Chapter 1 : Prologue
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Beautiful CI by Magpie @ TDA!!!
So, last night, Sirius Black kissed me for the first time in a year.
Also, I nearly died in the jaws of a terrifying monster.
But back to Sirius.
I sit down at my usual place at the end of Ravenclaw table, opening up my Charms book with one hand and grabbing a dish of scrambled eggs with the other. Corina, my best (actually, only) friend, sits down next to me with a sigh.
“Aislin, it’s our second week back,” she reminds me, “close the damn book.”
I look up from the textbook, but don’t close it. “I want to get ahead. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
“Yes, there is,” says Corina, snatching the book off the table and shoving it into her bag. Corina’s very small and dainty, sort of like a fairy, which is a very convenient fact for the fact that she’s completely psychotic. She’s the bossiest, laziest, most annoying person I know. Of course I’m only allowed to say this about her because she also happens to be my best friend, and if anyone else ever insulted her I’d have to duel them for her honor.
“Have it your way,” I tell her, stuffing a piece of toast into my mouth.
Corina watches me shrewdly, her sharp blue eyes practically piercing into my soul. “You’re acting weird,” she finally says.
“I always act weird,” I reply, buttering some more toast.
“No, I mean you’re acting weirder than usual,” she says.
I shrug, but find myself looking up against my will, my gaze roaming down the Gryffindor table until it lands on him. Dark haired, scowling, beautiful. He looks up for a split second, meeting my eyes, and my heart seems to leap up into my throat. I look down quickly, all the blood in my body rushing to my cheeks.
[I’m having trouble sleeping. I get out of bed, walk downstairs and through the Ravenclaw common room, hoping that a walk around the castle will cure my insomnia. But as I pass by one of the large windows, something catches my eye on the lawn below. I move closer to the window, peering into the darkness.]
Corina starts prattling on about NEWTs – though we’re still in our sixth year – and I sneak another glance up at Sirius. He’s laughing, now, probably at one of James’ stupid jokes. The other Marauders laugh along with him, having the time of their bloody lives.
Oh, I seem to have forgotten my manners. Let me introduce you to the Marauders.
First there’s James Potter. He seems to think he’s God’s gift to women, and most of Hogwarts’ female population agrees. Most of his life revolves around his hair, which is dark and purposefully untidy, and Quidditch. James has been a Gryffindor Chaser forever, and he was made Captain this year. He sits on Sirius’ left, running his hand through his hair even as he laughs. Git.
Next is Remus Lupin, a bit of a puzzler. He’s always seemed to be a nice enough sort of person, mild-mannered and polite. He’s a bit of a genius and he’s even a Gryffindor Prefect. I’m completely baffled by the fact that a vaguely intelligent, kind person can hang about the rest of that gang. Remus is attractive enough, with large, pensive eyes and dirty blond hair.
Finally, there’s Peter Pettigrew, who’s always reminded me a bit of a rodent. Unlike the others, he doesn’t seem to be very good at magic. Or, for that matter, anything. He has light, wavy hair, a short stature, and round cheeks like a chipmunk’s.
“Come on, Aislin,” says Corina, standing up abruptly. “We’ll be late for Charms.”
Flitwick sets us to work on the Aguamenti charm. I’m a good hand at charms, so I get the hang of it fairly quickly, and I’m the third in the class to fill up my goldfish bowl – after Lily Potter and Remus Lupin. While Corinna turns around to help the group behind us with the spell, I lean back in my chair, falling again into a memory.
[I rush downstairs and through the front doors, pulling on my dressing gown as I go. Surely there’s no way I saw what I thought I did – but I’ve got to make sure. If there’s a werewolf roaming around the Hogwarts grounds, it’s my duty as Prefect to tell Dumbledore. I walk cautiously around the castle, keeping close to the walls. Then, suddenly, an enormous weight slams into my body, knocking me straight onto my back]
My scream catches in my throat as I stare, horrified, into the eyes of the werewolf that’s about to kill me.
“Aislin,” says Corina, poking my cheek. “The Gryffindor boys are staring at you.”
I blink, coming back down to Earth. “What?”
“Turn around,” says Corina in a low voice.
I turn slowly around in my seat, surveying the classroom. Lily Evans is swirling her wand around in her fishbowl, changing the color of her goldfish from yellow to pink to turquoise. Barnabus Cuffe has just managed to douse himself with a jet of water, and is grumpily allowing Frank Longbottom to use a Drying Charm on his robes. When my eyes fall on the Marauders, they all quickly look down at their desks. It seems almost as if…
“Were they looking at me?” I ask sharply, turning back to Corina.
“Yes, “says Corina, in a tone of strained patience. “That’s what I just said.”
“Sorry,” I say with a smirk. “You’re so short, it’s hard to hear you from up here.”
Corina narrows her eyes and points her wand at me threateningly. I flinch. She laughs and puts down her wand, giving me an impromptu oral quiz on History of Magic. I answer the questions as best I can – which isn’t very well, considering I’ve slept through almost every History of Magic class since first year – but my thoughts loop back around to the Marauders. Why were they staring at me? Did Sirius tell them about last night? I cringe, trying not to imagine what his version of the story would be.
[Suddenly, the werewolf is knocked forcefully off of me by another huge animal. I can’t tell what it is, but it’s large and furry. I’m about to be grateful when I realize that it probably wants to eat me, too. Instead of sticking around to find out whether it’s a friend or foe, I scramble to my feet and sprint back to the front doors of the castle as fast as my feet will carry me. Once I’m safely inside, the castle, I burst into a torrent of shocked tears.]
I hear a loud burst of laughter from the back of the classroom, and turn around. The Marauders are staring at me openly, now. Remus looks pensive, but the other three are guffawing loudly. Sirius’ eyes are full of malice.
“Ignore them,” says Corina, squeezing my hand under the table.
I turn back around, feeling uneasy. I don’t understand how Corina is so above all this school drama. I’ve always been jealous of her in that respect – she’s strong, and she knows how to take care of herself. In terms of relationships, she can move on from a bloke in the blink of an eye. She’s always said that her personal motto on romance is “I don’t have time for heartbreak.” Personally, I’m half-convinced she sold her heart to the devil. But that’s another story.
Two summers ago, after she broke up with Andrew Davies (a seventh-year Ravenclaw), she went shopping, took up Wizard’s Chess, and snogged two older blokes.
After Sirius and I broke up last Christmas, I sobbed for nine consecutive hours, at three boxes of chocolate, and refused to take off my pajamas for a full week.
To each her own.
[I’m halfway back to Ravenclaw tower, hurrying up a staircase, when someone calls my name from below. I turn around, cringing, expecting to see an angry professor. But it’s even worse than I fear – standing at the bottom of the steps, leaning against the banister, is Sirius.
“W-what do you want?” I mutter, turning my face away from him so he won’t see that I’ve been crying. But though we broke up months ago, he still knows me far too well.
“You look upset,” he says, climbing up the stairs. “What’s up?”
“As if you care about my feelings, Black,” I say, using his surname on purpose because I know it’s the equivalent of slapping his face. Sure enough, he stops in his tracks with ten steps between us. “Anyway, I should give you a detention for being out after curfew.”
“You’re out as well,” Sirius points out.
“Yes, but I’m a Prefect,” I snap.
“Right,” grumbles Sirius, “sorry, your Majesty.”
“No apologies necessary,” I say coolly, starting back up the stairs. But to my dismay, he follows, catching up with me in a few strides. He walks along next to me, hands in his pockets, and I find myself overwhelmed by the smell of him. Merlin, it’s lovely. He smells warm and safe.
“When are you going to stop doing this, Ash?” he asks quietly.
“What do you mean?” I say, without looking at him.
“Pretending you don’t care.”
I reach the top of the staircase and stop, making my eyes as cold as possible as I look up at him. He looks back down at me, his eyes lit from within with a kind of furious energy. Once upon a time, I thought he was my prince. He’s beautiful, and I’ll never be able to deny it. But ever since we broke up I’ve been finding out what a cruel, pathetic bastard he is. Laughing at me, humiliating me, playing stupid pranks on me. Now I’ve seen that side of him, I can never see him as my prince again.
“I’m not pretending.” I say, my voice quivering just slightly on the last syllable.
Sirius stares at me for several seconds, his expression unreadable. I stare back defiantly, daring him to insult me, yell at me, even hex me. Instead, he does the unthinkable. He takes his hands out of his pockets, grabs me by my elbows, pulls me toward him, and kisses me.]
When the bell rings for lunch, I ditch Corina on the way to the Great Hall, and go to the library instead on a sudden impulse. I look through the rows of used textbooks, searching for last year’s Defense against the Dark Arts book.
I spot it, and grab it. It’s a very old copy – it feels like it might disintegrate in my hands. I hold it carefully, flipping through the pages until…
I jump, and the book slips out of my hands. It falls to the floor with a bang that echoes around the near-empty library. I quickly kneel down and pick up the book, turning it back to the page I’ve just seen. My heart beats very quickly as I look down at the neatly labeled diagram of a werewolf. The evil looking yellow eyes, the arched back, the long fangs… That was definitely the creature I saw last night, the creature that almost killed me.
“Aislin,” says a voice nearby.
I jump and whorl around again. Remus Lupin is standing beside me, looking over my shoulder at the book in my hands.
“I see you’re interested in werewolves,” he says lightly.
I blink at him, open-mouthed. “Er…Yes.”
“They terrify me, personally,” says Remus, taking the book out of my hand and placing it neatly back onto the shelf. “Sorry about Charms earlier – that must have been uncomfortable for you.”
I shrug, wondering why he’s suddenly being so nice to me. Not that he’s ever been outwardly cruel to me – he’s a Prefect, too, after all – but I always assumed that he shared the other Marauders’ obvious dislike for me.
“Sirius can be a little immature at times,” says Remus good-naturedly.
“Tell me about it,” I mutter.
Remus chuckles. He has a nice laugh, a full and honest smile. But still – he’s one of them. He can apologize for Sirius’ behavior all he likes, but he didn’t do anything to stop it when it was actually going on. “Well, what can I do to make it up to you? Have you eaten?”
I shake my head suspiciously. Is he going to try to poison me?
“Have you ever seen the Hogwarts kitchens?” asks Remus, walking toward the library door, clearly expecting me to follow him. I do follow him, more out of surprise than anything.
“No,” I say faintly. “You have?”
“Loads of times,” says Remus. “It’s a great place to go if you’re ever hungry between classes. There are loads of house-elves in there, and they’re always thrilled to take care of you. Sirius always stuffs his pockets with pies.”
Yes, well, I hope Sirius gains hundreds of pounds and has to be moved from place to place by one of those Muggle construction things with the claws.
I follow Remus through the castle, feeling self-conscious to be walking alongside him. Luckily, everyone’s in the Great Hall eating lunch. If anyone were to see us together, they’d be baffled. Aislin O’Keefe, scourge of the earth, hated by all the Marauders, going for a pleasant stroll with Remus Lupin? Unthinkable. I can’t help not hating Remus, though. He seems more down-to-earth than James or Sirius, though he does walk a bit like they do: slowly, with a slight strut. I guess the arrogant prick shuffle is just something you pick up after hanging out with James and Sirius for a while.
“So, I’ve noticed you’re not taking Arithmancy this year,” says Remus after a while. “Didn’t like it?”
“I was terrible at it,” I admit with a laugh. “I only took it because Corina said it would be good, so it’s no big loss.”
“I’m sure you weren’t terrible,” says Remus.
“Actually, I was,” I assure him. “Professor Galloway told me so.”
“Oh,” says Remus.
“Well, do you know what you’d like to do when you get out of school?” he asks.
Merlin’s pajamas. I know he’s just trying to be pleasant and make conversation, but this is the last thing I want to think about. What do I want to do when I get out of school? I want to wear expensive robes and eat a diet that consists exclusively of roasted pheasant, candied yams, and chocolate pie.
“Er, maybe something with Muggle relations,” I say weakly. “That’s what Flitwick suggested during career advice last year.”
“Oh, that sounds interesting,” says Remus, sounding (to my astonishment) genuinely interested. “I’d really like to work for the Ministry, as well.”
We talk about different jobs and Departments for a few minutes. Finally, we turn a corner and come to a dead stop: In the middle of the corridor, Sirius Black and a fifth-year Hufflepuff are passionately snogging. Her hands are in his hair – his hands are wrapped around her waist like a belt.
“I’ll see you around, Remus,” I mutter, and dart off in the direction we came just as Sirius starts to look up.
“Oi – O’Keefe!” I hear him yell.
“Congratulations, Black,” I say over my shoulder. “You’ve finally found a girl stupid enough to snog you.”
I feel bad for Remus, whom I’ve left standing awkwardly in front of Sirius and the Hufflepuff, an instant third-wheel. But there’s no sense in going back now, and I can always apologize later. Anyway, I had to get away from that horrific display. I hurry to my next class, Herbology, arriving right before the bell.
I have to catch my breath as the others pour into the greenhouse. What I really don’t understand – what’s really bothering me – is that I don’t feel annoyed, or angry, or disgusted.
I feel jealous and sad.
[It takes a moment for my brain to catch up with what just happened. By the time I’ve pieced it all together, Sirius has one hand on my waist, the other at the back of my neck. Meriln, what’s going on? Why am I kissing him? My hands curl into fists at my sides as I fight the urge to run them over his silky hair, his perfect face, his sculpted shoulders and chest.
I push him away abruptly, stumbling backwards, feeling about ready to burst into tears again. As I stare at him in shock and confusion, his face breaks into a casual, sarcastic grin.
“Sorry, O’Keefe,” he says, with a shrug. “I guess old habits die hard.”]
“I wonder what Remus wanted from you,” says Corina pensively, after I tell her what happened. “Do you think he finds you attractive, but was too embarrassed to make a move in front of his friends, seeing as you’re Sirius’ ex?”
“No,” I say firmly. “It didn’t seem like he was trying to flirt at all. He was just being nice.”
Corina shrugs. “I’ve always thought he was cute. Kind of rugged, but then he’s got those sweet eyes, so it all balances out.”
“Maybe you should ask him to show you the kitchens,” I suggest sarcastically.
Corina rolls her eyes, turning her attention back to the plant we’re supposed to be pruning. “All I’m saying is it’s been a while since you’ve had any romance in your life. Remus is a good candidate.”
“I thought I was supposed to be a strong, independent woman who doesn’t need menfolk in her life?” I ask skeptically.
“Even strong, independent women are allowed to have some fun,” says Corina, sweeping her short brown hair behind her ear. “Anyway, it doesn’t have to be Remus. All I’m saying is that it would be good for you to get out a little more – even if it’s not with somebody you really like. I know you had a really good thing with Black for a few months before he went berserk, but it’s time to move on.”
“I have moved on,” I grumble. “I just don’t feel like seeing anyone else at the moment.”
Corina sighs, snapping the dragon hide gloves off of her tiny doll hands as the bell rings. “Fine, Aislin. Anyway, what were you doing in the library?”
“Oh.” I blink. “I was just, er…browsing.”
Corina looks at me quizzically, then shrugs, deciding (wisely) to give up. Though it’s warm out, I shiver as we walk across the lawn back toward the castle, remembering that just last night, a werewolf was roaming these grounds. Should I tell someone about what happened? Would anyone believe me, even if I did?
I turn around.
James Potter is strolling along behind Corina and I, grinning casually.
“Yes?” I say disbelievingly.
“O’Keefe, I was hoping to talk to you about some, er, sensitive matters,” he says. His smile is frighteningly handsome, even with those creepy little round glasses that scream stamp-collector. I fall back a bit with a nod to Corina, indicating that she should go on without me.
“Excellent,” says James. “I’ve been wanting to talk to you for a while now, O’Keefe.”
I look ahead and see that the rest of the Marauders are already walking through the front doors of the castle. So James must have purposefully fallen back with some excuse so that he could talk to me.
But what on earth could James Potter have to say to me?
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