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Chapter 16: Bursting the Bubble
Author's Note: Alright, so I know I said this was probably the last chapter, but it would have been way too long so I've split it into two. It makes much more sense this way anyways. Hope you enjoy!
Sirius was avoiding me.
And not in the way we had mutually avoided each other while we were at odds and spent classes glaring at each other.
Not even the way I had avoided him after I blurted out the truth about my curse.
This was just ridiculous.
Because not only was Sirius avoiding me, James and Remus (and even Peter) didn’t seem trusted by Sirius enough to talk to me either. Or if I did talk to them, they avoided even mentioning him.
And of course there was the fact that Sirius was physically avoiding me too… didn’t sit beside me in classes, ran away after classes, and must have been eating his meals at random times since he never seemed to be in the great hall.
The worst part? When I tried to approach him he acted incredibly distant and bloody more than just casual – it was practically cavalier.
I really didn’t like it. It was killing me. Yeah, killing me, because at this point there really was no point in saying it was driving me insane…I’d been driven to the brink of insanity some time ago already.
And I was quite sure it was showing. I had never been particularly talented at hiding my feelings. Shutting my mouth was hard enough as it was, but controlling my face to prevent all those expressions was another matter entirely.
So was I surprised that Marcie, Joey and Kevin kept shooting me furtive glances increasingly more often as the week progressed?
Was I surprised that they knew why?
Maybe a little.
What really got me is the fact that they had almost left me completely alone about it, not nosing in. Almost.
See, I had known it would be too good to last. And of course fate would just have it that Joey [around whom I acted as if I never heard him say all those things about his feelings] was the one who broke the silence.
“Andy, this isn’t healthy,” he said, sitting down beside me at the Ravenclaw breakfast table.
“What isn’t?” I asked, trying to be innocent about it all.
“You’re practically burning Gryffindor table alive with that fiery gaze of yours,” Joey replied. “Again.”
“You exaggerate a little, don’t you think?” I said, tearing my eyes away from the backs of the three marauders who had actually shown up to breakfast, and turning my attention to the now-cold-food (really, how long had I been staring at them for?) on my plate.
He studied my expression carefully, and out of the corner of my eye I could have sworn he looked torn, not sure what to say.
“Don’t you think maybe…I mean…never mind,” he finished abruptly. I looked up at him. I knew what he was trying to say, and even though I was glad he didn’t, my heart was still breaking at causing him, however indirectly and unintentionally, such misery.
My eyes met his, but I was surprised at their intensity. He was looking at me as if it was simultaneously the first and last time he’d see me. It was flattering, but slightly off. I mean, this was Joey, my best friend Joey, for crying out loud. He was not supposed to be looking at me like that…
Had I been so oblivious that I hadn’t noticed this earlier?
I brushed some hair back from my face and looked down again, finally too uncomfortable with the awkward staring-fest.
“Andy, I –“
“Don’t, Joey. Please, just don’t say anything,” I whispered, too afraid where this might go.
I felt his eyes on me, but didn’t look up to meet his gaze. I just tried eating what was left of my eggs and hash browns, even though they were cold and seemed to have no taste at all.
I thought I heard a small sigh, but when I peeked up at him, all I saw was a small smile.
“I think Sirius is back,” he said, his voice back to normal. My eyes shot up, connecting straight with Sirius’ grey ones, who was standing near the Gryffindor table, staring at us.
Well nice of him to finally show up.
“Seriously, are you two ever going to hook up?” Joey asked, in a playful way, but I heard the deeper hidden curiosity behind it.
After I got over my shock at his bold comment, that is.
“Only this tension between you has got to end. Its radiating positively ridiculously negative auras everywhere and on everyone and just no, it can’t go on. Especially if I’ve got to watch you sulk and brood all day long.”
My jaw dropped. I was sulking? God, this was getting bad.
Joey smirked, and leaned in a bit to whisper into my ear.
“How quick do you think we can make him come over here? I give it thirty seconds… fifteen maybe if you give a little giggle and pretend to be properly embarrassed.”
What came out wasn’t as much a playful giggle as it was a nervous chuckle. I couldn’t believe the things he was saying. One, because it meant Sirius apparently had feelings for me that were obvious to other people except myself. And two, because if I myself really was that obvious with respect to my own feelings, then why hadn’t Sirius been able to pick up on them?
Joey had leaned away, but this time I leaned a little in, “How much you wanna bet he won’t come over here at all? He’s been avoiding me worse than the plague, if you haven’t noticed.”
To my surprise, Joey laughed out loud, and threw his arm around my shoulders, bringing me in for a semi-hug. “You poor delusional creature. Keep your money, and give it another ten seconds.”
I pushed away from him gently, and gave him a sort of playful shove on the arm, though all it did was move me backwards instead of him.
We both looked up across the table, to the speaker directly in front of us.
“Why hello Sirius!” I greeted, surprised at the tone my voice had taken. “Nice of you to finally join us…what’s the matter, hunger strike over?”
Joey laughed at my comment as I smiled too sweetly up at Sirius.
Sirius forced a fake and mocking grin onto his lips for a second. I waited for him to say something, but again to my surprise, he didn’t seem to be able to find any words.
“Wow, Sirius Black speechless,” Joey commented before I had a chance to say something (albeit very similar) myself. “Congratulations, Andy. Didn’t think it was possible.”
“Neither did I,” I admitted, grinning up at Sirius, noticing he was starting to look more and more annoyed and frustrated. “Can I help you with something?”
“Yeah you can wipe that stupid grin off your face and just drop this entire act right now,” he bit back.
“What act?” I asked, still grinning. “T’is no act, mate. You probably wouldn’t know it though, seeing as you’ve been missing in action for the past few days…”
His eyes narrowed. “Can I talk to you?”
He waited. I waited. Joey just laughed, and I wasn’t sure if it was sincere or not, but I really hoped he was finding this amusing instead of depressing.
“Can I talk to you alone, outside?” Sirius rephrased.
I frowned, pretending to think about it. “Yes, I suppose you can.”
As I left the bench, I thought I heard Joey whisper something to Sirius along the lines of “Don’t let me regret this.”
Whether I had imagined it, or whether both Sirius and I had heard it, I would never know. I followed Sirius out of the great hall towards the stairs, quietly. Somehow, if this ended up alright, I would have to find a way to repay Joey.
“Where are we going?” I asked, but no answer came. I tried again, with a different question.
“So why have you been avoiding me?”
“I haven’t,” he replied automatically. I scoffed.
“Really, Sirius, I don’t need my special super power to know that one was a lie.”
“Wow you’re really talented aren’t you?” he scoffed back with so much sarcasm it didn’t even sound funny, just spiteful.
“No, not particularly,” I replied, and though my answer was automatic I tried to put as much sarcasm into my answer as possible.
But Sirius just kept walking, and finally I couldn't take it anymore. I sped up and within two steps, closed the gap between us, grabbing his arm (for once) and saying, "I thought you wanted to talk?! Why are you running away?!"
"I just didn’t want you there with him, but staying would mean talking to you and I've been trying too hard to impress you to risk messing it up by telling you what you want to hear," he blurted.
I stared at him in complete shock. It wasn't so much what he said…that didn't even register. What caught me off guard was the complete honest answer said in the tone and speed I knew so well…I stared at him, and he stared back, though his expression was of utter terror and mine of sheer curiosity. It suddenly occurred to me that his terror was probably half due to the fact that he hadn't known what the true answer to my question had been until it had been forced out of him…or at least not completely. That had happened to me way too many times to count…
"Did you mean to say that?" I asked quietly, pushing back what he had said to try and focus on the why.
"No," he replied right away.
I let go of his arm, staring at my hand in amazement. "Oh…my…god…"
It was just…impossible. Wouldn't I have noticed it before? But then again, when was the last time I grabbed somebody like that and demanded to know something? I usually kept my hands to myself anyways. It was them who had problems doing the same.
"Andrea I…can we just…forget—"
"Be quiet, I'm having a revelation here!" I yelled, annoyed at him for interrupting my thought train. I grabbed his arm again, and he looked at me surprised. "Why have you been trying to impress me?"
"So you don't think I'm some stupid, sulking boy," he blurted, his eyes widening fearfully.
"Why does what I think matter to you?" I ploughed on. But Sirius had by now cottoned on and ripped his hand out of my grasp, as I smiled, "I can expand the bubble of truth!"
"You saw what happened – as soon as I grabbed your arm and asked you questions you had to do the exact same thing I did: tell the truth. This is so cool!"
Sirius was not as ecstatic about this as I was. In fact, he looked slightly skeptical. "And you haven't known that before?"
"Nope. I discovered it thanks to you!"
"What about the other part of your bubble?" he asked, and I knew what he was talking about.
"I don't know, but I can't test it because I can't lie. Let's go find somebody to test it on, but we'll need to ask them a question they'll probably lie to except it should be a question that we don’t know it’s going to be a lie or else it would all be besides the point."
He looked thoughtful for a moment, before snapping his fingers, his eyes blazing brightly with the prospect of a new adventure. “I got it! We need to find Lily.”
“Lily?” I asked in stupor, getting a strange feeling. I had a vague notion of what this all might be about.
“Yeah, it’s perfect isn’t it?” Sirius said, already starting on his way towards the dorm room. “I mean, no one knows if she really likes James or not…”
I hesitated for a moment, not sure if Sirius could be trusted with something like this. “Sirius you have to promise me though that you won’t tell anybody about all of this—and not just about my little secret either. I mean all of it—including Lily’s reply and whatever we find out about it.”
“But if she does like him I’d have to tell James,” Sirius protested. “I mean, he’s been pinning after her since forever and it just about breaks his heart each time she rejects him. This might ease his pain a little.”
A frown stretched over my face, but on the whole I thought he might be right. “Fine, but at least promise that you won’t go into any details and don’t say you know anything for sure…just subtly hint at it. Let’s go. You figure she’s in your common room?”
He nodded gleefully and I followed him up to the 7th floor and into the Gryffindor dormitories. Sure enough, Lily was sitting by the fireplace with a thick book in front of her. Sirius didn’t waste any time at all. Grabbing my hand and marching straight up to Lily, he asked, “Evans do you like James?”
She looked stunned for a moment, but then recovered and answered, “What kind of a question is that? Of course I don’t—I loathe the bloody prat.”
I smiled at her answer and looked at Sirius who’s jaw had dropped as soon as she had replied, and I assumed he realized just as I had how much of a lie it was.
“Right, well thanks. I’ll see you later then,” he replied and exited the common room with a flourish, dragging me in his wake. The whole scene happened so fast that nobody had had enough time to even ask me what I was doing in their common room.
Sirius didn’t stop outside the Gryffindor dormitories. He dragged me all the way to some secluded corner behind a statue of a troll king, and after a quick Mufliato spell, shouted, “HOLY HELL!! She does like him!”
“Calm down, Sirius. It was bound to happen sooner or later, if you think about it.”
Sirius starting ranting… or rambling…couldn't exactly be sure which one it was. Either way, he was half-yelling-half-speaking about Evans and James, and James and Evans…I didn't hear much of it though. Well I mean, I heard it, I just didn't listen to it. My brain was working overtime here, because as amazing as this new expanding of the truth bubble was, Sirius' words came screaming back at me, properly registering this time…
He's been trying to impress me?
Was this the answer to his strange behaviour the past few days? Was this why he ran out of the Room of Requirement?
My heart started to beat frantically. Was it too much to hope that Sirius liked me too? But then why wouldn't he just admit it? Why has he been taking so long? He couldn't be unsure about my feelings, could he? Wasn't it obvious I liked him too? It seemed like everyone else knew it.
"Andy…? I know I ask this a lot, but…are you alright?"
I looked up at him, and felt my heart beating in my throat. I couldn't answer that. I definitely wasn't alright. But if I didn't answer…he'd know either way.
I took a gulp, and risked it. I clapped his shoulder a few times, and let my hand rest there. I willed the words to come out as intensely as I could. "I'm fine. Let's go tell James, shall we? I bet he's still planning out his sweep-Lily-off-her-feet stunt. I'm sure he could use the information."
Taking my hand off his shoulder and starting to walk away, I couldn't hide the smile that stretched across my face as my wonderfully untruthful reply emerged (paper cuts and all), and I was hoping Sirius would interpret it as part of my glee at the new Potter-Evans development.
But of course, Sirius wouldn't be fooled so easily. "You're fine? You're fine? I've never, ever heard you say that before."
And now he was too far away from me to even attempt to lie again.
Sirius shook his head, confused. "Did you just lie to me?"
"Yes – no need to sound so insulted about it. I'm allowed to lie once every seventeen years, I figure, no?" I replied, my tone turning bitter, especially at his infuriated expression. "Look why are you so…so…angry? I just discovered this too."
He glared at me. "So when you touch someone else…you can lie too?"
“Apparently. Unless its something so horribly cliché that it will only work for someone I’m in love with,” I scoffed.
Sirius did a double take.
Freaking hell, I did a double take.
(Not that I’d be surprised if it was so cliché. Because it was just my luck that I happen to get cursed. Obviously the only way around it’d be something cliché and fairytale-like as true love.)
That wasn’t the problem though. Sirius staring at me was the problem.
“What?” he asked slowly, not taking his eyes off mine.
Normally I’d just try running away. Normally I’d bite my lip and try smiling innocently until the question passed. Normally I’d do something, well, normal. And usually it would work.
Except this was Sirius.
I couldn’t outrun him.
I couldn’t bite my lip and pretend to be all sly and all-knowing.
And of course there was the problem of not being able to lie and just deny it all. And considering what I said and how much it implied…
Either way I was screwed.
And since I couldn’t fall back on any of my normal escape devices, I’d just have to go with a complete new course of action.
Trial and error. And then run away.
I took a breath, inhaling slowly. Trial one commencing.
“You heard what I said,” I said defiantly, sticking out my chin proudly. “Curses like mine usually come with some sort of cliché solution, don’t they?”
Sirius stared at me in shock. “Do you have any idea what you’re saying?”
OK, so defiance (if that even was what I just tried to do) not working so well. Next.
I grinned at him. “Yeah, actually, for once I completely do.”
Sirius just stared at me some more. Confusedly, I think.
Answering question completely honestly and whole-heartedly apparently not good enough either. Next.
Then his confusion seemed to transform into frustration as he ran his hand through his hair, and started turning around to walk away. “You drive me insane Andy.”
"Well are you ever going to ask me out? There's a queue forming behind you, did you know?"
Wow. Straight-forwardness on purpose was really…really…well, direct. And blunt. And oh-so-awkward.
"Oh believe me I bloody know, all idiots and jerks like Rob and…" he stopped in his tracks and looked at me. His eyes were asking the question as he stared at me soundlessly.
And definitely not working either. Next.
I smiled again, though I heard my frustration starting to show in my voice. “You know, for being all crazy unnaturally observative about my lying… and lack thereof, you're pretty oblivious about everything else."
Hmm, so subtlety…not so much. Next.
Alright, so this was the end of the line, apparently.
"Forget it," I replied, walking past him, feeling the blush rise up on my neck and face. Not only had I said something completely rash and stupid and mortifying, but I had assumed way too much on his part…
So to sum up the current situation of doom –
Stage I: Trial and error [complete]. Status: Epic fail.
Stage II: Run away [initiated]. Status: Really hoping this will work.
I didn’t answer, just kept walking away.
“Andy,” he repeated, his voice low but urgent.
“What?!” I yelled back, whipping around. Not expecting him to be right behind me, I nearly bumped into him. How had he walked up so fast? When? I slowly lifted my eyes to meet his. He was staring down at me, his face in an expression I couldn’t read. We were standing so close together, my heart was already racing and I could barely bring myself to repeat, “What?”
“Tell me something…” Sirius brought his hand up, and brushed back a strand of hair behind my ear, then running his hand down the length of my arm and letting it rest on my wrist. “How does this make you feel?”
How did it make me feel? Like I was bloody being electrified, that’s how.
Though I didn’t bother saying as much out loud. He waited for an answer, but all my focus was in standing still and just staring at him defiantly. I wasn’t going to say anything else. I had already said too much. Now it was his turn to do something. His turn – if he wanted something more – to make the step forward in this relationship…whatever it was classified as.
I started to back away, leaving him standing there. I just wanted out before my heart exploded or something equally as dramatically fatal.
“Are you going to a—“
“You tell me something, Sirius…” I started to say once I was safely a foot or two away from him, leaping at the chance to talk without having to answer his questions. “If what I think of you matters, and you’ve been trying to impress me, and if everything I do drives you insane…what the hell are you waiting for? Either ditch me, or make a freaking move on me already.”
And going along with my crazy boldness and weird behaviour, I just turned on my heel and tried to flip my hair, walking away from him.
That’s right, walking away. Not running.
I’m being different (and not sticking to my plan either, apparently).
I didn’t even stop when I heard him call from behind me: “Merlin Andy can you be anymore blunt about it?!”
“Damned right I can,” I yelled back, but not turning around to face him. I just kept walking in whatever direction the hall was taking me (aka outside, apparently).
I couldn’t believe the outrageously ridiculous conversation we had just had, and how even after all that had been said and done, Sirius and I were still in limbo somewhere between friends, enemies and lovers.
And what was worse, I still had absolutely no idea how Sirius felt about all of this. On the one hand he seemed to care for me at least a little. But why was he so hesitant to move forward in the relationship? I thought he was the type to go and get.
Unless he himself had absolutely no idea how he felt about all of this. Especially after everything we’ve been through, and what with what Melanie did to him…
Why did this have to be so complicated? All the other times, the times where my feelings seemed so trivial compared to this, happened so easily and relatively smoothly: guy asks, girl accepts. Even with dear old shy Remus it was simple enough. And this time, when I really want this happen, we seem to be moving backwards. Regressing, instead of progressing.
It was about then that I suddenly became aware that I was cold. And that I was being blinded by the fiery red rays of the setting sun, additionally reflecting off the surface of the calm lake.
Seriously, when the bloody hell had I made it out of the castle and come this far…without Sirius catching up to me?
Again, for all the times I hated him following me when I wanted to be alone, the one time he didn’t follow me is the one time I actually wanted him to.
Consciously, at least, 101 commented, with murmurs of approval from Subconscious. I groaned. Subconscious wasn’t supposed to be heard. That was why he was called Subconscious.
“What the hell is wrong with me?” I said out loud, to no one in particular.
I wasn’t expecting to hear a reply. And if I was, it definitely wasn’t the voice I wanted to hear.
“Several things, but there’ll be a lot more once we’re through.”
Author's Note: So, whats the verdict? Good, bad? Too different? Too fast? Not funny enough, too serious? Too much dialogue? Please let me know I'm dying to hear what you thought of it!
Thanks to everybody reading and reviewing!
Now! On to the main event - the grande finale! Who showed up behind Andy, and what do they want? Will she get away? Will Andy and Sirius ever get together or are they doomed to yelling at each other forever?
Stay tuned for the last chapter to find out!
Now, to actually getting to study for my anatomy practical >_<