bed and came to loom behind Isabelle. He reached over her head, and shut the wardrobe door, turned her around, and pinned her against the wood.
Good Goddess, please do not let him drop that sheet, Isabelle prayed.
“What are you so afraid of,” Ari whispered, his hands sliding up her thighs.
She turned away as his lips tried to find hers. “I need to go, I can’t just hide up here forever.” In the daylight, Ari was no longer dark, sexy, and unattainable. He wasn’t what she wanted.
“Yes you can,” he challenged, continuing to let his hand explore. He fingered the rim of her underwear. He kissed her neck. “A few more nights with me and Moaning Myrtle will have to get a new nickname.”
Isabelle pushed him off her, “You’re disgusting.” But her revulsion only made Ari laugh, it was enough to make him give in however.
“Fine,” he moved her out of the way and stood in front of the wardrobe, trying to find something suitable. He was at least six inches taller than her, but he was able to find and old set of robes that would not be too long. They had green and silver embroidered along the hems, and AKY monogrammed on the sleeves. Ari had ruined them at the beginning of the year in Defense Against the Dark Arts when he had failed to deflect a curse; there was a large hole in the left arm. Isabelle made a face; these robes were almost as incriminating as the lacey dress.
“Take it or leave it,” Ari handed the robes out to her. She turned her back to him, removed his shirt, and slid her dress back on. Then, reluctantly, she put the robes over her head. Even with her boots on, they were far too long and much too big.
As she attempted to roll up the sleeves she could tell from the expression on Ari’s face that she looked ridiculous. She was in such a hurry to get clothed and get as far away from him as possible, however, that she didn’t even stop to alter the robes magically. Even changing the colors would have made her look less suspicious. But her head hurt too much to perform magic even if she had thought of it.
“When can I see you again?” Ari was blocking her way out once again. Isabelle was trying to envision a map of Hogwarts, wishing there were such a map that showed where every person in the castle was at any given moment—wouldn’t that be nice. She barely heard him.
“We have Ancient Runes together at two,” she said.
“I meant when can I see you naked again?”
Isabelle fought back the urge to say “never.” However, she knew that she could not guarantee that, and wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of proving her wrong. She had never seen someone so persistent.
Isabelle shrugged noncommittally.
Ari put a hand to his heart and said, “I feel so used.” Isabelle’s glower made him break out into a smile. She didn’t realize that he even had a sense of humor. “It’s,” he checked his wrist watch, “half past eight, everyone should be gone to breakfast by now. You should be safe if you want to make a run for it. Unless, of course, you would rather have me escort you, me being a gentleman and all.”
Isabelle barely heard his last sentence, she was already creeping out the door. Ari laughed again, there was no way she was going to make it out of grasp of Salazar Slytherin’s chosen few unscathed. He had to give her accolades for trying though.
Isabelle pressed herself against the cold stone of the stairs as if she could sink into the rocks with enough force. There was no place for camouflage, and no place to hide. Her only option was to flee from the across the room from the stairs to the portrait hole and hope no one saw her face. She took a deep breath, her temples throbbing, and prepared to take the final step, round the corner and make a mad dash for it. She moved quickly, taking the corner sharply.
Isabelle hit something hard, and then blanched.
Cameron Harr looked like she had just been selected as the winner of Miss Teen Sorceress. A mixture of surprise and jubilation. Isabelle ricocheted off Cameron's chest, making her see double of the fiery-haired Syltherin.
She choked as she sputtered, “Isabelle.” Cameron’s piercing eyes drank in the monogrammed sleeves, the matted hair, the dark marks on Isabelle’s throat. Her gaze darted up the stairs, and she somehow knew where Isabelle had been coming from. It took her only seconds to piece it all together. Cameron’s mouth hung open loosely, and her wicked mind woke from its dormant state.
Isabelle then did what she did best: she ran. She pushed past a still stunned Cameron, who did not even flinch from the rough contact. It took her half a minute to recover, and when she did she could only look to the ceiling, up to the heavens, and mouth “thank you.”
Fifteen minutes, two trick staircases, one run in with Peeves, and four short cuts later and Isabelle was at last back at Gryffindor Tower, outside the Fat Lady’s portrait. Isabelle was out of breath and haggard. She was considering curling up in a ball in a dark room for the rest of her life. Cameron was probably already in the Great Hall, making pins and shirts describing Isabelle’s walk of shame. She wanted to cry, pack up all of her things, hop on a broomstick, and run away to live with banshees or mermaids or something.
Yes, that is exactly what she would do. She never should have come back to Hogwarts in the first place. Maybe she could snap her wand and just enroll in Muggle school, swapping Charms and Quidditch for math and rugby. Even without magic, her life would still be a colossal mess, Isabelle realized. This wasn’t magic’s fault, it was simply what happened when you crammed hundreds of teenage kids in a wondrous castle with a frighteningly little amount of adult supervision.
The portrait hole opened just as Isabelle was about to say the password. It was no use hiding now, Cameron would see to it that this morning would not be a secret to anyone.
James, Sirius, and Lily stepped out one by one. Lily came last, trying to talk to James about organizing the date for the first Quidditch match. James had halted in his tracks and stared at Isabelle. He did not discern as much from her appearance as Cameron had, but he was astute enough to realize that something was amiss.
“Isabelle,” Sirius broke the silence. “What are you doing? Are you just getting back?”
Isabelle stood, silent.
“Back from where?” Lily looked from Sirius to James, not privy to their knowledge. “Back from where?” She repeated, not used to being out of the loop. “I thought you were sleeping in, your hangings were drawn last night when we went to bed, and they still were this morning.” She trailed off. Lily wasn’t sure whether or not to feel hurt that her roommate had broken the rules right under her nose.
“Are those your robes?” James said, finally realizing what looked so wrong about her appearance.
Isabelle snapped out of her daze. "Guilty" may as well have been scribed on her forehead in permanent ink. She made a noise like “eerrrhmm,” and finally said, “Mmm hmm!” trying to appear chipper.
They were unconvinced.
“Who’s AKY? And why’s there green and silver bits all over ‘em?” James pressed. Behind him, some sort of understanding was starting to create a shadow on Sirius’ face. Isabelle’s long hair was thankfully covering the worst of the markings on her neck, but it was obvious that she hadn’t spent the night in Gryffindor Tower. The only mystery was where had she spent it.
“Oh, you know, just the name of my—my—dog.” Great lie, Isabelle, she told herself. “My grandmam’s dog. Good old Aky. He was—eh—bred with a Egyptian Night Hound. Lived to be about thirty.” Her cheeks were burning, and she coughed. Thinking wildly.
Now Lily, James, and Sirius were the ones looking confused.
She continued to babble. “Yeah, so had these made in his honor. Figured I would try out some new alternative fashion. You know, irony.” Isabelle laughed nervously.
“I don’t really think that’s what irony really means,” Lily began patiently, but Isabelle yelled “gotta go!” and darted past the three of them and out of sight.
“Sometimes I think that girl is a certified lunatic,” Lily said to no one in particular.
“Tell me about it,” James and Sirius said in unison on either side of her.
Cameron skipped into the Great Hall. Her happiness seemed to frighten her classmates—those who knew her best, at least. Cameron never looked that happy unless it was at someone else’s expense. The red head sighed deeply as she took her seat next to her boyfriend and best friend at the Slytherin table.
Both Riley and Blake were nursing headaches, but Isabelle had knocked all of Cameron’s pain away. “Good morning,” she chirped loudly. Blake groaned and put his head on the table, and Riley held her hears. “Pass the margarine, Ri.” She began to assemble a breakfast, her victory meal.
“What are you so chipper about, then?” Blake said, turning away from the smell of food. There was obviously something she was dying to say, and he wasn’t in the mood for games.
“Oh nothing.” Cameron munched on her toast. She crossed her legs and smiled. Though her body rippled with the anticipation of revealing her news, she forced her excitement down. This was a treasure Cameron had stumbled upon; Isabelle was in her manicured clutches now. Better to leave her on edge for a bit longer. The weight of the knowledge Cameron had on her would surely make Isabelle crumble before supper. So she would bide her time, and when the time came, Cameron would sing.
Isabelle did not make an appearance at breakfast, nor could she be seen in the corridors before the first class of the day. She missed double Transfiguration, and then was absent at lunch. In fact, the last souls to have seen her that day were Sirius, James, and Lily. Being Head Girl, Lily took it upon herself to check on her between afternoon classes, but she was not in the Gryffindor dormitory either.
Her absence only made her growing reputation even more conspicuous. More than one Slytherin had seen her in their common room last night, but they were too pretentious to be seen musing about a Gryffindor—even if they were secretly interested to know what was going on. Others, however, were not as graceful in hiding their disinterest. Unbeknownst to one another, James Potter, Cameron Harr, Ari Yaxley, and Sirius Black had been eagerly searching the corridors hoping to spot her head of brown hair amongst the mass of students.
James because he needed to remind her that they had Quidditch practice promptly at seven that evening, Cameron because she could not wait to remind Isabelle of the power she now held over her, Ari because he was beginning to enjoy watching her erratic behavior (not to mention the previous night had been mind-blowing), and Sirius because…well he wasn’t quite sure why. Something had been off about her this morning, and his stomach had felt tight all morning. Isabelle really was quite easy to read if you paid attention, she shuffled her feet, she cracked her knuckles, she bit her lips, she picked at her cuticles, and she ran her fingers through her hair—all anxious, nervous habits that manifested in her body even when her face was stoic. But this morning she hadn’t even bothered to wear a mask. Isabelle had been flustered, scared even, as if she was running away from something. But what? Sirius thought he had an idea, and it had red hair, blue eyes, and a knack for sucking the soul out of anything that got too close.
They did not search in vain; Isabelle reappeared by the last class of the day. She was showered, changed, and looked healthy and rejuvenated. In the Great Hall, she was absorbed into the throng of students so easily it was as if she had never been missing at all. All at once, four different bodies set off in a straight line right towards her. James, Ari, Sirius, and Cameron all pushed through the crowd, unapologetically stepping on toes and interrupting conversations as they made their way towards their quarry. But Isabelle saw the unnatural crimson of Cameron’s head weaving amongst the head of students, and was able to dodge into an empty classroom just in time to avoid her.
After arriving back at Gryffindor tower, Isabelle had snuck down into the prefect’s bathroom, a regular haunt for her. The password was never difficult to guess, and if she was unable to guess it James would always give it up with enough prodding. It really was the most fabulous bathroom, and no cure worked better than a good, hot bath.
She had lit a batch of incense, drawn a scalding tub of water and bubbles, set up her old wizarding radio, and floated for what felt like hours. Lying in the steaming water, Isabelle could not help but truly hate herself. The decisions she had been making lately were self destructive and plain dumb. Drinking so much she nearly missed Quidditch, throwing herself at practically any bloke who showed her attention, and spending her free time alternately hating Cameron and wallowing in self pity. And here she was doing it again: floating in a tub crying, spinning a “woe is me” tale. A bath cures everything--please, could she be any more cliche? This bath would solve nothing.
Isabelle sunk down into the bottom of the tub, blowing bubbles out of her nose. She opened her eyes once submerged, and watched her hair billow out around her. What did she have to be afraid of, anyway? Soon, none of this would matter at all. In seven months, she would never have to see Cameron again. Still though, seven months was a long time, and Isabelle would not spend it hiding in a bathroom. She would be the future Moaning Myrt—Isabelle stopped short in her thoughts, remembering what Ari had said earlier about the ghost, “A few more nights with me and Moaning Myrtle will have to get a new nickname.” And then she had to come up for air, because she was laughing like a lunatic.
Once her laughter stopped, all she could say was “fuck.”
It took all her courage to step out of the bathroom. She reapplied her makeup three times, and now her face felt crusty and her lashes felt unnaturally long. But she did it, she went down to the Great Hall—only to wind back up hiding in a dark, abandoned classroom. “Fuck,” she said again, to no one in particular.
It was five minutes to two, and she had Ancient Runes. With Ari. But she had told herself that she would not hide anymore, and she did not intend to. With a deep sigh, Isabelle wrenched open the door to the classroom and walked like a condemned woman up to the classroom.
As usual, the only furniture in the room was a singular table with four chairs. Professor Kallisto stood before the board, murmuring to herself as she drew a sweeping figure with vibrant blue chalk. She did not look up as Isabelle entered.
Like any other day, Jay and Urusula had taken the two seats on the left, and Ari had taken the seat on the far left, leaving room for Isabelle right in the middle. Isabelle reminded herself not to falter or hesitate as she strode forward to take the allocated seat. As soon as Ari’s eyes met hers, a hard pit rose up in her throat, and Isabelle was beginning to find it difficult to swallow.
But she made it into her seat, and was able to ignore Ari’s presence for at least half a minute before she gave in and stole a glance at him out of her peripheral vision. He had been watching her all along, and as if her look was a signal of some sort, he reached up and moved a lock of her mahogany hair behind her too-small ears.
Instinctually, Isabelle batted his hand away. Her chair scraped against the floor, and she nudged Jay with her recoiling shoulder. The sudden movement made Kallisto, Jay, and Ursula all stare. Isabelle made a small comment about how she thought she saw a spider, and Ari had to turn away to hide his smile.
It went on like that for another hour and twenty-eight more minutes. Ari did not pass her notes, and barely spoke a word. He simply reached over occasionally to run his hand up her thigh under the table, or he would try to place his hand on top of hers. It was like a game for him, and the more Isabelle attempted to shrug him off, the more vigorous his efforts became. After he leaned over under the pretense of asking a question only to attempt to nibble at her earlobe, even airy Professor Kallisto began to notice the escalating movement from their corner of the room.
“Is there a problem, Ari?” She said sweetly. Her toga-like robes made her look like some sort of demigod. Ari replied that no, there was no problem, but the second her back was to them, his focus shifted back to Isabelle.
And then, mercifully, the bell rang, signaling the end of classes for the day. Isabelle had her things packed a full five minutes before the end of class, and she sat with her eyes trained on the clock, watching it slowly tick, tick, tick. Half a second before the bell had even rung, she was standing up, slinging her bag over her shoulder, and heading for the door not even waiting for Professor Kallisto to even dismiss them.
Ari was on her heels, dogging her. Isabelle let him catch up, and spoke out of the corner of her mouth, “What in the name of Merlin was that,” she hissed. "There's such a thing called sexual harassment, you know, I suggest you look it up." In the hubbub of the afternoon, she hoped their conversation would not be overheard. They marched down the corridor, as more and more students spilled out of classrooms.
“I just couldn’t resist.” This time, Ari tried to wrap his entire arm around Isabelle’s waist. She felt like a whirling dervish as she performed an insane move to avoid his gesture.
“We are in public,” Isabelle entreated.
“So what, I’m not good enough to be seen in public with you?” It was frustratingly difficult to tell whether or not Ari was ever joking. His voice was void of humor, but his eyes crinkled in amusement. “This is how ugly girls must feel. Or mistresses. You’ve made me your dirty mistress Isabelle Preston.” Several heads turned as he spoke.
“Oh shut up.” He was trying to get a rise out of her. That had been the object of his game all along. He grinned playfully. She nudged him in the side and smiled back.
“So there’s the happy couple.”
There was no mistaking Cameron’s iron voice singing out from behind them. Isabelle froze at the sound of it, but Ari, as always, simply seemed disinterested and bored. Riley and Bryn were following behind Cameron like obedient minions. Both were confused, but Cameron was the picture of determination. She had wanted to toy with Isabelle and leave her in suspense, not knowing when Cameron would betray her secret. But it was no fun to toy with someone who wasn’t even around, and now here she was, flaunting about with Ari himself, smiling up at him and practically groping him. Cameron couldn’t resist any longer.
“So are you two dating now, or something?” Cameron said, feigning boredom. Her implications were starting to make sense to Riley (they were coming more slowly to Bryn). Riley knew Isabelle had come to the Slytherin common room with Ari, but Cameron had guessed that Isabelle had bribed and pressured him to take her there, ‘Ari doesn’t take girls on dates,’ she had said.
“Fuck off, Cameron,” Isabelle said loudly. She hadn’t meant to say that at all, it was like she had been possessed or something. The shadow of a flinch crossed Cameron’s face, but it passed. Her eyes narrowed dangerously.
Isabelle’s shout had attracted the attention of curious eyes, including about half of the Gryffindor Quidditch team, who had been coming out of Professor McGonagall’s office. A circle was beginning to form around the girls and Ari, and Isabelle was again reminded of the Muggle Western film she had seen that summer. They would have called this a showdown, not a duel. Isabelle liked that word ‘showdown,’ it sounded nice, rolling slowly off the mouth. It sounded dangerous and exciting. Maybe she should order one of those cowboy hats.
Cameron made a tutting noise with her tongue. “Now, now, Iz, I was just curious. I mean the two of you seemed awfully cozy last night in the common room, holding hands and dancing.” Cameron spoke slowly but clearly, drawing out words when necessary.
It was quiet in the hallway excepting her voice. Most students had already left for the library or their common rooms, but those that remained to watch the confrontation were mute. James, Sirius, Kale, and Quinn all watched intently. They could not walk away now, the sight before them was hypnotizing.
Isabelle hadn’t even noticed that the scene that was unfolding; she was afraid to take her eyes off Cameron. She really was a serpent, a deadly poisonous one. The type that looked harmless, without any warning like a rattle. Isabelle knew what was coming. She braced herself for Cameron to strike out, biting and stinging.
And then she struck.
“And then when I saw you this morning coming out of Ari’s dormitory, wearing his robes, I just figured the two of you were dating now. I mean, you wouldn’t just spend the night with some random guy you weren’t even dating. Oh wait,” Cameron laughed, “you would. Because you are nothing but a worthless, stupid, whore.”
And now, even Bryn comprehended what had transgressed. Cameron was just specific enough to reveal Isabelle’s secret, but vague enough to ensure people would come running to her with questions. Everyone watched with anticipating, waiting for what Isabelle would do. Slap her? Curse her? Cry?
Isabelle shook with rage. She calmly let her bag fall off her shoulder, and wordlessly passed it to Ari to hold. Still composed, Isabelle opened her robes, and let them fall to the ground. She stood there for a moment in her denim jeans and blouse, seemingly assessing something. And then she rushed forward and rugby tackled Cameron to the ground.
Cameron screamed as Isabelle wrapped her arms around the joint just below her knees, and used her shoulder to push up, making Cameron loose her balance. Isabelle straddled Cameron around the hips, pinning her underneath her athletic body. The crowd watched in horror and shock as Isabelle screamed like a tribal warrior and lifted Cameron’s head by her hair. Cameron tried to scratch and claw at her assailant, but Isabelle held herself out of reach.
Before Isabelle could slam Cameron’s head into the cement floor, she felt herself lifted off the girl from underneath her shoulders. She was airborne, being dragged backwards. People rushed forward to help Cameron, creating a wall of bodies between the two girls. Panting, and still enraged, Isabelle attempted to fight the two bodies on either side of her that were keeping her aloft. She screamed and kicked, but to no avail.
“Easy,” one of her captors grumbled. Isabelle was aware that she had been dragged down the corridor into an empty classroom. Then, at last, she was put on top of on of the tables. Her feet dangled several inches off the ground. She swung her legs loosely, contemplating her next move.
Isabelle attempted to make one final bid for freedom in order to get back to Cameron’s throat, but she was promptly lifted off the ground again only to be firmly seated on top of the table a second time.
“Isabelle.” The kindness of the voice made Isabelle’s anger fade slightly. There were two other people in the room with her. At first, they had been blurry silhouettes, but now she saw that it was James and Sirius. They stood before her like parents about to scold a temperamental child who had just thrown a tantrum. Isabelle’s head fell.
Isabelle hadn’t even known she was capable of such aggression. Sure, on the Quidditch field she could be assertive and determined, almost to the point of reckless endangerment, but she had never wished to cause anyone physical harm. Isabelle would say things like, “If Raina Niridi does not stop talking trash about me I am going to strangle her with a scarf,” or “If Professor McGonagall assigns us another essay I’m going to put a jinx on her,” but it never came to that—and she had never really meant it anyway. Her sudden violent outburst had scared Isabelle, but she supposed it was years of bottled up hostility that had simply boiled up and exploded all over Cameron.
Isabelle prepared herself for a lecture, feeling ashamed.
“What is the matter with you?” James bellowed. He swept his hands through his hair, messing it up. It was a habit he had dropped last year, but apparently the stress of the situation had forced him to take it back up. His jet black hair stood on end, giving the impression of the black spikey fruit vendors sold on Diagon Alley (“guaranteed to stop all sorts of abrasions, sicknesses, and ailments!”)
Isabelle hung her head even farther. She really wished that James and Sirius hadn’t been there to see her like that. She rarely lost control like that; Isabelle had perfected her ability to project an image of poise and confidence long ago, and with a few well-chosen sentences Cameron had taken a sledgehammer to that image. She should not have attacked Cameron, it had been wrong. But feeling that red hair in-between her fingers, knowing that the terror in those blue eyes was because of herself, and exerting all of her force over the serpent and coming out on top—it was nothing but cathartic.
Isabelle waited for James to continue. Sirius stood off to the side, his arms crossed. His masked face could have taught Isabelle a few things. She could not quite make out if he looked—what? Disappointed? Put off? Not impressed, that was plain to see. Sirius simply watched, a slight line of worry appearing on his forehead. Isabelle did not care if James yelled at her, but for some reason she felt that if Sirius decided to put in his opinion she would burst into tears.
“Are you insane?” James half-shouted. He threw his hands into the air and whirled around. He could not stand still and began to pace. “Do you just not think before you do everything?” The way he was emphasizing the last word of his sentences was growing increasingly annoying. But now he seemed to be unable to form any more sentences, he just paced back and forth in front of the table, sputtering.
“I’m sorry okay. I know I shouldn’t have done that, but she deserved it! You heard what she said, and I didn’t even hurt her that bad,” Isabelle started, her defense was forming as she went. But James stopped pacing, and the look of surprise on his face caused Isabelle to stop as well.
“What?” James said. He thought for a moment and realized what she was apologizing for. It had been one of those strange times when two parties of the conversation were talking about two different things entirely. James was frustrated, for now he had to go all the way back and explain what he was going on about, and it really did ruin the dramatic effect of his indignation. “I’m not talking about that, of course that bitch deserved it.”
Now Isabelle—and Sirius for that matter—were the ones confused. What else had she done to cause James to be so upset? “What are you talking about then?” Isabelle said weakly, the tone of a defeated individual. Isabelle spoke like she could have done any number of insane, thoughtless things and the look in her eyes said, “exactly which one are you referring to, James, because I would really like to know just how much of a screw-up I am—not that I need reminding.”
The accusation (or was it an explanation?) resounded in the silence. It sank into the floorboards, hid in the dark corners, it hit Isabelle like a bucket of cold water in the face. Luckily, unlike the witch from that Muggle movie, Isabelle did not melt.
Her usually soft brown eyes narrowed. “Excuse me?” She said, dangerously.
Sirius took a step forward now, hoping his friend would tread around this issue carefully. James was so used to rushing forward driven by pure instinct that he always forgot about such niceties as manners and being sensitive. He was worse when he morphed into the stag called Prongs. There was no keeping up with him when Prongs wanted to explore a new terrain or chase down a creature. Sirius was just as dumbstruck as Isabelle to hear that this was why James was upset. The suddenness of Isabelle’s attack on Cameron had made Sirius forget about the conversation that had been its prelude. Sirius looked at Isabelle, and he did feel disappointed. Ari Yaxley was a dangerous pureblood with an even more dangerous family, and Isabelle had no business messing about with his sort, even if it was her way of acting out.
“AKY,” James said, unrelenting. “Ari K Yaxley. How long have you two been sneaking around, huh? Do you know what this does to us?”
Isabelle clenched the side of the table with both hands, trying to keep herself from attacking James. She was on a roll now with her tackles, and James was just asking to be kamikazed. “What do you mean, ‘us?’” Isabelle said, her voice trembling with rage.
“The team, of course! God Isabelle he is using you! Can’t you see? Our first game is against Slytherin! He knew they couldn’t beat us, he probably figured all he had to do was give you some of Red Dragon’s Draught and you would spill out all of your secrets. Or did he save it for pillow talk? Nothing like talking about Quidditch after you’ve shagged the enemy. And how are you going to play with your little boyfriend on the other side? Probably hand the Snitch right to him.”
Isabelle’s vision clouded, not with rage, but with tears. She tried to keep them from overflowing and escaping her eyes, and the only way she could was by trying to let her anger overshadow her crushing despair. James not only called her a traitor, he was also treating her as nothing better than Ari’s whore. His words hurt more than Cameron’s. Oh how she would have loved to have witnessed this.
James sucked in his breath, about to launch in on Isabelle again, but his path to her was blocked. “That’s enough,” Sirius said. His interference was all the time Isabelle needed to wipe her eyes. She slid off the table and came around so the three of them were now standing in a circle.
James was prepared to ignore Sirius and continue, but Sirius repeated, “That’s enough.” And he was so cold and stern it was difficult not to listen to him. James tried to implore Sirius, replying on the sometimes almost-psychic connection the four Marauders sometimes seemed to share. He wanted to explain to Sirius how reasonable his words were. They were harsh, but they needed to be if he wanted his star Chaser back in line.
But Sirius’ grey eyes flashed. He despised yelling matches, they brought back almost horrific memories of his time at Grimmauld Place and his narrow escape from the pureblood world. Yelling was the last thing this girl—their friend, housemate, and teammate—needed. Nothing she had done had ever been meant to spite the Gryffindors. Sirius wished that he could explain this to James, but he would not be able to until later, until after his temper had cooled. Then James would see the error of his ways—this job usually fell to Remus, the moral compass of the group, but this was one Sirius would have to take on himself. He wanted to say something more, but he could not think of what to say. Sirius wanted to shake her, and rattle her until some semblance of common sense dislodged from the part of the brain where it was hiding. Sirius wanted—he needed to do more—because if Isabelle had never done anything to spite the Gryffindors intentionally before now, the look on her face implied that she was about to.
But Sirius could not move, he could only look at her. He was mesmerized by her stature, feeling like he could observe her all day long. He could only watch her because he did not want to interfere with Isabelle’s life. He was not ready to rescue her from her demons, he had barely escaped his own.
Isabelle simply stood shaking her head at James as if she did not even know who he was. This was not the James Potter she went to class with, ate with, and lived with for seven years. “Fine,” she said at last. The tremble was gone from her voice now, and she stared directly at James. “Sorry I’ve been such a liability to the team.” The sarcasm was not aimed at Sirius, but it stung him nonetheless. Poor James, who had to endure the full weight of it.
Isabelle began to head for the door, sickened by James’ presence. “I won’t make you put up with me any more.” She opened the door, her hand on the knob.
Her words were followed by the slam of wood on wood as she walked out of the room and away from the only thing that was keeping her sane at Hogwarts. The words seemed to echo, some magical trick of the castle as James and Sirius stood, paralyzed.
I quit. I quit. I quit.
Whoaaa, that was a long one! I hope you made it through alright, there was just no good stopping point, and the I haven’t given you all a nice long chapter in a while. A lot happened here, but some fresh drama is always welcome. As always, reviews are greatly appreciated: questions, comments, concerns, favorite lines, etc. Each one is read and taken into account :) Don’t be shy!!
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