“Can anyone identify this potion here up front?”
Valentine’s Day came and went and, to my immense relief, everything has pretty much gone back to normal.
Remus and I returned to our usual rapport surprisingly fast. I guess it was expected? I think we both just had this tacit understanding that we really wanted to stay friends. Even though we only had a few hours, Remus had taken me around to all the Hogsmeade shops, including Madam Puddifoot’s Tea Shop as predicted. Since then it’s been as if the date never happened, though sometimes when he doesn’t think I see him… he looks kind of downcast.
For some bizarre reason, the only thing that changed after Valentine’s Day was between me and Sirius, who was standing on the opposite side of Slughorn’s desk with Lily while I remained by the chalkboard with Remus. We actually haven’t talked pretty much since… blimey, has it been a week already?
“Anyone?” the professor asks again, gesturing towards the cauldron. “Surely it can’t be too difficult for my star O.W.L. students! How about Mr. Black? Can you identify this potion?”
Sirius reluctantly breaks away from a rather engaged conversation with Lily to take a glance and a whiff of the potion. “Amortentia,” he replies promptly.
“Splendid!” Professor Slughorn exclaims. “Ten points for Gryffindor! And for an additional five points, the attributes of the potion, Mr. Black?”
With an unsuppressed groan that rouses a ripple of chuckles from the class, Sirius once again turns away from Lily to face the cauldron. “It makes the drinker experience deep obsession or infatuation towards the potion maker,” he answers perfunctorily. “You can distinguish Amortentia by its unique aromas, which appeal differently to each person.” He pauses. “And… I’ll just give an example, I guess?” He takes a deep breath. “I smell forest pine, red wine, and… cherry blossom.”
Our eyes connect across the table and suddenly, as if prompted by his words, a long forgotten memory flashes across my eyes.
“Sirius! Sirius, let’s go play!”
“Sure, what do you want to do?”
“Hmmm, hide and seek? …eh, what, why are you sniffing the air?”
“Something smells good. Is it you?”
“Oh, I just showered. You like it? My mum got it for me for my birthday. Cherry blossom!”
“Cherry blossom huh? It suits you.”
“Excellent, excellent! Another five points for Gryffindor!” Slughorn nods approvingly. “Now, class. Pay careful attention to the unique swirls of steam this potion creates and its distinct mother-of-pearl sheen for…”
I blink as Slughorn’s voice shakes me out of my daze, dragging me back to reality. What was that just now?
I glance back at Sirius across the table questionably only to find him once again in a whispered conversation with Lily. My brows furrow as I watch Lily grin and say something to him behind her hand and then Sirius lean in to whisper a reply in her ear. They’re… awfully close, aren’t they? Don’t they have any sense of personal space? And before I know it, Lily then tilts her head up at him with doe-eyed look in her eyes and Sirius actually returns her gaze for a long moment before Lily giggles and hits him across the arm.
What is this.
Am I imagining it? No, they are definitely acting way closer than they should be. If I didn’t know better, I’d think they were bloody flirting!
I’m about to nudge Remus in the side to ask if I’m dreaming, when Professor Slughorn suddenly snaps, “Mr. Black! As knowledgeable as you and Miss Evans are, please pay attention in class!”
Lily and Sirius exchange looks before Sirius gives her an insouciant shrug.
“Er, we’re feeling under the weather, Professor. Can we go to the Hospital Wing?” says Sirius, unabashed.
The professor blinks. “Oh, very well then,” he acquiesces with a sigh. “I expect you two to come back on Thursday with a note from Madam Pomfrey! And don’t forget to revise the material you’ve missed!” he calls to their retreating backs as they grab their bags and bolt out the door.
I just stare at them aghast.
What utter bull! I mean, I can expect blatant skiving off from Sirius or James, but Lily? She’s Slughorn’s favorite student! What could they possibly be doing together?
“Er, Cecilia?” I hear Remus ask tentatively behind me. “I know what it must look like, but don’t do anything stupi—”
Before he can finish his sentence, I snatch up my own bag and sprint out the room. “I’m sick too, Professor! See you Thursday!” I yell over my shouder.
“M-Miss Vance, you as well?” sputters the professor.
“Um, me too. Sorry Professor!”
“Mr. Lupin! What is this, the plague?”
I look behind me to see Remus coming out after me. “What are you doing? Go back to class, prefect!” I hiss at him.
“You’re telling me?” Remus jogs to catch up and then grabs my arm. “Are you going to follow them? I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“Yeah, yeah, don’t stalk people, I know,” I reply absently as I slink down the hallway.
“Well, yes, but still—”
His words are interrupted by the sound of hushed voices acround the corner. I quickly slap a hand over his mouth and tug his arm to inch closer to the neighboring hallway.
“Sirius, are you sure we should be skiving off?”
“Well, it’s easier if Cecilia isn’t around right to see us right? C’mon, let’s go. The period’s almost over.”
“That’s true… speaking of which, are we still meeting up in Hogsmeade tomorrow night?”
“Yeah, of course. Who knows when we’ll get a chance to be alone together again?”
“But what about James…?”
“Don’t worry, I’ll talk to him.”
My eyes widen. What is this? Are they seeing each other behind James’ back? No, that’s too fantastical. They would never do that. But… what kind of double meaning would this kind of conversation have? No matter how much I try to give them the benefit of the doubt, it just sounds to me like… no, no way.
Suddenly, I’m feeling sick to my stomach.
“Remus…” I mumble under my breath. “Remus, I think we should go. I don’t want to see this anymore.”
I start to stand up from my crouched position, but the moment I move my foot back, my heel connects with Remus’ shin and he lets out a muted yelp.
“Ow, geez, Cecilia!”
“Sorry, sorry, I—ack!”
I take a step back instead and stumble over my own feet to land not-so-gracefully on my rear in the hallway. Before I can frantically scramble back behind the wall, I hear a surprised voice exclaim, “What in the worl—Remus? Cecilia!”
My body freezes at the sound of his voice. Crap. Wait, no, what do I have to be ashamed of? I haven’t done anything wrong!
I jump to my feet to finally face the two of them completely. The startled yet guilty looks on their faces makes my throat dry, but I swallow before asking in a low voice, “What are you two doing?”
“None-of-your-business!” Sirius blurts out.
Lily elbows him in the ribs. “You git,” she hisses under her breath before turning to me. “I know what you must be thinking, but this isn’t what it looks like, Cecilia.”
“Then what is it exactly?” I say slowly. “I’m not suspecting you guys or anything, it’s just bizarre that you two randomly ran off together.”
“It’s nothing. We’re just going—”
“To the owlery,” Sirius cuts in hastily.
I raise an eyebrow. “Can’t you do that after class? You know Professor Slughorn said this material was going to be on the quiz next week.”
At this, Lily glares up at Sirius, but he just gives her an apologetic shrug. “Well, yeah, that’s why we’re going to the library.”
“I thought you were going to the owlery.”
“Er, yeah, that’s what I meant—ow.”
My brows furrow as Lily elbows him again. I bite my lip before mumbling, “If you guys want to see each other so badly, you don’t have to make excuses to avoid me. I mean, I’ll leave you alone.”
Sirius and Lily exchange glances but don’t respond. Finally when Sirius opens his mouth to speak, a loud bell rings through the school signaling the end of the class period. He blinks and then grabs Lily’s arm to pull her away.
“C’mon, Lily. Let’s go.”
“What, are you kidding m—hey!” I call to their retreating backs, but their figures are quickly blocked by the crowd of students flooding the hallway. “What the hell!” I yell to no one in particular. “What is with them!”
“Hey…” Remus puts a hand on my shoulder. “Sorry you had to see that.”
I spin around to face him, a frown on my face. “What do you have to be sorry about,” I mutter. “It’s not like you made them run off together. I just don’t see why they couldn’t explain themselves. What do they expect me to think now—”
My words are cut off as Remus pulls me in to an embrace. His arms wrap tightly around my shoulders and his hand presses my head against his chest. “Shh,” he whispers, “don’t think too much about it.”
I hesistate for a moment before wrapping my arms around his waist. Before I know it, I’m hugging him a lot more firmly than I probably should’ve been. I don’t know why this whole thing is making me feeling so upset, but it is. Just the thought of that makes me curse myself mentally. You’re almost sixteen, Cecilia, bloody grow up.
I let out a short breath when I feel Remus’ hand rub in between my shoulders. “You’re tensing up,” he says gently. “I told you not to think about it so much.”
“I can’t help it,” I mutter into his shirt.
He chuckles. “Well, try then. Don’t you have better things to worry about?”
“I’d say! Aren’t you two skiving delinquents supposed to be in the Hospital Wing?”
Remus and I hastily break apart to see James grinning at us. He runs a hand through his already too messy hair and gives us a friendly wave.
“I can’t believe Slughorn actually let you guys run out of class like that! If I knew it’d be that easy to skip out on Potions, I’d be doing it way more often!” he exclaims before looking around. “Where’d Sirius and Lily go anyway?”
His question makes me wince. Does James know about Sirius and Lily secretly meeting up at night?
“Er, they left already,” I reply vaguely.
James frowns. “Oh. Well anyway!” he says, recovering quickly. “We all have better things to worry about! Slughorn’s lecture was so bloody boring I don’t know how I’m going to be able to stay awake and concentrate on catching the Snitch for the Quidditch semi-final match toda—”
“QUIDDITCH MATCH?” I repeat in shock.
James gapes at me, apparently in an equal amount of shock. “Yeah, this afternoon! You didn’t know? Wait a minute…” He gasps melodramatically. “Have you been skipping out on Quidditch practice? SHAME ON YOU.”
“I had amnesia, you dummy!”
“Ah, right, right, sorry.” James grins apologetically. He then glances down at the watch on his wrist and jumps as if Stupified. “Bollocks, I forgot! We have to meet in the locker room ASAP! The captain wanted us to meet before the game so he could go over strategies again!” He starts sprinting down the hallway. “C’mon, Cecilia!”
“O-oh, I’ll be right there!” I wave at him before adjusting my bag on my shoulder and turning back to Remus. “Hey, thanks for trying to cheer me up. But don’t worry about me. Lily and Sirius can do whatever they want. It doesn’t bother me.”
Remus raises an eyebrow. “Uh huh.”
I smile at the skeptical look on his face. “Honestly, I’m fine.” I back down the hallway towards where James ran off. “I’ll see you at the game alright? Wish me luck!”
“Yeah, you’ll need it!” he calls at me as I start running after James. “And don’t think about it, really! I’m serious!”
“No, I’m pretty sure you’re Remus!”
“Ha ha, you’re not funny!”
I grin at him over my shoulder before slinging the strap of my bag over the other side of my neck and breaking into a sprint. The moment I turn the corner and start running up the stairs two steps at a time, my grin fades and I heave a sigh.
Don’t think about it? Why is no one taking this seriously but me? Am I overreacting? I mean, Lily and Sirius breaking school rules and sneaking off together is weird right? They don’t even usually hang out together alone! And what am I getting all annoyed for anyway… Am I jealous or something?
The thought makes me screech to a halt before the door to the Gryffindor locker room.
Is that why I’ve been so attuned to Sirius talking to other girls lately? I mean, to be honest, I don’t think he’s been talking to any more girls than he usually does (which is a surprisingly large number in itself), but for some reason it never really occurred to me before. I feel like I just notice him more now. Like I’m more aware of where he is and what he’s doing.
I frown to myself as I push open the locker room door and make my way to my locker.
“Hey, Nora, Tracey,” I greet my fellow teammates absently before stripping out of my school robes and into my scarlet Quidditch uniform.
My frown deepens as I continue to ponder the situation. Wait, regardless of how jealous I am or how many girls Sirius talks with on a daily basis, he shouldn’t be meeting up with Lily secretly anyway! She has a boyfriend!
I jump up onto the locker room bench and peek my head over the lockers to the other side. “Hey, Sirius, have you talked to James yet?” I call to the black-haired boy across from me.
Sirius glances up at the sound of his name and upon seeing my face, jolts rather over-exaggeratedly. “Bloody hell, privacy!” he says as he hastily pulls his plain gray shirt down over his head and grabs his uniform.
My eyes glance over his bare chest before I even realize it and I turn my face away, my cheeks slightly pink. “Sorry, I thought everyone was done changing,” I mutter before asking again, “Have you talked to James at all though?”
“I talk to him everyday, why?”
“I mean, about meeting up with Lily in Hogsmeade,” I explain.
Sirius flinches again, this time bumping his head against the rim of his locker as he searched for his arm guards. He emerges after a moment, rubbing the top of head. “W-what, you know about that?”
“Yeah, I heard you and Lily talking earlier.”
He looks at me, startled. “How… much have you heard?”
My eyes narrow at his reaction. “Enough,” I decidedly answer. “You know, I know our parents made this engagement without our consent and stuff, so I can maybe understand you keeping this from me if you really like her, but hiding it from your best mate is kind of low, isn’t it?”
“Don’t you think James deserves to know?”
Sirius just stares at me, the expression on his face conflicted. He looks away from me briefly as if thinking carefully about how he should respond, but when he turns back to answer, a voice pops in.
“Deserves to know what?”
Both our eyes snap to James as he bounds over and then back to each other. I hold Sirius’ gaze for a moment and then make my decision. Ye-up, I’m going to make him tell James.
“About Lily!” I cut in before Sirius can open his mouth. He shoots me a look but I ignore it. “Sirius wanted to tell you about him and Lily.”
“What about her, mate?” James throws an arm around Sirius’ shoulders, his eyes moving between us questionably.
“Nothing,” Sirius answers quickly. “I was just explaining to Cecilia how Lily and I are meeting up in Hogsmeade at 7 by Zonko’s to study.”
My jaw drops at his answer, but James just blinks.
I gape the two of them. “James, you can’t possibly believe him?!” I demand furiously. “Sirius, that is the lamest excuse you’ve ever made and you know i—”
“ARE YOU GUYS READY FOR THIS?!”
The door suddenly bangs open and we all jump. Rize strides into the locker room, his Quidditch robes prim and proper on his well-built form and his broom over his shoulder. It had been so long since I’d gone to Quidditch practice and seen this guy that I’d forgotten… Rize looks bloody terrifying before a game.
It must be the crazed look of victory in his eyes.
“I’m sorry I’m late when I called you guys in here early to review strategies. Professor McGonagall needed to speak to me earlier.” He clears his throat and bellows, “BUT WHO NEEDS BRIEFING WHEN YOU’RE THE GRYFFINDOR QUIDDITCH TEAM, AM I RIGHT OR AM I BLOODY RIGHT?!”
The locker room explodes with thunderous cheers.
“Right! Everyone just do the formations we’ve practiced in training and fly like you usually do!” Rize claps his hands together and thrusts his broom into the air. “The game is ours! Let’s go!”