Chapter 4 : Anger Issues
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By Monday, I’ve surpassed even the Marauders as the most loved-and-hated figure in the school. You could say the student body is sending me very mixed signals. Everywhere I go, I’m subjected to the oh-so-intimidating-not death glares of the Marauders’ groupies, and most of Gryffindor house. Clearly, giving Sirius a pumpkin bath wasn’t the best move in terms of social status. On the other hand, a lot of other students seem to be looking at me with new respect and admiration. I like to call this handful of the rag-tag, unpopular dregs of Hogwarts “the good guys.”
At lunchtime, Corinna ditches me to eat with Andrew Davies. I’m starting to wonder whether she really is dating him so she can extract some kind of sadistic revenge, or because she was missing the attention she used to get from him. In any case, I guess it’s her decision and I shouldn’t judge her.
So I’m sitting alone, eating potato soup and pretending to read chapter four of The Great Gurgs: A Complete Explication, which I’ve propped up against a jug of pumpkin juice, for History of Magic. In reality, my eyes are just skimming over the same sentence again and again without taking any of it in.
“O’Keefe,” says somebody over my shoulder.
I look up, and see a tall Ravenclaw boy gracefully slip onto the bench beside me. I smile at him uncertainly, trying to remember his name. He’s very good-looking –and, with his wavy, golden hair, he vaguely resembles a lion. I’m pretty sure his name starts with a “ch” sound, like Charles.
“Hi, er…” I bite my lip, blushing.
“Rufus,” he says, grinning. “Rufus Scrimgeour.”
“I noticed you were eating alone,” he says, closing my book, handing it to me, and pouring himself a glass of pumpkin juice. “I thought it was about time I got to know you. We’ve been Housemates for five years, after all.”
I smile and put my book away, slightly disconcerted by Scrimgeour’s overbearing personality. He’s not being rude at all, but I’m definitely getting a strong sense that he’s used to having most things done his way. He probably comes from some posh old family with fifteen house elves and steak knives made of diamonds.
“So, you’re still taking History of Magic?” he asks, apparently taking my hesitant smile to mean yes, complete stranger, please go ahead and interrogate me now. “I thought most people would have dropped it by now.”
“Only four other sixth-years have stuck with it,” I admit. “Binns is pretty awful, but I like the subject, so...”
“That’s very admirable of you,” says Scrimgeour, sounding like an adult commending a small child for brushing his teeth. “I wish I had your determination.”
I laugh. “I wouldn’t say I’m determined, I’d say I’m completely beyond reason. Anyway, it gets me in trouble sometimes.”
“Like when you attack Gryffindors with large vegetables?” asks Scrimgeour slyly.
“Oh, you heard about that, did you?” I grumble. He probably came to talk to me so he could go tell the rest of his seventh-year buddies what a psychotic dingbat I am. Or maybe so he could provoke me to jump up on the table and throw more food at people.
“Yeah,” says Scrimgeour, laughing. “Everybody has. I’m not making fun of you – I think it’s excellent.”
“Do you?” I say, raising my eyebrows. Maybe he just came here to laugh at me.
“I do,” says Scrimgeour. “It’s about time a girl stood up to that Pureblood-elitist bastard. His whole family’s–”
“You don’t know him.” I snap, remembering how much Sirius had been tormented by his family’s twisted ideals and feeling close to tears.
“That’s true,” says Scrimgeour, ignoring – or maybe just not noticing – my hostility, “but I’ve seen what he can do to girls.”
“Anyway,” continues Scrimgeour. “Two weeks from now there’s a Hogsmeade weekend, and I thought I’d ask before someone else does.”
“Ask me what?” I say blankly.
“If you’d like to join me at the Three Broomsticks for a bit,” says Scrimgeour, meeting my eyes with his yellowish-green ones.
It takes me a moment to analyze the sentence and realize that Scrimgeour is asking me to go on a date with him. When I finally get it, I look quickly away from Scrimgeour, blushing scarlet. It’s been ages since anyone showed romantic interest in me – why would Scrimgeour, of all people, want to take me out? Maybe this is someone’s idea of a joke. Or maybe he has a thing for girls with anger issues.
“Er…” I say awkwardly, “We’re not… I mean, I don’t really know much about you.”
“Well, that’s the idea,” says Scrimgeour with a feline grin. “You can get to know me.”
What a bloody honor, I think sarcastically, internally rolling my eyes. This guy seems to think he’s the Minister of Magic, or something.
“Right,” I say. “Well, sorry, but I was planning to do some Christmas shopping for my family.”
“I’ll come with you,” suggests Scrimgeour, not losing any confidence.
“Er, no, I don’t think so,” I say, standing up abruptly.
“Another time, then,” says Scrimgeour, smiling amiably. It’s not a question.
“Maybe,” I say as politely as I can. “See you around.”
“See you,” says Scrimgeour, still grinning with something that looks suspiciously like satisfaction.
I walk quickly away from the Ravenclaw table, ignoring the curious look that Corinna gives me as I pass by her. I don’t understand why I feel so angry all of a sudden – I just know that I’d like nothing better than to kick Scrimgeour into a pit of boa constrictors. The idiot doesn’t know a thing about me. He just finds me attractive, and assumes that he’s entitled to anything and anyone he wants. Like all bloody people are just objects put on the earth for him to use, and then throw away.
As I walk by the Gryffindor table on my way out of the Great Hall, I look up and catch Sirius’ eyes for a split second. He looks both amused, and vaguely irritated by something. I narrow my eyes, looking away and speeding up even more until I’ve reached the safety of Professor Binns’ dusty classroom.
“Now on Byron the Bold’s expedition through the area, there were several encounters with various tribes. As a matter of fact, it was Byron the Bold who began the practice of bringing magical gifts to the Gurg of the tribe. These gifts were generally used to open up communications between the Wizards and the giants, establishing a basis for negotiation. Over time, however, negotiations died away as Wizards developed a more violent and intolerant attitude toward the giants. By the time of Gavin Galloway, our eleventh Minister of Magic, the giant population…”
Professor Binns looked up from his desk, pausing his lecture for the first time since the beginning of class. A very loud noise had just resounded through the classroom, sounding as though it had come from the corridor outside. The noise is so loud that it startles even Christian Fitch out of his deep doze. I’m fairly sure that Fitch is a robot, because he sleeps through most of his classes and still gets notably high marks.
The whole class turns and stares at the door in complete silence until another loud bang and a series of cheers tear through the classroom.
Professor Binns looks very uncomfortable. “Miss Kafka, please go investigate.”
After a moment, I realize that he’s referring to me. I get up from my desk and go out into the corridor, where everything is still. All of a sudden, two fourth-year girls run by me, looking scared. I walk down the corridor and turn in the way they’ve just come from, and suddenly find myself in the middle of a small crowd of older Gryffindor and Slytherin students who are all watching the same spectacle: Sirius Black facing off against his brother, Regulus.
Regulus is a bit shorter than Sirius, with wider shoulders and a face that’s slightly similar to Sirius’, but too severe to be handsome.
Their movements almost mirror each other. They dart around each other, dodging each other’s curses, engulfed by flashes of colored light and spirals of smoke. I watch, stunned and entranced, for several minutes as they duel, neither ceasing to move for a single moment until one of Regulus’ curses meets its aim with a loud bang, sending Sirius stumbling backwards.
“Expelliarmus,” I say quietly but forcefully, pointing my wand through the crowd at the two brothers. Caught off guard, both of them watch as their wands are magically yanked out of their hands. The wands sail over to me, and I catch them with ease. The small crowd of spectators turn to stare at me.
“Get to class, unless you want a week of detentions,” I say, and smile with satisfaction as the grumbling, disappointed crowd slowly disperses.
“Bloody hard-ass,” says one fifth-year Slytherin as he pushes past me.
I grin. More like, total badass.
Once everyone’s cleared out, I walk over to the Black brothers, who are glaring at me and breathing heavily. Neither of them is looking too good: Sirius has a black eye, and blood is trickling down his arm from a dark red gash on his shoulder. Meanwhile, Regulus’ bottom lip is a bloody mess, and he’s cradling his right arm. I hold their wands up teasingly, and grin as their eyes dart hungrily from the wands to each other.
They’re like bloody stupid animals, mindlessly violent. I delight in the chance to get them both a month of detentions pickling slugs in the dungeons, and to have several hundred points docked from each of their moronic Houses.
“Let’s go see Professor McGonagall, shall we?” I say cheerfully.
I seem to have gone mad with power.
I leave the Black brothers in Professor McGonagall’s office, and start off for Transfiguration. A few steps down the corridor, however, curiosity turns me around. I tiptoe back to McGonagall’s door and press my ear against it.
“…inspired you to do such a thing?” McGonagall is saying harshly. For a moment, I almost feel sorry for Sirius and Regulus.
Sirius mumbles something indistinguishable.
“And how, exactly, did he provoke you?” snaps McGonagall.
More indistinguishable muttering.
I lose patience and turn around – and find myself face-to-face with James Potter, who looks extremely angry. Peter Pettigrew and Remus Lupin are standing behind him, also looking upset.
“What happened?” says James. “People are saying Sirius and Regulus were expelled.”
“What?” I say, shocked. “No, they haven’t – that’s just idiotic gossip. They were dueling in the corridors.”
“And you decided to get involved?” says James angrily.
It’s crazy – any outsider would have no idea that just last week, James was practically begging me to help him out. His eyes are full of complete disdain.
“Stop it, James,” says Remus, stepping closer to James and me. “She’s a Prefect. It’s her job to get involved. Anyway, it’s probably a good thing she stepped in – you know what Regulus is like, Sirius could have been injured.”
“Sirius can handle himself just fine,” says James stubbornly. “And she could have stopped the fight without dragging him to McGonagall’s office.”
“If you caught Snape breaking the rules, I think you’d be pretty quick to get him in as much trouble as you possibly could,” says Remus fairly.
“It’s not the same as Snape and me!” says James. “Sirius hasn’t done anything to hurt her.”
“He hasn’t exactly been nice to her for the past few months,” points out Remus.
James glares at his friend. “Whose side are you on, here?”
“No side,” says Remus, rubbing his temples and looking frustrated. “I’m just saying, don’t take stuff out on O’Keefe when she’s not the real problem. Regulus is. And at least we know that no matter how much crap Sirius gets for this, McGonagall’s sure to stick it to Regulus twice as hard.”
James considers this, and is about to reply when McGonagall’s door swings open. Madame Pomfrey totters out, holding a small basket of ointments and bandages. Sirius and Regulus lope out behind her, not looking at each other. Sirius’ black eye has been cured. He’s shirtless, and his upper arm and elbow are swathed in bandages. Regulus’ lower arm and jaw are covered in bandages. As he walks, he picks at the ones on his arm and begins to unwrap them. Then, seeing me, he looks up and grins.
“Hey, Aislin,” he says, winking at me. Then, after turning to smirk at Sirius, he limps off down the corridor.
Sirius glares at Regulus’ back until it’s out of sight – then he shifts his angry gaze to me.
“I don’t see what you’re still doing here,” he says poisonously. “Aren’t you satisfied?”
“Yes, I am,” I say with a broad smile. “Cheers.”
But as I turn and start off down the corridor, the smile slips off of my face. It was fake to begin with – I don’t feel triumphant and all-powerful, anymore.
Stop it, you bint, I tell myself angrily. You did the right thing. He was breaking the rules.
But I can’t help feeling a bit sick as I think of Regulus’ smug smirk.
Sorry my updates are taking so long! I don’t have too much time nowadays! :( Still, I hope you enjoyed the chapter!
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