Chapter 21 : Break On Through
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You know the day destroys the night
Night divides the day
Tried to run, tried to hide
Break on through to the other side
~ Break On Through (To The Other Side) ~ The Doors ~
The Christmas holiday passed slowly. I had to get to know my parents again, and that wasn’t easy. They could see the change in my attitude to what I’d been before I was kidnapped, and they didn’t know what to make of it. They almost seemed to humour me, being overly kind and accommodating to my moods, which were completely related to the state of my social life at Hogwarts. However, on Christmas Eve, my mother gave in and sat me down.
“Is something wrong, Erin?” She asked me caringly.
“No.” I lied.
“Really? You’ve been quite unlike yourself. Are you having problems at school?” I looked at my mother, who looked almost exactly like me, except older. I had never been able to lie to her- she was the most understanding mother a girl could ask for, in every respect. I sighed, giving in.
“I’ve been dating a boy- but I just found out his best friend likes me. On top of that, I fell out with Perry, partly because of that and partly because of other reasons.” I said, deciding to leave out the details of the fact Remus was a werewolf- the fact that that was even part of the problem made me feel ill, because it wasn’t as if I held it against him. But, it was a big part of the reason I’d fallen out with Perry.
“Who’s the one you’ve been seeing?” Mum asked me.
“Remus Lupin.” I answered.
“Hm, I remember his father.” She said knowingly, “He was a quiet man. Who is his best friend?”
“Sirius.” I didn’t want to say the surname. If she heard he was a Black, she’d freak. “They hang around with James Potter.” I added to cover my abrupt stop.
“You like him back, don’t you?” She was looking at me shrewdly, and I felt my stomach drop.
“No!” I cried, “He’s just my friend. Was my friend.” I corrected myself.
“You do like him.” Mum concluded, “Or you wouldn’t have panicked when I said that. Maybe you don’t know that yet, but I do.” I stared at her for a long time, horrified. I know a lot of people thought that I liked Sirius- even Remus, sometimes, seemed to believe that, not to mention Perry and David and Alice and even Frank had all hinted that they thought that was the case. I’d ignored it due to my guilt over Halloween. It was just a physical attraction I found hard to resist- nothing more. I liked Remus. Yet Mum was looking at me as if she knew exactly what I was thinking, and was trying to tell me that I was wrong. Like I was lying to myself. Was it even possible to lie to oneself? I lived inside my own head, didn’t I?
“Mum, Remus is the nicest, sweetest person in the world. And… and I want my best friend back. I miss Perry.” Out of nowhere, I was crying. “She hates me, she really hates me, and there’s nothing I can do, I’ve messed everything up, I shouldn’t have gone back to Hogwarts-“ My Mum was hugging me to her, smoothing my hair and letting me sob my woes out on her shoulder.
“If Remus really is as lovely as you say, then it’s cruel to lead him on.” She murmured. “You and Perry will make up. You’ve been friends for so long, you’re almost like sisters.”
“B-but even Alice c-can’t stand us f-fighting, she just g-goes off with Frank all the t-time.”
“Well, who do you hang around with instead?”
“Lily Evans. She’s in G-Gryffindor… but P-Perry hates her even more because she’s d-dating David, and really James likes Lily and… and P-Perry and David are cheating behind Lily’s b-back and I don’t know w-whether or not to t-tell her!”
“It sounds to me as if Lily is being a better friend than Perry at the moment. Of course you should tell her.” Mum told me.
“But Perry will be f-furious!” I yelled.
“It’s the right thing to do, Erin. It’s not a time to be selfish when other people’s feelings are involved.” I thought about this wise advice for a moment, blinking away the tears and sucking in deep breaths.
“I know. I know.” I repeated the words, “I’ll tell Lily. And… I have to think about Remus. But thanks, Mum.” I got up to head to bed.
“Merry Christmas, Erin.” She bade me as I went.
“Merry Christmas, Mum.”
Christmas morning arrived and I awoke to find four owls waiting for me.
The first was from Lily, wishing me a Merry Christmas, thanking me for the gift I’d sent her, and included a large box of chocolate frogs. The second was from Remus. This made me feel awful, because he’d sent me the most beautiful silver charm bracelet I’d ever seen. Third was from Alice and Frank (apparently now they were engaged they sent joint gifts out). Their present was the predictable yearly homework diary with a magnificent peacock quill. Fourth, was a card from Sirius. I recognised his handwriting on the envelope, and my heart was in my throat. I stared at it for a moment, but then my Dad entered my bedroom.
“Happy Christmas, lovey. Why don’t ye come down an’ have some breakfast.” I nodded and tried to smile as I returned his greeting. I stuffed the card from Sirius under my pillow, unopened, and resolved to forget about it for the rest of the day.
The day passed with the opening of many presents, the eating of far too much food, and the usual family games of Gobstones and Exploding Snap. I enjoyed this year more than I ever had because it was comforting. Christmas at home was the same every year and it was nice to know that nothing could change that, not even me being kidnapped by Death Eaters. I truly had forgotten all about the birthday card when I collapsed into bed, exhausted but in a better mood than I’d been since Halloween. I was sure the fact I’d offloaded my troubles onto my Mum, an adult whose advice I could trust, had contributed to my happiness. It was only when I rolled over, trying to get into a comfortable position, sliding my hand under the pillow to try and fluff it up a bit more when my hand felt the stiff parchment.
I pulled the envelope out. There it was, addressed to me:
Miss E McNamara
I looked at my wand lying on my bedside table and was tempted to grab it and set fire to the card before I felt much more temptation to open it. However, I wouldn’t be seventeen until January 12th and so couldn’t use magic outside of school. I thought also about putting it aside, but that’d only keep me up all night. It was already one o’clock in the morning. I’d better just get this over with. And so, I opened the envelope.
The card was a moving picture of two pixies having a snowball fight with their small, pointy hands, giggling. Inside, Sirius had written a short poem:
I hope you don’t mind me sending this to you
And I hope you don’t hate me for what I’m putting you through
Just know I’m being sincere when I say:
All my love for every day
The Hogwarts Express journey back to school was even stranger than the one I’d taken to get home for the holidays. I couldn’t find Frank, but Gideon Prewett tapped me on the shoulder as I searched the train.
“Hey.” He grinned. “How was your Christmas?”
“Good. What about you?” I returned.
“Excellent. OI, MARLENE!” He yelled down the aisle. A seventh year Gryffindor girl turned, her ash blonde hair bouncing in curls around her face. She smiled brightly when she saw Fabian and turned back towards us. “Marlene, this is Erin. Erin, this is my girlfriend Marlene McKinnon.”
“Oh, you’re Lily’s friend, aren’t you?” She asked. I nodded. “She was telling me about you. You’re with Remus Lupin, aren’t you? Well, I always thought he was kind of strange, always seems to be falling ill. I hope you have a good immune system.” Marlene managed to fit all of this speech into the space of about three seconds. I stared at her, flabbergasted. She was instantly likeable, but baffling at the same time. I looked at Gideon, eyebrows raised, and he laughed at me.
“Have you found a compartment, Marlene?” He asked her.
“That one down there only has Regulus Black in it.”
“I’m not sitting with a Slytherin.” Gideon said, looking and sounding disgusted. However, my interest was piqued. I’d never actually spoken to Regulus before.
“Fine, we’ll find somewhere else. See you around, Erin.” She grinned happily at me before grabbing Gideon’s arm and dragging him back down the train. I hesitated before entering the compartment Regulus Black was sitting in. He was the slighter, shorter version of his brother. He looked up at me through the same grey eyes, though his were tainted with the imperiousness associated with Pureblood families who believed their surname gave them superiority.
“You’re that girl my brother’s always hanging around with, aren’t you?” He asked without further ado.
“My name is Erin.” I responded, refusing to be insulted as I took a seat.
“Do you have to sit in here? The train is almost empty, and I’d rather not be tainted by the half-Muggle germs you carry on your skin.”
“I’ll leave, don’t worry. I just wanted to ask you something.” I informed him. He looked over at me, partially suspicious and partially curious. “Is Sirius the poetic type?”
“What do you mean by that?” Regulus snapped.
“I mean, does he usually, you know-“
“Oh, I’ve never seen him do anything creative or whatever.” Regulus informed me. “He never has done anything useful with himself.” This told me all I needed to know.
“Thanks, Regulus.” I said, getting up to leave. But at the door, I turned back. “Oh, and he’s worried about you, you know. He doesn’t want you getting involved with the wrong people.” Regulus looked at me for a long minute, his expression mingled with changing emotions. I saw anger, suspicion, disbelief, sadness and finally regret cross his face.
“Thanks.” He grunted stiffly. I nodded and walked out. I never did find Frank on the train, and perhaps we missed each other, but as soon as I got into Hogwarts, Lily Evans threw herself at me.
“ERIN!” She screamed as I entered the Great Hall. It was dinnertime.
“Hey.” I chuckled as she let me go.
“I’ve missed you. And I got your letter about that Christmas card from- you know.” She said, glancing around. “But oh, let’s get food from the kitchens, then we can actually talk.”
“Good idea, because I have something to tell you.” I admitted. I waited until we were settled down with food in the kitchens before I began to explain. “I should have said something before Christmas, but I wasn’t sure… I mean, it’s not easy. But I’ve decided it would be wrong if I…”
“What?” Lily asked anxiously. I took a deep breath.
“I walked in on Perry and David just before the holidays. They were, um, heading for a broom cupboard.”
Lily stared at me for a long time, apparently letting the news sink in. Then, she covered her green eyes with her hands.
“I should have known.” She whispered. “I should’ve…”
“Lily?” I said nervously. She looked up at me.
“Thank you, Erin… I know it can’t have been easy for you to tell me.” She said. I was impressed that she wasn’t crying or anything yet. I thought she was quite into David.
“Are you alright?”
“Yes… yes, I’m fine… Just kind of…” She shrugged. “Do you mind if I don’t talk about this right now?”
“Not at all.” I totally understood the need for letting things drop at times. She smiled at me.
“Let’s talk about Sirius.”
“There’s not a lot to say, I mean, I spoke to his brother on the train and… well, it’s just like what you said in your letter. He must be serious if he’s putting in enough effort to write a poem.” I sighed. I’d been avoiding this truth until then.
“But what are you going to do?” Lily wanted to know. “What about Remus?”
“I can’t…I can’t dump him for Sirius, can I? It would be awful.” There was a long pause in which Lily gazed at me. I ate some of my food and let her think things over.
It was a while before Lily spoke, and when she did, she looked contrite: “I think honesty is the best policy, Erin, in all cases.”
“I met your cousin Gideon on the train home.” I told Alice. I’d just entered our dormitory. Winnie was sitting with her legs crossed on her own bed pretending we weren’t there, which suited me perfectly.
“Oh yeah, Frank told me.”
“I didn’t really understand why he went home and you didn’t.” I admitted.
“Gideon is determined to fight. I mean, of course I want to fight. I want to be an Auror, but… Gideon is kind of reckless. He looks for scrapes to get into, especially with Death Eaters.” Alice sighed. “He’s brave, but he’s kind of stupid. The same with Fabian, although Fabian is more of a defender than an attacker.”
“I guess that’s why you ended up in Ravenclaw, when the rest of the Prewett’s were always in Gryffindor.” I said.
“I always thought that. I’m more cautious.” Alice admitted, before she changed the subject. “Listen, Remus seemed really depressed over Christmas.”
“What? Why?” I asked, surprised.
“I thought it might be because you weren’t there, but I don’t know… I mean, he was hanging around with Perry a lot, and less with Sirius and Peter.”
“He seemed fine in his letters.” I shrugged.
“Maybe you should talk to him.” Alice suggested, looking uneasy for some reason.
A/N: I can't believe we're on chapter twenty-one already! I'd just like to thank LillyRoseanne for your continued support, bluferret for having the inclination to sit and read the entire thing so far in one sitting and for the kind review, and especially GinnyGryffindor for your constructive criticism- you were right about the summary, so I incorporated one of your ideas into the new one. Thank you! All reviews from everyone are very welcome so please leave me one too!
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