“We’re going to be late to breakfast,” a thirteen year old Lily protested as Mina stopped to tie her shoe in the corridor. She’d overslept again and Lily was more than a bit annoyed. “And if we’re late we won’t have time to meet Severus in the library before class.”
“I know, I know. There.” She stood up and smiled at her best friend. “Now we can go.”
“You better eat fast,” Lily said as they entered the Great Hall. “Or I’m leaving you behind this time.”
Mina grinned at her. Lily always threatened to leave her behind, but she never would. There were already a number of people eating breakfast, although a number of the older students skipped it on a regular basis. Even the Marauders, the four awful boys in their year, were there.
Lily followed her best friend’s gaze and scowled at the boys. “Ignore them. Mum says they’ll lose interest if we ignore them.” Mina nodded and pulled her eyes away from them.
“Do you-” Mina began, but she was cut off when something wet dripped on her head.
She looked up and Lily did the same, only to see a large bucket of mud turn on its side and pour its contents over their heads.
Both girls shrieked as they were caught in the mud bath. It splashed everywhere, coating their robes and covering their hair.
Peals of laughter erupted from the four Marauders. After a moment, the rest of the Great Hall joined in. Mina was frozen, her face bright red under the mask of mud on her face. Lily burst into tears and ran through the doors, her shoes squelching with every step she took.
Mina stood frozen in the entrance, unable to move a single step. The laughter surrounded her, growing louder until it drowned out even her own thoughts. She couldn’t think, she couldn’t breathe. All she heard was the laughing.
Mina sat up in her bed, her heart racing a mile a minute. It took her a moment to remember that she was eighteen now and a seventh year. Third year was a long time ago.
But no matter how many times she told herself those things, she couldn’t shake the feeling of the mud running down her back and the echoes of her classmates rang in her ears. Mina’s hands shook as she tied her hair off her sweaty neck.
She didn’t often have nightmares. It hadn’t been that bad, just that one morning in front of the whole school.
It was early in the morning, too early for even the most studious people to have awoken, so Mina dressed quietly and trudged down to the Common Room. The sun hadn’t yet risen, but the fire gave off a soft light that warmed the room.
Mina could have easily lit her reading with her wand, but she could read quite comfortably without it. She’d only just settled into her latest Transfiguration textbooks when she heard voices that sent a chill through her bones.
“I thought we were gonna get caught there for a moment,” said the first.
“If we get caught we’re all expelled,” said another. “I can’t be-”
“Would you two hush up? You’re not exactly keeping your voices down.”
The other two boys fell silent, then the first spoke up again. “We wouldn’t get expelled for that.”
“Padfoot!” The portrait hole swung open and Mina stared at the empty space. She’d heard the four Marauders, she would know their voices anywhere. Where had they gone? She thought she maybe heard a creak of the steps, but there was no one there.
Mina shook her head. All of that was back in third year. The Marauders didn’t bother with her anymore. She needed to stop imagining them where they weren’t and recreating scenarios in her head that had already happened. It was over.
The image of the two third years Black had forced to move so he and his friend could sit at the table popped into her head unbidden. It may have been over for her, but Black still treated everyone like he was a king and they merely his servants.
The whole group of them had always thought they were so much better than everyone else, even giving their little group a stupid name. The Marauders. The arrogance just radiated off of them.
And the worst part of it was that they were smart and talented and attractive. Mina was sure all of their marks were higher than hers and she’d never seen Black or Potter bother to crack a book, let alone take notes during class. It was infuriating to say the least.
Mina realized she was gripping the book so tightly that the pages were being pulled from the spine and her fingers had left indents in the soft cover. She immediately relaxed her fingers and lay her head on the desk.
She was so tired. It wasn’t yet dawn and she’d gone to bed late from studying again. As Mina began to doze her thoughts flew back to the conversation she’d heard- imagined. A small smile graced her face. If only the Marauders did something that got them expelled. Then maybe their egos would drop a few notches. Or at least people might stop worshipping them.
Mina had grown tired of sitting around indoors studying all week. She had to study, that couldn’t be changed, but at least she could have a change of scenery. She took her schoolbag filled with all the books from the classes she had the most trouble with- Transfiguration, Defense, and Ancient Runes with a few notes for Charms thrown in the mix as well.
Transfiguration was the most difficult application class, but Ancient Runes was only theory and it was a difficult theory at that. Since she’d spent so much time trying to learn the Transfiguration spells, Mina opened her Ancient Runes textbook once she was settled under a comfortable tree and began to memorize the translations.
NEWT classes were difficult for everybody, including Lily, but Mina felt sometimes that she had to put in extra effort for very little reward. Her mind just didn’t wrap around the knowledge the way that Lily’s did.
After about an hour of studying, Mina shifted her position and glanced around. Several other students seemed to have had the same idea as her and were taking advantage of the nice weather by studying outdoors, or even taking a break from studying if they didn’t have NEWTs or OWLs to worry about.
OWLs hadn’t been pleasant for Mina. Two weeks before exams started she’d had breakdown and had to be administered a Calming Draught every night until they began. With the nightmares and the imaginary conversations she was afraid that would happen again.
The only good thing was that fifth year had been after the Marauders lost interest in her and Lily. They weren’t around to tease her about it, although some of the other students had. She was determined to remain calm this year, or go to Madame Pomfrey earlier if she needed the draught.
None of the other students seemed bothered by the prospect of exams except for their increased studying habits. By seventh year they had grown used to the idea of exams, even if these were the big ones.
The younger students didn’t appear too disturbed. It was usually the fifth years who were the distraught ones and most of them spent their time huddled in dark, quiet corners of the library. Mina didn’t spy any of them outside, although there were plenty of younger students and sixth and seventh years.
In particular, a few younger Slytherins seemed to have taken up residence under one of the trees. There were three of them, two boys and a girl, who looked to be in their fourth year. Old enough to remember that particular was a favorite hangout of the Marauders who took great offence whenever anyone else sat on it.
There wouldn’t have been a problem except Black, Pettigrew, and Lupin were making their way over to the tree. They stopped in front of the younger students and scowled at them. Black twirled his wand menacingly.
“Do we have to spell it out for you lot? This makes twice. Get your slimy little Slytherin arses back to the castle before we decide to stop playing nice and start hexing you,” Black said. Pettigrew backed him up, although Lupin looked more than a little ashamed of his friends- and probably himself as well.
Mina scowled and tried to go back to her runes, but her attention remained on the inevitable fight.
One of the Slytherin boys looked like he’d prefer to just leave the tree to the older boys, but his two friends seemed rather stubborn. The girl had her hands on her hips and was talking furiously as though she was giving the Marauders a lecture on school rules, although her voice was so low Mina couldn’t hear what she was saying.
Mina could have told her to save her breath. The Marauders, Black especially, felt that school rules existed only to be broken. He’d probably broken just about every rule Filch had written down in all his years as caretaker.
The other Slytherin boy must have said something because Black instantly turned his wand on him. His incantation was silent, but the boy was instantly ripped into the air and dangled by one leg.
Mina recognized the hex as their signature move. They’d used it on Severus loads of times, including when he’d gone off on Lily. She’d never been a victim of it herself, but it looked none too pleasant. And the boy was only a fourth year.
Making up her mind quickly, Mina dropped her books and stalked over to the three Marauders and their victims. “Stop it, stop it right now!” She said, her voice shrill.
Black looked at her in surprise. “Get lost, Sherwood,” he muttered once he recognized her.
Mina ignored his words. If she backed off now it would do more harm than good. She’d be endlessly mocked for being a coward, despite being a Gryffindor. She’d been sorted there for a reason. “Put him down!” Her voice was steady, though her hands shook. She wiped her sweaty palm on her robe and gripped her wand tighter.
“Or what? You’re going to curse me? I think I’ve seen what you can do with that thing.” He laughed and Mina’s stomach dropped. He had seen her fail before, what if she failed again? “Frankly I wonder how you got into Hogwarts sometimes. Haven’t witnessed you perform magic before. Maybe you and Filch should get together, join that little squib’s club of his.”
Mina hadn’t known Filch was a squib, but her face burned. She may not have been the most talented in Transfiguration, but she certainly wasn’t a squib.
The younger boy’s face was beginning to turn red as he hung upside down, struggling to get free. “Put him down,” she repeated, raising her wand. Mina wasn’t sure what she planned on doing to Black, but she couldn’t just let him keep going.
“Maybe you’d like to join him in the air, then,” Black said, raising his wand to meet hers.
“Sirius.” Lupin was looking a little sick as he stepped up beside his friend and fellow Marauder. “Maybe we should just go inside, see what James is up to.”
Black shook him off. “You’re going to let her scare you away?” He said ‘her’ like she was something dirty, worse than the dirt under his feet even.
Lupin shook his head, but walked off anyway. Apparently it was too much for him as a Prefect. Mina should have felt better now that there were only two of the Marauders left, but Black was talented and Pettigrew wasn’t half bad himself, not that he could quite measure up to his friends.
Lily, back when she was still friends with Mina, had several good things to say of Lupin, always insisting that they call him Remus. He’d never done things to them the way the other three Marauders had. He was nice and intelligent, quieter and more solemn.
But he could have stopped them, Mina always argued back. He could have done something.
Instead he sat there and watched or read his book or studied or even walked away as he did now. Even after he became a Prefect he turned a blind eye to everything his friends did. In Mina’s opinion that made him just as bad as the rest of them, maybe even worse.
“Finite incantatem,” Mina murmured as she pointed her wand at the dangling boy. He fell to the ground with a crash and she cringed. She hadn’t thought to soften his landing, not that he’d fallen more than two feet.
“What did you do that for?” Black asked. “I was teaching him a lesson. No one sits under our tree. It’s practically sacred.”
Mina shook her head. She’d had enough of lying down for Black and his friends. “You can’t go around hexing people because they’re sitting where you want to sit,” she said.
“Course I can,” Black said with a smirk. “Especially when they’re filthy Slytherins.”
“Gryffindors aren’t better than everyone else,” she responded. “You aren’t better than everyone else.”
The three Slytherins must have left, but Mina hadn’t noticed them leaving. She’d been too focused on Black.
“I’m not?” He looked bored, toying with his wand as though he knew she didn’t have the guts to hex him.
“No!” It was his tone more than anything that made her angry. He was playing with her, trying to upset her even. It was all a game to him. “You always do this! You always treat everyone like they’re- like they’re beneath you! Like they’re worthless because they might not be as smart as you or in your House or because they don’t believe the same things as you!”
Black looked mildly surprised by her outburst, but no more. “And I assume your classifying yourself in the same category as those I deem worthless, would that be correct?”
“Yes.” Mina knew he was playing some kind of game. He had a smirk on his face, but she wasn’t going to back down.
There were people watching, other students. No one crowded around, but people only did that when there was a physical fight happening. This was just an argument, no one wanted to get pulled in on the wrong side even if they did want to know the outcome.
“So what exactly makes you, to use your own words, worthy of my attention?” Black asked.
Mina was taken aback by the question. “Wha-what?” She asked, confused.
“You said it yourself, you’re not as smart as me. You can barely use magic. Let’s be honest, you’re not much of a looker.” Pettigrew sniggered behind him and Mina felt her face go red. “How exactly are you not beneath me?”
“I’m not-” Mina broke off. She didn’t have an answer. She didn’t know what the correct answer was. Black, Pettigrew- all of them thought they were better than other people. And they were. “It’s still not right. You’ve got- We’re all people. We all have thoughts and feelings and-”
Black let out a bark of laughter. “If you wanted feelings mumbo jumbo you’d have been better off as a bumblebee in Hufflepuff. Why aren’t you in Hufflepuff, by the way?”
Mina had wondered that herself sometimes, but for once in her life she had an answer. “I had the guts to stand up to you, didn’t I?”
Black blinked at her in shock. Finally she’d managed to shake him of his cool arrogance.
But her courage could only last her so far. Already Mina felt nauseated. Her stomach was cramped and she could tell she was going to vomit. She fled from the grounds before Black had a chance to respond and into the nearest girls’ lavatory where she dry heaved for several minutes.
The shakes set in as she finally got control of her stomach. She sat huddled in the corner of the stall, terrified of what she’d done.
It hadn’t seemed like much at the time. The adrenaline coursing through her veins had eliminated any logic in her brain. She’d yelled at Sirius Black in front of a third of the school. She’d embarrassed him, even. That wasn’t something he would forget for a while.
A/N: I hope Sirius doesn't come off as too cruel in this chapter. I toyed with a couple of different scenarios after writing this, but nothing else seemed to really work. He, Lily, and James will all come back in the next (and last) chapter.