“How do I look?” Sirius asked, admiring his reflection in the six foot long mirror which stood next to his bed.
I glanced up from the book I was reading. “Ridiculous,” I stated flatly.
Sirius whirled around to glare at me. “Ridiculous? I don’t look ridiculous, I look smashing!”
I rolled my eyes. “If you knew you looked, er…smashing, then why did you ask for my opinion?”
“Well, I was hoping you’d say something like ‘Wow Sirius! You look as hot as a piping cherry pie!’ I enjoy flattery, you see.”
I gave James and Peter, who were both lounging on their own beds, a meaningful look. “Yes Sirius, we know.”
“And where, in the name of Merlin’s most faded pair of boxers, did the expression ‘hot as a piping cherry pie’ come from?” James asked, his eyebrows raised.
Sirius drew himself up proudly. “From the Noble and Ancient House of Black,” he said, ignoring James’ snigger. “Kreacher makes the best cherry pie…although last time he served it, he tried to poison mine,” he added, and James roared with laughter. To which Sirius replied; “It’s not funny Prongs! I could’ve died! Death by a cherry pie-how stupid would that have sounded?”
“Not as stupid as you look now,” James retorted.
Sirius frowned, and turned back to the mirror, smoothing out a non existent crease in his robes, and practising his seductive wink.
I had to admit, Sirius really did look ridiculous. He’d gone all out for his date today-the first round of the Dating Game-and it certainly hadn’t paid off. He’d ordered an expensive pair of dress robes from Madam Malkins-robes that were completely inappropriate for a day in Hogsmeade, and had slicked up his normally sleek black hair with liberal amounts of Sleekeazy’s Hair Gel. If he got anywhere near an open flame, his whole head would likely catch fire. And then we’d all laugh at him.
Just kidding. We’d all race to find a bucket of water to put out the fire. And then laugh at him.
I, on the other hand, looked merely passable. My first date was with Dara-I hadn’t talked to her much, so I was a little concerned the whole thing was going to be one big mountain of awkward. That wasn’t my biggest concern, however.
Today, Sirius was going on a date with Ruby. I’d seen the way she looked at him-like he was freaking God or something. It was the way all girls looked at Sirius. I wanted her to look at me that way, but that wasn’t going to happen till we’d had our date together, and she’d seen how much better I was for her than Sirius, who could have any girl he wanted.
James was lying on his bed, scratching his nose with the edge of a quill, bored expression on his face as he watched Sirius obsess about his appearance. James’ first date was with June, and I knew he was going to regard the whole day as a big joke. I felt a little sorry for June, actually. She was such a sweet, innocent little thing, not aware of what a huge jerk James could be. I just hoped he didn’t make fun of her or anything like that.
Peter would be attending the Hogsmeade visit with Lily, and looked as nervous as a rat that had just been corned by a huge cat. The weird thing was, Lily had always been kind to Peter. I know, it’s shocking, as she’s usually horrible to the rest of us! She sits next to him in Charms, and is always helping him out, so I think Pete respects her for that.
“You know what, I think I have gone a little over the top here,” said Sirius finally.
“A little?” Peter giggled.
Sirius shrugged off his expensive dress robes and dumped them unceremoniously on the ground, leaving him standing in the middle of the room in his boxers.
I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. This was a regular occurrence, Sirius stripping down for us all to see. It was a strange thing, really-how Sirius had no shame, but as much pride as every other member of the Black family.
“Cover up, Padfoot mate,” groaned James, burying his face in his plump white pillow. “You’re scarring my eyes!”
“Nonsense!” said Sirius, rummaging through his trunk and picking up a tight black t-shirt and pair of jeans. “I have a fantastic body…”
“We did not need to here that,” I muttered.
“…it’s one of the reasons Ruby likes me so much.”
I felt a horribly familiar pang in my stomach at the mention of Ruby’s name, and I instantly pictured her in my mind’s eye. I saw her long legs and slim hips; that long, red-brown hair swinging against her back as she walked, her eyes gleaming slightly as she came close…
I shook my head and cast my mind away from any thoughts of Ruby as a dull flush heated my forehead and neck. Today Sirius was going out with her, not me.
Today was my date with Dara.
“Are you alright there, Moony?” Peter asked suddenly. “You look a little under the weather.”
I forced myself to smile at him. “No. No, I’m fine.”
Sirius was now using his wand to make some minor adjustments to his outfit. “Sirius…” I found myself saying slowly. “Do you, you know…like Ruby?”
All three marauders instantly stopped what they were doing, and turned to face me curiously. I wondered whether I’d said the wrong thing, and immediately regretted it.
“Of course I like her!” Sirius said, grinning back at James in a bemused sort of way. “What sort of dumb question is that? She’s popular and fit as a fiddle…”
James grinned, clearly amused by Sirius’ ridiculous sayings.
“…I’d be mad not to like her!”
“Yeah, but…do you actually fancy her? For more than just her appearance? Can you see her becoming your girlfriend?”
The moment the words were out of my mouth, I cursed to myself inside my head. I was such an idiot sometimes! Where were all these words suddenly coming from? I was a wizard, not a highly emotion female. And us men…we just didn’t talk about stuff like this. That was the rule, and everybody knew it.
Sirius smiled slightly. “Why all the questions, Moony? Are you looking to pick up tips? Got some girl you fancy?”
“No!” I cried. “I mean…maybe…”
“I knew it!” James said triumphantly. “Moony’s got a thing for Dara!”
“No I don’t!” I said truthfully.
“Ah, come on mate, it’s nothing to be ashamed of,” James said. “I mean yes, Dara Riddelson is a little odd and yes, she’s certainly not the sharpest knife in the drawer…”
“I don’t have a thing for Dara,” I said firmly. “But please don’t go making comments like that to June. I don’t want her getting upset.”
“Speaking of June,” James said, clapping his hands together importantly, and scrambling off his bed. “We have a date to get to. Are you done faffing about, Sirius?”
“I was not faffing about! And yes I am, thank you very much.”
“Great. Then let the first round of the Dating Game commence!”
The other marauders and I meet up with Ruby, Lily, June and Dara on the outskirts of Hogsmeade, before each couple went their separate ways.
Thankfully, Dara didn’t look too bizarre today. Her dirty blonde hair hung loose, obscuring most of her eyes but I could still make out that vacant, slightly ditzy expression on her face. She wore an old, baggy t-shirt with what appeared to be a Hippogriff wearing a tutu on it and ripped jeans. Admittedly she wasn’t wearing shoes and she was wearing a dream catcher around her neck, but I decided it would be best to ignore this.
It was a relatively warm day. The sky was cloudlessly blue and birds could be heard overhead, chirping and squawking loudly at one another. There was a faint, slightly chilly breeze in the air that made my light brown hair scruffier than it already was.
To my relief, the walk into Hogsmeade with Dara wasn’t uncomfortable or awkward. We talked freely, as friends, about this and that-things that mattered and things that didn’t.
We discussed the last Quidditch match, and Dara told me that she supported the Holyhead Harpies: the all witch Quidditch team. I asked her if she played Quidditch herself to which she laughed loudly, and told me that she had trouble enough not falling over on her feet, and that riding on a broomstick would just complicate matters.
I personally agreed with her. The idea of flying high up in the air supported by nothing but a piece of wood terrified me.
As we reached the main street of Hogsmeade, I realized that I was actually enjoying myself with Dara. She was easy to talk to, despite the occasional mention of unusual cloud shapes or creatures I had never heard of (and was pretty sure didn’t actually exist.)
As we approached the front of Honeydukes Dara glanced at me and said; “Do you want to go in?”
I shrugged and nodded. “Yeah. Sure. Why not?”
Together we walked inside the small, crowded shop-a bell tinkled as we entered.
Honeydukes had always been one of my favourite places to go in Hogsmeade-and not just because I have a sweet tooth. The truth is, after every full moon I feel a horrible decrease in my strength and energy. Sometimes I can barely move-like I’ve just run a marathon then swum across the Black Lake and back. When James and Sirius and Peter see me like this, they use James’ invisibility cloak to sneak into Hogsmeade and get me a ‘pick me up’ from Honeydukes.
Yes, as a prefect I realise I shouldn’t be allowing this terrible behaviour, but I really do appreciate it-it makes me glad that my best friends finally know my secret, after all those years.
That, and the fact that Honeydukes chocolate is amazing.
A young shopkeeper with plump cheeks and curly blonde hair bustled up to Dara and me, offering us a free sample of their newest fudge. We each tried a piece, before Dara drifted absently over to the ‘Unusual Tastes’ section of the store. I reluctantly followed her, only to find that she was examining a jar of Cockroach Clusters.
I wrinkled up my nose in disgust. “Surely you’re not going to buy those?”
Dara turned, and gave me an amused look as though she could see right through me. The thought was actually rather unnerving. “They’re actually rather nice, if you don’t let the name put you off,” she said. “And they’re rumoured to keep away the Cloud Hoppers.”
I stared at her with a slightly open mouth. “Er…cloud hoppers?”
Dara nodded enthusiastically. “Yes. Grandaddy says they’re distantly related to pixies.”
“Right. And what exactly are these cloud hoppers?”
“A malevolent creature that darkens the aura around each person,” Dara said, completely seriously. “They’ve been known to poison your thoughts and suck every good memory from your body…”
“Like a dementor then?”
Dara frowned. “No,” she said. “Not like a dementor.”
Thinking privately that this was one of the strangest conversations I’d ever had, I scratched my head and eyed Dara thoughtfully. “If I buy that jar of Cockroach Clusters for you, will that improve the chance that you’ll vote for me as best dater?” I asked.
Dara seemed to think about this. Then slowly, she nodded. “Oh yes,” she said. “That would be lovely, thank you.”
I took the large jar up to the counter where the shopkeeper told me I needed to pay two galleons.
Two galleons! Just for a jar of Cockroach Clusters! Who in their right mind would buy those?
Well, me obviously, but I was buying them for Dara and she’s clearly not in her right mind.
I opened up my wallet and handed the shopkeeper my last three galleons, sweating slightly, and hoping that I’d have enough money to pay for the rest of the date. I didn’t want Dara-or anyone else, for that matter-to know how much my family struggled to get by. To find out that I’d had to work all summer just to have enough money for my school things.
Of course, I’d never told James and Sirius this. They both came from rich families and had always had enough. I understood that Sirius was often mistreated in his house. But at least he had the comfort of knowing that he would never starve-that his family would never lose the tiny house that they had.
Shaking my head and trying to rid my mind of such thoughts, I handed the jar to Dara (who beamed in delight) and said; “You fancy a trip to the Three Broomsticks?”
As Dara and I walked up the busy street towards the most popular pub in the whole town, Dara munching on her Cockroach Clusters the whole way, we passed James and June next to the post office. To my surprise as we walked past them, June turned around and spotted me, a small smile appearing on her face. Completely ignored by James, she reached up one hand and waved at me, her chocolate brown eyes glowing.
Confused, but happily so, I waved back, a strange feeling churning in the pit of my stomach.
I wondered why June was suddenly acting so…friendly towards me. Ever since Hogwarts, we’d barely spoken to each other. Maybe it was just because she was sick of James’ company. Yes, that was probably it.
Even so, a strange memory suddenly came back to me.
I looked up from the swing I was sitting on, swaying slowly in the breeze, to see June rushing towards me, a goofy grin plastered on her face. She was carrying something in her hands, but I couldn’t quite see what. Her long brown hair was blowing all over the place in the wind and my heart jumped as I saw her.
“June,” I smiled. “What are you doing all the way out here?”
June didn’t answer for a while, instead sitting down on the swing next to mine and studying me, her dark eyes boring into mine.
Then finally; “Happy birthday, Remus,” she whispered, handing me what I now realised was a carefully wrapped package, complete with a shiny silver bow.
I grinned up at her. “You didn’t have to get me a present,” I protested feebly.
June snorted. “Don’t be stupid Remus, of course I did! It’s your eleventh birthday-the most important one yet. And this year we’ll both be going to Hogwarts!” She gazed dreamily up at the sky, clearly envisioning what it would be like when we first set foot in the grand stone castle that was Hogwarts-when we first saw the marvellous ghosts, zooming through the school and stuffed ourselves at the Grand Feasts dad had told me so much about.
Her excitement made me feel excited, and I felt my fingers fumbling to open the package.
“Stop,” said June suddenly, placing her warm fingers over mine. “Before you open that…you have to promise me something.”
“When we’re both sorted into Gryffindor,” June said, and I started laughing at her confidence that we’d both end up in the best house of all. “We have to promise to stick together, okay?”
“How do you know we’ll both be in Gryffindor?”
“I just know.”
“How though? You’re so much braver than me June. I’m…”
June smiled slightly. “You’re the most courageous person I know, Remus,” she said. “And the smartest.”
I looked down at the dry grass, my cheeks burning slightly at the compliment. “You’re just saying that,” I mumbled.
“No I’m not! Now, hurry up and open that present before I get so impatient I have to open it for you!” she said and I laughed as I tore through the packaging.
I took one last look at June as we headed past the post office. She looked so similar to the eleven year old girl that was my best friend…and completely different at the same time. Something had changed about her. She was no longer the bold, excited, eager child she once was but more reserved. Quiet. Intelligent.
Trying to clear the remnants of the memory that had suddenly come to me, I smiled over at Dara as we entered the Three Broomsticks.
Now was not the time to dwell on the past-on what could or should have been.
Inside the pub it was stifling hot as Madam Matilda, the plump barmaid had lit several fires throughout the cramped room. Shrugging off my jacket and draping it across the back of my chair, Dara and I sat down-I ordered a butterbeer and she ordered a bowl of chips and a plate of bread.
“Tell me something about yourself Remus,” she stated, as we waited for our food to arrive.
I frowned. “What’d you mean?”
“Oh, you know. Something that will help me get to know you a little better. Something that defines you. That sort of thing.”
My mind started to race. Something that defines me.
To answer that question, I had to know who I was. But did even I know the answer?
I was a wolf, that much was for certain, but I could hardly go blabbing my darkest secret to Dara now, could I? From what I’d heard Lily and Ruby say about her, the girl was pretty awful at keeping secrets.
I could tell her about my three best friends: how the four of us became the marauders and how we were in the process of creating a map that showed every secret passageway out of the school.
“My mum died when I was five years old,” I found myself saying. “She got sick. My dad raised me alone.”
Dara’s lower lip trembled-she looked truly upset for my loss. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t know.”
I shrugged. “It’s okay,” I said. “I can’t even really remember her now. I mean, sometimes I get flashes…but that’s about it.”
Dara sighed. “I shouldn’t have asked,” she said. “I have such a big mouth-that’s what my friends tell me all the time.”
I shook my head. “I don’t think that’s true. I think it’s good to be curious…to ask questions.”
“Really?” Dara asked, and she looked so hopeful that I couldn’t help but smile.
Shortly afterwards our food arrived. I sipped my butterbeer politely and glanced absentmindedly around the room. I spotted Regulus, Sirius’ younger brother, sitting at a table in the corner with a large group of his Slytherin friends. None of them looked particularly pleasant. They all had twisted smiles and a violent glint in their eyes that made them look naturally dangerous.
Most of them would probably end up becoming Death Eaters when they left school.
But that was an area of thought I didn’t like to dwell on.
I watched with some fascination as Dara picked up a piece of bread, piled chips into it, folded it in half and took a large bite.
I scrunched up my nose. “That’s disgusting.”
“That!” I gestured at the chips-in-bread.
Dara stared at me in horror. “Don’t tell me you’ve never had a chip buttie before!”
Dara handed me her half eaten chip thing. “You are having a bite of this or I am going to force once of my Cocokroach Clusters down your throat!” she said firmly. She snorted as I eyed the chip buttie uncertainly. “Go on, it’s nice! I promise!”
I groaned. “Alright!” I said, taking the chip buttie from her hands and holding it up to my mouth. “But if this poisons me…”
“If it does, I’m holding you accountable, okay?”
Dara grinned. “If you say so Remus.”
And so, taking a deep breath and preparing for the worst, I took a bite.
It was bloody delicious.
“God!” I muttered thickly, through a mouthful of chip and bread. “This is good!” I took another large bite and Dara giggled.
“Told you!” she said. Then, as I continued eating; “Oi! Give that back, it’s mine!”
“Not a chance,” I said, holding the buttie out of her reach. “I have claimed this piece of heaven.”
“Alright then,” Dara smiled, pulling my butterbeer towards her. “This is mine then.”
“Fair is fair.”
“That saying has never made any sense to me.”
“Oh my god! We’re like mind twins!”
Dara and I looked at each other…and then both just started cracking up laughing, for no particular reason. And I suddenly realised, I hadn’t had this much fun in waaay too long.
The rest of the date went by very quickly-Dara even taught me the names her favourite constellations-I’d never realised she was so interested in Astronomy.
All in all, I was in high spirits when we exited the pub and began to make our way back to the school. I didn’t think that anything could ruin my day.
But then, something did.
I was laughing at a lame joke Dara had just told when we saw them. Ruby and Sirius.
They were pressed against the stone wall of a building. Sirius’ arms were around Ruby’s back and hers were tangled in his dark hair. Their lips were locked and they were kissing each other with a fiery passion.
As I watched them, a horrible thudding noise pounded through me. The noise thundered in my chest, so loud that I couldn’t hear whatever it was Dara was saying to me.
I only had eyes for Ruby. How happy she looked with Sirius.
It wasn’t right. It wasn’t fair.
I suddenly became aware that Dara was tugging impatiently on my arm, and I turned to look at her.
“…alright, Remus?” she was asking. “You’ve gone as pale as a snowman.”
“I’m fine,” I heard myself saying, as if from a distance. “I just want to get out of here, you know?”
A small crease appeared between her blue flecked eyes, but she nodded slowly. “Of course,” she said. “Let’s go home.”
Together, we walked back up to the school, Dara glancing at me anxiously now and again, like she thought I was coming down with dragon pox or something. I couldn’t get the image of Ruby and Sirius snogging out of my head.
But I knew one thing: I couldn’t wait for my date with Ruby to finally come. Then I could show her what a great guy I really was.
A/N: I hope you enjoyed this chapter. Please review and let me know what you think.