Chapter 14 : Gotta Get Back to Hogwarts
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Finally, the day had come. It was time to board the Hogwarts Express and return to Hogwarts. I lay in bed, pretending to sleep even as Lily softly shook my shoulder.
"Norah? Please wake up...you have to today. We have to go to Kings Cross; you know that," Lily said quietly as she gently tucked a piece of hair behind my ear. "Alice and I will make sure there is always at least one of us around you, I promise. Everything will be all right."
I remained motionless.
Giving up on the kind and gentle tactic, Lily became aggravated. "Look. I know this was traumatizing for you, but at the very least you could have read their letters! Ignoring the notes from Peter; that I understand. But James and Remus? And what about Sirius? Surely you owe him a reply, even if it's only a short one!"
I looked at Lily for a long moment before returning to my original position.
"Fine! If you won't read it, I will! Honestly Norah, after all he's done for you!" She ran her hand through her hair and sighed.
That caught my attention. I lethargically reached for my chalkboard beside my bed. 'What do you mean, "all he's done for me,"' I shot her a confused glance.
"Well for starters, saving your life in Hogsmead back in November."
I shook my head, thoroughly puzzled by this response. 'That was James, not Sirius.'
"Who did you hear that from? No, Sirius saved you. Did we never tell you the story of what happened? He transformed into his animagus form and smelled you out underneath the snow and then once he found you, Dumbledore cast some complicated spell over you to keep you warm. After that, Sirius carried you all the way up to the hospital wing. Anyways, you really do need to get up. We need to be on the platform in an hour. Read the letters!" At that point she promptly left the room.
I dragged myself out of bed, knowing that if this was true, Lily was right. I did owe Sirius at least one reply. There were three letters from him; he had sent one every day since the party beginning with the morning after:
I can't imagine how you must be feeling today. If it makes you feel better, I gave Peter a right good slap across the face and I haven't been speaking to him. I blame myself along with the rest of us for not paying more attention to you. Norah..I am so sorry. So very, very sorry. Please tell me you are all right.
And the next day:
I know this is difficult. I understand that isolating yourself like this might feel like the answer, but it isn't. Let us help you. Let Lily and Alice help you. Let me help you. You are strong; you can get through this.
Please, please tell me you are okay. I am extremely worried about you. Lily tells me that you haven't left the house since the party [definitely needed to go over the concept of confidentiality with Lily] and that you aren't eating much. Norah, I'm begging you here; please send me a reply.
I read the first two twice; the last one four times, with a special focus on the "Love, Sirius" bit. Lily was right, as usual. I should have written him back. It would be pointless now; what with the return to Hogwarts being this afternoon. I resorted to having a shower instead; being careful to lock the door behind me.
Auntie Beth, Uncle Nick, and Jer had all come to say goodbye to me at the platform. After a few warm hugs and kisses, Alice, Lily and I boarded the train and waved goodbye. I inhaled deeply; this trip was not going to be fun. I was hoping that we would find a compartment to ourselves, but there was no such luck. James, Sirius, and Remus were sharing a compartment; I pretended not to see them. James, however saw us.
He stepped out of the compartment, blocking the pathway and gestured inside with a single word. "Please."
Lily and Alice looked at me hesitantly.
James read my mind. "He isn't here. None of us are speaking to him."
I paused before slowly nodding my assent and we all settled into the compartment.
James looked tired, like he hadn't been sleeping all that much. Remus did as well, although he tended to look like that fairly regularly so it wasn't unusual. It was Sirius' appearance that concerned me the most. He looked as though he hadn't eaten in a week! And he was worried about ME not eating enough?
Averting my gaze from his pale face, I swallowed painfully; my throat felt dry and sore. I didn't feel like I could really put my mind to any use, so I settled for staring aimlessly out the window for hours on end.
Suddenly, the sound of the compartment door opening jarred me out of my dream-like state. I turned instantly, snapping to attention.
Now that Lily and James were gone because of their duties as Head Boy and Girl, there was plenty of space in the compartment. And there was one person who wanted in.
Remus was the first person to speak. "You have a lot of nerve showing up here, Peter," he said evenly.
Sirius stood up abruptly. "Get out. Now. Before I hex you into oblivion."
"Norah, I can't begin to say how sorry I am! I didn't mean it; I was drunk! If I could take it back I would!" Peter wailed.
"I won't repeat myself, Pettigrew. Leave." Sirius clenched his teeth together in anger.
Peter looked at me pathetically before leaving the compartment. The moment he was gone, I sighed in relief. Alice squeezed my hand comfortingly.
We arrived at Hogwarts soon afterwards and all of us retreated to our dorms to unpack before the feast that evening.
Lily was helping me fold the clothes from my suitcase. "Hey, maybe it will help if you focus on the good parts of the New Years party! You and Sirius danced right?"
Lily was right, again. I nodded slowly, a small smile spilling over my face. I remembered that. I remembered him holding me close; I remembered him telling me I was beautiful. And the music! The music was inspiring. It had been so soulful and..
'What?' I stared at her.
"Didn't you hear yourself just now? You've been humming that song the band played when you danced with him for the past minute and a half," she smirked.
For some stupid reason, I was reminded of the note I left for Sirius in detention weeks ago; the one that said 'I used to sing.' I felt my cheeks grow hot and I knew that I must be blushing.
"Padfoot, you really need to get a move on with that," Prongs said pointedly.
"A move on with what?" I asked, feigning confusion.
"You know exactly what. You and Norah obviously have a thing for each other. Get a move on!"
"It's not that simple, Prongs," I reminded him.
"You're right. It WAS that simple; and then Peter went and ruined it," James shook his head angrily. "That doesn't mean you can give up though."
"Oh I don't plan on it. I'm just getting started," I assured him.
"I have to say Padfoot, this time around you've picked a pretty strange girl," James said casually. "How do you know if she's any good in bed?"
I stared at Prongs, my mouth gaping open. "Is that what you think of me, mate?"
"Well, let's face it: that IS your usual M.O."
"Maybe before, but not now. This isn't about sex anymore."
"It ISN'T?" James responded stupendously.
"No! It's like...I mean if we ever did..reach that point, I know it would be amazing. She would be amazing. But that's not what this is about. It's about something bigger."
"Something bigger than your appeal towards one-night-stand women?"
I rolled my eyes. "Of course. Prongs, don't you see? I think...I think I might be..."
James held up his hand to stop me. "Oh, Merlin. It can't be, Padfoot. Not you, of all people. Can it? SHE DOESN'T EVEN TALK."
"Prongs..I think I'm in love with her."
Author's Note: I apologize for the long delay between chapter postings. Thanks so much for reading!