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Like a House on Fire by 800 words of heaven
Chapter 11: Love the Smell of Blueberries
“Where on earth did you and Black disappear off to today?” asked Lily. Sarah, Lily and I were in the girls’ dormitory alone. I was sprawled across my bed, Sarah was on the floor, painting her toenails and Lily perched on the edge of hers.
“They probably wanted to get some alone time,” said Sarah with a knowing look.
“Shut up Sarah,” I retorted. The bad mood I was in courtesy of Sirius Back still hadn’t quite dissipated. And I think I was PMSing as well.
She seemed surprised. “Things didn’t go well on your first date?” she asked.
“They went fine,” I snapped. This was followed by an awkward silence. To break the silence I turned towards Lily and asked, “How did it go with James?”
“Oh, you know,” she began with a nonchalant shrug. “It was okay.”
Sarah and I looked at each other, then back over at Lily with a combined pointed look. Never underestimate the power of a combined pointed look. “Oh, okay, it was amazing!” she gushed. I went back to staring at the roof of my bed’s canopy with a satisfied smirk.
“Yeah?” Sarah asked casually, right on cue.
“Yes! Who knew that James could be so funny and sweet and kind all at once?”
“Ooh! Sounds like Lilykins is in lurve!” I sang. Lily chucked a pillow at my head, which of course, I immediately threw back at her. This, typically, led to a full-blown pillow fight between the three of us, ending with us rolling on the floor laughing, and my hostility towards Sirius was forgotten. For now.
“Gentlemen, I think I may be in love,” Prongs sighed happily as he flopped onto his bed. Moony and I exchanged an exasperated look.
“Mate, you’ve been saying that for more than six years now,” Moony said.
“I know, but this time, it’s… different.” He sighed contentedly again.
“I take the date with Evans went well?” I asked.
He lifted his head to look at me with a dopey grin on his face.
Moony shook his head and rolled his eyes. “So Evans didn’t try and jinx you?”
He shook his head. “Not even once!”
“Good for you mate!” I said, and I meant it too. Us blokes, we’re not too great with feelings and stuff, but I was genuinely happy for my best mate. He deserved to be happy and if Evans made him happy, then so be it.
“How did your date go?” asked Moony.
“Oh, you know, not too bad,” I said casually, but I couldn’t help that an image of Millie’s face popped into my head, her eyes full of something that looked a lot like resentment, and possibly… hate.
“What did you do?” he asked with a sigh.
“Why is it always me?” I muttered.
“Because nine times out of ten, it is you, mate.”
I scowled at him, but I knew his words were true. If Moony was one thing, he was truthful… most of the time. “It was nothing. We just… had a little discussion, that’s all.” Moony and Prongs exchanged a look, but both of them knew better to push it.
Halloween came and went in a blur of feasty goodness and it was soon mid-November, with the seventh-years’ workload increasing drastically with every breath we took from its already large proportions. I had no idea how James was managing it all, what with all the work and Head Boy duties he had, because he was relentless in Quidditch training sessions. It was often cold and wet and windy and we couldn’t usually see five feet in front of us. On the rare occasions that our crazy Quidditch captain realised that his team really weren’t joking when they couldn’t see anything (this was greatly helped along when McGonagall yelled at James and me for losing the third Snitch in two weeks), he’d have us on the ground doing gruelling exercises “to keep up our general fitness”. It felt more like I was being trained for the army.
After a particularly wet and miserable training session, the team trudged into the Common Room. I could barely stand and staggered my way over to an empty couch by the fire. I groaned as I fell into its cushiony embrace. Lovely. “What happened to you?” asked Lily.
“Your boyfriend happened to me,” I groaned, as I closed my eyes. “Clearly you’re not snogging him enough because that guy has way too much energy for his own good.”
“Or maybe, you’ve been snogging Sirius too much that you don’t have enough energy left.” Lily retorted. I heard a deep chuckle come from somewhere over my head and then a heavy weight sit down somewhere near my feet.
“Get your own couch, Black,” I growled, still not opening my eyes. Since Lily and James had started dating, Lily seemed to have come to the conclusion that none of the Marauders were that bad, and I now had to study most nights in the Common Room with them. Which meant that I spent a far greater amount of time around Sirius than I had to before, which meant that I had to act like I actually liked the bloke – yes, we were still pretending to be going out, even though the rumours about Marissa and him had long died out.
“Millie dear, this couch is made for two, so play nice and squish over before I make you.”
“I assure you, Sirius, that it would be far easier if you just got yourself another place to put your fat arse,” I said in a falsely sweet voice.
“My arse is not fat!” he cried in feigned shock.
I opened my eyes and lifted my head to look at him at the other end of the couch. He was smiling lazily at me, but there was a clear challenge in his eyes. Game on, Black. “Your arse is so fat,” I replied.
He gave me his best shot at a bitch-please look, but it was ruined by the fact that his lips were turned up at the corners, a hint of a smile and mischief dancing in his eyes.
“I mean,” I continued, “You eat so much. All that extra fat has to go somewhere!”
“Take that back you meanie!” he said, faking almost-tears. “It’s just because no one understands me!”
“Aw, poor baby. Does the bacon understand you?” I asked, also faking concern. Lily, I noticed, had given up on her Charms essay and was now watching us with an amused expression.
He sniffed. “At least they listen, unlike you!”
“Well, maybe you should just go date the bacon, then!”
He shot me another fake-hurt look. “How could you be so mean to me? Lily!” he cried petulantly. “Why is your best friend always so mean to me?”
“Nuh uh, guys. I’m staying out of this. This is far too entertaining for me to finish.”
“What kind of best friend are you?” I asked.
She shrugged. Sirius, deciding that he’d been ignored too long, threw a cushion at my face.
“What the hell?” I cried, more out of surprise than anger.
“That’s for saying I have a fat arse and this,” he threw another cushion, this time, aiming for my stomach, “is for being so mean!” I looked at him again and even though his expression was one of someone who’d just found out that Father Christmas wasn’t real, his eyes were full of mischief. I had a brief thought that he was looking quite sexy, but I quickly shook it off before the idea caused me some sort of mental illness.
“Yeah? Well, this is for throwing a cushion at me,” I said as I chucked a cushion at his head, which he ducked. “And this, is for having a fat arse!” This time, I aimed for his stomach, but because he was still ducking, I managed to get him in the face. He shot me an appalled look. “The gloves are coming off now, White. You asked for this!” And then he dived at me and started tickling me mercilessly.
“Oh my God! Stop! Stop!” I gasped.
“Not until you take it back!” he cried.
“Fine!” And he kept on tickling me! And Sirius Black doesn’t tickle gently. He’s downright violent about it – so violent, that we both ended up falling on the floor, barely missing the table edge.
“God guys, will you two get a room already?” asked James from somewhere above our heads. “Or at least, quieten down on the sex noises. You’re beginning to scare the ickle firsties.”
“We’re not making sex noises!” I gasped. Sirius had finally stopped tickling me and we were now both sprawled on the floor exhausted. “He wouldn’t stop tickling me!”
“Is that some sort of euphemism for sex?” asked Remus, also from somewhere above my head. It took me a while to locate him sitting opposite a discreetly drooling Sarah. Even Peter was here now. Where did all these people come from?
“No! He was actually tickling me! And he wouldn’t bloody stop!” I shot the man in question a scowl.
Remus turned his head a little to look at Sirius. “Is this true Padfoot?” he asked in mock seriousness.
Sirius pouted as he sat up leaning against the sofa we had fallen off not too long ago. “She said I had a fat arse!” he accused.
“That’s because you do mate. You need to eat less.”
“Hah!” I cried triumphantly, but I was saying this as I struggled to sit up myself, but clearly talking and sitting up at the same time was just too much for my brain, because I ended up sprawled on the floor again. Sirius let out a bark of laughter. He has such a weird laugh. I mean, who the hell laughs like a barking dog? “Ow,” I mumbled. Still laughing, Sirius grabbed my arm and pulled me up next to him.
“You guys are so cute together,” Sarah said. I felt Sirius stiffen slightly next to me and my brain started screaming that we were not cute together! However, both of us managed to hide our shock quite well; Sirius even managed to give some witty reply. Everyone shook their heads and went back to work. Sirius and I remained on the floor, things suddenly very awkward between us. I realised that our shoulders were touching and our knees grazed together, and suddenly I felt very flustered. I hauled myself back onto the couch, trying to make it as discreet as possible that I was trying to create some physical space between us, and closed my eyes again. Cute indeed!
I woke with a start. I could barely see two feet in front of me, so my sleep-addled brain correctly deduced that it was night – possibly early morning judging by the lack of a roaring fire. As I came to consciousness, I realised that I was still on the couch that I had commandeered earlier in the evening. As my senses slowly returned, I heard something. A scratching noise… was that a quill? Or was it a herd of rabid rats? (Do rats even hang in herds? Or are they packs?) The mere idea of a herd of rabid rats (or packs, whatever) being in the near vicinity woke me up. I jerked fully awake and bolted straight up, wildly looking around for the rabid rats. My wild search didn’t turn up any rats, instead I found something almost as alarming. “Black? Are you… doing homework?” I asked incredulously.
“Millie, how many times do I have to tell you? I do have to work a little bit to be as good as I am,” he said, slight annoyance tinging his tone.
“Right. It’s always just… such a shock, that’s all.”
He shot me a grin. I mustn’t be as awake as I thought, because I swear my stomach tightened a little. I mentally shook myself and looked over at what Black was doing. “Is that Arithmancy?” I asked.
He glanced over at me, as I craned my neck to see what he was scribbling on, trying not to actually move from the couch. “Err… yeah.” He seemed a little distracted. “Do you… do you need any help?” he asked.
“What? Why would I need help?”
“You look like you’re about to fall over.”
I stopped for a moment to take stock of my body and yes, I was about to fall over. I was teetering on the edge of my seat. I waved my arms around wildly for a moment before righting myself and plopping back into the safety of my couch. Black looked amused. I scowled. “So is that the Arithmancy homework that’s due in tomorrow?” I asked again.
“Yeah. Have you done it yet?”
He regarded me for a moment. “Are you going to?”
“Right. Have fun with that.” I lay there for a moment more, then sighed and heaved myself off the couch and onto the floor in front of the table where Black was working. I dragged by schoolbag over and shuffled through various loose pieces of parchment until I found one covered in at least one hundred extremely complicated equations. I sighed again and got back to work.
After a few moments working in silence I looked up at Sirius. He must have noticed my gaze, because he looked up as well. “What?” he asked. No witty retort? It must be late.
“I had a blanket on me,” I stated.
“Mind saying your thought process out loud, love?”
“When I was on the couch before, I didn’t have a blanket, but when I woke up, there it was. Where did it come from?”
He looked a bit uncomfortable. “Well, um…” then he mumbled something.
He took a deep breath, then said, a little louder, “You looked cold, so… I put it on you…” the last part of that sentence was mumbled down to his Arithmancy homework.
I was a little surprised. Since when did Sirius Black give a hippogriff’s behind that I was cold whilst sleeping? “Oh. Um, thank you,” I said, then quickly looked back down at my homework.
Sirius let out frustrated sigh. I looked up. We must have been working in silence for at least an hour now. “What’s up?” I asked.
“Have you done question fifty-three?”
I looked down at my parchment. “Uh… yeah. What’s wrong?”
“It’s not working!”
I couldn’t help smiling. “Here, let me have a look.” I pulled his sheet in front of me and had a look. “You forgot to carry the six,” I said. “And you used the wrong Law in line four.”
“The wrong Law?” he was looking at me with something akin to disbelief.
“Well… not the wrong Law actually, just the wrong application,” I corrected.
“Oh. Well, that makes me feel much better,” he said back sarcastically.
I smiled at him, then looked back down at his page. “You did question two wrong as well, by the way. And question thirteen. And question twenty-six.”
He sighed again, got out of his seat and plopped down next to me. “Help.”
Her hair smelt like blueberries. Holy Merlin’s boxers, she uses a shampoo that smelt like blueberries. Who even does that? I decided that I liked the smell of blueberries. She had really nice hair. It was the colour of dark chocolate and the reflection of the dying embers of the fire gave it a golden glow. I decided I liked dark chocolate too. And fires. “…In this one, you just forgot to cancel, that’s all, but it’s a really important step, otherwise the numbers get too big and the equation just becomes screwed up,” she lectured. She had a pleasant voice – not too high, not too low – just right. “And in this one… you really stuffed up,” she continued. I felt that some sort of input into the conversation was required at this point. “Hey!” Yeah, real witty, I know.
“No, really. It’s that bad. I can’t even tell what you did wrong – and that’s saying something.” Her hand absently searched for a quill as her eyes remained on the page. She managed to grab one and was about to write on my sheet, when she paused. Her eyes flicked to mine, and for a second there, it was a little difficult to breathe. “Mind if I write on this?” she queried. I shook my head no. The corners of her mouth turned slightly upwards – an almost smile – in acknowledgement. I watched her as she worked on the question. She was left-handed, I noted. Funny, I’d never noticed before, considering that I’d been sitting next to her in Potions for two and a half months now. Her handwriting was terrible – it was an almost illegible scrawl, all over the place. She finished the equation she had been working on, paused for a moment to admire her handiwork, nodded in approval, then continued to scrutinise my work. She stopped every now and again, to make a correction or two, but once or twice had to completely redo a whole question. For some strange reason, it was mesmerising to watch. “You’re really not good at Arithmancy, are you?” she asked whilst correcting yet another equation. It wasn’t a question really – it was bloody obvious that I could barely tell the difference between six and nine, let alone understand the complicated rules of Arithmancy.
“No, I guess not,” I shrugged.
She glanced over at me again. “I’m amazed. There are two things that Sirius Black isn’t good at? Is the world about to end?”
Even though I was quite sure she was having a go at my intelligence, my lips twitched upwards of their own accord. “Not yet.” This girl had the strangest effects on me.
“But you’re amazing in all your other subjects.”
I shrugged again. “It comes with being totally awesome,” I said modestly.
This time, she gave me a proper smile. “Then why’d you take them?”
“Why’d you take Potions and Arithmancy if you’re absolutely rubbish at them?”
“Well, I want to become an Auror after leaving school, so I sort of need Potions for that and…”
“You took Arithmancy because you enjoy being wrong sometimes? Keeps you humble, or something?” Millie deadpanned. I was beginning to appreciate her sense of humour. It was quiet; you really had to pay attention – kinda like the rest of her.
“Yeah… I thought something was needed to deflate my head a bit.”
“So you agree you have a big head?” She’d finished with my equations and had started again with hers.
“No one’s perfect,” I said, as I pulled my sheet back towards me. I looked down and saw that it was now covered almost completely in bottle-green scrawl. Would it be weird if I slept with it under my pillow? Probably. I picked up my quill and frowned at the next question. It was even more impossible than the last one. Millie noticed and leaned over to have a look. “But seriously, why’d you take it?” she asked. She really wasn’t going to let this drop.
“It’s stupid,” I mumbled as I watched her begin the equation off for me.
“Stupid?” she repeated. Why wouldn’t she just let it go? And why the hell was I so nervous about telling her?
“Well, back in third year, I had this crush on a Ravenclaw girl, right…”
“Right…” she’d stopped working and was watching me intently.
“So, when I found out that she was taking Arithmancy, I decided I would too, to… you know, impress her with my sheer brilliance. And I thought it would be a breeze like the rest of my subjects.”
She nodded. “And?”
“And, well… it turned out I wasn’t so hot at it as I thought I would be, as you might have noticed.”
“Oh, I had a slight feeling, yes. But why’d you continue with it?”
“Because I don’t back down from a challenge.”
“And Arithmancy was a challenge?”
“It was, and I somehow managed to pass my OWLs with decent enough grades to end up in the NEWTs classes, and then…”
“Instead of being a challenge, it just became challenging?” she finished.
I grinned sheepishly and nodded. “Yeah, something like that.”
Her eyes lit up when she smiled this time. I think my heart stopped for a beat. “Cute, Black.”
“Cute? Cute?” I screeched in mock offence. “Sirius Black is funny and charming and sexy, but in no way shape or form is he cute!”
“Really! It isn’t manly.”
“Don’t worry,” she said, leaning in. Of its own accord, my body leaned in as well, so our foreheads were almost touching. “It’ll be our little secret,” she stage whispered, then unfortunately, leant away and sat up straight, returning her attention back to her homework. I think I sat there for a good thirty seconds in shock. Millie White had leant towards me!
“Well, I’m done, so…” Her voice snapped me out of my surprise. “…I guess I’ll be going off to bed, then.” She shoved her homework back into her bag and got up, almost falling back down on the way. She turned towards the girls’ dormitory, but paused and looked back at me. Or my homework. Great, now Arithmancy homework was more interesting to look at than me. Real smooth Black, real smooth. “You might want to copy that out again,” she said frowning. I had the sudden urge to reach out and smooth away the creases. What in Merlin’s name was wrong with me tonight? First the blueberries, then the glowing hair, now this! And what was with the whole ‘heart-stopping-and-breath-catching’ shenanigan before? Get it together Black, she’s just a girl. A really pretty girl. Not you again, you traitorous little inner voice of reason and truth! “Hmm? What? Yeah… I will,” I said. Way to go, lame-o.
She frowned at it for a moment more, then turned around to leave.
Now, seriously (no pun intended), what the hell was wrong with me? Why do I no longer have control over my mouth? She turned around again, and regarded me. “What?” she asked, but it wasn’t unkindly, I was relieved to note.
“Could you… could you…? I don’t know…” She raised an eyebrow at me – just one. Damn, I wish I could do that. “Could you… help me with my Arithmancy… more?” THAT WAS SO LAME! WHERE IS THE COOL, SUAVE SIRIUS?
“What, like tutor you?”
“Um… yeah,” Please don’t take this the wrong way! Please don’t take this the wrong way!
She appeared to think about it for a moment. “Yeah, why not?” she shrugged.
My face split into a huge grin – too huge for the occasion, judging by the bemused expression on Millie’s face. “Really?”
“Really, really.” She smiled at me (again!), then turned around to leave. “Goodnight, Sirius,” she called out as she headed over to the stairs leading up to her dormitory.
“’Night!” I replied, far too cheery for two-o-clock in the morning. I saw Millie shake her head out of the corner of my eye, before going up to bed.
I decided that, no, I didn’t like the smell of blueberries – I bloody loved it.
AN: Hai guys! This is just a semi-filler, but hopefully it helps to move Millie and Sirius' rather messed up relationship to new levels of weird! There was a bit of a time jump here, and it does leave the first part of the chapter a little unresolved, but I just wanted to kind of highlight the fact that their whole relationship is rather dysfunctional in that they never really sort out their problems, but just let things sort of get on with it, in a manner of speaking. Lemme know what you think about Sirius' revelation? The box below feels lonely!