Forgiveness and Stuff
Sirius was in a what one would call an undesirable situation. His friend Peter had just blabbed and confessed to the entire table that Sirius was no longer part of the proud and pureblood-loving Black family: something that he would have preferred to keep to himself and his closest friends for a little while longer. He was no fool: he knew a news flash like this would spread throughout Hogwarts like wildfire. Still, he would like liked one more night of peace and quiet.
No such luck. The girls on the other end of the table were looking at him expectantly. But Sirius did not really know how to deal with this right now. Obviously lying was not an option, but he was not all that keen on discussing the derailed relationship with his parents with Mary and Brice either.
Once again he felt the now familiar ache near his heart which he never seemed able to fully control, but he successfully pushed that feeling to the back of his mind by focusing on Peter. Sirius was about to transfigure his little friend into a Flobberworm, but once he looked at Peter's anxious face, the feeling of annoyance slipped away rapidly. It was simply impossible to hold a grudge against Wormtail.
So instead, he focused his eyes on his goblet of pumpkin juice, whirled it around on the table while wrecking his mind to come up with an excuse. Finally, Sirius decided to come clean after all, since there was no reason to postpone the inevitable. "They didn't have to," he muttered. "One night I simply had enough of it and just… left that godforsaken place. My parents weren't sorry to watch me get my stuff and leave. I reckon it must have been the happiest day of their lives to finally be liberated from their disgraceful son," he added in a sour voice.
For a moment all that could be heard was the sound of chattering and laughing students around the Great Hall. The end of the long Gryffindor table however was dead silent. No one said a word, but Sirius could feel their eyes on him. When he finally looked up from studying the little engraved runes on his goblet, the first gaze his eyes met was Mary's.
And for once her eyes were not filled with disgust or hatred, but with sincere concern. In that one second their eyes locked and he failed to completely suppress his feelings, she looked right through him. "Oh Merlin Sirius," she said quietly. "I'm so sorry for you."
Sirius tore his gaze away. He could not take her concern or pity. No one was supposed to know that his parents turning their back on him fore good was affecting him more than he would like to admit (even to James). So with another shake of his head to get his hair from his eyes, he firmly told himself to get a grip and shot Mary a daring look. "Sirius? Whatever happened to calling me Black?"
For a moment Mary appeared a little taken aback by his sudden change of mood. She blinked before frowning and resolutely crossing her arms in front of her chest. "So you don't want to talk about it? Fine, whatever. your call. But there's no need to bite my head off like that."
"Fine, whatever," he repeated hotly. "Look, can we just leave it?"
Sirius turned around in his seat and glanced over at the Slytherin table where his younger brother Regulus was hanging out with his friends. The boy did not seem the least bothered that his older, now disowned brother was present in the very same hall. Then again, Regulus had never chosen Sirius's side in the first place. The little slimeball preferred not hurting his beloved mother's feelings. Sirius assumed Regulus had started moving his stuff into his old room the second Sirius had slammed the front door of Grimmauld Place behind him.
But despite everything, even now, Sirius could not help feeling somewhat responsible for the his little brother's well-being. He feared Regulus would be foolish enough to join the Death Eaters as soon as he graduated from Hogwarts, for the single reason he would want to continue and impress his parents and honor their heritage. And although Sirius loathed Regulus with a passion, he would still do everything to prevent that from happening.
Meanwhile, Mary was studying her fingernails with a moody expression on her face. Peter, Remus and Brice had seemed to made a silent agreement that staying out of their squabble was the best strategy. Once again, an awkward silence came over their end of the table, until an African-American girl with a spectacular Afro-hairdo flopped down on the edge of the table.
It was Allison Zabini, a fellow seventh year and probably the only student from Slytherin who was able to do such a thing without being jinxed into oblivion. Somewhere along the road, Allison had decided Gryffindors were not the mortal enemy and both Hogwarts Houses had accepted this unusual behavior.
The Marauders and the now seventh-year girls tolerated Allison (even liked her) and the Slytherins did not despise their housemate for occasionally hanging out with the Gryffindors. "Hullo!" she called cheerfully and was greeted in return by a wall of tense silence. "Whoaaah, who died?"
Remus was the first one to reply. "Hi Allison, no one did. Well, besides Professor Billings , of course."
Allison nodded. "Yeah, poor thing. Did you guys hear she had the entire cover of Basic Hexes for the Busy and Vexed printed on her face by the time the Aurors managed to levitate that closet off her?"
Brice burst out laughing and tried to stifle her giggle as soon as possible. "I'm so-ho-orry, that's not fun-ny."
Allison sniggered and winked at Brice. "Actually, it is. Imagine how that must have looked. Well now, gotta dash. Old Sluggy is having another one of his meetings." She wrinkled her nose. "I never got why they are supposed to be fun."
She jumped off the table and was about to leave when she was stopped by Mary asking: "Hey, that new Defense-professor... Is that by any chance your father?"
"Uncle actually," Allison replied cheerfully. "Nice fellow, although he can get a little carried away when he's sharing the achievements from the past. Just expect lots and lots of personal stories in class on how he defeated the great Peruvian Vipertooth of Ayacucho." She arched an eyebrow. "Sounds like fun, eh? Anyway, I should go. Oh, before I forget: congratulate both James and Lily on making it as Headboy- and girl, okay?"
"Will do," Mary nodded.
Allison waved before hurrying out of the Hall.
"Well," Remus said, "I don't know about you guys, but I'm heading up to the Common Room." He announced, stretching his arms lazily.
"I'll join you," Peter said.
Sirius merely nodded and followed their example, still weary of opening his mouth. Mary exchanged a final glance with Brice, who shrugged and mimicked it might be best to not say another word. Mary rolled her eyes at her friend, but obeyed nevertheless and kept her mouth shut.
As the three boys walked towards the end of the Great Hall, Mary was about to say something about it to Brice, when she noticed something from the corner of her eye.
"Sirius! Hey Sirius, over here!" a loud and high-pitched girl's voice resounded through the hall. Sirius looked around and shot his million dollar smile straight at -
Cassidy Donaldson: a dense, but quite pretty sixth-year Hufflepuff. Last semester he decided that even though Cassidy did not appear to have a brain whatsoever, she did look cute. So Sirius went out with her, for about a week or so. By then her brainless gabble about which hair ribbons were out of fashion this season bugged him so much that he dumped her. But somehow she never really got the message.
At this very moment Cassidy was flinging her arms around his neck and pushing her lower body against his hips. She whispered into his ear that she would love to spend more time with him a distant broom cupboard, and whether he was interested in meeting her later tonight? Not particularly, no. There was only one girl on his mind at the moment.
However, Cassidy did not need to know that. If things would never work out with Mary, he could always come back to her for some uncomplicated snogging.
For a split second Sirius remembered his "act like Remus"-strategy, but decided that was not going to work for him anyway. He simply could not pull it off. Besides, if Mary was ever going to fall for him after all, it should be because he was being himself and not some weird Remus-clone. He dared shooting another glance at Mary before he realized Cassidy was still hanging from his neck, waiting for an answer. So he put her back down as gently as he could and said: "Sorry Cas, but I'm supposed to meet up with James later. Maybe some other time."
And with that, he simply turned around and walked out of the Great Hall without looking back. Acting aloof to alert possibly interested girls was one of his successful strategies to ensure they would keep chasing after him for attention. Worked like a charm every single time. "I hope you were paying attention, Wormtail," Sirius sniggered as the three friends were heading up the stairs to the Gryffindor Common Room together.
"Oh, never mind. You're hopeless."
Meanwhile, Mary and Brice had also just left the Great Hall. They were just walking by Cassidy, who had sat back down at the Hufflepuff table and placed her head on her arms. She was pouting while listening to the heartening words from her friends.
Mary could not help but smile gleefully. "Merlin, I cannot believe that girl. Whhat a retard. I wonder when she will finally get it into her thick head that Black is simply done having fun and is moving on to the next airhead, just like he did with literally every girl who was stupid enough to go out with him before."
"Me, you mean," Brice replied dryly.
"Well... Yeah, you too. I still cannot believe he ditched you for that Beauxbatons-girl. What was her name again, Melanie?"
"Stephanie. Look, I haven't been bothered by Sirius for a long time. I've moved on. Hello? It's been two years. What I don't get, is why you're still getting your wand in a knot over this."
Mary muttered something intelligible.
"What was that?"
"Nothing… Never mind."
Brice sighed and they continued to climb the stairs in silence. When they finally reached the portrait of the Fat Lady, Mary realized that she did not even know how to get inside. "Brice, we don't have the new password."
"I do. James told me at dinner. Hornbeam", she told the Fat Lady in a clear voice.
The woman in the portrait smiled down and after a cheerful "Welcome back, ladies", she swung forward and let them inside. When Mary and Brice entered the Common Room, they spotted the four Marauders, all sitting on the comfortable couch and arm chairs near the fire, where the house-elves had prepared a nice crackling fire.
Lily was sitting cross-legged and with her back in front of the fireplace. James was just explaining their duties as Headboy- and Girl the guys, which mostly contained of a lot of patrolling at night and keeping an eye on the Prefects, but apparently they were also in charge of organizing school parties. Mary sat down across from Lily and leaned her back against Remus's arm chair. "How are you feeling?"
Lily shrugged. "I'm alright. This past hour with James has been quite nice, actually. I hardly recognized him at first to tell you the truth. He seems… different."
Her redheaded friend looked at James, who at that very second was loudly announcing that, as Headboy, he also had the power to give detentions to students and that this "gift" would be especially convenient whenever Snivellus was being a pain in the ass.
Lily closed her eyes for a moment. "Of course, some of the old repulsive habits do break through occasionally," she muttered darkly.
Mary snorted. She looked around the room, checking out the group of shy first-years in the corner near the window, but for some reason, her eyes happened to go straight back to Sirius. Normally he would have been in the centre of the conversation and demand most of the attention, but at the moment he was remarkably reminiscent, merely watching James with an absent - and complete fake - smile on his face. Mary's thoughts once again shot back to learning that Sirius had walked out on his own parents only a few weeks ago. She wondered if Lily knew and gave her a nudge.
"Can I talk to you for a sec?"
"Sure, what's up?"
"Not here," Mary whispered. "Let's go to our dormitory."
Lily frowned. "Mare, are you alright?"
She smiled and nodded, reassuring it had nothing to do with her. "Of course, I'm fine. I just want to discuss something with you. Just not here."
Her friend nodded, still looking a bit puzzled as the two of them crawled up from the floor. After telling the guys and Brice they were going upstairs, all of them said goodnight except Sirius and James, the latter merely raising a hand and waving absent-mindedly while continuing his passionate monologue on his latest Headboy-plan to throw the biggest Christmas party Hogwarts had ever seen.
Sirius was now moodily staring into the fire. Lily, who was still watching James with a (surprisingly) amused look on her face, did not notice. But it was Sirius's sour expression that convinced Mary she was going to do the right thing by confiding in Lily and telling her what had happened to him over the Summer.
The seventh-year girls dormitory was near the very top of the Gryffindor tower and when they walked inside, they noticed the elves had already put their trunks in front of their beds; ready to be unpacked.
Mary's cat Coco was snoozing on her pillow. Mary walked over to her four-poster bed, flopped down on the edge and started scratching the cat behind the ears, which made her roll over and start to purr contently. Lily decided to sit down on her own bed, which was right next to Mary's one. "So what did you want to talk about?"
Mary sighed and gave Coco a tiny peck on the head before looking up at her friend. "Tonight at dinner, after you and James had left with McGonagall, something interesting happened."
Lily looked intrigued. "Oh?"
"Well, basically we continued talking about why the Death Eaters are so keen on attacking Muggle-borns. Brice blamed the old-fashioned pureblood crazed families and felt they were the ones responsible for Voldemort's rise in popularity in the first place. But then... Did you not notice Sirius was being awfully quiet tonight?"
She shrugged. "Now that you mention it, yeah, I guess you could say he was."
Mary shifted back on her bed and crossed her legs while leaning backwards against one of the poles. "He mentioned something disturbing about his family after you and James left."
Lily arched an eyebrow. "About the Blacks being fond of their pureblood status? That's no news to anyone, rather a well-known fact."
"I know, but then Peter blurted out something really stupid and Sirius got all... Well… Lil, exactly how often have you been writing him this past Summer?"
"Three or four times, I don't really recall."
"And he was with the Potters the entire time?"
"Yes, he usually spends his Summers with James. Why d'you ask?"
Mary frowned while thoughtfully stroking Coco's back. "And he never mentioned anything about his parents to you... Nothing out of the ordinary?"
"No. Look," her friend said, "are you still going to tell me what this is about or not?"
Mary hardly noticed the impatience in Lily's voice as she thoughtfully continued stroking Coco. Her mind could have been miles away. So Sirius had not said anything to Lily, which did not really surprise Mary all that much. He just was not one of those guys who had no trouble sharing their thoughts and inner musings with other people. But Mary knew what she had seen in that one brief moment they had locked eyes at dinner: Sirius was hurting, even though he rather would have been hexed than admit to it.
However, Mary still thought that he would feel better once he started talking. For obvious reasons that person could not be her and she doubted Brice would be up for offering that much support either. Off the three of them, Sirius was definitely closest to Lily anyway. "Sirius's parents disowned him," Mary finally elaborated while picking up Coco and putting the cat down on her lap. "They basically made it impossible for him to stay in Grimmauld Place any longer."
"Blimey." Lily was silent for a moment and rubbed her nose. "Well, no real surprises there. We all knew it would come to something like this sooner or later. Sirius hated going back to Grimmauld Place."
"Could be, but he looked downright miserable tonight. Of course he was trying to hide it and did a tremendous job at playing cool, but there was one weak moment and that's when I figured it out. He's in pain, Lil, I really think you should talk to him."
Lily was thoughtfully playing with her necklace when she said: "As far as I know Sirius doesn't exactly enjoy talking about his relatives and we're not that close. I think all he needs is some time and space."
"-Besides," she continued stubbornly while narrowing her eyes at Mary, "you don't even like him. Why do you care so much?"
That was a fair question. Mary had been wondering why the fact Sirius walking out on his family was affecting her as well. The only reason she could think of was that she herself came from a really close family. Both her parents had always been supportive of her being a witch and anything else she did or chose to do. She could not imagine them kicking her out of their house. And Mary was very proud of Jenna, her younger sister. The little girl was also a witch and would be coming to Hogwarts next year.
But when being truly honest with herself, Mary realized she was mostly just feeling bad for him. No one - not even someone as arrogant as Sirius Black - deserved to be treated this badly. She shrugged. "Because even though Sirius can be a complete arse, he did not deserve any of this."
Lily shot her a shrewd look. "You sure, Mare? Because if you ask me, you like him a lot more than you are letting on."
"Falling for that insufferable prat, me? Never!" Mary cried out, quickly picking up her pillow and chucking it straight at her friend's face to distract her from noticing that Mary's cheeks were turning beet red. This sudden movement caused Coco to slide right off the bed. The cat flicked her tail in an annoyed manner, jumped right on top of the window-sill and lay down down there instead.
In the meantime Lily had reached for her wand. She was charming the pillow so it would chase its owner around the room instead. A grinning Mary had to duck several times and eventually hide behind her trunk in order not to be hit by her own pillow. She watched Lily changing into her pajamas before deciding that, now that she had found a good hiding spot, the coast was clear to strike back. "And that is coming from you, miss Potter, I'm surprised your broomstick can get off the ground with that fat head on it!"
Now it was Lily's turn to blush. After she carefully straightened her pillow and had crawled into bed, she thoughtfully said: "I suppose you are right. Today I realized James freaking Potter can actually be nice and charming, without acting like an arrogant git who curses anyone that bores him or who has the annoying habit to ask me out by shouting the invitation throughout the entire Great Hall."
"And today I found out that beyond Sirius Back's infamous big-headed personality, there might be a real person hiding in there with actual feelings," Mary replied as she finished changing into her pyjamas and climbed into her bed while trying to wrestle down her pillow. Laying down, she sighed and admitted the one thing she had rather kept a secret for a long time. "And with the most incredible smile I have ever seen."
To her surprise, this time Lily did not make fun of her. "You know what," she said as she lazily flicked her wand to lift the charm on Mary's pillow. "Perhaps those guys aren't so bad after all. Maybe we should give them the benefit of the doubt."
"Maybe," Mary shrugged before bursting out laughing.
"I just realized we have been calling them by their first names the entire time."
"Right." Lily snorted. "How odd. It could be a sign. Clearwater would probably think it is."
Mary, who did not think much of professor Clearwater or the subject of Divination, huffed. "Clearwater is just an old hag with a good judge of character. But... Okay, here's the deal. From now on, I'll try really hard to be nicer to Sirius, as long as you promise to not snap at James, no matter what happens."
"Deal!" Lily replied grinning and she held out her hand to seal their agreement. Mary reached out her arm as well in order to shake her friend's hand, but the distance between their beds was so big that only their fingertips touched briefly.
They both laughed. At that very moment, the door opened and a sniggering Brice walked in. Lily sat up straight and asked their what was so funny. "Oh, you're going to want to kill James tomorrow, Lily. He is now convinced this year's Christmas Ball should be a costume party. But that's not it: he's boasting the two of you will be named the "Royal Couple". The King and Queen of house-elves, that is."
Lily frowned. "Why in the name of Merlin-"
"Oh no, you didn't hear the best part yet. Since the two of you will be house-elf royalty, you should be wearing exactly the same clothes as your noble subjects. Everyone down in the Common Room was up for it. Most of them guys, come to think of it," she said thoughtfully while flopping down on her bed. "Heh, I bet they just cannot wait to see you wearing nothing more than a tablecloth!"
Brice grinned when she noticed the horrorstricken look on Lily's face. Mary on the other hand remembered the pact they had made mere moments ago and burst out laughing. Because no matter how Lily felt about James's latest stupid move, she could no longer really give him a piece of her mind.
~*~ End of Chapter ~*~