NEWTs grew closer and Mina didn’t have time to worry about Sirius Black. She was all consumed by studying and minor panic for her last set of examinations in her school career.
Once Mina found herself babbling incoherently in the middle of the night after studying for six hours straight and Stasia Runicon, one of her Gryffindor year mates, had to drag her down to Madam Pomfrey for a Calming Draught.
She was at least able to sleep after that and made her way sluggishly through the rest of her classes.
As exams approached, Lily made no effort to renew their friendship. Mina had expected that and certainly couldn’t do it on her own. Lily was stubborn and the cold shoulder was her classic. She hadn’t spoken to Severus since sixth year and hadn’t spoken to her own sister whom she lived with during the Holidays since before fourth year.
Doubtless she’d heard about Mina confronting Sirius Black out on the Grounds, but Mina couldn’t decide if that was in her favor or not. Lily hadn’t liked hearing her go off on Black and Potter, but maybe it was different if she did it to their faces.
Or maybe it was worse.
Either way, Mina didn’t have time to think about it much until after exams. For all the studying she’d done the past several months, exams were over in a heartbeat. She found herself walking out of her last exam, Transfiguration, feeling a bit dazed and confused.
All of the other seventh years who had finished so far seemed to feel the same. The Marauders were of course throwing a party in the Gryffindor Common room, but even that wasn’t until Saturday night. For the rest of the day and most of the next Mina didn’t have to worry about a thing. She didn’t even have an afternoon exam that day as the last official one was Potions.
Instead she meandered around Hogwarts not doing anything in particular. Everyone who didn’t have a Potions NEWT seemed a bit shell shocked. No fewer than six of Mina’s classmates stopped her in the corridors for conversations.
By the time she decided to skip dinner and go back to the girls’ dormitory she was thoroughly confused. She and Lily had never exactly been popular and even less so now that Lily was Head Girl and Mina was no longer friends with her.
Mina figured they were all so sleep deprived and distraught from exams that they didn’t know what they were doing. It was the only explanation for all the attention she was getting.
Strangely it felt rather nice. Mina found herself speaking to a sixth year Ravenclaw who looked utterly bewildered by the situation for no other reason than she saw him walking down the corridor at the same time she was. It was all rather odd.
She reached the dormitory and decided her own dazed, weightless feeling was due to lack of sleep. She had been functioning on next to no sleep for over a week and shorter nights before that.
She stumbled into the seventh year girls’ dormitory and was surprised to see she wasn’t the first in there. Lily was curled up on her bed snoring softly, clearly having conked out immediately after her Potion’s exam.
Mina hadn’t spent much time with her friend, but she was certainly sleeping as though she hadn’t in quite some time. She couldn’t ever recall seeing her friend look so unconscious. Lily was usually a light sleeper.
But she was always obsessed with her marks. Nothing short of an Outstanding was good enough for her. Lily had probably been studying night and day for their NEWTs just like Mina had.
She took a step closer and drew the drapes around Lily’s bed shut. She had been too tired to do them herself apparently. Mina wondered if it was a sign Lily wasn’t hiding from her anymore or just that the girl was too exhausted to remember to close them herself.
Either way, Mina noticed the dark circles under Lily’s eyes and turned the light off in the room, treading quietly to her own bed. She was sure the other girls would be up soon to sleep as studying had stressed them all to the breaking point.
Almost as soon as she pulled the covers up around her neck Mina fell into a deep slumber.
The next afternoon Mina was trying to decide whether or not to go to the Marauders’ party. It was for all of the Gryffindor seventh years meaning the four of them, Albert Pennicott, Seb Polemer, Geoffrey Hamilton, and Mina’s five roommates.
As Marauder parties went it was a rather small one. She had no desire to be taunted by Black again, although she wasn’t sure if he even remembered their argument on the grounds. He hadn’t mentioned it or even spoken to her since then.
Stasia, who had spoken to Mina several times since she took her down to Madam Pomfrey’s for a Calming Draught, had specifically invited so she felt welcome, but Mina still wasn’t sure. She and Stasia weren’t exactly friends, but they had a mutual understanding.
And Mina thought Stasia probably felt sorry for her since it was clear she was no longer on speaking terms with Lily.
Eventually Mina decided to go. At the worst she could just head on back up to the dormitories if things got out of hand or if she got too tired. She’d slept for fourteen hours the night before, but even that couldn’t make up for all the nights she’d stayed up past three studying for Transfiguration or Ancient Runes.
The younger students weren’t exactly welcome, but because the party was so small no one bothered to kick them out. Besides, it was the Common Room. Technically none of them were supposed to be awake, but they were all welcome to break the rules together.
Somehow the Marauders had snuck in a few bottles of champagne. Mina had no idea how they’d gotten it past Filch. “To graduation!” Potter said, taking a swig of one bottle.
“To the end of NEWTs!” Shouted Pettigrew, already a bit buzzed.
“To seventh year!”
“To the future!”
“To no more school!”
The last cry came from Black. Foamed poured over the mouth of the bottle as he past it off to Melody, one of Mina’s roommates who had once dated him. There were apparently no hard feelings as she took a deep swig herself.
Even Remus was drinking and Lily had procured a small glass from somewhere and was having a few sips. Mina shook her head as Stasia offered a bottled to her. “Come on, let loose a little,” the girl said.
Mina was tempted, she couldn’t deny that, but if Dumbledore, or worse McGonagall, caught them she’d prefer to be sober. “I’ll sit this round out.”
“Suit yourself.” Stasia shrugged and drank some more before heading over to where Albert sat. He was her boyfriend of over a year and it was common knowledge that they planned on renting a flat together after graduation.
Mina didn’t know Albert that well, except once she had gotten notes from him in Muggle Studies when she’d been sick in the Hospital Wing with the flu. He was a nice bloke, nothing like the Marauders he shared his dormitory with.
Suddenly a large body planted itself on the sofa beside her. “You’ve befuddled my best mate,” James Potter said, not quite smiling although not looking upset either. “And made my girlfriend crazy.”
Mina shrugged. She didn’t understand Potter. Did he want her to deny it? Explain why? “Yeah, I guess.”
When a moment passed without him saying anything, Mina looked over and was surprised to see that he was covering a laugh. “You’re a very strange girl, you know that?”
“There’s nothing strange about me,” Mina said, stiffening.
“Sure there isn’t. See you around, Sherwood.” He disappeared before Mina knew what to say. What did one say to something like that? She’d never liked James Potter before, but now she wondered if he was perhaps a little touched in the head.
Looking around the room, Mina noticed Black flirting Melody and Albert and Stasia kissing on one of the sofas. If it was going to turn into that kind of party she certainly wasn’t going to be sticking around for much longer.
Spying Lily over in the corner alone, Mina decided to take a chance and walked over to her. “Hey.”
Lily looked up, surprised, and gripped her champagne glass a little tighter. “Hi.” Her voice sounded small, but Mina wasn’t sure if that was just her own imagination. “I-I shouldn’t have told you to go be a Death Eater,” Lily said, not making eye contact.
Mina nodded. It wasn’t a full apology, but it was the best she would get from Lily. “I’m not sorry for what I said about Potter and Black.”
“I know.” It was Lily’s turn to nod.
They stood in silence for a moment more and Mina sighed. She’d never wanted things to go like this. “Right,” she muttered. That was as good as the end of their friendship, especially now that they were going their separate ways outside of school. “I’ll see you around then,” she said, walking off.
“I really am sorry,” Lily murmured quietly, but Mina didn’t bother turning around. Everything was already screwed up, a half apology wasn’t going to change anything. Neither of them was truly sorry about what they said and they both knew it.
But Mina wasn’t ready to leave yet. Talking to Lily made her want champagne. If the Head Girl could break the rules then she certainly could as well. She chickened out before walking up to the Marauders, though. She couldn’t stand the thought of talking to them. Even Lupin gave her the chills.
Instead Mina shuffled around the room and stood awkwardly over by the steps. She wasn’t quite prepared to slip away yet, but she knew the time would come soon.
“Want some champagne?” Black asked as he was making rounds around the room. Seemingly he had untangled himself from Melody who was talking to Lupin and looking more than a bit sullen.
Mina shook her head. She wouldn’t take anything from him, although she might have said yes if Stasia offered. “I don’t drink.”
“Of course you don’t,” he replied sarcastically. “Because why should you be any fun at all?”
“At least I’m a decent human being,” Mina shot back. She was tired of seven years of Black’s jabs, seven years of him thinking he was better than everyone else except for Potter.
“Ouch, that really hurts.” Black was smirking and Mina scowled harder. She didn’t like him laughing at her. “So what you said on the grounds the other week-”
“I meant every word,” Mina said sincerely. “You treat people like dirt, the way the old pureblood families treat their house elves. You think you’re god’s gift to the world. You think you’re clever and a witty and oh so funny, but all you really are is mean. I for one am tired of letting you walk all over me, like I’m less than you. You treat people like Lily fine because they’re worthy of your attention, but you treat me like I’m scum. That’s how I know you’re a real git.”
Black was eyeing her with something akin to respect. “Maybe I underestimated you,” he said. “That’s a sharp tongue you’ve got there.”
Mina shook her head. All that and he’d missed her point completely. “That’s not what I meant.”
“Isn’t it? You wanted to be worthy of me, didn’t you?” He looked so arrogant and serious that Mina wanted nothing more than to slap it off his face, but that wouldn’t do.
“People shouldn’t have to be worthy of someone else. That’s not the way things work,” she said.
Sirius shrugged. “Isn’t it, though?” He smirked at her, grabbed his bottle, and stood somewhat shakily. “I’ll be seeing you around, Sherman.”
He was already flirting with Melody by the time Mina realized what he’d said to her. “It’s Sherwood,” she muttered quietly. “Sherwood like the forest.”
With that she stood from the chair and headed up the steps to her dormitory. Whatever she’d been trying to prove by being down there wasn’t important. She’d attended the party, she’d spoken to Lily and Potter and Black. She was half packed already and prepared to head home, never to see any of them again.
Mina flicked the light off with her wand and curled up in her bed. Hogwarts would soon be over. Maybe Sirius Black would never change, he’d never understand the real point she was trying to make, but at least she wouldn’t have to see him anymore. After leaving Hogwarts she would never have to deal with him again.
“It’s Sherwood,” she muttered quietly as she began to sleep. “Like the forest.”
“She’s got the measure of Crouch better than you have, Ron. If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”
Something about those words struck Sirius as awfully familiar. He rubbed a hand over his unshaven face as he thought.
It was something from long ago, before Azkaban. Someone had told him that. Sirius shook his head to clear his mind. No one had said anything of the sort to him. The noble house of Black didn’t have any equals in the mind of his bloody old mum.
The three teenagers looked at him with watchful eyes. They didn’t have anyone else to turn to for help and they were running out of time. Sirius pushed the thought out of his mind. “All these absences of Barty Crouch’s…”
It was only later after Harry and his friends had gone that Sirius remembered.
Sherwood, like the forest.
He hadn’t thought of Mina Sherwood in years. It only took the one memory to fill him with guilt, though. She’d been right all those years ago, even if he discounted then.
He remembered the last conversation they’d had at that casual party the Marauders had thrown.
That’s not what I meant, she’d said.
At the time Sirius hadn’t thought anything of it. Now he thought he understood. It hadn’t been about her so much as it had been about him.
He trotted down the road in his dog form and, for the first time in weeks, was too wrapped up in his thoughts to even beg for scraps.
A/N: So this is the final chapter! So exciting! You can't tell, but I'm totally squeeing right now. It's a great feeling when you finally finish a story, even a short one like this. I wasn't sure about having the epilogue in because originally I thought it was a different scene, but I decided to go with it anyway.
So what did you guys think of the end? Let me know in a review!
And of course thanks to everyone who reviewed and ScarletEye158 for creating this challenge. You guys! *tears up a little over teeny little short story like a fool*
The two lines of dialogue from Sirius in the epilogue are quotes from JKR’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, page 525.