Behind the Greenhouses
The Ones Left Behind
I don't think Sirius really understood why his best mate was so hung up over something as insignificant as a teenage girl. But, partly by my own fault, James was now spending all his time with his new girlfriend.
And it's not like I'm Evans's best friend, or some fifth Marauder. I'm a Hufflepuff! So how on Earth did I get to be the one left behind with him?
- Chapter One -
Behind the Greenhouses
I highly doubted that I'd find either of the boys in the library. They were far too cool for that. Well, they probably thought they were anyway. But I knew two others who might be around, and that was just as good.
As I approached their table I kept my gaze resolutely fixed onto the bookcase behind their heads. Remus Lupin was sitting back in his chair, reading a book, his eyes stopping wearily every few moments as if he was too tired to continue. Peter Pettigrew was beside him, distractedly flicking a quill in his fingers and chewing the nails of his other hand. They both glanced up as I crossed the room towards them.
I looked down awkwardly, pulling a face. My footsteps seemed so unbearably loud. Stupid silent library atmosphere … There shouldn't be so much tension involved in walking across a room. Lupin went back to his reading but the smaller boy continued to watch me aptly, scuffing the floor with his feet. He glanced furtively at his friend and back to me a few times. I didn't look at him. Bloody hell, would he ever stop staring? Was it too late to turn around now?
The walk across the room seemed to take a very long time.
Just as I reached them, Lupin caught one of Pettigrew's glances and frowned questioningly at him. They both looked up at me when I halted in front of them.
I didn't know either of them very well, except for some light conversation with Lupin in Arithmancy. He sat in front of me.
So I addressed him. "Any chance you'd know where I could find James Potter and Sirius Black?" I asked. I waved up the two notes in my hand, hoping that that would be a sufficient explanation.
He paused for a moment and then opened his mouth to reply, but Pettigrew cut across him excitedly. "Behind the greenhouses. That's what they told us!"
He moved around too much. It made me edgy. I rubbed my neck and glanced uneasily back to Lupin for confirmation.
He stared at his friend, then rolled his eyes and nodded.
I smiled a thanks and then got out of there as quickly as I could. I just saw Lupin shaking his head irritably and returning to his book, as Pettigrew's face fell and he whimpered, "… What did I do?"
What on Earth could they be doing back there?
I could have left it. I could have given them the notes the next time I ran into them. Knowing those two miscreants it was probably just detentions. Hardly anything urgent, right? … But when would I ever see them? And they're always surrounded with their mates. Big groups aren't exactly my forte …
OK, be honest with yourself, if you leave it until later what is the actual probability that you'll just completely forget about it?
… All right, fine!
It wasn't like I had anything better to do.
(Well, there was always the whole studying for NEWTs and stuff, but I was taking a break, OK? I had studied this morning! It was a Saturday! That was an achievement and a half in itself.)
But if I ended up walking in on Potter and Black … doing anything like ... behind the greenhouses … Oh, I am going to kill Peter Pettigrew.
Though I'd always had a suspicion about those two …
I chuckled a little. Then I realised that I had just laughed. Out loud. To myself. It's like I wanted people to think I was completely mental …
The greenhouses were pretty out of the way and it took a while to find the pair of boys. I walked along outside them, trudging through the overgrown gardens that covered the grounds between them and the Forbidden Forest. It was completely secluded. I vaguely realised that it was a perfect place to hang out. Cool and shady and hidden from the rest of the grounds …
I glanced around nervously. Was this place out of bounds? I could just imagine Professor Sprout spying me through the glass walls of the greenhouses. Oh Christ. She was already impatient with me today when she found me loitering out in the front courtyard.
So, I was given a message.
(I was only sitting on the balustrade of the viaduct, minding my own business. In what universe is that considered loitering? And what's so weird about trying to get the gargoyles to talk to me anyway?)
The further I walked the wilder it got and the more I felt like I shouldn't have been there. Even when – or if – I found them at that stage, how awkward was that going to be? At which point did I decide that this was a good idea? Bloody hell, I didn't even know either of them.
Why oh why did I not simply give the notes to their mates to pass on? That would have made life so much simpler …
What the hell could they be doing back here anyway? I cursed Pettigrew under my breath.
I was just thinking, not for the first time, of turning back, when I spotted the two figures casually standing around, somewhere between greenhouses three and four.
They noticed me as soon as we were in view of each other. Potter, seemingly alarmed, turned his back to me and bent over something suspiciously. As I was closer now I noticed a bunch of large flowerpots behind him, amidst the overgrown grass.
Black surveyed me all the while as I approached them, looking completely unperturbed. I couldn't exactly ignore them. I was so clearly not just on a random stroll around the grounds. I didn't like that feeling. Of being watched. I gave Black a slight, awkward smile, just to be polite about it or something. He didn't return the smile. He just stared at me in a bored sort of way. (Too cool for school, I'm telling you.) I raised my eyebrows slightly to myself, and sheepishly offered my smile to the ground instead. On turning around, Potter stretched out his arms and yawned widely.
I was kind of curious … But I wasn't going to ask. I was already disrupting whatever it was that they were doing. I really felt like a right twat for coming all the way out here.
"All right, Comstock?" called Potter in a friendly sort of way, casually running a hand through his messy black hair. It was a bit of a masterpiece, to be honest. There were parts that just stuck up randomly in odd directions. Combing his hands through it constantly didn't exactly help either. He grinned widely at me. "Fancy seeing you here!"
I just grinned awkwardly back as I reached where they were standing. "Notes from Professor Sprout," was all I replied, automatically copying him by pushing my hair from my face.
"That's a long way you came out, just to deliver notes," Potter teased. Black rolled his eyes.
I laughed a little and shrugged lazily. "Yeah … Pettigrew told me yous were out here. And I was bored."
I had been trying not to look at Black. He was kind of intimidating, and looking at him made me unnecessarily nervous. Not to mention that Sirius Black was … kind of extremely good-looking. But that's not important. Now he seemed to feel the need to join the conversation.
He simply scowled. Without so much as glancing at me, he asked Potter grudgingly, "How thick is that kid?"
I blinked. Oh no, what was I barging in on? "Sorry if I'm, er … interrupting something," I said quickly, hoping to mask the burst of laughter that threatened to escape me as an apologetic smile. I shuddered a little from the effort.
"Not at all," grinned Potter, stepping to the side as if to hide the flowerpot a little more from my view. He held out his hand for the notes.
As I made to pass him the rolls of parchment, I glanced down and caught a glimpse of something glassy and orangey-red as it caught the sunlight.
All my sense of manners and decency and awareness of their privacy immediately evaporated as I halted and pointed into the flowerpot, practically shouting, "IS THAT FIREWHISKEY?"
As if they had planned it, Potter jumped back and Black took his place in front of me, staring me down and edging forwards so as to force me to step back.
"I wish," he said dejectedly. He smirked at me, locking my gaze and holding it.
I gulped, relenting to back away sheepishly. His eyes were strikingly dark and grey. My mouth was suddenly very dry and I couldn't think of anything sensible to say, let alone trust myself to speak coherently. Why did he have to be so intimidating?
But I was being nosy. Good Lord, what was I thinking, invading their personal space like that? I really shouldn't do that. Should really stop now. Right now.
"Right," I nodded. I took another step back, my heart slightly quicker than usual from Black's startling glare. I let out a quick nervous laugh. "Trick of the light. Sorry. My mistake. Here's your notes, then."
He let me thrust them into his hand, but he knit his brow and raised his head to study me in what looked like confusion.
Or maybe it was more like suspicion. He eyed me up and down warily, making me feel quite indecent, and I blew out my cheeks and looked around just so that I wouldn't have to look anywhere near him or his perfectly sculptured face …
Slightly dazed, it took me a moment too long to realise that now would be a good time to escape. But as I opened my mouth to bid them goodbye, Potter appeared at Black's side once more.
"You're not gonna tell on us, are you?"
I couldn't stop myself. I smiled a little to eagerly. "Does that mean you do have firewhiskey? Is this a stash or something?" Laughing, I added, "Any chance you'd wanna share a bit?"
Black snorted, and turned to Potter. "She's pretty quick for a Hufflepuff."
I let the smile slide off my face. "Aw, Black. I'm offended. Wounded, even." I grinned. "Though I'll likely forgive you if you'd share a bit of that …"
Er ... What did I think I was doing? I wasn't like this. All I knew was that I had a strong craving for alcohol which I hadn't felt in quite some time. That sort of cancelled out everything else.
"You want some of that?" he scoffed. "Have you ever tried it before?"
"No," I admitted quickly, looking between the two of them, "but if it's anything as strong as vodka I'm sure I could handle it."
"Vodka!" laughed Black scornfully, looking down on me with a very haughty look. "What are you-"
"-Muggle-born?" I offered innocently, feeling a goading smile creep across my face.
Potter looked positively alarmed. He froze, staring at his friend for a moment before he laughed very loudly. "Sorry about him, Comstock! Pure-blood through and through, doesn't know any different! He didn't mean anything by it, honest." He slapped his friend hard on the back.
Black staggered a little, and then glared at Potter.
… Was it just me or did the slightest tinge of pink blush his cheeks? But Sirius Black, cool-person of the school, blushing? Feeling emotion of any sort?
Nah, it was definitely just me. Trick of the light.
"That's all right, Black," I said, rather more cheerfully than I was feeling. He shot me a quick glare and my smile faltered.
Note to self: Sirius Black can't take a joke.
Crap, he didn't actually have a thing against Muggle-borns, did he? That would be awkward. I wouldn't have expected it from him. I had been totally kidding before!
No, he was probably just the sort that can dish out the slagging but can't take it himself. Yeah, that's totally it. Yeah.
What was I doing here, again? I was definitely overstaying my welcome by now. Oh no, I wasn't even welcome in the first place! It was officially time to pull a legger …
Black had turned around and was grudgingly kicking the flowerpot further into the long grass. I shook myself, choosing to forget about it. I was about to excuse myself when Potter pulled his wand from his back pocket and turned his eyes to me with a slightly dramatic sigh.
"You won't be telling anyone, then. Will you?"
"Why would I bother?"
"Oh, I don't know. Just 'cause if you felt you had to report us, or even tell a few friends … Well, I've been getting pretty good at those ol' memory charms!" He laughed loudly and turned to Black, nudging him amiably with his elbow.
Black just seemed to ignore him.
Did this mean I wasn't getting any firewhiskey?
"Oh, come on. I'm not gonna tell," I said, rolling my eyes. I decided to leave out the notable point that I had nobody to tell, even if I wanted to. The next words flowed naturally out of my mouth before I could even stop to think twice about them. "Who d'you think I am, Lily Evans?"
Potter halted, his mouth hanging open slightly, as Black spun around and glanced warily at his friend. Then he turned to me with his eyebrows raised up into his thick dark hair.
For a second it looked like one of them was about to start shouting at me. But then Black's face contorted into a mad grin and he exploded into barking laughter, doubled over and clutching his stomach.
I couldn't stop a wry smile spread across my face. "Oh, sorry, I – er – forgot you … had a bit of a thing for Evans, Potter … So how's that working out for you?"
I laughed at Black more than anything else. Potter scowled at me and then even more venomously at his friend, who was all but rolling on the ground.
"All I meant was that I'm not going to tell," I assured him.
"That's nice," said Black, as he suddenly became calm again. He smirked. "Off you go."
I wrinkled my nose at him but ended up grinning. I bit my tongue and resigned to leave them.
I had walked quite a distance when I heard the voice call out.
I stopped cautiously and turned. Black had the amber bottle in his hand and shook the liquid inside of it.
"Want some or not?"
Potter had been staring at him doubtfully. Black was still smirking as he turned to his friend and brought his hand up to his mouth and whispered something to Potter behind it.
For a moment I didn't move. I stared at the bottle and then at the two boys as they nodded mischievously to each other. Potter had apparently taken a day off being Head Boy and it didn't surprise me in the least, even if he had only held the position for about two weeks. He pushed his glasses up on his nose and ruffled his black hair confidently. Black just stood, grinning at me with his hands in his pockets and a sort of superior complex etched into his traditionally handsome face.
I could hardly recall five times that I had spoken to either of them before today.
Maybe that was an exaggeration.
Or not … Actually, let's see:
1. In Potions last year, Potter had purposely knocked my books to the floor and then wholeheartedly apologised, claiming that he had thought they belonged to 'Snivellus'. (Snivellus. What a genius nickname. Wonder how long it took for them to come up with that one …)
2. Again in Potions, Potter had tried to slag Severus Snape by telling me to watch out for any sudden movements in case he shed a skin of grease into my cauldron.
(I don't know if that counts, since it was really directed at the Slytherin.)
3. Errr … Once in fifth year Potter asked me if I was going to the match! And I said, 'What match?' and he said 'The Quidditch match' and I said 'Er, no' and he said 'But Hufflepuff are playing' and I said 'Oh.' And that was it.
4. … OH MY GOD, I really didn't think this would be so hard!
Black had … said sorry to me once in the Great Hall in first year or something when he had come over for mashed potato?
No, wait, that was Potter again.
Can't do it!
How did they even know my name? I mean, of course I knew them. They were the most legendary blokes in our year. The whole school, even. They had their own little group that was so rowdy and trouble-making that it was fairly impossible not to know them. But why would I ever actually talk to them? They were Gryffindors for starters. I'd had my own group of Hufflepuffs and if they had ever felt like having a bit of inter-house fraternisation, it wasn't done with me.
I'd had Herbology with them for OWLs … And now the only subject I shared with them was Potions. In fairness, I sat beside Severus Snape, so that probably counted for something. Recognition, at least.
But recognition is hardly a good enough excuse for sharing their firewhiskey with me.
Sorry, my suspicions were getting the better of me. If I knew anything at all about Potter and Black it was that they loved a laugh, and didn't give a flying fwooper how they had to get it. I remembered Aubrey telling me that they had once hexed him out of random in the corridor, but he didn't give the details. They were reportedly doing stuff like that all the time.
The first thing that came into my head was that they had done something to the drink. Poison. Veritaserum. Confusing Concoction (that might be a funny one). Laxative Potion ... No, OK, they weren't that bad … Were they? The second thing was that they simply wanted to have me drink it to take the mickey out of me when I spluttered at the sharp taste of the alcohol, or when I got tipsy embarrassingly quickly. (Which, I couldn't deny, would most definitely happen. How long had it been, anyway?)
For a moment I was totally and utterly convinced that I wouldn't give them the satisfaction.
But I found myself wandering back to them anyway. "I think you might be doing this just to take the piss," I decided, "but I'd still rather take the drink, if it's going."
"Pretty quick for a Hufflepuff," Black repeated, and Potter snorted.
Black made to hand me the bottle, but I couldn't help but pause, still a little uneasy.
"You first," I said slowly.
"You don't trust us?" exclaimed Potter, apparently outraged at my lack of confidence in them.
But Black only shrugged lazily and brought the bottle to his lips to take a large swig.
Handing the bottle to his friend, he suddenly caught my gaze. His mouth twitched into an arrogant half-smirk and he raised his eyebrows in disdainful amusement.
I felt my eyes widen uncomfortably. Before, when I said that Black being sort of extremely good-looking wasn't important … Well, OK, that was a total lie. It mattered very much. He was beautiful. Other-worldly, almost. I couldn't handle it. I glanced at Potter just in time to see him give the slightest wince as he lowered the bottle from his mouth.
He handed it to me, grinning widely as he wiped his mouth with his sleeve.
I felt the bottle in my hand, my face a little hot from Black's startling smirk. Doing a very hasty mental preparation for the expected harsh taste of the straight alcohol, I raised my eyebrows casually at the two boys as I brought the bottle to my lips and took a large – pretty courageous, in my opinion – mouthful of the drink.
The initial shock of it seemed to burn my mouth and sear down my throat, but it was only a short moment before a pleasant warming sensation spread through my whole body.
Smiling only slightly, I handed back the bottle.
AND I DIDN'T EVEN FLINCH!
Oh God, how I had missed alcohol.
I closed my eyes to savour the feeling, and when I opened them again Potter and Black were both staring at me a little sceptically.
"It's good," I said, slightly more longing evident in my voice than I really liked.
Quite a long silence followed. Potter and I sort of shifted uncomfortably where we stood, looking around us. Black just looked highly bored.
Finally, I said, "I'll just head off then. Thanks for that."
Black didn't even acknowledge that I had spoken, but Potter looked at me in confusion. "What? We've only just started!"
I opened my mouth to speak but found myself unable to think of anything. I closed it again and licked my lips, staring at them warily. "… What?" I asked, dumbstruck. "I'm supposed to stay?"
He just stared back at me incredulously. "Of course! We said we'd share with you, didn't we?"
Did they? I couldn't remember.
"You're seriously giving me more than a mouthful?" I asked, looking at both of them. Was there something I was missing here? They must be mental. I mean, if it was my drink they wouldn't be getting any, no matter how hilarious the outcome might be. I may be a Hufflepuff, but when it comes to sharing alcohol the rules are pretty different.
"Of course!" laughed Potter.
"Do I have to pay for it?" I asked suspiciously.
Black let out a short laugh and met my eyes with a glint of amusement.
"Of course not!" shouted Potter.
I looked at him, a little shocked. "Oh … Well, thanks."
His reply was a grin and a wink.
I made an odd sort of laugh-type noise. I stared between the two of them, Black idly scratching the side of his face and Potter simply looking awkward and messing with his hair.
I let out a short breath. "Then could we all stop trying to act cool and just down the rest of it and get completely pissed? 'Cause I dunno about you guys, but that's all I wanna do right now."
Black glanced at me and seemed to scrutinise me for a moment. Slowly, a wry grin found its way to his lips. I let myself smile widely back.
Potter held the bottle up dramatically and proclaimed, "I concur!" Then he lifted it to his mouth and began to drink speedily.
Black and I laughed and, with a quick glance at me, he jumped forward and whacked Potter hard over the head. Potter spluttered and choked as the liquid spilled down his front. Black jerked the bottle from his grip and began knocking it back.
He didn't seem as if he was about to stop any time soon. Since Potter was bent over, hacking his lungs up, I didn't know how to stop Black from finishing the lot. So I panicked and yelled out, "Oh my God, Potter, put your shirt back on!" Black immediately lowered the bottle and looked around at me like I was mad. I snatched the bottle away from him with a smirk, and darted away a bit so as to down as much as I possibly could before they tried to get it off me.
The cycle repeated itself only once more; me handing the bottle to Potter (when he, seemingly alarmed, decided to take it back), Black stealing it from him and me attempting to get it from Black – but really him just giving it to me in the end - until only the ends were left when I gave it back to Potter.
He swallowed the last dribble and raised the bottle up above his mouth, tipping it expectantly, but nothing more came out. He blinked a few times at the empty bottle in his hand.
He looked around for a split second, and then hurled it hard to the ground. It smashed loudly, sending sharp shards of glass spinning in every direction.
"Oops," he said, grinning sheepishly. We all looked at each other in a slight pause, before erupting into great roars of laughter.