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Chapter 1 : Oh Mary
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Dedicated to Audrey.
Lily Evans knew that she was a good friend.
Mary MacDonald was the one who mothered them when they needed it. She saw through their brave fronts and their tempers. When someone said they wanted to be alone, Mary knew when to leave, when to sit quietly beside them, and when to pull them into a hug. By some instinct, she knew when to scold and when to comfort. To Lily and Dorcas, she was best friend, confidante, and common sense. Reining in Dorcas’ wilder ideas and Lily’s bouts of temper. Remus called her an old soul, James said she was their den mother, and Peter adored his ‘Dear Mary’.
Sirius Black called her MacDonald.
All these things and Mary herself never seemed to need anyone to reciprocate. Unruffled, gliding peacefully through turbulent teenage years. Everyone liked her it seemed – teachers, students in every house. Mulciber of Slytherin once tried to curse her after she scolded him a bit, but no less than five people jumped to her defence. Her steady, calm, no-nonsense approach to life in general endeared her to the general populace of Hogwarts and inspired devotion. McGonagall had been heard to speculate that it was Mary’s own lack of mother – hers having died when she was just ten – that made her the way she was.
No doubt it was these mother-hen qualities that prompted her to spend so much of her time on the reformation of Sirius Black. Other girls drooled over the devil-may-care heart throb, but Mary was the one who handed them a tissue when they cried over him. Hugged them, let them have a cry, and then bundled them off with brusque, warm words of wisdom. All but a few felt a bit silly after Mary was done with them, and they never harboured ill will towards Sirius, Mary made sure of that.
“He’s a silly boy,” she would say. “And hardly worth your tears, dearie. He’s not your forever so don’t let him ruin you. You smile now, and start looking for a nice boy who has a little more brain and a little less useless beauty.”
Every so often, though, Mary would finish consoling one of Sirius’ flames and march off the find the heart breaker. She’d pull him away from whatever he happened to be doing and not even his best mates dared to interfere. They mostly looked on in amusement, knowing what was to come. Then she would give him a lecture about breaking girls’ hearts, sometimes he would fight back – without success – and sometimes he would have the good grace to look abashed. When she was done with him he would slouch off, back to his friends and look sheepish, or sometimes mulish, but he never said a bad word about her. Mary would shake her head and mutter about lost causes before finding her own friends.
In their sixth year, Dorcas took her turn mooning over Sirius. Lily was head over heels in like with Nick Meadowes and they had gathered in the middle of their bedroom floor to talk about boys. Mary didn’t date much, but she admitted to fancying Simon Ritter. It was the typical Saturday night behaviour of sixteen year old girls. As Lily was waxing lyrical about the many fine qualities of Nick, Dorcas blushed and blurted out that she just couldn’t stop thinking about Sirius.
“Don’t be daft, Dorcas. You know better. You know what he’s like.”
“Yes, exactly! So if I go into it with my eyes open, I can’t be upset when it’s over.”
With Sirius, it was always over eventually.
“If your eyes were open you wouldn’t go in at all.”
Watching the one and only fight between her best friends she ever witnessed, Lily started to think that perhaps she’s not been a very good friend. She thought maybe they all just took Mary for granted. For once, Lily played mediator and peacemaker. Both girls went to bed still upset.
The next weekend, Dorcas asked Sirius to Hogsmeade and he said yes and Mary didn’t go at all. For two weeks they were smiles and once he held her hand and twice he kissed her. Then the next Hogsmeade weekend came and Lia Chambers asked him and he said yes and Mary stayed behind with Dorcas.
“I’m fine, Mary. I told you I would be.”
“I know.” And she handed Dorcas the tissues and never once even thought ‘I told you so’ and they’re friends again.
Lily knows she’s a good friend, and she knows she’s clever. So she wonders why it took her so long to see.
Christmas holidays their seventh year. The three girls have already claimed a compartment with Marlene McKinnon, a sixth year Ravenclaw, Remus’ new girlfriend. The four Marauders come piling in, James and Remus claiming seats beside their girlfriends, while Peter and Sirius sit between Dorcas and Mary. Sirius is laden with sweets, as usual, as is Peter.
“Chocolate, girls?” He asks.
“None for me thanks, I’m going to go find Nick.” Lily’s Hufflepuff crush from the year before is Dorcas’ boyfriend of two months now.
“No thank you.” Comes from both Marlene and Lily. Sirius grins.
“More for me.”
“You’re going to get fat, Black.” Says Mary, reaching past Sirius to swipe a peppermint from Peter.
“I am not.” He protests. I have an excellent metabolism.”
“You eat too many sweets.”
“No such thing.”
“One day all of this eating is going to catch up to you and your metabolism is going to age until it’s no help at all. You’ll get fat.”
Sirius, a licorice wand in one hand, half-eaten chocolate frog in the other, pouts. Mary turns to look out the window, ignoring him. James, Remus, and Peter laugh.
As the ride goes on, everyone settles in. Only Sirius seems discontent, unable to hold still for more than a moment at a time. James is sleeping, his cheek on Lily’s hair, who is talking to Marlene. Remus and Peter are talking about a book that Peter is reading which Remus recommended. Mary is still watching the scenery passing by and Sirius is amazed that she could do so for this long.
“MacDonald.” He nudges her.
“What?” She doesn’t even turn to look at him.
“Come take a walk with me.” At that she does turn, a look of confused curiosity on her face.
“I’m bored. Come take a walk with me. I don’t want to go alone.” She seems to think about it for a moment and then shrugs.
“Why not?” She stands and he eagerly follows her out. Neither noticing as Lily watches them go.
They walk in silence for a while, Sirius looking curiously at all the people they were passing. Several greet the popular seventh years as they walk by. Sirius receives a bit of flirting and Mary rolls her eyes as he just can’t help but flirt back. One compartment holds a couple in the midst of a loud row. Sirius looks over his shoulder as they walk by.
“Was that Benjy and Deirdre?” Benjy Fenwick and Deirdre Robinson were well known for being Hogwarts’ longest lasting couple. The seventh year Hufflepuffs had been together since third year.
“Trouble in paradise?”
“She’s upset because she found out he’s planning on joining the aurors next year instead of travelling for a year and then going into law.”
“Is that a bad thing?”
“No, but he hadn’t talked to her about it, she found out second hand. And she’s worried – these are dangerous times.”
Sirius nods, somber. “I’m going to join the aurors as well. So is James. We want to help all we can.”
Mary gives him a very steady look. “You’re a bloody idiot, Sirius Black – but no one can say you aren’t brave.”
Sirius laughs and tugs fondly on Mary’s long, blond braid. “We’d better get back, King’s Cross is just ahead.”
Everyone has their things ready to go and the train was coming to a stop when Mary and Sirius arrive back at their compartment. They let their friends exit and then set about retrieving their own things. Sirius sees Mary struggling and lifts her trunk down for her. “Oi! McDonald, I’ll get that then. You’re too short.”
“I am not!” But she lets him do it for her. “Thanks.”
He motions for her to precede him and they leave, moving slowly with the crowd to reach the platform. Sirius again helps Mary, lifting her trunk for her as she steps down and getting it onto a trolley for her. She nods her thanks and he grinned cheekily.
“Uncommon chivalry for you Black.”
“All in the spirit! Happy Christmas, MacDonald. See you in 1978!”
“Happy Christmas, Sirius.” He doesn’t hear her soft answer, already jogging away to join the other three boys. Lily comes over to Mary, just as Mary is saying her goodbyes.
“What was that?” She asks.
“No idea. Black was oddly chivalrous. Rather out of character for him – he probably wants something.”
“Be nice Mary, you know he’s not like that.”
“I know.” She agrees softly. Then more strongly. “He’s still a prat, and I don’t like him.”
Lily watches her shrewdly and she doesn’t notice at first, staring at the four boys. Sirius is ribbing a scarlet Peter and Peter is shoving at Remus, who is doing some silly imitation. His head thrown back, laughing, Sirius is the picture of handsome, carefree youth. Mary shakes her head and looks at Lily.
“Don’t look at me like that.” She says quietly. A little sadly.
“Mary…” Lily doesn’t know what to say. “Mary, will you ever tell him?”
“Tell who, what, Lily?” Lily can see in her eyes that she understands the question just fine. Sirius leers at a passing fifth year, who giggles, and James smacks the back of his head.
“There’s really no point, is there?” She hugs Lily, wishes her a Happy Christmas, and pushes her trolley through the gate, disappearing into muggle London. Lily watches her go, leaning into James when he comes up and puts his arm around her. The old soul, the den mother. Dear Mary. Confidante, best friend, common sense. Carefully guarding her heart.
“Alright, love?” He asks.
“Yeah, fine. You boys ready to go?” She looks fondly at the four grinning boys. James, who she thinks she might love. Remus whose kind eyes always look a little sad. Peter who lives for the affection of his best mates, with his soft, almost nervous, eyes. And Sirius, who is the picture of confidence; who has built a sphere so tightly around himself, an image to banish the darkness of his past, that he misses any of the real light that might shine through. Lily reaches out and musses his hair. He protests, saying he’s no Potter.
“Idiot.” She says softly. Then puts her hand in James’ and leads them all through the gateway.
Lily knows she is a good friend, but she says no more. She will worry about it after the holiday, when they are all together again. There is a lifetime in which to fix Sirius.
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