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Contrast by OvergrownEden9
Chapter 5: The Brightest Star In The Sky
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“Believe in it, see it through my eyes, but don't you worry about it because I am here for you, as long as you need me to.” ~ The Scene Aesthetic - Don’t Be That Note (I Can’t Hold).
The Brightest Star In The Sky
I walked back to my common room, speculating over my new apparent position in the Hogwarts society. People are so shallow. Everyone knew who I was, just because I was now a friend of THE Sirius Black. But, understandably, it was Sirius Black; the guy I’d always wondered about. I had been asked how I was, and he meant it... at least I think he did...
Don’t get me wrong, I mean I don’t like Sirius that way. I really don’t. When I was a few years younger, when I used to sit next to him in Transfiguration, I almost liked him. Almost, but I didn’t. Really. I couldn’t possibly like someone I’d never spoken more than a word to, could I? Which, to be honest, he couldn’t even recall me being alive before this year – let alone actually talking to me – so what sense would it made to like him…?
I pondered over this weird turn of events as I stepped into my common room. I scanned the room, looking for Matthew, Clem or Xan. Clem was sitting in one of the corners, looking bored.
“Hey,” I smiled, and sat down next to me. He grinned at me.
“Hey, I heard about what you said to Black and Matt. Hysterical!” He high-fived me, and I grinned back at him.
“So, where would the grumpy git himself be?” I asked, scanning the room again. Matthew wasn’t anywhere to be seen.
Clem rolled his eyes, “Our dorm,” He let out a breath of annoyance and added, “Sulking.”
“Oh Merlin,” I breathed. Clem nodded, and gently touched my arm.
“Forget about him, it’s just his time of the month.” I let out a snort of laughter, and Clem started to laugh at me. I blushed, and poked him.
“Why is he so off with me recently?” I asked, watching some girls walk past me to the girls’ dormitories. Lynne was amongst them. She glared at me, and mouthed “Slag”. What a sad girl. I turned back to Clem, who was watching the girl with raised eyebrows.
“What’s their problem?” I shrugged in response to his question, and he added in a slightly patronizing tone, “Isn’t it obvious, Claire?”
I observed him silently, our eyes locking, awaiting my answer. He knew me well enough to understand what my expressions and body language meant. That’s what I liked about both Xan and Clem; they were both very observant.
“You’re telling me that you aren’t aware of it?” I arched my head to the side, thinking. Clem gawped at me, “Seriously? You have no idea?”
“Aren’t you condescending today?”
“Sorry, but…” Clem took his head in apparent disbelief, “Wow. I really can’t believe this…”
I shrugged again, and said with an amused smile on my face, “You aren’t going to tell me what it is, are you?”
“Where’s the fun in that?” Clem leant back in his chair, grinning like a mischievous seven year old.
“Ooh, cunning. You Slytherin.”
Clem looked offended, “Excuse me!? I am a Ravenclaw. Ravenclaw’s like challenges, you slacker.”
Poking my tongue out at him, I gave him a brief hug as I stood up and said, “Whatever, Slytherin. I’m going to bed. Tell Matthew to grow some balls, please.”
Clem laughed slightly and I head him say, as I walked up my dormitory steps, “Black’s been rubbing off on you.”
As I climbed into bed, I murmured into the calm sounds of the room “I’m girly enough as it is” and I went to sleep, with a smile brushing comfortingly against my lips.
The next morning, I was awake fairly early. Far earlier than I would usually wake up, on a Saturday, anyway. I groggily got dressed, and decided to go down to breakfast early; I wanted to see Matthew before he could disappear to wherever he was going to go - just in case we really needed to sort something out. He really did seem to be annoyed with me. He was seriously over reacting, it was just a joke – he hardly over-reacts this badly… unless… there was another reason for him to be angry…
No, of course not; what else was there?
Entering the Great Hall, I scanned the tables. Some teachers were in their seats, looking depressed. I was so glad I had no intention of ever, ever being a teacher. The Slytherin table was speckled with a few tired looking faces; other than Severus Snape, who was sitting – looking scarily attentive – and reading. The Hufflepuff table was totally vacant, as was the Ravenclaw table, and the Gryffindor had a few first years, a few fifth years, Peter Pettigrew and Sirius Black.
Self-consciously straightening my jeans and blue-edged tee-shirt, before stopping abruptly (what the hell was I doing?!) and purposely making them messy again, I casually glanced to the Gryffindor table. Sirius caught my eye, grinned at me and beckoned me to sit with them.
I hesitantly walked over, and sat next to him. I smiled slightly nervously. This wasn’t helping my whole visible-ness.
“Is this allowed?” I asked him, raising my eyebrows at the amount that boy ate.
Sirius shrugged, his face bulging with toast, eggs, bacon and pizza (for some reason, there was pizza served at breakfast). Sirius looked rather like a hamster… but this didn’t actually make him look repulsive. Actually, it made him look kind of cute… how did he manage to look like a hamster, and still be good-looking?
--I just compared Sirius to a hamster, and called him good-looking in the same sentence, didn’t I? This is why I don’t talk.
“Dunno,” Sirius said, in-between swallowing and stuffing his face with more food, “Doesn’t...” He paused, chewing thoughtfully, “Doesn’t matter though, there aren’t any rules that say you can’t eat at a different table for non-special occasions.”
I nodded, wistfully. He grinned at me.
“We’ll make a rebel out of,” He ate some more toast, “you yet, ‘Ree.”
“Ooh, the dark side huh?”
“Oh yes,” Sirius smirked, “We have cookies… and me.” He winked at me.
“I’d prefer the cookies.”
Sirius barked his laugh, and swigged some pumpkin juice. I snorted, making him laugh again. He spat his orange juice all over a quiet Pettigrew, who was eating toast on cheese. No, really, it was a lump of cheese with bits of toast on top. He’s a nice boy, but I find him extremely disturbing sometimes.
“Sorry Wormy.” Sirius grinned, patting his friend on the head.
There was a couple of moment’s silence, filled with the sounds of Sirius’ munching. He kept looking at me, opening his mouth, then thinking better of it.
“’Ree…” Sirius started, looking uncomfortable. I looked at him enquiringly. He smiled at awkwardly, “Erm… dyouwannacometoprongshalfterm?”
Sirius closed his eyes, crinkling his face up in apparent embarrassment and distaste. He started again, slowly and quietly, “Erm… do you want to come to James’ for half term? With me, James, Remus and Peter? As friends, of course… umm… Roxy and Lily are going too, you know them right? And,” Sirius rolled his eyes, “Dorcas.”
Surprised, I looked at him with wide eyes. I just got asked to stay with Sirius during half term???
Sirius said quickly, “Oh, don’t worry if you don’t want to… don’t worry, it’s only--”
“I’d love to,” I interrupted, “But…”
“I think I’ll have to sort it out with Matthew… I stay with him usually.”
“Oh.” Sirius paused, “Oh, yeah okay… erm… yeah it’s not like I’m uhmm…”
“I know,” I smiled, a sinking feeling in my chest for some reason.
There was a sound behind me. I turned around to see a very angry looking Matthew.
“Oh, you’re sitting with him now?” He said, spite in his voice, “So, that’s how it is, Claire? Fall for the man-whore of the year, and ditch all your friends? Thanks, Clairy.” He promptly turned, and stomped away from me, and away from Sirius, and away from the Great Hall.
Sirius started to get up, anger in his normally peaceful eyes. I touched his shoulder, making him roll his eyes and nod. He remained in his seat. I stood and hurried out of the Great Hall, looking for Matthew. He’d gone.
I spent my whole Saturday looking for Matthew. He wasn’t at lunch, or dinner. I didn’t find him until late; almost the end of curfew.
“Matthew!” I said, loudly, running across the common room to him. I went to hug him, but he flinched and pushed me away.
“DON’T!” He spat, fists clenched.
“What is your problem, Matthew?” I asked, locking eyes with him. He looked away, “Me and Sirius – we’re just friends!”
He started to walk to his dormitory. I stopped him.
“No, Matthew, we have to talk about this!”
Something snapped. I could visibly see it. I took a step backwards, alarmed.
“JUST friends, huh!? You liar!” He yelled at me. He’d never yelled at me like this before.
“Why does it matter to you?”
“I,” He looked down, “I… I’M YOUR FRIEND, AND YOU’VE FUCKING LEFT ME, CLAIRE!”
“No, I haven’t-”
“So, you aren’t going to stay with his lot during half-term, instead of with me!?” He took a step towards me, looking me straight in the eyes. I looked at him helplessly.
“SEE!” He laughed, sounding maniacal, “See! You are a fucking slag. You are a pathetic little plaything of his. You’re shagging him instead of being with me-- and Clem and Xan. You’re a slag, and all the rumours are true. Every single one. Now, go see your special little Sirius. I’m sure he’s what you’re thinking about right now,” he sneered, malice evident in his voice.
I clenched my jaw, and looked at him with a hard gaze, “Stop it.”
“Oh, don’t like it, Claire? Don’t like it when the truth bites your arse and slaps you in the face, you sla-”
I slapped him. Hard. Blinded by anger, I fled from the common room, choking on my suddenly tight throat and trying to make the little self control I had left prevent me from crying.
I ran down the steps in the main entrance, tears threatening to tear down my cheeks. I bit back this feeling, swung open the main entrance doors and ran straight into someone.
Without looking up, I mumbled an apology and made to continue running when I heard that familiar voice; the one that offered so much comfort which was utterly unexplainable.
“’Ree?” Sirius asked, looking down at me. Worry was etched across his face.
“What are you doing here?”
Sirius lifted up his right arm; in his hand, he clutched a broom. He looked at me questioningly, dropping the broom.
I shook my head, and made an attempt to smile. It looked more like a grimace, “I’m fine, really.”
Sirius gave me a half smile, a dimple appearing in his right cheek, “Every time you say ‘I’m fine’,” He murmured, “I know you’re lying to yourself.”
That was all it took, it turned out. I burst into tears, years of built-up anxiety suddenly flooding out of me like a tidal wave. Sirius pulled me close, and I sobbed into his shoulder. He spoke soft, soothing words into my hair.
He just held me there. Might have been under a minute, it might have been several – I wasn’t aware. All I could do was cry. Simply. Sirius just held me close, and let me cry on him. He made no issue about how long I was crying, or why I was crying. He knew I wasn’t ready to stop crying yet.
When I stopped quivering in his arms, and my breathing regained a normal pace, he spoke.
“Come with me,” He whispered. He picked up his broom, grasped my hand, and I let him take me wherever we were going. He told me to get on the back of his broom, and I did so without question or complaint. I wrapped my arms tightly around his waist and he kicked off the ground. I leant my head gently against his back, breathing in his sweet smell, partly so I couldn’t see anything. Partly…
We came to halt, and I felt the broom land gracefully on the ground. I looked at what we were on; the Gryffindor Quiddich stand.
I gave him a watery smile, “Bloody house pride.” He gave his bark of a laugh, sat down and pulled me down too. He wrapped me in his arms, and I felt safe.
“Do you want to tell me what’s wrong?” Sirius whispered as I rested my head under his chin. I took a deep breath, and listened to our hearts beating out-of-time.
“Matthew,” I replied quietly, “He… said some stuff. Stuff that… hurt, a bit… I guess.”
“What did he say?” It was barely above a murmur. I replied in the same volume, “Thought that I was shagging you – that I was a pathetic little plaything. Called me a… a slag.”
“Merlin…” Sirius breathed. I let out a quiet chuckle.
“I dunno why it bothered me so much… over-rea—”
“—NO.” Sirius said, a bit harshly, “He’s your best-friend. He knew that would hurt you.”
I felt another tear run down my cheek, “I know.”
Sirius moved slightly, so we were face to face. He clasped one of his hands around mine, and brushed my tear away with his other hand. I smiled, and pulled him into a hug, “Thank you.”
“For what?” He asked.
“Everything,” I replied, pulling back from the embrace to look at him eye-to-eye. He smiled, and I looked over his shoulder.
“Still waiting for proof…?”
“Of sunsets and silhouette dreams? Maybe.” I chuckled, “Just looking at the stars.”
“Ah,” Sirius laughed, flopping backwards and looking directly up at the clear-sky. I shifted so I could lie down next to him, my head resting against his shoulder serenely.
“Look,” He said, pointing up at the stars, “That’s Sirius.”
“The dog-star. A star in the constellation Canis Major…”
“The brightest star in the sky,” I whispered, a smile spreading across my lips, “I didn’t know you were into stars.”
I could feel Sirius chuckle under his breath; his shoulders shook slightly, “My parents made me. ‘The Blacks are always named after stars’” Sirius mimicked, in a very high-pitched strangle, “In all fairness though, it is quite interesting...”
“It is,” I said faintly.
“They made me learn Latin too,” Sirius laughed.
“I speak Welsh,” I grinned, continuing to look up at the stars.
Sirius seemed interested, “Really? Tell me some stuff!”
“What’s ‘Happy Birthday’?”
I burst out laughing, “You what?”
“Well it’s useful, y’know?”
“For what I do not know…”
“For wishing someone happy birthday, dipstick.”
I rolled my eyes, “It’s ‘Penblwydd Hapus’, you odd child.”
Sirius pondered for a moment, “What’s ‘my hovercraft is full of eels’?”
“Sirius?!” I giggled, “You seriously… oh never mind. It’s ‘mae fy hofrenfad yn llawn o lyswennod’.”
“Ah, always wanted to know that. What is…‘I love you’?”
I hesitated, and said, “‘Dw i’n dy garu di’…” A silence fell between us.
“So,” Sirius said softly, “Why… did it hurt…? When Matthew called you a slag? Obviously, I’m fine with it if you don’t want to tell me…”
“It’s a long story to be honest,” I replied. Sirius pulled me closer to him and said, “I’m sorry for putting you on the spot, you don’t have to tell me.”
I shook my head. He understood that it meant I didn’t mind him asking. I knew my words would crack if I tried to speak; it felt as if a rock with in my throat and my eyes were prickling.
Sirius went quiet, understanding that I’d talk when I was ready. I took a deep breath and asked mellifluously, “Are you a virgin, Sirius?”
I felt Sirius laugh slightly, “Yeah. Yeah, I am.”
For some reason, I felt a smile brush my lips. He hesitated, and said gently, “Are you?”
I paused, “I don’t know.”
Sirius lifted his head up, and looked at me. I looked at him back, and he frowned slightly, “How can you not know…?”
I took a deep breath, and thought of words to explain.
“Was it uhh… with a guy?”
“Yeah,” I smiled slightly… bitterly, “It was.”
“Did uh,” Sirius lingered his words for a moment, “He uhmm put his…?”
My jaw clenched as I gave a small nod. My eyes were prickling again.
“So er…” He laughed awkwardly, “How are you unclear if--”
I cut him off, “—Does it uhmm…” I hesitated.
“Go on…” Sirius soft words washed over me.
“Does it count if,” I muttered hoarsely, “I didn’t actually… consent it?” Sirius breathing hitched. I took a rasping breath and added, “Does it count… if I said no?” The last word came out as a whimper, “Does it count if I said ‘no’ over and over and…” My voice cracked. A sob escaped my lips.
“You—” Sirius’ words cracked and died in his throat. He inhaled, his breathing quivering, “You were…?”
My hands shook. I gave a blunt nod, “You’re the first person I’ve told.”
Sirius wrapped his arm underneath me, and gently shifted me so my head was on his chest. He held my shaking hands and steadied them, despite the fact that his hands were shaking slightly. I shivered and looked at him; I could see a tear trickling down his cheek – it glinted in the moonlight.
“Sirius…” I whimpered, wrapping my arms around his neck. He enclosed his arms around my back, pulling me into a firm embrace.
“Shh… it’s okay…” Sirius voice was shaking, “Everything’s okay, I’m here. Nothing like that will ever, ever happen to you again. I promise you.”
And then the funniest thing happened.
I knew he meant it.