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Chapter 9: You'll See My Smile Looks Out Of Place
I told her everything.
Everything Sirius had said, everything I had said, everything I thought, every little mistake either of us had made... from the beginning.
Everything I should have told my best friend right from the start.
Almost a year’s worth of crazed, neurotic ramblings. So yeah, it took a while.
“There’s only one logical conclusion to come to,” Lily said, as I caught my breath after hours of talking absolute tripe. My throat hurt a bit.
“What,” I essentially croaked, then yelped. After my ‘obsessive pacing’ had gotten on Lily’s nerves, she’d manoeuvred me into lying on her bed with my head on her legs. From there she’d somehow managed to yank out my hair tie from my tangled birds nest and was in the challenging process of combing through a days (and quidditch matches) worth of sweat and muck.
To her credit, she hadn’t yet resorted to any disgusted faces. But she wasn’t being entirely gentle.
“You two,” Lily continued as if I hadn’t expressed any pain, “Are the most pathetic excuses for human beings on the planet. A couple of apes could have avoided all the stupid crap you’ve fallen into along the way.”
I’d reached the point where that didn’t even offend me. I sighed, “Yeah.”
“I can’t believe you’d... I mean to try and... after everything you...”
“Yep. Ow” I winced again. She was definitely taking out her frustration on the hair.
“I mean, Ray? Really?” She shook her hair, “Well I know I might have encouraged you to go there at one point... but that was back when I thought the idea of you and Sirius was... you know. Something far away on the horizon.”
I thought what? I said, “What?”
“Oh, you know.” She flicked a hand. Unfortunately the one with comb entangled in my hair. I didn’t even bother protesting after she’d ignored all prior pleas to be gentle. “It was sort of a maybe-one-day-when-he-changes-his-ways-once-and-for-all-and-when-she-finally-grows-up-and-sees-it kind of thing. You know.”
I frowned. Londy had said a similar thing a few weeks ago after training. ‘You mean everyone saw it coming with you two...?’ I’d dismissed it at the time. But thinking about it, a few people had said something along those lines at one point. Londy. Marlene. Freddie. The Slytherins, even, had apparently seen something that we... that I hadn’t.
“So everyone was just waiting? For him to... and for me to... hey! I am too grown up!”
I reconsidered. “Ok, no.”
“And it’s not like we were waiting, exactly. There was no real reason to push it. Sirius was happy enough to wait for you and do his own thing along the way -” I’ll say. “- And you were happily oblivious. Well. Until...”
Until he decided he couldn’t wait any more.
It still made me feel a bit... strange, I guess... to think in that way. For all those months I’d just assumed he was trying his luck that Christmas Eve. Out of, what? Curiosity? Me being one of the only girls he hadn’t already gone after? Convenience? Because I was the only other person over the age of thirteen around?
I mean, yeah, he’d spun some yarn about being serious, how this was different... but for all I knew that could just have been one of his polished, perfected lines. The sort of thing every girl fell for. That’s why I’d been so careful to tread lightly, so ready to run away at a moment’s notice.
“What does it even matter now? However things were ages ago... whatever happened... he knows now. I know. Everyone else seems to know. But it doesn’t make a difference. He knows and he still doesn’t want...” I let out a lungful in a heavy, abrupt sigh, just in case my tear ducts got any ideas. They weren’t getting a say in this.
“You don’t really believe that, do you?”
“It’s what he said, Lil.”
“No. He said he needed time. That’s not the same thing.”
“Oh... shut up.” I sighed again.
“No, listen. You can’t really think that just because he said he needs time that there’s no chance at all that he still...”
“I said, shut up.” I covered my ears. Childish, yes. “Stop giving me hope. Hope’s exhausting. And annoying.”
“Then prepared to be exhausted and annoyed for as long as it takes for Sirius to remove his head from his arse and realise that he still...” She trailed off.
I closed my eyes, and it was quiet for a moment as Lily combed (less painfully, now that the knots were removed) rhythmically through my hair.
“Lil,” I said, “Do you really think he...”
I could hear the smile in her voice before I even opened my eyes. “Do I think he what, Deb?”
“That he...” I gestured vaguely. I could feel my cheeks getting warm. And this was only Lily I was talking to. “You know.”
“You know what I mean.” I repeated.
“I know I do.” She was looking at me funny. Kind of contemplative. I sat up and scooted over to sit against the wooden frame at the bottom of her bed. She still didn’t stop looking at me.
“Stop it.” I told her, feebly.
“Did you ever say it?” She asked.
“Say what?” I asked. I knew.
“You know.” She smiled faintly at repeating my words. This was one of the most baffling conversations I’d had in quite some time (about an hour). And I’ve been known to have a few.
I swallowed. “No.”
I wondered for a second if I was ok with the answer to that before actually answering. “No.”
There was a short silence. I suppose there’s not a lot you can say to that.
No. With Lily there’s always something.
“But did you? Do you?” She pressed, but gently.
I didn’t want to think about that. I shook my head to convey this, but Lily misinterpreted.
“Deb, you didn’t even... you don’t... you didn’t even think about it.”
“I don’t... I can’t.”
“Can’t what? Can’t think about? Or can’t love him?”
I flinched. Baffling though our ‘you know, you know’ conversation had been, I slightly preferred it to throwing the L word around willy-nilly.
I pulled my knees up to my chest and wrapped my arms around them.
“He makes you happy.” Lily hadn’t finished. “Or he did, anyway. You miss him when he’s not there. Or when he’s being a prat. You think about him every day.”
My instincts told me to argue, I do not.
But I was still concentrating on keeping my lips firmly pressed together. If I didn’t keep them under a close guard they’d quite likely start quivering or some nonsense.
And I’d be lying.
He did make me happy. I did miss him. I did think about him. Too much. Partly because he just plain baffled me. But more than that. Too.
“You’re telling me you never stopped to think about what that was? What it meant?” Lily looked up from her crossed legs at me. I wasn’t looking back. My gaze was firmly on the headboard to her right. But I could still see her.
This time she was waiting for an answer. My lips hadn’t yet earned my trust so I settled with a short shake of my head.
Lily was quiet. For quite some time. But it wasn’t a ‘we’re finished’ quiet. It was a ‘waiting for something’ quiet.
I didn’t know what she was waiting for. Well, alright. She wanted me to say that I did. That I did...
Oh for the love of God, I couldn’t even say the L word to myself. In the privacy of my own, borderline mental, mind. Let alone even consider the prospect of saying it to anyone else.
Apart from Freddie. But that was love for my brother. Of course I loved him. He was my family, my only family. And kind of my saviour. I had and would always love him.
See, I can say that kind of love.
It’s the same freaking word! Why was it so hard to even think about in that context? What made it so unapproachable?
Was it just that I was scared? What was it about it that could scare me? What was the only thing that ever had truly scared me?
Lily was still waiting.
“I think...” I spoke without thinking, to start with. That was a Sirius thing to do. Start talking before you’ve figured it out for yourself, just so you’ve got no choice but to make sense of it, and fast.
I had to pause. I knew Lil was still waiting. Even though I was concentrating more on fiddling with the edge of her duvet.
“ I just...” Again I had to take a pretty big pause. Not scintillating conversation for Lily. From her silence she could quite possibly have dozed off in boredom. I could believe that if I couldn’t feel those beady green eyes on me.
“It’s not that I don’t trust him. It’s going to... it’s going to sound like I don’t trust him. That’s not it. I do. I did... I do. It’s not him. I just... I just don’t think... It’s...” Now I was babbling nonsense. And I was feeling too warm, despite (still) not having changed from my shorts and t-shirt. I couldn’t think. I knew what I thought but I couldn’t think how to tell another person so they’d understand.... bloody hell, even my thoughts were babbling.
I took in what I intended to be a calming breath. It wasn’t calming. It shook. I pretended Lily wouldn’t be able to hear that.
“If you... if you love someone,” I managed to spit out the word without my voice wavering, “Then you’re just making yourself... it could all just... they could...”
“They could hurt you.” Lily provided, gently.
I bit my lip and nodded. “I don’t mean it like...”
“I know you don’t mean anything against Sirius. I know that. It’s not your fault though, Deb. After... well. The first two people in your life that you had any sort of attachment with hurt you. Whether they meant to or not. You learnt that it hurt to love someone.”
It felt like the breath I let out was one I’d been holding for... well. For a long time. I still couldn’t look up. My eyes were dangerously damp and prickly, so much so that I was having to squeeze them closed. But not in a bad way. It was almost a relief.
“But I think you know now.” Lily shifted over on the bed so that she was within an arm’s length from me. I could feel the mattress sinking a little and then the soft pressure of her hand over mine. “It doesn’t have to hurt. Not always. You do know that. You know it because you’ve got Freddie. And you’ve got me.”
Well that did it. Tears fell hot and fast down my cheeks, I could feel them falling from the ends of my eyelashes and when I opened my eyes, could see small damp spots appearing on the bedspread.
“You know that right?” Bloody hell, that girl wasn’t letting up. “You know that I love you. And that I couldn’t hurt you for anything. And you sure as hell better tell me you love me too, McKinnon...”
“Oh fucking hell, look what you’ve done to me!” I was a wet, snotty mess. “Of course I love you, you daft bint.” And I threw my arms around her. Tears and snot and all. Who even knew there was any left in me after the debacle of about two hours ago.
“I know that, you twit. I just needed to make sure you knew.” Quite self-assured, that Lily. “Obviously not quite in the same way that you love head-up-his-arse-Black. More, obviously.”
“Way more.” I confirmed, with a disgusting sniff and an attempt to wipe some of the wet from my face on the arm of my t-shirt.
“It’s passionate, what we’ve got.”
“Especially when you look like that. Snot and all.”
“Hey, snot...is... hot.” I retorted, knowledgeably. And wittily.
“You know what else is hot? Your love for head-up-his-arse-Bla... argh -” She was abruptly cut off. By a pillow to the head. I threw it quite hard. An ordinary person may have been slightly disgruntled, but instead of complaint, a borderline hysterical laugh emerged from the rather skew-whiff mop of red hair.
“What?” She protested. Still laughing, might I add. “What? You just admitted it yourself!”
“I did not.”
“You did too! I said you love me more than you love him. And you agreed.”
“That doesn’t mean... I... shut up! I just meant... it can mean... just that I love you a moderate, appropriate-for-friends level. And him not at all -”
“You just told me you love me, don’t then go and bloody lie to me, McKinnon.”
“Shut up! Stop using my love against me. Just... shut up.”
“You love him.”
“And not an ‘appropriate-for-friends’ amount.”
“Shut up!” I groped for a pillow for another battering, but they were all irritatingly out of reach.
Lily responded with a delighted giggle and leapt up from the bed toward the record player. Before I had even the two required seconds to grasp what was going on, the shrill tones of Celestina Warbeck filled the air. And... oh lord. I recognised the song.
“Oh, come and stir my caldron...” Oh lord, and she was singing. Someone must have slipped something in that girls morning pumpkin juice.
“Lily, stop it.” I jumped to my knees and snatched up a pillow missile. “I mean it.” I launched it at her with considerable force. With an airy swirl she managed to dodge it easily. Balls.
“... and if you do it ri-i-i-ght...” Her pitch was awful, as well. Truly awful.
“I got you this bloody record for Christmas. Because I... - stop it! They’ll hear you in the common room – because I thought you were my best sodding friend who would never use an affectionate gift as some sort of torture...” I hurled another pillow, that she merely brushed aside and leapt up onto the nearest bed to continue her (very peculiar) dance.
“... I’ll boil you up some hot strong love...”
Oh hell, she was bounding from bed to bed towards me. Before I could scramble away, my wrist had been seized in a vice-like grip and I found myself yanked to my feet.
“Evans, you let go of me right this minute or...”
“... to keep you warm tonight!”
“Sing!” She bounced around me on the bed.
“Not a hope in hell. And let go of me.”
“Not until you sing.”
“Oh good. Well get used to my company then, because I won’t be singing a – crap, incidentally – Celestina Warbeck song any time in this lifetime...”
“Come on, Deb, the chorus is coming back around...” She had that manic gleam in her eyes and a scary, scary smile.
“Oh god. You’re not going to ‘sing’ again, are you? I use the term ‘sing’ extremely loosely...”
“I most certainly am! And so are you. Being a complete and utter prat every now and then is good for the soul... OHHH come and stir my caldron...”
Annoyingly, I couldn’t stop my mouth from curling up into a grin. Lily’s (mental) energy was infuriatingly contagious. I now couldn’t tell if my bouncing was just a result of her yanking on my arm or if I was actually dancing for myself.
“...and if you do it ri-i-i-ght...” It was ear-splitting. But, oh god... I could feel my mouth forming the words along with her.
“... I’ll boil you up some hot strong love...” Oh god, it happened. And I can’t pretend my singing added anything remotely tune-worthy to Lily’s screech at all. It might have in fact made things even more painful.
“Yes, Debbie! – to keep you warm tonight!”
I don’t really know how it happened, honestly. All I know is that the whole thing escalated from there and before I knew it we were both bounding from bed to bed – Lily in her uniform and me in my Quidditch gear (still) – and screaming along to ‘A Caldron Full of Hot Strong Love’ for the third time.
It was ridiculous. Completely and utterly. I mean, I’ve done some pathetic things (a lot) in my life, but this took the biscuit on the lame-old-bint scale.
But, shit, it felt good. Throughout all the stress this term, all the constant worrying about what he and everyone else might think, it felt so good to just be an absolute prat with my best friend. I couldn’t remember the last time we’d done anything like this.
The third repeat was nearing its climax when it happened. I don’t know who noticed first. It must have been around the same time because – mid-bounce, Lily on the bed nearest the door and me on the furthest away – we both stopped dead.
Maybe, with our record, I should have seen it coming. I don’t know. In the instant that I saw him my only thought was ‘oh, of fucking course’.
He was Sirius Black, and I was Debbie McKinnon. Of course he’d be standing in the doorway, broom in hand, mere hours after the most intense and upsetting conversation probably of the year so far, watching me scream with laughter, jumping on the bed with my best mate.
A.N. Biggest apologies ever so far. It's been a completely unreasonable amount of time, I know. Life sometimes gets in the way in a big way, no excuses. But thank you so much for keeping with me, wonderful people. Please let me know what you think... especially as I recently read through the whole of FFA and FTP... and I know my writing has changed a lot since the beginning!