Sense and Sensitivity
The next morning Mary woke up from a dream with a start. Vague images of House-Elves serving James and Lily sitting on thrones in the Great hall quickly faded away as she sat up straight in her four-poster bed, stretched her arms and glanced at the large clock on the wall. 6.07 AM. Mary groaned and tried dozing off again for another moment, but felt so awake that after rolling over a couple of times, she decided it would be better to take an early shower and get dressed at this hour after all.
Mary grabbed some clean clothes from her trunk and tiptoed across the room, determined not to wake Lily and Brice who were still soundly asleep. She jumped into the shower and enjoyed the feel of the warm water running down her body, but when she was about to rinse the shampoo from her long hair, she was interrupted by a loud mewing sound.
It was a skittish-looking Coco, trying really hard to get her attention so Mary would let her out of the dormitory.
Contrary to the Common Room, which had a little hole in the wall right next to the portrait entrance, there was no such thing in their dormitories. So basically, their pets were stuck in here until their bosses (or the cleaning House-elves) would let them out. And Coco was really anxious to get out right now.
"Shhhhh," Mary hissed at her pet. "I'll let you out as soon as I'm done here. Can't you see I'm washing my hair?"
Even if Coco did understand what her boss was trying to tell her, the cat certainly did not seem to care. At this point she had started mewing so loudly Mary feared it would wake her friends and, considering the sheer volume Coco was producing, the entire Gyffindor Tower as well.
"One minute?" she pleaded desperately.
Seriously, it was unbelievable how much noise could come from such a tiny animal. The fact that the mewing sound was echoing loudly off the bathroom walls did not help matters either.
"Fine!" Mary rolled her eyes and gave up on fully rinsing her hair, stepped out of the shower and quickly wrapped the first towel she could find around herself. "Happy now?"
Mary picked up the cat, made her way through the girls bedroom, opened the dormitory door and hurried down the steps to the Common Room. Holding the - now floundering - Coco firmly in her arms, she sniped: "There. And you're staying out. I'm telling you, I don't want to see your face back here anytime before tonight. Got that?"
Having a discussion like this with a cat was completely pointless. Coco simply kept mewing loudly, so Mary had no choice but to put the cat down and watch her race out of the Common Room at top speed. "Stupid cat," Mary muttered darkly. She turned around to head back up the stairs to her dormitory when she suddenly spotted someone sitting at the other end of the Common Room.
Oh no. Oh no oh no oh no oh no.
It was Sirius. He was sitting at the reading table, leaning back in his chair at ease and resting his feet on the table. He was holding a book he had been reading, but he was certainly not looking at the pages now. Instead, he was watching her with a smirk on his face that could have beaten Lockhart's Witch Weekly's winning smile any time.
Mary could not quite move. She was suddenly very aware of the fact that she was only wearing a towel. And a very tiny one at that. She started to blush furiously, while several drops of water from the tips of her hair were dripping onto the carpet.
Sirius was now shamelessly eyeing her from head to toe. Instinctively Mary crossed her arms to keep her breasts from view, even though they were still safely covered by the towel. She cleared her throat. "Coco, my cat."
She pointed towards the hole where her pet had disappeared. As she was doing this, her towel started to slide off and she was forced to quickly wrap both her arms around her chest to prevent this from happening. "While I was in the shower, Coco wanted to get out. She started to make a lot of noise and I was afraid she would wake the others, you see, so I…"
"I can see why. Last time I checked most cats aren't fond of taking a shower."
"Of course I wasn't giving my cat a bath! She was just in the bathroom trying to…" Mary stopped talking when she noticed the growing smirk on his face. "You think this is funny, don't you?"
"Yes," Sirius replied. "I can imagine worse ways to start my day." He was now staring at her legs.
She could almost feel him slowly undressing her with his very eyes. She could not take any more of this. "I… I should go upstairs. Put on some clothes…"
"Sure, if that is what you want."
Mary shot him one last look, pulled the towel down a few inches over her backside (for good measure) and sprinted back up the stairs without looking back. After entering her dormitory, she closed the door and leaned back against it for a moment with her eyes closed. Why, why were embarrassing things keep happening to her?
"What in Merlin's name are you doing?"
Mary opened her eyes and noticed Brice had also woken up. She was slightly frowning at the weird sight of her friend with mad wet hair and wearing nothing more than a short towel. Mary merely groaned in reply, stumbled back to her bed and flopped down, burying her face in the pillow.
Brice got out of bed and sat down next to her. While continuing to brush her short hair, she looked down at Mary. "Spill," she said simply after another moment of silence.
Mary muttered something unintelligible in her pillow.
"You're going to have to turn around because right now, I have no idea what you're talking about."
After another second of breathing down into her pillow, which for some reason had a calming effect, Mary finally turned around. She stared at the starry ceiling of her four-poster bed before her mouth finally formed a single word. "Sirius".
Brice raised her eyebrows. "Yeeeeees?" she inquired carefully.
While Mary was filling in her friend on her latest embarrassing encounter with Sirius Black, Lily – who had also woken up – listened closely. When she had finished, Brice and Lily looked at each other before roaring with laughter.
"Stop that, it's not funny!"
"Oh, lighten up," Lily replied. "In a few days you'll be laughing over this too."
"I doubt any of you would be laughing if it had happened to you."
Brice laughed even harder.
Brice wiped a tear from the corner of her eye. "Just imagine how this must have looked from Sirius's point of view. Here's a guy who was just peacefully sitting there reading a book. Then you come bolting down the stairs, soaking wet, wearing nothing more than a towel and holding a grumpy cat in your arms. Come on, that sight must have been hilarious!"
"Hmmm," Lily said thoughtfully, calming down slightly. "I do wonder what Sirius was doing down there at this time of day."
"I don't care about why he was in the Common Room! I just wish he would not have been there at all," Mary replied testily before groaning and resting her face in her hands. "I'm telling you, I could have died from embarassment. This was worse than that time Madam Pince caught me and Jonathan snogging in the restricted area section and that when she wanted to chase us out, his hand got stuck behind the strap of my bra, so we had to leave the library in that position while being watched on by a dozen students and McGonagall."
"You only think that because it just happened to you," Lily said wisely. "Now just get dressed and come down to have breakfast with us. I promise if Sirius dares to joke about it, I will slap him myself."
Mary nodded and finally got up from her bed to finish her shower. While she was dressing herself, she thought about what had just happened to her. By the time she had tied her hair in a loose bun, she already started to see that it was, in fact, quite a funny story. She even chuckled because of her own stupidity. Note to self: never, not even at 6.30 AM in the morning, head down to the Common Room when you're half naked.
She ran down the dormitory stairs for the second time that morning, and saw that Brice and Lily were waiting for her near the entrance. Thankfully, Sirius was nowhere to be seen. She assumed he and the other guys were already downstairs having breakfast. She turned out to be right. When the girls arrived in the Great Hall and sat down at the Gryffindor table, everything seemed fine at first. Not one of the guys mentioned about the 'towel-accident'. Sirius must have kept it a secret for now.
When Mary had started putting some jam on her toast, she suddenly felt a lot better about him. If things would have been the other way around and he would have walked in on her wearing nothing more than a towel around his waist (she realized part of her would not mind that sight), she would have told Lily and Brice immediately.
Perhaps Lily was right about Sirius. But right when she was starting to feel relaxed and took a large bite of her toast, James shot her a mischievous grin. "So Mary, I bet Brice must have told you all about the dress code at this year's Christmas party. How else could you explain showing off your body in a succinct towel? Oh, don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining and I'm sure Sirius here isn't either-"
Sirius was shaking his head while putting his face in his hands and, oddly enough, looked nearly as embarrassed as Mary.
"-So that means Lily will be wearing a tablecloth and you'll simply put on an almost non-existing towel. All we need now is to find a similar outfit for Brice."
Mary's eyes were shooting daggers at James. She was so annoyed with him she could not speak for a moment. Lily's emerald eyes glinted dangerously and she was about to respond furiously, when Brice saved the day (or peace, actually). "Oh, I don't know about that, James," she said serenely, pouring herself another cup of tea. "I was thinking of a dishcloth, but if you think that is too succinct…"
They all laughed and even Mary could not help but grin as she tried to picture Brice in nothing more than a dishcloth. Lily's eyes on the other hand were still glaring at James. "What on earth–" she hissed furiously.
But Mary, remembering the pact they had made last night and the secrets that were shared between them, interrupted her friend swiftly by clapping her hand straight over Lily's mouth. "Think of our agreement, Lil," she whispered. "You know the rules: no more snapping. Not now."
Lily - still looking like she could transfigure James into a toad without even using a wand – gave a brief nod and, to the visible relief of James, started to 'murder' the orange she was peeling instead.
A puzzled-looking Sirius watched a furious Lily aggressively chopping the poor orange on her plate into a dozen pieces. Apprehensively, his gaze slowly shifted towards Mary; it did not take long to determine she was mad at James, but Lily... She appeared to be in such a murderous state it was affecting the entire corner of the Gryffindor table.
Nobody dared to say a word. James, who by now also had realized he crossed a line by making fun of Mary, was looking at him and Peter for some moral support, but Sirius was wary of getting into the middle of this, just like Peter, who merely shrugged and went back to talking to Remus.
They were talking in a quiet voice and it was almost impossible to make out what they were discussing. Sirius caught something about 'Zabini' and 'first lesson; and he concluded that this conversation was not worth his attention. He noticed McGonagall had started handing out timetables to some of the younger Gryffindor students, but she was not quite near their end of the table yet.
He refilled his mug of coffee and added some sugar and milk. James always teased him about it, because he thought it was hilarious that a Black refused to drink black coffee, but honestly; black English coffee without any milk or sugar was bloody disgusting.
He shot another careful look at Mary and noticed she was still talking to Lily in a soothing voice. Even though she must be feeling sincerely embarrassed about what had happened earlier this morning, her initial annoyance seemed to have subsided somewhat.
And surprisingly, she had yet to cast an infuriating look into his direction. Sirius wondered if this meant she was warming up to him a little after all. He did not want to get his hopes up too high, but still... No death glares in his general direction: one would call that a definite improvement.
Sirius remembered how she had been standing right before him while wearing nothing more than that small towel. If he ever got his hands on that cat of hers before Mary did, he would kiss it, he honestly would. That animal had given him the best possible start of a day. A girl with legs like hers; he could have been staring at those all day.
He sighed and was about to take another sip from his coffee when a kick against his right knee made him spill the hot beverage instead. He looked up, annoyed, and realizing he was staring straight at a beaming James. Sirius was not so sure he liked that look. What was he up to?
Whenever his best mate was grinning like a fool, it was bound to have something to do with Lily Evans and that usually did not bode well for any of them. Sirius watched James take a deep breath, and before he could have done anything about it, his friend turned straight to Lily and said solemnly: "You know, Evans, I may be able to talk the tablecloth-dress code out of the other Gryffindor boys heads, but-"
Sirius was desperately trying to get James's attention by clearing his throat repeatedly and kicking him hard against the shins to stop him from making a fool of himself. His friend flinched, but continued bravely nevertheless: "- there is something you'll have to do instead. Go on a date with me, Evans, just this once. And we'll forget this dress code ever existed."
Sirius placed his hand under his chin and shot Remus and Peter When is he going to learn?-look before closing his eyes and waiting for Lily's next outburst. Which, oddly enough, never happened.
"Er, thank you Potter, but no thanks," she was saying with a tremendous effort to remain calm. "I don't need your permission when it comes to wearing a tablecloth to a ball and I certainly will not go out with you because of that."
Sirius had opened his eyes halfway through Lily's reserved reply and was now looking at Mary; she was smiling down proudly at her best friend while Brice was practically snorting her tea up her nose instead of drinking it.
"Okay, but then -" James said.
Sirius groaned. If James was about to say that in that case, the dress code for the ball was still on, he was going to hex him himself. However, at that very moment McGonagall chose to appear next to then, holding this year's timetables in her hands.
"Potter, Evans, Black, Woods and Lupin, I need you to listen closely," she stated curtly. "In your NEWT-year you will be following most classes together. Today, you will start with a double session of Potions with the Slytherins. ("Great," Sirius thought sourly. "Two full hours of staring at Snivellus sucking up to Lily to start off his week). This afternoon, you will have Herbology with the Ravenclaws and Charms with the Hufflepuffs."
She handed them their timetables. Sirius noticed they would only have one class on Friday; two hours of Defense Against the Dark Arts, starting at 11 AM, which meant their weekends would start early. On the other hand, Mondays and Thursdays were particularly busy days with long hours of classes.
Sirius was relieved he would be taking most of his classes with James and Remus. It made sense why he and James were tackling so many difficult courses. Their ultimate goal was to get accepted at Auror Training next year, but they needed top grades to achieve that admission. And although they were some of the cleverest students in Hogwarts, even they would have to work hard to become Aurors. Remus had not figured out whether he would stand a chance getting accepted at the same program, being a Werewolf and all, so he was currently considering to become a Werewolf expert at the Ministry.
It was no secret which job Mary had in mind: Healing. Ever since their first year, she had been stating it was her destiny to heal people. To be admitted at the Healer Program at St. Mungo's, she needed E's in all her courses. Mary belonged to the top of her class in most courses, with one major exception: Potions. She might be the worst Potions maker he had ever seen.
Sirius knew for a fact she had only passed her Potions OWL, because Lily had been tutoring her for two months before she was finally ready to take the exam. He wondered how much training she would need before she could pass the NEWT-exam, which would be a lot more difficult.
And Lily... Perhaps it was obvious, but she really wanted to continue with Potions. She was a true star when it came to that subject and outshone everyone else in that class, even Snivellus. If Sirius had to guess, she was dreaming of taking over from Slughorn, should he ever decide to leave. But as far as he could see, their Potions Master was not planning his retirement anytime soon, so Lily might have to resort to poisoning him in the end to get the job of her dreams.
Meanwhile, McGonagall was handing out Brice's timetable. "Miss McDonald, please note your Astronomy lessons will take place at the roof of the Western Tower from now on. And you will be following four classes of Ancient Runes and Arithmancy each every week."
This piece of information would have seriously depressed Sirius, but not Brice. She beamed excitedly as she was looking down at her timetable. She was all about Arithmancy and Ancient Runes. Her dream was to work as a Curse-Breaker at Gringotts and you needed as much knowledge of those classes as possible to be admitted to that program. Brice always enjoyed solving all kinds of riddles. He remembered that in the short period that they dated, she sometimes preferred solving the Daily Prophet's crossword puzzle over kissing in a distant broom cupboard.
"And finally, Mr. Pettigrew, here is your schedule. Not much has changed for you. Muggle Studies is your specialism, right? Well, everything seems to be in order," she concluded after she had studied Peter's timetable through her spectacles and handed it over to him.
Peter was the least clever member of their year, but as a pureblood he liked to study Muggles and apparently, had a lot of fun in those classes. Personally Sirius could not really be bothered with anything Muggle-related, but if it made Peter happy...
"I trust you'll all be heading over to your first class of the year soon. Good luck and I will see you all in Transfiguration tomorrow afternoon. I bid you a good day."
"Bye, Professor," they replied in unison and watched McGonagall heading back to the staff table at the front of the Great Hall.
"Shall we go then?" Remus asked after another moment, drumming his thumbs on the table.
"Great, a double class of Potions to start off my week. Oh happy day," Mary said sarcastically as she got up from her seat with a sigh.
"Don't worry, Mare. I'll be right there next to you to help out," Lily replied soothingly while patting her friend on the shoulder.
"Hey Evans! What if I needed some help?" James asked loudly before Sirius or any of the other Marauders could stop him.
Lily closed her eyes for a moment and appeared to be counting to ten. "I'm sure you'll manage just fine, Potter, like you always do," Lily replied coolly after another pause before turning on her heels and walking ahead of the others.
Sirius was about to try - for what he could swear was about the 7564379453th time - and talk some sense into his best mate, but he did not have to.
Mary was still standing by the table with Brice. "James," she said, "when will you stop being such an obnoxious prat and start acting like the decent guy I know is in there somewhere? Lily will never go out with you until you ask her out in a normal manner." She looked at Sirius. "Have you, being the expert and all, never told him that?"
Sirius was too stunned by her unexpected sneer that he failed to give a cunning reply. Mary, taking his lack of reply as silent consent, just shook her head, told Brice they would meet up later and stalked off without looking back. She was determined to catch up with Lily, who by now was probably halfway the dungeons already.
~*~ End of Chapter ~*~