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Friends Without Benefits by fauxthefox
Chapter 1 : Sizzlin' with Slughorn
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 2

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It’s like a scene from a movie.

She’s chatting with her friends at the Hufflepuff table – probably gossiping about somebody’s new haircut or making plans for the first Hogsmeade trip of the year. She and most of her friends are seventh-years, but younger girls flock around too, eager to get in on the fun. She’s fun. People of all sorts are naturally attracted to her bright smile and her loud, unrestrained laugh. She’s telling a story to the group, and she’s got them all captivated.

He’s sitting with his friends at the Gryffindor table. There’s a piece of parchment out on the table, and the boys lean secretively over it as they talk, attracting many curious stares from nearby girls. He’s used to stares – he’s gotten them since his first day at Hogwarts, and they’ve only increased since them. His whole existence consists of breaking expectations.

Suddenly the boys burst out laughing – so loudly that the girls at the Hufflepuff table turn around.

She meets his eyes for a fraction of a second, and then stands up in the middle of her story, excusing herself from the table. He stands up at exactly the same moment, and they rush over to each other, meeting in between the two tables. Their lips meet and their fingers intertwine, and while the Gryffindor boys and Hufflepuff girls are still recovering from whiplash, they leave the Great Hall together, probably off to lounge around on the lawn.

He is Sirius Black, arch-enemy of Argus Filch and object of many a fourth-year girl’s desires.

She is Audrey Stebbins, Hufflepuff Quidditch Captain and best friend to me, Alec Fawcett.

I also happen to be in love with her.

I watch the movie play out from the Ravenclaw table, where I’ve been eating breakfast alone, as usual. Audrey, who’s constantly surrounded by people, doesn’t understand how I can eat alone every day. When she tells me I’m crazy, I tell her I’d rather sit alone than be bored to death by the other Ravenclaws. The truth is that I am crazy. I’m crazy about Audrey, and I can’t be bothered with other people.

Sirius holds her hand until they’re out of sight of the teachers’ table, and then wraps his arm around her waist instead. I feel a familiar twinge of jealousy, like somebody’s squeezing my heart, as I watch them go. I put down my fork and knife and rub my fingers against my temples, trying not to torture myself by imagining what it would feel like to hold that warm, soft, supple waist in my arms.

I force myself to stand up and head for the dungeons, knowing that while I’m slaving away over a hot cauldron in a dingy, dark classroom, Sirius and Audrey will be outside, enjoying their free period together.

Sirius isn’t the first of Audrey’s admirers – far from it. Audrey is gorgeous, with large, blue-green eyes and blonde hair that falls over her face in rich waves. Add athleticism and charisma, and you’ve got a recipe for a heartbreaker. Last year, Audrey was chased around by Amos Diggory, who was Hufflepuff Quidditch Captain at the time. Luckily for him, he graduated, because I was getting very close to breaking his legs. The year before that, she kept getting anonymous notes and handpicked wildflowers from a secret admirer. The list goes on. Like I said, Sirius is far from the first of Audrey’s admirers, but for some reason, he annoys me far more than any of the others.

This could have something to do with the fact that he’s far better looking than any of the others. I honestly have my suspicions that he uses some kind of sculpting Potion, because he doesn’t play Quidditch or do any fucking thing to exercise, and he eats like an adult bear, and yet he manages to remain as toned and fit as a Greek bloody god. And his hair is always perfect, without any apparent effort on his part. And he constantly goes around with this bored, arrogant expression on his stupid, handsome face. Even when he’s smiling, he manages to look nonchalant and unaffected, as if to say “I’m having fun, but not that much fun.”

It’s annoying.

I get to Potions early, as usual, and use the extra time to fantasize a bit. In my fantasy, I’m very muscular and coordinated (rather than skinny and hopelessly clumsy, as I am in real life), and my dark hair is flawless (rather than poofy and full of kinks, as, again, it is in real life). I’m strolling casually over the lawn when I come across a crying Audrey, who explains to me that, like the scumbag that he is, Sirius has been dating another girl behind her back. I track Sirius down (in my fantasy he’s four feet tall, with buck-teeth and bad hair), beat the Floo powder out of him with my manly fists, and carry Audrey off into the sunset. All in a day’s work.

Incidentally, I’ve seriously considered causing some kind of physical injury to Sirius ever since he started hanging around Audrey at the beginning of the year. But I don’t know how I’d explain that to Audrey. Also, there’s a good chance Sirius would end up pummeling me.

The bell rings, and people start to stream into class. I sigh, unpacking my Potions things from my school bag and mentally preparing myself for another episode of Sizzlin’ with Slughorn.

“Good morning, class,” says the pudgy professor, still chewing on a strip of bacon as he enters the classroom. Charming. “Today we’re going to be fixing up a Potion to Induce Paralysis. For obvious reasons, this is a potentially dangerous undertaking that requires intense concentration. Take a minute to clear your heads, and then flip to page two hundred and fifty three in your textbooks, and begin.”

“Sir – will we be partnering up today?” says James Potter, with an eager glance at Lily Evans, who’s just entered the room.

“No, we will not,” says Lily pointedly, sitting down beside me at my otherwise empty table. I don’t talk to Lily much, but we get along because we’re both good at magic, and we both hate stupid people. She sits with me during Potions and Arithmancy to avoid sitting near James, but that’s about the limit of our friendship.

“Like the lady said, Potter,” says Slughorn with a creepy wink at Lily. “No partners today.”

The class goes quiet as everyone takes the allotted minute to “clear their heads.”

Easier said than done.

All this started on the ride to Hogwarts. Audrey and I usually manage to get a compartment alone – it’s no easy feat, but Audrey can get anything she wants just by smiling. This year, she had to kick out a group of rowdy fifth-year boys and dodge several invitations from Hufflepuff friends, but we still ended up sitting across from each other in a private compartment, gorging ourselves on cauldron cakes I’d bought for the trip. Audrey’s mum is crazy about health food, so when she’s at home she’s forced to live on carrots and celery, and as a result she always has a mad food orgy when she returns to school. Her mum doesn’t seem to understand that her stress on eating health has the opposite effect on her daughter. I settled into my seat, shutting up my owl with a bit of cauldron cake, ready for what I thought would be a nice trip.

Unfortunately, I thought wrong.

Audrey and I spent the first ten minutes of the trip catching up with each other. As always, I had written her several letters over the vacation. As always, she hadn’t responded. Audrey’s summer life involved a lot of travelling and job-shadowing her brother Andrew, who worked for the Ministry of Magic.

We were having a right pleasant time, joking together and eating cauldron cakes, when the compartment door suddenly slammed open, and Sirius Black stumbled inside, followed by James Potter, Peter Pettigrew, and Remus Lupin.

“Hi, Audrey,” said Sirius with a dashing grin that I wanted to rip right off his face. “Sorry to bother you, but we heard you got the new Nimbus, and we were all wondering if he could have a look.”

“All right, then,” said Audrey, smiling her large, beautiful smile. Before I knew it, I’d been shunted against the window by Pettigrew and Potter as the Marauders examined Audrey’s new broom. Sirius had cleverly taken the seat right beside Audrey, and their legs were very clearly touching.

“Nice,” said James, pushing his thick, round glasses farther up onto his nose to get a better look at the broomstick. To my surprise, James was sporting a shiny Head Boy badge over his Gryffindor robes. I wondered whether Remus had let him wear the badge as a joke to get Lily’s blood pressure up, or whether Dumbledore had actually gone mad and given him the badge. “I heard this accelerates twice as fast as the old one.”

“Looks like Gryffindor might be in for some competition this year,” said Sirius, passing the Nimbus back to Audrey. As he laid it across her lap, his hand landed discreetly on her left thigh. Audrey blushed and looked up at him. I expected her to tell him to bugger off, but instead she smiled, and placed her hand over Sirius’ as Remus asked how her holiday was.

And that was when I knew I’d lost her to that damned smooth-operator, Sirius Black.

“Alec,” says Lily Evans’ voice, bringing me back to the reality of the dank Potions room. “You all right?”

I blink up at Lily, whose dark red hair is up in a neat bun. She’s already started prepping her ingredients for the potion, chopping up bits of spider with her long, elegant hands. Audrey has long fingers, too. She complains that her hands are too big, but I think they’re beautiful – and anyway, how could she be a Keeper with tiny little hands?

“I’m fine,” I tell Lily, setting to work on my potion. As a matter of fact, I realize, I’m the only person who still hasn’t begun work. Well, at this rate, I’ll never catch up. I got an A on my Potions OWL and I consider myself lucky to have received a passing grade on last year’s final exam. My work in Potions has always been bare minimum standard.

True to my prediction (though I was never any good at Divination), when the bell rings my Potion is a light, pearly blue, still very thin and watery – several stages short of the thick indigo solution in Lily’s cauldron. Well, we can’t all be Potions prodigies. I hand a stopper of my Potion to Slughorn, who pats me condescendingly on the head.

“An A, as usual, then,” he says loudly enough for the entire class to hear.

An average start to an average day.


A/N: Hi! I’m pretty excited about this story, but I ought to warn you that I literally have no planning for it and plan to write basically whatever comes into my head, so read at your own risk. The average chapter will probably be pretty short, around 1,500-2,000 words. Faux.

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