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Like a House on Fire by 800 words of heaven
Chapter 28: Just Because
“Millie! You have to come out right now!” Lily yelled at me through the door.
“No! I don’t want to go!” I yelled back from underneath the covers of my bed. As soon as Sirius and I had returned, Lily had whisked me away to get ready for the stupid Christmas Ball – the one and the same Christmas Ball that I didn’t want to go to.
“Millie – if you don’t come out of there in the next five seconds I swear I’ll call Mrs Potter up here to drag you down!”
“You can’t make me!” I’d spelled the door shut so that no one could enter. The only way in was if they broke down the door and I thought that that was an unlikely situation. Hopefully, Lily would yell at me a for a bit, get distracted, go downstairs for the Ball for the night and find me curled up in a ball, my beautiful dress all crumpled and make-up running down my face because I’d cried myself to sleep. Bleak House had me feeling… well, bleak. All that talk about feeling empty before? It seems that the charged emotions of the day had finally caught up with me. I was tired, I was emotional, I was probably PMSing, I was wearing a stupid dress (that wasn’t done up, by the way – the zip was stuck halfway up my back) and I just didn’t want to go to a Ball! Did no one bloody understand that?
“Evans, is there any particular reason why you’re yelling at a closed door?” There’s only one person in the whole world whose voice could be that dry at a time like this.
“I’m not yelling at a closed door, I’m yelling at Millie!” Lily huffed in reply – much quieter than when she was talking to me. Just went to show that she liked my pretend-boyfriend more than me now.
“Because she’s behaving like she’s five!”
“I am not!” I yelled in my defence.
“Yes, you are!” Lily yelled back in reply.
“Okay ladies!” Sirius interrupted. “That’s enough. Lily, why don’t you go downstairs and I’ll look after this, okay?”
There was a pause and I felt that both Lily and I were thinking the same thing:
WHAT? WHAT? WHAT? SINCE WHEN IS SIRIUS BLACK PROACTIVE ABOUT SOLVING THINGS? WHAT IS HAPPENING TO THE WORLD?
Except, knowing her, her thoughts would sound infinitely more graceful and ladylike.
Lily sighed. “I wish you good luck.” I heard her head down the stairs. Was she abandoning me at a time like this? To be quite honest, you couldn’t blame Lily at all for this – I hadn’t actually told her anything at all. She’d seemed so excited and happy when I got back that I didn’t have the heart to rain on her parade.
It seemed that Sirius was determined not to abandon me, strangely enough. “Millie?” he enquired quietly from outside the door. “Open the door, please?”
“Go away!” I said, more into my pillow than at him.
“Millie, when you talk into your pillow like that, I can’t actually hear what you’re saying.”
“I said, go away!”
“Come on Mills! I want to talk!”
“Well, I don’t!”
“Yes, you do. Now open up.”
“I will break down this door if I have to. Try explaining that to Mrs P.”
I sighed. There was no avoiding this. I got out of bed and stalked over to the door and wrenched it open. Sirius was standing incredibly close to the door, so I almost bumped into him.
I kind of wish I had, because he looked damn fine. Black dress robes, a quick shower, some light cologne, a brush through his hair and that charming smile of his, dimples and all, made him irresistible. I think the only reason I didn’t pull him towards me and snog his brains out then and there was because I was in such a bad mood.
Instead, I scowled.
Sirius, on the other hand, just stared.
His eyes did this weird thing where they quickly scanned me up and down, then they lingered on my lips, then went down to my chest, then back to my lips.
I think I’d just been checked out.
His eyes finally flicked to mine, after he realised that I was still scowling at him.
They had a strange gleam in them, which sent my spine tingling.
I tried to not let it show, however, my scowl deepening to compensate.
I turned around and headed back into the room, with all intentions of crawling underneath the covers of my bed.
“Um… Millie…” Sirius began.
“What?” I snapped, without turning around.
“I think… your dress… it’s kind of… not done up… I think.” In any other time, seeing Sirius this uncomfortable would have been funny. It went to show just how low I was feeling that I couldn’t even summon a small twitch of the lips.
“I know!” I snapped back.
“Is it… supposed to be like that?”
“Because the bloody zip is stuck and I can’t do it up!” I spun around and glared at him, like this was all his fault.
For a moment, I think Sirius believed that it was (I think I’m getting better at this whole intimidation thing). He took a step back, in surprise or caution, I wasn’t sure. “Okay,” he said calmly to my little outburst. “Let me help you with it.”
“Let me help you with it,” he repeated, enunciating each word carefully, like I couldn’t understand English or something.
I gaped at him. “How?”
He rolled his eyes. Something was seriously wrong with this picture. It was usually my job to roll eyes, not his. “I’ll do it up for you, of course!”
“Oh. Of course.” I said faintly, suddenly feeling drained and empty. Let me tell you – all these feelings are not good for you.
He walked up to me and said, “Turn around.”
I was in such shock that I did as he said.
I felt him pull a little at my dress. I stood stock still and let him fiddle around a little with the zipper.
“I think some of the material…” he said under his breath. “Is stuck… oh! Here we go!”
He gave a more forceful tug. In the process the back of his knuckles grazed my back.
My spine went rigid at the contact. It was all tingly now and I was trying really hard not to let that show.
His fingertips brushed my skin again. Okay, once was an accident, but twice?
WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?
I stood there in silence, my back as straight as a ram rod (what on earth is that anyways?) as Sirius slowly pulled the zip the whole way up.
“You know,” I hadn’t realised how close he was standing to me – I could feel his breath tickling my neck. My mind instantly jumped to when we snogged in the fifth floor corridor… and how his lips felt… “You could have used magic to fix that,” he went on quietly, his deep voice sounding a little husky.
And unimaginably sexy.
“I didn’t think of that,” I managed to get out through the Sirius-induced fog that was my brain. Stupid hormones! To be quite honest, I couldn’t really think of much at all at the moment.
He took a step back as I turned around to face him.
“Thank you,” I said. I think that was the second time today that I’d said that to him. Either he was being really nice all of a sudden, or I’d begun to notice that he was actually a pretty decent guy. I’d like to believe it was the former.
“Don’t mention it.” He flashed me a mischievous grin. “It wasn’t as bad an experience as one would imagine.”
I looked at him bemusedly, but let it slide.
“You can go now,” I said, as I walked to the other side of the bed, slid down to the ground, pulled my knees up to my chin and placed my head on my knees, fully intending to spend the next hour in this position, thinking about how stupid my life was and what a pathetic person I am.
After a moment, Sirius padded over and plonked down beside me.
As in, there is about an inch of space between us.
Which, you know, is usually the case when he sits beside me like this, but I’d never noticed before.
GAH! WHY DOES HE HAVE TO SMELL SO GOOD?
I turned my head away from him. Usually doing this indicates to the other person that they have no interest in talking to you.
Somehow, Sirius missed that memo, because he nudged me gently with his knee.
“Mills,” he said.
I ignored him.
I ignored him some more.
“Mills!” The nudge from the knee was a little more forceful this time.
“Mnmnmmm!” I moaned.
“Go away!” I said to the, wall which was far more likely to listen than Sirius.
“Not until you tell me what’s wrong.”
He didn’t say anything for a moment.
“Come on Millie! What’s up?”
“Oh, so you usually yell at people and sulk alone in your room before balls?”
“Considering this is my first ball, I think I’m setting a rather good precedent, don’t you think?”
He sighed. “Millie. Seriously. I’m getting worried now.”
“What do you care?” I still refused to look at him, but I think he rolled his eyes again.
“We’ve been through this before, Millie. No matter if you like it or not, I care about you. So you’re stuck with me until you talk to me.”
I scowled at the wall in reply.
There was a moment of silence and then I heard a scuffle. Next second, Sirius’ face was looming in front of mine.
“Ah!” was my eloquent reaction. I jerked my head up and away in surprise.
“That’s better,” Sirius said, sounding satisfied. “It’s much easier having a conversation with someone when you can see their face, don’t you reckon?”
I scowled at him in answer.
He shot me a grin.
I was beginning to notice a pattern in our communications, here.
“So. Are you going to tell me what’s wrong if I ask again, or am I going have to blunder through as many guesses as it takes to get it right?” he asked.
I didn’t reply. Instead, I decided to look at the quite interesting patch of wallpaper behind his left shoulder. At least the wallpaper paid me the courtesy of not talking when I didn’t want it to. It probably wasn’t that difficult for it, considering that it didn’t talk at all.
“Is it your time of the month?” he began.
My eyes flicked to his, then flicked away quickly. I mustn’t stare at his eyes, otherwise I’ll start spouting my deepest and darkest secrets to him.
“No… then… did Lily do something?”
I steadfastly stared at the wall.
“No? Then did I do something?”
For once, Black, no.
“No? Wow, well that’s a first! Alright… does it have anything to do with today, then?”
I stared at the wallpaper harder, trying not to give anything away.
“So it’s got something to do with where we went today, then?”
Damn! That plan didn’t quite work out. Like I said, Sirius Black could be too perceptive for his own good at times. However, I tried my best, but it was really difficult, because now that he’d mentioned it, all those feelings I’d been holding in, pushing them away and instead focusing on being angry towards him, were now resurfacing. My vision went blurry and I blinked to try and fix it, but all that happened was that it got blurrier. I could feel the moisture sitting on the edge of my eyes, just waiting, waiting to fall down.
I blinked a few times rapidly to make the tears go away.
They didn’t, in case you were wondering.
Instead, they decided that it was okay to fall down my face, and keep on doing so, in an uncontrollable manner, without any heed to what I felt about it.
I dropped my face into my hands, pressing my eyeballs hard, to see if I could just switch them off.
They only came faster.
This was getting serious now. I could feel my body begin to shake with the effort of keeping all these tears in.
Then suddenly, a warm arm wrapped around my back and neatly pulled me towards the body to which it was attached.
To be quite honest, it did not take too much effort on my part to practically fling myself into Sirius’ arms – and it was for more than just because he smelt nice and I had a crush on him, though those two points sure helped.
It was more the fact, though, that it had been so long since someone had held me as I cried. I remembered when I was a kid, and I’d come back from a long day at school, and my dad would just be there to hold me and hug me as I cried about Lucy Wilkinson stealing my chocolate bar and then we’d go out and have ice cream for dinner (because according to Dad, life was too short to not have dessert first, but we’d stuff ourselves so much, that we wouldn’t bother with the main course. It was probably a good thing – neither of us could really cook).
And okay, getting hugged by Sirius was nowhere near as good as my dad’s hugs, but the point is that there was still someone in my life who I could lean on and cry my heart out on their shoulder, without having to explain why.
As I began to calm down a little, I wondered how Sirius was feeling right now. I mean, how often does this happen to him for him to know what to do? If this is his first time dealing with emotional women, he should seriously consider this as a possible career option, because he’s quite a good comforter. For one, he smells nice, so that when you have your nose buried in his shoulder, you’re not smelling like this disgusting boy smell or anything, but a really refreshing sort of forest-after-the-rain smell. And his shoulder, aside from being broad and muscular, is quite a comfortable shoulder to lean on in general. And whilst you’re crying your eyes out, he seems to have learnt the perfect balance between hugging and rubbing someone’s back in a comforting way.
It’s quite a talent.
It’s making me sort of jealous.
Once the sobs had stopped and my body wasn’t shaking anymore, I pulled away from him.
He seemed to let go rather reluctantly.
We stared at each other for a bit.
I licked my dry lips, in an attempt to begin saying something.
“I got your shirt wet. Sorry.” REALLY? WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?
He gave me a small smile. Probably thought I was off my rocker, not that I was trying so hard to disprove this point, what with all the emotional crying and all. “It’ll dry.”
I nodded and then looked away embarrassed. “Um. You should probably go downstairs… everyone’s bound to be missing you.”
“Or, you know, they think I’m up here getting lucky.”
I laughed. “Instead, you’ve just been emotionally abused.”
He cocked his head to the side, in confusion. Merlin, he looked so adorable with his hair falling into his eyes like that! “How is comforting someone equal to being emotionally abused?”
“Are you telling me that you enjoy having emotionally unstable people cry all over your dress robes?”
He shrugged. “Only if they’re as pretty as you.”
That dangerous gleam was back in those mischievous pools of grey.
He laughed at my shocked expression. “Do you always look so horrified when you’re complimented, Mills, or do you reserve that honour just for me?”
I frowned at him and pursed my lips. One second he’s flirting with me, and the next, he’s making fun of me? What am I supposed to make of that?
He laughed again. “Merlin, do you know how adorable you look when you’re mad?” he asked.
My lips went thinner. “I don’t!”
“Yeah, you do, actually. And do you want to know a secret?” He leant in closer. And curse my stupid body, because it leant in towards him of its own accord, I swear.
“What?” At least my facial muscles were still obeying me, because I managed to deepen my frown into a scowl, but I’d seemingly lost control over my voice, because I sounded far too interested than I should.
“Sometimes, I make you mad on purpose, just so I can see that adorable frown of yours,” he stage-whispered conspiratorially.
I huffed and pulled away. “Sirius Black, are you making fun of me?” Beside myself, I was beginning to feel a little better. Sirius had that kind of effect on people, when he wanted to.
He laughed. “Only a little, I promise. But that thing about you looking adorable when you’re mad was completely true, by the way.”
“Shut up, Black!” I crossed my arms and turned away from him.
He hadn’t stopped laughing, but suddenly a rather familiar pair of arms wound around my waist and pulled me into their owner’s lap.
“Sirius! What –?” I yelped.
“You can make it up to me for getting my shirt wet and emotionally abusing me,” he said quietly beside my ear. And oh my Merlin, was he nuzzling my neck? Because it was really ticklish.
Trying not to think about the nuzzling and squirm away, I asked “And how can I do that?”
“You can come downstairs with me to the Ball as my beautiful and stunning date.”
My eyes narrowed and I tried to turn around to look at his face. “What’s in it for you?”
“Aside from having all the other guys down there completely and utterly jealous that such a beautiful and amazing woman agreed to be my date and not theirs? I get to spend some time in your wonderful company, which is always an honour.”
I blinked at him and then whacked his chest.
“Ow! What was that for?” he yelped, rubbing his chest and looking for all intents and purposes, incredibly hurt at my act of violence.
“Don’t tease,” I scolded.
“I wasn’t! All I was trying to do was be charming and persuasive!”
“Do you think I’m charming and persuasive?” he asked.
“Persuasive – when you put your mind to it. Charming –” I looked at him critically. “Sometimes, by accident.”
He pouted. “Gosh, there’s no pleasing you, is there?”
I giggled. Holy Merlin, what was that? Since when did I giggle, of all things? Blame it on the dress.
“So, come with me?” he asked, his eyes lighting up hopefully.
“I dunno… do you really want someone who’ll probably trip over the hem of her dress, looks like she’s just had a good cry and is likely to start doing so at any second around you all night?” I asked.
“Well… when you put it like that… yes.”
I looked him right in the eye then. I couldn’t find a single trace of mockery or judgement. Did he actually want to go with me just because?
“And it would be such a waste of a beautiful dress if no one saw it!” he wheedled.
“Seriously? Was that the only thing you could think of?”
“Cut me some slack, I’m running out of ideas here.”
I smiled. “Thank you, but no thank you, Sirius.”
Sirius frowned. “Exactly what are you going to do up here all night anyways?”
“Um… well… I was planning on getting out of this dress pretty soon and then eating the brick of Honeydukes chocolate that Lily keeps hidden in her room, whilst reading some trashy historical romance that I’m sure Lily sneaked into her trunk.”
He looked at me incredulously. “And that was going to be more fun than spending time with me?”
“Um… I dunno. But I’m really not in the mood to have fun tonight, so I’d just ruin your night if I went with you.”
His expression softened. “Mills, believe me when I say this – I’m always happy spending time with you. And if you come downstairs with me, I assure you that you’ll feel a lot better than if you read trashy romance novels all night.”
Merlin, why was he being so understanding and earnest and nice? It was so difficult to say no to him!
There must have been something about my expression that indicated to Sirius that he didn’t have to push too much harder to get me to say yes.
“Please, Mills,” he said quietly, steadily holding my gaze. “For me?”
My shoulders sagged. He was too damn persuasive for his own good! “Oh, alright,” I finally conceded.
He gave me one of those stunning smiles of his and hugged me tight.
“You’ll have the time of your life, I promise,” he whispered into my ear.
There was something about his tone that made me believe him.
AN: I know, I know. How dare I put a filler chapter in before the Ball? Because I enjoy building tension. Or torturing you guys. Or love writing Sirius being cute too much. But seriously, I tried to jump straight into it, but it just wasn't working, so I thought a chapter to set it up would work better. Anyways, let me know what you thought about it in the little grey box below which is bigger on the inside, so feel free to write as much as you wish! I love hearing from you guys, especially when you all gush about Sirius and how cute he is!