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Chapter 5 : A Paradox and Rumor Mills
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I breathed in the air of heaven, tasted the delicious aromas on my tongue. The babbling of the masses was sweet music weaving through the air- just for me. Laughter and squeals of loquacious students filled the halls and the atmosphere was thick with anticipation and excitement. It was a new term and I was finally home.
I floated into the entrance hall flanked by my two best friends. After all the drama and misery of the summer it was good to be back in my safe haven. It felt slightly off but it was better than I'd been in so long that I no longer had the energy to care.
All I wanted was to stuff myself with ridiculously large portions of my favorite foods and go up to my warm four poster bed and pass out until tomorrow afternoon. The last part might be difficult (as tomorrow was the first day of classes and all), but the eating-then-going-upstairs-and-passing-out part would be a snap.
We moved with the masses into the Great Hall and I ignored all the dirty looks I was getting from the Gryffindors (while Lena was making faces and vulgar hand gestures at them in my defense). And we filed to the Ravenclaw table, taking our spots near the middle- where we were surrounded by several of our friends. I laughed and chatted animatedly with the rest of them- pulling out my acting skills once more and pretending not to notice all the glances I was getting from the Gryffindor table. It was none of their business.
The sorting was a trip. That hat sang a pippy little song about how the houses were equal and as such we should all unite. That love and friendship were the strongest bonds and they should not be broken. And several of the bimbos that followed Sirius around shot eye daggers in my direction (as if he'd called me by name or something).
I suppose it didn't matter that he'd abandoned me. So I didn't even try to retaliate in any way, shape or form. Their heads were so thick with delusions of Sirius snogging them they wouldn't be capable of seeing logic anyway.
Lena, though, stuck her tongue out at them all- or crossed her eyes with her upper lip pulled over her teeth. She had our whole section (Fifth, six and even the select few seventh years) shaking violently with peels of silent laughter.
I just rolled my eyes and ignored it all entirely- fixing my eyes on the frightened looking first years about to wet themsleves- ignoring all of the gazes flashing to me every few seconds. A few didn't even look away, not even trying to hide the glowering. But I didn't care, they had no idea what things were like for me. They were just up in arms because someone had finally snuffed their beloved Sirius.
I wondered idly, what they'd think if they knew the whole truth, the paradox. What would their reactions be if they found out how much this was killing me inside because I was even more head over heels for Sirius than they were- put together.
Finally, the sorting ended and I clapped and cheered as 'Zell, Lorraina' was sorted into Ravenclaw. The little raven haired girl (who looked a lot like a younger me actually) joined our table -taking a seat next to 'Warren, Leon' and 'Tyler, Malena'.
"Welcome students, welcome!"
We all looked up to see our whimsical Headmaster at the podium in front of the head table. And the entire Hall quieted (though the not-so-subtle glances in my direction continued. Merlin! How many people did Sirius tell?).
"Now. Before we get too immersed in our excellent feast, a few words..."
I tuned him out. I knew all the rules. I'd practically memorized Hogwarts, A History in my first year. I didn't need a speech to remind me not to enter the Forbidden Forest or antagonize the Giant Squid with a tree branch or the occasional Fanged Frisbee. This school had many mysteries but the rules weren't it.
I let my mind roam but not my eyes. I refused to look over at the other tables. The only one that was safe at the moment was Hufflepuff- and who knew how long that would last (I swear I heard Everett, Jacob, Jeff and Leo making bets that they'd all know by tomorrow. Gabriel said it was a given and that they should really bet on how many eye daggers I'd get bythe en dof the week). So I trained my eyes to stay glued towards the Head table until, at last, he clapped his long white hands- snapping me back to attention.
The tables groaned under the weight of the massive amount of delightful food and the silence of the Hall broke. Suddenly, everyone was talking and laughing and piling their plates with ridiculous amounts of all things edible. We'd all be sorry later, when our stomachs felt like they were going to explode. But no one cared- not even the teachers- we just ate.
It was certainly good to be back.
Once the feast was over, Jacob and I led the trembling first years up to the dorms. "What is a man's greatest virtue?" The door asked.
I answered without hesitation and Jacob chuckled as the first years gaped when the door swung open to reveal the cushy Ravenclaw Common Room. I remembered my first time in it and smiled slightly. How I wish things could stay as simple as they'd been in first year.
I directed the little girls to their new dormitory and wished them a good night's sleep. They looked as exhausted as I felt.
And then I climbed the stairs to the sixth year girls' dorm where I heard my friends laughing already. I highly doubted they were going to let me fall asleep right away. I had a lot of explaining to do.
By the next morning it had been widely spread that I'd dumped Sirius Black for Rabastan Lestrange because of the disownment. Some people even went so far as to say that I'd cheated on Sirius with Rabastan and that was the reason he finally snapped and ran away from home. And that our parents (mine and Rabastan's) were already arranging the marriage because he came from good pureblood stock.
Yes, this is how bored the students of Hogwarts have become.
It is beyond pathetic. Because, if my dear parents were arranging a marriage, I'd know it. And they'd have hell to pay. I'm pretty sure they know this as well, which is why they haven't tried.
I scoffed bitterly as this rumor reached me (courtesy of Missy Covington).
"I suppose it doesn't matter that I've never come close to dating either of them before, does it?" I questioned flatly. It was rhetorical but I could see they were going to answer anyway.
Gianna cocked her head to the side, looking confused (seriously- I wanna know- how the hell did she get into Ravenclaw?). "You haven't?"
Another scoff. "Merlin, no! Sirius and I were just friends. Only friends, that's it." I tried not to sound too disappointed as I said this part. "And Rabastan and I... well I suppose we're friends now. But we only just started really talking over the summer! I'm not some filthy, disgusting slag."
"Oh," they actually looked disappointment.
Good God! Don't any of you people have lives?! I wanted to hex them all (as did Lena) but Nora restrained me (us). Reminded me that I was a prefect now and I needed to follow the rules- including the one about not hexing people that annoy you. Drat. Stupid shiny prefect badge.
It may have earned me some approval from my family but it was damn inconveniant when you wanted to jinx a slag. I couldn't even fight them the Muggle way, by ramming my fist into their pretty, makeup lathered faces. I was irritated beyond belief that I couldn't make rude hand gestures either.
But I could dock points- that was fun.
Gryffindor was going to be hurting at this rate but it served them right, filthy insipid gossips.
All of my classes were fairly easy. I'd never had trouble with them but, then, nobody ever does in Ravenclaw. My only problem was the stares and notes I was getting from my very pathetic classmates.
A Hufflepuff named Lacey Geldmacher threw me one that asked if I was a Death Eater (no shock that she isn't in Ravenclaw- seriously, who asks that?). Anya Shuman felt the need to tell me I was a bitch for hurting poor 'Siri' (ew, by the way). And Darcy Graves asked me a question which I will not dignify by repeating nor did I feel the need to respond.
By the time lunch rolled around I was beyond annoyed with the entire school. I wanted to kill them all. So, I told Nora and Lena that I was going to study in the library. Then I went up to the dorm got out a slab of unopened chocolate leftover from my day at Diagon Alley and ate it on my way down to the haven of books.
It was in the library that I realized someone was watching me. My entire body froze, rigid with fright. Who was stalking me and why?
One of the pureblood brats? Or maybe it was an angry Gryffindor? I didn't know but either way I didn't like it. So I got up and hurried away.
I was in such a hurry that I smacked right into something, or someone I guess I should say.
"Ompf!" The impact mad me and all of my books go sprawling to the floor.
"Sorry! Sorry! I'm really sorry! I-" I began instantly apologizing to whoever I'd plowed into during my blind rush but broke off when I saw exactly who I'd knocked into.
Standing before me was none other than Remus John Lupin. A Marauder. Lovely.
"Oh. Hi, Remus." I choked out in mild shock. I think I even managed something resembling a pained half-smile but I wasn't coherent enough to be sure.
"Hi Belle." Reluctance dripped from his tone and his half-smile was equally hesitant.
The awkwardness was tangible. I wanted nothing more than to run screaming down the corridor in the opposite direction. I contemplated just leaving my books where they were on the ground but I didn't fancy explaining to McGonagall tomorrow why I didn't have the essay she'd assigned.
"Um. Yeah. Anyway," I babbled awkward but industriously, "I'm really, really sorry about plowing into you like that. Wasn't paying proper attention. But I should go meet Nor and Len now." By this time, I'd gathered all my books, hopped to my feet and began to walk away.
I almost got away from him too.
But before I could get too far he said, "Oh, Mira?"
Dammit. I squeezed my eyes shut and cursed my library stalker to the deepest depths of hell. I turned around slowly and said in a very strained (and high) voice, "Yes, Remus?"
I opened my eyes to see his reluctant and obviously pained expression.
"Um, I needed.... to talk to you.... about something."
My intuition flickered. The Marauders, it seemed, had had a discussion about me. I sensed that they'd even planned this whole awkward encounter.
There was some very valuable information I held, I realized belatedly, and they needed to know if I was going to share it with anyone.
Anger flared. I was abruptly furious with all of them (rather than just Sirius). Did they really think so little of me? Did they honestly think I'd betray poor Remus that way? That I was that petty? I may be livid with Sirius but that didn't mean I was going to punish Remus for it (though, now that the thought crossed my mind, I could slip to someone that their precious Black and Potter were illegal animagi -no need to mention Remus at all).
My posture changed rapidly from awkward reluctance to expectant hostility. My hand found my hip, my eyes narrowed infinitesimally and my full lips puckered. But I waited. I wasn't helping him out on this one. If he didn't know me well enough to know that I'd never do something so horrible than he'd have to find this one out on his own.
"Um, well... here's the thing." the tall blonde gulped awkwardly scratching the back of his neck. "I... well, I know you and Sirius aren't really on good terms at the moment..."
That was a nice way of putting it. Most people would just say we weren't friends and be done with it. But I'd always loved Remus for his tact. He was my second favorite Marauder (Pettigrew and Potter were tied for dead last). Which is why I could not believe he was standing before me broaching this subject.
"But, well, I just need to know if-"
"I've told anyone about your 'time of the month'?" I snapped, moodily.
My patience had been used up for the week by every other sodding Gryffindor at this school (along with several Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs as well). I wondered idly if someone up there was having a really sick laugh at my expense. Maybe this whole ordeal was just a really elaborate test to see how much I could handle.
"No, Rem. I'm not some malicious petty pureblood. You should know that, I thought you would. I'd never hurt you that way. How could you even ask such a thing?" I spat furiously.
He paled, "I'm sorry, Mir. I didn't think you would it's just-"
"Potter and Black weren't so sure." I finished again, resigned this time.
He blinked at my use of Sirius's surname but said, "Well... yeah."
"Remus, I would never do that to you." I told him again, wanting to make my point clear. "Your secret's safe with me."
He raised an eyebrow- catching the inflection- and his lips twitched at the corners. "James, Peter and Sirius's?"
I knew what he meant and scoffed, "No garentees. I won't out you but those gits are fair game."
"Well," he pursed his lips, "s'pose I can't really blame you. But I wish you wouldn't out them either. You, of all people, know why they do it."
I rolled my eyes, knowing he was right. And also knowing I'd never have the heart to give away Sirius's biggest secret. But I wasn't about to let Remus (or the other three) know it, so I said, "No promises. But I'm not going to tell anyone about you."
He smiled crookedly, "Thanks, Mirabelle."
"No problem, Remmy."
He held out his arms- slightly hesitant- and I smiled hugely, giving him a hug. Everyone was at dinner, so I knew it was safe.
"Anyway," I said when we broke apart, "I best be off. These books are killing my arms!"
He laughed and we headed in opposite directions- him to the Great Hall to tell the Marauders that the big bad purebloods wouldn't know his secret and me to the dormitory to find some peace and quiet.
"Mira, Jake told me to tell you you've got a prefect meeting tonight." Nora informed me blithely as they entered the dorm twenty minutes later.
"Your fault for being a goody-two-shoes!" Kathlena sung.
I stuck my tongue out at her childishly and Lanora rolled her eyes. Lena laughed and returned the gesture as I hopped off my bed. I went to the mirror and threw my long hair into a chic bun, held together with chopsticks Nora had given me in third year when she returned from a summer holiday in Japan. With one last wave I left the dorms and made my way to the Heads dorm.
Yes, Rose and Rabastan slept in a dorm together. I'd rather not think of what they might be doing though. Simply because thinking about my cousin's sex life is beyond repulsing.
I met Jake in the Common Room and we took a short cut through an empty corridor on the sixth floor. Finally, we got to the picture of an old, severe looking headmistress (who's name always escaped me) reading a thick, leather-bound volume.
"Badges?" She raised an eyebrow inquiringly, looking over her spectacles at us with penetrating green eyes. Can a portrait's eyes be penetrating?
We flashed our silver authority at her and she swung forward, revealing my cousin's new accommodations. I gasped a little as we stepped farther into the elaborate room. It was a gorgeous space was decorated with elegant silver and emerald drapes, sofas and arm chairs mixed with the oak of the table and mantle. A roaring fire crackled in the grand fireplace and a picture of Headmaster Phineas Black hung above it.
My stomach did a sickening turn as I stared at Sirius's ancestor. The most unpopular Hogwarts Headmaster in history. He had a picture hanging at the Black residance too and he'd always been a world class git in my opinion. Approving of all things Slytherin, the portrait looked delighted to see both Head Boy and Girl came from his favorite house.
Appearantly I didn't have to worry about my cousin doing anything stupid because Headmaster Black was there to supervise and report anything dodgy to the current headmaster. Though, he was so joyful over Slytherin domination that he'd probably let them do whatever they liked.
I surpressed a groan as I sat between Charity Corner and Jake. There was no James Potter this time at least. But every Gryffindor minus goody-goody, Lily Evans and Remus was glowering nastily at me. Ugh. Not only was it Gryffindors, but those cute and cuddly Hufflepuffs? Yeah, not so cuddly. More like hugging a porcupine.
Or a Hungarian Horntail might be a better comparison, considering the scathing looks of death they were shooting me.
Only the Slytherins and my fellow Ravenclaws refrained from resorting to such childishness. But that was only because the Slytherins were excruciatingly approving of my actions and, by now, the Ravenclaws new a sort of half truth- thanks to Lena's short temper and Missy and Gianna's incessant gossiping.
My housemates didn't have the whole paradox but they had most of it. Most of them knew that Rabastan Lestrange and I were not a thing (nor were we planning to be anywhere in the near future) and that Sirius and I had never been a thing either. They knew that Sirius had run away and thus ended our friendship. And, as we are Ravenclaws, a good number of them had already figured out why I'd blatantly ignored my former best mate.
They were clever enough to conclude that I was now stuck between a rock and a hard place with that one. That it was either risk death and attempt to escape, which- as I'm not a Marauder- would involve more risk than I was willing to take or feign innocence by using the old smile and nod method. Just pretend you agree with everything they said and keep yourself afloat. Most deducted that I chose the latter and it involved severing ties with Sirius, even though it hurt.
What they didn't know, of course, was how much it hurt. They had no idea that I was madly, passionately, hopelessly in love with Sirius Black and his lack of consideration had cut deep. But cutting him out of my life was killing me. They had no idea about that part. Unless they were a mind reader, which I'm pretty sure they aren't.
So my housemates were pretty accepting, it's not like I was some reckless, cocky Gryffindor stupid enough to risk my life by talking to the wrong people. Whether it hurt me or not.
I tried my best to ignore the Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs as Rose went through protocal and handed out patrol schedules. I had two with Remus this week and three with Jake. Well that was good at least. I wouldn't have to deal with a dolt like Amos Diggory or a ditz like Gemma Winkler this week. I wasn't sure my nerves could quite handle that. It might push me over the edge.
When finally the meeting ended, I got up with an apprieciative sigh and began filing out with the rest. But a strong hand grabbed mine and pulled me out of the flock of prefects.
Rabastan grinned wickedly at me as I turned to shoot an insult at him. It got caught in my throat upon seeing his face.
"You were going to leave without even saying hello?" He raised an eyebrow at me, pretending to be offended.
I smiled in spite of myself. "Yes," I answered with cheek.
"Mirabelle Echols!" He gasped sounding scandalized.
"Rabastan Lestrange!" I countered playfully.
"Where are all those impeccable pureblood manners?"
I tried not to flinch at this sentence and actually managed to keep my exterior cool as my insides cringed. "In the Hogwarts Express, where I left them," I beamed.
He laughed and put his hands on my waist.
It was all I could do not to gasp in shock. The incredible warmth felt so strange there, ridiculously intimate for some reason.
"So?" he chuckled, gazing down at me intently.
"So what?" I managed to ask.
He laughed again, flashing me another gorgeous grin. "Are you going to say hi?"
I rolled my eyes and said "Hi." in a flat, sarcastic tone as my stomach twisted. I couldn't tell if it was the discomfort or embarassment that caused this. Several people were still watching our interaction curiously. Including Remus.
I knew that most of them would draw the conclusion that all the ridiculous rumors about Rabastan and I being an item were true because of this one thing but I wasn't very concerned for the most part. The only person I didn't want to lead astray with such actions was Remus.
Merlin knows why I cared so much what my new favorite Marauder thought, but I did.
I tried to tell myself it had nothing to do with the fact that the Marauders told each other everything and this would no doubt be discussed in front Sirius, but I wasn't doing a very good job of it. I knew that the wink James had witnessed paired with this and clumped in with that hug Sirius saw on the train would lead them in exactly the wrong direction. And that bothered me, as much as I tried to deny it.
"That's not very enthusiastic, Bee." Rabastan teased, "I think-"
He didn't get to finish because at that moment Rosalie rescued me.
"Are you two lovebirds done? Or are you going to start snogging soon? Because if you do I'll throw up on you, I swear it."
Okay, so maybe she had an awkward method of going about it but she still gave me the out I was looking for.
"No, Ro'. We aren't going to snog. We're not going out." I told her, slightly louder than nessecary for tha benefit of my fellow prefects. "And I've got a Potions essay to finish. So if you don't mind I'm going now," I lied as I extracted myself from Rabastan's grip and started to walk away.
"What if I do mind?" he grinned at me devilishly.
My breath caught but he didn't hear it as I rolled my eyes and replied, "You'll survive."
My head reeled as I parted with the hord of prefects in the corridor to take a lesser known shortcut in the opposite direction. I needed to be alone, to clear my head away from all the Hufflepuffs and Gryffindors glaring stupidly in my direction.
I didn't pay much attention to my surroundings as I walked. My thoughts were too consuming. Which is probably the reason I failed to notice I wasn't alone.
"So you're dating him now?"
I whirled around and let out a small shriek of fright.
I'd expected many things today; I'd expected my classes to be a breeze. I anticipated the gossip and the glaring. I'd even been prepared for the clocks to slow, just to spite me.
What I had not expected was for Sirius Black to be lurking in a dark, deserted corridor- appearantly waiting for me.
No, definitely had not been prepared for this gut-wrenching turn of events. An ambush had not been in the Crystal Ball at Divination class this morning (not that anything ever was, but still).
Which, I suppose is why I exclaimed without thinking, "Sirius!" like an idiot and asked, "what are you doing here?"
I grappled for my composure, uselessly. What rotten luck I was turning out to have.
"I showed you this shortcut, remember?" He reminded me in the same flat tone as before.
I couldn't reply. It was so incredibly wonderful to her his voice- not matter what the tone (or lack there of, in this case)- that I'd been rendered temporarily speechless, incapable of forming a coherent response. I'd gotten lost in the sinewy silk quality his voice contained. How could velvet be husky?
"So this is how it's going to be with us now, is it?" he murmured. I knew him well enough to recognize that such calmness was dangerous. I heard the fury underneath the cool surface as he leaned so effortlessly graceful against the wall. His arms were crossed over his chest in a rather hostile pose and his eyebrows pulled together over those terminal sapphire eyes.
I still couldn't manage to summon my vocal chords as I processed how alone I was with Sirius (something I'd wanted desperatly all holiday). I'd forgotton my knowledge of the English language.
He was angry, it was clear, but that hardly mattered at the moment. He was here. And that was the only part I cared about right this second.
"We're going to pretend we were never friends?" He continued, in response to my stunned silence. "You're going to disown me too? Like you're one of them? Pretend that we haven't talked about ditching the psychotic purebloods since you were eight?" His voice was growing steadily in both volume and incredulous anger.
And, suddenly, this struck a nerve.
Fury sparked like an ignited wand and I was suddenly full of rage. All of my frustrations were abruptly channeled into one form. And I wanted nothing more than to lunge at him. Tear him apart for being so inconsiderate.
How dare he abandon me and then pretend to be the great martyr? Was he seriously going to stand there and act like he had a right to be angry?
I felt my facial features morph from stunned to livid. My eyes flashed with pure fury but Sirius failed to head the warning.
Instead, he continued with his accusing monologue bitterly. "You're seriously going to avoid me and let Rabastan Lestrange have his smarmy way with-"
That did it.
"DON'T YOU DARE!" I finally remembered how to operate my vocal chords. "Don't you do that to me Sirius Black! Don't you try to make me feel guilty for adapting!"
"To what?" he shouted back, stepping closer.
"To my life." I hissed seethingly. "To being completely alone in a sea of manic purebloods. Under constant supervision and suspision by people who'd kill me in a nanosecond. To befriending idiot people that repulse me on a daily basis and making do with what I've got."
Some sort of recognition flashed in his eyes but I ignored it.
"I had to face up to the fact that I've been left with two choices because of your lack of consideration, Sirius. It's either become one of those monsters and try to find some thread of happiness or die." I spat at him through my teeth, stepping closer myself and drawing up to my full height.
He blinked rapidly at me and something like pain twisted his face as comprehension finally dawned.He now knew that I was, not only avoiding him but that I was angry with him too. He opened his mouth to speak but I ignored him and went on furiously.
"Maybe I'd've had more respect for you if you'd have told me. Warned me. Given me something less insanely cryptic to go on. Or maybe if you hadn't premeditated it- if it had been a result of some spontaneous row with your mum I'd understand better. But it wasn't and I dont," I growled. "So I'm sorry if it doesn't fit into whatever half-baked plan you'd conjured up in that pretty head of your when we were in the village but I've chosen to live. And if that means I've got to ostracize the bloke who obviously didn't give a damn about me when he risked both of our lives with that little running-off-to-Pratfaced-Potter's stunt, then so bloody be it!"
And as he blinked in shock (and pain if I'm not delusional- which is debatable at this point), I turned on my heel and stalked down the corridor as fast as I could. I didn't want anyone to see me in the same secluded corridor with Sirius Black and jump to conclusions.
The rumor mill was already in high gear this week, no need to full the fire.
( So there is chapter 5. Sorry it took me so long to update. I'm pretty much buried under a mountain of homework on a daily basis lately. Which is why I've been neglecting my readers. I will try to get out updates on all my stories soon but no garentees. For now, Review please!
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