Chapter 9 : Changes
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I turned around, and Sirius abruptly stopped laughing. “Since when do Slytherins have a sense of humour?” he asked. “I thought you all appreciated humour as much as a bag of dried flobberworms.”
“You hit the nail on the head,” I said, attempting to not crack a smile. “I hate fun.”
Sirius looked at me pensively for a moment, then decided to play along. “Yeah, fun’s pretty rubbish, isn’t it?” he said. “Quite overrated.”
“What have you done to him?” James asked me. “I don’t want you corrupting him with your fun-hating ways.”
“Me, corrupting him?” I laughed. “That’s a good one.”
“I don’t know what you mean,” said Sirius innocently. Peter snorted with laughter, ruining whatever illusion Sirius was going for, as Professor Alvers put an end to our conversation by arriving and letting the queue in for class.
Before long, though, I felt like we were actually becoming friends. Sort of. We never made any plans together, as friends do – it was just that we kept appearing in the same place at the same time, and then enjoying it. They had plenty of other friends, but they still made time for us, which I figured meant something. And after a few weeks I started to see James, Sirius, and Peter as my friends, rather than just Remus’s friends. Even Sirius was not as bad as I had used to think. He wasn’t that arrogant when I actually talked to him – that was just part of how he joked around.
One day a couple of weeks later, after I had given up on my Potions homework, I decided maybe I’d visit the Gryffindors in their common room – after all, Mandy and I knew their password. I propositioned this idea to Mandy.
“Do you think we’ll get kicked out?” asked Mandy as we walked up to the seventh floor.
“I hope not,” I said, shrugging. “It’s not like we’re doing anything wrong, we just want to talk with our friends, and you want to stare at Sirius.”
“Oh, shut up,” she mumbled.
I smiled and we approached the portrait of the fat lady in the pink dress. “Blueberry muffin,” I said, and her picture swung out to reveal the portrait hole. Mandy and I walked inside.
The Gryffindor room had a much better atmosphere than ours. Gryffindor Tower was one of the tallest in the school, so the view outside was beautiful. The windows were very tall and framed by long red curtains, and all around the room were lots of comfortable old chairs and a crackling fire.
Lily Evans was sitting at a table working with a seventh-year girl I knew only by sight. James and Remus were playing wizard chess at a table near the fire; James was losing horribly because he had an eye on Lily the entire time. Sirius was stretched out on a couch with an open book over his face, presumably sleeping. Peter was sitting nearby trying to vanish Remus’s chess pieces so James could have a chance at winning, but Peter hadn’t quite mastered the Vanishing Charm yet so several of the pawns were disfigured.
“Hi,” I said, flopping into a chair. Mandy sat in a chair next to mine.
“Hey,” said Remus, looking up from the chess board. “All right?”
“How’d you get in?” asked James. “This room is for Gryffindors.”
“This room is for people who know the Gryffindor password,” I corrected him. “And we know what it is.”
James frowned. Remus shook his head, and said, “I should be appalled at Slytherins in here, but I don’t really mind. You’re definitely welcome to join us anytime. Checkmate, Prongs.”
James turned back to face the game and groaned, pushing the remaining pieces aside. “Who wants to work on Transfiguration with me? Evans, you look like you need a partner,” he said, and moved over toward her table, ruffling his already messy black hair.
Lily scowled. “I’m helping Tara study, this is important information and it’s probably all going to be in her N.E.W.T.s.”
“N.E.W.T.s?” asked James incredulously. “It’s only November!”
“Yes Potter,” Lily said with irritation in her voice, “some people care about their grades and actually do their work, rather than messing around. Now if you will excuse me, I believe I was busy before you interrupted.” She glared at him, her green eyes flashing dangerously. James held his hands up in defeat and turned back to us, noticing that we had been watching. He sighed, and smiled uncertainly.
“Oh well,” he said. “I’ve got no reason to work on Transfiguration now, who’s up for something fun instead?”
“What about your work?” Remus asked. “We’re all working, so you’re not going to miss anything if you do your work now too.”
James appeared to consider this. “All right, Mum,” he said resignedly as he dug his book out of his bag. “Where’s Padfoot?”
“What?” I asked, confused. They would sometimes refer to each other by nicknames and I still hadn’t quite got who was who yet.
“Sirius,” said James. “Sorry. Oh, he’s over there… sleeping, the idiot.”
“I’ll get him,” I said, and stood up. I walked over to the couch and lifted the book off Sirius’s face. He still didn’t open his eyes, so I whacked him on the side of the head with his book.
“Hey…” he said grumpily, “you’re interrupting my… studying…”
“Studying,” I repeated, skeptically. “Right…”
“What do you want?”
“Come work on Transfiguration with us.”
“Nah,” said Sirius. “I don’t feel like studying.”
“Of course, since you’ve already spent the past few hours studying, you must know it all by now, right?”
“Yep,” he said, grinning, and laid back down.
“If you know it all, you can test us.” I grabbed his arm and dragged him off the sofa.
We walked back to the table, where Remus and James were listening to Peter excitedly telling them he had managed to vanish a chess piece. However, I saw a piece on the floor, and James was attempting to hide a smile, and I laughed.
I ignored the scowl on Mandy’s face when I returned with Sirius, and the six of us all got to talking and enjoying ourselves, and I appreciated Gryffindor friendliness. We finally set to work on Transfiguration, and I improved quite a lot that day; all four of the Marauders were very skilled in it, despite how little they said they studied. Peter was a bit behind the other three, but he was still better than I was. And it didn’t help that Mandy kept recounting the story of the time I had turned my table into an alligator.
“Moving on, please!” I said. “Something I can do, for once. Charms, anyone? Ancient Runes?”
“None of us are taking Ancient Runes,” said James. “I think Evans is, though,” and he turned around so fast in his chair that I heard his neck crick. “Evans!”
Lily sighed. “What, Potter,” she asked, rolling her eyes.
“You sure you don’t want to come sit with us? Melanie’s in Ancient Runes, you two can work together on it.”
“Weren’t you listening the first time? I’m working with Tara!” She sounded exasperated. “Sorry, Melanie, it’s nothing against you… We can work on that later if you want…”
“Lay off, Prongs,” Sirius muttered to James.
I nodded. “I’ll be fine with this rune stuff, trust me.”
“Potions, everyone,” said Mandy brightly. “Something we’re all rubbish at!” She set her book on the table with a thud.
As we all moved on to Potions, James took one last glance at Lily, who seemed flustered and her auburn hair was coming out of its neat ponytail. Sirius followed James’s eye and said, “Are you ever going to give up on her, mate?”
“Never,” said James firmly. “Some day, Padfoot, when you fall in love, you’ll understand.”
Sirius faked a girly swoon and then said to James, laughing, “I doubt I’m ever going to ‘fall in love’.”
As he said it he looked up briefly and his eyes met mine. I turned away quickly and pretended I hadn’t just been listening in on their conversation about their love lives.
I felt bad for both James and Lily at the same time. Lily had been constantly annoyed or asked out by James Potter at least three times a week since fourth year, and he tended to act like a prick around her. James had been rejected countless times and never got more than a glare from Lily, whom he genuinely cared about. I couldn’t decide who I pitied more. I sort of hoped they’d get together eventually – maybe then they’d both be happy. And no one would have to listen to them bickering anymore.
I looked at Mandy, who was slightly red in the face but persistently tackling her Potions essay. She and Remus both had something written down – I had nothing. As silence descended upon our group, I started writing on my blank parchment.
Soon we finished, and with perfect timing because it was time for dinner. All six of us packed away our books, stood up and prepared to leave. I slung my bag over my shoulder and started to leave the common room.
“Wait,” said Lily, calling me back. “Did you want to work on Ancient Runes with me later?” I walked back over to Lily’s table, where she and her friend were cleaning up the various parchments, quills, textbooks, and a few gum wrappers. Mandy waited for me.
“Sure,” I agreed, “that sounds good, how about after dinner?”
“Sounds good. So… I hear you’re now one of Potter’s friends?” she added uncertainly.
“Yeah, I suppose. I’m not allowed to be friends with him and you at the same time?”
“I know you don’t like him,” said Mandy. “But Melanie isn’t James. She’s not going to be asking you out every five minutes, so I’d say it’s safe to be friends with her.”
We all laughed. “That wasn’t the issue,” Lily said. “I was actually just surprised; maybe Potter isn’t as much of a bigot as I thought he was. He’s just never been particularly kind to Slytherins in the past.”
“We’ve always had rivalry, just a sort of friendly one,” I said. “The whole group of them really – they’ve never been that cruel to us. I think they reserved that for Snape and his cronies.” I paused, seeing Lily tense up. “I’m sorry, I know you two used to be close…”
“Severus is part of the past for me,” said Lily. “He’s chosen his way, and I don’t care anymore.”
“You two are Slytherins?” asked Lily’s friend Tara, eyeing Mandy and me.
“Oh, I completely forgot,” said Lily. “This is Tara, she’s a seventh year. Tara, this is Melanie and Mandy, they’re Slytherins in my year.”
“Hi,” we all said. Tara looked slightly confused as to why there were Slytherins hanging around in the Gryffindor common room, but didn’t say anything.
Mandy seemed to notice, and told Tara, “We met on the train in first year, and Lily and I know each other from Slug Club,” she paused to make a face.
Tara laughed. “Yes, I’ve heard plenty of stories about that…”
“Shall we go down to dinner?” Mandy asked.
We left through the portrait hole and went down on our way to the Great Hall. At the entrance Mandy and I hesitated, glancing over at the Slytherin table.
“Come on, join us over here today,” said Lily, and so we all walked to the Gryffindor table.
Dinner was the most enjoyable it had been in a long time. Lily was one of the most popular girls at Hogwarts, and all of her friends who sat with us at dinner were equally friendly to us. Afterwards I worked on Ancient Runes with Lily, but then I had to race back to the Slytherin common room before any prefects would catch me out after curfew. Upon reaching my dormitory, I collapsed on my bed and tossed my bag carelessly onto the floor.
“So…” said Mandy, who was sitting on her bed, watching me.
“So,” I repeated.
“I don’t know… you said ‘so’.”
Mandy sighed. “I’m just thinking.”
“About what?” I asked, although I thought I already knew the answer. “Or should I say whom?”
Mandy was silent.
I laughed. “You have a boyfriend. I suppose you’ve been way too focused on Sirius to notice that?”
She turned to me, looking indignant. “I can’t believe you’d say that; of course I’m staying with Russell!” Then she frowned. “But I can’t exactly keep away from Sirius, now that we’re friends with the Marauders… It’s so complicated. I don’t know. I’m tired of this.”
“Everything,” said Mandy dramatically, sighing and leaning back on her bed again.
I got out my wand and started practicing Transfiguration. When I pointed my wand at a piece of parchment on the floor and attempted to vanish it, sparks flew out of my wand and hit Mandy’s small mirror on her bedside table, cracking it.
I looked up at Mandy, stuttering an apology, but she didn’t seem concerned. She just grinned and said, “Seven years bad luck!”
I laughed. “I give up.”
“You’ll get better.”
“Peter is better than me.”
“You’re better than he is at Charms and Defense Against the Dark Arts, and probably loads of other stuff too. Relax.”
Charlotte entered the dormitory at that point. “Another deep discussion, ladies?” she inquired.
“Nah,” said Mandy.
“Scheming against the Marauders?”
“No, we already told you—”
“Yeah, okay… I still don’t get why you’re spending time with them. Right after they got you two caught… I don’t trust them.”
“Neither do I, Charlotte, and I’m sure they don’t trust us either,” I reasoned.
“Anything new downstairs, or is everyone still acting like idiots?” asked Mandy.
“Idiots for the most part…” said Charlotte. “Oh, did you hear? Remember Lucius Malfoy?”
“Of course I know him, he’s one of Nathan’s best friends.”
“Well, he proposed to Narcissa Black! She left Hogwarts a couple of years ago, do you remember her? I got this long letter from her today. And she said yes! How exciting, she’s going to be married!”
“That’s fascinating, Char, but I’m tired,” I said. “I’m going to bed.”
The next morning I walked into Transfiguration and took my normal seat next to Mandy. The Marauders came in late to class, though. I figured they had been off playing some prank. However, during class when we were practicing a new spell, we had time to talk to them.
Mandy was talking with Sirius, so I moved over next to James, since he was the next closest. “So what were—” I broke off. James had a huge gash on his arm and several more on his face. “What happened?” I gasped. I noticed similar scratches on Sirius; Peter seemed very tired, and Remus looked ill.
“Oh… um, just fancied a stroll in the Forbidden Forest.” He grinned.
“All four of you?”
“That’s why you were late to class?”
“I see… well, what was it like?” I asked.
“Oh, well… forbidden, dark, you know. Lots of trees, animals with claws.”
I raised an eyebrow. “I always knew you were all weird, but I thought you’d have more sense than that. That’s your idea of a fun pastime? Be careful, I’ve heard there are werewolves in there!”
He laughed. “I’ll keep my eyes open for that. If we do happen to see one, I’m sure we’ll be careful.” Peter giggled and then looked back at his snail. I looked up to see McGonagall glancing in our direction, and turned around to face my table again before she could tell me off for not paying attention in class.
Sirius and James mastered the spell very soon, winning ten points each for Gryffindor, and spent a good amount of time after that talking, and occasionally distracting Mandy when she was getting close to turning her snail into a saucer. By the end of class she was quite frustrated with the both of them, and during the last five minutes of class when we both finally mastered the spell, she even called Sirius an arrogant berk, something I had known he was for ages, but that seemed to have been lost on Mandy.
As we gathered our stuff, I raised my eyebrows at Mandy and told her, “I’m impressed.”
“You just called Sirius a berk. I never thought I’d see the day.”
Mandy giggled. “I know, it was terrible of me,” she said. “But he wasn’t laughing at my jokes. Well, I’m off to meet Russell now.”
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