OUR HEADS COULD DO WITH FILLING
Disclaimer: Harry Potter was his name, Harry Potter was her fame. JK Rowling owns all these, but I'll still write them as I please. As much as I wish I did, I do not own Harry Potter.
A/N: This takes place on Christmas day in OOTP, the next day after the ending of my other story, "Love, Hogwarts." To see Dorcas's picture, check my profile. I also tried to keep my writing style similar to Rowling's, but I'm pretty sure I forgot about halfway through, so let me know where that works out and where that doesn't! This was written in response to the "Love at First Sight/First Kiss" prompt by astronauts.
"Our heads could do with filling
With some interesting stuff,
For now they're bare and full of air,
Dead flies and bits of fluff!"
-the Hogwarts School Song
As per Mrs. Weasley's instruction, Harry and Sirius were supposed to be polishing the dining room silverware for Christmas lunch that afternoon, but the Black family silver seemed to be cursed. As it only grew steadily dirtier every time they tried to scrub it with Madam Poplin's Sparkling Silver Polish, Harry and Sirius soon gave up.
Suddenly, there was a tap on the window, and both godfather and godson spun around. Nobody from the outside was supposed to be able to see Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place. Harry's heart pounded in his ears. To his immense relief, it was only a large brown owl—for a second, he had thought the house's defenses had been penetrated. Sirius went over to the window.
"Sirius, wait!" Harry called. "Don't, it could be—" But Sirius had already let the owl in.
"It's for you," he said, handing the letter to Harry.
Bewildered, Harry slit the parchment. Who would be writing to him? Everyone he regularly spoke with was already here. Was it Dumbledore? But as he opened it, he knew with a sinking feeling that it wouldn't be Dumbledore, and he was angry at himself for even thinking that it would be.
When Harry saw what the letter was, his ears burned red and he wished he could have opened it alone upstairs in his room.
"Well?" Sirius raised his eyebrows, grinning.
"It's—It's a Christmas card." Harry nearly choked on the words.
Harry swallowed. "Cho Chang."
"A girl?" Sirius's grin widened.
"Yeah." Harry's throat grew dry and he began talking very fast. "I haven't sent her anything. Do you think I should?"
Sirius shrugged and Harry remembered a thought he'd had the previous night. He, Sirius, and Lupin had read a bunch of old letters from his parents' Hogwarts days, which had inevitably lead to a few stories. "Didn't Lupin say you were supposed to be really good with girls?"
Sirius chuckled. "When I got a bit older, about your age, then yeah, I guess." He paused to laugh. "But not so much when I was younger. I was just as clueless as anyone else. Your father and I were just too proud to admit it."
Harry started at the mention of his father. "Really?"
"Oh yeah," Sirius said with a wry grin, lowering his voice. "I'll tell you a story if you don't repeat it to anyone. Especially," he glanced toward the door. "Especially Remus."
Harry raised his eyebrows and nodded. "Of course."
Sirius Black had never had more fun in Potions class. In fact, he never had any fun in Potions class. But as the second years hastily began putting the finishing touches on their Hair-Raising Potions, he had an idea.
Next to Sirius, James Potter stood over his bubbling potion—a musty green which was supposed to be a sunny canary yellow—frowning. "Hey James," Sirius whispered, elbowing his messy-haired friend. "Watch this!"
The previous morning in the Great Hall, Severus Snape had "accidentally" trod on Sirius's foot as he brought a goblet of pumpkin juice to a sickly Remus Lupin, causing Sirius to spill the orange juice all over the front of his robes. Sirius wasn't about to let that go.
James looked up from his sputtering mess and sighed. Sirius fixed his eyes on the greasy head in front of him until it bent down to peer at the book. With a lazy flick of his wand, Sirius levitated three sickle-grass roots from Lily Evans' cutting board into Snape's cauldron next door. The perfect yellow potion now turned to a deep brown, hissing angrily and emitting gold sparks.
Sirius stifled a snicker as Snape, bewildered, bent low over his cauldron. He held back his hair, frowning and muttering to himself at the unprecedented colour change.
"Again!" James whispered, having abandoned his own potion. "Old Snivelly deserves it!" And as soon as Snape turned back to his book, Sirius levitated two extra puffer-fish eyes into the solution, which had now turned a boiling red. As Snape glanced back at his potion and jumped a foot in the air, Sirius and James roared with laughter, partially at the failures sitting in their own cauldrons, partially at the grins of the few students to their left and right who had noticed the commotion, but mostly at Snape's ignorance.
James wiped his eyes on his sleeve. "Good one, mate!"
Neither of them noticed the looming shadow growing behind them until it spoke. "Detention, Black," Professor Slughorn boomed. "I've realized by now that you do not posses the same potion-making talents as your father. But I would have hoped that you shared his work ethic!" Sirius bit his lip, suppressing a laugh. Potions was really the only subject that neither he nor any of his friends was any good at. Not even Remus, who was good at just about everything. His own potion was a bright—
"Purple! My dear boy..." Slughorn muttered, shaking his head. "Really, they were right when they said you didn't inherit anything..." Slughorn wasn't one to lay on the critique, however; he was usually content to completely ignore those whose skill he didn't find promising. Without another word, he swept right past James and hovered behind his two favourite students, Snape and Lily Evans.
Next to Evans sat Dorcas Meadowes, a dark-haired girl with a sense of humor that almost rivaled Sirius's own. Sirius leaned back in his chair so only the back legs were touching the ground, watching her. Dorcas eyed Evans, Snape, and Slughorn ruefully before returning to her own potion, gingerly prodding it with her wand.
Sirius yawned and glanced at James to catch his eye. They both shrugged. Class was almost over and there was nothing they could do to fix their potions now. And somehow, to both of their dismay, Snape had managed to change his back to a bright yellow.
"Hey Sirius," James muttered, smirking. "Watch Loopy." Sirius's eyes traveled to the front of the dungeon where their friend and a small mousy-haired girl, Rhea Puckle, backed away from a heavily smoking cauldron which had begun frothing and spilling a sickly yellow mess out the sides.
Sirius and James exchanged smirks. From the way Remus left his friends every day to sit with Puckett to the extra time he put into the pair's Potions essays, it had been quite obvious that he fancied her.
"Oh no," Slughorn boomed, pushing his way through the aisle to see what went wrong. "Did you stir three times counterclockwise?"
"Counterclockwise?" Remus repeated, his eyes widening.
"No matter," said Slughorn, inching back towards the door. "Just make sure you stay to clean up. Everyone else, class dismissed!" He looked around for Sirius. "Black, I'll send you a note about that detention." And with that, Slughorn collected his bag and darted out of the classroom, probably eager to get a firewhiskey in before the next class.
With a collective scramble, the second years emptied their cauldrons, stuffed their potion-making kits in their bags and scurried out of the dungeon behind Slughorn. "Catch you later, Loopy!" Sirius called across the room at Remus, who frowned at the unwanted nickname. It was too late, though—they'd come up with it in their first year and until they thought of something better, Sirius and James had no intention of letting up. It was endearing, they had decided. After hastily stuffing their kits in their bags, James and Sirius, at the back of the room, were the first out.
Sirius yawned as they strode down the corridor. "He better not do that detention Friday, we have Filch's that night."
"Right," James said, grinning. "What's he going to do, make us scrub trophies again? Or maybe the bathroom? Myrtle will have a field day."
"Maybe we'll have to restock the Potions storecloset," Sirius said, remembering a particularly awful detention that involved sorting through a large crate of beans that stung to the touch. This inevitably brought their thoughts back to Potions.
"I hate that class," James said darkly after a few moments of silence. "But Remus sure looked like he was having fun back there."
"Oh, come off it," Sirius said. "Just because Evans is good at Potions doesn't mean you have to be!"
"And Snivellus's got such an obsession that he can't even wipe his face properly! Spends too much time with his nose in his cauldron!"
"Wait, hang on." Sirius stopped in the middle of the corridor, noticing how oddly light his bag felt. "I left my book down there."
"You idiot." But James couldn't complain; after all, it was usually he who left half his books in his dormitory.
James and Sirius sprinted back to the dungeon to retrieve the book and stopped dead as they stepped through the threshold. The dungeon was empty except for two figures, and Sirius and James both jumped when they saw who it was. Remus and Rhea stood behind their now spotless desk, their arms around each other, snogging. Sirius wasn't even sure he could tell whose hands were whose.
Sirius froze. The two boys backed silently out of the room, forgetting completely about the book they had come to retrieve.
Once they had made it out into the corridor again, James and Sirius glanced at each other, wide-eyed. "Blimey..." James whispered, pushing his circular glasses up the bridge of his nose.
"Loopy?" Sirius whispered incredulously. Both of them were shocked, awed, and quite a bit impressed.
"Have you—" James started.
"Have you?" Sirius cut in. Both shook their heads, avoiding each others' gaze, and it was a sign of the strength of their friendship that neither of them laughed at the other. That, and they were both equally embarrassed that neither of them had any experience in a subject that they had both pretended to be very knowledgeable about.
"Well, he's going to want to talk about it later, I'm sure," James said matter-of-factly. "Ask us some advice, you know."
Sirius and James looked at each other for a moment in panic. Sirius brushed his dark hair out of his eyes, his hands growing clammy.
"Well there's only one thing we can do—" Sirius started.
"—Snog a girl by dinnertime," James finished. "And avoid Remus the rest of the day so he can't talk to us about it. Right?"
Sirius nearly choked on his words. That was not what he had been going for, but for some reason, his lips moved of their own accord. "Of course," he said solemnly.
"Deal?" James said, holding out his hand.
"Deal." Sirius and James shook, seconds before Sirius heard a familiar snicker behind them and his heart sank. His head pounding, he whipped around angrily to see who had overheard their secret.
"Look who it is," he said loudly to break the awkward silence. "Dork-iss! What are you doing here?"
"So, is this true?" she asked, ignoring the question, her blue eyes dancing and her voice growing louder. "Oh, what will the whole school say when they hear that THE James Potter and THE Sirius Black haven't ever kissed a girl?" She smiled gleefully. "Oh, just think..."
"They won't hear it," Sirius growled, his ears burning. He inched up on Dorcas, forcing her back into the stone wall. "So don't push your luck."
"My luck?" she laughed, looking up at him. "It's your luck you should be worried about!"
"Nobody's going to hear it," Sirius said again, trying to look as menacing as possible, hoping beyond hope that Dorcas would have a little heart and just let it go.
But she didn't. "Oh yeah?" Dorcas said, smiling even though she was now forced flat against the wall as the boys approached.
"Yeah," James said, crossing his arms. "You'll keep this quiet."
"I'll keep this quiet?" she repeated, laughing. "Or else what?"
"Or else—" Sirius started, but Dorcas cut in.
"Tell you what." She pointed at Sirius. "You kiss a girl of my choosing, and then I'll keep it quiet."
"Hey! You don't get to call the stakes!" James said indignantly, reaching for his wand.
"Oh, do I? And put that away or I'll hex you!" Dorcas already had her wand out, only lowering it when James lowered his. She laughed and repeated her offer, evaluating Sirius, who was standing closer, with an amused expression. "You kiss... Elizabeth Rosier, and I'll keep my mouth shut."
"What? She's my cousin!" Sirius exclaimed.
"Oh." Dorcas made a face. "Ew."
"Ew is right," Sirius shot back. "Plus, she's vile. Let's just forget this whole thing and I'll let you—"
"Oh not so fast, Pretty Boy Black," Dorcas said, smirking. Even though she was cornered, the three of them knew she held the upper hand here, as much as Sirius and James had tried to convince her she didn't. "You snog..." she paused again. "You kiss Azalea Davies and I'll never breathe a word of this to anyone."
"What?" Sirius yelled indignantly, tugging at his hair. Azalea Davies was a year older, very pretty, and was even a Chaser for the Gryffindor Quidditch team.
"You've got to be joking," James agreed behind them, but saying no more in fear that he would be dragged in.
Dorcas shook her head and crossed her arms. "You heard me."
"You're completely mental, you know that?" Sirius spat. She certainly had a way of turning the situation.
"I'm completely mental? And remind me again who'sbeen waltzing about school as if he's the expert on everything? Everything!" She stressed the last word and Sirius frowned. Dorcas didn't look so happy anymore. She glared at Sirius now, who backed away a step. "You can't be perfect at everything, you know! All the teachers love you—"
"—Okay, not Slughorn. But everyone in our year worships you—"
"Not the Slytherins!"
"—Well, they only worship each other. But you know what I mean!" She wrung her hands. Sirius glanced at James. And the bad part was, most of what she had said was true. They had sort of stolen the spotlight in their one and a half years at Hogwarts so far. In an unspoken agreement, they knew they would never bring it up, though—after all, what were they going to do about it?
"Fine," Sirius agreed, sighing. And if it would make her forget this, it was worth it. "And you won't tell anyone what you heard?" Plus, how hard could it be? She was only a girl. He was talking to a girl right now!
"Promise." Dorcas held up her empty hands and was suddenly free of anger. "See you later!" And with that, she skipped back down the corridor, her dark hair bouncing and her robes swinging out behind her.
"Shame we can't just do a Memory Charm," James muttered.
Sirius rolled his eyes. "She's mental," he said. "Bloody mental."
"Mate, I always thought she rather fancied you but," he shook his head, "now I reckon she just likes to make your life difficult!"
"She and Evans." Sirius sighed.
"A pair from hell," James agreed.
Sirius didn't havetime to plan out how he was going to corner Azalea Davies until break. The third years were coming up from the dungeons, a group of giggling girls in the front—led, of course, by Azalea. "Go on," Sirius muttered to James, who understood and backtracked to take a shortcut back to the common room.
Sirius jumped behind a stone gargoyle and frowned. Why did girls always have to travel in packs? He was perfectly fine alone, couldn't they walk anywhere without a hoard of followers? He pulled out his wand and checked over his shoulder to make sure nobody was watching.
He pointed his wand at Azalea's bag, muttering "Diffindo." With a loud rip, the seams split, sending books and rolls of parchment toppling to the floor, ink bottles smashing on top.
"Oh no," Azalea groaned. "That stupid Transfiguration book is heavier than my cauldron!"
Sirius expected her friends to go on without her, but to his dismay, Azalea didn't tell them to leave her, and most of the giggling girls stayed to help her clean up. He sighed. He'd have to do this in front of them—which might not be such a bad thing after all. The more witnesses the better.
Sirius's heart raced, but he ignored it. As soon as Azalea straightened up, he emerged from behind the gargoyle and squared his shoulders. The girls looked up.
"Hi," he said bluntly.
"Hi." She laughed nervously, tucking a strand of her honey-coloured hair behind her ear. Her friends exchanged glances. Did they know?
He stepped closer. "So, um... I was wondering if—"
"I know," she said, rolling her eyes. "Everyone knows."
Sirius started. "What? What did you hear?"
"Well," she glanced back at her friends before continuing. "They're saying you were bragging about how you could get any girl. And then someone dared you to kiss me?"
Sirius let out a breath. So she didn't know the whole story. "That's right." He reached absentmindedly for his head and ruffled his hair, stopping a second later—that was for James to do.
"Who was it?" Azalea asked. "Who dared you?"
"I like her," she said thoughtfully.
Sirius took his chance, stepping closer once more. It was just the same as talking to any of his friends, really. This wasn't that difficult. "What do you say we get this over with, yeah?" He leaned in a little closer and— "Hey!"
He had made contact with Azalea's Transfiguration textbook which she had brandished in front of her face. "Not so fast, Black. You're going to have to earn it!" Giggles erupted once more from behind her and she spun on her heel, motioning to her friends. "Let's go."
Sirius stood there for a minute, fuming, his ears burning. Of course he couldn't just go up and kiss her. Why did he ever think that was acceptable? But then again, why did this have to be so difficult? He usually had no problem talking to girls. If ruddy Dork-iss hadn't overheard their pact, he could have been done in no time. Sirius traipsed back towards the common room, spinning around when he heard running footsteps behind him.
Dorcas appeared, panting but grinning.
"What are you playing at?" he hissed. "This is ridiculous!" Maybe she would call the bet off. He didn't have to pretend with her—she knew the secret now. She knew he had bitten off more than he could handle.
"You're joking, right?" Dorcas said, smiling malevolently. "What was that?" She jerked her head in the direction of the corridor behind her, referring to what had just happened. How did she know?
Sirius shrugged. "She knew about it."
"Of course she knew! Everyone knows! You've got to try a little harder than that! What, can the famous Sirius Black not even get one measly girl to kiss him?" she crooned.
"You're ridiculous!" Sirius said, rolling his eyes. And to his defense, Azalea Davies was not one "measly girl." Nobody had a chance with her.
"What, do you practice that look in the mirror or something? You're awfully good at being angry at me these days," She said happily and turned to leave. "By dinnertime!" she reminded over her shoulder and skipped back down the corridor, her loud and extremely off-tune singing echoing behind her.
Thoroughly embarrassed, Sirius shook his head to clear it. His ears were still burning. He took a deserted passage back to Gryffindor Tower that he was sure only he, James, Peter, and Remus knew about. Sirius was in such a hurry to keep his head down that he didn't even stop to bother Snape who was kneeling dodgily by the ground, examining what looked like a section of pipes.
"Ursa major," he panted at the Fat Lady minutes later.
"Well, don't look at me like that," she said crossly, but the portrait swung open nonetheless. The common room was nearly empty—break was almost over—and a good thing, because that meant he didn't have to worry about avoiding anyone. Sirius ran up to his dormitory to dump his Potions kit before Charms.
He made it to class only a minute late, but as everyone was seated already, he took the only seat open at the back of the room next to Malcolm Fletchley, who always smelled vaguely of ripe dilligrout.
"Sorry," he panted apologetically to no one in particular as the class turned around to stare at the latecomer. He racked his brains. "My bag split... sorry..." he said again. Flitwick waved it off and began the lesson. He had always taken a liking to Sirius, James, and Remus, as they had been the first to master almost every charm their first year.
James, too, looked like he was avoiding Remus for the moment, as he and Peter were seated three rows behind him. He didn't think Remus had noticed, though, because he and Rhea Puckle seemed to be having a good enough time on their own.
Thankfully, the Growth Charm they were practicing that day was not difficult at all, and Sirius had soon mastered the spell.
"Engorgio!" he muttered, pointing his wand ahead of him at Peter's robes, which started to swell and grow until they looked like they were made for a giant. Peter frantically closed his giant, open robes, which were now about twenty sizes too big for him.
"Hey!" Peter turned around frantically to see who had cast the spell and Sirius innocently looked the other way, catching James's eye. Charms was usually a good class for a quiet discussion because of the bangs and shrieks that erupted around them. But with only dilligrout-smelling Malcolm Fletchley for company, Sirius soon grew bored.
"Hey, Peter!" he hissed twenty minutes later. "Peter!" he finally turned around, still swimming in his robes. "I'll change your robes back if you switch seats with me."
Peter looked at him contemptuously for a second, realizing that it had been Sirius who had Enlarged his robes, but he couldn't keep the angry face for too long. Sirius got the impression that Peter was often surprised and grateful that he even had friends. Peter nodded. While Flitwick was busy helping Aubrey Bertram in the front, Sirius gathered his books and he and Peter made the switch.
"Reducto," he muttered lazily, pointing his wand in Peter's direction.
James moved his desk to the left so they wouldn't be overheard. "So, any luck?"
Sirius shook his head. "Well, I found her. That's about it." He relayed the rest of the encounter to James, who frowned.
"I haven't had much better luck, either."
"Yeah? What are you going to do?" Sirius whispered. "Engorgio." He pointed his wand at his quill, which grew to the size of the desk.
"Well, Lily wouldn't even talk to me today—"
"I'm sure Dorcas told her about it."
"What?" James's eyes bugged out.
"Well, not the whole thing." Sirius explained how he had figured out which part of the story Dorcas had been telling—at least nobody knew it was supposed to be Sirius and James's first kiss.
"Well that was decent of her," James said in a small voice.
Sirius grunted. "What would be decent of her would be to call this whole bloody thing off..."
"We've got to do it sometime, mate," James said seriously. "Might as well be today."
Sirius sighed, knowing that James was right. They couldn't keep it a secret much longer. "You're right. So what are you going to do?"
"Well, Evans wouldn't talk to me, so that's out of the question." He shrugged. "I dunno."
"What about Hestia Jones? She fancies you, and you know it!"
"Then I'll have to avoid her, right?" James sighed.
"What?" Sirius raised his eyebrows. He didn't understand James's logic.
"Well, er—she's very pretty and all, but I just... don't fancy her back, you know?"
"No," Sirius said flatly. Any boy in their year would be glad if Hestia Jones fancied them. He didn't understand what James's problem was.
"Look, I like someone else."
"But that's different! You're allowed to like Lily and snog someone else. Maybe it'll even make her jealous."
"Hm," James said thoughtfully, poking his Charms book with his wand. "Maybe you've got something there."
For fear that someone would overhear their predicament, Sirius and James retreated into their own thoughts and went back to Enlarging various objects around the room—including Remus's shoes, Malcolm Fletchley's tie, and Professor Flitwick himself (which received them great praise, especially when James reduced him perfectly back to his original size.)
Feeling content once more, Sirius and James left Charms together immediately so as to avoid facing Remus, and made their way to the Great Hall for lunch. James hurried over to eat with Hestia, and Sirius was now left standing alone amidst the swarm of incoming students. Suddenly, he heard a familiar cackle and song break out above him—
"Loony, loopy Lupin! Loony, loopy Lupin!"
"Shut up, Peeves!" yelled an agitated Remus from somewhere not too far behind Sirius.
"Little loopy Lupin's angry at poor Peevsie!"
Sirius grabbed two sandwiches from the Gryffindor table and quickly headed off to the library where he hoped he could avoid Remus for a bit longer. He sat alone at a table in the corner, working halfheartedly on a particularly grueling essay for Slughorn on venom antidotes, when a pack of first year girls began giggling behind the bookshelf.
"Just go sit there across from him!"
Sirius blanched. Had the whole school really heard, or were they just being typical first years? Either way, he stuffed his books in his bag and abandoned the essay—he'd copy from Remus later, once this all blew over—and headed back out into the hall towards Transfiguration. Why was it, that for the first time in a while that Sirius really just wanted to disappear, it seemed as if he was constantly surrounded by people? Everyone seemed to be staring, but it was probably not true, he was probably just exaggerating. He felt as though all around him people were pointing and giggling, but he knew he was probably imagining it. Still, Sirius would have loved to have a go under James's invisibility cloak right about then.
He only had from after class to the beginning of dinner to find Azalea Davies and somehow snog her. Could he Confund her? Brew a love potion? No, none of those would work...
Sirius sat alone again in Transfiguration, at this point very nervous but trying to forget about it. He listened raptly as McGonagall explained how to give a worm feet and turn it into a caterpillar, and after half the class period, he had successfully turned three worms into glowing green caterpillars which could crawl across the desk in seconds
"I'm impressed, Black," McGonagall said as she passed his desk. "Five points for Gryffindor!" A few nearby students looked up and cheered and Sirius smiled to himself. As the class ended and Sirius's heart began to thud again, he began to pack up his books. "Black, wait a moment," McGonagall called, and Sirius walked up to her desk, puzzled.
"You've been doing very good work in my class," McGonagall said.
"Thank you, Professor." Sirius looked down suspiciously. He had never heard this much praise from MgGonagall before. What was she getting at?
"You seem like a natural."
Sirius shrugged. "It does come easy."
Professor McGonagall nodded and he thought he saw a hint of a smile, but then she looked over his shoulder, seeming a bit distracted. "I have an offer for you," she said, her gaze meeting Sirius's. "I have a few third year students who need some extra help. It's the same principle as this, really." She waved her hand towards the caterpillars. "Changing a frog into a toad. Similar species. Normally I would be helping the girls myself, but with everything that's been happening... I'm sure you understand..." she trailed off and Sirius nodded. A surge of Dark magic had recently become very popular in the school and it was taking all of the teachers' extra time and energy to sort out who was involved and who wasn't. "I'm aware that you received a detention with Professor Slughorn this morning. Professor Slughorn has kindly agreed to let you do this detention for me instead, if you choose."
Sirius raised his eyebrows in disbelief. All he had to do was teach some third-years how to change a frog into a toad? "Of course I will," he said quickly. "When?"
"Well, actually," Professor McGonagall said, glancing over his head at the doorway, "they should be arriving right about now."
Sirius groaned quietly. That left very little time for him to find Azalea Davies before dinner and by some miracle, convince her to kiss him. But as he turned around, he saw none other than Azalea Davies, flanked by two of her friends, one a short redhead and the other a tall black girl, at the entrance to the classroom.
McGonagall left the room and Sirius was left with Azalea Davies and her two friends. Ignoring the burn in his cheeks, he hoisted himself up onto a desk and the three other girls did the same.
"So, um..." Azalea said nervously, rummaging through her bag and finally bringing out a croaking frog. "We're supposed to be able to Transfigure this into a toad."
"Right," said Sirius, avoiding all of their gazes. How in the name of Merlin was he ever going to do this? Deciding to save it for after, he returned to the toad. "Well it shouldn't be as difficult, because you're only trying to turn it into a related species, and the body build is generally the same. So you're not changing the structure or anything."
"Right," the three girls chorused, and waited for him to continue. The other two girls took out frogs from their bags as well.
"So you know the spell, and what I find helpful is to concentrate really hard on what exactly makes a toad different from a frog. Don't think about the frog parts, just think about the toad parts."
The redhead looked at him skeptically, but the other two nodded, so Sirius continued his explanation of how he found it easiest to Transfigure an animal into a related species. After about half an hour of trial and error, the three girls had, for the most part, turned their frogs into toads—one of the toads still had the hind legs of a frog, one toad could not make a sound, and the other toad was a slight sickly shade of blue—but they were all minor problems and Sirius was tired and, by that point, agitated. He stretched, yawning.
"Thanks," Azalea said, frowning. "You didn't strike me as the McGonagall's Pet type."
Sirius shrugged. His success at Transfiguration had surprised even himself. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"You're not like your friend Lupin, that's all." Sirius grinned. Lupin was known for being the top in every subject—except for Potions, in which Evans and Snivellus took the prize. "You go on," Azalea whispered to her friends. "I'll be out in a minute."
Sirius nearly gasped. Was this it? Did he not even have to do anything?
"Look," Azalea said, staring at her feet. "I'm sorry about this morning."
Thud. Thud. Thud. If Sirius's heart didn't calm down soon, he was afraid it would beat right out of his chest. "Don't worry about it," he muttered.
"No, but really," she said. "You helped me. You should win that stupid bet."
"I only did it to get out of detention with Slughorn," Sirius admitted. Why was he telling her this?
"Still..." Azalea said quietly and set her books down. She stepped towards him, and Sirius tensed up. He knew how it was supposed to go. So this was it. One... two...
"Get out of my way!" came a voice from outside the doorway.
"YOUR way?" Sirius jumped up. He recognized that voice only too well.
"Yeah, you're just standing here, move!"
On instinct, Sirius leapt up to help, leaving Azalea standing alone in the middle of the room. Dorcas and Emily Rookwood, a vile Slytherin girl in their year, were viciously swatting at each other. Had Dorcas been listening outside their room?
"Stop!" he yelled, but they paid no attention to him. Sirius ran forward and disentangled the girls from each other, yanking Rookwood's hand as she tried to grab hold of Dorcas's hair.
"Get away from me," Dorcas hissed at Rookwood, trying to launch herself at the girl. Sirius kept hold on Dorcas, turning around and taking a Stinging Hex that was aimed for her. He grit his teeth.
"Thank you," Dorcas breathed to Sirius, who was still holding her back. "You deserve this." And before he even had time to think, Dorcas planted a very soft kiss on his mouth—it was warmer and... and softer than he'd ever thought she was capable of.
"Stupefy!" Rookwood shrieked.
Sirius broke apart from Dorcas, jumping out of the way of the red light. He felt Dorcas fall next to him. "Petreficus Totalus!" he yelled, jabbing his wand in Rookwood's general direction, and a dull thud told him that his spell had found its mark.
He heard a loud sniff behind him. Barely registering the fact that Azalea marched away with her arms crossed, Sirius bent down to see if he could revive Dorcas.
"Out of the way!" came Professor McGonagall's voice as she pushed through the small backup in the corridor that the duel had caused. "What on Earth?"
McGonagall looked at him incredulously. "Why is it that I always find you in the most compromising of situations?"
Sirius merely shrugged, turning back to Dorcas. "Sorry."
With a wave of her wand, Professor McGonagall revived both Dorcas and Rookwood, who sat up gingerly, rubbing their heads. Dorcas looked bewildered, but Rookwood, having merely been frozen, knew exactly what had happened.
Professor McGonagall glared at the three of them furiously, her eyes gleaming. "I don't even want to know what that was. Double detention, all three of you."
"Yes you too, Black," she said irritatedly. "I get you out of one detention and you land yourself in another!" she shook her head. "Why is it that you always have at least one detention pending?"
"Well, I—" Sirius started.
"Don't answer that," she hissed and turned back to the ten or so students who had stopped in the corridor to watch. "Keep moving!" She turned away and strode into her office.
Sirius sighed with relief. If it had been any other student, McGonagall would have been much angrier. It was a good thing she liked him. Rookwood stood up and marched away without a glance backwards. Sirius reached out his hand for Dorcas and she stumbled as she stood up.
"I'm fine," she muttered as they started back to the tower. "What happened?"
"You don't remember?"
Dorcas shook her head. "Last thing I remember, Rookwood punched me in the face."
She had no idea. Sirius was relieved for a moment—it would have been quite awkward now—but all the same, his heart sank a little bit.
"You don't look so good," he said, assessing her bloody nose and black eye. "You should probably go see Madam Pomfrey."
Dorcas shrugged. "Maybe I'll just try and fix it myself!"
"And risk messing your face up?" Sirius couldn't imagine anything worse than hexing your nose off. "Let Madam Pomfrey do it!"
"You don't look so good, either."
Sirius frowned, feeling his face. His nose was bleeding slightly, but besides that, he was alright. It was the Stinging Hex that really hurt, but it was in a spot that he wasn't about to let Dorcas see. "I'm fine," he lied.
"What," Dorcas teased. "Pretty Boy Black doesn't want to get his face fixed up?"
Sirius's cheeks burned yet again. "I'm fine," he repeated. Then another thought came to him. "Dorcas, about the bet...?"
She smiled. "I'll let you off."
"Really?" Sirius grinned wildly. So did she remember?
"Yeah, you jumped in front of that curse! I've got to thank you somehow."
Sirius sighed. He hadn't jumped in front of the curse—she really didn't remember. He offered to stay with Dorcas as they passed the hospital wing, but as she had no recollection of the minute up until she was Stunned, she was a bit bewildered and suspicious as to why he would actually want to stay with her. So he said goodbye and that he would see her in the common room later, and left to go see how James had made out.
Just as Sirius was climbing through the portrait hole, James came running behind him, panting. "I did it!" he said breathlessly. Sirius high-fived him.
"Yeah, me too!" And Sirius couldn't help but grin.
James raised his invisible sword. "James Potter and Sirius Black, daring and chivalrous, strike again!"
"Shut up," Sirius muttered, laughing, as they made their way towards Remus and Peter who were sitting by the fire doing homework.
Remus looked up, hiding a smile, and noticed their expressions too. "Well, don't you two look happy!"
"Well," said James airily. "We had an interesting day."
"Haven't seen you all day," Peter muttered darkly.
"I had a pretty interesting day, too," Remus said, ignoring Peter.
"Oh, did you?" Sirius asked lightly. He glanced at James and they both pretended that they hadn't witnessed the scene in Slughorn's room that morning that had set this whole bet in motion.
After Remus finished his story, Sirius and James congratulated him in mock-seriousness. Remus grinned. "So you guys are pretty experienced. You know girls. What do I do now?"
"Well, let's tell you about our day first," Sirius said.
James nodded and Sirius knew he was about to twist the story just a little. "Sirius and I made a little bet. We each had to snog a girl by dinnertime."
"Well, did you?" Peter asked eagerly.
"Well, yeah," James said exasperatedly and told the three of them how he and Hestia got to talking in the library after class about Quidditch and he went for it and it just... happened. "I think she knows it was just once, though," James added, glancing nervously over his shoulder. "I really hope she does."
Just then, Lily Evans walked by. "Hi boys!" she said brightly. James started, and Sirius knew why. For once, it wasn't 'hi, Remus' or 'hi, Peter.' It was 'hi' to all of them, including James. Just after he had snogged Hestia Jones... Sirius raised his eyebrows. What was wrong with girls?
"Yeah, I don't think I could deal with Jones following me around all the time," James said quietly.
"What, like you do to Evans?" Sirius laughed.
"Shut up! I don't!"
"And you, Sirius?" Remus asked, changing the subject. "How was it for you?"
Sirius snorted, stretching. "Piece of cake."
Harry snorted. "So they all just thought you and my dad—"
Sirius interrupted. "Your father and I were very, ah... outspoken. People expected a lot from us." He met Harry's gaze as if willing him to understand. "I'm not proud of everything I did under that pressure. And I'm not sure you'd want to know about most of those things." Harry nodded. He could only guess, and he didn't really want to. "But this one, this was just funny."
Harry needed to keep his mind off the picture of his father with another girl besides his mother. The thought disturbed him a little, even though he was sure it had happened. "So she never remembered?"
"Never," Sirius said sadly. "And I never told her. Thought it would hurt her dignity if she ever knew she gave in before fifth year."
Harry swallowed. Sirius really had cared for Dorcas. Had Sirius loved her? It seemed like Sirius himself thought it possible.
Sirius cleared his throat. "The moral of the story is... whatever it is, just go for it. You never know when it'll be too late. And," he added on second thought, "keep an eye out who's listening."
A/N: Can anybody guess what Snape's doing while he's examining those pipes?
And can anyone guess how I chose Rhea Puckle's name? Free cookie for the first to guess either! Actually, all of the OCs I mentioned have some meaning. There are barely ever just random OCs in my stories. (i.e. Azalea Davies is Roger Davies' aunt.)
With all these short stories, I'm starting to put my universe together. I've got more coming, and I'm working on a full-length story soon involving the Marauders' escapades at Hogwarts and their first defiant acts against Lord Voldemort and the Death Eaters! To see when it's up, add me on author alert!
Reviews are always appreciated and returned, if you wish! Thank you for reading!