First off...I did tell you I'd be back. This story was never abandoned. Just put on Hiatus for a while. And it was a good thing. I got my head on straight and was able to acclimate to college life with less distraction. I am sorry that I disappointed so many of you, but I feel like it was the move I was supposed to make and I am better for it. On that front, I don't apologize. I do apologize for making you wait and for what will probably be a continuous string of waits for you.
I was re-reading through this in process of editing (which I'm doing pretty strenuously, in between Homework, as I am a Sophomore Chemistry Major, which spells certain doom), and realized that I had most of this chapter typed up already. I was like...well, hey, why not finish it and post it! It only needs to be about two pages longer.
So...this story will be updated. When I have time. I'm having to revisit and overhaul (basically redo) my plot-line. And I'm not failing classes to do so. So...expect sporadic updating. With semi-lengthy breaks in between. I need to decide where this story is headed and go there.
On to chapter 13…
Chapter 13: Clubs and Complaints
Harry was lost in thought as he packed up his potions ingredients, his mind whirling with thoughts and ideas. He was thinking about everything he knew of the Professor Snape and the Student Snape, weighing them against each other and trying to decide exactly how dedicated Death Eater Snape had been in the beginning. Harry knew he'd had to be fairly dedicated to get where had been, rather high up in Voldemort's ranks. But from the little he'd seen, he couldn't help but wonder if Snape had ever been a 100% loyal follower of the Dark Lord, as people like Malfoy and Bellatix had been when they started. Could his track towards being a spy for the Light have started in Hogwarts? Or even before, when he first got up the courage to talk to Lily at that playground? Harry knew it had been his mother that had caused Snape to stop serving Voldemort, but as he thought of the memories Professor Snape had shown him, he wondered when exactly Snape had truly switched from Dark to Light. Harry had no doubt that by the end of the war, Snape had been against the Dark Arts with whole of his being, and that much of a turnaround had had to start somewhere before Voldemort setting out to kill is mother.
Thoughts along that thread were spinning through Harry's mind faster than Harry could keep up with them. He was so tangled in the crazy web his mind was weaving that he didn't even notice when someone stepped up right beside him. Naturally, Harry jumped as soon as they spoke and all his thoughts were lost to the back of his mind, as well as his books to the floor.
"Sorry for startling you, my boy," Slughorn said with a smile, leaning down to grab one of Harry books. Harry took it warily, eyeing Slughorn. He hadn't liked Slughorn during his time and the man didn't seem any different 20 years in the past. "What do you think of our humble our school? Different from The Acadamy of Magic and Sorcery, no doubt," he continued genially. Harry decided that he'd have to plaster a smile on his face and hold back a sigh as he looked at Slughorn's interested and welcoming smile. The Gryffindor had a pretty good idea where this conversation was headed and Harry refused to be just another one of his trophies.
"Yeah, it's a bit different, but I like it, sir," Harry responded, trying to be respectful but short at the same time. Harry almost winced at his slightly cold tone, but Slughorn must not have noticed, or else he was ignoring it, because he went on talking with that too-cheery smile. Harry knew he was being weighed, his potions skills (which seemed rather high) with what Slughorn had heard from other professors (Harry didn't know it, but all the professors spoke very highly of him whenever Dumbledore inquired or when talking in the Staff Room. They all liked that "quiet, handsome, sad young man from America") versus the connections that Slughorn already had. Harry knew he what he was in for even before Slughorn mentioned anything, and he had to suppress a groan. He had really been hoping to get out of this this time around.
"You room with James, right?" Slughorn asked, and without waiting for Harry to respond, he went on. "He's such a nice boy, quite popular and rather talented. He and all his friends are," the potions professor went on, and Harry had to struggle against snorting at the mention of all James's friend being smart and popular. Somehow, he highly doubted that Slughorn included Wormtail in that comment. "You're rather lucky to be rooming with them, you know."
"Yes, sir," Harry said with a noncommittal shrug. He really wasn't feeling too warmly towards his future father, godfather, or defense professor right now. If you had told him a few weeks ago that that he would be rooming with the Marauders, he would've been overjoyed. Now…well, he didn't feel all that lucky. Left over warm feelings for their future selves could last past a certain number of ice cold buckets of water, after all.
"You boys becoming friends? That's good," Slughorn went, once again not waiting for Harry to respond. "Well, I'm sure you could do with some other's who aren't in your house. Always good do diversify, isn't it?" Slughorn said with another smile. Harry had to bite back a retort about diversifying your contacts to ensure you received Quidditch tickets and dried pineapple. "Well, if you want to meet some more people, I'm having a little get together this Saturday. You and you're friends are more than welcome to come," he said, glancing towards the door where Ginny could be seen waiting in the hallway for Harry to finish his conversation.
The Seeker felt the thrill of triumph at what Slughorn told him. "Oh, I'm sorry, sir. But there are Quidditch tryouts on Saturday and I was planning on going out for the team," Harry said honestly, feeling an unexpected rush of gratitude towards James Potter. He almost chuckled. His annoying dad was at least managing to protect him from the "Slug Club."
Harry's heart sank as Slughorn chuckled happily, waving his hand as if to wave away the issue. "Oh, no trouble. I knew there were tryouts—James is coming, after all—and so the party is scheduled after. I'll just tell James you and your friends are coming with him after try-outs, shall I?" It wasn't a question.
Harry sighed quietly in defeat, pleased when Slughorn didn't hear him.
"Well, I'll have to see how much homework I have. But if I can…" Harry said, trailing off so he wouldn't have to make a commitment.
"Understandable, but you won't have homework from me, that much I can promise you, and anyway, you'll have the rest of the weekend. What teenager doesn't love a reason to procrastinate? So I'm sure you'll be able to attend. See you there," Slughorn said, placing a hand on Harry's back and guiding him to the door, talking all the while. Harry wasn't really paying attention, because he was trying to figure out a way out of this. "Have a good day, Daniel!" Slughorn told him cheerily before shutting the door. Harry blinked a few times. How did he get into messes like these?
"When's the meeting of the 'Slug Club,' Dan?" Ginny asked him from where she was leaning against a wall. Ron and Hermione were nowhere to be seen, so Harry assumed they were off together, getting some alone time.
"After try-outs," Harry muttered darkly, shooting Ginny a half-glare. "Thanks for coming to my rescue, by the way." His tone had an edge of bitter sarcasm, but Ginny just laughed. Of course, Harry just glared more. None of his glaring had any effect on Ginny whatsoever.
"So, you're Dad's a part of the Club?" the former-red-head asked smartly, making the connecting to the timing of the 'little get-together' and the tryouts.
"Yep, he is. Slughorn said something about him being 'such a nice boy, quite popular and rather talented.' And, of course, he's a Potter, so he's got the name to attract Slughorn's attention, too." Harry replied, shaking his head at Slughorn's rather conservative description of his father. As of right now, he wouldn't describe his dad that way. For one thing, nice? About a marauder? Maybe some days, but they were pranksters to their core, and not quite as…friendly with their pranks as the twins had been. He definitely could see what Snape hated about the man. And rather talented? Harry wondered if Slughorn had even seen his dad before. #1) Quidditch Captian since fifth year. #2) Key Chaser since 2nd year. #3) Top third of his class. #4) Top in transfiguration (well, Hermione was actually claiming that spot now, with James right behind her). #5) Top ten in Defense. And, of course, he'd mastered the Animagus transformation by his fifth year (not that Sluhorn would know this, but it did speak greatly of his dads talent). His dad was very talented, that was very clear. And perhaps Slughorn's greatest understatement of all…quite popular. For pete's sake! Even some Slytherin's liked him, not to mention how most of the school worshiped him! And as loathe as Harry was to admit it, Snape had been and was right, his dad ate it right up. And this brought Harry back to the present situation, as his dad no doubt loved the parties, rubbing elbows with the best. "Do I have to go?" Harry asked Ginny hopefully. She just laughed as she slung her bag over her shoulder and started walking, Harry following and falling into step at her side.
"Yes. You don't really have a reason not to, Daniel," Ginny reminded him. "And they're not that bad, really. I was a part of it too, remember, so I know what I'm talking about. You were just looking for a reason to complain about it."
"I think they were that bad. And maybe I do have a reason…what if I'm really tired after Quidditch try-outs?" he said in a stroke of brilliance.
"If James, Rupert, and I are going, then that excuse won't fly, Daniel Smith," Ginny told him. Harry rolled his eyes at the bad pun, though he doubted Ginny had intended it.
"Well maybe Daniel Smith is just rude like that," Harry muttered sullenly. Ginny chuckled and rolled her eyes.
"And if Daniel is just that rude, then Bonnie is just that ready to hex some manners into him," Ginny said, smirking at him. The blonde-boy scowled at her lightly. "I'm sure a good bat-boogey would get even that rude Daniel to be polite, aren't you?" she grinned sweetly. Harry just continued to scowl. Ginny laughed at him and rolled her eyes. "Really, you can survive something like this. Just remember you're not famous yet so he won't be hounding you quite as badly as he did in your 6th year. That makes it a little better, right?" she reasoned.
"No," Harry said stubbornly. Harry really, really didn't want to go to this party. The very idea of being collected, like a trophy, made his skin crawl. Harry didn't think he would want to go to the meeting even if it got his dormmates to like him. Nothing was worth the torture of being at one of the "Slug Club's" parties.
"Oh, stop being a hippogriff, Harry," Ginny said, pushing him lightly with her hip so he stumbled. She, of course, laughed. He just mock-glared at her, looking at her twinkling eyes.
"I don't care what year it is. It is still the Slug Club and it is still annoying. And it's not like he can actually "collect" me this year, anyway!" Harry said, throwing his hands up in exasperation. "It's not like I'll be around for him to make use of his connection in a few months. So..really, I'd be helping him out by not showing up. Not getting his hopes up, and all that," Harry said, nodding to himself. It sounded reasonable to him. Now if only it would sound reasonable to the girl beside him, because if anyone could convince him to do something he really, really didn't want to do, it would be one of the witched that traveled in time with him. Hermione would simply annoy him into going (though she would say she was just pointing out the benefits...continuously...and convincing him to do the intelligent thing. Harry simply called it bullying him into stuff). Ginny would do it more subtly, but she would win him over faster. And of course, her next words did help to encourage him to go, if only to prove her wrong.
"Nice "logic." How very Slytherin of you," Ginny replied cheekily.
"Excuse me? Slyther-what? I'm a Gryfindor, Bon! And...well-Slytherin! Really!" he spluttered at her.
Ginny simply smiled at her ex-boyfriend sweetly (he wasn't too sure he liked that sweet smile of hers anymore). "Yes. Very cunning. And you're right, you are a Gryfindor. So buck up your courage and act like one. Really, Professor Slughorn isn't that bad. After all you've faced, you should be able to take on a portly potions professor," Ginny said. Harry scowled at how reasonable sounding it was.
"How very Slytherin of you," he muttered crossly. Ginny chuckled. "I still say I'm not going. I'll think of something," he told her stubbornly. Quite frankly, he knew she'd already won. Calling him a Slytherin and implying he was being cowardly. Harry would have to go now just to prove her wrong. Honestly, sometimes Harry wondered why Ginny hadn't been sorted into Slytherin. She was brilliant at getting people to do what wanted, well, him at least.
"Well, I say you are going and I know Emma will agree with me," Ginny told him. "But I have a personal motive for getting you to come. I need someone to hang out with who won't be interested in snogging the other person the entire time. As glad as I am that my pillock of a brother finally got it into his head to ask her out, I could do with less of them kissing in front of me," Ginny said, pulling a face. "I need you to save me from that horror. I think I'll go mental if it's just the three of us."
Harry chuckled. "Well, I guess I can survive this sort of torture if you're sanity demands it. Goodness know, you don't need it tested any more than it already is," Harry teased. Ginny's arms were full of books, so she settled for pushing him with her hip again. Harry laughed.
"You sure now how to make a girl feel appreciated, Dan," she said, rolling her eyes with a smile. He smirked.
"So, do you think we should try to catch up with Emma and Rupert or give them more alone time to snog, as according to you, that's all they think about?" Harry asked Ginny.
"I didn't say it was all they think about. Hermione definitely thinks about school as much as she thinks about kissing my brother. And I say hang back. Give them some alone time. They deserve it. They haven't been able to be alone together for the past week and they barely got any alone time before, either. They are a dating couple, Dan. And anyway…we've only got supper next. It's not like we'll be late or anything," she said with a shrug, and Harry noticed a light blush paint her cheeks. He had no idea why she was blushing, so he just ignored it.
They settled into a comfortable silence, and Harry's mind—it being the typical mind of a young wizarding male—went right to Quidditch. Try-outs were tomorrow, after all. He wondered how good James actually was. Sirius had always said he was good, as had Remus, Dumbledore, and McGonagall, but he couldn't help but wonder if it was just bias. Did they just say that because they had loved him so much? Of course, Snape had also admitted that James had talent on the Quidditch pitch (in a snarky, he was arrogant and I hated him sort of way), so Harry knew that his dad could, at least fly pretty well. But compared to Harry…? He found himself afraid, a feeling that Harry was quite used to. One doesn't live the life he'd led without fear. The problem was, he wasn't afraid for his life or the lives of others, and that was different. Harry was afraid of his flying ability, for the first time in his life. He was afraid that he wouldn't be as good as his father and therefore let James down (even though James wouldn't know that Harry was letting him down, but Harry didn't try to make sense of it). But he was also afraid that he would be better than his father and it would give his father more reason to dislike him, because of jealousy. Before, he'd taken it as an extreme compliment when people compared his flying ability to his fathers. Now, he was worried. On what end of the spectrum would he be in relation to his dad's flying ability? And what sort of a barrier would it put between them? He'd never had to actually try out for Quidditch, as he'd just been in flying class when he was first put on the team and the first time they'd needed someone to play seeker had been when he left. After all, they had their team of three chasers, their two unbeatable beaters, and Harry as a seeker. It was known that they would make it, which was why no one else had ever signed up to try out for Seeker. And of course, you don't try out if you're the captain. And to try out for the first time in front of your dad…Needless to say, Harry was beginning to feel like it was his first match again. Only this time, he hoped he managed to catch the snitch with his hands, not his mouth. Harry doubted that nearly swallowing the snitch would impress James Potter very much.
Everyone had always said that Harry was like James, and he was just proving their point now. As he worried over the Quidditch tryouts, his dad was brooding over the very same things, just as troubled as Harry was, but for very different reasons.
"So, knut for your thoughts?" Sirius asked James casually, glancing at his best friend's pensive look as he grabbed a dinner roll.
"Just thinking of tryouts tomorrow," James responded with a shrug, also grabbing a roll. "It's nothing overly serious, Sirius."
Sirius dropped his roll onto his plate and let his jaw drop open in an over-dramatized reaction. "What!" he said in disbelief, causing James to look over at him and roll his eyes at the exaggerated expression on Sirius's face. " James Potter—Quidditch Captain for three years, Gryffindor Chaser for 6 six years, Quidditch obsessed for seventeen years—saying that Quidditch isn't overly serious?" Sirius said in mock horror and shock (though shock wasn't all that fake, because James always took Quidditch very seriously and tended to yell at anyone who didn't). "What are you going to say next, that Lily Evans isn't all that pretty?" Sirius teased him. He was rewarded with a punch in the arm from a scowling Head Boy.
"Number one, I have not been Quidditch obsessed my whole life—" Sirius raised his eyebrows disbelievingly—"I didn't know what Quidditch actually was until I was at least one!" James said, grinning slightly. Sirius rolled his eyes, but smiled too. "Number two…I would never say anything regarding Lily's beauty that made her less than what she is—the most perfect girl in school, if not the world!" James stated calmly as he buttered his roll and took a bite. Sirius let out a bark-like laugh and grinned the careless grin that made the female population of Hogwarts swoon.
"That's the Prongs I know!" he said, still chuckling as he scooped up some more Shepherds Pie.
"Well, it's the truth. But back to the whole Quidditch thing…Sirius, I think Quidditch is quite important, you know that," the Quidditch Captain stated, giving his friend a small glare as the dog animagus snorted. "Alright, I think it's very important, but that's not the point. The point is, Sirius…Quidditch is important—it's amazing and awesome and the best damn thing ever invented by wizards!—but I'm beginning to realize that there's a lot more that's way more important."
Sirius smirked as James's gaze traveled down the table and rested on a certain red-head. But they didn't rest there for long. He scanned the rest of the Great Hall, too, and Sirius was shocked to see how somber his facial expression was. James looked…sad. The prankster never looked sad, at least not like that. Sirius was beginning to worry about where this conversation was going. He didn't do serious conversations. He brushed everything off with a joke. Sirius was watching James's face, his own expression turning rather serious.
"You remember yesterday, when that Brown bloke was taken out of class to be told his dad had been killed in a skirmish?" James said, his normally mirth-filled eyes nodded rather slowly, knowing his response was unnecessary as James wasn't even looking at him, but needing to do something other than just listen. The words weren't ones he liked to hear and he really didn't like the grave tone of the conversation. It was making him really uncomfortable. "Well…my dad's an auror, too. What about him? When will he be taken? Or Remus's parents? I mean, his dad is a pureblood that married a muggle, which we all know You-Know-Who doesn't like. Or even you're family, Sirius. What if Regulus gets caught in the line of fire? I know how much you claim to hate him, but I can see it your eyes—as much as you dislike him, he's still you're little brother."
Sirius wasn't smirking at all now. He even scowled darkly when his best mate brought up his sibling. But as much as he tried, even Sirius couldn't ignore the truth or deadly seriousness of James's words. He'd wondered the same thing a few times, and always watched Moony whenever they'd heard of another half-magic couple who'd been killed. He'd just never had the courage to voice his fears. To voice them made them real, and that was something Sirius couldn't face quite yet.
James continued, looking down at his plate and pushing his peas around with his fork, his voice small. "I can't help but wonder why I bother to worry so much over something so…unimportant. We're in a war, Padfoot, a real war. What does it matter it I get a goal or not?" James said, looking at Sirius desperately. And as Sirius looked into his friend's serious and pleading eyes, he suddenly understood what James was saying—or, more, what he wasn't saying. James wasn't really thinking about Quidditch. He was worrying over his right to think about Quidditch like he always did. With people dying right and left, James felt guilty caring about something as transient and inconsequential as the Quidditch Cup. Quidditch was just a game…war was life and death. Sirius tried to come up with something to say, as James sighed, looking away from Sirius and up into the enchanted ceiling, his face clouded with doubt.
"You know…" Sirius said slowly, and James snapped his gaze back to his best friend, "it's fine to worry about it. It's meant a lot to you through the years. I mean, how many parties have we snuck in Firewhisky for?" Sirius asked with a grin, sincerely hoping that a joke would help. He just wasn't ready to deal with this yet, even if James was. Sirius was hopefully studying James's face, praying that he would see some sign that his normal coping strategy had worked. The corners of James's mouth twitched upward in a smile, causing Sirius to sigh in relief. His jokes were working. They weren't perfect, but they were being effective, which was all Sirius had really wanted at the moment. He'd face this conversation later…right now...now, he couldn't.
"I wouldn't mention sneaking Firewhisky too loudly if I were you, Sirius. Never know when McGonagall'll hear," James replied. Sirius noticed the lighter tone, but he also heard the guilt that was still just under the surface.
Sirius didn't like this situation. The eldest Black just wasn't used to dealing with things like this. James and he had had serious conversations before, but it was usually James who did the comforting. When Sirius had run away from his parents, he had run right to James, who knew just what to say. But James…he rarely had reason to need real comfort. Sure, he was always a little down whenever Lily turned him down (but it didn't effect him too much, or else he'd be constantly depressed), but nothing major had happened in his life. He had two amazing, doting parents who loved spoiling him like none other. He had three best friends who would die for him in an instant, and he would do the same for them. He was talented, popular, rich…his life was pretty perfect. So Sirius was at a loss. The tables had been turned, and he didn't know how to react. So, being Sirius, he tried another joke.
"Just make sure your seeker can run my brother into the ground, okay?" Sirius said, and James chuckled at this.
It was now James's turn to roll his eyes. "Sirius," he said in exasperation, shaking his head at his best friend. His eyes were lighter, but he still looked a little confused and guilty.
Sirius didn't know what to say to assuage his friends worries. He didn't even know how to answer his own questions about these issues, how could he expect to answer James's? He was the reckless one who declared at least once a day that he was never going to really grow up. This was too serious of a conversation for Sirius. And as joking seemed to be cheering James up a little bit, Sirius decided he'd stick with that strategy.
"Too bad Snivelus doesn't play," Sirius sighed. "Though, on second thought, that might be a good thing. If he did, I would have to tie up one your beaters just so I could have a go at him," Sirius said thoughtfully, and James laughed. Sirius kept going, knowing that this was working and thanking the heavens that it was. "But it would be worth it to hit a bludger at him…Hey, do you think we could charm one to follow him around school?" Sirius asked, sitting up and grinning brilliantly at the idea. He didn't notice the people scoot their food away from him for protection, eyeing him warily.
"Normally I'd agree, Padfoot, but not even Snivelus is worth loosing a Quidditch match," James said, and there was very little guilt in his voice. Sirius couldn't help but feel triumphant. Even if he didn't know how to comfort James, at least he could distract him. He'd have to think about this and be prepared to face it...later. He was still in school. And he was Sirius Black, so serious wasn't his middle name (and the fact that it was his first was just a fluke, or an opportunity the fates gave him to make continuos and terrible jokes).
"Who are you and what have done with my best mate?" Sirius asked him suspiciously, though there was a twinkle in his blue eyes. "I thought anything was worth getting at Snivelus for, even dear Lily-flower's disapproval," Sirius said, raising an eyebrow and ducking as James swung lightly at his head.
"Oh, grow up, Sirius," James said, rolling his eye and shaking his head with a small smile.
"Never!" Sirius said, looking horrified at the very thought.
"I believe that," James responded, smiling even more at Sirius's indignant look.
"Do I even want to know what you two are arguing over?" Remus said, shaking his head as he sat down beside the two. He looked a little bit peaky, and his two friends eyed him with concern. "And before you ask, I'm feeling fine," he said, waving away their worry.
"Moony, you're never fine, not with four days until our outing," Sirius said, dropping his voice a little even though he didn't mention the full moon. After that incident with Snape, he had been extra careful with Remus's secret (and had hated Snape even more for the way he reacted to finding out about Remus). Sirius was as loyal a friend as they came. He could be-and often was, if he was being honest-foolish. But he loved his friends. He could've been in Hufflepuff for his loyalty-and Sirius couldn't help but wonder if his Mother and Father would've been even more horrified by that than by having their eldest go to Gryfindor. He shook those thoughts out of his head. Sirius really wasn't serious by nature.
Remus sighed and shook his head lightly at their concerned faces. "I am fine, Sirius. I'm just tired," Remus replied. He was smiling, but he was pale and there was a tightness around his eyes that always showed up close to the full moon. Every month, they would would watch with concern, and every month, Remus would tell them he was fine. It was their way of showing him they cared about him and didn't care about his curse, and his way of saying thank you.
"No, you're not, but I'll let it slide this time," Sirius said, still giving his friend a concerned look. Moony just rolled his eyes in annoyance.
"Truly. I'm not about to keel over. Now show your concern by budging over so I can get some food, Padfoot," Remus said, slipping into the spot next to Sirius as he scooted down the table.
"The 'pie's good," Sirius informed him.
Remus turned to his friend in the exasperation of old conversations being brought up once more. "Sirius Black, I have never and will never like Shepherd's Pie, no matter how many times you tell me it's good or transfigure my food mid-bite into it." Remus turned back to the table and grabbed a slice of Ham, sticking in between a roll to make a sandwich.
Sirius sighed. "Moony...I know I've told you this before, but it still holds true. You, my dear fellow Marauder, are unhinged,-"
-"Of course, I'm friends with you," Remus interjected. Sirius ignored him.
"-How can you not like the goodness that is Shepherds Pie? Especially Hogwart's Shephard's Pie? Those elves have a real talent for making it," Sirius said. He was getting ready to wax poetic about his favorite dish when a sharp voice interrupted him.
"And have you ever thanked them for their work?" Emma said, freezing behind Sirius. She and Rupert had been walking into the Great Hall together to grab lunch. Bonnie and Daniel had come up just in time to hear the question issue from their friend's mouth and the two boys shared a grimace. "You know, for their talents? Their work?" Emma went on. She was glaring at Sirius.
Sirius blinked, glancing at his mates-but James and Remus were as stunned as was. (Peter was in detention this evening). "Erm-no? I mean, they're just house-elves." Daniel and Rupert winced, letting Sirius know he'd made a mistake, as if Emma taking in a deep breath and narrowing her eyes like Lily did before she went a rant didn't give him enough of a warning.
"Just house-elves?" she said. Remus scooted away from Sirius at the tone of her voice. "You say that as if it makes them unimportant. Their work is vital to Hogwarts-and to most places! Can you imagine if they stopped doing it? If they never cleaned and you had to do it instead? Or if they didn't cook that Shepher's Pie you speaking of? Or if they didn't light the fires in the Common Rooms when it gets cold? Do you know what it would be like? They're vital!" Emma ranted. She was really going now, her eyes blazing and her cheeks flushed. Sirius was shrinking back against the table, as if hoping to disappear. James was gaping. Remus actually appeared to be listening. Emma was in full stride, and from the looks on Daniel's, Rupert's, and Bonnie's faces, they'd heard this spiel before, more than once. Emma was in her element. "And do they ever get noticed? Do they ever get thanked? Does anyone ever show any appreciation for their hard and dedicated work? No! Never! They don't even get paid! They're slaves! They're forced to work for no pay! If they disobey, they have to punish themselves! If they think bad about their "masters," they have to punish themselves! They don't have any choices! It's awful! It's slavery and it's despicable! And you, Sirius Black, are just help push the horrid social construct onward!" She glared at the black-haired boy. "Next time you make a flippant remark about House-elves, remember all they do for you!" With that, the girl turned sharply on her heels and continued into the Great Hall, stopping a little further down the Gryffindor table at a couple of empty seats. She glanced back at ther freinds and raised one eyebrow in a "Aren't you coming?" expression that had Rupert scurrying off towards her. Bonnie sighed and walked on, too, though at a noticeably slower pace. Dan stuck around, looking at them sheepishly.
"Erm...sorry about that. Emma's pretty passionate about the House-Elf thing," he said, shrugging and smiling apologetically at the three boys.
"Yeah...I'd noticed," Sirius said, staring down the table at the girl. She reminded him of Lily when Lily went on one of her rants. He decided he wasn't ever going to mention House-elves in her presence again.
"Just avoid the subject. That's what Rupert and I do," Daniel offered. "I'll see you guys at the Quidditch try-outs." With that, he joined his friends at the other end of the table. From what Sirius, James, and Remus could see, it looked like Emma was still lecturing about House-elf rights.
After a few moments of silence, Sirius spoke up.
"See, guys. I told you they were mental."