Chapter 22 : Communication Breakdown
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The days that followed were among the best of my entire summer – or in fact any of my summers at home since I started at Hogwarts. It was exactly how summer was supposed to be. Sirius, with an insatiable craving for excitement, often convinced us all to do absurd things he considered fun, including setting up a large water slide from the roof of James’ house, or hitchhiking with Muggles and then trying to find our way back. We also played Quidditch, and Mandy tried to teach us some Muggle sports and games, although the Monopoly board she made in order to try and teach us ended up being a waste of her time, because the game took forever and the other three of us tired of it very quickly. After attempting for a few minutes to get us to stop charming the pieces to attack each other, she finally gave up.
We also spent a lot of time just relaxing out in the garden, lying in the shade with glasses of iced pumpkin juice. One day James was apparently trying to see if he could move clouds with magic, although I don’t think anything ever became of it, because the clouds were too far away – but we were able to move trees in the garden. It was nice to be seventeen and able to use magic away from school!
Mandy and I got to know James’s parents better as well. Mr Potter taught me how to play chess, and Mrs Potter enjoyed just sitting and chatting with me, probably because she didn’t have daughters. They were such welcoming and wonderful people, and it was lovely to stay with them – they definitely treated their guests well. Sirius, as he’d lived there for a year now, was essentially a part of the family; this meant that in addition to being well taken care of, and sometimes going to Mrs Potter for life advice, Sirius also had to help with chores like washing up the dishes, but he did that gladly, willing to do anything because they showed him the parental affection he craved.
I also noticed that Sirius and I found ourselves alone together a bit more often than usual; the closeness in our friendship we’d attained during that first night talking together on the sofa had not gone away. It was just so much easier to talk to him now as we actually began to trust one another; even though we had been friends for a while, I hadn’t really trusted him until now. And ever since that night we’d stayed up talking, he was always checking in on me to make sure I was doing all right; the fact that he cared made it so much easier.
I found myself wanting to know him better, to know more about him. After we’d finally opened up to each other about our brothers, I felt more of a connection to him, and I wanted him to be able to talk to me. The only people I felt he was that close to were James, Remus, and Peter. Sirius never really showed real affection for anyone else, just that sort of superficial charming exterior. Behind that, he essentially had a guard of armor up around him. But he had started to let me through – and now that I’d seen this side of him, I wanted to know more.
Mandy was back to being her cheerful self again; she was in contact with her parents, who informed her that they had not had any attacks or pursuers since that first one, and they would be returning to the area and temporarily renting a flat, and having her come back to stay for the last few weeks of summer.
A few days later, on the first of August, the chaos in the kitchen of all of us making breakfast was increased by four owls zooming in through the window with letters. James reached out to grab his glass of pumpkin juice before it fell over, and I put my hands over my cereal to shield it from feathers.
“Must be our book lists and all that rubbish,” said Sirius, taking his letter from his owl.
“Yep,” said Mandy as she retrieved her letter from the puddle of spilled pumpkin juice on the table. “Ugh, the ink’s running, that stupid owl couldn’t have been more careful?”
As we all opened our letters, the owls departed in a flurry of feathers, leaving us with our book lists and other notice papers about the upcoming year at Hogwarts.
“Oh, this is too much,” said Mandy, flinging her papers aside the instant she opened them. “I don’t want to look at it, it just reminds me of how old we are. Seventh years? When did that happen?’
“But it’s going to be our best year at Hogwarts,” said Sirius.
“I don’t know about that, it looks like we’re studying flesh-eating trees again in Herbology,” I said, scanning the book list.
“Why are you so quiet, Prongs?” asked Sirius, looking up from his various beginning-of-term papers. I glanced up too and saw that James had not moved an inch since opening his letter, but was holding one piece of parchment and staring at it.
“I’m… I’m Head Boy,” said James, bewildered.
Sirius laughed. “Nice work, mate, I’m Head Girl!”
“No, look!” James held up the badge.
Sirius’s jaw dropped. “No way, is that real? Has Dumbledore gone mad?”
James looked to Mandy and me, as if expecting us to assure him it was real. I was no less surprised than Sirius – James was a great student, but caused way too much trouble to be in a position of such responsibility, so I’d never have guessed he’d make Head Boy. It was true that he’d caused significantly less trouble in the second half of last year because he wanted to spend time with his girlfriend rather than in detention, but he still had quite the reputation.
“Is it a mistake?” Sirius wondered. “Maybe it was meant to go to Moony, he’s the prefect after all.”
“Right, that’s what I thought at first too,” said James, “but the letter is addressed to me.”
“Well… wow,” said Sirius after he had finished gawking at the badge. “That’s brilliant! Congratulations!”
“Yeah, well done,” Mandy and I agreed.
“I can’t believe you’re Head Boy!” Sirius continued, apparently even more excited about it than James was. “This is fantastic! We’ve got the Head Boy on our side, we can do any pranks we want. You have more authority than prefects!”
“Of course! It’ll be just the same, only now I can tell the little second years they’re misbehaving.” He laughed. “And I can take points away from... Slytherins,” he added with a smirk at Mandy and me.
“The Head Boy is supposed to be a model student,” I said. “I hardly think you’ll be able to get away with whatever you want, abusing your authority.”
“Thanks, Mum,” said James, rolling his eyes.
“Let’s hope the Head Girl has more sense,” said Mandy.
“Wonder who the Head Girl is,” Sirius mused while we ate our breakfast.
I thought about who the female sixth year prefects had been for each house. Alanna Travers for Slytherin, but she’d be terrible as Head Girl – she was far too easily stressed out, and the responsibility of Head Girl would reduce her to a puddle of worry. Priya Kaur from Ravenclaw would be brilliant, as she handled pressure very well, although I supposed her thirst for knowledge sometimes got her into trouble; only last year we’d got detention together for firing water balloons off the Astronomy Tower during our night class to see if they’d go as far as we calculated. (They did, in fact: one made it all the way to the lake and was subsequently launched back at us by the resident Giant Squid, and hit poor Professor Sinistra in the head. This was why Priya and I had got detention.)
If James was Head Boy, the Head Girl had to be someone sensible who respected the school rules. Then it became obvious to me – it had to be Lily, a great student who had been a Gryffindor prefect for the past two years and rarely got into mischief.
Mandy seemed to have come to the same conclusion, as she kicked my leg under the table, and then stared at me from across the table, raising her eyebrows. I smiled back, rolling my eyes.
James looked up from his letters, wide-eyed as he considered it too. “You don’t think it’s… No, I can’t think of anyone else it would be! I bet it’s Evans!” His free hand flew to his hair and ruffled it nervously. “Working with Evans for a year – how will I do that? She’s so sick of me already.”
Sirius laughed. “Well, Prongs, it’s your last chance! If you mess up this year, then she’ll never see you again.”
James looked thoughtful, a strange expression for him. “I hadn’t thought about it that way,” he admitted. His shoulders slumped, and he looked defeated. “All I want is for the two of us to actually become friends.”
Sirius reached out a hand and thumped him on the back. “Of course you will,” he said.
Lily probably wouldn’t react well when she found out she’d be spending a lot of time with James this year. One thing was certain: it was going to be a very interesting year.
James’s parents, obviously, were so proud when he told them. His mum also commented on how he might now have to give up his goal of breaking every rule in the book, which I thought hilarious – clearly nothing got past her.
Later that day I received a letter from Hector, who informed me that he had been selected to be the Slytherin Quidditch team captain. He urged me to try out again this year and essentially promised I’d get on the team. I knew this was really just what Simms did, letting his friends on the team, but this time I was okay with it!
After dinner one day, James was writing an owl to Remus, Sirius went into the garage to continue polishing his motorcycle, and Mandy went off to read. I was alone in the living room, responding to an owl from Luke, who had written to me last week and I’d only just gotten around to writing back. Now that the two of us were back on friendly terms, as it seemed he was over me, I had no problem writing to him again and trying to be friends. However, I’d written about three sentences when Sirius came back from the garage. “What are you doing?”
“Oh, just writing a letter… nothing much. How does your motorbike look? You haven’t polished a hole in it, I hope?”
He laughed. “Nope. I think I’m done fixing it… at least for now. Do you want to see?”
“Can I ride it?” I asked.
“Sure!” he said. I got up and pushed my quill and parchment to a corner of the table, then followed Sirius to the garage.
“I was kidding, you know,” I said as he opened the garage door. “I’d crash, and then you’d kill me.”
“Oh, I’m not letting you go alone, it’s new!” he laughed. “I meant come with me. And if you need any more incentive, I’ve charmed it to fly!”
“That’s what you’ve been doing all this time? Why not just fly on a broom?”
Sirius looked at me as if I was out of my mind. Obviously, this was something I was never going to understand – maybe a broom wasn’t manly enough. Who knew. He set aside his maintenance kit and said, “You’re only saying that because you don’t know how great it is, you’ve never been on it. So how about it then, did you want to go for a ride?” Grinning, he sat down on the bike and patted the seat behind him.
I followed him over to the bike. “Won’t the Muggles see us?”
“Oh they never look up, it’s fine,” he insisted. “As long as we’re far enough away from the city. Let’s go, before James’s mum sees us, I don’t think she really approves of this bike… You ready?” When I hesitated, he said, “Come on, where’s your sense of adventure?”
I grinned in spite of myself. “Okay.” I had just swung my leg over the seat and sat down when he started the engine. I threw my arms around him and held on tightly.
We started forward, out into the clear evening. The western sky was lit with a beautiful red glow, and a few faint stars were just beginning to blink into the dark blue above us. The motorbike took off and we were soaring through the sky in an instant. My hair was blowing in the wind behind me, and the houses below us began to look like specks - it was just like being on a broom, only much louder and faster, and felt a bit more secure. Although the feeling of security could have had less to do with the motorbike and more to do with the fact that I was clinging to Sirius as if my life depended on it…
I looked over his shoulder at the sunset in front of us. I could see why Sirius loved his bike so much. It really was an exhilarating feeling soaring above the ground so quickly and so high above everything. Suddenly, he turned the bike swiftly and we soared in the other direction – we approached a tree, way too close for my liking. “What are you doing?” I cried, my hands gripping his jacket tighter. “The tree, look out, we’re going to crash!”
“Shut up, I’m the one driving!” he said, laughing as we easily avoided the tree.
“You’re just trying to show off, then?” I asked, collecting myself after an almost near-death experience.
“I never took you for a backseat driver.”
“I am not! I just thought you were too busy showing off to look where you were going. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve seen that happen!”
“I can’t hear you because of the wind.”
“Of course…” He might have been telling the truth and not actually able to hear me, but it was just as likely he was pretending he couldn’t hear me teasing him.
“What?” he asked. He turned his head slightly, but since I was leaning so close to him looking over his shoulder, our faces brushed.
Ordinarily I would have leapt back from such an encounter – and maybe it was because we were high up in the air, but I felt no desire to move away. I continued looking over Sirius’s shoulder at the gorgeous sunset and at the small houses far below us, wanting this moment to last forever. Whatever was going on, I liked it.
I couldn’t stop thinking the entire time we were flying. I needed a bit of time to clear my head, but that wasn’t about to happen way up there in the sky. Eventually we touched down on the ground and coasted for a few minutes, and after we’d pulled to a stop in the garage, Sirius said, “You know, I understand if you want to keep holding on to me, but we have stopped…”
“Right,” I said, as my brain clicked back into reality, and I withdrew my arms from the tight grip they had around him.
“So, what did you think?” he asked as he got off the motorcycle.
“Great,” I said. I didn’t know what else to say – everything seemed off limits after my sudden analysis of our friendship and a realization that I might like him as more than a friend. But I was unsure even of that much – I didn’t know how I felt. I was so confused.
“What’s up?” he asked.
He looked at me intently for a moment, and I became very aware of his eyes on my face. “Nothing,” he said finally.
My face felt very warm. I hoped it wasn’t as red as it felt. But I had a feeling it was, and maybe that’s what he was looking at. I had to steer the conversation out of these dangerous waters. “Why are you staring at me? Do I have food in my teeth?”
We both started laughing, and thankfully he didn’t question me any further; he put his arm around my shoulder and we started to walk outside. I grabbed his hand from my shoulder and as I flung his arm away from me, he spun around clumsily as if his arm had been the only thing holding him in place and I had just thrown him off balance. We went to sit in the front garden, laughing, and continued talking for a little while longer until the last of the sun’s light disappeared below the horizon, at which point I went back inside to continue writing my letter and overthinking everything that had just happened.
“Where’ve you been?” Mandy asked, looking up from her book when I walked into our room with my parchment, quill, and ink.
“Nowhere,” I said. She raised an eyebrow at me, and I added, “Er, I was just outside… enjoying the sunset. Great sunset today.” That part was true at least!
I felt like I was lying to Mandy, and I didn’t like it – although in fact, this was really the first time I had ever done so. I had never really had secrets before – especially not with a friend like Charlotte, whose reputation as Slytherin House’s biggest gossip was not without reason. Usually she had the sense not to spread tales about me around, unless she found them too interesting to conceal. Mandy and I had always shared everything with each other, but my changing feelings toward Sirius were something I couldn’t even admit to myself – and if I told Mandy, she’d kill me. She’d been through enough this summer, and I didn’t want her to have to deal with something else she wouldn’t like, such as the fact that I might be starting to like the guy she’d had a crush on for six years.
Several days later, James, Sirius, Mandy and I were lying outside in the grass playing Exploding Snap, and it was a good thing the lawn had been watered recently or we might have started a fire. We finished a very exciting game and then abandoned the cards for a while, discussing the possibility of going out to do something that afternoon. I collected the cards and stood up to bring them back in to the house, and Sirius jumped up as well and said, “Yeah, I was just thinking of getting some pumpkin juice, I’ll come with you. Anyone else want pumpkin juice, since we’re headed into the house anyway?”
“Sure,” said James, leaning back and lying in the grass. “Thanks.”
Sirius and I walked into the house together, and I went with him into the kitchen rather than putting the cards away immediately. He retrieved the pumpkin juice while I found an ice cube tray, the Exploding Snap cards forgotten on the table. I filled the tray with water and cast a quick Freezing Charm.
“Oi, watch it,” he said as I spun around holding the ice tray. “Those are good and frozen – how much hand-waving does a Freezing Charm really need? I thought you were about to slap me.”
“I’d never do that,” I protested. “I try to not slap people in general, it’s rude. Although I could make an exception for you.” I set the ice tray on the counter.
He grinned. “Well, if you’re going to give me special treatment, I’d prefer something better than slapping. Maybe you could fan me with palm leaves – it is pretty warm out today. I wouldn’t say no to a nice note of appreciation and praise, either.”
“Palm leaves?” I repeated. “Sorry, the closest you’ll get is this.” I shook the ice tray at him, and it poured ice cubes on his feet.
“No pumpkin juice for you, then,” he said, lifting the two full glasses away from me.
“I guess I’ll just have to drink it out of the pitcher then,” I said with a grin. As I moved towards the counter to take the pitcher of pumpkin juice, I stepped on a slippery ice cube, and started to lose my balance. I shrieked loudly and grabbed at Sirius’s elbow to steady myself from falling over.
“Sorry,” I mumbled as I straightened myself up a second later. I let go of him, although his hand lingered on my forearm for a moment.
“All right?” he asked, but in a softer tone than I was expecting.
“Er, yeah,” I said, the combination of his concern for me and the feeling of his fingers on my arm making me flustered. “Guess I shouldn’t have poured ice all over the floor, right?” I chuckled nervously. Sirius was standing very close to me; I was between him and the wall, and I couldn’t think straight. So I looked back down at the ice cubes to avoid his eyes.
“Maybe you should have gone with the palm leaves?” he asked.
In spite of myself I laughed, looking up again to meet his gaze. His face was inches from mine now, and my brain seemed to have stopped working entirely. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to push him away or pull him closer.
I heard a sudden noise and immediately looked to my right – and down the hallway I saw a blonde head disappear behind a corner. Shocked, I looked back at Sirius, who had glanced up at the noise as well. I realized one of my arms was around his neck and I wasn’t quite sure how it had got there. I withdrew it instantly.
“Sirius, I…” I said, weakly pushing him away; he looked dazed, like he’d just been hit over the head. I ducked out from under his arm and sprinted down the hall after Mandy.
Just as I caught up to her, however, she darted into a room and slammed the door in my face. I heard the lock click. I knocked on the door for several minutes, and begged her to let me explain, but she didn’t respond at all. Resigning, I went back down the hall, and only found Sirius again.
“Mandy’s avoiding me now,” I said irritably.
If he wasn’t already aware that Mandy liked him, there wasn’t a lot I could say. She’d only be angrier with me if I told him, and I didn’t want to damage my friendship with her any more than had already been done, so I just said, “Never mind.” Then I thought about saying that we should just forget everything that happened in the hall just now, and we should just be friends… but I wasn’t sure if that was what I wanted anymore. Instead, I mumbled some nonsense about having left my shoes outside, turned around, and walked out the back door. I was a master of creating awkward situations; I had gone for the easy way out instead of actually solving anything, so it’d just create more of a mess later, but I at least didn’t have to deal with it right now.
James was still lying outside in the grass when I walked out. “So what did you want to do today?” I asked him.
“Eh, I don’t know,” he said, turning his head towards me. “I was just going to come find you lot and ask the same thing. What happened to the pumpkin juice? You were taking ages, I almost fell asleep.” I forced a laugh, and when James got up to head back into the house, I followed reluctantly. How was I to tell him nicely that I didn’t wish to be around Sirius at all for the moment, and Mandy wouldn’t talk to me, so I’d prefer it be just the two of us?
We ran into Sirius in the hall near the kitchen, and stood there talking for a bit. It was an awkward and very brief discussion. I mentioned that Mandy probably didn’t want to go anywhere, but then James suggested we go find her to ask her instead; we started to walk off to find her, but Sirius lightly grabbed my arm and held me back. “Wait,” he said. “I’m… sorry about what happened, I shouldn’t have—”
“It’s fine,” I said distractedly. “It’s not your fault, you did nothing wrong.” I turned around and continued to walk after James. It dawned on me that Sirius had, for once in his life, apologized for something – I was actually very impressed, but I was too worried about Mandy to comment on it. I had a bad feeling about her.
As I expected, when we found Mandy she didn’t want to go anywhere, and only spoke when James talked to her. She refused to even look at me. James was confused, but left her alone.
And for the next few days, every time I tried to talk to Mandy, she walked out of the room. Even at night, when we shared a room, she would just curl up on her bed, facing the wall, and pretend I didn’t exist. So eventually I gave up, and the only person I really talked to was James, or his parents sometimes if they were around. I think the same was true for Mandy, too. As for Sirius and me, we weren’t exactly avoiding each other, but I didn’t want to talk about what had happened, and so we definitely spent a lot less time together. It was so awkward, and I began to wish Mandy and I had never come to stay here in the first place.
I felt badly for James. He probably regretted inviting us to stay at his house – he was just being nice, and all we had done was create a lot of drama. But he seemed to be under the impression that Mandy and I were both just stressed out about having lost our families; he was always there as a shoulder to lean on, and I appreciated his selfless friendship. To diminish the mess we’d created, I briefly toyed with the thought of moving back to the Leaky Cauldron, but it really wasn’t an enticing idea. I’d be there all alone, dishing ice cream all day again. The truth was, I missed Mandy. If only she hadn’t seen anything…
We had all been having breakfast at different times each day, and it was probably for the best because Mandy and I were still trying to avoid each other. But one morning I was just finishing my toast when James and Mandy walked in. Mandy didn’t leave when she saw me, which I took as a good sign.
“That’s great, when do you get to go?” James was saying to her.
“Tomorrow morning,” said Mandy. “They’ve got a new flat and they’re just moving in. It’s probably not much, but I don’t care – I haven’t seen them since the beginning of the summer. Thanks so much for letting me stay here in the meantime, though. I really appreciate it.”
“Not a problem. I’m glad I could help.”
“You’re going back to stay with your parents tomorrow?” I asked, surprised, my mouth full of toast. “I didn’t know you’d heard from them again.”
“Yes,” said Mandy defiantly, a smug expression crossing her face.
I scowled. I had no idea how long she had known she would be leaving – but it hurt that she didn’t feel it was worth sharing things with me anymore. And I was angry at her for ignoring me for something that was not my fault. I had tried to talk with her these past few days, but she was being immature and avoiding me. I was just so sick of her at the moment. I thought of several things I wanted to say to her, all of which were very rude, but for James’s sake I said nothing and acted as if this wasn’t a huge deal for me.
But after breakfast, I followed her upstairs as she went to begin packing her things for leaving tomorrow. “Mandy, this has gone on long enough,” I said as I chased her down the hallway towards our room. “It isn’t fair, to me or James or anyone in this house.”
We ran into our room at the same time and I sat on her suitcase to prevent her from packing it.
“Get up,” she insisted, picking up a shirt from the floor to begin packing.
“No. Not until we sort this out. Why are you still avoiding me? You can’t keep doing this!”
She threw the shirt at me. “You inconsiderate little tramp, what do you mean I’m to blame?” she hissed. “You know I’ve liked him for six years, and still you go and throw yourself at him!” I had never seen her so angry in my life – it was scary.
“I did not throw myself at him! I’ve never thrown myself at anyone! You on the other hand…”
“I saw you in the hall!” she shrieked. “Petrificus Totalus!”
“I know you did, you were spying around the corner,” I shouted, jumping out of the way of her spell. “It’s really nothing, I promise! You’re just pretending it’s worse because you’re jealous!”
“I’m not jealous, I’m just disappointed in myself for having such terrible friends! But at least my family doesn’t hate me.”
“Furnunculus!” I yelled, furious, but Mandy ducked.
“Expelliarmus!” she cried. My wand flew out of my hand, and Mandy pointed her wand at me again. With nothing to defend myself, I jumped at her and we fell to the ground in a confusing tangle of fists.
I wasn’t really sure what was happening for those brief, angry seconds. My head hurt and I noticed that Mandy’s nose was bleeding, so I stopped trying to attack her. We sat up, and Mandy attempted to stop the bleeding. I hugged my legs to my chest, resting my chin on my knees. “I’m sorry,” I mumbled to my knees. “I’m sorry about the horrible things I said to you, and about me and Sirius on Monday, and everything… I hate that we’re not talking.” I rubbed my eye, and it felt a bit puffy – I hoped I didn’t have a black eye.
“Yeah, I’m sorry too,” said Mandy thickly. I looked up at her and saw just how much we had both suffered these past few days – and it only took a few seconds and both of us were hugging and sobbing.
“I don’t think you’re a terrible friend,” she said. “And I’m sorry about what I said about your family. You’re like a sister to me, and I respect you so much. I’m really… I shouldn’t have overreacted. I don’t even care about Sirius that way anymore, but seeing you like that without a care in the world – I’m just under so much stress, and you seem to be coping so well, and I guess I’m angry with you for leaving your family too, just when mine disappeared. But I shouldn’t have taken it all out on you like this.”
I stared at my knees. “I’m not coping that well,” I said. “Every day I wonder if I made the right choice. I would have been miserable, knowing it was me against them while I was living there, but if we brushed it all under the rug, like Mum suggested, then maybe it would have been okay? Should I have just stuck it out?” I sighed. “I just don’t know.”
“We’ll cope together,” she said.
“Mandy, I’m so sorry,” I said, leaning to the side so my head rested against hers. “Nothing is worth this.”
“I can’t believe we just got into a fight!” she giggled, and I laughed too. “What were we thinking?” One minute we had been punching each other, the next laughing. That was all it took, I guess… Maybe we were back to normal.
“I do seem to have a history of chasing away your love interests,” I mentioned.
“Or scaring them away – remember Carl Strafford?”
“Yes…” I recalled with embarrassment. “When was that? Was that third year?”
“Yes it was, you spilled Shrinking Solution on his feet during Potions! It was awful!” She giggled.
“He wouldn’t go near you for a month, he thought you were in on it!”
“Maybe it was for the best though… he didn’t turn out to be that good looking. I see him every now and then and wonder what I ever saw in him! Oh and then there was Norman at the end of fourth year, I swear you almost killed him—”
“That wasn’t my fault, I didn’t see him. All I did was step back, if he hadn’t been stupid enough to be standing right in front of the Venomous Tentacula he’d have been fine.”
“He was waiting for me! It was sweet of him. Although yeah, stupid I guess…”
We lapsed into silence. I sighed and looked out the window. Although it had taken a fight for us to speak to each other, I was glad we were talking again. The past few days had been awful without her. “Are we back to being friends again?” I asked. “I missed talking to you…”
“Yeah,” she said. We hugged each other, and she added, “You know, you’re invited to stay with me when I go back to live at my parents’ place. You were originally going to, if you remember – unless you’ve had enough of me this summer! And… I’d love it if you’d come, I’ve been miserable the past three days not talking to you.”
I was so glad she’d offered, because I would never have asked otherwise. And my friendship with Mandy meant much more to me than anything Sirius and I had (besides, that was essentially nothing). “No, I think that’d be lovely, thanks,” I said. “To be honest I think we’ll both be glad if I have some space away from Sirius. And I’d love to see your parents again too – I’m so happy that they’re all right, that was so scary.”
Mandy and I went back downstairs to join James and Sirius, and the four of us finally had a non-forced conversation for the first real time in three days. Now that all that business with Mandy and me was over, we were able to joke and everything was funny again. I only wished we hadn’t had to miss out on three days of this, now that Mandy and I were set to leave the next day.
The rest of the day was a lot of fun, and only at the end of the day when we were washing up dinner dishes did I bring up the fact that I would be leaving tomorrow as well. As I pointed my wand at a stack of plates and watched them zoom back into the cabinet, James said, “I forgot to mention, Remus and Peter are going to be joining us the day after tomorrow.”
I would have liked to see them again, particularly Remus, but Mandy and I had already planned to leave tomorrow. And there would be time to see them again in less than a month when school started. “That’s great! I’m not going to get in the way of you lot though – I’m actually going with Mandy to stay with her parents.”
“Oh, okay,” he said. “I’m glad you worked out… er… whatever was going on.”
“Yeah… James, I’m so sorry about that. You didn’t deserve to have us come ruin your summer with our drama. I wish I’d –”
“It’s fine,” he interrupted. “Really, it is. It was only three days anyway, the rest of the time was a lot of fun. I’m just happy everything worked out all right. You’ve had a tough summer and I’m just glad I could offer you somewhere to stay.”
“Thank you,” I said. “You know, I can understand why Dumbledore made you Head Boy. You may be the biggest troublemaker at Hogwarts and far too proud of it, but you’re one of the nicest people I know.”
“Well, thanks…” he mumbled, although he looked a little embarrassed. I grinned and gave him a hug.
The following morning we said our goodbyes, our thank-yous to James’s parents, and everything. I thanked James for being so generous and hugged him, and then since it would be awkward if I just ignored Sirius, I gave him a hug too, although I let go again very quickly – I didn’t want to hold on too long for fear that Mandy would change her mind about letting me stay with her. Sirius let go quickly as well, and gave me a rather sheepish smile as I stepped away from him. Mandy and I walked out onto the front porch with our belongings and Apparated into London, where Mandy’s parents had arranged to meet her.
They met us by the Leaky Cauldron, and despite everything they had gone through this summer as well, they were beaming as they came over to greet us and hugged both of us. Mandy was finally reunited with her family, and I felt just as happy as she did. I realised it was just as Sirius had told me; my family kicking me out didn’t matter anymore, because I still had a family – Mandy’s parents were family to me.
The last few weeks of summer passed by relatively uneventfully. I was living with Mandy and her parents in their small flat. They didn’t have much anymore so I slept on the sofa. Mandy and I passed our days going out into the city, or just staying home and watching Muggle television programmes like The Muppet Show or Doctor Who. We’d already had enough drama to last the entire summer (maybe even our entire lives), so the rest of it was pretty laid back.
As the days went on, I was more convinced that anything between Sirius and me while we were at James’s house was over. It had just been a product of the two of us being in such close quarters for almost two weeks. He wasn’t around for me to talk to anymore and I was glad of it. So when Mandy asked me about Sirius once, I told her in complete honesty that I thought of him as just a friend. I wasn’t entirely sure she believed me, but at any rate Mandy and I were back to being best friends, and that was all that mattered.
Disclaimer: I do not own Doctor Who (property of the BBC), The Muppet Show (ITC Entertainment/Henson Productions) or the song “Communication Breakdown” (by Led Zeppelin).
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