Chapter 17 : Greater Than I
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But I saw someone else, I saw a stranger with foreign eyes.
I wanted to stop pretending to be someone I wasn't. So on this very winter morning, I had a mission in mind and left the dormitory determined. I pushed past crowds of gathered students and meaningless morning chatter about tests and essays that were due. I searched the Great Hall for Jacob Greenley.
I found him animatedly talking to two other students donned in the house colours and strode towards the table. "Jacob, could I talk to you over there for a moment?" I asked, quietly. All the confidence that I seemed to have derived from my determination this morning had no dissipated.
His eyes were wide as he immediately swallowed a piece of toast and said, "S-sure."
We walked towards a quieter place on the Hufflepuff table and sat down. I picked a thread on my robe and started, "Listen, I don't know how to say this but you seem to be a very nice person and I wish the best for you but-"
"You didn't have a good time on the date?" he said, biting his lip.
"N-no, I did but I just don't think this will work," I said, trying my best to not hurt his feelings.
"But it was just one date."
"I'm just not into being in a relationship at the moment, I'm sorry but I'm sure there is someone else."
"But you can't... I promised my mates," he whispered to me, close to my ear.
"What?" I said, my voice breaking and looked back at his mates to see them staring at us and slipping a glimmering object across the table.
I knew the answer before he even said it.
"Well, I haven't had a girlfriend and they made a bet that if I don't have one by the end of this year then I owe them 10 galleons."
I nodded, tears pricking in my eyes, and I bit my lip. I didn't know why those words caused a sharp pang in my heart, as if a knife had been twisted through. I hardly cared for the boy and barely even knew him but the thought that all these weeks were a complete and utter lie...
"Why did you choose me?"
Jacob looked at me with guilt, "I do like you and think you are great. It's just that the initial motive was the bet but then I got to know you more and I really like you."
I shook my head, "Well I'm sure you will find some other girl here that will help you have success in your bet."
With those last words, before I could let anyone see just how foolish and idiotic I felt, I left the Great Hall in a wind of robes and rushed to Transfiguration. Nothing like a good lecture from Professor McGonagall to pull me back up.
I was an idiot.
Before forty-eight hours passed, I saw some other poor girl being chased by Jacob who was now desperate to win. Sometimes I would see him cast guilty glances in my direction but I ignored them, trying to convince myself that I didn't know him and it was time for me to stay focused.
For the next few weeks, I found comfort in the solitude of the Library and sought any corner that was hidden from the masses. I wrote my essays with perfect grammar and accurate information, paid attention in all my classes, and never once dared to speak.
"Alice, you can't stay a hermit."
I immediately looked at the person who said my name. A person with kind eyes and a smile that radiated warmth. "A hermit?"
"It is a term that us Marauders use whenever someone is hiding in a shell and ignoring everyone around them," Remus explained, waving his hands around as if they demonstrated the definition.
"Then I am officially a hermit," I said.
"I think there might be a club actually," Remus said with a teasing smile.
"Great, hermits unite!" I said, my face breaking into a smile before returning to scribbling away notes on my parchment.
"No but seriously, you need to shed the shell and come out."
I raised my eyebrows, "Shed my shell?"
"You know what I mean," Remus said. He always seemed to know what the right thing was to say, always so sure of himself. I didn't think it was possible for one person to be able to be so kind and empathetic along with sympathetic. It only made me feel even more guilty about my initial reaction to his "secret."
"So what do you suppose I do? Join Professor McGonagall and her cat for afternoon tea?" I said with sarcasm, pushing a strand of blonde hair back, and hoped that he wouldn't think I was being serious.
A small, sly smile played at Remus's lips, "Well, not exactly."
"Oh no, I don't like that tone of voice."
I began to protest, saying,"I really don't-"
"Just listen and then make a decision," he said. I placed my quill on the desk and looked at him uneasily, not sure of what he was able to propose.
"The Marauders, and I of course, plan to throw a party before the winter holidays, next Saturday to be specific. It won't be too big so you can meet plenty of other people and if you want, you can even come with us to Hogsmeade before the party starts."
"What do you mean by going to Hogsmeade?" I said, fully aware that there was only one more Hogsmeade visit schedule for this week.
"Well, I mean sneak into Hogsmeade."
"Oh, I don't think-," I started, scared of any committing any wrongdoing.
"Come on, Alice, when was the last time you broke the rules?"
"Remus, you're a prefect," I said with a teasing tone.
"Well, every once in a while its good to break the code. But that is not the point, are you going to come or not?"
"I don't think so," I said, turning my eyes away.
"I dare you to come," Remus said causing a laugh to escape my lips.
"You dare me? What are we five?"
"What, are you a coward?" Remus continued.
"Then it's settled."
Oh no, how do I keep getting myself into these sorts of situations. I only wanted to spend the next few weeks in silence but I just had to go on opening my mouth for no matter how much I tried to convince myself that I am better off alone, there is a little voice in the back of my head screaming, saying that it wants to be a part of a social life.
"Remus, I really don't know-"
"I do recall that we have a dare... or are you backing down? You will bring shame to your entire house if you do," Remus said on Friday during History of Magic. The entire week had been spent in doubt, trying to convince both myself and Remus that I couldn't go along with the plan and I would just end up ruining it for the rest of the Marauders.
Of course, Remus would shoot all of my thoughts down.
I sighed but then I allowed a smile.
"Okay, then I'll meet you at the Gryffindor Common Room?" I asked, allowing myself to give in to the small voice in the back of my mind.
"No, at the corridor by the courtyard on the left side, towards the Gryffindor tower," Remus said with a grin, his hair falling into his eyes.
"Wait, how are we getting there?"
"That's a Marauders secret."
That doesn't sound legal.
An eery silence fell on the castle's corridors as the only sound seemed to be the beating of my own heartbeat, which grew louder by the second. Every second I looked around me, hoping to not see Filch's cat with her glowing yellow eyes or worse, a prefect.
I usually never did anything against the rules besides the one time I asked to borrow a pencil and never gave it back, but that was an unspoken rule that I broke. Now, not only was I up past curfew but I was also sneaking into Hogsmeade. This was not at all like me.
Why am I here?
Maybe I should just go back and tell Remus tomorrow that I was awfully ill. I knew he wouldn't believe me for he was much too clever but I don't think that I should destroy everyone else's plans. I wouldn't belong there anyways.
With that, I spun on my heel only to crash into Sirius Black.
"Woah there," he said laughing, steadying me.
"Why are you all so quiet? I didn't even see you a few seconds ago," I said for this whole time I thought I was completely alone in this corridor.
"Well, we have our secrets," Sirius said slyly.
"You seem to have a lot of them. Did you find a way around the non-apparating spell?"
"Not exactly, but working on it," he said as the others came up behind, as if appearing from thin air.
"I knew you would come," Remus said, smiling.
"Actually mate, she was just about to go," Sirius said with a bark-like laughter.
"Come on, Al, there is nothing to be afraid of," James said putting a heavy arm around my shoulders as I slumped from the weight.
"With you all, I can never be sure."
"I am offended. How could you possibly think that of us Marauders?" Sirius stated, dramatically.
"Oh I don't know, from all the pranks and detentions, I can only guess the amount of crimes you have all committed," I said jokingly.
"Alice, how could you say such things, I thought we had something but now... now, I cannot be with someone who doesn't believe in me," Sirius said melodramatically, lifting a hand to his forehead and turning away.
A laugh erupted from my throat and the others joined but Sirius maintained his dramatic composure. "How dare you all laugh at me," he said.
"He always gets like this at this hour,"Remus said to me quietly.
"You mean, every night, at eleven, he turns into some soap opera celebrity?"
"Well, yes," Peter said, listening in.
"Ah, we're here," said James with a grin on his face. I looked around, my eyes squinting against the darkness, only a few shreds of silvery moonlight stretching across the corridor.
James raised his wand and what seemed to be an ordinary statue on the third floor corridor that I had passed by dozens of times. He whispered something under his breath and I tried to see if there was a door.
"You'll see," Sirius said and before I could even catch my breath, he pulled me into the darkness. I was tumbling down a hole, falling into the depths of darkness. My eyes tried to search for something, anything but it was as if I were blind. My hands frantically felt the small space I was sliding down, to find anything to hold onto but there was nothing.
My breath grew more rapid as regrets started to poison my mind but then I felt a hand curl around my own. The warmth of it was comforting and I began to laugh along to the echoes of laughter from the others.
Suddenly, I hit the ground and I breathed in the earthy smell of the soil. "If you all come through this passage so often, you really should consider getting some pillows," I said, rubbing my nose as I lifted myself up.
"Actually, we really should," Peter said from further down the tunnel. I grabbed hold of my wand that was safely in my pocket and whispered "Lumos" under my breath. The pale light fell on Remus's face who was waiting for me as Sirius began to walk in front of him, head low for the ceiling seemed to be better suited for that of a dwarf.
We twisted and turned through the earthy burrow, roots of trees hanging down and dirt falling into our eyes. After an hour, we finally reached an infinite amount of stairs. I looked at Remus warily but he pushed me to go on with a smile. We began our descent, only our breathing filling the silence as we were afraid to be caught.
"Ouch... I will never get used to that," James cried upon hearing a thump.
"It's the trapdoor to the Honeydukes cellar," Remus whispered into my ear, his pine scent filling the air around me.
"Honeydukes, really?" I whispered, surprised that such a passageway had gone unnoticed by others for years. Especially if the Marauders have been stealing their supplies all this time.
The trap door opened to reveal wooden crates and boxes labelled with the names of various candies that students purchased from the sweet shop. Peter sneezed at the large amounts of dust that had collected over the years and Sirius shushed him immediately.
"These are the ones, I got Miller to bring these yesterday," Sirius said, nodding towards the crates in the very corner labelled Pumpkin Fizz.
James lifted the lid, peering in and nodded to him, indicating that they were indeed firewhiskey and butterbeer. "Miller works here?" Remus asked.
"Every Friday, I gave him the money to get the crates and store them here. He owed me a favour," Sirius whispered, stuffing the bottles into a one of the large black duffles that he had brought along.
"Here take this," he said, handing one to James.
"Why don't you all levitate it?" I whispered to Remus.
"Its safer, in case there are any alarms for magic here or if they fall if you lose concentration."
I nodded and Sirius handed another bag to Remus who heaved it onto his shoulder with a groan. He soon filled a few more bags, realising that he had ordered too many of the alcohol. "I can take one," I volunteered. They looked at me with doubtful expressions as Sirius analysed my arm muscle.
"I don't think so," he said finally after poking my arm.
"What, you think I am not strong enough? Because I'm a girl?"
"Good, then I'll take it," I said, holding my hand out to grab the duffle. However Sirius was not convinced and he took a few bottles out and put them into his own before handing me the bag.
It weighed much more than I thought it would but I didn't dare say anything as I lifted the bag onto my shoulder. They waited a moment to make sure I wouldn't fall down at the weight of it but I refused to back down. "Okay, let's go then, gang," James said, waving towards the trap door as one by one, we climbed down.
"Are you sure you are all right?" Remus whispered from behind me.
"Yes," I said, turning around to flash a smile; however, the weight of the contents was causing me to weaken my pace.
"Here, have this," Remus said, unwrapping a piece of Honeydukes' chocolate and breaking off a piece before slipping it back into his pocket.
"You carry chocolate everywhere you go?" I asked with a small laugh before taking the piece and whispering my thanks.
"It is a great source of magnesium."
"Could you both stop whispering to each other like a bunch of school girls. I would like to be a part of the conversation too," Sirius cried from in front of me.
Remus chuckled only causing me to laugh as we slowly made our way towards the Hogwarts entranceway. "So where will you store these?" I asked, climbing out off the darkness and into the dimly lit corridor.
"I think right now we should put it in the common room and then bring it to the room tomorrow," James said facing us.
We held our breath as we walked down the corridor, my eyes searched the corners to see if there were any prefects or cats lurking in the shadows. Every once in a while, Sirius would pull out a paper but I couldn't get close enough to see what it held.
"Shit, Slughorn is coming," Sirius said, shattering the silence. My eyes widened as one of my fears came to life. I looked around to see if there was a broom closet or classroom but there was nothing but emptiness and the echo of footsteps that seemed to be just around the corner.
James tugged out a cloth of silvery material and threw it over the others but I was left standing in disbelief at the fact that before me, there was nothing. The Marauders had vanished out of thin air, finally answering the question of how they were never caught, no matter how many scandals, pranks, or crimes they commited - they were never caught.
"Come on!" an arm reached out from thin air and pulled me by my shoulder under the cloak of invisibility. It felt like a shield from the outside world, a veil into reality. I was suddenly looking into the world I lived in and the feeling wasn't unfamilar.
"Oi, Prongs if you wanted to go there you could have just said so."
"Shut it, Padfoot."
"I'm just saying-"
"Shut up the both of you," Remus muttered into my ear due to close proximity, his hand still on my shoulder.
"Is this-" I began but a hand quickly covered my mouth and the hall was alit.
There was only the sound of steady breathing and my breath heavy in fear. I didn't dare to look around for I knew that Remus was standing much too close to me, his pine scent mixed in with the smell of old books overpowering my senses. The fact that four fully grown males could even fit under the cloak plus me was quite amazing; however, I didn't want to turn around to verify it in fear that the cloak might all of a sudden not fit anymore. I held my breath as a light flashed on us and I closed my eyes.
And at that moment, I didn't want to be anywhere else.
I have been working on this chapter for a few weeks now. I really want to get this story moving and evolving so I hope this chapter does that. I already have half of the next written so I hope you guys like this one.
Thank you and please leave a review!
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