AN: I'm avoiding my responsibilities so I spent a little more time writing than I really should have and decided to update early. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: HP is not mine.


Chapter 21: Catching Up

I have a terrible habit of not thinking before I speak. But for once in my life, I was glad I did. Or I had been. Until after dinner, when Sirius asked if we could talk.

We left the Great Hall and went somewhere somewhat isolated, but it was hard to truly be alone after the events of today, as we had both become temporary castle celebrities.

The instant I looked him in the eyes, I felt guilty. He looked terrible. Maybe he'd even been crying, but I couldn't tell.

For a moment I thought he was going to start of what was surely going to turn out as the most awkward conversation I'd ever had, but it slowly became clear he had no idea what to say.

"About this afternoon," I began. "I can't tell you why, but I was avoiding another subject and everything just came out the wrong way."

"I know Marlene told you," he said quietly.

I was a little surprised Marlene had actually admitted to anyone, let alone Sirius, that we'd taken part in a civil interaction, but I suppose under the circumstances it made sense.

"I'm sorry," I blurted. "I just didn't want to accidentally let that slip. I mean, clearly, there were other things that came out that weren't exactly part of normal conversation, but honestly, I didn't mean to blow up at you like that, especially after, well, you know."

Sirius sighed. "I didn't know. That's the problem."

"I'm sorry, Sirius, I should have told you, but I figured it was none of my business-"

He cut me off. "No. I meant about the whole 'you're in love with me' thing. I had no idea."

For probably the hundredth time that day, I was lost for words.

He didn't know.

Sirius Black, the would-be love of my life had no bloody clue.

I was torn between killing James, who had started this in the first place, and kissing him because in their own strange way things were kind of working out.

"Listen. I know it seems kind of wishy-washy of me, but I don't like you any more," I said, then seeing the drop in his face, added, "I mean, in that way. We're way too alike. Imagine the havoc."

He exhaled loudly and slid down the wall to sit on the floor.

"I don't want to sound rude, but thank god. Thank bloody god."

I sat opposite him, though I was mindful of how short my skirt was today.

Priorities, Elsa, honestly.

Your crush since about second year just admitted he was glad you don't actually like him, and you're worried about you skirt?

"You're the only person who knows," Sirius said, "About Marlene."

I bit my tongue before deciding he deserved to know. "Not exactly..."

His grey eyes narrowed. "What do you mean, not exactly? Who the hell did you mouth off to, Elsa? Who?"

Normally I would have been angry. But this was actually a false accusation I could defend.

"I haven't 'mouthed off' to anybody. The only reason I know everyone in the Gryffindor common room knows about it is because I was there when Lily told them. I don't know how she knew. I swear on my life," I said, putting my hand over my heart.

Sirius seemed somewhat relieved. "I'm glad it wasn't you, but that doesn't exactly fix the situation."

"I don't think this is the kind of situation you fix," I said quietly.

He put his head in his hands. "I just don't know what to do about it! Any of it! Marlene's a bloody wreck, and I love James like a brother but I can't tell him all of this! It just seems, I dunno, wrong!"

I put my hand on his shoulder. "James already knows. I'm sure he's worried about you. You should talk to him."

"I can't keep dumping things on him. It isn't fair. I think I used my free pass for complete breakdowns when I showed up on his doorstep at three in the morning acting like a loony."

"Sirius, you don't get passes when you're best friends with someone. If that were the case, Alice and I would have stopped speaking years ago. Thats the point of being friends, you'd do anything for them," I explained, wishing someone else was around to witness what might be the best advice I'd ever given. "Life is a bunch of shit no one can explain jumbled up together in one awful pile and friends are there to make sure that you don't sink in too deep."

That was pretty deep, speaking of.

I should write a book, really.

Sirius laughed. "You know, Elsa, for all the shit you keep pulling, you're actually fairly smart."

I hit him on the back of the head. "I think after that speech I deserve more than 'fairly'. Merlin, someone should write that down."

Sirius got up and then offered me his hand, which I took, and we walked back to the common room together, up the very stairs that not 24 hours ago I had declared my love on.


I couldn't sleep that night, so I ended up actually doing my essays, because whether I liked it or not, end of term was coming and there was no way I was going to repeat 6th year.

I knew Lily, at the very least, would appreciate my hard work.

And Remus, after all, he is my tutor. And kind of possibly also my boyfriend. But I'm a little unclear.

See, after we kissed in the common room, it was fairly awkward. A huge part of me just wanted to drag him into a broom cupboard and snog him senseless, but another part of me wanted to just go back to this morning and start the day all over.

I mean, we held hands on the way to dinner, which didn't go unnoticed, but if I can't keep up with what exactly we are then I can't imagine anyone else can.

Even James didn't have any clever comments, although to be fair, I think he was actually worried about Sirius, since the latter had been missing all day dealing with what we now knew was an awful situation.

Speaking of awful situations, I had been trying to figure out just who exactly told Lily about Marlene. But it's not really something you can just waltz up and ask.

Oh, hey there, Marlene, remember that really horrible thing that happened to you, yeah, I know its only been like 8 hours, but who else did you tell?

Yeah we may not get on, but I wasn't about to pry into what I knew was not my problem.

I figured it had to have been someone in the toilets when she'd told me, but I didn't remember seeing anyone. That didn't mean anything though. Without a face to put with the crime this was likely only traceable to the ever-grinding Hogwarts rumor mill.

I yawned and looked at the mass of parchment that had piled up on the desk. It was nearly 3 in the morning, and I'd done enough for tonight. Or at least enough to keep me passing. I was about to go back upstairs to bed when James came trudging down the steps in his pajamas, looking slightly distraught.

His hair was sticking out in more directions than usual and his glasses were completely lopsided. He flopped on the couch and just started to stare absentmindedly at the fire.

Against my better judgement, I concluded he'd helped me out enough times to warrant at least some of my concern, and the talk I gave Sirius had me feeling kind of mushy anyway, so I went to listen.

I sat next to him and curled into the arm of the sofa. "What is it?"

"I had no bloody idea," he said, still staring at the fire. "Why didn't he just tell me?"

I knew he had to be talking about Sirius. "So he did talk to you, then?"

James nodded. "About everything. His parents, his brother, Marlene. I didn't know half of it."

"Well at least he's said something now, yeah?"

"I feel like such a git. I mean, we're supposed to be best mates. And all that time the prat didn't say anything."

I sat up and joined James in looking at the fire. "I think that's just how he is. He told me earlier he didn't want to be a burden."

James finally looked away. There was something crazy in his eyes. "But he's not! He's never been!"

"I know, but he doesn't see it that way," I said. "He thinks he's supposed to have the answer for everything."

"Exactly," James groaned, running a hand through his tousled hair. "He's barely of age. We all are. There's just so many things happening at once. It makes things like homework and crushes and house points seem so stupid, so little."

"I think whatever is out there is pushing us," I said bitterly, "It's been one hell of a year."


By the time I finally made it back to the dormitory, that night, it had been time to get up.

Damn.

That's the last time I help that many people in one day.

I was at least thankful that tomorrow was Saturday, and also a Hogsmeade weekend. I had planned on asking Remus to go, although after everything I decided maybe it would be better to go alone.

Lily had other ideas.

So after possibly the longest two days of my life, she dragged Alice, Mary, and I to the Three Broomsticks for a 'nice chat'.

I'd had enough of those with the boys this week, thank you very much.

Sitting across from Mary wasn't helping either. In the chaos my life had sank into recently I'd been severely neglecting my appearance. I couldn't help but glare at Mary's glowing carmel skin and perfect hair, hoping maybe if I looked hard enough the carefully straightened locks would spring back to their curly origins. My own hair was still too short to do anything with and lately I'd just been shoving on a headband and hoping for the best.

Damn her.

Lily looked lovely as well, but she always does. It's no wonder James wants her so badly. She looks like a bloody statue.

It's been a while since I've decently slept, alright?

Alice sat down next to me and slid a butterbeer my way.

"I needed this," she said, leaning back into her chair and taking a long drink. "I can't believe I'm saying this but thank Merlin this year is almost done."

I raised my glass to that. "Couldn't have said it better."

"Oh come on, you two," Lily said, "it hasn't been that bad."

Even Mary looked at her strangely.

I put down the butterbeer. "Let's review here," I said. "Frank Longbottom called me a whale and Alice agreed, I almost went out with Regulus Black, broke James' nose, nearly failed my classes, Mrs Collins was bloody murdered, there was an attack on Hogsmeade," I pointed to my short hair, "My brother got bitten by a werewolf, my other brother fell of a broom and isn't speaking to me, Marlene got pregnant and lost the baby, I admitted to two boys in the same day that I loved them and on top of that exams are in two weeks!"

Lily looked at each one of us before she quietly admitted this year had been a little much.

Even that was an understatement.

We had all sat there brooding for a little while when Peter and Remus walked in, both laughing, and joined us.

"You all look cheery," Peter said, unwrapping a purple sweet and popping it in his mouth.

"Tis the season. This attitude is practically contagious," I said, glancing sideways at Remus.

Remus gave a small smile. "Well exams are coming up rather quickly."

"You can say that again," Alice said. "I don't know where to start with Defense Against the Dark Arts. Nothing Professor Airhead's said all year made any sense."

Peter groaned, "I know, everything that comes out of her mouth is absolute rubbish."

"It is not, she's perfectly qualified," Lily countered.

"Really? Did you read the last assignment? She's absolutely bonkers!"

"She is not!"

I sat back with my butterbeer and listened to my friends argue, silently knowing this year hadn't completely gone to waste.


AN: So hopefully the chapters will get better as I go on, but please bear with me while I try to get my footing with these characters again. I'd also like to thank everyone who reviewed/read/favorited/alerted since last chapter, it means a lot! Next chapter should be up next Thursday, as planned.

Thanks for reading!

-Val