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How to tame a Marauder by melian
Chapter 36 : Facing reality
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 90


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Frozen to the spot, I looked at the girl wrapped around Sirius.  She was probably a sixth-year, I thought, looking at her, and she had Hufflepuff robes on.  (And at least they were still on, a part of me pointed out with more than a little relief.  I hadn’t interrupted anything too serious.)

Sirius, for his part, seemed to be trying to distance himself from whoever she was and looked almost anxious as his eyes went from her to me.

“It’s not what it looked like,” he said quickly, wriggling around uncomfortably as the Hufflepuff girl adjusted her hold on him.

“Of course it was,” she cooed, looking up at him adoringly.  “Why don’t you want to admit that we’re together now?”

He wrenched himself away from her.  “Because we’re not!” he snapped, his face rather red as he looked back at me.  “Honestly, Laura, there’s nothing going on here.”

I just stood there, unable to say anything, though that didn’t really surprise me all that much.  I had just walked into my worst nightmare and I was expected to be able to talk?  That didn’t happen.  Not in my world, anyway.  I was discovering just how much of my emotional wellbeing was tied up in the idea of him being available, and by the look of things it was way too much.

(Speaking of worst nightmares, part of me wondered idly if this was what my Boggart would be now.  Sirius with another girl.  I had a very nasty suspicion that it would.)

The Hufflepuff girl was still cooing at him and trying to run her fingers through his hair while he pulled away from her.  I wasn’t sure why he was so worked up – she was quite pretty and they hadn’t been doing anything that would cause embarrassment if witnessed – but then again my brain had frozen and I wasn’t thinking clearly at all.  Finally it switched into gear and my defensive side took over.

“What does it matter who you’re snogging, Sirius?” I asked, hoping he didn’t notice the tears that were starting to appear in the corners of my eyes.  “Do what you like.  I really don’t care.”

It killed me to lie like that but what else could I do?  Collapse into tears on the floor because he felt up another girl?  That would be ridiculous, not to mention embarrassing. Instead I turned on my heel and walked back the way I’d come, heading towards the common room.  I could hear him saying something in the background and was vaguely aware of the racket caused by what sounded like a falling suit of armour behind me, but there was no way known I would have been able to stay to hear him out:  that collapsing in the middle of the floor thing hadn’t happened yet, but if I hung around it could well have.  And I needed to get into my dormitory – the library could very definitely wait – and hurl things at the wall before anyone else found out.

Quivering Wreck had just caught the Snitch.

****

A flood of tears and several broken lampshades later (thank goodness for Reparo, let me tell you), I had just about calmed down enough to put on an impassive face for the other girls.  I wasn’t expecting any of them in the dorm anytime soon – the last lesson of the day was not yet over – but someone like Sirius Black getting a new girlfriend was the sort of gossip that Hogwarts thrived on, and I would need to be strong if I was going to get through a discussion about that without crying.  Yes, I was devastated, but I couldn’t let anyone know that without them realising just what Sirius meant to me, and I couldn’t handle that information getting out.  I’d never hear the end of it.

It didn’t take long for me to recognise that I couldn’t face going down to dinner that night.  So, I feigned illness.  I pulled the curtains around my bed and lay face down, hoping the pillow would muffle any sobs.  When the girls came in to drop their bags off I tried to cast a non-verbal Cheering Charm on myself so that when they spoke to me I didn’t sound like I was crying, more like I was just ill.

“What’s wrong?” asked Lily, all concern and compassion as she peered through the curtains at me.  Sometimes I wished she wasn’t so nice, it would have been that much easier to keep things from her.

“Just feeling flat,” I said.  It wasn’t even a lie.  “I think I’ve been trying to do too much, I just need a night of peace and quiet and I can try to get some more sleep.”  Okay, that one wasn’t entirely true, but I wasn’t about to tell Lily what had me so down.

“Are ye okay?” Mary asked, parting the curtains and sitting on the bed, her hand on my back.

“Yeah, I’ll be fine,” I said.  “I just need a rest.”

“Richt.”  She looked back through the curtains at the other girls.  “Can we hae a minute please?”  Clearly, someone nodded or something, and Mary waited till the door clicked shut before speaking again.  “Nou, hae ye hear’ aboot Sirius an’ tha’ girl?  Glenys Marsh?”

I turned my head and looked at her, rolling my eyes.  “Yes, I know about that.”

“Richt,” she said again.  Another pause.  “An’ ye’re sure ye’re okay here by yerself?”

“I’ll be fine,” I said, realising that we were both repeating ourselves and wondering why it all felt so forced.

“Well, if ye need me, jus’ Summon my hair tie,” she said.  “I’ll be sure t’ notice if tha’ goes flyin’ off.”

“Fine,” I said, somehow finding the strength to smile.  “I’ll do that.”

“Okay,” she said doubtfully.  “Jus’ ge’ yer rest, then.”

As she left, I lay there wondering why I had pushed her away.  Maybe it was because I felt like such an idiot in the first place for getting myself into this position.  In any case, just then what I wanted was solitude.  (Okay, not quite right – what I really wanted was for Sirius to come bursting in and explain that it was all a misunderstanding and he was in fact madly in love with me.  Trouble was, that was never going to happen so I had to settle for what was realistic, and solitude seemed like my best bet there.)  I had to get my thoughts and emotions in order before I had any hope of facing the world outside, so a few hours alone looked like a good way of doing that.

The next morning, after a rather sleepless night, I considered not going down to breakfast either.  Or even down to the common room.  The problem with this, however, was that Lily was threatening to take me to the hospital wing if I wasn’t feeling better, just to make sure all was well and maybe get me some Pepper-Up Potion.  Explaining a broken heart to Madam Pomfrey wasn’t exactly high on the list of things I wanted to do that day, so in the end I decided that breakfast couldn’t really be all that bad, could it?  And if I sat as far away from Sirius as possible then maybe I could ignore this whole new girl thing.  What was her name again?  Gladys something-or-other?  Not that it really mattered, but I supposed I needed to get used to it.

So, finding some resolve, I made my way down to the Great Hall for breakfast.  I was a bit later than the other girls, having needed a long bath to get myself in the right frame of mind (in private);  they had reluctantly gone down ahead of me after making me promise to join them once I was ready.  And I meant to, I really did.  I had every intention of walking into the Great Hall with dignity, not letting on how upset I was by what had happened the previous day.

Unfortunately, Alecto Carrow had other ideas.  She appeared in the Entrance Hall at about the same time as I reached the top of the marble staircase, and she was clearly itching for a fight.  “Oh, look, it’s the Muggle-lover,” she hissed, her wand hand going into her robes.

“Oh, look, it’s the midget,” I shot back, not bothering to reach for my own wand.  She wasn’t the best at spellcasting – in fact, I was rather surprised that she’d made it as far as seventh year – so I wasn’t exactly worried.

“Better to be short than a Mudblood,” she retorted.

“I wouldn’t know,” I said, “not being either.  But you think that if it makes you happy.”

Antagonising an irate Death Eater wannabe, particularly before breakfast, probably wasn’t a very good idea, as I discovered a moment later when she hit me with a remarkably well-placed Trip Jinx.  Not even halfway down the marble staircase, I promptly lost my footing and hurtled head-first to the stone floor below.

Alecto was gloating as I landed unpleasantly close to her feet.  “Oh, Cauldwell, are you hurt?” she asked mockingly, kicking me a few times for good measure.  “All you deserve … Muggle.”

****

Remus found me first, sitting on the floor nursing my injuries.  Both legs were throbbing and my left ankle had swollen rather significantly, so quite frankly the idea of standing up without help wasn’t one I was relishing.

“What happened to you?” he asked.

“Trip Jinx from Alecto Carrow,” I said a little ruefully.  “I fell down the stairs.”

He looked surprised.  “Her spell actually hit you?”

I smiled despite myself.  “Yeah, I was surprised too.  Maybe she’s been working on that.”

“Or maybe she was aiming at something ten feet to your right,” he said wryly.  “Anyway, it looks nasty,” he went on sympathetically, pulling his wand out.  “Tergeo.  There, that’s got rid of the blood on your face.  Now, do you need a hand getting up?”

I looked up at him gratefully.  “That’d be fantastic, thanks.”  And I hoisted an arm around his shoulder to try to get some leverage to stand.

“No worries,” he said.  “We’ll get you to Madam Pomfrey, she can fix just about anything.”

I got to a standing position but winced when his hand grabbed my side.  “Do you mind?” I asked, moving it a little lower to my waist.  “Thanks.  I think I might have cracked a rib or two.”

“How far did you fall?” he asked as we tried to get back up the same stairs I had just tumbled down.

“More than half way,” I said.  “Ooh, watch the neck too, that’s a bit sore.”

In fact, the only way I could walk, with his help, was to put both arms around his neck (from side on, of course) and put most of my weight on his shoulders.  I did feel a bit sorry for him because it couldn’t have been easy, trying to drag me upstairs like that, but with my injured ribs and ankle – which was now so swollen it looked rather like a Quaffle – there wasn’t much alternative.

As we reached the top of the stairs I caught a glimpse of James, Sirius and Peter in the Entrance Hall, probably on their way to Transfiguration.  I was a little surprised that Sirius was with the boys rather than that tramp (sorry, his new girlfriend – I had to remember to be nice about her) but then again he tended to pick and choose when he wanted to behave all boyfriend-y so this was clearly not one of those moments.  In any case I didn’t want to see him – I could almost feel the tears welling up just from that glimpse – and was grateful to be able to concentrate on getting to the hospital wing.  I’d never thought I could ever be indebted to Alecto Carrow for anything, but she had very successfully given me something else to think about.  I might even have to thank her.

Remus for some reason didn’t want to speak to them either – in fact, he looked almost uncomfortable as he glanced over the balustrade at them – but again, for this I was grateful.  Maybe Remus understood my problem (always a possibility, especially after the Hogsmeade visit the previous month) and realised I needed to keep away from Sirius.  In any case, it was a welcome surprise.

We were soon in the hospital wing and Madam Pomfrey, very good at her job, managed to mend all the minor abrasions, fix the ribs, put my neck back in and get the swelling down in my ankle in less than a couple of minutes.  However, she was worried about concussion so insisted on keeping me in for a few hours for observation.

“But I’ve got double Transfiguration this morning, I really need to go,” I said helplessly as she fussed around my bed.  “At least to hand my homework in.”

“Nonsense,” she snapped, peering into my eyes and taking my temperature.  “I need to make sure you’re completely cured, I’m sure Professor McGonagall will understand.”

I groaned.  I couldn’t even give it to Remus to take in for me – as soon as he’d seen me safely to Madam Pomfrey’s office he’d taken off, saying there was something he needed to take care of before class.  “Is there any chance I might make it to Charms after break?” I asked hopefully.  This was seventh year, after all, and I didn’t want to miss any more classes than I could help.

“We’ll see,” she said.

Not long afterwards Mary came in to see how I was.  I was thankful for the company, not least because Mary was the only of my friends who didn’t do Transfiguration and so there was no way our conversation might be overheard by anyone I wanted to keep my secret from.

“So ye are i’ here,” she said, dumping her bag on the floor by my bed.  “I hear’ Remus talkin’ an’ it soonded lik’ ye were pretty badly hur’.”

“Fell down the marble stairs,” I said a little ruefully.  “Tripped, actually – Alecto Carrow somehow managed to get a Trip Jinx to work.  I’d be impressed if I wasn’t so sore.”

“So why di’ she trip ye?” asked Mary, sitting down on the bed next to my knees.

“The usual,” I said, attempting to shrug but giving up when the bruising around my ribs started to object – Madam Pomfrey had warned me that it would take a couple of hours for the healing paste she’d used on them to work.  “I’m a Muggle-lover, apparently.  But then I called her a midget and she didn’t take it very well.”

She started laughing.  “Ye actually said tha’ t’ her face?  Good on ye.  Bu’ I can see why she micht nae lik’ it much.”

“Well, I wasn’t in the best mood,” I conceded.  “I was a bit worked up about this whole Sirius thing.  The only reason I came down for breakfast in the first place was to stop Lily marching me in here for a Pepper-Up Potion.”

Mary looked surprised.  “Ye were worked up?  Why?”

I gave her a look.  “Why do you think?”

“Bu’ it’s nae lik’ he had any say i’ it,” she said, frowning.  “Why woul’ it bother ye?”

“Hang on,” I said, confused, “are we talking about the same thing here?  Sirius and that Glinda whatever-her-name-is?”

“Aye, Glenys Marsh,” said Mary, looking just as confused.  “Wha’ dae ye think happened?”

“I walked in on them having a snog,” I said.  “Or, to be precise, just after a snog.  I was assuming they were an item now.”

She looked horrified.  “Tha’ wa’ ye?”

“What do you mean, that was me?” I asked.

To my surprise, Mary suddenly burst into laughter.  “Oh, Laura, ye really hae go’ this backwards,” she said eventually.  “Ye’re on completely th’ wrong track.”

“What do you mean?” I asked suspiciously.

“Glenys Marsh is i’ th’ fan club,” she explained, smiling broadly.  “Seems lik’ she cornered him an’ tried t’ jump on him an’ snog him.  He didna e’en ken who she wa’, apparen’ly she’s a new member or summit who wa’ tryin’ t’ impress Elvira, so ye can imagine his reaction, this lass he’s ne’er seen afore throwin’ herself at him while he’s tryin’ t’ escape.  An’, word wa’ tha’ some lass ha’ walked i’ on them a’ th’ wors’ possible time, bu’ nae one knew if tha’ wa’ true because we couldna fin’ who it wa’, an’ he wouldna say.  Bu’ if tha’ wa’ ye, Laura …”

I sat dead still, my brain very slowly taking this information in.  This was a fan club stunt?  He had been caught off guard?

He was still single?

I suddenly realised I was staring at Mary, open-mouthed, in astonishment, and hurried to close my mouth before I did anything as undignified as dribbling.  “So this was all a misunderstanding?  Some tart just lunged at him and he was trying to get rid of her?  But then … why did she say they were a couple now?”

“Jus’ tryin’ t’ see if ye’d believe it, prob’ly,” she suggested.

I groaned.  “And I did.”

She grinned.  “Well, look on th’ bricht side, ye dinna believe it nou.  He’s nae seein’ anyone.  So ye’ve still go’ a chance.  Well, as much o’ a chance as e’er.”

Suddenly the whole thing seemed to be much funnier than it had previously, and I started laughing.  “Merlin, of all the times I had to run into them,” I said, “it would be then.  Poor him.  No wonder he looked so uncomfortable – I thought it was just because they’d been sprung.”

“So ye’ve been torturin’ yerself aboot it all nicht,” Mary said sympathetically.  “Nae wonder ye didna mak’ it t’ supper.”

“Well, that was a sleepless night wasted,” I admitted.  “And now I’ve gone and missed Transfiguration.  I didn’t even give Remus my homework to hand in – you’d think I’d be better organised.”

She frowned suddenly.  “He micht nae hae handed it in anyway,” she said thoughtfully.  “He seemed a bi’ worked up.”

“Remus?”  I looked at her, surprised.  “Why?  He was fine when he left here.”

Although, thinking about it, he wasn’t – he had appeared a little agitated as he left the hospital wing.  Why, I had no idea.  Agitation and Remus weren’t two things I normally associated with one another.

“I hear’ him an’ Sirius an’ James havin’ a richt row after breakfas’,” she said.  “Summit aboot fudgin’ a code.  James an’ Sirius were on him aboot breakin’ rules o’ some sor’.  It wa’ all verra strange.”

“That is weird,” I conceded.  “What were they saying?”

Mary hesitated.  “I think Sirius said summit lik’ it didna look lik’ naethin’, and James said ye’d better hae a bloody good reason t’ fudge th’ code lik’ tha’, an’ Remus said tha’ it wa’ naethin’ an’ they jus’ needed t’ hear him oot.  They all soonded really angry, they were yellin’ so half th’ school coul’ prob’ly hear them.  So James said go on, explain yer way oot of it, an’ Remus said tha’ he’d nae broken any rules, an’ he helped write them so he wouldna break them.  An’ Sirius said tha’ wasna good enough an’ give him one reason nae t’ curse Remus richt nou, an’ Remus said tha’ ye were i’ th’ hospital wing after bein’ hur’ pretty bad from a jinx.”

I frowned.  “What?  That’s a bit of a jump.  What would me being jinxed have to do with rules that Remus helped write?”

She shrugged.  “I wondered tha’ too.  Anyway, tha’ wa’ hoo I foond oot ye were i’ here so I came up richt away an’ didna hear any more.  An’ I woul’ think th’ lads wen’ straight t’ Transfiguration anyway, it wa’ aboot tha’ time.”

We were interrupted by Madam Pomfrey, who seemed to have suddenly realised that Mary had been with me for at least half an hour, which was about twenty-five minutes longer than she usually allowed visitors for.  “Right, that’s more than long enough,” she said sharply.  “This girl needs rest.  Out.  OUT!”

****

I was finally allowed out of the hospital wing at lunch time, having caught up on some sleep and convinced Madam Pomfrey that I had no lingering effects from my fall that morning.  I rejoined my classmates in the Great Hall and wolfed some food down hungrily (I’d not had breakfast, after all), noticing in the process that the boys seemed to have made up after their argument;  in fact, there was so little evidence that there had been an argument at all that I started wondering if Mary had imagined it.

As we left the Hall, I was a little surprised to find a troubled-looking Sirius walking next to me on the way to Herbology.  “Look, about yesterday,” he began, his voice quiet like he was hoping no one would overhear us.

“What, the giggler thing?” I asked, interrupting him.

“Yeah, that,” he said, his face clearing.  “You know she was a giggler, then?”

“Yeah, I know,” I said, hoping he wouldn’t realise how relieved I had been at that information.  “It did look like something else, though.”

He groaned.  “That was the worst possible moment you could have chosen to interrupt us,” he said.  “Any other time and it would have been obvious what was going on.  And I didn’t want you to think …”  His voice trailed off.

I stole a glance at him, not trusting myself with anything more than that.  “Really, what does it matter what I think?” I asked, bracing myself for what I was about to say.  “It’s your life, you can do what you like.”

“But –”  He trailed off again, as though not really sure what he wanted to say.

“Look, Sirius,” I said, “I can understand you not wanting anyone to think you snogged a giggler.  That would open up way too big a can of worms.  But aside from that, what difference does it make?”

“There was nothing there,” he said, and even without looking at him I could feel his eyes on me.  “I had absolutely nothing to do with it.  I just wanted you to understand that.”

I wanted nothing more than to grab his hand and squeeze it, or, even better, put an arm around him, to let him know that I didn’t blame him at all.  But the potential for something like that being misinterpreted (or, to be honest, interpreted correctly, but you know what I mean) was way too high so I just smiled at him, grateful we had reached the greenhouses.

“Fine,” I said, moving towards Mary, just wanting to escape before I said too much.  “I understand.”

****

The year was wearing on and, to my surprise, even with our sizeable assignments I was still managing to keep my head above water.  My spare time, however, was becoming more and more limited and I realised with a degree of disappointment that Dad hadn’t been kidding:  this really was a year to buckle down and get into it.  Not that I was convinced yet that keeping me from doing anything fun was a good idea – maybe I’d be more willing to hurl myself into yet another three-foot essay from Professor Sprout (on this occasion, ‘Explain the different methods of extracting venom from poisonous plants and ways to increase its supply, referring to at least six different species of plant’) if I had some distractions occasionally.

Sirius, of course, was my most common distraction.  He was thankfully still single, despite the fan club’s best efforts, and looking better than ever if that was even possible.  And, as I had complained to Mary several weeks earlier, avoiding him was much easier said than done, not least because we had such similar timetables.  Add to this the fact that James still kept asking me to go to Quidditch practices as a consultant (I felt like charging him an hourly rate sometimes), and insisted that Sirius chaperone me to and from the pitch, and it was impossible not to spend time with him.  It was both good and bad – I really did enjoy his company, and we got along very well, but there was always that man-of-my-dreams thing that kept getting in the way.

“You know, you do fly very well,” he said as we wandered back to the castle after yet another Quidditch practice I’d been talked into attending, this one in late November.  “I can understand why Prongs keeps pestering you to join in.”

I threw him a look.  “I’ve told you, I can only do it two-handed,” I snapped, somewhat exasperated as I’d just had this very argument with James himself.  “And how does he expect me to catch a Quaffle or hold a Beater’s bat if I need both hands on my broom?”

“Even so,” he said, “your broom control is pretty good.  Just accept it as a compliment for once.”

I looked at him, feeling chastened.  He had a point, he and James were being perfectly nice to me and I kept jumping down their throats.  “Sorry.  Thanks.”

As we made our way through the oak front doors and reached the top of the marble staircase, heading towards the next flight that would take us in the direction of Gryffindor Tower, I noticed he kept looking at the ceilings as though trying to commit them to memory.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

He looked almost embarrassed.  “Peeves keeps moving where the mistletoe is,” he explained, “and I don’t want to get caught by any of the gigglers.”

I nodded as we skirted around a suit of armour trying to sing carols – Christmas trimmings had been up for less than a week and I was still getting used to them.  “You mean like what happened the other week?”

He made a face and shuddered dramatically.  “Don’t remind me.”

I smiled.  “Sorry.”

“No problem,” he said, smiling briefly.  “Anyway, I’m just trying to remember where I have to avoid.”

“Yeah, that’s probably fair enough,” I said.  Thinking about it, it must have really been tricky trying to keep on top of things so a repeat of that earlier incident didn’t happen.

He shook his head in frustration.  “I must sound like I’ve got such a big head, talking like that …”

And you know, a year or so earlier I’d probably have agreed with him, but now I knew he wasn’t like that.  “No you don’t,” I reassured him.  “If I was in your shoes I’d probably do the same thing.  You’re just being sensible.”

Sensible?  Sirius Black?  What potions was I on?  He seemed to have the same reaction as he had a bit of a strange expression on his face, and to my surprise he stopped near the top of the stairs on the second floor, unnervingly close to some of the very mistletoe he was trying to avoid.

I stopped with him, acutely aware that we were alone in the deserted corridor.  “Was it something I said?”

He just looked at me, an expression on his face that I didn’t recognise.  “Laura …”

I looked back at him, perplexed and wanting to get back to the tower before I did something stupid.  Quivering Wreck 293; Laura 2.  Or something like that.  “What?”

But whatever it was I never learned, as at that moment Peeves, most probably bored with moving bits of mistletoe, decided to interrupt us by bowling the head of a stone gargoyle down the hallway at us.  Distracted, we both jumped out of the way, breaking into laughter as we watched the head roll down the stairs and knock over a suit of armour when it reached the bottom.

The accompanying crash unsurprisingly brought Filch, and we spent a good five minutes explaining to him why we were out of our common room after supper.  Fortunately we weren’t far from the office of Professor Perkins, the new Defence teacher, and she surprised us by coming to our defence – her window overlooked the Quidditch pitch and apparently we had been noticed attending practices before.  In the end we were allowed to go back to the tower without punishment.

Sirius laughed quietly as we reached the top of the short-cut stairs behind the tapestry and headed up towards the seventh floor.  “You know, Laura, I should hang around with you more often.  I don’t think I’ve ever gotten out of a detention so easily.”

I laughed too.  “You’ve got too much of a reputation by now,” I said.  “Whereas me, I get detentions maybe five or six times a year, no one ever thinks I’m doing anything wrong.  Although,” I added, frowning, “they might think you’re a bad influence on me so my charmed life might be coming to an end.”

He looked shocked, but I caught the ghost of a smile dancing around the corners of his mouth.  “Me, a bad influence?  Never!”

I smiled.  “You’re right, I don’t know where I could possibly have got that idea from.  Please forgive me for even thinking it.”

“I should say so,” he teased.  “Next you’ll be saying that Prongs and I make a habit of being out of the common room after hours.  And we all know that’s not true.”

“Of course not,” I deadpanned.  “It’s certainly not you two who have an entire drawer to yourselves in Filch’s filing cabinet.”  Okay, this was just a rumour, and I’d not been sent to Filch’s office in years so I couldn’t verify it, but chances were it was true.  And besides, he didn’t deny it.  “It must be two other people who just happen to have the same names as you,” I went on.  “I’m so sorry.  How could I have even thought it?  However can I repay you?”

He winked and put a suggestive arm around my waist.  “Well, now you come to mention it …”

I froze involuntarily.  Please don’t do that, I thought.  Even as a joke, I can’t take it.  It’s far too difficult not to give in and respond in some highly inappropriate manner.  It took a significant effort for me to stay calm and keep moving (yep, yet another point for Quivering Wreck), and I rolled my eyes in what I hoped was a convincing way.

“Sirius, are we really going that far off reality?  Oh, gillywater,” I went on, noticing we had reached the Fat Lady, who had been in conversation with her friend Vi and appeared unimpressed at the interruption.  She eyed us beadily and then grudgingly swung open, revealing the portrait hole.  Sirius let go of me when we climbed through, but grabbed my arm before I could head up the stairs and turned me to face him.

“Why do you keep doing that?”

“Doing what?” I asked, baffled.

“Saying stuff like that, being so far off reality.  You’re selling yourself short.  You know it’s not true.”

I glared at him, almost hating him for what he was making me say.  “I know what’s realistic, what’s believable.  And that’s not.”  Saying it out loud made it seem so final, so real that it almost killed me, but it was true.  No one would ever be convinced by Sirius with someone like me.

He shook his head, not letting go of my arm.  “A year or two ago, maybe.  But not now.”

I just looked up at him resignedly.  Why was he so perfect?  It made it all so much harder to admit.  “You’re being nice.  And I appreciate that.  But we both know I’m right, so stop pretending I’m not.”

I didn’t think what I’d said was all that noteworthy – in fact, I thought it was pretty obvious – but Sirius looked stunned and released his hold on me.  Not bothering to wonder why he might have reacted like that, I made the most of my opportunity to escape up the girls’ stairs. 


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