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Chapter 30 : Secrets, a Shiner and Sledgehammer Sensitivity
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“He’s already gone down.” Remus Lupin was sitting on the bed nearest the window, pulling on his socks. “Peter’s with him.”
“Merlin.” Sirius rubbed at the crease between his eyebrows. “ Does Wormy know now, too? He’s bound to tell someone.”
“He doesn’t know – at least, as far as I’m aware.”
Sirius let out a sigh of relief. “Good. Not like anyone’d believe him if he did tell them, it’s that bloody far-fetched.”
Remus raised an eyebrow, and Sirius struggled to sound un-fazed. “Has he spoken to you about it? James I mean.”
Remus nodded. “He didn’t say much. He just asked me if I knew.”
He looked at the floor, and Sirius knew the answer wasn’t going to be good.
“I told him I did. He’d had enough of all the...” he broke off awkwardly. “I thought I owed him the truth. But I made sure he knew I was the only one who’d known. And that you and Lily hadn’t done anything out of spite.”
Sirius nodded, struggling not to feel betrayed. He knew Lupin had only done the decent thing.
“Thanks Remus.” He grunted. “I suppose James isn’t too fond of either of us at the moment?”
“Right,” said Sirius. “I’m off to look for him.”
“Are you sure that that’s a good - ”
He could imagine Remus’s expression as he set off for the dinner hall, but he chose not to think about it. James would have to forgive him sooner or later. He’d have to.
Lily was unusually quiet at the breakfast table that morning, and her friends had noticed.
“Are you okay Lily?” Alice asked, from opposite her. “You don’t seem...yourself.” She cast her eyes at Rachel beside her, who looked hastily down at the table. “Rach said you were a bit upset yesterday, too.”
Lily smiled, in a rather forced way. “I’m okay Ally, just tired and stressed.”
“I wish the teachers’d realise how stressed we all are.” Elizabeth interjected. “Especially after the death eater invasion- slash- ball disaster. But I bet I know what their solution’ll be – throw yourself into NEWT revision and forget all about it!”
Lily had stopped paying attention. Further up the table, if she leaned forward slightly she could see one half of James Potter, robotically eating Cheeri –Owls with the sleeves of his school robes rolled up to the elbow. She attempted to analyse the droop of his shoulders – was it dejection, or did he usually have bad posture?
“Lily?” Mary nudged her own shoulder against Lily’s. “Cheer up.” She Continued, in a lower tone so that the other girls couldn’t hear, “Ancient Runes first thing. No marauders in that class, eh?”
Lily started at Rachel’s words, following her friend’s gaze to the doors of the great hall, through which Sirius Black had just entered. He looked his usual suave self, appearing calm and disdainful as well as he usually managed. However, the image was spoilt somewhat, by an impressively large black eye, which shone purplish blue against the rest of his pale, unmarked face. The great hall took a collective gasp, and Sirius’s calm appeared shaken. Lily bit her lip.
“Wow.” Said Rachel. “I wonder who he was fighting?”
“I wouldn’t look for them if I were you,” said Beth, drily. “You know what Sirius is like, the other fella’s probably worse off. He’ll be up in the hospital wing covered in pustules or something.”
“Snape?” suggested Rachel.
“I wouldn’t think so – I don’t think Severus would risk getting close enough to muggle duel him.”
Mary remained quiet, yet looked at Lily with raised eyebrows. ‘James?’ she mouthed, barely moving her lips. Lily winced. She opened her mouth and closed it again. Then – ‘maybe’, she mouthed back.
What seemed like the entire hall watched with baited breath, as Sirius crossed over to the Gryffindor table, towards James and Peter. James moved over to let him sit down. He didn’t look up, but Pettigrew did, his mouth gaping open in horror. There was too much chatter surrounding them for the girls to hear Sirius’s next words. On any other day, in a similar situation, Sirius would explain with a laugh and a bit of boasting, and James would tease him, but ultimately act proud of his friend for getting into Marauder worthy trouble. Today Sirius was treated to Pettigrew’s blank stare, until Remus arrived, and an empty plate was offered as a mirror. Sirius vanished the bruise with a wave of his wand. James continued eating his cereal.
“Well, that was wierd.” said Beth.
“I wonder what’s wrong with James?” said Alice.
“Maybe it was him gave Sirius the black eye?”
“No...” Alice laughed nervously.
“You don’t really think that?” Rachel asked. Beth shrugged. “What do you think Mary?”
“I think, that we’re going to be late for Runes.”
“Lets go.” said Lily.
As they walked to their first lesson of the day, Lily hoped that Louisa Castles hadn’t been privy to the breakfast hall gossip of the morning. She knew that this was a slim chance – yet even she was surprised by the speed at which Louisa accosted them once inside the classroom.
“Oh my God Lily!” said her Ravenclaw friend, coming to perch on the desk in front of her, as she sat down. “Did you see Sirius Black’s face this morning?” before Lily could answer, she continued “and you know, I think it was James Potter, of all people, that did it. I mean don’t take my word for it, I’m just guessing, but I’m usually right about these things. They were acting very wierd at breakfast.”
“We thought that,” commented Rachel casually, dropping into her own seat.
“Well anyone would!” said Louisa. “He didn’t even crack a smile when he saw that black eye, or ask about it or anything. But then they were still sitting together, so we must be missing something. I wish I knew...”
“Maybe James was just in a bad mood?” ventured Lily.
“What, that’s why he punched Sirius?”
“No. I mean that’s why he didn’t take an interest.”
Louisa looked thoughtful, then shook her head. “Nah,” she said. “That’s boring. They must be fighting about something, we just have to find out what.”
At that, the Professor entered the room, and to Lily’s relief everyone had to shut up and go back to their seats. The lesson was a chance to zone out a bit, and worry about Sirius and James. Mary had said this wouldn’t affect their friendship, in a lasting way anyway, but it looked as if James had already thrown a punch at Sirius. That was a first, and maybe it was the beginning of a feud between them, one that she had caused... She would have to find Sirius later, and see what had gone on. Maybe she could talk to James too, although she had no idea what she might say. She played a few scenarios out in her mind, but when they all began to culminate in her confessing her true feelings for him, she stopped imagining. Maybe she wouldn’t talk to him after all.
Sirius had a free period first, as did James. Peter and Remus were due in Muggle Studies.
“I’m going for a walk,” said James, getting up from the breakfast table.
“I’ll come with you.”
James looked at him, but said nothing. He set of in the direction of the grounds, and Sirius followed him, winding his way through the other students that crowded the hall, and trying to keep up. James headed for the lake, and began to walk a circuit. Sirius kept pace beside him. They walked in silence for a while, Sirius stealing furtive looks at James, who ignored him, his eyes staring aggressively at the ground. Every now and then, he would kick something out of his path, and Sirius would stop himself from jumping. Eventually, Sirius plucked up the courage to speak.
James looked at him blankly, and Sirius almost lost his nerve.
“I just wanted to say – I want things to go back to the way they were between us. I’ve got no hard feelings about the... about the eye and I hope in time you’ll, we’ll , be able to forget about the whole Lily business.”
James’s eyes flashed. “You hope that do you?”
Sirius was silent. He nodded.
James turned away. “Well, I wouldn’t if I were you.” he said. “You were lucky to get her.”
James stood and kicked at the ground. “You know Sirius,” he said. “You’re really not going about this the right way, you know that? Ever heard of letting people cool off, giving it time. Ever heard of a little thing called sensitivity?”
Sirius winced. Then, to his suprise, James grinned – a weak imitation of his usual expression.
“No, of course you haven’t.” he continued, answering his own question. “You’re about as sensitive as a sledgehammer. That’s why we usually get along so well.”
Sirius looked back at James, hopefully. “We still could.”
“Yeah, but not right now.” said James, his expression turning bitter. “You’ve got to realise Sirius, I'm not your biggest fan right now. In fact I can't stand to be around you. And I’m not always going to feel like that, but right now, I do.”
Sirius’s face fell. “You don’t hate me Prongs, not really?”
James sighed. “Maybe not hate. But I don’t want to be standing here talking to you either. You got that?”
Sirius nodded, slowly beginning to comprehend what James really meant. “Loud and clear. You want to be on your own right now.”
“Then I’ll let you.”
James nodded, solemly. “Good.” He turned, and began to walk away.
Sirius called after him. “James?”
“Maybe in a week or so, we could take the bike out again? When you don’t hate me as much?”
James grinned faintly. “I might think about it. She hasn’t had a trip out since before Easter, if I remember right. Unless - ” he faltered slightly, “unless you showed her to Evans.”
Sirius looked back at him, and James read the truth in his eyes.
“Ah.” He said. And turned away again, leaving Sirius feeling worse than he had in a long while.
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