Chapter 25 : Daniel in the Den
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I wasn’t quite sure how it was possible, but I still seemed to doing those bloody detentions that were back-logged from last term and considering I was a sixth year with a mountain of work to be getting on with, detention on a Saturday night was the last thing I wanted to do – I would have rather spent a whole summer with Severus Snape than waste my Saturday night in detention with Horace Slughorn.
And he had me doing the most mundane jobs, so much so I think I would rather have been doing bloody lines under the watchful eye of McGonagall than be in this dire situation.
I was well aware I was coming close to winning an award for drama queen of the year at this point.
But I mean it was horrendous, and awful, and horrendously awful. At present I was cleaning out disgusting cauldrons which I’m sure had not been used for at least thirty years, and by the looks of my atrocious cleaning skills; where not likely to be used for at least another thirty either. I mean Slughorn was nice and all, a little pompous admittedly and that ‘Slug Club’ of his was tiresome and annoying and was probably more of a waste of my Saturday nights than even this bloody detention, but I mean he was alright overall, a fair teacher, a fair marker (especially considering he was head of Slytherin), but bloody hell he could arrange a menial task.
I was halfway through contemplating a well thought out means of escape (some sort of ‘time of the month’ related drama ought to do the trick; men hated that sort of thing and wanted to get it as far away from them as they possibly could) when the door suddenly opened. In the door frame stood Cgynus and my stomach twisted uncomfortably; I had not seen Cygnus (and for reason I’m sure was all his doing) since before Snape had threatened me, which admittedly was only 2 weeks ago, but we’d never gone so long without speaking, or at the very least passing each other in a corridor. Well I mean apart from last summer when I didn’t see him between the months of June through to October; (seeing him that fateful night in the common room) he had been too distracted last summer having discovered the opposite sex last year whilst at school. He and Black really did have a lot in common.
I certainly didn’t resent the boy; he was a pureblood after all, and a Slytherin at that. He was bound by his blood and his peers (particularly Evan) to ignore me and pretend like I never existed, which I’m sure was easy for every one of that miserable lot, except Cyg, he and I had been friends for as long as I could remember and I’m sure despite the major falling out that had occurred within Hogwarts and my rather sordid affairs with Lupin I was not so outcast from our world outside; the world of extravagant parties and the like. I didn’t want him to get into trouble for talking to me, but it just felt so very odd not to have him around or be able to go to his common room and sit and talk to him.
I frowned at the sight of him which caused him to look questioningly at me before he turned his attention to Slughorn.
‘Professor I’ve been told to come and get you by Filch and Professor McGonagall Sir, there’s been an altercation between some Slytherins and Gryffindors [he eyed me pointedly at this] on the second floor.’
‘Very well Nott, I shall go. Miss Stebbins that will be enough for tonight, I shall see you again next Saturday at the same time shall I? For your last detention I believe?’ He finished looking over at me.
‘I hope so professor.’ I replied hopefully laying down my cleaning utensils.
‘I hope so too Miss Stebbins,’ He said rather pointedly as he hurried out of the classroom.
There was an awkward pause in which Cygnus (or maybe I should be calling him Nott now?) realised that he and I were alone for the first time in weeks. To save him the embarrassment (and of course let his brain catch up) I began to pack my belongings away.
‘You don’t have to hang around and make small talk with me, I’m aware of the consequences you’ll face if you’re caught with me.’ I said loudly after another long minute of silence ensued, though I refused to look at him as I said this.
‘I,’ He stuttered, causing me to turn around.
He had come further into the room since he had given his message to Slughorn, closer in fact to me. I frowned slightly.
‘Nott, don’t be silly you know what will happen.’ I sighed looking at him.
‘Nott? It’s Nott now is it Stebbins?’ He said raising an eyebrow at me in mocking but I heard the humour in his tone and he revealed a smirk not long after.
‘Well I don’t know whether I’m allowed to call you Cygnus anymore.’ I blushed scuffing my shoe across the flagged-stone floor.
‘Shut up you idiot.’ He laughed pulling me into a one-armed hug.
‘Well I am right,’ I mumbled and he looked again at me questioningly, ‘you shouldn’t be seen with me.’
‘And by the sounds of it you shouldn’t be seen with me either; I heard you employed some bodyguards.’ He teased.
‘Ha ha.’ I laughed pushing him away, ‘I am right though.’
‘Well yes you are. And it’s probably best that you do call me Nott in public, but seen as we aren’t in the company of a gossiping Hogwarts audience, I can call you Cal, can’t I?’ He said lightly tickling my side in a brotherly manner.
‘I suppose.’ I replied admitting defeat whilst I attempted to squirm away from him.
‘So, how have you been?’
‘Apart from the pureblood threats?’ I said raising my eyebrow at him.
It was better to get the grossly awkward conversation out first before I could talk to him properly. It was how it had always been between him and me, there was no area that was reserved out of respect or dignity, and it made me more comfortable with him than I possibly felt with even Annie or Lily. But I could tell even this topic may strain our friendship and test us to our limits. His face twisted into a most unattractive manner as he thought over the words he was going to say.
‘I doesn’t matter Cyg, you weren’t the idiot making the threats.’ I sighed sitting on top of the desk to look at him.
‘Well no, I-‘
‘And you weren’t the one behind the threat either I hope?’ I asked cutting across him.
‘Of course not! I could never!’ He said angrily as he walked closer towards me.
‘Good.’ I smiled pinching his cheek in a purposely patronising way.
‘Get off you idiot.’ He said batting my hand away.
I couldn’t help but laugh. I had my old Cyg back.
‘So how’s this term treating you?’ he asked perching himself next to me.
‘Well a whole lot better than last term.’
‘Well obviously, you haven’t cheated this term, nor –’ But he was unable to finish his sentence as I pushed him with all my might off the desk.
‘Too far,’ I said glaring at him, though he knew I was only half serious.
‘That’s true I mean you have actually had a pretty rough term this term too,’ he mused, ‘falling of a quidditch stand, being threatened, becoming best friends with the four Gryffindor idiots, you know what that is a much worse term than last Cal,’
‘I see your sense of humour has not flourished as you apparently hoped it would?’ I smirked teasing him.
‘Nor has your ability to take people making fun of you.’
‘What an idiotic thing to say!’
He looked at me puzzled.
‘Have you forgotten that I have spent the last six years being constantly made fun of?’ I said raising an eyebrow at him.
‘Oh,’ He paused rubbing the back of his neck, ‘well it was all in jest and in a light-hearted manner wasn’t it?’
‘You can’t possibly be defending them?’ I choked in shock.
‘Well they didn’t exactly torture you or beat you up did they?’
‘Well they as good as did!’ I said suddenly jumping off the desk in irritation, ‘the humiliation and lack of dignity they offered me has left me with barely any friends,’ I snapped rounding on Cygnus, his words were making me far angrier than I thought imaginable.
‘Come off it Cal! You have friends! And you have a bloody lot of admirers,’ He said muttering the last sentence more to himself than to me.
‘Oh what Lily, Annie and my siblings?’ I said furiously no longer able to control my anger, he was infuriating me in a way I usually only thought the Gryffindor boys could; and yet here I was fighting with Cygnus Nott because he was defending them. What parallel universes was I in?
‘You have way more than those four! And people who are probably more suited to you...’
‘And what is the supposed to mean?’ I hissed.
‘You know very well that they aren’t seen to be the sort of people you should be hanging around Calliope.’ He replied standing up and turning his back on me.
‘And who exactly am I meant to be hanging out with then Cygnus?’ I said breathing heavily.
‘You know very well,’
‘Purebloods? Incessant inbreeds? Those so wrapped up in the dark arts they can’t even see beyond the end of their own nose?’ I choked unable to stop the lump that was forming in my throat.
‘Calliope.’ He said turning to look at me.
‘No Cygnus, I can’t handle this, this isn’t you.’ I said trying desperately to stop the tears that were threatening to spill down my cheeks.
‘It’s not Cal, its-’
‘You’re repeating what they’ve said, meaning you must think it’s true.’ I said my voice rising several octaves higher.
‘Calliope.’ He said taking a step closer to me.
‘No Cygnus. You’ve never been this boy.’ I replied taking a step back.
‘Callie I’m just passing on a warning,’
‘No you’re not! You’re passing on your own thoughts!’
‘Callie surely even you can see it’s not good for your social standing outside of Hogwarts to associate yourself with the likes of-’
‘Don’t say one more word Cygnus or our friendship is over!’ I cried as I went to grab my bag to leave.
‘Can’t you see I’m trying to protect you Calliope?’ He said and I could hear he was beginning to sound angry, he quickly grabbed my bag from my reach and held it high above his head so that I had no chance of reaching it, ‘you have to listen to me!’
‘Listen to what? Listen to the fact that you’ve now become one of them?’
‘Callie I haven’t! I’m trying to warn you, trying to help you!’
‘No you’re not Cygnus; you’re becoming one of them. You’re telling me what to do! You’re becoming obsessed with lineage and blood status rather than loyalty and talent and character.’ I cried as tears finally fell from my brimming eyes.
‘I’m not!’ He suddenly shouted and I knew I had finally pushed him to the edge of his controlled anger. ‘I’m trying to warn you, to tell you to stop being such a silly little girl and grow up; realise what faces you in the real world Calliope! You won’t always be protected by Dumbledore and those idiotic blood traitors!’ He roared.
I couldn’t help but gasp in shock, he had never, ever, spoken to me like this.
‘And it’s their entire fucking fault anyhow!’ he continued to shout, ‘if they hadn’t got involved in the first place then it wouldn’t be like this. You’d still be with Rosier and you’d be safe and protected for the rest of your life. But instead you had to run into Lupin arms didn’t you Calliope? Why couldn’t he and Black continue with their facade of pretending to despise you but not really making your life a living hell as you’d like to think, but rather pushing you far enough to make you bite back and give them the attention they were all longing to have!
‘And you were an idiot and fell for it every single stinking time. Because you couldn’t just leave it to Rosier and the rest of us to deal with them, nor could you even just hex them and be done with it. You always had to give them the attention they craved, you always had to shout at them, make quips against them; provoke them even more, enabling them to have you for longer, slowly pulling you to their side.’
‘What in Merlin’s name are you talking about?’ I shouted back, I had never shouted, not in so long, not like this, not to anyone, certainly not to my oldest friend, but there was something in his comments, and his voice and they way he was looking at me that made me far angrier than even Snape’s words had.
‘They both fancy you!’ He exclaimed and at the point he looked absolutely bloody deranged, ‘they’ve fancied you since about third or fourth year! Even Potter fancied you for a bit until he became obsessed with that mudblood! That Pettigrew is always too shy to goad you into shouting at him in public, but he still probably fantasises about you and him being together! But Lupin and Black are the worst they always pine for your attention, and I see them eyeing you up looking at you in that sleazy fashion, hoping one day to get you. Every little thing has been meticulously planned so as not to go too far, to get you right where they want you so that they can flirt with you, and tease you and eventually you’d fall for one of them, which of course you did, and you played right into their hands.
‘You kissed Lupin! I mean seriously? Fucking half-breed Lupin? And even Rosier didn’t have the balls to have a full on go at you because he was so shocked! And then of course we had that snivelling display of affection with you at the Christmas party, he was pathetic,’ He spat.
‘You’re being ridiculous.’ Was all I could utter.
But it was, and I did not wish to admit this; not the first time someone had suggested that one of those four boys felt something more than hatred towards me, but it wasn’t until now, as I was being shouted at by my oldest friend, that the thought resonated in my head. It struck a nerve. The anger bubbled inside me like some hissing, vicious snake that had lain dormant inside me for so long. And there was no stopping the boy, he was on a roll, things that he had clearly being dying to say since ‘third or fourth year’ were finally all coming out now in this one long outburst.
‘But Rosier wasn’t the only one heartbroken and jealous, was he?’ Cygnus smirked viciously, ‘poor ickle Black was too. He’s probably more lovesick and pathetic than Lupin and Rosier combined. I won’t even begin to talk about the Isla part; I’m sure you already know that too well. But there he was always sniffing around you, eager to catch your attention and engage with you at any opportunity. We all saw what he did to Sloper after he pushed you over the stands; dived to save you and then beat Sloper to a pulp, and I believe he even had a tussle with Rosier.
‘And then of course, worst of all, you got down and dirty with Lupin, and of course Black couldn’t take it – his best friend betraying him like that? Not of course that Lupin knew; they all tried to hide it from one another, but, of course we all saw the scuffle, and I believe they’ve only just started to get along again now.’ He finished smirking victoriously.
‘You absolute arsehole!’ I screamed advancing on him and pushing him roughly in one fluid motion.
‘Hard to hear the truth Calliope?’ he goaded, all the while still smirking.
The truth, it appeared, was extremely hard to hear. I knew however angry Cygnus was, and right now he was livid, he wouldn’t lie to me; and that truth was harder to bear than the revelation itself, because in fact it made the revelations quite true. However much I wanted it to not be true what Cygnus was saying was correct (well I hoped he wasn’t about the Pettigrew part as that was disturbing on a number of levels). However much I tried to hide my own thoughts about those boys I knew Lupin fancied me on some level (heck we had kissed!) and Black’s recent actions suggested a slight soft spot for me. But what was most disturbing was the levels Black had gone to, not, I think, in the name of love, but rather in the name of marking me as his; removing all competition in his path (and of course, in Sloper’s and Snape’s case, anyone who threatened to harm me). A woo girl might have found this highly romantic and heart-warming; I felt nothing but disgust towards the boy. However my levels of disgust directed towards Black were minute in comparison to my current feelings concerning Cygnus Nott.
‘Now you listen because I will only say this once,’ I seethed as I pushed him again so that he fell against the dungeon wall as I pointed a threatening finger at him, ‘I don’t care how true what you’re saying is. You need to get one thing straight in your head; I am done with that life of pureblood parties and sickening talk of blood purity and your foal, loathsome house. The friends I have now, regardless of their blood status, or even what they have done in the past, are there for me, and are much better friends to me than you are being now Cygnus. And in regards to those four boys, they may very well be arrogant and conceited and have a number of other unattractive features that may include scuffles and altercations, but they, at the very least, have chosen to stick up for me when your so-called friends threatened me. I don’t believe I saw you coming to my rescue.’
‘They’re pricks who are simply out to get into your knickers!’ He seethed, though I noted he stayed in his place against the wall, and as I glared at him further his face softened slightly, ‘Calliope, you know I couldn’t do anything about those threats! And I certainly didn’t make them! It was the likes of Malfoy and Lestrange! Callie I tried to stop them.’
‘You obviously didn’t try hard enough.’ I said curling my lip.
‘Well then stick with those four fucking pricks then!’ he spat.
‘Everyone calls us the Marauders in case you hadn’t heard Nott. Or doesn’t anything get down to those dank lonely dungeons?’ Came a voice loudly to our left.
I was unsure whether I was glad of his presence or not. Cygnus’ revelations concerning him did little to make me want to ask for his help or for him to escort me away from here, but Cygnus’ comments and how he had acted also made me want to ask Black to jointly jinx the arsehole.
I was about to tell Black that I was ok and he needed to leave when Cygnus changed my mind.
‘Fuck off Black; this is none of your business.’ Cygnus raged
‘When Stebbins is being shouted at it is my business Nott.’ Black said puffing out his chest impressively.
‘We were simply having a debate.’ Cygnus said through gritted teeth as he looked at me pointedly, ‘now why don’t you toddle off and go and find some more unsuspecting Slytherins you can Bat Bogey Hex, or were the detentions McGonagall just issued you and the rest of your lousy mutts not enough to fill your weekly quota?’
‘I appear to have found my next target.’ Black growled in an equally menacing voice as he withdrew his wand from his robes.
‘Try me.’ Cygnus said walking around me and advancing on Black.
‘No!’ I cried as I ran to get in between the two.
‘Move out the way Cal,’ Cygnus sighed in a highly frustrated tone.
‘Yes, Cal, move out of the way Nott here has been dying to hex me since when was it Nott? The last match between Gryffindor and Slytherin?’ He smirked clearly goading him - apparently Sloper and Evan weren’t the only ones to feel Black’s wrath that day.
‘Oh of course I forgot! That time when you were saving your one true love.’ Cygnus sneered and he once again looked pointedly at me, trying to provoke me, ‘didn’t want anyone getting in the way did you Black? Wanted all the attention on you, as always.’
‘That’s what Gryffindor’s do Nott, they’re brave, they save people, they do the right thing.’ Black bit back.
‘Regardless of how much you pretend to loathe them?’ Cygnus mocked.
I closed my eyes momentarily, I couldn’t bear this, nor could I decide to whom Cygnus was trying to get more of a reaction out of; me or Black.
‘Better that than be friend-zoned.’ Black smirked.
Cygnus lunged for him at this point but I pushed myself in his path.
‘Look seriously, both of you stop!’ I said forcing each of their wrists down in order to lower their wands, ‘what is wrong with you two? Just both walk away ok? Both walk back to your own common rooms!’
‘Fine.’ They both said in unison though still upholding their deathly glares directed at one another.
But neither of them moved. Each stood resolutely on either side of me.
‘Is this some sort of pathetic I won’t move until the other does?’
‘I’m waiting to walk you back to your dorm Stebbins.’ Black said through gritted teeth, never looking at me, always keeping both eyes glaring at Cygnus.
‘Don’t worry Black, she’s my friend, she likes me. I’ll walk her back to her common room.’ Cygnus replied.
‘You are definitely not walking me back.’ I hissed to him, clearly telling him that this was not over and he was going to have to do a hell of a lot to make it up to me.
‘Fine.’ He spat and with that he strode swiftly out of the room.
‘See you later Cyg!’ Black mimicked in a high pitched irritating voice, clearly trying to imitate me.
‘Shut up.’ I scowled.
‘You should be thanking me!’
‘I just saved you from Nott.’
‘I didn’t need you to.’ I replied stubbornly.
‘So when he was shouting at you, you didn’t need any help?’
‘I was handling it fine thank you very much.’
‘Didn’t look like it. And anyway you were in his territory he could have the whole Slytherin common room on you in an instant.’
‘Fuck off.’ I said in a most rude manner.
Black looked at me in shock. I had told him many times before to “fuck off” but never in such a horrid voice.
‘And I can walk myself to my common room thank you very much; I don’t need your help.’ I said rudely before storming off away from him, leaving him looking dumbfounded in the corridor.
And you thought the lions were bad,
Well they tried to kill my brothers
Daniel in the Den - Bastille
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