Chapter 4 : Questions and Answers
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“I have it all planned out!” he says gleefully, a manic expression on his face, as I scramble back into a sitting position. He spreads several sheets of parchment out over the table, and looks up at me like he expects me to be impressed. I notice that, behind his round glasses, he has dark circles under his eyes. He must’ve been up all night drawing up these plans.
Someone seriously needs a good shag.
“Er…what is all this?” I ask.
James shuffles the papers around. “Well, there’s a suspect list, a record of the people who’ve been injured so far, and – oh, how’d that get in there?”
James snatches a piece of parchment off of the table and stuffs it back into his robes. There’s another thing I don’t understand about the Marauders: they think they’re too cool for bags, so they carry all their stuff around. I guess walking around looking like a living bloody hat stand is what’s in these days. But before the paper slips out of sight, I catch a glimpse of a vaguely sketched woman’s profile. Creepy…
“So,” continues James, “on this suspect list, I’ve written down the names of all the Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin players…as well as a few other people who just don’t like me much.”
I laugh. “If you’d put down all the people who don’t like you, this list would be nine feet long.”
“I’m very well-liked,” says James, looking offended.
Agree to disagree. Off the top of my head, I can think of over twenty people with personal vendettas against James Potter. Let’s start with the entire Slytherin house. As much as the Slytherins creep me out, I have to admit that they have a right to detest James Potter – he’s been the bane of their existence for the past five years and three months, his very existence plunging them into constant fear of having balloons of toxic sludge thrown at them.
“Anyway,” says James, “I’d like you to start doing some digging, asking around to see if any of these people are crazy enough about either Quidditch, or ruining my reputation, to do something like this.”
“Right…” I say slowly. “Look, Potter, I’m not so sure I want to do this.”
“What?” says James sharply. “Why not?”
“Well, you and your friends are sort of…pricks.”
“We’re not!” says James indignantly. “Okay, Sirius may go around calling you a loony bitch from time to time, but he doesn’t really mean it. He’s just trying to get over you, and we’re trying to help him get back on his feet. It’s all in good fun.”
Oh, great, I feel so much better now. I’m so bloody glad that all those times I spent crying up in my dormitory after one of the Marauders’ nastier insults; all those times I felt chilled to the bone by their icy glares; all those times I was the subject of one of their gross pranks; all that was in good fun. I’m so glad that making my life miserable amuses them.
“You have to help me,” says James. “Please. If people start thinking I’m responsible, my reputation will be ruined. I’ll be kicked off the Quidditch team and I’ll never have a decent shot with…”
He trails off, looking somber. How mysterious.
Just kidding, it’s pretty obvious what he was about to say. James’ undying quest to win the heart of Lily Evans is common knowledge. I look up into his morose, hazel eyes and my heart melts. Everybody deserves a chance to be with the person they love. Right?
“Fine,” I say huffily, “but don’t you forget my chocolate.”
“Excellent!” says James, suddenly all smiles. As he gathers up his things, leaving me a copy of the “suspect list,” and practically skips out of the library, I realize that I’ve just been manipulated by the two-faced bastard. Again.
I sigh, looking back down at my essay – but I can’t bring myself to keep working on it, even though it’s due on Tuesday. My mind is in a different place now. I’ve travelled back in time…
It was early May, just about a month after Sirius and I had started seeing each other. I was sitting back against a tree, and Sirius was lying down in the grass with his head in my lap, holding one hand over his eyes to protect them from the intrusive sunshine.
“Corinna’s been complaining that I spend too much time with you,” I said lightly, stroking Sirius’ feather-soft hair.
Sirius chuckled. “Let her complain all she wants – you’re all mine.”
I glanced across the lake. On the other side sat a group of older girls, who kept shooting me jealous glares. It felt wonderful to know that even the older girls were jealous of me. Which I guess made me kind of a bitch, but that was fine with me. I smiled to myself, threading my fingers through Sirius’ hair again and again, wishing we could sit like this forever.
“Have you told your parents about me, yet?” I asked.
Sirius’ face darkened.
“No,” he said. “It’s none of their business.”
“They’d think I’m not good enough for you, because I’m a Half-Blood,” I said bitterly. “It’s so unfair.”
“Aislin, let’s not talk about this, okay?” pleaded Sirius. “I try not to think about them while I’m at school.”
“Okay,” I mumbled. After that, I learned to keep my mouth shut about Sirius’ parents. Any mention of his family, or the summer holidays, or even Slytherin house, would cause a dark look to shoot over his handsome face.
“Ahoy, Padfoot!” said James, strutting toward us. He dropped an armful of books onto the grass, and fell casually back into a sitting position. I glanced over at the girls across the lake, who were now seething with jealousy. I had always been a bit intimidated by the Marauders, but it felt good to be accepted by people commonly thought of as the height of cool. Girls would come up to me in the corridors and ask me about the Marauders – what did they talk about, what did they find attractive in a girl, that kind of nonsense. I felt sorry for the poor little dears.
“Alright, Prongsie, darling?” said Sirius with a grin.
“More than,” said James happily. “There’s a new modern art installment on the third floor: two Slytherins hanging upside down from the chandelier. Very elegant. My work.”
“Cheers, mate,” said Sirius, with a bark-like laugh. “Didja get Snivellus?”
Snivellus was their nickname for Severus Snape, James’s sworn enemy. The Marauders’ odd nicknames would never cease to baffle me. It was like they had their own secret language.
“Nah, he tried to hex me and ran for it,” said James, shrugging. “Maybe next time.”
The other two Marauders joined us. Peter sat down as close to James as possible, cackling with laughter as James and Sirius began to outline some new ways to torment Slytherin House. Remus shot a disapproving look at Sirius and I – he was never one for PDA – and promptly stuck his dirty-blond head into a book.
Surrounded by the four most popular students in the school, I felt like I was on top of the world.
Matilda Swenson is the reigning gossip queen of Hogwarts. We’ve never really gotten along (mostly because she’s a manic bitch) but I decide that she’s the best person with whom to start my interrogations about this whole Quidditch kerfuffle.
Yes, that’s right. I said it.
Matilda is essentially the anti-Aislin – even in looks. While I have waist-length, wavy, blondeish hair, she has shoulder-length, stick-straight, dark brown hair. While my eyes are dark brown, hers are ice blue. As I approach her in the Great Hall on Saturday, while the Halloween preparations begin, I realize that even our choice of outfits directly contrast each other. I’m wearing a loose, dark purple, knitted sweater over a pair of tight jeans. Matilda is wearing a frilly white skirt and a cleavage-baring pink tank top. It’s a wonder how she got past McGonagall in an outfit like that.
“Hi, Matilda,” I say in my sweetest voice, strongly considering using magic to tattoo the words “Screw me, I’m desperate” onto her cleavage.
Matilda glances at me skeptically, like she can’t believe I would dare to talk to her. “Yes, O’Keefe?”
Whoa, last name usage? Apparently I’m even less popular than I thought I was. Once the almighty Marauders stamp someone with their disapproval, most of the other popular students follow suit. Well, it’s not like it really matters – I don’t really mind being given the cold shoulder by a handful of slags wearing too much makeup.
I face her confidently, staring right into her cold eyes. “I need some information.”
Matilda flips back her shiny hair, which is saturated with hair care potions, and turns her attention back to the pumpkin she’s been magically scooping the seeds out of. “You can’t get something for nothing, O’Keefe. If you want to know a secret, you’ve got to spill a secret.”
I frown, racking my brain for something interesting.
“Wait – I know,” says Matilda with a sly smile. “You can tell me everything you know about Sirius Black’s bedtime repertoire.”
“Meaning, what’s it like to shag him?” I ask dryly. It figures that that’s what she’s interested in.
“Yes,” purrs Matilda.
I shrug, grinning. “Deal.”
Matilda and I stand next to each other for the next twenty minutes under the pretense of carving pumpkins. Really, I’m spilling out every tiny detail of Sirius’ and my sex life. It feels great to finally get all the dirty little secrets out into the ears of someone who doesn’t give a shit about me. In a way, talking to a brick wall is the greatest method of therapy – by the time I’ve finished talking, I feel like I’ve been born again. And even better than having it all off my chest is knowing that in forty-eight hours’ time, this information will be being exchanged in girls’ dormitories all over the school. Somehow, making all the small things (Sirius’ favorite positions, his endurance, his foreplay habits) public makes it seem like they’ve never really happened – like they belong to somebody else.
“Whoa,” says Matilda slowly when I’ve finally finished talking. She’s been a very good listener. Now her eyes are glazed over with jealousy and a hint of something else.
“So,” I say, still grinning, “Now it’s your turn.”
Now that I’ve spilled out my soul – or rather, Sirius’ – to Matilda, she’s more than happy to tell me everything I want to know. I ask her about the Hufflepuff Quidditch team, and she tells me that to her knowledge, none of the players feel anything more than friendly rivalry toward James. Then I ask about other people with grudges against James.
“Well,” she tilts her head slightly to the side, thinking. “There’s Severus Snape… Actually, come to think of it, most of the Slytherins have it in for James. Then, let me see… There’s Lucia Delvino.”
“Isn’t she a seventh-year in my House?”
“Yeah, she’s a Ravenclaw,” says Matilda. “I’ve been asking for a year and she still won’t tell me why she hates James so much. But, remember when he wound up in the Hospital Wing for a few days last October?”
“Well, it had to do with Lucia – but again, no matter how much I dig, I can’t find out what exactly happened,” says Matilda, shaking her head.
Intriguing… I’ll have to ask James about it.
“Anyway, why are you interested in all this?” asks Matilda. “I thought that you and the Marauders were, er…”
“Hated each other?” I say cheerfully. “You thought right.”
“Ladies!” squeaks Professor Flitwick, squeezing in between Matilda and I. “Please get back to work!”
“Yes, Professor Flitwick,” we say, rolling our eyes at each other and laughing. Okay, so maybe Matilda’s not as evil as I thought she was – just badly dressed and slutty. We go back to giggling about Sirius for a while (she’s giggling because she finds him attractive while I’m giggling out of pure sadism, but no matter) until Flitwick gets so frustrated that he sticks Remus Lupin in between the two of us in an attempt to shut us up once and for all.
“Hello, Aislin,” Remus says genially. “Hello, Matilda.”
“Hi, Remus,” says Matilda flirtatiously, fluttering her mascara-clumped eyelashes at him.
Never mind. She’s just as repulsive as I always thought.
I ignore Remus’ greeting, but his sheer presence is annoying the hell out of me. I continue cleaning out pumpkins, trying to give no sign that I’ve even noticed him.
“So, what are your Christmas plans?” he asks, glancing at me.
“I’m going home, like usual,” says Matilda, under the impression that Remus was talking to her. “Do you have any special plans?”
Remus shrugs turning away from me to look at Matilda. “I’m going to stay with my mum and dad for a while, but I think I’ll spend a few days at Sirius’ place.”
“Oh, so it’s true he has a place of his own, now?” asks Matilda, enraptured.
“Yeah,” says Remus, removing all the contents of his pumpkin with one elegant twirl of his wand. “It’s a nice, big flat in London. He was thinking of throwing a party over the holiday, actually.”
Matilda’s eyes grow as wide as saucers. I know exactly what she’s thinking – that a party would be the perfect setting for her to drug and kidnap the Marauders. But seriously, from the look on her face, it’s pretty clear that she’d try to get into that party if the bouncer was an Acromantula.
“What are your holiday plans, Aislin?” asks Remus more directly.
Just then, the doors to the Great Hall are thrown open. Sirius Black bursts inside and lopes over to Remus, shaking leaves out of his hair. He’s wearing a dragon leather bomber jacket and jeans, and he’s surrounded by fifth-year Hufflepuff girls who are all staring at him, their eyes shining with admiration and lust.
“Moony!” he says jubilantly, and then blinks at me, clearly doing a double take.
“Hello, Sirius,” says Matilda with an attempt at a seductive look that ends up looking more like a face that a sick cow might make.
“What are you doing?” Sirius says blankly, ignoring Matilda completely and looking at Remus with a slightly uneasy expression.
“I told you,” says Remus, “Prefect stuff. Decorations.”
“No,” drawls Sirius, pulling his face into a disdainful sneer. “I meant, what are you doing talking to this filth?”
I look away quickly, turning back to my pumpkin. I can feel my face heating up.
“Sirius, don’t,” says Remus quietly, looking extremely uncomfortable. I don’t blame him for being nervous: he’s been caught in the middle of our arguments a few times before, back when we were still dating, so he knows how quickly things can get out of control between us.
“Oh, don’t start to sympathize with her,” says Sirius. “I know she looks pretty, now – but trust me, you’ll be singing a different tune once she’s given you three or four diseases.”
The Hufflepuff girls giggle and cling to Sirius, whispering into his ear.
“How sweet, Sirius. I’m flattered.” I say calmly, though I can feel tears welling up in my eyes. I cut open another pumpkin and begin to scoop the seeds out of it, levitating them onto the sloppy pile at the center of the table.
“Trust me, Remus,” says Sirius, ignoring me. “We can find you a much nicer-looking girl – with better brains, and better cleavage, too.”
With a simple swish and flick of my wand, I send a glob of pumpkin guts the size of a bowling ball hurtling toward Sirius. Before anyone can react, Sirius and the Hufflepuff girls are covered in slimy, orange muck. The girls squeal, and swat at the slime. Sirius stands completely still, looking stunned.
“This is my favorite jacket…” he finally says, looking down at his slime-covered clothes in dismay.
I smile sarcastically. “I always thought you looked nice in orange.”
With that, I stick my wand into my pocket, and march out of the Great Hall. Though I’m proud of myself for humiliating Sirius, the sting of his insults outweighs my pride. As soon as I’m out of sight of the Great Hall, my confident strides deteriorate into small, slow steps. I feel so sad that I’m shaking.
“Oh, no, you don’t!” I hear a voice roar.
I turn and see Sirius walking toward me, looking furious. He’s managed to clear away most of the pumpkin muck, but there are still big globs of it in his hair.
“Go play with your fifth-years,” I say as derisively as I can manage, putting my hands on my hips in an attempt to look intimidating.
“Oh – so that’s what it is?” says Sirius, marching up to me. “That’s why you’re acting like such a crazy bloody bitch – because you’re jealous of those girls? You wish you could tag along with me and my mates, like old times?”
“No,” I say coolly, not backing down even though he’s standing much too close to me. “I’m acting like a crazy bloody bitch because, like most girls, I don’t enjoy being called a whore.”
“Well, that’s no reason to attack me with pumpkin slime!” yells Sirius. “You could have ruined my jacket!”
“I don’t give a damn about your jacket, you arrogant bastard,” I reply, determined not to lose my head.
“Just like I don’t give a damn about your bloody insecurities,” says Sirius hotly. “If you don’t want me talking to other girls – or snogging them, for that matter – then why did you break up with me?”
“I don’t care if you talk to other girls – I just think it’s pathetic that you have to resort to shagging desperate fifth-years,” I say. “And we both decided that it would be better if we stopped seeing each other, so don’t blame it on–”
“I’m not shagging any fifth-years,” says Sirius loudly, interrupting me. “Or anyone else, for that matter.”
“I…oh,” I mumble, momentarily caught off-guard.
“And, for your information, I didn’t want to stop seeing you,” continues Sirius, staring straight into my eyes. “But I couldn’t make you stay with me, either.”
His gaze is so intense that it makes me feel somehow vulnerable. I tear my eyes away and look at the floor, feeling more confused than ever.
“I guess I’ve been wasting my time,” says Sirius, before he turns and walks away.
I wait for him to turn a corner.
And then I burst into tears.
I hope you enjoyed the chapter! :) Aislin’s definitely having a rough week. Please give me your feedback, your reviews really make me smile!
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