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Like a House on Fire by 800 words of heaven
Chapter 30: Christmas Morning
I got up very late the next day, even though it was Christmas and I was usually the first up on a Christmas morning. I must have been more tired than I realised. Stupid house, stupid ball, stupid Sirius. In all fairness, Sirius was not stupid, but it felt that no list about stupid things was complete without his name popping up on it at least once. He was stupid, but incredibly sweet. Gosh! I wonder when that happened? Probably sometime during yesterday’s events, in between the cemetery and that oh-so-wonderful kiss. We headed back inside after that and pretended like nothing had ever happened between us out in the Potters’ backyard.
Okay, well, we didn’t exactly pretend like nothing happened, but we definitely didn’t find a dark corner and snog our brains out – an idea which I would not have been averse to, for once. However it seemed that somewhere deep down in that idiot was a modicum of decency and he felt that it would be very wrong if we snogged whilst I was so “emotionally vulnerable”.
For Merlin’s sake, I wasn’t drunk! I’d just had a long day! Wasn’t that a really good reason to snog? Isn’t that what he wanted as well? Isn’t the snogging part the only reason this may just work? I mean, come on, I may be a little dreamy in my outlook on life, but when it came to boys, I tried to be as practical as possible. Sirius and I weren’t exactly compatible, but there did seem to be some sort of weird physical attraction between us recently, which meant that the only thing I really wanted to do with him was snog. And let’s face facts, it was much better than what we did otherwise, which was argue.
And I’m positive that this was the way Sirius felt as well. He is Hogwarts’ resident playboy, after all… even though he’d been in a “steady” relationship for the past two months. But the fact that it was all a lie just went to show how much of a playboy he really was!
“Good morning, sleepy head!” Lily called as she waltzed into my room, pulling back the curtains before she plopped onto my bed. Even though I was awake, I buried myself deeper into my blankets, trying to protect my sensitive eyes from the blinding winter sun.
“Mmm!” I mumbled.
“Merry Christmas!” she continued, completely ignoring my moan of pain and despair. What was wrong with this woman? Was she completely unable to understand human emotions? Or did she just choose to ignore mine?
“Merry Christmas,” I sighed, deciding that there was no point in fighting Lily’s cheery mood. As an artist, I had to be forever mindful of the trap of despair and gloom that had snared so many of my fellow peers. Us sensitive souls were very susceptible to such things.
“Have you opened your presents yet?”
I pushed my covers back and looked at her incredulously. “Of course not!”
She looked at me, confused. “How come? You’re usually the first to dive for the present pile and rip off the wrapping.”
“I was sleeping!”
“Because I was tired!”
She shot me a devilish grin. “How come? Didn’t get much sleep last night, eh?”
I didn’t miss her insinuation. “You’ve been spending too much time around that boyfriend of yours. You’re beginning to sound like him.”
She ignored me, as usual, and asked, “Well?”
“I slept fine, thank you. Just had a really long day yesterday.”
Her face became instantly concerned. “Did… everything… go alright yesterday?” she asked.
I nodded in reply. “Everything was fine.” Which was mostly due to Sirius. Otherwise, Lily would be finding me now, still in my stupid dress, chocolate smeared all over my mouth, tear tracks glistening in the pale winter light and three or four boxes of empty tissues lying around. “Expected, considering the place hasn’t been inhabited for almost six months now.”
“Well, I’m glad. And it’s good that you went there. It feels as if you finally got some closure.”
I looked at Lily closely. How did she…?
“What?” she asked defensively. “You didn’t think I wouldn’t like to know how my best friend was doing?”
“Sirius told you?”
“Well, I practically had to extort the information out of him. You have one loyal boyfriend there – where are you going?”
I’d leapt out of bed and was currently charging towards the door. “I’m going to kill him,” I muttered.
“What the hell, Black?” I asked (well practically yelled) once I’d charged into Black’s room and skidded to a halt in front of his bed.
Black was sitting on top of his covers, hair all dishevelled and sexy-looking, wearing his boxer shorts and band t-shirt, and had just finished opening his last present.
“Merry Christmas to you too, darling,” he drawled.
I narrowed my eyes at him. For all his good looks and amazing scent, the guy could be a downright jerk sometimes.
He raised his eyebrows arrogantly in question.
Make that a jerk all the time.
I stood at the foot of the bed, breathing heavily and glaring at him, too angry and out of breath to say anything.
His eyebrows went further up. “Is there something you wanted?” He asked with false politeness.
“You… you…” I managed to breathe out. I wanted to curse his sorry hide from here to next Christmas, but in my angry haze, I’d forgotten my wand back in my room.
“You… Lily… what… thinking?” It had been a really long time since someone had reduced me to incoherence in my anger.
He looked at me blankly for a moment, and if I was thinking rationally, I would have felt sorry for him, trying to make sense of why an angry female was standing at the end of his bed on Christmas morning not making much sense at all. Then, understanding dawned in his gaze. “Oh,” he said quietly. “Is that what this is about?”
He regarded me for a moment. “Are you going to listen to anything I’m about to say?” he asked quietly, his cool gaze not wavering from mine.
I would like to think that my breathing had eased a little and I could think a little clearer now, not because of Black’s calm demeanour, but because I’d been standing here for a little while now.
“Perhaps…” I said in a more normal tone of voice.
He looked at me for a moment more, then nodded, more to himself than to me. He slowly crawled towards me, as if I was a frightened wild animal whom he was afraid to scare away. He stopped at the edge of the bed, casually kneeling and staring at me. We were now face to face and I could clearly see the darker grey that circled his irises.
“Millie,” he began slowly.
I raised a single eyebrow, indicating him to go on.
“What exactly, do you think I told Lily?”
I glared at him for a moment. As if he didn’t already know! “Everything,” I replied curtly, my voice sharper than I’d ever heard it before. I didn’t realise until that moment how hurt I was feeling. How could he do this to me? First comfort me, then betray my trust like that?
“Well, I didn’t,” he said matter-of-factly.
I blinked at him in surprise. “What?”
“I didn’t tell her everything. I told her enough to stop her bothering me… and you.”
I looked at him warily. “The what, exactly, did you tell her?”
“Just that you’d had a rough day yesterday and that you didn’t really feel up to talking about it at the moment.”
I blinked once more in surprise. Of the many things that had tumbled through my brain, that had not been one of them. “And Lily accepted that?”
His lips quirked into a little crooked grin. “Not easily, but I can be very persuasive when I feel up to it.”
I was painfully aware how persuasive he could be.
“She actually wanted to rush to your room immediately after and wake you up so you two could ‘talk’ –” he made quotation marks in the air around ‘talk’ “– about it, but I convinced her that it wasn’t a good idea.”
“Really?” I asked, feeling a little dazed now.
He nodded, looking quite pleased with himself. “Really. I told her that you would talk to her about it once you felt ready.”
Wow. I don’t know what surprised me more – the fact that Lily listened to Sirius’ counsel, or that Sirius apparently knew me quite well.
I stared at him some more. Finally, when the silence became a little deafening, I said, “Oh. Um. Well, thank you… for that…”
He smiled that bone-melting smile of his.
“… And… I guess… I’m sorry,” I mumbled.
His smile flashed into a grin. “I’m sorry to inform you, Millie dearest, that I cannot accept your apology.”
“Why not?” I asked, feeling a flash of indignation. Did this guy not realise how hard it is for someone to apologise?
“However,” he continued, as if he hadn’t heard me. “I am willing to accept a forfeit.”
“A forfeit? What is this? The sixteenth century?”
“Yes, a forfeit.” His eyes were twinkling mischievously. I had learned to be wary of those mischievous twinkles – they usually only spelt trouble for me.
“What kind of forfeit?” I asked cautiously.
“A kiss. I do believe you know what a kiss is, Millie?” His expression clearly said that he was enjoying my rising indignation… and other prickly feelings…
“Yes! Of course I do!” It wasn’t as if I hadn’t just spent an amazing night partaking in exactly that.
“Well?” he raised his eyebrows in question.
“Do you accept your forfeit?”
“Do I really have a choice?”
“Not particularly,” he replied sunnily. I felt like killing him all over again.
Then I glared at him.
He shot me a roguish grin.
“Very well,” I conceded.
He looked at me expectantly.
I took a deep breath… leant in slowly… my left hand coming to rest on his cheek… closed my eyes… and kissed him gently on his other cheek.
I felt his dimple below my lips as he smiled.
Before I could pull away, one of his arms slipped around my waist and his other hand captured mine.
“You’re not getting away that easily,” he murmured, tightening his arm around my waist, effectively pulling me towards him.
I toppled onto him with a little yelp, both of us falling back onto the bed. For a few moments, I struggled to untangle myself from his long limbs and sit back up, but I was greatly hindered by the fact that Sirius seemed to be quite unwilling to let go of me. Eventually, we reached a compromise – sort of. I somehow ended up straddling Sirius’ lap. I’m not quite sure how I ended up in this situation.
Sirius seemed to be enjoying my bewilderment and discomfort because he was grinning at me, laughter in his pale eyes.
“Sirius – let me go!” I gasped, pushing at his chest.
“I don’t think so,” he murmured, his hold on me tightening and his face exceptionally close to mine.
I stopped struggling and sighed. “What do you want?” I asked wearily.
“A few things, actually. Number one: will you relax? Your muscles are so tight, it’s giving me a headache just thinking about it.”
I took an exasperated breath, but relaxed into his hold nonetheless. There was no denying that Sirius possessed a singularly comfortable chest.
“Good girl. Number two: you still owe me a kiss.”
“I already kissed you!”
He grinned. “You cheated.”
“I did not! You asked for a kiss! And I gave you one! Next time, be more specific!”
He pulled me closer still. I could feel his breath tickling my ear as he murmured, “Very well. I believe I am owed a kiss, Miss White. And on the lips, if you please.”
I couldn’t help but smile. Sirius Black could be too charming for his own damn good sometimes. “And if I don’t please?”
“I have a feeling that you do.”
I pulled back so I could see his face. He was grinning at me with mischievous intent, but there was a slightly disconcerting intent lurking in his eyes.
“Before I oblige,” I said, “Is there something else that you wish to ask of me?”
He shook his head. “Nothing more to ask, but something to give.”
“What?” I asked, feeling a little excited in spite of myself.
“Your Christmas present.”
“Oh! Sirius, you didn’t have to get me –”
“Yes, yes, I know. But I wanted to. So be quiet and close your eyes.”
My eyes widened.
“I said to close them, not make them bigger!” he said, laughing.
“Fine!” I huffed and closed my eyes. I loved surprises!
I felt one of Sirius’ arms unwrap from around my waist and heard a little bit of ruffling going on.
“Can I open my eyes yet?” I asked.
“No!” came back the reply.
A few more seconds passed, and I was beginning to get a little impatient.
“What about now?”
“Merlin, Mills! A little patience!”
“Patience is for losers.”
He laughed his strange bark-like laugh. “You can open your eyes now.”
My eyes flew open almost before he’d finished his sentence. There was something shiny dangling in front of me. I blinked to focus my eyes. It was a thin silver chain, with a little silver pendant hanging off it. I brought out my hand, and Sirius dropped it into my waiting palm, the fine links collapsing like water. I brought my finger up underneath the pendant for a closer look. It was the profile of what looked to be some sort of giant dog’s shaggy head, the exquisite detail highlighting the power in its neck and the reflective nature of the metal casting a sense of nobleness to the upward tilt of its head.
“It’s… beautiful…” I murmured, running a thumb lightly over it.
Sirius smiled, seeming a little relieved. “I’m glad you like it,” he said, his deep voice reverberating through his chest.
“Is it a wolf?” I asked. It reminded me strongly of the bid black dog that I had befriended a few weeks ago in the Boathouse, but it was practically impossible that Sirius knew this, considering I hadn’t told anyone about him.
“The shopkeeper was convinced that it was actually a rendition of The Grim.”
I looked up at him to find that he was watching me with those mischievous eyes. “The Grim?” I asked sceptically. I’d taken Divination for a grand total of three weeks before deciding that the only thing that class was good for was drinking copious amounts of weak tea.
“When I told him I was buying it for my girlfriend, he thought it best that I didn’t mention the fact that I was giving her an omen of death as a present.”
I laughed. “Well, even if it an omen of death, I think it’s a very beautiful one.”
“I’m glad.” We looked at each other for a moment. Sirius’ hand came and wrapped around the one that was holding the necklace. “May I?” he asked softly.
I uncurled my hand under his. His graceful fingers slipped through the chain and pulled the necklace out with a gentle tinkle. I watched his fingers as they unclasped the hook and began moving up.
I went to move my hair out of the way, but Sirius beat me to it. “Here,” he murmured. “Let me.” I felt his breath whoosh over the sensitive shell of my ear as he leaned in closer and brushed all my hair to the side. I reached up to secure it out of his way.
His arms came up around me and he leant in even closer to clasp the necklace shut. He leant back once more and I dropped my hair back down. He adjusted the pendant slightly. Seeming satisfied with his work, he regarded me with an assessing look.
I smiled and cocked an eyebrow in question.
“Beautiful,” he murmured.
“Well, you do seem to have good taste,” I said.
His eyes flicked to mine. “I didn’t mean the necklace. I meant you.”
I felt my skin become warmer and I looked away from his intent gaze in shyness.
“Millie…” he began, but I didn’t give him a chance to finish. Before I lost my courage, I quickly closed the little distance between us and kissed him.
He didn’t respond.
This is extremely awkward.
I pulled away in embarrassment and avoided his gaze. “Sorry,” I muttered. “Don’t know what came over me.”
He tightened his hold on my waist with one arm and took my chin in his firm yet gentle grip with the other, turning my face so I had to look at him again. His grip changed until he was cupping my cheek, his thumb gently stroking my cheekbone. “Kiss me again,” he murmured.
“What?” I asked in my surprise.
“Kiss me again.”
Apparently becoming frustrated with my lack of understanding he decided to take matters into his own hands.
He kissed me instead.
And I am only mildly embarrassed to say that I kissed him back.
AN: Hello all! The next chapter as promised! It's more than a little filler-y but I felt that after all the emotional turmoil of the last chapter, this was probably a well-earned break for our leads. And also, I love writing cute little fluff scenes. I have no idea how you guys felt about the last chapter, but I'm assuming that you guys liked it, because I haven't received any reviews stating otherwise. And I hope that you guys enjoy this chapter just as much! It's gonna be a little hectic with school and all for the next few weeks, so I dunno when the next chapter will be out, but I promise not to make you guys wait too long!
Adios amigos - and keep smiling! :D