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Sparkle in Her Eye by fashionist

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Format: Novel
Chapters: 100
Word Count: 273,365
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Strong Language, Strong Violence, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Substance Use or Abuse, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme

Genres: Horror/Dark, Mystery, Romance
Characters: Lupin, Sirius, Lily, James, Regulus, Bellatrix, Narcissa, Voldemort, OC, OtherCanon
Pairings: Sirius/OC, James/Lily, OC/OC, Remus/OC, Other Pairing

First Published: 06/14/2008
Last Chapter: 03/12/2013
Last Updated: 03/12/2013

Summary:



There is always a choice. Scarlett Devous knows this vividly, but because she lives in a world of Death Eaters, she has always taken the choice that pleases her society and especially Voldemort. But when the stars cross and bring a sharp-tongued Gryffindor to her Scarlett learns that there is a time to take the other choice: the one that is riskier than anything she's ever known.
 
 


Chapter 1: This is the Life
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This is the Life





 

 

]---[


 

She knows too much, they whispered. She is close to the Dark Lord. She knows things that we, even we, could not think about, could barely fathom. She compares strategies with the Dark Lord himself. She was younger than the others!, they exclaimed; she still was learning magic at Hogwarts!


And her name? Scarlett Alysha Devous, the girl everyone pitied, though they didn't know why; the girl everyone fixated on, although her deeds were less than admirable; the girl everyone hated, but could not tear their eyes away from; the girl who barely spoke, but let her actions speak for her instead.

The girl no one knew, but everyone wanted to! She was top-chart! High-class, beautiful, intelligent, bewitching! She was as mysterious as she was dangerous, Hogwarts students said. She stole your breath and your heart and brought them back broken.

But in spite of all the rampant, vicious things that were said about her, it only took one look to realize that the stigma given to Scarlett Devous could not be entirely accurate. It was an ineffable thing, some sort of sparkle in her eye, that kept people questioning.

It was a privilege to know. It was the type of thing, the kind of feeling, that only one person could understand.

The kind of feeling that only one person would understand...

]—[
The arrival of September first brought both joy and pain to the Hogwarts students. Donned in robes, their eyes unwavering towards the castle, they operated under suffocated emotion, using superficial conversation as a mechanism to quell their anticipation. The older students, however--the ones that had experienced more years of wear and tear and war than the children in question--chose instead to disguise their emotions through severe silence and stoic phrases.

Scarlett Devous, a seventh year that heavily endorsed lack of expression, sat casually in between the two Black sisters, Narcissa and Bellatrix. On the other side of Bellatrix was Theodore Nott; next to Narcissa was his sister Georgiana.

Theodore had always been the sole male of the group throughout their long run of friendship, and Scarlett thought very highly of him for this, though as they matured an ever-increasing awkwardness had surfaced. Her parents, both pureblood socialites, wished for her hand to go to him or Regulus Black, both boys that Scarlett did not consider romantically in the slightest, let alone consider for marriage. When she thought about it, she could not help but roll her eyes; though she supported tradition, she did not see the benefit of an unwanted and arranged marriage.

The group spoke lowly and infrequently, their tones monotonous and expressionless, though every single one of them could not avoid a bubbling sense of excitement among their weariness. This was it; after six years of homework, exams, and Gryffindors, this was it. They were only one school year away from their futures. Only one school year away from Voldemort.

The Dark Mark had even already been imprinted on their arm, staining the skin permanently. It was a symbol-- of future, of dedication, and of desire. At times they could feel it burning, sometimes a dull prickling, and sometimes an intense flame. Even as she thought it, Scarlett's ached tauntingly.

On one of her sides, Bellatrix Black was examining her long nails. Bellatrix had always had the largest aura of darkness and glamour; her eyes were heavily lidded and her jaw was strong, and with her tan complexion she was the envy of many. She was muscular, though her body was thin, and she used it to her advantage deeply, as if it was her trophy of hard work and sacrifice. She was well known for sadistic, dark humor, as well as sarcasm, which flew to her lips quicker than a blink of the eye. She, out of them all, wanted their future the most, and her radical pride in her future made her the most temperamental and stubborn.

Narcissa was her polar opposite. Wispy blonde hair cascaded down her spine, as light and sweet as an angel's. Her complexion, unlike Bellatrix's, was pale and near sickly, making her, at first glance, seem to be as fragile as a glass. Though there was definitely a sign of physical labor in her frame, she was best known for her mind: it was as fast as a Ravenclaw's though nowhere near as optimistic. She was silent, her vengeance sneaky, and although she looked terribly personable, her manipulative and vain nature stated otherwise.

On Bellatrix's other side, Theodore Nott sat, idly looking at the outdoor scenery. There was no doubt that he was attractive, of course, though Scarlett felt uneasy seeing him as such. He bore olive tinted skin which covered a very strong body, innocently hiding behind his robes, and his brown hair was layered expertly on his head. His eyes were very wide, with flecks of green within the chestnut irises, though they were in no means naïve: if anything, they were logical. Theodore's humor was dry and unpredictable, as was his charm, which was not noticed until it had already worked its magic. He was an absolute essential and complete asset to their cause.

More so than I, Scarlett thought enviously, placing her head in her hands. Her plain brown hair, shoulder-length and unfortunately straight, perfectly matched her wide, dark eyes. Her complexion was smooth and, while not as tan as Bellatrix's, was not as pale as Narcissa's, either. Her face glowed purely from her beautiful cheekbones- however, while they made her attractive, she could not envision herself being as flawless as the friends she surrounded herself with. It was to Scarlett's fortune, though, that she did not care much about her looks, but treasured her mind, which had observed with scrutiny and acquired plenty of secrets from within Hogwarts's walls. It gave her the timeless trait of unpredictability, for she allowed herself to fade into the shadows.

Georgiana, the solitary Ravenclaw, sat next to Narcissa, applying makeup. Her hair was strawberry blonde and thick, and its small ringlets fell down to her waist, even though she had pulled it back into a hasty ponytail. She was, by far, the most optimistic, which may have been  due to her House or due to her personality in general. She gossiped frequently with a girl named Ambrose, and, like Ambrose, she seduced and flirted more than occasionally and left boys star-struck. Her charm made her, by far, the most outgoing of the group, though despite her popularity she harbored intense loyalty towards the group, particularly her brother. Although she was not biologically related to him, she loved him all the same, and as she was as pureblooded as the rest of them no animosity was needed.

Their scant conversation turned to Hogwarts.

Theodore put his hands through his hair in anxiety. "This year is going to be awful," he prophesized, and in his case he was entirely correct. Out of the five, Theodore easily beat them as far as school activities went; he was not only enrolled in difficult classes, but also was Quidditch Captain of the Slytherin team. And in addition to his school responsibilities he had to find time for their cause; he had been recruited especially by Voldemort to search for a Transfiguration book that had been made sparingly.

Narcissa, on the other hand, was full of composure, and unconcernedly neglected what Theodore had said. "I need to write to Lucius," she muttered contentedly, a smile playing at the fringes of her lips. Narcissa and Lucius, who were betrothed, loved each other terribly and without shame. Despite the fact that it was an arranged marriage, the two were a perfect match, even without considering Lucius's admirable wealth.

Bellatrix rolled her eyes. "You think too much about Lucius," she chided. "You should be thinking about this--" and she gestured to the school-- "because once this is done, our real futures can begin. Lucius is just a boy, nothing more. He is not worth obsessing over."

No matter where their conversations would go, Bellatrix would always find a way to express her impatience. From the moment the Sorting Hat had been placed upon her head and declared her a Slytherin, she had been impatient, and though she loved her House dearly she still desired for the day that the title would be stripped off of her completely. She did not want to be known as a Slytherin; she wanted to be known as a Death Eater. Her loyalty to the Dark Lord was intense enough that nearly every conversation she was in mentioned the future and what was to come, and there were more often than not occasions when her passionate love for it made her nearly condescending. Who was Lucius to Narcissa?, Bellatrix had wondered. Lucius was too much to her.

And thoughts like that were not expressed hesitantly for Bellatrix.

Narcissa, not in the mood to argue, rolled her eyes, and Scarlett, noticing the change in mood, turned to Theodore and said, "The homework will be unbearable, Theodore."

Theodore looked over to her suddenly, as if he had zoned out of the conversation entirely, and nodded, not bothering to use words to express his agreement. Georgiana, who had also noticed the sudden uncomfortable silence, in turn, asked, "Have you quit your election classes yet? I know you signed up at the end of sixth year for Arithmancy and Ancient Runes, but--"

"Yeah," Scarlett interrupted, shrugging. "I dropped out."

Silence fell through the compartment for a while, though it was soon disrupted by the quiver of the carriage stopping. As if all of their eyes had been opened, they all gazed at each other in apparent surprise, gradually making their way out of the carriage and towards the looming castle.

Georgiana started very evidently at this. "I just remembered, I never told you," she said with haste, turning towards the group. "Sirius Black and Severus Snape got in a fight today."

"Tell us something we don't know," said Bellatrix with sarcasm, rolling her eyes.

"No, no, no," Georgiana said, her words stumbling onto each other; she was always easily excited when it came to gossip. "No, no, the thing was, it was about Remus," she said, and at the grand revelation her breathing calmed. "I don't know why, but, the thing was, Snape started it, but Sirius hit him first, and there was-- I don't know-- a lot of yelling... Well, you had to be there!" she exclaimed in an attempt of redemption. "I mean, I don't see how Remus is in any way worthwhile enough to fight about!

"He is sort of attractive, though," Georgiana admitted absentmindedly, making herself the subject of glares and groans from the entire group. "I'm just saying," Georgiana said in defense. "If you consider the people in our year."

Scarlett herself rolled her eyes, but said nothing; Georgiana had a tendency to disregard House as far as boys went. The silence was not broken to voice this, and no one else said anything for a while, their footsteps slow and deliberate.

"Who wants to miss the Feast?" Scarlett questioned, and even as she said it she yawned and rubbed her eyes. Although Scarlett was by no means very dependent on sleep, she tended to value it more than everyone else; she was not blessed with insomnia, like Bellatrix, or satisfaction with sleeping in a few short hours, like Theodore.

Narcissa nodded her head; Bellatrix and Theodore claimed that they had more important matters to think of at the Feast, Bellatrix the promising first years and Theodore his hunger, while Georgiana was bound to a Prefect's responsibility. Without much care, Scarlett shrugged; the fatigue had come over her like an unquenchable disease, and she thought of it with some obsession, each yawn spilling onto the next with terrible grace.

The method of skipping the Feast was not new. Scarlett and Theodore had done it, back in fifth year, and Scarlett and Bellatrix had done it in sixth. Scarlett's usual lack of occurrence was reasoned easily: the Feast was, in all honesty, at a lower priority than sleeping, and while she was well aware that she was skipping one of the fanciest meals of the year it did not matter much to her.

Narcissa and Scarlett's quick, stealthy steps were not detected by any, to no surprise. After all, wouldn't it have been more of a surprise had they been caught? After all, who would even bother to stomach the fact that maybe, just maybe, people did not care about the Feast, did not care about the first years... hardly cared about anything?

 After years, Scarlett and Narcissa were no longer surprised by the slyness which they had acquired. It was not as if they were inept at it; it was, very clearly, the opposite, which Narcissa demonstrated perfectly as she muttered the password she had heard by eavesdropping. Scarlett released a sigh of relief as they were allowed entry.

It was to be expected of them, this type of behavior. Anything else would have been a surprise.

Narcissa instantly went up towards the girl's dormitories in the hope that her bags had arrived, and Scarlett hung back, her gaze momentarily distracted by the crackle of what seemed to be a never-ending fire. Despite the fire's breathtaking glow, not much else illuminated the room: sporadic candles were placed strategically around, some hanging from the wall and some placed on large desks that the students used for studying. Because they were so far underground, the only window in the common room did not show the grounds, instead showing the depths of the water from the lake. It had taken some getting used to, but as a seventh year Scarlett appreciated the solitude of the room; it was a strange quality, but it made her feel at ease to know that they were so far removed. Slytherins always grew to welcome their secluded living space with hospitality.

It was a hospitality that was aware of their uniqueness, a hospitality that embraced it... it was a hospitality that was, while reluctant at first, now trusting. It was a hospitality that every student held for their common room, and it was a hospitality that led Scarlett to the ebony, leather couches, her legs stretching in contentment and her body molding onto the central couch like clay. The heat of the fire and the silence of the room urged her eyes to close, and they did, slight tendrils of hair falling in Scarlett's face as her consciousness slipped away...

Her heart ignited.

Scarlett, while known for having a temper, was generally not known for releasing it, as the behavior would have been considered inappropriate. In the confines of the forest, however, etiquette did not arrive, and her emotion hung in the air for an instant, waiting for it to be repressed by rule and reason and logic.

But, then it exploded, and she made to voice this strange temper, one that was brought about for a reason that she was not really aware of... But, before she could try and yell about things she did not know or understand, a voice beat her to it, the darkness and flurries of snow making it impossible to identify.

"Scarlett, you can't let this happen."

It was said with astounding authority and wisdom, complete conviction, and a shocking sureness that made Scarlett's annoyance fester, though again as she tried to speak the voice cut past it.

"It's wrong!" the voice yelled. "You cannot continue with this, you should have never even let it begin! You have to decide! You cannot repeatedly and heavily defy fate, because fate is the only thing we have, and if you don't choose for yourself then it will choose for you!"

The alarm for midnight struck into the silence.

Scarlett's eyes flickered open at that exact moment, her thoughts disheveled and blurry, even as she attempted to fully regain her consciousness. Her dream slipped away from her, and she frowned, waving it off with questionable suspicion.

The first thing Scarlett noticed was the bed she was sitting on, and her eyebrows furrowed, taking in her surroundings a split second later. The Slytherin common room had vanished, and she was instead in the girl's dormitory.

How had she made it there?

The second thing she noticed was a note written on a shoddy piece of parchment and folded cleanly next to her lamp. Curiosity, though hardly ever something that controlled her actions, did at that moment, and she picked up the note, unfolding it to find the answer to her question in perfectly aligned scrawl.

Sleep tight, Scar.
- Theodore


She could imagine the sarcasm lining his face as he wrote it, the smirk stuck on his lips, and the thought of it made her slightly irritated, a feeling that was unpredictably interrupted by another foreign one... One that came, from not only seeing his handwriting or imagining the smirk on his face, but from the simplicity in the fact that he had carried her up to her bed.

Scarlett shook her head to rid of the thought as she observed the clock, which read five minutes after midnight. It was precise timing, timing that she could have only wished for, and she smiled, pulling on her proper attire--and then, without her consent, she thought about how Theodore had carried her when she had worn a skirt--

Her mind unusually stopped thinking.

Her movements wobbly, both from her treacherous train of thought and her still tired legs, Scarlett sneakily left Hogwarts, keeping a stern eye out for any Prefects that may have tried to make themselves an obstacle. Her path was clear, however, and with pride she allowed her rhythmic footsteps to take her, faster and faster, towards the Forbidden Forest.

The wind was soothing; summer still lingered. Even still, the night was slightly uncomfortable, although Scarlett did not expect anything different from the Scottish countryside. Thoughtlessly, her eyes traveled to the moon one last time before trees blinded her vision; it was nearly full, and its muted rays, distinct from the sun's, helped light her pathway through the forest.

She had been to what had been dubbed the 'outlook' many times; although she had explored other areas of the Forbidden Forest, the outlook was by far her favorite. The most enjoyable creatures in the forest, in Scarlett's opinion, were the centaurs; though few enjoyed her company, she had been lucky to find a soft-spoken, reasonable, and enthralling centaur who was unprejudiced towards humans.

Her footsteps echoed in the frightening silence, and a slight shudder crept through her spine.

Fear did not enter her often, but on the off days when it did it normally was composed of things related to the forest: of getting lost, of being missing, of being caught... of being harmed, of falling, of helplessness, of the suffocating silence that was trapped within the forest's trees...

She ran through familiar landscapes to ease her fears, her trainers wearing. Her eyes repeatedly looked upwards towards the moonlight, and they were fully alert, her consciousness finally regained. Tiredness no longer composed her; if anything, energy did.

Running could have been responsible for this; it had always been integral to her, always a necessity. To run into the Forbidden Forest in the middle of the night had occurred to her during the middle of her fifth year, when ice had hugged every twig and unforgiving snowstorms were common. It had, admittedly, been stupid--to this day she couldn't explain why she had started-- but it had shaped everything for her.

It had shaped her future. It had shaped her fate.

When Scarlett stepped into the centaur Tenereus's outlook, her cheeks were slightly flushed in exhilaration and she exhaled a beat faster than she normally would. As she saw him patiently waiting she slowed her run,  walking leisurely towards the center of the barren area.

"Hello," she said politely, and smiled at him, an action that Tenereus returned hesitantly.

Tenereus was quiet, knowledgeable and thirsty for answers, his solution being an intensive investigation of the stars above him. It had been entirely by chance that Scarlett had stumbled upon him, and since their first meeting she had visited him nearly every day she was at school.

He inclined his head towards her, his long chestnut hair angled towards the ground. "School has started, then," he said, and she nodded, walking closer towards him.

"Are you ready to see the stars, then?"

Instead of responding, Scarlett lowered herself towards the cool earth, her back resting against an ash tree. She looked towards the stars, which glittered and glowed above the couple, and her expression became blank as she focused on the stars above her.

She had not read the stars in three months, and though Scarlett did not much believe in attachment to anything or anyone unwittingly she had grown fond of the stars that gleamed in the sky. She missed their beauty--she missed their intrigue--she missed knowing, knowing of them, and knowing from them, that ache satisfied as she lost herself in their intricacies.

Her eyes darted from one constellation to the next, while time passed by without her notice. The study of the stars enthralled her, interested her to such an alarming extent that she did not notice anything from her external surrounding until Tenereus nudged her lightly with his hoof hours later.

Her senses flew from the galaxy that they had resided in, and she stood in reluctance, looking up again at the stars in desire. "What have you learned?" Tenereus abruptly asked. "What have they told you?"

"Someone new will join us. The rest of the constellations were hazy."

"A guest or enemy?" he questioned, wary, and at the question Scarlett's eyes shifted back to the stars. Though Scarlett had grown talented at reading the stars as a result of years of practice, the many unthinkable secrets that they held stretched beyond her human reach, and she sighed, struggling to formulate an answer.

"It is a guest, but what it does is monumental. Unpredictable. I don't know who it is."

Tenereus nodded at the information, letting his eyes travel to the stars once more. Centaurs thrived on the stars, and with an intriguing case like the one Scarlett told Tenereuss he could not think of anything else. Allowing him to keep his concentration, Scarlett took her leave without saying goodbye, as she headed towards the castle. It was late, too late, and the trickling desire for sleep entered her senses once more, so that by the time she was in her dormitory it was all she could think about, and she collapsed on her bed, praying for any ounce of sleep...

Always and forever...

The light flickered on annoyingly, merely fifteen minutes later, and Scarlett groaned at it, instinctively shielding her face to no avail. Bellatrix, the sole Slytherin standing, nudged the girls sharply, annoyed.

"Wake up," Bellatrix ordered, her voice hoarse from sleep deprivation but laced with excitement. "We're going to the Pitch in fifteen minutes. Get dressed and meet me in the common room then. Don't bother on your appearance, it's a waste of time and it will only slow you down. And, for Merlin's sake, be sneaky."

Scarlett yawned, eyeing her reflection carefully. There were dark circles under her eyes and her body sagged with fatigue. It was not a good routine to live by, but it was one that somehow grooved into their system each year over time. Yawning once more, she pulled on a pair of lazy shorts and one of her only T-shirts before covering the attire with a thin, inexpensive robe.

"Let's go," she urged, though with little energy, and, the rest of the girls slightly groaning, led them to the common room. Their muscles ached, and their eyes drooped, and their bodies could barely move... but, they were ready, and that was all that their master cared for.

]—[
 


Chapter 2: Changes
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A/N: Here is chapter 2 of SIHE!! Hey I never formally welcomed you all to this story. WELCOME. You guys are in for a treat. This story is my baby and I love it so and I hope that you do too!!!
 

 

 

 








 

 

 

 

]---[

Sometimes, people overexert to get to the core of life. The core of life is a lifelong dream that has been passed down, impressed upon others from the power of influence, and then morphed for each individual like a fingerprint. For some the core of life is a job; others it is a woman or power.

No matter what form it takes, the core of life is impactful. Sometimes, it is large, many desires fulfilling needs to survive and devious wants. These people are as powerful as they are dangerous. Other times, the core is unsustainably small, less than an apple seed, not obtaining what it needs to grow. Without strength, the desire rots and melts against the pressure forcing against it until that core is no more. Without strength, the core of life is nonexistent, and to life there is no purpose.

Strangely enough, this happens to lots of people, and it happens for lots of different reasons. They snap as their aspirations dissolve. People need something to live for, and when there is nothing they, too, become nothing.

Our protagonist, the cunning Miss Devous, is neither one of these people; she does not yet know her aspirations, and thus her purpose is to discover the unknown. It is understandable; for some, the core of life is the ambition to find an ambition, something to live for.

No matter how much one desires desire, however, the destination is always vague and the journey is impossible to map. Nobody can predict what ambitions lie within; they have to be drawn out, discovered...

In Scarlett's case, the ambitions which lie so deep below the surface are flammable, hot with passion.

All it takes is a match.

]—[

"You know what to do."

Lucius Malfoy looked rather bored that morning on the Quidditch Pitch, and Scarlett could see why. It was an extreme honor to be considered a part of the Dark Lord's inner circle, something that she and her friends had wanted for ages, but to be debased by having the sole responsibility of running morning practices could not be exciting.

It was a true testament to the horror that the Dark Lord had inflicted upon the world that these morning meetings were never discovered. While there were concealing enchantments, and the early hour provided some protection, Scarlett had no doubts that Dumbledore knew about the practices. No matter how much he disagreed with them fundamentally, the forces were contagious and had easily infiltrated the school.

Scarlett couldn't imagine how it could be stopped.

Despite the political tension that existed with the practices, the sleep deprivation made them nothing more of a major inconvenience to Scarlett. She sighed as everyone began to do as they were ordered, each sprinting the first lap in an attempt to prove themselves to the Dark Lord.

The running wasn't difficult for Scarlett generally. She loved to run and she practiced running nearly every night to the Forbidden Forest. As a result she was one of the best at running in the group.

The running wasn't difficult for Scarlett generally, but after a night of so little sleep it was trying to bring herself to her normal pace. She gritted her teeth as she passed by a group of sluggish boys, her strides long and her bones tired.

At first she ran alone; at Death Eater meetings her friends were hardly that. But it was not long before Georgiana, the friendliest, caught her pace and ran alongside her. Already their breaths were beginning to become irregular, and Scarlett groaned silently as she realized that they had many more laps to go.

"Hey," Scarlett greeted, and Georgiana nodded as she turned the corner. "How are you?"

"I'm-- exhausted," Georgiana muttered, her hair flying in her face. "I hate-- running... but I have to tell you-- I forgot-- when we were on the carriage-- they want me to marry Avery."

As they passed Lucius, he smirked, and Georgiana glared grumpily in reply. "I really do hate this," she said under her breath. "But-- anyway-- it's during Easter break... promise you'll come?"

Scarlett nodded without hesitation. "Of course... You know," she said, in an attempt to be nonchalant, as she wondered why she had to make an effort to be nonchalant, "my family-- they were thinking of marrying me-- to--" she laughed, feeling stupid for bringing it up. "Your brother. Or Regulus."

Georgiana smiled briefly as she struggled to maintain her breathing. "Your parents-- they're lenient, aren't they? Don't marry-- Theo... Regulus is younger, but he's definitely more attractive- -and definitely richer... it wouldn't be-- so awkward-- either..."

The words annoyed Scarlett, for some reason she wasn't really sure of. Without thinking, she snapped, "Rather shallow."

Georgiana grinned, not taking her seriously. "We're all shallow. It's no surprise... get the money. The money-- and the prestige. That's all we're after. That's-- the point, isn't it? Of arranged marriage?"

Scarlett sighed and shook her head slightly. The words fed Scarlett's ire, and, desperate to get away from Georgiana--both for the words that Scarlett didn't believe in and the strange irritated feeling which had arose so abruptly-- she increased her pace.

After what seemed like an eternity--it was always worse to run here than to run, free, in the forest--Scarlett and the others finished their exercises and struggled to steady their breaths. Stretching her arms absentmindedly, Scarlett's eyes wandered over to the obstacle course that was placed in the center of the field.

It was not flashy and definitely not fancy; the Death Eaters had hardly any time to construct it and dissemble it. It consisted of a high beam, a short tunnel which they had to crawl under, a rope that was stretched twenty yards, held up by wooden planks eight feet high, and a group of dummies that they were required to curse.

And then, of course, they had to sprint back to the beginning of the line and start over. It was excruciating, especially over large expanses of time, though Scarlett supposed that was the point of the exercise. She and the others had familiarized themselves with it over the years; while they hated the early mornings, it was the reason why they were all so strong.

At that time, that thought did not make the task any easier.

Scarlett placed herself in the line in front of Theodore this time. Georgiana was further down the line, flirting with Avery. Bellatrix and Narcissa, both overachiever, were already beginning to complete the course in a way that was surprisingly passionate considering the early hour.

"Tired?" a voice asked coyly behind her, and, taken off-guard, Scarlett jumped and let out a short gasp. Recognizing the voice as soon as he spoke, she turned, unamused. A scowl formed on her lips.

"I hate you for that," she grumbled, and Theodore chuckled.

"So yes," he said lightheartedly. "I'm not surprised. Although I can't even picture how you're going to make it through Defense..."

Forgetting her anger for a moment, Scarlett wondered, "Who's the new teacher?"

"Miss Aney," Theodore promptly replied. "She's pretty strict. She's young, too, so she looks like she's going to stick to the book. Naturally," he said, "you two won't get along."

Scarlett recalled her annoyance. "Sod off."

"It's a horrible habit, going into the forest so late," Theodore insisted. "It really is. Now you're exhausted for school and if you don't graduate then you'll be practically worthless."

"Well, thank you," Scarlett snapped. As she did so, she noticed two things: a guilty feeling which crept into her stomach and the look of concern which was on Theodore's face.

Theodore was and had always been very sure not to offend anyone. Most of the Gryffindors tolerated him, much more than they tolerated the others, because he was so agreeable. His maturity was recognized by the teachers as well as the students, including Scarlett.

Although he was so agreeable, Theodore had been in conflict with Scarlett before. And Theodore, always the mediator, would have a look of concern on his face that would set Scarlett off to no end. It was a look that was impossible to hate.

But his expression now, while just as undeniably hard to hate, contained another emotion that Scarlett was nervous to think about.

The feeling in her stomach grew as she shook her head. "Don't worry about it," she said tiredly, watching as the person in front of her took a running start to the high pole. She attempted to mentally ready herself, though she could not wave the exhaustion out of her mind.

But it did not matter, either way. She counted down the seconds until Lucius would wave her off.

Ten... nine... eight... seven... six... five... four... three...

"Have fun," Theodore muttered behind her.

Two... one...

And, before she knew it, she was sprinting.

It was almost as if she was running away from her own tiredness, and for a moment or two it seemed as if she was winning. As she reached the springboard she pushed as hard as she could against it with the balls of her feet, and she stretched her arms out, grasping the cold bar above her.

But as soon as her fingers accustomed themselves to the bar it caught up with her. It was impossible to run away when you were immobile, after all, though this fact was not comforting to Scarlett, who could only close her eyes and pretend she was somewhere else instead.

Rookwood's sharp voice cut across the field. "Stay up there until I tell you to get off, Devous."

"God damn it," Scarlett cursed, trying to distract herself as she watched Theodore sprint feet below her. He, too, jumped up from the springboard, and it was a matter of seconds until he joined her.

"Nott..." Rookwood considered for a moment. "Twenty pull-ups. Devous, when he's done with the tunnel, you can get off." He smirked at the expression on her face. "I'll double it if you're sour."

Scarlett said some choice words under her breath in reply.

The rest of the course passed by so slowly that it felt like days instead of a few hours later when Lucius yelled, "Wrap it up; leave in groups of three to five every three minutes and for Merlin's sake be discreet!"

Bellatrix, Scarlett, Theodore, and Georgiana met up, waiting impatiently as Narcissa gave Lucius a goodbye peck on the cheek and promised to owl.

"So, Bella," Georgiana said, her voice a poor attempt at being hushed. "Avery told me that you were betrothed to Rodolphus! When's the wedding?"

Bellatrix's face darkened. "They don't want me to wed yet," she whispered bitterly under her breath. "They want to see what other options there are before the arrangements are made. They think that I'm too young and inexperienced for him." She rolled her eyes.

"You make it sound like it's a bad thing, not to be married at seventeen," Scarlett replied. She couldn't help but notice that Theodore was looking intently at her in a way that made her nervous.

She tried to dismiss it as the group minus their Ravenclaw headed towards Slytherin. This early morning the common room was blissfully empty; it determined if they would have to make an excuse for their entrance or not.

Scarlett, Bellatrix, and Narcissa waved goodbye to Theodore as they went into the girl's dormitory; everybody was still sleeping. Although it was tempting to forgo classes and sleep through the day instead, the three resisted the temptation, instead looking at their bed longingly as they prepared for their first day of seventh year.

Scarlett sighed as she straightened her robes and put a barrette into her hair. She detested her outfit, and for good reason; not including slight variations, this would be the only outfit she would be wearing for the entire year.

It was depressing to think, but it was true. Scarlett had nothing, absolutely nothing, to look forward to except for unexciting monotony. These thoughts were common with the end of summer, but they were stronger now that it was seventh year.

They were also stronger because she was exhausted, and her expression morphed into distaste as she turned to Bellatrix, who was impatiently fiddling with her hair as she stared at herself in the mirror. "Are you ready?" Scarlett asked, and Bellatrix nodded, frowning as she looked at the door and then at Scarlett.

Unenthusiastically, the three girls trudged down the stairs, and Scarlett's eyes traveled to where Theodore was waiting for them. He was wearing the traditional school outfit: a gray sweater, a green-and-black striped tie, and clean-cut robes. His hair was perfectly arranged and his eyes contained none of the fatigue that Scarlett was sure hers did.

He looked clean-cut. Attractive.

Attractive?

Disturbed by the random thought, Scarlett chose to ignore it, averting her eyes. "Good morning," she muttered, and Theodore smiled, offering his shoulder for Scarlett to lean on. She gladly accepted, even though doing so made her stomach feel as if it was buzzing.

She was just exhausted.

The group left the common room and walked towards the Great Hall, Scarlett continuing to lean on Theodore's shoulder even when they met up with Georgiana, who looked at their closeness with curiosity.

The Great Hall was the most decorated and beautified room in all of Hogwarts. Candles were suspended by magic everywhere, and even with her obstructed view Scarlett could see that each table was filled with delicious foods from all over. The magical ceiling, which was charmed to show the sky outside, was presenting a glorious and cloudless morning to the students.

Scarlett thought it was all rather bright.

Desperate for energy, she grabbed a croissant from one of the large baskets on the table and began to pick at it. "I hate school," she said under her breath, as Theodore shook his head in amusement while pouring out pumpkin juice.

"I told you it was a bad idea," he said; Scarlett scowled at him in response. "Well, come on," he continued, not to be deterred by her annoyance. "There are ways to do both, Scarlett. Just not at once. You don't have to try and prove yourself every year."

Scarlett shrugged. "I don't think I could choose--oh, Merlin. It's the Georgiana show."

Theodore looked over at his sister. She had been reaching for a muffin from far away and had been greeted with the lustful stares of the boys that surrounded her. "Your sister is ridiculous," Scarlett said, grateful for the change of subject. "Of course, I mean that in the nicest way possible--"

"Scarlett," Theodore interrupted, not fooled. "I'm serious. Just... watch yourself. I don't want you to pass out during the first week of school."

Scarlett rolled her eyes. "What does it matter to you, anyway?"

Theodore's expression didn't change as he considered her question. "I'm worried about you," he said finally, and before Scarlett could respond Professor Slughorn came up to the table.

"Schedules!" Slughorn exclaimed, as Scarlett blinked at Theodore, who blinked right back. "Georgiana, what did I tell you... go back to Ravenclaw, Professor Flitwick has your schedule..."

What was wrong with her, anyway? Why did her stomach clench again as she turned away from Theodore and occupied her attention on Slughorn? What had happened over the summer to make her feel so awkward around a boy who had been her friend for as long as she could remember?

Something was changing, that much she was sure.

There was obviously something changing with Theodore, but in other relationships she was beginning to feel the same way. Although it was a different kind of change, her relationships with Bellatrix and Narcissa and Georgiana felt out of place too, like a new shoe she had not quite  accustomed to yet.

Throughout all her past years of Hogwarts, there had always been a tie that kept her connected to her friends. She bonded with Bellatrix over their distaste for the Gryffindors. She bonded with Narcissa over their like sarcastic sense of humor and bonded with Georgiana over their like of boys and, occasionally, their optimism. Even Theodore Scarlett connected with, connected with him in nearly every aspect, because the two were so alike.

But everything was changing. Everyone was changing and those ties, those familiarities, were thinning. Bellatrix was becoming centered around the Dark Lord; Narcissa, Lucius; Georgiana, wealth and Avery and who knew what; and Theodore, something she was suspicious of but afraid to investigate.

And... what about her? How had Scarlett changed?

What else was going to change?

 



 


Chapter 3: The Culprit
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A/N: HEY EVERYBODY LOOK WHO'S EDITING STORIES LIKE CRAZY :) WOOOOOOOOO HAVE A GREAT DAY EVERYONE ! =)

 

 

 

 

]---[




The first class of the year was always the worst. For some people it was a new start, a fresh beginning, but for Scarlett the only beginnings she could relate to were the beginnings of boredom and impatience. The first class was also guaranteed to be torture for the Slytherins considering their late night.

But when the first class of the year was History of Magic, Scarlett had to wonder why fate detested her so much. History of Magic was a chore to get through on any given day; Scarlett's personal disinterest in history combined with the monotone of Binns's voice and the unnatural warmth of the room saw to that...

On the first day of school, on the first period of school, unfortunately placed just before two free periods which spawned thoughts of 'why should I even bother', Scarlett could not stand it. Her eyes glazed over as Binns told them that there would be no need for seating charts, and she yawned subtly under her breath as she took a seat in between Bellatrix and Theodore.

"I hate this," she said under her breath, and Theodore smirked as he pulled out his parchment and a quill; he was a model student like his sister. Bellatrix, on her other side, did the exact opposite, twirling her hair with her wand and focusing intently on the clock.

"Everybody does," Bellatrix promptly replied, though it was the last words that she could say at normal volume, as Binns began his lecture on classroom etiquette that Scarlett had heard six other times. Realizing it was pointless to pay attention, Scarlett sighed, digging through her backpack until she found her book.

Scarlett had been waiting for an opportune time to read her book anyway. It was not a rare thing for Scarlett to read-- it was done when there was free time-- but it was rare for her to be reading a book of recreation, especially considering the responsibilities she already had.

But Scarlett was not eager to think about Voldemort, especially when her tattoo stung on her arm, and as she opened her book she ran away from the thought, immersed in intrigue and crime and--

"I bought you that book for Christmas," Theodore muttered, deciding that he too had memorized the lecture enough to not pay attention. "I didn't think it would be so useful."

Bellatrix's eyes furrowed as she eyed the book. "The Chronicles of Riana Charm: Tall, Dark, and Deadly?" Bellatrix questioned. "Wow, Theodore, you have the best taste."

Theodore shrugged. "She's the one that owns the rest of them," Theodore justified. "And clearly she's putting it to good use."

"Shh," Scarlett said absentmindedly, desiring to read, but--

"You do realize," Bellatrix interrupted once more, "that the culprit is the one that's least likely?"

Scarlett shook her head. "That's the problem; they're all unlikely. Except for Erick, but he's not going to kill anyone soon seeing as his family's all muggles."

"Enthralling," Bellatrix sarcastically said. "It's him, then. If you had a family of muggles you'd want to kill someone, too."

"No way," Scarlett dismissed. "And if you're so enthralled, why don't you read the book yourself?"

"It's rubbish," Bellatrix said simply.

And that was that.

The rest of the period went by quickly thanks to the suspense in the pages of her book. The book was short, and she had already read near half during the summer, so it was not surprising that she reached the climax by the time the bell rang.

Bellatrix smirked at the frown on Scarlett's face as she skimmed through the final pages of the book. "Was I right?" she asked, and Scarlett nodded curtly, walking ahead of Bellatrix to avoid the boasting that always led to an argument.

Soon enough she caught up with Theodore and Georgiana. The two were very close, with Theodore's arm around Georgiana's shoulders and Georgiana and her long hair resting on Theodore's shoulder.

Scarlett raised her eyebrows; it was unusual for them both to be so affectionate in public. "That's cute," she commented, and Georgiana lifted her head to smile angelically in reply.

"If you're so interested," Georgiana retaliated, "there's plenty of room on Theodore's other side."

Maybe she had confused angelic with devilish.

She covered the side of her face with her hair as subtly as she could, choking out as believable a laugh as she could manage. "That's rich," she said, and then immediately tried to change the subject. "What are you guys going to do with the free period?" she asked; she noticed that Georgiana smirked at her reaction.

"Sleep," Theodore responded for the both of them. "We got maybe six and a half hours, which isn't terrible, but we're going to take advantage of all the free time we have before the homework starts piling up."

"Good idea," Scarlett replied. "Great idea, actually. As a matter of fact, let me join you."

The trio walked down three corridors before Scarlett spoke again. "Where are Bellatrix and Narcissa?"

"They didn't drop out," Georgiana replied. "Right now, they are both suffering Arithmancy. I have no idea why. I don't understand Bella sometimes."

There was silence for a brief moment.

"She wants to be better than us," Theodore said. "Narcissa just doesn't want to be worse than her sister."

Theodore's words brought tension into the air instantly; Georgiana broke free of Theodore's grasp, playing with her hair. Scarlett sought Theodore's glance, and immediately the two looked down at the floor.

And, of course, they all sighed.

It was impossible to go a day in Hogwarts without thinking of being a Death Eater. Even the best moments-- even when Theodore and Georgiana showed affection, even when Scarlett was nervous in the way she should be-- were tainted with thoughts of the future. Whether Bellatrix was commentating on a silly book or Narcissa and her sister were competing for academic superiority, it was in the context of being a Death Eater. It was inescapable.

It ruined everything, Scarlett thought sourly, as the trio walked in silence and didn't attempt to make conversation again. The thought of the future ruined everything, because the future was not pleasant. The future held arranged marriages for all three of them; held promises of a war; held the probability of killing someone...

For Scarlett, the future was hard to think about. She hated to think about the future.

And, therefore, she didn't.

There was nothing pleasant about the unknown, and the unknown became even less pleasant when the only clues were bad ones.

She never once contemplated the significance of the Dark Mark, and she never truly realized how much it meant. It was another thing to not think about, another thing to avoid, because once it was there it was impossible to take it away. It was impossible to take the thought away.

Scarlett shook her head as they neared the common room. It was a bad path to walk down.

Georgiana took a deep breath, her fingers lingering in her strawberry-blonde curls. "So, Scarlett," she said. "Whose bed should I steal?"

Scarlett and Theodore grinned at the question. Because Georgiana was a Ravenclaw and should have been avoiding the Slytherin common room altogether, she had no bed of her own to sleep on. Though there were some nights when she preferred Ravenclaw--the House was compatible to her personality-- she normally preferred to stay with the Slytherins.

Normally, Georgiana would steal Scarlett's bed, as Scarlett was out later than the rest of them; some nights Georgiana found comfort with one of the attractive boys of Slytherin, to Theodore's intense displeasure. The couch was always out of the question. Georgiana was their princess, after all.

Scarlett snickered at the thought. It was better and safer to think about trivial things like this.

"Narcissa," Theodore said after some consideration. "She's at Arithmancy and then Ancient Runes with Bella. Ambrose is already back and probably sleeping too. Camilla is probably at the library, but that's kind of unpredictable. And Bellatrix would kill you."

Georgiana laughed but didn't say anything in reply, and as Scarlett didn't either the conversation again fell silent.

It was lucky that the common room came into view then, or it would have been unbearably awkward. Scarlett followed Georgiana to the girls' dormitories, giving Theodore a halfhearted wave as they left.

It did not take long for Scarlett to get into her bed and for Georgiana to get into Narcissa's, though it seemed to take Scarlett an eternity to fall asleep. She tossed and turned bed for minutes upon minutes, but it was impossible to get comfortable.

She was very troubled. Troubled because she didn't know what was going to happen. Troubled because she didn't have any answers to the questions that she didn't want to ask. Troubled because of her friends, who were just as if not more embedded in this than she was.

Troubled because of her Mark...
 
 
 


Chapter 4: Brightest in the Sky
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Author's Note: WAZZUP

 

 

 

 








Scarlett's head was killing her when she finally awoke hours later.

She was in an absolute and utter haze, and she opened her eyes blearily, grimacing as her head throbbed at the sudden appearance of color. She sat up in her bed with effort, but as she did she saw a speck of white parchment fly from her bed to the floor.

Curious, Scarlett wrapped her fingers around the note, taking deep breaths and rubbing her temples in an attempt to coordinate herself. She took a look around the room; surprisingly, no one else was present, the lights off and the windows lacking the sunlight that normally shone through them.

Shit. What time was it?

Scarlett turned her attention to the clock, her eyes bulging as she registered the time. "Eleven forty," she said aloud, hardly believing it, and feeling slightly nauseous at the thought of missing her first Potions class, she instead focused on the note and opened it. It was flustered, with many sentences cramped into the small space, and it was obvious that it had been written in a hurry.

Scarlett...

I don't know what to do. I'm sorry. But Georgiana and I have seriously tried everything we could have thought of to wake you up. We've poured water on your head and screamed in your ear and done as much as we can, but you are the heaviest sleeper I know.

Just listen to me: please don't do this anymore. This unhealthy pattern of constantly being awake will catch up to you one day and I don't want that day to be any time soon. I told Slughorn that you were feeling under the weather and he took it well enough this time, but please... don't make me have to lie again.

Worry about yourself first and everything else second, okay?

- Theo

Then, right under that, there was another note:

Scar,

You still aren't awake? We've been to dinner and done all of our homework... How awful was it last night that you have to sleep for this long?

Anyway, I'll fill you in at Astronomy. But only if you promise not to do this again.

- Theo

Scarlett smiled at the notes for a second, temporarily distracted by Theodore's thoughtful words, but her smile soon faded into a deep frown when she realized that she had Astronomy.

Simple math showed that she had approximately seventeen minutes and forty-two seconds until she was due in Astronomy, and she looked like an absolute mess. It would require haste, for sure.

Scarlett calculated everything quickly as she got out of bed and pulled her hair into a tight bun. If she could get ready in two minutes, she would have fifteen minutes to get to Astronomy, which was perfectly fine. Yes, she would have to run-- the Astronomy tower was far away from Slytherin-- but, hell, she could make it.

She straightened her robes and looked at herself in the mirror. She still looked tired.

Whatever. She could live with that.

Her head throbbed again as she raced out of the common room, and she groaned as she exited the Slytherin common room.

No one was in the halls at that hour, and Scarlett watched anxiously as she passed the clocks placed at the end of each corridor. 11:49, one read, and then 11:51. Scarlett hurried through the halls, her bun falling in helpless disarray, but she could care less as the clock read 11:55.

She stormed up the stairs and made it to the class two minutes before it was scheduled to begin. Sighing in relief, Scarlett fixed her hair quickly, found her place between Theodore and Bellatrix, and smiled as she looked out one of the many windows of the tower.

Theodore, Georgiana, Bellatrix, and Narcissa did not understand the interest in the subject, as they preferred different things, but Scarlett adored it and never hesitated to tell her friends so. Like the sky itself, the topic of Astronomy was endless; an infinite amount of stars waited to be listened to. Every single star had a story for the clueless on Earth and Scarlett was obsessed with hearing them.

Scarlett had only seen six clear messages in the stars since she had begun the practice in the winter of her fifth year. Every other vision was just a blur-- for example, the anonymous visitor-- or a feeling that was indecipherable and came with no image. Even these Tenereus was interested in, and even these Scarlett was interested in as well.

Though Scarlett hated consequences and hated answers that did not go in her favor, she was still obsessed with the secrets of the stars. Maybe it was because she was looking for some light of hope because the future she saw in her mind was not one she preferred.

Because of Scarlett's obsession with the stars, and because of her anxiety for the future, every night in Tenereus's was frightening. The future was so unbearably frightening but yet so interesting.

She wanted to know what the stars had to say.

But in terms of the future, it was all rather terrifying.

The stars did not tell their stories in a way that could be precisely described, though Scarlett had attempted to explain it many times. In addition, the stars distributed their stories unevenly; some were trivial and some were important.

Out of the six messages Scarlett had seen clearly, three had come true and they had all been trivial. The three that remained were curious and terrifying: a slash of a violet beam in pure darkness; a tree that seemed to be blossoming jewels instead of leaves; and a fire so brilliant she still questioned if it was real.

She did not know what any of these things meant and she was afraid of the time when they would come true.

Sinistra addressed the class then, and Scarlett beamed, as Sinistra didn't bother to introduce the students to her typical rules of conduct. Instead, for review, she gave them an independent assignment and let them be.

It was no surprise that Sinistra was Scarlett's favorite teacher.

The assignment was easy and Scarlett finished it in minutes, satisfying Sinistra to such a level that behind her Georgiana rolled her eyes. Because of Scarlett's aptitude in the stars, an aptitude that Sinistra was well aware of, she was permitted to use the teacher's telescope, and, excited, Scarlett complied.

She stared out, the telescope going higher and higher as she observed the stars, studied the constellations and the patterns and the stories and eyed the images that were impossibly small to the untrained eye.

The stars were as frustrating as they were fascinating and were as frightening as they were addictive. She twisted and turned the telescope, desperate, reluctant, a million different things at once--

Flash.

Like a camera, Scarlett lost her sight temporarily, her senses focusing on the premonition like it was a magnet. It came and left in less than a second, yet it burned a hole in her brain before it retired, the star flickering as she encountered it.

The image was cold. It was one second of pure cold, cold from snow and wind and blizzard, and it was a second of beauty, icicles seen on the sides of her family's manor in Dijon while snowflakes swirled in the wind so gracefully, but so eerily...

It was as if it was warning her, perhaps, but she couldn't be entirely sure. The stars were unpredictable and taunting; she had no way of telling if the vision was figurative or literal or if it was for her or for one of her friends. It could have even been a figment of her imagination, and sometimes it was.

It was impossible to tell. Though the stars provided a possibility for the future, it was impossible... absolutely impossible... to determine its exact meaning.

It made Scarlett think and kept her distracted from the other stars as the students still drew constellations, oblivious to the images above them.

She didn't think it was figurative. Her house was in the image, after all. And it had no people in it, which meant that it had to be unsure. It provided her with so little because maybe the star was reluctant to tell her anything else...

The bell rang to signify the end of class, and Scarlett sighed in relief as the group left the tower. "So, hey," she began, walking towards Theodore. "Want to bring my stuff back to Slytherin?"

Theodore sent Scarlett a dark look. "I thought we went over this," he pointed out, and Scarlett shrugged, unconcerned.

"I have to," she argued. "C'mon. I'll get used to it. I know it was bad that I missed Potions, but I can't just stop. You know that."

Theodore sighed. "Try to come back before three," he negotiated. "Promise?"

Scarlett grinned in response. "Absolutely. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to run."

Passing her books over to Theodore, Scarlett slyly broke away from the pack of students, walking purposelessly down a corridor until she was sure her peers couldn't see her.

And then she ran.

Her footsteps were light and vigilant, her hair swinging and falling out of her bun as she hastily jogged towards the exit, avoiding the obnoxious portraits and the trick steps as she did so. Finally, she stormed down the stairs to the courtyard, and, checking behind her to make sure she was in the clear, Scarlett eased into her surroundings and then began to sprint.

It was her routine, and it was something that she simply could not live without. Scarlett had not been kidding when she told Theodore that she couldn't stop. Not only was it her addiction, just as harmful as any other, she yearned to see her centaur friend again and yearned to learn.

The night was brisk, but luckily not freezing, and Scarlett sprinted through it, her pace consistent as she maneuvered throughout the forest. She ran like this for a fair amount of time, her breathing becoming harder until she saw the familiar trail towards the outlook; immediately she eased.

Tenereus was there as usual, and, with sharper reflexes, turned before she even saw him.

He grimaced at her presence, unusually enough. "I have figured out your mystery," he stated, shaking his head. "I don't believe you will enjoy it, though."

"So...?" Scarlett asked, the question falling from her lips reluctantly, and Tenereus shook his head, his eyes going to the stars once more.

"Scarlett, try to read it yourself. If you cannot, I will indulge the secret with you, but only because I need for you to know. Do not be lured into the false thought that I will always provide you with the answers. You know what I believe."

Scarlett raised her eyebrows. "I gave you the trail, Tenereus. Don't I deserve the answer, instead of three hours of suspense?"

Tenereus shrugged innocently. "What can I say?" he asked her. "You know what I believe. For the most part, the stars are read alone. I cannot give you the answers."

Scarlett sighed in defeat. "Always logical, aren't you... bloody centaur..."

Tenereus grinned. "Ah, well, truthfully, I simply don't want to tell you. You'll murder me."

"Well, if I do," Scarlett replied, "I can only hope that it's in the stars so you can read it on your own. That's your belief system, right?"

All Tenereus could do was shake his head at the girl.

It was a strange friendship, but it was a sturdy one; both were intellectual when it came to the stars, though they both possessed a sense of humor and the adoration of light-hearted conversation. Their friendship had been full of each of these three things in the past two years, and, because Tenereus was an outcast because of his connections with humans and Scarlett was an outcast because of her obsession, the two needed each other equally.

The hours passed quickly, yet Scarlett could not find any message through the canopy of branches. Her eyes burned slightly both from staring intently at the same patterns for hours on end and the lack of sleep, and, figuring it to be late enough, she turned back to Tenereus.

"So?" she asked expectantly, and Tenereus chuckled.

"You're giving up so easily?" he said skeptically. "You, of all people..."

Scarlett shrugged. "I'm exhausted," she confessed. "I hope you can control your ego enough."

Tenereus snorted. "I hope you can control your prejudice."

Scarlett did not say anything in return, but gave Tenereus a pointed look; he had kept her in suspense long enough. At her glance, Tenereus took a deep breath, readying himself for what was sure to be an explosion.

"After you told me what you knew, I studied the stars with the information you gave. I figured something out, then... not from the same type of visions that you can see, but from communicating with the stars on their own."

Tenereus continued, pacing as he went. "Logic provided us with what we needed; how, after you started this, you had a stream of visions relating to only yourself, but only occasionally coming close to the stars speaking, if you could call it that-- such as the metaphorical and symbolic visions that have already been fulfilled and those that we have looked over endlessly.

"However, as the years continued, the flood of visions diminished, and a drought began. That is not to say that you were becoming less in tune with the stars; you simply needed the proper inspiration in order to continue."

"Last night, you told me of a visitor. One that only your eyes could barely see, for you cannot truly decipher the stars from millions of miles away like I can. You said the guest was unpredictable, and I theorized on that, trying to see if I could find out something for myself. But after hours of thought, I contacted the stars, who cleared things up... significantly.

"The unpredictability... well, I cannot fully divulge the information on the guest's unpredictability. I would be telling you too much. But I have to tell you, must tell you, who the guest is. I would not have known, except a special star told me... one I am sure you know of."

Scarlett could feel the blank incomprehension on her features. "Well, was it part of the Zodiac?"

Tenereus shook his head. "No, it is not. The star is not a part of those constellations. It is a strange star, and tells lots of things, lots of stories. It is only ironic that it told me this; I doubt that you will appreciate it."

She glared at this. "Oh, won't I?"

"You will despise it," he assured her. "You will disagree at first, I am sure of that without the stars' aid. But I believe--I hope--that you will do what is necessary... Take another guess."

She frowned. "I don't know."

"I do not wish to tell you the answer explicitly. It's best if you figure it out on your own... Scarlett..." he said slowly. "You are aware that some of your friends share the names of the stars?"

She could feel the answer staring her in the face, but could not quite grasp it. "Yes?"

"Well, logically... let us say that if one was... the most blinding, the most scorching... it would give us the most information, wouldn't it?"

"I don't know--" she began, but then, all of a sudden, the information fell into her lap and she was stunned into silence. Her blank incomprehension, though, morphed surely into horror and distaste, as he had so cleverly predicted.

"No," she muttered fervently. "You're lying."

"I thought it was a joke, as well," he said. "But we cannot delude ourselves into believing that anything in the stars, no matter how unpleasant it is for you, is a lie.

"The Scorcher star. The brightest one in the sky, only second to the sun. The Dog Star, Sirius."

Scarlett could not stand the stars at that moment. "And the Dog Star told you... that Black was... going to come here?"

He shook his head, frowning in the process. "No. The Dog Star told me that Sirius would come here, but not on his own accord-- at least at first. He would come here, specifically, to encourage the stars, hence doubling and perhaps tripling our insight into the future. Drought no longer."

There was a beat of silence as Scarlett tried to grapple with the thought.

"So... you're saying... I have to ask him?" Scarlett said faintly.

"Precisely."

 

 

 




Chapter 5: Hesitant but Ready
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Author's Note:  Sooooooooo, edited! This chapter is literally the reason that I decided not to edit SIHE chronologically (like any sane person would do). It was terrible. I have to say now that I really do like it, and I think the ending is a great one. Very, like... I don't want to say epic. I really don't want to say epic. But epic, sort of.

ANYWAY I HOPE YALL ENJOY... ONE CHAPTER LEFT TO EDIT, SOME FINAL THINGS AND THEN I WILL BE DONEEEE

 

 

 







 

Impatience settled the remainder of the weekend, the request hanging over every movement, a nagging reminder that Scarlett could not handle. It was restless, and every time she tried to forget about it she found that she couldn't. It was always there.

And every time she allowed herself to dwell on it, she always found herself stuck. Was the chance to see the future more important than betraying what she had always found to be true--that Gryffindors were immature and idiotic? At the same time, was not doing it worth upsetting Tenereus, a friend who had given so much for her and had only asked this in return?

She was always switching her opinion on the topic. On the rare moments that she resigned to do it, she was immediately confronted with the question as to how she would, if she even had to show her face for this to be over. She tried to plan it in her head many times, nothing fitting right.

Scarlett was growing hopeless.

And, if, by some remarkable miracle, she had decided on how to phrase the question, she wondered if he would even respond. Sirius and his friends weren't the most mature, and she knew that if she didn't phrase it just right, it would seem like nothing but a prank to them.  

And, and, if she had decided to write the letter and had phrased it just right and he had responded, would he bring his friends as well? They were immature but they were also curious, almost to a fault. What else would she have to do in order to get the outcome that Tenereus so badly desired?

This dilemma troubled Scarlett throughout the weekend, and her mood worsened when she made the decision to avoid the outlook in fear of a lecture from Tenereus. She had been hoping to use the weekend to rest, but during the night it was hard to stay asleep, dreams of indecision and blame always shaking her awake at unhealthy hours.

Her headache throbbed in the September cool, heavy from stress, as Scarlett rested her head on a tree nearby the lake. Next to her was an array of homework that she knew had to get done; it was tedious but it was a welcome distraction. As she did it, it almost helped to remedy the nagging voice in her head.

Almost. It was hard enough that they were right across the lake. She tried desperately to focus on the assignment, going as far as to cover the top of her head to avoid seeing them from the corner of her eye, but that only made it worse.

She needed a distraction. She would have taken Bellatrix and Narcissa fighting, or Georgiana's growing suspicion of whatever existed between Scarlett and Theodore, over this. She wished that she were in the company of her four friends instead of her four enemies.

It was maddening to see them there! There was something about the way that they stood which irked Scarlett. It was not so much that they were arrogant as it was that they were carefree. The manner in which they stood was burdened by nothing, and smiles were on all of their faces, their school materials neglected while they relaxed.

Seeing them so happy irritated Scarlett to no end. The looks that were on their face...where was the concern for the future? Where was any responsibility? It was more reckless than arrogant and more careless than carefree. They were acting like children while she had to carry the weight of maturity always. They received no consequences while she felt surrounded by them, in fear that one wrong choice would lead to one terrible outcome.

She stood up to take her leave--the lake wouldn't find her any respite, especially not now--

As she began to walk away from the lake, she became aware of a lightness, of a looseness, to her bag--she looked down--

Her bag had ripped at the seams, her books and parchment spilling all over and her ink glass settling into the grass, luckily not broken. She looked up in surprise and her eyes narrowed as she saw the four approaching, wicked smiles on their faces as she picked up her belongings.

She repaired her bag quickly and then pointed her wand towards the approaching four. Scarlett was  not stupid, and even despite the prejudice she felt towards Gryffindor she knew that she was obviously outnumbered and that all four of the boys were not unfamiliar with magic. She sighed.

"Captivating," she snapped. "Really some of your best work." She glared at Peter Pettigrew, who was laughing the most at the juvenile prank.

It was James that responded to her, however. "Peter was just testing some magic," he said calmly. "Nothing to get your knickers in a twist over." He paused. "The peanut gallery has to appreciate handiwork, swell job, Pete--"

"Assholes," she seethed, and she turned around again, ready to leave--

But then she felt another spell on her back, and it sent her to the ground--she heard the laughter and identified it at Sirius's--

Oh, Sirius. Bad choice.

She was up in a flash, pointing her wand straight at him, blasting him into the mass of water behind. It was a bad decision on her part, a mere whim that got out of hand--and she knew this--but she did not expect the reaction she received.

Many tugs and pulls immediately gnawed at her face, and her arms, and her legs, bringing her down to the ground. The air had changed from bully-to-victim to pure hostility, one that would not be let out easily.

And this, like so much, was going to make everything worse.

A fight ensued soon after as Scarlett broke the magical binds that had tied her to the ground. She was absolutely on the losing side but had enough strength to give Peter a bloody nose and James a sprained wrist. Remus was unharmed--he wasn't very involved in the fighting anyways--and Sirius had only the incessant and annoying grin on his face to indicate that a fight was going on at all.

Scarlett was well injured herself. Bruises were all alongside her arms and legs, she had a large cut on her knee, and her ankle was sprained. Just as she thought the fight had reached its painful conclusion, Narcissa, Bellatrix, Georgiana and Theodore arrived to help--soon after that, Slughorn finally disbanded the fight. By the end, both Narcissa and Sirius had lost consciousness, Scarlett's sprained ankle became broken, and Georgiana and Remus had walked away, engaging in small talk inappropriate considering the polarizing fight they had just witnessed.

Those injured were all sent to the Hospital Wing, but their stay was accompanied with a lecture, Lenore having seen all of their faces before for similar reasons. While everything was occurring Scarlett's headache grew to the point of a migraine--the familiar debate had reemerged in her brain--and, angered by her failure to escape the conflict, she drank the medication Lenore gave her eagerly, hoping for the respite she had so desperately wanted in the first place.

The dreams were prickled with indecision and impatience, and it was irritating, somewhat, that even in the tranquility of her dreams she could not escape Tenereus's request. With all of her attempts to ignore it and ignore Tenereus until he relented, she simply could not.

She would have to do this in the next week or she would go absolutely crazy.  

The dreams were nothing except for the impatience of each moment, the thought that she might as well ask now or never, for they were always to be hostile to each other. That was a ship Scarlett knew had sailed from the moment she had become a Slytherin and he a Gryffindor.

It still had to be done.

So when she woke up Scarlett finally decided that enough was enough, and, cursing Tenereus and Sirius in her head, she walked towards the Owlery, her parchment clutched in her hand.

When she arrived to the Owlery her steps were slow and leisurely; she could have been writing a note to anybody. The owls looked in alarm as the girl came in, and she stood next to an unfamiliar owl while she wrote the message on scribbled parchment, making absolutely sure that the handwriting did not resemble hers in the slightest.

What did Tenereus really expect--that she would actually reveal herself? She would be humiliated, accused of deception if Sirius had any power over the situation. As it was, she had to watch herself--she wasn't afraid to tell her friends but knew that it was infinitely wiser not to.

No, the note had to be written perfectly; each stroke of handwriting had to sparkle with adventure and new opportunity, shadowed by mystique. She couldn't afford the mistake--she didn't trust Sirius, especially if something went wrong.

To Sirius Black:

There is a clearing about a mile deep into the forest. It is inconspicuously marked by red stones on either side of the appropriate trail, nearby the far edge of the lake.

You have been asked to take part in a fantastic adventure. You are needed. If you are interested in seeing what is waiting for you, come to the clearing at nighttime.

Do not let anyone know about this note. Do not let anyone know where you are going. While it is tempting, know that essential information could be gained or lost by your hand. Be wise and wary.

--Anonymous

And, without another word or letter falling from the girl's lips or fingers, she bound the letter on the owl, the owl hooting as she stroked his feathers gently. Under her breath she muttered the name of the recipient to the messenger and how the letter was to be delivered.

In private--not in the Great Hall, where the children would surely eavesdrop, or in the common room, where the Marauders would hunch shoulders and cloud judgment. No. Alone.

A small sigh escaped her lips. If she were lucky, if Sirius were alone then, the owl would give him the note tonight.

She was tired. Now, now that the would-she-wouldn't-she argument she had been having all weekend had dissipated, there was nothing left with her but her own exhaustion, the only motivator for her to exit the Owlery and head towards her bed.

Sirius's note had been all about adventure, the pursuit of it, the understanding of curiosities and the grasping of the unknown. As she had written it the words had not resonated with her, but now, as she stifled a yawn, the weight of the world she was walking into settled onto her shoulders--hesitant but ready.

]—[
 
 
 


Chapter 6: Distant Enemies
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Author's Note: Hey y'all! I JUST FINISHED EDITING THIS STORY. FINALLY. I AM REALLY HAPPY ABOUT THIS. IT IS SO AWESOME AND COOL AND LONG. AND I AM GOING TO GO FIX THE LITTLE THINGS (ash tree? maple tree?) EEEEEEE

 

 

 

]---[
Can you hear me?

I know you can, girl. I am in your mind. I am you. I am everything good about you. The rest of you is worthless to me, petty, weak, foolish as you are. No, the only useful trait about you is the ability to keep your mouth shut when the others cannot. For not even your friends know, is that right?

It is. You're weak, weaker than the Aurors, the ones that defy us--weaker than the filthy blood traitors. But you can keep your mouth shut and you keep it shut good.

And you'd best keep it shut, or you will suffer the consequences. The consequences always frighten you, don't they? The questions arise but you will never seek the answers. You must have thought a million times since the day you got your Dark Mark why I am with you but with no one else. But you fear the answer because you know the answer will terrify you.

Shame that you learn things after they have been taught to you. Your friends, the Notts; they are stubborn, are they not? And they have suffered much, much more than you have... regrettably so. Your scream is very lovely.

There are only two reasons you are alive: your knack of being in the right place at the right time and your dedication to me. If you were not dedicated or lucky, you would be dead by now. Perhaps I could let the boy you fancy, Nott, kill you. Shame that has not worked out.

Shame that you are the one under my curse.

Can you hear me?

]—[

Hello Scarlett.

Hello.

How is your night? Has anything interesting happened so far today?  

It is fine. And nothing that would interest you, I'm afraid.

Oh, nonsense. I am always here to lend a hand for...any problems you may have...

Really?

Honestly. I would... love... to hear it.

Tenereus figured that the stars needed some sort of power charge, or something, I don't know. He wants to send... someone out. We are... not sure who it is yet, but I'm sure I shall get to it in due time, don't you think so?

I surely hope so. Why would the stars need assurance when they have such excellent readers as you and Tenereus?

Apparently not excellent, anymore.

Otherwise, nothing too interesting has happened. There is the same power struggle of the Blacks. The same stubbornness of the Notts. And I am somewhere in the middle. Do I have a place?

Yes, you do. You are the most useful, you are.

I got into a fight with troublemakers today. What would that make me?

Brave. Noble. Someone to stand for what they believe in.

Are you in a good mood?

Marginally, I suppose. It is a new year.

I want to hear more about your day, Scarlett. Bear no hesitation.

It started out completely normal--well, some of the other Slytherin boys were overjoyed that school would only have to go a day before the weekend, which I thought was a waste of time, honestly, because school is going to drag on later and later... Boys here are so daft... and, afterwards, I slept. I've been much more tired this year than last. I assume it's from getting off on a bad foot, with going to Tenereus's outlook and the course on the same day. It was so strange, yesterday when I slept I slept for almost twelve hours and was still tired. I think, from now on, I'm going to not go to Tenereus when you schedule courses. He might get angry at first, but it should clear up my schedule... After that, I went to the lake to finish my homework. Tenereus's requests were on my head and I wanted to clear my mind. I was very close whenever the Gryffindor boys showed up. It was annoying for me to see them there, again. They can never seem to leave me alone.

Annoyance?

Yes, annoyance. They irritate me. They won't leave me alone and they won't stop being as innocent, as naïve, as they are. It sickens me, that they don't know that a war is about to start and they're obsessed with their own arrogance. How sickening. It nearly made me gag when Peter tripped me.

Peter is the rat, is he not? The one who tattles, the one who is a mere follower of this so-called group of which you speak of? With the Potter boy, the blood traitor, and the wolf?

Peter is the fat, watery-eyed one. He's rather short and has no aptitude whatsoever for any topic in school. I am surprised he has stayed for so long in school, but it makes me wonder... what if he knows more and is just not letting anyone know? What if he and the others will come with their Dark Magic under their belts and blast us all to smithereens? It's a fear of mine, not just for Peter. I am not scared of Peter--he is unessential. I am scared that people that seem so innocent aren't what they make themselves out to be.

I do not believe you have anything to worry about, Scarlett. I am on your side.

Thank you.

What did you mean by wolf?

Nothing worth mentioning. Now continue--I was rather getting into the tale.

Peter tripped me and then they all started laughing, and then I fought back. I don't know, I was angry and I guess I had been on my last nerve when they attacked. It was rather nasty and I think I got a few cuts and bruises from them and a broken ankle. I'm not sure, I wasn't really paying attention. All I know is that James knocked out Narcissa, and Bellatrix and Sirius were spitting words at each other, and it was chaos.

Me and some of the others had to go to the Hospital Wing to get medicine--they gave me the foulest medicine I've ever had but I'm pretty much healed so I guess it worked. We weren't supposed to stay there but after Madame Lenore gave me the potion I couldn't help myself from falling asleep. I woke up very late and I went to the Owlery to deliver a letter to-- my sister. I wanted to congratulate her on her promotion.

And now, I don't know. I'm dizzy and I feel sick and I think all I really want to do is go to bed. I may collapse right here if I don't get there soon. I don't want to worry Georgiana or Theodore or Narcissa or Bellatrix... if they would worry. I'm not sure.

Oh, people with their deceptions...

I think they like me, but I am never sure. Sometimes I think their patience wears so thin with me.

I couldn't...imagine...anybody having thin patience with you...

I'm tired. So tired. And the couch is right there.

Theodore would get angry. He dislikes whenever you sleep on the couch. You should go up to your bedroom. Then you can sleep there and wake up to a fresh Sunday. A new week. Oh, the possibilities.

I'm... cold...

Of course you are. You did, after all, just slouch onto a freezing bed. Close your eyes and it will get warmer.

Trust me.

Okay.

]—[

A shadow stepped out from the thick, bristly bushes of the forest. The outlook was small and seemed innocuous, a mere clearing of the rest of the twenty miles that stretched ahead. But this place was of utmost importance, and the shadow proclaimed that message, walking with a motive--for not many would venture into the forest alone.

Tenereus lived there, and the air that night was brittle and cold, though centaurs were, at heart, warm-blooded. He was pacing, the leaves beneath crunching as his hooves stomped on them. Every once and a while, he would look up at the stars and sigh; this process continued itself for a fair amount of time.

When the stranger made its presence known, Tenereus opened his mouth as to speak, but faltered, sighing instead as the stranger revealed itself. The two stared at each other, one with confidence and slight impatience, the other with wariness.

"It has been a while, hasn't it?" he voiced, his tone even and calm even as he looked slightly skeptical at the visitor. The stranger laughed harshly and took a step closer, swallowing the surroundings.

"Oh, indeed," the stranger said, a fair amount of sarcasm in the tone. "I would like to get acquainted with this forest again... it has been far, far too long... but I have been busy. You must have a handful yourself, with the girl."

Tenereus' look of skepticism did not betray him; no, it seemed to increase as he took in the visitor, and he said, guarded, "Oh, no, the girl is absolutely fine. A little stressed but otherwise fine."

The stranger laughed again. "She is no use...I had hoped that she would possess some common sense..."

"You feel that they all lack it?" Tenereus said so defensively.

"I believe so. Some people may disagree. What do I know here? Very little. I have more pressing matters than a group of teenaged misfits. Ones that will not even speak to me. None have messaged so far with anything of use..."

"Give them time to settle," Tenereus said, and it was almost a snap, for his tone was sharper. "And was this your main motive to be here? To complain? You never used to--you said you were too strong, did you not?"

A smirk settled on the face of the stranger. "Oh, no. I just wanted to see if there was any news I was not being informed of. You understand, I believe, the importance of information, now with a threat of a war."

"Not a threat, anymore, is it?" Tenereus said warily. "No threat--an inevitability." He paused, frowning, and the stranger gladly opposed the gesture, smiling in response. The smile was haunting, and bitter, and cold. So very different from the last time Tenereus saw the face--so long ago...

"Is that all? Every other time you have visited me you have always had an obvious incentive, for we are nothing close to friends, are we?"

The stranger's smile became a frown--maybe even a scowl. "No, no, I do not believe that. I believe we could become rather fine allies of each other, were we to...compromise...over the independence a centaur requires. No, I'm talking about how we could actually allow this act to happen, instead of letting it sit in the open for far, far too long. We need your alliance."

"The centaurs all believe that we are fine here, and that there is nothing you can offer us--which I believe, to an extent. We are safe here, I hope you realize. Dumbledore treats us well and only the occasional stray student is warned not to trespass the forest borders--though not many do, with rumors they have heard." A look entered Tenereus's eyes. "If only they knew the enemy wasn't so distant."

The stranger laughed inappropriately and ignored the centaur's last comment. "Very well. But suppose.... suppose the curriculum changed, and a Care of Magical Creatures teacher called you less than human--which I can assure you, you are not. Or, perhaps, with the addition of Divination looming near, they shall ask for your guidance?" The stranger paused as he looked at Tenereus; the centaur seemed to begrudgingly consider the visitor's point.

"I know that we cannot settle this dispute tonight," the visitor continued, "And I am not surprised at that, for it is early in the year--and while I have much, much more to do, I would like to see that this can eventually be settled."

"And what would the centaurs have to say in return? What would we get? An alliance, yes, but would we have to risk our lives? We do not wish for that; we wish for a simple life and not one tangled up in such a war--"

"No, you are misreading my motives, Tenereus. We would not want you to fight; we care about your safety, for you are very important indeed. No, we want to know the secrets you hold...what the stars have given you."

Tenereus sighed. "Perhaps is the only answer I can give you. We do not wish to tangle ourselves in the war, or lose the independence we fought for so many years ago." He sighed and looked to the trees again. "I would love for you to check in, when we have had time to think about this, but, please, do not come too often. It must be hard for you to come here, I would imagine."

The visitor laughed once more, the sound swallowed by the trees. "Not at all. Before I had more pressing matters on my mind, you see. I can come here whenever I like. Would you like to continue this conversation tomorrow night?"

"No," he said sharply. "No, I'm sure you have pressing matters to attend to. I ask you, will you please give me slight solace, at least for the rest of the week, if these conversations are to continue?"

A glare settled on the owner of the face, an angry and frustrated look. "I don't see why not, but...I suppose so. We shall continue this next week. I hope we can reach common ground soon. Thank you for giving me your time."

"Indeed."

The shadow slinked away, billowing through the trees, clearly satisfied. It stepped with confidence, out to miles of trees ahead but facing them with harsh poise. What had needed to be accomplished was and this made the stranger very pleased.

Tenereus, on the other hand, became more miserable, a long, deep sigh heaving from his lips. He looked at the area where the stranger left. "Rowena..." he muttered--he needed her more than ever--as he looked up at the stars. Surely this dispute was not over. Tenereus knew not to question people's motives and their future promises, and to take it in stride...

... But the stride was uncontrollable and made him nervous. He wished for the chaos to be over--wished for the answers that the stars had only hinted at--but as he looked for the slimmest of seconds towards the shadow of trees, he knew that his wishes would not come true.

No, he believed something terrible had just begun, and order would cease to be soon enough.

]—[

When Scarlett woke up, she was on her bed, her hair in perfect disarray. Her bones were sore, and the position of her sleeping only confirmed that; her neck was craned and her arms were stretched horribly, hurting her every movement. The dizziness from the night before had faded away, and Scarlett saw with some shade of sadness that there was no berating note from Theodore.

She looked at the clock; unbearably late, resting at noon. She groaned and sank back into her bed, tired yet still. She wondered idly where her friends were, and if they were working on their homework, or doing something equally productive, in which case she would feel no hesitation in staying in bed.

Today was, apparently, not her day for being productive, and every motion clearly implied that--it took moments before she fell back asleep, the bed too cozy to deny.

Finally she woke up again, still hazy, to the sound of a voice in her head.

Hello Scarlett.

Hello.

Did I talk to you yesterday?

No, you did not. Why are you asking?

Well, it was just--I haven't talked to you and yesterday I was really tired and dizzy... I may have. I can't remember anything after leaving the Owlery.

Are you tired now?

Yes.

You should sleep.

Why--why am I so--

Okay.

]—[

 


Chapter 7: The First Step
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Author's Note: Well my birthday is on Friday. So hopefully I can get this one out. :) Enjoy and expect 8 soon.

Oh, and I wrote this two years ago (when we were studying Egyptian stuff funnily enough). I have no idea what it means now.
 

New A/N: I find this old A/N cute. Um, this chapter was a doozy to edit. I think it is the longest chapter in Sparkle in Her Eye, which is sort of... well, you know. I cut out over 2000 words though, words that I felt were really superfluous. I really did depend on stream of consciousness writing when I began and, while I feel that it is important, I think dialogue now is much more interesting. There is not a lot of dialogue, I fear, in this chapter--but the upcoming chapters are very special, so I hope that you enjoy :)
]---[

 

Defense Against the Dark Arts was, perhaps, the worst class in all of the curriculum.

To start off the new week--the first whole week of the new year, Aney reminded them happily-- she decided on a 'review' on the origins of charms and from there she would go on to the other major branches of magic. She further explained each chapter would open with a hands-on project and would finish with--by Scarlett's estimation--hours upon hours and days upon days of notes and myths from the days Aney went to a retreat in Egypt.

If Scarlett was in a bad mood--and today she was (she was down two Galleons and her favorite teams had both lost)--she would say that she really didn't give a Knut about her teacher's expeditions. If the class wasn't mandatory for the student body--and for the Death Eaters--she would have happily and hastily dropped it.

Aney began another story about a charmed amulet in a pharaoh's tomb; Scarlett sighed, playing with a quill in her hands, before pulling out a piece of parchment. She looked back at the quill, sighed again, and looked up at Aney, who seemed too absorbed in her story to pay her any attention.

At least her company wouldn't be missed.

Narcissa--

Save me. Please.

Discreetly, she passed the piece of paper across Narcissa's right side, and she smiled when she noticed that Aney had taken no fancy to their side of the room, instead setting up a slideshow of images from Egypt.

The note was sent back shortly in Narcissa's beautiful calligraphy.

I have to handle the same thing you do, Scar.

I think we only have one hour left, anyway.

--Narcissa

Scarlett groaned quietly and placed her head in her hands, muttering obscenities under her breath. Narcissa smiled, as if eyes were in the back of her head, and took the note back from Scarlett, writing on it avidly.

Oh, don't be so disappointed. What's next?

Scarlett dipped her quill in the ink, looking up at the ceiling curiously. She might have had a free period--but then the answer came to her in epiphany, alongside another quiet groan.

Transfiguration.

Narcissa chuckled under her breath at that, scribbling something down in return.

I'll see you there! It will be a party!

Scarlett hit her head against the desk.

I hate you.

Narcissa was very close to laughing loud enough to attract Aney's attention, but Scarlett thanked years of being taught subtlety for Narcissa's discretion. Narcissa wrote slower this time:

And then lunch...Herbology...some studying...and then sleep and a training session. You've got to be up to it, Devous.

Scarlett hit her head hard against the table.

Perhaps too hard. Professor Aney finally looked at her with interest, and Scarlett returned the glance with narrowed eyes. "So, Scarlett," Aney said, and Scarlett swore there was a smirk on her face, "Scarlett, do you know the series of enchantments on the Egyptian djed amulet used for the pharaoh Ramesses II and the significance behind that amulet being used, alongside what the amulet stands for?"

Silence. Damn Aney.

"Um," Scarlett started out smartly, and she was confident that one of the Marauders let out a snicker, "the series of the charms...surely were placed with the intention of granting access to the afterlife, using simple charms that the Egyptians made up themselves, because they didn't have the magical technology used today... and the amulet djed stands for... er... immortality?"

Aney let out a tut. So she was wrong, then. What a surprise.

"Ten points from Slytherin for not paying attention," Aney said methodically. "The amulet djed was known as the backbone of Osiris, the Egyptian god of the afterlife of which led the ka to the Weighing of the Hearts ceremony, recorded by a wizard scribe who brought a timeturner to his next life..."

And so the cycle continued. Scarlett honestly tried to pay attention to what Aney was saying this time--in vain she tried to take notes--but the subject was so boring, and after being antagonized by Aney she had less motivation than ever to be attentive.

She looked at the clock. Forty minutes left.

Oh, fun.

]—[

If anyone asked her, Georgiana Nott would simply reply that she was nothing like her brother and she never would be, thank you very much. In appearance they were different and in personality... well, Theodore was as familiar to her as a stranger in that regard.

Georgiana was a Ravenclaw for good reason; she was incredibly intelligent and used this to her highest advantage. She was good at every subject and worthy of being Ravenclaw. She found she shared some similarities with Slytherin, but the Hat had known that she identified most with Rowena's house.

Theodore was a Slytherin--and she was certainly not Theodore.

One Slytherin trait that Georgiana especially identified with was the power of observation. Observations held the truth; the expressions, the look in someone's eyes, the wanting-to-be-forgotten moments that she'd seen...it was all more powerful than words or action in that it was a tool for premonition. Georgiana could see what would happen many times before it did, based on how easy the observation was to make.

And some things were so obvious that they were almost blinding.

She shook her head as she thought of Scarlett and Theodore. She had noticed only recently; she did not know how much she had missed.. Yes, she had made comments here and there--comments that fit incredibly now--but she had honestly never taken any of them seriously, especially after fourth year.

But she had recently found reason to take them seriously. She had first seen it at lunchtime; under the circumstances she had to work with, it was completely too easy to notice. Bellatrix was trying to finish her homework early and Narcissa was talking with Ambrose--without these distractions, like pulling hair back to showcase eyes, it was simple, even, to see.

Georgiana kept quiet as she watched the dance the two performed with each other. There was really some miraculous sort of choreography to the game, the way Scarlett's eyes would flicker towards Theodore and his eyes would flicker towards her. It was remarkable that the two of them did it with such synchronization, and it amazed her that neither of them had noticed.

But she had noticed it--her knack of observation, of sensing when things had changed between two people, had seen to that.

Georgiana also possessed unbelievable will (when necessary) to keep a secret and of using things against other people at the right time. Georgiana, in identifying and understanding a situation, was able to assert her power over it in a way that Theodore was normally too mild to do.

So, no, she wasn't like her brother, and she wasn't quite like Bellatrix or Narcissa or Scarlett. Her intentions weren't as dark as Slytherins for the most part; her nature was inherently Ravenclaw.

But Georgiana had met Voldemort many times, and always refused to wear short sleeves unless she was at a Death Eater party. Georgiana went to meets in the morning; Georgiana would be wed without her consent of the husband.

For all of her power, for all of her talent in observation and understanding--it would all go towards the cause. Georgiana would give anything for the cause whose allegiance she had pledged on her wrist.

And in that way Georgiana was like her brother, and the Black sisters, and Scarlett. In that way was Georgiana Nott a corrupt Slytherin.

]—[

Free breaks were miracles in the school schedule. It was definitely a loss to not continue with his rotations, sure, but Theodore didn't see it as too much of a loss. They were all going to go to Voldemort's service, so what was the use?

The homework that day was easy enough, and because the free period mixed with the end of the day it was as if they had extra time in the end of the day. Theodore finished the homework easily, especially Defense, which came extremely easily to him even though he wasn't the biggest fan. Theodore didn't see why everyone thought the subject was so hard. Most of the time the teachers were incompetent enough to give out little homework after the first month and their motivation to teach ran out of gas as the months passed.

Theodore spent time in the library alongside Georgiana; although the two hated homework with a passion they both still managed to finish it before everyone else. In fact, Theodore was sure that Bellatrix, Narcissa, and Scarlett were all with Ambrose--he knew his friends loved to procrastinate.

Shame, too, because the homework was easy enough. Georgiana was a little distracting, maybe, but the two worked diligently and easily, and it took less than an hour to find the correct way to plant a Jumping Seed and to finish an essay for Defense.

So when Theodore walked into the common room he had expectations on where the three were. Normalcy, predictability--

But when he entered the common room, only the Black sisters and Ambrose met his eyes; so he had only been partially right. Georgiana trailed behind him, a light snicker rising up her throat, though Theodore could really find no reason for it.

Sisters were strange sometimes.

"She's upstairs," Ambrose said before either of the two could open their mouths. "I think she was going to do homework, but she probably fell asleep. I don't know, she isn't as good at coping with the schedule, well, as I am, I guess."

This--the arrogance--was common for Ambrose, and Georgiana moved from behind Theodore to openly show the huge smirk on her face. "Not being too proud, are you, Ambrose?"

Ambrose merely smiled. "I do my best, you know that." Her tone turned accusatory. "But really, she's been tired a hell of a lot, hasn't she? Do you think she was diagnosed with something? I mean, she was peaky all today, and she almost fell asleep in Herbology, so you never really know... Merlin, do you think she's on drugs?"

Theodore rolled his eyes, sitting down at the chair farthest away from all of their seats and watching as Ambrose leaned in to whisper in Narcissa, Bellatrix, and Georgiana's ears. One of them giggled and Narcissa said, "You know, you're probably right," under her breath.

Of course, Theodore valued truth heavily. Yes, sometimes he feared it--liked to keep a safe distance from it--but he still understood its importance. In a situation like this he would have picked off the information from Georgiana immediately after Ambrose was done.

But how could he really expect anything from Ambrose? Sure, she provided a slice or two of information that was useful at times, but when it came to the group, especially Scarlett and Bellatrix, she had as much chance of being truthful as she had winning the lottery.

So at least he didn't miss out on anything important, knowing that the conversation probably led to a former fourth year who got sent to St. Mungo's for being under too much of the influence of drugs. He could have sworn he heard Georgiana mutter, "So cute, it's a shame".

Not really his scene. Theodore stealthily left the common room and headed towards the girl's dormitory.

He hadn't seen Scarlett in a while.

]—[

Scarlett tangled webs in her subconscious. She was always a heavy sleeper and was known quite well for that; it took her minutes to get up unless provoked by, say, Bellatrix--which, to be quite honest, happened a fair lot.

But this night Bellatrix did not intrude on her slumber, and she enjoyed that graciously; it seemed as if she was being lured into slumber, for when she would expect to be woken she only felt the dizzying feeling of fatigue that was not nagging or expectant at all, one that suggested--but didn't urge--her to keep sleeping.

But for some reason, her body consumed the sleep greedily, eating away at it and feeling still starved, and Scarlett, happy to cater, slept more, soaking in her dreams, so easy to forget but so lovely to remember. She didn't dare wake up for the longest amount of time that she could; she slept until her body felt almost completely rejuvenated.

Finally, when enough was enough, Scarlett rolled over and blearily opened her eyes.

"Nine."

From where she was, Scarlett craned her neck to the side, blinking her eyes to refocus; while she was not utterly shocked to see Theodore, she certainly wasn't aware he would be there.

Apparently writing notes had lost its luster.

"Nine what?" she said tiredly, her words morphing into a sigh, and she pressed her head deep into the pillow. Theodore snickered from where he sat and raised his eyebrows.

"Nine o' clock. You've been sleeping since our free period and you missed dinner. You have, for a record, an essay on Defense Against the Dark Arts and the Egyptian charms, a paper on Astronomy you've already finished, a Transfiguration spell to look up, and how to properly plant a Jumping Seed. All due the next time you have class, except for Defense. Anything else, Scar?"

Scarlett snickered, and she groaned again, putting her blanket over her head. Theodore took that as a sign of fatigue and smirked, patting the blanket. "Oh, and the next meeting is tomorrow at three o' clock, so don't even bother going to Tenereus's. Yeah?"

And though Scarlett said okay, and though Theodore left thinking that she was still tired, the contrast, almost a lie, looked her dead in the face. Because it was definitely not a sign of fatigue that the blanket had become an invitation to hide her head over.

No, it was a different reason entirely, and Scarlett's cheeks were still slightly pink by the time she finally fell back asleep, her homework assignments and time completely slipping her mind as she did so. In the haze of her mind a mere thought lingered in her head.

Scar. His name for her, a sense of familiarity, of comfort--comfort that had her very uncomfortable.

]—[

The next day passed quietly, with class and Voldemort's meeting in their way.

But, very, very soon, the day ended, and Scarlett realized with a sinking feeling that she had no excuse not to go to Tenereus's, and it was there that she would see the beginning of something she didn't want to begin.

With reluctance, she stepped out of the Slytherin common room.

]—[

The night was, in all honesty, flat. Flat and dead and not particularly interesting at all. There were colder temperatures, yes, and these were not unnoticed, for there was little else to notice. It was a particularly normal night to end a particularly normal day.

But when Scarlett stepped uncertainly out of her dormitory, late that night, it didn't feel quite so normal. She knew what was waiting out there for her, a future she didn't want to walk towards; she felt as if the truth was staring her in the face but she was avoiding its gaze.

Scarlett hated the pursuit of truth when it was so eminent. Star reading was different, better, than this--with the stars it was easy to pretend it was all a trick of the light. But in reality--a place where Scarlett liked to turn her head the other way--under these layers of complete glassy-eyed splendor, there was the same fear, a fear of the inevitable.

The day had not been anything special whatsoever; it passed in dull lurches and heavy doses of boredom, Defense Against the Dark Arts starting the day with strict orders and sharp yells from the professor, who seemed to have a permanent bias against Slytherin or perhaps Scarlett herself, she wasn't entirely sure.

Charms had passed by in simple blurs; History of Magic Scarlett made notes for three minutes before almost dozing off; Potions' fumes had almost rendered her asleep by learning again of the Drought of Living Death, which would be one of the big projects of the semester; and a free period and Herbology had knocked her into a numb period where attention came short and plants were uninteresting.

Sleep had come after that, and then dinner; following sleep came once more, but Scarlett woke up at midnight, just as she did every night. In all honesty she was unsure as to if she would go, because the outlook had taken on an intimidation that she was afraid to confront; but, with heavy and reluctant legs, she took the steps to confront it.

There was something unusual about the forest that particular night. It was eerily silent, the birds seeming to mute for the winter, while the other creatures of the forest made no indication of their presence. The wind blew, but it blew in a whisper, barely heard by Scarlett's ears.

It was quiet, but it was building like a steady procession of drums in her body. She could feel that the energy was in disorder, in an arrangement completely foreign to her. It was frightening to her and she willed herself not to think of it. She tried in vain to pretend that she was walking towards another normal night--for her own safety.

Because how Scarlett wanted safety. She didn't want to be sent out into the world of unpredictability.

But this was inevitable, these were Tenereus's demands. She had to face unpredictability and she knew it all had to begin with a step--whether a step that led her out of the common room or a step that led her into a different era of her life.

And as she stepped through to the outlook, in her numb state of thought about safety, her safety, and the unpredictability her life now held, only one short sentence, two words, even, were the only words that lingered on her tongue. The words to greet a new beginning.

"Hello, Sirius."

]—[
 


Chapter 8: We Intertwined
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Author's Note: 57 days until Christmas. I hope you all enjoy this chapter <3



]---[
 

We Intertwined 

No one wanted to believe that they were leaving childhood and even their teenage years behind.

No one really wanted to believe that in just a handful of months and a break or two they would be finished with school forever. They wouldn't return to the castle next September, instead looking for jobs in the Ministry or in the businesses around Diagon Alley.

No one wanted to believe that they were being forced into war too quickly, and no one wanted to believe that they would have the risk of death looming over their shoulders the minute they left Hogwarts.

No one wanted to believe.

No one was ready for change and the changes that would certainly happen over their seventh year. Opportunities would arise, scholarships and apprenticeships being taken by the smart peers of the school and the rest crossing their fingers on a walk-in interview to get them by for the rest of their lives. The work would get harder, their curriculum expanding to cover the content an adult was expected to know in their world. They would be learning the same things that their teachers knew and they would not be below them anymore. And even their relationships would change, as bonds between the teachers grew and friendships became romances.

Growing up in a world so cold only made it worse; no one wanted to adapt to the war and what they were expected to do-- what they had to do. For how many of them could simply evade the war? Not many, to be honest, and it seemed inevitable that a side had to be chosen, that they would all put their lives on the line to save their world.

Because one voice and one person was huge. Anyone that had skill and knowledge and charisma could easily be an impact to everyone. Even a meek eleven year old-- one looked down upon by their fellow students-- could make a difference with their voice.

And sometimes, the strangest of people could make the largest difference. Sometimes, the smallest could dominate them all. Of course, the person needed talent-- bravery in some cases and charisma in others. Physical strength meant nothing. It was all mental, emotional, even spiritual. It were these things that could effect change.

And Albus Dumbledore thought this as he paced his office, a Lemon Drop in hand, a piece of paper in the other, his mind clearly deep in thought as the students of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry obliviously lived with their small dilemmas. Dumbledore needed to take the action that the Ministry would not and could not.

So started the Order of the Phoenix.

In spite of his hope, other thoughts could reach beyond Dumbledore's hopes and objectives, motives that he never dared think about or dared use. Thoughts that were malicious, thoughts that would do the Wizarding World no good.

Being a physical person very nearly got you nowhere. That was obvious. Sure, you could harm someone-- hurt someone-- but that would do you no good if they held your heart in their hands. Because this was how someone could control another.

Love. Love as a weapon. Love could cripple. The strongest person, who could easily accept torture, who wouldn't back down from their own pain, would crumble in an instant if someone that they loved was going to be tortured...

And this was what Voldemort thought, in an unknown, unspecified place that the Aurors would never possibly find. In his bony white hands he held a cup; it was white though rusted from old age, with a distinct shape of a badger cradling the holder of the cup. It was a beautiful piece and worth an unbelievable amount of money; a beautiful H was engraved on the inside to declare its owner.

Voldemort did not understand love, not even in the slightest. He thought it inferior to other skills, charisma and talent. Love could not protect another, certainly not, and love could not save someone from harm's way.

But love could control, and this was one of the reasons Voldemort refused to love. If someone loved someone else certainly their guard would be down and certainly they would trust the other. That was the simplicities of love, the disgusting emotion that it was.

But if one was devoted to another... he could certainly control them.

And Voldemort almost smiled.

]—[

The next couple of days brought nothing but foul moods and snaps from Scarlett. The teachers had apparently taken it upon the group to actually take tests every chance they could get, and the abundance of homework that came with seventh year certainly didn't alleviate the stress and tension.

So, no one asked any questions. No one bothered to wonder why this had set off a stream of mischief and hostility from the Slytherin and Gryffindor Houses of all years. In the course of two weeks three people had been slightly injured and many had sprouted feathers, long ears and beaks, body dysfunctions which Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff, with their harmony, laughed about.

And in all distraction no one bothered to ask why Scarlett's wallet had decreased in significant size within the period of one week. Her heavy, near gold wallet, which she carried about her at all times, had dwindled by two Galleons every night and a little extra for four butterbeers.

Tenereus did not approve, of course, and Scarlett could clearly see why, but that did not change her opinion of Tenereus's blind lack of prejudice. Because Tenereus was certainly different from her and certainly different from other centaurs in the simple way that he didn't care whatsoever of previous relationships, of the pretenses which existed between her and Sirius.

Ugh. Sirius.

In Tenereus' stable sense of mind he figured that it did not matter that two people-- well, in this case, Sirius and Scarlett-- loathed each other, and it simply did not matter that the two had loathed each other since their first year. In Tenereus's mind, business was business, and business did not have to include two Galleons and four Butterbeers a night.

Scarlett could agree that it was only business. In no way did she feel anything personal for Sirius. Honestly, with the circumstances she had to deal with, she was coping rather well, especially as she would be dead broke soon and this would all be over. She couldn't see what in the world Tenereus would be complaining about; no matter what he told her, she couldn't help but notice that he seemed increasingly more pleased after each night.

Well, except for the bartering. He really disagreed with the bartering.

And, as for Sirius... well, Scarlett still loathed him. She figured if she could completely push the matter out of her mind when she was finally wiped of her money maybe it would be completely forgotten.

And the verdict still lied as such: Slytherins hated Gryffindors and Gryffindors hated Slytherins right back, but would steal their money and beverages from them every night.

As far as Scarlett could tell, the scale wasn't balanced at all.

Life moved slowly but it surely moved; Scarlett's purse only proved this fact to utmost degree and the fact of the matter was that she would not even bother asking her mother and father for more money if it meant it was going to one of the largest blood traitors to date. She simply refused to and in doing so believed that Tenereus would be satisfied with however many days she had bought from Sirius.

September's first week faded away in a flash, as did thirty galleons, money and Butterbeer alike. That Friday came with relieved sighs, because the week had been the best argument against the dire, dying hope that the work would not be challenging to their pretty heads in the slightest.

Georgiana, who was the smartest of them all, even was beginning to struggle, and surprisingly Bellatrix, who hid her knowledge in layers of intimidation, passed by more easily than the rest of them did. In Bellatrix's book, the real world was much harder than simple school, and in the course of one week the Bellatrix and Narcissa rivalry had expanded to include Georgiana.

The relationships within their group had also changed in different, scarier ways; one week did not evaporate the feelings Scarlett had for Theodore and the burden of denial only grew heavier. Denial, it seemed, got worse over time whenever she should have accepted her feelings a while ago-- but why did she get so defensive over Georgiana's teasing, which she fervently felt was there for the sake of teasing rather than for any deep meaning?

Scarlett couldn't decide.

But another conflict found its way to her head even as she pacified the rivalry within her circle of friends, burdened fancies for her best friend of seven years, and ignored Sirius Black in a heated, prejudiced fashion. This conflict was one Scarlett had never experienced before and never even believed existed until that Friday.

Scarlett had been looking forward to Friday; Sirius for whatever reason had not come the day before and she was confident he wouldn't come the day after. She wanted to rest, frankly, and would only retreat to the forest early in the night to give Tenereus company for a short while before finding solace in her bed. It seemed foolproof enough.

However... Scarlett never knew Tenereus had a temper. That proved to be a problem.

Tenereus was a very easy-going friend; he took things in stride. He had taken her initial presence in stride. He had taken the 'drought' in stride. Even whenever Scarlett had not visited him for days at a time, he was tolerable, he was lenient, even when she was rude and spotty and took his presence for granted.

Tenereus knew more than he let on. As a centaur who was hundreds of years old his star-reading skills were so extensive that he knew the names of every magical child in the school and their younger siblings too. He knew more information than Dumbledore did himself, and while Dumbledore would have thrived on the centaur's acute information on the Death Eaters or spies in the school no teacher or student had bothered to approach the centaurs in fear of their detestation-- with the exception of Scarlett.

The policy of the centaurs had always been that human problems were an entity completely separate from centaur problems, unless humans were a threat. That was what they said, anyway; Scarlett didn't buy it. She knew that Tenereus, despite the calm manner in which he presented himself, had to find allegiance with some side.

Tenereus had to have had prejudices, just like Scarlett did, on humans and centaurs--Tenereus had his ways and Scarlett had hers. It was something they hadn't discussed before. However, with the vast contrast in their opinion, it was only a small, small matter of time before Tenereus's impatience of human intolerance and Scarlett's impatience of the centaur's perception of humans clashed.

Tenereus seemed fine enough on the Thursday before; sure, he was slightly irritated at the fact Sirius hadn't come and at Scarlett stashing the two Galleons and drinking the Butterbeers for herself. He didn't make his emotions readily known, though, just as he hadn't in the two years she  had known him.

So she wasn't exactly sure why he seemed to be in such a tense mood that Friday night. Perfectly predicted, of course, she was exhausted and ready to be comfortable in her own bed. Perfectly predicted, that the weather would be rigid, enough to convince her not to stay long.

But, oddly enough, Tenereus was angry. She couldn't tell it at first; she thought him merely cold, though he generally wasn't--had something been seen in the stars? She wasn't sure--and she never really quite figured it out until he said his first words.

For the first time that Scarlett could remember, he spoke sharply and abruptly.

"The boy, where is he?"

"Funny thing, that," Scarlett said wryly in reply, jumping to grab a tree branch in boredom, "I was going to ask you the same question. I don't have the faintest idea. Maybe I just ran him away." She snickered lightly, hanging from the branch with one of her hands as the other pulled a strand of hair behind her ear.

"Scarlett, I'm being serious," he said angrily, turning his head back up towards the bright sky. "What did you do, run out of money? Tell him to leave? I don't think you're taking this quite seriously enough, you think this is all a joke—"

"What's got your knickers in a twist?" Scarlett said, the slight grin on her face evaporated, as she swung off of the branch and fully faced Tenereus. "You know, I haven't done a bloody thing and you know I haven't, I don't know what banter you and your friends have brought themselves into but hell, it's not my fault--"

"Yes, it is!" Tenereus snapped suddenly, and silence echoed over the area for a short while, Scarlett's eyes narrowing alongside the centaur's. "You're running him away because of your silly prejudices, which, among all things, I think you would be most flexible in. Paying him is not only robbing you senseless but making you out to be an immature fool! Scarlett, no matter how long you continue this stupid bargain the more ridiculous you and I will end up looking, all because you think of this as a hobby and nothing more—"

"An immature fool, of course," Scarlett muttered sarcastically. "An immature fool, when all I've done is tried to get him to stay here when you know he wouldn't and you know he wouldn't even bother to make amends himself? How is that foolish?"

She paused for a second as the weight of his words hit her. "What do you mean, my prejudices would be flexible?" she said. She could feel her face heating up.

"All prejudice is foolish," Tenereus pointed out. "But I wouldn't expect you to think the same, considering your allegiances--"

"Though of course he has prejudices of his own," she countered, her voice not softening in the slightest even as her argument faltered under what seemed to be seriousness and importance that she had somehow been blinded against.

"Who would look foolish, the one who is hindered by their prejudices and silly beliefs or the one that puts them aside for the sake of information?"

"What information do you need to know that somehow only Sirius can provide?" she asked, tiredly angering at how Tenereus laughed at her beliefs, notions that she had always believed, for all that it was worth...

"Information you wouldn't believe," Tenereus said; his words were filled with feelings Scarlett couldn't identify. "Of course, you possibly cannot imagine what it would be like to have information outside of your boundaries..."

"Why do you put me out to be so stupid?" she snapped, as Tenereus turned his head upwards to the sky.

"I don't put you out to be stupid; I put you out to be naïve."

"Wow, what a difference," she mocked, jumping up towards the tree branch again. "What a difference to be called optimistically stupid as opposed to regular stupid. Thank you for clearing everything up, Tenereus, because for every stupid person out there we can be assured there's a smart centaur willing to give them the compliment of optimism."

"You're taking things out of hand," Tenereus pointed out, and Scarlett rolled her eyes, pulling her arms to get her to the top of the branch, never ceasing her eye contact.

"But, hey, at least I'm young!" she said, an annoyed and, among all things, fatigued tone of voice echoing in her tone, as she leaned her back against the willow tree's branch. Her anger, partially stemmed from lost time, a bruised ego, and exhaustion, was not likely to be ebbed out for quite a while. At her irritation Tenereus sighed, and turned towards the girl. In the time he had been looking at the stars, her eyes had closed.

"Scarlett--" and, her eyes opened-- "--promise me you'll bring the boy next time."

"I can't control him," she pointed out.

"Promise me," he stressed, "also, that you will consider how important this connection really is."

Scarlett sighed, still stung, as she expertly jumped off of the tree and faced Tenereus. 

"For my part, I cannot promise anything, but I can promise you that I sure as hell won't be here for a while," she said, as she finally turned her back towards the outlook with one last spiteful look at the centaur. "Good night and good riddance to you."

And that was the verdict of the argument. That one mere sentence was the verdict of the night... but, Tenereus thought hopefully, the night was only young. The moon had only begun to rise, full for the first time that year. It seemed to shine towards the stars in an elaborate display of arrogance and mockery.

Tenereus looked at her back as she retreated, an bitter look on his face as he turned away from where she had retreated, and he assumed his position of the week before: pace, turn, look at the stars, and sigh. It was a tradition of sorts that Tenereus kept in times of utmost frustration, and he had no qualms admitting that, at the moment, he was frustrated, and he was bitter, and he was not the calm star-gazer Scarlett had always believed him to be, at least at that moment.

"Rowena," he said under his breath, exhausted. Scarlett's words had deflated his hopes somewhat, and their argument had left him with spite and skepticism. He still hung strong to his beliefs, as did she. He still believed that, in the end, his words needed to be taken seriously. And she was naive. It fell down to that difference.

So it was with this difference--a difference Tenereus knew would only become more readily apparent as time passed--that Tenereus braced himself. From here on, he didn't know what to expect. "Rowena," he said again, looking for guidance; finding none, he sighed.

He knew that the visitor which had bothered him before, after this argument, would come to him again. The visitor knew everything. He knew that there would be suspicion and the tangled web which was all contingent on Sirius's presence and Scarlett's compliance would only grow more convoluted after this discussion.

Tenereus hoped he would see Scarlett.

His hopes did nothing to shake that creeping, saddening certainty that the visitor would bother him again.

Yes, he would see her soon enough, he was sure. This thought only seemed to depress him and he continued pacing for the remainder of the night.

]—[
 


Chapter 9: Fine
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A/N: Hi buddies! This is edited, fantastic and I really do enjoy this chapter. I hope that you do too (HEY GUYS 2 MORE TO EDIT AND THEN WOOOOOO)
 

 




She had to do something.                                                                             

She was surprised, at first, though the events this year had brought on had been one to make her on guard for ultimatums. However, this didn't change her stance, apparently, and ultimatums kept coming her way as long as she was there to be completely oblivious.

Some part of her was indifferent, cold, stable. This part didn't give a damn what Tenereus thought, didn't give a damn about the whole situation, and waited eagerly until there was an excuse for it all to be left... unfinished.

Of course, this part was stifled by the other half of her, the traits that she reluctantly called Gryffindor habits. These were the loving, sympathetic, restless, risky, temperamental, strange characteristics of her, the vampire of the two, only appearing on the scarcest of occasions, generally when she was very tired, very drunk, or both.

However, at the moment, though it was morning, the latter was winning.

Scarlett had promised not to see Tenereus again for the rest of the weekend, and the first part applauded her for her iciness and her stability on the situation, her control over the entire ordeal. She didn't need friends, anyway; in a few months she would be going, going, gone.

However, all that was Gryffindor outshone the coldness, probably expansive due to her friendship with the centaur and her tendency to cave in, at least every once and a while. This part, however annoying it may be, beckoned her to go back to the forest, risk getting caught by Filch and losing, oh, a hundred points for Slytherin.

So, no, it wasn't a good idea!, logic screamed, and Scarlett nearly smiled at the fact logic was not on Gryffindor's side. However, that part of her, fiery as it were, remarked with something to tug at her heartstrings, though they didn't wish to be tugged.

Are you never going to see Tenereus again?

And, so, the vicious battle continued.

It was early morning of Saturday the tenth at the Great Hall's Ravenclaw table, an otherwise easygoing day, at least on her part. Theodore, as Quidditch Captain for Slytherin on a team that many thought hopeless, had to schedule tryouts and had to go to meetings on a bi-weekly basis. It was a fatal flaw that Theodore cared so deeply for a team destined to lose--Scarlett knew this clearly that morning, as he looked over the roster with the look of the dejected.

"Why don't you just save yourself the trouble and let Bellatrix be Beater?" Scarlett thought aloud, absentmindedly grabbing a croissant from a basket of pastries.

Theodore sighed, putting his head on his hand. "Females aren't allowed on the Quidditch team," the muffled reply pointed out, and Scarlett stopped from grabbing fruit salad and instead glared at him. "You know that."

"Whole lot of good prejudice does for you," she muttered.

Tenereus thinks the same, doesn't he?

"Anyway, we don't need beaters," he continued. "We already have Campbell and Scott. We need three chasers and a seeker from about thirty other people in the House, and most of them can't even fly."

"Have fun with that," Scarlett sighed, "because the only alternative is homework, damn it. At least it's a nice day to do it."

Georgiana, who had been talking to a boy named Matthew Cornfoot and a girl named Laura Ackerley, both Ravenclaws, interrupted the conversation with a coy smirk. "I never thought I'd see the day that Scar would be so optimistic."

"I do my best—oh, hell," Scarlett said, looking up as a dark colored owl flapped over the table, a thin note coiled in its claws and an angry look in its eye as Scarlett grabbed it and let the bird flutter away. She opened the note curiously, flushing deeply by the end of it, and passed it around for the rest of her friends to read without saying a word.

Dear Scarlett,

As you know, in a very short amount of time you will be engaged and married to one of your pureblood classmates. When we last discussed this over the summer, you had no interest in the matter and as a result your father and I have taken it upon ourselves to see who you could possibly be affianced to.

After deliberation and questioned consent of the two candidates' guardians, we have decided that you will be betrothed to your friend Theodore Nott, a person with higher prestige and wealth than Regulus Black, your other potential suitor.

Tiffany will be sure to help arrange the marriage soon, though the date of the wedding is sure to be around Winter Break.

Be safe at school. Hope all is well.

All my love,
Mother.


After a pregnant pause, tinted with awkward air, Scarlett laughed, looking at the note with forced indifference. "Thank you, Theodore, you've saved me from Regulus!" The other participants of the conversation snickered, moving their eyes towards Regulus--a quiet and isolated boy--except for two; Georgiana, who held a smirk on her face, and Theodore, who was looking rather indifferently at the note.

"Here, let me see it again," Scarlett muttered, and Theodore nodded, passing the note. When their fingers brushed against each other there was a burst of nervous energy; instantly Scarlett pulled back while Theodore blinked, confused, before putting his head back in his hands again.

"So, the wedding is during winter break," she recited, putting the letter on the middle of the table. "Also, you are quite the socialite in Pureblood society, Theodore. My mother could have been swooning when she wrote this."

"Yeah," he said quietly, his tone muffled by his hand. "Yeah, I guess so."

Georgiana wondered just how long it would take before she would burst from the obviousness.

]—[

Daytime came, daytime went, Theodore's troubles came and went, homework came and went, laughter came and went, time came and zoomed, but, amidst all of this, one conflict remained unmoving, and this happened to be a question that had taunted her at the most unlikely moments:

Should she go, or not?

Scarlett had no idea what she would do, some part of her screaming in indecisiveness, the other part confident as to what her choice would be, nighttime bringing out the worst in her Gryffindor spirit. She argued with her mind, pacing up and down the common room, wringing her fingers anxiously.

Should she go, or not?

She wrung her robe, then, putting hand-shaped wrinkles on the fabric. Every once and a while she would look at the fire to distract herself or at Georgiana, who sat down nearby, helping a young third year Ravenclaw with her Charms in a saintly fashion--an unusual scene.

Scarlett, at the time, was in Ravenclaw headquarters, the middleman between Slytherin and Gryffindor, no matter how much Georgiana denied it and no matter how much everyone else hated it. The tower bore similar appearance to that of Gryffindor's, but the house's cool attitude brought comparisons to Slytherin to their heads.

"What should I do, Georgiana, hm? You tell me," she said tiredly to the girl, fingering her tie as she continued pacing, and Georgiana smirked, misinterpreting the girl's words.

She leaned forward in the comfy armchair and ignored the third year in a way that made Scarlett wonder why Georgiana wasn't in Slytherin (or a teacher, she humored). "Well, dear, it's quite simple, really," she started, and Scarlett paused for a second to look at her before going back to her pacing, "All you have to do is... well, tell him, because he fancies you too, and there it is!"

This time, Scarlett stopped motion completely, looking at Georgiana with a look of incredulity. "Excuse me?" she asked, her tone extremely confused. "Who fancies who fancies what?"

Georgiana blinked, putting the charm homework away from her as she shot the third year a knowing look. "Well, I thought you were talking about your fancy for Theodore, dear, unless you were being incredibly cryptic and purposefully messing with me. My mistake."

"No!" Scarlett nearly yelled, missing the most important part of what Georgiana had said, and Georgiana sighed, sinking in the chair. "No, I'm wondering if I should go to Tenereus's or not! I'm mad at him, damn it, and I'm in a right fix with him right now, but still! He's my friend!"

"Okay, settle down, stay a while," Georgiana insisted in reply, and Scarlett sat the couch with reluctance. "All right, all right, why are you mad at him? You're never mad at him. What'd he do?"

"Oh, you know about bloody centaur prejudices," she murmured angrily, and Georgiana donated a blank look in return. "He thinks that I'm being stupid and that I don't know a damn bloody thing! I don't know what his problem is!"

"He thinks you're stupid?" Georgiana questioned, cocking her head to the side, and Scarlett nodded, looking at her fingernails as if she would very much like to bite them. "Well, you're not. And, you know," she considered her brother for a minute, "I really think you might want to read your future..."

Scarlett sighed. "Fine, but I swear, this is the last time I'm caving in." Her face twisted in a grimace at her easygoing sympathy as she left the common room, turning to Georgiana before she did. "Oh, and what was that you were saying about fancy?"

Georgiana opened her mouth, ready to give a speech, but Scarlett walked out on her instead, pulling her hair in a barrette and going towards the exit of the school. Georgiana stared at Ravenclaw's exit, dumbfounded.

Hell, were they blind?

]—[

Only thirty minutes later, Scarlett was hanging from an oak tree somewhere deep in the forest, a heavy scowl lining her face as she glared at the two in front of her. Apparently, Georgiana had suffered from bad judgment when she had been consulted, or maybe Scarlett needed to slaughter her Gryffindor attributes...

"Damn it, Black, stop being so persistent!" she yelled, and Tenereus, who was closer, gave her a stern look that she blatantly ignored. "I hate you, you hate me, all right, all right, I get it! But can you stop thinking about yourself for one moment?!"

"You're going to wake up the castle," Sirius commented calmly, leaning against a tree. "And I enjoy thinking about myself all the time, thanks."

She opened her mouth for a brief moment in awe of how someone could be so arrogant. "Hell, Black, that's how you're going to explain yourself? That's just--disgraceful."She pulled herself up against the tree, sitting on the branch defiantly, as if she couldn't be reached by the small height difference.

"I have nothing to be ashamed of," he pointed out, "and yes, I think it is good--healthy--to be a little self-centered." His eyes darkened for a second. "Better than thinking of Voldemort, like the rest of you--"

"You don't know anything--"

 You remind me of my brother, yeah? Extremely annoying, whining, bitchy, you name it, you've got it. Now, while your ranting and raving is very entertaining, I think I'll have to miss it. Some adventure," he said under his breath.

"Damn it!" she crossly shouted, putting her arms over her chest in an attempt to assert authority. "I'll give you your damn Butterbeer and your damn Galleons but can you put your pride away for once?!"

"Fine," he started, and she stiffened, her eyes narrowing in response. "I'll come here, every night, get my Galleons and Butterbeer, every night, and walk away, every night, immediately after. Does that sound good?"

"One hour," she insisted, her lips in a straight line. Sirius chuckled.

"You're in no position to compromise--you're risking my head in Hogwarts too."

"One hour," she insisted still, her eyes narrowing instead, "Or I'll tell the school. I, personally, don't mind the publicity, but if you feel different, hey, it's your head. I wonder how James would feel if his friend fraternized with a Slytherin."

"Wonder indeed," he grumbled, and she smirked at the reaction, even as Tenereus frowned. "All right, half-hour."

"One hour," she persisted.

Sirius glared, nodding shortly. "Fine. One hour, one more Butterbeer, understood?"

Scarlett returned his glare with her own. "Fine." She turned towards the centaur. "I'm still angry with you, Tenereus."

"Fine," he replied.

Fine.

]—[

Later on, Georgiana found an answer to her question from Saturday--how long would it take for her to die of frustration?--and it was maddening to admit:

Not very long.

"What are you doing, just sitting here?"

Georgiana and Theodore Nott were lounging on the Slytherin common room couch, a darker and colder twilight then the one from last Saturday. The atmosphere had been very relaxed until she uttered that sentence, and Theodore stiffened, looking at the fire in front of them in a questioning look instead of looking at her. "Pardon?" he asked shortly, though he never relaxed his pose.

"You're staring and staring but it doesn't do anything!" she whispered straightforwardly. "You can bloody sidestep and flirt and do this, I get it and I see it, but damn, it's been almost a month!"

"What?" Theodore asked; he sounded worn out.

Georgiana grinned at the response, taking some form of pleasure on her brother's pain, a taunting tone creeping onto her voice as she melodically whispered, "You fancy her, don't you?"

From where he was sitting, Theodore somehow found a way to stiffen even more so, and Georgiana smirked in reply, looking over to the subject of the conversation, who was finishing homework ordeals with Ambrose, an odd sight to see; the girls normally butted heads.

Suddenly, to break the awkwardness that Georgiana had evoked, a very sudden chuckle entered the scene, a light one that rather quickly turned into laughter.

Scarlett continued laughing at a comment from Ambrose, dropping her quill down and holding her chin on her hands as Ambrose followed suit. The two stayed in their poses for quite some time, their smiles evident, and Georgiana copied their stance, resting her chin on her palms.

Georgiana's face, however, held a smirk as she turned towards her brother, who seemed to be completely frozen in his seat, hardly even breathing, his eyes towards the couple as well--or perhaps one girl in particular.

"She has a beautiful smile, doesn't she? Such a beautiful laugh?"

Theodore didn't relax, not even craning his neck to look at her, his eyes focused still on the two. His expression didn't change in the slightest, and, from an outsider's view, he wasn't paying attention to a word she was saying.

Of course, Georgiana knew much better, knew he was riled up and frustrated and, if she knew her brother, rather confused at himself for his reactions. Of course, she drew this from his other fancies, Ambrose in his fourth year and Scarlett for a brief period in fifth year, which had apparently faded.

Apparently.

"You must be so happy mum and dad said you could marry her," she whispered, moving her head so that it rested his shoulder; he still didn't relax. "Of course, it must be hard to marry her from a distance... you're going to have to kiss her come December, 'I do's all around, and you've only gone as far as a fancy... a fleeting, embarrassing, nostalgic one at that..."

"Georgiana," Theodore finally responded, bringing his gaze to meet her taunting one, and while the tone of his voice was quiet and somehow crestfallen, some form of a threat warned her not to even continue speaking...

... though Georgiana liked to look at things like that as more of a beckon...

"How you're going to kiss her, I can't imagine, though I'm sure you've imagined it far too many times for the both of us..."

"Georgiana," Theodore stressed, though she didn't take the time to listen.

"She fancies you, too," Georgiana muttered, a large grin on her face, and she could have sworn she discerned Theodore's cheeks flushing red.

"What?"

"Merlin, you noticed!" Georgiana exclaimed, almost too loud as her grin grew. "I told Scarlett the exact damn thing on Saturday and she completely ignored me! I mean, honestly--"

"Maybe she ignored you because you sound like Ambrose," he murmured, rubbing his eyes and finally leaning back onto the couch. "Always gossiping, always jumping to conclusions... I'll hope that if you do turn into Ambrose, at least you'll be too busy swatting away boys who fancy you that you will stop bothering me about my own fancies."

"You want her to fancy you, I know you do," she whispered. "You want it to be different from fifth year... you want her to glance at you and wonder if she ever stands a chance... you want her to eye you hopefully... you want her to want to kiss you, I know you do..."

Theodore opened his mouth, ready to respond, but, in a true saved by the bell fashion, Scarlett and Ambrose finished, walking over to the two with an accomplished smirk on each of their faces. Ambrose sat on the left edge of the couch, near Georgiana, and Scarlett sat on the right, near Theodore.

"Hey, everything okay?" she asked, oblivious. Theodore sighed and rubbed his eyes again.

How he had gotten into this mess, he didn't know.

"Yeah," he said, repeating his words from earlier that week, "yeah, everything's fine."

]—[
 


Chapter 10: Wednesday
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A/N: Edited! And I really do like this chapter. I think that this chapter is a good representation of the day-to-day sort of progression which is occurring in this story, and I think that that is extremely important and well. :) It also plays at the fringes of some of the larger conflicts of the story - Scarlett and Theodore, the common room couch (!), and Sirius's blatant and pretty uncalled for hatred of Slytherin house, which is very important. Anyways, I hope all y'all enjoy this chapter, it's a goodie!!!

 

The next few days passed by oddly, to say the least, as the romance (or whatever it was) of Scarlett Devous and Theodore Nott evolved. It seemed that some balance of--of the universe, she supposed, or perhaps just their relationship--had staggered, and the scale showed something much more different than what Scarlett would have enjoyed.

Initially Wednesday beamed at them, even as they went to Astronomy in the wee hours of the morning. Even as they endured the hell otherwise known as Double Charms--Flitwick's class an easy but boring O--Wednesday still looked down with a smile on its face, some mood settling between all of them. Of course, with this knowledge, Scarlett figured that it wouldn't take long at all before that balance shifted, another scale as she tiptoed through life.

The shift occurred during the beginning of Transfiguration; the class had not even started yet disaster felt eminent from the moment they departed from the common room, their happy mood finally fading as their complaints about the class emerged.

It was as if the sun of the Wednesday had been taken over by a speckling of clouds; their happiness was not vanished but it was dormant, sourness taking over the group for quite some time until they were to reach Transfiguration. A silence blew over, no one bothering to voice complaints someone else had already said at one time or another, and without anything else to say they walked together like strangers would. Tired strangers.

When they reached the door to the Transfiguration classroom, happiness had fully hidden and could not be found, no matter what cloud was looked under or what star was asked. Scarlett and Theodore reached the door first, literally as a couple; both tried to walk through the door at the same time.

Instantly awkwardness reared its head.

"Oh, I'm sorry, here--" Scarlett insisted, stepping back, though Theodore shook his head. He sighed, looking back on Georgiana for the briefest of moments. In return she smirked triumphantly, and he turned back towards Scarlett, beckoning towards the entrance of the classroom, the time ticking down until the bell would ring.

"Ladies first," he pointed out, a small smile on his face, stepping away from the door for her sake. He moved his right hand slightly, as if he were going to lead her into the classroom, but decided against it, instead letting the arm hang limp at his side.

So the day continued, unpredictable moods coming and going, even if awkwardness hung in the air a second too long...

From some depth of the classroom, Sirius Black watched the scene, particularly observant to such things in the same manner that Georgiana was. He rocked back on his chair, rolling his eyes at the two.

Slytherins, he believed, had their way of being outrageously stupid and oblivious, something he had just seen with his own eyes. It was ridiculous, really, and while Sirius leaned nowhere close to hanging with bated breath, he wondered idly when, or if, the two would open their eyes and see what was so clearly in front of them.

And, if they did--

McGonagall walked into the room at that precise moment, the bell ringing in unison. She looked at the class, scolding Sirius for his inappropriate use of the chair, before continuing with her lesson. Sirius's head blanked of the thought he had begun.

He wasn't waiting on bated breath.

]—[

The time after class remained sullen, for apparently their luck had run dry.

They sat at the Slytherin table that day, though conversation didn't rage; the Slytherins were a secluded, independent group of people that did not prefer talking, though the boys of seventh year, such as Scott or Zabini, were loud and obnoxious in a way that made the more mature stick their noses up.

The group ate in absolute silence, only broken when Camilla questioned her younger cousin, Amy, of the electives she had begun taking, though Amy was herself a very secluded child, and the fire of conversation fizzled out, at least for the time being--

"Mail's here," Camilla said pleasantly, oblivious to whatever pall Wednesday had assumed.

At least, for the time being.

As the days progressed and how, Scarlett had slowly but surely grown to loathe the mail. Only Ambrose got daily news, and she felt free to share it with everyone else. At the time that had been the biggest occurrence, and the first six years of Hogwarts had passed with any news being Ambrose's.

But since Scarlett had become engaged, owls had developed some sort of magnetic attraction to her. Her parents, strict about the whole ordeal, had to have subscribed to her at least three magazines filled with wedding dresses and fittings, with small notes asking her to send them along to Georgiana and Narcissa, which Scarlett did with a grimace on her tongue.

Theodore, to his discomfort, was treated the same, his parents being possibly more strict than hers, as the family had followed pureblooded prejudices to a fault for generations and generations back. He was also asked to pass the magazines along to Lucius and Avery, who were sure to take them with as much enthusiasm as he held.

Needless to say, Georgiana and Narcissa now had piles of magazines in their suitcases.

This morning in particular, six owls flew towards the group, the majority of them looking menacing and angry as if they hated sending the packages as much as Scarlett hated to receive them. One, however, a bright gray with small eyes and large wings, crooned happily, though it seemed very tired as well. Each owl held a separate group of magazines and brochures in their claws, except for two, who held a long, rectangular package together.

"Georgiana," Scarlett immediately said, even though the owls flew towards her. "Take the lot. Theodore," she directed her gaze towards him, "Have any spare parchment?" Theodore, who had looked up from a Transfiguration essay he was getting a head start on, nodded and ripped some off of the end, and she bowed her head in gratitude, snatching the quill out of his hands in the process.

"'Dear family, please leave me alone. All my love, Scarlett.'" She read this aloud, magically folding the note into a heart, and gave it to the chipper owl, who nodded and went on his way as she grabbed the magazines that he had left on the table. "Do you think they'll get the point?"

"No," Narcissa replied, yanking one out of her hands and flipping through its pages idly. "I think they're hoping you'll soften up to it."

"To--this?" she exclaimed, pointing at all the strewn magazines on the table. "Do they really think I'd be that pleased on getting flooded with dresses and cakes and decorations for a wedding I'm not that thrilled on having--no offense, Theodore," she hastily mentioned, and he nodded, not listening to the conversation at all.

"Package," Bellatrix pointed out, and pushed it towards Scarlett, who took it with reluctance. With the help of a Severing Charm she unbound the wrappings around the package, opening it cautiously, as if what was inside would devour her alive--

"Oh."

"What is it?" said Ambrose impatiently, who had listened in from where she was sitting, leaning over as Georgiana on her other side did the same, and as soon as they saw it they let out a gasp of surprise and awe.

"It's beautiful," Ambrose breathed. "Why are you so bitter about being engaged when you get stuff like this?"

But Scarlett scowled, pulling out the shimmering blue dress robes, which, she noticed, held a small note. Examining it closely, she read: Rehearsal dressing robes. Buy your own robes for yourself, please, and stop acting out. Best wishes, Mother.

"Oh, that's sweet," Scarlett said sarcastically, looking over at Theodore, who had ceased writing his essay at seeing the shine of the dress and decided to join into the conversation. Scarlett smiled, carefully folding the dress, and as she did, she said rather enviously, "You are so lucky you don't have to deal with this."

And, placing a singeing charm on a magazine nearby, she left.

]—[

Scarlett was all too aware of the little voice inside of her head. It was sometimes frightening, but she had gotten used to it since fifth year, when she had gotten her Dark Mark. He generally made his presence clear to her on an infrequent and not intrusive basis, interested in news about the school or, at times, about personal conflicts that he urged her to tell him about. It was her way of talking about the happenings of Hogwarts--kind of a way for her to review every decently interesting thing that had happened, and a way for Voldemort to listen. She had been told that this was her duty as a Death Eater, her special assignment.

As it was her duty, Scarlett had begun to feel guilty that she had lied about Sirius Black, and so blatantly too. It had begun to slowly nag at her, as if a part of her knew that she was, undoubtedly, being dishonest with herself--with Voldemort.

So Scarlett, on her way to double Potions, decided to confess, even with the knowledge that she would feel undoubtedly worse afterwards.

Rubbing the goosebumps on her arms as she neared the dungeons, she started to talk to the voice inside of her head, even though she felt a light trickle of fear at the upcoming reaction.  

Taking a deep breath, however, she ventured on:

I lied.

Even as she thought it, it exhausted her, and she took a yawn in reply, turning a corridor in the dungeons. It was not long until she got a response:

What did you lie about?

Taking a nervous breath, she answered:

Tenereus wants Sirius Black to--have a hand, I suppose--at star seeing.

It was strange to think in conversations, because it didn't feel like a thought at all--it felt like a heavy confession, and she felt a twinge of guilt again, along with another fairly large bout of fatigue. She yawned again, jumping over a trick step in the process rather clumsily.

Do not worry about me, Scarlett. I am not angry; I am merely disappointed...I expected more... yet I am so curious... did Tenereus tell you why he feels that this is important?

No, he didn't.

All very interesting...I would not make lying to me a habit. All the same, thank you for telling me. It must have been... exhausting... to muster the bravery to speak to me about such a... sensitive... topic.

And it was exhausting--another large wave tumbled over her, and Scarlett blamed Tenereus while she struggled to keep her eyes open. She debated whether she should go to Potions or excuse it as illness, but before she could agree with the former she swayed on the spot, and she leaned against the wall in exhaustion, walking, half-blind, to her common room.

As soon as she felt the couch against her cheek she fell very deeply asleep.

]—[

"Have you tried slapping her?"

Scarlett groaned, opening her eyes to see the eyes of Georgiana, who smiled, standing up and stretching her legs as if she had been kneeling for a long time. "No need," she said sweetly, and Scarlett sat up, looking towards where Narcissa, Georgiana, and Theodore were standing, Bellatrix sitting idly on the closest chair; as soon as Bellatrix noticed she was awake, she returned to homework. Narcissa had a blank expression on her face and Theodore was frowning.

"What happened?" Theodore asked, worried. "You skipped all your classes."

Scarlett ignored this, instead asking, "What time is it?"

"It's really late," Narcissa replied softly. "It's about ten o' clock, I don't know how you slept for so long. Should you just go and see Madame Pomfrey?"

Scarlett disregarded this as well, gaping slightly, as if she could not believe her ears. Ten o' clock? Should she even go to Tenereus's tonight? She was due there in about a half hour, and seeing as it took a good amount of time to get to the outlook, the decision point was approaching rapidly.

Should she go, or not? On one hand, Tenereus was what had caused her extreme bout of exhaustion, but, on the other hand, if she didn't go Sirius wouldn't come back, and Tenereus would be incredibly disappointed in her. It seemed like an obvious choice, even though she didn't enjoy it; even if it was selfish motivation, Tenereus was still her friend and if he was disappointed in her than he wouldn't speak to her.

"Okay," she said, more to herself than anything. "I'm going to go to Tenereus's. I'll be back around three, so don't stay up for me, okay?"

And she stood, then, and started to walk towards the door, though she had not gone two steps before she swayed terribly. Georgiana and Theodore both grabbed an arm--Theodore's hands on her arm caused her heart to quicken--and Scarlett shook them both off, confused as to why she was still tired after a day of sleeping.

Walking away from the group, Scarlett pondered over this: maybe she should ask Tenereus for a weekend off so she could sleep? Or maybe she should just stay out for a lesser amount of time, but the thought itself was depressing, and Scarlett decided not to acknowledge it more than she had to.

Her heart rate still slightly elevated, she left the common room, begrudgingly going to the kitchens to get the butterbeers. Because one of the more outspoken house-elves had spread falsehoods about her--he had called her a demon of all things--she was generally disliked, but by paying them a Galleon for four the elf didn't complain too much. She scowled as she balanced them, turning a corridor angrily.

Meanwhile, back in the common room, Bellatrix had gone upstairs to bed, finishing her homework assignment with a flourish. Narcissa, herself, had started her homework assignment, but Theodore and Georgiana were sitting on the couch that Scarlett had before occupied, a familiar smirk on Georgiana's face and a small, thoughtful frown on Theodore's. The three were the only people still in the common room.

"I bet you liked that, didn't you," Georgiana said unabashedly, and Narcissa looked up, her hair falling onto her parchment as she started at Georgiana in interest. "Her falling onto you."

"Am I missing something?" Narcissa asked vaguely, and Georgiana beamed, even as Theodore scowled and blushed very slightly.

"Oh, Narcissa, you don't know the half of it..."

]—[

The woods were dark, musky, and chilly. Scarlett leaned on the trunk of a tree in the middle of the forest, four butterbeers somehow balanced on one hand (with the help of an anti-spilling charm) and Galleons resting in the other. Struggling with the butterbeers, she handed them, one-by-one, to Sirius, who took them happily, as if just the concept of her giving them to him was more pleasing than the Butterbeers.

"Here you go," Scarlett said tiredly, making a half-hearted try at malice. Despite sleeping for such a long amount of time she still felt tired, though luckily she was not stumbling or yawning anymore. "And your Galleons--"

As she handed the Galleons over to him, flipping her hand out onto his outstretched palm, she noticed, quite out-of-nowhere, that his hands were quite warm despite the relatively cold weather. Perhaps it was due to the fact she was quite tired, or because the weather was really quite chilly, but, forgetting her contempt, she observed, "Your hands are really warm."

Raising his eyebrows, Sirius gladly took the money, sarcastically saying, "You've been drinking, haven't you?"

"No."

"You're drunk."

"I--wait, what?"

"Anything is possible," he pointed out, pocketing the Galleons and leaning against an adjacent cherry tree. "And I still think you're drunk. Or you're under the influence."

"Thank you, Sirius." She sighed, hugging her robes closer to her as another wind flew past. "Oh, by the way, I've been meaning to ask you a question. And please tell me your answer won't be an accusation that I'm under the influence."

"Shoot."

"Well, I was thinking--" she paused, wringing her hands and rolling her eyes as if she was confessing to a juvenile crime--"if we could drop the hostility act. And I know," she assured, as his face had turned to one of relative surprise, "I know, I still don't like you, but maybe we can just act somewhat civil. And not for you," she assured, "but for Tenereus, who I happen to actually like."

After her rant, Sirius pretended to consider, and the silence stretched for long moments before he finally said, "No. Come on, Scarlett, I mean, you're in the wrong head. Drunk, you know." He smirked. "And you're a Slytherin," he pointed out duly, "and I hate Slytherins. I thought we already went over this."

Scarlett groaned; the conversation was tiring enough at that moment to cause her to succumb to a weekend of rest. "Tenereus," she yelled, walking the paces towards his clearing; Sirius followed her, interested in what she had to say.

When she arrived Tenereus looked at her curiously. "I was wondering if I could have the weekend--well--off," she said, and Tenereus and Sirius both raised their eyebrows. "I'm kind of falling behind in school, so I want a weekend to rest, if that's all right with you." After moments of looking at the two, the centaur slowly nodded.

"It might be better for the both of you to take a brief break," Tenereus said. It sounded like he was choosing his words very carefully. Scarlett thanked him briefly before the two returned back to their outlook; Tenereus returned to the stars with a skeptical look on his face.

"Since when have you fallen behind in school?" Sirius asked, slightly offended that she would skive out of this stupid thing even though she had been the one that asked him. "Have a social life, for once, I guess?" His mind thought briefly to the scene that had unfolded in Transfiguration.

She glared, leaning against the ash tree. "Oh, yeah, Sirius," she started, and Sirius smirked at her sarcasm. "Because your social life with your friends is so superior to mine--as if I'd rather take Peter Pettigrew over my friends--you know who my friends are, you know, Theodore and Georgiana and cousin Bellatrix and cousin Narcissa?"

A twinge of annoyance suddenly splashed against his arrogance, and he scowled, saying angrily, "Those aren't friends, they're Death Eaters."

And the twang of annoyance remained until he left.

]—[

 
 


Chapter 11: The Jack of Spades
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AN: This is fun! I like editing these chapters actually. 12 more to go until I am finished editing SIHE... and many of them are from before and including chapter 10, so I have a lot of fun waiting for me... I hope you guys enjoy this chapter, though! :)

The balance between Gryffindors and Slytherins had shifted slightly as September neared its end. It could not have been earlier than the twentieth that a Slytherin third year waved to a fellow Gryffindor first year affectionately. Considering the war that had its roots at the school--it was almost a given that Slytherins supported one side and Gryffindors supported the other--the action, however petty it seemed, was extremely offensive to every seventh and sixth year Gryffindor and Slytherin.

This was perfectly demonstrated on the strange relationship between Scarlett Devous and Sirius Black. The two didn't bother to speak to each other during the day, and when they did, it was normally followed by hexes, jinxes, and a detention.

Despite this, the nighttime meetings continued, as Tenereus would tell Scarlett tidbits of the increased flow of prophecy with satisfaction. Thanks to his information, she wisely did not venture into the forest on the eleventh of September due to 'outside creatures'. The moon shone unusually bright that night.

But, regardless, Scarlett had to admit, at least to herself, that she had been lazy ever since Sirius had arrived. She knew that was the only reason Sirius had to be with her in the night, but it was hard to concentrate with Sirius. He was too inquisitive, uncomfortably so, and he lapsed far too often into discussion on Gryffindor superiority, which would always lead to arguments.

With these arguments came the passage of time, and unfortunately enough time was passing to distract Scarlett from doing what she was originally there for. Tenereus, fortunately, didn't notice, as he had since moved to another nearby clearing and did not check in on the two as much as he should have--really, if he left them alone much longer they would have killed each other.

In all other aspects, however, life was going rather smoothly for the Slytherins; there was always the teasing of Georgiana to Theodore, always the occasional conflict that arose between Narcissa and Bellatrix about the importance of love (and Lucius). School continued, but by the end of September the dust was beginning to settle on the new year. For example, Prefect routines were scheduled; Theodore was pleased to find that the attraction Georgiana had mentioned at the beginning of the year for her now-partner, Remus, had since been diverted to Matthew Cornfoot. It was a welcome relief to Theodore to no longer have to hear Ambrose and Georgiana discussing "steely eyes", especially if they belonged to a Gryffindor.

One topic that the entire school was enthusiastic for was the new Quidditch season. With the first game soon coming up, the school was very excited for the impending Slytherin versus Ravenclaw match. Georgiana had smartly veered away from all conversations containing Quidditch in Theodore's presence so as not to offend her brother the captain; however, when he was out of earshot she was not as kind.

In addition, Hogsmeade had been scheduled for the end of October. It would be relaxing, Scarlett hoped, to use the little of her pocket money to buy something nice for herself. She was sick of the constant stream of Butterbeers going Sirius's way that she could hardly stand the smell of the drink.

Oh, Sirius Black. She could hardly stand the Gryffindor, who still went about pranking the Slytherins as commonly--and sometimes as cleverly--as possible. It did not help matters at all that he sometimes could not travel to the forest because of pending detentions; Scarlett normally was too agitated at his absence to get any star-reading done.

Sirius and Scarlett together, bored as they were, hostile as they were, still talked casually in the forest, sending streams of banter each way. At times she couldn't help but admit that it was entertaining to have company. She had to concede that there were some nights when the stars simply looked like dots in the sky instead of significant holders of secrets, and on those days the banter was actually welcomed, though she'd never let him know it.

The trips to the forest, no matter what she did there, were the only thing that did not entirely mesh in with the comfort that others had found by the end of September. Her grades, normally rather exemplary, seemed especially meaningless after only getting a handful of hours of sleep each night.

Scarlett groaned as she wrote another line on a useless essay. It was about some venomous plant in Herbology, some plant that they would undoubtedly see tomorrow. If she didn't pay attention to this bloody essay she would probably have to suffer the consequences with burnt fingers and piercing fangs.

In response to this thought Scarlett groaned again, hardly registering what she was copying from Georgiana's paper; the author grimaced at the crime but made no effort against it.

They were in the Slytherin common room, with the fires burnt down low at the late hour. Theodore was reading a book for Transfiguration and Narcissa was idly playing with a deck of cards. Bellatrix was up in the dormitories, finally taking a night to herself after being plagued with homework and Death Eater meets.

Scarlett hated this feeling which always arose in her at this hour--the calm before the storm. It was nearing ten o' clock, and Scarlett knew that she would have to leave her essay about the Venomous Something-Or-Other and go into the forest, which was cold and had bloody Sirius Black in it, of all people.

"I don't want to go," Scarlett muttered, poking a hole in her paper where a period should have been instead. "Isn't this essay due tomorrow, anyway? Doesn't that bloody centaur know that I have homework?"

"That essay was due yesterday, actually," Narcissa said, watching as a six of diamonds flew into the fireplace. "Why don't you just take a day off? It's not like you have to go."

"I don't know," Scarlett said. "It's not like he has any friends, does he? And, anyway, I wouldn't want to intrude on Georgie's bed space for the night."

"That's rubbish," Theodore commented, flipping a page in his book and bookmarking it. "You haven't been up in your dorm bed for at least a week, probably more. I'm sure you'd be welcome company."

"I can handle it, Theodore," she assured him. "That's not why I don't want to go."

Theodore shrugged and turned his eyes back to his book. "That should be why you don't want to go. You can't handle it."

"I've been handling it just fine," she said to him, and she stood up, playfully defensive. "I've been handling it for almost two years. I have my schoolwork under control, I'm not that tired--I just don't want to go, is that a passable excuse for you?"

"It doesn't matter for me," Theodore replied. "Matters for you."

"I will see you in the morning," Scarlett said sarcastically, "and you'll be able to see that I am a fully capable individual. Thank you for the challenge."

"Scarlett, I'm serious--"

"It'd be great if you were," she responded. "But you have got me motivated so I don't think it matters either way. Good night, Theodore, Georgiana, Narcissa. See you all in the morning, where I'll be--" she looked at Theodore with teasing eyes-- "well-rested, prepared, and qualified for any of Theodore's standards."

As Scarlett swallowed the feeling of the calm before the storm and exited the common room to meet her fate, Theodore found that both Narcissa and Georgiana were smirking at him. "What?" he asked.

"She's qualified, that's for sure," Georgiana muttered, winking at her brother; his face turned red.

Narcissa looked at the card in her hands--the jack of spades--before putting it aside. "And you let her have the last word," she chided. "Which means you lost."

"Lost?" Theodore said, and he closed his book to turn to the two. "What are you two talking about? We were just having a discussion--"

"Not a discussion," Georgiana countered. "Lover's spat."

]—[

Scarlett had been in a good mood when she had originally left the Slytherin common room. Even with Georgiana and Narcissa's teasing, knowing that Theodore cared about her so much--cared about her wellbeing--was enough to warm herself up enough that even the cold weather was initially not a concern.

But now, carrying four butterbeers in an uncoordinated fashion, her hair sticking to the sheens of sweat on her face, Scarlett could not say she was happy as she looked towards Sirius, tossing the drinks and Galleons over as if they were not making a dent in her money supply. He took them without the slightest chance of pity, instead looking at them like Christmas was occurring.

It was infuriating and expensive and, if she knew better, she would have stayed in stony silence for the remainder of the night to extinguish the annoyance that Sirius had lit. It probably would have been wiser.

But she couldn't help herself--she started talking. Bantering.

She didn't really know why she was talking, of course--it was mostly rants, anyway, about trivial things like Slughorn and the amount of homework they had. And then, when the rants had exhausted themselves, Scarlett began to talk about other things, wanting to push Sirius's buttons in the way he pushed hers.

It was still banter, of course, because Scarlett didn't know how else to talk to Sirius. So she talked about things like Slytherin pride and Slytherin history--not to begin a conversation, but to begin an argument.

It was refreshing to release some steam and it was especially refreshing to see that Sirius didn't find it refreshing at all.

"You know what," Scarlett started at one point, swinging her legs rather carelessly as she sat on a branch of the tree. Sirius was opposite her, on the adjacent tree, though leaning his back against the trunk of the large ash. He pretended to take no notice to what she was saying, instead looking at his Butterbeers as if to remind himself why he was there.

"You know what," she said again, and she shifted her position drastically so that she was hanging upside down. "I've never been bored in my life. Every time I get bored I pick up a book--you see, that's why Slytherins are much smarter than Gryffindors, because we don't whine, we read."

"And yet Gryffindor always tends to get the House and Quidditch Cups," Sirius replied smoothly. "As for being bored, I'm currently leaning on an ash tree in the middle of nowhere, and this routine has kept up for..." His eyes rolled to the skies as he trailed off, counting mentally in his head, "What, two weeks?"

Scarlett flushed deeply at mention of Slytherin's losses and completely disregarded the last comment, instead narrowing her eyes at the first. "We've had a rough couple of years," Scarlett snapped, "but it does help that you and Potter are in detention every week to motivate us."

Sirius finally looked over at her, starting to open his mouth to speak, a smirk already soundly on his face, the simple statement that they had still beat them oh-so-evident on his mind, ready to depart from his throat--

But Scarlett interrupted his train of thought, repositioning herself on the tree and then landing soundly on the forest ground. "Don't you even dare, Sirius Black, don't you dare."

His smirk broadened as he dared.

]—[

It was something very similar to a full out duel in the next few minutes.

"Sodding hell, Devous, are you really that jealous of Gryff--hey now," he finished sarcastically as she threw a spell his way. He dodged a hex from Scarlett right before it clambered into a nearby cherry tree; the tree shook from the action.

Scarlett waved her wand again, sending another spell Sirius' way. "All the Gryffindors do is mooch off of you four like you're the bloody celebrities of the place! It's not like you lot are anything special--you've got Lupin and Pettigrew, who mooch off of you as much as everyone else, and Potter and you, who are nothing more than a bunch of filthy blood traitors, and--"

Whatever Scarlett had planned to say temporarily left her head for a brief second. An orange spell, though one that looked admittedly slower than any spell she had seen before, whizzed right at her, smacking her right in the face.

Scarlett didn't know what she was expecting--lots of pain, or a broken nose, or something that flew her backward--but it was none of those things. Instead, a very strange and absolutely disgusting odor came from the spell, along with a slimy orange goo that covered her face and hair.

"It's fun being a blood traitor," Sirius said calmly, as Scarlett slowly put a hand to her hair to appraise the damage.

She probably could not have looked more ridiculous.

"You look ridiculous," Sirius supplied, and looked at her for a long moment, taking in her hair and face.

And then, simultaneously, somehow, both of them started laughing. The stars twinkled in the dark September night.

]—[

 
 


Chapter 12: Stirrings
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Author's Note: EDITED. I ACTUALLY REALLY LIKE THIS CHAPTER NOW. YOU KNOW, EDITING THIS STORY, I AM REALLY STARTING TO LIKE SIRIUS AND SCARLETT A LOT. I THINK THEY ARE VERY COMPATIBLE! :) SO I HOPE THAT YOU ENJOY PERFECT PEOPLE
 

Over Scarlett's lifetime, there was absolutely no doubt in her mind that she made decisions that altered her fate. In Scarlett's mind life was just a complicated series of roads, and after each one there was the feeling of no return.

So, as Scarlett continuously found herself in Lord Voldemort's inner circle, she found that, many times, she felt past the point of no return. From getting her Dark Mark to allying herself with the Blacks and the Notts, she was more aware than she had ever been that every action she took was one that led her closer and closer to her fate.

She never thought her complicated series of roads and paths would lead her to a friendship with none other than Sirius Black.

Now, there was, without a doubt, still flickers of animosity. After all, one was a Death Eater and a Slytherin while the other was ready to be an Auror and had a Gryffindor badge on his robes. It was thus not very surprising they still fought even as they began to laugh with each other more and more.

And they were both equally competitive.

"I'll race you," Sirius offered one windy night, pulling himself onto a tree as he snuck some sips of Butterbeer from the four he had received. "If you win, you won't have to get me anything anymore. If I win, well--" Sirius cracked a smile-- "I won't have to see you, will I?"

"Merlin, it's a win-win," Scarlett muttered, bringing alongside a grin of her own. "Fine, Sirius Black. We'll go to the Pitch, right now, and see how it goes. Five laps?"

"I could do ten."

"I could do fifteen," Scarlett offered, shrugging good-naturedly. "Really, if you want to be more tired when you lose, it's your call. Ultimately, though, I think I'd enjoy the extra burn, you know, just to keep me motivated."

"Burn?" Sirius skeptically asked, looking at her with mirth. "It won't be burn for you. It'll just be torture."

"You're underestimating me," Scarlett warned, looking up at the tree above her as another leaf fell from the highest branch and nearly hit her square on the nose. "I just--I don't think you realize, really, how many days I've spent running the Pitch."

"You don't play Quidditch," Sirius pointed out. "You don't have to practice at god-awful hours of the morning."

"I don't play Quidditch because I'm a girl and Slytherin doesn't let girls play," Scarlett retaliated instantly, rolling her eyes at her response as a breeze blew strands of hair into her face. "I still practice mostly with them, though. Because Gryffindor always somehow tends to injure half the team during practice."

"What, us?" asked Sirius innocently, and he laughed, a large bark that trembled the trees. Scarlett looked over in the direction of Tenereus, her smile fading slightly, before turning back to Sirius with a competitive gleam in her eye.

"Yeah, you. Bring it on, Sirius Black. I'm ready."

]—[

Amortentia is, perhaps, one of the most dangerous potions in existence. Invented alongside Pirelli's Miracle Elixir, Amortentia has created quite a name for itself, becoming in the Wizarding World one of the strongest ways to overtake an opponent. Invented in the 1500s by Angelus Pirelli, the potion caused 'quite a stir' in the West Mariano village, where Pirelli resided. This village later became well known for its invention of Amortentia and was featured as the City of Love until its eventual destruction in 1775.

Amortentia, meaning 'love attack' or 'love trial' in Latin, has the ability to make the drinker susceptible to obsessive attraction to the potion creator. While in his state, the drinker is possessive and protective of the creator, believing that the creator's wishes are those that are best. The drinker is in a vulnerable position; very extreme cases of Amortentia can even become fatal to others as a result of jealousy and to themselves as a result of overwhelming grief. Otherwise, the drinker finds themselves attentive to the potion creator and their wants until the potion itself wears off.

Generally, the potion's effect lasts for two to five hours and wears off over time. The longest report of Amortentia was four hundred and seventy-two days by a very besotted Marcus Wilshack in Cairo, Egypt. Otherwise, the effects of the potion can be altered by the attractiveness of the girl or the weight of the male. They can also be altered by the age of the potion in question; as the potion ages, its effects become longer-lasting. In Marcus Wilshack's case, the Amortentia is believed to be one of the first ever made.

The potion has also become very popular as perfume for women, particularly the French. As Amortentia has one of the most attractive scents to any who encounter it, many believe that, by wearing it, the scent adapts to fit all who meet it. However, ingredients in the potion--particularly toadstool and dove's feather--tend to cause an allergic reaction to those who do not have French blood.

"What are you reading?"

Theodore Nott's head snapped up and looked straight into the eyes of his sister, an enthusiastic smile on her face brightening the sour mood on his. "Nothing," Theodore assured, closing the book so that his page rested on his index finger. "I'm not reading anything of your interest. Why aren't you sleeping?"

"Because I didn't want to." Georgiana smiled at this, settling next to Theodore on the couch as the clock nearby the fireplace chimed for midnight. "Because this is my couch. Either way, I caught you. Not trying to poison her, are you?"

"Scarlett wasn't going to come back for a long time," Theodore supplied, looking at Georgiana with some traces of irritation. "You could have just slept in her bed 'till she kicked you out at around five. Which would have been perfect, really, because we have a meet today, and you would've had to wake up then."

"When would Scarlett have slept?" Georgiana retaliated, leaning back on the head of the couch, lazily smiling at Theodore as she positioned herself comfortably. "Unless, of course, you're planning for her to sleep with you--"

"Stop it."

"Your face is so red," Georgiana pointed out, laughing, and at her tone Theodore glared mutinously.

"And you have been thinking about it..." Georgiana whispered, a slow smile finding its way onto her face. "That's the problem, you know. You do think about it."

"Watch it, Georgie," Theodore threatened.

"You know I'm right," accused Georgiana, beaming. "You know I'm right because you're still thinking about her, right now! No matter what you threaten me with, you're still going to be thinking about her! And that--" and Georgiana kissed her brother's bright red cheek before standing up-- "that just sucks for you, I fear."

]—[

"You're not tired?"

"Absolutely not."

The sun began to, very softly, appear on the twilight sky. It had to have been somewhere around four thirty, and even though fatigue was beginning to set in, the competitiveness of the couple could not be matched by their own exhaustion.

This had to have been, at most, the fifth time Sirius and Scarlett had raced, because, being very competitive, they also had the unfortunate knack of being vulnerable to one of the most common human impulses: cheating.

At first, it had been Scarlett that had raced across their defined finish line, though Sirius believed that she had cut corners in their fifteen-lap race. After that, Sirius defeated Scarlett without a breath to his name, though she claimed he had skipped a lap without her knowing.

After a long breather and many more cheating rounds, Scarlett and Sirius had, again, found themselves on the Pitch, racing an inordinate number of miles. Scarlett, in a moment of motivation, had raced a nose ahead of Sirius, and as they were both monitoring each other with expert preciseness, they both could properly determine that they were on their seventh of fifteen laps. Fifteen long, painful, breathtaking laps.

Finally, at the finish of the seventh lap, they both simultaneously fell on the cool grass, just as the sky began to swirl into lighter hues. Both took deep, gasping breaths, their bodies molding into the soil beneath them.

"Scarlett?" Sirius asked, though it was roughly cut off by winded gasps, each coming half a second later than the last. They stayed like that for a long while, right until the point where they could both take even breaths, even if their legs felt incapable of running.

"Yeah?" Scarlett said, settling into the grass, her eyes closing in fatigue though opening very hastily afterwards. She glanced over at Sirius, who had a wild smirk on his face and had sat up, Indian-style, on the grass, right where the right goalpost was.

"What if I told you, right now, that I fancy you?"

Scarlett blinked, repositioning herself on the grass slowly so that she was kneeling. She looked, for a very long time, at Sirius, in an observant and calculating way, and, accepting the challenge, Sirius looked back, hardly blinking.

And all of a sudden Scarlett firmly slapped him across the face, enough so that a loud SMACK resounded through the whole Pitch. Sirius immediately laughed, and Scarlett did too, shaking her head in disbelief.

"Nice try," she complimented. "But you are going to be very, very sorry that you said that."

]—[

"Amortentia," Slughorn began, stirring the concoction that was contained in an ancient cauldron. "Now, before we even attempt to brew this complicated potion, let us first think about its qualities. What is the history of Amortentia?... what ingredients are in it? Anyone? Anyone?"

Theodore Nott raised his hand. "Amortentia was invented by Angelus Pirelli in the 1500's."

"Correct!" Slughorn beamed, looking around the room for more answers as he penned the fact down. "Anyone else with any information on Amortentia?" He paused as he looked around the room; the only one that was meeting his eyes was Theodore. "Mr. Nott!" Slughorn said, his voice rising and lowering with increased enthusiasm, and Theodore smiled politely.

"There's dove's feather in it," Theodore pointed out, "and toadstool, so that when people put it on their wrists to smell nice they normally get an allergic reaction."

"Very excellent!" Slughorn praised. "Yes, indeed; when dove's feather and toadstool are combined in a potion and applied directly to the skin there is a very large possibility of an allergic reaction! Of course, occasionally a Muggleborn salesperson will sneak some Amortentia into a perfume and--voila! It has caused many lawsuits, though," he chided, and maybe one person laughed at this. "The French--particularly the ladies--have built an immunity to the allergic reaction as they have used it on their skin for centuries. Anyone here of French descent that we could test this on? The reaction comes fairly quickly, and only lasts for a few minutes."

"What about Scarlett?" Narcissa quietly offered, and Georgiana smirked, leaning back in her seat. "Scarlett moved from France, and her whole family is French."

Scarlett groaned, looking up from the palms of her hands towards Narcissa. Dark blue rings marked her eyes prominently. "Is this required, sir?"

"You don't have to," Theodore muttered, right next to her, and Scarlett looked over at him. As if his assurance for her to not was motivation, she stood up, and, nearly stumbling into a desk, made her way to the middle of the classroom, where the Amortentia bubbled.

I'm going to kill you, Theodore wrote on a spare bit of parchment, folding it and handing it to Georgiana, who sat behind him. She read the note with amusement, sharing it with Narcissa, who let out a tinkling laugh that foreboded what was about to come.

"Lovely!" Slughorn said, and, very neatly, took an eyedropper and put one teardrop-shaped portion of Amortentia on the middle of Scarlett's wrist. She rubbed them together, looking at Slughorn with distaste as she slowly circled her wrists.

Slughorn took her wrist, examining it, before a large smile broke out on his face. "Not allergic!" he said happily, and Scarlett nodded, her face rather expressionless. "Five points to Slytherin for your participation! Thank you!"

As Scarlett made her way back to her seat, Theodore felt his stomach fill with butterflies--the air was drenched with the smell of vanilla and hazelnut, the smell that was so purely Scarlett and was so purely irresistible--and he looked back at Slughorn with a fair bit of will power, watching out of the corner of his eye as she took out a piece of parchment and began writing down notes.

It was strange, really, that he felt this way, that he liked to feel this way. It was a feeling that Theodore had felt before but never like this. The only thing that could describe what he felt now--this aching, seething, tempting feeling--was none other than fancy, a potion of chemistry within him that combined lust and friendship and the hints of something more...a potion as strong as Amortentia, strong enough to paralyze Theodore where he was and make him feel as if he were struck dumb.

It was not much longer that Georgiana retaliated, and, in her happiest handwriting, Theodore read:

I told you so.

]—[

A quiet stirring of the trees alerted the pair.

The sun had really started to change the sky, and the moon was fading as the clock was sure to have turned five. The birds had only just begun to sing, but it was the trembling that awoke Scarlett, who was leaning against the golden post that stretched high onto the Pitch, from a partial sleep.

The night had been very peaceful; only broken with the sounds of talking, Scarlett and Sirius had a lengthy conversation, where they had taken to falling asleep for minutes at a time before being woken by the other speaking again. The cycle, in all, had given them at most a half hour of honest sleep, and each were forming marks under their eyes.

Now, however, they were as alert as possible for pulling an all-nighter, and they looked at the castle before turning to each other. Sirius shrugged, and Scarlett looked again at the castle before turning back to Sirius, whose eyes were closed.

"What was that?" Scarlett muttered, breaking the peace, and Sirius opened his eyes, blearily shrugging again, looking back at where the castle entrance was with little interest. There seemed to be no one there from the look of the place, but, as Scarlett was a very alert Death Eater, she would have known--

Death Eater. There was a meet today.

Immediately, Scarlett stood up, grabbing the side of Sirius's robe with enough grip that he stood up too. "What? he asked irritably, and Scarlett's eyes widened, hastily pulling him away from the Pitch toward an entryway of the castle that the Death Eaters had never used. "Bloody hell, woman--"

"Keep your voice down," Scarlett whispered, as the two entered the castle. "That could be a Quidditch team, it could be Slytherin, and I just don't want to be seen."

At least the second part was true.

Sirius shrugged and then he smiled. "So," Sirius began, "we did it. Defied the rules, conquered the world, stayed up all night..." He groaned. "We have class today, do you know that?"

"You could always skip, like I do," Scarlett suggested, a smile on her face as she attempted to wash away worry. "And, yes, you're right. Now, who won the bet? Do you not have to come anymore, or do I not have to pay you?"

"Ah..." Sirius grinned, thinking, before looking back at her. "I'll admit defeat. But only for a week, right? After all, I'm just being chivalrous--"

"Sirius Black, chivalrous..." Scarlett trailed off, shaking her head in disbelief. "I never would have thought it. But I'm not going to argue. I need some money, anyway."

Simultaneously, they both turned toward each other, and beamed equally and happily, Scarlett's lips finally revealing a genuine smile, her worry temporarily disarmed as the couple enjoyed the early morning serenity.

But, even though each smile was equal, there was something special about Scarlett's, something that only Sirius caught onto. It may have been pure exhaustion that had brought upon this discovery, or it could have been there all along, dormant until Sirius was ready to discover it.

The discovery's after-effects, of course, were going to be more brutal than not, but couldn't the after-effects wait? Now, right now, all Sirius really felt like doing was enjoying this moment--enjoying Scarlett and her smile.

Because, when Sirius came down to it, she was actually rather beautiful...

]—[






 
 


Chapter 13: Smile Like You Mean It
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Autho's Note: EDITED LIKE CRAZY, HAVEN'T BEEN LAZY, HEY HEY HEY JAY-Z, WOOOOO LET'S READ SHALL WE?


]-----[
 

There were a large number of reasons why Theodore Nott was angry.

One of them was his sister Georgiana, who walked alongside him, asking unendurable questions that he wouldn't have answered even if he came with good graces. She had, apparently, forgotten about their fight, instead venturing to the common ground of teasing: particularly, Scarlett. It was enough that he had decided to tune her out, instead focusing on reviewing Charms in his mind, which only seemed to frustrate him more.

Scarlett was also becoming rather burdensome. In some aspects, it was not really her fault; she had not been the one who had decided that he should fancy her and think about her constantly. Even still he blamed it on her, though, and the definite onslaught of denial, honest and true, was enough to make him irritated.

But then there were other things that Scarlett could have controlled, things that would have still annoyed him if they were still friends with each other. This was mainly due to her sour mood throughout the week and how negligent she was being with her schoolwork this year.

And, finally, there were things that did not anger him, but made him very alert and constant, hardly bothering to get a sound sleep. It had to have been his curiosity, curiosity that made him uncomfortable, that had caused this, but that was only an unfortunate side-effect of the questions that no one bothered to wonder about or answer.

Where and what did she always do when she was gone, when she was in the forest? Why was she always so constantly tired, even when Tenereus had given her a day off and she had slept for hours on end? How did she feel about the wedding? What did she do when she skipped class and why did she skip so often?

And, most importantly, why-oh-bloody-why was she so pretty, and so funny, and so smart, and so fascinating? Why that, when compared to Ambrose Katalina or Deena Anderson, she always outshone them, even though they had astounding beauty that made them the most fancied people at Hogwarts? He didn't understand.

Theodore had always believed that that was enough burden for anyone to go around with, but with the intense abundance of schoolwork and the mission he had been assigned he felt on the verge of a very terrible migraine. In fact, he wished he could have omitted what he was doing now so he could instead relax and maybe clean up his act a bit so he wouldn't be so irritated the next day... but that, of course, was impossible.

Because he had to be a nice guy.

In fact, he had found himself being 'a nice guy' for a good hour or so, looking out at the very twilight sky on a rackety wooden chair as he attempted to negotiate and renegotiate. Beside him, Georgiana looked awfully pleased with herself, muttering her own assumptions about what they were doing so quietly he was sure that he wasn't supposed to be hearing it.

"No," he insisted, again, looking at Christopher Zabini with enough distain that it was surprising that he didn't flinch.

It was no surprise that Theodore Nott was not all that well acquainted with many of the boys in Slytherin, except for when Quidditch was involved. There were occasional times when he would partner in class with someone like Brady Scott, but he otherwise stuck with his group of five, normally being paired with Scarlett while Georgiana went with Ambrose or another Ravenclaw.

It had never been smart to befriend four women, especially when one in particular was especially eligible. It made life intensively complicated, especially in fourth year, when he had simultaneously fancied Ambrose, Scarlett, and Bellatrix. That had soon passed over--most of it, anyway.

But, when compared to the utter stupidity of Christopher Zabini, Theodore rather found himself in favor of his female friends; while they had the power to be utterly tempting, they were not nearly as thick as Christopher Zabini, a very wealthy boy who had decided to stick with his wealth instead of show any talent. It was enough to make Theodore extremely frustrated, even more so considering the situation.

It was very hard to keep a polite face around him, but he had to. This was important enough that Theodore didn't want to screw up.

"Not seventy galleons?" Christopher asked, his face screwing up in distaste as he flashed the five beloved tickets in front of Theodore's face, close enough to snatch and run away--a thought which became more and more desirable as time passed.

"No," Theodore repeated, and beside him, Georgiana snickered. "Sixty-five is my final offer, Zabini. You'd be making a profit for something you didn't earn, anyway."

Christopher glared, and on his side, Georgiana looked over at him angrily, as if he had made a mistake. Frankly, he was tired enough that that was of little concern to him, and he turned back to Christopher with the same about of determination in his face as before. "Your choice..." Theodore muttered, and, in a very discreet movement, Theodore slid his sleeve backward, revealing a very pale wrist with one deathly exception. Next to him and scowling, Georgiana copied the motion; across from them, Christopher's face paled.

"You don't scare me," Christopher said. "You don't."

"We believe you, Zabini," Georgiana said quietly, disguising her Dark Mark with her sleeve. "Of course, it would be much more believable if you had the same mark on your wrist. You wouldn't want to get in trouble, would you?"

Christopher looked at Theodore's Dark Mark, which was still exposed, before turning back to the couple with a resigned look on his face. "Sixty-five, fine," Christopher said, and Theodore shoved the money to him, looking indifferent. "You better use 'em, though. Those tickets are quality box seats. Wouldn't want you to waste 'em or my pa will kill me."

"Don't worry, Chris," Georgiana cooed, and Christopher blushed, directing his attention to anything else but her. "Theodore has a very good reason for the tickets, don't you, Theodore?"

Georgiana grinned as Theodore's cheeks mirrored Christopher's, and Theodore distracted himself by looking at the tickets. "See, Chris," Georgiana threw out nonchalantly, and Christopher looked at her as if what she had to say was the most important thing in the world, "Theodore wants to give these as a gift to his--er--" Georgiana paused, looking at Theodore with expectancy, though his face flushed another degree darker, refusing to meet her eyes. "What is she, exactly?"

"A friend," Theodore said evenly, though he was a very deep shade of crimson, making Christopher look up with excitement. "She is a very good friend."

"Yeah, she is?" Christopher said with amused malice, a smile creeping up on his face. "Really, Nott? What friend is this, eh? Bellatrix?"

"No," Georgiana and Theodore said simultaneously, and Theodore's face heated up again as he looked at Georgiana in trepidation, a look that she disregarded with ease.

"It's Scarlett," Georgiana explained, and Theodore gave her a look of honest hatred, offset by the deep color of--ironically--scarlet upon his face. "See, they both fancy each other, and he's hoping that this will be the tipping point, because she absolutely adores Quidditch."

"All the best, then, Nott," Christopher said, though by the look on his face he wanted everything but. "Really, I'll be rooting for you."

"I'd prefer if you didn't, really," Theodore insisted. "It's just, you know, I don't want everyone to know--"

"Please, they'd love to," Christopher said, and Georgiana nodded, mischievous.

"--because it would ruin our friendship," Theodore continued. "And I would just really--appreciate it--if you could refrain from telling everyone--"

"I think it's interesting, and I think people should know," Christopher said, with an edge that clearly refused any pleading. "And, don't worry, mate, it won't be so bad. You know, with your Mark and all." Winking, he left the siblings alone--one gleeful and one less than pleased.

"I hate you," Theodore finally said, breaking the silence, and in response Georgiana laughed.

"I know, don't you love it?"

]—[

Sirius didn't really know what to think.

It wasn't as if he was completely gobsmacked of any thought, incapable of forming a simple thought or assumption. In fact, he had been thinking and assuming quite a bit since he returned from a remarkable all-nighter with the subject of his thoughts.

He knew he didn't fancy Scarlett Devous and that was reassurance enough to continue living. All through October first, he had agreed on that and that only; that, maybe while he thought her pretty, in a spur of the moment mind you, he did not think her beautiful, and definitely did not fancy her, a Slytherin.

Furthermore, when he had thought it he had been on the verge of absolute exhaustion! How could he be expected to account for his thoughts then, in that gentle part of night where everything was silent except for traitorous thoughts? And even if he had been perfectly awake when he had thought it--and again, he hadn't been--there was still perfect explanation as to why he had thought...what he had.

The scenery--the sunrise--the pure exhaustion from running--this friendship that they had started--the reasons, or excuses, accumulated at a rapid rate. Scarlett wasn't stupid; maybe she had done something to him? Maybe this wasn't his fault, anyway? Because, after all, hadn't she told him: "You're going to be very, very sorry that you said that."

Was this her way of payback, of vengeance, for his keeping her up so late? When she had said that, had she somehow known that he would find her pretty at that moment? And maybe this whole time, she had just been seeing him because she--yes, maybe she fancied him and maybe for all sodding hell this was all her fault instead of his own?

Sirius shook his head. That was outrageous, and even though it was the most plausible thing that he could think of, he was incapable of believing Scarlett could fancy him in the slightest. He could not even imagine her finding him attractive.

But, his mind thought dangerously, he had thought her pretty, even beautiful; did that mean that he fancied--

Sirius shook his head again. Absolutely outrageous.

The absolute most disturbing thing about these thoughts were that they refused to quiet, even as the sun continued to rise. Even when he was entertained or occupied or alone or with someone, bloody hell, he still thought about it.

And it refused to stop, as his mind defended what it had thought in the spur of the moment by making devilish suggestions that he thought her stunning and was merely hiding the inevitable from himself. These were all waved off adamantly, but like a good fencing match the thoughts kept fighting back, trying to see him wrong.

Fortunately, Sirius was stubborn, and Sirius was proud, and Sirius would never ever believe that he fancied someone like Scarlett.

There were so many logical reasons, really, that he couldn't--that he didn't--fancy her. She was not remotely attractive in the slightest, even though a late night and a sunrise had made him think otherwise; in fact, compared to Deena Anderson, she was practically nothing.

Then, there was the simple explanation that she was a Slytherin, and as a common rule Sirius didn't like Slytherins in the slightest. The way they talked, the way they sauntered, the way they cried as they went to the Hospital Wing--

Well, he actually did rather like that.

But he didn't fancy her! The thought was so properly unaccompanied by guilt or denial that he believed it very true and waved it off, just like that. Even if his mind did not want to close the matter, he did, and he would not let a stupid little notion consume him, however irritating it was.

So, on the morning of October second, Sirius definitely did not let these sacrilegious ideas get the better of him, instead excited for every possibility the day had to offer (that did not involve his thoughts). The first surprise, thankfully, was a very good one: the first Hogsmeade visit of the year had been scheduled. This left all the Marauders, especially Sirius, very happy and distracted and did he mention that he was not thinking of Scarlett?

That surprise had been enough to waver Sirius from any belief that there would be more to come, but, in his case, he believed ignorance was bliss. Sitting down at the Great Hall, he relaxed visibly, joking and laughing with his friends as if Scarlett Devous had never existed, as if she were not in the periphery of his eye--

]—[

Scarlett was tired.

Of course, she could have simply blamed it on Tenereus, for pushing her so incessantly and persistently. Her homework, also, could have been to blame, seeing as it now stacked up so tall that people had begun to place their drinks on it as a coaster.

But, more than anything, she blamed it on Sirius Black, who, incredibly, had found a way for her to stay out much later than she should have. She had only begun to delve into the Gryffindor's personality, and she was absolutely shocked to find that Sirius was actually rather funny when he did not feel prejudiced towards her. He was talented at imitation, she found--his Slughorn was untouchable--to the point that she would be entertained by him until the hours were old. She could have almost sworn that Sirius did this intentionally to get her exhausted, but she had enough trust in him that refrained her from thinking so; not plenty, of course, but enough.

And it really sucked that she had to sacrifice sleeping to see him and be entertained by him.

Yet she couldn't forget the other reasons that kept her so tired, as Scarlett found herself sitting at the Great Hall on the morning of October second at an hour that was unholy thanks to Quidditch tryouts. She squinted as the grabbed a croissant to eat, shielding her eyes with her hand so as to see more clearly. A yawn escaped her, very briefly, and she groaned, putting the croissant down and holding her head in her hands in fatigue.

Mornings were always awful.

As if she had sent a signal of irony his way, Theodore appeared and sat next to her; he looked impassive if not a little nervous, and she put a mild hand up in hello before wincing as the sun hit the side of her face. Theodore stared at her for a brief second before reaching across the table-- across her--to grab his own croissant, an action that caused Scarlett's heartbeat to increase rapidly.

"You're in a good mood this morning," Theodore complimented in jest, and Scarlett nodded, smiling with as much energy as she could muster. At that moment Bellatrix and Narcissa took the opportunity to appear, looking just as cranky as Scarlett felt. "Something bad happen last night?"

"No," Scarlett answered, as she yawned again. "I stayed up too late, though." She took a bite of her croissant--though she could not help grimacing, Merlin she was so tired--and Theodore looked at her curiously before tasting his with reluctance that quickly relaxed.

"Really?" Theodore replied, looking over at Christopher Zabini in silent worry, who seemed oblivious to Theodore's presence. This relaxed Theodore a good deal, and Georgiana laughed aloud before she could stop herself.

"What?" Scarlett questioned, and Georgiana looked over at her as Theodore rolled his eyes at his sister. Scarlett looked over curiously, alternating her glances between the couple. "What is going on?"

"Oh, nothing--" Georgiana said, but before she could finish Theodore interrupted her, his voice rushed and panicky.

"I have something to give you."

]—[

"This is awesome."

Breakfast at Gryffindor was always something to look forward to, even in the worst hours of the morning. Not only were Gryffindors enthusiastic, but Sirius was lucky enough to be friends with the most entertaining bunch of them all.

The whole of Gryffindor was abuzz about Hogsmeade, and James wasted no time in making his opinion known. Sirius looked towards him, taking a bite of sausage as he nodded fervently. "I know," he said, muffled, and Remus rolled his eyes, buttering his toast in a much more polite manner than James and Sirius could ever muster.

"It's not until Halloween, though," Remus pointed out, and Sirius shrugged. "Why would you want to be planning something that isn't going to happen for another month?"

"Because it's fun, that's why," James explained rationally, stealing a sheet of homework hanging out of Remus's bag and copying it on parchment of his own.

"Because we don't have anything better to do," Sirius suggested, snatching Remus's homework from James and copying down a few answers hastily. James glared and crossed his arms.

"Because we feel like it," Peter chimed in, and the other Marauders looked at him for a short second before James seized the homework in triumph, leaving a morose Sirius and a worried Remus. Peter sullenly took a bite of his hash browns.

"I want that when you're done," Sirius said. James nodded impatiently, his tongue sticking out as he wrote a question down in scrawled, messy handwriting. He wrote down the good majority of the paper in less than a minute, all of it looking entirely illegible.

Before James was completely done, however, Lily Evans passed by, waving to Sirius and Remus and patting James on the shoulder casually before walking away. James ceased writing, his face turning blank and his tongue retreating, before he dropped Remus' paper right on his breakfast. Remus looked absolutely flabbergasted and a little appalled at the sight, and James picked it out as soon as he could, even though his motions seemed slurred.

Sirius raised his eyebrows. "How's that going for you?"

James shook his head fervently.

"He doesn't want to talk to her," Remus explained, who looked at the paper and sighed at the stains. "He's figuring that, because he started fancying her because of 'the chase'--" and Remus made quotations with his hands-- "he figures she'll do the same. It's awfully ridiculous."

"Shut up," James replied, and to further his point he threw Remus's homework back on his breakfast, where the grease soaked through the date and a little bit of the answer to number one. Remus grabbed it hastily and shot James a death glare that could have sunk ships.

Sirius smiled at the spectacle as he idly glanced around at the Great Hall. He even passed over the Slytherin table, giving Snape the daily stink eye before turning his attention to none other than Scarlett, who looked extremely tired but completely fixated on whatever Theodore was saying to her.

An unwanted--and unneeded--pang of emotion flew into Sirius's system at the sight of her, and to fight the uncomfortable feelings that arose within him he turned to Remus, who was looking at his greasy paper with terror. The sight would have amused Sirius most days; now he looked down at his breakfast sullenly.

]—[

"Really?"

Georgiana and Scarlett both stared at Theodore, although Georgiana looked away when Theodore met her gaze with an expression akin to contempt. "Really?" Scarlett repeated, and Theodore turned back to her as her eyebrows furrowed. "Like what, Nott? Homework or something?"

"No," Theodore replied, sounding uneasy.

"Um, wedding?" Scarlett guessed blankly, and Theodore shook his head. "Halloween? Happy-month-in-school? Happy announcement of Hogsmeade? Happy Saturday? Happy something, I'm hoping."

Theodore laughed. "You're getting warmer, I think."

"It can't be for my birthday," she said slowly, sifting through her mind for an occasion that deemed itself worthy. "My birthday's in December."

"Wrong," he contradicted, in an equally slow voice, and they stared at each other for a beat in contemplation, Scarlett growing nervous as time progressed but refusing to back down. She vaguely noticed that her heart was beating faster than it should have.

"Well, what is it, then?" Scarlett asked, her voice surprisingly even, and Theodore blinked in reply. "Theodore? What is it?"

Theodore blinked again, moving rather sluggishly towards his bag, where Scarlett could plainly see a silver box with a ribbon adorning it. He handed it to her without an expression on his face, while his probably good-intentioned sister watched the scene unfold with an immobile smirk.

"Georgie?" Scarlett asked, confused, shaking the present to hear what was in it; it made barely a sound. "Georgie, do you have any idea what this bloody gift is?"

"Not me," Georgiana said innocently. "I'm curious to know why you're getting a birthday present in October, too. You know, Theodore, if you really want to keep power-shopping, my wedding is in March, and I would really appreciate my gift around Halloween."

Scarlett smirked, and with deliberate movements took the ribbon off of the box, Theodore watching her intently. "Okay," she said, her hand gripping the top of the box with uncertainty. "Let's see what this is."

Scarlett took a deep breath, looking back up at Theodore for support, before removing the top, revealing something that she had to blink twice at in disbelief. Then, when she finally deduced that the gift was real, her mouth opened and closed in awe.

For there, lying on light pink tissue paper, were five Quidditch tickets, each with a gold insignia near the top to indicate box seats; seats that anyone would have surely died for, Scarlett included. Looking at it closer, she read:

QUIDDITCH EUROPE FINAL
Puddlemere United Versus the Chudley Cannons
Game One
Monday, October 31, 1977
BOX: 4
Great Britain Stadium:
"Experience magic in Great Britain!"


"Bloody hell," Scarlett breathed, looking at them as if they were presents from heaven, before placing them very carefully on the table as if guarding them with her life. She never broke eye contact with the tickets, her eyes bugged and excited, before turning back to Theodore with her mouth slightly open and her face rather flustered.

But, before she could even bother saying something--a tremendous thank you, for instance, or an inquiry on how he had possessed them--her mind completely failed her, and she stopped short.

Because, right around then, she realized that Theodore was actually rather attractive, even with the darkest of rings circling his eyes and his hair mussed. Immediately afterwards, she came to understand, even, just how nice he was--how these tickets must have taken some effort to possess and how he had been willing to get them for something as trivial as her birthday. He even knew that this was exactly what she had wanted, exactly what she hadn't expected, something that had brightened even the dullest of days and put such a drastic change on the day that Scarlett was still rather confused.

Throughout her confusion, however, there was no doubt in her head that Theodore was perfect, that he had always been perfect, but she had been petty and had taken him for granted. She didn't even realize, until now, how much she had missed him throughout her foul moods, and how much he made her happy even when he hadn't said anything especially hilarious.

He was absolutely perfect, and Scarlett hadn't realized it until just then.

And, before Scarlett could even grasp what she was thinking or what she had learned, she became incapable of thought. Her heart had raced ahead of her, pounding ludicrously, burning incomprehensibly, and before her mind could find itself in the present Scarlett had already run off with her heart and placed her lips right where Theodore's were.

]—[

Sirius didn't know what he was thinking.

In fact, he wasn't even aware that he didn't know what he was thinking, because he didn't seem to remember how to think in the slightest. All he could really focus on--not breathing, which seemed to have stopped, or blinking, which seemed to have frozen--was what he was seeing, even if he would have preferred to see something much different. This was strange, really, because not many unusual things happened in the Great Hall, but Sirius could not take his eyes off of what he had accidentally stumbled upon.

He had always known that Scarlett and Theodore Nott fancied each other equally, and that had been something that he had been willing to disregard without any thought. He had never thought much of it; he had even, at one time, hoped that they would get together, just for the pleasure in knowing that their friendship was forever lost.

So why was he so irritated?

Irritated, even, did not even seem to fit what he was feeling; no word really did. It felt awful, nearly nauseating, enough to ruin whatever good mood the Gryffindors had and place instead a dreary and depressed aura around their table.

But nauseating didn't cover half of it--nauseating didn't even cover nearly any of it--because there was so many things that he honestly didn't understand. Even nausea. Right now, all Sirius could really comprehend--even more than his name, which had gone missing and didn't seem close to return--was that Scarlett Devous and Theodore Nott snogging was not something he particularly fancied.

In fact, he hated it more than anything, and the sharp stab of annoyance and loathing infiltrated his senses, putting him into a disarray more powerful than any nausea or lack of thinking could. It flushed his face blotchily, and his eyes narrowed. His bones felt unusually heavy and hot, uncomfortable in his robes, the fabric itching tenfold than what Sirius could remember.

It seemed as if every single one of his senses were stronger--the scene that he was watching was becoming sharpened, even though all he really wanted was for it to go away--his hand, clutching his fork direly, felt like it was made of flames--and he could even taste and smell a sickly poison rocketing throughout his system--

And his hearing, normally crystal clear, felt like everything was being echoed as if in a large tunnel, pounding on his head and nearly bringing on a migraine.

He didn't even know what he was thinking.

It seemed an eternity until the scene shifted, though it was, in reality, only a second or two; Scarlett and Theodore broke apart, both of their cheeks flushed a light, careless pink.

But Sirius didn't honestly give ten Knuts about Theodore Nott, and instead turned all of his focus on Scarlett, who had turned back to her food as if nothing ever happened, her face bowed even though he could see the heat radiating off of her face. The sun glowed brightly on the top of her head, shining on her like heaven was giving him a sign, making her look exactly like an angel...

An angel, he realized, that should not go around snogging people like Theodore Nott... an angel that shouldn't go snogging anyone...

Except for him.

And then all at once he became inundated with those thoughts, those stupid and catastrophic thoughts, which fought against everything he thought he knew. For the millionth time he thought in his head that he did not fancy her, trying to respond to the cataclysmic scene that had unfolded before his eyes...

But, unlike before, the thought of not fancying her did not fit as it should have.

That realization shocked him, brought his senses back to order, as James nudged him. "So, Hogsmeade, huh?" James asked offhandedly, hardly noticing that Sirius looked completely and utterly shell-shocked.

With difficulty Sirius regained his composure, smiling like he meant it. "Yeah," he said, clearing his throat. "Yeah, Hogsmeade. Can't wait."

But all he could think about, really, was Scarlett.

You're going to be very, very sorry that you said that...

]—[
 


Chapter 14: Things Like This
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Author's Note: 
edit!!!!!!! wooo wooooo

]---[
 

It did not feel any different.

When Scarlett finally entered the outlook (at an admirable fifteen minutes late), looking tired and vague, Sirius did not feel any different at all. In fact, he felt the same shade of slightly irritated and somewhat relieved to see her come so late, as he leaned against an uncomfortable ash tree in the dead of a chilly night.

It did not feel any different, but it was, irrevocably so. Even when Scarlett took her place next to him, Sirius could tell it was different, even just from the way the side of his arm sparked at her proximity, his veins igniting all the way to his heart.

It did not seem any different at first sight. Even Scarlett seemed to be playing along with normality, looking up at the sky as she was supposed to for a very long time, Sirius sneaking confused glances at her along the way. If any bystander, including Tenereus, looked at the couple, they would have seen no shift in their moods from the day before.

But, there so absolutely was.

It stayed like this for ten minutes or so, the only shifts in silence being either a sigh from Scarlett or a clearing of the throat from Sirius. Every once in a while, Scarlett would look over at Sirius flatly, and he would return her gaze, wondering why he couldn't help but notice the variety of tones contained within her irises and how beautiful they all were together.

After the time had passed, though, Scarlett apparently seemed to come to a conclusion, falling down the side of the tree so that her knees were bent, and Sirius quickly followed, repositioning himself so that he was looking up at the night stars that watched them both.

They stayed in that position for a long time, but not as long as before and with more interrupting sighs from Scarlett. It may have been five minutes before Scarlett finally broke the silence.

"How are you, Sirius?"

He blinked at this, looking over at Scarlett in disbelief. "How am I?" he repeated, as if the thought that this was the question she initiated conversation with, after so much pondering, was baffling. "How am I?" When Scarlett nodded in response, Sirius considered himself, looking back towards the trees and thinking. How was he?

"I'm frustrated," Sirius replied, figuring that honesty was the best policy. "And confused."

Scarlett looked over at him sharply. "Are you really?" she asked, though it was not a response that served for a cue to elaborate; on the other hand, it seemed to be more skeptical than anything, as if she were accusing him of lying.

Sirius shrugged.

"That's very interesting," she muttered, though she wasn't necessarily talking to him. Then again, she wasn't really talking to herself; it seemed to be a reflexive response, a thin cover to disguise the fact that she was thinking and thinking still rather heavily.

"What about you?" Sirius found himself asking, and Scarlett looked over at him again before turning back towards the trees. "How are you, Scarlett?"

Scarlett laughed. "I am frustrated," she responded, irony hanging in every syllable of her tone. "And I am confused." She picked up a branch from the ground and began to stroke her fingers up and down the sinewy bark. "Isn't that the icing on the cake?"

Sirius smiled, but unlike most grins from the boy it was extremely sarcastic. "Extremely," he agreed. "Would you like to explain why?"

Scarlett considered for a brief moment, and then nodded. "Unless you don't want to hear it," she forewarned, and Sirius scoffed. "It does verge into the over-dramatic."

"I think I can handle it," Sirius challenged her, and Scarlett looked over at him, giving him a smirk that--to his confusion and frustration--made his stomach contract.

"It's about Theodore," she began, and she gazed deeply at the branch in her hand as Sirius took a deep breath (he had been expecting it). "It's just..." she trailed off, and her face glowed a very slight red in the twilight. "Well," she said, and she sighed with the air of getting something relevant and humiliating off of her chest. "Theodore and I kissed."

Sirius pretended to look surprised, but he really could only muster a scowl; Scarlett didn't notice. "And I didn't even know I fancied him until this year." She looked over at Sirius. "Don't you think there's something wrong with that? Don't you think it would have made so much more sense if I had fancied him years before? It should be too late for things like this to change, but it isn't. And it should make sense, but it doesn't."

She leaned a fraction of an inch closer to Sirius. "It doesn't make any sense, and... I don't know why. I mean," she verified, and Sirius internally groaned, for he didn't well fancy listening to Scarlett's love life, "I know why it doesn't make sense. I just don't know why it happened. Now."

"Because you fancy him," Sirius said blankly. "And he fancies you."

"You think so?" she said quietly, and Sirius nodded though he hated to. "Then what am I supposed to do?"

Sirius thought over his words carefully. "It shouldn't be something you have to think about," he said. "I don't know, when you fancy someone, whatever happens happens. It's not something that can be planned, it's just something that kind of springs up at you out of nowhere."

He couldn't help but appreciate the irony of what he was saying to her, and he couldn't help but hate that things like this were the type of things that sprung up and changed everything when, as she had mentioned, it should have been too late to change anything.

"What about you?" Scarlett asked, and Sirius saw her curiosity flare for once, radiating off of her as strongly as her flushed face had. "Why are you frustrated, Sirius? What are you frustrated about, anyway? I thought the life of a Gryffindor was supposed to be perfect and perfectly not frustrating."

"It is," he said amused; however, the frustration and confusion that bit at his flesh caused his smile to fade. "There is..." Sirius stopped with reluctance. "There is a girl," he said finally, and he rolled his eyes as he wondered how it had come to this.

About two or three weeks ago, if someone had told Sirius that he would befriend and eventually fancy Scarlett, he would have laughed for weeks. However, that idea was much more believable than the fact that in three weeks he had gone from absolutely loathing her to talking to her about his love life (and no matter what Sirius wanted, it centered primarily around her. Merlin, how had it come to this?).

Scarlett, on the other hand, was taking this progression much more casually, though that was likely because her mind was centered around Nott. If she had been making sense--and as she had said, she wasn't making sense at the moment--she would have recognized how many mistakes existed between this relationship that was coming into existence between a Gryffindor and a Slytherin.

Sirius saw the mistakes. He hated them. They bothered him like frays in a jacket, like a question impossible to answer. There was very clearly a mistake that was being made in this outlook, but for whatever reason he still bothered to come back, even though he really did not want to fancy a Slytherin in the slightest. This, as he had told Scarlett--though with much less detail--confused him terribly, and in those bleak periods of time during History of Magic or Potions he kept going back to it, trying to find some reason as to why he was acting the way he was. Why, he wondered, did he bring upon himself suspicion and falsehood that made his friendships--which were even more secure than they were seven years ago--filled with the sense that someone was not wholly telling the truth?

As for Sirius's frustration, that was simply the effect from the cause. Why did he feel the want--or maybe even the need--to come here, night after night? Why did he even bother listening to Scarlett, when the formerly preferred way of shooting her with insults was, in a sense, much safer? Why did Theodore Nott--who, unlike the other Slytherin boys, was relatively inoffensive--suddenly and whole-heartedly nauseate him? Why did the thought of Scarlett and Theodore together--in any setting--make him angry? Why did he care, anyway? Why did he even bother fancying what Scarlett's life consisted of? Why did he feel like he had to protect Scarlett? Why did he feel like he wanted to be with her?

Despite everything, why did he want to kiss her?

And, simply put, the built-up onslaught of questions was too much to bear. Even Sirius--who had prided himself terribly on being reasonable--felt completely worn and, yes, felt completely confused and frustrated.

But he did not feel numb, he realized. Maybe in his mind; his brain was too exhausted to respond to this theory. But, as for emotionally, Sirius could not even try to be numb. He was already feeling too much; as if to prove this, Scarlett shifted her weight, and though her forearm was covered by an extremely heavy layer of robe, a shock still penetrated throughout his body.

He wanted to feel numb completely, to let his mind take over his body, so that he would not feel a thing. Sirius, more than anything, wanted to be emotionless, wanted to be petty... wanted to be the meanest, most immature person in the world. Sirius wanted to be anything that could not be related to adoration. He wanted to just be numb and to be numb with every ounce of energy he had.

But for whatever reason, when it came to Scarlett, he wasn't.

That was a thought that made him more uneasy than he could ever remember feeling.

"A girl, huh? Who?" Scarlett questioned, interrupting his thought. Sirius looked over at her, and he again wondered just how Scarlett could have missed the warning signs.

He also realized that he really didn't want to be venturing into this conversation.

"Er," Sirius replied in as casual a tone he could muster, "I think it would be best if we stopped talking. About this, I mean. Just--" and he choked on what he was going to say, feeling the atmosphere change before his eyes-- "I'm not really the type of person--"

"I bet you're dying to tell."

Sirius looked over at her, and for a second all he could do was give her that blank stare of disbelief. On her face there was a prominent smirk, one that took extravagant lengths to cover up the true reason why Sirius was so reluctant.

"I bet you are," Scarlett insisted. "I bet that it's someone like Ambrose, someone I know, and you're just afraid to tell me because you think I can't keep secrets."

"It's not that," Sirius maintained. "It's just something that I'm not all that interested in sharing."

"C'mon, Sirius," Scarlett pleaded, and her eyes were so large and so full of those stunning shades of color that Sirius didn't breathe for a second. Scarlett, on the other hand, moved slightly away, as if some part of her subconscious, somewhere, believed that she was flirting.

"Please?"

And she was, undoubtedly. Even if she didn't know it.

Sirius sighed. He was sure that, if he continued refusing, she would continue pleading. Assuming he knew Scarlett well enough--and he may as well have--he was sure that she was stubborn enough to continue badgering him, which would, unfortunately, continue the flirtation that made Sirius uncomfortable.

So there was no way to win; this was not very surprising to Sirius. How were you ever supposed to achieve victory when you were fighting a lopsided battle?

And, so, he spoke, but he swore upon himself utmost vagueness. After all, was there any other way to converse about someone to their face about how you might fancy them but you want to hate them, all while still maintaining your dignity?

"There is a girl, yeah?" Sirius started. Scarlett gestured for him to continue.

"So," Sirius stalled, and Scarlett just barely narrowed her eyes, "I mean, it's not like it's all that different than any other girl I've fancied. It really isn't that big of a deal," he added, as if he were trying to convince himself instead of her of this.

"But you were frustrated," Scarlett pointed out. "And confused. So you are, very clearly, lying to my face."

"I am not," Sirius insisted. "I am merely leaving out the grisly details."

Scarlett snorted. "Yeah, right, Sirius. If you're going to leave out the fun, then you might as well stop talking right now so you can save your breath."

"Fine," Sirius snapped. "I fancy her. I think. I'm not really sure. And if I do--I definitely don't want to, and I never thought in a million years that it would be possible. So I don't really know what to think and there's absolutely nothing I can do about it. If I were smart I would leave her the hell alone."

There was a sliver of a second where Sirius believed Scarlett had him all figured out. There was a moment where she looked over at him and he could, slightly, see the sparkle of realization in her eye. There was one instant, one terrifying instant, where Sirius was convinced Scarlett had seen through him.

But, in the seconds that followed after, she merely shrugged. "Tough luck, mate," she said sympathetically. "Maybe you should try to avoid the hell out of her. Or maybe you could work some of that Gryffindor magic that makes Slytherins hate you so much."

"Ha, ha," Sirius said dryly, attempting to be amused, but his mind was occupied on things that were not amusing in the slightest.

If only he could avoid the hell out of her.

]—[
 


Chapter 15: Breathe Me
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A/N: I hope you guys enjoy this chapter :) :) :) :) :)

]---[

There was always supposed to be a time for action.

Of course, any decent person knew that action followed cautious thinking, which followed clearing one's head of emotion that could interfere with logic. Before action, someone had to look at a situation from both sides and try to build a case for whatever action they were inclined to choose, whether what shoes to wear- "I wore those shoes two days ago"- or to cheat on a spouse- "I need to live my life without commitments that hold me down".

Now, when someone does not know what action to take, these steps are not only important but vital. For, if a person does not carefully analyze a situation, how can it be clear which action is correct and which action is wrong?

When a person is in this kind of fix, there are two ways to ease the situation: a friend can be consulted or instincts can overpower logic and hope can be placed in the unreliable subconscious.

In the early days of October, Scarlett found herself direly needing to act. She had followed every single step of careful thinking out: she had devised a list of pros and cons, she had looked at every single possibility-- hell, she had even consulted Sirius.

And she still didn't know what to do.

The common room was empty in the dawn; although there were no planned events for the weekend, weekends were generally used for sleeping in, and the Slytherin students could not be bothered to make an appearance. The common room fire, usually aflame and glittering in the faces of students beginning schoolwork, was now empty, barren, and cold.

It made Scarlett feel kind of lonely, as well as trapped. Being without company forced her to retreat into her own mind, and her mind was rarely a place she took solace in. When she did not communicate with Voldemort, it became a place of inconvenient truths and rightly-placed warnings that she stupidly evaded.

One of these warnings was the continued and steadily stronger friendship which existed between her and Sirius, a friendship that had formed against all odds. Even when Scarlett could agree with her mind--it was a bad idea, the worst, and Voldemort would find out--she simply decided to forgo confronting the situation, as if that would make it go away.

And Scarlett did not want Voldemort to find out. She didn't know why she felt so strongly about it, especially when she felt in her heart that he would inevitably discover that they had grown close. But in spite of every impulse that told her the friendship was dangerous, she only acted to protect it instead of prevent it.

It was tricky to evade him; Voldemort was not stupid and Scarlett had never lured herself into a deluded state where she believed he was. It required careful communication, a training of the mind, an expertise in Occlumency, three things that Scarlett could do without Voldemort realizing she was betraying his morals. So far, it had worked, but it had required a great amount of energy and Scarlett normally fell asleep when she finished speaking with him.

She had not talked to him in a while, she realized. Though she appreciated quiet in her mind she felt as if Voldemort was someone that, while not sympathizing in any way, provided an outlet for information that Scarlett was willing to give away. Talking to him made her feel as if her ties to the Death Eaters were as strong as they'd ever been. It was an idea that she had worked hard to perpetuate since she had received the Dark Mark.

The only thing that hadn't worked to further this idea was her friendship with Sirius. And that was something Scarlett wanted to keep very quiet.

And, believing that noise of any kind was better than silence, she began to speak--though not aloud. She was speaking to him, speaking in a way that could hardly be understood by the best of scientists, Muggle or not.

]—[

Hello, my Lord.

Have you brought information? Or are you merely speaking to me to vent out your stresses, of which there are many? Certainly it is early, so I assume it is one or the other. I hope very dearly that you are not speaking light-heartedly and making mild conversation.

No. I was just very lonely because no one has bothered to awake. Today would have, in my opinion, been an excellent day to train, but I understand my opinion is nothing more than a whisper compared to your thoughts and beliefs.

Very well correct. What time is it, exactly?

It is very early morn. Nearly six o' clock.

Is the weather well, or cold? I would have thought that pleasant weather would have caused students to awaken earlier.

It is foggy and cloudy, but the clouds are hardly dark. If anything, we will have an onslaught of dreary and wholly depressing weather.

Not of much surprise, then.

Why are you awake at such an early hour? Do you not appreciate using your extra hours of the weekend for sleeping?

I have a lot on my mind, is all.

Such as? I am always eager to hear of the events that transpire in Hogwarts.

You would not be interested in hearing it. I believe you would be better suited refraining from questioning me about it.

I believe that you have no right to tell me what I should or should not listen to.

Tell me.

It is about Theodore; I just wish that I could understand him. Some of his actions confuse me greatly.

But it isn't something that you would be interested in--

Scarlett. Relax...

Wishing is not a good idea and never is. Venturing anywhere outside of logic is a terrible mistake, I'm afraid.

And, as for Nott's aura of mystery-- do you not believe that it is for the best? What actions are you referring to?

You are right. As always.

He has kissed me without any explanation whatsoever, and I worry that, if he has a fancy, it will ruin the friendship we have had for almost our entire lives. I think that I fancy him... but it is my previous fear and an insecurity that I am incorrect that refrain me from instigating a romance.

That is your concern?...

It is surely not something to worry about. You two are to be married shortly, correct? What fear is there in engaging in a romance when the occasion fits perfectly?

I suppose you are right.

You sound hesitant. Reserved. Is this all that you are troubled about? Or are you not telling me something?

I could never be dishonest to you, my Lord. Please have utmost trust in me and disbelieve any tall tales that make you think me untrustworthy.

I hope you can become a person I can trust. Likewise, I hope that you find that you can trust me, too... and never hesitate to tell me the problems which burden your soul. Do not worry over the boy; he, too, will realize the logic of beginning a romance when you are so soon to be married.

I believe that, now that your troubles are eased, you should sleep. You have overexerted yourself with restraint in regards to the Black boy and your studies. The day is young; enjoy it by fulfilling what your body requires.

The Black boy, how is he doing? Do you believe you may have any chance of learning of the goings-on with the Order? I know that that is the cause for his betrayal of his family; he does not believe in our cause.

The Black boy is fine. We do not speak, however.

Attempt to overcome your pettiness; it could become troublesome.

]—[

And he was right, he always was. In fact, coincidentally to what he had said before, Scarlett had begun to feel very sleepy while their conversation transpired; as she thought so, she yawned.

He was correct, though, in everything he had said. They should not have been worried over their insecurities; they should have, by realizing what potential there was in having a romance that perfectly suited Pureblood morals, begun a romance immediately.

And at the thought of their conversation Scarlett was sure she felt a slight sliver of guilt creep up behind her, both at the mentions of Sirius and at Voldemort's accusation of anything other than utmost trust. She wished that the emotion could have been shrouded in the same way she had so expertly covered up other emotions and ideas that made her life complicated or unpredictable.

Scarlett should not have felt guilty when speaking to Voldemort. She should not have betrayed his trust so foolishly and behind his back all the while--and she had lied to him again while they had spoken, telling him she and Sirius didn't talk. What a lie, indeed, and how she wished she did not have to lie in the first place!

But, Voldemort was also right in telling her that it was a terrible idea to wish. Wishing, in a sense, meant self-deception. Wishing meant false hopes and delusions. Wishing did not affect the course of the world. It was only when someone acted on their wishes that it made any real difference.

For every wish that she had wished she now felt stupid for. Voldemort had been right; it was not even worth pondering, to know that her wishes were futile. There was only action.

As she yawned again she became aware that the best action for her state of being was to sleep, and to sleep instantly. She had had no right in intruding on the common room's quiet and she should have known better than to awake due to her worries over Theodore.

They would talk it over as soon as she awoke, Scarlett decided, slowly and carefully making her way up the stairs to the girl's dormitory so as to not trip on her feet due to her tiredness. She and Theodore would be fine, just fine; even Sirius had told her so, despite his prejudices of Slytherins.

She could not help thinking, however, that Sirius had had a different intent in what he had said than Voldemort. Sirius cared about her wellbeing and happiness, despite whatever personal opinions he had; Voldemort, it had seemed, wanted solace in knowing that his Purebloods were following the rules of conduct that had been set out for them since they were children.

Which was reasonable, of course.

Even still she noticed the difference.

And as she entered the dormitories with precise and quiet movements Scarlett's mind was still pondering these troubles. Sensibly, she shouldn't have; by doing so, she was only falling into a pit of insecurity and curiosity, an unquenchable thirst that would have prevented sleeping and already had by waking her up so early.

She couldn't shake the thought that, maybe, she was not supposed to be sensible. That maybe she should worry and maybe she should wish. Who was Voldemort to stop her?

And even as she thought this her headache pulsated, as if it believed her to be betraying it.

It was a silly thought, she soon countered, the logical side of her mind firing up. To not be sensible? What good would come out of that? Not peace of mind, not an intellectual experience-- in fact, it was stupid to think of. It was a stupid thought.

So why had she thought it?

And, again, the other side of her mind replied that maybe being logical was stupid, too, especially when dabbling in matters of the heart. Maybe being illogical was what she was supposed to do. Even if it seemed stupid, even if she had deemed it wrong.

Because it didn't have to cause peace of mind or begin an 'intellectual experience'. Maybe it was supposed to lack sense because it was emotion and normally emotions didn't make sense. Being logical continuously left her as cold and empty as the common place fireplace that morning: showing some signs of being warm, but not quite.

The logical side could not respond to this.

Without changing into clothes more proper for sleeping, Scarlett fell onto her bed, her cheek resting on the cool of her pillow, her body aligning and realigning itself into a perfect position. Her eyes stayed open, though admittedly not very much, looking at Bellatrix, her face towards Scarlett. Her face was cool and expressionless; she always slept easy.

How did Bellatrix manage to do it? It seemed that out of the five Bellatrix was without a doubt the most dedicated, and that fact had gotten her and Scarlett into many arguments. It was not as if Scarlett did not trust the Dark Lord; it was just that occasionally she questioned some of his motives.

But in every one of these arguments she ultimately admitted Bella was right in telling her to believe him blindly. Always, even in the occasional fight between Narcissa and Georgiana, she admitted they were right in believing him, even though they had both had doubts before.

It had always seemed, though, that Bella had no doubts, knew that this was her destiny and she might as well follow it. Even Georgiana, with her doubt or two, still pulled through it without any evidence she had doubted in the first place. In fact, out of the five, Scarlett was the one with the most doubts, or at least it seemed that way.

But, in a sense, this made her that much more dedicated to Voldemort, for with every doubt he forced her closer to him, until there was no space between them and their beliefs intertwined...

And it was with that thought--that chilling thought--Scarlett fell asleep.

]—[

The forest was dark despite the rays of sunshine that flickered throughout the openings the trees' leaves gave. The weather, in accordance, was also slightly cold, though for the time of the year it was as warm as any were going to ask for.

She was running, running enough so that the back of her shins were starting to ache and her breath was starting to come out in small gasps. Running enough that her hair flew in her face, even though the weather did not bring along any winds. Running enough, farther than she could ever recall running; running so that the trees looked the same to her hasty vision and the soil crumpled at her feet although it had begun to freeze.

She did not know why she was running; she did not know why she was there. The only motive she had was to find something, but what she was not entirely sure. Was someone lost in the forest? Was something wrong?

None of these questions had answers, and with her mind occupied on running she could not pause to theorize. She just continued running, her hands occasionally grazing upon the bark, though they winced with pain soon after.

Whatever--or whomever--it was Scarlett was looking for, she had no idea as to if it was safe or not. It was a mystery that Scarlett did not want to occupy herself in, but at the same time everlasting curiosity made it impossible to leave.

And then, all of a sudden, a loud ringing screamed shrilly into her ears, and, turning around, she could see the forest entrance, sun shining in such a way to make it look like the pathway to heaven- as if she hadn't even run any distance before.

But, looking at it in an unimpressed manner, she turned back around and continued racing through the forest's darkness without any guarantee as to when she would return, and what state she would be in if she did.

]—[

 
 


Chapter 16: Truly, Madly, Deeply
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A/N: Dear person that is reading this right now, I am sorry if it seems like there is a bit of a disconnect between the first couple of chapters and this one. They are not really how I envision SIHE to be and I am making my rounds/editing them all, eventually. But I just don't have the stomach to read those because they are just so, so bad. Love y'all!

]---[

When Scarlett woke up, the first thing that registered in her head was the very simple fact that her muscles were sore; her arms, neck, and legs all winced with unease, and for a brief moment Scarlett just relaxed, stretching her arms and legs so that they almost reached over the edge of the enormous bed.

Admittedly, though, she felt more well-rested than she had in a while, and she looked over at her alarm clock with the kind of air that someone would have on a lazy Sunday. However, this air vanished the exact instant her brain registered its numbers.

Eleven.

While to some eleven was just a tad late but nothing to worry about, Scarlett knew much better. Considering it was a Monday, she calculated that she had easily missed Defense Against the Dark Arts and Transfiguration--and, seeing this was right about the time where teachers claimed They Had Been In School For A Month They Should Know Better, she was not at all excited to be lectured.

The other thing that was disturbing that was she had not been woken by Georgiana, Narcissa, or Bellatrix. On a normal day, Narcissa normally woke first, then Scarlett, with Georgiana and Bellatrix bringing up the rear. If an unusual occurrence, like Scarlett sleeping in, happened, then it would be Georgiana's job to wake her.

According to the timetable, it was about lunchtime, though Scarlett could not find any part of her that wished to eat. As a matter of fact, if she could choose, she would easily slip back into sleep; days after days of practices and being in the outlook had always had a very negative effect on her, and with the addition of excess homework she had not fared well in the slightest.

Scarlett sat up lazily, rubbing her eyes and looking at herself through the ornate mirror across the room. Though it was very thin and smudgy, Scarlett could still vaguely see that her hair stood up in a way that was almost comical. She tried to put a hand through it; her hand got stuck.

Moving just a little bit faster, Scarlett got herself out of bed, wincing; she had slept at a bad angle, and her neck certainly proved it. Her robes, which she had been too lazy to take off, were now very wrinkled, as was her blouse and skirt. This revelation brought a groan to Scarlett's lips, as she had already gotten ready for class. Even her makeup, which had been applied carefully at five o' clock in the morning, was now smeared unattractively across her face.

Scarlett considered the situation: there were two options she could choose. One option, the more responsible, was to get ready now and miss lunch as punishment and then go to Herbology before her free period. That way, she could at least be ahead in one class--as it was, she was already two classes behind Defense and one behind in Transfiguration.

However, the easier and more reckless option was the one Scarlett easily preferred. This was to pretend to play sick and hide in her room until Narcissa or Georgiana brought her dinner. That way, not only would she miss the school day, but she would also avoid Theodore, and that was exactly what she was aiming for.

Despite Voldemort's opinion (which was completely correct) Scarlett could never escape the simple teenage instinct of insecurity and awkwardness. No matter how mature or wise beyond their years any of them thought they were, Georgiana still flirted irresponsibly, Narcissa still was embarrassingly devoted to a man many years her senior, Bellatrix always tried to inflict jealousy, Scarlett was, to describe it best, strange, and Theodore...

Well, Scarlett didn't want to think about Theodore's lack of romantic maturity. In fact, Scarlett really didn't want to think of him at all, even for the sole reason that, when she did, her face flushed...

Because what if he was repulsed? What if she was now forever stuck with Regulus Black, an engagement that would make her friendship with Sirius strangled? What if Theodore, who had been her friend for years upon years, simply didn't want anything to do with her?

She pulled her hair up with a barrette, and, while it looked much better than it did sticking out, she still did not see anything spectacular. She looked and looked but could not see what she possibly had to offer to Theodore that could make their relationship evolve from friendship.

Sighing, Scarlett wiped her makeup off with the side of her hand, and, by folding her robes tightly over her body, her wrinkled outfit was nowhere to be found. She looked, at best, presentable.

It would have to do. She could sneak down to the library, get reference books, hopefully find Camilla to get the homework, and start working to try and catch up. It wasn't a perfect plan, and it was extremely skewed, but Scarlett would do anything to try and avoid Theodore.

She opened the door to the dormitory quietly, though that did not prevent her from noticing none other than Theodore and Georgiana on the Slytherin couch. Both looked over reflexively, and it was common sense and common sense only that kept Scarlett from retreating back into the dormitory.

If there was one instinct that every teenager had, it was pride, and Scarlett could never lower herself to retreating. It was the one action that both Slytherin and Gryffindor equally hated, especially concerning something as petty as a fancy.

However, Scarlett's own awkwardness turned her eyes--which were always large--into absolute saucers and made her nearly incapable of breathing. Theodore, also, turned towards the fire, but Georgiana, her elbows resting on the top of the couch and her head resting in her hands gracefully, grinned mischievously.

"Hi, Scarlett," Georgiana said casually, and Scarlett rose up a hand in welcome, though her expression was anything but welcoming. If anything, it was mutinous and deeply sarcastic, but every ounce of negative energy from Scarlett seemed to fuel Georgiana's mood, her grin growing with each second.

"Hey, where were you during Defense?" Georgiana asked pleasantly, getting off of the couch altogether and moving towards Scarlett, though Scarlett herself remained frozen. "It was so funny, Theodore always reads up on this stuff ahead of time so Aney can't improvise too much--you know, she never knows what she's talking about--and she was almost going to give him a detention, she was so mad."

"Was she really," Scarlett said, narrowing her eyes in a gesture for Georgiana to please leave her the hell alone, but Georgiana simply didn't take it, instead talking in a broader way, using body language as indication of her smugness.

"Oh, yeah!" Georgiana responded with enthusiasm. "She told him to shut his mouth, and he asked her if being right about something was an offense he should take to Dumbledore, and I'll tell you she just stopped. Very admirable, Theodore."

Theodore, however, didn't respond; he seemed to be engrossed in a book.

Scarlett, likewise, didn't take notice of what Georgiana said. She instead asked, "Hey, why didn't you wake me up today?"

Georgiana grimaced apologetically. "Sorry, mate. I slept in the Ravenclaw dorms last night. When I asked--well, no, it was Theodore, actually--where you were, Bellatrix said she couldn't wake you up. I thought you would've been awake by the time Defense rolled around. I got your work, though... I forget what it was... uh, Theo?"

Reluctantly, Theodore turned around; his face was, if possible, darker and angrier than Scarlett's, though he didn't take the time to compare, instead having eyes for Georgiana only. "What?" he asked, and his voice, which was unnaturally husky, seemed to indicate a lack of sleep--though only his tone's huskiness, not its exhaustion, transmitted to Scarlett, which made her brain falter completely.

"What was the homework, for Transfiguration and DADA?"

"Nothing special," Theodore said simply. "Reading and an essay for Transfiguration, a couple of questions for DADA. Anything else?"

"No," Georgiana said contentedly, with her smirk still on her face. "Actually, I think I'm going to leave now."

"Where are you going?" both Scarlett and Theodore said simultaneously, and they looked at each other for the briefest of seconds before turning to Georgiana again, who shrugged.

"Somewhere."

"Want me to come with you?" Scarlett said, though immediately she knew what Georgiana's response would be:

"No, thanks," Georgiana said cheekily, and she left, though Theodore and Scarlett both could hear her whispers from the other side of the door, a pleased one that beckoned other Slytherins to eavesdrop.

Very slowly, Scarlett moved to the couch, and Theodore put his book to the side in the same fashion, turning his gaze instead to the fire.

Scarlett sat down uncertainly. "How are you doing, Theodore?"

Theodore looked over at her sharply, and she shrugged. "How am I doing?" he asked, incredulous, and Scarlett sighed, crossing her arms and looking at the fire.

Almost instantly, she responded, "Don't think I'm not thinking about it, Theodore, because I am." She rearranged herself, again, pulling her knees to her chest and letting her feet very slightly dangle over the couch. "Are you going to go to lunch?"

Theodore looked over at her again, prepared to give her another look, but instead he simply sighed, shrugging. "I don't know," Theodore said. "I didn't really think about it. I was going to go with Georgiana, but she has other plans, I believe."

Scarlett scoffed. "Yeah, she does," she muttered sarcastically. "Do you want to talk about it?" she asked him, turning toward him and pulling a strand piece of hair out of her face. "Do you?"

"Yes," Theodore responded. "I don't know. Do you?"

Scarlett wanted to nod--she really did--but with her pent-up mental exhaustion as well as her fear, she did not, instead turning again to the fire. "Not right now," she said finally. "Later--soon--but not now, please."

Theodore nodded, and they sat in silence for a while, staring at the fire. Very slowly, Scarlett's death grip around her knees loosened, and she relaxed, absorbing the fire's heat and leaning very slightly towards Theodore.

It was strange--it felt very awkward but it felt very nice--Theodore hesitated, but in a sluggish manner he wrapped his arm around her shoulders, as her head rested against his shoulder.

It was this position that they stayed in for minutes after minutes, and it was only when the fire started to dim that Scarlett turned to him again. He looked odd, especially with the fire's glow, but it was not an odd that was curious--in fact, it was an odd that Scarlett recognized and had seen on her face just that morning.

"Do you fancy me?" Theodore abruptly asked, turning back towards the fire but keeping his arm wrapped around her. At the question, Scarlett paled and flushed, if such an action was possible; her stomach contracted, her breathing became labored, and she suddenly felt twitchy and awkward.

This was because, quite honestly, she expected this question. She had been expecting this question since she had kissed him, and she had been wanting this question to be asked since she began to fancy him. On one hand, she felt flattered--she felt like, if she said "yes", then all would be perfect.

On the other hand, if she said "yes", he could very well be repulsed... but how could he, when his arm was wrapped around her so... lovingly? Lovingly, like he had already expected the two to date? Lovingly in the way that he wouldn't mind marrying her?

Lovingly in the way that friends didn't experience, but lovers?

She thought about this for the longest time of all, looking at her toes, which were plain--her feet were rough from barefooted practices, though they seemed soft and graceful as if they could jump any distance or height.

This was the strangest metaphor yet that Scarlett could use for herself, but it was true: the society that she occupied herself in wanted both soft and hard, wanted graceful and rough, wanted no complaints, wanted everything to be easy but complex. The society she lived in wanted perfection.

And, really, wouldn't it be perfect if she said yes? Even if he denied her, she could always avoid him and instead marry Regulus. However--and this however was starting to make sense--if Theodore didn't fancy her, why was he acting the way he was acting? Why, now, did he seem nervous, as if bracing himself for her no? His arms were now starting to retreat in hesitation, and Scarlett considered again.

She might as well try.

"Yes," she murmured, almost inaudible, but Theodore heard it with expert precision, turning over to her. His arm, which had been frozen in anticipation, now relaxed, and his face, which had seemed expressionless when she asked, was now smiling very slightly.

"Do you fancy me?" she countered, and Theodore did not provide her with an audible response. He did not agree; he did not deny.

Instead, Theodore very calmly put his hand on her cheek, pressing with a light force that caused her to look over at him. He looked at her for a while, absentmindedly looking up at her hair, where strands had fallen out of her barrette and she had been too caught up to catch them.

Instead of saying anything, Theodore chose to say absolutely nothing, as he leaned toward her and kissed her.

And, when he did, Scarlett felt perfect. She felt like, for once, she was in the right place, and no matter what tiredness she ever experienced, no matter what homework she missed or what teachers yelled at her, no matter what arguments she got in, no matter what relationships she had with Gryffindors, she was perfect just the way she was. Even being a sharp-tongued girl, even being a sarcastic cynic, was just fine so long as Theodore embraced her, kissing expertly even though she couldn't remember then if he had ever had a girlfriend.

She felt... ready. Ready for anything, so long as Theodore was there, warm and close and supportive. She felt ready to marry. She felt ready to become Voldemort's. She felt as if she belonged.

And, bless her heart--which pumped at a million miles an hour--it felt good. It felt like the softest silk, it tasted like honey, smelled like roses, looked like heaven and sounded like her heartbeat, sound, secure, and loud in her ears. Being here, with Theodore, felt so good and so right.

How could she have ever hesitated? Why would she have wanted to prolong time until this moment occurred? Even if Georgiana was behind the door, probably cheering with subtlety, the moment was just perfect, unlike any she had experienced before.

And to think this was the boy she would marry... oh, it felt satisfying. It felt like she had drawn the right cards.

It felt like she truly, madly, deeply fancied him and he fancied her and everything was in perfect, exact harmony.

And this one single moment would never erase itself from her memory.

]—[

The Gryffindor Common room was deserted in the beginnings of night, the last of the students making their way to their dormitories, save for four boys, all sitting on or, in Peter's case, around the couch. The fire flicked in front of all of their faces, Remus doing Ancient Runes homework, Peter Muggle Studies, and James and Sirius Transfiguration, which was not much of a hardship.

As the "very responsible and mature" (quoted by Remus) boys did this feat, they explained the happenings of the day, the center of topic on the hours missed by James and Remus, who had been off doing their rounds. Sirius and Peter, both impatient by instinct, had occupied their time plotting against Snape for the next day.

The two explained the prank simply, a very clear and solid one at that; and, laughing, the other two made alterations and in retaliation began to speak about the crazy things they had run into during their rounds. These were nothing short of amusing; at one point, earlier in the year, they had caught Ambrose Katalina (who had taken up the title School Hussy) and Christopher Zabini (a boy who did not have much wit) snogging in the corridor closest to Filch's office with something akin to handcuffs in Ambrose's hands. Peter thought this was because Christopher thought Filch was beautiful and was attempting to make him jealous--it was also hysterical as Ambrose was currently dating Brady Scott, and thus her reputation became more notorious in the eyes of the Marauders.

"It wasn't very exciting tonight," Remus muttered, flipping a page in his Ancient Runes book, placed on the armrest of the couch. He wrote something down and reread it. "I think James caught one or two couples, but all I got was a couple third years drinking some Firewhiskey and a confrontation with Filch." His face twisted at the name; Filch was generally hated. "That took thirty minutes out of my time, let me tell you... the man doesn't know the difference between Prefects and students, it drives me crazy..."

"Yeah, not an exciting day," James said, finally giving up on working and just slouching on the other armrest. "I didn't see Lily at all, and I got Katalina and Scott and Devous and Nott. Those Slytherins sure know how to party."

Peter snickered. Sirius faltered, mid-sentence, on his Transfiguration essay, the end of the quill stabbing the e he had just written. He decided, in less than a second, that he surely couldn't finish writing the damned essay.

Stupid, stupid essay...

"Oh, well, that will be interesting," Remus mused, writing his signature on top of the parchment, large and scrawled, and placed his work down as well. "Katalina's sure to snag Nott sometime soon now. Kind of like last year. Funny to see what'll brew up now."

Stupid, stupid Remus...

"I'd like to see that," Peter chuckled, putting down his half-way complete essay. "Remember two years ago when Ambrose got Campbell after Greengrass left him? What a fight!" He chuckled again, and Sirius was hyperaware of his fingernails biting into his palms, piercing and uncomfortable and so not right.

Stupid, stupid Peter...

"Well, you know the Slytherins. House of hussies and wankers." James grinned, and Peter and Remus followed suit, Peter's smile an eager one, Remus' slow and lazy. Sirius was near sure his palms were going to start bleeding if he clenched his fist any tighter.

Stupid, stupid, stupid...

"How far did they go?" Peter pondered, and James grimaced.

"Katalina and Scott were nearly done when I walked in. It was awful." At this, Peter and Remus both laughed, for James looked truly disturbed.

Sirius had not quite found his voice yet.

"And Devous and Nott were snogging each other's faces off, that was a bit disturbing," he continued. "You should have seen their faces, oh, man, they would have killed me right then and there just to start snogging again if I didn't threaten them with detentions."

The image seemed horribly distorted. Hell, everything did.

"I'm off," he said suddenly, packing up his belongings. "Feel like hell."

Well, at least he hadn't lied.

How could he feel so wrong? He felt like, though his life had always went the right way, that now he had taken the wrong path and was now paying for it. No matter how much his friends were appreciated, or how well he did in school, or how many recommendations he had already received for apprenticeships... no matter what pranks they pulled on Snape, no matter what relationships he had with Slytherins, he felt completely wrong, completely out of place. Though he was funny, charming, handsome, and smart, it was all wrong, so long as Scarlett was Theodore's, as if he couldn't remember them not being a couple before.

He felt... confused. Confused about everything, so long as Scarlett was not with him, funny and charming and beautiful. He felt confused about the simplest things. He felt confused about things he thought he knew before. He felt as if everything was out of place, jutted, like he couldn't fit the mold he himself had constructed after declaring independence against his parents.

And, bless him, it felt awful. It felt like cold water, tasted sour, smelled murky as if it was difficult to breathe, looked hopeless and sounded like his heartbeat, erratic, reckless, and so loud in his ears. Being here, knowing that, felt so awful, so wrong...

How could he have supported her? Why would he have wanted to make this moment happen sooner? Even if he knew it would come eventually, probably striking harder than this one was now, this moment was still wrong, unlike any he had experienced before.

And to think he fancied a Slytherin... oh, it felt sickening. It felt dead, listless, hopeless, without any hope of resuscitating. He hated himself for finding her pretty and really hated himself for the way that he felt right now.

It felt like he fancied her and she fancied Theodore and everything was in befuddled, incorrect disjunction.

]—[

 
 


Chapter 17: Tainted Love
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Author's Note: Want to hear a joke? How do you fix a broken tomato?... TOMATO PASTE! HAHAHA ENJOY THIS CHAPTER IT'S A GOODIE

]---[
 

Theodore Nott and Scarlett Devous were officially a couple.

This fact, simple and simply satisfying, caused a slight uproar in the school's gossip system. However, not many were surprised; the two had been playing games with each other for ages, and it was only a matter of time before their "friendship" matured into a real relationship.

However, the gossip mill was hardly recognized by the couple, who were slowly easing into a committed relationship. Now, instead of burning all of the marriage pamphlets her mother sent her, Scarlett actually looked through them, muttering about what dress she wanted to wear or what hairstyle would suit her best.

She was still not ready to get married; she wouldn't be for a while. However, she was preparing for it, figuring that she finally had a promising future and it was fruitless to argue about something that she was destined for.

When her mother realized this, she was very glad, though the only way she knew how to express her happiness was to send her daughter a myriad of different magazines and dresses and everything. Now, Scarlett found herself torn between two dresses, and Georgiana was sure to style her hair and makeup, venturing for curls instead of Scarlett's traditional straight hair.

As for school activity, everything righted itself, like her life had changed in the blink of an eye. Suddenly, school seemed easy; even History of Magic, a subject in which no one could bother paying attention, had become interesting, seeing as they could pick partners to work with for a project.

Obviously, Scarlett had chosen Theodore.

As for Defense, Theodore and Scarlett both were easily excelling in the next unit, which was centered around the mind. As both had expert training in Occlumency and Legilimency, Aney was impressed if not slightly saddened that students may know more than she, and she reluctantly awarded them points for their enthusiasm.

For who could not be enthusiastic? Life was rolling, swiftly, smoothly, like a well-oiled machine. Bellatrix helped Scarlett pick out the menu for her wedding. Narcissa became light of heart instead of quietly demeaning. Georgiana threw her heart and soul into Scarlett's planning, mostly because it would be useful information to know her for her wedding to Avery.

And Theodore was always there with a kiss when essays got too difficult or a smile when training got too complicated. He eased her through it, calmly, and she began to enjoy herself while she was learning, excelling so much in training that even Rolphodus could not say anything against her.

On Scarlett and Theodore's one week anniversary, they celebrated it with one single rose and a pair of hot cocoas. Georgiana adorned the common room with candles, giving Slytherin the unusual twinge of romance, and Theodore and Scarlett threw fuel into the flame, kissing so much that it was excessive.

However, everyone was too happy to notice. For once, Slytherin had its hat on right, and even Gryffindor couldn't sway them from their heaven, even if a challenging Quidditch match was scheduled the next Saturday. Theodore simply made the team work harder, though they all enjoyed themselves, playing with an expertise that had scarcely ever been found on the Slytherin team before.

And, for once, they were prepared to play Gryffindor. In past years, they had only defeated Gryffindor once, and that was before the likes of James Potter or Sirius Black joined the team. No, after they had become a part of Quidditch, it was suddenly trophy after trophy after trophy, all awarded to Gryffindor, the champions, always.

But with Slytherin so perfectly content, it seemed like Gryffindor didn't have a chance. For both of their renowned Chasers were confused and lovesick.

James, on one hand, had his eyes set on Lily Evans, who was slowly starting to set her eyes on him. Every few days, they met to discuss the school's Prefect system, and James always returned from these with a dazed look, especially when Lily seemed to act flirtatious.

As for Sirius, he was struck. The Marauders had noticed this most evidently, and they targeted him instead of James to tease and question. After he had not responded well, however, they had decided to act with concern, still questioning but not in the same, jarring way they had before.

But it was not only these two Marauders that found themselves hopeless in the name of love. Only one Marauder was clear in the head, even if sometimes it became easily befuddled.

This Marauder was Peter.

Remus, who had fancied Ambrose in his third year and only Ambrose, now found himself transfixed by someone else. In fact, he did not know how this came along: all of a sudden, it had happened, and strange fantasies had come into his head, fantasies that were nearly parallel with James's, except it was not Lily in Remus's head.

It was another... another girl who had the most beautiful hair, and the biggest smile, and hung around the coldest people...

Remus normally did not find himself fancying much of anybody. He was the cool head of the group, the one that told Sirius if he was being shallow, the one that told James if he was being too showy, the one that told Peter that he was aiming his sights too high. Remus had always been the one that controlled himself, always, because he had never really had the sickness of love before. The only sickness that had been on his mind was his lycanthropy. That had been his highest priority for the last seven years.

But, now, he found himself ailed with another sickness, one that had the symptoms of confusion and befuddlement and strangeness. Because it was not regular, it was not normal, it was not himself at all.

Remus worried about control a lot. He worried about controlling his instincts when the full moon was near. He worried about Snape knowing and didn't trust that he hadn't told. He worried, worried, worried about the Marauders betraying him out of repulsion. These worries compounded until his face was a permanent pale, scarred only with the scarlet cuts that stretched from his ear to his chin.

But now he worried about a different kind of control. He worried he wouldn't be able to control himself... because he had never before felt this strongly.

He did not know how it started; perhaps it was in Defense Against the Dark Arts? She did sit next to him, after all.

But...her attention was never focused on him, instead attentive to her friends and her brother; her attentions weren't even towards the class, instead occupied by passing notes and acting immaturely.

Remus had never before appreciated immaturity.

Why did he, now?

Maybe it was because of Potions? He sat next to her then, too, but her friends were closer, so she surely didn't pay attention to him then. He had only talked to her once, and that one time, while not rude, was surely not warm, either. It was the day after his lycanthropy, and he returned, sick, pale, and bloodshot.

She looked over at him for the briefest of moments before turning away. "Do you need the notes, Remus?" she had asked, and he had nodded. Without another word, she handed him her schoolwork, which was perfectly organized, legible, and neat.

And her hair barely hit him every day he escaped that class. She smelled like peaches, sweet peaches that were inescapable, inexcusable.

How could he ever feel this way about Georgiana Nott?

From what he recalled, when he had fancied Ambrose, his friends had nodded apologetically. Everyone fancied Ambrose, at one point or another; she was exceptionally beautiful and openly flirtatious. It had been so much of a joke that, when Sirius confessed he fancied her as well at the time, it hadn't mattered in the slightest. They had laughed at the idea that they both had expressed interest in the same girl simply because it was proof of how irresistible she was.

Now Remus felt different about irresistibility. Ambrose didn't appeal to him at all anymore. She had been a funny experience at an awkward stage of his life. Irresistibility had a new name and it was a name so beautiful and nerve-wracking he could have sworn he'd heard it in a song before.

It wasn't funny either. If Sirius were to show any interest in Georgiana there would be no laughter; Remus actually might have gone insane.

Sirius seemed preoccupied anyway. When Remus wasn't wondering if Sirius secretly fancied Georgiana (it seemed almost implausible; Georgiana wasn't really Sirius's type) he was worried about his friend's state. Sirius was still as hilarious as ever, and for the most part he seemed at ease.

Seemed at ease--the illusion constructed under the word shattered during the evenings. In the moments before Sirius would run off to--well, Remus didn't really know--wherever he went, in the pauses which existed for the sole purpose of discussing the things which were normally coaxed out of secrecy once the sun set, nothing would be said.

Whatever it was, Sirius just refused to talk about it. He fancied someone, definitely, but felt so strongly on the issue that he wouldn't even divulge the name.

It was a miserable situation, Remus imagined, and he groaned as he realized that he could see very easily where Sirius was coming from. Those pauses before Sirius left weren't filled with Remus's confessions either.

However, if the pauses had to be filled--and many nights they were--they always had a welcome contributor of misery.

"What is wrong with her?" James asked hopelessly, falling onto the couch without any introduction of what was going on. "And what is wrong with me?"

Remus closed his book with a sigh, turning towards James with a look that he had given James plenty of times, one that clearly stated 'No way am I sacrificing my dignity, not again'. As Remus was the most rational--and the friendliest with the Gryffindor girls--it was normally his responsibility to talk to Lily about who she fancied at the current time. At one point, Lily had misinterpreted this, but Remus assured her that he did not fancy her.

He started to wonder if it would be easier for him if he fancied her instead of Georgiana. It might have been easier to fancy virtually anyone else...

And then his lovesick thoughts formulated an idea for James--Remus himself couldn't do it for he hadn't even garnered the courage to speak to Georgiana--

"I have an idea," Remus stated, abandoning his look and throwing a scratch piece of parchment into the fire for the mere reason to watch it burn. "Make her jealous. Make her want to miss you."

James turned towards him. "I've tried to make her jealous," James moaned, "and it didn't work. I spent my night with Takiyah Kalash." He turned towards Sirius. "Remember her, mate?"

Sirius nodded. Once upon a time, he and Takiyah had been close friends. It was last year, the year when they had all tried to find their soulmate and failed terribly, that the two of them had grown close, close enough that Sirius had deluded himself that she was his soulmate. They had dated and it had crashed and burned and mended itself, all in a few passing fickle months of teenage hormones.

She had been funny though. Fun while dating anyway. Compared to the hell Sirius felt when he looked at Scarlett, he would have dated and broken up with Takiyah a trillion times. He would have done anything to escape from his frustration of fancying a Slytherin and his frustration of how unattainable she was.

What wouldn't he do to forget about her... Merlin, she was driving him crazy...

"So try to forget about her," Sirius suggested; oh he wished that strategy would work for him. "Leave her the hell alone and she'll miss you. She says she doesn't fancy talking to you, but have you ever left her be?"

"No," James said, and even though he still sounded equally tired he had a hint of thought in his voice. "Do you really think that I could go through with Lily Withdrawal?"

Sirius nodded fervently. "You'll have to," he pointed out. "It's your only shot. You might not get her otherwise."

And no matter how much Sirius didn't want to, his thoughts again strayed to Scarlett, Scarlett and her soft hair, Scarlett and her wide eyes, Scarlett and her sharp tongue...

Scarlett, who was, right now, kissing Theodore in the middle of a deserted corridor, kissing him to celebrate their one week anniversary, kissing him because she wanted to, because she could...

And Sirius thought about how he should try and keep his mind on James and Lily, but he couldn't...

While Scarlett's hair mussed, and her lips became swollen, and she completely lost her identity in Theodore... because she had never felt this way about anybody.

She remembered, at the beginning of the year, how she did not want to marry Theodore. When the group visited at a large, elegant beach house during the summer, they had laughed at it, claiming that Regulus and Scarlett could be the sweetest couple. Now that she thought about it, Georgiana had given her and Theodore looks, looks that she now realized were significant.

How could they be so silly? Now, it all seemed to fit...wasn't it meant to be...?

It was meant to be disaster for Sirius. He shouldn't have been stupid enough to even consider fancying a girl like Scarlett. After all, they had been so different. He remembered, at the beginning of the year, how they had hated each other so. He remembered when he had read the note--he had been curious.

Curiosity was always Sirius's biggest vice, and he was constantly obsessed with figuring out everything. While some people had a "messiah complex", like James--people that had to save other people, no matter what the personal risk was--Sirius himself had a "Rubik's complex"- he had to solve the puzzle.

But what was he to do when, while trying to solve the puzzle, he ran into her?

And then, he had slowly, but surely, started to grow an attachment, even if he had still disliked her. Sure, he had been in it for the bribery and for the adventure, but looking at it now, he found that unwittingly he had become too involved with her, and it was so wrong, but so right...

So right, to be with Theodore, because didn't Theodore know her best? He knew her biggest fear--the fear of consequence--it was something they had in common. He knew what it felt like to be in this world, and being with him blotted out the uncertainty Scarlett had felt before. She felt as if she could follow him into the future...

Because Theodore and Scarlett never thought they could feel this way...

Sirius had never thought he could feel this way about her...

But, they did, and they loved it, Scarlett's hair being gently stroked by Theodore's hands...

And Sirius didn't want to feel this way, but, he did, and it was so, so wrong...

It was wrong to think that anyone besides Scarlett and Theodore didn't feel this...

This pain, this want to see her again...

This lust, consuming...

Consuming him, so that when the clock chimed ten, he went towards the outlook...

Consuming her, so that when the clock chimed ten, she merely kissed Theodore harder, for Sirius didn't cross her mind...

Though Scarlett haunted his.
 


Chapter 18: Riot
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A/N: I really like this chapter!!! And I only have 18 more left to edit <3 love you all!!


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Scarlett, much like her father, was very observant. It was a Slytherin trait, he had told her; as soon as the hat declared her one that trait had latched onto her easily. Her mother, a Frenchwoman that went to Beauxbatons, was not equipped with distaste for Gryffindor, and Tiffany had been a Ravenclaw--a House that was normally neutral as far as rivalry went. Priscilla, Scarlett's younger sister, was too young and was mostly mute, and would probably spend her time being homeschooled when Scarlett had been busy learning the mechanisms of her House.

Like Scarlett, all of her friends had acquired this trait, and found different means to utilize their talent. Even Georgiana had an unusual amount of observational skills, despite being a Ravenclaw herself.

So Scarlett should not have been surprised when, the morning after Theodore and Scarlett's week anniversary, Georgiana turned to the Gryffindor table and instantly noticed an oddity that no one else seemed to have noticed. She leaned towards Scarlett, whispering in a way that she must have learned from Ambrose, "The Marauders are staring at us."

Scarlett turned back to Georgiana. "Don't they normally?"

"Not like this," Georgiana told her. "It's...weird."

Scarlett did not want to look over--she could feel it in her gut that it wouldn't be good--but at Georgiana's insistence she glanced at the Gryffindor table. While occasionally Slytherins and Gryffindors occupied themselves with a mean glance towards their rival, the looks given by the Marauders did not fit the criteria of a death glare. It did not really fit anything, Scarlett realized, seeing as their stares were all... well, weird.

James, by far, looked the most distracted, his eyes unfocused on the Slytherin table as he said something to Peter. Georgiana was studying him, too, and after a second or so she whispered, "Is it because of Evans?"

Scarlett looked over; it was interesting to see that, though James was looking at the Slytherin table, his main goal clearly was on not looking towards a certain redhead that was nearby. And Lily, Scarlett saw, seemed to be responding to the lack of attention, something only evident by a sallow look that looked out of place at the generally optimistic table. While James had always before tried techniques to obtain Lily's affection, she had not expected the strategy of ignorance--and it was getting to her.

"That's weird," Scarlett commented. "Weird, but good, I guess."

Georgiana nodded absentmindedly, looking over at the other Marauders. Scarlett turned her gaze towards Peter, who, unsurprisingly, had his eyes glued on Ambrose, who had just stood with a skirt that was too short and a shirt that was too revealing.

"Well, that's nothing," Scarlett murmured. "Ambrose has plenty of those looks."

And then Scarlett turned her eyes towards Remus, did not stare at the group but was instead taking repetitive, fleeting glances at Georgiana. Perhaps it was a form of self-protection, but Georgiana did not point this out to Scarlett, and Scarlett wisely chose not to make mention of it.

As for Sirius, well, Sirius looked cross in general--

That was when Scarlett stopped.

He was staring at her, directly at her and intensely at her, but the look was not one that was normally exchanged between the two Houses. It wasn't petty rivalry; it was genuine anger, anger that  made every feeling in her body go absolutely numb.  His looked like he had been wronged, completely wronged, and it was all her fault--

And that was when Scarlett stopped again, because she had just remembered. She looked back at Sirius, and she widened her eyes slightly to try and indicate, in the subtlest way possible, an apology.

In a way just as subtle, Sirius shook his head.

Oh, no, no, no.

Scarlett had anticipated, for a while, that this stream of happiness would cease, and finally she had hit a rut in the road. As a matter of fact, she hardly remembered being content in the first place, because a completely unwanted feeling entered her system, one that a Slytherin should never feel.

Guilt.

She wondered, worriedly, how long he had waited for her. She wondered what he thought of her now, just after they had begun to be friends. She wondered why she had not remembered in the first place.

Was it Tenereus?

To be perfectly honest, she had not been as enthusiastic about reading the stars as she normally was this year. In her fifth and sixth year, she had always loved it, because it was an escape. It was something she knew that she was talented at, something that separated her from the rest of the pack and made her feel...well, useful.

But she had learned... she had learned that there were plenty of things, plenty of people, that she would have never known had she continued engrossing herself in the stars. She would have never engaged a friendship with Sirius, for example--and if she hadn't ever had that friendship, what would have happened to her? She had the feeling that she had grown since the beginning of the year--if he hadn't been with her, she would have remained the same.

But hell. Just as she was beginning to find comfort in her future, she had to find that look and question herself again. What did Tenereus think of her now? And what was Sirius thinking?

Maybe, just maybe, she had come to realize that the mutability of the stars was fruitless to follow. Instead of learning of the future, she examined it, picking out objects that would help celebrate her and Theodore's.

But that look made her doubt what she had done. She had to set everything on track. She couldn't lose control, not now. She couldn't lose Tenereus; he was one of her closest friends, though he would never admit it.

She couldn't lose Sirius, either. Despite how much she wanted to tell herself otherwise, Sirius was like a breath of fresh air to her. Sirius never reminded her of a training session. Sirius never complained about his Dark Mark.

In fact, Sirius was abnormally different from anyone she'd ever spent time with before. He was not afraid to voice his opinion, for one; he did not worry about consequences. He was not afraid to tell her when her Slytherin habits were too extreme, and she had begun to think about them carefully.

It only happened in the nights when she was with him, the doubts, but they still came...the idea that maybe, just maybe, the society she was in was skewed. While they had been fleeting before, under the canopy of the forest, with Sirius... They weren't and that worried her.

Something made her feel like--she didn't know--the look that Sirius was giving her was one that wondered if she had it in her to have these doubts.

A month ago Scarlett would have thought the doubts a defect, something random that came to her in the middle of nights or when her Dark Mark or headache hurt especially. Now...if someone asked if she doubted...she might have remained silent for just a second longer, would have held her tongue a bit more than she probably should have.

And then she had to wonder--was her guilt only for leaving Sirius alone? Or was it because... she had run away from those doubts--

A soft pat, coming from Georgiana, shook Scarlett from her traitorous thoughts.

"Are you going to class today?" Georgiana joked, but when Scarlett shrugged, Georgiana ceased smiling. "Seriously? You don't feel well?"

Scarlett smiled sarcastically. "Feel like hell, actually."

]—[

Scarlett had expected it. She had expected it the exact minute she entered the outlook.

Why did she come if she had expected it? She knew that it was the guilt that had to have played some part, but what dominated her stomach as she walked through the trees that night was some sort of yearning. For normalcy--for this normalcy that she had grown into at the  outlook, a normalcy that she had run away from with Theodore.

But she couldn't leave him out there again waiting for her. She would feel fortunate if he had even chosen to come.

So while she was surprised, and grateful, to see Sirius again, she was not surprised at the look he gave her when she entered the outlook. She was, in no way, surprised to see Sirius open his mouth, hit the roadblock between temper and sense, and close it again. She was also not surprised that she spoke first.

"I'm sorry," she started, and it was unusually genuine. "I'm sorry. I was stupid."

Sirius didn't say anything, instead giving her a stare that encouraged--no, demanded--an explanation.

"Look," she stated, "I'm sorry, again, I just--I was hanging out with Theodore, all right?" Scarlett blurted this out in a futile attempt to get him to understand, but, if anything, it seemed to agitate him more; Scarlett could feel it easily.

"It's not like I was trying to blow you off!" she insisted. "It was just, I forgot, because Theodore and I-- I don't have a proper excuse--ah--I swear, though, I'm so sorry--I'll never make the same mistake twice," she said wildly in anticipation, looking over to Sirius in hope that he was buying it.

He wasn't.

"Well, you have to understand," Scarlett said, trying to find some leg to stand on, "Theodore and I were looking over wedding stuff, I mean, it's in December so we have a lot to do... Plus, Georgie needed our help, too--"

But Scarlett stopped right there.

It was then that she realized that her speech of apology could easily be translated into one that undermined him by saying she would rather spend all of her time with Theodore instead of him. She noticed that, if looked at with his mindset, her apology wasn't really an apology at all.

But it was more than that, much more than that, that seemed to infuriate Sirius, and his look of impatience so smoothly and suavely melted into one of absolute fury. Despite the darkness of the night, Sirius's face darkened even more so, his expression bleak as if he was trying to compress his rage.

And, then, in a forced tone, he asked, "You're marrying him?"

Scarlett's train of thought faltered, nearly derailing itself. "What?" she asked blankly, and Sirius advanced a step towards her. If the traits of Slytherin were not a part of her--such as pride--she would have retreated a step, simply because the look on his face was so intimidating that her stomach dropped a couple of inches.

"You're marrying him," Sirius stated, though it was in no way calmer than the last time he had said this, "that's what you said. Aren't you?"

"Well, yes," Scarlett muttered, confused. "I thought you knew that."

"No," Sirius informed her; it set her nerves on edge, as if his anger was so evident from where he stood that she could actually physically feel it. "I didn't."

"Really?" Scarlett asked, as if this conversation was casual, and Sirius didn't appreciate it in the slightest. "I thought everybody knew."

Sirius growled, as his expression broke into one that was so furious Scarlett's face heated. "How could you do that, though?" Sirius questioned, and his voice rose in volume. "How could you let yourself be married?"

"I--"

"Don't you think that's stupid?" Sirius asked, again, though his tone revealed a hint of ridicule. "Did you ever once think that being married to him might be stupid?"

"No," she said with confidence. "It couldn't have been a better match."

And that was when Sirius exploded.

"Honestly?!" he yelled, taking another step towards her. "Is your life that invested in that goddamn society? Are you really going to sacrifice that? Your freedom? Just to be with some half-assed--"

"Hey," Scarlett said quietly, taking a step towards Sirius as well. "Stop it--"

"Stop it?" Sirius said incredulously. "Damn it, you should know better! You should know better than to waste yourself like that!"

And, right around then, Scarlett stopped being reasonable. She stopped trying to apologize. She stopped trying to gain Sirius's forgiveness and forgot about the guilt and the yearning and the doubts.

Because, as soon as she heard him say it--as if it were written on her face, as if his option was the only option--Scarlett's temper broke, too.

"Why would I know better, huh?!" Scarlett snapped, and for the briefest of seconds Sirius looked surprised that she had responded so angrily, but soon his face reformed into the same rage it had held before. "What makes you think I'm doing something wrong?!"

"I thought you were different!" Sirius roared, taking another step so that the two were inches away from each other. "I thought that you, out of all of them, at least had a goddamn mind!"

"The world doesn't have to agree with you all the bloody time!" Scarlett returned equally and just as loudly. "Just because things don't go your way! Not everyone wants to leave their family!

"Not everyone wants to be stupid! Not everyone wants to have to deal with being a reject for their whole life! Not everyone is as brave as you are, Sirius! Maybe I'm happy where I am, yeah?! Have you ever thought about that?!"

Sirius didn't respond, but Scarlett continued:

"Did you ever once stop to think that I might want to marry Theodore? Maybe it's not the perfect time, but it's the best thing right now! And I shouldn't have to deal with your--your uncalled for anger because of what I think! What I want!

"Hell, why do you think it's your business? Why do you think I'm wasting my life by being with Theodore? Why do you even bother with me if I'm such a pawn to you?!"

"Because I thought you knew better!" Sirius argued. "I thought you might have considered that marriage at seventeen is stupid! How long have you been with Nott, anyway?! One week, two? Marriage isn't something you can just take away! It happens, and that's it! You're with him! But for what, Scarlett? Your freedom?!"

Scarlett sighed, running her hand through her hair, her eyes still narrowed. "Why does it matter to you so much, Sirius?" she asked bitterly, a sarcastic smile resting on her lips. "Why do you feel like you are the puppet master to my happiness? Why do you hate me so much that you cannot fathom for one second that I might be happy just the way I am?"

"Because I know you're not!" Sirius yelled back at her.

At his words Scarlett took a step back from him and shook her head. "You don't know anything about me, Sirius," she guaranteed darkly. "You don't know a damn thing."

But while that was the last words that were said in the argument--both stormed away from each other at that moment--the question that Scarlett had asked Sirius still rung in their heads.

Why do you hate me so much?

]—[






 
 


Chapter 19: I Hate Everything About You
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Autho's Note - Hi guys! This is edited. There is NO dialogue in this chapter, which I think is pretty representative of how I felt when I was writing it (when I was younger, I kind of was afraid of dialogue because I felt like I wrote it in a stilted and awkward way, something I am not beginning to appreciate it). As a result, you are left with a pretty heavy chapter, in my opinion--I use the word 'hate' 45 times, so gear up. Um, I think that this chapter is very important, however, in that it represents the changes that are happening to our dear main characters. Whatever the case, I really hope you enjoy it :)

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Why do you hate me so much.

It was a question that invaded Sirius's mind every time he saw her during the next day; even when he swore he wouldn't look over at her, he always did, and when he did that question had the power to bother him again and again. He was still so, so angry, but he was also curious, and fascinated, and thoughtful. Every time he saw her, the question would stymie him; he could have been in the middle of a class or in the middle of a conversation with James, and right when she came into his vision immediately his mind would go back to that night--

Why? Why do you hate me so much?

You cannot fathom for one second that I might be happy just the way I am.

The statement, which he always thought of immediately following the question, only riled him up more, made him feel like he was going insane.

Why do you hate me so much?

So many reasons.

He hated her tone of voice, like she knew all in the world and everyone else did not. He hated how she was too austere, too reluctant whenever he suggested something slightly out of hand or something slightly risky. He loathed, loathed, loathed how she was a Slytherin and spent her time with people like Nott and Katalina, the two most hated of the House in his eyes, not including herself. He loathed how she had to compete with him on every bloody thing, how she was so afraid to admit her own faults, how even though they were now a sorry excuse for friends she would still attack his friends and he would still attack hers!

She was a bitch--no, sharp-tongued. She was demanding and strict and rude and, quite possibly, one of the most fitting candidates for the Slytherin House, the worst insult he could think of. She was insufferable and sarcastic, cynical yet naive, and, overall, pathetic in every way.

But, then, on the other side of the coin...

He hated how she would never say Voldemort's name, and he hated whenever she would wince whenever he did. He hated how she was in the league of Purebloods that were forcing her to marry, and she wouldn't admit that she wasn't comfortable with what they were asking. He hated how, though she had potential, spirit even, she let herself be bound. He loathed how she broke out of the school every night and risked her life in addition, and did it mindlessly, as if her life didn't matter--as if she were an entity or, as she had said, a pawn.

And, in the very middle, the gray parts of the coin that no one noticed...

He hated how she was humorous, quirky and fast witted with every response he could draw out. He hated how she challenged him and caused him to question the prejudices he'd carried since the Sorting Hat had been placed on his head. He hated how when she was excited about something her eyes would sparkle, even outshining the midnight stars. He loathed how he missed her whenever he was with Remus during the full moon. He hated how in the mornings he would look towards the Slytherin table and see her with Theodore. He hated how, one day, they would marry... and she was fine with it, adamant that it happen. He hated that, particularly.

And, most of all...

Sirius hated how he didn't hate her, not really. He didn't hate her quirks, he didn't hate her weaknesses, he didn't hate her aptitudes or her personality or her appearance. He didn't hate her at all.

He hated how he didn't even feel indifferent when her name was mentioned. He hated how his stomach would suddenly feel queasy. Like she had done something to him, though it was not something that could have been done through mere sorcery. It was more dangerous, more unpredictable, and more unwanted.

He hated how, every time James or Remus or, forbid, Peter thought of a prank involving her, some stab of guilt would strike him.

He hated how every time he saw her and Theodore together he wanted to hex him senseless, hurt him, eliminate him from the picture entirely. He hated how he wanted to take Theodore's place.

He hated this, some strange combination of helplessness and senselessness, the want to do something, consequences be damned. He hated how he noticed the closest details on her face and her eyes and her hair and everything and how every time he felt cleared of mind she would enter again, just as restless as he was.

He hated how, even though he was so bloody livid at her for being such a mind-numbing bitch, for goodness's sake, he still found her very, very pretty, he was beginning to care about her, and, damn it, damn it, damn it, he wanted to kiss her!

What was he supposed to do now? Pretend like the whole experience hadn't happened? Because, truthfully, he had thought of that long before their argument had occurred. He had thought about never coming back to that forest, never going back to that place that he now could find even if he couldn't see.

He had thought about leaving her in the cold. He had thought about it desperately, thought about it because it was the only way for him to retain normalcy or whatever was closest to it. He simply couldn't stomach it--so he would have to forget.

He had thought this too often. Every time he felt in any way affected by her presence, he thought it idly, though these thoughts were muffled by his own nerves, jolting electricity from thin air into his veins. He thought about it when the Marauders asked him where he'd been, why the Butterbeers had ceased coming.

He thought about it too often.

But he simply couldn't. He couldn't even consider, for a moment, that he could hate her as he had before. Now he couldn't fathom in the slightest anything that would hurt her. Even when she had worried about Theodore, he had tried to soothe her, even if it made his own anger twitch in absolute distaste.

So, Sirius didn't know what to do. Every cell of logic within him ached, begged, and pleaded for him to leave her be. She had not been in his life in this way for long--a month or so. He could easily find someone else for his thoughts to distract themselves on.

Even with this his heart, having no argument but terrible conviction, stated otherwise. In fact, the heart was so meager when compared to the rest of the body that it shouldn't have affected him at all. Sirius had always lived without thinking about it too much--numb from the time his parents scolded him for doing something as stupid as wearing a muggle T-shirt. He had been numb through romances, he had been numb through pain. Without his friends he would have believed the organ simply didn't exist within him, because while Sirius was passionate he hated to be committed.

But now this thing that was going on with Scarlett was ... he wasn't sure. She was beginning to mean something to him... his heart was beginning to get addicted in a way that wasn't just lust and that worried him. It worried him and he hated it--but he was beginning to realize that he would have hated more to be without it.

]—[

Scarlett could not concentrate throughout the day. Even Theodore, who had been her prime distraction, could not ease her mind; when Scarlett was in this disturbed of a state she had a tendency to dwell for hours upon hours in an attempt to understand.

Why do you hate me so much?

Why had she said that? Why had their argument even happened, anyway?

It was supposed to have been simple. It was supposed to have been a quick apology, a reluctant nod, and very slowly things would piece themselves together like a puzzle. But because she had done something, committed the heinous crime of marriage, Sirius had snapped and her mouth ran away from her.

It was supposed to have been easy. Even if they were from opposing sides--even if he was Montague and she was Capulet--she had always hoped that the soul of the situation, their friendship, would be easy. After all, the stars had collided to bring them together; there had to have been reason why. He was proud and she was narrow-minded.

In his opinion, anyway.

So, it was supposed to have been simple. He was supposed to have understood.

He did not understand, nor did she... Why had he yelled at her in the first place, anyway? Why had he found it his right to be so concerned about her wellbeing? Yes, they were supposed to be friends, but who was he to get in her face about Theodore?

What had he yelled at her in the first place, again? His anger had started up slowly, and exploded abruptly, surprising her and shocking her in such a way that she had not been able to comprehend, really, what he was saying.

He thought her life was stupid. He thought that she was making a bad decision by being who she thought she should be, instead of being who she was. It was shockingly profound, especially coming from Sirius, who did not come across as terribly observant. She was surprised he had the depth to make that kind of a judgment about her.

It should have been something easier. He should have just told her that she was stupid for leaving him in the outlook and she would have understood. He should have told her that he hated Slytherins and she would have understood that, too.

But she was slowly starting to realize that Sirius wasn't simple at all. Sirius had to have thought often of her, because he had understood in a way she had been afraid to that there was some part of her that did not like the life she lived now. That her society was controlling her, a society where he didn't reside anymore.

Even her own friends hadn't seen that. Even she hadn't said it aloud.

But Sirius had.

He had simply taken it too far.

The statement only was admirable when it was stripped of his insults. What he had actually said, without being carefully analyzed, was terribly rude, terribly undermining, and made her angry to even think about.

"I thought that you, out of all of them, at least had a goddamn mind!"

What was that supposed to mean? Was it a twisted compliment or a twisted insult?

She was angry about what he had said regarding Theodore. Theodore was the only thing that kept her from going insane. He kept her grounded, but he took her over to a whole new world, one that looked exactly the same as the world she knew before but wasn't.

Wasn't that love? Of course it was moving awfully fast, but didn't they have decades over decades to learn? Their marriage would fit snugly over what they believed. It--

It shouldn't have to fit with anything.

This realization was enough for Scarlett to sit up on her bed and nearly hit her head on the bedpost.

That was what Sirius had been trying to tell her. He had not worded it in an eloquent way. But there it was...

Her marriage to Theodore had always been described as a perfect fit. A perfect match. And she had only slightly been referring to their personalities, their outward love or whatever it was that they felt for each other.

But, mainly, she dwelled on how pleased Voldemort would be. How there was no struggle or resistance from either of them as they were so happy to wed, weren't they?

Were they?

Scarlett never thought she would get cold feet, but time had the power to change anything. She was sure that she wanted to marry him, she was sure that they would be a perfect couple in the way that didn't have anything to do with society.

But Sirius's anger startled her. Why would he be so outrageous about them as a couple? If they were to be described as a perfect fit, didn't that include the Gryffindors, too? Weren't the Gryffindors supposed to merely scoff and turn their head at just another Slytherin arranged marriage? Weren't they supposed to not care about a House they thought inferior?

Why didn't Sirius fit the mold? He had fit it for every day of his life, especially so when he left his household with the family honor resting on their doorstep. He was brave, admittedly. He was chivalrous even though he came across as arrogant and rude. He always seemed to want to help people, though. Have their best interests at heart. It was a Gryffindor thing, and he had shown as much when he had seen right through her.

But, being a Slytherin, she wanted to decipher him badly. She was observant, wasn't she? How did he know so much more about her?

Why do you hate me so much?

Why would she have put fuel on the fire? Why had she reacted so strongly, recoiled from what he had been saying to the point where she had only made the situation worse?

Why did he hate her so much? Why did he hate Theodore so much? Why, why, why? Why did Sirius confuse her and frustrate her so much? Gryffindors were supposed to be shallow. She was supposed to have him figured out easily.

But she didn't! She didn't, and she was mad at herself because of it! She didn't understand how a boy could hate her, but laugh with her! She didn't understand it at all, and this infuriated her, because she was supposed to!

Damn it, damn it, damn it!

In her frustration, Scarlett only sank deeper into the covers of her bed, gripping her sheets against her chin with furor until her hands were white from tension.

Damn it!

Why did he have to be so outlandish? So unlike anyone else she had ever encountered before?

That was the only reason Scarlett could fathom for her own hatred towards Sirius. He was so complicated, and yet he had made her think he was easy to understand, just so she could confuse herself over his crude words.

In the end, he had wronged her. He had been too harsh, too rude, and too uncalled for. At the moment, her words had been the only way to protect herself from his, because every statement he had made that night held a speck of truth.

And now she was left with that one thought. Why do you hate me so much? And why did she hate him so much?

On the other hand, considering everything he was--and every threat he represented to what she knew--how come she didn't hate him enough?

]—[
 


Chapter 20: Pour Votre Propre Bien
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A/N: Another edit! Woo! I am working my way through this story, seriously. I only have 7 more chapters after chapter 15 to edit, and then I have 9 chapters before chapter 15 to edit (I tend to think my writing has gone in phases, and it goes 5-15, 16-30, 30-50, 51-79, 80-100. I know, right?) So I hope you like this chapter; even with edits, it's not my best, mainly because of what I left myself with. I'm trying to make the character development more streamlined so the story is chronological, and I hope it is effective and you guys like it!

The outlook did not feel any different.

When Sirius entered--late due to internal debate--he looked around for the sight of Scarlett, or any clue as to if she had come in the first place. However, it looked like it normally did when he came early and she did not--empty, though welcoming.

The outlook did not look any different.

Sirius had no idea what he would have said to her, anyway. Sorry was too generic, and would make it seem as if he regretted what he said. He didn't; he just wished he had said it better. He was sorry he hadn't been more eloquent, but it needed to be said. So he did not feel comfortable simply apologizing; to say sorry would be to erase the truth.

And he knew the truth a little bit better than he had when they had fought. It scared him and introduced him to another question: would it ever go away? Would this fascination, this semblance of compassion that he was starting to feel, ever leave him, as if it were a passing illness?

Or would he have to live with it--and, if that were the case...then what would he do? Pursue a woman who he now knew was getting married?

Sirius didn't feel any different than the last time he had entered the outlook, but, at the same time...

Bloody hell, he did.

Even the outlook had changed in his eyes. Once a place of mystery, of adventure, it had now become something eerily close to sanctuary for Sirius. When he had begun this whirlwind of an adventure he had rationalized that to venture into the Forbidden Forest was to venture into the unknown, to explore and discover a part of the school he had always been curious about.

And now? It wasn't for the unknown. Because he knew the outlook and he knew by now that the stars weren't enough motivation to make the journey every night. The outlook had changed because, as witness to their relationship, it had matured somehow. It now contained the secrets of their fight, where they had never been more honest with each other.

But, despite whatever changes had occurred under the surface since the fight, there was still one consistency in the scene; at both times, he had had no idea what he was going to say to her, if she came.

Things normally fell together and he was hoping for that now. Generally, Scarlett always started the conversation, and Sirius would then state his own opinion, so that it was not long before a debate began that could last the entire night.

But after their fight it wasn't so cut-and-dry. He could still feel the argument lurking in his mind. She shouldn't want to marry him, and there was no way he could pretend that it was okay that they would. He remembered what she said: "Why do you feel like you are the puppet master to my happiness?" And while he hadn't answered her that night, he had approached the best thing to an answer he could manage:

I don't know.

And, that was that.

If he had said that it would not have sufficed, of course, and they would have still continued arguing. He had stormed away not because he had nothing more to say to her; it was quite the contrary. He was afraid that he would say too much, that he would have either angered her or told her everything--things that didn't want to be said in the heat of an argument.

How was he to explain this to her, again? He was always strong when he was arguing, sometimes too strong, and with apologies, he was exactly the opposite. He was fortunate to have friends that accepted this sort of behavior. His plan was to have no plan, like he normally did, and go through with the belief that his own personal charm and their friendship itself could suffice as a good enough apology. This was a pretty strong belief, considering that it was his only, and if it didn't work than he would simply have to find a way to manage without her.

That was probably why he hoped so dearly.

There was many complications with this, and even without the obvious worry that it wouldn't satisfy her, there was also the one worry that could not be pacified by his thoughts.

She wasn't there.

Had he offended her that much? Was Scarlett the kind of person that did not lend second chances often? He did not know this side of her personality well--he knew the light side of her just as he knew the bleakest black, but he had only barely skimmed the surface of the gray between. He knew that she was not happy with her life, despite what she told him, and he knew that she thought of it vaguely, disguising the true effect of her words for her own protection.

But he did not know how she acted when angry. Sure, he had seen her shallowly angry; he had pushed her buttons before, and she had always been an easy target because her anger was not one that she retained easily. This had been some sick sort of entertainment for him then; he could not imagine irritating her now.

But Sirius had never seen Scarlett be truly, genuinely angry, because he had never deserved that anger before. But now, he knew that...in the past month, he had a place in Scarlett's heart. He just didn't know if it was favorable or unfavorable.

All he knew was that Scarlett had to feel something for him--that she did not look at him the same way she had at the beginning of September. It wasn't a question of it she fancied him or not--he knew that, somewhere, Scarlett cared about him. It could be good care, it could be bad care, but, in the center, somewhere, there was that raw kind of care, the kind that made people involuntarily turn when someone's name was mentioned, the kind that had made Sirius impolitely interested in Scarlett and Theodore's relationship.

So, she had to come, just for that reason. Because she cared.

Right?

He couldn't imagine her not coming. He just couldn't.

But, time was passing... it had been fifteen minutes since he had arrived... To be honest, the weather wasn't suited for his desperate waiting, because the wind blew his hair and covered his eyes, exposing his ears, which were nearly frozen from cold.

Sirius was always a determined person, but as each second passed his determination ebbed. It was like those nights alone at the outlook, again, where every second of his waiting brought a wave of worry, frustration, and, of all things, cold.

Sirius... had to go. Despite the extreme want--both his own and Gryffindor instinct--to stay, stay and endure it, there was a part of him, the part which had been predominant before they had become friends, that told him that he should have known. Maybe he shouldn't have bothered and maybe she was just like the Slytherin he'd always expected of her.

And if he was done--finished--waiting for her, than he may as well say goodbye right now. Goodbye to the outlook, goodbye to everything about her, because the next day he swore he would regress to where he was before.

"Damn it," Sirius said, taking steps away from the outlook and giving it a last glance--

"Sirius?" he heard suddenly, caught in the middle of a gust of wind, and at the voice he immediately stopped in his tracks..

"Sirius?" the voice asked again, coming from the right, and Sirius looked at where he thought the source of the voice was. It was definitely human, and definitely British, though the French undertones were not missed by his ears, even with breezes almost incapacitating his hearing.

It was Scarlett, of course.

"I'm sorry," she said absentmindedly. "Hold on, Sirius, I'll be down in a minute."

What?

Sirius walked toward her voice warily, the wind still blowing with vigor, making it hard for him to do much else but lean against a tree towards the edge of the outlook.

Considering the strength of the wind, he found himself very surprised when Scarlett suddenly emerged from the branches of the tree, whose leaves were falling off in the breezes, leaving the tree bare. However, though her body swayed in the winds, she kept her hands grasped on one of the branches of the tree and hung, her feet about a foot off the ground.

Sirius turned and faced her.

She looked very cold, even though her heaviest robes were on, and she looked tired, deep lines under her face indicating so. Her face was rather expressionless; only her eyes made him understand what she was feeling, for they sparkled in the gleams of moon that came from the top of the sky, revealing specks of chocolate colored irises.

"I'm sorry for leaving you there," she repeated. "I was up here trying to think of the right words to say."

"Did you think of anything?" he asked her, and in response she shook her head.

"I was hoping the words would just come to me, to be honest with you," she said, and he nodded; that he could understand.

"So are you going to join me down here?" Sirius questioned. "So we can, uh--" he cleared his throat, uncomfortable-- "talk about it?"

Scarlett did her best to shrug. "In a bit. It's good exercise. We all need it, some more than others."

"But you don't," Sirius pointed out. "Don't you?"

Scarlett smiled, letting one hand slip off of the branch casually and tensing her other. "Everyone needs exercise, Sirius. It's a hobby... it's an interest... I just don't want to get rusty."

"Are you enjoying yourself?" Sirius asked her, and Scarlett's smile evolved into a large grin, alternating hands on the branch while it trembled in the wind. "Most people like to exercise through running or sports or something, you know."

"I'm having fun," Scarlett said simply. "I enjoy being a little bit taller than you." She studied her position and studied his, stopping at his eyes, and they both held each other's glances, knowing full well that one of them had to initiate the conversation both were desperate to move past.

Finally, though, Scarlett relented, putting both of her hands back on the branch and saying, "I'm sorry, Sirius. I overreacted."

Sirius refocused his eyes--he had to admit he had been a little too transfixed in her eyes--and nodded. "I'm, uh--" he started, trying to prolong saying the sentence he never could say properly, but Scarlett interrupted him by shaking her head.

"No, I get it," she assured him. "I get it.

"But..." she said uneasily, biting on her bottom lip, "I don't think we should talk about it anymore. I don't want to fight with you again, Sirius."

"You've got it," Sirius guaranteed. "Now will you please get off that damn branch already?" At this request--and at the reconciliation--Scarlett laughed loudly.

"Bloody cold, isn't it?" she said casually, now swinging from the branch. "I mean, Merlin, you wouldn't think that there could be so much wind in the world, but there you are!"

"Scarlett," Sirius warned, "if you fly away with the wind I'm not going to look for you."

"Oh, please!" she retorted, and laughed again, pushing her limits by doing pull-ups on the branch. "Bite me, Black!"

Sirius laughed, but before he could respond in a way that didn't hint at naughtiness the branch gave way on its own, breaking so quickly that Scarlett could not bother to jump off herself.

To prevent her from stumbling Sirius steadied her; when he did so, his hands felt as if they were shocked. Scarlett was quiet for a second, staring at the branch and looking as if it held some secret, before throwing it aside and meeting Sirius's eyes.

"I guess you were right," she said flatly. "Merde, Sirius. I kicked this branch's ass."

Sirius paused; he had never heard her speak French before, and it sounded harmonious, like an instrument to the wind's song. "Say that again," he said slowly, and Scarlett raised her eyebrows.

"What? Merde?" she asked, and he nodded, grabbing the branch from the forest ground and observing it carefully. "Sirius, that's just a French cuss. It's nothing to worry about."

"I never knew you spoke French," Sirius pointed out; Scarlett shrugged in reply.

"Je parle français, Sirius," she said sweetly, turning towards another tree and running towards it in an attempt to grab another branch. "Je le parle bien."

Crazy. A month ago she would have been just another Slytherin, and now--well, now she was defiant and headstrong and had the deepest brown eyes he'd ever seen and could speak French, for Merlin's sake. The part of him that had wanted to leave the outlook burrowed so deep beneath his skin so that when he turned to her again he didn't see a Slytherin--he just saw Scarlett.

"Are you going to speak it all the time now?" Sirius asked warily, and Scarlett looked up towards the cherry tree's branches. "Just because you know I have no way of understanding it?"

" Probablement." Scarlett said, but she shrugged, finally grasping a branch so thick that it did not sway in the wind. "Mais, rappelez-vous..."

"Je ne parlerai français pour votre propre bien."

]---[

French translations:

Merde = shit

Je parle francais = I speak French

Je le parle bien = I speak it well

Probablement =probably

Mais, rappelezvous = but remember...

Je ne parlerai français pour votre propre bien = I will only speak French for your own good

^ :-O
 


Chapter 21: A Place for Truth
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A/N EDIT: THIS IS MY THIRD CHAPTER TODAY!! AWESOME BLOSSOM :) I LIKE THIS CHAPTER A LOT, ACTUALLY!
 

Scarlett had been searching the stars when Sirius came.

She had come to the outlook early, just as the sun set and the wind was more peaceful, her only motivation being the desire to formulate her apology and the want to set things right. Her head had still been confused and frustrated, and she ran with her thoughts fueling each step, evaporating every time she took a hasty inhale.

That was the thing about running: it always soothed her thoughts, even when they were at their wildest. This was especially true when she was running to the outlook; the outlook in itself represented a reprieve from her problems at school.

Well, except for now. That made the physical action of running that much more appreciated, the way it forced herself to only think of the steady beat, the steady jog, the steady rhythm of breath. Her legs could ache and her heart could be racing--the weather could be frigid and windy--but when she was running, she didn't care.

She didn't care about a damn thing.

It was only when the running stopped that Scarlett's head caught up with her, and when this happened every feeling and emotion she had repressed fell right back into place, as if she had been feeling them all along. At times, this stressed her--it all happened so suddenly--but, at other times, it was easier to handle. It was a comfort to know that she would have running for when things in her life didn't otherwise make sense.

But then, suddenly, the peace she had attained while running was confronted as she noticed a presence in the outlook. She had not seen him for quite a long time, and she was surprised he had come to this part of the outlook, considering that he had found a clearing nearby for himself and himself only.

It was Tenereus, of course. His hair was magically smooth and a light coffee brunette, falling to the top of his torso. His face had the slight expression of surprise on it, also, but it alone was not enough to mask the wisdom his face always wore. It was as if his face proved that words could be stronger than force alone.

Tenereus was curious but what made him special was his experience; this made his usage of his curiosity much more useful than any curiosities she had ever harbored. Another thing that was unique to Tenereus was that, while he toyed with danger, he did it without any concern to his own life, instead believing that what he was risking his life for was honorable.

Right now, though, all of Tenereus's curiousness was aimed at her, giving her a look that was so attentive that Scarlett's stomach panged with unease. He took a few steps toward her, though Scarlett could plainly see that he had been pacing before her arrival, for imprints of his hooves were in the earth like steps on the moon.

She didn't know what to say to him, and every step he took closer made her feel increasingly speechless. She could not imagine what to say; there was too much to say. There were apologies and explanations--there were words of relief and words of defense--there were too many words, too many phrases, which collided within her.

Tenereus, however, looked calm. Calm but not serene, and that notable difference was enough to make Scarlett feel the beginnings of worry line her face.

"I heard you and Mr. Black arguing a few days previous," Tenereus said flatly and bluntly. "Would you like to tell me why, Scarlett?"

"Er--" Scarlett started, trying to find her voice but failing, and she cleared her throat in attempt to retrieve it. She did this multiple times, and it was only after she was sure her voice did not hold the excess weight of guilt that she began to speak. "It's a long story, really, Tenereus, and I don't--I don't really know," she admitted, clearing her throat again. "I don't know why he yelled at me. I know what I did wrong, but he didn't--I don't know--seem all that worried about what I thought he was going to be worried about. He was still angry, of course, but it must have been about something else. Not about me."

"Ah," Tenereus said. "So, is it beginning?"

"What?" Scarlett said blankly, idly grabbing into a branch like she had done the night before. "Is what beginning, exactly? I forgave him last night, Tenereus. We're not fighting anymore. There's nothing to worry about, we'll get what you want done."

Tenereus shook his head. "Honesty, Scarlett, suits everyone very well. Unfortunately, you just don't fancy wearing it, do you?" He sighed, turning away from her, his long hair flowing gracefully in the blowing wind, which, while less frantic as the wind the night before, was cold. "I read the stars constantly, Scarlett, do you understand that? I read them when they are hardly in the sky. I would spend an eternity reading them if I could determine, exactly, the course of the world." He shook his head again, though, his mouth going downward into a frown. "I have lived in this outlook for a multitude of years, Scarlett. I have been here for many people, like yourself, to pass through my modest outlook and give star-seeing a try.

"I have also seen people, like yourself, forget about it," he continued, pacing, again. "I wouldn't have expected any different. I have been here too long to believe that teenagers do not want to enjoy themselves to their fullest extent." Tenereus smiled bitterly. "This outlook does not provide entertainment often. It is bleak, and cold, and far away. It produces risk, both physically and otherwise. This was never a problem to the other people I knew," he supplied, "as they always were never concerned about themselves.

"There is one thing this outlook does provide, however," he stated, "and that is the truth. It is nearly impossible to believe that you can find truth within the walls of Hogwarts. Little of it is there. Not one student has been perfectly honest. Not one teacher has graded perfectly and fairly. Not one person has denied gossiping. It is how people work, simply.

"I would not have expected any different," he repeated, "from you."

This comment had been said before, but this time it especially upset Scarlett. Although Scarlett, after her argument with Sirius, had agreed that sometimes she took words a bit out of proportion, she could not help but feel the lack of faith in Tenereus's voice. This hurt and she thought of Tenereus's friendship with her--did that not mean anything? Did he not believe in her, even after they had become friends?

"I know what you want to say," Tenereus interrupted her train of thought. "But if you wish to say it, do you believe I was right, Scarlett, in thinking so? Do you believe that you are innocent of what I have accused you of? Because you have disappointed me," Tenereus said with conviction. "You have. It's not the pretty truth... But, there it is," Tenereus pointed out. "This outlook was never intended to hold anything back.

"I don't mind if you don't wish to star-see anymore," Tenereus said quietly. "It might even be safer. But please don't think you are luring me into a state where I think you stand up for your responsibilities each and every night. That is insulting our friendship, quite frankly."

"I'm sorry," Scarlett said after a pause; Tenereus accepted it curtly. "So, what have you learned?" Scarlett said slowly. "You said Sirius would help you; has he? Is there still more that he can do?"

"Information is infinite," Tenereus responded. "Mr. Black has helped me see the future in a way I haven't seen before, in so many ways.

"I have learned much about him," Tenereus continued. "As he is closer to me, he is much easier to track in the stars... It has revealed so much that I didn't know before. So much about him, and so much about you. You could not possibly believe how valuable that boy has been to me.

"Valuable?" Scarlett said with an edge to her voice. "What has his presence told you about me? Why is my future being read with his? And--how much do you know, anyway?" These questions were all asked with the same sharp tone, the same voice that held the emotion of utmost demand, though Tenereus's expression proved that he felt no urge to answer her questions.

"I am afraid, Scarlett," Tenereus said shortly, "That that information is strictly my own."

"Are you angry at me?" Scarlett said quickly, her eyes narrowing but her mouth turning into a frown. "You sound angry at me, and I'm sorry for what I did."

"I forgive you," Tenereus said. "But there is simply too much information I am not allowed to tell you that it makes my responses less than amiable. Over time, perhaps, you will see what is coming for you.

"Why did you come here so early?" Tenereus said abruptly, changing the subject at such a speed that Scarlett was disoriented. "You normally come hours later. Wasn't Theodore concerned about it? Did he think you were doing something unfaithful?"

"You tell me," Scarlett said dryly. "I told him, and he asked me about it, but he was not terribly worried. He trusts me well enough, I think." She paused. "Do you know about me and Theodore?"

"I do," Tenereus said, and for the first time in their conversation his voice held a twinge of warmth. "Congratulations."

"What else do you know, though?" Scarlett said, but she said it in a way that seemed hopeless, like she knew Tenereus would not say anything. "Do you know if we will follow through with the marriage? Do you know what will become of us?"

"I do," Tenereus said. "But I am afraid that if you want to learn about your future with Mr. Nott, you will have to do it on your own. I can say, though that it will be very sweet. It won't stay that way forever, of course," Tenereus said, "but there will always be the love."

With that final note, Tenereus left, leaving Scarlett alone in the outlook. The outlook, absent of Tenereus and Sirius, was very bleak, and it was hard to see the stars amidst the branches. She had apparently lost the ability to notice the stars quickly and efficiently, and with a sigh, Scarlett climbed up the cherry tree at the end of the outlook, balancing her foot on a wobbly branch and pulling herself higher.

She thought about what Tenereus had said, all of it, because every word spoken by Tenereus was ominous, especially those words spoken at the end. She could not imagine what he meant by his bitterness, or by the promise that the love between Scarlett and Theodore would always be there, but the sweetness would not last.

Bothered, Scarlett climbed higher.

It also puzzled her what he had said about Sirius. She had always known that there had to have been a good reason for his being there, considering that Bellatrix and Narcissa--also named after the stars--were not nominated for this sort of job. She had, however, never known what kind of impact it would make specifically. Even now, she wondered how exactly Tenereus read the stars--did he read them the way that she did? Or did he see something more, or hear something that she could not hear, simply because she did not know how to communicate in that way?

In response, Scarlett climbed higher, letting the unsavory thought escape her with no reluctance whatsoever, and reaching the top of the tree with ease. The top of the cherry tree was actually rather bowl shaped, with each side of it branching off and away.

It was, quite possibly, the most perfect tree imaginable to star-gaze, and Scarlett fit herself on it perfectly. The breezes were finally noticeable at this height, cold and shrill, so much so that it was hard for Scarlett to focus on anything other than the goosebumps on her arms.

But, she finally found a way to relax. Her back leaned against the tree, melding like candle wax to the tree's texture, as she rested for the first time in what seemed like forever. Her hair splayed out on the branch she rested her head against, tendrils of her hair falling innocently into the air below, though blowing around haphazardly from the breeze.

And, perfectly situated, Scarlett eased, her eyes finding the stars. It took a couple of seconds for her, although like a child away from a bike for a long time she finally found her stride, starting cautiously but soon letting her eyes dart from constellation to constellation--from the half-full moon to the distant planets. It was hard to see by the naked eye but easier to see by one influenced by magic.

She stayed in her position for a long time, her eyes moving frantically, looking for her future somewhere. She scanned the skies for any constellation to study, any comet, any meteor... Anything, just for the pure solace that she still could read the stars, that she could still--

And, like a breath of air, she found it. It lasted briefly, though it was imprinted in her mind like a fossil, expanding into all of her thought systems, so that one image--that one solitary image--hung in the air with staleness, waiting for her to do something with it--anything.

All Scarlett could do was breathe as best she could, even though her heart pumped as frantically as it did after exercise. Her thoughts also seemed to suddenly place themselves together, but the only thought that was coherent in her head was shrill, uneasy fear, fear that crawled up her arms, tickled her nerves, and contracted her stomach.

She had seen Theodore.

Theodore's face was beautiful, always, and nothing could make Scarlett's opinion waver. But, seeing the image in the stars, it was disastrously beautiful, chillingly beautiful; it was beautiful that made her eyes stay glued to the stars and made her breath come in swift measures. Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale... she tried to find that steady beat, a beat like running, but that face was scarred on her mind.

He looked so angry, the way she had just seen him, though not in the teasing anger or the annoyed anger he had seen many times. If anything, this was not only the angriest she had seen Theodore but also the saddest, his eyes wide and dark and his face sunken and sallow, staring straight at her, attempting to look into her soul, trying to see her thoughts in her eyes... And she heard Tenereus's voice, as foreboding as ever, freezing her insides hauntingly...

There is one thing this outlook provides, however... and that is the truth.

Calm down, she thought to herself. It's okay.

But the face was still in her mind, and she tried to distract herself from it, instead trying to feel the scenery like she had before--feel the bark against her back--taste the crisp wind, which still blew furiously--hear...

Hear footsteps...

"Sirius?" Scarlett asked uneasily, praying for him, for nothing else would soothe her more if he had forgiven her. Maybe the face in her head would evaporate, and maybe she could breathe normally once more... Maybe the face was a fallacy... Maybe just imagination...

"I'm sorry," she said. She did not know if the apology was for Sirius, for Theodore of the future, or for herself, as she called back down to Sirius and ran away from the haunting picture from the stars. She hoped that she would never know.
 


Chapter 22: The Strangest Thing
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Autho's Note: Edited! And much better, in my opinion. Streamlined is the most appropriate word for what I did to this chapter. I also love Jesse -- he never ever comes up again but I find him to be really funny. Um, anyways, enjoy perfect angels!

]---[
 

Everyone in the Slytherin inner circle had a hobby all their own.

Bellatrix, out of the five, enjoyed reading the most, especially on the Dark Arts. Scarlett was the only one known for star seeing, and it gave her an added amount of observance, though Georgiana easily outdrew her by spending her time gossiping. Narcissa, herself, loved writing, and spent their nights by the common room fire composing notes after notes to Lucius.

Theodore's favorite thing to do was play Quidditch.

When Theodore did not wake up early for a Death Eater session, he normally woke early for Quidditch, and always had an easy time scheduling the field for the grit and dedication he held for the team. Because he was the Captain, he made sure to have as many Quidditch practices as the team needed, and, if they did not need any more practice, Theodore alone would spend his mornings on the Pitch, reasoning that "it couldn't do any harm."

And, most of the time, it didn't; Theodore had not yet brought his team to win, but he promised this year that the dream would come true, though no one wanted it quite as much as he did. However, like Scarlett's obsession with the stars, sometimes the hobby came across as a vice; as he spent more time playing Quidditch, his body became increasingly weary and tired.

"It's okay," Theodore assured, when Scarlett came to question him about it. "I'll be fine, it's the Cup we've got to worry about."

Normally, however, Scarlett didn't question him about it at all, because questioning his vices would surely lead to questions about hers, and ever since she had seen his face in the stars her mind had become panicked when the two were ever associated.

It was that face... It was so shocking, so abnormal, that the hours following it were filled in worried contemplation, wondering what, exactly, it could mean, and what would cause it... Because always alongside the image was Tenereus's stern voice, telling her about how, no matter how intense or shocking, the outlook would always tell the truth...

Scarlett hated that he said those words; however, she was thankful that the adage didn't apply to those who occupied the outlook.

She could never tell a soul. She had never told them about the stars either. With something like this, coming without any notice whatsoever, she was sure it was meant for her, and only her, the stars crossing in the just the right way so she could see the images they held.

It was, by far, the clearest image Scarlett had ever seen, though this thought was not a reassurance but more of a personal warning. There was something very important in that expression; there was no other reason the stars would make it so--so vivid, shocking her nerves and accelerating her heart.

There was a reason. The stars had to have been trying to warn her; from what, she wasn't sure. Tenereus had done the same, though expressing it through his words, telling her that, while they would start sweetly--very sweetly, he had said--it would not last forever.

She was sure that face had something to do with it, but she did not know how, and she was not sure that she wanted to. As each second passed and every cell in her brain attempted to solve this puzzle, every ounce of feeling in her heart cowered from it. It yelled that, while it was a warning, it was one she shouldn't pay attention to, because paying attention could not lead to anything good. Knowing what was happening before it happened would not work this time, the heart said with conviction. Stay away.

But, she still thought of it often. She thought of it, even though Sirius had eased the panic a little the night previous. She thought of it the first minute she woke up, for the face was so easily engraved in her face. No matter how soft an expression Theodore gave her in the present, no matter how kind of a kiss he left, she thought of how stony his face had looked. She remembered how black his eyes had been.

Scarlett's excessive cathexis left her mentally and emotionally drained; she felt as though she was trying to restrain her own curiosity, but at the same time allowing it to frustrate her with its theories. It left her tired, unenthusiastic, and altogether bleak, slightly dampening the mood that settled over Slytherin on Saturday morning.

The first Quidditch game of the season was scheduled for that day; Theodore had been preparing for it in-between all of the time he spent with Scarlett, and it showed, his team confident as they strode onto the Quidditch pitch in the morning hours. They were greeted coldly; the Slytherins cheered, Scarlett especially loud.

For the briefest of seconds, Theodore turned to her and smiled.

"Welcome," the commentator said, a seventh year Hufflepuff named Jesse Davis. At his voice, many cheered, especially women; however, the evident fact of the morning was not that Jesse was attractive. One reason prevailed over any other.

Quidditch. Rough, down-and-dirty Quidditch, played out like a war, the soldiers donned in green and blue and their eyes alight with passion and competition. Scarlett immediately identified Georgiana, her hair pulled back into a long ponytail and looking at the Keeper, Matthew Cornfoot, with light-hearted interest. Theodore, in turn, prodded her and said something.

Georgiana laughed.

"Well, this is it," Bellatrix said, pulling out a pair of binoculars. "Are we doing a bet, or what?"

"Yeah," Scarlett said idly. "Uh, a Galleon on Slytherin, a win by 70. I'm going to guess that Ravenclaw will start out strong, but then Lance Moon will get the Snitch. It'll probably be... about an hour long."

"Galleon on Ravenclaw, then," Bellatrix said confidently, using the binoculars to eye Matthew Cornfoot, who was talking to Georgiana, as she flipped her hair back and beamed. "Win by one hundred and ninety, with Ravenclaw having the lead the whole time, lasting for about an hour and a half."

"Narcissa?" Scarlett asked, but Narcissa shook her head.

"I'm trying to save money," Narcissa explained. "This game is too unpredictable to try to make money off of it." Narcissa shrugged. "I think Bella is going to win, though, Scarlett. Slytherin's a lost cause. You're just biased because of Theodore."

"And my House, thank you very much," Scarlett said sarcastically. "If Bella doesn't lose, then she's not invited to the wedding." Scarlett smiled. "Probably wouldn't be the most crippling loss, but, considering that you are one of my bridesmaids, I'll just invite Evans to take your place."

"Ugh," Bellatrix said, as she and Narcissa grimaced. "Don't even joke about things like that."

"Welcome!" Jesse repeated, putting his hands up as the audience roared; Scarlett cheered with her eyes on Theodore. "Welcome to the first Quidditch game of the year! For Ravenclaw..." A multitude of cheers hugged the team, and Jesse continued, a smile on his face. "For keeper, Matthew Cornfoot!" he began, and Georgiana grinned, slugging the boy on the arm playfully.

"Merlin," Bellatrix muttered, adjusting the binoculars to stare at the couple. "I wouldn't be surprised if they are a couple in a week or less, the way she's on him."

"I'll give it two and a half," Scarlett responded. "Five sickles."

Scarlett and Bellatrix smirked, tuning in for the last of Jesse's Ravenclaw introduction.

"And, finally, our Seeker is Jerry Southway!" Jesse yelled, and Scarlett looked towards the boy; he was a sickly looking twelve year old with a build that one would not immediately associate with Quidditch. He did, however, maintain a smile despite his obvious nerves.

"And, for Slytherin..." Jesse said with remarkably less enthusiasm, and likewise the loudest noise from the other Houses was boos, loud and obnoxious. "The keeper, and Captain, Theo--"

He was interrupted, in Scarlett's ears anyway, by enormous cheering from her House, and at the outcry on his behalf he turned towards Slytherin, his group in particular. Scarlett, herself, disguised her exhausted behavior to lend him the loudest cheer she could manage, and together the Slytherins masked the majority of boos coming from the other Houses.

"Wow," Scarlett said appreciatively, a smile gracing her face, and Narcissa rolled her eyes. "What?" Scarlett questioned with a raised eyebrow, and Narcissa and Bellatrix exchanged knowing glances. "What, exactly, Narcissa? What is that look supposed to mean, anyway?"

"Oh, nothing," Narcissa assured her. "It's just, you and Theodore are... Merlin, what's the word, Bella?"

"Nauseating?" Bellatrix suggested. "Over-the-top... er, sickening, maybe?"

"What?" Scarlett indignantly said. "Over-the-top? Really, Narcissa? Can you even say that considering you write Lucius a letter every hour?"

"Probably not," Narcissa shrugged, snatching the binoculars from Bellatrix as she focused in on the players, who had begun to play eagerly, the ball being passed around with such haste that Jesse himself had trouble commentating, stumbling through the words as plays changed in the briefest of seconds.

"And, there's Frederick O'Reilly with the ball," Jesse noted. "He's a new addition to the Slytherin team, picked because of his agility--and the ball is taken by Ravenclaw's Georgiana Nott, and, Merlin, that Bludger was off the mark... heading towards the goalposts against her own brother, Theodore... and he blocks it," Jesse said, looking at the scoreboard angrily as if hoping it would help to alter the game. "Theodore's been on the team six years, probably one of the most notorious Keepers Hogwarts has ever seen..."

"Notorious, my ass," Scarlett said flatly. "Notorious because he's a Slytherin."

"And, Lance Moon and Jerry Southway circling the Ravenclaw side of the Pitch, I'm pretty sure they see--oh!" Jesse said, startled, "And here's O'Reilly, again, passes it to Wicker, and--Slytherin score! That's Lloyd Wicker, three years on the team... seen a lot of foul play from Lloyd over the years, haven't we?" Jesse said with a slight bitterness to his tone, and McGonagall looked at him sternly.

"Yes... well," Jesse dejectedly said, turning his attention back to the game. "Georgiana Nott again with the ball, been on the team two years maybe, very skilled at handling a broom..." Predictably, Jesse smirked, and Georgiana laughed aloud, passing the ball to Troy Bergman before racing to the end of the Pitch. "And, Bergman passes the ball back to Nott, who passes it to Shipp and--IT'S A GOAL!" Jesse said with more emotion than he had possessed before, marking ten points for Ravenclaw. "And our game is tied!"

"Well, Bella, you lost anyway," Scarlett dully pointed out, and Bellatrix glared. "You said Ravenclaw would lead the whole thing."

"Yeah, but Slytherin isn't looking too sharp, either," Bellatrix observed. "Their Chasers are shoddy. They shouldn't be playing such a quick game. It's only been five minutes and we're already getting points on the board. There's absolutely no defense except for Theodore."

"Yeah, but Theo will do well," Scarlett muttered, snatching the binoculars from Narcissa, who looked at her in mock indignation. "Yeah, there's the Chaser, Wicker, going down the field... literally no defense, where the hell are the Beaters... and, there we go," Scarlett said, pleased. "Another goal."

But a hush had spread around the whole stadium, so that when Ravenclaw scored twice more and Slytherin scored once more no cheers came from the students. They were transfixed, instead, on the Seekers, who were diving constantly, as if that Golden Snitch had been seen...

"Again and again," Narcissa muttered. "What are they doing?"

"Give me those..." Bella said under her breath, snatching the binoculars from Scarlett and staring at a long time. Finally, she reemerged, looking bored. "It's stupid, really," Bellatrix commented. "Someone hexed Moon and Southway is just playing along, he doesn't have any idea what else to do, I bet."

"Shit, well, are we going to tell someone?" Scarlett murmured, but before the others responded, the whistle blew, stopping play just as Georgiana was headed for a breakaway.

Quickly, worried whispers from Slytherin erupted, while the rest of the school looked on smugly. Only Madame Hooch, the young and newly-recruited referee, did not, heading towards Moon with a concerned look on her face.

For Moon had fainted--fainted in the middle of diving for a nonexistent Snitch--and his face was nearly white. Madame Hooch looked concerned; however, her concern was unmatched to Theodore's, who looked at the group wildly as if hoping to find a solution to the problem.

"Yep, he's out, all right," Hooch said. "Nott, you can either get your back-up Seeker or forfeit now. It's your choice; you can have five minutes to make it while we call Lenore." Without a second glance, she turned her concerns to Moon, and Theodore looked at the group worriedly, finally turning his eyes to Scarlett. A new gleam entered his eye.

"Devous!" He shouted it so powerfully that it near silenced the other Houses, and he sprinted over to Scarlett. "Devous," he repeated, taking a deep breath, while Scarlett gave him a look that resembled concern for his mentality. "Scarlett. Play Seeker."

"What?" she said with surprise, shaking her head almost instantly. "Theo, no. Ask Bellatrix to play if you're really that desperate; she's incredible."

But Theodore did not deem this a worthy response, instead looking at Scarlett intensely, and, in a thought, grabbing her hand. Scarlett looked out at the field--sometimes a place for Death Eater meetings, once a comfortable night with Sirius, it now looked foreboding. "Theo, I can't."

"Yes, you can," Theodore assured her. "Bellatrix is a Beater, and you've played Seeker before and I know you're athletic. You're the only Slytherin here I can trust--please," he begged, "For me?"

Scarlett considered, again shaking her head, but when Theodore grabbed her other hand she thought about it once more, trying to avoid his eyes. On one hand, Scarlett never considered herself good at Quidditch, although she was as fast on a broom as she was on her feet. She still believed that Bellatrix would have sufficed perfectly...

But, on the other hand...

Scarlett believed that, somewhere, Theodore had his eyes set on her. It seemed as if his priority now was not to arrange the most skilled team, like he had done before, but to show her how much he trusted her and hoped that she would become worthy of it.

Could she walk away from that?

She took a deep breath as she tried to justify it. She supposed it was a chance to make history. She would be the first Slytherin woman ever playing with the Slytherin Quidditch team, even if it was only for a game...

Before Scarlett could even comprehend it, she muttered "Fine" under her breath. She held Theodore's hand the whole way there, and almost immediately the boos began, shouts even coming from the Slytherins.

"She's his girlfriend!"

"She's never played Quidditch before!"

"She's a bloody girl!"

Scarlett sighed--what had she been thinking?--as Theodore threw her old Quidditch robes, their last resort. Scarlett sourly shed hers and found refuge to don the Slytherin Quidditch wear, grimacing at the tightness; it seemed as if it was made for three years her junior.

When she reemerged, she heard the boos again; taking a deep breath, she mounted her broomstick, escaping into the air just as Jesse said, "Er, and here to replace Lance Moon, Scarlett Devous... never played a game of Quidditch in her life, as far as I can tell, but if you have inside contact with the Captain, I suppose it doesn't matter."

Scarlett and a fair share of Slytherins rolled their eyes at the comment; now that she was up in the air, the House was resigned to her position and to the loss they were sure was impending. When the whistle finally blew to announce the game back in play, Scarlett immediately set about a different path than Southway, who looked at her confusedly before following her path.

"Nott to Shipp, Shipp to--no, the Quaffle has been taken by Wicker, Quaffle taken again by Shipp, who has been absolutely pivotal--" Jesse stopped himself, looking up at the play. A plethora of cheers became them because of it, though they were in no way admirable; if anything, they were jeering.

"And Shipp has penalized Devous," Jesse said without emotion, allowing the obnoxious yells to escape the crowd. "But, to be honest, I don't know who wouldn't--sorry, fair and balanced--Wood taking the penalty for her, throwing the ball and--Devous has dived!" he said, so surprised he betrayed his bias, as Scarlett dove, watching out of the corner of her eye while Southway copied her lead, diving just as enthusiastically as he had done with Moon.

But Scarlett was sure she had seen the Snitch, there was no way she couldn't have; it had glittered, plainly, in her sight, before zooming off to the left. She merely increased her speed, feeling the crowd's silence, feeling the crowd's pressure, and staring at the Snitch like it was the only thing in the world...

She extended her long hand, feeling the cold, grasping fingers of Jerry Southway scratching desperately. Before his desperation could find contentment, however, Scarlett snatched the golden Snitch, feeling pride heat up the veins in her fingers as if the Snitch itself had supplied it.

"And Devous has caught the Snitch," Jesse said dejectedly, and the crowd let out a sort of disappointed hush, which quickly transfigured itself into conversation, likely on the injustice of the game itself. "Not five minutes into play. I'm Jesse Davis, and a Hufflepuff, ladies--"

McGonagall interrupted him. "Thank you for coming, the final score is Slytherin one-seventy to Ravenclaw twenty. The next game is Gryffindor and Hufflepuff October thirtieth, we hope to see you there."

Scarlett, herself, wasn't beaming at the score or even taking notice in McGonagall's words.

It was the strangest thing. The team was coming towards her, ready to engulf her in celebration; she could see Theodore at the forefront, his eyes warm with fulfilled trust. There was so much joy surrounding her on the Quidditch Pitch, joy that was for her House but saved for her especially.

But the Snitch kind of reminded her of a star, for whatever reason. It was so fragile and fleeting and beautiful--it was the strangest thing but it compelled her eyes to flicker upwards to the Gryffindor section of the Quidditch arena.

She found Sirius's eyes amidst a sea of angry ones. They were easy to find; they were friendly and familiar.

It was the briefest of seconds but he didn't look angry or wronged or upset at the Slytherins' victory. After the moment flickered he turned away to talk to his friends, the memory suspended in a fraction of a second.

Really, it was the strangest thing--Sirius hated Slytherin--but she could have sworn that he had been smiling at her.

]—[
 


Chapter 23: 23
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A/N: So here's what I have to say about this chapter.

I am in the process of editing Sparkle in Her Eye, and currently I have been avoiding chapters that are so hideous that they are going to take a while for me to fix. As a result, some of the plot is disjointed and I hope to fix it in time. If you are reading this before I have fixed all of the issues, I am sorry. One of the main things I'm trying to do, editing Sparkle in Her Eye, is to make Sirius's affections for Scarlett come in a way that is much more progressive and appropriate--where he is in this on-and-off denial about it up until this chapter. With that in mind--I'm really sorry about chapter 14, that chapter's pretty bad--and I haven't gotten to 21 either and I think that is an important SIHE chapter--I hope that you enjoy this perspective on it!

]---[

"Impressive job."

The outlook was especially quiet that night, though especially cold, the air hanging stale but frigid in the night. The moon peeked out shyly from behind the trees, illuminating in the night. Both people on the outlook were relaxed and at ease, contentedness in their hearts as well as an undeniable flirtatious energy that seemed to spark their surroundings like fire.

The compliment had been the first thing they had said when they entered; they had stayed in silence for the first few minutes, though immediately the silence was aching for someone to end it. It was after those minutes of contemplation, looking up at the stars, that Sirius managed those two words, and the conversation broke into the same sort of mood that was abundant in the air.

Scarlett smirked as she looked at him and he felt his nerves buzz. "Impressive job," he repeated, and unable to take the feelings that coursed throughout him he looked away. "First woman Slytherin to ever play a Quidditch game and winning within five minutes. Proud?"

"Are you interviewing me?" Scarlett asked jokingly. "What do you want me to say? Yes, Sirius, I am so proud. I'm going to go and...well, I don't really feel like much of doing anything." She paused. "This would be the worst interview ever."

Sirius shrugged. "If you can dominate Quidditch you have to get used to gloating a little." Scarlett snickered, and Sirius grinned, repositioning himself on the ash tree which he had grown so accustomed to leaning his back against. "Firstly," Sirius asked, "how was that uniform?"

"What?" Scarlett responded, confused. "What are you--oh." Her face heated up. "Yeah, so what?"

"Nothing," Sirius insisted, but his own smirk defied what he had said, and he elaborated, "It was very tight, wasn't it?"

Scarlett raised her eyebrows but he didn't back down from his question. "Oh?" she asked, smiling in a way that made Sirius aware of how close he was to her. "Tell me, Sirius... what were your thoughts on that?"

"Actually," Sirius said, caught in the energy of the night, "it was really rather sexy."

If it had been any other night, he was sure that she would have been offended or confused or shy. That night, however, anything felt possible, and as verification a chuckle escaped from her lips, as she turned towards him and said, "Sexy?"

Sirius shrugged but even hearing her say the word made him think it even more. "I'm just telling you what the general opinion was," he defended, as she stood up and walked towards the maple tree on the other side of the outlook. "You even had Gryffindors hot and bothered, let me tell you."

At this she turned back towards him and laughed aloud. "Please," she said dryly, and she grabbed onto the branch, her arm muscles tensing both at the activity and the cold. "That would be a great strategy, maybe it could bring our team to some victories for what--What?" Scarlett asked suddenly, focusing her eyes back on Sirius, who was eyeing her. "What am I doing, exactly?"

"It's that swinging," Sirius commented, stepping towards her. "You just swing and swing and swing and you do it every minute we're here, every hour, I bet you couldn't go one night without abusing that poor tree--"

"Fine, Sirius," Scarlett said resolutely, as if she were challenging him. With the same aura of purpose that had led her to the maple, she dropped back to the ground and walked towards another, gesturing idly towards where she was. "If you don't want me to hang from trees, well, you're just going to either watch me climb them or join me up here."

With the gauntlet thrown, Scarlett grabbed onto the large cherry tree, her foot struggling for the slightest of seconds before steadying, her hand grasping onto the branch so desperately that the bark imprinted in her skin. She moved her hand agilely, however, moving up the tree with considerable speed, and it was not long before Scarlett was resting in the center of the giant tree. The thick limbs spread out from the center like a spider's web, anxious for people to idly find refuge in its branches.

Sirius soon followed, climbing up the tree at an alarming rate for someone who was not as familiar with the forest, and he finally reached the top of the tree with impressive strength. He looked around casually, stepping onto the tree with relative ease and standing.

He looked around; the tree was decently tall, and ideal for what they had originally set out to do, the stars being in very plain sight. It was a photogenic masterpiece, really, likely even more so during the sunset or sunrise, and Scarlett looked up at him, absorbing the sight as well.

"Nice, huh?" Scarlett said, lying down on a particularly thick limb and relaxing. "I don't know how it got here. I don't think that it got here on its own. I think that..." Scarlett hesitated, but after a moment she must have deemed it reasonable. "Well, it's kind of stupid, but I always thought that the four Founders each had their own little... niche at Hogwarts. Tenereus calls these areas 'outlooks'... I don't know why," she said hastily, as if trying to retain her sanity. "But that's my idea anyway.

"This outlook was Hufflepuff's," she explained, gesturing to the tree. "Apparently. You can kind of tell, but it's pretty run-down. According to Tenereus, she spent the brunt of her time near the lake and didn't uphold this place, but she wanted to be near Ravenclaw. It is nice, though. It's the only one we've found. We think Gryffindor might have felt most comfortable in the Room of Requirement or something, but Ravenclaw's might be here." Scarlett shrugged. "No one's bothered to check."

"What about Slytherin's?" Sirius asked, finding himself especially pleased to see Scarlett so interested. He, too, relaxed, settling next to Scarlett, their shoulders touching. While this affected Sirius to an extent, Scarlett responded to it absentmindedly, leaning towards him for reassurance as she answered.

"The Chamber of Secrets," she replied.

"Do you believe in that?" Sirius questioned with skepticism, and Scarlett nodded, letting her arm hang off of the tree.

"It would be stupid not to, I think," she said with conviction. "I know what you Gryffindors think. You think that Slytherins are--are narrow-minded... But we think reasonably. We're not stupid. I mean, seriously--if you can believe in centaurs and magic, who says you can't believe in a chamber?"

Sirius shrugged. "There's no evidence."

"That is the definition of narrow-minded," Scarlett pointed out. "I mean, Merlin, anything is possible. Like with you, you obviously believe that you'll turn out okay, even if you're not--well, you've run away, and meanwhile they've already set up our lives, but you, well, you're on your own, aren't you?" she stammered, trying her best to not offend him. "So you've got to believe in it, don't you? You've got to believe in that even though there's no evidence to support you.

"It's not the same thing with the Chamber, but it kind of is. There've obviously been people that have left their families and done well, and some people that haven't. And there have been things in life that haven't worked out and things that have that aren't as grounded in rationality as they should be--who's to say the Chamber isn't real? Who's to say that you're not going to be more successful than you would have been with us?

"Merlin, did I offend you?" she said quickly, her speeches rambling as her stream of consciousness as voiced. It was very unlike Scarlett; normally, when she was passionate about something, her words were precise and blunt, but now, her words came easily and almost without thought.

Sirius, rather stunned, shook his head, and Scarlett flushed the lightest color of pink. "I'm sorry I'm talking so much," she apologized, though in Sirius's opinion it was unnecessary; the eagerness of her tone kept him intrigued. "I don't normally. It could be the night."

It could have been the night, which, while cold, was inadvertently romantic, the moonlight peeking out from behind the clouds. The winds were nearly nonexistent, a mere whisper of a breeze occasionally blowing Scarlett's hair. The scenery from the top of the tree was breathtaking, too: the tops of the trees spread about them, and the cherry tree itself was a sight to behold, making the couple feel as if they were on top of the world.

"Of course," Scarlett continued, her thoughts passing through and exiting from her lips, "It could be school, too."

It could have been school, also. As October increased and the weather declined, the work the teachers gave them increased. The seventh years suddenly found themselves with projects, exams, and essays, all due within a small space of time and all piling up against each other so ruthlessly that only the smartest Ravenclaws could finish each and every one of them without succumbing to plagiarizing, copying, and cheating. Maybe that nervous energy had spread to this place.

"But," Scarlett reasoned, "It could be Theodore... all of that is a lot to handle."

Sirius direly hoped that was not the reason.

"Of course..." she muttered, looking up at him with her stunning chocolate colored eyes, a small smile on her face."It could just be me."

And it probably was, because Scarlett herself affected so much, like a rock into the lake, ripples spreading from the center of Slytherin to the heart of Gryffindor. She affected this outlook--she affected him--and with both the effect was strong, stronger than he would have ever before wanted.

"It could be..." she trailed off, exhaling, her breath leaving her steadily, the weather so cold that they could both see its exit."It could be..." she repeated, and she looked up at him again in a way that made Sirius think that, somehow, she knew...

"It could be," she said for a final time, sighing, "because I trust you."

The words shocked Sirius's system, as those sparks that had set him on edge before finally were set on fire. Her words seemed as if they meant something else, something else entirely, meant something that made Sirius want to risk everything.

And then he realized it in a way he hadn't before realized it. It must have been the night, it could have been school, it had been instigated by Theodore and perpetuated by Scarlett and everything that she was. It was at that moment, under the stars with the moonlight above them and Gryffindor, Slytherin, and everyone and everything else below them... it was in that moment that he realized that he really did fancy her and it didn't matter that she was Slytherin and he didn't care anymore in the slightest who she was and who he was because what they were together was something Sirius had never really experienced before. Something incredible.

"It's not the same with everyone else," Scarlett murmured, and Sirius could not help but agree with the statement. "I mean, my friends are my friends, but--"

"It's not the same," Sirius supplemented, and Scarlett smiled bitterly and nodded.

"That's why it's always great, to talk to you," she continued. "I could tell you most anything, and you just--you listen, you get it. You tell me when I'm being stupid, but you listen to what I have to say. Even if I'm a Slytherin."

"I'm pretty sure," Sirius said, finally understanding, "that our House doesn't define us anymore."

Scarlett laughed. "Of course it does," she contradicted jokingly. "You're still an asshole and I'm still a bitch."

Sirius shrugged and grinned innocently. "Doesn't matter anymore," he insisted stubbornly. "Snape, for example, is both."

Scarlett laughed; the noise broke the night atmosphere pleasantly, her laughter tinkling like a wind chime though genuine. It was not a loud laugh, and it was not a long laugh, but it was one that was soothing, and the two both nestled into the branch more. Into each other more.

"Merlin," she said suddenly, "we have to do this bloody star thing, don't we? Have we ever?"

"Uh, maybe," Sirius said, and Scarlett chuckled again, just as pacifying as before. "Possibly? A long time ago if ever. I have no idea how to do it."

"Well, you have to learn," Scarlett said. "Tenereus got pissed at me before because we didn't, so we have to at least try and start. It's not even hard at all. You just look up at the stars, try and clear your thoughts...and just ease into it, really. It's a perfect night for it."

And it was--almost too perfect. While Scarlett began star-reading with dexterity, it took Sirius a few moments to tear his eyes away from her and look up at the night sky.

And then he had to try to clear his thoughts, another hopeless endeavor, for they were so stymied by all of the changes that had happened that night. For her sake he looked up at the stars and tried to think of something other than her. The whole star thing, really, could not be even thought of so long as she was next to him.

Her face appeared in his mind, suddenly and vividly, as the stars gave Sirius the image so easily it was as if they wanted him to see it. It was, in a way, like the face that was next to his on that cherry tree--it was beautiful, for one, her cheekbones jutting out like a model's and her eyes sparkling like champagne.

But, there was something else about that face, too, something that made Sirius concentrate on it... it looked nearly identical to the one next to him. The beauty remained, the energy remained.

What was different?

He inspected her eyes closely. On first glance they seemed exactly the same as they were now, concentrated, but on further inspection Sirius noticed a detail that he had not seen in Scarlett's eyes before. There was still that same trust that she had mentioned, trust that he had seen enter her eyes that night.

But could it be a message from the stars, that one day Scarlett would look at him this way--in a way that was more than trust or lust--a way that was as if he was the most important person in the world?

]—[

 
 


Chapter 24: Into the Fire
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A/N: Hi everybody, I hope that you enjoy this chapter edited :) I am so close to finishing I have this cute little paper that I keep by my desk and just cross everything off. It's very nice and fun and lovely. :)

 

Time passed slowly as the days of October dragged, bringing with it chilly weather. The weather did not give any student mercy; it was not long before each student donned heavier school robes, scarves colored according to their House, and hats of the same nature, covering past their ears and worn even inside the school. The courtyard of the school, in turn, had fallen under hibernation, so that only one or two students braved the cold October breezes in their free time.

Many students, however, found something to focus their attention on with the announcement of the next Quidditch game--Hufflepuff and Gryffindor--which was set November first. This led all of the students to be incredibly excited; with the first Hogsmeade visit of the year the day before, it was especially a time for students to be a part of activities that made Hogwarts so special. The Marauders, though in their seventh year, were just as enthusiastic, and planned to go to Hogsmeade; while younger students meticulously planned out their visits, the Marauders only knew that they would return hours too late and be too tired to care.

The Slytherins were also for once at absolute ease. While training still continued, and their Dark Marks still stained their wrists with unwavering permanency, they found themselves for once relaxing. Even Bellatrix, who was perhaps the most dedicated of them all, found time to laugh, even if it was humor over her possible suitor, Rolphodus Lestrange.

And as far as beaus went, all of them found themselves in a very good place. Scarlett and Theodore, dating for a little bit over three weeks and still harboring the same admiration that they had held the day they had kissed, knew this very well, their days filling with laughter and evening adventures, many which were unfortunately caught by James.

Narcissa, as well, found herself rather besotted by Lucius Malfoy, as she had always been. They had been bound to each other since August, and Narcissa's eyes always brightened at his mention, always enthusing, a smile gently playing at her lips while she talked about him.

The 'bound' ceremony was one that was carried out by the tradition-bound Purebloods. While everyone else figured that one's devotion could be measured by an engagement or, in drastic situations, a pre-marriage contract, the binding ceremony was one that required love to sustain under threat of magic. Drastic consequences--sometimes fatal, but too slow-moving to notice--could result if the bond of love was broken.

Narcissa did not see any desire to do this, however, for her eyes always expressed deep desire to see the man she loved when she was not directly spoken to. She frequently wrote to Lucius, expressing her devotion, wishing for him to be with her, because she couldn't wait, she hated Hogwarts so much.

Georgiana, though not a Slytherin, was also on the wave of romance, flirting continually with Matthew Cornfoot to the point where the relationship was incredibly obvious. It seemed only a matter of time until the two officially became a couple, despite Georgiana's pending engagement to Avery; though Georgiana would have wished that her and Matthew could marry, he was only a Halfblood and would not have sufficed, a fact she had accepted knowingly.

The Slytherins that were not a part of their group, also, thrived in October's penchant for romance; Camilla, generally unromantic, found herself in the reliable arms of Hotaka Li, a Hufflepuff boy. Ambrose, Camilla's contrast, also was the object of much affection, though her eyes were still on Brady Scott, a boy just as attractive and physically talented as she desired.

The Gryffindors, on the other hand, were only just beginning to heal from their romantic casualties, beginning with James, who had taken Operation Lily Withdrawal very seriously. It was as if he were being bribed one million dollars; no matter the circumstance, every time Lily Evans passed where he was he pretended to not feel affected by her presence, something that, over time, had become easier.

Sirius, as well, was increasingly becoming used to the idea of fancying a Slytherin--of feeling feelings for Scarlett that transcended physical attraction. Though her touch was pleasant and her smile even more so, it had become impossible for him to ignore other things about Scarlett. She was witty; she was his match in this regard. She made him laugh. Her only sin was being a Slytherin... of being a part of a socialite group that Sirius didn't like very much.

It wasn't enough to convince him, though. It could be that I trust you. Thinking of it set his nerves on fire.

Peter, strangely, found himself on a burst of romance, and he had begun to leave at nights to visit someone that he strongly indicated was a girl--a girl who was interested in him. The Marauders teased and begged for Peter to reveal, but, like Sirius and Remus, hid the secret behind stubborn lips.

Remus Lupin, the third Marauder with an undisclosed crush, was the only one who was struggling. Remus, unfortunately, was still caught in the disaster that was Georgiana Nott, and her recent success with Matthew left him moody and sour, enhancing his already unpleasant mood due to the approaching full moon.

But romance was not the only thing that energized the school; their newfound energy could be explained in one word.

Quidditch. Quidditch. Quidditch.

For most of the school, the word only applied to the match between Hufflepuff and Gryffindor, which was sure to be a blowout. For the group of Slytherins, however, their eyes were set strictly to the professionals. The Quidditch tournament Theodore had bought tickets for was soon approaching, and he had even taken extensive measures for the trip to be a success, even bothering to receive consent from the Headmaster himself. He had arranged for the group to leave the school (under heavy security) on October the twenty-ninth, a date that was, at first, a month away...

Then a few weeks, then one week...

And, finally, one day away.

The month of October may have moved slowly, but the experience itself seemed to defy this law. Scarlett and Narcissa shared a suitcase, as did Theodore and Bellatrix; Georgiana had brought so many accessories that her belongings were placed in another bag entirely. They were to stay there until the first, and they would be back in school on the second, merely two days away from end of quarter exams.

The event was something that could only power Slytherin's emotional power over the rest of the Houses, and the twenty-eighth of October was especially fueled with enthusiasm, enthusiasm that couldn't be beat despite the fact that the day was Friday. Many students, also, attempted to reach their level of excitement, for Hogsmeade was close by (an occasion that the group would unfortunately miss).

But this tournament was so huge that they could not even come close. No one could even try.

The fire crackled from the Slytherin common room, breaking the silence. Scarlett and Theodore occupied the same couch they had when they had spoken of their relationship, their hands carelessly intertwined, Theodore's thumb gently tracing her palm.

The atmosphere was relaxed, their animation repressed due to physical fatigue. The younger Slytherins gossiped in the corner, and the only non-Slytherin there, Georgiana, was lounging in the leather armchair, her hair partially covering her face as she slept.

It was strange, as Georgiana did not often look angelic; though she was very attractive, her face often held mischievousness that could only be seen on the most devilish of people. However, she succeeded in innocence at that moment, her face beaming from the fire's flame. Both Scarlett and Theodore looked at her briefly before turning towards each other, each entertained by the change on the girl's face.

"When are we leaving tomorrow?" Scarlett said lazily, leaning into Theodore's chest, her head resting on his shoulder. His other arm snaked around her torso, and the two basked in the fire for a moment before Theodore responded.

"Four o' clock. We have to leave early," he explained, "because the Quidditch Portkey System already closed down a few days ago. Plus, we have to go on the train to England, so that's five hours right there." He turned to her. "Disappointed?"

Scarlett shook her head. "Not particularly," she responded with contentment, disappointment far from her mind. "Actually, I'm kind of relieved. I wasn't going to go to Tenereus's tonight, so I thought..."She shrugged good-naturedly, though her face turned a hue of pink. "Maybe... I could get a decent night's sleep, for once..."

However, the tone of her voice indicated an entirely different kind of decent, and Theodore looked over at her as he smiled. Very slowly, so as not to disturb the thoughts the statement brought, Theodore gently removed his arm from where it was against her torso and rested his calloused hand on her warm cheek which only grew warmer.

"I could use a decent night's sleep, too," Theodore played along, placing his arm again where it was before and easing against the cushions that supported him. Scarlett looked back at him, beaming, before settling her head on his chest resolutely. "I really need one."

"Do you," Scarlett said mischievously, stretching out her legs and easing more into Theodore. "Then maybe we could just stay here. Help each other out."

"Yeah," Theodore yawned. "I would like that, actually."

Scarlett sluggishly turned so her stomach touched his, looking at him with tired eyes and reaching towards him so that their lips met for a brief moment. Afterwards, she smiled, resting again on his chest. "There's your kiss good night," she said, and Theodore smiled himself, stroking her hair and looking towards the fireplace.

And, very slowly, just like time had moved during October, the couple began to drift off into sleep. Scarlett grew cozy against Theodore's chest and Theodore stroked her hair less and less frequently until he fell asleep, his head lolling to the side, his expression becoming just as angelic as his sister's.

Scarlett, somehow, did not instantly fall asleep, instead staring into the fireplace, which crackled as if it was a melody all its own. The room, dimly lit with candles, was welcoming, and the absence of windows that could display the night sky made moonlight incapable of interrupting fatigue. In every single way--from the fire, to Theodore, to the atmosphere--the setting was absolutely pristine for Scarlett to doze off to sleep, an occasion that rarely came.

But, for some reason, Scarlett blearily kept her eyes open and stared into the fireplace, watching it intently, waiting for the flame to cease though she knew it never would. She stared into it for a long time, feeling her body on Theodore's, feeling her thoughts stray from the important to the trivial, feeling the desire to close her eyes increase...

But she did not fall asleep.

Her mind was not focused on anything, and yet she did not fall asleep. Nothing worried her-- nothing made her feel anxious--yet she did not fall asleep.

Why did she not fall asleep?

She really didn't know what the explanation was. Maybe it was because she was simply so used to being awake at this hour that she remained awake, and because the chilly weather and Sirius were absent her body was keeping her eyes open as if expectant.

Despite the fatigue that permeated the nighttime air, a part of Scarlett truly did want to leave where she was and go into the outlook. It was increasingly less strange to admit that the days that she did not go to the outlook she missed Sirius, and that when she was in his company she was increasingly happy to be there.

It could be because I trust you.

Why had she said that?

By saying that, was she... was she inferring that she did not trust her friends? That, with Sirius, she felt more comfortable talking to than with her bloody friends, people that she had known amiably for years upon years?

Comfort with Sirius was not a good choice, Scarlett noted in alarm. But what was she expected to do? Fight with him again, ridicule him again?

It was true that she still feared the potential consequences of being friendly with Sirius, for Voldemort somehow did not yet know. It was a reality that was concerning--a reality that might be avoided if she stopped the relationship before it was too late.

But Scarlett didn't want another fight. The last fight she'd had with him had left her confused, confused and frustrated. The last argument had riled her up in a way that her friends had never achieved, even Bellatrix, the most argumentative. The silly quarrel--over her marriage of all things--had, for some reason, disturbed and puzzled her deeply. She normally didn't bother to think of the marriage; she had always figured that it was immutable.

And the fight also had another form of unfavorable consequence. Scarlett may have felt angry, and she may have felt confused beyond belief, but the most powerful emotion she had felt had been loneliness.  

She could not help it; she could not help but miss her conversations with Sirius, for they were unlike any other conversations she had ever had before. She had been fully honest with Sirius when she said that her friends didn't understand in the same way that he did; his philosophy was something they would never understand.

For Sirius believed that society was not worth sacrificing freedom; he preferred to glow with curiosity and risk, both things that Scarlett was squeamish to act on in most occasions. Being a Slytherin and a Devous, she had inherited good thinking and analyzing skills, and she did not believe that throwing them away for an unconventional thought process would do her any good.

But his beliefs intrigued her. He believed that, and he also believed in patience, even if at first glance he did not have it. Sirius had listened, intently, to the stupid and trivial things she had said, but also offered his advice on sobering issues, such as her old dilemma with Theodore.

Above all, though, the characteristic that Scarlett had missed the most of Sirius, the one that Scarlett missed now, was one that left Scarlett more worried than she began as she finally fell asleep on the Slytherin common room couch:

Sirius was like a fire. He was unpredictable and glorious and potentially destructive.

What was so worrisome was that, in spite of the trouble he had the potential to cause, she didn't want to give up the glow. Give up the warmth.

]—[






 
 


Chapter 25: Stay
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A/N: EDITING :) :) :)
]----[
 

Let's Stay Together

Theodore Nott, Scarlett Devous, and Narcissa Malfoy were in the Hospital Wing on November second, 1977.

It was without question that Narcissa was the best off out of the three, though she still was covered with small cuts all over her body and a particularly large bruise on her right arm. Madam Lenore determined that, for Narcissa, she would be out of the Hospital Wing shortly, and Narcissa didn't question it in the slightest. If anything, she simply sank into the bed further, her hair disheveled though pulled back in a barrette to maintain some level of appearance.

Theodore was by far the worst.

It had all begun at the Quidditch game between Puddlemere United and the Chudley Cannons.

It had all begun with an upset.

"And, Vaisey to Hunter, Hunter back to Vaisey, and the ball is intercepted again by Hope, Hope faking a pass to Roosevelt, going towards the hoops and- Henry Hope has scored once more!" said the commentator, raising his arms in the air, and Henry Hope cast a smirk to his audience, plenty dejected but some standing and waving their arms around excitedly.

"His sixth goal today! He has been very pivotal to the Chudley Cannons, assisting both offensively and defensively, and the Chudley Cannons rise to a one hundred and twenty point lead against Puddlemere! It's quite a surprise, really, as Puddlemere has been strong throughout the Quidditch season, accumulating an astounding one thousand four hundred points in goals as opposed to Chudley's nine hundred forty, over fifteen games... And Hope has the ball again, passes it to Roosevelt, Bludger goes to Roosevelt from Rogers, Roosevelt avoids it right in time... Roosevelt's been playing a strong game, too- goal by Roosevelt, one hundred and thirty point lead!"

"This is ridiculous," Scarlett muttered, turning to Theodore, who was gripping her hand and had a smug look on his face. It was easily common knowledge that Theodore was the solitary fan of the Chudley Cannons, and it was this that made Scarlett roll her eyes as Vaisey lost control of the Quaffle again.

"This is ridiculous," Scarlett said again, though she did not look angry. In fact, she was beaming, even as Vaisey got hit with a particularly feisty Bludger, his hand making a distinct cracking noise, even from where they sat.

"Oh, that's not good for Puddlemere; one of their best Chasers has what seems to be a broken hand..." said the announcer. "Of course, Vaisey will be out of the game and instead be replaced with Dorkins, who has been called up from the minors specifically for this game. He has had three goals during the season, though he is more known for his speed."

"Of course," Scarlett muttered. "Of course, our best player is out of the game. This must be a dream come true for you, Theodore. And to think that I thought this was my birthday present."

"Isn't it a birthday present, though?" Theodore replied, squeezing her hand affectionately. "Would you rather be at Hogwarts?"

Hope scored again; Scarlett grimaced. "Merlin, yes. Bloody hell, yes."

Theodore kissed her on the cheek; Bellatrix and Narcissa pointedly looked away, while Georgiana winked to Scarlett, who rolled her eyes again and smiled with contentment. "C'mon," Theodore urged, turning towards the game to see that, yes, the other Chudley chaser, Marc Lorelei, had scored, leaving Puddlemere's keeper dejected. "You realize that, when we get married, you'll have to be a fan of Chudley. It's how marriage works, love."

Scarlett snickered as her heart pitter-pattered eagerly. "I always had the opinion," Scarlett said, her mind wandering from the Quidditch game as she looked at Theodore, "that the wife got to choose the team to support. Ladies first, you know," she said nonchalantly, watching sourly as Hope scored with no mercy. "This is ridiculous," she repeated. "Bloody ridiculous."

"You know you love it," Theodore accused, smiling gorgeously, before suddenly everyone's attention was to the Quidditch game, especially Bellatrix and Narcissa, who took great interest in it. Theodore, too, looked slightly concerned as the commentator spoke with vigor:

"...Oh! Dorkins has the Quaffle, going down the field, passes a Bludger and--OH!" the announcer yelled to the onslaught of fans. "Oh, and the Seekers are diving! If Gregor catches the Snitch and Dorkins scores, we will find ourselves in a tie situation, and we will surely go into Game 2! I have never seen so much passion by Puddlemere as I see now!"

Dorkins zoomed towards the goals... Gregor stretched out his rough hand...

"DORKINS MISSES THE GOAL!" the announcer said dramatically, and the whole stadium groaned, "And GREGOR HAS CAUGHT THE SNITCH! Game over, and Cannons win by ten points, close game, great intensity... They will go on to play the Moose Jaw Meteorites, very accomplished team, conquered many obstacles these past few years... Great game, I've never seen so much passion from Puddlemere, as I said, but unfortunately that passion will have to hold off until next year!"

It had begun too quickly.

"Theodore," Scarlett said with conviction, "you have jinxed our team."

Theodore grinned innocently. "Our team?"

"Yes, our team," Scarlett continued on heatedly, though a smile played at the edges of her lips. "I am very sure that we went over this conversation before, Theodore-"

And that was when the lights went out.

It had begun for no reason whatsoever.

Which was unusual, for the game took place outdoors, but, yet, they all clearly found themselves in absolute, unwavering darkness. Though this, at first, began with mere mutters of confusion, the group still worried, and Theodore grasped Scarlett's hand tightly as they exited.

"Stay with me," he muttered, and she nodded inaudibly, tightening her hold on his hand as they began to leave the arena in this same, strange pitch black darkness.

"Did you try Lumos?" Scarlett asked worriedly, looking behind her and seeing nothing but pitch black.

"I did. It didn't work."

Scarlett hated the darkness. She loved the nighttime, and she loved the time of day when no one was around, but the darkness was one of her biggest fears. The darkness ate at her comfort with ease. The darkness enveloped everyone, and Scarlett could not see an inch in front of her.

Scarlett hated darkness because it was unpredictable. If there was, perhaps, one or two rays of light, even if they were the vaguest lights in the entire universe, Scarlett would have taken them instantly, because some light was better than no light.

Scarlett was afraid of the darkness because, in the darkness, anything could happen. Because, although sometimes darkness had no purpose, there were other times when it had a very clear one.

And then someone screamed.

It had begun so suddenly that it had stolen her breath, in one instant...

It was the most chilling scream Scarlett had ever heard, though, somehow, it was one she had heard many times before. The hairs on her neck stood straight up, and Theodore pulled her closer to him, his grip on Georgiana's hand becoming looser and looser.

"Don't worry. Stay with me."

But how could she not worry? That scream latched onto her like leeches to a corpse. She recalled it clearly, although this scream evidently was the loudest, the most panicked, she had ever heard, and it was for that reason that her breathing labored in fear.

Someone had been hit with an Unforgivable.

But, unlike the other screams she had known, this Unforgivable had come out of nowhere.

It had come out of the darkness.

It did not matter how fast it came. It did not matter why it came.

All that mattered was that it came.

"Theodore?" Scarlett asked, an edge of alarm in her voice. "Theodore, where's Georgie, and Narcissa, and Bella?"

There was silence as Theodore maneuvered her along. "I don't know." he said finally. "We have to get out, and we'll meet them there. Don't worry, they're all capable witches, we'll be okay, don't worry-"

"How am I not supposed to worry?!" she shrieked suddenly, her thought abruptly voiced. "How am I not supposed to worry when we can't do magic? How am I not supposed to worry if we're just defenseless?!" She took irregular breaths, and Theodore's thumb grazed the top of her hand quickly as they walked down a long staircase, trying to find a way out amidst the other panicked people crowding them in.

"It's Vaisey," Theodore assured her, speaking darkly. "He was angry at Dorkins for blowing that play... He's a Death Eater. He would do this."

"Well, then, what are we going to do?" Scarlett asked desperately, and in the brief moment that their forearms touched Theodore suddenly understood, following the crowd in the unwavering blackness. "What are we supposed to do, then, if this is a Death Eater attack?"

"We're going to get the hell out of here," Theodore said. "We're going to wait for the Aurors to fix this, and then we're going to get the hell out of here."

And then it had happened.

So frighteningly. She recalled, fleetingly, how her heart had stopped, like a lighter, flickering and then leaving immediately, its only trace being that emptiness that anticipated something to fill it. But, always, nothing ever came, and there was that hopeless feeling of absolutely nothing...

Up ahead, all of a sudden, there was a green light, dimly, and a dull thud; Scarlett's breath was stolen. Next to her, Theodore tensed, grasping his wand and holding it blindly towards where the light came from, stopping so abruptly that the some people behind him almost ran into him.

But not many. Most were frightened, surprisingly quiet and somber, and unusually fascinated, their breath hitched and uneasy. Theodore was in the way front of the group, and the footsteps of the killer rippled in the absolute silence...

It was like a steady beat... the most haunted beat they had ever heard... one step in front of the other...

Inhale, exhale, everything was going to be okay, Scarlett thought to herself, her hand so tight against Theodore's that it hurt.

Everything was going to be okay. Everything had to be okay, because if everything wasn't okay, then everything would be wrong, all wrong. And when everything was wrong, there was no hope, there was no way, there was no life.

And, as everyone knew, the opposite of life was...

Silently, worriedly, Theodore flicked his wand towards the footsteps, breathing shallowly, and very suddenly a BANG erupted, alongside a deep and raspy groan. "You goddamned little--" it cursed, its footsteps approaching, closer and closer...

Then, sound began to emerge. As if Scarlett had been deaf, she abruptly heard the crowd behind her coming to life, loud screams of panic breaking any fear of silence as people grouped together, sobbing. Scarlett, too, felt weak and out of breath, depending only on Theodore, who stood next to her, shaking slightly but otherwise bravely keeping his ground.

A swish came, much too close, far too close, a purple beam spreading across the air right in front of Theodore's face. Instantly, Theodore retreated, veering deeply to the right as to avoid it, but to no avail; he crumpled quickly and too easily, so easily that Scarlett couldn't breathe, not at all.

She couldn't breathe at all. She couldn’t think.

It was absolute chaos after that, the crowd finally developing panic, running around wildly, shooting spells at such a rapid pace that Scarlett's eyesight was blurry (thought that could have been her own panic reacting, though she did not know, her mind was so speechless). She felt, as she kneeled to nurse Theodore, small things like birds nipping at her heels, and she groped blindly in the darkness before one made a clean cut from her index finger to her pinky finger. Blood, slow and panic-inducing, materialized, and Scarlett's head spun exhaustedly. They were miniature Snitches, buzzing with wings sharp as knives, entered the scene, where screams echoed so loudly, so painfully...

Scarlett wanted to lie down. She wanted to fall asleep...

A sickening pain hit her shoulder, and, with one final shudder, Scarlett fell unconscious...

It had been awful.

There had been no escape, absolutely no escape, and there had been nothing anyone could do about it.

Scarlett's diagnosis was a shattered shoulder, some cuts along her hands and legs, and a deep blue bruise on her upper leg. In all honesty, she had received worse, much worse, but before it was not coupled with nauseating concern for Theodore.

It was Dark Magic, so obviously Dark Magic, that Madame Lenore had considered taking him to St. Mungo's. He, too, was battered and bruised, though it was nothing compared to the paleness of his skin or the weakness in his pulse.

It was fortunate, really, that Georgiana had discovered them. She was the lone one that had suffered no injury from the Quidditch game; Bellatrix, also, had been knocked unconscious, though the spell was not as serious as Theodore's and she was out of the hospital fairly quickly.

But, despite luck, Scarlett worried about Theodore. She worried about him so, so much, enough to make her injuries insignificant, even though she could hardly move her arm. The only pain that she felt was worry, worry that she had never experienced before.

And she felt herself sickened by the worry...especially as she realized that...it was Voldemort's forces that had done this to Theodore...

Her worry was taking her down a dangerous path. But so was Voldemort--

And these thoughts were scary because they were so abnormal...yet so profound...

"Scarlett."

It was so faint, so quiet, that at first Scarlett did not believe she had actually heard it; after all, she was heavily medicated with painkillers and probably did not know much of what she was seeing or feeling. However, on closer inspection, Scarlett saw, with great relief, that Theodore had spoken, though his eyes had closed again in pain.

"Theodore," Scarlett breathed, getting up from her bed and walking towards his, sitting in the ancient wooden seat next to it. Theodore opened his eyes slightly, looking up at her, before groaning and closing them again. "Are you okay?"

"No," he said honestly. "Did I--did I save you?"

"What?" she asked blankly, and Theodore smirked with bitterness, attempting to rearrange himself into a more composed state and failing miserably.

"I was trying to protect you. Did I?"

"Oh," she breathed, looking down at him, her eyes as wide as possible from shock. "You did."

"I'm sorry," Theodore apologized, his voice raspy and quiet. "For putting you in danger."

"You could have never seen it coming," Scarlett muttered, putting her uninjured hand in his, and he smiled. "Are you tired?"

"Yes," Theodore assured her. "But, Scarlett?"

"Yeah?"

"Stay with me."

As if she had known his words before he had spoken, Scarlett already was resting next to him on his bed, her back to his chest, the sheets uncomfortably pulled up around them. "Okay," she said inaudibly, her eyelids already drooping alongside his own.

"I'll stay with you."
 


Chapter 26: Si Non Alors, Quand?
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A/N: EDITED, MY FRIENDS. I LIKE THIS CHAPTER A LOT MORE NOW. I THINK IT'S FUNNY AND I THINK IT HAS A LOT MORE THAN THE PURPOSE IT WAS FILLING BEFORE. All French that is in this chapter IS translated throughout the chapter :) I hope you all enjoy, this is much better than the original in my opinion!

]---[

Ambrose Katalina wore her heart on her sleeve.

This, so far, had worked in Ambrose's favor, for she had never been rejected by a boy and likely never would be. According to her suitors, it was one of her more attractive personality traits, as it normally always lead to 'heat of the moment' encounters in broom closets

The girls of Hogwarts, however, did not appreciate this trait, for it was easily associated with a loose tongue and a penchant for revenge--both of which Ambrose easily admitted to being faults. She, however, also admitted to them being strengths, because her unusual knack of knowing things that she shouldn't and stating them without reluctance merely for the school's pleasure made her a bad person to be an enemy with.

However, most of the time Ambrose did not consider herself too malicious. Most gossip, after all, was just for entertainment, whether it was received or given, and Ambrose was a professional in the ways of it. When she was vengeful, it generally was not integral to her, and primarily she did it to set her place in stone at Hogwarts.

She would always be the attractive one, and she would always be the most intimidating, and nothing could ever change that.

So it was some of her insecurities that fueled her endless stream of gossip. However, Ambrose also felt like it was her duty for people to know the information that they wouldn't have known otherwise. Ambrose did not usually care about "the people"; if anything, the only aspect she really appreciated was how people cared about her.

But Ambrose had always been a fan of "secrets, secrets, are no fun-- unless you tell everyone." It was a fitting philosophy for Ambrose, though it did not ease anyone else; if anything, it made them anxious. Under Ambrose's watchful and cold eyes many people cowered.

And at that moment Ambrose's eyes were like a cat's, focused and slightly narrowed, her legs crossed and her elbows resting on them. She scrutinized the scene in front of her deeply, observing it, taking careful note of it, just in case detailed evidence would be needed in her retelling.

Ambrose, normally, did not spread gossip about her friends. She was rather loyal, actually; to that day, she had not spread an ounce of gossip about Georgiana Nott, her closest, and barely anything about any of the Slytherins.

She wasn't terrible, not really. Yes, she was flirtatious to a fault, and she teased boys far too easily, but she did it all with a light heart. It was kind of selfish, to take pleasure out of toying with other's emotions, but Ambrose was addicted to it. It was her biggest vice, and it was the most defining thing about her.

But she would never maliciously gossip. Anyway, if the gossip was unwanted she had always sworn that gossip given was gossip deserved. If someone knew what was coming to them, it wasn't her fault. It was theirs.

With that train of thought, Ambrose looked over the couple without an ounce of guilt. She saw Theodore's lack of expression, his detachment from reality, even as he winced slightly from his injuries and pulled Scarlett closer to him. She noticed how comfortable Scarlett looked, even if her face grimaced when her injured shoulder hit the mattress.

And, of all things, Ambrose acutely noticed how close the couple was and how outrageously they fit together. She noticed how Scarlett's head leaned against Theodore's chest in ease, and she noticed how they breathed simultaneously.

But despite these observations, the simplest fact entered Ambrose's system, and she smiled. It was not malicious, though it was hardly light-hearted. If it had to be defined, it was Ambrose's little way of shaking up the school, her special contribution. She was like a saint, really; no one else was confident enough to rattle Hogwarts's cage.

And Ambrose's smile did not waver as she thought about the clear, unwavering fact that Scarlett and Theodore had slept together. Sure, it brought on a much different image than the one she saw now, but was that Ambrose's fault?

No--it was everybody else's. Society, after all, composed gossip...

Ambrose was just a professional at it.

]—[

Georgiana Nott burst into the Hospital Wing with a pink face and her hair unkempt. From the opposite side of the Wing, an extremely pale and injured Remus Lupin stared at her intensely, though she did not seem to notice, instead rushing to Theodore's bedside.

Scarlett had left the Hospital Wing earlier that afternoon, and her bed was neatly made, though the events that transpired as a cause to her being there were still hanging in the air. Georgiana, out of everyone, noticed this the most, and she nearly knocked over the wooden and worn chair resting next to where Theodore was, his eyes open and wary.

"You!... I!... Why didn't you tell me?!" Georgiana sputtered, taking deep breaths to calm herself and failing miserably. On the other side of the conversation, Theodore Nott looked up at her bleakly, still taking shallow and uneven breaths.

After one second too many of an uncomfortable pause, Theodore said, "What?"

"You and Scarlett!" Georgiana gasped, putting a hand to her heart dramatically and closing her eyes at Theodore's obliviousness. "Ambrose told me today in Potions that you two slept together! I mean, bloody hell, I expected it, but--ugh, ugh, ugh! I can't believe you didn't tell me!"

Theodore looked up at her again, slightly confused, before something seemed to click in his head. Though Theodore was not normally prone to blushing, his face was rather similar to an embarrassed person's, though sarcasm laced this mortification smoothly, as well as a lack of surprise for Ambrose's sake. "Was that how Ambrose phrased it?" he said slowly, partially a way for him to process his thoughts and partially a way for him to retain his energy. "Exactly?"

Georgiana raised an eyebrow. "I don't know--yes? The point is, you didn't tell me--"

"Did she say it like that?" Theodore interrupted with calmness, though at second glance he looked irritated and slightly uncomfortable. "Did she say, 'slept together'?"

It took a while for Georgiana's quick mind to process this question, and when it did, she finally realized what he was aiming at. "You know what I mean," she said in a flurry, finally taking a seat on a chair she had nearly knocked down with her extravagant body language. "Did you sleep with her?"

"In the context of 'we were unconscious in the same bed', yes," Theodore muttered, looking worn out by the conversation altogether and closing his eyes to express it. "In any other context, no." Theodore's eyes remained shut at this, as if he was silently beckoning Georgiana to please leave him be, but Georgiana, with a Slytherin heart and a Ravenclaw mind, chose not to.

She smirked wildly, restraining a chuckle, and blatantly asked, "Did you have sex with her?"

Theodore's eyes flew open, and for once he was speechless; Georgiana smiled innocently. "Did you?" she asked again. "Are you deliberately avoiding the question because you're afraid to tell your sister?

"And, speaking of," Georgiana continued, clearly on a roll, "why didn't you tell me?"

"Please, Georgiana," Theodore finally said. "I'm pretty sure you haven't told me about any of your previous exploits. How is Matthew Cornfoot doing, by the way?"

Georgiana blushed sheepishly. "He is doing very well," she said shortly. "He wondered why I wasn't at Hogsmeade on Halloween, thank you very much. I told him that I was too busy having my life threatened by Death Eaters." At this, Theodore glared at her, but Georgiana casually waved it off; clearly, she was still full of unspoken sentences and did not have the time to obsess over things that had already happened.

"And," Georgiana said smugly, "are you saying that Scarlett is an exploit? Have you exploited with her?"

"Ha," Theodore said dully. "I wish."

"OH!" Georgiana yelped suddenly, her eyes bugged and her index finger pointing at Theodore in accusation. "OH! I am so telling her you said that!"

"Bloody hell," Theodore muttered to himself, closing his eyes once more. "Bloody hell," he repeated, but it was fainter than the last time. "Georgie, so long as you leave me be. I'm pretty sure it wouldn't make a difference, anyway."

"Ha," Georgiana said sarcastically. "You wouldn't know, though, seeing as you are a boy." She paused. "Aren't you?"

"Very funny," Theodore said. "Go. I think I'll get out of the Hospital Wing this week or next."

Georgiana turned around to leave, her hair skimming her waist, but she did not take steps to leave. Her face slowly contorted into one that was mischievously happy, her smile excited. She turned back around again, easing back into the wooden chair, as Ambrose Katalina entered the Hospital Wing and the conversation, looking gleeful as she sat at the foot of the bed.

"Afternoon, Theodore," Ambrose said, idly eating some chips off of the tray next to his bed. "I am assuming that Georgiana has told you already about the rumor that is spreading around school? Pretty intense stuff, huh?"

"Very funny, Ambrose," Theodore said, direly wishing for the pair to leave. "Must have had fun spreading that gossip around, didn't you? Probably more fun than I had hearing about it, right?"

"Pfft," Ambrose said lightheartedly, flipping her hair in a flirtatious way; Georgiana gave her a stern look in return. Turning back to Theodore, she smiled and said, "Theodore, you know you love those rumors. They make you seem like you're pretty boastful."

"How is that a good thing?"

"Well, you know how it is," said Ambrose dismissively. "Boys hear about you going on escapades with your lady and they get intimidated. I'm pretty sure it's a man instinct, anyway, but the point is, this makes you look badass. It makes you look like you and Scarlett are farther along the line than you actually are, and when it gets around that a boy's had sex, well, it gets competitive."

]—[

"I can't believe you didn't say anything."

Scarlett rolled her eyes, making her way back up the nearby cherry tree with dark sarcasm. Although the night was very cold and Scarlett was already shivering, Sirius's mention made Scarlett's face heat up, though she disguised it by turning her back to him and focusing on anything other than his face.

"What was I supposed to say?" she responded, taking a deep breath as she made one final lunge onto the top of the tree. "'Uh, yeah, Sirius, Theodore and I got in the Hospital Wing and we decided to have a go at each other'?" Rolling her eyes, she tugged her robes tighter to her body and said, "I don't think you, of all people, would have appreciated that."

"What is that supposed to mean?" asked Sirius, also climbing onto the tree. "And I still cannot believe that you didn't say anything. I mean, honestly, I don't want to have to hear it from Takiyah that you're... escapading. Ugh."

"Is that even a word?" Scarlett replied idly. "It's not my fault that Takiyah Kalash hears things through the grapevine faster than I can get here each night." She paused, taking a deep sigh. "It's not my fault that Ambrose doesn't know how to keep her mouth shut."

"It's not my fault, either," Sirius assured. "But, still, I can't believe how much you Slytherins get around."

"What is that supposed to mean?" Scarlett countered, a fake offense lining her tone. "I don't believe that Theodore and I 'get around' in the slightest. Just because we fell asleep--fell asleep, honestly--in the same bed does not mean that I 'got around' with him. Then again..." she trailed off, and, with a devilish smile, finished by saying, "maybe it's different for you Gryffindors. Maybe that is why we have to hear so much about your 'escapades'."

"Did you have sex?" Sirius asked automatically, bluntly, attempting to suffocate the question and evidently failing. At his question, Scarlett gave him a questionable look, and Sirius shrugged, as though he obviously had a right to know.

"No," Scarlett responded, nearly falling off of the tree from her passionate answer. "I am, uh--" she started, though she stopped abruptly, a blotchy and embarrassed flush flooding the tint of her cheeks. Her mouth clamped shut, and she determinedly looked ahead, wringing her hair in what seemed to be a dire attempt to erase the partial sentence altogether.

"What?" questioned the curious Sirius, taking pleasure in the girl's embarrassment. "You are what?"

Scarlett's next response was so quiet that Sirius could hardly hear it. "Beg pardon?" he asked her, sweetly, and in return she glared, her cheeks on fire.

"Waiting." Scarlett said it so quietly that it could barely be heard over the wind.

"Waiting?" Sirius asked. "If you don't mind me asking, what are you waiting for? The perfect broom closet?"

"You're such an ass," Scarlett said. "And now I seriously doubt why you thought I would say something to you, if something did happen--"

"Ah, relax," Sirius teased. "So you're waiting... on marriage?"

Her cheeks flared up again. "What else would I be waiting for?"

"I don't know," Sirius replied; though his voice sounded nonchalant, there was a tone of sarcasm in his response that bothered Scarlett for a reason she wasn't sure of. "Marriage is noble. Of course it is. Growing up that's all we think there is, marriage. That's the finish line, the big thing to--ah--wait for.

"I guess where I'm confused," Sirius continued, "is how the sanctity of marriage exists for your folk."

"My folk?" Scarlett said with indignation; something within her protested to being generalized with every Pureblood socialite. "It's my personal choice. Trust me, if you needed reassurance on that you could just ask Georgiana what she believes in..."
 
Sirius laughed. "Fine," he consented. "So for you, then. I just don't understand why you view marriage as something to wait for when it's just another part of the system. Anything those people do is for status, it's hardly something to--" he scoffed. "Wait for."

Scarlett shrugged, but she felt suddenly uncomfortable, like Sirius had put her life under a microscope.

It sounded so easy when he was talking. He talked about her society as if it were black and white, like she was jaded for even thinking that waiting until marriage was reasonable if it meant the marriage was arranged. But it wasn't black and white--and it troubled her to recognize that. It was as if he was challenging her, ever so subtly, to wonder: would the marriage and the love coincide? If she didn't feel comfortable enough with Theodore at that point...well, there was no choice. There was no room for a choice...

 "Si non alors, quand?" she asked him, though she knew he wouldn't be able to respond to her question.

She couldn't find an answer to what she only felt she could say in French, because hearing it in English would scare her:

If not then, when? What else was there to wait for?

"Now see," Sirius said evenly, "I wish you hadn't told me about the French. I'm starting to get the feeling that you'll pull it out of your pocket whenever you get nervous. Am I right?"

"Well, if it bothers you so much, you should ask Evans or something," Scarlett responded. "Tu me rends nerveux."

You make me nervous. And, she thought to herself, maybe more than you should.

]—[

 
 


Chapter 27: The Power of Why
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Author's Note: This chapter, more than the others, goes out to Laurie (aka hopewashere04). Laurie Iigon is not a big deal at all in SiHE -- as she is fictitious. What a name to think up of. She was, however, a huge huge huge deal in Scarlett Stained (which, if I hadn't mentioned before, was the first story I wrote Scarlett in, and had the same, very simple concept of Slytherin/Gryffindor... but was totally different in everything else, including no Theodore or Georgiana and, in place, a romance with Regulus, a beach house, and an eating disorder. I don't know what I was thinking), and I wanted to give her some part, however minor, in this story.

Now, it doesn't look it now, but, in retrospect, this chapter is very important to SiHE in order to set up the relationship Lily and Sirius have in the story. You will see it again in 60 chapters :-) Oh, and by the way, this IS THE ONLY CHAPTER I HAVE SO, SO MUCH TROUBLE TITLING. IT HAS HAD THREE DIFFERENT SONGS AS ITS TITLE, AND THIS IS THE BEST I COULD GET. IT'S SO HARD TO NAME.

(as a side note: French does appear in this chapter, but Lily translates most of it... the last sentence, I'm pretty sure, is something along the lines of -- if you couldn't get it by the cognates -- 'I hope you know you confuse me'. Yeah, that's it. I did use an online translator, so to those who speak the language, I'm sorry if I annihilated (sp?) it totally.)

Anyway -- ENJOY :-D


^^^ EDIT: This is from 2012 and do you know that I forgot about all of that? Wild. I'm keeping it here as a little momento. Happy Thanksgiving everyone and HAPPY HOLIDAYS :)

]---[

Sirius was extremely surprised that he had remembered what Scarlett had said. In all honesty, he was surprised he remembered anything at all from the night previous, when things of terrible intimacy had been discussed at length.

Which, really, was strange, considering that she had been the one who was speaking so intimately, not him. Although it was evident that neither of the two had been in this kind of a relationship before, Scarlett had seemed to adapt to it more fittingly than he had, and while she did not fancy him, she still trusted him.

She trusted him. It was a thought that made Sirius feel unreasonably happy, unusually breathless, and gave him an excited sparkle in his eye that the other Marauders could not explain in the slightest. It made him feel hopeful, maybe too hopeful, and it affected his memory in such a way that, while he could hardly remember their conversations, he could always remember the exact tint of her eyes.

Despite this lapse in memory, Sirius did still remember what Scarlett had said, for once, and he, for once, decided to act on it. While it was very little, and it hardly meant much, Sirius dwelled on it fleetingly, his curiosity getting the better of him.

There were some instances when Sirius could control his overwhelming curiosity. Well, he assumed there were some instances. Almost always Sirius found no reason not to follow his curiosities. Cats were the ones that lost nine lives; dogs, at least, knew a little better.

After all, there was always a reason for curiosity. Life would not have granted the power of why without reason, and Sirius was determined to use it to the best of his ability. No matter what, he believed, plain and simple, that if there was a mystery, it just deserved to be solved. Needed to be solved.

And, also, Sirius found himself inexplicably drawn to what Scarlett had said in the outlook. While it was something he was sure she had said in jest, it still rang within him, a siren song for his curious tendencies.

You are going to have to figure it out for yourself, said Scarlett, though she had likely said it without realizing it was a challenge. It had become a game to toy with Scarlett's knowledge of the French language; the game got exceptionally less fun when she would always fail to tell him what she had said.

It was enthralling, of course, for Scarlett to speak French; it was something that he should not have adored but did anyway, for every foreign word shivered in his system. Unfortunately, it was also used to Scarlett's advantage, and this made the whole thing nothing more than a two-sided sword.

Ask Evans, or something.

And that was precisely what he decided to do.

That Friday, however, did not come without struggle. The first quarter of school had officially ended, and as an unfortunate consequence they were all inundated with exams. Sirius, obviously, passed with flying colors, and though there was a surge of pity for those less prepared--take, for example, Scarlett, who had had little time to study--he was more or less relieved that he had done well, and that was that.

Sirius had more so focused on Lily Evans--his target. He could not help noting that she looked more nervous than he had ever seen her; while she finished the test in record time and without struggle, her eyes always searched for his glasses-wearing friend, who normally was either too busy ignoring her or too busy testing to notice.

It was an action that made Sirius smile in a subtle way, and while he was never 'caught' he had the idea that Lily was more irritated with the Marauders as a whole than usual because she believed they had noticed her odd behavior. It left James rather confused, who was not sure if he should take it as a good sign or a bad one, and Remus was too distracted to care to offer his theories.

Sirius had been rather concerned about Remus also. Though it was Remus's responsibility to watch over Sirius's frequent blunders, Sirius also kept a stern eye out for Remus. The full moon had passed; Remus had been discharged from the hospital wing earlier that day, looking, while not healthy, healthy enough. Healthy as he'd always been, under the circumstances.

But Remus was still cranky. All throughout the week, he was short with Sirius and James, blatantly ignored Peter, and only rarely raised his hand in classes. While this was normal for the days preceding and following the full moon, it had still continued, and it seemed to intensify as time passed.

And Sirius was worried. While there were times he disregarded this worry for his own comfort, other times he couldn't escape the curiosities revolving around Remus's unusual behavior. It was so unlike him; Remus was the coolheaded one, the one that never got caught up in what he was feeling. It was odd for him to act that way.

Everything, lately, seemed to be that way.

And as Sirius approached Lily Evans this fact sprung to life just as quickly as Lily's heart, which had not expected him in the slightest. When he gently prodded her on the shoulder, she visibly jumped and yelped in surprise, turning to him with her eyes automatically narrowed and her hair mussed.

"What?" she yelled, and people in the Gryffindor common room looked at her with interest. After she cast a glance to these people, and then to Sirius, she relaxed, her cheeks blushing a light pink. "Oh, Sirius," she said quietly, putting a hand to her heart and closing her eyes in self-exasperation. "I'm sorry, I didn't notice you."

"No problem," Sirius nonchalantly said, taking a seat next to her. Lily looked down at her hands, which were folded, before looking at Sirius, her eyes still narrowed though more from curiosity than anger. "I just wanted to ask you about something."

"Hit me," Lily said simply, easing into the couch as logic dominated the conversation, and Sirius pounced, voicing his question hastily.

"I was wondering if you knew French?" he asked with a light tone of innocence, trying to direct his eyes to the fire, which was increasing in vigor as the dusk slowly fell upon the Gryffindors, their common room transitioning from light to dark in a matter of minutes.

"Yeah," she said, her voice holding a fair share of skepticism. "I mean, just through studying--I know enough to get by."

A wave of relief flooded Sirius, and he debated on hugging her but composed himself quickly. "Good," he breathed, lightheartedness entering his disposition, and Lily slowly caved in, becoming less and less on edge as she had been before. "Good. Can you help with translating?"

"Of course," Lily said, raising an eyebrow at Sirius. "Do I want to know why?"

"No," assured Sirius. "Okay, well, I don't really know the pronunciation, but I'll, uh, try and do my best." In all reality, Sirius only vaguely remembered the tidbits of what Scarlett had said, but their most recent conversation--a battle of who had the most ridiculous, literal name--stuck out in his mind the most.

"Do you know what de vous means?"

It was a start, for sure, and while it was very telling it was the beginning of everything. It explained Scarlett's name--she said it all too frequently--and he figured that he should know. He did not know why he thought this; he just knew that it was good to know more about her.

Lily sent him a very sharp look at this, seeing the question just as it was. "Like Scarlett Devous?"

"No, no, no," Sirius said quickly, attempting to contort his face into a grimace at her mention. "Definitely not. Does it mean anything in French, though?" he asked, hoping that Lily would, somehow, overlook her knack at deciphering people and merely do what he asked. He did not much fancy Lily confronting him about fancying Scarlett; it was his opportunity to be curious, not hers.

Lily rolled her eyes, and Sirius's stomach dropped slightly, but, dully, she said, "De vous means 'of you' in English. 'De' is 'of', and 'vous' is 'you', obviously. Why?" she questioned again, and Sirius realized that Lily was much more curious than she let off.

Apparently, the fact-and-logic demeanor of Lily Evans was a thin mask to the curious, instinctive Lily.

"It's for my cousin," Sirius said, and almost instantly he switched gears, fully aware of the questions that would be brought alongside that statement. Lily, too, seemed to notice this, and her eyes seemed to blacken. "I mean, uh, it's James's cousin, but you know how it is, you know, with my family, and myself."

Lily looked rather distracted at James's mention, but she finally mustered a question in reply. "Really?" asked Lily defiantly, refusing to accept Sirius's fragile falsehoods. "What is his name, exactly?"

"Her name is... er..." Sirius stammered, racking his head for the most obscure of names, before finally coming up with one that was, at least, half decent. "Laurie Iigon?" he said, sounding as if he was waiting for her stern nod, and, finally, she nodded curtly, though the look on her face expressed anything but resilience.

"So," Lily continued questioning, "why does Laurie Iigon need your help, Black?"

Sirius shrugged. "Because she loves me?"

Lily rolled her eyes once again. "Ha," said Lily. "Was there anything else you needed for this Laurie Iigon?" Every time she said it, it held ridicule, and Sirius sighed deeply.

It didn't matter how flimsy his lies were. Lies were excuses and excuses were a front, and no matter how unstable that front was it was still a barrier that he didn't have to explain. So long as Lily was answering questions, Sirius considered himself fine.

"Okay... what about..." he racked his mind once more for something that she had said in French, and after a while of Lily's look of impatience he pulled something out of his head. While it was vague, she had said it rather abruptly one night. There had only been one word he now clearly knew, and that word was 'vous'.

"Er..." stammered Sirius, especially pressured due to Lily's sternness, and said cautiously, "Jestpair vous say viz cay vous me cofodess."

Lily furrowed her eyebrows. "Sirius, what?"

Sirius repeated the translation, and Lily's eyes narrowed once more in thought as she considered what he had said. "Jestpair..." muttered Lily, wringing her hands desperately; she had always been someone that enjoyed helping people. This had been one of James's favorite qualities about her.

"J'espere?" Lily theorized, and instantly Sirius nodded. "You just got the translation wrong, don't worry. J'espere means 'I hope'."

Sirius started, and Lily nodded, as if she could clearly decipher the surprise on his face. "'I hope you'..." Lily murmured. "Say viz? Er... savez?" As in, 'I hope you know'?"

"And then... cay... well, that's 'que'..." Lily said under her breath, her thoughts running wildly, and Sirius looked eagerly as she attempted to solve what was apparently Scarlett's puzzle. "I hope you know that... you..."

"Me cofodess?" asked Lily skeptically. "Are you sure you can't think of a clearer way to say that? Because 'cofodess' is definitely not a word in the French language, Sirius... unless..."

Lily lost herself in thought.

However, this turned out to be the least attractive time for Lily to do so, for at that moment James Potter entered the scene, his hair as mussed as ever and his glasses hanging on the bridge of his nose. "Hey, Padfoot--" James said, distracted, but as soon as he caught who Sirius was conversing with, he changed his attitude immediately.

"Oh," he breathed nervously, putting a hand through his hair. "I was, uh, gonna go down to dinner. I don't know where the hell Peter is, and Remus doesn't want to go." James rolled his eyes. "I honestly don't know what's going on with Moony, but if it doesn't end soon there's gonna have to be an intervention. You'd think he fancied someone."

For some reason, at the word 'fancied', Lily's head snapped up from her alternate reality and turned towards James. Almost instantly, her cheeks flushed. "Hello, Potter," said Lily, though her 'Potter' sounded as forced as ever.

James put a hand up half-heartedly, but the look that was exchanged between he and Sirius was enough for Sirius to know better. "So, do you want to go down now?" James said, his tone fully implying that Sirius had better say yes in order for James to bullet him with questions.

Sirius sighed. He had been close, so close, to getting answers, but unfortunately the rules of friendship denied him the ability to deny James's request. That, combined with the fact that James would jump to conclusions, made Sirius sigh and nod, standing up from where he had been seated on the comfortable sofa.

"Yeah," Sirius said dejectedly. "Yeah, I'll go down with you."

"Oh, hey, James?" Lily said absent-mindedly, and James looked at her so quickly that his glasses nearly fell off of his nose. As he adjusted them, Lily said, "I hope Laurie Iigon does well as far as my translating goes. I hope Sirius passes on the information well enough."

Sirius nodded quickly, giving James a glance that promised information soon, and James nodded, saying, "Oh. Yeah. Well, I hope so, too."

Sirius reluctantly followed James out of the common room, and as soon as Lily was out of sight James gave him a look that was so reminiscent of Lily's. "Okay, Sirius," James started. "You are going to tell me everything that just happened between you and Lily. Even the naughty stuff. And, if it does, then you might want to start running now."

Sirius snickered. "Lily's not my type," Sirius assured; he tried not to think about who his type was. "I just needed to ask Lily some translations from this... this invitation from the posse." The posse was also Sirius's way of talking about the society obsessed purebloods, and it was another way for him to successfully get away with anything pertaining to Scarlett Alysha Devous.

"I didn't want to bring that up again, so I decided to improvise." He shrugged. "No big deal."

"Okay," James said, shaking his head; it was adequate enough to assuage James. "So, who is Laurie Iigon? Convincing name, by the way."

"Oh, uh, she's your cousin," Sirius informed him. "She's in love with me."

"Ha," said James sarcastically. "You wish."

]—[

 
 


Chapter 28: Jewels Surrounded by a Face
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A/N: edited and much, much better. the old chapter was bad because it all really wasn't so necessary. I think I wrote it to test my descriptive skills and also, because I was like 13 and wanted to write about how I wish I looked instead of, you know, plot. Now it is plotty. I haven't totally read through how this fits with other chapters and I'm sorry if it may not so much, but I really do like what I have done iwth it and I hope you do too!
]---[


The nights before November--even some nights in October and September--were very chilly. Although Sirius had brought this up on more than one occasion, Scarlett had always resisted bringing a heavier coat or a blanket, simply stating that "it was part of the experience" and "it would be pathetic to", his insistence on deaf ears.

However, these conversations were absolutely irrelevant on November sixth. The weather that they had been given that night was strangely humid and actually very hot, the weather hanging still in the atmosphere, every breath composed of warm, murky air.

This unsettled Scarlett and Sirius, both of whom were accustomed to the frigid airs of the forest. In many instances Scarlett would have wished the outlook could be warmer; her wish now answered, she scowled, uncomfortable in the endless heat. It was only scarcely eleven o'clock, but Scarlett looked as if she had endured the heat for hours, and she groaned, shrugging off her robes and shedding her sweater. However, it was not enough, and Scarlett took a deep breath, resting against the ash tree, taking deep breaths in hopes to somehow discover cool, fresh air.

"I never thought I'd miss it," Scarlett muttered. "The cold is awful. But the hot..." Scarlett groaned again. "The hot has never happened before, and the hot is even worse. Merlin."

It was an unfortunate displeasure that the heat distracted both of them from their main motive; while it was a motive they were increasingly uninterested in, they still felt slightly obliged. Since Scarlett and he had reconciled, she had confessed to him that Tenereus had chided the couple for resilience as far as eyeing the stars went.

"I feel like I should," Scarlett had told him. "I feel like it would be wrong not to."

For some reason, that string of words stuck with him in particular, and idly he wondered about them. Though Sirius always questioned the meaning behind words--he was always interested in solving anything, including people--these words were ones that were especially worth questioning.  

There was some hidden meaning in them that maybe Scarlett herself hadn't noticed. It was if, by her saying that, she was implying that without the ulterior motive there it would be wrong. She was implying that, without the stars as a cover, she and Sirius together were wrong, and she knew it. It was almost as if she was saying that she and Sirius should not have been there together. Sirius had recognized that it was a mistake since the first day; his definition of 'mistake' had changed considerably over time, until finally one day he awoke to find that it wasn't a mistake anymore.

And with evidence claiming that she had enjoyed rejecting responsibility and talking to him, he had to wonder if her words also meant that while she knew it was wrong she simply did not care. If she was starting to redefine their relationship?

That thought confused him.

However, it was a thought that was stowed away that night. Though it was very important, and though it was entirely curious, Sirius's mind was concentrated on only one thing, a thing that made his breathing much shallower than usual and caused a gleam to enter his eye.

It had to be the heat that made him feel this way; there was something about the air that was so carnal--

He was thinking of her. He was thinking of things that everyone occasionally thought of, though his thoughts persisted. It was a series of terrible, terrible thoughts, each worse than the one before, though each one causing his mind to be too distracted to concentrate on anything else.

He was thinking of her in a way that was not only morally unacceptable, but completely dangerous. And, while it was immobilizing and bad, so, so bad, he could not stray away from it, his mind outlining each thought hungrily.

He was thinking of her.

And he was thinking of the lake.

It was uncontrollable, indescribable, but still Sirius thought about the two together... He fantasized about the graceful curve of her hips, though he thought equally of the jutted, skinny angles of her elbows and fingers. His mind strayed to her lips, full and lonely, and a feeling of emptiness cascaded through him when he recognized how unattainable they were. He thought well on the length of her legs, and her thinness and definition, both making his mind feel dizzy.

And he thought of her immersed in water. He thought of how her hair would fly in tendrils across the water, wild and free. He could already see the teardrops of water sliding down her defined body. In the lake, her complexion would be as bright as her eyes under the moonlight, and maybe, just maybe, she would melt into his arms...

So close, so together--his breathing stopped completely.

Scarlett eyed him curiously. "Sirius? Are you okay?"

Sirius's eyes refocused, a blotchy though hardly noticeable blush erupting in his cheeks. "Let's go to the lake," he suggested abruptly, and Scarlett looked at him questionably.

"The lake?" Scarlett asked, tilting her head to the side in thought. After a while, though, her head snapped firmly back in place, as if she had just thought of something. "Absolutely not," she said with sternness. "There is no way I am going into the lake."

"Why not?" asked Sirius, attempting not to sound in the least bit dejected. "Come on, it's too hot to do anything else. I can't concentrate on this at all."

Scarlett shook her head, though it seemed half-hearted. "What about Tenereus?" she asked direly, trying to find a reason that could prevent the two from going to the lake. "What is he going to think, huh? That we're being stupid? That we're being irresponsible?"

"Who cares?" said Sirius unconcernedly. "Look, here's the thing: we spend night after night in this goddamned outlook, but what do we get, huh? Why shouldn't we be able to go and enjoy ourselves once in a while?"

Scarlett stared at him in reply, looking concerned. She thought about his idea for a long while, breathing in the heavy air which did not blow in the slightest. She alternated her gaze between him and the direction in which Tenereus was, a frown settling onto her face with each passing second.

Sirius did not breathe as he stared at her fixedly.

"What the hell," she said finally over a boom of thunder. She looked up in slight concern, though the split second of throwing caution to the wind--or lack thereof--had convinced her entirely, and she did not hesitate as she said, "I'll go."

]—[

Sirius was drenched.

His hair glimmered deliciously, and his bare chest eagerly inhaled the atmosphere. Sirius swam in the lake with surprising ease, idly backstroking, his eyes intently focused on the dock, a slight grimace on his face.

Scarlett had not chosen to enter the lake.

Though her polished shoes and Slytherin socks were neatly placed on the side of the dock, her button-up blouse had one button unfastened, and her bare feet were dangling into the surface of the lake, she did not make any initiative to enter. She, actually, looked perfectly content where she was, her hair pulled back into a tight bun and her eyes on Sirius, who approached her with a smirk on his face.

"No way," Scarlett said jokingly. "Sirius Black, I am not going in--"

He grasped her ankles and looked up at her innocently. She did not budge.

"C'mon, Scarlett," tempted Sirius. "It's about to storm, anyway. We're going to have to go back to the castle anyway. Wouldn't it be a shame if you missed out on this? The lake, at night, in November..."

"With you," Scarlett pointed out.

Sirius smiled. "Yeah," he muttered. "With me."

Scarlett stared at him for a second or two before shaking her head resolutely. "Nice try," she complimented. "But absolutely not. There is no way that I am going into the lake... with you..."

Sirius did not listen; he pulled on her ankles, and she nearly lost her balance, her eyes wide in surprise. "Oh no you don't," Scarlett chided, but Sirius didn't listen, tugging still on her ankles. "Absolutely not, Sirius. There is no way I'm going to go--"

"Scarlett," Sirius insisted, releasing her ankles with reluctance, "seriously."

"I thought we weren't allowed to make that pun anymore," Scarlett pointed out, plunging her feet back into the water.

"Seriously," he repeated. "Look, this is probably the only time that the weather will be this nice. Don't worry about... Tenereus, or your dignity--" he snickered-- "You know that you worry so much, right?

"Well, maybe you should stop worrying for a second. Loosen up a little."

A light breeze interrupted the intense stare that followed his blunt--and true--words, though it did not cease it altogether. Very reluctantly, with a stern look still masking her face, Scarlett took her hair out of its bun, her hair falling in waves down to her shoulders.

She sighed, looking at Sirius again in worry.

In response he grinned, his fingers tickling the bottom of her feet, and she twitched, a smile unwillingly coming onto her face. "Are you going to pull me in?" Scarlett asked hesitantly, looking back down at her feet, and Sirius shrugged.

"Only if you want me to."

"Okay," Scarlett said, taking a deep breath. "I don't want to do this, this is so stupid, but..." she looked at him and sighed heavily. "I'm ready."

Leisurely, Sirius's hands traveled from her feet to her shins, tugging gently, and Scarlett succumbed to it, her hands clutching the end of the dock. In a very cautious gesture, little by little her legs became enveloped in the water, Sirius's hands sliding hesitantly from her shins to her waist.

And then, her eyes clenching shut, Scarlett released her grip on the wood just as Sirius released his grip on her.

Scarlett plunged into the water, enveloping every angle and curve of her body; when she reemerged, she was every bit as beautiful as Sirius had imagined her to be. Her hair was pulled back and slick, though when she placed it again in the water, it shimmied with the waves. Her skirt and her blouse grasped her body as tightly as possible, and though Sirius had spent so much time imagining the curves of her body--and there were curves--the thing that stunned him truthfully was her eyes.

Her hair was pulled back and, with her clothes tight around her, it was as if her eyes were placed on display. They were wide and shone like stars; they looked like rare jewels surrounded by a delicate face.

It was stunning; she was stunning.

He was so blown away by her eyes that his must have been very intense, for Scarlett took a deep shuddering breath as she smiled. "So, what is in this lake that you wanted to show me?" asked Scarlett, though the end of her question was cut off by a deafening thunder. "Considering that it will probably rain soon."

"What?" asked Sirius stupidly, though he regained his composure quickly enough. "Well--I don't know. You just... swim. There's no rhyme or reason to it. It is what it is."

"I guess so," Scarlett murmured. She floated in silence for a while. "Hm," she said thoughtfully. "I have an idea."

 Slowly, delicately, she removed herself from the water, sitting back on the dock. "Bored already?" Sirius asked her; he didn't know how she could be.

"No," she replied. "I just have an idea."

She stood up on the dock and took steps back. "I'm going to jump?" she said, as if the reality of what she was doing was so shocking that it had to be worded as a question. "I'm going to jump into the lake, I think."

"You can do it," Sirius told her. "I'm here for you."

Raindrops were beginning to fall. Scarlett looked upward at them idly. "We should probably go inside," she whispered.

And Sirius thought about how many times she had told him that 'it would be wrong',  how many times she had talked herself out of doing what she wanted to do because she was afraid of breaking order, and he was almost prepared to convince her to jump--

But before he could she began to run the length of the dock. Her footsteps were loud but they were not as loud as the thunder from above them. The rain fell, heavier and heavier, on the two--on Scarlett watching the lake and Sirius watching Scarlett--but still she did not stop.

Right before she reached the ledge she laughed, and then she jumped into the water's depths. Now that rain surrounded them, it was much cooler than it had been before. Her shoes were filling with water and their robes were drenched even if they hadn't been in the lake.

It was bad. Maybe for her it was a mistake.

But instead of telling him about what they should be doing, what they hadn't done, Scarlett laughed aloud, her eyes sparkling.

]—[

 
 


Chapter 29: Only Seventeen
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A/N: Edited and fantastical. Happy Thanksgiving almost everybody! I am so excited to have break and finish this story (I am finishing by the end of this month, I swear -- only 7 chapters left!!) Anyways, I love you guys so much, and thank you for reading -- this is an interesting and important chapter!

James Potter was running.

What he was running from or running to, really, was hard to decipher, as James was so agile that whoever may have been chasing him would have already lost track of where he went. The boy's acute movements were sharp and professional, and he always pushed his glasses to the bridge of his nose at the precise moment.

James was rather used to running. He ran for Quidditch. He ran when he pranked Slytherins. He ran when Sirius was being stupid in that way that friends were--and Sirius was stupid plenty of the time. He ran for fun, he ran because he had to, and sometimes he ran just because he knew he was good at it.

He marked all of his steps perfectly. He knew better than to skim the inside corners of the hall, because more often than not people walked along those sides and caused a collision. He knew that, despite the looks that he got that clearly stated he was insane, people thought it was absolutely gorgeous.

Well, he hoped. There had to be something about the rugged and slightly insane look.

At the moment, James was running to meet Remus and Sirius in the common room. James had been the only one that had continued with Muggle Studies, simply because of a particular Lily Evans (and because the rest of the Marauders couldn't stomach how lovesick James was during those classes).

But he had something to tell them.

Lily Evans had recently and completely befuddled him. It was his own fault, of course, seeing as Operation Lily Withdrawal was currently being executed, and it had brought with it unexpected results.

James had something to tell them, damn it, damn it, damn it-

Another thing that was unexpected: James really had not expected to run into Lily Evans at just that moment. It was, really, astounding timing, for James could not think of anyone else that he would want to ignore more. Then again, he couldn't think of anyone else that he wouldn't want to ignore.

He couldn't think of any other instance where fate was as cruel when he realized he had literally ran into her.

James's glasses flew off of his face, landing on the ground and making a clean crack noise. The books in Lily's arms flew out of her hands as onlookers surveyed the scene with interest.

James made an attempt to save himself--or Lily, really--but it was to no avail, and he stumbled onto her with his momentum, her feet attempting to regain balance but being unable to. It happened in about two seconds, the pair hanging in midair for a moment before falling to the ground with a crash, James's stomach falling on Lily's and Lily's back falling to the ground.

And then it became acutely known that they were lying on each other.

Simultaneously, they both flushed, and then stuttered, trying to form a coherent response to the whole event. James's body was close, too close, his narrow hips biting into hers yet fitting perfectly; Lily's face was close, too close, her lips pursed embarrassingly and her eyes seductively averted.

"Um--"

"Well--"

"Are you okay?" James asked lowly, eyeing her hair in an incredibly strong determination, and Lily nodded, her breaths short and hasty. "Okay," James said in relief. "Good."

"You shouldn't have run into me like that," Lily muttered, though it was less than half-hearted, and James observed this, raising an eyebrow in response. "You could have killed me."

James rolled his eyes. "Good thing you were strong enough to take it," he murmured, and Lily smiled, though it was with extreme reluctance. The two settled in the silence for a while, each staring at the other with such blatant intensity that it made the students passing them chuckle.

The time stretched.

James contemplated Lily's perfect complexion, and her long, fiery red hair. He thought deeply on the fullness of her peach tinted lips and the flush that resided on her face. Merlin, he thought about those eyes, a startling color of emerald that seemed as if it could kill or heal with one single glance.

Then James recalled that it was bad. He was supposed to be ignoring her, because, if he ignored her, she would notice him. Right? It was a twisted system, for sure, but so far he had noticed that it had worked, taking in Lily's blush once more for what it was.

It was so wrong, but it was irresistibly right, and he debated whether he should kiss her or something in an attempt to be smooth--

But, all of a sudden, Lily rearranged herself from him in a hurried jump. Her breathing became more eccentric and rushed, and her voice squeaked as she said, "Potter, don't do that anymore." She picked up her books and ran from the scene as quickly as he had been running, and James watched her go, a hand stuck in his messy incorrigible hair.

Ignorance, really, was not bliss. Ignorance was probably the cruelest form of revenge for James, and it pained him to not run and catch up with her and ask her what she had meant by everything she had done. Every single nerve ached as she left, especially on such an abrupt note...

But, every nerve also twitched when his thoughts were distracted by their close proximity, and her gorgeousness, and the way she had stared at him--the way he had wished for her to stare at him for four years. It was maddening, really, because even though technically he was teasing her by ignoring her, she was teasing him with her natural looks and her adorable stubbornness, things that attracted him entirely too much...

His mind jumbled, his head a mess, James sluggishly made his way to the common room, one thought on his head:

He really had something to tell Sirius and Remus.

]—[

The figure approached the outlook with surprising grace and calmness, though her expression, while rather masked by the darkness, stated anything but. It was cold and uneasy, with the winds alternating between heavy gusts and light breezes. The mood was equally as moody--and by the time that Tenereus cast an eye to his visitor the optimism of the night completely vanished.

"I must say," said Tenereus, keeping his guard cleanly up, "I am not surprised to see you. I am sure your impatience is endless."

The figure rolled her eyes. "How is it?" she asked, her voice hoarse. "How is it with the girl and the Black boy? Has there been any significant information revealed? Have they done their duties as they were supposed to?"

"There has been much revealed," assured Tenereus, looking up toward the stars. "There has been much revealed, but there is nothing that I can willingly tell you. It would rather blatantly stand against everything the centaurs and I believe." Tenereus sent the female a flat look that ordered no resistance to that, and though the female's face twisted, it quickly composed itself, becoming expressionless instead.

"That is fine, I suppose," said the female, seemingly not wishing for an argument. "And the two?"

"They are doing all they can," Tenereus dismissed. "Of course, there are times when their motives are focused on things unrelated to the stars... but, of course, they are merely teenagers and I do not expect so much from them."

"I do," the female snapped. "Have they committed anything that is worth knowing?"

Tenereus shook his head impassively. "No," he lied, the word leaving a strange taste in his mouth. "No, they have done nothing that you wouldn't expect. They have argued, and they have fought, unsurprisingly. It is just the way it is supposed to be."

"Supposed to be," the female sneered, shaking her head. "She is not supposed to be fighting at all. She is supposed to be doing what she was set out to do. Petty arguments do not help any."

"She cannot help it," Tenereus responded. "It is just who she is."

"I do not care who she is," bit the female, pulling back her hair in anger as another breeze blew it into her face. "I do not care about her personality, I don't--it is not important to me at all. The only thing that matters is her ability to read the stars, and that is the only thing I will ever care about."

The female scowled. "Talk to her again, please. I do not want her to slow us down, among all things."

"I'll do my best," Tenereus promised. "Now, was there another matter that you wanted to talk to me about?"

She nodded. "Of course.

"I am aware that... it has been a while," she sighed. "I was in hope that the girl would have found out more information about the future, information that could have been vital, but I suppose... I suppose I expected too much from her. I did not expect her to be so lazy on her last year at Hogwarts."

"It is not laziness," Tenereus defended. "It is merely the result of the school and you pushing her too hard. It should not be her fault that you are not getting what you wished from the stars."

" I am not getting anything from the stars!" hissed the female, taking a step closer to him. The anger was short-lived, however, and with another passing breeze the scowl turned into a smirk.

"What is the reason for your defensiveness?" questioned the female, a short chuckle emerging from her lips. "I did not believe that centaurs grew attachment to any, especially juvenile, irresponsible seventeen year olds like Scarlett Devous--"

"And, yet, here you are," retorted Tenereus. "Avoiding the real topic when it is most important and instead talking about her foolishness. I am merely saying that you are being, perhaps, a bit too harsh. Seventeen year olds are privy to their emotions, as you and I both know."

The female glared. "Irrelevant."

"I remember when you visited me," recalled Tenereus. "Of course, you did not much fancy the stars. But, as you know... any presence affects the stars..."

The female looked as if she could kill, but she quickly composed herself, taking a deep breath to steady her anger. "Irrelevant," she repeated with venom. "I believe that we should instead talk about the agreements we mentioned back in September. I assume that they still stand?"

"They still do, but not for much longer," Tenereus replied. "All of the other centaurs are getting impatient with your lenience on the matter. They seem to think that you do not respect them. They seem to think that you would not care how this was settled. Apparently, you are making yourself out to be greater than us." He paused for a moment. "Is that what you think?"

"Nonsense," the female replied coolly. "If anything, it was my utmost respect for you that I did not come. I did not want to continually come here to make promises. I want to solve this, once and for all." She took a deep breath. "Are you willing to comply? We can offer you much more than the treatment you are receiving here."

"We do not receive any treatment here," Tenereus retorted, "and, so far, we rather like it. Losing our secrets for a war we do not wish to tangle ourselves in just to receive treatment that we are already getting does not seem fair in the slightest.

"The forest is perfect for us," Tenereus continued. "Yes, there are many inhabitants, and, yes, there is little room for all of us, but it is cozy. We have grown a life here, and we are extremely reluctant to change it. As you are well aware of centaurs prefer simplicity. This forest is simple. What we know now is simple."

"You could say that," agreed the female. "You could also say that the coziness you are referring to isn't really cozy at all but a disadvantage. How many stars would you be able to see in one of the beautiful Albania forests?"

"So that's where the forces are?" questioned Tenereus idly. "Albania?"

The female nodded shortly. "It's vast," she persuaded, "and it would be perfect for the centaurs. Not many venture into them, and the magical wildlife is virtually nonexistent. It would be a drastic upgrade from where you are now.

"Not to insult your home," hastily corrected the female. "But Albania, logically, has more than everything you could ever possibly need, alongside our--pardon me--massive protection." She stared down at Tenereus. "I will not deny that seeing the stars is very vital to us--"

"Fantastic," said Tenereus sarcastically. "Trying to get something for your own gain, again?"

"Look," said the female shortly, finally irritated, "I do not wish to argue with you. I am simply trying to strike a deal with you."

Tenereus sighed, looking up at the night sky. "You may want to leave soon," said Tenereus, avoiding the subject completely and encouraging another round of hostile, forcedly contained glares. "They normally come here at this hour... You wouldn't want to slow progress that you've already said is very important to you?"

"Of course not," said the female with reluctance. "Do we have a deal, then?"

Tenereus considered her; she looked particularly innocent, but the poorly masked smirk said otherwise. Though most of her was drowned in shadows, he could clearly identify her. He would know that face anywhere.

"No," said Tenereus finally. "I think that before we make any agreements with you we should schedule a meeting with the rest of the centaurs. As you clearly know, I am not their leader. I am just the one who is most able to calmly communicate with humans.

"If I could call you human," muttered Tenereus. "If only."

The female sputtered her outrage, but, recalling the importance of a cool head, said finally, "When are we going to be able to do that? There wouldn't be enough time to schedule an entire meeting with the whole of centaurs without the girl suspecting how close I was to her--"

"You have not told her?" said Tenereus, narrowing his eyes. "About you and I?"

The female shook her head, a smirk imprinted on her face. "It is best if she doesn't know," she pointed out. "Though she is admittedly the quietest out of the bunch, as you said, what am I to expect from her?" The girl sighed. "After all, she is only seventeen."

"She should know," said Tenereus decisively.

"No, she shouldn't." The female responded just as stubbornly. "I will try and meet you on the thirteenth, during the afternoon. Don't tell her anything."

"I suppose I won't," sighed Tenereus. "I suppose it will only be a matter of time."

The female's mouth was rigid, her eyebrows slightly furrowed at Tenereus's protectiveness. "I suppose so," she said cautiously, each word coming out with deliberateness. "I suppose that she will have to muster some intelligence to understand. I believe she is beginning to figure it out, but she is terribly guarded by her own obliviousness."

"I don't believe her oblivious," Tenereus said.

"I wouldn't have expected you to."

]—[
 


Chapter 30: These Arms of Mine
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A/N FROM THE EDIT: WOO! As I have been editing every chapter of this story, I was always a little bit worried about this chapter. I always knew that it was one of my worst.

However, this idea came to me last night -- this new interpretation of it -- and I really do love it now. I also love that there is more dialogue and more banter and I think it is a lot more in character than it was before.

On that note -- I hope you guys enjoy this, truly! The song at the bottom is by Otis Redding <3

]---[

Sirius found himself always led by his curiosity.

It was not a good trait to have, and although he always appreciated his curiosity--curiosity made the world go 'round, really--it was not good to have when it was seriously unwanted. It seemed like, at first glance, it could be controlled, even though Sirius was not well known for his willpower.

Hell, Scarlett proved as much.

But, regardless, curiosity was supposed to be something that could be forgotten. It was supposed to be a passing question, one that faded away into oblivion where he would never think of it again. That was the way it was supposed to be.

Sirius then learned that curiosity had never even heard of the phrase 'faded away into oblivion'. In fact, Sirius was sure that the whole concept of a question slipping his mind was absolutely foreign to curiosity, which in all its naivety was really quite evil.

It came to his knowledge that curiosity was unable to demolish a question; it instead left it there, festering, until another question came and piled itself on top of the other. It kept continuing that way, question after question, until Sirius found himself going insane with every unanswered query.

And, though some of his questions were related towards Remus, or towards Lily, most of them were directed towards Scarlett Alysha Devous, who still remained an absolute mystery to him though they had known each other--really known each other--for about a month and a half now.

It was not much time, but over its span he had accumulated many questions, some that had been formed in September when he was still hostile, some in October when he was completely confused, and some now when he knew much better or at least thought he did. The questions ranged from rude to jealous to irrelevant, and though they were diverse, not one of them had been said aloud.

When did you move to Britain?

Why, out of everyone, did they choose Theodore? Why did you?

Why did you ask me to come to the forest, anyway?

What am I supposed to be seeing in the stars?

Why the hell do you do this to me?

What are you saying in French?

What am I doing wrong? What is Theodore doing right?

What the hell is going on in your head, anyway?

However, out of all of these questions--and, unbelievably, there were more--the one Sirius finally voiced was one he did not honestly expect. It had not floated around in his brain for days on end. It had not plagued the time when his eyes were closed but he was not yet asleep. It did not annoy him during classes.

It had just come.

And, while it was a question that needed an answer, it was not a question that he would have wanted to ask. It made him angry as the words left his mouth, too quickly and subconsciously, so that when they finally came out into the open he was just as caught off guard from the question as Scarlett was, who had been discussing superficial topics for the past hour.

"When are you getting married?" he had asked, and he nearly choked on the last word in indignation. Scarlett had looked over at him, her eyebrow eloquently raised, and turned away as if she wouldn't answer.

"December 24th," she said finally, adding, "I thought you didn't want to talk about it."

"I don't like it," elaborated Sirius. "Doesn't mean I don't want to talk about it."

Scarlett rolled her eyes. "What do you want to know, huh?" she said with some amount of sarcasm, as if she had not yet taken the occasion seriously. "What... I'm going to wear, huh? Where it's going to be? Who's invited? What cake there's gonna be, what we're gonna dance to? Does that really interest you, Sirius?"

Sirius shrugged. "Try me," he offered. "I'll see how much wedding talk I can stomach." His mind skimmed through the questions she had voiced like a Rolodex, and finally he asked, "Well, what are you going to wear?"

Scarlett laughed; it was a laugh that, while genuinely amused, still held heavy doses of uncertainty. She had been right, of course; the conversation had been side-stepped, a mutual but tacit agreement that hadn't been broken until Sirius had unwittingly asked that question. It had been something avoided, and now, confronted, that laugh's uncertainty clearly expressed to Sirius that Scarlett was just as reluctant as he was to approach the subject.

After all, why would he bring up something that had previously brought the two nothing but strife? What sensible, level-headed, sane person would do that?

It was an unsafe topic. It was intimate, and it vividly detailed the situation Sirius and Scarlett found themselves in. It reminded them both that, even though being in the forest was nice and relaxing, there was still always society to return to. And, though Sirius generally defied society and Scarlett had her doubts, society was the main ground, the reality which she felt she had to return to. Society always preached that topics like this were ones that were dangerous and should never be explored. Society told them that one day, whether they wanted to believe it or not, if they continued this they would find themselves lost, veering off the road society had drawn. A Slytherin and a Gryffindor, an engaged socialite and a blood traitor.

It was such a bad idea.

But though it was wrong, even though it was bad, Scarlett still recovered from whatever uncertainty her laugh had, and, disallowing awkward silence to settle over them any longer, replied, "Well, the thing is, I have no idea."

Scarlett visibly eased after that, her body language becoming broader and more excited, and Sirius could not help but be absolutely captivated by what she was saying even though he knew full well that the entire subject was not one he thought nicely of.

"Well, it's between two dress robes," Scarlett said, "I already have rehearsal robes, but it's just between these two--one is a dark green one, and the other one's this beautiful red---and, well, both are really nice, but I just can't choose--"

Scarlett interrupted herself. "I'm sorry," she apologized, abruptly ending her ramblings. "I tend to go off sometimes--"

"I don't mind," said Sirius. "Where is it going to be?" he asked encouragingly, feeling his interest begin to pique as he said so, his conceptions about their marriage avoided for curiosity's sake. In return Scarlett smiled, grateful for a question that could be answered in a more coherent way.

"At our family's manor," she said. "In Dijon."

"Oh, yeah," Sirius recalled. "French. Forgot."

"J'ai ai toujours voulu se marier en France. La France est le pays de l'amour."

"I believe you," Sirius said, rolling his eyes. "But English, please."

"Pas de secrète binds dans la France," Scarlett murmured contentedly. "If you wanted to know."

"Of course I did," said Sirius sarcastically, though in all honesty his relationship with Scarlett's French was one that was entirely on-and-off: while he absolutely adored how it sounded, he had no idea what it meant, and that frustrated him.

But there was nothing he could do about it, so long as Scarlett was stubborn and he was still painstakingly curious.

"Okay, well, now, uh..." Sirius thought about the questions again, and finally mustered, "Who is invited to this? Is it a big blowout or is it, uh..."

"It's not intimate," Scarlett said shortly. "It's a pureblood thing, what do you think?"

"Oh," said Sirius blankly. "Well, am I invited?"

Scarlett laughed, but the laughter quickly faded into silence, and the couple found themselves slightly suffocated by it. "Eh," she said, and then that, too, fell into the silence. Seconds fell off of their expectant breaths, until Scarlett finally said, "I suppose you could, but I don't know if you'd be allowed--"

"It's your wedding," Sirius said resolutely. "No one says no to the bride."

"I wish," Scarlett said. "If life were like that, then everything would be so easy."

Silence appeared for a brief moment or two, but Sirius interrupted it easily. "Cake," he said, a grin on his face as Scarlett shook her head at his helplessness and put her head in her hands. "What kind?"

"White angel cake," Scarlett said, right off of the bat. "Georgiana's choice. She is my wedding planner, so I have nothing against it. I'm not really a big fan of cake, but I'll let that slide for my wedding."

"Of course," said Sirius.

Scarlett chuckled, shaking her head. "And the dance?" she asked for him, and he nodded expectantly. "The first dance is going to be danced to this tango, it's one of the only songs Theodore and I can actually dance to--"

"You tango?" said Sirius, stunned, interrupting Scarlett's monologue and earning himself a teasing glare. "You're something, aren't you?"

Like when they had talked about their love lives in October, Sirius once again found himself in a situation where he nearly thought that Scarlett had seen right through him. Her eyes looked the same--they had the exact same sparkle in them as when she had interrogated him about whom he fancied--but, like the last time, there was still that slight narrow of her eye, one that seemed to actually be protecting her from the blunt, obvious truth.

Because Sirius knew by now that Scarlett wouldn't let herself even for one second believe that he fancied her. Though there were some dangerously close calls--they had come in spurts, ceasing when he had transported himself back into a wasteland of platonic love and starting again when they ventured onto these sorts of topics--he barely ever strayed from the firm opinion that it would be something outright, like a kiss, for Scarlett to finally open her eyes.

And, so, like Sirius had predicted, Scarlett merely blushed and said, "Rubbish. We only learned a few songs, anyway; we just chose the tango because Theodore and I were both incredibly bad at waltzing." Scarlett giggled, reminiscing. "Your two cousins waltzed. Georgiana took ballet. It's a pureblood thing--didn't you and Regulus find a way to get out of it?"

Sirius shrugged. "I remember taking one lesson of ballroom dancing. I didn't really accomplish much. I, uh, kicked the instructor in the shin."

Scarlett laughed. "The tango isn't so hard, anyway," she said. "It's a simple dance. It's full of dependence. It takes two to tango, after all."

"Teach me," dared Sirius, and Scarlett raised her eyebrows before they collapsed at her tumultuous laughter. She laughed for a long time, and Sirius smirked up until the moment that she composed herself.

"Fine, Black," Scarlett said, returning his smirk as she stood up and carefully shed her robe. "Take off your robe--yeah, it's cold, I get it--and get yourself the hell up here."

Sirius obliged; it was hard not to. At that moment Scarlett looked strange; her focus was precise, and her strictness did not waver, her eyes glowing with a foreign adrenaline. It was odd to see Scarlett looking this way, Scarlett looking this way at him, even though she had already said the dance was preserved especially for Theodore.

"Okay," Scarlett breathed, taking his hands in hers. "This is going to be daunting, I think. I will try to lead as best I can--the steps aren't hard and I think you can handle it--"

But it was surprising to them both that Sirius couldn't handle the tango. Scarlett was driven, entirely concentrated on her movements, and there was no doubt that she was executing them in the exact way that she had been instructed however many years ago.

For whatever reason it felt stilted with Sirius. For whatever reason, the careful steps that she had practiced, again and again and again, did not feel comfortable when in Sirius's arms. It wasn't for lack of trying on his part either; Scarlett was actually impressed how much Sirius seemed to pay attention to what she was doing. But although the tango was a dance that Scarlett knew so well it was engrained--knew every step to the song which she had been taught, a song that she played over in her mind as she danced with him--it just didn't fit, especially not under the canopy of stars.

"I might have underestimated," Sirius conceded, "what I was missing out on all of those years."

"It was an interesting experiment, anyway," Scarlett said.

Sirius laughed as Scarlett made a move to sit back down on the outlook's floor. "Not so fast," he said. "I played your game; it's your turn to play mine."

"What are you going on about?" Scarlett replied. "You told me that you couldn't dance."

"I told you that I didn't take dance lessons," Sirius corrected. "Which is true. I could never pick up on whatever it is that you just did there. That does not mean that I cannot dance." He looked down at her. "Everybody can dance, Scarlett."

"Not everybody can dance well."

"I see what you did there," Sirius said, smiling. "But I'm serious--"

"Aren't you?" said Scarlett, wryly; Sirius rolled his eyes.

"That's charming," Sirius said. "What, are you afraid to dance with me?"

A glint entered Scarlett's eyes. "Are you challenging me?"

"Of course I am." Sirius shrugged as he took out his wand; muttering a swift incantation, the outlook soon began to play music. "I am a good dancer, you know," he said idly, as he grasped her hands again.

"This is..." Scarlett said, furrowing her eyebrows as Sirius led her in the dance. "Extraordinarily muggle."

Sirius laughed. "Well, thank you."

Scarlett's eyebrows furrowed deeper; hesitantly, as if it were a question, she said, "You're welcome."

It took some getting used to. It was not comfortable for Scarlett just as her dance couldn't have been comfortable for Sirius. However, what differentiated her attempt from Sirius's was that her body eased into it. It was entirely different from the dance she had shown Sirius--it was crude and unrefined and the music sounded like disco, of all things.

Yet it was fun. Fun and freeing.

"How are you so good at this?" said Scarlett, as they continued to dance.

"James, Remus, Pete and I," Sirius said, "well, it was a fun thing to do over the summer. Apparently it's all the rage."

Scarlett looked up at him. "Was this your way of picking up girls, Sirius?"

Sirius laughed; she was so close to him that she could feel his chest vibrate from the sound. "You tell me," he said, looking directly at her eyes.

"I will admit I am impressed," Scarlett said, and she looked away from him, intimidated. "You are right. You are a good dancer."

In return, Sirius smiled and nodded; the song which they were dancing to concluded, and the song which followed slowly stole the humor from the atmosphere. "Ah," Sirius said. "A slow song. Would you like to dance, Scarlett?"

She nodded and they moved so that Sirius's hands were secure on her waist and Scarlett's hands were on the back of Sirius's neck. "This is nice," Scarlett said after a few seconds of dancing, unable to meet his gaze again.

Sirius glanced at Scarlett. She was so close that he could kiss her--but there was still some hesitation in the way she moved, still an air around her that told Sirius that now was not the right time, now might have ruined everything.

But if he could have her like this--at the moment it was enough, and he sighed and pulled her closer as the couple danced into the night.

These arms of mine
They are lonely, lonely and feeling blue
These arms of mine
They are yearning, yearning from wanting you...


 
 
 

]---[

Note: French translations:

"I've always wanted to get married in France. France is the country of love." ... "No secret stays in France, if you wanted to know"
 


Chapter 31: Awakening
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Aut's Note: My goal is to learn the "As Long as You Love Me" dance.

]---[



Scarlett did not wake up on November thirteenth.

It was not as if she was perfectly sound asleep for the whole of the day; she was unharmed, though she looked as if she had been attacked by something. Her hair stuck out in a disorganized chaos, different strands taking the liberty to stick straight out and making her hair in whole almost unmanageable.

The reason that Scarlett did not wake up on November thirteenth was one that caused little worry and one that caused her, while no pain, terrible discomfort. The reason that Scarlett did not wake up on November thirteenth was painfully simple and totally obvious.

Scarlett did not wake up on November thirteenth because she had never fallen asleep.

Even after Sirius had left, even after she had fallen on a stray branch, even after Tenereus begged her to rest, she had stayed awake, her eyes hardly ever wavering from the sky for an endless amount of time. She remembered seeing a dark sky, blinking, and watching it brighten. She saw the sun emerge from the edge of the horizon, and she saw the stars slowly become invisible, a content smile on her face until she sharply realized that it was time to get ready for the morning.

Though she was so, so tired.

If anyone had asked her why, exactly, she would stay up so late, she would be unable to form a logical answer. Yes, it had been the weekend and most teenagers did use that to their advantage, but Scarlett was sure that she had not stayed up to express the freedom weekends gave.

She didn't really know why—she assumed she had become transfixed on some answer that lurked in the stars—but the point was that she definitely had.

The long nights were starting to take a toll on her, Scarlett knew, because Scarlett could easily see the evidence on her face. There were deep, bruise-like rings outlining her eyes in a way that made them stand out noticeably from her face. It was not the most attractive look; it was the look of a chronically irresponsible teenager.

She yawned frequently, and she always tried to sneak in naps when she could, but she was always awoken much too soon—either from her friends' intervention or a recurring dream that she could not properly grasp. However, though it did not imprint any visual on its memory, she was reminded of it by how, when she woke, her sheets would be tangled as if she had tossed and turned restlessly and her body would be shivering.

Theodore had noticed, of course, always eyeing her tired appearance with concern, though his concerns came alongside the concerns of her other friends. She had been continually urged to sleep, or to skip one meager class, or to do something to try and make herself somewhat healthier. Even Theodore, who had wasted hours upon hours in the library (in vain) trying to find any trace of the long-forgotten Transfiguration book, got more sleep than Scarlett did, a fact that made Theodore's eyebrows crease with worry.

It was not good, of course, for Scarlett to be suffering without any understandable reason as to why she was. When Theodore had asked her that morning just why she had stayed up so late, she had shrugged, simply leaning closer towards him and averting her gaze so that he wouldn't continue questioning her.

She didn't know.

Scarlett was supposed to be the one that always knew. Bellatrix was too impulsive, Georgiana was too loud, Narcissa was too hesitant, and Theodore had such a weak conscience when it came to Georgiana, who would worm the information out of him and then proceed to tell the world.

Scarlett always had clamped her lips shut. She was the one that was always supposed to be trusted with information, the one that was always supposed to know through her ability to read the stars and observe others with quiet scrutiny, the one that was supposed to assure or warn the others but not give away too much. That had always been her place as a Death Eater.

But now, she didn't know. It didn't fit that way anymore, and she didn't know why.

The only thing that was comprehensible was that if Voldemort had asked for information, she was the one expected to give it to him. She was fully aware of Voldemort's unquenchable desire to know the future; the purpose for their unusual connection was for communicative purposes.

But delving deeper she didn't know. This role had not fit her lately, especially because, with her negligence to read the stars as she used to, she was not performing to his standards. And that worried her because he hadn't said anything about it and she hadn't said anything about it and, most importantly, she was beginning to wonder what he had been doing with the information anyway.

That was another thing—she had found herself more and more often led by her curiosity, though normally it was something that was stifled through her fear of consequences. Yet recently her curiosity got the better of her, so much so that when she asked why she demanded an answer.

Why did he? Why was the responsibility placed on her?

And why, why, why—why had she not slept on November thirteenth?

That was as far as her information went, though. The 'why's came at a quicker pace past that point, and she was unable to manage them, letting them pile up in her brain so that they were all that she thought of that morning.

What were the stars withholding? Why did she feel like Voldemort was slowly becoming irritated at her lack of information?

Again, these questions only spawned others, but she was sure the latter question could be better understood by her headache, which had intensified with her late nights, and the Dark Mark, which prickled with whatever anger Voldemort was feeling. The pain which occupied the Dark Mark had been something that had negatively affected their entire group, the sensation that their blood was burning making them easily irritated and somberly silent.

It made it like a breath of fresh air, then, for Scarlett to visit Sirius, because Sirius could always handle her crankiness and always soothe it. It was always a breath of fresh air, because no matter how much she felt that things made sense around Theodore or how much she enjoyed her friends there was always the wall—sometimes thin but lately feeling thicker—that kept them as a single entity which had dedicated their lives to Voldemort. This made Sirius a breath of fresh air no matter what, because with him there was no wall and the wall of prejudice which had divided them before had been broken months ago. It was just her and he.

However, with her breath of fresh air came exhaustion, and it came with neglecting responsibility. Even though Sirius was attempting to teach her how to forget about responsibility and live life as she enjoyed the task was proving hard for Scarlett, who had done the exact opposite all of her life.

This was the clearest reason she could think of to stay up late, to fulfill the responsibilities which she was afraid to let go of.

It hadn't even been that helpful; what she had seen of the future had been, at best, blurry, riddled with scarlet—scarlet appearing everywhere, even though its exact location was faint and undecipherable.

She frustrated herself over it, and she frustrated herself over why she had spent hours looking at vague crimson. She allowed her frustration to seep onto the morning, and Georgiana, who looked tired as well and rubbed her wrist frequently, sent her an unusually cold look.

Bellatrix, on the other hand, only looked tired as she asked Scarlett bluntly, "Where were you last night?"

Scarlett rolled her eyes at the repeated question—they had been beating her up all morning—and when Theodore looked over at her curiously she sighed and shook her head. "Stop it," she told Bellatrix firmly, allowing no room for compromise whatsoever. "I've told you already. I was in the forest."

"All night? Why?" Narcissa asked in a light tone, though she had the same air of sourness.

Scarlett groaned at the question. Again and again—it was as if her friends were unable to leave a topic when she was unwilling to divulge anything new. Why?, they had asked concernedly, and when she did not answer with any detail, they said the exact same thing again, except with less concern and more force.

Why?

She didn't know.

It was so frustrating that Scarlett could hardly handle the group that morning. She could not handle Narcissa's so-called meaningless quips, Bellatrix's assertiveness supported by no authority, Georgiana's cold crankiness, or Theodore's backhanded action of not defending her and thereby revealing that he was more concerned in the answer to the question than to her peace of mind.

Why? Why? Why?

Yes, she was over-exaggerating, but her head was pounding, and her arm hurt, and she was so exhausted that she simply did not care. She cared for her group of friends, especially her boyfriend, but she did not care about them now. At the moment, all she cared about was the question why and why it wouldn't leave her alone.

She stood up, planning to leave; her legs slightly wobbled from exhaustion as she stepped away from the group. "'Bye," she said shortly, striding to the Great Hall's exit, but before she reached it Theodore caught up to her, lightly grasping her wrist.

She wrenched it away. "Thought you knew better," she pointed out, rubbing her forearm while Theodore eyed the tattoo he had unknowingly touched with slight annoyance and fatigue. "I'm not in the mood to talk about it."

"We just want to know why," Theodore said, and Scarlett's temper flared once more in aggravation. "We don't get why you're acting—"

"Exhausted?" theorized Scarlett, crossing her arms. "Maybe it's because I am."

Theodore took a step towards her. "I'm sorry," he said in a low voice. "Today really isn't the best day, is it?"

That was a question that didn't even need a vocal answer, a question that was so simple compared to why that all Scarlett could manage was a sigh. Theodore nodded at this, seemingly taking it as a response, and embraced her gently, taking care to avoid her forearm.

"Miss Quidditch," he advised her, softly stroking her shoulders and arms, and their annoyance was lost, both of them temporarily betraying their emotion to instead reveal what they were in truth: tired, pained teenagers that could not stand anyone and could hardly at the time stand each other. "Just sleep."  

Scarlett nodded slowly. "Wake me up, though," she murmured, "when you're done playing. Tell me how it goes, and then... will you stay with me?"

Theodore kissed her cheek and smiled, though it was slightly bitter as their Dark Mark pulsed again. "See you?" he asked, and again she slowly nodded, swinging her gaze around to where the group sat, their eyes fixated on the couple in a scrutinizing way, their lips pursed and slightly frowning.

"Have fun with this lot," she said darkly, giving him a quick peck on the lips before exiting the Great Hall gratefully. Few students had finished breakfast before she had left, so the corridors were nearly empty and blissfully silent.

Even as she walked towards the Slytherin dorms, her walk became slower, and her eyes occasionally flitted shut before opening again. Yawns slipped from her every few seconds, and her whole body ached for the appearance of the Slytherin common room or, more especially, her bed.

She could not wait for sleep to overcome her... it had seemed as if she had not slept in ages, for days upon days, like the meager hours that she sleep had amounted to nothing...

She could feel the dorm room coming closer. She could feel her mind already preparing itself to sleep, nearly shutting down, though that one question still swarmed around in her head, buzzing even as she was on the verge of collapsing in the corridor.

Why?

And the questions flooded her, the bite of curiosity intoxicating her completely, combining with the gentle lulls of sleep and awaking her mind even as her body's movements were slow and cautious.

Why had she stayed up so late?

Why had she allowed everything with Sirius to become the way it was?

What had Tenereus referred to when he had said 'it' was beginning? What was it?

Why did her head trouble her so? Why did her Dark Mark?

Why was he angry?

Was he only angry at her? Was he even angry at all?

How much did Scarlett actually know, anyway? And how much did she hide?

Scarlett did not like questions. She only liked answers, because answers were, for the most part, truthful. Questions only yearned for the truth, but answers actually held it in the palm of its hand, and that was the only thing Scarlett really needed.

She needed the truth, and thus she needed answers.

However, she understood that while the truth was the answer, the answer was not necessarily the truth. The beauty of a lie had been exposed to the youngest, the most innocent, the sweetest people imaginable, and it had also been exposed to the Hogwarts students, who spewed lies on a regular basis.

But she needed truth, and the only way truth could be found was in an answer, so there really had been no choice for her. It was her duty to form as many answers as possible and try and see which one was correct, which one was the truth, because right now that was what she needed.

She also needed time.

Scarlett needed time to reorganize herself. She felt as if, over the last few months, whatever composure she had previously held had vanished, for she was slowly beginning to not recognize herself.

She was afraid of losing her identity, and she needed that time to fix everything, to find the answers, and to regain what she had known at the beginning of the year. Though it was a hard fact to swallow, Scarlett was beginning to realize that some things—or some people—had changed her from what she had been to what she was now. It needed to be fixed before it got too out of hand. She needed that time direly.

But, said the truth, time was not something that she had.

When she arrived at the Slytherin common room, and then made her way clumsily up the stairs, she could feel time pushing her, like it was trying to fit her in a tight space. There was no room to compromise. There was the time that she wanted and the time that she had, and they were two very different things.

For time had taken a toll on her, and so had the search for answers, for her body was so tired that she could not even compute most of what she was thinking. She was aware that she was tired, that she must sleep, but that only translated into the visual of her green sheets and her soothing covers, protecting her and being her only security.

She had spent too many nights toying with sleep, and the one solitary night she had stayed awake had been the last straw. As soon as her body touched the bed she fell into a deep, comforting sleep, dreamless and unflinching.

She did not move at all from her bed, allowing the hours to pass her by with acceptance, letting the sun soar over the sky and sink without moving from her comfort, her security. Truth flew by her, and time which was priceless and necessary passed her by too. Still she did not move at all.

Still she did not wake.

]—[
 


Chapter 32: It's Beginning
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A/N: I just wanna take someone else's holiday. (You know what I mean?) Did you guys know Lion King is based off of Hamlet? There's your brain food for the day. Now please enjoy :) :) :)

]---[



When Scarlett woke up, the first thing that she registered was the pain.

It was not the dull aches she had become accustomed to feeling after waking—it was not the pain and burden of exhaustion—it was actual pain, pain that started at every nerve and ended, there, right in her heart, right in her head.

It didn't make any sense. She was safe and comfortable and warm in Theodore's arms. The night fell on her, a blanket all its own, covering her and protecting her. The room was silent, though beautifully so, only broken by the faint noises of wildlife outside.

So why did it hurt so much?

She was supposed to be safe. She was supposed to be okay.

She observed her surroundings. There was nothing poking her, nothing prodding her, and yet she still felt as if knives were tearing at her, from her toes to the tips of her hair. There was nothing there, but yet there was, and it was there so intensely that it could not be purely from her imagination.

It couldn't be. She saw no wounds, scars, or anything indicating pain, but it was there. It felt heavy on her body, overpowering, and Scarlett clamped her eyes shut, willing for it to stop. She direly wanted sleep to cover her, desperately wanted sleep to find her, but it didn't.

It was not the tiredness that bothered her anymore; she was fully rested. It was the pain. It was so peculiar, so ill-placed, that she actually observed herself, her thumb grazing over her chest and her head and her arms, searching for anything that indicated pain. Nothing was wrong.

Nothing was wrong, but yet everything was, and still Scarlett had no idea why. It did not frustrate her as much as it had earlier that day—the lack of fatigue had seen to that—but yet that question still swam in her thoughts frequently, even if her thoughts were full of pain, pain, pain.

Why?

Why did she hurt?

Some part of her, the part that was hurting, was clawing at her skin. The pain made her restless; it made her stomach churn and her bones ache. She wanted to leave it, as if she could run away from it.

But, another part of her—the logical, set part of her mind—told her that this is what she should've expected. Of course, being a Death Eater was never supposed to be easy. It was supposed to be unexplainable, an enigma that she was never supposed to figure out. After all, one of the pulses where pain hit the most was that Dark Mark, the blood staining black as it passed where the tattoo was.

Another wave of pain passed over her, and as if it was an electrical shock Scarlett jumped from the bed, attempting to find a distraction from the aching, paralyzing pain. Her body broke out in shivers, sweat beginning to shimmy down her skin, and she slid down the wall, hugging her knees.

Beneath her pain there was that one small slice of logic, or impulse, or something; all that she knew was that it did not feel the pain. It stood stoic, albeit irritated, in its presence, repeating the same thing to her over and over again:

You should have known.

Scarlett did not know why, but at that thought the pain came again, loud and angry. She did not know why, but the thought kept repeating itself in her head, like a mantra to stick in her head for eternity:

You should have known...

But the only thing Scarlett knew at that time was that she had to get out of there. She had to try and run, run away from it, because even though she was sure the pain would follow, she needed comfort.

And she knew exactly where to find it.

]—[

Scarlett was late.

Of course, she was normally always late, but time had ticked by, moving as quickly as molasses, and she had still not come. It had been ten minutes, then fifteen, then thirty, and she had still refused to arrive, leaving the outlook one person short. It was enough to make him huff angrily; though he normally had patience for Scarlett's lateness, thirty minutes was where the line between innocently late and simply not coming was.

However, Sirius had not left. Despite evidence that she had had a tendency to not come, he did not leave, because for some reason he was sure that she was coming. He was sure that he was coming, but he did not know how. Part of it was purely instinct, because he knew her. He knew that she wouldn't.

Another part of it was Tenereus's appearance into where they normally were alone.

Sirius had not seen much of Tenereus, but looking at him now, he felt slightly intimidated. Tenereus's face was one that had been transfigured after years of endless knowledge, and yet it still searched for more, his eyes darting from Sirius to the stars directly above him. His frame was large, muscular, and alert; Tenereus's body reacted to every single noise in the forest, his hands drifting towards his bow and arrow out of pure instinct. However, there was also some softness, or tolerance, and it was this which prompted Tenereus's pacing, anxiously looking towards where Scarlett normally emerged.

Now, as to why he was there, Sirius did not know, and he did not bother to ask. Instead, he curiously observed Tenereus, whose mannerisms became more and more worried, his eyes flickering less to Sirius and more to the stars, his hands resting uncomfortably close to his bow-and-arrow.

It was strange, to say the least, because Sirius had no idea why. Nothing unusual had happened; they had not fought or made any noise indicating that something was wrong. But something had definitely inspired Tenereus to come here, likely the same thing that had caused Scarlett to be late.

And Sirius had no idea what.

Insanely curious, Sirius found himself eyeing the stars. Though in his humble opinion he did not believe in the slightest that they held the future, he could not help but be fascinated by both Scarlett and Tenereus's dedication. It was like their Quidditch, their nearly obsessive adoration for the stars mirroring Sirius's for the sport.

But, it was strange to base an obsession on something so questionable.

However, if Tenereus believed the same thing as Sirius he surely wasn't showing it, for every ounce of energy that radiated off of him was focused. He didn't seem to notice Sirius at all, and Sirius idly wondered if he should leave.

Finally, though, and abruptly, Tenereus turned to him. "How are you?"

And that question appeared once more, rejuvenated since Scarlett had asked him the same back in October, and Sirius rolled his eyes at it, wondering why it came up so often. 'How are you' was a three worded nightmare, really: it was too polite, but too intrusive, and it opened up lots of opportunities for lies, though Sirius did not feel comfortable with lying to someone who likely could tell if he was.

But Sirius did not really know what to say. He could be honest, but he did not really know exactly how he felt, or he could be sarcastic, but that seemed as if it would be a bad decision from the moment that he'd open his mouth. Finally, though awkwardly, he responded.

"I'm fine."

Tenereus eloquently raised an eyebrow. "Not worried?" asked Tenereus. "Concerned? Or are you just curious?"

Sirius shrugged it off, visibly irked. "Well, what about you?" he questioned promptly in reply. "Impatient?"

Tenereus shook his head. "I'm worried," he clarified, looking again to where Scarlett was supposed to be. "I know what's going to happen, and it's not good."

"Really?" Sirius asked, and, curious, he continued. "Well, what's going to happen?"

Tenereus shook his head. "Nothing," he said, blatantly ignoring Sirius's glare and looking up towards the stars instead. "Nothing that you need to know about now, anyway."

"Well, then, what's the point?" Sirius said, and the question opened up a number of questions that had been in Sirius's head, exiting his mouth so quickly that his speech soon became a rant. "What's the point, then, for me to be here? Why the hell am I even here if I'm not supposed to know anything? What's the point for me to come here and do absolutely nothing except goof around, especially when you know about it? Why am I even here? Huh?"

Tenereus smiled. "I am sure," he said, and in contrast to Sirius his voice was a steady drawl, "that we both know the reason as to why you are still here. Now, as for why you are still here to benefit me... Well," said Tenereus, "I think that is something that you will learn in time.

"You have to understand," said Tenereus, who, while softening slightly, still had his hands nearby the bow-and-arrow, "it is not unusual at all for someone to come in here. It does not happen often, obviously, but it happens from time to time. People have come and gone.

"But it is very unusual for two people to stay here," he continued. "So, Sirius, why are you here? You and I both know that. It helps me that you're here, and it helps her, and maybe it helps you. Now, how important you are—I'm not entirely sure where your story goes, but I'm learning."

"Tell me something I don't know," Sirius challenged, and Tenereus shrugged.

"The future isn't set in stone," he pointed out. "I could just as easily be wrong. Assuming that I'm right, however, the next few months will be very important, anyway."

Curiosity biting at him, Sirius asked, "How?"

Tenereus shook his head. "I didn't say anything."

"No, of course you didn't." Sirius glared. "What's the use of knowing the future if you don't do anything about it?"

"I do," assured Tenereus, slightly impatient. "If you want to know something about the future, then pay attention. The only difference is that I have the stars to support me.

"But they can be wrong, you know," said Tenereus. "A part of me didn't think that you would come. I worried that she wouldn't go through with it, but she did. I'm happy that she did, because now so much more can happen. Better things. And it all starts to make sense.

"Observation is the best way to know the future," said Tenereus. "Believe me, I could stand here and watch the two of you and I'd know just as much as I know right now. It's fairly obvious."

"What are you talking about?" questioned Sirius, though he knew the answer to his own question, and Tenereus shook his head.

"It's beginning," Tenereus said simply. "It's beginning, and it's going to stay there, whether you like it or not. As for what you're going to do about it, well..." He shook his head. "It will be interesting, at least. I don't really know what you're going to do—I can only guess by observing. I can only hope that you're going to do the right thing."

"Well," said Sirius, irritated and somewhat surprised by the turn the conversation had taken, "How the hell am I supposed to do the right thing if I don't even know what the right thing is? Is it that bloody hard for you to tell me something?"

Tenereus sighed. "You'll know," he guaranteed. "You'll know when it happens, everybody will know when it happens. But it doesn't matter when it will happen, it matters what you're going to do about it when it finally does. Again, I can only hope that you'll know what to do.

"Just promise me one thing," Tenereus requested, an though Sirius furrowed his eyebrows he nodded in gesture for him to continue. "Promise me that, no matter what happens, you'll stay with her. No matter what she says or does—please, for me, will you stay with her?"

Sirius nodded, slightly confused and decently curious, as a satisfied gleam entered Tenereus's eye as he turned abruptly towards the entrance. "She's coming soon, anyway," he murmured, "So you can test yourself then."

"Test myself on what?" Sirius asked sharply. "Is she okay? How do you know she's coming soon anyway?"

"Curiosity killed the cat," muttered Tenereus under his breath.

"I'm not a cat, though," Sirius insisted. "Tell me."

"I can observe," Tenereus said shortly. "And, no, she isn't. Don't ask her why—she probably doesn't know herself. Just stay with her."

Sirius didn't say anything. He couldn't really think of anything to say in retaliation, especially to somebody who, he was sure, knew the next words that would've come out of his mouth. For the first time in a long time, Sirius didn't say a word, instead choosing to wait... and wait...

And, because all he did was wait, wait and observe, Sirius could begin to feel that she was definitely coming soon. The almost inaudible footsteps were a more obvious clue, clearly; however, intrinsically, he knew that she was coming far before footsteps could've been heard.

And, so, Sirius waited, and the centaur next to him waited, both waiting in suspense, waiting for her arrival. The feeling grew, flourished, and festered as the seconds passed, the atmosphere thickening and intensifying, as they waited for her to come...

And then she came.

The first thing that Sirius observed was that the entrance was not graceful, irritated, or agile; similarly, it was not accompanied with any form of explanation, verbal or otherwise. In fact, there was, at first glance, nothing truly spectacular about Scarlett's entrance, except that it was really nothing. Maybe it could have been clumsy, maybe, but at the same time that didn't fit. The only thing that described the actual entrance was absolutely nothing, not answering any questions but leading Sirius to come to a conclusion all his own.

The second thing that Sirius noticed was the way she looked. At first glance she looked perfectly okay, her hair falling a little bit more messily to her shoulders than normal, perhaps. However, on closer inspection and that same feeling that had brought him to believe that she was coming, there was so much to be said about the way that she looked.

She did not look happy or angry or anything, anything at all. He could've called her frightened, but she merely seemed to be a restrained kind of docile. He could've called her confused, but even though Tenereus was unexpectedly there her eyebrows didn't furrow in the slightest, her face containing an unexplainable, strange expression that really wasn't an expression at all.

She did not cease her pace when she arrived, either. She continued walking, almost as if she was planning on walking right past, and she barely cast Tenereus a glance. Instead, she continued walking towards where he stood, her eyes steady on his.

And, even though he should have immediately bombarded her with questions, even though one of them should have spoken, they didn't, and he didn't, because what was there to say? With everything simplified as much as it could've been, all that existed was that she was there, and that was all Sirius needed to know.

Why did not really matter. Though a life with every one of its questions answered was better than a life suffocated from them there was nothing he could've done and nothing he wanted to do.

Why didn't matter.

All that mattered was that she was there and walking towards him, she was there and she was hurt, she was there and then she came closer until she was there, her arms wrapping around his neck and his arms snaking around her waist. All that mattered was that she was there, and that was the only thing Sirius needed to know.

"Stay with me," she asked, her voice low, and Sirius didn't say anything in reply because nothing needed to be voiced, not then. Instead, Sirius simply wrapped his arms around her tighter.

Nothing needed to be said, because as long as she was there, everything would be okay. As long as she was there he would stay with her.

And that was the way it wasn't supposed to be, but that was the way it was.

]—[
 


Chapter 33: Just the Night
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Author's Note: Lana Del Ray is so good though, you know?
]---[
 

The female came to Tenereus on that night.

The night was cool and quickly fading, the sunshine quickly overtaking the scene, but yet still Tenereus remained rigid where he was. He had never taken the night for granted and he never really would; it was just a simple form of his nature. However, when he first caught eyes with the female, a stab of regret quickly poisoned his nature, and, subconsciously, he groaned.

He did not fancy seeing the female visitor at all. There was something about her that held the absolute air of little humor and sourness, as well as a completely empty feeling that Tenereus got by looking at the entrance of the outlook expectantly only to be needlessly disappointed. She was something else, somebody else.

And he didn't like it at all.

At the moment, she looked positively livid, though perhaps there was some mask of composure on her, too, because her voice was level when she asked, "Are we still able to—?"

Tenereus eyed the female bleakly. She was beautiful, looking nearly identical to someone Tenereus knew, but at the same time she was shockingly grotesque, her demeanor suggesting arrogance and cruelty. This character was never someone that Tenereus enjoyed seeing, and, seeing her now, hands crossed over her chest and her eyes gleaming, he felt the exact same way.

Morosely, and with utmost reluctance, he shook his head, unusually withdrawn and oddly anxious. "No," he said lowly. "The centaurs are offended. It may not even be safe for you and her to continue coming here."

"She is still coming," the female snarled. "This is all her fault..."

Tenereus sighed. "There was nothing that could've been done," he said resolutely. "We do not even know if the centaurs would have accepted anyway. You should not place all of the blame on her—"

"She should have known!" the woman yelled, her face morphing into one of terrible beauty but terrible anger, the words piercing and shattering the silence. "She should have known," she repeated again, quieter, but in no way less dangerous.

She reminded him so vividly of her, but at the same time she did not; there was nothing more that he hated.

"Maybe," Tenereus said, attempting to pacify but drill in his logic, "maybe you should have told her—"

"She should have known." The female said this stubbornly. "That's all there is to say." She began to pace, slowly at first, but her steps quickly becoming broader and angrier. "She has ruined it for us," she ranted. "She has been given too much responsibility, and here I thought—"

"She didn't know," Tenereus said quietly. "I don't think there's much else to say, is there?"

"This isn't the last you'll hear from me," the female promised.

"I know," said Tenereus bitterly. "I know."

]—[

They didn't talk about it.

It wasn't to say that they weren't talking at all; on the contrary, they were talking well and often about a variety of topics, the most prominent being the increasing cold. However, anything related to that night—any question, any thank you, anything—was easily and abruptly waved off.

And Scarlett didn't mind. She didn't mind leaving that night behind, because, for her, that night was an absolute mystery. Since then, she had felt nothing or heard of anything that would be a proper clue, and she didn't mind, because she didn't want to know. She didn't want to know if the pain was real or if it wasn't, because, if it was... well, she didn't want to know.

And she didn't mind.

Maybe she should've, though, because it seemed so important. It seemed like it was just another large, glaring clue, another thing hitting her in the face, and she felt that she should've thought about it more. It was ignorance to deliberately ignore it; although ignorance was bliss, bliss wouldn't make any promises, and it was only a matter of time before it wouldn't be blissful anymore.

And that she did mind, and minded terribly. It irked her slightly, prodding at her mind in the seconds before she slept, and she hated it. She felt it clawing at her, begging to be solved, but she did not yet feel like solving it. It was never a strong strategy to disregard something, but it was all that she had.

So, she put her mind on other things to distract herself. She read the stars infrequently; most of her distractions tended to come from Sirius, who she had been debating with heatedly and frequently.

And, ironically, who would've guessed that it was related to the cold?

Scarlett had had experience as far as being in the forest was. She had been going there for nearly two years nightly, and she had far since learned about the months. She knew about the heat of September, which quickly faded to the cool breezes of October and then the frigidness of November. She knew, and he didn't.

Yet, Sirius was absolutely persistent. It had been, at first, something that came up unexpectedly between minute-long silences, something to instigate more interesting topics. However, as time passed and snow began to fall, it appeared in the conversation more and more and more.

She hadn't even shivered—well, in front of him, anyway—and yet he still argued about it! Soon, the casual, friendly question became more and more of a daily annoyance, and then it progressed onto debates, which quickly transformed into arguments.

It really was none of his business.

But, as November's weather did her no favors, he began to form more and more of a logical point. Snow was beginning to fall—it had first come in sweet, romantic flurries, and then it had slowly and surely transformed itself into something akin to a blizzard, twirling her hair without her consent and sending her body into tremors of shivers.

But she was used to it—she had always been used to it. There was cold, there were goosebumps, there was so much damn snow, but it did not change the fact that she was used to it. That was a stable, permanent fact, and nothing was going to change it.

As if to defy her, she shivered.

"You see?" argued Sirius, entirely too satisfied by such a simple action. "Do you see that? You're freezing. People die from that, you know. They call it hypothermia. Prolonged exposure to cold. I'm pretty sure it's cold right now, right? Snowing? You shivering? I'll give you two days, tops."

"Shut up, Sirius," Scarlett muttered; that was always her best arguing point. "I can handle it."

"So why are you shivering?" he returned, less than one second later, and she groaned. "If you're shivering, that means you're cold, and if you're cold, you should at least wear something heavier, for Merlin's sake."

"It's none of your business," she said stubbornly.

"What's none of my business?" he questioned sarcastically. "Your death?"

"I'm not going to die," Scarlett bit back, rubbing her arms in an attempt to get body heat. "You might have to watch yourself if you keep talking like that, though."

"Like what?"

"Like you're a bloody Gryffindor."

"But I am!" he stated, pointing to himself. "Maybe not bloody yet, but, hey, who knows!"

"Smartass," Scarlett grumbled, shaking her head, and Sirius grinned.

"Bitch," he insulted in rhythm, and she turned to him.

"Sharp-tongued," she corrected. "Honestly, the way you talk, it's so—so—infuriating, so annoying, so—"

"Bloody Gryffindor?" Sirius finished, grinning. "I think we've been over this already."

"Yeah, maybe," she said, turning her attention away from him and trying fervently to find distraction in the stars. However, despite her terrible want for distraction, her terrible want to end the conversation, the person sitting next to her was not quite so easy to shake.

"You didn't answer my question," he spoke into the silence, and at it Scarlett rolled her eyes. "Why are you shivering? I'm pretty sure that the only real answer you can give is—"

""I'm cold," she responded, and contentedly he smirked. "I'm bloody cold, yeah? It is cold out. I'm cold. It's not all that difficult to understand, all right? But I can handle it."

"Thank you," Sirius enthused in reply. "See, if you had done that earlier, we could've saved ourselves plenty of strife. You know how offended I get when people call me 'smartass'."

"I bet, smartass," she said hopelessly, shaking her head. "You're crazy."

"You're cold," he replied. "C'mon, bring something, a nice turban, I don't know. Something to keep you warm, anyway."

"Ha," she dully voiced. "What are you going to do about it?"

"Well," said Sirius confidently, after a second's pause, "if you're not going to keep track of your own health, then I simply am going to have to do it for you."

]—[

When Scarlett saw what Sirius brought the next night, she very nearly choked in surprise. The surprise, however, was short-lived, and it quickly transfigured into something sarcastic, sour, and, above all, stubborn.

"Oh, are you cold?" she said darkly, eyeing the heavy robes Sirius had casually draped over his arm with such an intense dislike that she fully expected them to cringe. "Because, you know, I can handle this weather, and to see you, of all people, giving in—"

"Don't be smart," Sirius said, triumphantly handing the robes to her. "I know you're cold. You don't have to prove anything to me."

"Says who?" said Scarlett, almost inaudibly, but Sirius, with an almost doglike sense of hearing, heard it acutely and laughed. "I'm not taking it, I told you. I don't need you to help me. I don't even know why you'd want to. As far as I'm concerned, I am perfectly, perfectly fi—"

And, then, the wind blew.

It was chilly and laced with snow as piercing as needles, and, instinctively, Scarlett shivered, hugging her knees as tightly as she possibly could. The wind continued like that for awhile, merciless, and Scarlett hardly shifted, looking downcast at the ground.

When the wind finally ceased, she grabbed the robes and threw them over herself. "Don't get so cocky," she said. "I'm just using them to be polite, is all."

"Yeah, I bet," said Sirius, attempting and failing to mask his pride. "Just, eh, remember to give those back when we're done. They're some of my favorites, you see, terribly warm."

"Merlin, they are," she murmured, easing into them with unwanted eagerness, her body softening instantly at the fabric and relaxing as if the coat itself was the comfiest thing she had ever experienced. "Bloody hell, what are these made out of?"

"Sheepskin and doxy hair," Sirius said, trying to withhold the satisfaction in his voice. He looked over at her; it was hard not to notice and appreciate how much she appreciated his gift.

"Doxies?" Scarlett whispered half-heartedly, snuggling into the coat with entirely too much lack of restraint and entirely too much comfort. "The little bastards make coats now?"

Sirius snorted. "Beautiful way to put it," he snickered. "Make a nice coat, though, don't they?"

She didn't answer; she merely moved closer to him, allowing with little hesitancy her head to rest on his shoulder. Instead of being cold, she was blissfully warm and blissfully... well, she didn't know.

Ignorance was bliss.

"Mmm," Scarlett muttered. "Tell me something I don't know."

"I don't know," Sirius replied. "I, uh, tried to grow a mustache back in third year, but James said that I looked like a man you'd meet in an alley, so I shaved it off."

Scarlett laughed, but it was way too faint, much too faint, why was it so faint... "I like your friends," she said sleepily. "I hate them, you know, I hate them so much, but, at the same time... you know what I mean...

"And, with you..." she continued, even more dim."I should hate you so much, I really should. And I did... and I do, but, at the same time..."

She did not finish what she was going to say. Instead, with a half-hearted shrug of her shoulders and a deep sigh, that same thing picking at her brain but with stronger ferocity, she allowed her eyes to close and fell asleep.

]—[

She was so warm.

That was the first thing she registered. Every limb in her body was eased, feeling as if it could not move, like it was part of the fabric itself. Though her back felt uncomfortable, as did her neck, which sent a tremor of pain when she attempted to move it, she was wholly... perfect. At ease.

The second thing she realized was that there was a voice in her ear.

It was by no means loud, or demanding; on the contrary, it was quiet, pacifying, and unusually shocking, the voice hitting a nerve that made her entire body feel like it was buzzing. However, though it awakened her senses—she muttered something incomprehensible—there was still that comfort, still that utmost peace...

"Scarlett, wake up."

"I'm awake, I'm awake," she said unconvincingly, repositioning herself to that her neck was back against the tree her spine was against. She opened her eyes slowly, groaning, "Ugh, bloody hell, Sirius, why did you let me—"

She caught his eye.

He was staring at her strangely, indecipherably, and she could not help but stare back, her stream of chiding in an abrupt pause. She could not help but stare back, and she could not even blink in fear of losing his gaze.

She did not know why she was not looking away, or not saying anything, but she did not know what she would've said or would've looked at. She could not think of anything to say or do— nothing was really in her mind—it was so, so peculiar, the whole scene, the whole night, everything...

For some reason that Scarlett did not really know, she couldn't look away. She could feel each second lull by her, she could feel the atmosphere bracing itself to tense when one of them finally broke away, but she did not make any movement. She didn't really know, and she didn't really want to know.

Ignorance was bliss...

It was Sirius first that responded, muttering hoarsely, calmly, "Your eyes look different."

"How so?" she found herself asking, though she was not really aware that she was asking it. She still could not compute much of what she did, and she did not know why, and she did not want to know why, but she did, but she couldn't, couldn't, couldn't...

"Normally they're auburn," he explained. "Tonight they're a nice shade of brown. I don't know if it's actually your eyes, or—"

For some reason, these words jolted Scarlett like a decent dose of lightning, and, reacting sharply and taking a deep breath to compose herself, said, "It's just the night, is all."

It was just the night, she kept telling herself. It was just the night.

Ignorance is bliss...

]—[






 
 


Chapter 34: Intimacy
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A'n: Listen to "Honey and the Moon" the old title of this chapter!! It's such a cute song and perfect and charming. Um, thank you HPFF validators for reading all of this. Did you guys know I have, like, 20 chapters pending right now? I'm trying to get all of them in so that I can look forward.

Cogito ergo sum xoxoxo


]---[
 

For some reason, from that moment on, their conversations delved into something almost resembling intimacy.

Or, at least, it felt like intimacy; as the word 'intimacy' had so many meanings—the most disturbing involving physicality—Scarlett could not entirely be sure. But there was no other word to describe what could so clearly be felt: it was so strange, so unspecified, and brought an edge to the night that Scarlett did not really understand.

But, on the other hand, there was something so undeniably pleasant about it. Although there was always this strong sense of something being out of place, something being so wrong, it was constantly accompanied with a warm, almost appreciative feeling—like she was thankful, almost, for being with Sirius, despite every ounce of logic that told her not to be.

There was just something so different about Sirius; he was akin to a breath of fresh air. It was odd because, technically, there were very few reasons for him to be so. He was as every bit infuriating and opinionated as James, Remus, and Peter were, with the only difference being that she instigated conversation with him every night. Actually, when Scarlett really thought about it, Sirius was more of a pain in her ass.

But, on the other hand, he did not support Voldemort. And, on the other hand, he was unusually funny and astoundingly charming, Gryffindor or not.

There had to have been some ulterior motive that kept her coming there night after night with absolutely no intention to read the stars. The only problem with that thought, however, was that it brought plenty of questions in its wake, the most prominent being what.

What was the ulterior motive?

She had no idea of knowing, and she didn't want to know.

However, this pointed ignorance did nothing to cease or at least slow the direction the conversations were taking. When they had begun to be friends, their conversations were generalized as light bickering and casual teasing. As every day passed, though—especially after their fight—their conversations delved into something that most closely resembled friendship and the desire to deepen it.

And, as Scarlett was increasingly curious and Sirius had no idea how to keep his mouth shut, the best way to go about it was to ask questions.

In the beginning, when only mere flashes of closeness were evident, there had always been some question to continue the conversation. It normally had been asked in the frequently-minute and scarcely-hour long silence, and always with that question the conversation flickered back to life.

As time continued moving, and November's days flitted past, the questions became the conversation. There was so much to know about a person that there was absolutely every imaginable place to begin—from family to friends to irrelevancies like what their favorite color was.

And, as Scarlett was increasingly curious and Sirius had no idea how to keep his mouth shut, the best way to go about it was an incredibly juvenile though wholly effective game called Truth.

The rules were not really specified, and the game itself was loose and easygoing. Nevertheless, it was aware to the both of them that there was a rhythm to the questions—Sirius, Scarlett, Sirius, randomly asked in a way that had no foreshadowing as to what the response would be. At some points, the answers were curt and vague; at others, they spent hours divulging every detail that the question had to offer. Only very rarely did they respond in silence; only one question, asked to both, had been able to achieve it.

"What is your biggest secret?"

Scarlett had asked the question first; it had been one of the first questions to be asked. She had expected something related to his family—or to Gryffindor—or to maybe the messy mechanics that composed the Marauders.

She did not expect silence.

The silence did remain for long, though; it could not have been more than a minute or two that Sirius turned to her stubbornly and voiced the exact same question with the exact amount of curiosity and a tad bit of irony.

And, accordingly, when the question was asked to her, Scarlett answered with the stoniness of silence, tenderly fingering her right wrist so subtly that Scarlett was sure that Sirius would never even guess what her secret was.

She knew that their trust had matured in such a way that he would never suspect her; as she thought it, she felt a knot enter her stomach. Was her biggest secret that she was a Death Eater...or that she wasn't sure if she wanted to be?

The silence did not stretch on then, either. Instead, Scarlett deftly changed the subject, and it was within minutes that they were questioning each other on their favorite Quidditch team, the unanswered questions almost being washed away from the night.

And so the questions continued.

It was on the night of November twenty-second that the questions focused more clearly on the topic of family. When the sun was just barely finished setting the first question drifted casually, predictably, from Sirius's lips, the routine so engraved into the two of them that a greeting was not voiced.

"How many siblings do you have?"

It was less than five seconds later that Scarlett responded. "I have two," she replied easily. "Tiffany's twenty-five, she lives in London, loves muggles, and she is studying languages, and Priscilla's eight, lives in France, and is mute. Generally. I've heard her talk a handful of times since she became mute. Do you still talk to any of your family?"

Again, the question was answered precisely. "Not really. I don't really fancy them much. Why is your sister mute?"

Scarlett broke the rhythm, but only slightly; she replied ten seconds after the question had been spoken, some thought and hesitancy into her answer. "She's a Seer," she muttered. "She figures that if she doesn't speak then she will never have to prophesize. She doesn't want people to beg her for prophecies. You can't control them, you know."

Scarlett sighed, idly turning a leaf in the palm of her hand. "Do you ever wish..." she murmured, tracing the lines on the leaf serenely."Do you ever wish that... that you hadn't run away?"

Out of all of the questions asked that night, that one took the longest to respond. Sirius stared at the leaf in her hand, too, for a minute, watching as she flipped it over once more and traced the other side. The silence stretched on like a blanket over the conversation, stifling it, until Sirius finally responded, "Not really.

"I mean," he elaborated, "I think about it sometimes. It would've been easier. But, you know..." he trailed off, grabbing the leaf from her hand, and in the brief moments that their skin touched an unidentifiable feeling cascaded through her blood. "I think I'm better off. Easier isn't always better.

"Are your parents okay with your sister?" Sirius questioned next, his nails lightly cutting into the leaf's veins. "Hanging around muggles so much?"

Scarlett shrugged, though the words took longer to form in her hope to maintain caution. "They don't really mind," she said in a dire attempt at nonchalance. "She... doesn't really dabble in being pureblood as much as my parents do."

As much as I do.

"Is your whole family Pureblood-oriented?" Scarlett asked abruptly, attempting to back away from her response as quickly as possible. "Are you the only one who isn't?"

Sirius shook his head quickly; the question was a tad bit more lighthearted than the last one she'd asked "My cousin Andromeda," he started, a very small smile on his face at some memory, "was out of the loop years before I was. She married a Muggleborn, and, well, my family doesn't have any easy ways out."

Scarlett laughed, but it was not one that had mirth, and it soon fell to the wind, which blew it away and out of sight. The wind also blew away Sirius's next question; now, the silence seemed to flow throughout them like blood. It conquered her limbs, and it conquered his, but it also conquered their voices, which then became eerily silent.

The only part of them that did not wish for the conversation to end was their eyes—Scarlett's were careful, as she had always been, but also curious, and Sirius's were eager and restrained, some unanswered questions hitting the edges of his mouth but not being properly voiced.

So, the silence continued.

It dragged on painfully and uncomfortably, works desperately wanting to be spoken, though on the surface it seemed pleasant enough. Scarlett grabbed another leaf from the forest's floor and toyed with it; Sirius continued slashing into the first. The actions were subtle, and, if any passersby were asked, fairly innocent.

But, as always, what was under the surface—unable to see—was the reason for the discomfort. There had always been a nice reassurance with the conversation; it delayed them from thinking and focused on them merely answering any simple question. It was a sweet lining, something to fall on, and, without it, the outlook was bare.

The only things remaining in the outlook now were Scarlett, Sirius, and the beauties of mystery.

Scarlett could feel the silence creeping up and possessing her mind. Generally, Scarlett rather fancied the silence; it gave her time to access the previous conversation, and, with people like Bellatrix and Georgiana nearby, temporarily make them less annoying company.

But with Sirius Scarlett absolutely abhorred silence. The air that Sirius always brought with him begged for conversation, because he had so much to say, and when he didn't say anything it was a reason to be worried, especially when it was his turn to ask a question and silence would have given him enough time to think of something to ask that she did not want to answer.

Perhaps she had previously thought that the conversations they had before were intimate, but she could not have guessed that the simplicity of silence was more intimate than anything she could have dreamed of. Without a continuous flow of conversation, Scarlett felt absolutely bare, and, not only that, she felt too curious for her own good.

The enigma of Sirius Black was one that hardly anybody had ever bothered to investigate; at first glance, and second, and third, the boy was extremely shallow. But delving past the surface of the Gryffindor provided a different perspective on him, and now Scarlett could not believe that Sirius was possibly the most difficult enigma of them all.

She wished he would ask the question soon; millions more were coursing throughout her mind like irritating flies, each one random, obtuse, but still terribly personal.

What is your greatest fear?

What have you seen in the stars?

Why did you start seeing the stars?

How did you meet Tenereus?

What confuses you most?

You, she thought. You do.

If you had one wish, what would it be?

If you knew you were going to die, what would you do?

How did you meet Theodore?

When did you know you two were going to get married?

Are you happy you're marrying him?

"Are you happy you're marrying him?"

The question, voiced simultaneously with her thought, hit her like an oncoming train; she exhaled in surprise and blinked fervently to try and reconnect herself with reality. When she did, she prepared herself to answer the question; yes, of course. Her lips opened, a little bit tighter than usual, and she inhaled.

But she did not speak a single word.

The answer that had been on her lips was unwilling—or unable—to be voiced. The exhale that came soon after was as shocked as she was—shocked that it was even there. She should have been answering the question.

Why didn't she answer? She loved Theodore. She knew she did.

But, still, she did not speak a single word, and a tremor of panic buzzed through her system. What was wrong with her? She should have answered. She was perfectly capable of answering, but, very obviously, she wasn't.

If anyone else had asked that question, she would have answered it without hesitance; hell, she would have answered it with vigor. But, for some reason, with Sirius—who breathed encouragement of conversation—the question seemed to fall upon deaf ears.

And, yes, she didn't know why. Maybe there were a lot of questions that pleaded to be answered by her, and maybe she had been evading them dexterously, but it should not have catapulted onto her as severely as this, especially at such a silly question. It had seemed obvious to her when it was asked.

So why couldn't it be answered?

She wanted it to be answered. She wanted so badly for the simple, one-syllable, three-lettered word yes to float away from her and into the silence, but it couldn't. She could not form the word onto her lips, even though she so desperately wanted to.

She didn't even know what was holding her back, but the simple fact that she was brought back the uncomfortable, jarring sounds of silence that she had and still dreaded. It brought back the bareness, brought back the overwhelming vulnerability, and it brought back that feeling that she could not clearly specify, though there was absolutely no pleasure laced in it.

For a mere second or two, she lingered on saying no. Maybe she wasn't ready to get married—but it didn't feel right, either. She felt completely and utterly wrong to deny that she and Theodore were a perfect fit, enough that they should be married at seventeen.

But she felt completely and utterly wrong to confirm it, too.

It didn't make any sense. The question should have been answered in seconds, but yet it had stretched onto dull, useless minutes, every one spiking into her skin and making the silence itself even more significant. The question should have been answered with confidence, but yet it could not even be answered, because Scarlett had no idea what the answer was.

Was she happy to marry him?

If it had been any other time, she would have said yes.

But there was something so particular about that night—about the questions that had been spoken, about that indecipherable feeling that crept up whenever a particularly humorous or personal question had been asked, about the way, the precise way, the silence stabbed into her like a cold knife...

She took a deep breath, preparing to say whatever came to her lips first, but when Sirius looked over at her, expectant, that dose of feeling came over her and whatever she was about to say left her mind completely.

Merlin, what was wrong with her? She could feel the intimacy, the bareness, much more now, but the feeling clung to her skin in such an unpleasant way that it began to creep into her mind and persuade her thoughts.

If it had been any other person, if it had been any other time, Scarlett would have answered. If that feeling was absent, she probably would have answered, too.

But, in this reality, she was with Sirius, in a night filled with an aching silence and a feeling that didn't make sense and she didn't want to make sense of. In reality, this supposedly easy question had not been answered and could not be by her, and, in reality, the answer had been waiting to be known for long, winding minutes.

And, as the silence destroyed security and lured vulnerability, reality fell over her skin in a sudden, abrupt way. Because, in reality... in reality...

"I don't know."

And, in reality, that fact could not have been more terrifying.

]—[

.
 


Chapter 35: Caring is Creepy
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A.n. : how sweet it is, to be loved by y o u!!!!!!


]---[


 Caring is Creepy

There was something very disturbing about worrying.

When somebody was worried, it was as if they were being possessed with something that was far greater than what they were. It hung around like fog, and in the rare occasions that it eased its stranglehold it lurked below the surface. It was a combination of dire hopes, impatience, concern, and panic--four things which, mixed together, brought about a downward spiral of unpredictable emotions and a surplus of pacing.

Of course, there were many things to be worried about; people, exams, health, untrustworthy friends, secrets, spouses, ambitions where success only resided in dreams--and even among other situations, worry was present. Some people worried constantly, the emotion coming to them like a bad addiction; some people maintained a constant cool that made worrying nearly impossible to achieve.

In Hogwarts, each House was classified for worrying about something in particular: Hufflepuff worried about Quidditch (mostly in vain). Slytherin worried about their future. Ravenclaws worried about their grades.

And Gryffindors?

Well, Gryffindors worried about everything.

It was a small price to pay for nearly constant happiness; Gryffindors were, after all, annually accompanied with Quidditch glory, the House cup, consistently good grades, suave charm, beauty, and a sense of humor that even Hufflepuff's optimism couldn't beat.

However, there was always another side to every coin.

Gryffindors were known for feeling too much and too intensely; they were bold and edgy in that sense. Yes, it brought about good happiness when happiness came (which was quite a lot), but in the bleak moments Gryffindor House suffered like they had been physically wounded. When they were angry, things were thrown and faces were tomato red. When they were depressed, pillows became drenched in tears. When their pride was shot, they became sullen and didn't speak for the rest of the day.

And when they were worried... well, when they were worried, even a cast of supportive friends could not pacify a troubled mind. Instead, they were subjected to hours of ranting repeated like a record making infinite and unsettling revolutions as the evening faded into midnight.

The misfortune of that November day was that two of their best soothers were the ones worried.

And, what was worse, they were worried about their sanity.

From where he sat on the entirely too comfortable couch, Sirius looked up at James bleakly. Though the day had been a breeze--it had been littered with free periods--James was pacing wildly in front of Sirius as if he had been busy the entire day. His eyes were savage and bright, and his mouth was moving at a steady pace as if he hadn't been asking for Sirius's opinions for the last two and a half hours.

But, Sirius thought irritably, he had.

Remus wasn't being much of a help, either; actually, he was being more of a nuisance than a comfort. He sat on the couch adjacent to Sirius's, looking up at James, but instead of offering a conciliatory gaze his was troubled and did not even seem to be paying attention to what James was saying.

Sirius never thought he'd see the day when he'd be the only sane friend out of the Marauders, but, alas, there it was. Remus had been acting strangely since the last full moon, spacing out at random times and at some points even asking Sirius for homework that he'd forgotten to do (which, Sirius recognized, he hadn't done either). Sirius had nailed Remus with the question why for a good amount of time now, though there was no response other than an irritant huff and a flip of whatever book he was reading.

But, now, Remus was worrying. Which wouldn't have been much of a problem, really, because Remus normally was an easy enough person to calm, but the simple fact that James was worrying too almost made Sirius worry. And that was enough to make Sirius's head hurt.

As for Peter, Sirius had no idea where the hell he had gone, which was both a curse and a blessing. It was a curse because it left Sirius alone with two lunatics; however, it was a blessing because, if this disease of worry had hit his other friend--well, it was not something Sirius fancied thinking about.

Actually, Sirius didn't really fancy thinking about James's problems, either. Sirius wasn't the best at comforting others anyway; that was Remus's strong suit, but Remus could not be bothered to calm James down as he was riled up himself.

Eh. He was backed into a corner.

Sirius supposed he could use the distraction, anyway.

"What is wrong with her?" James asked irritably, his voice channeling the precise emotion Sirius felt but for different reason, turning around once more and pacing the length of the fireplace. "How long have we been doing this for? About a month, yeah? You'd think that a month without me would be more irritating, right?"

Refraining from what he really wanted to say, Sirius replied, "Well, yeah, 'course."

As if James hadn't heard him, he paced on with wild fervor. "So you'd think that she'd show more of a reaction? I mean, bloody hell, I've been annoying the hell out of her for the last two years, you'd think I'd make some sort of an impact, right?"

Sarcastically, Sirius mumbled, "Yeah, mate, she loves you to death."

"Exactly!" James said triumphantly. "She loves me to death! So why doesn't she act like it?"

Mentally banging his head against the wall, Sirius asked bleakly, "Maybe she doesn't love you to death?"

Another figurative banging of the head was soon needed for Sirius; without a doubt that wasn't what James wanted to hear, and he expressed it by halting right in the center of the fireplace, making an eerie shadow on the wall. "Bloody hell, Sirius," James breathed, annoyed. "What would you know?"

Sirius grinned mischievously. "More than you do."

James glared. "Well, if you're going to be such a prat about it, maybe I'll just ask Moony."

Sirius shook his head. "Nah, mate, sorry. You've got to grow to love me. Moony's in a temporary state of shock. I'm the only assurance you have."

From where Remus sat, blankly looking at the fireplace, he seemed as if he was in a temporary state of shock; he seemed completely unaware as to what James and Sirius were saying. However, with the use of his coined nickname, his head snapped sharply to the side and his eyes refocused.

It did not last long, though; within seconds Remus was leaning back on the couch and putting a pillow over his face in agony. "I fancy someone," Remus moaned, muffled. "What the bloody hell is wrong with me?"

Sirius grinned, though mentally he could not help himself repeating the sentiments. "You see," Sirius pointed out. "Remus is in no state to help with your problems. He has his own to fret about."

James furrowed his eyebrows. "Who do you fancy, Moony?"

Remus moaned once more and shoved the pillow closer to his face.

"You see," Sirius repeated. "No state."

"Well, then at least be a bigger help," James said, decently exasperated. "You're the only consultant I have. The least you could do is be less of a prat."

"Don't know what you're talking about," Sirius said innocently.

Remus threw the pillow to the closest wall; both Sirius and James raised their eyebrows at the unexpected and uncharacteristic action. "I fancy someone," Remus groaned, angry at himself, his head now covered by his palms. "I bloody fancy someone. What the bloody hell is wrong with me?"

Sirius's eyebrows hadn't lowered when James replied, "Don't worry 'bout it, mate. We've all fancied somebody."

"Yeah, but watch the language, Moony..." Sirius said, mock shaking his head. "I don't think I've heard you swear so much since--"

"Bloody hell," Remus interrupted, his voice vague and almost stunned. "Bloody, bloody, bloody hell, I really fancy someone, don't I?"

"--well, that was pretty good," Sirius stated. "Never knew you had it in you."

"It's not that big of a deal, Moony," James assured, or at least attempted to assure, Remus. "I've fancied Lily for ages now. Sirius fancies any girl who bats their eyelashes at him. Peter's still hung up on Ambrose."

"Yeah!" Remus yelled, rabid. "Yeah, but that's you! I'm not that stupid!"

"Well, thank you for that," James muttered sarcastically.

"Sour grapes," Sirius concurred.

"Is it always this bad?" Remus asked, abruptly resigned. "Does it always hit this hard?"

"Depends," Sirius responded, stubbornly disallowing his thoughts to stray anywhere near a particular Slytherin.

"Of course, it's different for you," James said understandably. "You're emotionally and romantically immature. Of course you would think something as day-to-day as a fancy is a big enough deal to start throwing things. Who do you fancy, by the way?"

Remus shook his head. "It's not day-to-day," Remus attempted to explain. "It's not like I fancy somebody different every day. It's just..." Remus groaned, shaking his head. "It's nothing. Never mind."

"Aw, Moony!" Sirius said, partially disappointed because Remus seemed like he was about to have a nervous breakdown soon, partially disappointed because if Remus didn't talk James was and that was a useless cycle. "Tell us! You've been there for me! Bloody hell, you've been there for James, but, then again, who hasn't?"

"What am I going to do about it?" James asked, as if it was his cue, and Sirius glared at him. "She's doing all these flirty things and then the next second she starts yelling at me for having my shoelaces untied or something stupid like that--how is that supposed to be taken, huh?"

"You know," Sirius pointed out, "you could always talk to her."

"No!" said James loudly. "No! I can't, because I'm trying to ignore her!"

"I can't stop thinking about her," Remus groaned, seemingly talking to himself, another pillow being held against his face.

"So, talk to her!" Sirius yelled, confused in the responsibility to mentor two people that were worried. "Talk to her, both of you! James, who gives a damn if you're supposed to be ignoring her, if she really fancies you she'll be happy! Remus, I don't even know who the hell you fancy, but talk to her, too!"

"I can't!" they both said, simultaneously, but that was the only similarity their fancies held.

"She'll just start getting angry at me again--"

"She bloody hates me--"

"And what am I supposed to do if I had a chance and I ruined it by talking to her?--"

Sirius's head was threatening to explode; one boy ranting to him was well enough, but two was a headache waiting to happen. He could feel his head pulse intensely, the words of James and Remus fueling his discomfort, and he closed his eyes, trying to shove the sound out of his head--

And, Sirius could hear other voices, too, but those voices were higher pitched and much angrier, and at the appearance of those voices the boys' voices halted. That was enough for Sirius to open his eyes and swing them towards where the new fuel for his soon-becoming migraine was.

And, who else was there but Lily Evans herself, accompanied with the fiery Takiyah Kalash and the overly-studious Marie Landon. Seeing him, Takiyah waved, and Sirius lifted up a hand in greeting, getting off of the couch and walking towards her.

"Wotcher, mate," she muttered under her breath, her eyes absorbing the scene in front of her, from the shock still James to the still twitchy Remus. "Got a case of insanity on your end, too?"

Sirius shook his head. "Make it stop," Sirius begged quietly, and Takiyah chuckled under her breath, subtly gesturing to Sirius to watch the spectacle that was Lily and James.

James looked rather silly, though in a handsome way. His glasses hung on the tip of his nose, and his hair was more disheveled than ever, though he did not look any less attractive. His eyes were piercing as well as alarmed, and at the sight of the lady he had been ranting about for hours on end his mouth gaped slightly and a light, hardly noticeable flush took over his cheeks.

Closer to him, Sirius noted the near symmetry of expression on Lily's face; her hair, generally pulled up into a ponytail, was now wavy and hanging to her shoulders, stray pieces sticking upward. Her eyebrows, which had been narrowed angrily when they had left their dormitory, were now slightly raised, and her mouth likewise indicated surprise, making a small oval in the middle of what Sirius was sure was a long-winded speech, probably about James himself.

Sirius also could not help but notice the flush on her face.

She composed herself much more quickly than James, shutting her mouth and forcing her eyebrows to not look surprised. Though her cheeks had reddened slightly in an attempt to match her hair, she willed herself to act composed, pushing her red locks out of her vision by tugging a hand through it. "Potter," she said, nodding curtly before striding as fast as she could out of the common room, Marie quickly following.

Takiyah winked. "Good luck mate," she muttered, before following her female friends.

A moment of silence rested on the scene, but it did not in any way last; after a few beats, James resumed his pacing, and Remus continued to nearly suffocate himself with a couch pillow.

"What the bloody hell is wrong with her?"

]—[

"What the bloody hell is wrong with me?!" Lily screamed into the nearly empty corridors. She fingered her Head Girl badge with anxiety that she rarely had, walking much faster than her two friends so that they were left out of breath when they finally caught up to her.

"Yeah, you acted perfectly sane there," Takiyah muttered sarcastically. "Look, Lily, if this is such a big deal to you, maybe you can just talk to him, I'm sure he wouldn't mind--"

"I can't talk to him!" Lily screeched, and Takiyah slyly put her hands over her ears. "I can't talk to him, because I hate him! And I don't want to talk to him, okay?! I hate his guts! I hate him, I hate him, I hate him!"

"Do you really?" Marie asked, her voice soothing as if she was unaware of Lily's ire; that was simply the way Marie was. Lily turned to Marie, exasperated, a billion words right on the tip of her tongue, ready to be yelled at such a furious tone that it could reduce any fifth year or lower to tears.

"Yes!" Lily assured her. "Yes, I hate him so much! I want to strangle him, I want to hit him, I want to never speak to him again--"

"Funny you say that, really," Takiyah said innocuously. "I don't think he's making any move to talk to you, sweetheart. Actually, if I were a betting man--well, betting woman--I'd say that he is deliberately trying to shove you and your pretty little death threats as far away from him as possible."

"I hate him!" Lily said, seeming to take no notice into her words, tugging on the tips of her hair. "Why would he be trying to ignore me, anyway? He's been trying to get together with me since fifth year! Why would he be trying to ignore me?! He loves me to bloody death!"

"Well, maybe he doesn't," Marie said coolly. "Maybe he's gotten over you."

The words actually made Lily stop in her steps. The rage was gone from her face as soon as the words were spoken, and instead her expression resembled utmost peculiarity, looking oddly shocked.

"That's what you've always wanted, right?" Takiyah pushed, identifying the look on Lily's face immediately. "You've wanted him to leave you alone. Now he is."

Lily did not speak, nor did she make any indication to move; she seemed frozen where she was, the look on her face resembling something that was more or less disappointment. "Do you really think he doesn't fancy me anymore?"

"I do," Marie lied smoothly.

Lily took a deep breath. Her eyebrows furrowed, and her eyes traveled to the floor, her face looking pitiful. "Well," Lily said after a moment, "okay, then."

She continued to walk, though her pace was much slower, and, after Marie and Takiyah shared a worried glance, they walked alongside her. The corridors were filled with a silence, and the silence lasted for only a while before--

"What the bloody hell is wrong with me?!" Lily suddenly shrieked, and Takiyah and Marie's eyebrows rose swiftly as Lily's anxious tugging on her hair shifted to self-loathing pulling. "What the bloody hell is wrong with me?! Why do I feel so--so--"

"Disappointed?" Marie questioned.

"I hate him!" Lily ranted. "I hate him so much! I'm so happy he's not talking to me anymore, I'm so happy I don't have to deal with his--his persistence! I'm on cloud nine! The top of the bloody world! That's what it feels like when you hate somebody, right?!"

"Ye--ep," Takiyah elongated, a hardly visible smirk on her face.

"I hate him so much, right?" Lily asked, but she did not bother to wait for an answer. "I've hated him for so long! So I should be happy, yeah? I should be so bloody happy, but I'm not! Even though I hate him!"

Lily shook her head. "What the bloody hell is wrong with me?"

"I think you fancy him," Takiyah said, half-apologetically and half-gleeful. "That is what's wrong with you, my friend."

Lily groaned. "I can't fancy him," she said. "I hate him."

"You hate that you fancy him," Marie corrected. "But you don't hate him, James. Actually, did you know that you fancy him?"

"You're not helping," said Lily through clenched teeth.

"Actually, I think I have," Marie said, self-assured. "I think we've made some progress tonight."

Lily stalked off, muttering obscenities under her breath, and the two friends followed, triumph lining their expressions. They were so caught up in this new confession--after years, Lily fancied James--that they hardly noticed the couple that was shoved in a nearby broom closet.

The boy covered her body in kisses, his hands roughly shoving her shirt upwards, but Ambrose Katalina was so used to the routine of pleasure that she hardly made any movement to give Brady the same love he was giving her. No, Ambrose was not much concerned with Brady at the moment; though he was her sweetheart he tended to be thick and so absorbed in testosterone that it wasn't as hard as it should have been for Ambrose to detach her concentration from him and towards the scene she had just experienced.

So, Lily fancied James, and James fancied Lily. It was, after all, the one love story that surrounded the Gryffindors, and to see it at such an unsatisfying end displeased Ambrose. She didn't want this to be solved, after what would probably be months of side-stepping, in a calm and cute way. She did not want James and Lily to finally become a couple with a sweet peck on the lips and serene words that were away from the general company.

Ambrose was, first and foremost, someone that indulged on pleasure despite whatever consequence or pain it may have caused anyone around her. As her life never brought about any conflict that she remotely cared about she had attained the talent to easily manipulate her surroundings--a talent that was generally very successful, a prime example kissing her neck and allowing his kisses to travel downward.

She was also entirely too selfish. As far as she was concerned, she was the epitome of perfection--she was the most sought after girl in school, and although she did not have the greatest grades, her charm alone assured her that she would find a way to make her fortune. She was sure of it. Despite any meager insecurities she may have had, she was dominated by her arrogance and selfishness alone.

And, so, when Ambrose Katalina saw that James and Lily mutually fancied each other, she assumed it was her duty to assure that she was entertained. She assumed that it was her duty to share the information with the entire school, because, after all, it was her role. Her niche was spreading gossip and entertaining the public.

There hadn't been a good gossip in a while, and Ambrose missed a good show.

And, with this relationship revealed with substantial evidence, Ambrose was more than ready to give the public--and herself--exactly what it wanted. Pure entertainment. Maybe it was at the expense of Lily and James's comfort.

But that didn't matter. It was Ambrose's situation and it was Ambrose's decision. And when Ambrose was ready for entertainment, she couldn't care less about what worry resulted.

]—[
 


Chapter 36: With Me
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A/N: EDIT ALL THE TIME EVERY TIME WHENEVER TIME :-)


]---[

 

Ambrose's 'favor' spread rapidly throughout Hogwarts the next day. It began with Ambrose telling Georgiana; from that the gossip blossomed in Ravenclaw. As Ravenclaw was notorious for being particularly gossipy, every hour that passed brought another group of friends to the information, and by lunchtime there was not a person in Hogwarts that was oblivious to the fact that Lily Evans had told somebody that she fancied James Potter.

The information reached Lily Evans as she was walking to dinner. So far, the day had been particularly good; it was the last day of classes before a three-day weekend, brought on for reasons Lily wasn't sure of herself but appreciated very much anyway. All of her homework was done, and it was done neatly. Any projects or essays she had completed were perfect and merely waiting for a teacher to tell her the same. The day was beautiful, also, as the sun gleamed to defy November's weather.

It all changed as soon as Takiyah approached Lily.

She did not look as lively as she should have, especially considering the long weekend; though her appearance at first glance wouldn't have given anything away, the subtleties on her face were enough to make Lily give her a look of concern. Her lips were turned slightly downward, and the particular sparkle in her eye encouraged Lily to ask, "Takiyah, is everything okay?"

Takiyah looked at Lily for a short second, her eyes wide and slightly deranged, and nodded quickly. "Yeah, everything's fine," Takiyah muttered, though Lily could not help but notice that Takiyah was staring at a spot right above her eyes and the inflection she had used made the sentence sound as if it was being said by a mediocre actor.

"What aren't you telling me?"

"I'm affronted, Lily, I am," Takiyah said, though it was said very quickly, and Takiyah kept looking behind her shoulder as if she was being watched. "Hey, I feel beat. Do you want to catch a dinner in the dorms, I could get something from the kitchens for us--"

"What is going on?"

"Nothing!" Takiyah nearly yelled. "Nothing, there is absolutely nothing I'm not telling you! Quite frankly I'm a little shocked that you'd think I was lying to you! Why would I lie to you? I'm one of your best friends! I'm loyal! I'm bloody Gryffindor! Can we go to the dorms now?"

"Is it bad?"

"Is what bad?" Takiyah said sharply, avoiding Lily's eye and instead looking towards where Marie was quietly approaching. "There's nothing to be bad, you see, because there's nothing, nothing that I didn't tell you already--"

"It's bad."

Marie's approach, as well as her contradictory words, brought both Takiyah and Lily's eyes towards her. "It's really bad," she repeated. "We should probably get up to the dorms if we want to avoid it."

"What's bad?"

"Haven't you heard?" Marie asked, turning to take a look at Takiyah, who was shaking her head enough for Lily to notice. At the gesture, Marie abruptly halted in what she was about to say, taking a long look at Lily before saying, "Never mind. It's nothing. Do you want to go up to the dorms?"

"What is it with you two and the dorms?" Lily questioned irritably, taking a step and looking Marie square in the eye. "Marie, just tell me. I won't get angry, I promise."

Silently, Marie shook her head. "C'mon, Marie," Lily urged. "Tell me."

Again, Marie refused to.

"Marie, seriously, I don't want to have to nag you--"

"I don't want you to hurt him!" Marie yelled, interrupting Lily, though Lily did not attempt to continue where she left off. Instead, her eyebrows furrowed, and she remained silent, though the silence unfortunately lasted only a few seconds.

"This is about Potter?" Lily asked, and although on the surface it sounded calm it did not take much work to find the underlying anger slowly boiling. "What happened? What did he do?"

Takiyah and Marie shared a resigned glance, though it did not last long. As both of their eyes turned to Lily, slightly worried and completely expectant for a stream of profanity, she chose not to acknowledge them, instead staring intently at a place on the floor.

"Well... Lily," Takiyah said soothingly, but it did nothing for Lily. "Lily, you've got to understand that it wasn't James. Well, we're not sure who it was. But... it's just about you and James... it's, um... it's just a stupid rumor... you shouldn't worry about it."

Lily gave her a flat look, and, slightly frightened, Marie chirped out, "People are going around saying that you fancy James."

The silence lasted one beat too long as Lily processed the information. Takiyah and Marie were looking at Lily anxiously, both of them praying to the gods that she would disregard the rumor, but they knew better. Ignorance, especially ignorance that shielded a chance for confrontation, wasn't Lily's strong suit.

Lily was a person that loved confrontation. She loved having a good argument, and she loved bickering with someone so endlessly that, even though she was riled, she was absolutely content. She had done it with James in her fifth and sixth year, but now that he ignored her so dutifully she found herself missing the red faces and the heated debates. She found herself missing him.

But, now, with anger masterfully stifling whatever she may have felt for James, the only thing out of Lily's mouth was, "I'm going to kill him."

]—[

The dinner at the Great Hall was strangely soothing for James Potter.

Of course, part of the reason for this peace was that there was a three-day weekend, but James knew what the actual cause was. Without Lily Evans in the Great Hall, without her ears to hear the things that the other students were saying, there was absolutely nothing to be afraid of.

James was not a person that particularly fancied confrontation. Yes, there was some sort of sick pleasure to it, but on the whole he preferred serenity. As he was, after all, rather popular, he never had to worry about unexpected confrontation. Any confrontation that he had ever been in was his fault; whether it was Lily or Snape, James was always the one that instigated.

This was, without a doubt, not the first time a rumor had been spread around regarding James, but it was the first time that a rumor had been spread around regarding James and Lily. The fact that it was there, at first, did nothing for James; however, after he had contemplated it, and remembered that there was truth in every rumor, he had begun to think differently.

Which wasn't good. He was supposed to be ignoring her, for Merlin's sake, not wondering endlessly about her.

But, as the dinner at the Great Hall continued, James realized that that was all he had been doing. The whole time he was ignoring her, he was constantly asking himself if it had made any effect on her. He constantly wanted to know about her, and he was sure that every conversation he had with the Marauders involved Lily in some shape.

So, what was the point of ignoring her, really, when he knew he couldn't?

He could feel the confrontation moving closer and closer to where he was, and, trying to distract himself from it, he turned to Sirius and asked, "So, who do you fancy?"

Sirius blinked; it was the first thing James had said since they had arrived. "Whoever said I fancied someone?"

"It's obvious," James said bluntly. "It's not obvious who you like, but it's obvious that you do. Same with Remus. I still don't get why you won't tell me."

Sirius rolled his eyes. "I don't think you should be talking about being obvious," he retaliated. "And what I want to know is... well, what's the point?"

"What's the point to what?"

"Well, what's the point of this--" Sirius gestured in an attempt to elaborate-- "this conversation? Don't tell me you're worried for when Evans bites your head off."

James laughed, but the strange peace that the dinner had suddenly evaporated, replaced with a knot in his stomach. "Of course not," he said confidently, though he had no idea what he would say to her. "I don't think I could be afraid of Evans if I tried."

"Yeah, right," Sirius said, shaking his head. "C'mon, James. You might as well brace yourself. She'll hear about the rumor soon enough and then you two can fight your arses off. And Moony and I... well, Moony and I will be enjoying the show."

"Please," James said under his breath. "You'll be busy fancying someone."

Sirius snorted. "Maybe Moony. But if you're so sure about me, then who is it?"

"Well, let's think logically--" James started, but was interrupted by a pair of chuckles from both Sirius and Remus.

"Logically, that's rich," said Remus, and Sirius patted him on the back approvingly.

Glaring at them, James said, "You would have told me if it was someone from Gryffindor. You would never fancy Evans. You would have told me if it was somebody from Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw, too. And, you would have told me if it was Ambrose, because everyone likes Ambrose. Which really only leaves the two Black sisters, Devous, and Nott."

"Georgiana isn't Slytherin," Remus pointed out hastily.

"Yeah, big difference. She's the same crowd. So, if I had to make a guess, Padfoot, I'm pretty sure you don't fancy your cousins, so I'd say Nott. And Moony, I'm pretty sure you don't fancy Sirius's cousins either, so I'd say Devous."

Remus and Sirius exchanged a surprised glance; while both of them knew James was wrong, they had also gained insight as to who the other would fancy. After all, Remus thought, who else could Sirius fancy besides Scarlett? And, Sirius thought, who else could Remus fancy besides Georgiana?

Before they could reply to James, though, a blur of fiery red suddenly appeared behind James, her eyes narrowed and gleaming in a way that foreshadowed a fight. Sirius, seemingly oblivious to her death glare, raised a hand in amused welcome. "Evans," he greeted, and James turned around abruptly, his eyes widening behind his glasses at the sight of the hell-bent female.

"Lil--" James started, but Lily put a finger to her lips that automatically silenced him. "I can explain--" he began again, but he stopped of his own accord, taking a deep breath. "Lily--"

"No," she hissed, shaking her head. "No. Come with me."

"Lily, can't we just--"

"No!" she yelled, and, furious, she grabbed his arm and nearly tugged him out of his seat. James hardly registered it, though; he was more transfixed on the fact that her hand was touching him. Scowling, Lily led him out of the Great Hall, her hand never loosening on his arm but more importantly never leaving it.

Sirius grinned, shaking off James's accusations as he turned to Remus. "Oh, this is going to be good."

]—[

"How could you?!"

The question pierced into the otherwise peaceful evening. The corridors in Hogwarts were empty; the majority of students were busy enjoying their dinner. However, for the couple standing in the hall, James with the air of utmost determination and Lily with fury lining her face, they would not be able to have that luxury.

James shook his head, bracing himself for Lily's banter which he knew so well and had missed so much. "Lily, I don't know what you're talking about--"

"Why the hell would you do that?!" she interrupted mercilessly, and he stared at her, slightly annoyed. "Why would you go around school and talk about things you have no idea about, huh?! Why would you do that to me, James? Huh? Do you think it's funny? Do you think it'd be a good laugh, something you could joke with your mates about?! Did you think that maybe if you spread it around it'd be true?!"

"Lily," James said calmly. "Let me explain."

"NO!" Lily yelled. "You don't get to explain! You don't get to explain, because you have nothing to explain, all right?! All you get to do is listen to me try to get one fact into your head: I don't fancy you! And spreading rumors about me doesn't make it any better! I will always loathe you, do you bloody well understand?!"

"Lily," James said again, though now his tone had a slight edge to it.

Lily shook her head. "I don't care what you have to say, James! I will never care about what you have to say, because I will never care about you!"

"Why not?" James said bluntly. "Why not, Evans?"

"Why do you care so much, Potter?!" Lily questioned back mutinously.

The question opened the floodgate.

"Look, Evans," James said darkly. "I have tried every possible way to get you out of my head. I've gotten girlfriends I don't fancy in the slightest. I've tried to start fights with you so I can try to get myself to hate you. I've tried to ignore you, I've tried to stay away from you. And, you know what? You know what, Evans?"

Without waiting for her response, James continued, his voice rising slightly after every syllable. "It doesn't bloody work! It never works! No matter how many times I try to tell myself I hate you, I don't! And I've asked myself that stupid question time after time after bloody time again, and you know what?! I don't know! I don't! The only thing I do know is that even though I've made mistakes, even though I've been stupid, I have never done anything to deliberately hurt you! And, you know what?! I never will! Is that what you wanted to hear?!"

The silence hit for a beat, but then James started to speak again, apparently on a rampage. "And even though you say you don't fancy me, that's not going to stop me! Nothing is! I don't care if you keep hurting me, I don't care if we keep fighting, I'm not going to let go! I can't!"

"What are you trying to say?" Lily asked, but it sounded weird coming out of her lips. She could not feel the ire that she had felt before. All she could feel was then, all she could feel was that feeling she got lately when she was close to James, all she could feel was what he had said.

"I love you!"

The statement was spoken without thought, and when the words hit James's and Lily's ears they found themselves in a momentary state of shock. However, their surprise was interrupted, not by Lily's voice, not by James's, but the fact that Lily's lips collided with James's and he wrapped his arms around her tightly and they were alone, all alone, but they were together and that was all they wanted.

All they wanted was then, that moment, and they never wanted it to end. They wanted the moment to last forever, they wanted to be kissing for forever, because forever was all they had. Forever was all they wanted. And forever could only be described in the person they were kissing.

All either one of them wanted was the other.

]—[






 
 


Chapter 37: Question
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A/N: Wobble baby, wobble. I hope you all enjoy :)

On that note, for real, enjoy!

]---[

 

 






]---[

 

Theodore was acting strangely.

The behavior had not started for very long, though it had started with such a suddenness that it was hard for Scarlett not to notice. It did not consist of much; generally, all Theodore did that was suspicious was talk less and less and become someone so lost in his own head that not even Scarlett could get to him.

It was something that Bellatrix and Narcissa did not notice, because when Theodore was in either girl's presence he acted perfectly fine. It was only when he was alone with Scarlett, or with Scarlett and Georgiana, that he began to display his strangeness, accompanied normally with twitchy hands and a lack of attention that could last for minutes on end.

Scarlett was sure Georgiana had something to do with it, but if she had she said nothing of it, only giving evidence through subtle winks in Theodore's direction that made him immediately freeze up. Scarlett had questioned Georgiana about this, but every time it was brought up the only answer Scarlett got was a quick change of the subject.

Which, without a doubt, assured her that something was going on. She could feel it every time Theodore greeted her; there was always something peculiar about the way he addressed her and the way he acted around her. It did not feel bad. It just felt weird, out of place... almost as if he was keeping something from her.

But, as to what that something was, Scarlett had no idea, and, predictably, she didn't want to. While she had always been the one most known for keeping secrets, she did not really fancy discovering them, because once she learned the truth, the truth didn't just go away. It couldn't.

She felt Theodore's hand gently stroking her arm, but she did not know what secrets coursed throughout his bloodstream. Yes, maybe she was slightly curious, but maybe her curiosity had gone out of hand lately...

The atmosphere in the common room was so different for both of them, Scarlett realized. The fire flickered at Scarlett softly, but for Theodore it illuminated his face to show his anticipation. The emptiness of the room, save for the couple, was a welcome silence for Scarlett, but for Theodore, it was maddening.

She could not help but be concerned.

She turned to look at Theodore. He looked absentminded, which was nothing new to him lately, though he did not look very happy, one of his fists clenching and unclenching in anxiety. He was not paying attention to her; he was not paying attention to anything, really, which worried Scarlett to an extent.

She knew Theodore liked to think, but she had never before seen him in such a state. And, though she loathed it, she felt curiosity latching onto her bones, penetrating her body, in such a way that it was too irresistible to keep her mouth closed and keep her thoughts silent.

But, before she could voice a question, Theodore himself voiced one.

"Will you stay with me a little later tonight? You'll only be a couple of minutes late."

Confused, she nodded, noting that, although he seemed wholly satisfied at her response, his satisfaction quickly ebbed away to another bout of nervousness. They sat in silence for a while, his hand still stroking her arm and her body leaning against his, and they did not move for seconds, for minutes...

Time passed sluggishly without a word from Theodore, and, slightly irritated, Scarlett turned to look at the clock. She was already ten minutes late, yet Theodore did not seem to regard it, still staring at the fire with the same expression that he had twenty minutes ago. Thirty minutes ago. Hell, maybe even an hour ago.

"Theo," she said evenly, and he turned to look at her, his face quickly masking into one of more confidence. "Why am I still here?"

Theodore looked at her intently in response to her question, and she reacted, turning to stare at him as well, but still his lack of answer played with the fringes of her temper. They stared at each other for another minute, Scarlett slowly becoming more and more annoyed, and, finally, she asked, "What?"

In reply, Theodore abruptly kissed her, and though she could feel her insides swoon the exasperation lingered. When Theodore finally let her go--looking still oddly expressionless-- Scarlett again could not refrain from asking, "What's up with you?"

Theodore shrugged as if he had done nothing to indicate that he was acting differently. "I have a lot on my mind, is all."

Frustrated, Scarlett asked, "Well, what's that supposed to mean?"

Theodore turned away from her again, his attention on the fire, and hastily, he questioned, "Can I walk you to the outlook tonight?"

Scarlett froze at the request; in her mind she could already imagine the consequences that would come with allowing Theodore to go to the outlook with her. So clearly, she could feel what accusations would be spoken, and so vividly in her mind's eye she could picture a fight brewing.

It was bitterly ironic- for someone that cringed away from the truth so often, Scarlett seemed to have a special penchant for lying...

She shook her head. "It's not safe," she lied, though vaguely she could imagine what kind of casualties would transpire in a scenery of uncompromising trees and a maze of fallen branches. "You can walk in a little bit, but you shouldn't go too far or you could get hurt."

"How come you can?" said Theodore, and in a split second she wondered if he suspected her of anything. "Never mind--is there anywhere in the forest where we could walk a bit?"

Scarlett furrowed her eyebrows. "Why?"

Theodore shrugged. "I fancy a walk," he responded shortly, and at the nondescript answer Scarlett rolled her eyes. "What? What was that look for?"

Scarlett shook her head. "Forget it," she said shortly. "Let's go now, 'cause I don't want to be an hour late for Tenereus's already. I mean, if I'm only a half hour late, at least I'll only have to hear, like, a half hour of disappointment."

"Come on, Scarlett," Theodore said with a level of determination. "What has got you in a strop now, anyway? Again? You've been short with everyone this past week--"

"Maybe I have a lot on my mind, okay?" Scarlett muttered, putting her hands to her head in annoyance. "It's so bloody grand that you've noticed, 'cause really, I thought you were so tangled up in whatever the hell you've been thinking about that you can't even bother to give a shit about anyone else."

Theodore sighed. "Look," he said, and in that one word alone he expressed his exhaustion. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry, okay? I--I just had a lot on my mind. I don't want to make you angry, you know I don't."

Scarlett shook her head. "Whatever," she said, resigned. "Let's just go."

And, though she was angry at him, even though she still did not know why he was acting so oddly, even though she was anxious about leaving Sirius alone and giving him the notion that she wasn't coming, even though the night was dangerous and even though suspicion and a bout of unwanted curiosity flooded through her she could not help but walk out into the corridors of Hogwarts hand-in-hand with Theodore.

She supposed that was how it was. Even though they got in fights, even though she was keeping the worst kind of secret from him, he was always there. He was like a rock: solid, secure, there, always.

Always and forever...

]—[

She could feel it arise in her the moment they entered the forest. She could feel it, feel it like she was not with Theodore, and it spread throughout her entire body in mere seconds, electrifying her nerves and jolting her adrenaline.

The feeling was one she had become accustomed to these last few weeks, and it was only one that came to her when she was in near proximity to the forest. It was foreign, and it was unexplainable, but she savored it. She did not know why it came, and she didn't want to know why it came. The only thing that she knew regarding it was that, while it was so pleasant, today it was also accompanied with a sinking feeling, just as unexplainable as its polar opposite.

Suddenly feeling guilty for keeping her attention directed from Theodore, she turned to him and unsurprisingly noted that he was lost in thought as usual. "Do you want to talk about it?" she questioned, and, surprised, Theodore turned to her. "You know, whatever's got you tangled up."

Theodore shook his head fervently. "I'll be okay."

The silence settled back onto the forest, though it was pleasing. Theodore, although still lost in his thoughts, had his arm around Scarlett, his hand making soothing circles on her back. The wildlife was quiet, and the snow did not fall as heavily as it did out of the forest, the trees providing its own natural protection.

It was nice.

The forest looked beautiful at that time of night; the sun had set entirely, but the loneliness that only the early hours of morning could provide had not fallen onto the atmosphere. The leaves were falling sparingly; colors of auburn and goldenrod and olive interrupted the serenity of the white snow but in a pleasing way. The only sound that was emitted from the forest was the pair's steady breathing and the soft crinkle that came with the leaves under their feet.

It was beautiful.

Up ahead, appearing as if it had fallen out of the starry sky, there was a magical tree that had leaves that looked like jewels; ruby, emerald, and amber actually sparkled in the nighttime. The tree let off a glow of its own, though there was no real way to describe it. It was a hue, Scarlett supposed, of sapphire, though there were other shades of azure hidden within it. The tree did not fit in with the blandness of the forest, but it did not stick out in a way that was obnoxious. It complemented it with ease. Scarlett had never seen the tree before and could have never imagined that such a tree had ever existed.

It was...

It was perfect.

Another feeling arose in her, then, temporarily numbing the first though providing Scarlett with pleasure. It was a full feeling, and it was incredible; it took away her breath and it made her heartbeat so loud she could hear it thumping in rhythm. It was raw and it made her want to cry or yell or laugh until her stomach hurt. It hurt to feel but it soothed her and all of a sudden she knew exactly what was going to happen.

Scarlett turned to Theodore then; his face shone from the light the tree emitted. She could feel him, across from her; she could feel him as if he himself was composed of only feeling as well.

He took a deep breath. Scarlett could not tear her eyes away.

And, deliberately, Theodore pulled out a small box from his pocket and put himself on one knee.

"Scarlett Alysha Devous," he started. "I have known you for years. I have been your friend. I have laughed with you, cried with you, yelled with you, and talked to you for hours on end. Every one of my best memories has you. Every second that I live I think about you, and every time I breathe I am reminded of how much you mean to me. I love you, and nothing would make me feel more complete than if you would be willing to bind with me."

Theodore opened the box.

Inside was the most beautiful ring Scarlett had ever seen. It was a pure, simple silver, though it was adorned with diamonds, every single one glittering as if they were the stars themselves. On the band was one simple phrase.

Always and forever.

Theodore slid the ring onto her finger, and it fit perfectly, as if the ring was meant to be hers since the moment she was born. She examined it, and then she did cry--the action was so uncharacteristic and she wiped her tears away but did not look away from the ring, from Theodore. From her future.

It took a while to find the right words--they were hidden in whatever it was that she felt--but then she did. "Yes," she answered, and she smiled. "Yes."

Theodore grabbed her hand and placed his wand right where their fingers touched. "Do you promise," he said quietly, "that no matter what disagreements we have, no matter what fight we get into, you will always love me?"

"Yes."

"Do you promise that you will wed me?"

"Yes."

"Do you promise to love me always?"

"Yes," she vowed, and she could feel the binds of love wrap around them, wrap around everything, that moment, their promise, in such an ineffable way that Scarlett could not speak. Theodore stood and kissed her, and the feeling arose in her again.

But even though she was happy, even though what she was feeling could not be described in any words, even though all she planned on doing was spending the rest of her life with Theodore, even though nothing could take away from that moment, she could not help but feel a slight twinge of that sinking feeling enter her.

]—[

Georgiana was good at observing people and always had been; the trait was one that she treasured most. Even the enigmatic Gryffindors could not escape from her stern, uncompromising eye. Not even her own friends could elude her intuition, and her intuition prompted her observation. And, normally, she was right.

Out of everyone, though, the person that was most vulnerable to Georgiana's keen sense of observation was her brother Theodore. It was a sibling connection; Priscilla and Scarlett had it and Bellatrix and Narcissa had it. Theodore could always interpret Georgiana's moods, and Georgiana could always figure out if something in particular was different about Theodore.

And she had noticed, a few days ago. It was such an obvious alert that it almost troubled Georgiana.

Sitting down next to her brother on the Slytherin couch, Georgiana said, "What's up with you, mate?"

Theodore turned to look at her, and then turned to the rest of the room; it was empty. "Can I ask you about something?"

Georgiana nodded; she never turned down an opportunity to talk to people about something they seemed reluctant to share with others. "Talk to me," she urged, leaning in closer to him in case he wanted to whisper in her ear, but Theodore didn't make any indication to speak.

Instead, he pulled out a small box from his pocket, and Georgiana understood.

"Do it in the forest. Do it when nobody can disturb you, and do it when everything seems... perfect. Are you sure you want to do it now?"

Theodore nodded. "Soon, yeah. But--" and he thought about what he was going to say for a brief second-- "do you think that she feels the same way?"

Georgiana scoffed. "Without a doubt," she assured him.

But, although Georgiana was an expert at observing, it was absolutely impossible to observe something that did not reach her eyes.

]—[
 


Chapter 38: Breathe Your Name
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Author's Note: Hey everybody! I'm still editing because Hurricane Sandy gave me a day off. This is a fun chapter and I really enjoy it, and I think it kind of encapsulates a lot of what SIHE is supposed to be about so pay attention :) :) :) Umm, thank you for everything, as always -- you give me wings <3

]---[



The first thing Scarlett realized about December was that it brought about plenty of change. The snow was beginning to fall heavily and all the time; because of it, Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures had a higher chance to be cancelled. Students were unwilling to venture outside after classes, instead taking more solace in the castle and more specifically their common room where a fireplace was. Decorations for the holidays were already beginning to be put up, and not a single day passed that didn't include some confrontation with mistletoe.

However, despite how much change there might have been in December, it was always accompanied by things that stayed the same. Though Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures got cancelled often, it still accorded with the other classes in the sense that it slowly and steadily got harder and harder. Although students stayed within the castle they were still as rowdy and amiable as ever. And despite the fact decorations for Christmas littered the corridors Scarlett didn't feel an ounce of holiday spirit.

As far as Scarlett's life went, many things were exactly the same. Georgiana still teased Theodore and Scarlett, though their romantic relationship had already reached its second month and she had a ring on her finger. Narcissa still loved Lucius and Bella still thought she was being silly. Ambrose continued to spread rumors; the Marauders continued to bother the group. Sirius was still there and was as good a presence as ever.

And the feeling had not gone away.

It had been subjected to plenty of Scarlett's theorizing, but it had not been properly solved. There was just no way to describe it; by December it didn't ever go away, even when she was away from the outlook. The only time the feeling made any indication that it was not rigid was that it seemed to escalate during tired moments at the dead of night with Sirius.

Another thing that had not changed about Scarlett was that she didn't want to know what caused it.

However, something that did change was that her curiosity was growing. And now she needed to know.

It was something she couldn't control, really; she was at ease enough. But that feeling continued to dance on the edges of her mind as if it had no intention of ceasing, and that was something that Scarlett could not stand. Although she didn't want to know, because the answer might not be something she liked, she still needed to because the desire to end it was aching in her every movement. It was hand-in-hand with her increasing curiosity; it was something she did not want but still had.

She could feel it festering then. That night, feeling adventurous, the two had climbed up an enormous cherry tree whose branches were aligned in a way that almost resembled a bowl. It was strange and beautiful, and that night they had found comfort by lying down on a particularly large branch they could share but only if she rested ever-so-slightly on Sirius's chest. The night was nearing the early hours of the morning, and she could feel the fatigue covering her like a blanket. They had gone in silence for hours, Scarlett eyeing the stars in some futile attempt to figure out what she was feeling and why, Sirius struggling to remain warm.

Scarlett rubbed her eyes and groaned inaudibly. "I'm so tired," she muttered, hugging herself tighter as another breeze passed the couple. "Do you want to go back?"

"Not really," Sirius replied.

"Me either," Scarlett said in return, and the silence settled over them once more but only for a few seconds.

"When'd you get that ring?" Sirius questioned, and though it was in the same bored tone Scarlett could sense a slight edge to it. "I haven't seen it before."

"A couple days ago," Scarlett said quietly. "Do you like it?"

Sirius grabbed her hand and examined it; the feeling spread throughout her in a tremor. Contemplating for a couple of seconds, Sirius finally responded. "It looks good on you," he said finally.

"Thanks," Scarlett said thoughtlessly. "So, how are you?"

Sirius shook his head and snickered. "I hate that question," Sirius said. "What about you, Scarlett? How are you doing?"

"I'm... frustrated," Scarlett answered, feeling a wave of déjà vu hit her. "And confused." She laughed bitterly. "Sirius? Feel like answering yet?"

"I'm feeling pretty good, actually," Sirius said, lighthearted. "Why are you frustrated and confused? Is it Nott again?"

Scarlett shrugged. "Not really," she confided. "Although I don't know what I want when it comes to this ring." She stared at it again, determinedly, before sighing. "Merlin," she muttered, suddenly shocked. "I'm getting married."

"Uh-huh," Sirius said, slightly amused. "You are."

"I'm getting married!" Scarlett yelled, waving her hand around as if there was something disturbing on it. "Married! In twenty-two days! In about three weeks I'll be Scarlett sodding Nott!"

"Bloody hell," Sirius said, completely entertained except for the part of him that hated what she had just said. "You're going to be a walking pun, aren't you? What asshole planned that one?"

"My mum, and shut up," Scarlett said darkly. "You can't really talk, you know. Sirius."

"I know," Sirius assured her, grinning. "It's great fun though. You'll always have a go-to joke when things get awkward with your mates. Plus you will have the ultimate comfort that your name is quite possibly the stupidest one in the entire universe. There's actually nothing wrong with it. It's a miracle."

"Again, shut up," Scarlett said, looking at her ring again. "When have things ever gotten awkward with your mates, Sirius? I thought that the life of a Gryffindor was supposed to be... fabulous."

Sirius let out a bark of laughter. "You've met Peter," he elaborated. "Peter gets nervous 'round us all the time. He acts like he's still shocked that he's mates with us. He's used are you serious jokes so often I don't even really notice it anymore. Actually, come to think of it, I haven't really noticed Peter lately. I mean, don't get me wrong, he's a good enough mate, he's just a broken record. I imagine he's kind of like our Bellatrix."

"How would you know what Bella's like as a mate?" Scarlett asked.

"She seems like the kind of person that would say the same kind of things over and over again," Sirius answered. "I mean, she's more--aggressive, I guess--than Peter is. But I could see the two of them being a good couple."

Scarlett chuckled. "Peter and Bella?" she said skeptically. "Bella would tear him apart. Plus, Slytherin-Gryffindor relationships aren't really Bella's thing. I mean, I don't know about Peter--"

"But they are your thing," Sirius interrupted. "Slytherin-Gryffindor relationships. Right?"

There was one moment--one terrifying sliver of a second--where Scarlett could almost identify what she was feeling. There was one split moment where she looked at Sirius and she could see and identify the sparkle in his own eye. There was one instant--one terrifying, breath-stealing instant--where Scarlett had it all figured out.

But, instead of grasping onto the information, she merely let it slip away like a good dream and laughed instead. "'Course, Sirius," she said. "But I'm pretty sure you know as well as I do that I am not Bellatrix and I never will be Bellatrix, thank Merlin."

Sirius smiled, but it did not last very long. "You're stalling," he pointed out expertly, and Scarlett shook her head. "Tell me why you are so confused and frustrated. I bet you're dying to tell."

Scarlett groaned. "I don't want to talk about it."

"I bet you do," Sirius contradicted. "I bet you were waiting for the day when you could tell me whatever was on your mind."

"I'll tell you," Scarlett proposed, "if you tell me what your big secret is. Everyone's got one."

Sirius paused, but only for a second. "You tell me what your problem is," he negotiated, "and I'll tell you. All right?"

"Fine," Scarlett said. "It's a long story, though."

"We have time," Sirius reminded her. "It's only two-thirty."

Scarlett took a deep breath. "Okay then. Well... I don't know, I hate being curious," she started. "I hate it, and even though I am sometimes, it doesn't change the fact that I don't like to be. Ever. It's never a good idea to go around and ask questions, because if you do, then you could get screwed. And that's not the way I operate, necessarily.

"It's the same reason why I don't like to scream," she continued. "I hate it. I don't like whenever other people try to help me in anything. I just don't. I work alone, you know? Maybe you don't agree with me, but that's me. That's Slytherin. And that's just... well, it's the way I am.

"Not that screaming has anything to do with what I'm trying to say," she rambled. "It's just... I hate being curious. And I know you love it. But really, what is the point? Where is the excitement in knowing that sometimes the truth isn't so pretty? I don't get it."

"So what are you curious about?" Sirius asked, predictably inquisitive.

"I have no idea!" she responded with energy. "The weird thing lately is that it's getting worse and worse and it isn't stopping. I can't tuck it away. It's like this stupid ache and every time I think something I just wonder, well, why don't I ask about it? What would happen if I actually tried to figure it out? But you know what? I always ignore it! And even though I can say that I don't want to be curious for so long it's only a matter of bloody time before I can't help myself and then every single moment it follows me around! Like a goddamn cat! Or something!"

Sirius laughed, but it did not seem very genuine. "So what are you trying to say?" he attempted to advise. "Tell me, if you didn't worry about the consequences, what would you do, right now? To try and stop the ache?"

Scarlett took a deep breath, abruptly resigned. "I feel so weird," she said, shaking her head. "I feel funny. Sometimes I wake up and I know I've just dreamed something but I have no idea what it is. Sometimes I walk around with Theodore and I wonder if... maybe I'm making a mistake. If I'm not supposed to be what I have to be."

"I know it's stupid," Scarlett muttered, feeling ridiculous. "I know it doesn't make any sense, but I feel... just... so weird, Sirius..."

"Are you saying that you believe in fate?" Sirius asked when he finally could muster a response. "I think it's a load of bullocks. If I believed in fate, and if I followed it, I wouldn't be here, would I?"

Sirius attempted to get more conciliatory words. "You don't have to do what they tell you to do, Scarlett."

Scarlett smiled hopelessly. "When Theodore gave me this," she said, changing the subject as she showed Sirius the ring, "I felt happy. I really did. I care about Theodore so, so much, and that was what was supposed to happen. What needed to happen. It was so perfect when he gave me this.

"But I still felt funny, too," she confided. "I could feel it in my stomach. I felt... bad, somehow. It was so perfect... so, so perfect. But I felt wrong. It felt wrong. Like it was staged or something. Stilted. But it was exactly what was going to happen all along.

"It's just... I get the feeling that what's supposed to happen isn't... and I feel like what isn't supposed to happen is the way things are happening... and I don't even know what's going on and I don't know how I feel about it and I don't know what's causing it... I don't know what's going to happen. I thought I did before, but I don't, Sirius... and I have to know. I don't think I can stay like this for much longer."

Sirius tried to stomach all that she was saying. "Just because you read the stars... it doesn't mean that you have to know the future. Sometimes it's good to just let things happen. To stop worrying about it.

"And more than anything," he said firmly, "don't concern yourself over what people are telling you to do. There's no plan you have to follow. The worst consequence...I mean, in my opinion...is doing something you disagree with and then you wake up and you're in a place you don't want to be."

Scarlett smiled. "Thank you." The words were said so softly that they almost evaporated into the winds, but she knew that she was close enough to Sirius that he could hear her.

"You have to tell me your secret, though," she whispered, as she moved closer to him. "You promised."

Scarlett could not help noticing that it was colder. She could not help noticing that the winds were now blowing fervently and whipping her hair all around even though she attempted to compose it. She could not help noticing that she was cold, so cold, but being close to Sirius made her so much warmer.

Scarlett could not help noticing that, at the question, Sirius laced his fingers in-between hers. She could not help noticing that it felt nice; she could not help but note that, even though he was only grasping her hand, her whole body had become hot.

She could not help but be aware of the feeling, and it swarmed throughout her body like butterflies and honey, slow and lazy but fluttering in a way that felt good. She was getting tired, and she was on a bloody tree, but she felt so comfortable.

She could have stayed there forever. With him.

"Do you remember back in October?" Sirius asked, his voice soft but rough, low but exciting her entire body. "We talked about how frustrated and confused we were, do you remember that?"

Scarlett nodded soundlessly, and Sirius continued. "And you told me about Theodore," Sirius reminisced. "And I told you about a girl I fancied? I said... I said it wasn't that big of a deal. I said I should try to avoid her because I didn't want to fancy her.

"But I still do," he said slowly. "I think about her all the time. But now it... it is a big deal. It's huge. And I can't avoid her and I never even started to try because I never wanted to. And I never will.

"I'm almost afraid," he said softly, "because I'm not used to it. And I don't know what's going to happen, and every second it--it grows on me. And I know that there's one-in-a-million shot of ever getting with her. I know that my friends would hate me. Plenty of people would.

"But I can't stop it," Sirius murmured. "And now...it's out of my control..."

"Sirius..." Scarlett muttered, tired but warm, and he nodded, hardly concentrating on anything.

She could feel the feeling all around her now. She could feel it biting at her toes and grasping her body and warming her up. She could feel it tingle in her nerves and pump in her heart and possess her, completely possess her, until she became the feeling.

And then she was at another decision point: did she want to deny her curiosity or pursue it? Did she want to pretend nothing happened, nothing was happening, or did she want to open her eyes and understand what emotion it was that surrounded her? Did she want to continue traveling on the safe road--the road without surprises--or did she want to take a chance and venture out into the forests of unpredictability and the truth? Did she want to cringe every time the feeling erupted or try to discover what it meant? What did she want to do: be afraid but be safe or be brave and take risks despite the consequences?

Scarlett didn't know, but when she felt Sirius give her hand an idle squeeze she found herself leaning closer to him and resting her head on his chest. Instead of leaving or trying to start a fight with Sirius or simply moving away she held his hand and relaxed with him under a canopy of stars.

And as her curiosities grew larger and she approached the answer, she knew that in some way a choice had been made. Only time would tell if it was the correct choice.

]—[
 


Chapter 39: Beautiful Love
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A/n: AWESOME SONG highly recommend it. AWESOME CHAPTER also recommend it. HOPE YOU ENJOY IT XOXO lovelies i love you terribly and you light up my life etc etc CARPE DIEM


 

Scarlett was curious.

It stood against everything she thought she believed in, but in all honesty she couldn't be troubled to care. She could feel her initial reaction blossoming within her even as she ran closer and closer, feel the internal cringing like bile in her stomach, feel her fear of the truth crawl up by her.

But, she could also feel the ache go away. She could feel her curiosity feel satisfied, and she could feel her peace of mind coming back. Though the question on her head was an irrelevancy, nothing compared to the feeling she hadn't been able to decipher, she wanted to solve it now. She didn't just need to get rid of the ache—she wanted to.

And it was all because of Sirius.

She stopped abruptly, leaning against an unfamiliar tree and catching her breath. It couldn't have been far; after all, she and Theodore had been going on a walk and had been there within ten to fifteen minutes. At her heavy sprint, she had to have been close.

She could feel it coursing throughout her body, this intuition that curiosity brought. It was the same intuition that bothered to ask the question and the same intuition that demanded an answer. It was what had made her lie smoothly to Theodore and run away far before she was supposed to meet Tenereus so she could solve this mystery.

She could feel the intuition, feel the conviction without logic within her, and it terrified her. It terrified her so much, because this defied everything that she had believed in.

But, she could also feel the adrenaline. She could also feel happy and, yes, maybe a little reckless. She could feel properly now, and she could feel more and more strongly as her careful defenses to avoid consequences and confrontation were demolished.

And it was all because of Sirius.

She slowed to a walk; she could see the glow ahead. Though the snow flew around her intensely, some snowflakes being held in the mess that was her hair, she acted as if she were walking along a beach in the summertime, looking up at what she could see of the sky idly.

She had to leave soon, but before she did she had to solve this.

The tree came into her eyesight immediately; it was impossible to miss. The jewel-like leaves were still there, just as they had been when she had bound with Theodore, and they were still just as astonishingly breathtaking as they were before. Every single leaf had details of its own, and it actually glittered, though snow concealed the details as well as it could. Each color was not dulled in a way that lessened its beauty; on the contrary the subdued shine made it all the more ethereal.

Scarlett took a step closer. When she had been here with Theodore they had merely admired the sight from afar and then they had left. Theodore had not questioned it; he generally did not like to go searching for answers as much as he liked to simply have them. If it had been any other day or any other year, Scarlett wouldn't have, too. She would have thought it was absolutely beautiful but venture nothing more on it because it didn't offer anything suspicious at first glance. Plenty of magical trees were in a magical forest; it was a common fact.

But, when she had been frustrated with her insufferable curiosity the tree had been something she had thought on briefly to pacify her. But when her frustration had vanished and she had begun to feed her curiosity she continued to think about it, more and more, like she was gaining momentum.

She thought it was suspicious, really, and she had all more reason to think so as she stood in front of it with a stern eye. Maybe some of her suspicion had branched from the fact that the tree was magical amidst a group of less impressive trees. Maybe some of it had come from just the mere fact that it was magical in itself.

Yes, it was magical... but how magical was it?

She put her palm on the trunk of the tree, stroking her hand from the highest branch she could reach to where it was right next to the snow. She looked at it for minutes, merely scrutinizing it... and then the tree changed.

It was not subtle; she must have missed it while she was observing the leaves, but she could definitely see a difference now. Where the glow of the tree—coming from the center of the trunk—had before been a beautiful blue, nearly a sapphire, it had now become a deep magenta.

Scarlett's eyebrows furrowed; cautiously, she pulled out her wand and pointed it directly at the tree. "Stupefy," she muttered, watching as the spell hit the tree... and split. It flew around the trunk of the tree before hastily evaporating as if the spell had never been cast at all.

"So you're not affected by spells," Scarlett spoke, curious by the information. "And you're still purple, so you're not going to kill me. You were blue with Theodore and I... but you were blue right before I came here. So, tree... why are you changing color?"

"I don't think it's random," Scarlett told the tree matter-of-factly. "It's based on something... how many people are here? ... how warm I am? ... how intimidating I am? ... the weather? Emotion?"

At the word 'emotion', the deep color the tree took on ceased momentarily and glowed for a second or two. "So you're a mood tree," Scarlett said dryly. "And... it was blue with Theodore and I because we were... relaxed? We were calm?"

"So... what am I now?" she asked herself. "I am confused, but I'm not frustrated." She paused for a second and smiled at the familiarity. "I'm happy. I'm curious. I want to figure out what you're trying to tell me."

The tree glowed again, but brighter and for a longer duration. "I'm curious," Scarlett said determinedly. "That's what I am."

The tree glowed again, but it did not cease, and it was brightest of all. Transfixed, Scarlett eyed the tree again, and, very slowly, the tree responded:

You have proved your worth and discovered this tree's secrets.

Welcome to the outlook of Rowena Eleanor Ravenclaw.

]—[

Scarlett was running.

She was not running from something but to someone, and she was running in a way that was so energetic that it might have been the fastest she had ever moved. Her eyes were alight and her chocolate-colored irises sparkled in the moonlight in a way that they never had before.

When she reached the outlook, significantly a greater distance from the way she normally would go, she seemed to realize just how much of a distance it was, her breaths coming out in short bursts. When she had reached the outlook, she reached it while it was occupied, and Sirius looked at her entrance, his eyebrows raised and unsure if he should be concerned or not.

"Scar—" he started, but Scarlett put her hand up as she tried to catch her breath. After a couple of seconds of heavy breathing, she looked up at Sirius eagerly. "Come on," she said, and it was said in a way that made it seem as if Scarlett believed Sirius knew what she was talking about.

"Pardon?" said Sirius, slightly concerned for her sanity, and Scarlett shook her head like he had given a wrong answer, coming up to him and grasping his hand.

"Come on!" she said, and she said it with a wide grin, one that was so happy that Sirius could not help but return it. She abruptly started to sprint, and Sirius matched her pace, taking in the blurry scenery with hints of skepticism and wonderment.

"Where are we going?" Sirius asked over the wind, which whistled in his ears loudly. "What the bloody hell is wrong with you?"

"Don't worry about it!" Scarlett yelled back, and she laughed so that it flew in the breeze like music itself. "Stop worrying so much!"

Sirius let out a bark of laughter. "Look who's talking," he retorted. "What has gotten into you?"

"Curiosity!" was her prompt reply.

At that, the couple continued running. They ran long minutes, jumping over occasional fallen branches and having to sidestep some particularly feisty creatures, but even as they went through the forest's form of an obstacle course their hands did not let go.

Their breathing grew labored, and their footsteps slowed from the sprint they had started with, but they continued to run. "Did you sprint from where we're going to the outlook?" Sirius asked amusedly.

Scarlett nodded; she could not believe she had had enough energy to run the distance, no less do it twice. "I might have," she said vaguely, and she giggled. "It's—I just can't believe it! I can't—I got it!"

"Got what?" Sirius asked. "A weapon? Are you going to kill me now?"

Scarlett laughed with tones of ecstasy that had Sirius furrowing his eyebrows. "Sirius, if I had wanted to kill you, I would have had to enjoy your company a little bit less!"

"Are you smashed?" Sirius asked.

"Nope!" Scarlett assured him. "I'm just completely, and utterly, and deliriously happy!"

Sirius laughed, though it was not heartfelt; his heart was too busy being entirely too stunned by Scarlett. It was as if she had changed overnight—one night she was talking about her cautiousness and her fear of the truth and the next she was laughing in its face. It was a transformation that enthralled him entirely.

"We're going to be there soon," Scarlett informed him, breathing heavily but happily, her sentence coming out in rapid, disorganized bursts of syllables. "Do you have any last words, Sirius Black?"

"So you are going to kill me?" Sirius said, laughing.

"No," Scarlett assured him; she was beaming. "No, you'll just be speechless."

And, looking towards her destination, Scarlett ran a few more steps further and stepped into Rowena Ravenclaw's outlook, in direct view of the tree.

It was beautiful, there was no doubt about that; the leaves glistened beneath the snow that covered them, sparkling as if they were actual gems. It did not actually look real; it looked more than real—it looked absolutely perfect. The snow, falling more and more, obscured her vision, though it also made their feet more prone to slipping.

And, as Scarlett stopped without warning to marvel at the tree, she did not let go of her grip on Sirius's hand, and instead of his body facing the tree he swung so that he was instead directly facing Scarlett.

]—[

Scarlett could feel it again.

She had never before really looked Sirius eye-to-eye while they were standing. It made a significant amount of difference on everything; Sirius was much taller than she was, and as his eyes bored down on hers the height difference made her feel slightly intimidated.

She could also feel it, and she could feel it everywhere.

She could feel it in her hand, which was still gripping Sirius's like nothing had happened. She could feel it in her bloodstream, which slowed down but felt as if it was lit on fire. She could even feel it in her euphoria, her utter satisfaction for solving that mystery, and her smile evaporated, her discovery abruptly seeming irrelevant.

They stood in silence for a while, allowing only the snow to make any movement, but they did not make any indication that they were uncomfortable where they were. They hardly blinked, and they hardly breathed, only concentrating on keeping the other's gaze. It was so alike the staring contests that they had had before in the sense that he could feel her, but it was so, so different now, because Scarlett could feel it now. She could feel Sirius staring at her and she could feel herself staring back at him and she could feel how the snow wasn't cold anymore and how she seemed to have lost her ability to move. She could feel it all, and she could feel it vividly burning within her. She could feel her beating heart and she could even feel the blood coursing throughout her body but most of all she could actually feel it, feel it without disguise or denial or obliviousness masking its intensity.

And Sirius could feel it too.

The tree was a dark red behind Sirius but they did not notice it, they did not feel it. All they felt was the one across from them and Sirius took a step closer to Scarlett Devous and, forgetting about the prejudices he was supposed to have against her, forgetting the utter wrongness that felt so, so good, forgetting the consequences, forgetting her so-called perfect match, forgetting it all, he untangled his hand from hers and instead let his arms wrap around her body as he kissed her.

The kiss did not begin hesitantly. It did not begin in a shy and careful way, and it most certainly did not begin in a way that was unsure. The kiss began the exact same way Sirius Black had felt when Scarlett had told him that she and Theodore were together and the exact same way he had felt when she had entered the lake and the exact same way he had held her hand only two nights ago. It started in the way that he had felt every single night he had been with her, staring at her, thinking about her, laughing and arguing and talking to her. It had begun the exact same way Sirius had felt for months and months. And of all things it was not reluctant.

It began restlessly, and passionately, Sirius's force pushing Scarlett's back against a nearby tree. His hands removed themselves from her back and instead roamed her hips, grasping her waist fervently. His body leaned against hers, their stomachs barely touching, and his lips and tongue explored the contours of her mouth without any inhibition.

Oh, how he had wanted this. Sirius had wanted this from the moment he had realized that he fancied Scarlett but he had never been able to. He had only imagined kissing her and only imagined placing his hands on her body the way that he was and only imagined the smell of her hair and the way her body felt on his. He had always imagined it but he had never had it.

But now he did and all he could do was hold her closer to him.

Scarlett did not respond differently. Though she was notorious for over thinking, though she was remembered for logic and caution, she did not seem to display any of those traits and instead pulled Sirius closer. Her elbows rested on his shoulders, and her hands were on the back of his head, her fingers combing through his hair with such intensity that it would have been impossible for her to let go.

She could feel it like Sirius could, as if their heartbeats were matched. The love that she held for Sirius caught like fire and burned through her body, scorching her nerves and her senses and everything and leaving nothing but the glory of love in its wake. She could feel it exactly as much as Sirius could, and she could feel it and give it a proper name. She had felt it for so long but had never even considered the possibility that it was this that caused it. She had never bothered to lurk on the simplicity that she might have fancied Sirius all along.

But now, she wasn't lurking on it. She was it. All she was at that one second was how much she fancied Sirius, and in the end that was what she had been for weeks and months on end. She had constantly thought of him, and she had laughed with him and confided in him in a way that she had never done with anyone else before.

She should have realized so long ago that she did not just trust Sirius. She did not just think he was a breath of fresh air purely because he was a Gryffindor. She did not just think he was good looking, and she most certainly did not just think that they were good friends.

She should have known the truth all along.

But, it didn't matter. It didn't matter that she hadn't realized it now and it didn't matter that Sirius had realized it so much longer than she had. Light flecks of snow flew into her hair, but that didn't matter, either, because nothing did. The silliest irrelevancy like snow didn't matter and the strongest consequence like Theodore didn't matter either.

Sirius turned his head slightly to the side to catch his breath, leaving a trail of kisses on her neck, and Scarlett smiled, though the reality of the situation had not seemed to reach her. Nothing really had, nothing except for Sirius, and as their lips met again Scarlett was sure that it wasn't going to reach her in a long time.

]—[

A ship that hurdles towards the shore caught by a ship in the night; love saves one who needs it so tomorrows are bright.



 


Chapter 40: Wanting
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Author's Note: All right! Woo! 

TOO MUCH FUN IN THIS CHAPTER!!!! WINK WINK WOBBLE BABY WOBBLE--

]---[
 


Scarlett couldn't believe it. Even though she had been there--how she had been there--she could not believe that any part of it had actually happened, from the tree being Ravenclaw's outlook to the emergence of her curiosity to the kiss. Oh, the kiss. She simply could not believe that Sirius Black had kissed her, and she could not believe that she had kissed him back.

Scarlett couldn't believe herself, either.

She sat on the floor of the outlook the next night, her arms wrapped around her shins and her chin on her knees, staring down in disgrace. She had been troubled with guilt the entire day, her thoughts cleverly evading the situation but her feelings unable to forget it.

She couldn't believe herself.

She felt sick even reminiscing about what had happened in the slightest way. She felt nauseous, absolutely nauseous, thinking in any way about Sirius Black, and she felt ill even being in the outlook now. She felt so, so sick, so, so very wrong, and she could feel it throughout the outlook.

She could feel him throughout the outlook.

Scarlett clamped her eyes shut then, shaking her head ever so slightly. Every single moment and every single memory that had Sirius and the outlook in it had been a constant presence in her thoughts, lurking and causing every action of hers to be guiltily half-hearted. She could remember, vividly, all the times they had talked--and had talked about everything. She could remember when he had begun to come to the outlook, and she could remember when she had fought with him. She could remember when they had become friends and she could remember every single night and every single bloody thing.

She remembered the day after they'd started to be friends and had gone to the Quidditch Pitch.

"What if I told you, right now, that I fancy you?"

She groaned, leaning her head against the tree her back rested on. What if he had? What if he had done something so uncharacteristic of a Gryffindor and bloody talked it out? She would without a doubt be so much better off. She could have told him, logically, reasonably, that it couldn't work out. That she couldn't but she appreciated it, really she did.

But he had kissed her.

And she couldn't get it out of her head. She couldn't get him out of her head now, and it was all his fault, entirely his fault. If he had talked it out, she could have said no. If he had talked it out, then she could have avoided this searing guilt. If he had talked it out, yes, the feeling would still be there, but she could've forgotten about it. She could have.

But, now, she couldn't get him out of her head, no matter how hard she tried to.

She recalled when they had fought, too, and now she could understand what the fight was really all about. Yes, Sirius might have been angry with the fact that she was getting married at such a young age, but he could have also been angry at the fact that it was with Theodore Nott.

"Why do you hate me so much?"

Oh, hell, she thought angrily. I bloody don't.

"It could be because I trust you."

"Ugh," Scarlett moaned, squeezing her eyes shut as much as she could.

"And now... it is a big deal. It's huge."

"Bloody hell," she muttered to herself.

"Hello, beautiful."

Scarlett opened her eyes to see Sirius approaching her, a smirk prominent on his lips. Ignoring the feelings--the feeling of fancying someone as well as the feeling of guilt and self-loathing-- rising in her, she shook her head. "Bloody hell," she repeated, cringing away from him. "I am not speaking to you."

"What's got you in a strop?" Sirius asked lightheartedly even as Scarlett sent him a withering glare in reply. "Homework? Exams? Has Nott got to you again?"

"You kissed me," Scarlett said bluntly, turning away from him.

"I might have," Sirius said, determined to not be let down by her attitude, "but you kissed me back."

"I am not speaking to you!" Scarlett said sternly. "I'm furious with you!"

"You are not," Sirius contradicted. "If I had to guess what you were feeling in regards to me, I'd say frustrated, confused, and, because it is you, over-thinking it enough so that you are giving yourself a headache. Tell me, am I right?"

"No one asked you to guess," Scarlett replied tartly. "And I told you, I'm not speaking to you so I don't know why you're even bothering--"

"Oh, I love to bother," Sirius retorted. "And I think it's unhealthy to try and repress what needs to be said." At Scarlett's death glance, Sirius added, "You could do that, also. That is pretty expressive."

Scarlett groaned, fed up. "You know," she said, and she almost sounded calm, "I didn't really think about it that much, when it happened. At the time, I thought it was bloody fantastic. But you have no idea--" and her voice turned into a low growl-- "you have no idea what it feels like to wake up and walk right into the arms of someone who trusts you and know that you aren't worthy of it, know that while that person was sleeping you were busy kissing someone else. You have no idea."

"Maybe not," Sirius reasoned, "but you shouldn't be beating yourself up so much."

"Why not?" Scarlett said, and all of a sudden the reality hit her again. "I can't believe myself," she berated. "I cheated. I cheated on my bloody fiancé who I am, for the record, supposed to be marrying in three weeks! Three weeks, Sirius! Three weeks until I tie the damn knot, and I kissed you!"

"See, that is beating yourself up too much," Sirius commented lightly.

"What do you want me to do, Sirius?" Scarlett yelled. "I can't take it back! You can't just take a bloody kiss back, all right?! Even--even if we stop talking, right now, and we never talk again, I can never take it back! Even if I say I hate you I don't! I really bloody don't! And I can't take it back!"

Sirius grinned mischievously. "Would you like to take it back?"

Scarlett groaned. "Yes?" she guessed, but immediately after she put her head on her knees again. "No? I have no idea, Sirius! All I can think about right now is that I'm a terrible person, I really am, and it is all your fault!"

"It's all my fault," Sirius processed, "that you are a bad person."

Scarlett hesitated, realizing her mistake. Shaking her head stubbornly, she replied, "Yes, it is. If it wasn't for you--"

"What did I do?" Sirius asked curiously.

"You kissed me!" Scarlett replied, shaking her head. "You kissed me when you damn well knew that I had a fiancé! You kissed me without even telling me that you fancy me! You just did it! You didn't even warn me!"

"Was I supposed to ask your permission?" Sirius said sarcastically. "And I did tell you. I told you all the time. Hell, I told you three days before we kissed. You were just too afraid to listen."

"Yeah, but you never said--"

"Forget what I never said," Sirius dismissed. "The point is, Scarlett, I told you plenty of times. It wasn't outright, but--I've told you things that I was sure would've made you realize. I danced along the line between being friends and being something else. Actually," Sirius added as an afterthought, "I danced with you, didn't I? How did I dance with you and get away with it?"

"You don't dance along the bloody line," Scarlett murmured, "you tell me."

"I did," Sirius said. "I kissed you."

"Yes, you did," Scarlett said angrily. "You made your damn point. But you thought it was too... conventional... to actually use words."

Sirius shrugged and smiled. "I did what I had to do," he said. "You know," he continued, abruptly changing the subject, "a really long time ago, I knew this was going to happen. That night, you were, if I remember right, trying to teach me how to read the stars, and, again, if I remember right, I was doing badly at it. And so I was just getting really annoyed 'cause I wasn't any good, and so my mind was wondering.

"And I saw a face," Sirius said. "Yours. And I thought I was imagining it, you see, because I fancied you. And you looked the exact same way you did right before I kissed you. When I saw it, I was just thinking it was my imagination, but after I kissed you I realized that, hey, I actually read the stars."

Scarlett huffed, even though her face was a light pink. "So?" she said. "So what?"

"The secret of the world is written in the stars," Sirius said sweetly. "The whole world. The world could have told you that we were going to kiss--I'm just saying."

"You're insufferable," Scarlett groaned, putting her head in her hands. "You are bloody insufferable. I thought I told you that I didn't want to speak to you?"

"I don't like waiting for permission," Sirius said. "I prefer to just go with whatever hits me."

"Oh, yeah, you do," Scarlett said, huffing. "I still can't believe you kissed me," she added. "I can't believe you would do that to me."

"You deserved it," Sirius replied, and he leaned in closer so that his lips were almost touching her ear. "You have to imagine all that you've done to me these past few months. You had what was coming to you."

Scarlett breathed deeply, closing her eyes as the feeling hit her, loud and terrifying but so, so intoxicating. She felt it take over every inch of her, from her toes to her heart to her head, and she almost felt herself moving closer to Sirius to kiss--

"I hate you," Scarlett muttered venomously, shaking her head. "I really, really hate you."

"Really?" Sirius asked, his voice containing poorly-disguised amusement. "Look at me with a straight face and say that. If you can, I won't bug you anymore. Think you can do it?"

"I'm--I'm not going to make a bet with the devil," Scarlett said determinedly, staring straight ahead.

"You don't sound too confident," Sirius guessed, and after chuckling for a second or two he turned to her and moved slightly closer. "Come on," he joked, but it was in a whisper that shot through Scarlett's body in a way that she hated, hated so much, but made her shiver and turn her head the opposite way. Sirius, trying to make his point, stubbornly continued, placing his thumb and index finger on her chin and turning her head so she faced him.

Scarlett was immediately alarmed at the entirely-too-close proximity; their faces were nearly touching. She had to wonder to herself, though: was this what it was like before they had kissed? Had they always been this close, every single night, and she had just never before noticed how close he was--how close his hands were to her body, how their shoulders very nearly touched, and, most importantly, how his lips were only a couple of inches away?

She could not believe the strength of her ignorance, but now that it was gone she felt exactly what the situation called for. Goosebumps danced on her back and arms without any regards to the weather, and her eyes automatically averted down to his lips, her teeth biting down on her own.

"Do you really hate me?" Sirius asked calmly, and Scarlett admired his composure when she so clearly didn't have any. Desperately, she shifted her eyes away from his, but when she couldn't find any escape that put Sirius out of her line of vision she resorted to closing her eyes altogether.

Sirius laughed under his breath. "That's what I thought," he said, and he released his grip on her chin, turning his head straight ahead in unison to her head resting once more on her knees. "You see, I knew that you didn't hate me."

Now that he was not as close as he was minutes ago, Scarlett could feel her logic and reason flooding back into her, as well as her temper and self-loathing. She could feel how her nerves stopped jumping and her heart returned to the pace it was always supposed to go and she could feel her breath coming back.

But she could not help wishing that she was still without composure. She could not help but want that feeling back, because even though she logically shouldn't have liked it at all she craved it. She felt more comfortable now, but regardless she wanted the risk. She wanted the feeling back so, so bad.

"If I don't hate you," Scarlett asked quietly, speaking more to herself than to him, "then what do I ... what do I feel for you?"

Sirius grinned joyously. "You're crazy about me," he stated, leaning in closer to her so that she felt dizzy. "You fancy me," he continued, his face close and right next to hers. "You want me. You can't stop thinking about me. You're infatuated. You feel dizzy when I kiss you--" and he left a trail of kisses on her neck that made her pupils dilate and her breathing become shallow-- "like that."

"You are absolutely, wholly, inescapably and completely head over heels for me," Sirius whispered into her ear, and then he was so, so close, and she felt it again, and then he was there, and she needed to turn away, she needed to get back to Theodore, she needed, she needed...

What she needed wasn't what she wanted.

And, how she wanted Sirius.

In no time he was everywhere, their noses brushing and their lips locked, his hands on any part of her body that he could reach, as her hands entangled irresistibly into his hair. Passionately, Sirius pushed Scarlett so that her back was on the ground and he was lying on her, his defined body melting with hers so that it was impossible to tell where she ended and he began.

Their breathing was heavy, but it was shallow, and it was the only noise in the outlook. It was cold in December, so terribly cold, but both Scarlett and Sirius's hands were placed under the other's shirt and they were incredibly hot, so hot, entirely too hot.

The feeling rushed through Scarlett and it made her dizzy and it wanted her to get closer even though she should have stayed away. It made her want to feel Sirius, made her want to feel every inch of his irresistible body, and she moaned, her fingers gripping the collar of his shirt and slowly making their way down to where the buttons were--

The kiss was suddenly broken by Sirius, and his face turned to rest so that his lips were right by her ear. "Are you sure?" he asked lowly, his own hands stopping right by where the buttons were on her blouse. "Are you sure this is what you want?"

"Yes," Scarlett said. It was impulse and it was fire and it was her and it was him, burning up under the December sky. "This is what I want."

 
 
 
 


Chapter 41: Needing
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An: WARNING ABOUT THE F BOMB. IT'S IN THIS CHAPTER. :-O

Um... you know, I used to love Junie B Jones. And those are the ads coming up now. It's kind of crazy, isn't it? Reader becomes the writer. WILD PHILOSOPHICAL STUFF. Anyways, love you all, stay safe, etc


]---[
 

Scarlett woke up.

This really was not something to be especially troubled or surprised by; though Scarlett was notorious for getting little sleep throughout the night she was equally known for stealing naps throughout the day. Waking up was something so silly and common that it did not seem significant enough for Scarlett to notice. It hardly merited a form of recognition.

The unusual thing about Scarlett's return to consciousness was where she woke up and, more importantly, what clothes were on her body.

A robe covered most of her back and side, though her arms were not in her sleeves and the robe itself was suspiciously wrinkled in a way that surely was not appropriate for school. Socks, gray and plain, were the only article of clothing that offered sufficient warmth, and Scarlett had no clue where her shoes had gone, no less the rest of her outfit.

As for where she was, she really didn't know. She was warm, and her bones were lazy, feeling no urge or desire to move. Her eyelids refused to open, and Scarlett almost fell to the temptation of staying wherever she was forever. It was comfortable and nice.

However, she had a creeping feeling that slithered up her spine that told her that once her eyes opened she would not be quite as content. Actually, every sense besides her now overwhelming curiosity told her to stay right where she was, because she was happy. And consequence didn't have to be looked at when she was so peaceful. Consequence could wait. Everything could wait.

But Scarlett was becoming too curious for her own good. She was becoming outrageously impulsive, it seemed, and though she always wanted to keep her eyes shut she was learning that eventually her eyes would have to open. No matter what decision there was, it always had to be confronted, because that was life. And even though Scarlett still feared it—absolutely detested confrontation and consequence—the curiosity Sirius ignited was overpowering.

So, impulsively, Scarlett opened her eyes, expecting the worst. They opened blearily, every other nerve fighting for her to bloody stop and forget about it, but still they opened, quickly observing the surroundings as the battle of consequence raged on.

Scarlett was overtaken when she saw, exactly, where she was.

Few rays of sun could break through the canopy of leaves and branches, but the ones that did illuminated the scene around her perfectly. She could see her shoes thrown haphazardly nearby opposing trees, and she could see where she had slept, one robe still clinging onto her body to protect her from the snow.

She could also see who she had slept with.

Who she had slept with.

Oh, shit.

She hugged the robe around her as tightly as she could, covering any inappropriate parts of her body as she put her arms in the sleeves. She stood up, and hesitantly, watching as her socks met the snow and became freezing and wet. Groaning quietly to herself, she put a hand through her hair but failed miserably; her hand got caught in knots as soon as it tried to comb through. Not good.

Not good, Scarlett thought, panicked. Not good, not good, not good—

"Morning, beautiful."

Scarlett groaned loudly this time, walking around and looking for her missing clothes. She shook her head at the boy, deliberately avoiding his gaze—or anything about him—as she tied her shoes. "No," she said, but it was shaky. "We are not going through this again. We are not—I am not making the same mistake again."

"Mistake?" Sirius asked curiously, watching Scarlett as she stood and looked for another article of clothing. "You know, you won't be able to get anything on with your shoes," he noted idly.

"Fuck," Scarlett muttered, untying her shoes again.

"Yes," Sirius said triumphantly. "But mistake? Have you really gone guilty on me five minutes after you wake up? Am I going to have to convince you to forget about it again?" He smirked. "It's going to be hard to top last time, but..." His smirk turned into a mischievous grin. "I'm up to it if you are."

Ignoring the flush of her cheeks, Scarlett grabbed her underwear and bit out, "Aren't you going to get dressed?"

"I'm enjoying myself," Sirius explained. "Unlike you."

"Do you take pleasure in this?" Scarlett asked angrily, dressing as subtly as possible while looking around the outlook for other bits of clothing. "Do you take pleasure in me making mistakes? Do you take pleasure in me completely ruining my future? Ruining everything that I've worked for?"

"I'm sorry, but if that's what you call it, then yes," Sirius replied. "I don't think you're ruining anything. I think you're just saving yourself from something you weren't keen on doing in the first place. Let's be honest, if you really thought you were ruining something then you wouldn't have been with me."

Scarlett groaned, putting her hand to her head. This was why she feared consequence. "I can't stand this," she confessed, feeling slightly sick. "Sirius, I—I... I can't," she said, her voice losing volume with every syllable. "I can't do this."

"It's kind of hard to say you can't," Sirius snapped, the first tones of irritation settling in his voice, "when you already did."

"I can't handle this," she said, and she laughed weakly as she pulled on her slacks. "I can't handle any of it. I can't handle you. I can't keep... losing my identity, my future, because of you. Everything is bloody splitting and I don't know what to do. I'm caught and I'm going to have to choose but I can't. I can't."

Sirius definitely looked irritated now. Standing up and wrapping his robe around him, he said, "You have to. You can't just walk away as if it meant nothing. You can't just tell me that you're making a mistake and then leave. You have to face this. You can't just keep running away from it."

"I have to!" Scarlett yelled desperately. "I'm sorry, Sirius. I—I'm so... I want... I want you," she admitted, finding her blouse and beginning to button it while she remembered when Sirius had wanted her enough to take it off of her. "I want you and I fancy you so bloody much, but I need to stay away. I need to be a part of my society... I need to be with Theodore."

"But you don't want to," Sirius processed, though anger still lined his face as if it was ready to explode. "You don't want to..." A venomous undertone entered his voice as he said, "Do you?"

Scarlett sighed. "I don't want to hurt Theodore," she said.

"That's not what I asked," Sirius replied, taking a step towards her; though they were arguing her stomach still erupted in butterflies. "Do you want to be with him?"

"I made a promise," Scarlett responded, deliberately evading the question, "to stay with him." She held up her ring; it glittered in the sunlight. "'Always and forever.'"

"That's still not what I asked," Sirius said, impatient. "Do you want to be with him?"

There was one second of silence where all Scarlett and Sirius did was stare at each other. The sun shone on both of their faces, shining on even in the face of consequence. However, that was the only thing that made an appearance; any animals that were in the forest were quiet.

Just for that one second.

Finally, when everything broke, Scarlett responded. "No," she said. "But I do care about him."

Sirius shook his head as Scarlett sighed and began to put on her shoes again. "I'm so sorry, Sirius," she muttered. "I can't do this to him."

"You can't do it to him," Sirius said, his voice heavily ironic, "but you don't seem to be guilty about doing all of this to me."

Scarlett blinked. "What have I done to you?" she asked incredulously. "I've—I've bloody cheated on my fiancé. I'm getting married in seventeen days. It'd break his heart if he knew, and you're wondering what I did to you? The only thing I did to you was give you my virginity. I've bloody bent all the rules just to be around you, and you're wondering what I've done to you? Tell me what I've done. Tell me about all the other mistakes I've made. What have I ever done to you, Sirius? What makes you think that you have the right to be angry?"

Sirius laughed angrily. "The right to be angry?" he asked sarcastically. "Are you surprised that I'm angry? What the hell did you think I'd do? Laugh it off?"

"Answer the question," Scarlett snarled.

"You have no idea," Sirius breathed, taking a step closer to her so that they were impossibly close, almost as close as they had been the night before. "You have no idea what you've done to me. You have no idea—" and his voice became a low murmur that was whispered harshly into her ear, making her shiver— "you have no idea what it's like to wake up and have someone you fancy tell you that she'd rather be with someone she doesn't even like. You have no fucking idea what it's like to hear her say that she doesn't want to hurt him but she has no problem hurting you. Hell, she doesn't even know she has."

Breathing deeply, Scarlett hissed, "You should be happy. I gave you what you wanted."

"You thought I just wanted to have sex with you?" Sirius asked. "You thought that was the only reason I came here?"

"Why else?" Scarlett asked, leaning in closer to him so that their noses were almost touching. "Why else would you have wanted to be here?"

Sirius groaned, shaking his head and putting his hand through his hair. "You!" he yelled. "I'm here for you!" He noted their close proximity then; for a moment, he lost his composure as he looked at her. However, he regained his anger fairly quickly, his fists unclenching to comb through his disarrayed hair. "And I can't bloody stand it when you do things like that!"

"Like what?" Scarlett said sharply.

"You lead me on!" Sirius shouted bluntly. "You yell at me one day, you tell me you're getting married one day, and then the next you don't have any problem being with me! You mention your wedding so fucking much, you talk about Theodore so much, but the next day you act like you don't give a shit! About anything! You ignore whatever you've done the night before and pretend it's all a clean slate! You avoid it! You fucking run from it! And you say I'm taking your identity because you know, and you're just too afraid to admit, that whatever that bloody ring represents has never been your identity! But none of that matters because in the end all you're going to do about it is run away and pretend it never happened!"

"When have I ever done that?" she argued; the truth bit at her uncomfortably.

"Tell me this, then," Sirius said intensely. "What happened when you came late and Tenereus was there? Why were you sick? Why was the centaur there and what the hell does he know that he's not telling me? Why wouldn't you talk about any of it the day after? Because you wanted to run away from it? Pretend it never happened?"

"I don't know!" Scarlett screamed, feeling exhausted and angry and worn out. "I don't know, Sirius!"

"You don't want to know," Sirius guessed. "Am I right?"

Scarlett put her hand over her face and groaned. "Maybe I don't like knowing things that could hurt me, and maybe I don't want to talk about it! Not everyone is as brave as you are, Sirius!"

"There's a big difference between being brave and being a coward," Sirius said. "You don't have to be brave all the time, but you..." He shook his head as if he was ashamed. "You don't even try to be brave. You couldn't stand the idea of having beliefs that others don't want you to have. Of changing your mind or even making a bloody choice—you'd rather just cower away from everything."

The words stung Scarlett. They came to her ears and scorched them and they pricked every part of her like a needle. The word coward rang in her head immediately, repeating itself like a mantra, and, frustrated, Scarlett grimaced.

"I can't believe you would do this to me," she said finally. "I can't believe you."

"You can't believe me?" Sirius asked, skeptical. "You can't believe me?" When Scarlett made no indication of denying it, Sirius scowled. "You're insufferable," Sirius said. "I'm not coming tonight."

As Sirius walked away, Scarlett knew that she should've told him to never come back there again. She knew that she should have told him to leave her alone so she could stop this, even though it had gone too far. It had gone so far.

When Scarlett had come to the outlook the previous night, she had told herself that it was only a kiss. No matter what, when the inevitable confrontation came with Theodore, she could tell him that it was only a kiss.

But now it was something else... it might have always been.

And, what was more, every second that passed it became harder and harder to dismiss it. It became harder and harder to run away from, like Sirius had claimed her to do. It became harder and harder to avoid, because it was becoming a part of her. Everything about Sirius was poisonous, and it was confusing as much as it was overpowering. What she wanted was Sirius and what she needed was Theodore... right?

It should have been that easy, that black-and-white. It should have been easy to set aside what she wanted and forget about it, like a bad craving. It should have been easy for Scarlett to tell Sirius to stay away from her so she could heal herself. It should have been so simple for Scarlett to do what she was meant to do, to serve her purpose.

It should have been easy, but it wasn't. Want was melting into need and need was melting into want and Theodore and Sirius could not be so easily separated.

She should have told him to leave forever, but she didn't want to and, what was more terrifying, she almost needed to refrain. She should have told him to never speak to her again, but all Scarlett could do is stare at the space where he left and want him back even more.

]—[

When she arrived back at the school it was past lunchtime.

It was Theodore's free period, and, like Scarlett had suspected, she found him in the library, poring over an ancient, endless book. He appeared to not notice her when she arrived, but when she stepped closer to him, he took in her appearance in one look and returned to the tome without a word.

"Are you mad?" Scarlett asked, and Theodore looked up from his book then, sighing.

"Where were you?" he asked shortly.

"Tenereus's," she replied, just as bluntly.

"You missed Astronomy," he pointed out. "You missed Charms and Transfiguration. This isn't even the first time you've skipped class."

"I'm sorry," Scarlett said. "I fell asleep."

"Maybe you should leave Tenereus's earlier," Theodore said, annoyed.

"What the hell is wrong with you?" Scarlett asked, still riled.

"I'm worried about you," Theodore said, "but you can't seem to give a shit, can you? You've been gone all week, you haven't talked to me since I gave you that ring, and you've missed classes when we have exams soon. You haven't even cared about graduating. All you're focusing on is that bloody centaur and it's hurting you. But it doesn't seem to matter to you."

"You know it's important to me."

"It's too important," Theodore said. "You can't just keep doing the things you want to do. You need to graduate, Scarlett. You need to sleep more because you need to stop missing classes. Just because you want to be there every night doesn't mean you can be. You can't always get what you want."

With an irritated sigh, Theodore placed a bookmark where he was reading, closed his book, grabbed it and left without allowing her another word.

You can't always get what you want, Scarlett thought, but what if you don't even know what you want? What if you can't even tell the difference between what you should do and what you want to do? What if they're the same thing? What if they're not? And what about the consequences?

What if...what if you don't know what to do?

]—[

 
 


Chapter 42: Balancing Act
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author's note: Rihanna's hair is just wild, you know? I'm listening to Unfaithful right now and I think it's kinda funny because, you know, considering this chapter. Eh. Anyways, I hope you all enjoy, you beacons of light and joy. By the way -- this is like my favorite ending to almost any of the SIHE chapters. I really do love the ending of this chapter and the beginning of the next. I like how SIHE is kind of episodic. It keeps it fresh for whenever you want to jump back in. I also like the continuity and -- is this being braggy? I don't care y'all. SIHE is my child and I will show you its wallet pictures. Man, I need a dog.

]--[


Scarlett was very, very fortunate that she learned early and rather comprehensibly when she wasn't trying to block information out. If she did not possess such a quality, the problem would have grown and festered and eventually lead to two confrontations even uglier than the ones she had already experienced.

All she needed was time and peace.

Her peace could always be found alone, and that was where she was now, perched beautifully on a branch from Rowena Ravenclaw's incredible tree. The glow around the tree was a neon green, mixing together like a perfect recipe of emotion: the green represented nature as well as youth, inexperience, and peace, but the neon contradicted it. The neon was only present because it was the outlook's way of telling her that she didn't have much time to be peaceful or inexperienced.

She had to think.

Think without any regard to what she was supposed to do and what she wanted to, because she needed the bare facts. She had been around Tenereus plenty of times, and every time she spoke to him he told her that she always had to observe to find the future. He told her, every time they spoke about making her talent more precise, that the easiest way to predict the future was to observe the simplicities, the things that she had blocked out so nicely with her ignorance.

Today, Scarlett was given the task to observe herself— a task that was proving to be easier than she'd thought. It was so easy to learn things that were already there, things that she had always known subconsciously.

She did not want Sirius mad at her. That was the first conclusion she came to, followed by the fact that she did not want Theodore mad at her either. The two statements were so simple and so obvious, but they had to be recognized properly before she could make any progress.

From there, things became slightly blurry. It was hard to define everything that was going on clearly, but that was what she had set out to do. She had to learn. She had to know.

She also realized that Sirius had been not only right but had demonstrated his knack of knowing things about her that she didn't know herself when he said that she avoided and ran away. He was entirely right, of course; it was so easy to see. She had run away from her responsibilities. She had run from Theodore after their kiss—she had tried to act like it hadn't happened. She did not talk about what had happened the night she woke and felt pain, but instead pretended it didn't exist. Even at the beginning of the year, she had refused to acknowledge fully that she was going to get married, because she had rationalized that there was always a later date.

She wanted to try and prevent something from happening that she didn't want to happen. She wanted it all to be okay.

As for Theodore, Scarlett had come to the realization that she did not feel for him the same way she felt for Sirius. There had always been a bond between Scarlett and Theodore especially, and she cared about him always. It would just not be a bond of deep and passionate love. She loved him, but he would never... compare to Sirius.

It was difficult to think, and it was even harder to swallow, but once she had, her resolve strengthened and she brooded again in her thoughts.

She did not want to be married, but she knew that it was an inevitability, something she shouldn't struggle from. She knew that society was always going to have a heavy stranglehold on her life and she had accepted it. That was her purpose, wasn't it? She was meant to be society's puppet; it was her sole purpose.

She had just strayed with her outlandish opinions, some inherited from Sirius, some coming from her own head.

She would be okay. Society was the rock she had to lean against, and if she ever needed it it would always be there. Being with Sirius was making it easier and easier for her to get away from the support and to walk right into the arms of harsh reality.

She was beginning to believe what they were doing was wrong. The arranged marriage had been the spark—an archaic practice for what?—but her doubts were delving deeper. Even that the mark on her wrist was wrong.

Scarlett shuddered as she jumped from the tree, instinctively putting her thumb where the tattoo was as it burned.

It was another problem to be concerned over. It was another problem for another day, and it was something that Scarlett couldn't think about without recoiling. There were so many problems, so many puzzles to solve, that Scarlett had to save those for another day. She had to wait another day, because she couldn't even begin to think of how many consequences there would be if she even thought about that aspect of her future. She knew that much.

She promised herself, though, that she would confront it. She could confront it... she promised. Her problems had to be faced some way.

She did not know, however, how sturdy her promise was.

It was a hard habit to kick; in the face of learning something she didn't want to know Scarlett tended to do whatever it took to achieve peace of mind. She ran away and she ignored and she made her thoughts stray somewhere else entirely to forget. It was the way she had always been. It was the way of self-preservation. Yes, she had grown to trust her curiosities more...but after waking up with Sirius she was worried with where her curiosities would take her that her society hadn't. It was the unknown.

She just hoped she would keep her promise.

But, as the Mark prickled again and she walked towards the outlook, she could feel that hope evaporating until her promise seemed unlikely to survive. With every step she took, she could feel whatever impulsiveness she had inherited from Sirius be attacked by how alluring the prospect of ignorance was. She could feel self-preservation leech onto her promise.

And as the tree left her eyesight she could feel the regression begin, though that fact only disgusted her.

]—[

Sirius was there when she entered the outlook.

He was not angry, but he was not overjoyed to see her. He was not sitting; he leaned against a tree with his arms crossed, a sure sign that he was as ready to leave as he was to stay. His face was expectant, because he didn't have to apologize for anything. He just needed to hear what she had learned. What her choice was.

Scarlett took a deep breath and took a step closer, and Sirius raised his eyebrows as if she had already said something. "So I learned something," she started, taking another breath. "I learned a lot of things, actually."

"All right," Sirius said approvingly. "What?"

"You were right," Scarlett pointed out. "I run away from everything. It happens and then I try to forget about it and pretend it never happened. I run away from everything, including you." She sighed and combed a hand through her hair. "And I'm sorry."

Sirius nodded, though it seemed like a subconscious action, designed purely to show she had his attention but he was not satisfied. "And?" he asked, smirking slightly in a way that made her stomach contract.

She smiled shakily. "I don't fancy Theodore," she informed him, and it was true. "I... fancy somebody else. Someone I never want to hurt again."

Sirius looked much more confident than Scarlett felt as he took his weight off of the tree and took a step closer to her. "Really?" he asked, as if they were talking about irrelevancies. "Well, who do you fancy?"

He was challenging her, and she could feel it. They were still feet away from each other, the snow making a thick shield that separated them, but she could feel the challenge as if he'd stated it himself. She could feel the challenge in a way that made the butterflies in her stomach spread to her legs and hands and head.

But, she couldn't turn down a challenge. Even when she was so mentally overwhelmed, as a Slytherin she knew that to turn a challenge down from a Gryffindor was a mistake. Turning a challenge down from a Gryffindor was morally unacceptable.

And Slytherins had an edge. Gryffindors were all loud words and strong emotions and passion, but Slytherins worked cleverly and beneath the surface. Gryffindors made their intentions clear; Slytherins liked surprise.

And, even though Sirius was unintended, even though Sirius had surprised her, she knew she could do the same. Being a Slytherin made her perfectly capable of doing the same, and, what was more, she could do it better.

She smirked and fervently shoved the nervousness aside. "He's bloody insufferable," she said, and it was barely louder than a whisper. "He's full of himself. He's irresponsible... he's loud... and very headstrong...

"But," Scarlett said, and she took another step closer to him so that they were only inches away. "he is a charmer..."

She could have kissed him then; they were that close and she knew she wanted to. Their torsos were mere centimeters away. She could have entangled her fingers in his hair; she could have traced his defined chest. Every one of those options came to Scarlett's head as she examined where she was, but she restrained herself, ignoring the butterflies as they swarmed around her heart.

"Well," Sirius said, his breath leaving goosebumps on her neck, "what's his name?"

She could have kissed him then, too.

Instead, she reluctantly turned her body away from his and took a seat on the outlook's floor. "Eh," she said, though it was hard to contain the jitters that her nerves created, "I'll tell you later, I guess."

Sirius looked gobsmacked; his mouth was slightly open, though it was quirked into an appreciative smile—his indication that she had beat him at his own challenge. Taking a seat next to her and still slightly shaking his head as if he couldn't believe what she had just done, he said, "We have all night, beautiful."

Scarlett turned to him and smirked but didn't say anything.

"So," Sirius said casually, "now that we're past the guilt—are we past the guilt?" he asked, and she nodded. "Now that we're past the guilt, you have to admit... It was good, wasn't it?"

"It was... nice," Scarlett said, her smirk becoming smug. "It was nice enough."

Sirius laughed. "It was the best you've ever had," he assumed.

"It was the only I've ever had," Scarlett retorted. "And, as far as it goes, it was pretty good."

"Pretty good," Sirius quipped back, "is not the same as nice."

"Prove it," Scarlett challenged, raising an eyebrow, because she knew that Sirius wouldn't turn down a challenge. Gryffindors didn't turn down challenges, especially when Slytherins were involved, and that fact opened the floodgate of feeling that she had contained in an attempt to keep her composure.

And then Sirius kissed her, and it was nice, so nice that she could not help but kiss him back. And it was so sweet, so amazing, because this time it was not accompanied with the sharp edge of guilt. Instead, it was laced with desire, desire that flooded through her body like molasses and made her body lean in closer to Sirius—

He broke the kiss. "That was nice," he said. "That was nice. If you were trying to distinguish the difference."

"Well, that's bloody fantastic," Scarlett said, annoyed and aware that he'd bested her, "but I can't distinguish nice and pretty good if I don't remember what pretty good feels like."

Sirius leaned in closer, but just as she was getting ready to kiss him again he smirked and turned away. "Pretty good is... pretty good," Sirius said, as if she was stupid. "Does that confuse you?"

"Oh, I hate you so much," Scarlett said, shaking her head. "Ass."

Sirius laughed. "Doesn't feel good, right?" he guessed. "Except if you're doing it to me?"

"Doing what?" Scarlett asked. "I didn't do anything to you."

"You're a tease," Sirius stated matter-of-factly. "You're a damn good tease."

"I'm a tease?" Scarlett asked skeptically, though there was a tone of amusement and pride in her tone. "Really?"

"Yes," Sirius told her. "It's hard to ignore when you're actually trying to be. It's even harder to resist," he confessed, and the words sent a shock of energy that twisted and turned throughout her body.

"Really?" she asked again, but it contained the same desire that she felt throughout her body, as if it was so strong it had even overcome her words. The question, the one word, held so much quiet power that it made Sirius look at her the same way the words sounded.

He turned away quickly, though.

"Like when you do that," he explained, "even though you weren't trying to, it's..."

"Pretty good?" Scarlett said sarcastically.

Sirius grinned and turned towards her, and this time he did not hesitate to kiss her and she did not hesitate to kiss him back. His fingers trailed her waist line, and her fingers traced his cheekbones. They moved in tandem, moved like they had been doing it for ages, and their bodies fit together so smoothly. So right, but so very, very wrong.

Time passed; whether it was minutes or hours Scarlett was not sure. She kept the time by the snow, which evolved from strong flurries to an even stronger blizzard, and when the winds became unbearable she recognized how much time had slipped through their fingers. Though it was just as unbearable, she unwillingly loosened her grip on Sirius, even though she felt as if she had left everything with him.

He seemed to realize what the end of their kiss meant, but he was just as unenthusiastic to end their embrace as she was. Keeping their hands fiercely intertwined, Sirius leaned towards her, and she surrendered, letting her back rest against his chest as she caught her breath.

"I don't want you to go," Scarlett said vaguely, her eyes closed. "I don't want to have to wait..."

Her words hung in the silence for a while, and for a couple of minutes all they did was listen to each other's breathing. Finally, though, and with utmost reluctance, Sirius stood, giving her a kiss on her lips that ended far too soon.

"Sorry, beautiful," he murmured, his voice rough. "But we always have tomorrow, don't we?"

And as he walked away Scarlett sighed and stood herself, looking downward. Waiting for his exit to be final and absolute so she wouldn't run after him, she walked slowly towards where Tenereus resided, feeling as if she was in a trance.

It was a part of her promise, but frankly she wasn't contemplating her promise. She was only contemplating Sirius... oh, Sirius...

It was understandable, then, that she was in a bit of a trance as she walked towards where Tenereus was—past the tree where they had just been, past the place where she had located her blouse the day she had woken up in his arms, past the cherry tree where they had looked up at the stars together and exchanged intimacies. She walked past the outlook, past their outlook, until she could see the small bonfire in the clearing Tenereus always had, welcoming her back to reality.

The first thing reality showed her was Tenereus, and, more notably, Tenereus's expression.

And, with that, Scarlett was not only welcomed to reality—she was harshly pulled into it.

"Tenereus?" Scarlett asked hesitantly. "Are you all right?"

]—[
 


Chapter 43: Time is Running Out
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A/N: Yikes, this chapter is ominous.

Furious did not even touch it, really, because the atmosphere added onto his expression like makeup would add to natural beauty. So many things—the night and the fire that illuminated his face and made it look as if he was the embodiment of flame itself—made Tenereus look as frightening as he was. It was ineffable, a description of its own, and it made Scarlett feel fear, something she had rarely felt in front of Tenereus.

He had always emanated the air of wisdom and experience, but it was kind. He was always understanding; even when Tenereus had been angry with her before, he had been kind, because he understood. He understood that she was inexperienced, and he understood that she made mistakes. She was young, wasn't she? Careless and reckless and without responsibility? She made mistakes... couldn't it be justified by the fact that she was young?

No, she thought, as if channeling Tenereus himself. You may be young, but you're getting older all the time...

Scarlett cleared her throat, but it made no attempt to cleanse the atmosphere that the scene had. Closing her eyes and taking a deep breath—she felt funny, like she had been punched in the stomach—she repeated, "Tenereus, are you all—"

"No," Tenereus said, and it was heavy with sarcasm and blistering with repressed rage. "What do you think?"

Scarlett took another deep breath; her stomach twisted further into knots. "What happened?" she asked, as casual as any other day. "What did you see?" She took a step closer, but it was as if she was a meek child approaching an animal that might bite at any moment. "Is everything going to be okay?"

The way he stared at her, sent another trill of panic up her spine. "What do you think?" Tenereus said, but it was much louder and angrier than the last time he said it. "What do you think?" he said once more, and there was no doubt that his volume was rising. "You stupid, stupid—"

Suddenly, Tenereus recoiled from what he was going to say, and Scarlett flinched violently.

Tenereus was not himself. He had never insulted her in such a demeaning way; he had never insulted her. The surprise from Scarlett was coupled with painful, agonizing panic, because Tenereus's behavior—so uncharacteristic, so unlike the way Scarlett knew him—had to have a reason. There had to be a reason.

What had she done?

"What did I do?" Scarlett asked quietly, a jarring contrast to Tenereus's tone. Though Tenereus looked regretful for what he had said before—there was still within him a trace of that relaxed centaur Scarlett always knew—his face did not lose the personification of flame or the exact description of fury.

"What did you do?" Tenereus asked her skeptically. The incredulous look on his face, poisoned with irony and sarcasm, soon morphed again into a face of fury, and then the floodgates opened. "What did you do? You did nothing! You never do anything, and you don't even care! You don't care what happens! You don't care about the consequences! You never do!"

He continued to pace. "It bloody frustrates me! What do I always tell you?! I always tell you to bloody observe if you're not going to take the time out to read the stars, because at least then you'll be able to know something! But you don't! You ignore it, you run away from what is so plain to see! You did it with Sirius! You did it with Theodore! You do it all the time, because you're afraid of the inevitable day when everything will hit you! But you seem to think that if you run away it will never come.

"But that's not true, Scarlett, time is running out!"

Scarlett took a shallow breath, still slightly confused and very afraid. "I'm not doing that anymore," she explained, hoping he would be pacified. "I've learned—I've learned plenty, and I know that I run away—"

Tenereus let out a short bark of bitter laughter. "Of course you'd think that," he said. "You would think that, because by thinking that you are ignoring everything! If you're saying you're ignoring things, that's fine, but you continue to! And you may believe that everything's okay and in the open, but it's not!"

"Like what?" Scarlett challenged, though she felt uneasy and sick, so sick that she could almost feel the bile at the back of her throat. "What am I ignoring?"

Tenereus took a deep breath, almost disgusted. "We're going to play a game," Tenereus said, and it was mutinous. "I'm going to ask you questions, and you and I will see how much you're ignoring."

"You say that you fancy Sirius, now?" Tenereus asked, his voice almost casual but edged with ire. "And you believe he fancies you too?"

She was confident at that question. "Yes," she said without a pause.

"But what about Theodore?" Tenereus asked her. "What about Theodore, who you are going to marry shortly? I'm assuming that, because you fancy Sirius, you do not fancy him anymore? Am I right?"

"Yes," Scarlett replied.

"But what about Theodore?" Tenereus asked. "What about Theodore? Do you believe Theodore still fancies you?"

Scarlett considered. She remembered when they had first kissed, and she remembered when they had officially become a couple. She remembered all of their silly anniversaries and the disastrous Quidditch match. Will you stay with me?, he'd asked as he was on his hospital cot, and she had said yes, because she had still felt she fancied him.

And she thought to just a few weeks ago, when Theodore had proposed and there had been love in his eyes because he believed she had stayed with him. At that time, she had been able to feel the doubts, but she had said yes. And now, he was concerned about her school, concerned about her, as if she was still staying with him.

But she wasn't. Not anymore.

"Yes," Scarlett said. "But he won't know about Sirius and me—he won't ever have to know—"

"Exactly," Tenereus seethed. "Did you ever once consider that one day he could know? What then, Scarlett? What would happen to you, then, if you were known as a traitor? Did you ever think about the consequences of cheating—or even lying about the nights you've spent with Sirius?

"One," Tenereus counted.

"What about your Dark Mark, now?" Tenereus questioned. "What are you going to do about something that you don't want anymore? What are you going to do when you have signed yourself up for life and all of a sudden you want to quit? What then?"

Scarlett could not think of anything to say.

"Two," Tenereus counted again.

"And what about Voldemort himself?" Tenereus asked, and Scarlett winced at his name. "What about somebody who has been expecting news about this school, craving it, and you can't give it to him? He relies on you to give him the future, but you haven't managed one legitimate response the entire year. What if he begins to question it?

"Three."

She felt sick to hear it. She was in the cold, and she could feel that, but she was so, so hot, so flustered and feverish and all she wanted to do was go to sleep. All she wanted to do was ignore it, but she couldn't. She couldn't.

"Did you see this in the stars?" Scarlett asked him. "Do you see everything hitting me like this?"

"No," Tenereus said. "But I observe. I see what you've done and I figure that with all of your ignorance every single one of these things will come true."

Her heart ignited.

Scarlett, while known for having a temper, was generally not known for releasing it, as the behavior would have been considered inappropriate. In the confines of the forest, however, etiquette did not arrive, and her emotion hung in the air for an instant, waiting for it to be repressed by rule and reason and logic.

She wanted to voice her anger at Tenereus, wanted to yell at him for reasons she didn't know or understand. She wanted to yell at him for telling the truth and wanted to scream at him for telling her things she had been deliberately avoiding. She wanted to bellow that she wanted there to still be time, and she wanted to shout that she didn't want the time to go away. She didn't want time to run out.

But, before she could, she was interrupted by Tenereus, his body nearly impossible to identify due to the flurries of snow and the darkness.

"Scarlett, you can't let this happen."

It was said with astounding authority and wisdom, complete conviction, and a shocking sureness that made Scarlett's annoyance fester, though again as she tried to speak Tenereus interrupted her.

"It's wrong!" Tenereus yelled. "You cannot continue with this, you should have never even let it begin! You have to decide! You cannot repeatedly and heavily defy fate, because fate is the only thing we have, and if you don't choose for yourself then it will choose for you!"

She felt sick, and she felt déjà vu from a long-forgotten memory, but it only made her confused and it only added to her headache. Words, angry and loud, rushed through her system suddenly, stunning her with their appearance. The words dizzied her and were said sluggishly, like a slur, a slur that pounded through her like a poisonous heartbeat. "Where were you?" Scarlett questioned as if the words were made to come to her tongue. The accusing inquiry was hardly heard by her, and she felt like she was underwater and suffocating... "Where were you to stop it? Why did you even let it begin?"

"It is not my responsibility to watch over you," Tenereus argued. "It is hardly my responsibility to warn you! But, here I am!

"What are you going to do?"

"I—" she started, but her voice caught in her thought, every word piling up against her and blocking her from the script of the conversation. "I—" she tried again, though she choked on what she was going to say. "I don't—"

But her words were interrupted by the flames of fire taking her over, a steady, dull throbbing headache, and the brightest, most fleeting flash of scarlet...

]—[

A pair of lives exchanged for each other; wisdom lights the fire that scorches the brother.

]—[

"What is going on?"

Tenereus felt as if a million weights rested upon him. He was tired of protecting Scarlett and he was tired of her and he was so damn tired of it all. He felt every year he had read the stars pile up against him. Rowena, Rowena...your plan all along...

Most of all he hated the woman in front of him.

"Why are you here?" Tenereus asked her, and unlike how he had been with Scarlett his voice was quiet and exhausted. "I thought we were already settled with the centaurs. I thought we never had to see each other again."

"If only I could be so fortunate," the female bit, and her eyes sparkled coldly into Tenereus's. "What is going on? What is that stupid, stupid girl not telling me? I know you two are keeping secrets from me. I've known. I thought it was something stupid, irrelevant. Maybe this girl shouldn't have been trusted."

He hated that female. He normally was calm, but seeing the female and her heartless, icy eyes made his demeanor angry and oh so bloody tired. "You should trust her," Tenereus said, and for a fleeting moment he wished he had never associated with humans. "It is stupid. Irrelevant. Pardon us for wasting your precious time."

"She is weak," the female growled. "So weak. So worthless. And she is keeping secrets from me; who does that girl think she is?!"

"She's not weak," Tenereus said. "She is learning. You shouldn't—"

"Expect so much from her?" the female finished his sentence. "You've said that to me before, you've said that she is only a teenager, that her actions should be excused.

"But I heard what you told her," the lady said. "I heard what you said and I heard what she said. Time is running out. You told her yourself that her actions shouldn't be excused, that she is too old and too experienced to be making these kind of mistakes. How can you cross your words this way? Is it because you are lying to me? You both are lying to me?"

Tenereus took a deep breath, but the female wasn't done. "I want to know what she is doing that makes her lie to me," she ordered. "I know that you know what her sins are, and I want to hear every single one of them. I have no qualms about punishing her."

Tenereus didn't speak, then, and minutes passed as the woman waited for a response.

"You are so protective of her," the woman said. "So protective of such a stupid girl. She does not deserve your protection. She does not deserve such a strong ally."

"I am not an ally," Tenereus said. "I am not a part of this war, and being allies with her makes me an ally of you. And there is nothing I'd like less."

"Explain your behavior," the female demanded. "What do you have to gain from her?! What satisfies you to know that by lying you are lying to someone who has killed many and has no hesitation in killing you? Why do you protect Scarlett Alysha Devous in such a way, when she does not serve you any purpose? What pleasure do you get by spending time with such a disposable pawn to this war?"

Tenereus sighed. "I care about her," he said finally. And Rowena. "I don't want her suffering at the hands of you."

"What are you not telling me?" the female asked.

Silence from Tenereus made the woman growl.

"What were you yelling at her about?" she prodded.

Again, all Tenereus could offer her was stony silence.

"What were you warning her about?"

Silence.

"Was it in her best interests or was it in mine?"

Again, silence.

"I know the answer to that question, you know," she said darkly. "I wish that it was different. I wish that you cared more about the enemies that you make in this war than her."

"You may wish that," Tenereus said, "but I'm afraid it will never happen. You and the rest of your society will never be more important to me than she is, no matter how much that irks you."

"And the danger it causes you?" the female asked skeptically. "Would you protect that silly girl with everything you have? Would you protect her no matter what I said? No matter what threats or persuasions I made?"

"Yes," Tenereus responded; his voice was resigned but sure. "I have always felt that it is my duty to protect those that need me to protect them."

"Are you sure?" the female asked. "Are you sure that this is what you want? Are you sure that you would rather keep her secrets than protect yourself? We could be good friends, Tenereus. You could be essential to this war."

"I don't feel any more or less essential protecting her," Tenereus said coldly. "I am sure that I would never want to become friends with someone who does not care about someone who is giving so much to you. You disgust me."

The female smiled, but it was not happy.

"I wasn't lying when I said you'd see me again," she stated, "and you should know that I'm not lying when I say the next time I see you, it will not end nicely."

"So it is," said Tenereus. "I do not look forward to seeing you again, but I do not fear it, either, because you will never make me afraid.

"No matter how hard you try, I will always protect Scarlett Devous, and I encourage you to try and stop me."

 
 


Chapter 44: Smitten
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A/N: I love Michael Bublé. He is all too charming. Also just in case = I know that this story uses a lot of French in it -- there is the phrase 'toujours pur' in this chapter which is actually the coat of arms for the Black family (meaning 'always pure' which as we all know is borderline incestuous, icky) and is not French but may be a misunderstanding because I play around with languages a lot. :) I hope all of you dashing people enjoy reading!!

Sirius could have been better.

Maybe he was being a tad selfish. After all, he was together with Scarlett, James and Lily were still—surprisingly—together, Remus had shut up about his fancy, and Peter had shut up altogether. In all honesty, things were going very well for Sirius, just like things normally did. Technically, his life was perfect.

Still, he could have been better. Two things had come to his attention, and, in the way that vague curiosities attracted him, they had prevented him from achieving absolute contentedness because they kept picking and picking and picking—

One of these things was Scarlett, or, more specifically, her behavior.

She had been acting strangely as of late, though it was something that anyone else wouldn't have noticed. However, Sirius had a knack of noticing when people close to him were troubled, especially Scarlett, who he had begun to read like a book.

It was so subtle, always tucked somewhere within a smile or a laugh, but it was there. It was not something he could properly identify; Scarlett did not offer him any help, because, every time he asked, she would tell him that he was crazy and there wasn't something wrong.

But there was, and Sirius knew it. He could feel it so obviously inside him that not for one second did he consider that he was wrong. He had asked her about it relentlessly; he had asked questions that would goad her into telling him what was so troubling.

But Sirius knew Scarlett. He knew that if Scarlett was troubled about anything that she would pretend it wasn't there, even though she claimed she had a balance. She would run away from it and ignore it because she didn't want to confront things that had to be confronted.

That had to have been one of their biggest differences. Sirius loved confrontations and conflicts and consequences. He loved when people were red-faced and yelling at him for something he had done, and he anticipated gleefully the moment right after he pranked someone when his enemy's eyes would turn black with bad intentions. He craved when people yelled at him because people were amusing. If it wasn't someone he particularly cared about Sirius would annoy and pester them until they fought and fought and fought, because that was what Sirius did.

Scarlett, on the other hand, was the opposite. Completely. Unlike some of her friends, she did not have a frightening temper or a violent streak. She was very cool and collected, almost too much, and she didn't let much get to her. Above all, though, Scarlett loathed arguments. She hated when people were angry or disappointed. She didn't try to please everyone, though: she merely ignored them or the conflict so it was impossible to be pleased or displeased by her. Although many thought of her as a bitch, it was generally due to her Slytherin roots, and she didn't try to disprove that. She let people believe it because, if they didn't trouble her she didn't bother them either.

But, in reality, Scarlett was terrified of consequences. She had plenty of sins, plenty of things she knew would hit her later, and she was afraid of the inevitable time when everything would collide. She hated guilt. She hated being yelled at. She hated to face her problems, because her problems were not going to be easy on her.

So Sirius could only assume that Scarlett was troubled because something had come to her attention that she had been avoiding. Her avoidance was almost subconscious; it made her unable to connect the puzzle pieces and determine her future. Even though she read the stars, everything that she had seen she passed off as a dream or a spurt of the imagination. She didn't want to believe anything that could be bad.

So she was troubled because a puzzle piece had come to her. Because she was starting to realize that her avoidance only made things worse...

That was the first thing that made it impossible for Sirius to be content. He was concerned for Scarlett, more than he should've been, and his concern diverted his concentration.

The second thing was, of course, the marriage.

It loomed over every single day like a black cloud. Although Sirius and Scarlett had enjoyed themselves—oh, how they had enjoyed themselves—in the outlook, when he left he was reminded of how much time remained until the wedding. Each snowstorm got heavier as winter grew, and with every single inch of extra snow another day flew away.

It began at three weeks, right around when they had kissed, and then it had shortened itself to two weeks, right when Scarlett stopped feeling guilty. However, two weeks did not last long, and each day slipped through his fingers, even as he desperately tried to grab onto it.

One week and six days came and left. One week and five days was there and then it was gone, too. One week and four days barely came to his attention before it vanished. One week and three days were the fastest hours he'd ever known. One week and two days seemed to not even exist. One week and one day made its leave soon after, and, like pulling petals off a dandelion, Sirius soon realized that there were hardly any spare days left.

Seven days. Seven bloody days.

The day of this heartbreaking realization was a Saturday; winter break had just begun. The trains were coming on Sunday to take him back to James's as well as cart Scarlett off to Dijon, France, where she would get married, where he couldn't stop it.

So, yes, Sirius could have been much, much better.

Scarlett was silent; she had been consistently for the last couple of nights, and again, the same uneasy twinge unnerved Sirius. He looked over at her, noting how her head was bowed as if frustrated, but, determined to stray away from the topic, he also noticed how the blanket that had come to stay in the outlook was folded neatly next to Scarlett and was piling up with snow.

Sirius rolled his eyes as Scarlett started to shiver. Her stubbornness was, at times, willing to listen to common sense, but when things like this came up she was firm in fending for herself. It was enough for Sirius to sigh and shake his head; Scarlett had a tendency to be insufferable.

At Sirius's sudden sound, Scarlett removed her head from where it had been resting on her knees and turned towards him. There was no doubt whatsoever that she looked slightly less rested— though Scarlett and Sirius both were notorious for late nights and early mornings he had never seen her look so worn out. Her hair was very messy, as if she had had a rough night.

But what set off—again—the surge of concern was simply the way she looked at him. Her lips were very slightly turned downward, and her eyebrows were as well, though to someone at a distance she looked emotionless. Her eyes were widened, though it was not due to innocence, and, combined with the rings under her eyes, she looked lost. Her chocolate brown irises reflected in the scarce moon, and for an instant Sirius swore he saw something that he shouldn't have; he immediately felt intrusive.

However, it only took Scarlett a few seconds to recompose herself. She rearranged the barrette in her hair so it was slick and pulled back, and she rubbed her eyes in an attempt to get them to look less exhausted. Stretching her limbs, she returned Sirius's glance more sarcastically and evenly than he had predicted. Alternating her glance between him and the blanket, a small smirk rose on her pallid cheeks, and she put her fingers on the blanket cautiously.

"Really, Sirius?" she asked, one of the first things she'd said that night, but not wanting to ruin her mood Sirius nodded stubbornly. She shook her head with mirth. "The blanket is—it's bloody covered in snow," she pointed out. "And it's charming of you, but it's unnecessary, and if you really wanted to get me a Christmas present I would've fancied another barrette. Not a blanket."

"I took your gift," Sirius argued. "And I'm certain that I will never find a time to wear a Slytherin scarf. You should be glad I'm not burning it in effigy."

"I'm happy you like it," Scarlett said.

"In any case, you don't need a barrette," Sirius pointed out. "You need a blanket to stay warm. It's simple science."

Scarlett scoffed. "You know science?" she retorted, and she shook her head as her smirk grew. "Besides, there are plenty of other ways to stay warm. I was doing just fine five minutes ago."

Sirius smirked. "True," he agreed. "There are other ways to stay warm."

Even though snow was smacking every inch of Sirius's skin due to heavy winds he was sure that Scarlett's cheeks were as hot as summer. Muttering something incoherent under her breath, she turned away again, putting her chin on her knees once more and clenching her fingers.

Sirius internally grinned. Even though it was another example of Scarlett's tendency to ignore, it was still so attractive. Moreover, it was a challenge for Sirius.

And Sirius adored challenges.

He leaned in closer to her, his lips barely brushing her skin, and Scarlett shivered, though Sirius knew it was unrelated to the weather. He wrapped his arms around her still stiff body and allowed his lips to touch right below her jaw, and finally Scarlett succumbed, leaning into him and placing her head on his chest.

She closed her eyes for a couple of seconds peacefully, but opened them soon after, her pupils directed at the fantastically shining ring that was still on her finger. Groaning almost inaudibly, she averted her gaze towards Sirius and kissed him once more. Though it was, without a doubt, more hesitant than Sirius expected from Scarlett, it was no less pleasant, and he groaned as he remembered the ring on her finger, breaking the kiss and allowing her cheek to rest on his.

"I don't want you to get married," he confessed, frustrated. "I really, really, really don't want you to."

"That is bloody fantastic," Scarlett returned, and her breath left goosebumps on his neck. "That's bloody fantastic, Sirius, 'cause I don't want to get married, either."

Silence overcame the couple for a while; Scarlett shifted positions so that the back of her head rested again on his chest. "I really don't," she murmured, intertwining her fingers with Sirius's. "I'm seventeen. And I'm... I'm not ready. I don't want to marry Theodore... I'm afraid what's going to happen to me... or us, what's going to happen once I get married? It's a bad choice, the wrong choice... but," she said bitterly, "it's not even a choice, is it?"

"If you don't want to," Sirius said as he squeezed her hand, "well, why do you even bother, then?"

Scarlett immediately became rigid at the question; her thumb, which had been grazing Sirius's hand, froze, and he could feel her body suddenly become alert. After a few seconds of quiet, Scarlett said, "Well, I have to."

"No, you don't," Sirius said, though he knew the argument was pointless. "You really don't."

"Yes, I do," Scarlett said confidently. "Even though it seems like it would be so easy to walk away... what would my family say? What would everyone say? They all think I'm more than happy to get married. And Theodore..." she trailed off, and sighed, twirling the ring on her finger. "I don't want to marry him," she said, "but I have to. And that's the way it's always going to be.

"That's not a choice, though," she reminded him. "I am not ... choosing Theodore. It's something that has to happen. I can't change it, even though I want to... you know," she said, "that I chose you... I did not choose to get married, you see? But I chose you. I didn't have to—life would've been easier—but... I did because I couldn't imagine life any other way."

She sighed. "I'm really worried about it, you know?" she muttered. "What if... everything..."

But she trailed off, her eyebrows furrowing. "What if... you came?" she said slowly, as if the idea had just sprung upon her. "What if you came?" she said again. "Toujours pur, right? You could get away with it. You could probably get away with inviting a few of your mates. It'll be a big, plastered, happy family."

Sirius stared at her as if she was insane. "I got disowned," he said frankly.

"Yeah," Scarlett persisted, "but it would still make sense! Your brother's going! Marlene McKinnion is going, and she's been disowned too! Just... you could get away with it. I know you could."

She turned to meet his gaze, then, her eyes wide and abandoning her pride. "Please," she said quietly, and his willfulness melted away far too quickly. "for me?"

"Fine," Sirius said. "Sure. I'll go."

Wait.

What?

Sirius had not intended to say that at all. He had definitely wanted to say no to her and tell her that he would so much hate to see the thing he dreaded most happen. He wouldn't have even minded if they fought over it, because he was supposed to have remained inflexible. Stubborn, like he had always been, like he was.

What had happened to him?

He didn't know. All he had known was that as soon as she had looked at him he had been ready to do anything she had asked. It was almost as if she had hypnotized him, because in those seconds that she had looked at him Sirius hadn't had a proper grasp of who he was. He had felt smitten; there really was no better way to describe it.

Because that kind of emotion had never been felt by Sirius. Ever. He had never felt that way towards anyone. It scared him, scared him more than clowns or getting old or even death; any other fear paled. Whatever the feeling was, Sirius was more terrified of it than he'd ever been of anything else.

It was not as if it was an unpleasant feeling, but it was intoxicating. And it was consuming in a way that Sirius was not used to. In those moments that she had begged him to go the feeling had surged and, just like that, he had been absolutely hers.

Scarlett smiled at his response and thanked him, and again he felt it dizzy him. What had she done to him? What was going on? Had she enchanted him? Slipped him something? Or was she just incredibly good at being seductive?

Merlin, what was wrong with him? He had not been lying when he had told Scarlett that she was unlike any other girl he'd fancied, but he had never expected to feel something as powerful. He had expected the lust. He had expected the pleasantness that came when she held his hand. He had expected the way everything lit up when she entered any room, regardless if she was with her friends or not.

He had not expected this.

He might not have expected her, but he had adapted. He had adapted to many of the surprises she had given him, from his fancy to the first time they had kissed to her guilt to lust. He had grown used to the way he felt about her.

But this was so much. It buzzed in him still, and even though he was terrified he couldn't help but hug her closer to him simply because he liked the way it felt.

Because, in the end, he liked being close to her. He liked talking to her and he definitely liked kissing her. Though he didn't like when she was upset, he still felt a desire to console her when she was troubled. He liked laughing with her and bantering with her whenever she felt fiery. Because he liked being there for her and he liked being hers and he liked her being his.

But... did he love it?

What was more, did he love her?

]—[

 
 
 
 


Chapter 45: Cold Feet
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A/N: Is it weird that this is, like, one of my favorite chapter titles ever? I think it is really funny for some reason. Like sort of an understatement, don't you think?

The train ride was as long as it was irrelevant.

Apparation would have been quicker. Floo would have been easier. However, it was tradition, and it was tradition that had Scarlett leaning up against the window with her eyes beginning to droop into slumber. They had already left the Hogwarts train; now they were on a train that would take them from London to Dijon, a ride that currently still had five hours remaining.

Scarlett was tired of it—both traditions that she didn't like following and trains themselves— but the dominant feeling within her was one of uncertainty. The wedding was so close, so close that it was almost there, and like other instances Scarlett had avoided it as well as she could.

But, it was coming. And it was coming quickly. Every single hour was sacred now, because in just three days and fifty-three minutes Scarlett would be always and forever wed to Theodore Demetri Nott. She would not only lose her surname; she would lose her identity.

That was what she feared the most out of the whole situation. She knew that, being a pureblood socialite, that as soon as she was a wife she would automatically lose freedom. It was not as if Theodore would domineer her when they wed, but she would be expected to be obedient and quiet. She would be the housewife that her mother had become, only determined on giving her children a future that was identical.

And Scarlett didn't want that. She didn't want to turn into her mother or her aunt or her cousins or any of her family, because when it came down to it she was different. She may have been rooted into the pureblood ways since she was a little girl, but she was different now.

It was all because of Sirius, too.

It had been he that had made her reconsider the marriage, and it had been he who had made her reconsider her whole lifestyle. Why? Sirius had asked just a couple of nights ago. Why do you even bother?

And Scarlett could not think of an honest response to that. She could not explain to him frankly about why marrying Theodore wasn't a choice without revealing the tattoo on her arm. She had instead evaded the question, like always.

She huffed in self-loathing and closed her eyes. She hated dwelling on that fatal flaw, because every time she did she would recall the terrible fight that she and Tenereus had had. His words still burned through her, because she knew that time was running out. She knew that much.

But she didn't know what to do, so she did nothing.

She sighed quietly. She missed Sirius, because Sirius would know what to do. Even though he was unaware of their fight, he knew that something was wrong; he had been constantly questioning about it. If she had told him— and she had contemplated telling him— he would have known how she could've dealt with it.

But she couldn't tell him, because telling him would be impossible if she couldn't reveal the damned tattoo on her arm. Scarlett wanted to expose her secret; she had even foolishly hoped that he would notice it sometime when her wrist was exposed. She wanted him to know everything, she had internally screamed it all into his face, and yet he had not noticed. She wanted to tell him all of the secrets she had held from him, from the voice and the pain and the Dark Mark, because she trusted him. She trusted him so much, and she felt so much for him, and it terrified her, because she wasn't supposed to feel like this. She felt as if she was losing control every single time she saw the boy, and control vanished entirely when he so much as touched her.

She didn't know what she felt for Sirius, because it was not a feeling that had a name. It was mysterious—and frightening because of it—, but for some reason Scarlett seemed to relish in her fear. The feeling was not unpleasant, but it was strong. And it consumed her in a way that made her more scared than anything else but also made her feel like she wanted more of it. And the sole occasion where there had been a chance that her feelings for Sirius would be an entire country away... well, she had somehow made them come to her once more.

Scarlett could not believe she had asked Sirius to come to her wedding. She also could not believe he had said yes. The fact that Sirius had agreed without any argument was shocking, to say the least. Scarlett had become used to Sirius's inflexibility, but this?

She had really not expected this.

And, though she wanted him to be there for reassurance, she could not help but feel slightly apprehensive at his appearance at her wedding. While his real motives would be disguised by his friends (which she had encouraged him to invite) she still could not help but worry if anyone caught a trace of what they were up to.

She took a deep breath and put her hand on her forehead. She was over-thinking again.

Georgiana laughed; Scarlett opened her eyes to her bubbly Ravenclaw friend. "Why are you so tense?" she questioned, her eyes almost dancing with mirth. "Is it because your fiancé's asleep on one of the most important journeys in his life?"

Scarlett looked over at Theodore fleetingly; he had his head on the other side of their compartment, his hand still loosely intertwined with hers. He looked adorable, innocent almost, and peaceful, his face expressionless and dreaming. He looked perfect, just as he always did, and Scarlett smiled sadly, because she knew that she did not deserve him.

"No," Scarlett responded absentmindedly, turning her attention back to Georgiana. "I'm just thinking about... everything."

Georgiana grinned. "Are you ready?"

"As ready as I'll ever be."

]—[

Scarlett felt strange walking around her manor for a grand total of three reasons. Each reason not only made her uncomfortable but also incredibly nervous, and every emotion attached to the reasons was completely justified. The first reason was simple: although Scarlett and her friends had long become accustomed to how massive the manor was, it had never been in this kind of state. Everything was too clean, and nearly each piece of furniture had some kind of tinsel on it. Mistletoe was strategically placed as well, an observation that had Georgiana eager, but made Scarlett, Theodore, Bellatrix and Narcissa either sigh, smile half-heartedly, or groan.

The second reason was that Scarlett had not been in her house for ages. Her sister, Tiffany, lived in a flat in downtown London, and plenty of summers were spent with her or at Theodore's house, which had actually spawned the concept of the two marrying. Christmas and Easter breaks generally took place in Hogwarts because, frankly, Scarlett had no interest in visiting her family when Hogwarts offered so much entertainment.

It was not a surprise, then, that Scarlett felt like a stranger walking within it, just as it was not a surprise that she felt even more detached when she realized that she was supposed to be the hostess for her friends.

She could not believe that she had, long ago, lived in this house every single day. She was aware that when she was younger plenty of memories were made in this very manor; house parties and Christmas mornings had taken place right where she was standing. As she reminisced she could not feel comfortable; thinking of her past, where she had been so eager, made her feel absolute, permanent, in the position that she was in now.

She would never feel comfortable at this house again. It was not just the extended absence— after so long, the morals that this house was built upon no longer fit hers. Knowing that this was where she would tie the knot to both Theodore and her socialite future separated her further.

The third reason was, rather bluntly, that the house was empty.

At least, it seemed empty. There was no welcoming party for them when they arrived at the train station, and there wasn't one here either. The excitable voice of Tiffany did not boom from upstairs, just as the soft click of her mother's heels could not be heard in the kitchen or living room. Scarlett would have felt as if she was in the wrong place were it not for the decorations.

"Hello?" Scarlett called out, slightly hesitant, as she took another step closer to the kitchen. "Is anybody home?"

To Scarlett's immense relief, the light sound of footsteps against carpet was her response, and she smiled, pulling a strand of hair behind her ear. "Priscilla?" she asked, directed towards where she knew her sister's room was. "Priscilla, où est mère et le Tiffany?"

Priscilla's reply was in the form of silence, though Scarlett could hear as her bedroom door closed. "Êtes-vous étant difficile?" she asked, and in the corner of her eye she saw Bellatrix shift uncomfortably at the foreign language. "Ne parlant pas en tant que toujours?"

Priscilla laughed as she came into view, and the sound was so rare, so melodious, that Scarlett could not help but smile. Her long ebony hair was longer now than when Scarlett last saw her; it now reached her waist. Though Priscilla had always looked sickly, it was muted slightly by the lovely sundress that Scarlett recalled from when she was younger.

"Bonjour, ma belle soeur!" Scarlett said, and Priscilla beamed, storming down the stairs and immediately embracing her sister.

"Je vous ai manqué," Priscilla said, and her voice was hoarse from how little she spoke. That made the meaning of the words so much more, and Scarlett hugged her sister tighter, her own face glowing just as much as her sister's.

From where she stood, Bellatrix huffed and leaned towards her sister. "All I got was 'hello'," she muttered. "What the hell are they talking about?"

"She said, 'I missed you'," Theodore replied under his breath. "Obviously."

From where she stood, Narcissa raised an eyebrow. "How do you know that?"

Theodore put a hand through his hair, embarrassed. "I've been here before."

Georgiana shook her head. "Bloody hell," she stated. "You two are perfect for each other."

]—[

The wedding got closer.

It had started at weeks and then days, but now it seemed like every single hour was significant. The days before the wedding consisted mainly of preparation; every single person was put to work, even Priscilla, who was too fragile to carry anything and too young to be trusted to prepare food.

Scarlett enjoyed the work; it was a distraction from realizing that every second was leaving her. She busied herself in putting up decorations and cleaning the house, because it was the safest thing. It was her way to run away from it all.

But, regardless, the wedding got closer.

]—[

One night, when the girls were drifting off to sleep, Scarlett ran out of ways to distract herself.

"Narcissa?" she asked quietly into the darkness, but Narcissa didn't reply to indicate that she was awake.

To herself, to the darkened room, Scarlett confessed, "I'm scared."

]—[

Only one day was left.

Scarlett was alone, sitting at the kitchen table and looking outside where the others were working. She could see the aisle from where she was.

Always and forever's true meaning had come to her. After that kiss, there would be no time when she was not his.

Her mother's heels clicked against the floor. She studied her daughter for a second, and, noticing her anxiety, wrapped her arms around her, not bothering to say a word.

And, after a second, Scarlett put her hands on her mother's forearms and sighed.

But the wedding still came closer.

]—[

Ambrose Katalina was the first guest.

She came in wearing beautiful (and tight-fitting) robes, although the wedding was not until the next day. She greeted Scarlett in as amicable a manner that she could muster; her genuine friendliness was directed towards Georgiana and, surprisingly, Tiffany.

"I have a gift for you," Ambrose whispered to Scarlett as she hugged Tiffany for the umpteenth time. "Here, come into the bathroom. It's makeup."

Scarlett resisted the urge to put her hand to her face as she reluctantly trudged towards the bathroom, Georgiana, Ambrose, Narcissa, and Bellatrix plenty steps ahead of her. "Makeup?" she asked curiously, though she supposed she should have expected something like this from Ambrose. "Why?"

Ambrose grinned as she closed the door to the bathroom; it was remarkably cramped. "It's for the wedding. Especially for, but it works for all occasions, I suppose."

Scarlett sighed, defeated.

"First thing," Ambrose said, as she pulled out a small vial from a gaudy colored bag. "Amortentia."

"Amortentia?" Scarlett asked, stunned. "Are you serious?"

Ambrose smirked. "It smells so good!" she exclaimed. "And, you're one of the only people I know that can use it without an allergic reaction! Remember, in Potions?"

"Vividly," Scarlett said, contemplating what would happen if she threw the bottle in the trash. "But I don't see what good will come out of trying to play with Theo's mind—"

"Scarlett," Narcissa said, "regardless if you use Amortentia or not, I'm pretty sure that Theodore's mind will be played with anyway."

"Thank you!" Georgiana exclaimed. "It's perfect. Better than any perfume I could've thought of. Ambrose... you're a genius."

Ambrose smiled and inclined her head. "You're my inspiration, sweet," she joked, and she dug through the bag once more. "Second thing," she stated to the group, and held up a tube of lipstick. "Haudstringo. Very special— bought it especially for you. But anyway," Ambrose said, "Wear this after you're wed. Don't wear it down the aisle. Believe me."

Scarlett fingered the makeup cautiously. "Why?"

"Ha," Ambrose said sarcastically. "Georgie knows. Ask her."

"You are..." Georgiana began, but her words faded into silence, and she wove a hand through her hair. "You are... brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. And she's gonna need this too, 'cause Theodore's not really the type—"

"What does it do?" Scarlett interrupted sharply. "What are you going to do to him?"

"You'll figure out eventually," Ambrose said. "But let's just wait until the time is right."

]—[

Matt Cornfoot and his older sister, Lisa, came next.

Matt's early appearance came as a surprise, but not as a shock. Georgiana welcomed him with more than open arms, leading to a smirk by everyone and five sickles for Scarlett because of a bet won with Bellatrix.

Lisa filled in for Georgiana while she was, in simplest terms, busy. She hung more around Tiffany and Ambrose than Scarlett, Narcissa, and Bellatrix, and while she was not quite as overly-enthusiastic as Georgiana her sense of humor and empathy was appreciated by Scarlett.

"I hope your wedding works out," Lisa said casually, applying mascara. "You two seem to really rate each other, anyway." She sighed as she observed her reflection in the mirror. "I mean, you don't get that often," she said. "I married a few years ago. It was nice for a while, but I was just... not ready for the commitment."

"When did you divorce?" Scarlett asked her.

"Only a couple months ago," Lisa replied. "I'm happy about it. You shouldn't have to be held down by someone if you don't want to. Why would you want to live your life like that?"

"You tell me," said Scarlett bitterly, shaking her head as she stared at herself in the mirror. She sighed as she looked over her appearance; she did not look like someone ready to get married.

Because she was not ready to get married...

But, still, the wedding got closer, and closer...

And, then, just like that, it was there.

]—[

 
 


Chapter 46: Pachelbel's Canon
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The girl in the mirror was beautiful. 

More than beautiful, really; she looked stunning, as if she were an angel. Her hair was long, now past her shoulders, and it was made into coffee-colored ringlets, some framing her face and some falling down her back. Her skin was pale, but it seemed to glow, and on her cheeks there was a light pink blush which prevented her from looking unhealthy. Her bright auburn eyes were surrounded by makeup, mostly done by charms, but it made her eyes look wide and piercing. Her nails were properly filed and clipped, a crimson polish on them, and she touched nothing in fear of smudging them and making the girl in the mirror less than perfect.

Because that's what she looked like. Perfect in her dress, which was a shade of tan, but was covered with embroiders of red roses, shimmering in the light. Perfect in the way she stood, taller in her appropriately colored heels, and without any slouching whatsoever, because slouching made the girl's flawlessness look sloppy. Perfect in every single way. She looked perfect.

The truth of the matter was, though, that despite how flawless Scarlett looked in the mirror, how perfect her appearance was, she was anything but.

Georgiana beamed up at Scarlett from where she was as she made the final adjustments to the dress. "You look amazing," she complimented, and Scarlett smiled, though there were knots in her stomach. "I'm happy you went for the Amortentia. Everything is perfect now."

"Except..." Georgiana wrinkled her nose. "That music. I don't like it."

Scarlett smiled, though now it was intended to distract her. "I like muggle music," she defended. "My sister listens to it; why can't you? I thought you liked following in her footsteps."

"The only footsteps I follow in are my own, thank you," Georgiana said. "It's just distracting. And whiny."

"If you say so," Scarlett muttered, and Georgiana smirked, shaking her head and looking over Scarlett's whole appearance. "Everyone's out there?" Scarlett asked suddenly, looking away from Georgiana and again to the reflection in the mirror. "Everybody? Waiting for me?"

"Yeah," Georgiana said. "A lot of people came." Her face soured suddenly, though she hid it by looking down and adjusting the bottom of Scarlett's dress. "Black came."

Scarlett swallowed and hoped she looked impassive. "Did he really."

Georgiana clamped her eyes shut in disgust. "Ugh," she groaned. "I told him to get the hell out. He and his friends wouldn't listen. They thought I was being funny."

"Are they going to stay?" Scarlett asked, attempting to be casual. "I don't want a fight to start out, you know."

"Oh, I wouldn't worry about them pranking you or something," said Georgiana, misunderstanding. "I know why they're here. They're not looking to hurt you."

"What then?" Scarlett asked confusedly.

"Open bar," Georgiana elaborated. "I wouldn't worry about it."

Her eyebrows furrowed suddenly. "Why are you worrying about it?" she wondered. "Look at you. You're wearing your wedding dress, ready to walk down the aisle and marry my brother and have me as your bridesmaid. Don't worry about Sirius Black, okay?"

But Scarlett couldn't not.

In fact, Sirius was mostly what she was worrying about right now. She still could not stomach that he was here, because now that she really thought about it why should he be subjected to this? Scarlett didn't want to be subjected to it, herself-- how could she imagine how Sirius felt?

She sighed, but Georgiana did not notice. "We're almost ready," Georgiana said. "Your dad is giving you away. The bridesmaids, besides me, are all ready. Everything is ready. Everyone is waiting."

"When you hear the wedding march," Georgiana instructed, "go outside, out the back. Your dad will be waiting for you. You'll walk down the stairs... and, then... you'll get married."

Georgiana suddenly smiled. "It's perfect, you know?" she said. "Absolutely perfect. I want my wedding to be here. So beautiful. The scenery... the only thing that it needs is you. Are you ready?"

Scarlett gulped. "As ready as ever," she repeated from earlier, and for a second she could have sworn Georgiana gave her an odd look.

"I have to go," Georgiana said. "I have to get in line, but remember-- wedding march and then you go."

Georgiana's sentence trailed off as she left the room, and Scarlett was left alone, her muggle music still playing in the background. Her fingers shaking, she flicked her wand and turned it off; she was left with silence.

Marriage. So close-- so unbearably close. There was no getting out of it anymore. Even though Tenereus had warned her not to make this mistake, to choose between Sirius and Theodore, she couldn't. She couldn't stand being without Sirius, who didn't need to know her history to know her soul, who she fancied so strongly that it was almost as if she loved him, but she couldn't be without Theodore, who was her friend for years, who was her security blanket, her rock, her partner in society.

And, because she couldn't make a choice, she was left with a beautiful wedding dress, ready to walk down the aisle, as the boy she wanted to be with watched.

Now, she was left with chaos. She could feel that coming closer, too.

Suddenly, she could hear the piano play from outside, and she took a deep, shuddering breath as she stared at herself. It was time for her to face what she had ignored for so long. It was time to fake a smile, retain some composure, and become an integrated member of the society that she didn't feel like she fit into anymore.

She took one last look at the girl in the mirror as she left the room to face her fate, and she could not help but loathe her.

]—[

The first thing that Scarlett saw as she walked down the aisle was Theodore.

There was no doubt in her mind that he looked stunning. His appearance was just as heavily influenced by Georgiana's perfectionism, and it had paid off in the end. He wore simple, elegant robes that contrasted with the snow on the ground; Scarlett could see why she had been physically attracted to him in the first place. His hair was carefully arranged, just as much as hers, parted slightly to the side and looking professionally done.

And his eyes: they looked at her so passionately, so lovingly, that Scarlett felt her stomach clench. Everyone in the audience, including Scarlett, could see just how much he adored her. Everybody could see that Theodore was hopelessly in love with her, and the thought made Scarlett feel so, so guilty, because she had not done the right thing. She had allowed someone so trusting, someone so flawless, to fall in love with her.

She knew that she did not deserve him; she had realized this too late.

Theodore looked at her without any suspicion, without any worry, because she had never given Theodore any reason to worry about her faithfulness. From the beginning she had lied to him. She had always made him believe that they loved each other equally. He looked like he trusted her, looked like he believed she was the most important person in the world. Guilt bit at her bones, twisting into her bloodstream, and if Scarlett hadn't been so concentrated on making everything perfect for Theodore to try and erase her wrongs she would have winced.

The second thing she saw was Sirius.

He was somewhere nearby the back, so she saw him just as she passed. He was only accompanied with Peter and Remus; she assumed that James and Lily were enjoying Christmas Eve together. He, too, looked attractive, though it was in a rugged sort of way. His long hair looked slightly haphazard, like he had woven his hand through it many, many times.

And his eyes... his eyes met hers for one second and her breath escaped her. It was a miracle that she kept moving down the aisle, because Sirius's eyes were so haunting that she couldn't bother to think about her footsteps.

His eyes were furious and depressed. They were lustful and jealous and loving and hating, all at once. He would have looked expressionless to anyone else but her, because she knew Sirius. She could feel his fury and his depression and his lust and jealousy all hit her because she cared so much for the boy. She could feel how he felt, and her guilt almost made her stumble, because, oh God, Sirius looked like he loved her and he trusted her, too.

And she did not deserve that, either. She did not deserve any of this. She did not deserve either of them. She didn't deserve anything but the very worst.

Somehow she kept moving. Somehow she walked towards Theodore, because embedded in her mind she knew that this was what had to be. However, even though she finally arrived next to Theodore and managed to control her trembling hands, she still saw Sirius's eyes burned in her mind.

"Ladies and gentlemen," the priest spoke. "We are gathered here today to celebrate the union of two faithful souls..."

Scarlett could have scoffed if she felt more ironic, but at the moment she was terrified.

How could she be so stupid to allow this to happen? How could she have not stopped this before? Why hadn't she just told Theodore she was sorry? Everything would have been fixed. She could have been with Sirius, and, although she would have been at first met with distaste by her friends, they would understand in time.

But now she was caught. One hand was reaching to Sirius and the other was reaching to Theodore, and they were becoming farther and farther apart. She was torn and caught and so bloody stupid. So stupid and ignorant.

Sirius had been right. She did run away from her problems. She had known this, but, coward that she was, had not pursued the thought. Her curiosity had grown, her impulse had grown-- but, in a moment that required decision, she had shied away. She had pretended that a balance could exist between two things that could not mesh, would never mesh--

And here she was.

"Do you, Theodore Demetri, take Scarlett Alysha to be the one true love of your life, to live together in the covenant of marriage, to be faithful to her and to place her needs above your own, as long as you both shall live?"

She loved Theodore. She really did. But she did not love him in this way. If she had had more sense, this wedding would not be happening.

But Scarlett had been senseless.

"Of course," Theodore said quietly.

How could she hurt him?

"And do you, Scarlett Alysha, take Theodore Demetri to be the one true love of your life, to live together in the covenant of marriage, to be faithful to him and to place his needs above your own, as long as you both shall live?"

She could have sworn she heard Sirius catch his breath, but perhaps it was her imagination. Maybe it was her own breath that was suddenly gone, because if she said yes then she would be lying again. She would be lying to Theodore so expertly and so smoothly and, what was worse, he didn't suspect her at all.

She was not faithful. He was not the one true love of her life, and she sure as hell didn't place his needs above her own.

Regardless, though, she straightened her posture and looked Theodore in the eye, though it hurt her to do so. "I will," she murmured, just as quietly.

As the priest spoke again, asking them to exchange their vows, Scarlett felt sick.

Because she... she could feel in her heart that she loved Sirius. And she couldn't believe she had asked him to come to her wedding when she should have been aware how much it pained him. His pain pained her.

She was so selfish. So terrible.

"Scarlett, please hold Theodore's hands in yours, so that you may see the gift they are to you."

She obliged, though she was more focused on steadying her hands.

"These are the hands, young and strong and vibrant with love, that hold yours on your wedding day, as he promises to love you and commit to you all the days of his life."

Why would she do this to him? Why, why? How could she have ever believed that everything would work out in the end?

"These are the hands that will passionately love you and cherish you through the years, for a lifetime of happiness."

A lifetime of guilt. A lifetime of constantly wronging Theodore and constantly wronging Sirius.

"These are the hands that will tenderly lift your chin and brush your cheek as they raise your face to look into his eyes-- eyes filled fully with his overwhelming love for you."

They both loved her... so, so much. And she loved them both back, but it was an unfair love, where there was more take than give in her case. It was unfair because Sirius could never have her and Theodore would never have her.

He slipped a ring onto her finger then, and it was more beautiful than the ring he had given her in the forest.

Her head was spinning as she slipped one onto his and mumbled the words that were supposed to be so heartfelt. How could she have avoided this? Why did she want to avoid when the inevitable collision hurt far, far worse?

"Theodore and Scarlett, now that you have heard and spoken these words of love and marriage, now that you have expressed your love in declaring your vows to one another, and now that you have celebrated your union by giving each other these beautiful rings, it is with great joy that I declare you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride, and I present to you all Mr. and Mrs. Nott!"

Shuddering. Her heart beat at an irregular pace and she hardly mustered the energy to stand. She felt as if time was done, gone, and she was left with nothing. Emptiness, so unlike the fullness of love she was sure Theodore had, fell down upon her, and more than anything she wanted to run away.

But she couldn't run away anymore. There was no more time to run away. There was no more time to make a choice, and by choosing nothing Scarlett was sentencing herself in unimaginable ways. No more could she run away and avoid, because it was all right in front of her. She felt like she was looking in the mirror again, the perfect girl not a reassurance anymore but a nightmare. She looked wrong. So, so wrong, because she wasn't meant to be here but she wasn't supposed to not be here. This was her fate but it didn't fit for her anymore and the perfect girl in the mirror screamed and became inhuman, imperfect, and wrong.

Theodore Nott kissed Scarlett Devous then and the reflection cracked and the hourglass was empty and everything was gone, all gone, because at that moment Scarlett realized how terrible of a mistake she had made and how terrible the consequences were that resided now in her future.

]—[








 
 
 
 


Chapter 47: Two to Tango
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A/N: Fun fact: if you listen to "run this town" there is DEFINITELY the sound of a duck quacking in the background. What, don't believe me? Listen to it. Man, I really hope you guys think I'm funny. I guess you didn't come to this story for humor, it IS "horror" (:-O) but whatever. I do it for the lolz.

Sirius had always believed that he hated Severus Snape. After all, the boy gave him endless reasons to be hated; he was slimy and rude and untrustworthy. Even the way the boy held himself irked Sirius and had irked Sirius for years upon years. The entire history of Snape and Sirius's relationship was long and consistently unpleasant, and even thinking about the boy now made Sirius grimace.

Sirius had always believed that he hated Snape. He had always assumed that the dislike for the Slytherin was as strong as dislike could get, and that had been his assumption since the moment he had seen the greasy-haired boy on the train to Hogwarts. Snape had given him no reason to enjoy his presence; this had been completely acceptable because Sirius had not wanted to get close to the Slytherin at all.

He had always assumed that that was as bad as it could get.

And even though Sirius felt nothing that wanted him to bond with Severus Snape, he did abruptly, angrily, and painfully realize that he did not hate Snape at all. Maybe what he felt for Snape was just annoyance or a House rivalry that was stretched to, at most, slight dislike.

But Sirius could not imagine hating anyone else, not even Snape, after he saw Theodore Nott kiss Scarlett Devous.

It was such an irrational hatred, the kind that could have only been spawned by jealousy. Theodore and Sirius did not have the same foundation of dislike that Sirius and Snape had. There were hardly any bad qualities about Theodore; he was, quite possibly, the nicest Slytherin in the House. Technically, the two should have at least been acquaintances.

But when something—or someone—like Scarlett entered the equation everything changed. His view on Slytherins was not wholly lost, but it had softened significantly since he had begun to fancy her.

Even with a softening towards Slytherins, the logic between the could-have-been friendship—or at least acquaintanceship—of Sirius and Theodore completely nullified. In fact, the appearance of Scarlett made it impossible; the prejudices which had before existed between Sirius and Theodore morphed into something sour. Not rivalry exactly; rivalry seemed too superficial a way to describe it. Jealousy didn't quite fit, either.

It was just... hate. Annoying and irritating, ugly and poisonous, it mixed with Sirius's blood like alcohol, though his vision didn't blur in the same way. Instead, his eyes were immediately drawn to the most insignificant of things, like just how annoying it was when Theodore suddenly grabbed Scarlett's hand as if he owned her.

And that brought thoughts about the entire ceremony and how he didn't seem to fit with her at all and it riled Sirius up again and again. He was constantly on edge as the reception began, because as soon as he was sure the hate was subdued another thing was brought to his attention and the cycle started again.

The reception had been going on for at least fifteen minutes, and nothing had really begun; most of the guests were congratulating the happy couple. In fact, besides a few children and seniors that found the task daunting, the only people that were not crowded around the two were the Marauders with the exception of James, who was spending Christmas Eve with Lily.

Sirius really was not enjoying himself, though he supposed he should have expected it to be this bad. He still was not really sure why he was here and why he had agreed to come, but he felt that it would have been rude (although much more pleasant) if he had backed out of his promise.

But Sirius wasn't really that kind of person. Now he wished that he was.

Fortunately, it was at that moment that Sirius and Scarlett subtly caught each other's eye, and immediately after Sirius stood up. "Hold on," he said to Peter and Remus, who were anxious for food, alcohol, or both. "I'll be back."

A few seconds later, Scarlett gently touched Theodore's shoulder. "I'll be right back," she said, and pecked him lightly on the cheek. "Promise."

They met inside of the house, Scarlett taking longer than Sirius to extract herself from the crowds. When she finally caught up, though, she did not make any indication that she knew him, her eyes slyly looking for any pureblood socialites as she said icily, "Black."

They had established this back when he had agreed to come to the wedding. Under no circumstance, she had said, would they act as if they were more than enemies in a public place. It was simple, and logical, and Sirius knew she was doing it, but he could not help but be angry anyway because there was really nothing to be happy about.

So, channeling all of his hatred from Theodore, Sirius bit out, "Devous."

Simultaneously, though it was barely noticeable, they winced; they had only just realized that the surname was useless.

"Are you leaving now?" Scarlett asked, and the question was genuine though it came out harshly. "Or are you staying awhile to steal a couple of drinks off of us?"

Sirius scowled at the idea of staying later as well as the knowledge that he couldn't leave without getting drinks unless he wanted to arouse suspicion in Peter and Remus. "Don't worry about it," he dismissed, walking at a more heated pace as he reached a closet that held coats and robes.

Scarlett rolled her eyes and turned back once again to look out for anyone. "It's my wedding," she said, and the words almost made Sirius cringe. "I can worry about whatever I damn well please."

Sirius opened the closet and stepped in with some difficulty. "Still a bitch," Sirius insulted, and Scarlett glared, turning her back for the last time to check the hallways.

"Still a bastard," Scarlett snapped, satisfied with the hallway's vacancy as she moved into the closet next to him and shut the door.

"Muffliato," Scarlett whispered, pointing her wand at the door. "And, uh, obfirmo."

Stashing her wand back in her purse and throwing the purse to the corner of the closet, Scarlett sighed deeply and leaned against the wall. "Damn," she said bluntly. "Damn it, damn it, damn it."

Sirius had always thought that he and Scarlett meeting in a closet was a bad, bad idea. It was cramped, and even more so due to the coats, and they were only inches apart. It was also dark and humid and small, so small that Sirius almost brushed against Scarlett's body—

It was also to be recognized that Sirius was on edge and Scarlett was too beautiful for her own good. Sirius's hatred and jealousy morphed into something else as he watched her weave a hand through her hair, and desperately he did not want to be dissatisfied any longer, because damn it was this night going to suck and he really couldn't be blamed for wanting Scarlett then when she was so close to going into bloody Theodore's arms instead of his own—

"I can't," Scarlett said as if she had read his mind, or perhaps they were just thinking the same thing, for her breaths seemed to be shallow as she looked at him. "I... just, Sirius—"

She cut herself off, though, breathing deeply, and Sirius inhaled too, feeling outrageously wronged as the seductive scent of what could only be Amortentia spread throughout the closed room. "I'm sorry about that," she said. "It's, um, Ambrose.

"And I'm sorry," Scarlett said, closing her eyes. "About everything. I can't believe I asked you to come."

"I can't believe I said yes," Sirius retorted. "I can't believe I thought for one second that this was a good idea."

"I know," she confessed. "It was stupid of me to ask, but, Sirius..." she shook her head. "It's not easy for me either."

Sirius rolled his eyes. "Of course," he said sarcastically. "Pull this off again, yeah? Talk about how everything is always just your problem or Theo's problem, because that's all there is, right? I'm just to the side, you don't give a shit if you hurt me because I'm the one that's secret. Is that right?"

"Sirius—ugh—I made a mistake, okay?" Scarlett admitted. "I've made so many mistakes and I shouldn't be with Theodore, and I know that, but hell, Sirius, I don't know what to do! I can't get out of it anymore because I'm married and I'm not going to do things like this anymore because—I'm just so stupid, and I have been forever and why would I invite you to my wedding, for Merlin's fucking sake? What is wrong with me?"

"Great job!" Sirius yelled. "Great job for figuring it out now! Congrats on inviting me to your bloody wedding so I can watch you get married and just think about how many drinks I'm going to need to get it out of my head! Because hell, if I don't, I'm going to have to watch that asshole grab your hand or tell you a fucking joke like you're together! And, really, that bastard touching you is the last thing I'd want to see!"

"I'm sorry!" Scarlett screamed.

And then it was unsure if it was Sirius or Scarlett that started the kiss but there was no doubt that both were not looking to get away from it. Scarlett's past rule forgotten, coats fell to the floor as his hands roamed her body and her hands roamed his and it was so, so wrong, to be kissing at her wedding, but it was so, so right, because they were in love with each other and stupid because of it.

Scarlett broke off the kiss first, seemingly in defeat. "I'll talk to him," she promised, her eyes closed and her breathing erratic.

"When?" Sirius asked impatiently.

"As soon as I can," she said. "I promise."

Suddenly, from outside of the compact closet, Sirius could hear the click of heels.

"Scarlett?" Georgiana yelled, and he could hear a door open as Georgiana searched. Scarlett's eyes widened, and she turned away from Sirius and leaned closer to the door. "Scarlett, where the bloody hell are you? You're supposed to be dancing in fifteen minutes!"

"Shit," Scarlett muttered under her breath. She kissed Sirius one last time, though it ended far too soon for his liking, and she lifted the lock and silence enchantments. She held up five fingers and mouthed wait as her other hand turned the doorknob.

"Sorry, Georgie, I was—ah—thinking," Scarlett lied, squeezing Sirius's hand one last time before she exited the closet. "Think I could sneak in a quick drink before dancing?"

Sirius leaned back on the closet's wall as he heard Scarlett and Georgiana leave the hallway. He could have used a drink then too, but more than anything he really wanted Scarlett and, more specifically, her to break it off with Theodore.

Because Sirius was just so, so, so on edge, and hell if she didn't soon then she was going to end up driving him crazy.

]—[

Sirius was drunk.

Not smashed, because he wouldn't have been able to walk three steps without stumbling, and not tipsy, because there was no way Sirius had that much of a hold on how much alcohol he drank. Drunk was really the only adjective to describe it; however, as each drink in his hand emptied he leaned farther and farther away from sobriety.

Remus stood next to him on his right, and the two leaned against the house wall, the open bar being conveniently close. Remus had been nearly attached to Sirius for the entire ceremony, and Sirius was pretty sure he knew why, recalling right when he had come back from being with Scarlett.

"Please tell me," Peter insisted again, as the group trudged through the snow, "why the hell we are here, again."

"Sacred place, Pete," Remus chided. "But, uh, I agree. Sirius, why are we here?"

Sirius rolled his eyes. Remus and Peter had been asking questions the entire service, and, while it was a more-than-welcome distraction, it was also incredibly annoying. Even though he knew that if he were in Remus or Peter's place he would be asking the same questions, he did not want to hear it now.

He really did not want to hear it now.

So he huffed, stopping abruptly and nearly making the two boys knock into him. "Because," he explained, "James is with Lily Christmas Eve, and I don't want to go to the Potter's house alone. Their cat annoys the hell out of me."

"Please," Peter scoffed. "you love the Potter's house, James or not."

"And you love that cat," Remus added. "Remember that time you chased it around at two in the morning—"

"You woke up the Joneses—"

"And they threatened to call the police—"

"Free bar," Sirius interrupted, frustrated.

"Works for me," Peter said.

Remus, however, didn't accept his excuse as quickly. "Really, Sirius?" Remus asked, giving him a flat look.

Sirius rolled his eyes again and walked more quickly. "Really," he assured them. "Now, let's go get plastered."

Remus's suspicion had not worn away, even though he was only about two drinks behind Sirius. Peter, on the other hand, had not really questioned Sirius's paper-thin excuse, and was now actually next to a surprisingly attractive though likely intoxicated girl on the dance floor.

And, right next to them, Theodore and Scarlett were swaying, Scarlett's head turned away from Sirius in a gesture that had him annoyed at her cowardice. He took another gulp of Firewhiskey, spinning the bottle cap in his hand and ignoring the wave of dizziness only large amounts of alcohol could cause as another song started up.

Sirius watched as the couples backed to the edges of the dance floor, and his gaze darkened as he recognized the song as a tango. He had already been subjected to seeing Theodore and Scarlett dance the same way he had danced with her in the forest, though when the new husband and wife danced it was much more fluid and much more professional.

Logically, rationally, it was perfect.

But Sirius hated it anyway.

Remus watched him blearily as he, too, took a swig of his drink. "I know you fancy her," he said, and even though he was drunk Sirius could still hear the annoying authoritative tone in his voice. "I know that you don't want to say anything but, Sirius, I know and I've known since October."

The sharp violins began to play, and Scarlett and Theodore started to tango, looking as if they had done it for years. Sirius averted his eyes from Remus and the couple both and said, "I don't know what you're talking about."

The instrumentals continued on as Remus accused, "You know exactly what I'm talking about."

Sirius looked at the couple again, and his grasp on his drink tightened when he saw the way Theodore looked at her. Jealousy and anger seeped into his words, uncontrollable, as he said bitterly, "I don't think you should be talking, Moony."

"What?" Remus asked, sounding annoyed but transparent.

"Georgiana." Sirius said it flatly as he sought her in the crowds. She looked beautiful, there was no doubt about that, but it was more noticed by Sirius that her arms were wrapped around Matthew Cornfoot. "You fancy her, don't tell me you don't."

"Yeah, so?" Remus said, sounding surprisingly bored with the information, though Sirius supposed it was the alcohol talking. "Don't change the subject. Scarlett, do you fancy her?"

"I don't want to talk about who I fancy," Sirius evaded, and he glared at the couple again. "I don't even fancy anyone, I don't see why you and James—"

Remus scoffed. "Don't lie, Sirius, I know why we came. I know who you go with every single night. I know why you don't want to talk about it, either. But you'd better."

"I don't fancy Scarlett," Sirius denied, though the expression on his face contradicted his words. "I don't bloody fancy anybody, all right?"

Remus glared as he finished his drink. "Fuck you."

Sirius shook his head at Remus. "You're acting drunk," he said angrily. "I'm sorry if what I'm telling you isn't what you want to hear."

Remus huffed indignantly, looking irritated. "This isn't going to change anything, you know! You can keep lying to me, keep lying to James, keep lying to Peter—hell, you can keep lying to yourself. But you're just digging yourself into a damn hole every single time you try and tell yourself that you don't fancy her too much, that you're above it all. And the moment you realize anything otherwise you're going to be in too deep!"

"Oh, fuck you," Sirius said, too drunk and too pissed and still too jealous to think of anything more substantial to say.

He did not love Scarlett, he was pretty sure. Yeah, there had been times when he had wondered, but he could not love her. She was a Slytherin; fundamentally something had to be separating them from love. He fancied her, yes. He loved the way she looked, and he loved her sense of humor. And maybe he did care about her too much.

But love?

He didn't think so. He was pretty sure that he didn't.

But he was not entirely sure. And, his drunkenness admitted, he did feel something for her that was much more than a shallow fancy.

Was it love? He had wondered the night before she had left for the wedding. He hadn't stopped thinking of her since.

Yet this was not enough damning evidence. Sirius took another gulp of his drink and turned away from the couple in disgust, refusing to answer the question; all the while the hole he was digging became a little bit deeper.

]—[

 
 
 
 


Chapter 48: Drowning
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A/N: Can I be honest with you all? This is one of my least favorite chapters. It's well written by my standards but it makes me really angry. Scarlett makes a lot of mistakes in this story and for many of them I feel she can be excused. This one not so much. Samesies with Theodore. I guess that I set up the parallel in this chapter to a recurring theme in this story, but I don't know. I love all of the characters that I have literally spent years analyzing and breaking down, but this is the lowest point in my opinion for Scarlett. Has to be done though my friends, has to be done. After all of this hype, I hope you like this chapter!!! To err is human I guess

]---[

Scarlett was drunk.

Not smashed, because that would be more than a little inappropriate at her own wedding, but not tipsy either, the realizations of her mistakes weighing so much that the only way to lighten the burden was to drink it away. Drunk was really the only way to describe it; however, as each drink in her perfectly manicured hand emptied she leaned farther and farther away from sobriety.

Theodore had not taken advantage of the endless supply of drinks like she had. He had vaguely noticed her stress, seen the worry in her face when she looked at him, but he had written it off as post-wedding wistfulness. Any thoughts of her being melancholy for any other reason were banished by small talk and pleasantries.

She could not help but admire Theodore's coolness, even when he noticed something was wrong. It was admirable—much more composed than her sloppy drinking. How did he manage to keep himself so at distance with problems?

Did he, too, suffer from the same fatal flaw that she did? The insatiable need to run away from any sign of danger instead of confronting it? When she contemplated it, it fit Theodore; she could never recall him in a confrontation that he had started. Most of his confrontations, as with her, were caused not because they instigated it, but because the time came when everything collided and they were cornered.

They were all like that, Scarlett realized. Bellatrix, perhaps louder than the others, never had questioned what she was told by the Dark Lord. Narcissa may have stood against her sister, but when it counted, she consented to her sister's opinions, not wanting to start a brawl. Yes, there were arguments, but they had never fought about what counted. Narcissa had never approached Bellatrix and ordered her to stop disrespecting Lucius. Bellatrix had never seen the disadvantage of arranged marriage; she had never bothered to notice.

And Georgiana—the bubbly, talkative Georgiana—could not even notice Remus Lupin's affections. Scarlett had seen it as early as mid-October; how could Georgiana, known as the most observant, disregard something so important? Was it that Georgiana, too, was running away from the truth, because there was nothing good about the truth?

Scarlett shivered, very slightly, and took a sip of her drink. It was bitter—a wizard beer, Scarlett assumed—but she savored the taste, as she would rather taste the bitterness on her tongue than hear it in her thoughts. Evening was leaving and leaving hastily; many of the guests, including Sirius, had already made their leave, already uninterested in the couple.

Scarlett had heard no genuine congratulations that night. The closest thing to caring, the closest thing to sincerity, that she had heard had come from Sirius, though he did not congratulate her. He had berated her for her stupidity, something that she felt she deserved.

Regardless, knowing that the only pure emotion coming from the night was disappointment made her more frequently bring the drink to her lips. The evening had been long; speeches had been made, they had danced and eaten and conversed.

They had been married.

But, Scarlett thought, a trill up her spine, the night was not over.

If there had to be another genuine emotion in the night it was love. It was love so pure, so innocent, that it did not clean her dirty conscience the way it should have. It only made her feel worse. It only made the hole she had dug for herself worse.

And she knew how much Theodore loved her. It was not an arrogant boast; it was an unfortunate fact. She loved him, too, but not in the same way he loved her. And she was so damn aware of what he expected that it was her largest worry.

It was so close. Seconds, minutes, and then hours passed, each one hasty to go, and the sun exited her party soon after. So close... so close for the last guest to leave. So close for Georgiana to subtly wink at them as she retired. And so close, so very close, until she and Theodore would be alone, together, expecting a glorious... loving... honeymoon.

She was stupid. She knew that.

But understanding that fact did not justify that she took another gulp of the drink in her hand, savoring the dizziness that came alongside with it. It was, quite possibly, the most blatant ignorance she had ever committed, because she knew she was being ignorant. She could feel it coming down on her and compressing her, her bad decisions and terrible judgment suffocating her freedom and good sense.

So, she drank.

It was some time later—it could have been five minutes or it could've been thirty, Scarlett wasn't sure—that Georgiana approached Scarlett. The sun had finally set; the people that were still there were mingling in a way that hinted at how they were dying to leave. Narcissa, Bellatrix, Ambrose, and Lisa were not outside anymore, and, Scarlett noticed dryly, neither were their dates. Matthew Cornfoot lingered nearby, waiting for Georgiana to join him.

It seemed as if everybody was paired up with somebody else.

And, she thought with worry, so was she. And how she was.

Georgiana beamed, though her eyebrows furrowed slightly at the look on Scarlett's face. "Hey, you," she said cheekily, and Scarlett internally groaned at the thought in her head. "Congratulations, again. You know," she said offhandedly, "You're kind of like my sister now.

"Well..." Georgiana trailed off, and a devious grin appeared on her face. "Well, not entirely, 'cause that would be kind of messed up, wouldn't it?"

Scarlett shook her head and groaned. "What is it?" she snapped, a bit too irritably.

Georgiana's eyebrows furrowed more, but the action was so insignificant that it was hardly seen by Scarlett. Keeping her smile on her face, Georgiana said, "Your lipstick. I thought you might want it for, eh, tonight."

Georgiana snatched the drink out of Scarlett's hands and replaced it with the Haudstringo that Ambrose had given her. Giving Georgiana her best glare, Scarlett cautiously opened the lipstick tube and was surprised at what she saw.

It was bright, obnoxious red, not correlating with the roses embroidered on her dress, and Scarlett's eyebrows rose instantly, her distaste being replaced with skepticism. "Seriously?" she asked, and Georgiana's face looked smug. "You want me to put this on?"

"Yes," Georgiana said confidently. "C'mon. You know you want to."

Rolling her eyes and knowing full well that she didn't, Scarlett succumbed to Georgiana's persistence. She put it on delicately, and not heavily, as the red was such a gaudy color that too much would make her look like—well, Ambrose. "Are you happy now?" Scarlett said.

"Yep. You two can go up, you know," Georgiana assured. "I can tell the rest of the guests to get the hell out."

Theodore looked over at Georgiana sharply, cutting off the person he was mingling with in an uncharacteristically rude way, the person leaving in response. He gave Georgiana a look reminiscent of Scarlett's at her inflections. "Really, Georgiana?" he asked, and Georgiana shrugged, smiling.

"Yeah. You know," she added, "you two really are perfect together." Waving goodbye pleasantly, Georgiana rejoined Matthew, though Scarlett could not shake off the feeling that despite Georgiana's optimism there was a underlying warning in her last words. You two really are perfect together, Georgiana had said. And let's keep it that way.

Scarlett sighed, desperately wanting her drink again, and turned to Theodore. "Do you want to go up?" she asked, and she felt uncomfortable and out of place and just so, so wrong—

"Sure," Theodore said, and Scarlett couldn't say no as he led her inside of the house, because this was her fault. Her constant stream of mistakes, from refusing to choose between Sirius and Theodore to getting married, had all led to this moment, and there was nothing she could do about it.

This was the consequence of her actions. She would talk to Theodore tomorrow, or later, any other time.

Because, as was so characteristic of her, she was running away. She had been running away by drinking. She had been running away by not talking to Theodore immediately. And, now, she was running right into the arms of the person she was wronging.

]—[

The room was quiet.

It should've been, too. It was very expertly decorated so that it demanded silent awe; candles littered the tables, the lights were dimmed very slightly, the night did not interrupt, and the deep colors of the room brought any person into an instant relaxation. It had been planned perfectly, every detail outlined by the ones that had decorated it, but even they couldn't have known that the snow would be falling calmly, hugging the window as it slid, snowflakes littering the sky. Even they couldn't have known the calmness, the serenity, that the room had actually brought, exceeding expectations and begging for sleep.

Or something.

This was the part that the decorators should have anticipated, because the room's serenity triggered an instant nervousness. The snowflakes ordered for jitters, and the dimmed lights only hardly relaxed the couple inside of the room. The candles flickered impatiently, and their eyes darted over the candles, noting the impatience, noting the anticipation, and noting it vividly.

Maybe the room shouldn't have been quiet, then, because anybody with eyes could tell that its purpose was to be as loud as it had to be. It should've been rawer, easier, but it wasn't, because it was new. It was a new place, a new expectation, and although it had done its best to welcome the couple, the couple wasn't entirely ready.

This emotion was not shown on their faces, however. Their faces were fairly stoic, staring at each other expectantly, as if they were waiting for the other to make the first move. Both were still fancily dressed up; his hair was still neatly parted and her heels still pinched at her toes.

What was there to do? There was everything, written as plainly as possible, right in front of their faces. Both knew what to do; they simply weren't ready. Past all of their gloats and empty words, they were not ready, not ready to greet commitment, not ready to greet love, not ready to greet consequence or anything like it...

This room was not anything good. Theodore was anxious in a way that she wasn't, though she was sure that her anxiety was much worse. It was frayed with guilt, seeped with drunkenness, and Sirius's face glared at her expectantly in her mind, the same way he had looked earlier that day.

Scarlett had promised that she would talk to Theodore, and she really wanted to. More than anything, she wanted to explain to him and try to get him to understand, but Theodore would hate her. He would hate her for getting married to him without loving him the same way he did and he would hate her for loving Sirius Black. He would hate her for her untrustworthiness.

She would talk to Theodore, but she couldn't now. She couldn't bring herself to.

She was selfish, and she was stupid. When she really thought about it, there was no reason except for pure fear that kept her from speaking to him, but that was reason enough for her to not open her mouth then. She wanted to hold off the inevitable time when Theodore would loathe her, because, selfishly, she wanted to be in his good graces. He had been her closest friend throughout their years of Hogwarts and earlier, and although she didn't love him like he loved her, she did love him.

Plus, it was the consequence of her stupidity. This was the price she had to pay for marrying Theodore.

It was all of these reasons that, ever so slowly, Scarlett Devous slipped off her shawl, letting it rest on the table nearby.

So the first move was made.

She looked at him expectantly, waiting for his, and he returned her stare evenly, very sluggishly loosening his tie and placing it on the same table. She watched him do it blankly, observing his long, rough fingers, fingers that would very soon be close to her, and she shuddered under her breath.

It was not unnoticed.

Hesitantly, she then began to remove her own shoes, and instantly after he did too, both politely lining them against the wall. Both watched the other's fluid movements, every breath lined with grace, only occasionally halting to take a shallow, uneasy breath.

They were like strangers, for they didn't speak to each other, and they didn't convey any emotion that suggested they even knew each other. In fact, if anyone had walked into the room—anyone that was not observant, anyway—they would have guessed that the two were even enemies, their lack of expression being their only evidence.

But, those with observation skills would know better. They would have seen Scarlett's shudder, seen his eyes graze over her body, noted that every single movement was politely restrained and outrageously nervous. Anyone with common sense would have seen that, actually, for the nervousness filled the room like the sun, slow, steady, and beating, beating, beating...

And, it continued beating, though they did not pause in their game. She took her barrette out, and he took off his robes. She removed her earrings, and he pulled his socks off, clenching them tightly and deliberately. She unlatched her necklace, and he removed his belt. All of their belongings were left on that one table, the one table that indicated any progress, and they looked at it briefly before turning their eyes at each other, expectant, thoughtful...

As if it were a dance, as if it had been rehearsed, they both took their first steps toward the looming bed, their fingers lightly tracing over the smooth, silky patterns of the sheets before abruptly halting at the pillow. Both did not clamber onto the bed; they sleekly rested on it, their heads resting against the pillow, no part of their body venturing below the covers.

They turned to look at each other, and for one split second their blankness broke. Scarlett's eyes widened, and her breath hitched, her fingers twitching on her lap; Theodore eyed Scarlett, and then his hands, his breaths just as shallow as hers.

But, then, it was her turn.

Her hands trailed on her dress, her fingers feeling its fabric, soft and safe. They paused at the edge of her dress, and she stared at them, as if they were doing something she could not believe. She considered them for a moment, but, hesitantly, they skimmed up her leg, all the way to her thigh.

She began to pull the right leg of her stocking down, the left stocking slightly shimmying downward, the movement pulsating in the nervous atmosphere, trying to break it, breaking him out into a nervous sweat... She pulled it down to her ankle, stretching, her hair gliding on her foot, before she retracted, letting her hands fly over to her left stocking.

Theodore's eyes did not leave her body, not once, not any second. Occasionally, they alternated between her muscular, smooth legs and her concentrated face, but she always caught his gaze, observing how shallow, how unsteady, his breaths became, more and more, even as she began to pull her left stocking down, stretching, angelically... gracefully...

But, just as the stocking uncovered her knee, the dance ended. The turns became irrelevant, each careful movement became forgotten, each unsteady breath dominating the atmosphere, beating, beating, beating, smooth, cool, but hot and heavy and rough and—

Theodore interrupted her, lost the game, forgot the turns, forgot politeness, forgot etiquette, forgot it all, because it didn't mean anything. It had all become suddenly irrelevant, it had all become unimportant, meaningless, because, really, what did it all mean...

Nothing meant anything... because, when Theodore kissed her, nothing meant anything, all that meant anything was that one something, them, together, here, then, now, the rightness and the wrongness, the time, the place, now, this moment, this time, it all....

Her... him...

Hips jutted into hips, body pressed against body, on the comfortable bed, but he did not think of the bed at all, but only of her... his hands fumbled with the zipper of her dress, her fingers nervously outlined his skin... closer, and closer... so close...

His hands traveled up, down, down, everywhere, all along her back, all along her chest, and she groaned in guilt, drunkenness beginning to take her over, though she didn't want to lose her rationality...

Scarlett wanted to call out to him, to make him stop, but Theodore seemed possessed. She had never seen this much passion in him before, and she had a sneaking suspicion that whatever Ambrose had given her was the reason why. So desperately she tried to rebel, but the current of her past mistakes was growing stronger all the time...

He continued kissing her, his hands now traveling down her waist, and she cursed herself as she ran out of strength to fight. Her drunkenness and stupidity took a strong, final hold on her guilt, and she drowned in her consequence, drowned into Theodore, as the night took over and won.

]—[

 
 
 
 


Chapter 49: Hangover
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A/N: UH OH IT GETS A LITTLE STICKY HERE MY FRIENDS. READY TO FIND OUT THE REASON WHY THIS STORY IS 100/101 CHAPTERS LONG?

Theodore woke up first.

He was not fully conscious; the bed was irresistibly comfortable. He would've kept sleeping, too, if his eyes hadn't opened for that one second. As soon as he saw the woman next to him, even for just that one moment, he did not want to keep his eyes shut anymore and lose himself in his unconsciousness.

She looked like an angel; her dark brown curls spilled onto her bare back, a startling contrast to the bed. She was turned away from him, slightly retreated, and she looked delicate, pale, beautiful in a way that no other girl would be...

She looked like an angel, of course, but it was much more important that she was his. No other person would ever appreciate her the same way that he did. No other person would have laughed with her for such long periods of time; no other person would have consoled her or been consoled by her in as effective a way. There was nobody, nobody in the world, that felt for this girl the exact way that he did, because it was not something that could be duplicated.

He loved her. More than anything, he loved her. He loved the way she smiled, loved the way she moved—a shiver erupted on his back as he recalled the night before. Her beauty was unmatched, from her muscular, thin frame to the sparkle in her eye when she was excited about something.

But it was not just beauty that made him love her. She had always been there for him, always his best friend, and every memory of her was not wasted. She was perfect, from her endearing personality to the undeniable fact that she was always his. The perfect friend and, without a doubt, the perfect wife.

He recalled when he had been so embarrassed to even admit to fancy her. Had that really only been a few months ago? Had it only been that long ago that Theodore had tried to ignore something that was so obviously there? He remembered Georgiana's teasing and he remembered his own insecurities; however, both were irrelevant. Petty. Ridiculous, even.

He had been so stupid to believe that Scarlett would feel differently. He should have known that they were perfect together in every single aspect. Perfect because she could always be trusted and he knew he had no reason to ever want to lie to her. Perfect because even when she was furious she was irresistible. Perfect because they fit, fit into where they were always meant to be. Perfect like life had gone easy on him and given him a woman that loved him just as much as he loved her.

Perfect as friends. Perfect as socialites. Perfect as lovers. Perfect as husband and wife...

Theodore gently grabbed Scarlett's hand and pecked her shoulder. "I love you," he confessed, and it was true. It was the truest thing Theodore had ever said, and, feeling as if a large weight had been lifted off his shoulders, he closed his eyes, content.

And, as Theodore fell asleep, he fell asleep to the joyous thought that Scarlett loved him just as much.

]—[

Scarlett had woken up next.

Of course, she had woken up when Theodore had held her hand, which also meant that she had been awake when he had professed his love for her. To be truthful—which was a daunting task for her, really—it did not make her feel any more peaceful as she rested on the bed. On the contrary, she fidgeted, and after a few minutes of restlessness she gave up her pursuit of blissful sleep and got out of bed.

She wrapped a deep red robe around her body as she observed the weather outside. It was a furious snowstorm, the weather from the day before that had been straight out of a fairy tale nonexistent.

Sighing at the sight, she turned away from the window. Her eyes traveled to the vanity that held her and Theodore's various accessories. Though she truly did not want to see herself in the towering mirror that was attached to the table—she was sure her own face would disgust her given all the damage it had done—her eyes could not resist.

She looked hideous; there really was no other way to describe it. All of the makeup and glamours that Georgiana had done the day before were, in the makeup's case, smeary, and in the glamour's case completely gone. Her skin, radiant hours ago, was now washed out, and her hair was frizzy, the curls there looking unappealing.

She also looked hideous because her eyes looked bleak. Though it was not something that could be noticed by anyone besides herself, the bleakness was overpowering, the sparkle that had made her animated gone. What was there to be animated for once she was married? The prospect of telling Theodore? The prospect of being disdained by the Slytherins as well as Voldemort himself?

I promised, Scarlett reminded herself. I promised to no matter what. And I'm going to do it.

But the bleakness in her eyes did not look enthusiastic about following through with the vow she had given Sirius. After all, how could she be enthusiastic? Though she knew that it was for the best—maybe being with Sirius wasn't but making things right was—she could not help but not want the moment to come.

It would be the end of this balance she had assumed she'd maintained, the balance of Theodore and Sirius. Keeping a balance in the first place was selfish, she knew, but she also was aware that getting rid of the balance would be painful. It was true that she was beginning to lean away from Theodore as well as society and lean more and more on Sirius, but...

Leaving would be difficult, that was for sure.

Scarlett rubbed her eyes in an attempt to get the makeup and her depression to disappear. She needed to get away from this house, away from this bedroom, because it held nothing that made her feel well. Everything now carried a burden of a clock ticking down...

She turned away from the mirror and walked towards the door. She rested her hand on the doorknob and looked back towards Theodore. He was so peaceful, so perfect, but it was not a perfection that she deserved. Hell, she did not fit into the perfection anymore.

"I do love you," she told him, and it was true. She did not want to see Theodore unhappy.

But Scarlett knew that it was impossible to always get what you wanted, that it was impossible to please everyone. She knew that it was an inevitability, though she also knew that it was an inevitability that would be made worse due to her inability to make a decision.

It was all her fault. She knew that much.

She left the room then, desperate to get away from Theodore's trust. How unworthy was she of everything she had gotten? At every single opportunity that she had been able to make a decision she had avoided it and run away. And Tenereus had been right when he said that it would not be long before it was too late.

It was too late. There was no way to maintain the balance she had throughout December, because now everything had changed. Sirius and Theodore both were pulling her in different directions, and it was now that it was impossible to hold onto both of them.

She had to let go.

Knowing so did not make the task any more enjoyable.

Scarlett's train of thought led her to the kitchen, where she was surprised to see her sister Tiffany. Though there were only a few years between them, the contrast was astounding.

Tiffany looked... fuller; her face normally held a smile and her eyes twinkled with never-ending optimism. Although she was admittedly less muscular than Scarlett, she looked healthier and seemed to be glowing.

This was not much of a surprise to Scarlett. Tiffany had been able, somehow, to avoid the tortures of being a part of the Dark Lord's inner circle, and as a result was eternally content. Knowing that she would never have that contentedness was a disappointment that Scarlett had grappled with from the moment she had the mark imprinted on her arm.

"Hey," Tiffany greeted, the tone in her voice similar to the one Scarlett heard in Georgiana so often. "How was your wedding night?"

Scarlett combed a hand through her hair. "Fabulous," she lied. "Hey, I'm going to go take a walk, in case anybody asks, all right?"

Tiffany raised her eyebrows. "Have you seen the outside?" she asked skeptically. "I mean, it's—"

"I've seen it," Scarlett interrupted. "I just need to get out. I could use a breath of fresh air."

Tiffany shook her head. "Well, wear a heavier coat," she advised. "Oh, and, hey—" Tiffany turned to face Scarlett. "Priscilla's having one of her spells. If you could talk to her sometime it might help. She wouldn't listen to me."

"Where is she?" Scarlett asked, concerned.

"No idea," Tiffany said helplessly. "The last I saw her she was in one of the unoccupied bedrooms... I don't know which one, though. This house is a maze."

Scarlett laughed, hardly genuine, and walked towards the large glass doors that led from the kitchen to the place where she had been wed. "Oh, before I forget..." Scarlett muttered, remembering one of her curiosities, "Tiffany, do you have any idea what Haudstringo is?"

"Why?" asked Tiffany curiously.

"Ambrose."

Tiffany smiled. "I can't believe she didn't tell you," she murmured to herself. "Haudstringo, that's that lipstick you were wearing last night... I think there's some love potion or something in it... It means 'no inhibitions'. I'm sure that Ambrose has plenty, so I'm not surprised. I just can't believe she didn't tell you."

Scarlett absorbed this new information without much shock; she knew Ambrose enough that this was not unusual. "Thanks. And, um," she said as she turned the handle on the door, "I'll talk to Priscilla if I see her."

Scarlett barely saw her sister's wave, for the instant that she closed the door she was met with blizzards all around her. Of course it was chilly, though it was nothing Scarlett hadn't dealt with before. It was better—much better—than having to confront her... husband... and tell him the truth.

He deserved the truth. He deserved so much more.

She could not help but think how much easier things would be if Theodore had never fallen for her—no, if she had never been introduced into their sick society. She would be so different, wouldn't she? She would not be so attached to the others, Theodore especially, and she would be free to live her life with Sirius any way she wanted to.

This realization, so similar to the fact that she was unable to achieve utmost happiness, was different because it caught her off-guard and hurt. It stung and pinched at her skin, but what was worse was that once the pain was gone the feeling began to yearn.

Like a child without water, it yearned, and the yearning was inescapable. From the depths of her heart, it screamed for what it wanted, and the screams echoed throughout her body and made it feel empty and useless.

All she really wanted was freedom. Freedom to choose who she wanted without putting her position in her society at risk. Freedom to do what she wanted, to be with who she wanted, without worrying about what Voldemort wanted for her. No arranged marriages—no training to inevitably kill— nothing but blissful freedom and endless possibilities.

Oh, she wanted it so badly. She wanted to be like Sirius, to be outspoken and brave and unafraid to face confrontation. She wanted to be like Tiffany, who was content and optimistic. She wanted to be like Tenereus, wise, aware, and strong, capable of standing up for herself and being free.

She wanted to be those things, wished that she had something in common with them, but it was to her dismay that she did not. It was a fact that she would have to swallow, something that she would have to bear.

Scarlett sighed, hugging her arms closer to her chest as she rounded a corner of the old house. Although she could never imagine that she would ever be optimistic or outspoken—it was not who she was—there was still a chance for her to fix the flaws that she did have, to take one step closer to her freedom.

And that step would be by telling Theodore. Theodore, who she loved, but did not understand that they were now too different. He believed in his society... and, because of Sirius, Scarlett's eyes were open. She saw the wrongs like black against a white background.

She blinked her eyes suddenly as a figure appeared in the snow; ironically, it was a black blur against the white backdrop. Walking closer, she could slightly identify the black, fine hair of her sister Priscilla, sitting on the front stairs, and she took a deep breath, preparing herself.

Scarlett knew that she would have a better chance of getting through to her sister than Tiffany for the simple reason that Priscilla and Scarlett had much more in common. They were both condemned—Scarlett to the Dark Lord and Priscilla to her prophecies, ones that had actually isolated her from society so much that she nearly refused to speak altogether.

Scarlett approached her younger sister and saw that her head was bowed against the snow. She, like Scarlett, looked under the weather, the small glimpses of her skin looking pasty blue and stretched tightly over her bones. Her long hair was being fingered, hands deliberately stroking snow off of her hair as she shivered.

She walked up the steps that led to her sister. "Priscilla?" she asked, though her sister did not give an indication that she had heard Scarlett. "Priscilla," Scarlett began, sitting down on the steps with her sister, "I'm always here for you. Je suis toujours là pour vous."

Priscilla did not stir at Scarlett's words, and Scarlett's eyebrows creased. "Priscilla?"

It was almost unnoticeable, but Scarlett watched as Priscilla turned her head at snail's pace to meet Scarlett. Her long hair covered her face as she turned, and Scarlett moved closer to Priscilla, prepared to console her if the situation called for it.

And then Priscilla turned her eyes towards Scarlett and Scarlett gasped.

Her eyes, normally a dull brown, were bright red, the color of blood. Her skin's complexion made her look dead, her lips a deep purple, and the curtain of hair that surrounded her danced in the wind as if she were possessed.

Scarlett watched in shock and horror as Priscilla smiled emptily, a smile that was not hers.

"You will lose," she said, and it was in perfect English despite the fact that Priscilla had never been taught, and it was in a voice that was high-pitched and colder than the weather.

"You will lose everything."

]—[

 
 


Chapter 50: Welcome to Consequence
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A/n: ERP this is where I gotta give a shoutout to Arabella who was very inspirational in writing this. I highly recommend her story. She is a talent. ZOUNDS

The couple was back where they were just a few weeks ago.

Again, like the time before, the common room was completely vacant, allowing them to have a conversation in peace. Unfortunately, this privilege had shortcomings, the most evident being that it was way too late especially considering that school began again the next day.

Another shortcoming was that Scarlett was not even in the common room and would not be for hours. Theodore was well aware that this was not an unusual occurrence and he should not have worried about it, but he could not help himself.

After the wedding, Theodore had changed in regards to Scarlett in so many different ways. He had taken to worrying about her any moment she was away from him. He had taken to missing her more than he should have when she so much as went to get a drink of water. He had taken to reading her moods, understanding the subtext in her words, and loving her the same way a husband loved his wife.

Georgiana was worried about it, and she knew that she wasn't the only one. While Bellatrix's irritation was based on the presence of love and Narcissa spent most of her thoughts on Lucius and her own beauty it was still easy to see that both were aware and concerned about Theodore's personality change. It was too much, too fast.

What was more, Georgiana had a gut feeling that something was wrong. Throughout the winter holidays there had been something wrong with Scarlett, something that Theodore, with his love-struck eyes, was unable to see.

And Georgiana was worried. She was worried for Theodore and worried for Scarlett. She was worried for the relationship and worried for what the future held.

That was why Georgiana was with Theodore so late at such a curious time. She was worried about him and she knew that he was unaware as to what the girl had done to him.

"I have to talk to you," Georgiana said, pulling her hair back as she fidgeted. She wasn't sure how Theodore was going to see sense; she was not sure how much his marriage to Scarlett had altered. Although Theodore had, in the past, always listened to what she had to say, she had to wonder if things had really changed that much.

Theodore nodded, interested.

"I... want you to watch out," Georgiana said. "I think you're being too serious."

Theodore raised his eyebrows. "I don't know what you expect from getting married," he replied. "I honestly don't know how to take it slow whenever you're already—"

Georgiana groaned. "Theo, you know exactly what I mean," she said, annoyed. "You can't just keep telling yourself that just because you're married everything is going to work. I'm just trying to warn you—"

"Of what?" Theodore interrupted, aggravated. "Look, Georgiana, I really appreciate that you're keeping an eye out for me, but I have nothing to be concerned about. Nothing's going to go wrong."

"You don't know that," Georgiana argued. "You don't know everything, Theodore. You could be wrong. I just wanted to tell you..."

Georgiana sighed. "Scarlett has been acting odd lately," she stated. "Hasn't she?"

Theodore shrugged. "Nothing out of the ordinary. She's just been stressed out. It doesn't merit me to stay up far later than I already do."

Georgiana scoffed. "Please. You were going to wait anyway, weren't you? For her to come back?"

Theodore could not manage a truthful response.

"You see," she said. "You're being overbearing. You shouldn't have to make up for Scarlett's slack, you two should be equal. And already she's taking advantage of you."

"Just... please, watch out for her. For some reason, everything doesn't seem right. I don't know what it is."

"Maybe it's because," Theodore said calmly, though there was an edge to his voice. "there's absolutely nothing wrong. Look, Georgiana, I appreciate that you're looking out for me, but I can take care of myself. You have no reason to be concerned."

Georgiana rolled her eyes as she stretched out as much as she could on the couch. "Well, it's going to be your deathbed, not mine," she retorted.

Theodore followed Georgiana's lead and rolled his eyes. "You're being overdramatic," he stated. "I am one hundred percent confident that Scarlett is absolutely fine and you are worried about your own marriage and determined to find fault in ours. I'm telling you, Georgiana," Theodore assured as he stood up to go to his own bed, "We are fine."

Georgiana sighed. "Famous last words."

]—[

Scarlett was not fine.

If she had been shaken up after speaking to Tenereus she was now shock-still. Even as Sirius tried to console her, in ways that were either romantic and distracting or compassionate and worried, she could not be swayed, instead allowing the words that Priscilla had said to repeat in her head, a nightmare embedded into reality.

You will lose everything.

The words would have sounded stupid if they had come out of anyone else's lips in any other tone, but those words coming out of her own sister stunned Scarlett into silence. Including the malicious tone, the cold and high pitched voice that sounded exactly like Voldemort's, the perfect English, and the black eyes, Scarlett was gone.

The balance was gone. Everything was trembling beneath her, like an earthquake, and there was no reassurance that she would be standing on solid ground when it ended. She could feel Theodore's trust in her waver, feel Sirius's trust in her thin, and the balance that she had depended on for months had gone haywire because of it.

Was it really a question of Sirius or Theodore?

Or was there no question and just the solution of having nothing? Of losing everything?

Her sister had never prophesized in such a way before. Ever. She had always seen things in her mind and reported them to Scarlett, and Scarlett had handled them in that way.

But Priscilla had never lost control of her Seeing. She had never voiced a prophecy before; Scarlett was sure that the reason she rarely spoke was because she was afraid of the future coming out of her own tongue. You will lose everything, she had said, and with predictions like that Scarlett could understand why.

But she had slipped this time... Priscilla had slipped for some reason and Scarlett did not know why. She did not know what it meant and she did not know when it would come true. She did not know if she could fix it, and she did not know what to do about anything because everything was getting so mixed up—

The worst part was that Scarlett did know one thing: that it was far too late to hold off problems. There was no time left to ignore things, and she knew that if she tried the balance would only teeter more. There was never going to be another time where there was equilibrium because it was gone and never coming back.

She couldn't ignore. Ignoring would bring it closer.

All Scarlett could really do was wait. Wait for the blow to come as it inevitably would. Wait for everything to end, because that was what Priscilla had said, hadn't she? You will lose everything. There was no use to try and fight it; it was impossible to escape a prophecy and it was impossible to escape the result of months of avoidance.

So, she waited. She waited and she obsessed herself with waiting, so much so that she was rendered silent. But there was another thing that kept her silent as well, another question that remained unanswered and demanded to have a solution.

Her headache was back, but it was back in a more vigorous way than it had ever been. She could feel her head pulsating, feel the pain stretch to the tips of her toes, and what was worse was that she didn't know what why it was there. Though she had grown accustomed to an annoying twinge of a headache that never ceased she had never experienced something so unendurable.

And, because Scarlett did not know how to answer this question, did not know what to do, she did absolutely nothing. The question pleaded to be answered, as all questions eventually did for her, but she could think of no way to begin and no motivation to energize herself.

She was so damn tired... so damn tired of not choosing... so damn tired of carrying her guilt and her pain... of hearing that phrase in her head every breath she took... you will lose everything... everything...

She took a deep breath and put a hand through her hair, her fingertips groping for a spot on her head that would cease the headache, though she knew logically that such a thing didn't exist. It was illogical to be illogical, really, especially with her sister's prophecy.

It was illogical to be illogical when all there was to do was wait. Wait and try to prepare for the hit instead of ignoring. There was no quick fix and Scarlett knew that now. She knew that she had ruined everything while she had been ignoring things and this was her punishment.

She sighed again. "Sirius...," she muttered, the first words that she had said in the outlook and the first words in hours. "I'm so stupid..."

The words were childlike and vague but they were shockingly true. She was an idiot, wasn't she? She had refused to do anything and by refusing she had been stupid. Instead of being logical—the way she should've been—she had thought too much of her feelings and ran away.

And now it was here.

"What's going to happen?" Scarlett asked, though the question was not so much directed at Sirius as it was at herself. What was going to happen? Was everything going to hit her at once? Was she overreacting? Was it going to come slowly and thus painfully?

"You shouldn't worry," Sirius said, though his words did not soothe her like he intended them to. "You know what you're going to do. You just don't want to do it because you would have to instigate."

Scarlett groaned. "With us," she clarified. "What's going to happen to us?"

Sirius didn't speak for a few moments. "Nothing's going to change," he said confidently. "Nothing needs to change with you and me, Scarlett. It's just a matter of you... and Nott."

"That doesn't really work anymore, you know," said Scarlett in an attempt to distract herself. "Considering my last name's Nott also."

Sirius scowled. "Please just talk to him," he said.

"I will..." Scarlett sighed. "I will."

How was she going to do it?

I don't believe that that is the real crux of the problem, Scarlett.

Scarlett jumped at the new voice inside her head, and her heartbeat immediately quickened. Taking a breath to steady herself—both for her sake and for the sake of Sirius believing nothing was wrong—she straightened her posture and prepared to reply.

What are you talking about?

Oh, don't be naïve or ignorant. I don't have time for it anymore.

I'm not being naïve or ignorant.

Again, you are lying to me. Me. I am tired of hearing you pretend that you don't know what your own sins are. I don't understand why you haven't realized that lying to me is a very terrible mistake to make.

I'm not lying to you, I know what I did—

You know absolutely nothing.

Don't be cross, I was just—

Calling me cross? Telling me which way to act? Oh, Scarlett, the hole that you're in is not going to get any less deep with your stupidity.

Let's be honest with each other here—I know why you are afraid. You are afraid of your own sister. You are afraid of the future. And you are afraid of consequence, as you should be. And consequence will give you a good reason to be afraid of it.

You know about my sister?

Do you know what she meant, why it sounded like—

Me? Of course I do. Scarlett, you do not realize that I know everything. I know that your sister, in telling you that, helped. She saved me time where you would have bemoaned over that. But you have so much more to worry about, don't you see? You have me to worry about.

I'm not worried of you.

Excuse me?

I'm not. I know why you're angry at me. And I know what you're going to do. You might as well just do it.

Oh, how I hate you. I have never had someone talk to me in that way, because the people that are that stupid would be dead by the time the words came to them. You believe that you are prepared for what I am going to do to you, you stupid, stupid girl—

I am ready. I don't enjoy it. You are making it seem as if I'm going to enjoy your punishment, but I know that I deserve it. I know that because I haven't given you sufficient information—that's why you're mad—

There are many reasons why I despise you, Scarlett. Many. And with a little brainwork I am sure that you could know them all too.

The lack of information is an annoyance, but only that, Scarlett. Realize that I can go to any of the other Death Eaters in this school and get information through them. Realize that this, this connection, is not just for information's sake.

What are you talking about?

Oh, of course. You don't know anything, do you, you stupid girl?

But let us start at the beginning of the problem. The source of it. The one that you have lied to me about continually. Tell me that I am wrong when I say that the relationship between you and Sirius Black is not a secret. Tell me, I dare you to.

Scarlett's left hand, which was locked with Sirius's right, clenched.

How do you—

I told you. I know everything, Scarlett. I know all of your supposed secrets, some secrets that you don't even know about because of your obliviousness.

I have given you and Mr. Black much more lenience than I normally allow for myself, and my excuse was that I was distracted. I didn't try to investigate. But as soon as I heard that that boy was at your own wedding everything started to fit together. How you ignored me for months. How I heard nothing, absolutely nothing, about the progress in the outlook.

And I suppose I can think of a reason why I couldn't fully see your relationship with him, why I was unable to access any conversation that you had with the boy. You fell in love with him, didn't you? How disgusting. And what a mistake. A mistake for you... and a mistake for me, for not noticing it earlier...

But there is no time to wallow on my mistakes, Scarlett. I am here to wallow on yours. Now that your relationship with the boy is out in the open, tell me, is there anything else you would like to inform me of? Do I scare you now?

No. For both questions. I am not going to be afraid of you. I just want to get out. That's all.

It is impossible to get out of this, Scarlett. You cannot get out of the consequences of your actions. Especially when you lie and insult me once more.

I also know that you are planning to speak to your husband later tonight. I am unsurprised that it is more likely for you to procrastinate another day, that you are having doubts...

Silly girl, you cannot choose, can you? You chose the Death Eaters and you wanted to leave. You chose this blood traitor and now you are worried about somebody that you do not love?

I will never understand you. Thank Merlin for that.

I am going to talk to him tonight.

So you told yourself. But you, subconsciously, do not even know what you want, do you? So you torture yourself with each possibility until you can have neither. And believe me when I say that when your sister prophesized she did me a great favor.

For you will lose everything. There is no move that you can do that will prepare you for what will happen to you. There is nothing that you can do, nothing in your power.

Do you know what your worst act of ignorance was, Scarlett? The act that may cost your centaur friend his life?

You wouldn't kill Tenereus.

I would relish it. And I assume you do not, which is not surprising in the slightest.

So many times he tried to warn you of me. So many times even I slipped and gave you clues, but you never realized them, did you? You ignored them. You ran away.

Do you remember the night where you overslept and paid the consequences? Do you remember that day, when you ruined everything? Do you recall that, Scarlett?

I don't understand—

Shocking.

You cost me so much that one night, Scarlett. You should have known. By staying up late, by wearing your body as much as possible, you made it absolutely impossible to use.

What do you mean by use?

You know exactly what I mean.

Don't you ever realize that... whenever you talk to me... you become dizzy?

And then Scarlett could feel it like a wave of the strongest medicine, so powerful that it made her gasp. She tried to take the pieces and fit them together but she couldn't; it was like a puzzle that never seemed to connect.

I don't understand what that has to do—

And do you realize that after you talk to me you lose your consciousness for hours upon hours? Have you ever wondered why that might be?

I say that you lose your consciousness because you do not fall asleep, not really. Your soul does, but your body does not. And that is all that I need. I have my own soul, right here... but not a body. Which is why I need you.

I don't understand.

Yes, you do.

The puzzle pieces connected together.

No.

No, no, no. No.

So, don't you see? You are not just a source of information for me, Scarlett. I do not just use the lies that you tell me. I use you.

Why you? Because you are stupid. Because you are terrified of telling a secret. Because of your ability to read the stars. Your tie with the centaurs, your—so I thought— unwavering loyalty...

I suppose this makes it better, then. It does not matter whether you accept it or not.

You use me...

Yes.

For... what...?

I tried to speak to the centaurs the afternoon of November thirteenth. You see, for the past couple of months, I have been finding times to correspond with your friend Tenereus using your body so I would not have to travel to the Forbidden Forest of Hogwarts. I was trying to create an alliance for the upcoming war, don't you see? I was trying to make you useful.

But, the one day that I needed you to be pliable, you fell asleep. Because you wore out your body so much, it was impossible to penetrate, and you slept through the meeting, therefore ruining whatever ties we might have had with the centaurs. After that night, they would not listen.

Your friend will die because of it.

He tried to warn you. He told you about the consequences of being with the boy and keeping secrets from me. He is aware of the consequences. He hoped that you would pick up the same awareness.

Of course, it is too late for the both of you. He is protective of you—for some reason I do not understand—and you have made too many mistakes. Mistakes with the Black boy. Mistakes with your husband. Mistakes with lying.

So, Scarlett, your sister's words will come true. You will lose everything. You will lose more than you deemed possible. And when you say that you are not afraid of me, you have no idea what I'm capable of. There is no way that I will allow you to choose anymore.

Because don't you see what happens when you believe that there is always a choice? You become lazy and refuse to choose.

So I will choose for you. And I will choose what's right. And if you almost die because of it... well... you will never again say that you are not afraid of me.

Welcome to consequence, Scarlett.

]—[

 
 


Chapter 51: Disturbia
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She couldn't breathe.

It was as if the air had dried out. She could not feel the weather, could not see her surroundings, could not identify where Sirius was. She couldn't contemplate anything and couldn't concentrate.

And she could not breathe. Oh, she could not breathe. Asphyxiated, she struggled for air, shallow or deep or short or long but all equally desperate. She tried everything, tried to compose herself, tried to breathe...

"You know," Sirius said, though Scarlett was not sure how he could speak when there was no air, "It's your birthday today..."

How did Sirius not realize that there was nothing? Voldemort had everything. Voldemort had everything of hers, including her mind. Voldemort had it all. She was merely his possession, his toy, albeit one that had strayed for a month or two.

But how could Sirius realize that there was nothing anymore? A month or two was no difference. It was nothing. And how could a birthday be significant when she, herself, was nobody? How could it be significant when she was just a pawn, a faceless, mindless one?

We share birthdays.

She now shuddered at the voice, her stomach clenching in nausea. She didn't want to share anything with him. Ever. Especially not her mind.

"... it could be close to the New Year right now, too," he continued lightheartedly, obliviously. Scarlett could not imagine how Sirius could speak so easily when she could not even breathe.

She had no idea where he was going with his train of thought, either, and she really could not care less. Though she wanted to pay attention to Sirius, though she wanted to be just as oblivious to everything as Sirius was, she had run out of time. There was no longer anything because she no longer had anything.

All your fault.

Are you genuine that you do not know the boy's motives when even I do? When you say you know him so well, but yet I can read him better?

Get away.

You know what he wants. Of course, he is obviously not very perceptive--after all, he is a Gryffindor and therefore brainless. The fact that you two share that with each other really shows how secure your relationship is, doesn't it?

He wants to celebrate the holiday with you. He wants to kiss you and hug you and commit infidelities. Even with that ring on your finger, he wants you to sin and continue to sin. Again, I do not understand your relationship at all.

I do know that you will go through with it, though. No matter how panicked you are, you will follow through with it, and you know why?

You are frozen. Terrified. And for some reason you think that that boy will stop the inevitable.

You've done it plenty of times before. And you have dug your own grave.

You don't know that.

I do, though. And you know that I do.

I hope you accustom to my presence. You bother me as it is.

Scarlett put her hands on her neck in a gesture of stress, but before her left hand could reach the nape of her neck Sirius stole it and intertwined it with his right. "Look," Sirius said, and his voice was low, like he had given up on being lighthearted. "I know that it's been hard for you to think about. I know that it's going to be hard for you to do, but... I have a preposition for you."

Scarlett did not say anything because she still could not breathe.

"Don't think," he said, and he whispered it in her ear so that, even with everything going on, she still felt goosebumps erupt on her neck. "At least not now... just... be with me."

He kissed her cheek, and it felt so good. When he kissed her, she felt her body ignite, felt her mind whir, and it felt good. Being with Sirius felt good, and there was nothing that she wanted more than to spend forever being with him. There was nothing she wanted more than to kiss him and hug him and love him for as long as possible.

She knew that when she was unable to then she would truly lose everything, because she would lose him.

And she didn't want that to happen. Above all things, she did not want to lose Sirius. Sirius was the only person that could make her happy anymore. The only person that could make her live and feel and think independently.

It was so wrong to succumb, because Scarlett knew that that was exactly what Voldemort wanted. He had known that she would be desperate not to lose him and had known that she would love to avoid her problems one last time.

She couldn't succumb. She needed to fix it all.

But, as Sirius kissed her again, on the lips now, she wanted to forget more.

The two tangled into each other and became unrecognizable. Their hair got mussed and their clothes wrinkled and dirty. It was aggressive, more aggressive than Scarlett had ever been with Sirius, simply because it was dire. It did not want to be the last kiss exchanged between the two.

But Scarlett did not contemplate that frightening possibility. She contemplated nothing as she spent minutes over minutes with Sirius, because that was all there was. These moments, so few, were the last things she would have.

So she held on. She held onto Sirius and nothing else, including her thoughts. Voldemort faded away--he could not stand the affection--and for those moments, she was herself again and everything was fine and Theodore would understand and she didn't have a Dark Mark on her arm.

For those moments, she was free.

Sirius broke the kiss then. "Happy birthday," he murmured in her ear, and she loved it because it was so insignificant. There were no ties related to the phrase, no consequences, and she wanted to feel like nothing bad would happen.

For some reason, though, Scarlett did not continue the kiss. "Let's go inside," she urged, and Sirius stared at the strange request.

"We'd get caught," he replied, but Scarlett didn't care. She was so deliriously desperate, desperate for normalcy, that she could not care about the consequences.

So, instead, she got to her feet with Sirius and kissed him again, and the two kissed all the way back to Hogwarts.

]—[

The night was tense.

It was unexplainable, but the night was tense as Georgiana and Theodore sat on the Slytherin common room couch. The air, normally warm and comforting, was heavy and awkward, and Georgiana shifted, refusing to take her eyes off of the fire.

The feeling in her stomach had not vanished after the wedding and certainly not after they had returned to Hogwarts. Every minute that she lived with it, it grew stronger, worse, and that frightened Georgiana, because she had no way of knowing what the future held. Though she was particularly perceptive, this ability could not tell the future, and the lack of answers only made the feeling worse.

There was nothing that she could say to Theodore anymore; he was hopelessly besotted with Scarlett. Hell, Georgiana herself was great friends with Scarlett and should have been just as trustworthy, but she could not manage the feeling. For some reason, the month of December had been plagued with ill feelings on Georgiana's part regarding Scarlett, and it had altered her trust with the girl.

Why did she concern herself over Scarlett? She was not sure. Georgiana just believed that there was something wrong, because something felt wrong, and with Georgiana, feelings were important because most of them were well-placed. Rarely had she ever been wrong about a person.

She hoped she was wrong about Scarlett.

It was really less about Scarlett herself and more about Theodore. The turn in the boy's personality--the way he trusted someone so openly and fully--frightened Georgiana more than she could describe. She knew her brother so well, but she did not know this person that he had become.

And she was frightened for his sake. If her feelings were right, if Scarlett was not trustworthy, then she did not know how Theodore would react. But she was terrified of the possibilities.

She sighed, then, determined to get the thoughts out of her system. She should stop doubting their relationship just because she was afraid her own relationship with Matt would soon be over. Like Scarlett and Theodore's, Matt and hers had taken the same ominous tone, and, like Scarlett and Theodore's, she could only anxiously anticipate the future.

Theodore looked over at Georgiana, who looked more morose than she had ever looked. "Are you okay?" he asked, and he sounded concerned, real, the way Theodore always was when she wasn't in a good mood.

But even though the question sounded real, the lips it came from were not her brother's, not the person that she had grown to love years upon years. The concern was not fake, of course it wasn't. The speaker genuinely cared about her.

But it was not her brother.

It was Scarlett Devous's husband.

She cleared her throat, wanting the doubting thoughts to quit. "Do you love her?" she questioned, no urgency in her tone but wariness. "Really love her?"

Theodore did not hesitate. "Absolutely."

Georgiana watched as her brother stood from the couch that they had been occupying for hours, giving her a kiss on the cheek before he did. "Please, don't worry," he urged. "I'll be back soon with Scarlett... and you can talk to her... just, don't worry," he pleaded. "Don't worry," he said again as he walked to leave to get his wife, the wife that he loved so much that he would do anything for her...

Don't worry, he had said, but how could Georgiana not?

]—[

They kept kissing and could not stop.

In the school, there was no weather to resist their heat, and so they now were a fire of their own. Their hair was damp from the wintry scene outside, as were their clothes, but neither of these facts were thought of as the two mercilessly attacked both with their roaming hands.

They were meant to go to the Room of Requirement--where they could have secrecy--but Sirius and Scarlett did not have the willpower to do this. Both were aware of what the kiss meant, and neither wanted it to end, no matter what the risk was.

And there was risk. The risks were all there, right in front of them, waiting patiently until they opened their eyes and began to think again. This moment was one that was suspended in time, and neither wanted to toy with that suspension, afraid that any resistance would lead to the moment crashing and causing everything to end.

It was absolute insanity and chaos and havoc and a million different things at once. It was romantic and passionate and loving but it was depressed and sad and wary. The kiss ranged with adjectives, neither of them feeling a specific emotion, because they could not concentrate enough to determine what they were.

They did not think of their emotions. They only thought of the one they were with, the one that they loved so much, and that was all they needed, wasn't it? All they needed was the other, but yet they both knew that it would not be long before their needs would not be satisfied.

So the moment was tinted with sadness, but there was no time to compromise. In some unspoken way, it was their last moment, and both knew it.

Scarlett did not know what was going to happen after the moment ceased. She did not know if the hit would come immediately or lurk in the shadows for days, but she knew it would come. How she knew it would come.

It would have been quixotic of her to assume that once she broke things off with Theodore it would be all right. She knew better; the break-up, immediately after the marriage, would cause ripples of suspicion and distrust. And she knew now, with Voldemort determined to steal everything from her, they had so little hope, so little to hang onto...

She hung onto Sirius protectively because she did not want to lose him as Voldemort's punishment. She was aware of how much suffering and pain was in her future, but Sirius and the kiss were her shield from everything bad.

You cannot hide from everything, Scarlett.

Considering that I was aware you would succumb to this, you should believe me. So believe me when I say that your last moment of glory is almost finished. It will not be long now, I hope, until I will never have to deal with these sickening displays of affection again.

I cannot stand it. How lucky I am to have the assurance that it will be gone shortly.

]—[

Theodore did not like the feeling of walking alone.

He was normally accompanied with Georgiana or Scarlett most of the time, and even when the two weren't by his side he found company with plenty of other acquaintances. During the day, walking through the crowds alone wasn't pleasant, but it was merely an annoyance, just an obstacle as he was forced to maneuver the crowds single-handedly.

At night, though, it was different.

He could never appreciate Scarlett's obsession with the night because he never saw any pleasure in it. The night was logically unsafe; bad things were notorious for lurking in the convenience of the shadows, and Theodore did not like the risk of it all. Why would anyone prefer the night over the day when the day was safer... when the sun could assure that you could see everything? Why would anyone prefer the night, where uncertainty and paranoia was on every corner?

That was what Theodore felt as he walked the corridors of Hogwarts. Paranoia. He had never before gone to get Scarlett--he hadn't ever seen a need to, sure that she could handle herself--but seeing the way the night made him feel he berated himself internally for not doing it sooner.

How could Scarlett appreciate the night when the night was scary? Every night, she went to the depths of the forest, but did she know the creatures that were inside? How could she be so passionate about danger--not to be misconstrued with excitement, but danger?

He shook his head. Scarlett was crazy, because even walking in the castle made him feel frightened...

He could not help but be afraid every time he turned a corner, as if there was something waiting in the darkness...

]—[

They couldn't stop.

It would have been better if they did. Everything would have been easier.

They needed to stop.

But they wanted to continue.

]—[

Theodore's footsteps were loud in the darkness. He could hardly see, save for the dim lanterns that lined the corridors, but he could determine how close he was to where Scarlett was supposed to be.

It was almost three o' clock and Theodore could feel the late night leech onto his skin...

]—[

It was almost three.

This meant nothing, however, because they did not think.

They had not thought.

]—[

So close, and Theodore missed her so much. He did want to speak to her about Georgiana's unfound accusations, but more than anything he just wanted to be in her presence. Nothing made him feel better.

And, hopefully, it would take away from the feeling of the night. Hopefully the fact that he loved her and she loved him—

]—[

There were footsteps, loud footsteps.

But they couldn't hear as the footsteps began to run.

They had not concentrated. They had not focused. They had not done what was needed, focusing on their lust only, focusing only on the person next to them.

They had not thought, had never thought.

And as Theodore ran back to Slytherin, Sirius and Scarlett unaware, the balance which had existed between Theodore and Sirius, between Slytherin and Gryffindor, between day and night fell. They fell onto the hard ground and broke into small pieces, pieces that had no hope of being connected again...

Pieces that were completely lost.

]—[
 


Chapter 52: Apologize
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a/n: so so happy about this <3 back in business!!

]---[

 

There was only one thing on Theodore's mind as he escaped the last thing he had ever wanted to see. It was not the fact that she had found happiness somewhere else, because he would have understood and would have cared enough to let it go. It was not even the fact that it was with Sirius Black, a boy that Theodore thoroughly disliked and now hated.

It was simply that she had not thought of him.

It was impossible to tell how long she had done this behind his back, but it wasn't his concern. Time wasn't the issue. Who she was with was not the issue.

It was that she had not put him in any regard whatsoever.

It would have been so much different if she had told him herself. If she had told him, it could have worked. It wouldn't be pleasant, of course it wouldn't, because he still loved her. But they would have moved on eventually, and he supposed that he would have been able to sympathize with her, even if he thought the relationship was perfect. If she had told him... it would have been okay.

But because... because she hadn't... because he had had to see it for himself... everything was different.

She had as good as stabbed him in the back. Of course, he had fallen for it; Georgiana had been incredibly right when she said that he had been too in love with her to see it all. He had fallen for it completely, fallen head over heels, and now he was the one paying the consequences.

He felt like a fool. A stupid, stupid fool, one that had allowed himself to be completely and hopelessly manipulated and stepped over and used. He had let Scarlett use him, and, what was worse, she hadn't even given him a thought.

She didn't care about him... and she hadn't cared about him at all. Everything she had said--he could not be sure how long it had been since the affair began--had been a complete lie...

She had said that she wanted to be with him forever... she had agreed to the marriage... she had let him get in over his head, allowed him to make a fool of himself, and Theodore could not believe it.

He could not believe her.

He had defended her actions and her evasions time and time again! He had told Georgiana confidently that she had nothing to worry about, when, really, he was the one that was wrong! He had cared so much for her, given so much for her, and for what?

To see her kiss Sirius Black? To recall how she had lied to him, to reminisce about every time she had left for the outlook early and given him no reason why? Why had he given her so much when all she did was heartlessly run into Sirius's arms the moment he looked away?

How could he have allowed himself to do that, and, more importantly, how could she have allowed the same thing?

Why would she do what she had done?

These questions all had the same answer, and Theodore knew it well. He knew it well because he hated it, but could not stop thinking about it. It was the one thing that he kept coming back to, again and again, as if he had a sick fascination with the phrase.

She had not thought of him.

The thought stuck in his mind stubbornly as he reentered the Slytherin common room more tired than he had ever been in his life. It was like entering a different world when he arrived; Georgiana was calm where she had been before resting on the couch, as if everything was fine.

If only everything was fine.

She looked up at him when the door slammed shut. "Hey-- hey," she said, her tone changing from welcoming to confused. "Where's Scarlett?"

The name shot through him like a knife doused in poison, and though the initial pain of the word faded away it still stung throughout his entire body. It was so excruciating, so unbelievably painful, that all Theodore could manage to do was shake his head as he walked towards the couch.

Georgiana's curiosity turned into concern. "Theodore," she said, and the use of his full name coming from her emphasized her seriousness. "Theodore, what happened?"

Theodore turned his attention to the fire, unable to look at Georgiana's distress. "You were right," he said, the three words nearly impossible to say. Taking a deep breath, not even bothering to wait for her to ask, he choked out, "With Sirius."

Georgiana's expression changed abruptly and intensely. What was panic and distress morphed into such unexplainable anger that it was frightening, and Theodore had never seen Georgiana in such a mood.

But nothing like this had ever happened.

Immediately, she stood from the couch, striding furiously up the stairs towards the seventh year girl's dormitory. Theodore watched her leave, though before she disappeared behind the room's doors he called out to her.

"What are you planning on doing?" he asked her, feeling pathetic, and at his question Georgiana turned around, her eyes on fire.

"Theodore," she said impatiently, as if she were chiding him for not being as explosive, "I'm doing exactly what she deserves. If you're not going to yell at her, I understand, but I am not letting her get away with what she's done because you're too good to her."

With that, Georgiana slammed the door, and Theodore winced as he looked back at the fire.

She was absolutely right, again. Georgiana knew him so well that she was aware that no matter how badly Scarlett hurt him that he could not muster up the energy to yell or scream in her face. And, though she deserved that, he could not be the one that gave that to her.

He was just too tired.

He continued staring at the fire. He stared at the fire, noting every crackle and every flame as Georgiana brought Bellatrix and Narcissa from their beds and told them what had happened. He did not cease staring at the fire as they readied themselves, and did not stop as they apologized to him, though they had nothing to be sorry for.

She had everything to be sorry for, but apologizing wasn't enough. It was too late to patch things up, and that had been her own fault. If she had spoken to him, broken up with him formally, an apology would have been as comforting as the experience allowed.

But now she could not give him apologies. It was far too late to apologize.

Theodore stiffened as he heard her footsteps right behind the common room door. He heard Georgiana exhale angrily. He felt the air escape the room. He did not stop staring at the fire.

And, just like that, the door opened to let in the woman that had hurt him the most.

]—[

Her arrival set off the explosion immediately, but it was not Theodore that reacted. If anything, he had been the only one that did not react to her, but that was only because he was the only one that refused to look in her direction, instead keeping his eyes glued on the fire.

He did not want to look at her.

Georgiana had the first and most violent reaction, nearly hissing as she took slow and deliberate steps towards Scarlett. Bellatrix was next, but she did not approach the girl, instead huffing maliciously and straightening her posture in an effort to look intimidating. Even Narcissa, who was, for the most part, unconcerned with the fights in the group, narrowed her eyes at Scarlett and pursed her lips.

Scarlett was wise because she had chosen not to speak, and if she had then Theodore was not sure that he could contain himself, either. The air was static for a few moments, anxiously waiting for someone to break the shrill silence...

And, just when the tension was unbearable, Scarlett spoke.

"What--" Scarlett said in a dire attempt to sound confused, and at her voice Theodore clenched his fists. It was so easy, so very easy, to see through her tone now, because he knew better. He did not want to know better, but now he did. He wasn't blind to her anymore.

Georgiana cut her off, though, refusing to listen to what Scarlett had to say. "How dare you," she said, and it came out in a growl as she took another step to approach Scarlett. "How dare you..." she said again, and she shook her head. "I can't believe you. I can't even believe us... We've trusted you and been your friend for all these years and for what?"

Georgiana's voice raised in volume as she continued. "Just for you to go behind our backs, all of us, to be with Sirius fucking Black?! To betray every one of us, every goddamned one, to be with that blood traitor?

"And, what for?!" Georgiana yelled. "What for?! You have ruined everything, absolutely everything, just to satisfy whatever disgusting attraction you have with that Gryffindor, and, you know what's worse? We all believed you! We thought that all these years you were with us, we all believed that you were good, decent enough to not go behind our backs--"

Georgiana took a deep breath, but it was evident that she was not done. "And, how dare you do that to Theodore," she muttered mutinously. "Hurt me as many times as you want, but how dare you hurt him. Throughout the whole damn relationship, all you did was take advantage of how lenient he was with everything, with your late night escapades, with your grouchiness and your evasiveness... and he never questioned you," Georgiana said angrily, shaking her head. "He always gave you the highest regard, always defended you even when you didn't deserve it..."

"But he shouldn't be blamed, because you made us all look like damn fools. You tricked us all into believing that you were who you said you were, but you are no different than the scum Gryffindors that you associate with. No difference whatsoever."

"Georgiana--" Scarlett whispered, her voice wary, but again Georgiana interrupted her.

"I'm finished," Georgiana stated. "I'm finished with you."

Scarlett looked down at her toes, pulling a piece of hair behind her ear to regain her composure before looking towards Narcissa. "Narcissa, just, please... listen..."

But, like Georgiana, Narcissa shook her head. "You cheated on Theodore with the disgrace of our family," she said icily. "I can never forgive that."

Desperate, Scarlett turned to Bellatrix next. "Bella, just listen to me--"

"Bellatrix," she bit out. "I want nothing to do with you. You can have no possible explanation for your actions."

Scarlett took a deep, albeit shaky breath, turning towards the one person she had not spoken to since she had entered the room. "Theodore...?" she said hopelessly, begging for a chance to redeem herself, and as she directed her attention towards him the air became as heavy as it had been before, every person straightening as they thought of the couple.

Theodore desperately did not want to look away from the fire, but he had to. He was the only person that had any right to offer Scarlett a chance, and, because he wanted answers, he was going to. One chance to try and explain everything, though it would be impossible to repair the cataclysmic damage she had done.

Theodore memorized the fire and its warmth one last time before he stood, his bones worn and exhausted. "Outside," he muttered, hardly able to be heard. "On my terms."

Georgiana, Narcissa, and Bellatrix looked at him incredulously, but they had to have understood.

Because, similar to the way Scarlett was, Theodore had a tendency to not want to know things. He also had a tendency that, after a time, he needed to know them.

So it was not with a light heart that Theodore followed Scarlett outside of the Slytherin common room to reveal every single lie that she had told him. It was not with a light heart that Georgiana and the others sighed and retired to their bedroom, their mind abuzz with their friend's betrayal.

And it was not with a light heart that both Scarlett and Theodore braced themselves for what the other had to say.

]—[

It was dark outside of the Slytherin common room, which was not surprising considering the incredibly late hour and their location below the lake. However, this detail glared at them significantly, as it seemed to foreshadow the upcoming conversation, and Theodore looked at it with disdain.

He now loathed the night.

Before Scarlett had an opportunity to apologize, as he knew she would, Theodore mustered up his demands for the direction of the conversation. "I need answers. Don't cut anything out... just," Theodore sighed irritably, "tell me the truth, for once.

"How long has this been going on behind my back?" he interrogated, and Scarlett rubbed her eyes, preparing herself for the onslaught of questions.

"Sirius and I... as a couple?" she asked, and Theodore winced as she paired them together. "Or... in general?"

"Both."

Scarlett bit her lip for a second, her eyes wide and worried, and Theodore watched as in the next second the display of emotion somehow evaporated, her posture straightening and her expression becoming detached. "Sirius and I... have been seeing each other, every night, since the end of September, for Tenereus's sake. We... began our relationship... on the fifth of December... but not officially.

"I had told him that it would not be best for either of us the night following," she continued. "because I did not want to be unfaithful and knew that, considering my Dark Mark, that the relationship would never work, even if I broke off ours.

"However," she said expressionlessly, "neither he nor I were... dissuaded... and we spent a night together." They both inhaled sharply at this. "We fought again on the evident flaws of our relationship, and I agreed to mull it over... to weigh out my options.

"So, I thought it over...and I thought it could be possible...and that is what I told him... on the eighth, which was, officially, the first day of a mutual relationship."

Theodore did not know how he was going to continue questioning her. "And then?" he managed, and Scarlett looked up at him again, finally telling the unfortunate truth.

"And then Tenereus confronted me," she stated. "He told me to choose. He told me what the repercussions would be if I didn't, and as you can see, clearly I did not... do as much as I should have. I was supposed to either cease being with Sirius and continue doing what the Dark Lord assigned me, or call off the marriage, be disowned by my family and my friends, and become a member of the Order of the Phoenix.

"I couldn't choose... I couldn't bear either thought... so I tried to convince myself that it would be possible to have a balance. For a while, I did... I was able to assuage the Dark Lord's worries, maintain enough composure for the wedding, and be with Sirius.

"The balance was fine until the wedding. I ran out of time then, and I should have known it would be impossible to be in both Sirius's and your good graces. During the reception, I spoke to Sirius about it... and I promised him that I would speak to you.

"I was intending to, but I couldn't at the wedding, I couldn't bring myself to... and then... on Christmas Day, my sister prophesized that something bad would happen, and I became anxious and distant for the remainder of the break, already burdened by the inevitability that I would lose you."

"And... then..." Scarlett broke her gaze with Theodore, rubbing her temples in agony, before returning his gaze once more. "...and then nothing. I got nervous and I went to Sirius for reassurance and... you saw... and I'm sorry," she finally said, her voice breaking out of the cocoon of her monotone and becoming melancholy. "I'm so sorry. I never meant to hurt you, I never wanted it to end like this... I'm so sorry that I hurt you and Georgiana and everyone else. I never meant to..."

Theodore took a deep but uneven breath as every puzzle piece fit together. Though he wished to comment on what the prophecy entailed exactly, though he desired to ask her what Sirius had that he did not, though he wanted more explanations, more answers, he realized that he did not need them anymore. He did not need her apologies and did not need to hear her tell him the story of her affair.

There was nothing else to be said... except...

"You said you loved me," Theodore said tonelessly, and he walked away from her then, feeling everything fall on him like a cloak. He was without Scarlett, without the assurance that they had had honesty, without the comfort an apology should have given him...

But, as Theodore realized all of these things, realized how much he had lost, he did not feel a damn thing.

He couldn't.

]—[

 



Chapter 53: Heartless
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A/N: Hi everyone! I have 30 chapters still on hold to submit to HPFF. I will be updating as continuously as possible so keep reading! :) thank you guys for everything, you have no idea how happy it makes me that people are interested in this, YOU are the reason i keep writing (yes, you!!!)

Enjoy the angst!!!

]---[

 

That was all your fault, I know it. I know that most of what happened was going to eventually. I realize that much. But... there was no reason, no logical reason, to hurt him like that. None at all, yet you did it without mercy. You gave one of your most dedicated no thought...

And, what of me? Why do you want to trouble me so much?

Oh, please. Blame all of your problems, all of your mistakes, on me, why don't you?

Though I may have persuaded your weak subconscious to return to the school, I did not interfere with what transpired afterwards in any way. Your stubbornness to stay where you were, to continue being with Black despite the obvious risk of Nott coming to walk you back to the common room--he is unfortunately chivalrous--was entirely your decision.

Of course, you should know by now that the only reason you refused to move was because that was exactly what you wanted to happen. You were just too cowardly to consciously speak to Nott.

It is your fault, not mine. His pain and suffering is not on my hand but on yours, and when you say he is one of my most dedicated and I was merciless... well, how are you any different?

I am different from you.

You do not sound different.

Stop it.

You are not different; you are worse. Whereas I can fully admit that I do not care about other people's feelings and concerns, you try to put on a mask of goodness. You pretend to care, but you are really just as selfish as I...

Heartless. He thought you heartless and selfish; it was written on his face. He did not even bother with any barriers because you have already broken down everything that made him... you took away his humor...passion... took away his trust and his desire to be near any person again...

I should thank you. You have ruined him, and any doubts that he may have had about being a Death Eater are gone. What else does he have to live for?

Heartless people? People that break his spirit, though he has given them everything?

People like...you?

Stop it, stop it, stop it--

I am merely telling you the truth. Are you still too afraid to hear it?

It is not the truth.

Please. You have seen the boy just today. You have even had to be in his close proximity during classes. I know that you have seen the effect you have had on him. Even being near him puts the boy in torment.

And it was heartless of you to cheat. It was heartless and you know so.

You are trying to break me.

You are putting all responsibility on me. Own up to what you have done.

I did cheat on Theodore.

But it wasn't supposed to be--

You are so irritating. You cheated on him. That act--no matter your intentions--was heartless. Admit it.

It... was.

Finally.

Go to the outlook. Black is waiting for you.

What are you planning to do?

What are you talking about?

I don't trust you. You are going to break Sirius and I up somehow.

How?

You two are so dysfunctional that I could leave and have no effect on your relationship's destruction. Your relationship will fall apart whether or not I interfere... as you have seen with you and the Nott boy, I hardly need to make an impact. You destroy things on your own.

Go now.

An impulse, strong and overpowering, occupied Scarlett's mind then, and, just as involuntary as breathing, she took steps towards the exit of the school, the corridor she had been in conveniently close. Following Voldemort's order, it was so easy to calculate... so easy, so instinctive...

It was the most frightening thing that Scarlett had ever experienced.

You see, what it feels like?

Now... if you could just close your eyes...

NO.

STOP IT. GET OUT OF MY HEAD.

Stop that incessant complaining. This is what you should have expected. This is what your assignment is. If you cannot live up to it, then you will be punished justly.

Now, go to the outlook, and do not speak to me. I can only take so much of you.

]—[

When Scarlett stumbled into the outlook, resisting Voldemort as much as she could, Sirius was already there, looking at her somberly.

He approached her immediately, and she succumbed as soon as he hugged her, melding into his embrace the same way a small child would. Delicately, cautiously, Scarlett wrapped her arms around his neck as well, resting her head beneath his chin and closing her eyes as if the act would protect her from Voldemort... as if it would assure her that, soon enough, everything could be okay...

Sickening.

At the voice, Scarlett became rigid, and Sirius looked at her in concern at the sudden movement. "Are you all right?" he asked, and he embraced her even tighter than before, though she did not feel relaxed.

"No," she said honestly, and she broke away from the hug in an impersonal way, walking towards where she normally sat without even looking at him.

Though she didn't mean to be as cold as she was being, it was impossible to concentrate and to be happy that finally she and Sirius could be a couple instead of an affair. It was impossible with him in her head, watching over her. It was impossible for her to be anything but cold when it was impossible to trust herself to be controlled around Sirius.

It was impossible, also, to trust Voldemort to be controlled around him... she had no idea of knowing when he would strike against him, strike against the couple, and have the relationship fall to pieces in seconds.

"Come on," Sirius comforted, sitting next to her and wrapping an arm around her shoulder. "It's not that bad. It's really... it's nothing, Scarlett... I don't care," he told her. "It doesn't matter if everyone knows about us... why would it? Sure, James and Remus will get in a strop about it... but that'll end, and everything will be okay... With us, everything will be okay..."

Voldemort hissed at the Gryffindor's optimism, and Scarlett exhaled, clamping her eyes shut for a second before turning to look at Sirius. "It's not that simple, though," she said, and just like that she rejected his reassurances coolly. "There is no way I will be able to get away with it, don't you see? My family-- they'll learn about it and they'll disown me--"

Is your biggest concern your family?

Sirius shrugged. "Do what I did," he replied, determined not to be let down. "Run away. If they can't understand your decisions, then they're not worth being by."

"It's not like that with my family," Scarlett said promptly, crossing her arms.

Sirius scoffed. "Yeah, right," he said dismissively. "Every pureblood socialite family is like that. They'll go to their lavish parties and try to groom their children into being the best Death Eaters out there... they'll make them marry people they don't want to marry..." He glanced at her significantly. "Is that a family worth being with?"

Scarlett squirmed, clearly stung. "It's not like that with my family," Scarlett repeated, though sharper, and Sirius sighed.

"Wouldn't that be the easiest way, though?" he pressed, and Scarlett frowned, not in the mood to get angry at Sirius. "You would be getting away from all of your problems so damn easily! You wouldn't have to worry about the repercussions with Nott... You would be free! We could be together! What's the problem?"

"I happen to like my family," Scarlett snapped. "And, I wish you wouldn't call him that, considering that's my surname also."

Sirius rolled his eyes. "I thought you went by your maiden name," he muttered sarcastically.

Scarlett was not in the mood for Sirius's simplistic way of looking at things, and, annoyed, she bit out, "Shut up, Sirius."

Sirius raised his hands, palms facing her, in a gesture of confusion. "Why are you being so difficult tonight?" he argued, and Scarlett groaned audibly, putting her head on her knees. "All I'm trying to do is make you feel better. I'm giving you a better option to dealing with your family--running away! What is the problem?"

Breaking apart... and I haven't done anything...

"Shut up!" Scarlett yelled, more to Voldemort than to Sirius. "You want to know what my problem is, Sirius, huh?" She glared at him as her head throbbed, clearly annoyed with the argument. "It's that you don't seem to care!"

Sirius nearly gaped in astonishment. "What the hell are you talking about?" he asked in disbelief. "I've been--Merlin--I've been with you since day one! I went to your damn wedding even when you knew that I wouldn't want to, hell, I dealt with the fact that you were getting married, for Merlin's sake--"

"I'm not talking about that!" Scarlett shouted in reply. "I'm talking about Theo!"

The look Sirius gave her was the most exasperated Scarlett had ever seen. "Of course I don't care about Theo!" he retaliated. "Why would I care about Nott--"

"What do you think it would be like?" Scarlett questioned him, and before he could answer, she continued. "What do you think it would be like if you found me cheating on you? Why can't you feel any sympathy for him?"

Sirius snorted. "I can't believe you're asking for me to feel sorry for your husband."

"Don't you think it's heartless?" Scarlett asked, throwing the word in his face similarly to how Voldemort had done to her. "Heartless, just to... hurt him like that? Don't you think it's heartless?"

You are hysterical. Putting the blame on Sirius now, aren't you?

"Heartless?" Sirius laughed dryly. "No, I don't! I don't feel bad for him at all!

"Why would I feel bad for him?" Sirius carried on. "Why would I feel bad for him when he obviously doesn't feel bad for me? Why do you continually give Theodore sodding Nott all the slack in the world? Why is it that every time, every damn time, you do something with Theodore and hurt me you don't bother to even mention it, but when it's the other way around, you have the nerve to call me heartless?!

"I mean, Merlin, Theodore should be lucky that I'm even listening to all of this!" Sirius said impatiently. "So often, I've had to hear you talk about that sod, and why? Because I care about you! You carry around so much guilt for him, and I try to comfort you! But then you want me to be sorry for him?!"

You are being unreasonable--

"STOP, OKAY?" Scarlett yelled, and the noise echoed throughout the entire outlook.

"Stop yelling, Sirius! I just--I can't take it!" She stood up from where she was sitting and began to pace, her hands clutching onto her head tightly. "I don't know what the hell I'm gonna do," she confessed, her hands skimming to her face and hiding her desperation. "About everything.

"I can't run away, Sirius, I can't do that, and I can't stay here, because this is going to fall apart, I know it is! I can't take that! I don't want to get angry at you, but, Sirius..." Scarlett sighed. "Sirius, I don't know what else to do. There is no easy solution! There is nothing that you can tell me that will make me feel better, nothing you can do, because nothing can fix this!"

Scarlett combed a hand through her hair. "And, I never meant to hurt you!" she yelled, though the anger that her voice had held previously was gone. "I don't want to hurt anybody! I just want everything to be all right, but that's impossible! I can't fix any of it!"

Sirius rubbed his eyes, frustrated but concerned. "Stop worrying," he told her firmly. "And... especially... stop worrying about us."

He shook his head at her. "You make it seem like I'm going to leave," he pointed out. "And that's not true at all. I told you that I don't care about gossip and I wasn't lying.

"I'm not going to leave you just because of gossip, or your family, or Nott, or whatever comes up. You should know me better than that. You should know that there is nothing that will make me leave you because I'm not fickle."

Scarlett scoffed weakly. "Yes you are," she accused, and Sirius cracked a smile, the first one in the outlook that night. "You're a Gryffindor. You're incredibly fickle."

"Not about this, though," Sirius said definitely. "I'm not going to leave you."

Oh, this makes me sick.

If we're going to go by House, then we can just assume that whatever your Gryffindor just said is passion talking and nothing else. Passion, Nott. Passion only lasts for so long in a relationship... you have seen that yourself with your husband...

It's not just passion. The relationship is not only based on passion. Sirius has been with me... and I know that he'll stay with me. You cannot change that.

Your arrogance seems to rear its head when you are nearby Black.

I could have you strangle him right now...

Scarlett felt her hands fall from her face and contract impulsively, as if they were bracing themselves, and Scarlett blanched at the act.

Stop it.

Stop assuming that you are always correct! Stop becoming entranced by that boy's simple, foolish views, because you should know yourself that they are not true! No promise that he has made will ever change that, do you understand?!

Stop yelling-- please--

'Please'. You're begging.

Is this how it's going to be, then? You are going to be built up by what Sirius says and then get knocked down, again and again, when I demonstrate just how much power I have over you?

I have been in your head for months, Scarlett, and every time you close your eyes I get a little bit stronger. I can make you do whatever I wish. Realize that this is just entertainment. Watching you panic is very amusing as it is worthless. You have nothing to panic about. I am merely speeding things up.

"Promise me," Scarlett said over Voldemort's taunt, "promise that you'll stay with me..."

Sirius walked over to where she was and kissed her. "I promise," he said.

Enjoy this as much as you'd like...

This boy is fickle... no matter what promises he makes. He believes all he has to deal with is your family and your friends... he doesn't know that he has to deal with you, too...

What are you talking about?

What is the one thing you have not confided to Sirius?

And immediately at his question Scarlett's Dark Mark seemed to explode with pain, immobilizing her arm, and she suppressed a groan at the agony. It spread through her nerves and met her headache, and, confidently, the two burdens Voldemort had given her attacked her peace of mind.

No--no - please... don't...

When you tell him--you will tell him soon, considering how nauseous your exchange has made me--I have no doubt that he will leave you.

Because Sirius Black is fickle, do you understand? He is not prepared and never was to stay by you. You should have never put your trust in him and he should have never put his trust in you.

And, you know why, Scarlett?

Though you do not live up to Slytherin's mighty name you do share one trait with the House.

You are heartless.

]—[
 


Chapter 54: Path
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A/N: As always: thank you all so much for reading. This story has been with me for six years and to be able to share it with you is special in so many ways. I am now writing chapter 84! Sparkle in Her Eye will be 100 chapters in total, which means you guys are over halfway there :)
 

The French translation is 'I am imprisoned'.

]---[

 

Scarlett did not sleep that night.

Of course, it was easy to not sleep when her bed was as good as claimed by Georgiana, but the task became harder as the night wore on. Scarlett concentrated on her homework and finished it for the first time in ages--she stared at the fireplace, barren and cold--she even snuck out to the kitchens to get something to keep her awake.

She did not trust herself going to the outlook, and frankly, she did not want to. The prospect of being far away from people--her safety cushion--terrified her, and the mere thought of the outlook brought Voldemort out to taunt her.

He did not stay as company for most of the night, as he logically deduced that company would make her more alert as the hours began to drag. However, on those moments that she allowed her mind to drift to Theodore, Sirius, Tenereus, or panic, Voldemort would always be there to wear her down.

Would you like to go to sleep?

She groaned at the unwelcome voice.

The pillows are right there. You are sitting on the most comfortable chair in the common room. You say that you are cold, but ... if you flick your wand once towards the fire... you will be warm.

Don't you already feel exhausted?

Scarlett ground her teeth as the dizziness settled over her, though now it could be defined as something evil rather than her own fatigue, and she could muster up enough energy to deny the command to sleep. Frustrated, she stood, unable to concentrate on the comfortable chair, and reluctantly flicked her wand towards the fireplace, allowing bright crimson flames to rise from the ashes.

You see? You are succumbing slowly. You do not have the strength to hold off both your body and your mind's suggestions of sleep. It should be a matter of hours.

Scarlett's hand, which had been resting on the armrest on the common room couch, clenched.

You are fighting a losing battle. You are proving nothing and only wearing yourself out by doing so. Eventually, you will have to go to sleep, and when that happens, I will be able to possess you to tell the boy exactly who you are aligned to--

I've thought of that. And you're wrong.

Oh?

You said... that... on that night, the night I overslept...

You said that you couldn't possess me if I was tired enough.

Oh, but Scarlett, you did eventually wake up.

The excruciating pain was my possession of you. It might not seem like it, but I controlled you then. It was simply too late to regain the centaurs' good graces, which I am still annoyed over.

However, there is nothing productive about airing your grievances. Would you like me to walk you through my plan, instead? Every single action that you will commit, every movement you will make in order to destroy the only person that is in your presence anymore?

Except for me. Of course, I will always be here. Always and forever--

Scarlett flinched.

Oh, you don't take well to that phrase, do you? It reminds you of your husband. Of the life that would have been so easy for you, the life where you still had friends, still had peace of mind...

This entire experience would have been different had you been agreeable. I do not mind the attitude change; actually, I favor it. If you have become someone that needs punishment, then I will certainly not hesitate.

Here is how it will begin. You will be exhausted, obviously--do you feel like sleeping yet?--and, depending on how long you manage to stay awake, depending on how many people you get to help you stay within Hogwarts and depending on if you become so tired that your body is worthless for a few hours, I will possess you and take on your identity, which should not be hard. After all, you are only a guilt-ridden, pathetic girl who thought she could get away with rebellion.

Then, when nightfall comes, you will go to the outlook as you would normally. You will arrive before Sirius and set up wards to muffle the sound--though I doubt it will matter much. Then, when he arrives, you will show him your Mark--I want him to die knowing you were against him all along--and torture him until he cannot think another coherent thought. Afterwards, you will go to Tenereus's outlook and do the same to the horse. You may have to use a Memory Spell on the Notts and the Blacks so they think differently, but, otherwise, everyone will believe the alibi that you were sleeping soundly when the tragedy struck.

You will have their lives on your hands. You will have destroyed all of those that care about you, all of those that would bother to be in your presence. You will punish those that took you off of your path, and punish them justly. You should know all of these deaths have a purpose. They have wronged me and as a result will suffer the consequences.

Just like you.

You cannot even respond to your future, can you? That future is definite, Scarlett. Nothing will change what you will do and what you will become. Nothing can stand in my way. It is a lesson that you should have learned long ago.

It is just as I said, Scarlett Alysha... You will lose... everything.

]—[

Scarlett did not sleep another night.

The pain of doing so was unbearable, impossible to deal with, but Voldemort's words echoed through her head, a nightmare that would soon become reality. His instructions, so cold and calculating and horrifying, became a sick mantra that exemplified as time wore on, screaming at her when she was on the verge of falling asleep.

She did not speak to Voldemort again, because she did not want to hear his plans anymore. She did not want his threats, did not want his boasts, and, most of all, she did not want to be near him. He was so disturbing that it was nauseating to consider.

It did not stop Voldemort from speaking to her, however.

Go to sleep.

The impulse mixed in with Scarlett's existing fatigue.

Fine. Another day, perhaps?

The thought of staying up another day, hell, another second, was sickening, and almost more than anything she wanted to fall asleep.

More than anything she wanted Sirius and Tenereus to live.

]—[

Another night passed, and Scarlett still did not sleep.

It was becoming strange now. She saw things that were not there and heard things that did not exist. Once, she swore she had seen Sirius, and he had yelled at her for all of her stupid mistakes...

Get out of your hallucinations, girl.

It was impossible to resist the voice, except for that one command.

Go to sleep.

Her eyelids shut, but they flashed open once more.

This is torture for you, isn't it?

What is your name?

You hardly know. You can hardly see your surroundings.

Another night?

]—[

Another night passed and Scarlett did not sleep.

And then another.

It is truly a matter of time before you kill yourself. Good plan, Nott; get so tired that you die and make me worthless. Though it is likely you did not consciously think of the idea--I do not see you being quite so self-sacrificing--good try, nonetheless.

However, enough is enough. I will give you five seconds to fall asleep, and you will fall asleep by the time I am finished counting...

Five...

Four...

Please... don't...

Perfect. You have realized that you have no chance.

Three...

Don't... hurt... him...

Your begging is an abrupt change from the way you were a few days ago.

I cannot take it anymore.

Weak.

Two...

Oh, you're frozen with fear... do you have any last words?

I... hate... you...

Charming.

One.

]—[

Scarlett slept for two days following that, and, when she woke up, she was in the outlook.

Confined in her mind, she realized Sirius was not there, but noted with a jolt that there were wards around the entire area, hardly visible. Disoriented, she paid close attention to her surroundings, trying to decipher what time it was and, more importantly, how much time she had left.

You're not... going... to win...

Oh, hello.

Why are you doing this?

Punishment for your sins, Scarlett. I figured that this would trouble you the most, and, well, I was right, wasn't I? Not only will this eliminate the Black boy and the horse, once they are gone you will return to the life you are supposed to have. Everyone will think well of you... well... except for yourself.

You are going to kill tonight. How do you feel no adrenaline?

I am not killing.

You want to.

I would never kill Sirius.

Why not?

Logically, he has ruined your life. You may say that I am the cause for your terror, the cause for your guilt and your misery, but it is the boy and not I. He is the one that persuaded you to believe his views, and he is the one that persuaded you not to think of your husband. Him, not me, Scarlett. Though I look out for my best interests, this was not my plan.

I don't mind it. Do you hear his footsteps?

Scarlett struggled against the bonds she was under, but she could still hear the approaching footsteps. She struggled with everything she had, more than everything, because Sirius could not die and she could not let Voldemort kill him.

She could not let him die. She would not.

DON'T.

And, with all of the strength Scarlett could muster, with all of the drive that had caused her to stay up for five nights, she regained control of her hands and snapped her wand cleanly in half, the action as difficult as lifting hundred-pound weights.

Immediately after came a surge of pain, and, tortured, she retreated back into the depths of her own mind, as if she were a dog that had gone past an electrical fence.

Oh, this does not bode well for you.

I... will not... let you...

Stop it... don't... that hurts...

I hope so.

My wrist... you're going to break it...

You are loathsome. Truly loathsome. Again and again you try to fight me. You could stand to learn to be obedient--every time you misbehave this is what you will get, do you understand me?

Yes.

I may not be able to kill the boy the way I wanted to--and I have wanted to--but I will break his spirit the exact way I will break yours. He is passionate and too trustworthy; you are cruel and deceiving. If I cannot kill him, cannot torture him... then I will break him with words.

From the woman he loves. Isn't it sickening? Don't you see how irrational love is when this is what love will give you? Punishment, pain, and suffering?

You don't understand.

I would never want to understand love.

He is coming very shortly. When he comes, you will tell him that you despise him for ruining the life you could have had. Tell him that it was all under my command that you seduced him. Tell him that it never meant anything.

Then, show him the Mark. He is so besotted with you that he will never say a word of it but will be haunted with it for the rest of his life.

Are you ready?

I hate you.

Those words mean nothing to me from my servant.

I am not your servant. And I am not going to do it.

Yes, you are. You broke your wand, you stupid, embarrassing girl--you will do it or I will torture you.

You do not even know what torture is from me.

Yes, I do.

You wish that you did.

There he is. He is confused about the wards. Don't bother to explain--tell him, plainly, that you do not want him to come to the outlook anymore. Do not bother with a tone of sympathy or remorse; it is sickening to listen to.

Go now, and say it.

Scarlett felt her body, uncontrolled by her, look up at Sirius as he entered the outlook. In vain, she struggled against the impulses, but she was locked away, successfully put under control after her outburst.

He looked concerned, and her stomach felt nauseous as her lips opened involuntary and said, "Don't come to the outlook anymore."

Sirius rolled his eyes as Scarlett tried to fight off the bonds. "We went over this yesterday," he told her, almost impatiently, like he didn't expect anything terrible to happen then. "I'm not going to leave, no matter how guilty you feel--"

"I'm being serious," her voice bit out coldly. "If it is any reassurance to you, Black, it's unlikely that I will come back here again. I have no ties to it anymore."

Sirius's eyebrows furrowed at the use of his surname. "You're being ridiculous," he said, dismissing the increasing tension as best he could. "What has got you in a strop anyway, you're being--"

It was like a brick wall, one that she could not push down, as her mouth opened and said, "You have ruined everything."

Even more furiously she tried to shove down the invincible, but it was impossible, completely impossible, completely hopeless...

Sirius stopped talking immediately, the words making the conversation more final than ever. "What are you talking about?"

Her voice laughed heartlessly, and Scarlett still continued trying, her energy deteriorating and leaving her feeling trapped. "I could have been with my husband," he said for her, and she groaned, in pain at what words emerged from her body. "I could have been a better off socialite if you hadn't ruined everything."

"What are you talking about?" Sirius repeated, though it was more heated than the time before. "What is going on? You don't care about that stupid Pureblooded society--"

"You don't know anything," Scarlett's voice spoke, her body taking a step closer to Sirius even as Scarlett tried to regain control. "You have believed me, but I haven't told you the truth. You have allowed yourself to be swayed by a pretty face and nothing else, and it is your head for it."

Not allowing Sirius to speak, the sharp words continued. "If you had looked at logic, you would have realized that it is impossible, absolutely impossible, for a Slytherin to love a Gryffindor. Clearly it is not the same the other way around... so it is your shame and my pleasure to tell you this- any action that you believed to be genuine was false. It was all under someone else's command for me to do."

And, Scarlett and Sirius both knew what was coming next, each of them hating it equally, both still suspended in disbelief at the words that had just spewed from her lips. It did not stop Voldemort from laughing gleefully, chillingly, inside of her head and, without any hesitation, without any indication that Scarlett was fighting him, he rolled the sleeve up on her blouse to reveal the disastrous mark.

Seeing it put a fire under Scarlett, and she pushed at the brick wall even more intensely, feeling it begin to sway...

Sirius stared at the mark blankly for a second or two, and when he looked up at Scarlett his face was completely morphed. It wasn't disbelief. It was in no way understanding. It was pure fury, pure disgust and repulsion, and Sirius's voice echoed the feelings perfectly.

"How could you?!" he yelled immediately, and the slowly overpowering Scarlett was strong enough to flinch at the words. "That fucking Mark--you let yourself become one of them! How the hell are you any different from the scum that go around killing people every day?!

"You're exactly the same!" Sirius shouted, his face red. "You're worse! You're worse because you put this face on and pretend to be good and innocent, but you're heartless!"

I believe I said the same thing--

STOP IT. STOP IT.

"You are despicable," he breathed, and in a sudden movement he put his thumb on the Mark, the tattoo being warmer than the rest of Scarlett's body. "You are despicable for wanting this, despicable for having it, and I wish you the worst.

"And I never said that I loved you," he hissed. "I could never love a Death Eater. And that's all that you are."

Scarlett shoved one more time against the wall, fought against her bonds, and Voldemort, who was too busy basking in the glorious damage he had done, was temporarily overthrown as Scarlett desperately screamed out, "Sirius!"

Sirius did not give the real Scarlett any heed as he turned his back on her and walked away to somewhere Scarlett was unsure. Just as Voldemort was ready to defeat her again, she cried out in French to slow him. "SIRIUS, je suis emprisonné! SIRIUS, SIRIUS--"

But then he was gone and her words were useless and Voldemort won once again, and Scarlett knew that her struggling was futile as she let Voldemort overcome her without any fight and she sank down and down and down.

She had lost.

She had lost everything that she had.

]—[






 
 


Chapter 55: Dead Star
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A/N: This chapter is fun. (Meaning that it is really sad) I hope yall enjoy it <3

]---[

Sirius was furious.

No. It was not just fury. Fury was too simple, to the point and blunt, and that was not how Sirius felt. He was not furious, not mad, not disgusted, not betrayed or heartbroken or anything that Sirius could have been feeling then. He was indefinable, though the emotion was throughout him and consumed him until he became the incarnate of the lion Gryffindor knew. It consumed him and it consumed his heart and it consumed every last bit of him, every part of him that felt, until he felt so intensely that it was painful.

He had no idea where he was going and did not care. His vision was blurred from just how terribly he felt, how fucking bad he felt, and he did not know where his steps were taking him. He would have been unconcerned if he walked straight to a killer.

He was just so overcome. Overcome with his wounded pride, which still throbbed at her freezing words. Overcome with his shattered trust, which repeated the same phrase in a mantra, though it made the pain stretch farther and harsher into his bones and his body and him--

It was all under someone else's command.

Voldemort's.

And, out of everything, out of every kind of emotion that Sirius Black felt at that moment, nothing was worse than the one his heart felt. It ripped and stung and thumped way too loudly, entirely too loudly, until the sound could be heard in his ears.

Someone else's command.

It had meant nothing.

Everything she had said--everything she had done--everything he had thought about her--it meant nothing. It amounted to nothing, because she had been fooling him this entire time. Every joke was manufactured, every laugh was plastic, and every kiss--

The word jarred in his head.

Someone else's command.

His heart surged with fire again, and Sirius put his hands on his face to try and calm himself, though they were ludicrously hot. His head still trying to recover from the contrived memories, he stumbled, nearly tripping over a branch.

He was out of energy, but he was so full of it. He was pissed, wrathful, but he was so tired, so depressed. He blamed everything on her, absolutely everything, but Sirius could not help but blame himself for being so stupid.

How could he have believed her for one second? How could she have persuaded him, fucking seduced him, and how could he have gone with it so easily? How could he have allowed himself to fall into her act, and how could he have trusted her this much?

How could he have felt for her this much? How could he have fallen so hard, so damn hard, when she was a Slytherin? She was a Death Eater? How could he have done something like this, how could he have been so stupid--so gullible--

It had meant nothing.

He had meant nothing. He had been nothing to her, and she had been so much to him...

The indefinable feeling in him expanded, leaving only his heart without it. His heart was too weak and too wounded, too shot and too exhausted, to feel anything but the sensation that it was ripping cleanly in half.

It was so painful.

If the feeling Sirius had had to be defined, he was in pain.

He pushed a branch out of his way, and he was dully surprised to see an expanse of land where there normally would have been more trees. A bonfire sat in the middle of this land, crackling and sparking, the night stars visible for once, no canopy of trees to shield him from them. It was special considering where it was located, but it was nothing special to Sirius. He just hated to see the stars--they reminded him of her eyes. It was no surprise; it was just more pain.

However, as soon as Sirius saw the centaur staring at him, he did feel genuinely surprised for a moment, followed quickly by a sting of pain and a drab kind of awkwardness that would have been more significant if he was not feeling so much already.

What was he supposed to say to the centaur that had mentored a Death Eater?

Before Sirius was forced to make the decision, however, he was interrupted by Tenereus himself. The centaur took slow, deliberate steps toward him, each one carrying a rising feeling of tension with it.

Then, biting into the night air, Tenereus growled, "You promised."

Sirius did not say anything, shocked at the anger coming from somebody else, and his own ire began to emerge from the mess of things he was feeling. "You told me--straight to my face--that you would! You told me that you would stay with her, but she became too much to handle, didn't she?! Are you honestly that fickle, that unattached?!"

Tenereus did not stop. "I trusted you!" he said, beginning to pace. "When we first met, you were prejudiced, narrow-minded, but I expected you to be then! I trusted that, in time, you would change, and for the longest time, I believed you had!

"But my trust was worthless!" Tenereus angrily said. "Trusting you to keep her safe was the worst mistake I've made, and, because of it, you have ruined everything!"

At the familiar phrase, Sirius snapped. "MERLIN!" he yelled, though Tenereus did not look daunted at the outburst. "YOU ACT LIKE I DID SOMETHING WRONG! Like this whole thing was my fault--did you know that she was a Death Eater the entire time?! Were you aware that she's been one of them all along?!"

"YES!" Tenereus retaliated, and at the intimidation radiating off of him Sirius winced. "Of course I was aware! I was aware from the first moment she stepped into the outlook that she was one of his!

"But did I let my disdain of that man get in the way of her?" he asked sourly. "Of course I didn't! If you had observed her well enough-- if you had kept your promise --you would have seen it as well as I have! You should have stayed! If you had stayed five more seconds, everything could have been different, but it's too late, Sirius!

"I have constantly tried to right both of your mistakes," Tenereus seethed. "Why? Because I didn't want this to happen! Do you realize, really understand, just what you have done by walking away from her? By spitting out every insult that could come into your head at that moment? Don't you see the problems that will result now that everything has changed?

"All you had to do was stay!" Tenereus lectured. "All you had to do was be with her, just for a little bit longer! I told you, so long ago, no matter what she says or does, to stay with her, but you could not keep your promise! You were too easily swayed!"

Sirius shook his head, exhaustion overtaking him now and dimming everything else. He could not believe that everything was his fault, that Scarlett being a Death Eater was his fault, how the entire situation was now his fault. He could not decipher anything Tenereus was saying, because all of it was based on one thing.

He hadn't kept his promise.

"How am I supposed to keep a promise to a Death Eater?" Sirius bit out. "How am I supposed to keep a promise to stay with someone that told me that I was nothing? That everything was worth nothing? Why the hell would you expect me to keep a promise that never meant a damn thing?"

Tenereus copied Sirius's actions, shaking his head and looking tired. "Sirius, that promise meant everything."

Sirius scowled. "She said--"

"No matter what she says or does," Tenereus quoted, bitter. "No matter what she says! Anything that she told you in that moment was supposed to be ignored, Sirius, that was the point! That was the point of the promise!

"I wasn't asking you to guard her from her family or her friends!" Tenereus said. "I was asking you to guard her from her biggest obstacle, and you couldn't do it! And now it's too late!"

Sirius snorted. "Her biggest obstacle?" he said in disbelief. "Voldemort was her biggest ally."

"You are hopeless," Tenereus said, and the cold insult slapped Sirius in the face. "And you are only making assumptions! This entire conversation, you have done nothing but make assumptions about Scarlett!

"I have told you," Tenereus lectured, "and I have told Scarlett that the best way to read the future was not by the stars but by observation! The stars are mutable, but observation is concrete! Absolutely concrete!

"I didn't have to read the stars to know that she and Theodore were going to get together," he said, "because when I spoke to her, it was obvious. I didn't have to read the stars to know that you and her were going to get together, either, because, when I saw you two bicker, I could see that the only thing that separated you--and still separates you--is prejudice! Prejudice of the cruelest kind, prejudice that blocked you even from the person you loved! You refused to observe, you refused to think--you ran off with your irrationality and your emotion!

"When you think about it, Sirius, really think about it," Tenereus said heatedly, "when you think back on when she said the things she did, did you observe things that could have made a difference? Did you pay attention?"

Sirius tried to think back to the scene minutes ago. He tried to find the irregularities, but instead got hit with the words that she said, overshadowing anything else. Someone else's command...

How could Tenereus blame him? There was no other possibility, no other explanation, for her words. There was nothing that needed to be observed, because her words were the only things that needed his attention. At that moment everything else was fogged because of how the words had hit him. The small details, the tiny things, he could not have noticed, not when something so extreme still stung in his mind.

It was hard to look past what she had said and what she had on her arm. Sirius might have been shoved into the same society that Scarlett had, but he had fought it. He had had enough sense to not get that stupid Mark, because he had known that the Mark was a death sentence.

Scarlett had a death sentence, and she didn't seem to care at all. She had never even talked to him about it, though Sirius assumed this was because it was not a part of her... plan... to seduce him.

It was still so damn hard to stomach that everything she had said was a fallacy. How could he believe anything that she had told him, believe that she didn't want the Dark Mark, when she had told him so plainly that she did? There was no excuse she could make, because she had admitted to her sin. There was no way Tenereus could be right, and his persistence was just idealistic.

It was impossible to disprove what she had said. It was impossible, and Tenereus had to have known so. He had to have. Nothing else fit and nothing else made sense.

Tenereus huffed, as if he could read Sirius's mind. "It is impossible for you," Tenereus said sadly. "It is impossible for you to look past that Dark Mark, but why? Doesn't she mean more to you than that Mark?"

"She told me herself," Sirius said stubbornly. "She said she had used me herself."

Tenereus looked down, his fury gone, replaced with hopelessness. "You are hopeless," he repeated. "I cannot convince you."

Then, the centaur met Sirius's glance. "I don't have anything else to say to your unreasonable anger," Tenereus said. "I have no more words for your irrational emotion. Neglect logic for as long as you'd like, Sirius, but whenever you do decide to give it heed, remember what I have told you.

"I am upset with you," Tenereus went on, "because you cannot look past your own arrogance. The only thing I can hope, the only thing I want from you, is that you will look after Scarlett for me. The only thing I can hope is that one day you will look past your silly prejudices and your passion and observe things... because, when you do, you will be able to see that there is truth, even if it cannot be found easily."

The words gnawed at Sirius's already wounded pride, and he glared at the centaur. "Go," Tenereus ordered. "Be alone with yourself. Even if it takes a lifetime, I do not wish to speak to you again until you look past the superficial to the things which are absolutely essential. I do not want to speak to you until you observe."

Sirius was glad to never speak to the centaur again. Speaking to him hurt.

The conversation did not soothe his wounds. Now more than before, his pain was exacerbated, flames of irritation--disbelief--shame melding into the anger and betrayal that Sirius already felt. These new emotions did not douse any of his old fiery ones.

The worst part was that... the conversation added another emotion, one that hurt more than any other.

The conversation with Tenereus had added hope into Sirius's system, and Sirius hated it.

Hope could not be trusted, just like her. It was silly and surreal and flimsy, and he did not want to fall back into it. For ages he had felt hope towards Scarlett; he had hoped she had fancied him and hoped she would not go through with her marriage and hoped that she would break up with Theodore. He had hoped too much over the past couple of months, and now, every one of his hopes worthless, he could not afford to hope again.

Hope was too irrational. Though he could say the same about his fury, his ego, his bitterness, hope was another matter altogether. It was too quixotic to hope when there was too much discriminating evidence to knock it down...

Because, when hope was knocked down, it took everything else with it...

It was safer not to hope. Hope was an emotion he had felt for too long, and he now suffered the consequences. He needed to feel angry, needed to feel the everything that he was feeling, because the irrationality of hope hurt too much. It hurt to hope, to feel anything but everything towards Scarlett.

Without hope he could begin to hate Scarlett, because right now he didn't. He didn't hate her at all. He was disgusted and betrayed and disappointed, but he did not hate her. He might have told her that he had never said that he loved her... but, if he didn't, then what was ripping up his body? What was making Sirius so in pain?

It was hope. He did not want to hope or care for Scarlett anymore. He wanted to hate her.

But, as he threw his hope away that night, allowing it to be ripped into pieces by his stronger emotions... as he let his hope be shattered and severed and killed, and let those feelings he had once questioned to be love be clouded over with the prejudices and hate he felt for the Death Eaters and Slytherins...

He could not help but loathe himself too.

]—[
 


Chapter 56: Wine Red
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A/N: Heey everybody! I am currently writing chapter 91 (which means I am almost done... EEP!). This chapter is a good time, though. It is pretty angsty... =)

HEY! Thank you for reading. Truly. I mean, you are on CHAPTER 56. If you are on Chapter 56 of anything it is a huge kudos. (HPFF validators, THANK YOU for reading a story that has been in the working for six years... I appreciated it then and I appreciate it so much now! =) )

ON THAT NOTE. I HOPE YOU ENJOY!!

]---[

 

Time passed.

It did not pass nicely, and it did not pass quickly, but it passed. The night ended, and the morning began, the wounds still stinging as much as they had hours ago. Everything still hurt... everything still pained...

But, time passed.

The first couple of days were not good for any of Hogwarts. The snow accumulated outside of the castle, a cause for Hogsmeade to be rescheduled, a fact that had those who were attempting to be optimistic about the new year falter. Those that were unaffected from Hogsmeade also had a reason to dislike the weather, it being so bad that, for days on end, Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures were cancelled. While these two subjects being halted seemed to be good news, the make-up homework assigned to the students devoured any free time that they could have normally had.

However, Hogwarts had more worries past the weather. The Houses were in complete disarray after the holidays, each one suffering difficulty. The normally amiable Hufflepuffs seemed to be fueled with anger instead of pleasantness due to a nasty fight that resulted in the House being torn in half. The Ravenclaws finally had to deal with the messy breakup of Matt Cornfoot and Georgiana Nott, a relationship that had begun early October and had seemed to gain friction as time passed, finally exploding over a simple misunderstanding.

As for the Gryffindors, their passion for everything harmed them once more as one of their most humorous and cheerful suddenly became perpetually sour and reclusive, even to his own friends. This sudden imbalance shook Gryffindor's core, forming a domino effect that began at the rest of the Marauders and only spread, the foul mood contagious.

The Slytherins also had to deal with an imbalance of their own. Though the gossip mill was still abuzz with Theodore and Scarlett's breakup, Slytherin did not encourage it, instead trying to cover the disgrace in as clean and quick a way as possible.

It was not very difficult to do. Ambrose Katalina became the new backbone of Slytherin House, her cold perception of the world and her arrogance stubborn and sure not to be swayed by a Gryffindor. Theodore duplicated her coolness, his apathy remarkably different than the boy Hogwarts had seen weeks before. The Black sisters took Scarlett's betrayal most in stride, reasoning that none of their friends, especially Scarlett, made much impact on their futures that were likely to be lived without concern for anyone but themselves.

However, the imbalance-- both in Slytherin and the school in general-- was evident, no matter what precautions Slytherin House took to avoid it. Brawls between Slytherins and Gryffindors, though not uncommon, now emerged constantly, sometimes even occurring during class. Ambrose had lost some of her joy in the exchange, the art of gossiping becoming work instead of an activity as she struggled to fill the void Scarlett had left. Theodore's numbness left Georgiana concerned, her nights spent sitting by the fire with him and not saying a single word.

Everyone was isolated and unsympathetic as January began, but, like all things, time passed. Time passed... time passed and, as it did, things began to heal.

The weather became better, and classes were continued. Hufflepuff finally reached reconciliation. Georgiana grew to be unconcerned with Matt. Gryffindor became concentrated on other things, leaving Sirius and his anger behind-- alone-- like a limp dog that couldn't keep up with the others. Though Theodore was still just as cold, the gossip over the relationship slowed and finally ceased, acknowledging Ambrose's success.

The only thing that got worse with time was Scarlett.

In the days following the travesties, she had been just as intimidating and callous as the school expected her to be, ignoring Theodore and Sirius as if they had meant nothing to her, an action that convinced them that they did. However, as time passed... as everything healed... Scarlett's will instead began to deteriorate.

She now had nothing with her. No one was on her side; nobody spoke to her or even acknowledged she was alive. In fact, she was becoming nothing, absolutely nothing, to the people at Hogwarts, her presence unimportant and her existence hardly that.

Scarlett had come into her seventh year knowing she had a purpose but not knowing what it was exactly. As she had begun to know Sirius, her purpose began to flinch away from what it was supposed to be, and became focused instead on its polar opposite. Because of Sirius, Scarlett's purpose and reason was to fight... because of Sirius, Scarlett learned that her purpose in life was to become free.

But now Scarlett was trapped, and alone, and that ambition could not survive in the unforgiving environment she was in. Ruthlessly, Voldemort bit into that passion, disproving it, insulting it, and taunting it until it dwindled and began to fade away, because it was never supposed to be there in the first place.

As her passion to live faded, it became harder to resist him. It was harder to resist the words that he said as time passed, because they were becoming all that she had. Nothing attempted to dissuade her from succumbing, and, as her past passion left her, the only thing left to replace it were his coaxes.

Speak to me.

What is going on at the school?

Monotonously, Scarlett recited all that she knew to Voldemort, trying to convince herself that the action was on her own rather than involuntary. She told him all she knew of Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw without a pause, but, as she reached the status of Gryffindor and Slytherin, she hesitated, the words coming out slower and blunter.

She could not help it... she could not help thinking of what they had told her every time she thought of them or their Houses. The words plagued her the same way Voldemort did, confronting her when she was in no mood to be confronted and lingering until she was near insanity.

You said you loved me...

From where she was in the common room, as far away from the fireplace as possible, Scarlett twitched and put her head in her hands.

I could never love a Death Eater...

She focused on breathing, but her breaths were shallow and weak.

Now, what is the problem?

The voice of Voldemort had nearly the same effect as the others, Scarlett's fingers traveling to her hair and clenching as a sign of desperation. She had to endure these voices, endure the solitude, because she had to resist him. She had to.

However... it was getting more difficult...

Don't you see how illogical you are being? You have been dominated by love, Scarlett, don't you see the problem with that? Don't you see how much wrong there is in love? How many flaws riddle the concept?

It has ruined you.

You have. You have ruined me and you are ruining me.

I am only helping. You should have known, Scarlett. Why are you so blind to the obvious... why do you try to run away from the inevitable?

You tried to kill Sirius.

Do you see what happened when I didn't? He demeaned and insulted you. He did not even have the decency to stay with you, even when he promised you just a day earlier... don't you see that the same way I do? Inconsistent and spoken in the heat of the moment, when there was no real danger?

When he said it, he did not mean it. If he had, he would still be here with you. But just as you have lied to him he has done the same... why would you fight for that?

He deserved to die for foiling my plans, but if you would be logical... you could see it too.

But don't believe that I won't. I would kill him in an instant.

Her thoughts became drenched in malice, and she ground her teeth, walking up to the Slytherin common room almost shaking with detestation.

I hate you. So very much.

I have done nothing that you shouldn't have expected. I merely quickened things. You could even say that I did you all a favor, taking you out of your eventual misery early.

You're wrong. I know you're wrong.

Incorrect. Do not lie to me, Scarlett, you should know by now that I can tell... In truth, you know I'm right, but you don't want to admit it because you think you should fight for him. As if there is something to fight for.

There is something to fight for. I'm fighting for my sanity. My reasons to live. I will not let myself be swept into the... current... of your madness. I am better than that. You may have taken away everything I have, but I am not going to give myself up. Ever.

Do you know what they say?

What?

Madness is like gravity... all it takes is a little push...

I'm not going to lose myself to you.

Who says you haven't already, Scarlett? You are already losing your mind... who says you have not lost yourself?

I may be alone... but I still know who I am. I know that I am not you and I never will be.

You are so silly-- there was a time when you would have been excited at this kind of prospect. I chose you as far back as your fourth year for this assignment...and here you are, spitting in my face. As if you have the authority to make a difference.

I know that you've changed. I do not particularly care. You see, Scarlett, change never really lasts, especially like this... just as you have seen with Sirius. I know that you will fight now, but how will you fight when the one that filled your head with such ridiculousness will never speak to you again?

I don't overestimate love. I loathe it. I think that it is a weakness, and you are the perfect proof.

I know you. I know you better than you may even know yourself. I know that you are in pain every time I mention Black, because he is a weakness to you. A vulnerability. Every time I mention your husband, you loathe yourself.

Yourself, don't you see the peculiarity in that? Don't you see how flawed it is to hate yourself for his inability to listen to you? Don't you see how strange you are, to love those that hate you?

If you be with me, you will not feel love anymore, but you will never feel the pain again. When I say that, know that I'm being honest. With me, you will never have to suffer the way you suffer when you look towards your former friends and they pretend that you don't exist.

So, why fight it? Why fight to feel pain?

There is so much to fight for.

Nott, there is nothing to fight for. And you know I'm right when you flinch at the surname. You cannot stand yourself. So give yourself to me.

I... don't want to help you.

Give yourself to me. You will not know what you do that helps me. You will merely be a host. You will not have to pay attention. You will not have to feel, or think, or know. Like a long sleep without dreams.

How would that feel, Nott? To never again face Sirius Black or Theodore Nott, never see the hatred in their eyes? How tempting would that be?

Scarlett took a deep breath and put her head in her hands, now sitting on the edge of her bed. Her malice was still there, as fervent as ever, but she could still see the truth in his words.

He was right about it all. She didn't want to feel this, didn't want to face this. Even though-- Sirius-- had told her to confront things instead of running from them, she could not muster the passion anymore. She could not muster enough of the passion that had driven her to resist initially, because, when it came down to it, she felt too tired to be fighting.

And... without that passion, the only reason to live was to breathe.

And, with Voldemort, she would not be living just to breathe... she would be living for him. She would be living with a purpose. She would finally do what she should have been doing all along.

She removed her head from her hands and stared at the mirror across from her. She looked tired and worn, almost sickly, her hair disheveled and deep circles placed under her eyes. She did not look suitable for anyone or anything.

Except for him.

Wouldn't it be nice, Scarlett? To lose control?

She continued staring at herself in the mirror. Her eyes, once naïve, had become cold and hardened in the past days, the shadows of pain darkening her irises and making them lose their luster.

As she watched, her eyes began to... shift. Chocolate brown became auburn and auburn became nearly red, and as she stared at her scarlet irises she felt herself get dizzy, hardly able to sit up.

She felt herself lose control.

Do you see?

That is what happens. You might never see your eyes as the bright red they'll become, but isn't that what you want? To turn your head at the monster? To never feel again?

Isn't that what you want?

She did not want to give into Voldemort, but he was... right. Who was she to know what she wanted? He knew her better than she did. He knew that what she really wanted most was to never see that disappointment on Sirius or Theodore's faces again and to never hear those words replay in her mind.

She took a deep breath.

Now?

Close your eyes... like you are going to sleep. Do not fight it. Let it become you.

She felt dizzy and tired, and she knew that he had done this to her before, but unlike those times she was now aware. She could feel the choice-- to fight or to succumb?-- weighing down on her, and, asphyxiated, she laid her back on the bed and chose the one that he had wanted her to make all along.

The darkness came over her slowly, as if it was glorifying in her lack of will, and the poison wrapped around her veins, warm and soothing as if to distract her from what its real purpose was. She melded into it, feeling the poison contaminate her mind, and her consciousness wavered, falling into a deep, deep sleep...

The last thing that she saw in her mind was Sirius. Not the Sirius she knew from the last two weeks-- the Sirius that she had joked with and confided with and loved.

At the mention of love, the poison halted, but as she muttered an apology for giving up it began again and she lost the last thing that she had, the one thing that she never knew she could lose.

Herself.

]—[
 


Chapter 57: One Week of Danger
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A/N: Woooooo! Hi everybody! Happy September 16th! And hey, happy Chapter 57, you warrior you. 57 chapters in and it is time to introduce a new character into the mix... quite honestly one of my favorite characters that I've written <3 I also think that this is one of the turning points of SIHE as well.

As always, thank you for everything that you do. (you know who you are!! yes you!!) I appreciate you taking the time to read my story :)

]---[

One Week of Danger

 

 Regulus Black was a curious person by nature.

He had always been, and that was a trait that he shared with his brother, likely the only one. The differences began with how they dealt with curiosity; Sirius, truly a Gryffindor, was brash, hardly sneaky, and confrontational. He did not strategize the proper way to handle his curiosity, never stopped to think what the consequences to asking questions were, and, while this technique proved to be effective occasionally, it was more often than not accompanied with disappointment.

Regulus, on the other hand, had inherited the Slytherin mindset; he was cool and calculating. Every action related to curiosity was always well thought out, always logical, and simple, Regulus never enjoying intricacies which could become messy. He used the skill of observation to his advantage, thinking up of possible theories before asking questions.

He was patient as well, a patience that Sirius could never hope to have because his intrinsic nature contradicted it. This patience was the core of all of Regulus's other traits, and the absence of it was the core of Sirius's; with Regulus's patience, he was able to plan, and with Sirius's impatience, he was born of fire.

It was a passing fancy of his to solve curiosities; he believed doing so made him quicker and more alert than the other Slytherins. He was able to read his opponent and was able to solve their secrets. Though Regulus was never the strongest, never the fastest, he was incredibly clever when it came to mystery; it was his contribution to the world in which he existed.

However, he never boasted his wit; that would be Gryffindor: childish and stupid. He preferred to be behind the scenes, preferred to see how people acted without being aware of his keen eye, preferred to be undercover. Again, it was a part of him, the same part that had made him Slytherin, that kept him sly, and he had never wavered from that. As a result of wanting to control his world, he scarcely interacted with it, and this solitude allowed him to observe the people that he dealt with at a decent distance. He noticed their idiosyncrasies. He knew their fancies before they did. These details, minor to the oblivious eye, were vital in order for Regulus to solve mysteries the way that he did.

When word spread about Theodore Nott and Scarlett Devous hitting an abrupt and surprising end Regulus was curious. Scarlett had, after all, been a possible contender as his wife, so it was not as if they didn't know each other. To see the alternative crash and burn interested Regulus greatly.

He was not interested in her romantically, though. Even being a strong proponent of rationality couldn't change the fact that love was based on emotion. Still, the mysteries surrounding Scarlett were so undeniably intriguing. Theodore and Scarlett, besides Ambrose and Brady Scott, had been a couple Regulus had been confident of, and his confidence disproven was not only a cause of humbleness but of interest.

What had gone wrong?

However, as weeks passed Regulus did not approach either. It was obvious and had always been obvious to him that heartbreak was a risky thing to question, because it messed with emotions in such a way that logic and coolness became impossible. He had wisely veered away from the couple, resigning himself to the philosophy that, whatever had happened, it was their business and not his.

In spite of his resignation, it grew increasingly harder for Regulus to ignore when, three weeks after the couple had broken up, a sudden rumor spread throughout the school. By that time the gossip about Scarlett had ceased, the students moving on to more impressive stories, but as soon as these new whispers were exchanged the story was suddenly as on fire as it had been at the beginning of January.

The mystery was too irresistible.

From what he had heard, the true motive behind Theodore and Scarlett's break up was not a clash of personalities. It was not cold feet. It wasn't about wealth or youth or anything that anyone would have expected. No other rumor that had been spread the days immediately following could even add up to this new story, and Regulus knew that no story after could compare.

There was something surprising but yet something so addicting about the possibility that Scarlett and Theodore had broken up due to an infidelity. He would not have expected it from either of them, being just as sure as the other Hogwarts students that the two were in love.

The rumor of an infidelity, of itself, had been overdone, and although Regulus was surprised that there was a chance of it being true, the new detail which arose three weeks after the fact made Regulus all the more fascinated.

The detail that Scarlett and Theodore's breakup had been because of Sirius was the most ridiculous thing Regulus had heard, and it was the ridiculousness that convinced him that he could not avoid the mystery any longer.

After all, it made perfect sense. All of the previous accusations had not entirely fit with the way Regulus had observed. If Scarlett had had cold feet, if Theodore and she had gotten into a fight, it still did not explain the complete ostracizing of Scarlett, a past friend of the Slytherins. Though the brother-sister relationship of Georgiana and Theodore Nott was an important factor, it should not have ruined Scarlett. There had never been any explanation to the severity of Scarlett's punishment.

But this... made perfect sense. She had betrayed Slytherin ideals with this possibility, and if she had been caught with Sirius Theodore would have motivation enough for his character to change so abruptly and entirely. Georgiana would have a reason to hate Scarlett, and Ambrose would have a reason to replace her.

The fact that this had come so late did not deter Regulus; rather, it encouraged him. He had seen enough of Georgiana Nott to know the way that she worked. The desire to care for her brother yet hurt Scarlett--that in itself would be reason enough to wait.

Though Regulus could not piece together everything, could not be sure about any of his thoughts, he began to. There were many holes in the story--how had they fallen in love, for instance--but Regulus overlooked these in order to let his curiosities grow creative. After all, a mystery couldn't be solved if there was no foundation.

So, he began to delve into the mystery of Sirius Black and Scarlett Nott in a way that the excited and easily distracted Hogwarts students could not manage, a way that required patience and unanswered questions and fleeting theories, a way that was insufferable for most but not for him. That was his advantage and always had been. His willingness to stick with these two would give him what he was looking for: answers. Though heartbreak was truly dangerous ground, it was worth it.

This had to have been his most curious case yet, after all. A Gryffindor and a Slytherin--his possible wife and his brother--caught in a web of secrecy and mystique...

Regulus could not resist the investigation.

]—[

Scarlett was alone.

Of course, that was to be expected. The corridor she was currently in was one that was hardly known to Hogwarts students, it being out of the way, ill-kept, and little-traveled. Maybe, occasionally, students would venture there for remedial study, but it was otherwise unused, more appreciated for the structure it gave to the castle than its actual use.

This, combined with the fact that it was dinnertime, allowed Scarlett to easily be the only person in the corridor. She was alone; from her vantage the only other things she could see in the hallway besides damp stone were the dimly-lit candles hanging from the wall. She heard no footsteps and had not encountered anyone else.

You are alone?

Scarlett hardly flinched at the voice now.

She was alone as possible, she clarified for herself; it was impossible to be alone anymore. No matter where she was, no matter the time, she was always with someone else, a presence that was not there in body but in mind and in spirit.

How tired are you, how hungry are you?

I'm not too tired. I slept last night.

As for hunger... I can manage another.

Good, good, good-- what about your homework?

Studying, primarily. One essay in Defense.

Don't worry about that. I can do that in five minutes.

So, you are telling me that you are perfectly able, strong, whole, well, to go to the forest tonight once more? I am aware that you have classes tomorrow; what are they? Do you have any free period--

No. I will be missing Astronomy tonight... double Charms, Transfiguration, History of Magic, and Defense. Bad day tomorrow. Perhaps we should wait--

No. We cannot wait, Scarlett. This is important.

Yes, my Lord.

Go now. Go now, and go to Rowena Ravenclaw's outlook. We need to investigate--

"Hello."

The voice that halted her exchange with Voldemort was quiet and deep, and, in any other atmosphere, it would have been soothing. It had no imperfections, a flawless British accent seamlessly intertwining with the five letter word. It was not rough, not raspy, and not intimidating, sounding vaguely flirtatious and very intriguing. To any unbiased ear, the voice was perfect.

But, in the atmosphere they were in--a lonely hallway with little light and little promise that anyone else would come across it--the voice was absolute hell. It broke the silence Scarlett had hidden in and interrupted the conversation she'd been having. She could feel it probing her with curiosity, inquiring in silence, and her paranoia took over as she nearly screamed.

She spun around, her eyes wide and taken off guard, her Spellotaped wand being drawn instantly. She could feel a spell on the tips of her fingers, and she nearly released it to the intruder, only halted when she recognized the familiar face. Her mouth was open slightly and her heart was accelerated, millions of other worse possibilities causing her to go into overdrive.

However, when Scarlett identified Regulus Black, she also knew that there were millions of better possibilities as well.

Truthfully, she did not care much for him. He didn't cross her mind often; this was to be expected of her as he was a year younger and, in her mind, a year less experienced. If she had to say anything about Regulus Black, it was that she had always been apathetic, as uninterested in his admirable characteristics as she was in his weaknesses.

On that night, though--when they were so close to leaving, so close--Scarlett cared enough to shine a spotlight on his flaws. Regulus had a knack of being very arrogant. It was something that couldn't be exactly pinpointed but seeped within his words in a way that instantly annoyed her.

He was also proven to be rather secretive. Maybe, to other people, this did not affect their views on the boy; however, Scarlett disliked it because secretive people could not possibly appreciate those that were also secretive. Trust would always be a factor

Possibly the most annoying thing about Regulus Black was  how uncannily similar he was to both Theodore and Sirius. His similarity to Sirius was only based on appearance- both shared a like bone structure, an olive tint of the skin, and a  charm which radiated from his core.

His likeness to Theodore was not in appearance but in personality. Both were in Slytherin for the same reasons-- they were calm, logical, and somewhat cautious, never acting on impulse or passion. They calculated their every single move, each action having a meaning, and, in Regulus's case, Scarlett was lost on what this conversation's meaning was--and she did not, under any circumstances, like being confused.

As these things accumulated in her mind, her glare got steadily more severe, though Regulus seemed unperturbed. "What do you want?" she nearly hissed at him, her anger mixing with Voldemort's impatience, and at her question Regulus shrugged, his nonchalance adding to her ire.

"Well," Regulus said simply, "I was... interested."

Scarlett scoffed, incredulous. "Beg pardon?"

Regulus snickered, clearly aware of the path the conversation was going down. "Relax," he said, amused. "I don't mean that I'm interested in you--" His eyes skimmed down her body. "Although I wouldn't necessarily rule that out--"

"I don't have time for this," Scarlett said, irritated. "Leave me alone."

"No, no, wait--Scarlett!" Regulus called out as began to stride away. "Scarlett, I was kidding--hold on a second, all right?"

He touched her arm in an attempt to stop her, and she recoiled, contact with others nearly foreign. "That's not what I was talking about," Regulus stated. "I am interested in you. Interested because of some of the things I've heard about you.

"You see," Regulus continued, "I've heard some rumors."

Scarlett stopped, and her eyes narrowed as she said, "What about them?"

"I just find it... curious," Regulus said, following her as she took steps away, "I find you incredibly curious.

"I have to wonder," Regulus pushed, "why haven't you said anything? My brother has ruined your reputation, and you have neither proved nor disproved it. Any normal person would have confronted him--or belittled him--but you have done neither.

"It's also very curious why you're here."

"You know what's curious?" Scarlett finally said, trying to let her anger subside somewhat before speaking. "Why you're here and why you think that my life is a puzzle to solve. And, Regulus... you know what's even more curious?" she asked, and she approached Regulus Black for the first time the entire conversation, refusing to back down.

"Why you think you can."

As she stormed away from him, Regulus called out to her. "Maybe I'm not the best person to talk to you, Scarlett," he said, "but it's pretty damn obvious someone does."

She stopped again, even though Voldemort's impatience doubled. "What do you mean?" she said aloud, curious herself.

Regulus smirked as she conceded, taking steps to fill the gap she had made. "I mean everything," he replied. "I mean all of the times you've missed dinner-- like now-- or class. I mean all of the times you've ignored everybody. I mean," Regulus said, and Scarlett did not turn to face him as he stood behind her, "your lack of motivation. Of interest."

"For most people," Regulus said, "they don't care about you. Of course they don't. They're self-centered. And then the others think you're torn over your husband. They're idealistic."

"And, then there are those very few that believe what they've heard. That it was all Sirius. Everything that happened to you was Sirius's fault. They... they are not curious enough."

"And you?" Scarlett asked, her voice loud in the empty hallway.

"I have theories. But I don't believe in anything until I get the facts."

"And why do you bother?"

Regulus's tone was confident as he answered her. "Curiosity."

]—[
 


Chapter 58: Don't You Think?
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A/N: EDITED :) I HOPE YOU LIKE THIS CHAPTER!!!! YOU BEAUTIFUL, ILLUSTRIOUS PEOPLE!!!!

]---[
 

Regulus's conversation with Scarlett was both more than Regulus could have asked for and disappointing.

It was more than he could have asked for because it had not ended badly; in fact, it had ended rather well. She hadn't yelled at him, hadn't insulted him. Yes, she had left soon after he had talked to her, but this had not been a problem for Regulus. He did not want to annoy her, and if she spent too much time with his probing curiosity than that was what would have happened.

Yet she had not revealed much to him. She had refused to answer if she had once had a relationship with Sirius Black, and Regulus accepted that. However, she had given him something else to be curious about:

"Hey, wait!"

Scarlett turned around slowly; she had been leaving for the forest for good. "What?" she asked, and her tone was biting, hard, unlike before, when she had been willing--not really enthusiastic, but willing--to speak to him.

"The Great Hall is this way," Regulus said, and Scarlett glared at him, the fact obvious. "Aren't you going to get something-"

"No," Scarlett said. "Don't worry about it."

"But... that goes absolutely nowhere," he pointed out. "Where are you going?"

She strode away from him without answering his question.

He was infuriated at her walking away from him, infuriated at her coldness, but he was also too fascinated, even as she added more questions for him to somehow decipher. Now he was left wondering where, exactly, she went at night, why she went alone, and what she was up to while she was gone.

It did explain some things, and for this Regulus was very glad; he now knew that she went somewhere from the corridor of remedial study, a corridor rarely used. If Regulus had encountered her at a more opportune time--or if he had known what to expect--he would have followed her and figured out exactly what this place was.

But, because of how close dinner was to ending, because Regulus was sure that if she caught him he would never be able to speak to her again, he had to admit defeat for that night. He had plenty of time, after all, to figure this out, and the longer it took the more Regulus was sure to enjoy it.

Internally, he checked her name off her list, and smirked when he realized who he would be interrogating next.

Sirius, of course.

Regulus had always been curious about his brother, disregarding Scarlett altogether; he was a direct contradiction to Regulus, the black sheep of the Toujours Pur, but he never seemed disheartened by that. In fact, Sirius seemed to have achieved exactly what he had been wanting when he left the Blacks, and Regulus's smirk shifted into a frown as a twang of an unidentifiable emotion hit him.

Sirius had always had perfection in whatever he did. He was beautiful, having a look like a model's, where Regulus looked much more common. Women were drawn to him where they were not drawn particularly to Regulus, though Regulus supposed that personality was a factor as well. Sirius was charismatic, debonair; Regulus was reserved and arrogant.

Regulus had kept an eye on his brother, though not a very sharp one. He thus knew that, although he did not spend much time on his brother, the shift in his personality from December to January had been extremely obvious.

Sirius was seeking to stray away from his precious Marauders now. It was subtle to the people who were self-concerned, but Regulus--who when not paying much attention could pay more attention than most--had noticed instantly. Suddenly, Sirius was not in detention with the Marauders. Suddenly, Sirius did not seem to shine, to sparkle, with the same happiness and perfection that Regulus felt so strongly about.

So, Regulus was curious. Very curious. His brother, already giving him that edge, that hit, of curiosity, had allowed Regulus's curiosities to increase tenfold from the rumor of his relationship with Scarlett. It was so possible to get answers from Sirius, especially to the question Regulus most wanted to know: was any of this worth pursuing?

Regulus had little doubt, but, like he had told Scarlett, he didn't want to commit to any one idea. For all he knew, Scarlett's lack of interest in the rumors was her personality and not her way to shield herself, and maybe Sirius's sullenness was for something else entirely. No matter what assumption he dreamed up, he couldn't change the truth; this was why he was so desperate to seek it.

Regulus hated cluelessness. He wasn't, at least not generally. This was one of his motivations for solving mysteries: Regulus liked to have a clue when other people did not.

And this mystery was so damn intriguing. Both Sirius and Scarlett had fallen from grace, taking a path infrequently travelled, and Regulus was curious to see how they had crashed and burned so beautifully and why they would take that path in the first place. The downfall of the two of them were similar and similarly worth curiosity.

It still stood, however, that Regulus wasn't sure, and this is what brought Regulus to Sirius.

Regulus already knew how to get answers from his brother. He had to approach the situation in an entirely different way than he had approached Scarlett; the two clashed in personality the same way they clashed in House. Scarlett was guarded, quiet, cautious; while Sirius was guarded, he was definitely more prone to losing his guard to emotion, a Gryffindor fatal flaw.

His smirk returned to him as he mapped the entire scene out in his head. He would approach his brother at a time when he was alone, which would not be hard for him, Regulus guessed. Then, of course, his next move was obvious: instead of inquiring, smoothly, about Sirius's reaction, Regulus would pretend to be brash, pretend to jump to conclusions, and accuse Sirius of fancying a married woman.

And then Sirius would explode. R