Chapter 21 : Chapter 21
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Prongs comes up to check on me around midday. I’m lying in my bed with the hangings drawn.
“Hey, mate,” he says. “I’m about to take Lily down to the grounds for some fresh air. Just wanted to see if you were alright.”
I don’t respond, but I know he’s not taking it personally.
“I’ll be back in a few hours,” he says, with the unspoken offer to talk when he returns.
He leaves, and I’m alone with my thoughts once again.
In the absence of Sirius, I find myself sitting in the Common Room with Remus. Alice and Frank have disappeared somewhere, Peter is making up some work for McGonagall, and James has taken Lily for some fresh air. When I pointed out it was January, he insisted that it wasn’t that cold and that it would do Lily some good to get out. I didn’t quite follow his logic, but at least he was being a considerate boyfriend, which was more than I could say for Sirius at the moment.
Remus and I are sitting around the fire, having managed to snag two of the best armchairs. He’s poring over his Defense Against the Dark Arts notes, and I’m pretending to be writing a Charms essay, but in reality, I’m just thinking about Sirius.
“Maddie,” says Remus after about ten minutes, causing me to look up. “I’m sure he’ll talk to you when he’s ready.”
“But why does he have to be so bloody difficult?” I return in frustration. “I mean, he could’ve requested nicely that I leave him alone for the time being, instead of snapping at me and saying no one understands him.”
Remus chuckles. “Requested nicely?” he repeats. “Does that sound like Sirius?”
I almost laugh too, in spite of myself. “No, I suppose not. I just want to help him.”
“And he knows that,” Remus reassures me. “I’m sure he does. Just give him some time.”
I smile at him. Remus really was a great friend to have. “Thank you.”
He smiles back. “No problem.”
We resume working on our homework, finally taking a break when James and Lily return from the grounds about a half an hour later. They take seats next to us, and James puts his arm around Lily, who still looks upset, but better than she did this morning.
“I’ve just had an owl from my dad,” James informs us. “Apparently, these kinds of attacks have been going on for a while now. The Ministry has been trying to keep it all hushed up, so people wouldn’t panic.” Uncle Robert works in the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes, so if anyone would know that, it’d be him. “But the press managed to get wind of this one and get it in print before anyone could stop them,” James finishes.
“How long is a while?” I ask.
“Months,” says James somberly.
“And they didn’t think they should let the Wizarding community know?” I say, instantly outraged. “That’s ridiculous!”
“That’s the Ministry for you,” says Remus. “Always trying to keep everyone calm, even if there’s actually something to panic about.”
“The good news,” says James, “is that now that it’s out, they’re going to issue all sorts of warnings and protection guidelines to try and keep everyone safer. However, I have serious doubts on how much those will do. Especially for Muggles.”
“Like my family,” puts in Lily, speaking for the first time since they’d come back.
“Which is why I owled my dad in the first place,” says James. “Lily’s family is going to stay at my place from now on, to give them protection.”
“James’s parents went and saw my parents as soon as James owled them,” explains Lily. “Apparently once they grasped the gravity of the situation, they were very willing to accept their offer. Even Petunia, and we all know how stubborn she can be.”
“Well, that’s great,” I say, reaching out to squeeze Lily’s hand. “They’ll be safe.”
She nods. “It’s all thanks to James, really,” she says, leaning in closer to him. “Thank you.”
“Anything for you,” he says, kissing her on top of the head. The display of affection brings my attention back to Sirius, who as far as I know is still up in his dormitory. James seems to read my mind.
“It’s not something you did, if that’s what you’re wondering,” he says to me.
“Then what is it?” I ask perplexedly.
“I think it’s his place to say,” says James apologetically.
“Would it be terribly persistent of me to go back up there?” I ask my friends.
“It can’t hurt to try,” says Remus. James and Lily nod in agreement.
“Wish me luck,” I say, before departing from my seat and going up the boys’ staircase once more.
I knock on the door once again and this time I get a depressed sounding, “Come in.”
I enter, finding my boyfriend lying on his bed, staring straight up at the ceiling.
“Hi,” I say. “How are you?”
He doesn’t answer right away. He sits up to look at me, and says the last thing I ever would have expected to hear.
“Why are you with me?”
“Excuse me?” I say, not really knowing how to respond to such a loaded question.
“Why are you with me?” he repeats. “You do know my background, right? You know what my family-” He says with word with disgust-“is like, don’t you?”
“I-” I start to respond, but he doesn’t give me a chance to finish.
“How can you stand to be with someone who comes from that?” Sirius continues. “All that pure blood mania, all the ethnocentrism that comes with being descended from the ‘Noble and Most Ancient House of Black.’ You do realize that what happened to the Cresswells is exactly the kind of thing they’d be supporting?”
Before I can start to respond again, he’s on his feet.
“They support that!” he yells, unable to contain his frustration. “They support the murder of innocent people, just because they’re not like them! My prejudiced mother and father and my brainwashed brother! My cousins, walking around like they’re better than everyone because they’re in Slytherin! The family motto—Toujours Pur. It means ‘always pure.’ That’s how important blood status is to them!”
I’ve never seen him like this. He just keeps going, like he can’t help himself, and it’s just all spilling out.
“And it doesn’t matter that I’m different,” he says, as if he’s already heard what I would’ve said. “Because as soon as people hear my name is Black, they’ve already formed a judgment of me in their heads. Do you know how hard it is to reverse that? Reverse judgments made by people who don’t even know me, and who don’t know how damn hard I’ve fought to prove I’m different?”
“How do you think it feels,” he continues, grey eyes flashing, “to have your only brother pick fights with you in the corridors between classes and otherwise not associate with you? Or have your so-called father look at you and tell you you’re the greatest disappointment of his life? Or have your bitch of a mother tell you she wishes you’d never been born?”
“I don’t know-”
“Nobody knows!” he hurls back at me. “Nobody can possibly know, until you’ve been put through it. Until you’ve had to everything face Howlers from your first day of Hogwarts screaming that you’ve brought shame upon the entire family, to being cursed by your cousins in the corridors, to having the Cruciatus Curse used on you by your own mother-” he breaks off, and I’m not sure if he’s going to continue.
Sirius sits down on the edge of his bed. He puts his head in his hands for a moment, before looking back up and continuing. “Until you’ve had enough. Until you run away to the only real family you’ve got, and then have to live off of someone else’s charity because you’re not wanted anywhere else.”
“Sirius…” I’m at a loss for words.
“And then, when something like this happens,” Sirius says, meaning the news we learned of this morning, “you’re reminded that it all comes back to them. The whole lot of them. And you’re ashamed to have the last name that you do, and the reputation that comes with it. And you wish you could change it, but you-” His voice breaks. “You can’t. You just can’t.”
He puts his head in his hands again, and this time I know he’s finished. I walk from where I’ve been standing through his entire outburst and sit next to him on the bed. I take his head and lean it against my chest, holding him close.
I say the only thing that I can think of, the only thing that seems to convey what I think he needs to hear.
“They’re not you,” I say, my voice shaking slightly. “They are not you.”
To her credit, Mads didn’t run away after I got all out of control like that. She stays with me the rest of the day, just the two of us, lying together in my bed, her head on my chest.
We’re lying in silence, when she decides to break it for the first time. “I never knew it bothered you so much,” she says, and I can tell she feels guilty.
“That’s because I didn’t want you to,” I say honestly. “I don’t think about it, if I can help it. It’s just not avoidable sometimes.”
“I’m so sorry,” she says quietly. “It’s not fair, what you’ve had to deal with.”
“Life’s not fair, unfortunately,” I reply. “But try telling that to my dear old mum. She always told me I deserved what I got, that I brought it upon myself.”
“You can’t be serious,” says Maddie, the horror evident in her voice.
“Oh, but I am,” I say. “In more ways than one.”
Maddie doesn’t laugh at the pun for once, and I’m betting it’s due to the seriousness of the situation rather than the overuse. “And she really…” Maddie starts but has trouble continuing. “She really used the Cruciatus Curse on you?”
“Yeah,” I say. “The summer before fifth year. That’s when I knew I had to get out. So I ran away to James’s place.”
“I can’t believe it,” she said. “What did James’s parents say?”
“I didn’t tell them. James was the only one that knew.”
“And didn’t he want to tell them?” she asks.
“Yeah, he did. But I didn’t fancy filing a law suit. It was easier to just not say anything.”
We lay in silence for a while longer before Mads speaks again.
“You said before that you weren’t wanted anywhere else,” Maddie says. “You were wrong.”
“Was I?” I ask, absentmindedly stroking her hair.
“Yes,” she says, looking up at me. “I want you with me. Always.”
“That sounds just fine to me,” I say. It really does.
A/N: Hi, everyone! Sorry this chapter wasn't longer, this just really felt like the logical place to end it. This chapter was kind of intense theme wise, so I'm really curious to know what you guys thought. Thank you so much for reading, and I will do my best to have the next chapter up soon!