Chapter 18 : Unintended
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Mandy and Charlotte continued to hang around with the Gryffindor boys, whom I was still avoiding, even though by this point I didn’t really know why anymore. But while this was happening I spent time with Hector and Russell instead, or with Lily and her friends (I was a bit of a fifth wheel in that case, but they were friendly, so it was fine for the time being). I did miss Remus, James, Peter, and Sirius, however I was still angry at Sirius and didn’t want to deal with any more of his rudeness.
One evening as I was getting into bed, and Mandy and Charlotte had just returned from Gryffindor Tower, Mandy parted the curtains of my bed and leapt onto it, landing on my knees.
“Ouch! Mandy, what in Merlin’s name are you doing? I’m trying to go to sleep!”
“No you’re not, you just got into bed two seconds ago. I was just wondering why you and Sirius are acting weird around each other. I know you got into a fight a while back, but honestly can’t you just stop running away and apologise for whatever happened? Charlotte and I miss you when we go visit the Gryffindors.”
I attempted to roll over and ignore her so I could sleep, but she was still sitting on me and I couldn’t turn over. So I scowled. “No,” I said. “Sirius gets away with anything, and I doubt he’s apologised for anything in his life. I’m not just going to go begging for his forgiveness.”
Mandy shrugged. “Well, do what you think is right. He’s not as insensitive as you’ve made him out to be, though.”
“I suppose… or maybe you’re biased because you’ve had a mad crush on him for five years,” I said, grinning.
She grabbed my pillow out from underneath my head and shoved it into my face. I pushed it back up at her and before I knew it, three more pillows were flying through the air. I rolled out of my bed as Mandy stood up to get Alanna with my pillow, and the five of us in our dormitory ran around and had an immensely entertaining pillow fight, which involved a lot of feathers in the air and a lot of Reparo.
On my way to class the following day, I heard loud laughter behind me indicating the Gryffindor boys were approaching. When I turned around, Remus shoved Sirius forward towards me with a laugh. I hastened my pace, but then came across Elliott Jasper and Darian Wilkes, so I slowed down again, as I would rather talk to the Gryffindors than to Jasper and Wilkes. Besides, I couldn’t avoid Sirius forever, and I was even starting to miss fighting with him. So I offered them a tentative smile as they approached me, and despite my silent treatment of Sirius over the past couple of days, now that we were stuck walking together I found that I really did want to talk with him again. “All right, Sirius?” I asked.
He shrugged. “Can’t complain.” Then he eyed me intently. “Er, you don’t hate me, do you?”
My coolness towards him dissipated instantly. “No, of course I don’t hate you. But after last week I’m a bit annoyed at you.”
“Yeah, I wanted to apologise for what I said then; I feel horrible about it.”
“Oh,” I said, stopping. “Thanks. I’m sorry too, I shouldn’t have said what I did.”
We just looked at each other awkwardly for a moment, until he reached into his bag and pulled out a small box of sweets. “Maybe this will make it up to you?” he offered.
“Thank you, Sirius, that’s really thoughtful,” I said, taking it from him.
“So… we’re good then, right?” he asked. “I’ve really missed having you around, you know.”
The smile on his face wasn’t the teasing one I usually saw, but an honest, sincere one. “Likewise,” I said, and reached my arms forward; he enveloped me in a tight hug that radiated warmth all through me. I couldn’t help smiling; Sirius was a fantastic hugger. But eventually, like all good things, it had to end. “We’re going to be late for class,” I muttered into his shoulder.
“Oh yeah.” He let go of me, and together we walked to the Charms classroom, and snuck inside to arrive at our seats just before Flitwick began the lesson.
Sirius passed a note to me during class, to which I declined to respond, recalling the detentions we’d received from Professor McGonagall for this exact behaviour earlier in May. But I met up with him after class instead, and to my surprise, he walked with me rather than with his three best friends this time. At first our discussion was more polite than usual, but it quickly deteriorated into the teasing banter that meant all was normal.
And all was normal indeed. I discovered this when I opened the box of sweets at lunch and tried one, stupidly unsuspecting as I was.
“Mel – those are Singing Sweets,” warned Mandy, but it was too late.
“What?” I asked frantically, before standing up against my will and belting out a rousing chorus of ‘Danny the Muggle.’ At first, the buzz of conversing voices in the Hall went silent as everyone turned to stare; then a few Hufflepuffs joined in singing with me, and at my side, Hector attempted to harmonise – perhaps he’d eaten one too. Across the Hall, the Gryffindor boys were beside themselves with laughter. When I finished my song, scattered applause reached me from a good number of the Hufflepuffs, a few Ravenclaws, the Gryffindor boys, and (to my intense embarrassment) Professor Dumbledore.
I set my fork aside, turned to Mandy, Charlotte, and Hector, and calmly informed them, “If you will excuse me, I have to go murder Sirius Black.” With that, I strolled across the Hall to the Gryffindor table and punched Sirius’s arm. “You complete prick!”
“Oh, hello,” said Sirius conversationally. “I must say, you have a lovely voice, and I do appreciate your sharing it with us.”
“You really are the worst,” I told him.
He grinned. “But you love it.”
I tried to frown, but couldn’t keep a straight face, because the whole thing was objectively quite funny. Instead, I satisfied myself by casting a quick charm so that the back of Sirius’s robes said Slytherins Rule!, and returned to my table.
Saturday was Slytherin’s last Quidditch game of the year, against Hufflepuff. And for the first of Slytherin’s games this year, I was back in the stands again, watching the team play. After having had a taste of being on the team earlier this year, I desperately wanted to be out there on the pitch again, but unless Slytherin’s team had a better Captain next year, those two were likely to be my only Quidditch games at Hogwarts.
Mandy, Charlotte, Russell and I sat together; Hector wasn’t with us because he was on the team. Mandy’s new interest, Francis Madley, was also playing. Charlotte and I asked Mandy whether she wanted Slytherin or Hufflepuff to win, because if Hufflepuff won she could go congratulate Francis.
Mandy rolled her eyes. “Don’t be daft, of course I want Slytherin to win.”
It was only Slytherins who wanted Slytherin to win – the other houses were all supporting Hufflepuff – but this wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. Slytherin’s team was generally unpopular with the other houses, which was probably because our Captain was such an arse and encouraged the team to use dirty tactics.
I watched Nott hit a Bludger and thought about how much better I could do it if it were me out there instead of him. Hector made some great goals and we cheered for him. At one point Slytherin had a twenty-point lead, but eventually Hufflepuff pulled ahead, and their Seeker caught the Snitch to boot, leaving Slytherin in the dust.
Slytherin’s loss to Hufflepuff unfortunately put Gryffindor in position for first place in the Quidditch Cup. So of course, for several days after the game, James could be seen showing off on his broom whenever he had a few minutes of spare time. One such afternoon he was lazily drifting along by the lake, occasionally doing a dive, at which point several of the girls nearby would gasp or scream, only to laugh again when he easily pulled out of the dive. Lily was sitting by the edge of the lake with a book, and was glancing up at James surreptitiously every few seconds.
“Ooh, who’s checking James out,” I said as I approached.
“No,” said Lily, scowling at me over the top of her book. “Potter showing off is the only thing happening around here. I was observing, not checking him out.”
“I know, I know, I was only joking,” I said, grinning. “I won’t tell.”
She smiled, although she looked like she was trying not to. “He actually is a great Quidditch player,” she acknowledged, “but if he knew I thought so, he’d show off even more, and insist that it means I like him!”
“No he wouldn’t. He’s dating Vivian Bell.”
“Not anymore,” said Lily. “They broke up a few days ago – she’s a seventh year and about to move to Ireland, so I guess they didn’t think long distance made sense. So he’s single again, not that I care, only it means he might start pestering me again.”
He did nothing of the sort, but merely kept flying around. At times he seemed distracted, and I followed the path of his eyes to Vivian by the lake with her friends; one such time, he kept watching her and sailed right into a nearby tree. Lily laughed. “Too cool to watch where he’s going?” she asked, but looked over anxiously at the tree as James’s broom fell to the ground. James levitated himself down, unharmed, a few seconds later, and Lily’s eyes were back on her book.
“Anyway,” Lily told me, “I’ve noticed that you and Sirius have been spending loads more time together lately!”
“Well yeah, we’re talking again, if that’s what you mean.” And I’d even managed to trick Sirius into eating a questionable Liquorice Wand yesterday, which had made him belch for about twenty seconds. A girl walking past gave him a disgusted look, and I couldn’t stop from laughing the entire time.
Lily merely smiled and turned a page of her book. “Have you done the Runes translation for Monday?” she asked.
“Not yet,” I said. “I’ll probably do it this weekend. I’m really enjoying this sunny weather, and pretending exams aren’t in a week and a half…”
“It’s really interesting,” said Lily. “It’s this old text about how the Levitation Charm was invented.”
“Really? How?” I asked. I’d never given much thought to how spells were invented. Or how magic even worked in general – how did it work?
She only answered by holding out her copy of the textbook. Just then, Mary Macdonald and Carol Whitby, two of Lily’s Gryffindor friends, showed up. I stayed a little while longer with them, and then departed to start studying – in truth I had spent the entire morning out enjoying the sunshine, and I really did need to get to work if I wanted to pass my exams.
That Sunday after I’d spent hours in the library finishing my Ancient Runes translation and then talking with Remus and Peter, who were also studying, I was headed back to the common room and took a shortcut through a tapestry. As I was about to come through the tapestry on the other end concealing the exit, I heard the voices of James and Sirius, in low tones as they walked through the hallway beyond the tapestry. Sirius’s voice said, “I really like her. I never thought I’d say that about a Slytherin.”
Did Sirius have a crush on a Slytherin? It was the last thing I would ever expect from him. And I had never heard Sirius sound so unsure of himself; it was oddly amusing to me. I remained hidden in the staircase behind the tapestry, waiting to find out who it was. Maybe it was Mandy! It would absolutely make her day if I could tell her that I’d found out Sirius fancied her.
James laughed. “Ask her out then.”
“I didn’t mean like that,” said Sirius defensively. “I just meant that she’s not bad, I like her as a friend. Besides, I’d never date a Slytherin.”
“I don’t know, mate,” said James. “I’m not convinced. I know you better than that. When you say things like that, it means you’re mad about a girl. And she’s not a bad choice, I suppose… it’d be better if she wasn’t a Slytherin, obviously, but you’ll have to deal with that…”
“Oi,” said Sirius. “I meant nothing by that comment. You’d understand if you weren’t such a hopeless romantic.”
James was undeterred. “Remember when you indirectly told her she was, and I quote, ‘stunningly hot’?”
“Shut up,” said Sirius. There was a scuffling noise and laughter and I assumed that Sirius had punched James, or something similar had happened. As James’s words finally registered with me, I froze, my breath catching in my throat. Sirius had said that about me, on that stupid parchment of his. I had thought that was all a joke at the time. Didn’t he dislike me? Maybe he had said that about several different girls – he could actually be referring to anyone.
“You used to say much sillier things about Vivian,” said Sirius. I couldn’t hear James’s response, as they were too far down the corridor now. I waited a few seconds to make sure they were actually gone, and poked my head out of the tapestry.
As I walked back to the common room, I thought over what I had just overheard. Did Sirius like me? All we ever did was get into fights. I didn’t give him the attention he seemed to thrive on; I responded to him with sarcasm rather than interest or flirting in return. So I had no idea what to think. But despite Sirius’s denial, James had appeared to think there was more to it than Sirius admitted, and James knew him better than anyone. And so I found myself wondering if there was something there… if Sirius did like me.
I wasn’t even interested in him; I liked him as a friend, although he annoyed me most of the time. And I was worried that now I’d overheard his conversation with James, now that this idea had been planted in my head, it would be awkward next time I saw him. I wished I hadn’t heard anything.
Mandy was lying on her bed as I walked in, folding a piece of parchment. “Hey!” she greeted me as I walked in.
“Hi,” I said, trying to stop thinking about what I had just heard, and threw my Ancient Runes textbook and translation into my trunk at the foot of my bed.
“I got a letter from my mum today,” said Mandy, holding up the piece of parchment. “You’re invited to stay for part of the summer. Dad added in some stuff too, he recommended that we go to the cinema and see some new film called Star Wars.”
“Hmm,” I said distractedly.
“What’s up with you?”
“Nothing,” I said, and sat down on my bed.
“You always say that and I always find out what it is. It’s not nothing. Tell me!” She sat up and stared at me.
She had an uncanny way of knowing when anything was up with me, and right now I resented it. Besides, I was sort of rubbish at keeping my feelings a secret. I fidgeted a bit while I wondered how to tell her that the guy she’d liked for almost six years might fancy me. “Er, you probably don’t want to hear it.”
“Why not? Something bad happened? Is everything okay?”
“It’s fine, nothing bad, actually it’s very funny… it’s just that you won’t like it. Well, maybe – it might not mean what I think it means, but it’s very… it… just forget about it.”
“Well that made a lot of sense. What potion are you on?”
I laughed. “I’m sorry, I’m not trying to keep a secret from you, I just overheard Sirius and James talking about… stuff. It was nothing important, just their boring conversation. Can you believe exams are in a week?”
Mandy rolled her eyes. “Clever topic change. No, I can’t believe it, I’ll be up for another three hours at least, studying for Transfiguration.” She looked at me again, showing every sign of wanting to ask me more about Sirius and James, but thankfully didn’t say anything.
“Yeah, I think I need to work on that too.” I dug out A Guide to Advanced Transfiguration and my notes from my trunk and lay on my bed, reading.
“Sorry for bothering you,” said Mandy, lying back down and setting her letter on her bedside table. “I shouldn’t have been so nosy.”
“It’s all right, you were fine. Leave it up to you to instantly sense when something’s up with me.” I laughed.
“Yeah, I know you too well, I guess. And if I wasn’t being nosy, that means I can ask again, right?” She grinned.
Since she continued to ask, and stared at me, I relented, although I was sure I was being a terrible friend by doing so. “Fine, but if you don’t like it you can’t get angry with me, you just spent five minutes begging me to tell you… I overheard James and Sirius talking, apparently James thinks that Sirius likes me. Silly, isn’t it?”
“Oh,” said Mandy after a second’s pause. She looked entirely unsurprised. “Well, yeah, I reckon he does.”
“What? You never said anything before.” All my guilt at wanting to keep it a secret evaporated, as it was evident she’d known for a while and not told me. Although as I said it, I realized I wouldn’t really have wanted her to tell me – I hadn’t even wanted to hear it from Sirius.
“Of course not, you were too preoccupied about Luke so I was hoping you wouldn’t notice Sirius; then maybe I’d still have had a chance…”
“Maybe you do. Maybe he’ll change his mind. Merlin knows I can’t stand him…” And it was entirely probable that Mandy was reading too far into it as well; she had a tendency to see things that didn’t exist. In fifth year she’d been convinced that Bertram Aubrey was flirting with her, because he smiled at her once. So I took Mandy’s words with a grain of salt.
She looked contemplative for a second and then asserted, “It doesn’t matter. I have Francis now.”
“Well, not really. But I think we have potential. He seemed happy when I congratulated him on Hufflepuff’s win in the last Quidditch match.”
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