Chapter 11 : Chapter Eleven
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Stir seven times in a clock-wise direction, then add the powdered root of Asphodel.
I began to slowly stir the potion using large, circling motions. To a fly on the wall, it would seem I was totally immersed in the process of potion-making. My brow was sweaty as I stared into the depths of the cauldron before me, watching the liquid swirling, swirling, swirling…
In reality, I was merely hiding the hurt on my face, practicing my ‘I don’t fancy Sirius, I am distancing myself from him’ attitude.
It was difficult to do that with the toxic tones of his husky voice inches away from my ears. Sirius was only a few tables away from me, and the sound of him flirting with his potions partner (Marlene McKinnon) were unescapable. I was struggling to deal with my conflicting emotions and focus on concocting the Draught of the Living Death at the same time. Damn Sirius, damn Marlene McKinnon, and damn Slughorn for partnering me with James damn Potter (the first).
“Mary, that’s enough!” Grandfather Potter exclaimed, grabbing my wrist to stop me mid-stir, unintentionally sending jolts throughout my body, “are you even counting?”
“What – yeah, of course I’m bloody counting.” I snapped, rolling my eyes as he began to sieve the powdered root of Asphodel into the cauldron.
But obviously I hadn’t been counting – I’d been too busy thinking about what Sirius had just said to McKinnon.
So, eight o’clock in the astronomy tower sound good to you baby?
The fucking sleaze. He’s only been broken up from me/Mary what, four days? And he was already planning a late-night rendezvous with the first girl to catch his eye.
I didn’t blame him for noticing her. McKinnon wasn’t unattractive to say the least. I’d chanced a glance over my shoulder at his invitation and watched as her sleek, dark hair fell around her face in voluptuous waves as she smiled coyly and accepted his offer, catching his steel grey eyes in her own deep blue stare. I caught him send her a cheeky wink before I turned, fuming, back to the steaming mess that was my potion.
“Merlin, MacDonald, pay attention!”
I rolled my eyes and made the mistake of looking at Potter.
Something stirred deep in my body.
Oh, shit, not again.
Every time I’d set eyes on Potter that morning, the same feeling flooded my body. I was inundated with memories of his freaking grandson’s breath hitting my face, and the feel of his lips against mine, and the heat that came with it. The problem was, Grandfather Potter and Grandbaby Potter were so damn similar that I was struggling to distinguish between them, firmly reminding myself at regular intervals that they were completely separate people and that I was not, in any circumstances, to make a move on Grandfather Potter. And here I was inwardly berating Sirius for flirting with someone else…was I a hypocrite for kissing James?
“What’s up with you today?” he asked, “You seem distracted.”
“It’s nothing. Just…everything with Sirius, I guess. I suppose I’m finding it hard to adjust.”
GF Potter smirked.
“Hard to listen to him flirting with Marlene, you mean? Listen, Mary. You and Sirius were never going to work out. You know that. I know that. Sirius knows that. Merlin, even Dumbledore knows it! You’re so different from us and Sirius felt like he had to change himself to suit you. I’m not saying it’s your fault, but it just wasn’t right for him. I know they say opposites attract, but in this case, it just doesn’t work. You both need people who get you.”
“Oh, so Marlene McKinnon just gets Sirius, does she?” I snapped.
“Marlene McKinnon is a fling,” James answered knowingly, “Padfoot’s just using her to let off some steam. He doesn’t want anything serious yet. Or anything…Sirius…should I say.”
I rolled my eyes at James’ shitty pun and threw the next ingredient into the cauldron.
“You know, I shouldn’t be telling you this, but Pads was in two minds about breaking up with you” James said suddenly as he took over the stirring process, “he was dead sure it wasn’t going to work out, but then me and the others convinced him to wait it out. Then you went on your date to Hogsmeade, and he came back his old happy self. But the next day, something changed. I don’t know what it was, but he said that you changed. That you kept changing, and he couldn’t keep up, and it was dragging him down. I’m not sure what’s going on with you, but you do seem, I don’t know… different, sometimes. It’s like you have two different versions of Mary.”
“What can I say,” I drawled, unsure of how to respond properly to his words, “I suppose I’m just going through an identity crisis.”
“You and me, both, Macdonald” he laughed, glancing over his shoulder at a certain redhead. I smirked knowingly.
Despite earwigging on Sirius’ conversation with McKinnon in potions, I was determined to see through my plan to distance myself physically and emotionally from him. I sat with Lily at dinner, at the far end of the Gryffindor table where I knew Sirius and his friends would never sit. Because it was swarming with first years.
“Budge over,” I barked at a pale, blond boy. He immediately shuffled about three feet along the bench, trembling under my stare.
“Mary!” Lily scolded under her breath, “you’re scaring them!”
“Sorry?” I offered, through a mouthful of chicken I’d just ripped from a leg. I’d barely eaten recently, and my appetite was just beginning to return. Plus, I had the dreaded Quidditch practice after dinner, so I’d need all the energy I could muster just to stay on my broom.
Lily and I sat and chatted about mundane things, such as the weather, the news, and classes, for a while. By the time dessert arrived, we’d begun to talk about potions.
“Yeah, that draught was a pain in the arse,” I moaned, “Potter ended up doing most of it – I couldn’t get the stirring down.”
“You need to stir it at exactly the right pace,” Lily said wisely, “each full stir should last about twelve seconds each. Even a few seconds over and it could go horribly wrong. You can’t afford to make approximations with a potion like that.”
“Oh.” I replied, not sure what to say. Lily had received high praise from Sluggy during potions – it seemed she was one of the best in the class.
“I suppose it didn’t help that you were partnered with Potter,” she went on, “it must have been difficult, what with everything between you and Sirius…”
“I suppose so. Although Potter wasn’t too bad, actually. We talked, well, he did, and it helped.”
“Really?” Lily asked, cocking an eyebrow, “I’m surprised at that – usually Potter makes stupid jokes and pulls a prank on you or something…”
“Maybe he’s changed.”
“Mhmm” she said, “maybe…”
“Sorry,” I mumbled, joining the small circle that had gathered at the centre of the pitch, “I couldn’t find my broom.”
Potter rolled his eyes.
“You need to be more organised if you want to stay on this team, MacDonald” he said.
Bingo, I thought to myself. All I needed to do in order to piss James off enough to kick me off the team, was to be less organised.
James had turned to the rest of the squad and was continuing with whatever he’d been waffling on about before I’d arrived. I tuned out, as I didn’t understand Quidditch talk, therefore there’d be absolutely no point in me even attempting to follow what he was saying.
The nerves in my stomach had erupted like a volcano, spilling molten lava throughout my body. The other players were nodding and murmuring sounds of agreement, some asking questions, some making suggestions. There were four boys, and two girls other than myself. The boys included James (obviously), Sirius (obviously), a rather bulky red headed boy with startlingly bright blue eyes and a smattering of freckles, and a younger boy with blonde hair and pale grey eyes. I recognised one of the girls from Mary’s dorm – I couldn’t quite remember her name. Her dark hair was equally as long and straight as her never-ending legs. The other girl was clearly the twin of the blonde haired, grey eyed boy. The red headed boy was holding a bat in his right hand.
“Positions!” James shouted.
I clambered onto my broom (sticking it between my legs first time) and kicked off from the ground the way Grandbaby Potter had shown me, only this time a little gentler. I forced my eyes to stay open as I began to rise, steadily this time, into the air, and cast my eyes around at the other players.
Sirius had flown straight to the goal hoops and was circling them, as if to guard them. I assumed he was some sort of goal keeper. The dark-haired girl was circling the pitch from a high angle. Meanwhile, James and the blonde twins had formed a sort of ‘V’ formation in the centre of the pitch. The red headed boy was hovering directly across from the spot I’d risen to at the left-hand side of the pitch.
It always took me a moment to remember that they were talking to me when they referred to me by Mary’s surname.
“What, Potter?” I yelled back, after a moment.
“Where’s your bloody bat?” He roared.
“I’ll get it!” The red-headed boy said, shooting back towards the ground and into the locker room. I was glad for that, as I had no idea I needed a bat, didn’t know where they were kept in the first place, and was focusing all of my attention on keeping myself still and steady as I hovered precariously on Mary’s broom.
“What is up with you today, MacDonald?” Potter said, exasperatedly.
“She’s clearly distracted by our dashing good looks, Prongs, give her a break.” Sirius said.
I looked up at him, trying not to wobble too much. He wasn’t looking at me, had just resumed circling his hoops. He reminded me of a dog chasing its own tail.
“Here, catch!” A voice called.
I looked around just in time to see a bat flying towards my face. I instinctively raised my arms in front of my face, before remembering I was supposed to catch the bat. I grabbed it at the last second, but my legs flailed and I slipped sideways on the broom, so unused to balancing on a thin piece of wood forty miles in the air as I was.
“Woaaaaaah!” I cried, clasping my legs tightly around the broom and grabbing on to the handle with my left hand; the bat clutched in my right.
I heard a whistle from around the goal hoops.
“Graceful as always, Mary,” Sirius called, smirking.
“Right, let’s get on with this,” James shouted, “Me, Penny and Peter are going to shoot as many goals as we can. Padfoot, you’re going to block as many as you can. Lucy – do your thing, find the snitch. While we’re all doing that, Mary and Ed will be doing their best to knock us off our brooms. Do your worst, guys. I want everyone sweating by the end of practice.”
If I thought staying upright in a stationary position on a broomstick was difficult work, it was nothing compared to moving at speed trying to hit heavy flying objects at flying people with a massive bloody wooden bat. I tried to stick to the same positions as much as possible – only inching the broom forwards when I felt the eyes of the other players on me. Fortunately, most players were focusing only on their own performance, but I felt James’ eyes burning holes into the back of my head for most of the session. I managed a few feeble swings at the heavy balls – which I learnt were called ‘bludgers’ (what a charming name) – but sadly failed at knocking Potter and his fire-eyes off his broom.
After an hour or so, Potter blew his whistle and we all descended towards the ground. I rewarded myself inwardly with a victory pat on the back – I’d accomplished a huge achievement just by managing to remain on my broomstick the whole time I was in the air. I’d also managed to dismount my broomstick in a slightly smoother, less embarrassing fashion than I had the night before; I’d still stumbled, but no one noticed, and in any case, it was better than landing face-first in the mud.
James gave a few comments on people’s individual performances – he gave them a positive, then a negative, then a positive…a technique I’d once heard referred to as a ‘shit sandwich’. Although Sirius got three positives and no negatives. Blatant favouritism.
Once each player had been given a run-down of their performance, they were free to leave. Sirius was first to go, followed by the Ed the Red Head, then the dark-haired girl (Lucy), and then the twins (Penny and Pete) until all that remained were James and I.
James looked at me and rubbed his eyes.
“Mary, you need to sort out your game,” he sighed, “I know you’ve got a lot of stuff going on at the moment and it’s hard being around Pads, but you need to leave that shit in the locker room. You were completely off form tonight. I barely saw you move from the position you began in – you know you need to mark the other players. You either sort it out, or you’re off the team.”
Saturday 20th September, 2020
I chuckled softly as he lifted his left hand and tousled his fingers through his already-messy hair, apparently deep in thought. He glanced sideways, as though sensing my stare, and winked.
Before I realised what I was doing, I was sending him a cheeky grin.
“You two are so sweet,” Charlotte sighed, “you should go over and talk to him.”
I considered the suggestion. What harm could it do? Here was a boy who clearly liked me. Things had changed with Sirius, and I’d decided not to pursue that relationship any further. Despite the feelings I’d begun to develop, it would be selfish to act upon them and mess him around – plus, with any luck I’d figure out the time travelling situation and be remaining in my present time sometime soon, so there would be no point in getting attached to him, or any other boy, in 1977. Mary had been flirting with Barton, but I wasn’t wholly sure if the vibe she’d given out was reciprocated, since he was with Leah now. And in any case, I definitely still despised the boy. And yet James Potter, one of the most good looking, sought after boys in the school, had kissed me, and was now smirking at me from across the room.
I stood up.
“You’re right,” I said, “I think I will go over.”
“What are you going to say to him?” She asked, gently placing the necklace she was creating on the table before us.
“No idea” I declared giddily, “I’m just going to wing it!”
James never took his eyes off me as I flounced across the common room towards the corner he was seated in, a smile playing at his lips as he looked me up and down.
“Hey,” I said softly as I reached him.
“Hey yourself,” he smiled, and patted the sofa next to him. I sat down.
“What brings you over here?” James asked, running his fingers through his hair again.
“You looked like you could do with some company,” I shrugged, “So I thought I’d join you.”
“I’m glad you did” he said softly.
We gazed at one another for a while, his hazel eyes against my green. He broke the silence first.
“So, the other night…” he trailed off.
“The other night…” I said.
“Look, I’m sorry if I caught you off guard,” I wished he’d stop ruffling his hair like that, “I just…sort of, couldn’t help myself.”
He suddenly became more subdued as he continued, seemingly nervous.
“If you don’t want me to tutor you with flying any more, I completely understand.”
“Don’t be stupid, James,” I laughed, “you saw my flying skills, I need those lessons.”
“If your flying skills were as good as your snogging skills, you’d be straight on my team.”
“That was so corny, Potter.” I teased.
“Oh, back to Potter now are we? What happened to James?”
“I like to alternate. You have no idea how many different variations of your name I have.”
“Go on, tell me” he laughed, “I can choose my favourite.”
“James, Potter, James the Second, JP, Pothead, Jimmy, Jimjam, Jimbob, Jimsby…” Grandbaby Potter…
“Okay, okay, stop with the Jim!” He sniggered.
“So, which do you like best, Jim?”
“Pothead.” He deadpanned.
“Piss off!” I laughed.
“Nah, my friends just call me Jay,” he said, “you can too, if you like.”
“O-kay, Jay.” I said in a sing-song sort of way.
It was easy talking to James. Talking to him somehow made me forget about everything else that was going on in my life, and I definitely needed a distraction from all that. He made me laugh, and made me feel like my old self again – someone I felt I hadn’t been able to be since the start of term.
“So, I get more flying lessons do I?” I asked.
“I think you qualified for a second session,” he responded, sending me another cheeky wink. Oooh.
“Who knows, maybe a few more sessions and I’ll be good enough to be on the team” I joked.
“We’ll see about that,” he said easily, his eyes sparkling, “Like I said, keep up the performance you gave the other night and your names on the robes.”
“Seriously though, Marissa, if you are serious about flying, I can let you borrow some books I’ve got? It never hurts to know a bit of theory to help with the practical aspect.”
“That’d be great!” I beamed. It really would be – especially if they were Quidditch oriented, and could explain the concept of the damn game to me.
“Jame- I mean, Jay,” I started tentatively, “what er – position – do you play on the team?”
“You mean you don’t know?” he asked, “Don’t you watch the matches?”
He looked affronted.
“I’m a keeper,” he said, pushing his bloody hand through his hair again, “so I defend the goal posts, basically… stop the chasers from getting the quaffle in and scoring.”
Sirius is a keeper, I thought with a pang. I shook it off. Don’t think about Sirius – you’re supposed to be quashing your feelings for him remember?
“You lost me at quaffle,” I grinned.
James was in the process of explaining the purpose of a quaffle to me when we were interrupted by someone clearing their throat loudly. We simultaneously glanced up to see Sebastian Barton, Connor MacMillan, and Gemma.
“Hey Maz,” Gemma waved. I noticed she was clinging on to Connor’s arm. I raised an eyebrow. She glanced at James, then back at me. Then raised an eyebrow. Touché, Gem, touché.
“Not interrupting something, are we?” Barton drawled. I rolled my eyes, my light, carefree mood instantly diminished.
“You’re always interrupting something, Barton, since you can’t seem to help poking your nose into other people’s business.”
“What’s with the attitude, Marriott? Getting a bit too big for your boots, now you’ve got a lad paying you a bit of attention? Jay might be blind to your ways but the rest of us aren’t daft, we all know you’re a slut who craves as much attention as she can find.”
“Oi!” James intervened.
Wow. Harsh words from Barton.
“Oh fuck off, Sebastian” I said, standing and patting down the creases on my skirt. I turned to James, who seemed to be fighting an internal battle. “I’ll talk to you later, Jay, okay?”
“Oh, don’t leave on my account,” Barton smirked, “the fun’s just beginning.”
“Seriously, Marissa, ignore him. You don’t need to leave.” James said.
“It’s fine, I’ve got…things…to do, anyway. See you later – bye, Gem.”
Gemma, who had been too busy devouring MacMillan’s face to have paid any attention, didn’t even bother coming up for air – just lifted a hand lazily in farewell. I snorted, and made my way back to Charlotte, who proceeded to demand a play-by-play of the whole conversation with James.
Sunday 21st September, 1977.
The library was always quiet on a Sunday afternoon, especially at the start of a school year, when the homework wasn’t coming thick and fast. A few students were dotted around here and there, hastily completing the homework they’d neglected over the weekend, but it was largely empty. I’d found a quiet corner close to the restricted section, and was poring over a mixture of books based on time-travel and Quidditch. I was leafing through a manual entitled Quidditch for the Unbalanced when a bag appeared on the seat opposite me.
“Mind if I sit here?”
I glanced up at the bag’s owner – a very peaky-looking Remus. I nodded and he sat, pulling books and parchment from his bag.
“Catching up on homework?” I asked.
“Yes, indeed,” he said, grimacing, “I’ve missed out on quite a bit, and I can’t afford to fall behind this year, what with NEWTs coming up.”
I studied his appearance. His sandy hair was untidy, his clothes rumpled. His skin was deathly pale, making the dark shadows around his eyes even more prominent.
“Merlin, Remus, you look awful,” I breathed, “You really haven’t been well at all, have you?”
“No, I haven’t,” he sighed, “I had an awful cold at the start of the week, but I seem to be getting back on my feet now.”
“Not contagious, are you?” I joked. He smiled grimly.
“No, you don’t need to worry about that,” he said, “What are you reading, anyway?”
I showed him the cover of the book.
“It’s basically Quidditch for Dummies,” I laughed.
“But…you’re a great beater. You don’t need to read anything like that.”
I made a mental note to look up ‘beater’ in Quidditch Terms Explained once he’d left.
“I thought I’d just er – refresh my memory, go back to the basics, you know? To erm, improve my performance.”
He nodded, yet he still seemed unconvinced.
“I was sorry to hear about you and Sirius,” he said softly.
I looked down at my hands. Avoiding Sirius had been easier said than done. During breakfast, he’d approached me (at my seat at the far end of the table, with the first years) and asked me to pass the butter. In the common room, he’d led his friends to a table close to mine, where they’d laughed and joked loudly. And at lunch, he’d introduced himself to my new first-year dinner acquaintances (whose names I neither knew nor cared to know). It was like he was purposefully taunting me. Like he knew I was avoiding him, and wanted to make it as difficult as possible for me.
Although I’d tried to convince myself that I couldn’t like Sirius, or be with him, and my feelings were probably superficial as I barely knew the guy, my stomach fluttered every time I saw him.
So I’d holed myself up in the library – the only place I was sure he guaranteed not to be.
“It’s okay,” I told Remus, “it’s really not a big deal.”
“I see. Well, if you do want to talk about it, you know you can count on me. I know Sirius is my friend first, but I promise anything you say will remain confidential.”
“That’s very sweet of you Remus, but really, I’m fine. Sirius and I weren’t right for one another. We can both move on now. It’s for the best.”
“If you say so, Mary” he said wisely, before indicating to his homework, “I’d better make a start on this anyway, if I want to be finished by midnight.”
“I’ll leave you to it,” I said, shovelling my books in to my bag and getting ready to leave, “it was great talking to you Remus.”
Hogwarts castle was a lot different in the seventies. Much of the castle had been destroyed during the Battle of Hogwarts in the nineties. Those parts of the castle had either been magically repaired or replaced, or their ruins left as a mark of respect and remembrance for those who lost their lives. There was a rickety old wooden bridge in the seventies, which in 2020 had been replaced by a much more modern version. The walls of the castle were now mismatched – parts remained from the original castle, however other parts were repaired with newer stonework. There were cracks in the walls, still, which had been left untouched, along with cracks in the floor. The holes which had blasted through the floors and ceilings had been repaired and filled in with marble. It was a strange feeling, to walk the corridors of the castle in its pre-war state in 1977; to see how the castle originally looked, compared to the reparations and new additions of the 2020 version. There were new wings added to Hogwarts after the war, and their absence in 1977 made me feel as though something was missing.
The biggest difference was the divide in houses. In 2020, although students continued to be sorted into the four houses, we all lived in harmony. It wasn’t unusual for Slytherins and Gryffindors to hang out together. Houses were just a formality. But in 1977, your house meant everything. Slytherins wouldn’t be seen dead conversing with Gryffindors, and vice versa. I would often forget this and cast a friendly smile at Slytherins in the corridors, to be met by looks of pure contempt and mutterings about ‘dirty blood’. It was fascinating to reflect on how much really had changed since the end of the war, to experience both pre- and post-war attitudes.
I was perched on a windowsill on the sixth floor experiencing one of these reflective moments, when I was dragged out of my thoughtful stupor by the sound of two people stumbling up the staircase, lost in their own laughter. I glanced up to see the familiar jet black hair, smouldering eyes and melting smile of Sirius Black, followed closely by the equally dark-headed figure of Marlene McKinnon. Sirius broke off mid-laugh as he caught sight of me, the grin faltering slightly on his lips.
Marlene, too, had stopped smiling at the sight of me.
“No need to look so disappointed to see me, guys, I’m not a dementor,” I rolled my eyes.
Sirius rubbed the back of his neck. Marlene glanced nervously up at Sirius through her baby blues. Sirius took her hand in his own. Neither of them responded to my words.
“Weeeell, guess I’ll be off then.” I said, slipping down from my perch and reaching for the book I’d earlier discarded on the sill.
“No need, Mary,” Sirius spoke strongly, seeming to have regained his composure, “we’re not staying. We’ve an urgent appointment in the astronomy tower, if you catch my drift.”
He winked at Marlene.
I froze, mid-reach. Is he for fucking real?
Swallowing the bile that was forming in the back of my throat, I decided not to react. He wanted that, right? A reaction?
I picked up my book, placing it neatly in my bag, and turned back to the happy couple smilingly.
“Well, I’d hate to make you late,” I said sweetly, “See you around, Black. McKinnon.”
AN: It's finally here - chapter 11! Bit of a filler chapter, I'm conscious that we're on chapter 11 and still in September, so I'm experimenting with covering more than one or two days in each chapter to help get the pace moving a little better.
As always, I'd love to hear what you think :)
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