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The Brave at Heart by marauderfan
Chapter 28 : Uh-Oh, Love Comes To Town
 
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After class on Wednesday, almost two whole weeks before the Hogsmeade trip, I worked up the courage to ask Sirius. I was walking in a third-floor corridor when I saw him. He was alone for once, which made it easier for me, but I was still nervous because there was almost no chance he would want to go out with a Slytherin when he had so many other options. He had even said so himself at one point last spring. But after the Halloween party it was evident that he’d changed since then. At least, I hoped so.

“Hi,” I said as I approached. Sirius, looking unsurprised to see me, was putting a piece of parchment in his pocket. It looked like the same one he and his friends always had with them – the one that wrote comments about anyone looking at it. “What is that, anyway?” I asked, my curiosity heightened with each time I saw it.

“A piece of parchment,” said Sirius dismissively. “Where are you off to?”

I hesitated. I had really been just trying to find him, and not going anywhere in particular. “Looking for parchment,” I said with a smirk. I waited for him to keep walking, but he didn’t. “Er…” I began. All I had to say was nine more words. Do you want to go to Hogsmeade with me. My eyes darted around the hallway as I looked at anything but him. Maybe I’d wait and ask the next time I saw him… But that was what I had told myself last time I talked to him. Even though the Hogsmeade weekend was still two weeks away, the Yule Ball last year had taught me that I shouldn’t wait too long. What if Sirius already had plans for Hogsmeade? I wouldn’t be surprised if he did.

So I steeled my nerves. “Um… do you want to go to Hogsmeade with me?” I finally asked, feeling a flush creeping up my cheeks, my heart pounding in my chest. But Sirius hadn’t heard me – he’d said something to me at the exact same time. “Er… what was that?” I said, slightly irritated that he’d interrupted me. “You go first, then.”

He let out a small, nervous laugh, and I noticed that his face looked slightly pink as well, or maybe it was just the light. But he straightened up and asked stiffly, “I was only wondering… I mean, I understand if you don’t want to, but what do you think about going to Hogsmeade?”

“With you?” I clarified.

He scowled, looking like a ruffled owl as he crossed his arms defensively and gave an impatient scoff. “No, with the Bloody Baron. Of course with me!”

I stared at him. “That’s what I was just asking you!” I exclaimed. “Of course!” I noticed I was still sort of wringing my hands, and stopped, but there was no getting the goofy grin off my face.

Sirius visibly relaxed and then grinned as well. “Great!” Then he looked at the statue of a one-eyed, humpbacked witch beside us, and then turned back to me. “So, next weekend or now?” he asked.

“Well, next weekend. It’s not a Hogsmeade weekend now,” I said, glad I had regained my ability to speak properly.

“It can be,” he said evasively.

“What does that mean?” I asked. “Are we going to sneak out?”

“Only if you want to,” he said, shrugging.

I wasn’t quite sure what to say. I’d never tried sneaking out of the Hogwarts gates. Someone was bound to notice. But if we were able to sneak out, the prospect was very inviting…

“Okay,” I said. Sirius clearly had a bad influence on me. I would never have snuck out to Hogsmeade like this if he hadn’t persuaded me to. Sneaking onto the grounds was one thing – I was still within sight of the castle then. But Hogsmeade was a fair distance away.

Sirius turned around to face the one-eyed statue behind us, tapped the back of it with his wand, and muttered, “Dissendium.” The statue’s hump opened up, and Sirius looked in the hole, satisfied. “Ready? That’s how we’re going to get to Hogsmeade.”

I stared at the statue. If anyone knew secret tunnels that led out of the castle, Sirius would be the first person I’d expect to know them. But this could just as easily be a joke, and he was waiting for me to climb inside a hole in a statue and look like an idiot. “What is this? Is this a trick?”

“Why would you say that?” asked Sirius, feigning innocence.

I rolled my eyes. “No, who am I kidding? You’d never play a trick on someone.”

He laughed. “It’s not a trick. Here, I’ll go first if you want.” He climbed inside the hole and disappeared.

“Sirius?” I called down the hole. It was dark and I couldn’t see him.

“Come on!” I heard him call. “Hurry, before someone shows up.”

I looked around the corridor to make sure no one was coming, and then climbed in after him. I slid down a long stone slide for a bit, and then the ground leveled out. “Lumos,” I whispered as I stood up. “What is this?”

“Hey,” said Sirius’s voice in the dark. My vision was not accustomed to the dim light yet and I could only faintly see him. “This is a tunnel that leads out of Hogwarts and into Hogsmeade. Right into Honeydukes, actually. We use this a lot to get food for parties and stuff.”

“I always wondered how you did that,” I said, impressed.

“This way,” he said, and we began walking over the uneven earthy floor. “Where are you?” He held out his hand, and I grabbed onto it gladly. We started down the dark tunnel hand in hand, full of excitement, although I hoped my hand wasn’t getting too sweaty. I was nervous, despite there being no reason for it – Sirius and I were old friends, after all, and we were comfortable with one another. But this… this was different.

“Is that what you and James and Remus and Peter do when you come down here? Because it’s so dark?”

“You think you’re being funny, but actually the first time we found this tunnel, in third year, we were all holding on to each other while we walked down here. We had no idea where we were going and we thought it might help, but we just tripped over each other’s feet a lot. I’m surprised no one found us – we were talking loud enough for people to hear us miles away.”

“How did you find this place?”

“We actually found it from the other side – it gets out in the Honeydukes cellar. We were in Honeydukes on our first Hogsmeade trip third year, and snuck into the cellar.”

I snorted. “Of course,” I said.

“And we found a trapdoor – so obviously we had to see where it went.”

“How long is this tunnel?” I asked. “It goes all the way from Hogwarts to Hogsmeade – that’s a long way – and you never thought to turn back? You never thought you were lost, or worried you’d never find your way out again?”

“Well it had to go somewhere, right?”

We kept walking along the winding passage. It was indeed a long tunnel, and very dark, despite the light from our wands. After a while I realised that my face hurt a bit, because I’d been grinning almost since we first set foot in here, and hadn’t been able to get the smile off my face. After all, I could hardly have imagined that this day would find me here in a dark tunnel holding hands with Sirius Black as we snuck out to Hogsmeade.

The tunnel began to slope upwards finally, and then we reached some stone steps, of which there must have been at least a hundred. My legs were beginning to get tired by this point; I was starting to feel like I’d just climbed Mount Everest when I heard the creak of floorboards right overhead. Sirius reached up and tapped a wooden ceiling, feeling around for a crack in the wood. We were there!

“This trapdoor leads into the cellar of Honeydukes,” he said once he’d located the hinge. “We just have to wait until we don’t hear people walking around on it anymore, and then we sneak through here, and we’re in Hogsmeade!”

The noises above us receded, and Sirius pushed up on the trapdoor. Some dust drifted down onto our heads, and he stepped up and looked out of the trapdoor like a prairie dog. He nodded, indicating the coast was clear, and climbed out. I followed right after him and then he let the door back down and slid his foot over it to rearrange the dust and make it look like the trapdoor hadn’t been opened.

“This way,” Sirius whispered, and put an arm around me, resting his hand on my waist. It sent a shiver up my spine. My brain was focused more on the location of Sirius’s hand than on being quiet, and I accidentally kicked a large barrel that had a pile of sweets balanced on top of it. Sirius and I looked at one another as the sweets fell to the floor and created a large amount of noise, then we bolted up the stairs out of the cellar without stopping to worry about being quiet. Fortunately (and rather surprisingly), no one saw us.

We left Honeydukes rather quickly in case any of the staff decided to investigate the source of the noise, and decided we’d just stop in there on our way back. The atmosphere was magical as we walked down the street of Hogsmeade, orange leaves swirling around us in the crisp autumn air and the weak sunlight. We went to Zonko’s, of course, and tested out some of their new merchandise for a little while before getting caught. Afterwards we discussed going to the Three Broomsticks, but ultimately decided on the Hog’s Head because neither of us went there quite as often, and it seemed like a more appropriate place to go for people sneaking out of school.

It had a much different atmosphere from the cheery Three Broomsticks. In the Hog’s Head, there were all sorts of weird people, and the room was so dirty that you could hardly tell it had windows. “I’m surprised you don’t come here more often,” I told Sirius. “It seems like just your sort of place.”

“Oh it is,” said Sirius. “I know all of these people. That bloke, see him there? We’re best mates.” He pointed to an old warlock in a corner whose grey eyebrows obscured half his face. The rest of his face was taken up by an angry looking grimace. That was all we could see of him; he was concealed inside a long cape with the hood on. Frankly, he looked like someone I wouldn’t really want to have a conversation with, unless I wanted to be turned into an insect and then subsequently crushed by a club.

“I bet,” I giggled. “Well I’m a little creeped out by the way he’s staring at us, or at least I think he’s staring – I can’t tell because of his eyebrows—”

“I’ll get us some butterbeer,” said Sirius, and walked up to the bar. I found us a table, blew some dust off of it, and then Sirius showed up shortly with two dusty bottles of butterbeer.

“That was quick,” I said. “Amazing how much less time it takes when it’s not Madam Rosmerta up there at the bar…”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, I was just hurrying to come back to you.”

“Of course, that must be it,” I said with a satisfied smirk.

“Do you want a Liquorice Wand?” Sirius offered suddenly, holding out a box.

“Why, what’s wrong with them?” I asked instinctively. “What did you do to them?”

“Nothing!”

“It’s a kind offer, but I’m never accepting any food from you ever again,” I said. “Or anything ever, for that matter. I haven’t forgotten that absurd Singing Sweet.”

He laughed, then took a bite of an apparently benign Liquorice Wand. “You know, in fourth year I lost a bet to James, and he made me eat one of those Singing Sweets in History of Magic. Professor Binns didn’t even notice though – a hurricane could come through class and he’d still be standing there droning on about Ulric the Unlucky’s historical imprisonment by his rebellious pet trolls.”

“He didn’t notice?” I asked, sceptical of this claim. Professor Binns may be a ghost who didn’t even recognise anyone in the class (he’d always thought my last name was Harrison), but I highly doubted he wouldn’t notice if someone stood up and started singing in the middle of a lecture. “I’m sure he noticed.”

“Well, yeah,” Sirius conceded, “he looked up, really confused, and then he said, ‘Please sit down, Mr Brown.’”

“He rhymed,” I said.

“Right, so James agreed with him and said, ‘I was thinking the exact same thing. We’re twins, Professor Binns.’”

I laughed. “I wish I’d had class with you lot. It was always so dull and no one ever interrupted him like that. But at least that class afforded me a few extra hours of sleep per week.”

Despite the weird atmosphere of the Hog’s Head, and the bloke with the eyebrows staring at us from his corner, Sirius and I had a fun time. We wandered about the town for a while, with no real direction in mind, and I couldn’t help but be happy. Sirius also had not let go of my hand for practically the entire afternoon.

On our way back to the secret tunnel, we browsed through Honeydukes. This was not a particularly good idea, because we were both a bit peckish, and bought far more sweets than we needed. We walked through the back room of the shop as we made our way back to the cellar. I had never really paid attention to the back of the store before – it had the most ridiculous sweets, the first of which we saw was a chocolate tarantula.

“Maybe I should get that for Moony,” Sirius mused, apparently to himself. “He loves chocolate.”

“Does he love giant spiders too?”

“No, why would anyone love giant spiders? Apart from Hagrid?”

“I’ve heard Hagrid has a pet Acromantula,” I said. A rumour like this concerning anyone else would undoubtedly be false, but with Hagrid you could never tell. I didn’t really know how he’d keep an enormous spider like an Acromantula in that small wooden hut of his, unless he kept it in the Forbidden Forest, which was even more worrisome.

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure he’s got a whole colony of them living in the forest.”

A colony? “That doesn’t sound very safe,” I said. “Do they get out at all?”

“No, he keeps them on leads. All right, we should probably be quiet now so we don’t get caught,” he said as we snuck around to the stairs into the cellar and ducked down out of sight. He pulled the trapdoor up; I stepped in and walked down a few stairs to avoid being hit on the head by the trapdoor when Sirius closed it. We walked down the hundred stairs and back up along the earthy winding passageway.

Before I knew it, we were back near that stone slide that had led into the tunnel in the first place. I took two steps up it and slid back down. How were we supposed to get out, anyway? Unless there actually wasn’t a way back out and Sirius and I were just trapped in here forever. Life could be worse, I supposed…

I looked back at Sirius. His back was to me and he had that large parchment out again. “What are you doing?” I asked, baffled.

“I’m seeing if there’s anyone out there – unless you want to come out of that statue and find McGonagall…”

I tried to look over his shoulder, resting my hand on his arm. “Isn’t this the same parchment you had that told me… er, some interesting things about what you think of me?” What could he possibly use that for right now?

He looked back at me abruptly, his face mere inches from mine, and using this moment of distraction to my advantage, I grabbed the parchment out of his hand. “Ha! ‘The Marauder’s Map’?” I asked, looking at the title. “You four fancy yourselves as marauders, do you?” As he tried to take it back from me, I turned around to continue looking at it, and he stopped tugging to avoid tearing it. “This does look interesting,” I said.

It appeared to be a map of all of Hogwarts and the grounds. It was very detailed, and showed little dots with people’s names moving around in the corridors. I located two dots labelled Sirius Black and Melanie Hastings near the entrance to the third-floor tunnel, while another dot, Veronica Smethley, wandered by in the corridor. Every room in the castle was on here, and every person. It certainly explained the times Sirius had known I was walking into a room without turning around, or how James had known where the Slytherin common room was to pick me up for the Yule Ball without me telling him.

I turned back to face Sirius. “You made this?” I asked. It was actually rather obvious that they’d made it; their nicknames – Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs – were all across the top of it in curly handwriting. “This… this is amazing,” I blurted. “I had no idea you could—”

Another feature caught my eye. There was another passage out of the castle, on the fourth floor! “There’s another tunnel!” I cried.

“Hey,” he said. “Can’t have you knowing all the secrets of Hogwarts already. It took us years!” He hid his lit wand behind his back so I couldn’t read the map in the dim light. It illuminated him like a weird silhouette as he moved closer.

“No, that’s not going to work,” I said airily, “if you want it back now, you’re going to have to argue your point very convincingly. Maybe you could start by telling me I’m amazing?” The lack of light was not a problem; I held up my own wand against the map, its light spreading out along the parchment like a fan from where the lit point touched it. But my attention was mainly focused, not on the map, but on how close Sirius was to me at the moment: the only thing separating us was about a foot of wrinkled parchment. My heart was thudding wildly, and my stomach seemed to be made of butterflies.

“Oh yeah?” he asked with a wicked grin. “All right, how’s this for convincing?” He pulled me to him and pressed his lips against mine. I tensed up, surprised; for a second I just stood there with my hands curled up against his chest, not really sure what to do with them, the map flattened between us. Then I relaxed and wound my arms around his neck, pulling him closer, savouring the tingling feeling of his hand on my waist, his other hand in my hair. My wand clattered to the floor and we were left in complete darkness, but that was just fine; in my mind, there were fireworks going off in the tunnel rather than it being pitch black.

He eventually pulled away, though my arms were still around his neck. I had no intention of letting go of him just yet. “Sorry, what were you saying?” he asked. Even though I couldn’t see him in the dark, I knew he was smirking at me.

If I had tried to say anything, it wouldn’t have come out as comprehensible words, so I breathily pulled him back and kissed him again, more passionately than before. Fiery warmth flooded through me as his hands moved and I felt my back press against the stone wall. I never wanted this to stop. I wouldn’t have minded if we just stayed down here in this tunnel forever. It would be at least a few days before someone sent out a search party for us, right?

I had no idea how long we remained in the tunnel, but it wasn’t long enough. After one unsuccessful attempt to leave, in which we separated long enough to take two steps and then decided better of it and started kissing again, we eventually realised we had been a while in the tunnel and should probably get back into the castle soon. We reached around on the floor for all the things we had dropped. I found my wand, which was a great help for finding things now that we could actually see them.

Sirius picked up the map from the floor and looked at it while I attempted climbing up the stone slide. I prodded the inside of the statue and opened it, only to duck back down again when I heard footsteps. Sirius quickly muttered something that sounded like “Mister Manage” and the map disappeared, leaving the parchment blank. “It’s all right, it’s only Pr- James out there,” he assured me.

I pushed the statue open again and climbed out, and James, who was walking by, looked at me in surprise. “Melanie,” he said. “Hi, I didn’t realise you…” He broke off when Sirius climbed out of the statue behind me. James’s eyes widened; his expression went from confusion to realisation and he started laughing. I looked back at Sirius and saw just how messy his hair was – it was quite obvious we hadn’t only been walking back from Hogsmeade. I was sure I couldn’t look much better. “Busy day?” asked James, and whistled to himself as he kept walking down the hallway. I wasn’t sure whether the situation was embarrassing or hilarious.

“Your hair’s a mess,” said Sirius, laughing.

“Have you had a look at yourself?” I muttered, putting my hair up into a ponytail, hoping that made it look slightly less ridiculous.

Sirius looked at his watch. “It’s about time for dinner,” he said. “You should come join me at the Gryffindor table today.”

I grinned. “I’d love to,” I said. We started walking down to the Great Hall together, and I felt as if I were walking on clouds the whole way. “Today was really fun,” I told Sirius. It had been the weirdest date; we’d gone to the Hog’s Head, of all places, he’d made me sing, and I’d stolen his map. But if I’d wanted perfect, I would have stayed with Luke. Sirius was the complete opposite. We fought, we flirted… there was never a dull moment. And I could be myself around him. So it hadn’t been the perfect romantic date, but it had been perfect for me.

“I’d wanted to ask you out for ages, you know,” he said as we walked through the corridor. “If I’d known how much fun this would be, I would have asked you months ago.”

I was rather surprised to hear it hadn’t been just one of Sirius’s spur of the moment ideas. “Well, that would have saved me months of confused over-analysis,” I admitted. “So… how on earth did it take us so long to get to this point? Because I’ve liked you for ages too. Since the summer, actually.”

Sirius laughed. “For me it might have been as early as last spring; I was so relieved when you broke up with Luke, and couldn’t work out why at first. Then it started to bother me whenever you got annoyed at me or didn’t laugh at my jokes. Over the summer was when I realised how much I liked you, but then I thought you only wanted us to be friends. I couldn’t imagine why you’d actually like me.”

“Are you serious?” I cried. How much time we had spent worrying whether or not our feelings were mutual… it was absurd.

“I’m always Sirius. It’s my name,” supplied Sirius with a smirk. And we were back to this. Sometimes I’d think he was about to say something real, and it would always turn out to be a joke. Then when he did say something real, I obliviously made fun of it. How typical.

“Wow, clever, I’ve never heard that one before.” I shook my head. “It probably didn’t help that we kept getting into fights, either.”

Sirius laughed. “But I like that about you. You’re one of maybe five people who will ever tell me I’m being an idiot. You’re not afraid to speak your mind and put yourself out there.”

“Really? I always thought my inability to shut my mouth was not one of my better qualities.”

“That was the other thing that stopped me,” he said, looking rather shy all of a sudden. “I was… worried you’d say no. And knowing you, you would have been really blunt about it.”

I was surprised he’d admitted as much to me, and wrapped my arm tighter around him. “Well, you had nothing to worry about. Since we got back to school this term I don’t think I could have been more obvious that I liked you, though I was trying not to be. I was always making a fool of myself whenever you were around! I’m amazed it didn’t put you off.”

“Well, I’m glad my prank with the sweets this afternoon didn’t put you off – I don’t know why I did that. I’m sorry about that.”

I laughed. That prank had been so typical Sirius. “You do have such a way to win people over,” I teased.

We had reached the doors to the Great Hall by this point. Somehow, I’d gotten Sirius to discuss his feelings, but now in the presence of other people, we ended our conversation. Not that we could be done talking about it – his friends crowded around us at the table and treated us to their thoughts about the two of us, until Lily dragged James away. Sirius’s friends all seemed just about as happy as I felt. It was actually rather funny; all the attention from them gave me the impression that they all talked about me a lot when I wasn’t around.

Seated at the Gryffindor table, I could see the Slytherins at the other side of the hall, and the first thing I noticed over there was Mandy, who was staring directly at us, her wide eyes boring into me from across the room. She gave me a thumbs up and went back to eating her dinner, but I knew I was in for a long question and answer session the next time I saw her.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*


A/N: Took them long enough, didn’t it? :P Let me know what you think! Thanks for reading!

Disclaimer: The chapter title is a song by the Talking Heads.



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