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Like a House on Fire by 800 words of heaven
Chapter 29: The Time of Your Life
Okay. So I promised Millie a good time. The time of her life, to be exact. Quite a tall order to fill, taking into consideration that I have no idea what happens to me around this girl and she’s probably on the verge of tears even at this very moment. I sneaked a glance her way, trying not to get distracted by how stunning she looked in that dress, or how her hair grazed her bare shoulders, or how soft her lips seemed…yeah, this not-getting-distracted thing is working out well. She was talking to Lily at the moment, or more accurately, Lily was talking to her (or scolding – sometimes it’s hard to tell) and she was listening. She was trying hard to hide how low she was feeling and to any outsider, Millie White was as chipper as can be, but she couldn’t quite hide the grief and pain in her soulful eyes. Merlin, when she began crying, aside from being way out of my depth, I had the biggest urge to hold her in my arms and hug her tight. The former I was able to do without much argument on Millie’s part, for once, but the latter… well, one can only dream.
But maybe tonight, if I play my cards right… just maybe…
“Sirius,” Millie said quietly, touching my arm to get my attention. Must. Fight. Down. Urge. To. Kiss. Her.
“Huh? What? Yeah?” Oh Merlin, no wonder she reckons I’m an idiot, if this is the way I behaved all the time around her.
“Wrong? Nothing’s wrong! Why? Is something wrong?” Was she going to cry again? Did she need the services of my shoulder to lean on once more, because I could assure her that my shoulder would not mind in the least? And no, this is not taking advantage of an emotionally vulnerable young woman, this is grasping the opportunity.
They’re two completely different things.
“You’re staring,” she said. Crap! And I thought I’d been so sneaky.
“I can’t help myself,” I said, with a grin and a shrug. “When my date is as ravishing as yourself, it’s hard to look away.”
We looked at each other, our eyes locked for this moment; her trying to figure out if I was being sincere and me trying to convince her that this was the most sincere I’d been in my entire life.
“Try and resist,” she said drily, looking away.
“I can’t. You’re irresistible.”
She snorted. “I’m sure.” No, Millie, I don’t think you are.
“How come you don’t like dancing?” I asked a while later. We’d kind of finished with the socialising part of the night and were now camped out in an out-of-the-way corner, trying not to impinge on any couple’s few moments of privacy – in theory. I was trying to have a few moments of privacy with my date, whilst I think Millie was just trying to hide. Earlier, Mrs P had accosted her and all but squealed at how wonderful and gorgeous she looked.
“That’s what I keep telling her, but she doesn’t believe me,” I sighed dramatically, winding my arm around her waist. The strange thing about it was that I didn’t even have to pretend to make it look natural – it really was natural.
She beamed up at the both of us. I think she was quite happy to see us interacting with each other as a legitimate couple for the first time.
“And you look very nice too, Sirius dear,” she added as a bit of an afterthought.
“Yes, no one could have guessed how handsome he’d look if he brushed his hair once in a while,” Millie said, shooting me a mischievous grin.
Mrs P all but burst with happiness.
“Well, I better be going now and leave you two to have fun. And if you see James by any chance, let him know that his father wants to see him.”
Once she left, I turned her around a little in my arms so we were facing each other. I had a feeling that Mrs P kept on glancing over her shoulder at us, so it was important to be in close proximity for appearances’ sake. The fact that I could smell her blueberry shampoo if I was this close had very little to do with it.
“You think I’m handsome?” I asked teasingly.
“Only when you brush your hair,” she said, but she smiled shyly at me, so maybe she thought I was handsome at other times as well…
“Perhaps I should brush my hair more often, then.”
“Oh, you mustn’t do that!”
“However am I going to fight off the increase in your fan girls if you started looking handsome all the time? I have so much trouble as is!”
I grinned down at her. “You’d fight for me?”
She squirmed a little in my arms. Merlin, she was so cute when she was uncomfortable. “Hypothetically speaking, yes,” she replied, rolling her eyes, trying valiantly to hide… something.
“Millie,” I began solemnly. She arched an eyebrow, indicating that I should continue. “You’re amazing.”
She rolled her eyes.
She couldn’t hide her smile fast enough though.
“So tell me why you don’t like to dance,” I started again, after I’d received no response the first time. This might have been because she became very engrossed in the patterns on the wall the diffracted light from the chandelier was making.
Yes, my girlfriend is an artist; step back.
“Don’t you think that it looks so pretty?” she asked, instead.
“Yes, it’s very nice, but –”
“They’re such unique patterns – I wish I had my sketchbook! And look at those colours –”
“What?” she asked, finally tearing her eyes away from the stupid light patterns. Go figure that the only person who could make me jealous of light patterns was Millie White.
I pouted for effect. “You’re ignoring me!”
“Oh sorry, were you saying something?”
“Come on Mills, am I really that boring that you find light patterns more interesting?”
“No, it’s not like that,” she said shaking her head. I took this as a good sign as to how far our relationship had come. A few months ago, she would have said yes, even if she meant no. “I just didn’t realise you were talking to me. What were you saying, by the way?”
“I don’t want to talk anymore.” I crossed my arms and turned away from her.
I heard her sigh. “Sirius, really?”
“Well you obviously don’t care about what I have to say!” I wasn’t really mad at her but it was nice to know that she liked me enough to want to convince me to talk to her – even though I was being childish.
“I never said that!”
“You didn’t have to! Clearly, if you’re more interested in patterns than what I have to say, you don’t care.”
She took a deep breath. “Okay, okay. I promise not to talk about the light patterns again, okay?”
I shook my head. “That’s not good enough.”
“What? What else do you want from me?”
Your promise to be mine forever. “You have to promise not to ignore me again!”
“That’s an awfully long time.”
“Fine! Then I’m not talking to you anymore!”
“What about your promise to me about having the best night of my life?” she asked teasingly. It did however remind me that I had to do something about that. “You can’t promise that and then not talk to me.”
“I can if it means that you’ll have a good time,” I replied softly, turning around to face her again.
It caught her off-guard. “Sirius, if you don’t talk to me, I’ll feel very lonely and am likely to go back upstairs and cry some more.”
I felt oddly pleased that she trusted me enough to tell me such an intimate detail. I considered her for a moment. “Oh, alright, I’ll talk to you.”
She rolled her eyes at my tone, but smiled none the less. “So what were you saying?”
“I asked why you don’t like to dance. I thought girls loved dancing at these kinds of things.”
“Oh. Isn’t that obvious?”
I shook my head no. “Where you’re concerned, darling, things rarely are.”
She smiled and shook her head. “I can barely manage to walk without causing myself or others grievous injury – and that only sometimes. It would be a complete disaster if I decided to dance.”
“So you’ve never danced?”
“It’s not as if I’ve never danced, but I try and avoid it for the safety of the wider population.”
“Do you want to dance?”
“No, I meant next week. Of course, now!”
She considered the dance floor for a moment. “It’s not that I don’t want to, but there are so many people out there! I’m bound to crash into someone, or step on someone’s hem or do something else completely stupid and utterly embarrassing.”
“Then we’ll go somewhere where there’s no one else.”
“What?” Her head whipped back in my direction.
“We’ll go where there’s no one else.”
“Where’s that?” Could she please stop looking so hot with her eyebrows scrunched in confusion?
I smiled mysteriously (I hope, because I like to believe that I’m the type of guy that girls find mysterious and brooding). “Follow me,” I said as I took her cool hand in mine.
“Outside?” she asked. I’d led her out of the ballroom, through the kitchen and out the back door to the Potters’ little terraced area out the back. A wide balcony would have been far more romantic, but one had to make do with what one had.
“I figured because it was so cold outside, no one would be here.”
She stopped just outside the door.
I turned around and saw her looking rather concerned. I frowned; this was not a promising sign. “What’s wrong?”
“I was just wondering whether the reason no one else is out here should be the same reason we shouldn’t be out here.”
I realised that she was shivering a little already. Come to think of it, my nose wasn’t feeling quite attached to my face either. I wondered if suggesting that we’d be warm enough if I held her in my arms would work and be considered romantic enough, but quickly killed that notion. I shouldn’t get ahead of myself – a lot rested on me being very careful.
“I have an idea,” I said, with a sudden burst of inspiration. I took out my wand and went around the perimeter of the tiled area, muttering a little spell for warmth. Once I was done, the heat dome closed in over our heads and in a matter of mere minutes, the place was comfortably warm.
“Better?” I asked.
Millie smiled up at me. “Much.”
“My lady,” I bowed, a little more extravagantly than was required. “May I have this dance?” I proffered my hand.
She laughed. It was the first real laugh I’d heard from her in a very long time. “Please don’t expect me to curtsey. I’ll probably fall over.”
“I expect no such thing, but simply hope that you accept my humble invitation.”
“It would be my pleasure,” she said with a dazzling smile, placing her hand in mine.
I guided her out to the middle of the “dance floor” and pulled her closer. She placed her left hand on my shoulder and her right hand in my left one. I wound my right arm around her waist, pushing her just that little bit closer to my body. Hey, my spell-casting might be good, but a guy could still feel a little cold and Millie was delightfully warm.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” Millie asked.
I nodded. “I’m sure,” I smiled.
“Really? Because I can’t be held responsible for any damage to your person or otherwise that may occur as a result of my clumsiness.” Her dreamy eyes were shining in the light from the half-moon and the tiny lights that were dotted through the garden beyond.
I smiled at her again, in what I hoped was a reassuring manner. “Don’t worry. We’ll be fine.”
“Just – trust me.”
She looked at me for a moment with her soul-searching intensity. Then her lips curved up into a soft smile. “Lead the way.”
Strains of music from the ballroom could be heard, faintly reaching the back of the house. I think we swayed half to that music and the other half to some sort of rhythm that only the two of us shared. It wasn’t a sound, but more of a feel and the longer we danced, the stronger the rhythm became. I didn’t know exactly what it was – it could have been the wind whooshing through the trees, the scuffling of the garden gnomes through the overgrown grass, or the thuds of our hearts in time…
I wasn’t really focusing on it, and you wouldn’t be either if you had an angel in your arms – and that was what Millie looked like to me. The soft light made her hair shine, her eyes sparkle and her skin glow.
Her eyes locked onto mine. After a moment which could have been forever or no time at all, her lips bent upwards into a small, shy smile and she looked away.
Merlin, she was such a tease.
I decided it would be unwise to say something at this stage – it might frighten her away, and that was certainly an undesirable outcome.
We kept on swaying to the music in silence. There really was no need for words. What on earth was there to say? I’m happy that I get to spend time with you, uninterrupted, alone and without you remembering that you don’t really like me because I forced you into pretending to be my girlfriend?
Yeah, best not to say anything.
Her hand slipped out of mine and rested on my other shoulder. Then, I felt her head rest on my chest, a little hesitantly at first. I wrapped both my arms around her waist and she relaxed completely against me, a soft sigh escaping her lips.
I smiled and rested my cheek on the top of her head.
To any outsider, we looked like we’d been doing this since forever.
Except there was no outsider this time. We weren’t pretending. For once, this was real.
The music stopped and we stopped with it.
Millie didn’t make to move away, like I expected her to.
I was definitely not complaining. She was warm and comfortable in my arms, her body pressed up against mine, fitting perfectly.
It was amazing how girls had the ability to do that.
She sighed deeply.
“Sirius?” Millie’s asked quietly.
“Mm?” My hand was playing with the ends of her hair of their own accord.
“Is this – is this – okay?” Her voice was laced with doubt.
I pulled her away from me a little, so I could see her face. She looked up at me with those firewhiskey eyes. She seemed vulnerable and sad and a little tired. It fully hit me that today had been a really long day. She’d wandered through her house in a bit of daze and her decision to visit her parent’s graves had surprised me, but I hadn’t said anything. She’d come away from there all quiet and thoughtful and I’d just assumed that this was her way of dealing with it all. Then Lily had rushed her away almost as soon as she’d stepped foot into the door to do whatever girls felt was so important to do before a ball. And then… well, then I’d realised that Millie had been doing a damn good job of keeping it together all day and I had just taken it for granted.
She fidgeted a little in my arms and I realised with a start that I had just been staring at her again, lost in thought. She seemed a little self-conscious now and she licked her lips…
And then the next thing I knew, I was kissing her.
It was gentle, mind, nowhere near as roughly as I had handled her in the corridor the other day. I made sure I went slowly this time.
She didn’t respond.
I increased the pressure a little.
Perhaps she didn’t actually want to be kissed by me? A couple of months ago, that idea would never have crossed my mind (I mean, come on, I’m Sirius Black), but spending time around Millie changes a bloke’s sense of self.
I began to pull away. I can’t say that I wasn’t hurt by the fact that she hadn’t spent almost every waking minute thinking about our kiss and what we could be, like I had (no, I am not a female), but I had to respect her decision.
Then suddenly, her soft lips pressed back against mine. Her hands slipped up around my neck, pulling me closer.
Can’t say I was reluctant to oblige. My arms slunk around her waist, pulling her tighter still.
She gasped and I grabbed the opportunity, flicking my tongue just past her slightly parted lips.
I felt her fingers tighten in my hair.
She may not have been thinking about our previous kiss all the time before, but she sure as hell wasn’t going to stop thinking about this one now.
This was wrong.
What was in Merlin’s name was I doing?
We were dancing.
And then I was resting my head on his chest.
And then he was holding me.
And then he was kissing me.
And then I was kissing him.
And it was amazing.
But then he pulled away.
I blinked in confusion, feeling a little dazed with the feel of his lips still lingering. Merlin, this boy had to come with a warning label!
“I’m – I’m sorry,” Sirius muttered, pulling away from me and taking a step back.
“What?” I asked, rather dumbly. Did I miss something?
He ran a hand through his hair with a frustrated sigh. “I’m sorry, Mills. I didn’t mean – I’m not like –”
“Didn’t mean what?” I crossed my arms over my chest defensively. “To kiss me?” How can someone not mean to kiss someone else but then do it anyways? You don’t go around kissing people accidently!
I raised an eyebrow. “Then what did you mean to do?”
He shook his head. “No, that’s not what I meant. I did mean to kiss you, but I didn’t mean to kiss you.”
“Sirius, you’re not making any sense at all.” I was beginning to feel less defensive and more confused by the second. And thoroughly annoyed that he’d pulled away when I had been enjoying myself so much. There was no denying it anymore – Sirius was a damn fine kisser and I liked kissing him.
He sighed. “No, I’m not, am I?”
“I think that’s the smartest thing you’ve said in the past few minutes.”
He gave me a cheeky grin. “It’s your ravishing beauty. It’s very distracting.”
“Sirius, you can’t go around saying stuff like that and then say you didn’t mean to kiss someone! You’re sending rather mixed signals here.”
He seemed worried again. “What I mean is, as much as I want to kiss you, I shouldn’t have.”
“Why not? I most certainly wasn’t complaining.”
“Millie! I can’t just go around taking advantage of you in your currently emotionally vulnerable state!”
I stared at him for a good ten seconds.
“Emotionally vulnerable state?” I repeated.
“Well, yeah. I understand it’s been a long day and… well, it was very inappropriate of me to… to rush you into… things.”
“But all of this?” I waved my hand around, indicating the romantic setting and his thoughtfulness in putting on a heat spell (although, if we’d kept on kissing, I suspected we wouldn’t have needed it soon). “What the hell was that, then?”
He frowned. “Okay. I realise how this looks, but I swear Millie, I just want you to know – no, need you to know – that I didn’t do all of this just so I could… take advantage of you or anything!”
“Then why did you do it?”
“Because – because – because I promised you a good night and well…” he ran another hand through his hair. It was very distracting, seeing his hair all mussed up now. “I just wanted to spend some time with you. Alone. And make you feel better,” he added, almost as an afterthought.
I smiled at him. “Sirius, for the record, when you kissed me, it never even crossed my mind that you did all of this just to take advantage of me.” Nothing really crossed my mind, actually. It all kind of went a little blank. It was definitely a happy blank though. “I always had faith in you honourable intentions.”
His shoulders relaxed. “Oh. Well, that’s… that’s good, then.”
I nodded in agreement. “It is.”
“And I think I owe you another apology.”
“What for now?” I asked, a little exasperatedly.
“Well, I’m sure I could be apologising for a lot of things, but this time, I want to apologise for the other day. I shouldn’t have lost my temper with you. You’re right, it really is none of my business if you dated my brother or not, and it really shouldn’t matter to me.” But it does, was the thing that he left unsaid. Instead, he took a breath and continued. “And really, once again, I shouldn’t have kissed you like that.”
“Then how should you have kissed me?” I asked.
His eyes widened in surprise. I couldn’t help but smirk a little (a nasty habit I had picked up from a certain someone).
“Wh-what?” he spluttered.
“Then how should you have kissed me?” I teased. It felt nice having the upper hand for once.
“I – well – I dunno –”
“What? All talk and no show, Black?” I teased again. This was fun. I should do this more often.
His eyes narrowed. “Fine,” he growled, and the next thing I knew, his lips were on mine again.
They were soft and barely grazed mine, lingering only for a moment. Then, they were gone as suddenly as they had come and I was once again left in a bit of a daze. Was it normal to have one person have such an effect on you?
“That’s how I should have kissed you,” he said quietly, leaning his forehead against mine. “You deserved better.”
“I wasn’t complaining,” I said faintly. And I’m still not, for what it’s worth.
He smiled. “I’m glad.”
We looked at each other.
“We should probably go back inside,” I said after what could have been a few seconds, minutes or hours, I couldn’t tell.
Things had changed between us.
For better or for worse, I wasn’t sure.
I hoped it was for the better.
He really was a good kisser.
AN: And... here we are! Are you guys happy? Sad? Furious? Ecstatic? Pineapple? Whatever your feelings may be, feel free to share them with me. And also, do let me know what you thought about this chapter in general. It took me quite a while to write, so yeah...
This is probs the last chapter to go up before the queue closes for a week, but I promise that once the queue opens again, I shall have a chapter for all you lovely folk written and ready to post!
Until then, adios amigos - and keep smiling :D