AN: AP exams are over and while I'm about 80 percentsure that I failed them all, I am nonetheless happy that they are done. This means, more writing, which I am thrilled about. But anyway, to be honest, I really enjoyed writing this one. This is dedicated to and inspired bytwo of the best people I have met so far in my life (Ashley & Anna), both who have definitely been more than good friends to me. This chapter means a whole lot to me and really reflects how I, myself, view true, genuine friendship. I really needed to write this . . . for myself. I don't know if you'll like it – I don't think it suits everyone. But one thing's for sure: it suits me.
So, here's hoping it suits you as well.
Exploring the Niche
I always wanted to have friends.
It seems quite silly, but I don't know one thing in the world I would want more.
When I was younger, I had playmates, not friends. They would come and go, new faces every week, either flinging sand in my face or accidentally tripping over my sandcastles. I didn't appreciate it. One time, a snotty little boy (Charles, I believe) pushed me off the swings and said, "Girls are gross. Go away." I socked him, he bled, and Lily Evans was forever banned from the playground. Perhaps the playground wasn't the best place to make friends.
So, I would come home. My sister, I suppose, could have been called my friend. After all, we shared practically everything. Then, adolescence got in the way. She frolicked with the older girls, holding her hand an inch above my head and telling me that's how tall I had to be to follow them around. It got worse when I was accepted into Hogwarts. I was tall enough to follow her around, but then she told me "freaks" weren't allowed – ever. Perhaps home wasn't the best place to make friends.
And then there was Hogwarts. A fresh start where I hadn't given any grotty boys any bloody noses and where there were no cruel sisters who refused to let me follow them around. Everyone was terribly nice. Until a group of people donned in black robes with green and silver scarves asked me what I was. I replied, confused, "Human." They laughed derisively, yelled out "Mudblood" and left me alone to wonder what exactly a Mudblood was. It didn't sound very good and it wasn't until a week later that I discovered just what it meant. Perhaps Hogwarts wasn't the best place to make friends.
I'm not saying I don't have any friends. I'm not saying I spent my entire youth alone and miserable, eating lunches in a tiny bathroom stall because I was too ashamed to eat alone (because I didn't). I'm not trying to play the pity card. I'm just saying: good friends are hard to find.
Real friends are hard to find.
I never wanted to be friends with those superficial, flighty girls who kiss and hug each other at every meeting and departure, only to stab each other in the backs over some stupid boy. But often times, those flighty girls were just what I found.
They were relatively nice – really, they were – but my eyes were always shifty, always alert. I couldn't leave my back unwatched. There was never that feeling of absolute security with them. I was always on the edge of my seat, prepared for betrayal and prepared for deceit.
It's not that there weren't any good people at Hogwarts. No, there were plenty. Perhaps I had always been too picky about friends. Perhaps I was searching for those perfect people that just fit with me. Perhaps my standards were too high. Perhaps the perfection I always wanted was meant to be just another silly dream of mine.
But I really did find plenty of nice people. Disappointingly, that's all they were – nice.
Our interactions were civil, sometimes even enjoyable. And yet, I never found that one person, those people, who made me feel completely safe.
It was constantly the same: pleasant at first, but fading just as quickly as it began. The girls all just seemed so materialistic, so gossipy. It grew tiresome. The guys were dumb. Pranking, teasing, being overtly childish. It grew old.
I wanted more than that. It got me contemplating whether or not these ideal friends I always wanted would ever appear or whether they even existed.
By 5th year, I was "friends" with nearly everyone. Smiles and waves in the hallways, pleasant conversation across the breakfast table, brief hugs at the end of term – it all became an intense routine.
Sure, we were all "friends," but I, myself, preferred the term "acquaintance."
The idea of friendship meant a lot more to me than frequent getaways to Hogsmeade, late night conversations about the dreamy features of boys in Gryffindor, or witless banter on the way to the Charms classroom.
It was something far too important to toss away. It was devotion, it was love, it was empathy. And I was reluctant to give all that away unless I was absolutely sure. Unless I knew that these people cared as much for me as I did for them, truly deep friendship was never an option.
So, through the years, acquaintanceships were made, lost, and rekindled at any and every spare moment of reunion next to the plate of cherry tarts after dinner.
My life, devoid of what I considered to be genuine friendship, went on. It wasn't as if I was antisocial, as if I harbored this unbreakable grudge against those who attempted to make friends with me. I was a member of various cliques around Hogwarts – the somewhat more studious Ravenclaw students in the library, the Quidditch-loving groupies that lost their voices screaming for victory, the law-abiding Prefects patrolling the halls.
I was a part of them all. They all represented factions that, quite frankly, melded together to portray who I was, who I had become. But the problem was, I never found my niche, my group of people. That one, ideal group – that, in a single package, matched the multi-faceted sectors of me – continued its elusive pattern.
That is, until I befriended the Marauders.
And believe me, that took the good part of my Hogwarts experience. The first few years the five of us barely knew each other, but their name echoed through the halls. Marauders this, Marauders that. Of course I knew of them. Actual contact with them was a different story.
Our worlds were as far apart as possibly imaginable.
They were the hype and I was a terrified muggle-born trying to keep up with the masses. Unlike the rest of my classmates, I was unimpressed by their pranks and their so-called "greatness." What made them so special?
Sure, they were brilliant. Sure, they were handsome. Sure, they showed great potential (if they ever matured). But they were arrogant pricks who paraded around the school, picking on Slytherins. Yes, the Slytherins were horrid to me, but I couldn't help but sympathize. No one had a right to be so cruel to anyone.
Fifth year, James Potter developed an arbitrary fascination with me. The reasoning behind this sudden development, I know not.
All I remember was by that time, their marauding heads had done naught but inflate to greater proportions. Naturally, my disgust with their actions fueled my hatred for them, thus fueling my hatred for James Potter. So I turned him down. Over and over and over again.
To make a long story a little shorter, they changed.
At least, I think they changed. Then again, perhaps I was the one who changed. Maybe spending so much time with them made me a bit more tolerant of their ways. Pranks and malicious acts of cruelty became limited, far and few. The four appeared more often in my difficult courses – advanced N.E.W.T potions, advanced N.E.W.T Defense against the Dark Arts, Ancient Runes, Introduction to Alchemy, advanced Arithmacy, and so on, so forth. Either way, the facts were inescapable: the Marauders were beginning to take their lives seriously. By mid-sixth year, we all – to the astonishment of the entire Hogwarts community – became friends.
And for the first time in my life, I felt the blaring impulse to be myself, rid of the suspicions and uncertainties that picky friendship had shielded me with. The question of whether or not the Marauders were my niche became secondary. It was a feeling deep within me; they were.
True, no one had ever broken into their circle. Being around them made me feel a tad bit special. I appeared to belong somewhere for once in my entire life. I was no longer that insecure muggle-born. It seems as if I matured as well.
But something still didn't feel right. They were my friends. I considered them my friends. But the one tangible question plagued my mind: did they consider me one of theirs?
As close as we had all become, I could tell there was more than they led everyone to believe – than they led me to believe.
After spending so much time with them, I began to notice little things that just seemed… off. Sometimes when they smiled or joked, it just seemed so input-output.
Come to think of it, it was rare to see them anything but goofy. No one can be silly all the time. It's inhumanly possible. But James, Sirius, Remus, and Peter were – almost.
There were times that I would catch them all in the library (a strange sight, but a plausible one), exhausted and faces sunken in, their voices hushed in intense discussion. No childish grins, just drained faces of defeated boys.
And then I would be discovered and suddenly it was all smiles, all jokes, all in good cheer, as if the depressed Marauders I spied on had never existed. But those Marauders existed.
That was when I realized that they hid those Marauders from me, from everyone. Really good friends don't do that. Really good friends are the people who you share your secrets with. Maybe they felt they couldn't trust me. Maybe they just weren't the type of people who enjoyed publicizing their problems to the world. But I was curious.
So, I figured I had to find out just how good of friends we truly were.
I dreaded discovery of exclusion. The potential for heartbreak was too real. Breaking away from them would be difficult; after all, my life had become quite centered about them. Because somehow, they had unexpectedly become a part of me. I had to know if I, too, had become a part of them.
I genuinely hoped I had.
Perhaps this was the friendship I always wanted to find. Perhaps they were the friends I had always been missing. Perhaps they were just right for me.
The effect of the Marauders on my life was great. A sense of belonging, of camaraderie, was something I had never known before. No one matched me like they did. They were my niche, for this I was sure. They were exactly what I needed.
And somehow I knew that they needed me.
So for once, I was going to be the one they could lean on. I was going to be the one they poured their troubles to. I was going to carry their burdens because Merlin knows, they didn't deserve them.
And simply because I finally realized: that was the reality of friendship. This was friendship.
AN: So, what do you think? I think it is quite obvious whose point of view this is coming from. So, I decided I'll be switching perspectives throughout this story because I think it is easier to capture each different emotion hurdle that way. I would really love your input. This is different from what I have done before and I would truly appreciate some constructive criticism.
Did I mention how excited I was to get 16 reviews for my first chapter? Well if I didn't, then I'm mentioning it now. I cannot believe how incredible all my reviewers are. I really really appreciate it! So, I propose we try and keep this up. I really like getting input about my writing.
Please do me a favor and review! I'll love you forever (not that I don't already).