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The Complicated Life of Mirabelle Rose by Ginny_RED_Potter

Format: Novel
Chapters: 17
Word Count: 77,704
Status: WIP

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Strong Language, Mild Violence, Scenes of a Mild Sexual Nature, Contains Spoilers

Genres: Horror/Dark, Humor, Romance
Characters: Lupin, Sirius, Lily, James, Andromeda, Regulus, Bellatrix, Narcissa, OC, OtherCanon
Pairings: Sirius/OC, James/Lily, Lucius/Narcissa, OC/OC, Other Pairing

First Published: 08/01/2008
Last Chapter: 08/30/2014
Last Updated: 09/26/2015

Summary:
*Amazing banner by happy_ending @ TDA!* (Rating is precautionary)
Dobby Award 2009 Winner- Most Original




It was beyond baffling. How could you detest something so thoroughly and yet fancy someone who stood for it? How could you fancy someone when you were hopelessly in love with someone else? And how the hell could you be mind-blowingly in love with one person and still hate them with every cell in your body?"


Chapter 1: Life is Complicated
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

(I know, I know! I should update all my other stories rather than starting a new one but writer's block has buried me and I used this to dig myself out. I liked it so I decided to post it for all of you to read. I've already got a couple chapters written and -in my personal oppinion- it gets better. So enjoy!)

*Disclaimer: I only own the stuff you don't recognize. Which excludes Sirius. Sigh.*


Chapter 1 ~ Life is Complicated 



I have the worst big brother in the world. I swear. What kind of bloke leaves his little sister to fend for herself among a bunch of strangers so he can go snog his latest plaything? A shitty one, that's what kind.

So I searched for an empty compartment and prayed none of the older kids would come in and throw me out. I didn't even bother looking for him, Merlin knows he was here somewhere. I'd spotted his family on the platform but he'd already run off. Not that I really blamed him.

I knew that, when he wanted to, he'd come and find me.

I settled myself in the seat, crossing my legs and pulling my favorite book out. I'd already insisted on wearing my uniform all morning, even though I knew most didn't don their's until after the train was racing through the countryside.

"Can I sit here? You're the only first year I've found so far and I don't really fancy going to ask one of the older kids."

I looked up like a startled doe.

Standing in the doorway was a very pretty girl with a smattering of freckles acrossed her small nose and shiny dark red hair cascading down her back. Her chocolate eyes were hopefully and her thin lips were curved into a reluctant smile.

I swallowed hard before saying, "Um, sure. I mean," I shook my head feeling completely thick, "Yes, yes. Of course."

She grinned stunningly before entering the compartment. I helped her hoist her things into place and then plopped back down into the seat acrossed from her.

"I'm Lanora Wiles. But everyone just calls me Nora."

She stuck out her hand and I took it beaming back at her charmingly.

"I'm Mira Echols. Well, actually, it's Mirabelle but everyone just calls me Mira. I dunno why my parents named me Mirabelle if they were only going to shorten it...."

Have I mentioned that I babble perfusely when I'm nervous? Because I do. Some bite their nails, others fidget, I babble. Seriously, I just can't shut up.

"... I mean, what really is the point of nicknames-?" I stopped abruptly when she giggled, "Sorry," I mumbled, feeling the blush creep onto my cheeks. "I tend to talk alot when I'm nervous."

"Obviously."

The two of us whipped around to see a drop dead gorgeous blonde smirking at the doorway. Her smoldering hazel eyes sparkled with mischief and she radiated self confidence. Yet she didn't seem the slightest bit snobby. Something about their air around her told you silently that she was the farthest thing from a snob.

"I'm Kathlena Prewett." She grinned, "But it's Lena for short. Mind if I join you?"

I smiled sheepishly, "Not at all."

"Thanks," She sighed in relief. "My brother has got to be the biggest git in the entire world. What kind of bloke leaves his little sister all alone on the platform?"

And somehow I knew that this was the beginning of a very beautiful friendship.

...


"... Echols, Mirabelle..."

My knees wobbled weakly and I felt my cheeks burn. Thank Merlin I wasn't a redhead like Nora. Even with my black curls I still blushed ridiculously often. Which only made me turn an even deeper shade of crimson because I was mortified about the obvious blushing.

I'd been agonizing the entire train ride over this and the moment was finally here. Before, I'd thought that all I wanted was to get it over with. Be sorted and have it done with. But, suddenly, I wasn't so eager for it anymore.

My new friends on the train had given me the same strange perspective that my very best friend had been spouting off all along. My head was reeling with the realization that this was all so much more complicated than I'd thought it would be.

If I was sorted into one of the other three houses, my family would be livid. Outraged. They might even disown me on the spot.

But if I was sorted into their house, I doubted any of my friends-especially my very best friend- would ever speak to me again. They wouldn't want to mix with my sort.

I couldn't bear either option.

As I sat down on the ricketty stool, my gold flecked green eyes locked with a pair of cloudy gray-blue ones. And then everything went dark.

"Hmmm.." The voice made me jump. It took me a moment before I realized it was the hat. Had he talked to everyone else too? Had A-D heard the murmuring in their ears? Or had my frayed nerves just made me certifiably insane now? "Very interesting... Well, yes....An Echols, eh?...Whole family of Slytherins....No, no... definitely not... I think you belong in," And then he yelled to the rest of the Great Hall, "RAVENCLAW!"

***


"MIRA!"

I kept walking.

"MIRABELLE!"

I stared straight ahead.

"MIRABELLE ROSE!"

My eyes narrowed but I refused to turn around.

It had been a week and this was the first time he was acknowledging my existance. So now I refused to acknowledge his. It was my turn to be too busy for my former friend and he was just going to have to deal.

He may have been a year older than me but we'd somehow become best friends. I don't even remember how to be perfectly honest. Perhaps it was when my parents were coaxing me towards his snivelling little brother (who's in my year). But for as long as I could remember he'd had been there.

We lived on opposite sides of a fairly large park that we'd played in as children. He was on Grimmauld Place and I was on Rosemary Avenue. We always met in the middle, at the top of a hill with a little dirt trail leading to a little white pavillion.

The only time the git had ever ignored me this way was last year. After his sorting he'd been afraid to write me. Afraid of what I'd think of him not being in Slytherin. I'd heard about it while I eavesdropped on my parents one night.

For a couple weeks I sat around wondering why he didn't write as he'd promised. Finally I sent him a howler. That got a response out of him. And we hadn't fought since.

But this was different. He'd blatantly ignored me. And he wasn't getting away with it that easy. Not this time.

"C'mon, Mir." I heard him say, "You can't be mad at me forever."

Wanna bet?

"Mira, c'mon please?"

No. I was not going to give in that easily. He of all people should realize I was tenacious. He of all people should know this. He should be fully aware of the futility of chasing me down in the corridors at this point. He'd ignored me for too long, I was going to make him grovel.

"Mira, I'm sorry."

Damn right.

"I should've talked to you before but-"

I took the chance to dive into a crowd of fifth years and make my escape to Transfiguration class with the Hufflepuffs,where I promptly shoved all thoughts of him from my mind.

...


"How long are you going to ignore him for?" Nora asked flippantly, that night in the common room as she worked on her Charms essay. She didn't even glance up. She just continued to scrawl on the parchment in front of her blithely as her question hung in the air.

"A week, maybe more if I'm feeling particularly vindictive." I answered not looking up from my homework either, I was working on Potions. "But I haven't felt much like an Echols lately, so he's probably safe."

Lena laughed lightly. "You do know that about half the girls in our year would kill to have Sirius Black in the palm of their hand the way you do, right?"

I raise an eyebrow at her inqusitively.

"What?" She exclaimed, "It's true!"

"She's right." Nora confirmed, wretching her eyes briefly away from her essay to glance at me. "Haven't you noticed how they've been glaring at you all day?" She nodded her head in the direction of our two other dormmates.

They were, in fact, glowering viciously in my direction. How absurd.

I snorted (very unladylike, my mother would have a coniption). "Well they can have him. He's a complete and utter git. Dunno why I was ever friends with him to begin with. Moron."

They eyed me shrewdly.

"What?"

"C'mon, Mir." Lena rolled her eyes, "it's so obvious."

"Completely." Nora agreed.

"I have no idea what you two are on about."

"Don't you?"


***


I sighed and hastened in the corridor. I'd just spotted the back of his head and my week of stubborness was up. I was done being petty, even though the temptations to continue my cold shoulder were high.

"So how does it feel?" I asked casually, as I fell into stride with him.

He looked up at me, startled. "How does what feel?"

"Being the biggest git on the planet."

His angelic face broke into a full on, relieved grin. He knew that this was my subtle way of saying, 'your forgiven, you lousy sod'.

"How does it feel to be the most incredibly stubborn witch in the world?"

I smiled, "Pretty good, actually. But now I've got Charms so I'll have to catch up with you later."

"Aw, can't you skip?"

"No!"

He gave me the a devistating pout but I held strong, "No."

"Why not?"

I rolled my eyes and pointed to my chest, "Ravenclaw."

He gave a resigned sigh. "What about after? Meet me by the lake?"

"Nope." I answered casually, as I walked backwards in the opposite direction, "You're the one who waited a week and a half to take an interest. Now I've got a routine, you'll just have to figure out how to fit into it."

And then I turned away from him as my face broke into a triumphant grin. Hogwarts had never looked so good.

***

Christmas holiday came much quicker than I'd expected. But I wasn't exactly thrilled at it's sudden arrival. Hogwarts was decorated lavishly with giant Christmas trees and misltoe everywhere. The ghosts sang convolted versions of Chrstmas carols that I'd never heard and all the tinsle made me want to gag. And I'm guessing that it showed.

"Are you excited to go home, Mira?"

"Nope," I answered dully, making my full rosebud lips pop at the P.

"Why not?" Gianna Harveston asked me, her perfect blond eyebrows puckering together.

Lena shot her an annoyed look. She blamed girls like Gianna for the fact that she always lost the Brunettes/Redheads/Blondes battle with Nora and I.

Gianna Harveston and Melissa ("Missy") Covington were the only other two Ravenclaw girls in our year- our dormmates- and they made Lena's skin crawl with all of their incessant girlyness. Which, admittedly, was pretty irritating most of the time. They'd have full two hour long conversations about lip gloss for Merlin's sake! How I wish I was joking.

"Because," Nora sighed wearily, this was about the fourth time she'd explained this to them. "She's a Ravenclaw in a family full of Slytherins. Need I say more?"

A smile fluttered at the corners of my lips.

We'd only been at Hogwarts for about three months and Nora and Lena were already my best friends with the exception of one. They knew all about my family, having even witnessed some of the repulsive pureblood mania themselves by my very vocal older brother, Milo.

I'd been on the rocks with Milo and the rest of my family since the sorting.

They couldn't accept that I wasn't a Slytherin. It was a nightmare for them. A daughter of the noble house of Echols- one of the most well known, powerful and pure families in the magical world- being thrust into the condescending and snobby house of Ravenclaw instead of their beloved Slytherin. The horror! Though, I think they took slight comfort in knowing I was a Ravenclaw rather than a Gryffindor like Sirius. That was the only silver lining; it could be worse.

"Oh." Gianna blinked thickly. "So they don't like having a daughter in Ravenclaw?"

Nora and Lena gaped at her, wondering if anyone could possibly be that stupid, I'd imagine. Appearantly so. Our dormmates were living proof.

Seriously, how in the hell did they make RAVENCLAW?

"No," I answered, "Not particularly."

"Why not?"

More incredulous gaping from Len and Nor.

"They just don't."

My tone had such a ring of superiority and finality to it that I doubt she'd have inquired further, even if a shadow hadn't fallen over our little section of the table at that exact moment.

"Hello ladies."

"Hey Sirius," Nora, Lena and I said, without looking up to see the second year Gryffindor as he slid into the space on my right.

Missy and Gianna just got these glazed over, day-dreamy looks and stared at him like the complete idiots they are. Why didn't this surprise me? They did this everytime.

Ever since that first few weeks, Sirius had been working really hard to balance time with me and his Gryffindor friends. He'd made sure that he didn't ignore me, because he knew that if he did I'd give him the cold shoulder again, maybe even more. Perhaps it would be a three strikes you're out sort of thing where I'd be so fed up with him I'd sever ties completely (Ha. Yeah, right.). In any case, he wasn't taking his chances.

"How are we this fine morning?"

"Sleep deprived." I answered flatly.

He laughed and I felt his arm sling around me. "So Mir, you coming to my house over the holiday?"

I resisted a grin as I saw Missy and Gianna's eyes turn into vicious slits.

"I'd imagine so. Your parents having the usual?"

"Yes. Your's?"

"Yep."

"Good," He started to get up, "Then I'll see you tomorrow, yeah?"

"Our spot?" I asked as he began to walk away. It had the desired effect. Gianna and Missy fumed as Lena and Nora smirked broadly.

"But, of course!"

"Later, Black."

He laughed, "Later, Echols."

***

"I don't get it Sirius," I told him the next day. "What is so wrong with having a smart daughter?"

We were on our rock. It was a snowy afternoon and we'd had to brush a mound of fluffy white percipitation off of the top so we could just sit on it without getting our arses frozen. Our rock had a flat top so after a while we were both lying out in the sun comfortably.

He laughed mirthlessly. "Same thing that's wrong with having a brave son. They think that they have all the qualities in one neat little package. They think they're more daring than Gryffindors and much more intelligent than Ravenclaws. And Hufflepuffs well..." He trailed off with a mock shudder.

"It's all so stupid. She practically ignored me on the platform. And then, getting breakfast this morning was a trip. I swear I must've asked them to pass the bacon at least seven times."

"You end up getting it yourself?"

"Yes! And then I got scolded for reaching over the table!" I ranted, "And then stupid Milo went on and on under his breath about how Ravenclaws had no manners and thought they were too bloody good to socialize. Stupid git."

"You didn't snap back at them, did you?"

"Of course I did! I wasn't going to sit around and bloody take it!" I burst, "You don't, do you?"

"Course not."

"Then how do you expect me to?"

"You're a girl."

"Wow, thanks for the update, Sirius. I had no idea." I told him sarcastically. "And that has to be the most sexist thing I've ever heard you say."

"You obviously don't know me as well as I thought, love. My mind is a dirty one." He grinned mischieviously.

"That's not what sexist means, you troll."

"Hey! I resent that remark. I am much prettier than a troll."

I rolled my eyes, "That may be, but you've got the I.Q. of one."

"Condescending Ravenclaw." he muttered.

I smacked his shoulder playfully. "Sexist is like racism, but with gender."

"Oh." He thought about that for a moment, "I didn't mean it like that, Mira. I just mean that girls are supposed to have more patience."

I snorted, "Stereotype."

"And," He pretended I hadn't spoken, "if they decide to take a whack at you..." He shivered, this time for real. And I'm pretty sure it wasn't because of the cold.

My heart lept into my throat but I tried not to show it. Mainly because such a reaction confused me. And one thing an Echols is taught at birth never to show is confusion.

So I made my voice sound like Missy Covingtons and trilled. "Aw, Siri! I had no idea you cared!"

He laughed and mock-punched my arm, "Shut up."


***

"Mirabella Rose Echols! Come this instant or we are leaving you!" My mother threatened from dowstairs as I stared horrified at my reflection in the full length mirror.

Oh how tempting this offer was. How I wanted to stay up in my room until the actually did leave me so I wouldn't have to be seen in public wearing this dress. Ugh, this hideous dress.

This is just one of many reasons I hate Christmas. Because every wealthy, high bred, pureblood family feels the insipid need to hold a fancy ball. Which, for me, means an incessant string of ugly dresses that I could hardly breathe in.

"Nice." My oldest brother, Markus- a sixth year- had grinned when he'd seen it laid out on my bed earlier that day. He and Milo had taunted me endlessly about it, like I'd had a choice.

I had two color choices. Black or white. Problem was, according to my mother, I am- at eleven- 'too young for black'. So here I am in this awful, puffy monstrosity of white lace, wondering what I did to deserve such torture.

The only reason I was doing this willingly was because of Sirius. I'd get to see Sirius and it would all be worth it. It would all feel better. Hopefully.

The Blacks were holding their annual Holiday black and white ball (I know, the Blacks holding a black and white ball, comical right? I've always thought so). And the only reason I ever attended was because I'd get to see Sirius in dress robes.

He always fidgeted uncomfortably and made faces as he tugged at them. And he always looked absolutely gorgeous.

Hey, I may be his best friend but I am still a girl. I still notice. I can't help it.

"Mirabelle, come now!"

I sighed, I definitely hadn't gotten patience from my mother. "Coming, mum!"

***


"C'mon," Sirius said taking my hand a few hours later.

"Sirius!" I hissed, "We can't just leave."

"Course we can. They're so smashed they won't even noticed."

This was true.

Even my thirteen year old brother had over done it. He had this really goofy grin on acrossed the room as he and his friends talked about whatever Slytherins talk about. I spotted Sirius's favorite cousin, Andromeda- a seventh year. She was giving Markus's best friend, Lucius Malfoy, a rather disgusted look. Obviously she'd remained intellegantly sober.

I gave her a small wave and she returned it miserably. Poor girl.

She was alot like Sirius to be honest. Both thought the purebloods were mad and niether were in the family house of Slytherin. She was a Ravenclaw, like me. But I knew that her problems stemmed far beyond the family troubles I was having.

She'd dealt with all of the house drama and now some of the heat in that department had been taken off because of dear Sirius. Like my parents, hers figured it could be worse. She could be a Gryffindor.

Now her dilemma was much more pressing.

Sirius and I had been taking a walk one evening around school and we'd caught her in an argument with Ted Tonks. A very hunky Hufflepuff who had hords of girls after him. But he never showed an interest in any.

Nora, Lena and I had wondered idly many evenings if he was perhaps gay. And we were almost sure of it. But we'd been wrong.

He wasn't gay. Definitely not. No, he was just a Muggleborn.

..."I'm sorry, Ted. Really, I am!"

"Why can't we just-?"

"My family will flip! I'm just not ready for that yet, Teddy! I- I- Narcissa is still in her fifth year! There may be a chance- a chance before- before she joins- before she... I'm sorry." She sounded so broken.

I've never heard her like that before. Andromeda had always been my idol. She was strong and confident and everything I wanted to be. She was always the big sister I'd never had. But I'd never realized she was really suffering until now.

Sirius and I exchanged startled glances.

"But 'Meda. I love you. I want to be able to take you out without hiding. I want to buy you things in Hogsmeade and- and hold your hand," He took her hand in his, "in the corridors and kiss you without worrying who's watching."

"I know," She rested her forehead against his, "I know. I want all of that too. It's just- I- I'm-"

"Not ready." Ted said flatly, "Yeah, I know. You said. But I've already been asked to the Holiday Ball four times and I feel bad telling these girls no if I won't even be going with my own girlfriend anyway"

The Holiday Ball was one of those seventh years only things( unless you were a younger student invited by a seventh year). It was a big tradition and all of the older kids were in a frenzy because of it.

"Then maybe you should tell them yes." Andromeda snapped, "Make it all so much easier for you."

Ted sighed, knowing what he'd said wrong. His arms snaked around her waist and he coaxed her face towards him with a soft kiss.

Sirius made a face beside me and opened his mouth to interrupt. But I clamped my hand over his mouth and pulled him over a bit so they wouldn't see us. I was sure that the last thing they needed right now was to be caught by a couple of young purebloods who may or may not have trouble keeping their mouths shut. Even if it was only Sirius and me.

"I'm sorry." Ted murmured after their kissing commenced, "I know it's hard for you. And I won't push you but I just hate being completely in love and not being able to show it off a bit."

"Me too." She kissed him again. "If you want to say yes to the next girl, you can I s'pose." she sighed defeated. I spotted tears in her eyes. "As long as there's- as long as no..." She took a deep shuddering breath to keep from crying and tried again, "As long as there's nothing romantic going on with-"

" 'Meda." Ted interrupted, smiling down at her sweetly. "I don't want anyone else." He began kissing her neck. "No one would come close to you." He murmured against her skin. He continued to plant soft kisses down her throat, hitting all of her sensitive spots I'm guessing because she started to groan very softly.

And that's when I decided to pull Sirius away. I definitely didn't think she'd want us to see this.....
"Where are we going?" I asked Sirius as we slipped out the door.

"Anywhere." He laughed teasingly.

I gave him a disparaging look. "Seriously, where are you taking me?

"Our spot of course."

I laughed this time, letting him lead me where he wanted. "Third time this week and we only go there when life is complicated, remember?"

"Life is always complicated." 


***

(Alright, honest oppinions, what do you think? Good? Terrible? Abandon now! Or keep going! REVIEW please!

~RED

P.S. To all my faithful readers {of this story and all the rest of mine} don't expect anymore updates until after I finish reading Breaking Dawn- once I get it tomorrow night at the midnight release. But don't worry, I'm a fast reader and I don't plan on taking any bathroom and/or meal breaks so it shouldn't take too long! lol)



***

Chapter 2: Ridiculous Physical Overreactions
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]


(So I took a break from my reading- What a shock!- I got to page 550 of the INCREDIBLE new book Breaking Dawn by the genius known as Stephenie Meyer -I highly recommend it! {Seriously, why are you reading this? Go pick up this flawlessly written real book} and decided to take a breather. Which was when I had the sparkling idea to update my latest story! So I hope you enjoy this next chapter. It's a bit fluffy but I'm setting you up for the main events. ENJOY!)

Chapter 2~ Ridiculous Physical Overreactions


He's late and I'm going to throttle him.

Does he not care that leaving a fifteen year old girl, like myself, alone in a park at this time of night is an extreme risk? He is putting me in an incredibly vulnerable state right now. I hated being vulnerable. Does he want me to get deflowered by some random filthy homeless guy?

If I'd known he'd be this late I would have brought my wand with me because this is just not smart. Completely unsafe. There is a total of one street light on at the moment and all of the darkness is freaking me out. Yes, I can fully admit that, at fifteen years old, I am still terrified of the dark.

The tall dark trees, silouetted by the eerie full moon hanging in the sky above, sway as a soft breeze rustles through them. Goosebumps sprout on my arms and the hairs on my neck rise. I am standing in a park, completely alone at Merlin knows what hour, in this clearing where no one can probably hear me scream. This is just insane, I glance up at the stars and they wink at me coldly. Teasing.

He's going to die when I get my hands on him.

Forget the wand, I will strangle him with my bare hands.

Stupid git.

What the hell is taking him so long?
I reached into the back pocket and pull out the note yet again, holding it under the light. Could it be a trick? Some ridiculous scheme his little brother cooked up?

Nope. It was his handwriting alright. I'd recognize his elegant scrawl anywhere.

Belle,

I have a surprise for you. Meet me at midnight in that clearing we found near our spot.

~ S



So there I stood, feeling like a complete idiot for being nearly at his beck and call lately. Yes, anything he wanted- I'd done. None of the normal arguements or playful chastising. It was like I could say no to him anymore. 

It was atrocious. I was losing it.

I'd finally admitted to myself that I had an enormous crush -well more than that, I didn't know exactly what it was but it was an enormous something, on my best friend and I felt absolutely ridiculous for it. 

Ridiculous. Giddy. Horrified. Euphoric. Pained. Irritated beyond belief.

I didn't want to be like one of those hopeless slags always drooling over him and I feared that I was becoming one. Or well on my way, at least. It was an awful thought. Absolutely cringe-worthy.

But I rectified it by reminding myself that I knew him better than any of those dreadful harpies always following at his heels. I'd known him my entire life. I knew him better than anyone. Even the other self-proclaimed Marauders. Was it so terrible that I-?

I was jolted out of my reverie by a low rumble.

What the hell?

It wasn't human. I didn't think. But it was getting louder by the moment.

I looked frantically around me, searching for something- anything!- to fight off my attacker with. If it was an attacker- which I was certain it was.
 
All I found was a rather heavy branch that I wasn't even sure I could swing with enough force. This was it. This was how I was going to die. 

I was so coming back to haunt Sirius for this. 

He would never have another moment of peace if I had something to say about it. I briefly considered the possibilities of that for a moment and a mental image of Sirius getting undress clouded my head. 

But a vicious snarl- from my assailant- jerked me back to reality.

I couldn't tell what direction my monster was coming from, the growling reverberated impossibly through the air. And that's when I realized that it was getting brighter.

My head snapped up and a blinding light was shining above me. I staggered backwards, shielding my eyes and falling onto the ground in my hast to escape. But I couldn't get back up. I was too entranced by whatever this bizarre light was coming from. What was it?

And something massive landed in the middle of the clearing.

Just I realized what it was, the engine cut and I heard a familiar chuckle that never failed to send my insides into hectic disarray.

"SIRIUS BLACK!" I snapped viciously when I regained my composure. "WHAT THE BLOODY HELL DO YOU THINK YOU'RE PLAYING AT?! I'VE BEEN WAITING ON YOUR SORRY ARSE FOR NEARLY THREE HOURS!"
I couldn't make out his impish grin in the darkness, but I could hear it in his voice. "Sorry, Mir."

"DAMN RIGHT YOU ARE!" I shouted. "DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA-?" And then, abruptly my mind grasped what he was sitting on and I gasped. 

This was definitely a surprise.

...


I always knew he was a bad ass. He prided himself in his nerve and utter bad boy persona. Even that ridiculous nickname he and his little Gryffindor mates had dreamed up for themselves gloated at their appetite for trouble.

But I'd never pegged him for an idiot on a suicide mission. 

Sirius had always been so smart. So infuriatingly clever. As a child, he'd owned the hearts of everyone in our little circle. Such an intelligent, handsome, lovable little boy. He was the brightest star. 

But, appearantly he'd lost some brain cells since then. Maybe from too many Bludgers to the head. Or perhaps he'd breathed in too much dungbomb fumes. The lose of brain cells was the sole logical explaination I could conjur.

This was insane. Absolutely suicidal, if you ask me. Which he didnt- but that didn't stop me from telling him exactly what I thought of his idiocy. I was always vocal when I knew I was right.
 
His parents are literally going to murder him when they see this. Whether they make it quick and use Avada Kedavra, or decide to drag it out torturously slow with the Cruciatus curse is unknown. But they are definitely going to murder him(and I'd prefer not to be clustered in with him as an accessory to this insanity).

"Have you gone mental?!" I exclaimed as the sod removed his helmet. "Did you recieve one too many Bludgers to the head, you complete and utter nutter?! Do you have a death wish?!"

"Oh c'mon, Bells," he beamed at me triumphantly. He was obviously very pleased with himself. " 'S not that dangerous. I've got a helmet."

"I don't mean dangerous like that, you halfwit! I mean, that your parents- yeah, the Blacks; pureblood, slightly mad, you remember them?- they're going to have your head on a diamond encrusted, real sterling silver, platter when they see this monstrosity!"

His grin broaded, "Hop on."

"Are you insane?"

"Slightly. Now, hope on."

"Not a chance in hell."

"C'mon, Echols." He pouted, "I've got you your very own helmet and everything. Please?"

I glared at him skeptically. "My own helmet? Really?"

His grin got wider. "All yours."

I raised an eyebrow in suspision. "It's not frilly or pink or anything is it?"

He threw his head back and laughed. "No. It's baby blue."

I smiled and sighed, "Alright, fine."

And that is how I ended up straddling the back of Sirius Black's shiny new motorcycle, holding onto him for dear life as we soared through the night air. Yeah, I'm the luckiest girl alive, I know.

***


Mir,

Let's go out today. Meet at our spot. Noon.

~S


My heart did a ridiculous flutter and I immediately dropped my fork. I lunged from the breakfast table- not even bothering to answer my family's questions about who sent the letter or why I reacted so strange. I didn't even pause to shoot Milo a dirty look for making a comment about 'spastic Ravenclaws'. Instead I raced up the stairs, still clutching my letter (come on, you didn't think I'd leave it down there for them to read, did you?).

I flung myself into my room and began to get ready, not even caring that it was still only ten in the morning. I needed all the time I could get.

...


"So, you and James Potter and Peter Pettigrew managed to become illegal animagi?" I clarified yet again as I slurped on the ice cream he bought me, holding onto him with only my legs while he effortlessly carried me on his back.

"Yep."

"How?"

"I'll teach you someday."

"Hey, if Pettigrew can learn than so can I."

"Aw c'mon, Mira. Pete's not that bad."

"Last term he asked me if Ravenclaw girls read in the showers."

He laughed- barked, really- at this and shook his head. "So he's a tad perverted. What bloke isn't?"

I rolled my eyes but stood my ground. "I don't trust him. And he's as thick as that awful pudding Narcissa made us choak down last week."

He laughed, "I liked that pudding."

"It had chunks! I'm sorry but pudding is not supposed to have chunks." I gave a revolted shudder, remembering the awful sensation of the so-called-pudding sliding down my throat, chunks and all. "It's just wrong."

"If you say so," his tone was patronizing and his chuckle, amused.

"So what animal are you?"

"A dog, of course. "

"Of course." I rolled my eyes again.

"You're dripping on me."

I looked down and found that my chocolate ice cream was in fact dripping down the back of Sirius's shirt and chuckled "Cold?"

"No. It feels nice actually. I just thought you should know that you are wasting perfectly good ice cream."

I laughed again, "Your back is going to be all sticky."

He shrugged and my torso wobbled backwards. I screeched as he caught me by the arm, sending the ice cream flying in the opposite direction. I didn't realize until I steadied myself again that it had hit him. Right in the face.

"Oops." I was no longer on his back so he could see that I was trying- without much success, not to laugh at such a site. Peels of giggles escaped me as I watched my ice cream drip from his angelic face. It was just too funny not to laugh, like someone had pressed a button on me and I couldn't control it any longer. So I gave in. 

Surprisingly, a wicked grin spread slowly acrossed his gorgeous, ice cream covered features. "You are so dead." And he grabbed a stranger's drink (throwing some Muggle notes on the table). It was red and I was in a white shirt. Oh, perfect.

"Don't you dare." I warned him backing away.

He just grinned wider. "Run."

And we took off down the street, Sirius at my heels in hot persute.

...


"I can't believe you got red wine all over my shirt!"

"I can't believe you smeared cake in my face."

"Only after the red wine!" I exclaimed as he shook his wet curls like a dog. We'd decided to stop at a bathroom to wash off.

"Which was because of your ice cream diabolical."

"An accident!"

"Mhmm." He through me a mock-glare.

"It was! You had to shrug and throw me off balance."

"Your balance is terrible."

"I know. I can't help it."

He chuckled, "And I love you anyway."

My heart stuttered annoyingly. I knew he didn't mean it the way I wanted but I couldn't help myself. I thrilled at those words. It irritated me that he could set me off so effortlessly. He was just a boy for Merlin's sake!

A very adorable, charming, sweet, funny, considerate, caring boy. But a boy all the same. And I'd known him for so long that these sort of feelings and physical overreactions should be impossible by now.
 
Yet, unfortunately, they weren't and I had no clue how to handle that.

So I channeled all of my pureblood genes into the task of looking perfectly indifferent to such an off-hand comment. "How could you not?" I smirked innocently.

He rolled his eyes and mussed my hair.

The touch sent my entire body into a frenzy as a shiver ran down my spine and a tingle traveled through my viens. I prayed he couldn't hear my heart throwing itself embarassingly at the walls of my chest.

Only my brain retain an ounce of sanity which was scolding me for reacting this way to such a big brotherly gesture. Though, since my real big brothers rarely did anything like this I wouldn't really know that well.

I got up and he mimicked the motion. Then, as we began walking again, he flung an arm around my shoulders.

I tensed and held in a sigh as my body overreacted once more.

I must have made a face because Sirius got one look and said warily,"What?" 

"Nothing," I lied,quickly. " I was just thinking about that horrendous pudding." 

He barked a laugh at this and -to my complete shock- kissed the top of my head.

If he hadn't heard my spluttering heart before, he would now. I was sure of it.

Every muscle within me reacted to the touch of his lips- even if it was only on my head. Every hair on the back of my neck stood at attention and the place where he kissed me was on fire.

But somehow, my legs managed to keep stride with him and my left arm found its way around his waist. I hesitantly placed my head on his shoulder as we walked and smiled when I felt his chin rest centimeters from the place he'd kissed (which still tingled frantically). 

I was afraid that I was going to swoon like all those annoying girls who follow him around like puppies at school. I was dangerously close to swooning. I wondered whether he'd catch me if I passed out.

Then I sighed, if I was going to faint I had to consider that he would probably never let it go. I'd be taunted for the rest of my life. Maybe he'd even figured out that it was in response to his bewildering public displays of affection. 

I held in a shudder at that thought. I didn't want to take the chance. The slightest movement and I was terrified he'd let go.

I knew what we must look like. People probably thought we were a couple. But I didn't care. As long as Sirius didn't mind, I was content. More than content, really. I felt like I could fly.

...

My suspisions were right.

As they almost always are (I am a Ravenclaw after all). That intelligent thing is no joke.


Anyway, they were confirmed when I lifted my head from my best-friend-and-love-interest's shoulder and exclaimed, "Ooo! Bookstore, c'mon!" I unconciously took his hand and began pulling him towards the book shop.

Sirius groaned but I ignored him.

A bell tingled as we entered and the smell of books reach my nose. The old lady at the counter smiled fondly at us as I pulled Sirius in. And then my search began.

He knew how I was. I could spend all day in a bookstore and still want more. So he sat in a comfy chair and watched me roam the isles eagerly searching for a diamond in the rough. It was a thrilling activity for me. Almost as fun as soaring through the air on my broom.

It was nearly an hour later that I looked up to meet his intent gaze. It was amused and something else that I couldn't quite place. I felt slightly guilty.

"You're bored, aren't you?" I grimaced.

He chuckled, "Only a little. Just keep shopping, Bells. Don't worry about me."

I flashed him a sparkling grin then I continued to shop. I was more aware of time though now. More alert to Sirius sitting there, watching me with a strange glint in his mystifying blue eyes.

Twenty minutes later, I was torn between two books.

Appearantly it showed on my features- that or Sirius is a Legilimans (please Merlin no!)- because he chuckled and said, "Mira?"

I looked up abruptly to see his amused face. "Hm?"

"Would you like both books?"

"Well," I grimaced. "No... but... I can't decide which on I want."

"Then get both."

"No, I-"

"I'm buying both for you." His tone was resolute as he rose from his seat fludily. Ballerinas everywhere would kill for such unconcious grace.

"Sirius, no. I'm not letting you-"

"You don't have a choice, Mir." He grinned and swiped the books from my hands, approaching the old woman at the register.

"You don't have to buy me anyth-" I began to argue again.

He cut me off again, "I want to, Mirabelle."

"But-"

"No more arguing," he told me firmly but there was amusement in his eyes and his lips twitched upwards at the corners.

"I-"

"Ah, ah. Enough, Belle." He told me an then he wrapped his arm around my shoulder once more (to my delight). "Dunno why you have to be so stubborn all the time."

I shot him an entirely fake annoyed glare. But it didn't fool anyone, my smile broke through quickly.

The lady smiled sweetly at us again. "Young love." She chortled fondly, "It's nice to see such a lovely young couple."

My eyes were wide with mortification and a knot was in my throat- or maybe that was my frantic heart. "No, no we're not-!"

I began to correct her hastily but Sirius cut acrossed me again. "Anything for my girl." He winked, flashing her a dashing smile. I felt my face burn and my heart was convulsing as his arm floated down and snaked around my waist.

This action was so incredibly non-platonic that it shocked me. I was surpised that I managed not to gasp in shock. It felt even more intimant than that kiss he'd planted on my head.

My mind was in a fog as the lady laughed happily said something encouraging and Sirius steered me out of the shop. I was positive that once we were outside, he'd let go. But he didn't.

Instead, he moved his arm back up to my shoulders and rested it there casually as we strolled down the street. Well, he strolled- I stumbled.

"It's a full moon tonight." He told me unessecarily.

"Poor Remus."

"Yeah," he looked at his feet for a moment, then back at the moon. "People do crazy things on full moons."

***

(So there it is! Now I'm going to go read my fabulous new book like the completly hopeless bookworm I am. Don't forget to REVIEW please!!!

~RED~)

Chapter 3: Pureblood Predicament
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Chapter 3~ Pureblood Predicament




They wouldn't stop talking about it.

It was awful. Completely wretched. Utterly mad.

My insides twisted. I hadn't eaten since I'd recieved the news.

How could I? It was unbearable. Agonizing to know that I wouldn't be seeing Sirius for the rest of my holidays. That he'd been wiped off his family tree after he'd run off to James Potter's house. That I was on my own from now on when life got complicated in the purebloods' little circle. That he'd left me without a life preserver in this hurricane.

I'd been forbidden to associate with such a blood-traitor.

When we were little, our parent were thrilled at the match (though they were surprised it was Sirius and I rather than Regulus-who's my age), imagining us getting married and having perfect, gorgeous, pureblood babies together. Then, after he became a Gryffindor, my parents were wary but not entirely against the friendship (they still imagined the two of us with those perfect babies- blaming the Sorting Hat, saying it was senile). But now, he was a blood-traitor, a disgrace.

And I- despite my school house- was the Echols baby. I was the charming little girl, no matter what house I was in, I was still precious. And therefore, I would never be allowed to be friends with someone they considered to be scum. Not even at school.

I'd be under the watchful eyes of fellow pureblood children. One wrong move and I'd be chucked out too.

Like Andromeda when she was seen kissing Ted Tonks in Hogmeade the weekend before the Holiday ball nearly five years ago. I would be burned off of my family tree and disowned by the maniacs (also known as my relatives) that-despite their convulted values- I loved (a little). Cut off like a bad branch. The Purebloods would no longer acknowledge me to be a powerful Echols witch. They would no longer see me as the sparkling baby girl of one of the most influential pureblood families in the world. I'd be a filthy parasite in their eyes.

And that was even if I managed to get away. Which I was sure I wouldn't, in which case I'd be killed.

I hated him for doing this to me. I really did.

I wasn't even sure if I'd be able to be seen with Kathlena and Lanora anymore. And that terrified me. The Prewetts had never gone along with the pureblood mania (making them possible bloodtraitors as well)- despite their wealth and pure magical blood- and Nora was a half-blood.

What would I do if they forbid me to associate with them too? I wouldn't be able to bear that. I was already dying inside over having to sever ties with the love of my life, I couldn't lose Nora and Kat too. And my only other option was to defy my family and risk my life. Lose everything else that much sooner. Then what would I do. I wasn't even sevnteen yet!

How dare he put me in such a position? Didn't he think about my sake at all? No. Of course not. Because Sirius is a selfish arsehole.

He'd been planning it the whole time, I'd realized a few days after the atrocity occured. That's why he wanted to spend the day with me. He knew it would be his last chance to do so. How could I have been so incredibly thick?

..."People do crazy things on full moons"...

The words echoed in my head incessantly. Like a broken record that I couldn't figure out how to shut off. They haunted me, inflicting an angonizing pain on my heart.

How could he do this to me? Everyone knew we were closer than close. More protective of eachother than siblings, tighter than friends and strangely connected somehow. We were almost unhealthily close to eachother, it was common knowledge. Hell, they'd been betting that we'd get married since I was five (though, I'd only harbored that hope myself for a few short months)!

My life, my very existance, was in danger. One wrong move and it could end within seconds. I was under heavy suspision and watched constanly. The hawks never let up. I swear they even checked up on me the other night to make sure I was still in my bed like a good pureblood daughter. Creepy, yeah?

But I couldn't get away from the suspision, nor could I escape the gossip. It was driving me mad but I had no where to go. I couldn't let my tears fall in my house and I refused to revisit our spot, where I'd normally go. So I bottled up all of my emotions and went flying on my broom as much as humanly possible. That, or I'd wander the streets aimlessly until dinner time.

The only thoughts I allowed myself to have about Sirius were those of resent and disgust. Any thought I had of him was full of venom. It was the only kind I could handle without throwing up.

Not because I agreed with all of the pureblood nonsense, but because it was the easiest way to cope with it all. If I was seething, the pain dimmed to a dull ache in the center of my chest where my heart had been. It was empty now and I was resolutely pissed.

Why shouldn't I be? He'd had no consideration for the danger he was putting me in. Especially in times like these. Had he even cared? Appearantly not.

I hadn't bothered to open any of his letters. Instead, when I recieved one, I immediately burned it. Especially if I was in the presence of my family (who all thoroughly approved of this action).

He would get the hint that I abhorred him for putting me through this eventually. If not by the unanswered letters, then when we went to Hogwarts and I pretended he wasn't there.

It would kill me. I knew this already. To cut him off completely would be purposely ripping my own heart out and stomping on it then chucking it off the Astronomy Tower. I didn't care that he was a blood-traitor, I loved him still- astonishingly enough.

But he made me even more vulnerable. I'd already been like a sitting target- being pretty, proper and pureblood. I was already struggling with the fact that I was prime Death Eater material. And he'd only made it worse by his stunt. They'd want to snatch me up quickly now. Immerse me in darkness before I could do anything that would damage my prospects. And I felt incredibly helpless. Weak, even.

He knew that my worst fear was vulnerability. Yet he'd chosen to defy the purebloods and escape, leaving me to rot in their wake. He had to have known how his rash action would effect me. In this war there were two choices and his disownment would force me to make the choice that much faster. I hated him for it.

Hated him and loved him.

What a predicament.

***


"Lovely, Mira."

I whipped around to see a stunning blonde standing casually in my doorway. She had her golden tresses up in a strategically pinned pile on top of her head, I spotted jewels of some sort placed among the shiny blonde curls. Her eyes matched the off the shoulder ice blue gown that hugged her elegant form perfectly and flared out around her knees. Diamond earrings sparkled on her ears and a thin silver chain was draped gracefully around her neck, holding yet another diamond in place near her exposed collar bone.

My cousin Rosalie flashed me a grin before crossing the large room.

I returned my blank eyes to the mirror with a dull, "Hi, Rose."

"That bad, huh?" She asked as she began rummaging through my jewelry.

"What?"

"You're grieving, love. It's obvious."

I didn't ask what she was talking about. I didn't want to know. I had a hunch already and it required venturing onto dangerous territory. I was not prepared for that. I hadn't uttered the name in two months, I wasn't about to now. I had to keep myself calm through what promised to be a tormenting affair.

The Malfoys' were holding a grand engagement ball for their son, Lucius and his bride-to-be, Narcissa Black. Yeah, Sirius's cousin Cissy. Meaning that all of Sirius's many insane relatives would be in attendance except, of course, Sirius himself.

I would have to channel all of my strength into this night if I wanted to survive it. I knew it would be agony, but it wasn't an agony I could escape. I knew that this event was vital.

For the Blacks and for me.

The Blacks had suffered yet another lose. Been dished out yet another disgrace. First the kind, caring, soft Andromeda and now the beloved, dazzeling, incredible Sirius. Their powerful family was suffering, they needed some sort of triumph, And Cissy's marriage to a Malfoy was just the ticket.

But for me, there was also a pressing need to show them that I wasn't going astray, according to my parents. I had to sparkle and charm them all, like always. Pretend that nothing had changed in the slightest. I was positive that the gossip had included me- having just spent the entire day with him before he did the unthinkable. And there was also another similarity I was sure had occured to them as well. Andromeda hadn't been a Slytherin, nor had Sirius. I was the only non-Slytherin left in their little circle. They were breathlessly waiting to see if it was merely a non-Slytherin-Black thing or just a non-Slytherin thing period. And I was the deciding factor.

Too bad none of us knew how it would end.

I stared unseeingly at my reflection, ignoring my older cousin's gaze. Rosalie was a Slytherin, a year ahead of Sirius. She was the epitomy of perfect in all of their eyes. Well-bred, gorgeous, pureblood, powerful, charistmatic and impossibly clever.

This had never been an issue for me, until now.

"Mira?"

"Hm?" I pretended I was studying the rose red gown my mother had bought for me yesterday. It was strapless with a large skirt that had several petticoats underneath and a tight, corset bodice that was embroidered into a flower pattern with tiny rubies. I was sure that deep breathing was going to be a trip with this thing on.

"Don't try to hide it, babe." She told me, "We were all fooled. You're allowed to be upset. He abandoned you more than anyone after all."

I didn't respond. What could I say?

In so many ways she was right. But she had no idea how deep it went, no clue of the conflict I was facing. The battle that was raging inside of me was a mystery to my dear cousin.

All she knew was that I'd lost my best friend. That he had left me to be with mudbloods and blood-traitors and filth.

She didn't know that it had triggered an agonizing internal debate. That everything within me longed to do the same but didn't know how. That the only reason I was still here with them was because I didn't trust myself to escape without getting killed in the process.

She came behind me and tipped my head forward gently so she could get to my neck without corrupting the fancy bun at the base of my head. It was made of sleek curls just as hers was, but I'd left a few stray tendrils to frame my face. My cousin draped the choaker onto my neck then fastened it securely. It wrapped around my neck and continued into a triangle (sort of) shape of diamonds that dangled nicely there. Somehow it managed to make my neck look longer.

"There." She smiled softly at me. The sympathy still lingered in her eyes. "You're absolutely gorgeous."

I didn't say anything but rather, averted my eyes.

She turned me around and tilted my chin up to look at her. "You're an Echols, remember? You look down to no one. And you will get through this." She assured me, "You'll dazzle everyone like always and show them how strong you are."

I sighed heavily.

If she only knew.

...


"I always knew he was scum."

"You did not," Clarissa Rosier scoffed at her elder brother, "You thought the hat was off it's rocker as well."

"We all did." The Zambini boy interjected.

I sat quietly, not trusting myself to join in this particular conversation. I knew they were waiting for me to make a comment but I refused to bite the bait. It was none of their business anyway.

Ophelia Flint and Marinda Macnair both nodded in agreement. They'd adored Sirius. Always fawning and cooing over him. It always disgusted me. Now what disgusted me was that their affections were flipped so easily.

Avery Rosier shrugged at his sister. "Never liked the bloke."

Clarissa scoffed, flipping her white blond hair over her shoulder and puckering her lips. She was uncommonly pretty, a year younger than me and quite out spoken. I knew how it annoyed her when her brother pretended to have more knowledge than he actually posessed.

"Bravery." Theo Nott sneered draping his arm around Clarissa. He was in my year and I'd never been particularly fond of the sandy blond. "I can't believe everyone believes that rubbish about Gryffindors. They're all such bloody cowards."

"Yeah, because you'd be able to risk getting killed for what you believe."

I whipped around to see who'd mirrored my thoughts exactly. My wide eyes locked with Rabastan Lestrange's smoldering gold ones. He showed no sign of stress or defiance, his stance was calm and casual. As if he'd merely commented on the weather.

Sirius's cousin's little brother-in-law came to stand next to me casually. And to my utter shock, he winked from the eye that the couldn't see. "I wouldn't doubt his bravery. Defying the Dark Lord is no small act. His motives and priorities, granted, are astonishingly warped and he is a fool. But I would not doubt that he has nerve."

Clarissa and Ophelia hissed. But Marinda, her sister Teirsa, Makenna Dolhov and Adara Yaxley just gave him looks of shock and reproach.

"Careful, 'Bastan." Avery cautioned, "Wouldn't want someone to think you sympathize with the git."

We all heard the real warning. 'Wouldn't want people to think you're a blood traitor too." I waited for Rabastan to blow up in his face.

But he surprised me again by shrugging coldly, "Let those mindless and insipid enough to gossip about such rubbish say what they like. I know where my loyalties lie. As does the Dark Lord. I have nothing to fear." He drawled indifferently, reminding Avery not-so-subtly that last month he'd been branded with the Mark. It was a black skull and snake on his arm -currently hidden under his long sleeve and draped casuallly around my shoulder (I surpressed a shudder at the thought)- that symbolized his ranking in the Dark Lord's inner circle.

It made him excessively powerful and respected around this lot. He was young, thriving, handsome and well-spoken. The best of the best -just like his brother before him. He couldn't be touched.

Avery didn't like the reminder, I assumed. If the look of pure, burning jealousy in his eyes was any indication.

I felt like smirking but didn't. Why was he so hungry for that life? Such a terrible fate and he was jealous of it. This baffled me. But I pretended I was of the same oppinion. I wasn't about to let on that the idea of obeying and calling someone master made my blood boil and the idea of killing anyone- Muggle or not- made me want to throw up. It wasn't safe, especially not now.

"Regardless," I chimed in cooly. They all looked to my blank face eagerly- it was the moment they'd all been waiting for. "I dont' think this is a wise place for such a discussion. It is Cissy's party after all."

And with that, I tactfully brought the unbearable conversation to a close.

...


"Oh hey, Cissy." I said wearily, as I entered the powder room in an attempt to escape the gossiping purebloods, only to find the guest of honor hiding in there already.

Sirius's cousin smiled weakly. She was an absurdly beautiful blond with pale skin and vibrant blue eyes. But as they locked with mine I spotted something in place of the usual sparkle.

Immediately, I knew what it was. Because I'd seen in magnified a thousand times in my own eyes over the past two months. Pain.

This made my insides twist uncomfortably. After Sirius and Andromeda, Narcissa was my favorite in our family's circle of friends. She'd never been openly hostile in any way towards her sister, though she no longer acknowledged Andy as her sister anymore. And she'd been more than supportive and comforting when I'd been sorted into Ravenclaw.

I went to her at times when Andromeda had disappeared (off with Ted, I'd later discover) and I had a problem. She'd dry my tears and murmur words of reassurance to me. I always loved Cissy.

And, though her views on Muggles and such were the same as everyone else in our circle, I believed she truly did have a soft spot, unlike the rest of them. I knew Cissy was different. She was kinder and less drawn to slaughtering Mudbloods than the rest of them. She wasn't entirely pure of there convulted view of life but - with a little work- I believed she could get there.

Though, I knew she'd never run off as her sister did. She admired Andromeda's nerve but she didn't have the courage herself. Cissy liked stability and the pureblood life as well as Lucius Malfoy gave her that. She wasn't going to throw it away, no matter how much it beat her concience to a pulp.

"Hey, Bells." She greeted me softly. "How're ya' holdin' up?"

Immediately, I knew what she meant. And I knew I wasn't keen on getting into that topic again.

I sighed wearily and stood at the mirror, pretending to study my reflection as Narcissa sat on the small red sofa to my right. "I'm fine, Ciss." I lied, "How are you?"

She smiled at my obvious aversion to the implied topic. "Exhausted."

"Wedding plans?"

She grimaced, "Among other things."

But before we dove into that most uncomfortable topic, the door swung open and a tall, raven haired young woman stepped into the powder room with us.

"There you are!" she exclaimed when she saw Narcissa. "Everyone is looking for you, Cissy. Why are you hiding out in here?"

Bellatrix Lestrange was Narcissa and Andromeda's eldest sister and by far the most frightening of the bunch. She was elegant, graceful and married to Roldophus Lestrange, Rabastan's older brother. She was also quite intense and had a fiery temper. And, though she'd always been more than pleasant to me personally, I couldn't help but be secretly terrified of her.

"Oh hello, Mira." She flashed me a stunning grin. "How are you, sweets?"

Have I mentioned that she's an expert at pretending blood traitors in the family never existed to begin with? She doesn't show an ounce of remorse for disowned family members, she simply forgets they were ever born.

A strange thing, I'd always thought. I couldn't imagine forgetting Andromeda and Sirius- not even for a second. They were both so vibrant and colorful. How could anyone pretend they didn't exist?

"I'm fine, Bella." I lie, it was blasphemy in it's blackest, most hideous form. I was no where near fine. How could I be without Sirius at my side making these gatherings bearable?

Narcissa shot me a knowing look. She could tell I was in agony. But she didn't know the half of it.

And I wasn't about to reveal my inner turmoil to her. She was not fond of rebellion and I was sure she'd react badly if I told her I was considering it. She might even go to my parents.

And then I'd surely be cut off the family tree. Avada Kedavra-ed before I could even realize what was happening.

I wasn't ready to accept that fate yet, so I kept my mouth shut.

...


"There you are, Mirabelle!"

I turned around to see Rabastan coming towards me with a wide grin on his handsome face. His black hair wasn't slicked back like so many of the mummy's boys in attendance but spiked up in a unique way. His golden eyes glittered mischieviously at me as he handed me a drink.

"Thanks." I mumbled puzzled. What was with him tonight?

"Your very welcome," he winked, flashing another sparkling grin at me. "Where have you been hiding all night, love?" He asked me, something suggestive lingered under the surface of his innocent tone and a tingle ran down my spine as he wrapped an arm around my small waist. "I've been looking everywhere for you."

I cocked my head to the side and let a small, confused smile twitch my lips upward. The voice that came out of my mouth shocked me. It was mine, but it was tinted a flirtacious tone I'd rarely ever used. "Oh, really? And why is that?" I tilted my chin up and gave him a challenging smirk.

He beamed and then released my waist, taking my hand instead. I recieved another shock- like I'd been hit by lightening- when he pressed his lips to it. Then, still bowing, he murmured, "Would you honor my with a dance, gorgeous?"

I felt the impact of this sentence reveal itself on my face. I jumped a little, eyes wide and jaw unhinging.

He chuckled at my expression and there was an odd glimmer in his eyes that I'd never seen there before. I couldn't identify the emotion. Did they look hopeful or was it just my imagination?

"Please, Mirabelle?" He prompted. His tone was definitely hopeful. How odd.

My insides twisted painfully, remembering who I always danced with at these affairs. I rarely said yes to anyone else but Sirius. What was the point?

But I heard myself accept without thinking about it, felt him lead me to the dance floor numbly. He smiled broadly the music began and he started twirlign me aroung the floor. And I think I felt myself smile back.

Guilt wrenched my insides and the fault line in my empty heart shuddered hostily. My brain was shouting furiously, insulting my loyalty and decision making processes. But defiance flared in my stomach.

Sirius had left me to rot, he obviously didn't care about me at all. Why shouldn't I dance with Rabastan? It wasn't like Sirius and I had ever been an item anyway. I'd just been the quirky girl next door that he hung out with when there was nothing more interesting to distract him. I was easily disgarded, utterly forgettable. So why couldn't I do everything in my power to forget him just as easily? Why couldn't I seek some sort of happiness and balance in this new solitary existance I would have from this holiday on? It was only fair.

So, when Rabastan pulled me closer, I didn't object. Instead, I laid my head on his chest contentedly.

I would try to forget Sirius just like Bellatrix. I would try my very hardest to pretend he never existed.

I spotted my delighted parents, watching me dance with eager eyes filled with a different, more forceful kind of hope in them.

They adored Rabastan. Everyone in this circle did. He was the perfect pureblood young man. Wealthy, loyal, gorgeous and charming. He was going into his seventh year and he was already expected to do great things. I knew that they were thrilled he was showing interest in me. After all their fears about Sirius and I, nothing could please them more than to have me in the company of such a well-bred young wizard.

I held back an eye roll. There they went again. I could tell by their expressions that they were imagining me married with beautiful, pureblood babies giggling happily as they ran through the big Lestrange manor. They were so obvious.

"I can't believe I'm actually dancing with you." Rabastan mused in my ear.

My eyebrows furrowed as a pang of insecurity shot through me. Did he believe the rumors? Was he against Ravenclaws? Did he think I was bound to become a blood traitor as well?

"What do you mean?" I risked a glance at his handsome face.

He smiled and shook his head, "I've been wanting to make a move for ages."

I gaped at him, unable to conceal my utter astonishment. "Really?" I gasped.

He nodded, laughing at my expression. "Truly."

My eyebrows pulled together again and my head cocked to the side as we contiued whirling gracefully around the floor. "Well what stopped you?"

He smiled without mirth this time. "A certain Gryffindor constantly attatched to you hip. Not that I really blame him. Even a blood traitor can recognize a precious gem when it's right there, I suppose. But I could never be sure if the two of you were a couple or not, until now obviously." He smiled at me while my insides twisted painfully.

"Sirius and I were never like that." I mumbled, my cheeks betrayed me- burning crimson as I said it aloud. The pieces of my shattered heart rippled in agony.

"Idiot. What bloke would be mad enough not to want you?"

My heart gave a feeble thud and I smiled half-heartedly. I didn't know quite how to answer that.

"Anyway, with him acting like your bodygaurd I wasn't sure how to get near you." He smiled crookedly down at me and I felt my skin tingle. He was very handsome. Not as gorgeous as Sirius but definitely gorgeous.

"I guess you won't have to worry about that anymore, will you?" I attempted to joke lightly. Pain shuddered within me at the words. How horrible.

He grinned, "No. I guess I won't."

***

(Okay, so I'm not sure how I feel about this chapter but it was entirely nessecary  so there it is. So please review and telll me what you think. This story depends on your feedback. The more you review the faster I update! 

xo RED ox )


Chapter 4: Suffocation and A Very Long Train Ride
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(Okay, so first I want to plead my case because I never meant to neglect all of my amazing readers for such a horrendusly long time. But I was rather busy and then I started school which just made it worse and I had about -2 seconds of free time on my hands. But the writer's block is gone and it's the weekend so I am procrastinating atrociously to update as much as I can!  So Enjoy! And don't forget to review!
 xoxo RED )


Chapter 4~ Suffocation and A Very Long Train Ride


On the morning of my mother's annual summer dinner party, I recieved my Hogwarts letter. But it was considerably heavier this year.

Almost instantly, I knew why.

It was with mild shock that I slid the shiny silver badge out of the envelope along with my letter- which slid to the floor unnoticed. With all the hectic frenzy this summer had been filled with, I'd forgotten all about my fifth year and what that meant.

Nora and I were both up for the prefect spot (Lena was too violent and the other two Ravenclaw girls in our year definitely didn't have the attention span). I'd fully expected for Nora to get the badge and it was almost a relief because I didn't know exactly how my mother would react to my being a Ravenclaw prefect.

But appearantly Dumbledore thought my life should be even more complicated.

Perfect.


***

"SURPRISE!"

Both Rosalie and I gasped as we walked in the door (with all of our bag from Diagon Alley- because term started in four days) and were bombarded by familiar faces. They crowded around us in a way that would make any claustraphobic nervous and grinned like mad at our surprised faces.

Almost instantly, I knew why they'd all gathered at my house like this. Rose had made Head Girl this year and I was a prefect. We were golden in our family at the moment. But it still surprised me that they were all so happy.

I mean, I may have been a prefect but I was a Ravenclaw prefect. Not their precious Slytherin. For once, though, none of them seemed to care (to my gigantic relief). Someone even wrote shimmering purple letters over the door frame that read- Congratulations Girls!

Girls. As in plural.

I felt a gush of affection for my psychotic family for such a small gesture. (Further proof of how sad they are when it comes to being in touch with emotion. They all need ridiculous doses of therapy in my opinion.)

"We're so proud of you," my aunt beamed.

Before I knew it, I was being hugged and kissed and slipped outrageous amounts of silver and gold. It was such a strange feeling, being passed around this way. Having everyone happy to see me.

I hadn't felt like this since my eleventh birthday (before my sorting). Sad, but true. It was strange to feel genuinely happy with people who had caused so much conflict and misery in my life for the past four years. Strange, but nice. If I was going to pretend to be like them it would be easier if- on occaision- I found some happiness.

But the warm feeling didn't last very long at all before being tainted by a spasm of pointless guilt. Guilt, because I was happy and Sirius wasn't here. Guilt, because I was enjoying being around the kind of people we'd always despised. Guilt, because I was going to continue on this path that was so completely opposite from what I'd always wanted- and I was going to try to forget him in the process.

This caused considerable discomfort and I started to feel suffocated. I didn't tell anyone I was getting claustrophobic, or why. But I made my way through the party and into our kitchen, where my favorite house elf, Winnie, handed my some butterbeer. I took it greatfull and gulped like a castaway in the desert. Very unladylike but no one was there to watch.

Or so I thought.

I choked a little when a soft chuckle came from the door at the same time as I spotted someone from the corner of my eye. I started coughing as the liquid tried to slid down the wrong pipe.

My sputtering just made Rabastan laugh harder. And, in my mortification, I felt the stifling warmth return to my cheeks. I knew they'd be horrendous crimson (damn my stupid blushing!).


"Hiya, Mir," he smirked, once he'd finished chortling at my lack of air.

"No," I choked out, "I'm fine. No help needed here. I'm just choking due to your nonexistant tact. But who needs oxyben anyway?" I ranted, "I've always thought it was rather overrated and now-"

He chuckled at my sarcasm but interrupted me, " 'M sorry for scaring you, Belle. I didn't think you'd start hacking because of it- probably should've waited until you were done chugging that butterbeer, huh?"

I glared, "Ya' think?"

He grinned wickedly, his eyes pirouetting with mischief- reminding me of a person I was desperately trying to forget. I gulped in a mixture of pain and nerves. Because, along with the reminder, came a realization.

I was alone with Rabastan Lestrange for the first time.

The only bloke I'd ever been alone with this way was Sirius. And the sensation was surprisingly similar (though with Sirius it was multiplied by a thousand). My throat was dry and a gigantic knot had formed in it- I probably looked like I'd sprouted an Adam's apple. My pulse thudded embarassingly loud and I found it slightly difficult to breathe.

"So, may I ask why the guest of honor was skipping out on her own party?"

My brows furrowed, "I wasn't." I told him defensively.

But I'd spoken too fast and he could hear the lie, clear as day. It sounded false to my own ears too.

I sighed, "Fine. I just needed some air. I felt a little.... suffocated."

He frowned at my hesitation and gave me an inquisitive look.

I heard the silent question and smiled ruthlessly.

"I'm not used to this kind of attention anymore. Haven't been smothered with adoration like this since I was eleven." I looked at him disparagingly and comprehension dawned on his face.

"Oh," he responded flatly.

I'd now successfully created an awkward moment. 

But then he stepped closer, a rather confusing smirk on his handsome face and kept coming until his breath was on my forehead and I was between him and the counter. I realized that all the bussling house elves had disappeared- to give us privacy, I suppose (I would have to talk to them about that later). My breath hitched in my throat as he leaned down to my ear. 

His lips brushed against it -giving me shivers down my spine- as he whispered, "We'll have to change that, now won't we?"


***

"MIRA!"

"Ompf."

My family had left me alone on platform nine and three quarters- as always (thought this time I was kind fo surprised. They'd been watching me so carefully lately. And then the one place they know Sirius will be they leave me without supervision? What is that?). And the place was buzzing with so much activity I don't they would've noticed the attack anyway.

I was blinded by a mess of red curls and my air supply had been abruptly cut off by two arms constricted around my neck. I gasped, though not from surprise, just lack of air.

"I missed you!" Nora squealed in my ear and I thought I heard Kathlena's familiar chuckle somewhere near us. But, being blinded, I couldn't really tell.

I tried to respond but it got caught in my throat, just below where her arms were squeezing me to death. Instead, I managed a strange gurgling sound.

"You do realize she can't breathe right?" Okay that was definitely Lena and she sounded even more amused than before.

"Oh. Right." Nora released me and I immediately began gulping air. "Sorry, Belle" She grinned at me sheepishly, she'd seriously forgotten that oxygen was sort of a must. Wow, and were the Ravenclaws. We're supposed to be the smart ones at school- Merlin help us all.

I shot her a look as I concentrated on refilling my lungs then said, "You know I always knew you wanted to kill me."

They laughed and rolled their eyes at my dramatics. Some small part of me felt revived- not because Nora no longer had me in a strangle hold but because they were both there. Just there.

I realized how truly forlorn I'd been over the holiday. I felt splendidly liberated, like a giant weight had been lifted from my shoulders and I could finally stand up straight again. There was still a concentrated burden on my chest but I ignored it and focused on the release. I managed to convene on the reunion at hand and how wonderful it felt to be with my friends again.

"C'mon," Lena chortled, "Let's go find a compartment."



"....All I'm saying is that if the Harpies would trade Meredith Casette for Magenta Harper they'd have a rock solid shot at the Cup this year." Kathlena rambled passionately, as we stuffed our belonging into place and settled into our seats comfortably.

"But Magenta Harper's a Puddlemere," Lanora wrinkled her nose sourly.

"What do you have against Puddlemere?"

Nore scoffed as if this was a stupid question. "Their name for start."

"I think it's funny."

"It sounds like it was thought up by a five year old."

"It really does actually," I agreed with a half-hearted grin. My ultimate happiness had been short lived. It seems that the burden on my chest was harder to ignore than I would've hoped. Not that my hopes had been very high, but still.

Butterflies had been badgering my stomach all morning- I hadn't even bothered with breakfast (a fact that didn't go unnoticed by either one of my big brothers as they ate my share- why the two of them were even over so early in the mornings all the time was beyond me), my nerves were completely done for. I was on edge, frazzled and hyper-aware of the people laughing and chatting loudly outside of our compartment.

Thankfully, though, I was a good actress. Years of practice. I'd been acting like the perfect pureblood on holidays for so long that masking my true emotions was almost second nature by now. Only three people could ever tell I was faking.

And unfortunately, two of them were in the compartment with me.

Lena grimaced at me. Whether because of my expression or my comment I don't know but sympathy soon clouded her eyes so I'm guessing it was in response to the former.

"What?" I snapped self-consciously. I didn't like it when she looked at me like that. I didn't like anyone penetrating my facade.

"That bad, huh?"

"We never did get the whole story," Nora murmured softly.

All the light joking was gone and the air was thick with some foreboding emotion I couldn't quite identify. I forced down the pain that clawed at my throat and tried to stifle the burning sensation in my stomach. I did not want to even think about this, let alone talk about it.

"We figured it was bad since you didn't write much but you never told us exactly what happened." Lena added, her voice taking on that same odd tentative tone as Nora's had.

It was so unusual. They were never that delicate, never cautious in approaching any topic. Especially not with me! Yet here they both were, not even daring to look me directly in the eyes. Strange.

I gulped but the dry air only made the burn in my throat more pronounced, "Um... I-I..." Stammering was not the norm for me, I never audibly fumbled over what to say. All of this abnormal behavior was getting to me.

Their soft, apprehensive tones did nothing to sooth me, as I knew they were meant to. It made it worse and nearly impossible to choke out even one syllable let alone an entire word. I had to inhale several times before I could manage to put a string of words together that made sense.

"Well there's nothing to tell, really." I lied, drawing on my months of practice with my family. Weeks of pretending I was unphased by the dramatic exit of Sirius Black in my life helped in delivering to this audience too. "Sirius ran away from home and risked my life in the process because everyone knows how close we were." I knew they noticed my use of past-tense. I counted on it in fact. "I'll be watched all term. They're like hawks." The grimace that twisted my face at this was completely authentic.

I was not thrilled with the idea of being spied on and gaurded. Not one bit. It was going to be a very long term. I did not do well with authority and having a bunch of Slytherins pretending to be such was going to be particularly irritating. I knew I would have to work extra hard to keep my temper in check this year.

"So you haven't... I mean, he didn't write you at all?" Lena asked, surprise colored her tone. 

I knew why, Lena and Nora were well aware of the relationship Sirius and I had. I told them everything (except the part about my being madly in love with him of course). Like all the purebloods it was hard for them to seperate the two of us in their minds, hard for them to imagine Sirius and I weren't joined at the hip much less on not speaking terms.

I shrugged, trying to look indifferent. "He did. But I wasn't stupid enough to read them."

They both looked confused, not understanding why I was acting this way. Not understanding my comment about his letters. They knew I was mad about Sirius- even if I didn't willingly admit it to them so my attitude baffled them.

"What do you mean you didn't read them?" Nora asked, "What do you do with letters besides read them?"

"Burn them," my voice was shockingly matter-of-fact. Which satisfied me a little, I was improving.

Perhaps it was trivial- my acting skills (though my life did depend on my ability to be convincing at the moment)- but I had to find something to be, if not happy, then at least proud of. My insides could snarl with seering pain but my exterior would remain calm. Something I took a perverse sort of comfort in.

They both gasped at this answer, blinking rapidly- like I'd doused them with ice cold water or something. Their eyes were wide and their jaws had dropped unconciously.

"YOU BURNED THEM?" They exclaimed together in utter shock.

It was so out of character for me. Which had been the whole point, really. I was walking on egg shells at home so- in order to make sure I didn't get killed- I'd done exactly the opposite of what I desired. And it turned out that-more often than not- I was right to do it. The opposite of what I wanted was always exactly what my parents approved of. Ironic, I know.

I shrugged, "Yep." Then- feeling the seams of my facade begin to rip- I adopted a thoughtful expression and announced, "I think I'm going to go change."

Their eyes widened even more but I didn't wait for a response. A few more minutes and I'd be in tears. I couldn't cry in front of them, in front of anyone. Not about Sirius.

I knew they'd be discussing me while I was away but I didn't care.

I couldn't let them know how much I was hurting. It wasn't safe for them or for me. No one but me could be aware of the struggle I was facing. No one could see my tears- though I probably wouldn't've let anyone see me cry anyway, even if it had nothing to do with the banished Black. I didn't like to show weakness and that's what crying felt like to me.


I took my time changing, letting silent tears slope down my pale cheeks. Nora and Lena would worry but they'd know I was fine- physically. I just needed to be away from people at the moment, I needed to be free of prying eyes- or eyes of any sort, really, I needed to recompose myself. They knew that, which was why they hadn't tried to stop me- why they hadn't come looking for me.

When I finally stopped crying, I muttered a spell that would vanish any signs of tears and fixed my sleek curls into a severe ponytail. I didn't worry about make up because I wore very little to begin with. My skin rarely showed the stress I felt, so I didn't mess with it.

With a sigh, I grudgingly came out from hiding.

It was as I made my way back to the compartment, that I saw him. 
Standing nearly twenty meters away, looking gorgeous as ever. The tired circles under his eyes that he'd had when I'd last seen him- that blissful day of shopping- had vanished entirely. He looked genuinely happy and healthy-free of all the stress (how nice that must be). His toned skin seemed to glow as he laughed at something the blonde Gryffindor girl next to him was saying. He crossed his arms over his chest- listening intently to the story the girl (Mary, I think is her name) was animatedly telling- and the thick bands of muscle on them flexed.

I fought back the dizziness and tried not to pay much attention to the awful swooping sensation in my stomach as the butterflies swarmed to my esophogas. I'd promised myself I would not let him get to me and here I was nearly swooning at the mere sight of him.

He smiled the crooked smile I loved. My smile, that smile I thought had belonged to me once upon a time. And those dimples that had always seemed to be meant for me alone appeared.

I'd been very wrong. Nothing about Sirius was mine.

I'd never doubted that I had a permenant claim to him- if not romantically than at least as his best friend, like the only true family he had- and that he was just as irreversably altered as I was. But the wrecking ball hit me as I realized my mistake.

A pang resounded painfully in my empty chest and every organ in my body twisted, every muscle throbbed. I felt like my bones had melted into a milky liquid as I stood there. Any second now and I was going to pass out.

I had to get out of there. I could not lose consciencness with him so close.

If he responded and rushed to me someone was bound to see. Assume that I was still speaking to him-assume that, because of his worry, we were still close- and then what would I do? My life would be hanging by a thread if it got around that I fratrinized with 'the blood traitor.'

But if he didn't react- if he didn't care, that would surely kill me. The final proof that Sirius Black- my whole world- didn't give a damn about me would be the last nail in my coffin.

It would be worse than any of the pain I'd suffered so far. More intense than any of my agony. I would gladly let the Death Eaters finish me off after that.

Yes, passing out was definitely something to avoid.

And then, over everthing else, I heard the laugh that I loved most in the world. The one that had kept my heart beating for so long. That joyful bark of a laugh, deep and husky.

I was definitely going to pass out. Any second and I'd be out, cold on the floor.

Wait for it...

"MIRA!"
My body was already tense and alert, waiting for the inevitable swooning. So when I turned reflexively to the sound of my name, the dizziness just got worse. I had to shake my head to get rid of it before I could see clearly. But once the walls stopped spinning I saw the tall, handsome, golden eyed boy my mother had been dropping hints about all week.

"Rabastan!" I exclaimed in surprise.

But, I guess he interpreted it as enthusiasm because, next thing I knew, he'd swept me off my feet. Literally.

He snatched me up off the ground into his strong arms and spun me around. It was such a joyful hug that I couldn't help but return. He seemed so genuinely happy to see me. I think I even laughed in surprise as he whirled me around in circles.

It was still strange to cause this kind of reaction. I hadn't expected it at all. Who would though? Not many girls can honestly say they expect for one of the hottest blokes at Hogwarts to come up and give them a bear hug. Even when Sirius and I were so unheathily close I wouldn't have said that.

"I missed you, Mir!" He told me once we stopped spinning.

I definitely laughed this time. It wasn't the full, musical laugh of undiluted elation that I used to have on the way to Hogwarts. To be honest, my laugh had sounded off since I found out Sirius had left without at least warning me first. But it was still a laugh so I'd take it.

"Oh, because it's been, what? Four days since you last saw me?" I teased playfully.

The girls in the group behind him (who were not even bothering to viel their eavesdropping) glowered viciously. Sending me eye daggers whether for the comment or the mere fact that I was the one who'd caused such a happy reaction in the object of their stalking I didn't really care. I was used to these kind of reactions from other girls.

It was almost as bad as the ones I got when I was arm in arm with or dancing with or hugging Sirius. But not quite.

These seething eye daggers didn't even chip at the wall of indifference I'd built up over many years of pureblood mania. The girls were Slytherin girls and they didn't scare me nearly as much as the Gryffindor ones did. I knew Slytherins too well to be intimidated, Gryffindors were unfamiliar territory.

"Yes," Rabastan chuckled, reclaiming my attention. Then he adopted an adorable grimace, "Four utterly horrendus days! My memory didn't do you justice," he grinned mischieviously after saying this.

I rolled my eyes and my lips twitched. He wasn't Sirius but I could do worse I suppose. He could be an ugly Death Eater like Goyle (who, I swear to Merlin, mentally undresses me everytime I see him. It's so creepy!).

It was then that I felt (more like became aware) that a pair of dreadfully familiar blue eyes were boring into me. But I didn't dare meet them, especially not while I was still in the arms of Rabastan Lestrange.

"I'm choosing to take that as a compliment."

I forced my twitching lips to smirk amusedly. My stomach had dropped and every muscle in my body was tense again, but Rabastan didn't seem to notice. My pulse crashed in my ears and I felt sick again. At this realization my skin prickled with warmth.

Oh boy. This will not be good. Throwing up on the Slytherin Quidditch Captain would not earn me any brownie points, I was sure.

Not that I really cared about earning points with Slytherins much (they were like bees in my oppinion if they didn't bother me I wouldn't bother them) but - at the moment- I sure didn't want to lose them either.

It was then that I realized that I hadn't eaten yet- having been too nervous to even attempt to choke down anything resembling breakfast this morning. I wondered idly- in some back chamber of my brain- why my stomach hadn't growled and embarassed me yet.

"As you should," Rabastan chuckled and then- to my immense relief- he set me down.

I forced a sparkly grin and then said, "I'd better get back. My friends'll be wondering where I am." Not a lie. I'd left Nora and Lena nearly half an hour ago. It was very likely they'd be sending out a search party for me any moment now.

He sighed, "Alright, if you must." But a wide smile stretched acrossed his lips. "But come see me later okay, Bee?"

I rose an eyebrow at this.

"What?" he laughed at my expression.

"What did you call me?"

His grin widened, "Bee."

"Why?"

"Because I can't make a nickname out of Mira but I can make one out of the Belle part. Plus it's very likely that you could sting. Thus, the Bee was born."

I laughed again, not even upset about the stinging joke. "You realize that you just made a nickname out of a nickname, right?"

He beamed at me proudly. "Yes."

I laughed then shrugged blithely (I hoped), "As long as you're aware." And then I stepped around him and began to walk away, "See ya' later, Bas."

"Bas?"

"Your nickname!" I called over the many voices as I walked backwards, away from his amused face. Then, with one last chuckle, I turned back around and froze when I realized what direction I had to go in to get back to Nora And Kat.

Or rather, who I had to pass.

And then I did what I'd sworn not to do. I locked eyes with him.

Yep, I looked right into those hazy sapphires.

And what I found there both startled and thrilled me. I was confused and doubtful. I fought the horrendus dizzy spell again.

There wasn't just one emotion in those all-too-familiar eyes, there were several. Some I could identify, some were unfathomable. He looked like he was in... pain.

Yes, pain- as hard as it was to believe- was most certainly their in the eyes of Sirius Black. It was accompanied by anger, resent, loathing (directed at who I'm not exactly sure) and... could that possibly be envy?

No. No, no and no. Sirius was not jealous. Especially not of Rabastan Lestrange. I really was losing my mind if I was having such delusions.

I broke eye contact immediately and tried to get a grip on myself. I ducked my head and plowed forward, not even daring to look at him as I passed- though I could feel his eyes burning into me. I stepped around the blonde (What the hell was her bloody name?!) and cantered as fast as my legs would carry me to my compartment.

It was stupid of me but as I opened the door, I couldn't help but glance back.

Very. Bad. Idea.

Moron, moron, moron.

The eyes I met when I glanced back weren't the only ones on me anymore- his friends had noticed our exchange. But I didn't pay the others any attention because what I saw in his face was enough.

It reminded me that Sirius- no matter how much he ran and fought against it- was raised to be one of us. The icy anger in his blue eyes, the locked jaw muscle, the stony set of the beautiful mouth. Every angle of his glorious face was cold and unfeeling. Blank in the hideously familiar way that mine had been over the past few months.

He'd finally gotten the hint. 



"Hey Ms. Prefect," Lena smirked, her eyes glittering wickedly as she stared at the badge, pointedly.

Normally, I'd throw her a mock-glare or cheekily stick my tongue out, possibly even tossing a witty retort into the mix. But this time I said nothing, I just faked a half smile and sat next to Nora.

I picked up my new kitten (the one my mother bought me for making prefect- she reacted quite well actually), Cleo and stroked her silky black fur absently. I sat next to Nora as a few of our friends- including the sixth year Ravenclaw boys (Jeff Corner, Jacob Bellby, Gabriel Dittmer, Everett Gilmore and Leo Silvers)- joined us in the compartment.

"Oh, Mir," Jacob said in the middle of the laughter Lena's latest rant (on why there should be a leach law for Peeves) had generated. "Prefect meeting."

I gasped like he'd doused me with icy water. "Shit!"

They laughed at this and began to tease me. But I ignored them and pulled Jacob out of the compartment with me.

"Whoa! Mira, slow down!" Jake chuckled as I tugged him, practically running through the corridor.

"No time!" was all I replied with.

When we got to the Prefects' compartments I groaned. we were, of course, the last to arrive for the meeting. And as I slid the door open I saw the Heads for this year. Rabastan and Rosalie- no surprise there.

But as I sat between Rose and my fellow Ravenclaw, Arina Lovett, I saw that it wasn't just Prefects in the compartment this year but four additional people had been added to the mix. 

The Quidditch Captains, whose status equaled the prefects' in many ways.

Bolloks
James Potter stiffened visibly when he saw me.

Ugh. Of course he did.

Sirius had run away to his bloody house. So there was no doubt in my mind that he was fully aware of my blatant ignorance of Sirius over the past few months- possibly even the encounter I'd had with him half an hour ago as well.

Nevermind that it was none of his sodding business, he would still disregard the invisible line and butt in. He always did.

But I could certainly handle Potter. It wouldn't be the first time he and I butted heads.


... "Oi, Echols!"

I whipped around with a glint of irritation. I knew who that voice belonged to and I also knew why he'd come to annoy the living daylights out of me on this otherwise bright afternoon. Lena and Nora smirked- they knew too.

"What the sodding hell did you do to my Beater's fucking arm?"

"Such colorful language," I sighed, ignoring such a half-witted question.

"You broke Sirius's beating arm, you little twit!" He exclaimed, his face outraged.

"It was an accident, you totalitarian nut case!" I snapped, glowering at the handsome but infuriating boy before me.

This was not a lie. It had been an accident. Sirius and I had been sneaking back into the castle after a day at Hogsmeade and I'd slipped and fallen on top of him.
 
It was mortifying- to be on top of Sirius due to my clumsiness- but it only got worse when I realized that I'd knocked a rather heavy vase down in my wake. And then terror and horror washed through me as he writhed in pain, cradling his arm. He tried not to show that he was hurting but I could see the grimace he'd attempted to stifle.

I'd gotten him to the hospital wing and Madame Pomfrey told us it would take a few days to feel in top form again- due to the glass shards from the shattered vase that had embedded themselves in his skin. She told him he'd feel a strange tingle and that he should expect it to stiffen occasionally.

But leave it to Potter to act like he was handicapped forever. To blow it wildly out of proportion and act like it was the end of the bloody world.

"I don't believe you. I think you injured him so he wouldn't be able to play in the match on Saturday!" He accused.

"Why would I do that, you paranoid sod?" I scoffed disgustedly, "He never hits Bludgers at me anyway-"

"We'll have to fix that." James muttered darkly.

My eyes flashed with steel and I gritted my teeth. "He wouldn't dare. If he did I'd take his arm all the way
off."

He knew I was right. And he knew Sirius knew what I'd do if he shot one of those heavy death cannons in my direction. Which is why he just narrowed his eyes at me seethingly once more and stalked off to go bug some poor Gryffindor girl in their year whose name escaped me.

My friends chuckled and then Kathlena said, "Well, that went well."....



"Welcome, prefects." Rose said, flashing the compartment a stunning grin. "And of course, our Quidditch captains. Who have all very graciously volenteered to help patrol this year on the train with us." She looked at Rabastan fondly but ignored the other three.

Typical.
"Now, first I want to tell you all..." I tuned my dear cousin out. She'd gushed all summer over what prefects had to do. I didn't need to hear the speech because- by now- I knew it by heart.

I felt eyes on me and I looked around the compartment. The sixth year Gryffindors- I noticed were all pointedly looking away from me. I resisted an eyeroll and contiued until I met the gaze of Regulus Black.

I blinked in surprise. His gaze was so similar to Sirius's it was hard not to get choked up. A gigantic knot formed in my throat and I swallowed, trying to force it back down. I also noticed another similarity which surprised and kind of scared me.

There was cold hard anger in those eyes. A flash of steel.

What? That couldn't be right.

But there it was, plain as day. In the eyes of Sirius's little Slytherin brother. And that is the part that baffeled me most of all. What the hell was his problem?

I broke eye contact, I didn't have enough cranial space to care at the moment. I'd never been particularly close to Reg anyway. What did it matter if he had a problem with me?

But, unfortunately, I looked right into the eyes of the new Head Boy- who'd been staring at me for Merlin knows how long. And to my dismay, he winked at me. 

And-if the way his jaw muscle lurched and his eyes flashed- James Potter definitely caught it.

Oh, perfect.

***

Chapter 5: A Paradox and Rumor Mills
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Chapter 5~ A Paradox and Rumor Mills


I breathed in the air of heaven, tasted the delicious aromas on my tongue. The babbling of the masses was sweet music weaving through the air- just for me. Laughter and squeals of loquacious students filled the halls and the atmosphere was thick with anticipation and excitement. It was a new term and I was finally home.

I floated into the entrance hall flanked by my two best friends. After all the drama and misery of the summer it was good to be back in my safe haven. It felt slightly off but it was better than I'd been in so long that I no longer had the energy to care.

All I wanted was to stuff myself with ridiculously large portions of my favorite foods and go up to my warm four poster bed and pass out until tomorrow afternoon. The last part might be difficult (as tomorrow was the first day of classes and all), but the eating-then-going-upstairs-and-passing-out part would be a snap.

We moved with the masses into the Great Hall and I ignored all the dirty looks I was getting from the Gryffindors (while Lena was making faces and vulgar hand gestures at them in my defense). And we filed to the Ravenclaw table, taking our spots near the middle- where we were surrounded by several of our friends. I laughed and chatted animatedly with the rest of them- pulling out my acting skills once more and pretending not to notice all the glances I was getting from the Gryffindor table. It was none of their business.

The sorting was a trip. That hat sang a pippy little song about how the houses were equal and as such we should all unite. That love and friendship were the strongest bonds and they should not be broken. And several of the bimbos that followed Sirius around shot eye daggers in my direction (as if he'd called me by name or something).

I suppose it didn't matter that he'd abandoned me. So I didn't even try to retaliate in any way, shape or form. Their heads were so thick with delusions of Sirius snogging them they wouldn't be capable of seeing logic anyway.

Lena, though, stuck her tongue out at them all- or crossed her eyes with her upper lip pulled over her teeth. She had our whole section (Fifth, six and even the select few seventh years) shaking violently with peels of silent laughter.

I just rolled my eyes and ignored it all entirely- fixing my eyes on the frightened looking first years about to wet themsleves- ignoring all of the gazes flashing to me every few seconds. A few didn't even look away, not even trying to hide the glowering. But I didn't care, they had no idea what things were like for me. They were just up in arms because someone had finally snuffed their beloved Sirius.

I wondered idly, what they'd think if they knew the whole truth, the paradox. What would their reactions be if they found out how much this was killing me inside because I was even more head over heels for Sirius than they were- put together.

Finally, the sorting ended and I clapped and cheered as 'Zell, Lorraina' was sorted into Ravenclaw. The little raven haired girl (who looked a lot like a younger me actually) joined our table -taking a seat next to 'Warren, Leon' and 'Tyler, Malena'.

"Welcome students, welcome!"

We all looked up to see our whimsical Headmaster at the podium in front of the head table. And the entire Hall quieted (though the not-so-subtle glances in my direction continued. Merlin! How many people did Sirius tell?).

"Now. Before we get too immersed in our excellent feast, a few words..."

I tuned him out. I knew all the rules. I'd practically memorized Hogwarts, A History in my first year. I didn't need a speech to remind me not to enter the Forbidden Forest or antagonize the Giant Squid with a tree branch or the occasional Fanged Frisbee. This school had many mysteries but the rules weren't it.

I let my mind roam but not my eyes. I refused to look over at the other tables. The only one that was safe at the moment was Hufflepuff- and who knew how long that would last (I swear I heard Everett, Jacob, Jeff and Leo making bets that they'd all know by tomorrow. Gabriel said it was a given and that they should really bet on how many eye daggers I'd get bythe en dof the week). So I trained my eyes to stay glued towards the Head table until, at last, he clapped his long white hands- snapping me back to attention.

The tables groaned under the weight of the massive amount of delightful food and the silence of the Hall broke. Suddenly, everyone was talking and laughing and piling their plates with ridiculous amounts of all things edible. We'd all be sorry later, when our stomachs felt like they were going to explode. But no one cared- not even the teachers- we just ate.


It was certainly good to be back.

Once the feast was over, Jacob and I led the trembling first years up to the dorms. "What is a man's greatest virtue?" The door asked.

I answered without hesitation and Jacob chuckled as the first years gaped when the door swung open to reveal the cushy Ravenclaw Common Room. I remembered my first time in it and smiled slightly. How I wish things could stay as simple as they'd been in first year.

I directed the little girls to their new dormitory and wished them a good night's sleep. They looked as exhausted as I felt.

And then I climbed the stairs to the sixth year girls' dorm where I heard my friends laughing already. I highly doubted they were going to let me fall asleep right away. I had a lot of explaining to do.

***


By the next morning it had been widely spread that I'd dumped Sirius Black for Rabastan Lestrange because of the disownment. Some people even went so far as to say that I'd cheated on Sirius with Rabastan and that was the reason he finally snapped and ran away from home. And that our parents (mine and Rabastan's) were already arranging the marriage because he came from good pureblood stock.

Yes, this is how bored the students of Hogwarts have become.

It is beyond pathetic. Because, if my dear parents were arranging a marriage, I'd know it. And they'd have hell to pay. I'm pretty sure they know this as well, which is why they haven't tried.

I scoffed bitterly as this rumor reached me (courtesy of Missy Covington).

"I suppose it doesn't matter that I've never come close to dating either of them before, does it?" I questioned flatly. It was rhetorical but I could see they were going to answer anyway.

Gianna cocked her head to the side, looking confused (seriously- I wanna know- how the hell did she get into Ravenclaw?). "You haven't?"

Another scoff. "Merlin, no! Sirius and I were just friends. Only friends, that's it." I tried not to sound too disappointed as I said this part. "And Rabastan and I... well I suppose we're friends now. But we only just started really talking over the summer! I'm not some filthy, disgusting slag."

"Oh," they actually looked disappointment.

Good God! Don't any of you people have lives?! I wanted to hex them all (as did Lena) but Nora restrained me (us). Reminded me that I was a prefect now and I needed to follow the rules- including the one about not hexing people that annoy you. Drat. Stupid shiny prefect badge.

It may have earned me some approval from my family but it was damn inconveniant when you wanted to jinx a slag. I couldn't even fight them the Muggle way, by ramming my fist into their pretty, makeup lathered faces. I was irritated beyond belief that I couldn't make rude hand gestures either.

But I could dock points- that was fun.

Gryffindor was going to be hurting at this rate but it served them right, filthy insipid gossips.

All of my classes were fairly easy. I'd never had trouble with them but, then, nobody ever does in Ravenclaw. My only problem was the stares and notes I was getting from my very pathetic classmates.

A Hufflepuff named Lacey Geldmacher threw me one that asked if I was a Death Eater (no shock that she isn't in Ravenclaw- seriously, who asks that?). Anya Shuman felt the need to tell me I was a bitch for hurting poor 'Siri' (ew, by the way). And Darcy Graves asked me a question which I will not dignify by repeating nor did I feel the need to respond.

By the time lunch rolled around I was beyond annoyed with the entire school. I wanted to kill them all. So, I told Nora and Lena that I was going to study in the library. Then I went up to the dorm got out a slab of unopened chocolate leftover from my day at Diagon Alley and ate it on my way down to the haven of books.

It was in the library that I realized someone was watching me. My entire body froze, rigid with fright. Who was stalking me and why?

One of the pureblood brats? Or maybe it was an angry Gryffindor? I didn't know but either way I didn't like it. So I got up and hurried away.

I was in such a hurry that I smacked right into something, or someone I guess I should say.

"Ompf!" The impact mad me and all of my books go sprawling to the floor.

"Sorry! Sorry! I'm really sorry! I-" I began instantly apologizing to whoever I'd plowed into during my blind rush but broke off when I saw exactly who I'd knocked into.


Standing before me was none other than Remus John Lupin. A Marauder. Lovely.

"Oh. Hi, Remus." I choked out in mild shock. I think I even managed something resembling a pained half-smile but I wasn't coherent enough to be sure.

"Hi Belle." Reluctance dripped from his tone and his half-smile was equally hesitant.

The awkwardness was tangible. I wanted nothing more than to run screaming down the corridor in the opposite direction. I contemplated just leaving my books where they were on the ground but I didn't fancy explaining to McGonagall tomorrow why I didn't have the essay she'd assigned.


"Um. Yeah. Anyway," I babbled awkward but industriously, "I'm really, really sorry about plowing into you like that. Wasn't paying proper attention. But I should go meet Nor and Len now." By this time, I'd gathered all my books, hopped to my feet and began to walk away.

I almost got away from him too.

But before I could get too far he said, "Oh, Mira?"


Dammit. I squeezed my eyes shut and cursed my library stalker to the deepest depths of hell. I turned around slowly and said in a very strained (and high) voice, "Yes, Remus?"

I opened my eyes to see his reluctant and obviously pained expression.

"Um, I needed.... to talk to you.... about something."


My intuition flickered. The Marauders, it seemed, had had a discussion about me. I sensed that they'd even planned this whole awkward encounter.

There was some very valuable information I held, I realized belatedly, and they needed to know if I was going to share it with anyone.

Anger flared. I was abruptly furious with all of them (rather than just Sirius). Did they really think so little of me? Did they honestly think I'd betray poor Remus that way? That I was that petty? I may be livid with Sirius but that didn't mean I was going to punish Remus for it (though, now that the thought crossed my mind, I could slip to someone that their precious Black and Potter were illegal animagi -no need to mention Remus at all).

My posture changed rapidly from awkward reluctance to expectant hostility. My hand found my hip, my eyes narrowed infinitesimally and my full lips puckered. But I waited. I wasn't helping him out on this one. If he didn't know me well enough to know that I'd never do something so horrible than he'd have to find this one out on his own.

"Um, well... here's the thing." the tall blonde gulped awkwardly scratching the back of his neck. "I... well, I know you and Sirius aren't really on good terms at the moment..."

That was a nice way of putting it. Most people would just say we weren't friends and be done with it. But I'd always loved Remus for his tact. He was my second favorite Marauder (Pettigrew and Potter were tied for dead last). Which is why I could not believe he was standing before me broaching this subject.

"But, well, I just need to know if-"

"I've told anyone about your 'time of the month'?" I snapped, moodily.

My patience had been used up for the week by every other sodding Gryffindor at this school (along with several Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs as well). I wondered idly if someone up there was having a really sick laugh at my expense. Maybe this whole ordeal was just a really elaborate test to see how much I could handle.

"No, Rem. I'm not some malicious petty pureblood. You should know that, I thought you would. I'd never hurt you that way. How could you even ask such a thing?" I spat furiously.

He paled, "I'm sorry, Mir. I didn't think you would it's just-"

"Potter and Black weren't so sure." I finished again, resigned this time.

He blinked at my use of Sirius's surname but said, "Well... yeah."

"Remus, I would never do that to you." I told him again, wanting to make my point clear. "Your secret's safe with me."

He raised an eyebrow- catching the inflection- and his lips twitched at the corners. "James, Peter and Sirius's?"

I knew what he meant and scoffed, "No garentees. I won't out you but those gits are fair game."

"Well," he pursed his lips, "s'pose I can't really blame you. But I wish you wouldn't out them either. You, of all people, know why they do it."

I rolled my eyes, knowing he was right. And also knowing I'd never have the heart to give away Sirius's biggest secret. But I wasn't about to let Remus (or the other three) know it, so I said, "No promises. But I'm not going to tell anyone about you."

He smiled crookedly, "Thanks, Mirabelle."

"No problem, Remmy."

He held out his arms- slightly hesitant- and I smiled hugely, giving him a hug. Everyone was at dinner, so I knew it was safe.

"Anyway," I said when we broke apart, "I best be off. These books are killing my arms!"

He laughed and we headed in opposite directions- him to the Great Hall to tell the Marauders that the big bad purebloods wouldn't know his secret and me to the dormitory to find some peace and quiet.






"Mira, Jake told me to tell you you've got a prefect meeting tonight." Nora informed me blithely as they entered the dorm twenty minutes later.

I groaned.

"Your fault for being a goody-two-shoes!" Kathlena sung.

I stuck my tongue out at her childishly and Lanora rolled her eyes. Lena laughed and returned the gesture as I hopped off my bed. I went to the mirror and threw my long hair into a chic bun, held together with chopsticks Nora had given me in third year when she returned from a summer holiday in Japan. With one last wave I left the dorms and made my way to the Heads dorm.

Yes, Rose and Rabastan slept in a dorm together. I'd rather not think of what they might be doing though. Simply because thinking about my cousin's sex life is beyond repulsing.

I met Jake in the Common Room and we took a short cut through an empty corridor on the sixth floor. Finally, we got to the picture of an old, severe looking headmistress (who's name always escaped me) reading a thick, leather-bound volume.

"Badges?" She raised an eyebrow inquiringly, looking over her spectacles at us with penetrating green eyes. Can a portrait's eyes be penetrating?

We flashed our silver authority at her and she swung forward, revealing my cousin's new accommodations. I gasped a little as we stepped farther into the elaborate room. It was a gorgeous space was decorated with elegant silver and emerald drapes, sofas and arm chairs mixed with the oak of the table and mantle. A roaring fire crackled in the grand fireplace and a picture of Headmaster Phineas Black hung above it.

My stomach did a sickening turn as I stared at Sirius's ancestor. The most unpopular Hogwarts Headmaster in history. He had a picture hanging at the Black residance too and he'd always been a world class git in my opinion. Approving of all things Slytherin, the portrait looked delighted to see both Head Boy and Girl came from his favorite house.

Appearantly I didn't have to worry about my cousin doing anything stupid because Headmaster Black was there to supervise and report anything dodgy to the current headmaster. Though, he was so joyful over Slytherin domination that he'd probably let them do whatever they liked.

I surpressed a groan as I sat between Charity Corner and Jake. There was no James Potter this time at least. But every Gryffindor minus goody-goody, Lily Evans and Remus was glowering nastily at me. Ugh. Not only was it Gryffindors, but those cute and cuddly Hufflepuffs? Yeah, not so cuddly. More like hugging a porcupine.

Or a Hungarian Horntail might be a better comparison, considering the scathing looks of death they were shooting me.

Only the Slytherins and my fellow Ravenclaws refrained from resorting to such childishness. But that was only because the Slytherins were excruciatingly approving of my actions and, by now, the Ravenclaws new a sort of half truth- thanks to Lena's short temper and Missy and Gianna's incessant gossiping.

My housemates didn't have the whole paradox but they had most of it. Most of them knew that Rabastan Lestrange and I were not a thing (nor were we planning to be anywhere in the near future) and that Sirius and I had never been a thing either. They knew that Sirius had run away and thus ended our friendship. And, as we are Ravenclaws, a good number of them had already figured out why I'd blatantly ignored my former best mate.

They were clever enough to conclude that I was now stuck between a rock and a hard place with that one. That it was either risk death and attempt to escape, which- as I'm not a Marauder- would involve more risk than I was willing to take or feign innocence by using the old smile and nod method. Just pretend you agree with everything they said and keep yourself afloat. Most deducted that I chose the latter and it involved severing ties with Sirius, even though it hurt.

What they didn't know, of course, was how much it hurt. They had no idea that I was madly, passionately, hopelessly in love with Sirius Black and his lack of consideration had cut deep. But cutting him out of my life was killing me. They had no idea about that part. Unless they were a mind reader, which I'm pretty sure they aren't.

So my housemates were pretty accepting, it's not like I was some reckless, cocky Gryffindor stupid enough to risk my life by talking to the wrong people. Whether it hurt me or not.

I tried my best to ignore the Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs as Rose went through protocal and handed out patrol schedules. I had two with Remus this week and three with Jake. Well that was good at least. I wouldn't have to deal with a dolt like Amos Diggory or a ditz like Gemma Winkler this week. I wasn't sure my nerves could quite handle that. It might push me over the edge.

When finally the meeting ended, I got up with an apprieciative sigh and began filing out with the rest. But a strong hand grabbed mine and pulled me out of the flock of prefects.

Rabastan grinned wickedly at me as I turned to shoot an insult at him. It got caught in my throat upon seeing his face.

"You were going to leave without even saying hello?" He raised an eyebrow at me, pretending to be offended.

I smiled in spite of myself. "Yes," I answered with cheek.

"Mirabelle Echols!" He gasped sounding scandalized.

"Rabastan Lestrange!" I countered playfully.

"Where are all those impeccable pureblood manners?"

I tried not to flinch at this sentence and actually managed to keep my exterior cool as my insides cringed. "In the Hogwarts Express, where I left them," I beamed.

He laughed and put his hands on my waist.

It was all I could do not to gasp in shock. The incredible warmth felt so strange there, ridiculously intimate for some reason.

"So?" he chuckled, gazing down at me intently.

"So what?" I managed to ask.

He laughed again, flashing me another gorgeous grin. "Are you going to say hi?"

I rolled my eyes and said "Hi." in a flat, sarcastic tone as my stomach twisted. I couldn't tell if it was the discomfort or embarassment that caused this. Several people were still watching our interaction curiously. Including Remus.

I knew that most of them would draw the conclusion that all the ridiculous rumors about Rabastan and I being an item were true because of this one thing but I wasn't very concerned for the most part. The only person I didn't want to lead astray with such actions was Remus.

Merlin knows why I cared so much what my new favorite Marauder thought, but I did.

I tried to tell myself it had nothing to do with the fact that the Marauders told each other everything and this would no doubt be discussed in front Sirius, but I wasn't doing a very good job of it. I knew that the wink James had witnessed paired with this and clumped in with that hug Sirius saw on the train would lead them in exactly the wrong direction. And that bothered me, as much as I tried to deny it.

"That's not very enthusiastic, Bee." Rabastan teased, "I think-"

He didn't get to finish because at that moment Rosalie rescued me.

"Are you two lovebirds done? Or are you going to start snogging soon? Because if you do I'll throw up on you, I swear it."

Okay, so maybe she had an awkward method of going about it but she still gave me the out I was looking for.

"No, Ro'. We aren't going to snog. We're not going out." I told her, slightly louder than nessecary for tha benefit of my fellow prefects. "And I've got a Potions essay to finish. So if you don't mind I'm going now," I lied as I extracted myself from Rabastan's grip and started to walk away.

"What if I do mind?" he grinned at me devilishly.

My breath caught but he didn't hear it as I rolled my eyes and replied, "You'll survive."

My head reeled as I parted with the hord of prefects in the corridor to take a lesser known shortcut in the opposite direction. I needed to be alone, to clear my head away from all the Hufflepuffs and Gryffindors glaring stupidly in my direction.

I didn't pay much attention to my surroundings as I walked. My thoughts were too consuming. Which is probably the reason I failed to notice I wasn't alone.

"So you're dating him now?"

I whirled around and let out a small shriek of fright.

I'd expected many things today; I'd expected my classes to be a breeze. I anticipated the gossip and the glaring. I'd even been prepared for the clocks to slow, just to spite me.

What I had not expected was for Sirius Black to be lurking in a dark, deserted corridor- appearantly waiting for me.

No, definitely had not been prepared for this gut-wrenching turn of events. An ambush had not been in the Crystal Ball at Divination class this morning (not that anything ever was, but still).

Which, I suppose is why I exclaimed without thinking, "Sirius!" like an idiot and asked, "what are you doing here?"

I grappled for my composure, uselessly. What rotten luck I was turning out to have.

"I showed you this shortcut, remember?" He reminded me in the same flat tone as before.

I couldn't reply. It was so incredibly wonderful to her his voice- not matter what the tone (or lack there of, in this case)- that I'd been rendered temporarily speechless, incapable of forming a coherent response. I'd gotten lost in the sinewy silk quality his voice contained. How could velvet be husky?

"So this is how it's going to be with us now, is it?" he murmured. I knew him well enough to recognize that such calmness was dangerous. I heard the fury underneath the cool surface as he leaned so effortlessly graceful against the wall. His arms were crossed over his chest in a rather hostile pose and his eyebrows pulled together over those terminal sapphire eyes.

I still couldn't manage to summon my vocal chords as I processed how alone I was with Sirius (something I'd wanted desperatly all holiday). I'd forgotton my knowledge of the English language.

He was angry, it was clear, but that hardly mattered at the moment. He was here. And that was the only part I cared about right this second.

"We're going to pretend we were never friends?" He continued, in response to my stunned silence. "You're going to disown me too? Like you're one of them? Pretend that we haven't talked about ditching the psychotic purebloods since you were eight?" His voice was growing steadily in both volume and incredulous anger.

And, suddenly, this struck a nerve.

Fury sparked like an ignited wand and I was suddenly full of rage. All of my frustrations were abruptly channeled into one form. And I wanted nothing more than to lunge at him. Tear him apart for being so inconsiderate.

How dare he abandon me and then pretend to be the great martyr? Was he seriously going to stand there and act like he had a right to be angry?

I felt my facial features morph from stunned to livid. My eyes flashed with pure fury but Sirius failed to head the warning.

Instead, he continued with his accusing monologue bitterly. "You're seriously going to avoid me and let Rabastan Lestrange have his smarmy way with-"

That did it.

"DON'T YOU DARE!" I finally remembered how to operate my vocal chords. "Don't you do that to me Sirius Black! Don't you try to make me feel guilty for adapting!"

"To what?" he shouted back, stepping closer.

"To my life." I hissed seethingly. "To being completely alone in a sea of manic purebloods. Under constant supervision and suspision by people who'd kill me in a nanosecond. To befriending idiot people that repulse me on a daily basis and making do with what I've got."

Some sort of recognition flashed in his eyes but I ignored it.

"I had to face up to the fact that I've been left with two choices because of your lack of consideration, Sirius. It's either become one of those monsters and try to find some thread of happiness or die." I spat at him through my teeth, stepping closer myself and drawing up to my full height.

He blinked rapidly at me and something like pain twisted his face as comprehension finally dawned.He now knew that I was, not only avoiding him but that I was angry with him too. He opened his mouth to speak but I ignored him and went on furiously.

"Maybe I'd've had more respect for you if you'd have told me. Warned me. Given me something less insanely cryptic to go on. Or maybe if you hadn't premeditated it- if it had been a result of some spontaneous row with your mum I'd understand better. But it wasn't and I dont," I growled. "So I'm sorry if it doesn't fit into whatever half-baked plan you'd conjured up in that pretty head of your when we were in the village but I've chosen to live. And if that means I've got to ostracize the bloke who obviously didn't give a damn about me when he risked both of our lives with that little running-off-to-Pratfaced-Potter's stunt, then so bloody be it!"

And as he blinked in shock (and pain if I'm not delusional- which is debatable at this point), I turned on my heel and stalked down the corridor as fast as I could. I didn't want anyone to see me in the same secluded corridor with Sirius Black and jump to conclusions.

The rumor mill was already in high gear this week, no need to full the fire. 

~
( So there is chapter 5. Sorry it took me so long to update. I'm pretty much buried under a mountain of homework on a daily basis lately. Which is why I've been neglecting my readers. I will try to get out updates on all my stories soon but no garentees. For now, Review please!
<3 RED)

Chapter 6: Out of Sight, Out of Mind
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Chapter 6 ~ Out of Sight, Out of Mind




The days dragged on after that, every one felt slower than the last. They all felt hollow and strange. I was floating through the motions of life rather than living in vibrant colors, like I normally did at Hogwarts.

I didn't speak to Sirius, I could barely bring myself to look at him. I was almost greatful- for the very first time- that we were, not only in different years, but different houses as well. If I didn't see him it didn't hurt as much. Or that's what I kept trying to tell myself. Out of sight, out of mind.

I threw myself into school and Quidditch over the next few months, enhancing my already flawless marks and top-notch seeking skills.

When I patrolled with Remus, we avoided the topic completely. Neither of us dared to mention Sirius to the other. Oh, I knew he was well aware of our confrontation. The Marauders told each other everything (and they say blokes don't share their feelings. Ha!) There was no doubt in my mind that he'd gotten the whole sodding story and that the lot of them had discussed it. In detail. But I wasn't about to give them more material.

Instead, we kept it light-trying to stifle the awkwardness by discussing books and classes, like usual. We never talked about his secret and he never asked again if I'd told anyone- not even about Sirius, James and Peter's part of it. I'm pretty sure it's because, not only did he want to avoid infuriating me again, but he also knew all along I wasn't going to out them like that. I loved Sirius too much, despite the current predicament.

I silently kept track of the gossip, of who he was dating. A new girl every week, another spasm of heartbreak. But I consoled myself with the fact that they were only flings. If he every got a real, long term girlfriend though, I knew my world would cease to spin. I would be crushed under my moutain of sadness and that would be the end of me. The Death Eaters wouldn't stand a chance of torturing me next to that.

It was a wretched fact, but I could no more escape my love for Sirius than I could the blood running through my viens. No matter how much I wanted to get rid of both.

I felt uncomfortable in my own skin and yearned to drain out every ounce of "pure" magical blood. And I became increasingly irritated with my heart for not allowing me to forget Gryffindor's golden boy. With each passing day, I grew more disgusted. With my bloodline and my own inability to cope with rejection.

The Death Eater's reeked havoc outside of the safe walls of Hogwarts School. Each day was met with foreboding, everyone picked up the paper solemnly each morning and scanned it with baited breath.

For me though, it was not because I was searching for a dead loved one, like everyone else. (Though, admittedly, I worried about that too.) No, I was searching for familiar names among those caught preforming these heinous offenses. I found a few that rang a bell but none of them were members of my family. I wondered when that was going to change.

I maintained the pretense of a well-adjusted teenage witch. I alternated my time between the familiar and exasperating Slytherins and my beloved Ravenclaw family, expertly like always (especially now that I was splitting myself between two sets of people rather than three this year). And during the infamous prefect meetings, I kept my head down- pretending not to notice Lily Evan's furtive glances. When Rabastan would sling his arm around me now, I'd begun to feel both a sinking in my stomach and a tingle down my spine.

How could I like a Death Eater, that I wasn't related to, so much? I didn't even like some of the ones that were my flesh and blood. But at least it was understandable with family. I was bound to them by blood, wasn't it natural that I should love a few of them, despite their hideous acts?

But I wasn't tied to Rabastan by blood, at least not in any relevant way in my opinion. So how could my hollow insides feel warm when he smiled? Why was it so easy for him to make me laugh?

The rest of the school assumed we were a couple. But we most certainly weren't. No matter how much I liked him, I would never date a Death Eater- even a dormant one. Sometimes, on the rare occasions my life slowed down and I was in danger of thinking about Sirius, I wondered idly if Rabastan still went on missions with his fellow Death Eaters or did their Dark Lord let him off for school?

There were certainly ways around that little dilemma. Sirius had shown me at least seven passages out of the castle and Rabastan was certainly clever enough to find one of them should he have the need. But there was no way in hell I was helping him on that one. I'd be Avada Kedavra-ed before I would help a Death Eater sneak out of the castle. Even Rabastan. Because, despite that fact that I found his company strangely enjoyable, I never ever forgot who he was. A Death Eater, plain and simple.

I suppose, if anyone had dug deep enough, it would be fairly clear I was against the psychotic purebloods and their rebellion on peace itself. I despised the majority of my family, a look of digust twisted my face everytime I read of the turmoil in the paper and I was friends with half-bloods and bloodtraitors alike. I even kept a friendly aquaitance with a muggleborn or two.

But, for my sake and partially for their own, my friends made an effort not to advertise their blood statuses. Lena didn't voice her view outright for everyone to hear anymore, because that would make her a bloodtraitor and off limits to me and Nora didn't mention her Muggle family anymore either, because half-bloods were unacceptable to the purebloods too.

I tried not to consider what my options would be if some sinister soul decided to look into my friends' bloodlines and (Agrippa forbid) inform my parents of the company I'd been keeping since first year. But it was hard not to think about it anymore. What with the daily reminders in the form of Sirius Black, the Daily Prophet, the prefect meetings, Rabastan Lestrange and all the other Slytherins I occaisionally hung out with to save face, it was almost impossible to ignore what was coming.

It felt inevitable. Eventually, my time would be up. My choice would be made and my life would either tip off one end of the cliff or the other.

If I was disowned, discovered for what I truly was and no longer considered clean, my life would depend on circumstance and chance. I would either get away and escape punishment, flee to Merlin knows where or die.

But if and when they decided to induct me into that horrendous inner circle, I could either risk everything and run or be obediant and live a life of sickening deeds and wicked proclaimations.

It was inevitable. Eventually, time would run out and I would have to choose.


***


Quidditch. It had always been a way to escape everything for me.

When I was younger, my brothers, Sirius and Regulus and I- along with a few choice cousins- would all play impromptu games whenever the garden parties and wizard balls we were forced to attend got dull. Once we were older, such things were accepted less. We were no longer children and we were expected to act accordingly.

So I was always ecstatic for Quidditch season. Especially this year.

It gave me something to think of besides my hopelessly unrequited love, confusing likability of someone I should hate and recklessly disfunctional family of maniacs.

Except, of course, when I found out that our second match would be against good ole' Gryffindor.

Yeah, I know. I almost hurled my entire breakfast into the locker room toilets.

Hufflepuff had been our first match. A cake walk in my oppinion. I'd waited an hour to catch the snitch simply to make the game more interesting. Their Seeker was a tool and incapable of seeing a fly on his nose much less a snitch near his arse. So, though I spotted the glittering gold ball about two minutes in, I waited and let the soothing wind caress my face as our chasers did their thing.

But, at this point, I'd much rather face Slytherin.

Rabastan was their captain and he wouldn't dare order an attack on me. Nor would any of the teammates think to do it. I may have been a condescending Ravenclaw in their opinion but I was still (to them) a faithful pureblood daughter. Still one of them. Many still insisted that the hat was going senile because of it. Especially now, as I "proved my loyalty" by shunning Sirius.


The Gryffindors, however, had made it clear that I was their enemy.

Ever since I'd scorned their beloved Sirius they'd been seething with hate. They constantly glared in my direction and spread nasty rumors among themselves about me. The story of mine and Sirius's fall out had gotten more outrageously far fetched and elaborate since September. Everyday I found out a new detail about how my own drama had unfolded. It was ridiculous.

But one thing was obvious. In their eyes, I was as bad as a Slytherin. And that meant I was fair game for Quidditch aggression.


Our captain, David Stephens, was well aware of this fact. He gave Gabriel and Everett- our beaters- permission to fend off any attacks. He told them that no matter what kind of assault it was- physical or bludger- they were to protect me. They would've anyway, it was clear on their faces. They were like my brothers at school in so many ways. And they were just as protective as brothers should be.

"Oh come off it, Stephens." Lena scoffed, "We're playing the Gryffindors, remember? The noble house. They stand for chivalry, for Merlin's sake! Whether they like Mira or not, they value their hoity-toity reputation far too much to jeopardize it in front of the entire school!"

"She has a point." Arina, the other Chaser, agreed with an amused smirk. "They wouldn't want to give the Slytherins that satisfaction."

"Or a reason to kick their arses," Kathlena snorted.

"Yeah," Nora grinned, "Rabastan Lestrange, especially."

David looked at me, still worried about his star Seeker. "Just... catch the snitch fast, alright Belle?"

I gave him a mock salute and forced a smile as I said, "Yes, sir."

He rolled his eyes as the other laughed and said, "Right, you lot. I guess that's enough of a pep talk. You all know what to do."

And we did. We made our way on to the pitch silently and in sychronization. Like a well-trained symphony. We were a well oiled machine. Ready to win.


They were glowering at me.

Even their Seeker, Alice Haze- who was always nice to everyone and had a boyfriend who was the team's other Beater- was floating on her broom, hazel eyes narrowed and rosebud lips puckered.

The whistle hadn't even blown yet and I was feeling queasy. I didn't dare lift my eyes to Sirius's, terrified of what I'd see in them. This game was going to be absolute hell.

As Madame Woods ordered the captain to shake hands I watched David and Potter grudgingly obey. I could feel those eyes, burning into the side of my face. Seering my flushed left cheek. I could even see his blurred image from the corner of my eye but I didn't dare look.

I met Potter's gaze though. It was hard and loathing-not that he'd ever liked me very much to begin with but dislike was now pure unadulterated hate.

My jaw locked and I tilted my chin upward in defiance. Potter didn't scare me. I returned his frosty gaze with an icy one of my own, only ten times more powerful. I raised an eyebrow in challenge and his gaze shifted to Gabe and Everett on my flanks, both big and strong for their ages.

With my periphial vision I watched Gabe smile menacingly and Everett invite the challenge by putting his hand palm up and curling his fingers twice. Potter paled slightly, clearly not expecting them to be so ready for attacks on their Seeker. (I wondered, briefly, if he'd told Sirius and Frank to send some nasty bludger attacks my way. Would Sirius really do that?) Nora and Lena smirked, also ready for the challenge. I had a feeling they were going to make sure Gryffindor's star Chaser humiliated himself today.

Despite the support of my team, I didn't feel any better.

My face was flushed, my stomach was turning and my head had already started to throb. I was going to have to find the snitch in record time or I'd be down for the count and I refused to lose to Gryffindor. It wasn't an option anymore.

The whistle blew and we were off.

I took to the skies, circling high above the action and using my extra sharp vision to scope out the snitch. It eluded me.

I literally couldn't find it anywhere and little Alice Haze circling below was distracting me. Or it could've been the person who was hovering near her that was unconciously vying for my attentions.

I huffed, annoyed with myself and my own inability to focus on anything else for more than five seconds.

I decided to go down below them so I could concetrate. Out of sight, out of mind.

Leo was, thankfully, the announcer. Which meant I had one less thing to worry about. I could only imagine what someone from Gryffindor or Hufflepuff would be saying right now, "... it seems a new house fued has arrived because of the end of the tumultuous relationship between Sirius Black and Mirabelle Echols. Or perhaps it's because she moved onto a greasy Slytherin so fast that's got Gryffindor in a strop..." 

 I cringed at the mental voice, thanking Merlin my friend had volenteered to announce in our third year.

Instead, the commentary went more like this, "...Seems that Ravenclaws Chasers are determined to give Potter a run for his money this afternoon. They do fly well don't th- Oh! And Ravenclaw scores! Nice shot, Prewett!...."
Lena gave Potter a gloating smile-and-wave-combination, then flew away in giddy loops as he glowered, bellowing something at his Keeper.

"... And now Potter rows with Webber, presumably because he let the lovely Miss Prewett score. But look at her! Who wouldn't?... C'mon ladies this is a game! Take the cat fight somewhere else!..."
And it was as I giggled that I spotted it. The golden glint.

My golden ticket out of this nightmare. Maybe I could catch it before the game turned into an actual nightmare.

Leo's commentary continued, but I no longer paid attention as he exclaimed over my brilliant vision. I only had eyes for the snitch, my ears were honed in on the rapid fluttering of golden wings. I barely noticed that Haze was attempting to catch up with me and beat me to it.

I got close.... closer...I reached out my arm and....


And then, Leo shouted, "MIRA, WATCH OUT!"

THUD.

Pain. A sickening snap.

And then everything went black.



***

(I know, cliff hangers are evil but I cannot help myself! I will try to update quickly, but no promises! For now, tell me what you think in that little box below! I almost started sobbing when they all vanished because of that server crash.

Love, 
    RED)


Chapter 7: Dreams in the Hospital Wing
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Chapter 7~ Dreams in the Hospital Wing

"Mirabelle, hurry up."

"I'm sorry, Sirius." I grumbled sarcastically, "I'll consider hurrying up when you've climbed a mud-drenched hill in two inch heels, alright?"

"Sorry, heels aren't my kind of shoe, to be honest. Throw off my impeccable balance and they clash with everything I wear." He retorted shrewdly.

"I'll keep that in mind," I muttered, concentrating on digging my shoes out of the soaking wet earth currently trying to swallow me whole.

"C'mon," he laughed, helping me out of the hole I'd gotten stuck in. "It's not so far off, see?"

I glared at the massive stone manor on top of the hill. Why the Lestranges had to live on top of a bloody mountain I would never understand. And why Sirius had insisted we sneak away from the party together and into the village below was something I understood but chose not to ponder, as it might soften me up.

"Aw, Mir," his tone was teasing. "I thought you liked ditching the purebloods for quality time with me."

I didn't respond, I just glowered at my gorgeous best friend. Why did he have to be so infuriatingly adorable? If he were ugly, at least I could stand a shot at resisting him. If I didn't lose myself in those deep blue pools he called eyes I might be semi-coherent.

"I- I do," I stammered when I got ahold of myself. "But my mother's going to kill me when she see's what's become of my dress." I looked mournfully down at my mud-soaked hem. My mother adored this gown on me, she'd been cooing about it for two weeks now. I shuddered to think what she'd do when she saw what I did to it.

He laughed, "No argument there. But don't worry, I'll protect you."

My heart jolted into my throat. I knew it was stupid to react this way, like always but I couldn't help it. Even if it was something a boy would do for his little sister -which is basically what I was to Sirius-it still sent a thrill through me to hear it. It meant that he cared.

"She'll murder me still. Whether it's before or after she magically tidies my dress up is still up for debate."

He surveyed me, " 'S not that bad."

"Are you blind?"

"No, I'm lying to reassure you. It's what best friend do."

"So what are you going to do when your best friend is Avada Kedavra-ed by her psycotic mother?"

"Give a pretty speech at your funeral," he said it like a question.

I glared at him, which only made his ridiculous grin widen.

But he didn't have time to insist it was a joke because someone had come outside.

"Oi! Black, Echols, where the hell've you been? You done snogging yet? Because your mums' are both looking for y-" Rabastan broke off when he got an eye full of my mud-drenched gown. "Ooooh-ho, your mum's gonna kiiiill you." He started to laugh.

"Piss off, Lestrange," Sirius glowered.

"What's got you in a strop?" Rabastan asked, still chuckling at my appearance.

"The fact that we got caught in the rain funny to you?"

"It didn't rain."

"Yes it did, bat dung," Sirius lied.

I hid my confusion well but inside I was asking a million questions per nanosecond. Why was Sirius acting like this? What was his problem? And why the hell did he lie about the rain?

"No," Rabastan insisted. "If it rained you'd be wet."

" 'S called a drying charm."

"You can't do magic outside of school."

"You can when your godfather is the head of the Improper Use of Magic Office," Sirius countered. This was actually true.

"Then why don't you clean her dress?" He was clever, I had to admit.

But Sirius had an answer for this one too. " 'Cause I don't abuse the priviledge, thickhead. If I did I'd lose it."

Rabastan was going to say something but I interrupted. "Can we just go inside, please? It's getting chilly and I'd like to get this over with, if you don't mind."

Neither looked at me- too busy glowering eye daggers at each other- but they both shrugged unwillingly and started to walk inside.

I sighed and trudged behind them in my nearly crippling heels.

Boys could be so wierd.....


"Mirabelle?" a voice poked me out of my slumber. "Ms. Echols, can you hear me? Ms. Echols? Mira?"
It was as my mind labored to identify the voice's owner that I noticed my head was throbbing. I attempteed a groan but nothing happened. I tried to open my eyes but they felt glued shut.

"Ms. Echols, if you can hear me, move your fingers," the voice commanded.

I was able to register that the voice belonged to a female and that I'd heard it before on several occasions. I was also able to process the fact that I'd been given an order and should probably -for once in my stubborn existance- obey it. What I was not able to do was move any part of my body, much less my fingers.

I couldn't even activate my vocal chords to tell the woman this, all I could do was lie there like a statue. I knew I was inside my body but I couldn't feel it. I couldn't locate anything useful it was like my brain had been detached from everything else. Not even a toe would twitch for me.

I figured as long as I was physically inept I should concetrate on remembering how I'd gotten this way to begin with but my mind struggled.

I vaguely remembered something about brooms and... that was all I could come up with. Brooms.

Well, at least it was a fairly good clue. I could only think of two ways to end up in the hospital wing due to brooms. I either knocked myself out shagging in a broom closet or fell off my broomstick during a Quidditch game.

I didn't know which option was more embarassing, to be honest.

I always prided myself on being an excellent flier. Just as good, if not better, than my brothers and every other cocky male who felt the need to challenge a girl's ability- particularly mine. To be thrown off my broom would be beyond mortifying.

Nor did I particularly fancy being caught like some common slag in a broom closet with Merlin only knows who. Though, it didn't really sound like something I'd do so I figured it was the first scenario.

I mentally groaned and, unexpectedly, located my mouth.

"She's awake!" another familiar voice exclaimed in relief and delight.

I groaned again, as more of my memory invaded and questions began to form. How long had I been out? Had I caught the snitch? Did Sirius-?

"Longbottom better hide," a male voice growled through gritted teeth.

"He was doing his job, Everett," a methodical voice reminded him.

"Bullshit." He retorted, "The git deliberately aimed for her head. He's damn lucky Madame Pomfrey saved her or I'd be planning to do much more than use him as a punching bag."
"Forget punching," another female voice said fiercely. "I'm using him to perfect my hexing skills."
"Mira," the first voice said sternly- ignoring all the rest. I had a feeling this was on purpose. "Mirabelle open your eyes if you can."

I tried but my lids still weren't obeying me.

"Mira?"

When I attempted to tell her this, all I could do was groan. It seemed that my mouth was not cooperating entirely.

"What's wrong with her? Why can't she do anything?" a new voice inquired anxiously.

"It's just the spell," the first voice told him simply. "She'll be a little sluggish for a few hours."
"Hours?"

"Longbottom dies, tonight," the growling male voice announced.

"Calm down, Ev," the methodical voice ordered.

I worked to get my eyes open and got a rush of excitement as they fluttered. It wasn't total control yet but at least it was something. I continued to listen to the voices and eventually gathered what happened to me.

Oh. The Gryffindor match.

I groaned again, remembering exactly what happened to me.

I'd gotten hit by an effing Bludger and, from what I'd gathered from Everett's declarations, Frank Longbottom was the culprit. I felt sad as I registered this. Frank was a nice bloke and we'd always gotten on rather well but no doubt he- like his girlfriend- believed I was the whore who broke the heart of Sirius Black. (Puh-lease. Like that sod had a heart to begin with.) I wasn't angry though- he was doing his job after all- just sad. Frank had always been such a clever bloke, it upset me to know that such a ridiculous rumor could penetrate even his good sense.

I have no idea how much time passed but after what seemed like ages I regained control of my body. I didn't even realize it at first- I was too intent on the conversation around me, figuring out who was there (the entire Ravenclaw Quidditch team plus Leo, it seemed)- but in my impatience to be able to talk for myself I'd subconciously tapped my fingers and left foot. With a thrill, I tried to open my eyes once more.

This time, it worked.

"You know, I'd give a whole sack of galleons to see Potter get his arse kicked by Hufflepuff on Friday."
"You and me both," I croaked, without thinking.

Everyone around me gasped in shock. A few even exclaimed my name in their surprise.

"What happened?" I asked, not waiting for the flood of questions they were bound to ask about my well-being.

"Um... You got knocked out by a Bludger and it shattered your collarbone," Nora told me.

I rolled my eyes, not without effort. "Yeah, I gathered that from listening to you lot chat your bloody heads off for the past hour. And, by the way, you all talk alot. But I meant who won the match." My heart pounded hopefully, I'd been so close to the snitch.

Everyone of them became instantly uncomfortable.

"Dammit," I muttered. Their silence was enough of an answer.

"David's up at the Headmaster's office requesting a rematch."

"Dammit, dammit, dammit." I'd really wanted to see the fallen look on Potter's face for the next week after I caught the snitch and, after all that, they'd won.

"I think we'd better go up and help him," Gabe told suggested. "Also, he wanted to know if you woke up."

"Go. I'm fine," I insisted.

"I think I'll go as well," Arina announced.

"Me too," Leo agreed, standing.

The three of them pulled Everett with them, promising me that they wouldn't let him hunt down Frank Longbottom and beat him to a pulp and then they disappeared into the corridor.

I sighed and then winced. It hurt.

"Don't worry about the game, Mir," Nora told me. "Haze only caught it because her boyfriend knocked you off your broom. You weren't even unconcious until after Professor Dumbledore saved you. They won on technicality because she caught it after the time out was called anyway."

I wasn't unconcious? Huh. I had no recollection of that. All I remembered was that God forsaken Bludger hitting me and everything just going black.

"Sirius was pissed." Lena added quietly. Which is a rare volume for Kathlena Prewett. "He nearly killed Longbottom after they carried you off."

"Rabastan wasn't too happy either," Nora said nodding in agreement with Lena's statement.

"What?" I was astonished at both of these declarations.

"Yeah," Lena told me, "Rabastan and about half the Slytherins waited, with us, outside the hospital wing for ages-"

"- and so did Sirius, Remus and even Frank. He feels awful," Nora grimaced.

"Needless to say it was a little more than tense."

"And then, Madame Pomfrey told us that she was only going to let a few people in."

"We all argued and she finally said that only the team and Leo could come."

"The Ravenclaws," I murmured.

"Exactly," they both agreed.

"Bet that went over well," I attempted a smile halfheartedly as I rested my head back on the pillow and closed my eyes again. I wasn't even going to try and sort out the tangle of questions tonight, my brain was too sluggish. I didn't even care if my eyes disobeyed me again and refused to reopen, I needed something else to think about.

"Oh yes," Lena said, scathing sarcasm dripping from her words. "Because Slytherins and Gryffindors are just so blastedly pleasant when they don't get their way."

"Especially when they're both wanting the same thing and the only thing in their way is each other," Nora added.

"Miss Echols," a voice said before I could answer.

My eyes fluttered open again and I saw Madame Pomfrey bussling towards me, a potion in hand. I surpressed another groan, I hated potions. But there was no arguing with the school nurse, I'd learned that the hard way. So I didn't even try, this time. I just gulped it down and grimaced. She gave me a bit of chocolate to wash it down and then another potion.

"And take this on, as well." She told me, producing a smaller vile. "It's a mild sleeping potion, you need your rest. And you'll be staying the night here."

This time I groaned, not even hiding my distaste for the wretched idea.

"I know, but it's nessecary. If all goes well and you behave, you should be out by tomorrow evening." She told me, then turned to Kat and Nora. "You two should go eat dinner now. She's not going anywhere."

None of us found her comment amusing but my two best friends rose and with small waves and looks of sympathy, they left.

I downed the vile of potion in one swig- surprised that the taste and texture were actually pleasant for once. And, within minutes, I drifted into a blissfully dreamless sleep.

The last thing I saw behind my lids was the glorious face of Sirius Black.



***



So, it turns out that, when you disobey Madame Pomfrey, you get stuck in the hospital wing from hell for much longer than originally planned. I got out of my bed once (to go to the bathroom I might add) and- now a week later- I'm sitting in a bed with Kathlena's ominoculars watching the Gryffindor/Hufflepuff game from a distance. I can hear Leo pretty clearly, announcing each play with his natural finesse, but I wanted to watch the action as well.

It was strange not to be there, among the crowds of babbling students, climbing the stands, inhaling the crisp morning air and waving the flag of the house we were routing for. And it was also beyond weird to be routing against Sirius. But was I ever.

I wanted my rematch so bad I could taste it. I also wanted that Cup as well, it would restore some of my lost diginity and possibly get the ruddy Gryffindors to shut up.

And, at this point if the love of my life/bane of my existence had to lose in order for this to happen I was perfectly fine with that.

So there I was, alone in the hospital wing, cheering on the Hufflepuffs.

"Aw, c'mon, Stebbins! Get your bloody arse to the post! You're s'posed to be blocking the Quaffle not ogling Haze! Dammit!" I growled in annoyance as Leo announced Gryffindors goal. A few minutes later I was once again infuriated by the lack of focus of the Hufflepuff's boys, "Fletcher, get your smarmy hands on the fucking Qua-! Dammit."

"My, my, Miss Echols. What would your mother do if she heard such language from her little girl?"

My head whipped around too fast and the room had to stop spinning before I could bring Rabastan into focus. He looked wonderful. How was it that every time he came to visit me he looked better and I felt grungier? It was hardly fair.

"What are you doing here?" I asked, smiling despite my confusion. "Shouldn't you be at the match? Sizing up the competition?"

He laughed and shook his head, "I'm not worried about Hufflepuff and I already know every washed up move the Gryffindors have. Plus, I just kept thinking that you were up here all alone."

"I usually am," I teased. "Well, unless someone has a bad reaction to the pudding at dinner."

"Well, I couldn't very well leave my girl up here all by herself while the whole ruddy school is out there now could I?"

I laughed but it sounded fake even to my own ears. I felt a mix of unease, displeasure and embarassment at the same moment that a thrill shot through me and my breath caught in my throat. It was beyond baffling.

How could you detest something so thoroughly and yet fancy someone who stood for it? How could you fancy someone when you were hopelessly in love with someone else? And how the hell could you be mind-blowingly in love with one person and still hate them with every cell in your body?

"Hellooo," Rabastan's deep chortled brought me out of my reverie. "Earth to Bee? You in there somewhere?"

I gave him a look somewhere between a glare and a smile. "Yeah, just thinking."

"Ooo, dangerous. Don't let Madame Pomfrey know you're taking that kind of risk or you'll be in her for the next month and a half."

I laughed but swiftly punched his arm.

"Ouch!" he grinned. "That actually hurt, Bee."

I rolled my eyes, seriously doubting that but replying with, "That was the idea, Bas."

He grinned and then fought to make his face serious. "I came all the way up to see you- rescue you from the acute pain of loneliness-"

I mock-scoffed, fighting the smile trying to curl my lips. "I'd rather that than the acute pain in my arse I've got now."

He pouted, looking hurt, but I could see the amusement burried deep in those smoldering eyes. "Ouch! You're vicious today! I even brought you a present and everythi-"

"Ooo, a present?"

Laughing at my eagerness he rolled his eyes. "It's like dangling a shiny new toy in front of a five year old."

Though it was true, I took my chance to pout. "If you came up here to cheer me up you're doing a horrible job, Lestrange."

He groaned and threw his hand to his forehead in a very damsel-in-distress type of way, yelling (in falsetto, I might add), "Not the surname!"

I rolled my eyes and fought my smirk, still attempting to pout. "Do I get my present or not?" I demanded, unable to keep the smirk hidden any longer.

"Yes, but only because you're crippled."

"I'm not crippled!" I made a swipe at him.

"Alright! You're not a cripple," he ducked, laughing at my pathetic attempts to smack him. Stupid Quidditch reflexes.

Mine were appearantly nonexistant these days as; One- I hadn't been able to dodge that damn Bludger and, Two- I couldn't even smack this adorable Slytherin boy bent on teasing me this afternoon.

"Do you want your present?"

"Yes."

"Then you're going to have to behave."

"Alright."

"And that means listening to Madame Pomfrey too. No more disregard for rules. We've got a patrol together next week and I'd like it if you'd actually be there."

My heart stuttered as my stomach sunk. What the hell was wrong with me?

"Alright," I groaned- pretending not to notice my body's overreaction.

"Promise?"

"Promise."

"Swear?"

I rolled my eyes, "Swear."

"Cross your heart and-"

"Yes, okay! Just give me the damn gift!"

He laughed with me, "Alright, alright. You pureblood birds are so pushy!"

I really didn't know how to respond to that so I just glared.

He grinned wickedly and then, finally, pulled something out of this bag. Two things actually. The first item was my favorite candy, Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans and the second was a small velvet box. A jewlery box.

Oh boy.
"Open it," he urged, pushing the box into my hand.

I held my breath. Genuinely terrified of what was inside- not because I suspected anything sinister but because I suspected something sparkly. And, of course, I was right. The diamond earings caught in the sunlight outside the window of the hospital wing as my fellow Hogwartians cheered about something on the Pitch. I paid them no mind.

Infact, I didn't even notice until Rabastan said, "Damn. Looks like Gryffindor won the match."

My head whipped towards the field- momentarily horrified by something other than the gift I was just given- Leo was commenting on Alice Haze's victory lap in a flat tone and wondering aloud how she could sleep at night knowing she'd only caught the snitch last match on a technicality.

I laughed, despite my chagrin, loving Leo more than ever for that comment.

Rabastan sighed, "Looks like Gryffindor's still in for the Cup then."

"I'll fix that," I growled.

"Easy, tiger," Rabastan laughed. "You've got to get out of here first."

I didn't respond, choosing instead to glower at the stone wall acrossed from me and imagine slamming James Potter's head into it.

"So, do you like them?"

"Like what?" I asked brought away from my fantasy of bludgeoning Potter to death.

He chuckled."Your present," he prompted, "what do you think?"

My stomach heaved as I eyed the pair of diamond earrings nestled in velvet. What did I think?

Well, I thought it was ridiculous. Too extravigant. I felt like he was trying to buy me with them. I wondered if they were normal or if they had some sort of magical significance and, if so, I made a mental note to find out what that was. The last thing I needed was to wear earrings that doubled as a moniter- a tracking device, a way of keeping tabs on me. I wondered if perhaps their magic was about finding out how loyal I really was, who I talked to, who my friends were, who their parents were. Was this something my parents had put him up to? Or was were these just simply him wanting to monitor my every move? And, with that, I realized I was suspicious of them. Suspicious of him.

This, admittedly, made me feel marginally better about myself. I'd been so worried about liking Rabastan. Worried that I was, indeed- with the departure of Sirius- becoming one of them. I didn't want to fancy or even befriend a Death Eater. It was nice to know that, despite Rabastan's charms, I was still me. I was still smart enough not to trust him implicitly.

"They're too expensive. You're mad," I told him honestly.

He laughed. "But do you like them?"

Did I?

I studied the glittering diamonds. The were beautiful, I suppose, in a generic way. There wasn't really anything remarkable about them- I could probably name at least ten girls in our family circle who owned an identical pair (one being Rosalie). This made my suspisions grow but I was a very good actress, allowing nothing to betray me.

Instead I lied. "They're spectacular. I love them," I beamed at him winningly. "So, what's the occasion?" I inquired shrewdly. Maybe he'd simply tell me what he was up to, save me the trouble.

"Do I need an occasion?"

I laughed but it was entirely artificial. "Yes."

He grinned wickedly, "I was in Hogsmeade and-"

"How were you in Hogsmeade? We haven't had a trip yet. "

His eyes glimmered with a secret, "I have my ways."

I gulped, trying to force the knot in my throat down. I had a very bad feeling about his "ways" but I didn't press this. I doubted that I really wanted to know at this point. "Alright, I'm not going to ask. So, go on- you were in Hogsmeade."

He grinned wider. "Right, so I was in the village and I walked into this shop and it was Madame Moeller's Magical Jewels. And I saw these and thought of you. Figured they'd cheer you up a bit."

Was he lying or telling the truth? It was exceedingly difficult to read him- he was a good actor, as well. But, for the time being I told myself I was being paranoid and stupid. Maybe he really had just wanted to cheer me up with such an extravagant gift. (The rich could afford to do this- as I should know.)

Or maybe cheering you up isn't the only thing he's getting at, a voice in the back of my head suggested.

My breath caught in my throat at this wild theory and I desperately beat it back. Rabastan Lestrange was not courting me. It wasn't possible. I was a stupid, silly girl to even think about that.

I had to swallow hard, again before I coulod speak. "Are they magic?"

"Of course," he laughed. "What kind of question is that? You think I'd buy you Muggle jewlery?" His nose wrinkled at the thought.

"Well! I had to check!" I forced an airy laugh. "So what do they do? Change colors with my mood?" I teased.

He gave me a disparaging look and said, "No. They don't not change colors." He followed this with an eye roll. "They show the wearer want they want."

"What?"

"I dunno how it works! I haven't tried them one," he laughed. "But Madame Moeller told me that when you wear them you just automatically know the deepest most passionate desires of your heart. What you want most."

"Does it show you how to get it?" I detected the lie. My bullshit alarm was wailing inside my head but I tried not to let it show.

He smiled crookedly and shrugged. "Like I said before, I haven't tried them on."

And it was then that I made a silent vow that- as long as I could possibly help it- I never would either.


Not long after that, the doors swung open and the Hufflepuff Keeper was carried to the bed acrossed from me and Madame Pomfrey shooed Rabastan out for the evening. Once she'd sorted out the Keeper and let the Hufflepuff team in, she insisted on giving me a sleeping potion. Spouting some rubbish about me needing rest. And as soon as I swallowed it in an unwilling gulp, I was drifting into a deep dreamless sleep- seeing the face that I always saw when I closed my eyes and yearning for him in my stupor.


***



When I opened my eyes drowsily hours later, I saw the same face.

But it wasn't a figment of my dreams, I wasn't imagining him sitting next to me, holding my hand. He was real and he was right there.

" 'Bout time you showed up."

My mouth uttered the sentence through it's own will, it suddenly posessed a mind of it's own.

A relieved smile broke acrossed that glorious face. "Yeah well, everytime I've come you've been asleep."

"You ever think there was a reason for that?" I teased- again my mouth seemed to have disconnected from my brain (which was still firmly holding a grudge against Sirius Black).

He laughed, "I considered that, yes. But this time I was determined to stay until you woke up."

"Mmm, admit it. You just came to see the damage you'd done to Stebbins over there," I heard myself drawl teasingly, nudging my head towards the groaning Keeper.

He grinned, "That too."

We laughed together.

As it died his face grew sad and solemn. "I'm sorry, Belle. I never meant t-"

Again my body seemed to be detatched from my brain (which was screaming profanities at him, calling all sorts of insults, agreeing that he was sorry- a sorry excuse for a man who should just go rot in hell) because my hand raised of it's own accord to silence his apology and I heard myself say, "Don't. I'm sorry I reacted that way, I should've been happy for you. I was just stressed and hurt and-"

"I never meant to hurt you, Mir. I'm so sorry I didn't tell you and that I said those things that day in the shortcut . I-"

"Let's not.," I heard myself say. "What's done is done."

"Yeah." He looked down at his hands as I yawned.

I felt myself drifting back to sleep, the potion pulling me back under.

"Congrats on winning the game today."

My bloody mouth just couldn't stop talking! What was wrong with it? Didn't it get that I was still mad at the stupid wanker who'd single-handedly risked my life and shattered my heart in one blow? Appearantly not.

"Thanks," his grip tightened on my hand. It felt nice. I'd missed Sirius's warm hand around mine. The stuttering thing my heart did, the swirling in my abdomen. Most of all, I realized I'd missed the saftey and security of that hand around mine, so cozy and comforting and right.

"Ready to get your arse kicked in the rematch next week?" I asked him sleepily with a hazy smile on my lips.

"Oh yes, this time we'll beat you fair and square." I could hear the grin in his voice and I imagined what it would look like- realizing that I'd closed my eyes.

"Dream on, Ssnnnuffles." I'd meant to say Sirius but the word was slurred and distroted in my drowsy state. I was slipping from conciousness, no matter how much I wanted to stay right here with Sirius. I tried to fight it but I couldn't. Stupid Sleeping Potion.

What had she drugged me with? The Drout of the Living Dead?

I heard a soft chuckle and felt something soft and warm press to my forehead. The last thing I heard and felt was the same soft thing brushing my ear and Sirius's spine tingling whisper, "Sweet dreams, Mirabelle Rose."

***


I woke the next morning out of a lovely dream. Or, at least, I thought it was a dream. Had I dreamed Sirius or was he real?

I shook my head sadly at such wishful thinking. Of course I'd dreamed him up. The real Sirius had made it very clear he wanted nothing to do with me. Miserably I fond myself asking the desperate question I'd been asking myself for months now. When would I get over this horrible unrequited love?

Before I could depress myself too thoroughly, however, Madame Pomfrey entered the room and informed me that I was free to go as soon as I took the potion she held in her hand. I gulped it gratefully, tasting nothing and gathered my things as quickly as possible. Rushing to freedom.


*** 


(So there is Chapter seven, including my version of how the whole Snuffles nickname came about.  I hope you liked it. Keep an eye out for updates on Coming Back a Swan and Swept Under they should be coming shortly. Also don't forget to review because alot of my reviews were lost in the server crash and it's kind of depressing. Until next chapter!

xox RED)


Chapter 8: Avoiding Boys and Bludgers
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

(Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! I can feel the rocks your chucking at me and I'm updating now so you can stop! Put away those pitchforks throw water on those torches and read my latest chapter! A few things first though; I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry! I know I've been horrible at updating lately but school and work and trying to keep up something resembling a social life have gotten in my way! Also, I have not edited this chapter so don't be surprised at spelling errors and typos! That and it was written over such a long period of time who knows if it'll even be coherent! But I thought I'd better post it as you readers have been patient long enough! AND last, I had to use the simple editor, due to the grudge my computer seems to have against me {I don't know why! I give it cookies all the time!}, so if you see somethign like an "i" randomly in front of a word, tell me please! Any other mistakes, let me know! For now though, enjoy!)



Chapter 8~ Avoiding Boys and Bludgers



I was extra careful to avoid both Sirius and Rabastan over the next few days. Though, as I had patrols with the latter that was a little hard. We tried to remain businesslike as we walked through the corridors late at night- or, at least, I tried. He teased me as we slowed to a luxurious stroll- no one was wondering the corridors at this time of night and we still had to be here for another half hour, and I laughed lightly at his jokes like always. I couldn't really help it, relaxing in his presence, laughing with him, talking like this. I couldn't help it, so-for once- I didn't try. When patrol was over, he walked me to the door of the Ravenclaw Common Room and hugged my goodnight.

But other than that mandatory encounter, I was determined not to run into either of them.

Because first, if I was having dreams about making up with Sirius (even if said dreams may have been influenced by the heavy slumber potion I was under at the time). there was no way I'd be able to see him in person without giving in. And I refused to give in- I wasn't in the wrong and he was going to admit it. That and, as usual, if I was seen anywhere near him it would not go unnoticed and the last thing I needed was to be noticed with Sirius Black. By anyone.

The reason I was so determined to avoid Rabastan was that I couldn't quite shake the nagging feeling that he'd meant more by those diamonds than he'd said. That the long talks were more than talks to him, that those overly long hugs were giving him ideas. And I didn't want to think about that.

In my efforts to avoid the boys currently making my life a twenty-four hour headache, I threw myself into Quidditch. I concentrated on getting in shape for my one goal. Beating Gryffindor to a pulp in the rematch.

The rest of the team was just as commited, we were at the Pitch nearly every morning and night doing drills until curfew. If we weren't there, we were together discussing strategy. Which suited me just fine. It saved me the need to think.

I walked into the Great Hall on the day of the big rematch flanked by Nora and Lena with the weakest stomach I'd ever had. Made even weaker when I locked eyes with Sirius immediately upon entering.

As always we stared at each other for several nanoseconds and then averted our eyes, like we were watching each other undress or something (Ha! I wish). But this time it was charged which a whole new energy of betrayal and rejection. His face was hard, something hovering on the edge of pain swirled in his eyes. Which made me wonder if I had really dreamed the hospital encounter. Was it really just my imagination running amuck? Or had he really been there? Did I really dream that apologetic tone, the warmth of his hand in mine, his silky spine-tingling whisper?

Of course you did! Quit being ridiculous! A voice shot me down instantly.

"Deep breaths," Lena whispered to me. "Just breathe, Belle."

I swallowed hard but it did nothing to loosen the knot in my throat or making my muscles relax. I didn't look towards the Slytherin table, for fear that I'd lock eyes with an overly eager Rabastan. I didn't look up until I sat at the Ravenclaw table with my freinds and, even then, I kept my eyes trained on their faces- as if I was deeply interested in the conversations going on around me. As if I didn't feel nervous at all. I could feel eyes on me but I didn't look to see how many or to whom they belonged. And I didn't touch my food, no matter how much Nora nagged.

"Mirabelle, Kathlena, Lanora, c'mon!" All three of us glared at David and his use of our full names but he didn't seem phased. He was beckoning us over to where the rest of the team was. It took my a second too long to realize where we were going. The Pitch.

I tried to breath deeply but couldn't.

What if...?

No, no, no. Just stop. A firm voice told me for some reason it sounded like Andromeda Black.

It starled me, as did the wave of nastalgia that followed. I missed Andy.

Stop, Mi, no crying. Her voice ordered me again. Don't you dare sabotage yourself before you even get there! You need to beat my cousin, take his ego down a few notches.

I smiled to myself, (ignoring the fact that I could very well be going insane- as I was hearing voices) it sounded exactly like something Andy would say. She always said the two of us were the only ones who could ever deflate that giant head of his.

Despite my lapse in sanity, I was still naseated by what was about to happen. My face was hot with the nerves of what I was doing and my determination to win. I'd never wanted to win a game more. I was going to show Alice Haze who was really the better Seeker- I didn't have to have technicalities caused by my boyfriend to win my games.

The day was perfect. Gorgeous, sunny, glorious, ideal Quidditch conditions. The light breeze was just enough to cool my cheeks down and helped me relax a bit. I crossed the lawn with my team pretending to listen to David prattle about moves to try and techniques we should use if we wanted a chance at the Cup.

He was still talking when we entered the dressing room but there wasn't a doubt in my mind that I wasn't alone in tuning him out. Arina was fussing with her ponytail, Everett was swinging his bat menacingly and Lena was blowing bubbles with her Drooble's Chewing Gum (where did she get that? There hadn't been a Hogsmeade trip since October!).

"..... Right then, it's time, I'd say."

All of us looked up. Blinking the stupor off, we stood at attention and grabbed our broomsticks. It didn't escape my notice that everyone shot me worried glances. And, I found out that it was beyond irritating to be the weakest link in our very strong chain. Normally I was the one who was depended on. I was the one who ended the game once we had a cushion of points under our belt. I was the one who screamed warnings from my usual eagle eye position if there were Bludgers hurtling towards my teammates. I was the one who saved our asses if we were losing. But now, I was the one they were worried about. The one who might just choke and ruin everything (again). And I didn't like it at all.

"Well, let's go," I snapped, sounding braver than I felt, quite frankly. Without waiting for one of them to reply, I marched ahead of them towards the doors. I didn't have to look back to know they would follow.

We stepped out onto the Quidditch Pitch and it erupted. Leo's voice booming over all the rest, magnified by magic.

"Goo-oood morning, students of Hogwarts. What a lovely day for a rematch, eh? Quite the new rivalry we've got on our hands. The charming and witty Ravenclaws and the bumbling brawny Gryffindors," he alliterated. "Yeah, real hard to figure out the better of the two, eh?"

The Slytherins cackled with glee as the Hufflepuffs and Gryffindors booed indignantly. My own house was split between the loyal lot and the gabbing bints who still held the whole Sirius debacle against me. Traitors.

We mounted our brooms as Leo's commentary continued- unabashed by the generally unfavorable response.

"... As you all know, lest you've been living in a broom closet for the past month, last game ended with an pettily aimed Bludgers to the Ravenclaw Seeker, Mirabelle Echols' head and the Gryffindors took their chance to catch the Snitch and they won on a technicality. Further proof that chivalry really is dead, mates..."

I would have laughed if I wasn't trying to focus intently on my game plan. I was determined to beat Alice Haze this time at all costs, nothing was standing in my way.

I saw her shoot a scathing glare towards Leo and then she locked eyes with me, long enough to smirk maliciously, before jetting off in the direction of Frank Longbottom. I noticed he didn't look too happy with Leo either, but his unhappiness was different. I could tell by the sad look on his face that Frank, ever genuine, had indeed felt terrible for knocking my lights out and didn't appreciate Leo's reminder. I felt a little bit better at this revelation, I'd always liked Frank and it had saddened me to think he was gullible enough to buy the rumors that had been spread about Sirius and me.

"Don't forget to breathe, sweetie," Arina reminded me before kicking off the ground.

I followed her advice and took another deep breath, tuned Leo out, and then followed her, kicking off hard. Harder than I'd meant to. I soared through the air on my state of the art racing broom and everything around me blurred.

I loved flying for this very reason, the whole world disappeared behind me.

I didn't see Sirius's hard, unfeeling stare, I didn't feel conflicted when Gabe and Everett flexed their muscles menacingly, I didn't notice Potter's insufferable presence and I didn't even feel the worried eyes of my friends on my face. It all just melted into nothingness as the wind whipped my hair around my face.

I liked the feeling that I so rarely got to experience. Freedom.

The whistled brought me down from my place in the clouds, back to the Pitch and the roaring student body. The game had begun without me and now I had to orient myself. I was up high enough to circle the Pitch and keep out of the way while still looking for the snitch like a hawk searched for it's very elusive prey.

I was determined to avoid bludgers at all costs this time around. The thought of Madam Pomfrey's bedside manor alone was insentive to keep clear of the heavy balls Sirius, Everett, Frank and Gabe kept batting at each other and the other players. Though, I doubt I was in any real danger of that this time, unless one went astray. Sirius, no matter how stubborn and angry he was at me, would never dream of hitting a bludger my way, Frank was obviously still gushing with guilt for last time so he was extra cautious not to aim in my direction and Gabe and Everett had too good of aim to ever hit me by mistake.

My only worry was Alice Haze. Determined to prove that she didn't need technicalities to win. Determined to hate me for Merlin knows what rumor she'd heard. Determined to see me fail. She hovered above me and over a ways so that I could see her from the corner of my eyes. If she darted towards the Snitch, I would know and, unfortunately, vice versa.

So use it, the Andromeda in my head ordered.

How?

Yes, I was actually answering the voice of Andromeda Black in my head now. How pathetic. It didn't stop me, however from considering her words. How could I use Alice Haze's obsessiveness to my advantage?

I mentally scanned through every Quidditch move I knew and-

AHA!!! OF COURSE!

I had to surpress a grin of triumph, not wanting to give myself away. I decided to let Arina bask in the glory of the cheers coming from the Ravenclaw and Slytherin sections for her phenomenal goal and allow Leo to have his fun with the commentary, "...lovely execution of that one! Ravenclaw ahead 60-40! No technicality needed..."

I laughed aloud and, just as I'd gotten Haze's attention in the form of a scathing glare, I stopped short.

"... comparing Gryffindor and Ravenclaw, it really isn't difficult to see who's the better- Oh, what's this!" Leo gasped with the crowd. "Echols has spotted the Snitch! If you recall, that's twice now that the Ravenclaw Seeker has spotted it first. Look at the way she's flying! Either she's determined to go unscathed by Gryffindor's heinously aimed Bludgers this time or Haze's technicality really has her determined to beat their arses this time- Oops, sorry, Professor. It slipped." The crowd laughed,in spite opf the fact that the atmosphere was tense, breathless and half of them were routing for Alice to catch up with me. "Look at her go! Haze is catching up a bit- Oh! Mirabelle Echols dives! She's getting closer to the ground! She's got to catch the Snitch before she hits it- GO, MIRA! GO!"

I'm going, I'm going. I thought in a back chamber of my mind. The cheers of the crowd around roared, I could see Alice a little bit behind me and Leo's commentary crashing in my ears. Gosh, he was impatient. I hadn't even really spotted the-

The gold glint was all it took for me to change my coarse. As planned, I abruptly pulled out of my Feint (a move Sirius had taught me when I made Seeker) and Alice Haze still plunged towards the ground without enough time to pull out of the downward spiral. But, unlike I planned, I went racing off towards the real deal rather than watching the result of my handy work.

I didn't hear the boos, hisses and cheers when Alice crashed, I didn't hear Leo's frantic narrative- he wasn't sure whether to comment on my faking out my opponent or the fact the I was now racing after the real Snitch, arm outstretched- all I heard were the fluttery little wings. I didn't see Sirius stop a few meters away to watch me, the Ravenclaw blue and Gryffindor gold slurred together in a dizzying way that I was too busy to notice and Potter was feverishly trying to block the goals our Chasers were pelting at him (taking advantage of the situation) while also trying to pay attention to his Seeker but all I saw was the glitter of gold inches from my finger tips.

Bit more. Just a bit more. I stretched my arm as far as it would go. Haze had recovered from her collision and was now racing like a speed-demon to get her revenge. Hell hath no fury like a Quidditch player scorned, I thought smugly. And just as I felt her catch up to me-

"YES! YES! YES! Ladies and gentlemen of Hogwarts, Mirabelle Echols has just caught the Snitch! RAVENCLAW WINS! Stick that in your technicality! Ravenclaw's Seeker wins fair and square! RAVENCLAW WINS!" I looked up to see Leo on his feet, jumping up and down with another Ravenclaw next to him.

I wanted to see Haze and Potter's faces but, before I could look around for them, my teammates thudded around me in a midair bear hug. As we descended together the Slytherins and Ravenclaws (even those who'd been routing for Gryffindor when the game began) were chanting "MI-RA! MI-RA! MI-RA!"

I laughed in ecstacy. Victory was sweet and it was all mine. It was the happiest I'd felt since the morning I'd overheard my parents discussing Sirius's escape to the Potter's. Only Quidditch could make me feel this way when everything else was wrong. Gabe and Everett carried me off the Pitch on their shoulders but just before we got to the dressing room I caught Sirius's eye.

His face was expressionless. Not happy, not unhappy. Just blank. His eyes were clouded and broody. His jaw was locked in that signature way of his, I was positive that-were I to get closer to him- I'd see his jaw muscle lurching like mad.

And then, just like that, I was whisked away on the shoulders of the two hottest Ravenclaw blokes and Sirius was gone.


***
The party following the rematch was the most bizzare of any party I think Hogwarts has ever had (which says something when you consider that James and Sirius throw strange Gryffindor parties frequently). Not because every twit who'd been glaring at me for the stupid Sirius nonsense was now being freakishly sweet to me. Not because Kathlena and Everett were making out in the corner. Not because the firewhiskey was causing some of the brightest and best at Hogwarts to do things that would make Bella Lestrange blush.

No, the party was bizarre because for the first time EVER, Slytherins were partying in the Ravenclaw Common Room.

I'm. Not. Joking.

So there I was, completely knackered, being clapped on the back by everyone within arms reach, achey muscles and all and I was also having to avoid Rabastan and my cousin and pretty much every Slytherin in my family circle. It was a nightmare.

I darted in between people and attempted to get to the stairs and sneak up to my dorm. I was almost there and one of the Seventh year girls pulled me over to their group and made me recount catching the Snitch.

By the time I escaped them I was acrossed the Common Room. I spotted Rabastan, talking to Rosalie, a few other Slytherins and a pack of Ravenclaw girls. He looked delicious and my stomach did a flip.

Bullocks. I turned and made an immediate beeline for the door. I didn't know where I was going, just that I needed to get out of there.

I slipped out of the Common Room and down the corridor. For a while, I just walked aimlessly around the castle. Paintings congratulated me as I passed and torches flickered all around me, urging me forward with their. It wasn't until I heard a giggle that I realized what floor I was on.

I found myself rounding the corner as quietly as possible, wishing I knew how to make myself invisible. There in the shadowy corners of the corridor, among the suits of armor and flickering torches, was a couple in a rather compromising position. They were clearly in the throws of a passionate snogging session, both his and her shirts were discarded on the floor and the giggly girl was pressed to the wall. Her long legs were wrapped around him, her fingers tangled in his tawny curls. His hand dipped under her lacey pink bra and cupped her breast in his rather perfect looking hands. Blood rushed to my cheek and my entire body felt hot and flustered as the bloke groaned. They seemed to be oblivious to her, too intent in sucking each others' faces off. Maybe if I just crept past them they wouldn't...

The girl's tinkling giggle trilled again as her companion nibbled on her ear, "Siri, that tickles!"

A sheet of ice seemed to slide into my plummetting stomach. My entire body froze, all the previous warmth leaving my body. I couldn't access my legs to run away, I couldn't feel my body at all. My heart had jumped into my throat and I felt like all of my airwaves had been abruptly cut off. I gulped frantically but could not fill my lungs with air.

My pulse drowned out every other sound in the world. All I could her was the frantic beat crashing like symbols inside my head. All I could see were those hand, those beautiful hand I'd admired for so long, holding and touching the giggler; those dark curls she'd always longed to run her fingers through, being tosseled by another; those lips, those gorgeous full lips, she'd watched breathlessly as they spoke wishing he'd stop flapping them and snog her already, being nibbled on and caressed by another's or currently trailing down the giggling girl's jawline.

It was then that his other hand began to trail up her thigh and skirt. I could finally feel my legs, in another second I could move them and as soon as I realized this, I ran. And ran. And ran. And ran.

I came to a stop at the edge of the lake. It was dark but I didn't care, I collapsed on the ground and hugged my knees to my chest. I didn't bother wiping away the tears sloping down my cheeks, though I hated myself for crying. It was stupid, I should be over him. He didn't care about me (obviously), so why should I care about him?

I growled in frustration, interrupting the quiet night air. My face, hot from so much running, began to cool as I blinked up at the stars. My pulse slowed to a numbingly steady pace and my eyes started to flutter with fatigue. I would have to go back to the Common Room soon. It was past curfew and my friends would be wondering where I'd disappeared to.

But, for now, I stayed where I was, sprawled on the grass gazing up at the night sky.

It was almost the full moon.

Poor Remus, I thought distantly through my own pain. I gulped, as if I could somehow swallow all my problems an maybe even Remus's too, but they still remained.

Tears felt frozen on my face, I hadn't brought a jacket and it was getting chilly. My teeth chattered and goosebumps raised on my arms. I was shaking but I didn't feel how cold it was, I didn't feel anything and I was glad.

In order to block out the painful images, I blocked out everything else as well. It was the only way to keep the pain manageable, numb everything.


I have no clue how long I laid there on the grass, staring dejectedly up at the sky but when I snuck back into the castle it was completely black. Not that I would've noticed anyway, by that time I was on autopilot, I knew the route to the Ravenclaw Common Room by heart. I wasn't required to think to get back up there. The only concious thought I can remember having was hoping that, by now, the victory party was over and I wouldn't run into anyone on my way to bed.

I hardly noticed the question I was asked before I could get into the room, I didn't pay attention to the people passed out on the chairs and floor in the Common Room and I definitely don't recall walking up the stairs.

Before I knew it I was in the dorm. My friends were all sleeping, or at least acting asleep, judging by their slow, even breathes and Lena's soft snoring. I didn't bother changing out of my clothes, I simply crawled under my covers and waited for sleep to rescue me.

I curled into the fetal position, the pain hurting the worst around my midsection, and cried silently again. Or had I even stopped crying to begin with? I didn't know.

All I could remember the next morning were my last thoughts before I slept. All revolving around Andromeda and the desperate things we do and horrible pains we endure for love.

***



My silence the next morning hardly went unnoticed. I saw my worried friends exchange glances and avoided their furtive questions. They didn't press me though, knowing I'd tell them when I was ready.

Instead of going with them to spend a lazy afternoon on the sunny grounds, like everyone else, I went back to bed after breakfast. I was exhausted and my head was pounding, as if- like many of the older Ravenclaws and Slytherins who'd attended the party last night- I was hungover. My whole body felt crushed and raw.

It was one thing to know that Sirius was a playboy who snogged a new idiot practically every night, it was an entirely different thing to actually see it.

Despite his promiscuity, Sirius had never been very big on the major public displays of affection that most couples exhibited on a daily basis. I realized that night that I'd never actually seen him snog any of the many many girls he'd "dated". I'd heard of them, heard him talk about them, heard plenty of things about his conquests, but I'd never witnessed it with my own eyes.

It made my stomach churn just reliving it.

But, as I laid in my bed, I couldn't help but relive it. It was like a broken record in my head playing over and over and over again, making it impossible to sleep. I was so frustrated that, after well over an hour of lying in bed, curtains drawn, I gave up entirely. It was no use trying to force myself into unconciousness, no matter how much I wished for it. No matter how desperate I was for a world of dreams instead of harsh reality.

I got up and paced the room four times before deciding to throw my jeans back on and explore the castle. Perhaps I would have the satisfaction of discoverign a Marauder-free secret passage and then I could satisfy myself with the smug knowledge that I knew something about the castle that Sirius and his half-wit mates didn't.

I was moving on to the next stage of grief, I realized, once aware of the desire to see someone besides myself suffer (it didn't matter who). I'd moved on from denial and crushing, humiliating sadness to anger. Boiling, hot anger bubbled in the pit of my stomach. I wanted to hit something.

I moved through the halls feeling more invisible than a ghost. No one was in the corridors, it was too nice of a day to be inside, even the teachers had abandoned their usual posts. I was glad of that. The last thing I needed was to run into anyone, especially-

"You know, I thought we were over this."

A blood-curdling scream escaped me, echoing through the deserted corridors. I whipped aroun to see Sirius leaning against the wall, face closed off, muscles tight and strained with anger, eyes trubulent like a stormy night at sea.

He was angry? HE was angry with ME?

What the hell did he have to be angry for? I was the one who should be angry! And I was! I was livid actually. Livid and disgusted. Disgusted wiht myself for wasting so much time on him. Disgusted with him because he hadn't noticed!

My eyes narrowed of their own accord, words bubbled into my throat but I resisted them and just continued to glare. I wanted to run but my legs seemed to have frozen.

"Good game by the way," he said, when I didn't speak. I knew his tone well enough to know he didn't mean it. "Your Slytherin boyfriend teach you how to play like that?"

"What is that s'posed to mean?" I snapped, before I could stop myself. I didn't bother pointing out that I learned that move from him, not Rabastan.

"Just that, you were never one to play dirty before he started sha-"

"I can play just fine on my own. I don't need his help," I cut acrossed him, not even bothering to correct him. Let him think Rabastan and I were together, maybe I'd seem less pathetic that way. Less like a lovesick little puppy that's been following him around his whole life. "I played dirty because your Seeker pissed me off and I wanted her to be knackered enough to cry when she lost," I added spitefully.

"Spoken like a true pure-blood."

"You would know."

"Have you joined up yet or are they saving that for your graduation day?"

"Getting sick of being Potter's bitch or have you adapted to it over the years?"

"Bella show you how to apply your makeup or are those under-eye bruises from shagging filthy Slytherins all night?"

That did it.

I was so angry, I almost said it. I almost retorted with a witty one-liner about walking in on him and his blonde. But I didn't want him to know that I'd seen. I didn't think I could keep the pain from lacing my tone and I didn't want him to know I was hurting. Why should he know that I was mad about him? It was none of his business.

Instead, I turned on my heal and started to strut away while I still had a portion of my dignity left.

"Mira, wait," his tone was apologetic.

I hesitated for a second before deciding against obliging him. He wasn't going to hurt me even more, I wasn't going to let him keep getting to me like this. It was unhealthy. I began to walk again when something rough and warm came around my wrist.

Before I knew what was happening, Sirius had pulled me into him and the pressed me between the wall and his rock hard torso. My breath caught in my throat and my heart kicked into overdrive - I prayed he couldn't feel it. Soon his legs touched mine as well and I could feel his hot breath on my face.

I was closer to him than I'd ever been. In all our years of knowing each other, I'd never had this many surfaces of my body covered with his. I secretly relished the feeling. It was beyond intoxicating. More brilliant than anything my imagination could conjur.

But, somehow, I managed to keep my wits and remember my resolve to never let him hurt me again. I didn't want anymore pain than I already had.

"What are you doing, you bloody wanker? Get o-!"

But before I could finish my sentence he shut me up by covering my lips to with his.

***

( AAAAAHHHH! I know that was wicked! I'm evil! Feel free to get those pitchforks back out! As long as you review! What do you think? Good? Bad? Predictable? Abandon, abandon, abandon!!!? 'Til next time!
xox RED)

Chapter 9: The Complicated Love Life of Mirabelle Rose
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Chapter 9 ~ The Complicated Love Life of Mirabelle Rose



I had been kissed before, but never like this.

Every ounce of the venom that had flowed electrically through my veins just moments before evaporated, replaced by adrenaline. All my anger dissolved the moment his lips met mine. In fact, as cliche as it sounds, the whole world seemed to disappear around us. The only thing I could see was Sirius. The only thing I felt was his body coaxing mine. The only thing I could hear was my own body's reaction to it. I seemed to have lost all of my self-control because a soft moan escaped me before I could reel it back in. But I didn't care, I'd wanted this for so long and now it was happening. I was drowning in the very sensation that is Sirius Black. It seemed like he was everywhere.

I forgot about the danger of this, Forgot that, if we were seen, it could mean I'd be disowned... or worse. Forgot this innocent kiss could be my untimely end. Forgot that I was supposed to be livid with him. Forgot that he'd been acting like an inconsiderate prick ever since that perfect day in the summer. I even forgot my own name as I focused on memorizing this over-the-moon feeling.

His lips on mine, his teeth lightly pulling at my bottom lip, his tongue eagerly entering my mouth in a deliciously hesitant way. When our tongues touched, he moaned and my stomach flipped. My skin burned everywhere- my face, my neck, my back, my arm- where ever his fingers grazed. His breath mingled with mine, warming the air. We labored for each breath as our intensity grew. Years of pent up frustration gushed forth into this very passionate embrace, like a dam had finally broken somewhere within us.

As caught up as I was, something in a distant chamber of my mind amazingly kept a speck of logic. Logic that told me I was being ridiculous thinking this was passion (on his part anyway). Logic that told me this feeling would not last. Whether we were caught or not, this was lightening, it never struck the same place twice. It was fleeting, like a butterfly's wings tickling your skin, I was lucky to feel it once. It would be short, a light brush with the destiny I should have had and then it would be gone, never to return. Yes, it was going to be unbearably short and immensely sweet. So I memorized every detail of it, this happiest of moments.

I would file it away forever and relive it every rainy day of the miserable life I could vividly see unfolding before me. When the Death Eaters pestered me into joining the ranks, I'd feel his lips on mine. When Rabastan's hands slid around my waist for a dance, I'd feel Sirius's hands tangled in my hair. When my family demanded perfection, I'd remember his tongue dancing around mine to the most perfect melody of heartbeats the world will ever hear. I would drown in this kiss, to keep myself from drowning in the harsh reality of a war I would have to fight in against my will.

Sirius cupped my face, as if he was afraid I'd pull away.

I wouldn't dream of it. I would never end this blissful escape on purpose.

I brought my arms around his neck and tangled my fingers into his curls to say this without a single word. I'd wanted to tossle these curls for year and my dream was coming true. I sighed contentedly into his mouth. For a few beautiful, precious moments, I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. I felt special and wanted. I felt like I was flying, all on my own. Soaring high above the ground, without the help of a broomstick and it was so much better this way.

But, as his lips gave mine a break and trailed kisses down my jaw to my neck, I got a horrifying flash of the night before.

And that was all it took to bring me back to earth.

Just last night he'd made an easy blonde girl giggle by doing exactly this. Hadn't I witnessed with revulsion as he'd trailed kisses acrossed her skin and inched his hand slowly up her skirt? She was no different from any of the others and now, neither was I.

Why should I be?

I was nothing but the girl who, once upon a time, had been his friend. Had I even been that though? Or was I just the one who'd followed him around like a lovesick puppy for years without sparking his interest? Only keeping a shred of dignity by not doing the very thing she yearned to do with him.

And now that was gone.

I'd always prided myself in the fact that I wasn't as easily fooled as the other girls who were pining after him. I'd been comforted by the fact that I could see through his bullshit. That I could tell a line from a genuine statement and a friendly hug from and invitation to jump his bones. But here I was, being fooled into thinking that this meant as much to him as it did to me, just like the rest.

I mean, come on. Passionate embrace? Years of pent up frustration? Burning skin? Flipping stomach? Evaporating anger? Mingling breath? Had I gone MENTAL:? Had I already fooled myself into thinking this was special to him? Did some part of me decide this without my permission? Was I seriously hoping for more?

Finally, my sanity overruled my other- more sensuous- urges. I unlocked my fingers from those wild black curls and moved them to his chest, pushing him off of me.
 
I didn't do enough to separate us but he got the message and stepped back of his own accord, blue eyes wary. The cold air replaced where his body had pressed to mine and my cheeks flamed with the realization of what I'd just done.

"What? What's wrong, Mir?"

What's wrong, Mir? Was he serious? I wanted to slap him for, once again, leading me on and complicating my life even further. I wanted to scream at him. I wanted to grab him by his shirt and pull him back to me so I could snog the living daylights out of him again. I wanted to say million things, ask a million questions. Tell him exactly how I felt and for how long I'd felt it. Ask him why the bloody hell he'd waited til now to finally make a bleedin' move!

But all I could do was stutter breathlessly, "I-I- I... can't."

And before anything else could happen to embarass me further, I ran as fast as my legs could carry me, in no particular direction.


***

My stomach plummeted the next morning, as I stared at the bright sign announcing next weeks Hogsmeade trip. Why this surprised me, I wasn't sure. We always had a trip right before the Holidays. But I'd had so much on my mind that I hadn't bothered to check the date. Hadn't noticed the weeks and weeks passing me by. And now, I had the terrible feeling that my week was about to get much worse and regretted my decision to be brave this morning and face the day rather than spend it in bed like I'd wanted to.

I was more determined to avoid Sirius than I'd ever been in my life. I blushed profusely everytime I thought of my stupid behavior. How could I have let him kiss me that way? How could I have lost control that way?

Control.

It was funny (in an incredibly frustrating sort of way) how the one thing I'd always clung to was the first thing I lost in Sirius's presence. I'd always hoped to lose something else that was a bit less important in my book than keeping my carefully controlled defenses. But no, I'd lost one of the most crucial things for a girl in my situation.

My body had acted on it's own and my brain had failed (for once) to overrule it. Something I knew (hoped) only Sirius could do to me. Only he had such diabolical powers. Powers, I was sure he knew of (or at least now he did, after my embarassing display last night) but had no idea how strong they were.

"Alright, Mirabelle?" Lena asked me as we headed to Charms.

I don't know why, but I couldn't bring myself to tell Lanora or Kathleena about last night's disaster-slash-dream-come-true. I suppose that I was too embarassed to admit my humiliating defeat. I hadn't known I was fighting my own kind of war before last night, but now I was all too aware of that fact. I'd been locked in battle with my former best friend. A battle of who-can-get-to-who-first and I'd lost miserably. My pride took a collosal blow just admitting that to myself, I wasn't sure it could take another.

So, instead of coming clean to my best friends (in a very crowded corridor, I might add) I said, "Yeah, o'course. Why wouldn't I be?"

"I dunno," she replied, clearly not buying it. "You just seem a bit... distracted."


Distracted. That was a good word for it.

I was distracted, in the sense that I couldn't think about anything but that bloody fantasic kiss. Or how I'd utterly humiliated myself by kissing him and then running away like a child on the playground. Or the fact that I may very well have an unwanted suitor (or two?) asking me to Hogsmeade this time around. Or that I was going to have to go back to pureblood-central in a mere two weeks time.

My stomach churned uneasily.

Yes, distracted was exactly the right word for my behavior.

"Yeah, I guess I am," I agreed. And then, of course, I followed it with lies. "I'm worried about my potions essay. I'm almost positive I made at least one mistake on the correct way to pluck unicorn hairs."

Both of their eyes told me they didn't believe me (we were Ravenclaws, after all). But their faces relaxed at my seemingly normal explination. Melting from worry into teasing.

"Right," Nora rolled her eyes at me. "I'm sure the straight O student is going to fail Potions miserably if she didn't quote the book verbatum."

"I'm not straight O! We haven't even taken exams!" I exclaimed with fake indignance. I was just thankful that they weren't going to press me anymore. One of the many reasons I loved my friends, they didn't push things. They knew I'd tell them eventually, if it was particularly important. Or I'd at least tell them when it became relevant.

This was met with another eye roll, "Whatever. I don't even know why you worry about that class. Next to Lily Evans and Darren Vance, you're like his favorite student here. You can do no wrong in Slughorn's eyes."

"Yeah," Lena agreed. "I bet if you didn't do the essay, spilled Polyjuice Potion on his favorite robes and caused the entire class to sprout massive boils all over their body - like Potter and Black did- you'd still be his favorite in our year."

It was almost true, but I couldn't laugh with them because-at the mention of Sirius's name (even just his surname!) I got jolt down my spine. Like I'd just been doused with a bucket of ice water. It was a dramatic and frankly ridiculous reaction, seeing as I'd commanded myself to get over the sod and on with my life already.

We took our seats in Defense Against The Dark Arts and I aimed to steer the conversation into a more bearable topic. I looked at Gianna Harveston's empty seat in front of me and said, "So how long do you think it's going to take Gianna to get the orange out of her hair?"

Lena snorted, "I hope it takes a month. Serves her right for sneaking in Muggle dye instead of just learning the bloomin' spell."

"She probably didn't read the directions," I told them with and eye roll.

"And she's too thick to know the spell for it," Nora giggled. She was a master at the hair-dying charm (Ahem, which I taught her) who got a good laugh out of how other girls ended up with disastorous results whenever they even attempted it or some other method.

"I hope it at least stays until the Hogsmeade visit," Lena said. A delighted smile lighting her face.

How the hell did this keep happening to me? It was like no subject was safe anymore!

I gulped as we treaded into dangerous waters. I'd been trying to block out the whole Hogsmeade-trip-approaching thing. For several reasons;

One, it meant that the holidays were not far behind and I LOATHED the holidays.

Two, I was so tangled and confused about the Sirius thing that seeing all kinds of couples getting together was not going to be helpful.

And three, I had horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach that I couldn't get rid of. A feeling that I might just get asked by someone this time and it was all about to get even MORE complicated.

Any other year, I would have been ecstatic to be kissed by Sirius and even more thrilled about the fact that I may not be spending the Hogsmeade trip like I usually did. Not that hanging out with Lena and Nora was bad. Not at all. But still, it was nice to be the one with the date every once in a while.

But not when the date was going to make everything even worse than it already was.

I stayed silent as my friends debated how long it would take Gianna to come out of our dorm room. Or how long the ever-loyal Missy would nag Madame Pomfrey before she got the hint that the nurse either couldn't or simply refused to fix the blunder they made with Muggle hair dye.

"Yeah, she'll never get a date with orange hair," Nora grinned.

"She will, if she ever comes out. Blokes don't date her for her hair," I told them. "They date her because she's a garentee."

My friends burst into uncontrollable fits of giggles as the teacher came in and demanded the classes attention. Unfortunately for them, they weren't able to control their laughter and the new teacher- not wanting to seem like a pushover- took ten points from Ravenclaw and when the laughter continued, detentions.

We left the class with our heads together, the two of them muttering under their breath about what a complete joke the professor was and how it was insulting that we were actually expected to sit there attentively while he pretended to be a real teacher.


I was so amused by their grumbling that I hardly noticed someone approaching us with a rather determined air until a very large, warm hand closed around my shoulder.

"Bee, can I have a word?"

My entire body siezed up with fear. I knew that voice, I knew those hands. And they both belonged to one of the two people I'd sworn to avoid at all costs today. But, since when does anything go my way?

I turned to look up into Rabastan's liquid gold irisis. To my horror they were warm and oddly hopeful. I'd never seen him look hopeful before- normally he kept his cool. A sheet of ice seemed to have slid into my stomach and acid burned my throat.

My eyes darted around, looking for an escape, as a panicky feeling rose in my chest.

"Um... we'll just... see you back in the common room, Belle." Nora told me reluctantly and then she dragged Lena by the arm back down the corridor, leaving me with Rabastan.

Some friends. How could they leave me, knowing full well what was going to happen and what I would be obligated to say?! I needed new friends.

I gulped and tried to inhale and exhale steadily as Rabastan turned back to me with a burning look in his eyes. Oh Merlin, I was going to puke right here in the crowded corridor, I just knew it.

"Bee, will you go to Hogsmeade with me?"

For a long moment, I just stared at him. I couldn't believe this was happening to me. How did my life become so astonishingly complicated? And how the hell did I manage to get snogged by one of the hottest blokes at Hogwarts one night and then asked to Hogsmeade by another the very next day?

I was absolutely certain that, if I got ahold of a Time Turner, and went back a year to tell my younger self about this whole diabocal she wouldn't believe me. She'd probably have herself committed to St. Mungo's early so she could get a jump start on healing that brain tomber or whatever she'd believe was messing about with my mind.

"Um...." Did I really have a choice here? I mean, if I told him what I wanted to tell him, not only would I probably hurt his feelings (and despite him being a Death Eater I really didn't want to hurt him) but it would also be sure to get around. Fast. Especially with all the people who'd heard his question and had stopped to very rudely listen to our encounter. And then, I was sure to be questioned on my loyalty again.

Because if I was a good loyal pureblood girl, why wouldn't I accept an invitation to Hogsmeade from a dashingly handsome and coveted pureblood boy unless I had qualms about how the new Dark Lord was running things? That and, my mother would be livid. I knew that, the moment we'd danced at Cissy's engagement ball, she'd been spinning wild fantasies about grand weddings and the purest grandchildren the wizarding world has ever seen and bragging to all of her friends how wonderful and rich her son-in-law was. Was that where we were headed? Just the thought made me nauseous as a vivid mental picture of two bouncing babies with raven curls and melting gold eyes swam in my head.

The answer was no. I didn't have a choice. I'd known before he'd even asked the question what my answer would have to be. So, numbly, I gave it.

"I'd be delighted," I told him in a very polite voice. I tried and failed miserably to force a smile, but Rabastan didn't notice.

That's because he'd pulled me off the ground into a tight embrace.

And just as he did this, my eyes locked with a pair of cobalt blues over his shoulder. They looked nothing like they had last night. None of the desire and confusion remained in them, only hard cold steel. The lips that I'd kissed not twenty-four hours ago, so soft and warm, were pressed in a hard line. The jaw I's run my fingers down was locked tight, straining like every other muscle in his knee-weakening body. '

There wasn't a doubt in my mind that he'd heard the whole thing. And now he knew where I stood.

The war raged on.


***

Over the next few days, I kept my head down.

Misteltoe had been hung throughout the castle by some evil git and I became even more determined to avoid male-female interraction every second. It turns out that I was a lot more popular with blokes than I'd previously thought. It seemed as though suddenly every boy in my year (and even some in the two higher years) was interested in taking me out. (I suspected this had something to do with the fact that Sirius-who'd once been constantly at my shoulder- was no longer in the picture.) But news at Hogwarts never stayed quiet for long, and by the second day of turning down poor suitors who'd been beaten to the punch, most of Hogwarts seemed to buzzing with the news that Rabastan Lestrange was the one I said yes to.

Why they were all so shocked I couldn't understand. According to the rumors that had been flying around the castle, I'd been with Rabastan since the summer. Some had even gone so far as to say that Sirius had caught us shagging and that had caused this whole soap opera to unfold. But now, they seemed to all think that this made Rabastan and I 'official'.

So, mine and Rabastan's names seemed to be grouped with all of those couple who'd gotten together on that invisible list that the older girls of Hogwarts seemed to be keeping somewhere on their person. Maybe before we'd been in the category of eventual-couples like Lily Evans and James Potter or Kyle Vane and Rebecca Jacox and now we'd been upgraded to confirmed-couples.

It was exhausting.

I'd come clean about everything to Lena and Nora that night, after saying yes to Rabastan. EVERYTHING. All of the walls I'd built to keep even my very best friends out had collapsed in the wake of saying yes to Rabastan. I cried in Nora's arms as they tried to sooth me. But they'd never seen me this fragile so they hardly knew how.

I cried myself to sleep and woke up the next morning even more mortified than I'd been the day before. But I very quickly learned that there are huge benefits to letting your best friends know exactly what's going on in your life.

All week they'd been fiercely protective of me. They'd even kept Rosalie out of my hair! And it was much easier to avoid both Sirius and the bloke I was supposed to be dating when I had three pairs of eyes on the look out as opposed to just one.

My only complete escape from it all was Quidditch practice. My teammatesdidn't dare tease me about all of the attention I'd been getting (I'm pretty sure Lena threatened bodily harm if they even tried it) and they would never take part in the insipd gossip about the suspected love triangle I was caught in.

I was extremely gratful for this the actual morning of the date. I'd felt sick enough waking up at the crack of dawn that morning, I didn't need the added nausea of having a ribing by my team too. In fact, not one of them seemed to even remember what day it was until we got to the changing roo, afterwards.

"Stupid wanker," Arina muttered about our Captain as she pealed off her sweaty T-shirt. "Just cause he doesn't have the balls to get a date doesn't mean the rest of us don't have them. I mean, what the hell? How'em I s'posed to get pretty in time for Patrick if I've been sweating like a pig all morning at practice?"

My stomach twisted uneasily. But it had nothing to do with worry that I wouldn't be pretty for Rabastan. I'd been feeling guilty all week and everytime I thought about it Sirius's betrayed look popped into my head and wouldn't let me be.

I argued with myself internally at every pang of culpability. Why should I feel guilty for saying yes to Rabastan? What did I have to feel guilty for? Sure, he'd kissed me. But it didn't mean anything. He kissed girls all the time without it having an ounce of intrinsic value to him, so what should be different this time?

Try the girl he was kissing for start. A part of my brain argued illogically. He was never friends with any of those other girls. Certainly not BEST friends with them! So why would he kiss a girl who was his best friend if he wasn't in love with her.
Mentally, I scoffed at this naive chamber of my mind as Arina hurried ahead of Lanora, Kathleena and I to the castle.

How could she believe Sirius Black was actually in love with me when she-like the rest of my brain- had listened to the constant complaints of said individual about how the girls he snogged always took it too seriously. Had I not felt a torn sense of both smugness (that they meant nothing to him) and agony (that maybe I meant nothing to him as well) at these girls' misfortunes? And had I not had those fears of worthlessness confirmed? So what made this very deluded part of my brain believe that I was any different from the hords of Hogwarts harpies before me who'd kissed those delectable lips? Why did she insist that I was more than just another of those girls who took a good snog too seriously?

I didn't know, but I knew one thing. That look had been nothing more than his pride being wounded. His ego was so bloated that he'd probably just assumed I'd be waiting around for him-turning down blokes as he took his sweet time- to ask me to Hogsmeade.

But I, Mirabelle Rose Echols, was done waiting.

***
After I got out of the shower, I was still in a particularly insurgent mood. This may be why I made possibly one of the stupidest decisions ever. I decided, as I slipped into one of Nora's little black dresses, to wear the earrings that Rabastan had given me. Dismissing the fact that I didn't trust my date farther than I could throw him (and seeing as he out weighs me that's not far), I donned the earrings and the lacey white sweater thing that I'd borrowed from Rosalie ages ago and went out into the Common Room where Nora, Lena, Everett, Gabe and Leo were about to leave.

"What do you think?" I asked, spinning around once to give them a full view of me.

"Do you want him to shag you?" Everett asked, surveying me.

"No," I repressed a shudder.

"Change," all three boys said at once.

"Don't be ridiculous!" Lena scoffed, "I think you look great. Just right- not too innocent but not like a slag either."

I waited for Nora's oppinion.

She looked me up and down with pursed lips and then interrogated me. "Are you wearing the red heels or the black strappy ones?"

"I was thinking the little black ballet flats." No way was I wearing heels and falling on my face in front of Rabastan and Merlin knows who else!

"Hair up or are you leaving it like that?"

"I'm pulling it back half way."

"Are you using liquid liner for the lids or are you putting eyeshadow on them."

"Neither. Mascara, lip gloss and regular eyeliner- that's my limit."

She sighed, knowing none of this was up for debate and said, "Oh alright then, I guess you'll do. Isn't as if you actually like the bloke."

"If you don't like him, then why did you say yes?" Gabe asked thickly.

Nora and I looked at him disparagingly.

"What? It's an honest question! Why would you date someone you don't like?"

I exchanged eye rolls with Nora and then answered, "It's ... complicated."


***


(Alright, three out of my four hardest finals are done! So, to celebrate, I'm using the study break I decided I deserved, to update! So what do you think? Too fast? Horrible? What the hell was she thinking? Or fantastic give me more? Reviewers will get cyber-cookies! Ha ha... Til next time!

Love always! 
       RED )


Chapter 10: Hogsmeade
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

(I'm baa-aaack! Ha ha ha ha! Well I'm back from my European adventure and suffering from MAJOR jetlag so I decided to give in and finish a chapter or two for my lovely-yet sorely neglected- readers! But first, seeing as probably half or you are skipping this anyway; 
10
THINGS I LEARNED IN EUROPE1) Traffic Laws are like the pirate code. They are merely guidlines. 
2) Groups of three or more are forbidden in Harrods. Don't ask me why. 
3) Keep away from Parisian pidgeons.
4) Don't be afraid to use self-defense tactics on the vendors outside the Eiffel Tower illegally selling mini Towers. They will grab boobage and/or hit you when you tell them no. 
5) It is VERY entertaining seeign said illegal vendors run from police.
6) MIND THE GAP in the U.K. underground. Ha ha!
7)
Pickpockets come in all forms. Even German Tourbus drivers.
8) Some girls are pathetic and can't live without their boyfriends for 10 days- at least, not without some major crying jags.
9) Getting buzzed off French wine at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant while wearing heels is not such a clever idea. 
10) Germany and Britain are the places to go for eye candy- Ha ha haha ha! Just kidding!

Anyway, on a more serious note, I am a girl and therefore I change my mind a lot. So apologies to the first twenty or so people who read the last chapter! I added a bit at the end so if you think you're one of them GO CHECK before you read this one!

Other than that, ENJOY!

RED

P.S. I just thought of number 11) DO NOT under ANY circumstances watch The Reader, He's Just Not That Into You or Atonement on an eight hour plane flight while sitting next to your history teacher!!!! )

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Chapter 10~ Hogsmeade


I met Rabastan at the bottom of the stairs in the entrance hall, stomach churning uncomfortably when I saw the bouquet of fat red roses in his hand. But, reverting back into my hide-all-emotion philosophy, I grinned at him and skipped down the last flight of stairs right (unfortunately) into his arms. He lifted me off the ground in a hug before setting me down at arms length.

"You look fantastic."

"Thanks," I lauged flirtaciously, digusting myself even further. "You're not looking so bad yourself, Mr. Lestrange." We were attracting more than a few curious stares and I could feel my face getting hot so I said, "Shall we?"

"I dare say we shall," he replied in a fake pompus tone. He offered his arm, clearly mocking the manners we'd both had drill into our heads as children and I laughingly took it, trying to ignore the sick feeling in my stomach and the gawking gossips around us.

"Can I ask you a question?" I asked as we walked down the lane to Hogsmeade.

"You just did," he chuckled.

I rolled my eyes but didn't acknowledge his cheek further. Instead I pushed on, "Why did you ask me out?"

"Why do you think I asked you out?"

I sighed pretending to be exasperated, "I dunno! That's why I'm asking the question!"

We laughed and he slid his hand down my arm into mine. My chest tightened but I wasn't sure if it was in a good way or a bad way.

On the one hand, it felt sort of nice. Not nearly as wonderful as Sirius's hand but nice all the same. On the other, I knew exactly who he was. Or maybe I should say what he was. Because any person that would participate in such heinous activities couldn't possibly be human (and still sleep at night), could they? I knew what he did over the holidays, I knew exactly what he would be doing once he graduated and I knew what he would expect me to do too once my own graduation came. And I definitely knew I didn't want this.

Or him.

Did I?

I loved Sirius. That wouldn't change, no matter how much I wanted it to. But my relationship with Rabastan had definitely developed into more than just a platonic friendship. And wasn't sure I was entirely opposed to this.

And why shouldn't I at least try to be happy for a bit? I didn't approve of his extra curriculars but I couldn't control him. And maybe, in time, I could very subtly get him to see things my way. Maybe, like Sirius and I, he already did but chose to hide it like me for his own safety. It was a small ember of hope and entirely unlikely, I reminded myself as I felt his left arm pressed to mine between us, but I would hold onto it anyway.

"Well," he said after a minute. "I thought it would be fairly obvious. 'Specially to a Ravenclaw-" I gave him a mock glare, whether he interpreted it as one for the teasing condesceaing tone he was using or just the mere mention that I wasn't a Slytherin, I'm not sure. "I asked you out because I liked you. A lot. It's an embarassing amount actually and it's been this way for ages. I just never got a chance to show you how much I fancied you before this summer."

I swallowed, hard. Not only because of the queasy feeling in my stomach at the mention of this summer (because there wasn't a doubt in my mind that he'd stayed away because of Sirius and his absence opened up the door for Rabastan- because then he obviously knew we weren't together then, unfortunately), but because I hadn't expected such a serious (not to mention frightening) answer. Most of the time the mood with Rabastan was light, we rarely touched on the serious subjects. I wasn't sure how to proceed.

"Merlin, Bas!" I laughed (trying not to sound shakey). "Way to make a girl blush!"

"You asked!" he laughed with me.

And, just like that, the lightness was back again. It did nothing for the tightness in my chest but I would take what I could get at this point. I breathed a sigh of relief. Serious, I found, was not my forte. Unfortunately, life in pureblood mania at times like these was rarely anything but staid.

We chatted happily all the way down to the village. Then, as I had feared, he lead me to Madame Puddyfoot's.

I loathed Madame Puddyfoot's.

Perhaps it stemmed from my bitterness, watching hords of happy couples flock there when the love of my life hardly noticed I was a girl (until last week appearantly). Or maybe it was that I'd had to hear Sirius replay his dates which often involved that God-forsaken shop (even though he hated the place nearly as much as- if not more than- I did). Or maybe what nauseated me was the gushy atmosphere I was so uncomfortable in. I wasn't used to everything being sugarplums and hot cocoa and it made me edgy.

Obnoxious fairy-looking things floated around dangling mistletoe granades over unsuspecting victims while a constant tinkling of sleigh-bells could be heard above the chatter of couples sitting at candle lit tables. The whole place smelled of Christmas, cookies and cheerfulness but made me feel exactly the opposite.

As I was on a date, though, and it would be rude to show how thoroughly I detested the very first shop he'd taken me to, I smiled acrossed the table at him. Pointedly ignoring the other couples who stared and whispered to each other (four of the girls actually left their dates to go discuss it in the loo- pathetic! Do people have nothing else to do?). I lied to myself and tried to become convinced that it was something- or someone- else causing the stir but my logical, cynical brain-chamber knew better.

I sipped my sickeningly sweet drink though and listened to Rabastan's stories. I didn't tell any of my own because I was afraid to give too much away about my friends (in case he figured out that they weren't exactly pureblood-Muggle-haters like the friends I was supposed to have), Sirius stories were definitely out, and he already knew all of the funny ones involving my family. I laughed at all the right times, chimed in teasingly at the precise places I was supposed to and pretended to eat the brownie he bought me (while really subtly stuffing bits in my napkin so he wouldn't notice it wasn't dwindling).

We talked about classes, Quidditch (He liked the Wasps while I remained a loyal fan of the Harpies) and absolutely pointless rubbish until the sun began to set outside the shop.

An offensive fairy hovered above us, cackling with glee at how clever he or she was (I cannot, nor do I try to, distinguish fairy-genders) for holding mistletoe above the couple on their first date like it was a fucking bomb. But (to my relief) Rabastan ignored it, looking around us as if he'd only just realized that all the couples who'd been in here when we'd come had long gone. Back up, through the winter weather, to the cozy castle to snuggle by the warm fires or to the merry Three Broomsticks to be unfrozen by the many bodies radiating heat there.

My date swore, earning a very scolding look from Madame Puddyfoot, and said, "I told Rose we'd meet her and the rest of our lot at the Three Broomsticks for some butterbeer- or Firewhiskey in their case." He added a cheeky grin.

I rolled my eyes, stood up and ignored it, "Well, you know how touchy she gets about punctuality. Merlin help us if she's on her period."

 

 

 

The Three Broomsticks was packed and noisy, as usual.

Hogwarts and villagers were overflowing tables and chatting and laughing at the top of their lungs to be heard over everyone else. The heat in the place was astounding compared to the icy conditions outside. So many bodies were packed together that I almost didn't noticed Rabastan's arm move from around my shoulders to the small of my back. Almost.

He guided me gently and expertly through the crowd towards the back, past Madame Rosmerta and a table of teachers, who I waved to ("Kiss ass," Rabastan coughed, earning a playful smack from me). Finally, I spotted a rather large booth with all of the seventh, some of the sixth and two fifth year Slytherins sitting at it.

Rosalie, the Rosiers, Zambini, Ophelia Flint, Theo Nott, the Macnairs, the Dolhovs, Adara Yaxley and (to my horror) Regulus all greeted us as we came and sat down. Bas took my coat for me (even though I informed him cheekily I didn't need nor want his help) and we settled in very close to each other in the booth. He slipped his arm comfortably back around my shoulders and I saw Rosier slip his arm around my cousin, to compete with Rabastan to be sure. I wondered why she hadn't told me they were dating. Probably because she knew I thought he was a world-class git.

I had too much of my own romantic drama right now though to care what Rosalie's love life was doing. I got a horrible feeling in my stomach as Rabastan gently massaged the shoulder near his hand and moved his leg til it touched mine under the table.

If he started playing footsie with me, I was going to throw up.

"I'm gonna go get a drink," I told him, feeling suddenly suffocated. "You want anything?"

"Nothing you can order at the pub," he answered with a mischievious glitter in those gold eyes.

My chest tightened but I rolled my eyes at the innuendo. "Be serious, Bas."

He sighed, "If you insist. I'll take a butterbeer," he said with an eye roll, shoving money into my hands. "You sure you don't want me to get it? Or come with you?"

"No," I answered, almost too quickly. But I managed to play it off with a laugh. "Merlin! Bas, the way you carry on you'd think I was a bleedin' invalid!"

The rest of the table laughed as I turned on my heel and headed toward the bar. It wasn't until after I ordered the butterbeers from the Rosemerta that I noticed the booth directly acrossed the pub from our own-the one next to the table my Ravenclaw friends were sitting warily- and the tawny haired boy watching me intently.

The reason I'd spotted him so quickly though was not that I'd been looking- because I'd been doing exactly the opposite by trying NOT to see him today- but because of the strange golden glow around him.

No, literally. There was an ACTUAL outline of gold!

Sirius always had an intoxicating air about him, no one could deny that. But never had it actually been visible. It took me longer than it should have to realize that my ears were tingling oddly and another moment to figure out why this was significant when the love of my life was radiating golden light.

Then, I remembered the earrings.

My stomach convulsed sickeningly as I stared back into Sirius's eyes, unable to look away. It was like a train wreck. I was being told exactly what I wanted by the diamonds another bloke had given me. This was beyond twisted.

Because there he sat, his arm around a blonde Gryffindor in my year named Lydia McBride, while surrounded by his three cronies, their dates, the girls in their year from Gryffindor (including Mary, the blonde he'd been talking to on the train and a very disgruntle looking redhead who's name had gotten lost in my head amongst all the romantic and familial clutter that plagued me) and a few seventh years from their house. But he hardly seemed to notice what they were all laughing about, too busy staring me down with those penetrating eyes. I didn't need earrings to tell me I wanted him. What I needed was some magical jewelry to tell me how the hell I was supposed to get him without being killed by my family first.

I jumped out of my skin when Madame Rosemerta set the butterbeers in front of me with a clunk. I'd nearly forgotten I was in a crowded Hogsmeade bar packed to the brim with other people. It had almost- for a very brief space in time- seemed like Sirius and me alone again, in that dark corridor.

I shoved the memory forcefully from my mind as I broke eye contact with him and paid Madame Rosemerta. I didn't look up again until my back was fully turned towards their table and I could only feel his eyes burning into my scalp without the danger of another staring contest or the pull of that golden aura around him.

I didn't look over at him as I sat back at the table next to Rabastan, who smoothly reclaimed my shoulders with his arm again, either. My ears had almost ceased tingling and I wasn't about to start the frenzy again.

 

"Here you are," I said in a (hopefully) steady voice, as I handed him his drink.

"Why thank you, love, " he grinned.

I fought the reflexive vomit clawing it's way up my esophogus again and smiled sweetly.

"You two are nauseatingly perfect," Rosalie teased.

"Hark who's talking," I retorted. "Did the little birds help you get dressed again this morning?"

The whole table laughed at our easy banter. It scared me how easy it was to fit in with them, how simple they were to fool. Was it because I was just an insanely talented actress, were they too daft to realize it or was it something else entirely? What if-?

No. I was not nor would I ever be one of them. Never.

That's what you said about dating a Death Eater. A very Sirius sounding voice reminded me.

Oh, shut up! Give the girl a break. It's not like she had much of choice the mess you left for her! The Andromeda voice answered.

Oh. My. God.

Voices that were not my own were having arguements in my head. I'd finally cracked. It was official, I was a certified nutter. Agrippa help me now.

The conversation flowed easily to Christmas balls and the various parties I would no doubt be forced to attend while I was at my parents' house.

My parents.

I shuddered at the mere thought of them. Long ago, I'd realized that my parents' seal of approval was not something I wanted. Ever. But I knew they would be thrilled to pieces once they heard that I was dating Rabastan Lestrange. The golden boy in our circle. He could do no wrong and my parents already loved him. Approval would be gushing from every word of the letters I was bound to get.

That alone was enough to make me want to vomit again.

I was almost certain this holiday would be the most horrifying affair I'd had yet. And, living in a world full of Death Eaters and Dark Arts supporters, that is saying something.

A mere hour and a half seemed like eternity to me.

I didn't allowed myself a peak at Sirius but saw his brother glace that way then away again with repulsion on his face and knew he and the blonde must've been snogging.

An intense jealousy washed though me.

Someone else was kissing those delectably soft lips. Probably running her fingers through his hair and pressing herself close to him too. I had no right to feel territorial, because I was sitting here with another blokes arm around me, but it was an emotion out of my control.

Though, I was proud of myself for resisting the temptation to see if he was still watching, if he looked sad, if he cared at all that the girl he'd kissed- his best friend- was sitting acrossed the Three Broomsticks at a table full of our enemies, wrapped in another's arms. Of course, I knew these were stupid fantasies. Sirius never cared what his casual encounters did once a new slag came along for him to concentrate his carnal urges on. But just the same, I was glad I hadn't looked.

The later it got the more people filtered in and out of the pub. Many groups of Hogwarts students returned to the castle and the shady pub regulars began to come in. I shifted uncomfortably as an old rickety wizard grinned at me toothily- looking me up and down like my brother's friend Goyle always did- and sunk closer to Rabastan.

He must've noticed too because it wasn't long after that when he whispered in my ear, "Let's get out of here, yeah?"

"Thought you'd never ask," I sighed in relief, popping immediately from my seat and saying my goodbyes to the rest of the table.

Bas laughed and, after a small wave to his friends, followed suit catching my hand and intertwining his fingers with mine. I felt more than one pair of eyes seething into my scalp but didn't dare look up into any of them as I exited the pub with my date.

I'm not entirely sure why I was so genuinely relieved to be alone with the Death Eater again, but I was. A discerningly relaxed sigh escaped me once the door closed behind us. I inhaled the crisp night air and only realized then that I'd been holding my breath.

He chuckled, "Better?"

"Much," I said without looking at him, or extracting my hand from his.

For a minute we just stood there in silence as my face cooled and the knot in my chest loosened a smidge. Then he said, "C'mon, let's go back up to the castle. We'll freeze if we stand out here all night."

I sighed, half contentedly and half resigned, and let him lead me towards the castle again. I had strange feeling that we weren't alone as we walked hand-in-hand down the dark Charms corridor together but brushed it off as a persecution complex developing on my part. Suspision was my habit by now. So I mentally shook myself and tried to focus on the whispered conversation I was supposed to be having with my date.

"Why are we whispering exactly?" I asked in an amused stage murmur.

"I dunno," Bas laughed. "I was whispering because you were!"

We laughed together as we came to the door to the Ravenclaw Common Room and ignored the question the door asked, though I already knew that the answer was a grindylow.

"I suppose this is good night then," he stated unnessecarily.

I gulped and nodded, too nervous to speak all of the sudden.

This was it. This was the moment I'd been dreading all night.

And just like I'd known he would, Rabastan slowly leaned in and covered my lips his own.

Like with Sirius the kiss was deliciously apprehensive while at the same time managing to be strong and confident. My lips felt pleasantly warm but didn't tingle. Unlike with Sirius, I kept the majority of my senses in tact. The light headedness wasn't NEARLY as bad and my knees locked but didn't feel like pudding. Maybe it was because he hadn't pulled me as close as I'd been with Sirius. I couldn't feel his heart thumping rapidly against my own nor did his heavy breath share the air space with mine. We weren't touching at every surface either- in fact, unlike with Sirius, the spots we were touching were out numbered by the ones we weren't. And I was able to pull away without any sickening revelations about where those lips had been (though, I'm sure, I didn't want to know where his had been either).

"G'night, Bas."

And without waiting for him to reply, or giving him a chance to pull me into another kiss, I answered the door and slipped into my Common Room.

 

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Chapter 11: Rows and Rumors
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(Alright, I'm sorry for not updating my stories as quickly as I should be. My computer had issues because of hackers and viruses and I had a VERY close call because I thought my computer might crash and I was in panic mode. So, now that it's back in shape {I think} I will be updating regularly {I hope}. I have sent my beta the long chapter for Coming Back a Swan so as soon as she sends me all of her input I will post it- so watch out for that! As far as this chapter goes, I haven't edited that much so sorry if it's a bit rough. I'm not sure how I feel about it really, but I will leave the judgements to you! Enjoy!) 

Chapter 11~ Rows and Rumors





Like it always did, as the Christmas Holidays began to approach, my mood fouled considerably.

I never looked forward to leaving the cozy comforts of the castle in exchange for three weeks of the hell I was supposed to call home. I dreaded each day's end because it brought me closer to boarding the Express back to the purebloods. The dread was even more powerful this year.

What with Rabasatan Lestrange and I offically dating and my mothers vomit-worthy approval (I knew because she sent me a letter -as did my brothers and sister in law- oozing with enthusiasm for the match and gushing about what a cheeky one I was for not telling her right off) on top of all of the other issues, it was also going to be my first Christmas without Sirius.

Nora and Lena tried to cheer me up, raise my spirits with sweets and books and funny stories but none of it worked. I was stuck in a rut until the end of Christmas Holiday. Possibly longer if my life kept on the steady downward spiral it seemed to be traveling since July.

I was confused about so many things that I felt like I was riding one of those spinning things at the playground on a daily basis. Getting dizzier and dizzier with every turn. When I saw Sirius the tension was palpable. When I saw Rabastan (who was now annoyingly being called my boyfriend by everyone but myself) I tried my best to avoid him at all costs- which wasn't working out so well. And, Agrippa forbid, I see Sirius while I was WITH Rabastan!

All in all, I was not a very pleasant person to be around that last week. An agitated, pre-mental-breakdown hag with a constant knot in her stomach and a tightness in her chest that made it hard to breathe.

I was the definition of a wreck.

So, needless to say, when the actual day arrived my friends were more than a bit reluctant to wake me. Rattling the beast's cage was not a mistake most Ravenclaws were willing to make. But I guess they figured letting me over sleep wouldn't be a good idea either because they finally poked me awake at half past eight.

I didn't bother with make-up, I threw my hair into a disheveled bun and slipped into my old sweats and a hooded sweatshirt.

"Nice," Kathlena chuckled.

I very maturely stuck my tongue out at her while trying to shove things into my trunk. I'd been so deeply buried in my hope that today wouldn't come that I hadn't packed last night with the rest of my dormmates. A very unwise choice, I was coming to find.


Breakfast was far too short.

I sat next to my friends in silence listening to them banter about vapid things. To be fair, I probably would have been ranting over the stupid things too had I not had far bigger problems to deal with. Like a boyfriend I was avoiding, a former best friend I couldn't fall out of love with, parents that thought I would follow in their contemptuous footsteps when I graduated and an impending demise I was sure would come soon.

When it was time to go out to the train the ever-sly Nora Wiles tightly linked her arm around mine, practically dragging me with her. The only reason I did not protest was because it served another purpose as well.

Just as she started pulling me into the throngs of people, I spotted Rabastan and he spotted me.

But thanks to my pushy best friends, I was spared the mortification of having to tell my alleged "boyfriend" that I would most certainly NOT be spending the entire train ride with him- in the compartment where my cousin, the disgruntle little brother of the guy I was hopelessly in love with and the rest of the idiots I would be forced to hang out with all holiday (no doubt) would also be. Or have to suffer the agony of telling my best friends I had to blow them off and spend the hideously long journey on the Express with people who generally repulsed me, to save face.

Like always these days, I felt like a complete coward. But, for once, I didn't really care.

I would see enough of Rabastan over the holiday. I wouldn't see my friends until this nightmare was over.

We sniffed out a good compartment andwere joined very shortly by the boys, who had some fresh gossip they were practically bursting to tell. Honestly, whatever nitwit said that girls gossiped and boys didn't obviously wasn't a Hogwarts student. I wasn't interested enough to pay any attention to them.

I buried my nose in my book, the classic method of hiding for Ravenclaws, and attempted to lose my grasp on reality in it's pages for a while. It didn't work, though I don't know why I expected it to. I certainly hadn't been Lady Luck lately.

Because, just as I was about to let go of my cares and sync my mind with that of the heroine, Gabe said, "And the there was the ever-entertaining Black row."

I tensed, muscles coiling defensively at the name. A reflex, at this rate. Kathlena, Lanora and Everett (who had wrapped his arm not-so-subtly around Lena's waist) all looked at me immediately.

Oh, how tactful my dear friends can be. Honestly, sometimes I wonder how the hell the lot of us got into Ravenclaw.

Pride warred with curiousity as I debated inquiring further. I didn't want my friends to know how much of me was invested in Sirius, even still. I was in dire jeopardy of showing I cared and I didn't like that at all. Call it a product of my cold raising, but I didn't want my friends to know it-or he-still interested me. Or at least not the boys.

Nora, however (Agrippa love her), saved me the trouble.

"What Black row?"

"You didn't hear?" Everett blinked, incredulous. "Rumor has it that last night, in the Charms corridor, dear old Siri allegedly snuck up on Reggy to catch him alone..."

I shivered, how well I knew how that felt.

"And they got in this huge shouting match. Regulus kept saying stuff about their mum loving him better and Sirius being jealous. And Sirius laughed and asked him what the hell he was supposed to be jealous of. And then they moved onto the Death Eater issue. Regulus kept shouting about Sirius being a blood traitor and Sirius kept trying to convince him not to join the Dark Lord. They just kept shouting rubbish at each other until Flitwick came out and broke them up."

My stomach churned uneasily. I could tell by the uncomfortable look on his face that there was more and the furtive glance he sent my way told me exactly what it was.

I had been mentioned.

There was no doubt in my mind that that was exactly the thing he didn't want to say. Whether Regulus or his brother had brought me up, I didn't know. And what they said, I wasn't sure wanted to know. But I was sure they had talked about me and it just made my stomach heave even more.

"So what is Missy playing at with that new haircut of hers?" Nora averted quickly. Usually she was an artist at changing subjects but there was really no subtle way to do it in this case. Yet, she managed to do it skillfully. Because it was then that we were able to tease Lena and Everett about Missy's appearant infatuation with the latter and her attempt to catch his eye.

It was so ridiculous that she thought he'd be interested just because she happened to make herself resemble Kathlena. So incredibly absurd that it almost distracted me. Almost.

I didn't talk for the rest of the way. I tried not to listen to my friends banter, in case it approached dangerous ground again. In fact, I was so determined to shut myself off that I finally, after many sleepless nice, drifted off into unconciousness.
When I woke up it was dusk and I was surprised to find my stomach was snarling in outrage at my neglect of it. I hadn't eaten since dinner, three days ago. And even that was forced for my friends' sake.

But I was ready to give in to my body's demands. My first mistake.

"Did the trolley already come?" I inquired sluggishly.

"Is Dumbledore the headmaster?" Gabe retorted.

I registered the sarcasm and the sinking sun outside as my mind shook off the sleepy stupor. My stomach growled disgruntly and I groaned, "I s'pose I should go find it then."

I didn't wait for any of them to reply, I trudged from the compartment, rubbing my eyes and yawning hazily. Dragging my feet, I stumbled down the deserted corridor of the train- ignoring the laughter of people inside the compartment sinking through the walls, barely aware of my surrondings. My second mistake.

"You know, normally, when a girl starts going out with a bloke she actually sits with him on the train."

I was so sleep deprived that my brain seemed to disconnect from my mouth. The words just sort of spilled out without registering in my brain first. "And normally, renunciation means that you leave the people you abandon alone."

"Well normally, when you snog someone you don't go to Hogsmeade with their arch enemies."

I scoffed without thinking, ignoring the tingle that shot down my spine at the mention of our kiss. Appearantly my mental-to-verbal filter wasn't working this morning. "Arch enemies! You've barely ever talked to him! How the hell would you even know?"

"Any Death Eater is my enemy."

"Oh because all of the sudden you're the great warrior who's going to take down the Dark Lord?" I jeered, rising to the bait. He knew exactly how to manipulate my emotions and I loathed him for it.

His chin jutted out in defiance. "Maybe I am!"

It took me a moment to realize the shout of derisive laughter that followed had come from my own mouth. "Oh yes, I forgot, because you're the brave Gryffindor. The boy who wet the bed until he was nine!"

"And you're the wise Ravenclaw who can't even figure out what she wants!"

"I know what I want!" Not a lie.

As much as I hated to admit it in this moment, I knew exactly what-or who- I wanted and I didn't need a pair of earrings to tell me. I was looking at him. Try as I might to escape it, I still wanted this foolish boy in front of me more than anything in the world. I loved him and hated him with every fiber of my being.

"Really? Do you, Mir? Because from where I'm standing it looks like you're pretty damn indecisive."

"Well then maybe you should move," I retorted blazingly.

"Is there a problem here?"

My entire body tensed as I recognized the voice behind me and the arm slipping possessively around my shoulders.

It wasn't until Rabastan spoke that I realized we were in the corridor of the Hogwarts Express having a very public row. Laughter no longer floated faintly from the compartments around us, instead the occupants had poked their heads out to listen to Sirius and I. I groaned internally, the gossip would be explosive- I was almost greatful that we had the entire Christmas Holiday ahead of us so that the interest might fizzle out.

"No, Bas. I'm fine," I tried to sound like a reassuring girlfriend.

In truth, I was actually disappointed that he'd interrupted us. I hated that I felt that way. Why couldn't I be a normal girl? One who loved her boyfriend and hated the bloke who cared nothing for her. Why did I have to crave any interaction I could get (even in the form of an arguement) with this boy who so clearly didn't love me?

"Yes, Bas," Sirius mocked. "We're fine here. So run along and play while mummy and daddy talk about grown-up things."

Rabastan glowered at Sirius and I felt the need to restrain him. I put my hand in his and said, "I was just about to go find the trolley. I missed it. Want to come with me?"

"Yeah, 'course." He agreed, shooting Sirius an intimidating look that seemed to have no effect on the cocky Gryffindor.

And, leaving Sirius behind without a parting word, I towed my boyfriend away from the confrontation from hell before it got any worse. MY heart was pounding so hard that I hardly heard a word of what Rabastan said on the way to the front of the train.

"Two Pasties, please," I said to the old witch when I found her talking to the conductor. "And a box of Bertie's, as well."

She nodded kindly and handed me the cakes and beans as I dug for my pocket money.

"I've got it," Rabastan said, already handing the witch a galleon and snagging a Licorice Wand for himself.

When began walking back the way we'd come and I waited for the inevitable.

"So," he started. I tried not to wince. "Why don't you come back to my compartment? I feel like I haven't gotten to talk to you in ages."

I forced a (hopefully) amused laugh, "We just talked last night."

His eyes glittered mischieviously, "That, my love, whiled very enjoyable, does not count as talking."

"I thought the girl was supposed to be the one pushing the whole let's-share-our-emotions bit," I teased. It came easily enough to make me uncomfortable.

"And I thought the girl was also the one who was supposed to be pushing the whole sit-with-me-on-the-Express bit as well," he retorted.

"Well, I guess you're the girl in this relationship then," I grinned cheekily.

He wrapped his arms around my waist and pouted. "So you won't come back with me?"

"And watch Rosalie and Rosier snog each other senseless? I'll pass on that offer, thank you very much," I hedged.

"Well you won't see them if your busy snogging me," he beamed, resting his forehead on mine.

"Doesn't that defeat the whole 'let's talk' thing? Besides I'll hear it and vomit. And seeing as you'll be snogging me you can see how this could get repugnent for both of us."

"Yes, but-"

A desperate woman, I shut him up with a kiss and held in a shiver when he groaned contentedly. I pulled away quickly and pressed my forehead to his again. "You'll see me during the holiday."

"True. We've got the whole holiday together."

I surpressed a shudder at these words. The. Whole. Bloody. Holiday.

I kissed him once more and then said, "My Ravenclaw friends, however, won't see me at all. Do you really want to deprive them of their last few hours with me?"

He kissed me again."Yes, because I'm selfish."

I clicked my tongue and shook my head at him, "Slytherins."

"It turns you on and you know it," he chuckled wickedly.

I laughed with him nervously before making my escape. "So, I will see you at the station."

I started to walk away but his hand came around my wrist, pulling me back to him.

"What are y-?"

He kissed me more passionately than before. More passionately then he had yet. And I got the sinking feeling it had everything to do with a certain Gryffindor who was now appearantly his arch enemy.

For a moment I kissed him back, partly because it was nice and partly because I was trying to figure out what to do next. How to proceed? How the hell to get away from this boy I enjoyed kissing almost as much as I'd enjoyed kissing Sirius Black? How could I be convincing? I needed to ponder how to fake this one.

Deciding to force a very peculiar giggle, I pulled away. "Okay, I've really got to go now. They'll be sending out a search party for me soon."

"Let them," he said muffled in my neck. His lips brushing against my sensitive skin making me shiver reflexively.

"I'll see you one the platform," I told him, trying to seem amused. I kissed him once more to be safe and slipped from his arms quickly before he could pull me in again, smiling back at him mischieviously before hurrying back to the security of my compartment.

***


"Auntie Miri!"

I had barely stepped off of the train before a little girl, with inky black curls and the darkest blue eyes I'd ever looked into, hurled her small form into my arms. Four year old, Emilia Rosalind Echols, the only little kid I'd ever gotten on with- though that might've only been because she was my goddaughter.

"Emi!" I twirled her around giddily. It was the first spew of genuine happiness I'd had in weeks. "What in the name of Merlin's hat are you doing here?"

I looked around for her supervision and quickly found my favorite brother's face in the crowd. Markus towered over everyone else and paired with his wife, Tamora, with her wonderfully strange cerulean eyes and long red hair, they were impossible to miss. It was only slightly surprising that my smile got wider at the sight of them. My eldest brother, his wife and their daughter were the only ones in my family that I could really stand anymore so seeing them waiting for me, rather than my mother was a very advantageous thing. No doubt when I did see her she'd be gushing unbearably.

Not that Markus was much different from the rest of my family. He still thought Muggles to be beneath us and Muggle-borns to be undesirable company. He believed in a class system of wizards. Purebloods at the top, the halfbloods, then the muggleborns. But what made him more likable was that he still had compassion. He didn't believe them to be equals but he at least didn't think we should kill them all. Markus was far more humane than any other relative I had. Which was why, in recent years, he and his girls had become my favorite relatives. With them, I didn't constantly have to hear about Muggle scum and treacherous bloodtraitors.

"Mark!" I hugged my big brother enthusiastically in a way I would have never hugged Milo. My other brother was as warm and fuzzy as a Hungarian Horntail. But Markus was a softy now that he had an adorable baby girl and beautiful wife to mellow him a little.

"Wotcher, Mir," he grinned, catching me as I stumbled, not quite used to the added weight of a four year old on my hip.

"What are you doing here?!"

"Mum sent us to come get you," he answered. "She's busy at home bossing the houselves around."

"Why?" As if my mother needed a reason.

He grimaced. Obviously he'd been hoping I wouldn't ask that particular question. "There's a party at the house tonight."

I glared at him, as if he were the one who came up with the idea. "Does it involve a dress I can barely breathe in and dancing in uncomfortable heels?"

"Possibly."

Tamora laughed at the face I pulled, she knew all too well how dreadfully agitating the ensembles we women had to wear to the fancy balls were.

It wasn't until I hugged Tamora that I spotted him again.

Maybe it's a tribute to how pathetic I am that through the crowds of people reuniting I spotted him. Or perhaps it was just because it was due to the fact that he and I were currently in eerily similar positions.

Because, as I embraced my sister-in-law, Sirius was embracing an kindly old readhead woman. And he was also looking directly at me.

My stomach turned with a mixture of disgust and intense jealousy as I realized he was hugging Mrs. Potter. He was going home with the Potters. He'd run to them for refuge without so much as a goodbye.

All the horrible feelings from summer returned in an instant. I arranged my features into a cheerful composition before pulling away though.

"Shall we then?" I asked, now anxious to get out of this sickening establishment and onto the next.

"Yeah, alright," my brother sighed taking my trunk as I picked up my kitten's carrier and handed Emi to her mother.

"Take my arm," Tamora told me.

I groaned, "I hate Apparition."

"Stop whinin'," Mark teased.

"I'm not whinin'!"

"Well that's what it sounds like from here."

"Then maybe you need your ears-" But my retort was cut off by the familiar sucking-you-into-a-black-hole feeling that came with Side-Long Apparition.

***
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Chapter 12: An Abundance of Ballgowns
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(Oh my gosh! SO much to say on this one! Every force of nature seemed to be against this update! No joke! School, work, pathetic excuse for a social life, swine flu, family obligations, writer's block and computer glitches! It's a wonder I even GOT to this point! Sorry for the slow updates but as I said, I ran into some issues. This is literally the third time I've tried to post this chapter. The last two times I was in the home stretch -both times- and my computer went all exorcist and kicked me off! 
Anyway, as you may already know, this story won a Dobby Award {Most Orignal... imagine that} and it only seems appropriate that I thank all of you readers on here who must have nominated it and voted! So thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you!!!! Ha ha ha! And I would love it if whoever nominated me would tell me in a review or something so i can thank them personally and all of that! But yeah, that was beyond cool!
And, I guess, last but not least {since I'm too tired to remember what else I was going to put in this} I wanted to put in a shameless plug for my Meet The Author page! Yes, I FINALLY figured out how to make one! I don't know if anyone will be interested, but just in case! I'd love to hear from everyone! Because sometimes I wish I could carry on a conversation with a person when I reply to a review but I can't so here's a way for me to talk to everyone more! 
So, since I've made you lovely, patient readers wait long enough and you're probably skipping over this anyway, I'll let you get to the chapter... Enjoy! 
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P.S. Keep an eye out for updates on my other stories ;] )


Chapter 12~ An Abundance of Ballgowns 


A party. The night I came home from school. Lovely idea, mum, thanks.

It's not like I'd be tired or anything. No way could I possibly want to soak in the bath for hours and then pass out in my bed and lie in till noon tomorrow. No matter how disgusting and exhausted I feel from traveling all day, I'm always up for a party. Especially one with a bunch of old, drunken Death Eaters slobbering all over you like you are some hot babe at the pub on Saturday night rather than their family friend's teenage daughter.

I stared at myself in the mirror, trying to tune out my mother's shrill voice shrieking out orders to the houselves. A headache thudded dully in my head and I contemplated whether or not I could get out of this ball if I told my mother about it.

Probably not.

My mother was far too excited to show off tonight to let me stay hidden upstairs all evening. She wanted to boast about the house, our lavish decor, her handsome sons- one married with a gorgeous baby girl and the other engaged to a witch from one of the finest pureblood families around- and, for the first time since I was eleven, she also wanted to flaunt me around for all her friends to see. Her youngest child, her only daughter. Her precious baby girl.

I was back to being her pride and joy.

I was young, vibrant, almost pretty with Rosalie and Tamora fussing over my makeup. I was no longer influenced by people of questionable loyalty (as far as they knew) and now had a beau from one of the most respected and pure families in our circle. A dream come true for my entire family.

I knew this because the second I appeared on my sister-in-law's arm it was like someone had gone haywire with a time turner and I was back to being nine and the adored, spoiled rotten, baby of the family.

"Miri!" my mother exclaimed, as she had when I was a child. She rushed down the stairs (where she'd been supervising some houselves as they hung mistletoe eight feet apart) and- before I could grasp what exactly was going on- scooped me into a tight embrace.

Yes, she actually hugged me.

I had not been hugged by either of my parents since the day I left for Hogwarts more than five years ago.

It felt strange, this obvious sign of affection. On one hand, it was warm and wonderful. Almost comforting. I felt at home in my mother's arms, in a way. But on the other hand, this simple hug felt alien. It was tinted with conditions and expectations. I took it with a grain of salt. I let the dubious liquids swirl in my stomach and bitterly recognized what had brought on such maternal approval.

Amazing what boys could do to your life. I wasn't sure if mine had been ruined by them or saved. Or both.

"Are you hungry?" the woman wearing my mother's body asked. "Do you want me to have Gypsy make you something?" Before I could answer, she summoned her favorite house elf and ordered her to make my favorite meal. "You look peaky." She eyed me closely, in maternal way that I hadn't seen in those green eyes since I was ten. She nodded to herself. "Much too thin. Gorgeous, but much too thin." I nearly gasped in surprise as she pulled me into another hug.

My head spun as the approval gushed.

Then, Milo- one of my least favorite people, the brother who'd made my life hell- came and had much the same reaction to my presence as my mother had, minus any girlish squealing.

"Hey Mira!" he grinned with open arms.

I was so dazed from my mother's praises that I didn't see what he was playing at until he'd wrapped those arms around me and lifted me off the ground in a bear hug. And then, I was so stunned that all I could do was blink, speechless, as he set me back on the ground.

Normally, had he tried a stunt like that, I'd have hexed him into last week and gave his privates a swift kick for good measure. But all I could do now was gawk.

"How's my favorite little sister?"

My brow furrowed as I gaped up at him.

What was wrong with my family? Were they even my actual family? Or were these some Aurors disguised by Polyjuice Potion who thought they were supposed to be nice to me? Obviously, if they were, they hadn’t done their research. Were they Imperiused? But, that was stupid. Who would Imperius my family? They were on the Death Eaters' side already! Hell, let's be honest, my brothers were Death Eaters!

"I'm your only sister," I heard myself reply flatly. My mouth seemed to have disconnected from my brain again, like that dream I had in the hospital wing with Sirius.

Instead of sneering and making a snide remark in reply, he laughed.

Yes, actually laughed.

Like I'd made a joke! Like something about this situation was funny.

And rather than scolding me for being a smart ass, my mother laughed as well!

I felt shock cross my face and my brain seemed to suffer some sort of traffic jam among so much confusion.

After five years, I'd pretty much accepted that certain members of my family were going to resent me forever. But now, all my theories were being jumbled and the world seemed to flip on its axis.

And the worst part? I kind of liked it.

I couldn't help but smile as the warm crackling fire of acceptance and love chased away the chilly draft I thought would never again leave this big manor. I knew it had conditions to it but it felt so good to be loved again I really didn’t care for the moment. I couldn’t bring myself to burst this rare bubble of family felicity. I laughed with the rest of my family as Emilia recited the new poem her mother had taught her. I played with my niece, sister-in-law and brothers when they began an impromptu game of sardines until my mother very maternally ushered me upstairs to get ready for her lavish pre-Christmas ball. My brothers and Tamora went home to get ready and drop Emilia with her babysitter for the night.

It was only when I was in my room, away from the gushy intoxicating familial atmosphere, that my senses returned. Reality hit me again like a boxing champion and I wasn't sure whether I was in a nightmare or a dream come true.

All I was sure of was that if I didn't get to the toilet in two point five seconds I was going to hurl all over the expensive floor that the houselves probably scrubbed clean this morning. I made it just in time for the contents of my stomach, which was admittedly not a lot, to come back up.

I cleaned myself up in the shower, letting the warm water wash away all the grime and grit from the train. All the drama of school slid off of me and down the drain. I didn't think about my family or Sirius or Rabastan or anything. I just relaxed and let the rushing water drown out all thoughts.

I dried myself off by magic, knowing that there was so much bewitching and enchanting in this house today the Ministry would never be able to tell it was me. I grabbed the red gown my mother had laid out for me on my bed and slid it over my head without the usual internal complaints.

Mum had told me to call her, rather than one of the houselves, to help me put it on- no doubt so we could bond and chat about my new boyfriend. But I called neither, I wanted to be alone. The longer I was alone, the longer I had to make sense of things. Or the longer I had to pretend none of this nonsense was happening in the first place. Maybe, being withdrawn from the scene of family approval for longer would help me resist it when I had to go back downstairs again.

That's when my headache started.

Sick of looking at myself, I torn my eyes bitterly away from the mirror. I plopped down onto my bed, entirely unconcerned about the condition of my still unzipped dress. I stared at the ceiling, feeling utterly disgusted at how easily I'd been lured in. Had I lost all my pride? These were the people that had disdained and virtually ignored me since I was eleven and I was going to forgive them that easily? I don't think so. The acceptance had strings, the love had conditions. Every ounce of affection would be wiped clean if I told them I was repulsed by their pureblood elitism. Every drop of delight at my homecoming would dry up in an instant if I informed them I didn't want to be a Death Eater, nor did I fancy becoming the trophy wife of one. No matter how gorgeous and charming he was.

How could I have been sucked in so easily? How could I pretend to be one of them? Was I even pretending anymore? Had I crossed over the line? Had I gone too deep undercover and evolved into one without my knowledge?

"Mirabelle! Are you alright, sweetheart?" my mother's voice suddenly simpered on the other side of my door.

I broke from my repulsed train of thought and sat up, fumbling with the zipper of my gown.

"Yes, mummy!" I called back, my voice sounding off even to my own ears. I took deep breath and clenched all my torso muscles, forcing the zipper up. How she expected me to breathe in this thing I shuddered to think.

"You really should be getting ready, love. Do you need my help getting your dress on?"

I waddled to my door, holding my dress up away from my feet so I didn't trip and putting it back down before I opened the door so my mother wouldn't know I was being unladylike.

"No, I've got it all by myself," I told her like a chipper five year old. Sudden affection or no sudden affection, I still knew how to revel in that lovely look of shock on my mother's face that an ice queen such as herself rarely revealed.

I did not, however, know how to enjoy the surprise fading into a strangely soft smile and a playful chide. "Sweetheart, I told you to call me when you were getting ready!" she laughed.

Yes, laughed.

As if, for the past five years we'd had the mother-daughter relationship of everyone's dreams. Like we were the epitome of functional. The perfect example of love and warmth and all of that cozy fluff.

But this time, rather than being drawn in, I played the part. I did what I do best. I acted like the perfect pureblood daughter. Deciding that, the reason I found the role so easy to slip into was that I was so practiced at it by now it was practically effortless.

"Sorry, mummy," I smiled sweetly. "You can still help me with my hair if you like." I was torn in two with the small girl in me praying desperately for her to say she wanted to and the teenager who'd been ignored since she was eleven wanting her to go away and leave me alone, in that order.

"Of course, baby!" She gushed like some sort of sickening goo Professor Slughorn would make us concoct in Potions class. The next thing I knew, she'd pulled me over to the chair in front of my old antique vanity and sat me in the chair. "Now let's see," she pulled her wand out and began waving it over my limp chocolate brown strands, making them come to life. "Perhaps this."

On of her warm hands combed through my hair softly and I had to resist the urge to jump away. It was so parallel to everything I'd come to know about my icy mother. So contrary to any previous patterns of behavior that I almost had to vomit in the shock of it all.

You vanished your food, remember? And you already threw up the food you ate this morning. An unhelpful voice in my head reminded me as my empty stomach growled in addition.

Oh. Right.

My nerves were on such alert that, when my mother had the busy houselves make me a steaming plate of my favorite food, I couldn't bring myself to eat it. So I'd preformed a vanishing spell under my breath, confident that the Ministry would never know as the magic was running wild through this manor today. And, besides, they had much bigger issues to worry about lately than a bit of under-aged magic.

People were disappearing left and right. And I, due to some expert eavesdropping, already knew of three impending Death Eater missions and a murder that had happened a month ago. Yes, the Ministry had bigger fish to fry.

Two of those said fish, wearing their finest new dress robes, poked their heads in as my mother was putting the finishing touches on the half-halo, half-elaborate ponytail (which was essentially weaving tiny red rosebuds she'd conjured out of thin air throughout).

"Mum, the Rosiers and Donovans are here," Markus said, coming in to sit on my bed.

"Yeah, and Lucius just owled to say that he, Narcissa and the rest of the Malfoys are on their way as well," Milo added, not to be outdone by our older brother in anything.

No taunts? No scoffing? No backhanded compliments or stage whispers about the smelly stench of Ravenclaw in the room? The whole thing was just bizarre.

"Alright, boys, " my mother waved them off busily. Too intent, apparently, on the task at hand. "Go and entertain our guests with your father and tell them we'll be downstairs in a moment."

I gaped at her in the mirror. I couldn't hide my shock any longer. She was actually brushing off my brothers -her precious princes, her baby boys, her reasons for living- for me.

Was I sleeping? Was this all some very bizarre creation of my delusional subconscious? Was Sirius still living at his house and not Potter's? Was Rabastan Lestrange still just some repulsive Dark Lord crony with a nice ass? Was this all just a mixture of dream and nightmare that I would wake up from at any moment? Or had I just been transported to some very weird parallel universe, where up is down and down is up?

It had to be one of those because this could certainly not be reality.

"Alright," Markus said obediently and he and Milo quitted the room.

But not before Milo- my sadistic bastard of a brother, MILO! - turned and said, "You look pretty, little sis."

Yes, 'You look pretty, little sis.' as if he and I had a completely normal brother-sister bond. As if he was allowed to say such things. Leaving me with just one last question...

WHERE THE HELL DID MY FAMILY GO?!

***

One sister-in-law and one cousin playing make-up artists, three glasses of champagne and two hundred guests later I was dancing with my boyfriend as hordes of guests looked on.

For some reason, my love life seemed to interest an outrageous amount of people in my family's circle. They were all insultingly shocked that Rabastan and I had gotten together. I thought I knew the reason (him being a Greek god reincarnated and me being... well, me) until I went into the powder room.

"... Mirabelle Echols, though? Who would have thought?" a shrill female voice laughed.

Me being myself, I could help my following actions. I had to eavesdrop, it's what I do! I’d been best friends with a Marauder, for Merlin’s sake! So, I hid behind a wall where they weren’t likely to see me unless they were really looking for someone.

"Not me," another answered. "I thought for sure she would follow Sirius to the ends of the Earth. I thought she’d end up marrying the blood traitor."
"Yeah, I think everyone did." The other voice laughed with disbelief, "Never expected she'd join the Dark Lord."
"And start dating Rabastan, the golden boy" the first laughed with her.

Maybe she’s a woman scorned.” The second giggled in delight at the idea. “Maybe all those rumors about them being a thing were really true. Sirius has been known to break hearts. Maybe that’s why she’s doing the opposite of what he’s doing.”
“I wouldn’t put anything past her at this point. That girl is becoming as unpredictable as a PMSing Hippogriff.”
They left the room, laughing at the joke and I tried to swallow the knot in my throat. It was good that I was in the toilets because I suddenly felt sick to my stomach.

People thought I was a Death Eater? Or, at least, following the ‘Dark Lord’? Were they deluded?

No, you’ve just been acting like one of them. An irritated voice said to me. Why are you surprised?
Yes, but I wasn’t that good of an actress. Was I?

“What are you doing in here, gorgeous? Hiding from all those wandering eyes?”

Startled, I turned to see Bellatrix observing me with a knowing expression. Her dress was an almost frightening blue that flared out at the knee and her black hair was pinned halfway back and tumbling down behind her. If I wasn’t so intimidated by her she might have been beautiful.

I snorted unlike the lady I was supposed to be. “Hardly. I was just taking a break. Freshening up, you know?”

“Sure, that’s why.”

I forced a smile and shook my head, as if I found this affectionate teasing pleasant rather than slightly terrifying.

“So, how is school? Anyone giving you trouble?”

Just by the way she said it I knew that she wasn’t just asking a general question.

Nope. This one was loaded.

She was asking if Sirius and his cronies were bugging me. She was asking if his adoring fans were spitting at me in the halls (which they’d stopped doing once Rabastan was officially in the picture). She wasn’t just asking if I was doing alright at Hogwarts.

In Bella’s eyes, I had no doubt, that I was now considered closer to her than her runaway cousin or even her Muggle-loving sister. (Also, the fact that I was dating her little brother-in-law couldn’t hurt my cause either.) Which is why I knew that given the choice between one of her turncoat relatives and me (a sympathizer in disguise) she would choose me in half a heartbeat? Sickening as it was, Bellatrix was all about blood purity.

So, I did the only thing I could do without inadvertently causing someone’s torture and/or death. I laughed.

Yes, laughed, rolled my eyes and said, “Do you really think Bas would let them?”

Her grin sparkled disturbingly. “No, I don’t suppose he would.”

“Well,” I heaved a fake sigh, wanting very much to get out of this conversation as fast as humanely possible. “I suppose I shouldn’t keep him waiting much longer or he may spontaneously combust with impatience.”

“That’s likely.”


I laughed along with her as I made a beeline for the door. I seriously considered just going up to my room and locking myself in there for the remainder of the night. But, no doubt, Rabastan or one of my family members would notice my absence and coming searching for me so I thought it best to get my explanation out of the way now, rather than when someone was banging on my bedroom door. I decided that a headache was a good enough excuse to get me out of this affair.

I’d tell my mother that my head was hurting and I needed to go lie down. Then I’d go upstairs, change into something I could breathe in and try not to think about the fact that I was thought to be a Death Eater by a good deal of the population.

I entered the gaiety of the ballroom once more and almost immediately, Rabastan claimed my hand.

“What took you so long?” he whispered in my ear. I could tell by his tone that he’d been fending off potential dance partners in my short absence.

Forgetting my excuse, I grinned. “Miss me?”

“Always,” he replied. I felt him kiss the top of my head as we made our way to the dance floor and my stomach rolled.

The last time a bloke put his arm around me and kissed my head, I’d been absolutely thrilled to pieces. This felt like a mockery of it and I was so far from thrilled it was almost laughable. It felt like some sort of sick echo of that happy moment designed just to show me how big of a gap Sirius had left behind him.

This whole evening felt empty to me. I missed all of the usual rituals for these types of affairs. Even though this time I had a boyfriend and the general approval of the room, I wasn’t as fulfilled as I thought I would be.

My family looked at me adoringly as I danced with one of the most handsome young men in the room but I could only wish for the days of dancing with a very different (though just as, if not more, handsome) boy and being virtually ignored or looked at with suspicion. Instead of standing in a circle chatting politely with close family friends, I wanted to being laughing in a corner of the room with my best friend like all the times before, mocking the purebloods recklessly together. And rather than sneaking upstairs with my boyfriend; I yearned to slip away, unmissed, with my best friend.

“What if they come looking for us?” I hissed, as Rabastan pulled my up the grand staircase- further and further away from the laughter and the public setting of the ballroom. My pulse crashed in my ears and my stomach turned nervously as I thought about why he wanted to leave the party.

A detached chamber of my mind mused on how different this was from the times I’d snuck away with Sirius. My pulse had crashed in my ears with the hope of certain events taking place rather than any real anticipation of them. It was an entirely different type of nervousness and yet very similar at the same time. Was this how every girl felt when a very handsome boy convinced her to sneak away from the herd?

“They’re so smashed they wouldn’t be able to tell us from the table clothes.”

This was true.

Still, I wasn’t sure I wanted it to be. I almost wished my mother had been less attentive to her cocktail and more aware of where her daughter was. I wished my father hadn’t been discussing business with his Ministry friends when the boy trying to steal his daughter’s virtue was around. I wished my brothers had been fulfilling their protective duties in accordance with their new attitudes towards me rather than catching up with old school friends and comparing successes. Perhaps if any one of them had been paying attention they would have been able to save me from my current internal debate. If one of them had pulled us back into the party and insisted we stay in public view, I wouldn’t have to make the wretched decision of how far to let my (gulp) boyfriend go tonight.

We reached my bedroom and Rabastan kissed me passionately before swinging the door open as eagerly as any male about to “get lucky” would. But, rather than the sight we expected- an empty bed and a tidy room, we walked in on what can only be described as an abomination in the making.

There on MY BED were Rosalie and Rosier sucking face.

Scratch that. They weren’t just sucking face. They were also groping and attempting to undress one another while sucking face.

It was quite possibly the most disturbing sight I’d ever had the misfortune to see, made even more mentally scarring by the fact that it was all taking place ON MY BED!
Apparently Rabastan felt the same way because he shouted, “YUCK! What the hell? Bloody fucking-!”

Rose and Rosier didn’t seem to hear his violent reaction, however. They just continued trying to eat one another’s faces. It was beyond repulsive.

But Rabastan didn’t become the youngest Death Eater because he gave up easily so he yelled again. “OI, SLAGS!”

My cousin and her conquest jumped apart, turning their lip-stick-smeared faces in our direction. There was a moment of loaded silence in which my fury warred with disgust and all three of them seemed to wait for the results. When I had managed to choke down the vomit clawing its way up my esophagus, I was finally able to speak.

“Out!” I squeaked, barely able to contain my horror.

They jumped off my bed, Rose mortified and Rosier seeming both disappointed and amused. I stepped aside and they scuttled passed us and down the hall as quickly as possible. Probably on the hunt for a new room to defile (and, despite his new attitude towards me, I really hoped it was Milo’s).

Once they’d rounded the corner there was a moment of silence between my boyfriend and me before he promptly burst into a fit of laughter.

“It’s not funny!” I squealed, slapping him lightly on one broad shoulder. He kept on laughing, harder than before. “I am so not getting on that bed now.”

He stopped laughing but I went on without pausing.

“Not until I burn the sheets at least-“

“Mira-“

I continued ignoring him, “-maybe burning the whole mattress would be best.”

“Mira-“

“Mum won’t like it but she’ll just have to-“

“MIRA!”

I stopped talking and my boyfriend smiled a little triumphantly. Then his mouth turned down in a grave grimace. “Was it that much of a turn off?”

I pictured the scene in my head again of Rosier creeping his hand up my cousin’s dress while they did the tongue tango and nearly threw up in my mouth.

“Definitely.”

He sighed, a massive sigh, then held out his arm like a proper gentleman. “I suppose we should return to the party then,” he suggested, all politeness but I could tell he was disappointed as I took his arm.

I, for one, was tremendously relieved. Almost relieved enough that I didn’t mind having to burn my mattress.

Almost.

I liked Rabastan. I really did, but the fact still remained that he was a Death Eater and (despite my efforts) I was still in love with Sirius. Which complicated things. I wasn’t ready to go further than snogging yet with such confusion still swirling around the issue.

I sighed, pretending to be disappointed as well, while secretly allayed. “I suppose we should. Agrippa forbid if they came looking for us.” As much as I shuddered at the thought of what Rosalie and Rosier were doing at this very moment, I was even more horrified at the possibility of my mother or someone in my family coming to look for me and finding Rabastan and I in a similarly compromising position.

So, I promptly pulled my boyfriend back downstairs to the ballroom where there were plenty of witnesses watching our every move.

***

The rest of the week passed with monotony.

Every day the Echols household oozed with sickening affection and every day I had to remind myself that there were strings attached. It took a more effort than it should have to keep my head above water instead of drowning in the river of family love and approval. I kept to my room, the realm of sanity, as much as possible but it was never long before someone (mainly my mother) would come looking for me.

I quickly found out that, in my absence, my mother had gone even more mental than before. Presumably after she’d found out that I was dating a bloke from one of the most prominent pureblood families, she’d gone bought every ball gown in England for me to wear to the various social events we were invited to this season.

All I had to do was pick out a dress to wear for each night- as we were invited to a ball every single night of the week- and put it on. Usually, I just grabbed one randomly and threw it over my head. Then I’d flick my wand in the way that Rose and Tamora taught me to take care of hair and make up. Not exactly a stimulating process.

So Sunday morning, I dragged my feet all the way downstairs to the dining room for breakfast- yawning the whole way- and was entirely unsurprised by the first words out of my mother’s mouth.

“Good morning, sweetheart!” She simpered maternally. I know, it was beyond disturbing. “Are you excited for tonight?”

“Sure,” I replied drowsily. I had no idea who was throwing what swanky ball tonight but I really wasn’t interested. I already had a dress and a dance partner, so what was the point of even thinking about it?

She and my father- who had only just looked over his copy of the Morning Prophet as I started buttering my toast- laughed indulgently. As if I had said the most delightfully clever thing in the world.

“Sure? That’s all? I thought you’d be itching for it to be night time,” my father chuckled.

I shrugged indifferently. “Why? It’s just another party.”

This seemed to amuse them again.

“Just another party?” my mother repeated. “Love, this is the ball of the season! It’s the Minister of Magic’s Annual Christmas Eve Ball!”

The Minister of Magic’s Annual Christmas Eve Ball. My heart sank into my stomach and my blood ran cold. The Minister of Magic’s Annual Christmas Eve Ball. I was surely going to be sick. The Minister of Magic’s Annual Christmas Eve Ball. My stomach rolled and heaved uselessly several times before I realized I’d had yet to even bite into my toast.

I’d completely forgotten about that horrendous event. The yearly torture I was forced to go through was never quite completely without The Minister of Magic’s Annual Eve Christmas Ball. The one where every prominent family or important person in the Magical community was invited.

Sirius and I had, of course, always stuck like glue during this one, even more so than with all of the others. The only two people in the ballroom that were being ripped in half by obligation and desire. It was a rare balancing act we did on a daily basis (one that he got sick of, I guess).Pretending to be perfect pureblood children and also showing the world that we weren’t like them, we had risen above our raising. The act was particularly difficult to keep up during this event. So we clung together just in case one of us needed rescuing. He’d whisk me to the dance floor where our Hogwarts friends would inevitably be and we would talk to them nonchalantly there, often unnoticed with all the festivities around us.

But I had no Sirius this year.

Oh, he’d be there. Undoubtedly.

The Potters were always at these events, being one of the most respected families in our world. And since he and Potter were in the passionate throws of their bromance he would certainly be at James’s side. He’d show up if only to see his family squirm in the discomfort of having to share the ballroom with such a traitor.

But it would be painfully different this time. Because I had no partner in this balancing act anymore. I wouldn’t have someone to save me if someone who really knew me said something in front of a pureblood. I wouldn’t be able to say anything to my friends as he twirled me around. I wouldn’t even be able to smile at them from a distance across the room.

Instead, I knew, I was going to have to act the part of good pureblood daughter to the fullest extent. Half way would not be enough this time. I wouldn’t even be able to acknowledge my friends. Nora was staying with the Prewetts for the Holiday, since her parents decided to visit her brother in Germany (where he was doing some top secret work for the Department of Mysteries), so this time both she and Lena would be there and I would have to pretend they weren’t.

That would be the hardest part.

My appetite had evaporated, I picked at my food for several moments as the conversation between my parents moved onto other things. Then, when I could stand it no longer, I abruptly excused myself from the table and went to my room.

I paced for a long time before deciding to make the best of things. There was nothing I could do about having to ignore my friends. But that didn’t mean I had to be completely miserable. There was still a way I could have some fun at this catastrophe.

I went to my freakishly large closet and searched through the abundance of ball gowns my mother had bought for me. I extracted several options and then tried them on one by one trying to see myself through the eyes of a bloke. Which one was enough honey to draw the most elusive of flies?

Finally, I slipped the silky emerald green fabric of a new dress over my head and looked at my reflection in the mirror. It looked…good. Even thought I had no makeup on and my hair was a mess this dress managed to create the allusion of sex appeal I didn’t have. My green eyes popped wildly, my hair looked even darker and my porcelain skin created a nice contrast. Something about the way it draped elegantly over my frame made me look taller.

I knew instantly, this was the one that would drive him wild.

It was a backless halter that hugged my curves at just the right places with a skirt that flared out playfully at my knees. It had a V-neck that showed off just the right amount of cleavage. It covered enough that my father and brothers wouldn’t completely flip out when they saw me descend the stairs but, at the same time, hinted tantalizingly enough to keep the eyes one me tonight. I had to hand it to my mother on this one; she knew what would drive boys mental.

It may have been risky but I didn’t care. I was feeling vengeful today and this was the perfect way of seeking my justice. I now understood why Kathlena always called girls in general the artful gender. Was this how women in the olden days operated? Was this how they kept their sanity and got their way? The cloak-and-dagger method? If that’s what you could call this. There was absolutely nothing subtle about this dress.

That was the idea though. Everything about this dress screamed ‘notice me!’ And, damn it that was exactly what he was going to do tonight if I had anything to say about it.

He’d kissed me, which meant he must find me mildly attractive on a physical level, so tonight I was going to torture him as best I could. It wasn’t subtle by any means but it was a more furtive way of making sure he was the one writhing in discomfort this time.

The only down side was that, while torturing Sirius, I would also be accomplishing the goal I knew my mother had ultimately had when she bought this dress. Because this dress would drive Rabastan crazy as well.

He was my boyfriend after all. I may not know a lot about having a boyfriend but I knew that any boyfriend assumed that his girlfriend dressed up for him. Not some guy she wanted to piss off even more. And when said girlfriend dressed up her boyfriend usually tried to enjoy that to the fullest extent.

I shivered, but not because I was cold.

Maybe this dress wasn’t such a great idea after all. I mean, I was only a fifteen year old witch, not a twenty-two year old runway model.

“Oh! You look gorgeous!”

I nearly jumped out of my skin at the sound of Rosalie’s voice. I hadn’t even heard her come in. I looked at her behind me in the mirror. If I looked gorgeous there were not words for Rosalie’s caliber of beauty. Though she seemed to be very stuck on the same shade of red for all of her gowns, no one could deny that the girl knew exactly what worked for her. The dress draped over her willowy form and dipped off of her shoulders tantalizingly. No doubt she and Rosier were going to do what they had been doing a lot lately (though, thankfully this time it would not be in my bed).

I grimaced, though not entirely about her comment. “Really? I was thinking of putting on a different one. “

“Don’t you dare,” she said severely. “Come here, I’ll do your hair.”

She came closer, hiked her dress up to reveal her wand (strapped to her leg by a garter) and pointed it at my head. Pink spirals came from the tip and wove themselves around my locks like a snake coiling around its prey. Within seconds, my hair was in a very fancy up-do.

She surveyed me carefully, biting her bottom lip. “It needs something.” Her eyes narrowed in concentration as she tried to figure out what was missing. “Ah!” Her face lit with knowledge. She flicked her wand once more and small white flowers wove themselves into my hair as well. She smiled in approval, “Of course! Perfect!”

For once she let me do my own makeup. Though she did bark several directions from my bed (where she lounged until I was ready).

“Finally, we can go!” She huffed dramatically; once I announced I was ready as I would ever be.

My legs turned to jelly, making it clear that the only way I was going was if I was dragged. There was a spark of hope in me that I was about to fall violently ill and wouldn’t have to go but Rosalie was there to squash it immediately. She pulled me downstairs, where our parents were gossiping and demanded that we all leave immediately.

You’d think that she and Rosier hadn’t seen each other for years rather than hours with the way she acted. I stared at her dubiously. No way could he be that good of a snog. It was Rosier for Merlin’s sake!

“Alright, Rose, we’re going,” My mother laughed. “Mira, take my arm, sweetheart.”
With a grimace, I obeyed. I was feeling sick enough as it was, side-long apparition was certainly not going to help that fact. But she would probably have an aneurysm if I suggested Floo Powder. This event was too formal to arrive covered in soot. I shut my eyes tight and braced myself for the sucking feeling. The invisible hook seemed yank on my belly button and I was being pulled forward into a black hole.

Breathlessly, I felt my feet touch the ground again. My stomach heaved in protest, but I’d been prepared for this. That’s why I hadn’t eaten all day. I was not about to embarrass myself at the biggest event of the season by vomiting all over my dress.

I opened my eyes to the usual splendor at the Minister’s Manor. Every nook and cranny was filled with glimmering Christmas decorations; tinsel, garland, glittering trees, red bows, white lights. Candles and mistletoe floated over head. Violins serenaded the throngs of guests, all dressed to the letter in their most beautiful gowns and refined dress robes. The dining table was aching under all of the food it supported and the ballroom was waiting in the wings for dancing couples to litter its marble floors.

The meticulous details around the lavish space could only be attributed to one woman- a woman who could rival my mother in the art of being a good hostess. Celeste Burby the regal wife of Richard Burby, Minister of Magic.

I shook my head at the heavenly site and almost forgot my nausea amongst the awe it inspired. Almost.

Just as I was mentally giving the woman kudos for her exquisite taste and party throwing expertise, she appeared in all her glory.

“Caitira!” she exclaimed upon seeing my mother.

“Celeste, darling!”

They embraced each other and kissed cheeks primly before the excited chatter began.

Celeste Burby was once Celeste Avery, the first internationally famous magical supermodel and my mother’s childhood best friend.

So, needless to say, once they got together you could hardly pry them apart. I felt a rare stab of admiration for my mother and aunt as they laughed with the Minister of Magic’s wife as if she was just some everyday person rather than an internationally famous witch, who once modeled for the most expensive magical clothing companies in the world and carved the way for women in the world of magical business. Celeste had the uncanny knack of getting along with everyone, even the “blood traitors”. She was the perfect wife for a Minister of Magic, able to set her personal views aside and be polite to all sorts while maintaining her status in the pureblood world.

The Minister himself followed his wife a few moments later and struck up a conversation with my father and uncle about a business deal they may be in on together in the very near future.

I looked around and found the Rosalie had already disappeared, off to find Rosier no doubt (ew). So I was on my own. Not for long though. It was only a matter of time before Rabastan would find me and then I knew I’d be at his side for the remainder of the evening. I forced my expression to remain neutral while inwardly gagging at what that implied.

Tonight, I would be forced to be what I loathed. One of those gooey, submissive pureblood girls who followed her parents or refined young pureblood boyfriend around and oozed false perfection all night long. I’d always laughed at those girls but tonight I would have to play that role myself.

I didn’t dare wander away from my family. There was too much danger of running into my friends or worse the Potters and him. I wouldn’t risk my neck like that in front of all these witnesses. So, I stood there quietly next to my mother like a good pureblood daughter.

“Oh and Mira! Darling, you were so quiet I almost didn’t recognize you!” I heard the Minister’s wife laughed and snapped back to attention.

I forced an easy going smile and said, “Hello, Auntie Celeste.”

She hugged me in the same way she’d hugged my mother and I had to be careful not to wrinkle her pink designer gown.

“You look stunning, sweetheart! Absolutely stunning!” She told me blue eyes glittering over the astonishingly high cheekbones.

“That she does,” a deep voice from behind agreed. A strong arm snaked around my waist and I stiffened for a split second. Would I ever have a normal reaction when cute blokes snuck up on me like that? Probably not.

After a heartbeat, I began to breathe again. I forced a sweet smile and relaxed into the role I’d be portraying this evening with a resigned sigh. “Hello, love,” I greeted Rabastan cheerfully. Though I didn’t feel anything even resembling cheerful.

“Hello,” he grinned wickedly before giving me a quick peck on the lips. Then he turned to my parents and our hosts with a polite bow. He politely showered compliments on the adults and engaged in small talk; pointing the Minister, my father and the uncle in the direction his father was, before getting to the ultimate point of his appearance. “Mrs. Echols?”

My mother giggled.

Yes, giggled. Like a bloody school girl!

“Oh Rabastan, dear, I’ve told you call me Caitira.”

He grinned charmingly before continuing, “Caitira, would you mind terribly if I stole Mirabelle for a dance?”

“Of course not, sweetheart!” She gushed, “I’m sure Mira would love to! Wouldn’t you, darling?”

Four pairs of eyes turned to me expectantly.

Did they actually expect me to answer? I thought that question was rhetorical. It certainly should have been. I mean, I couldn’t very well refuse, could I? He was my boyfriend after all. And even if he wasn’t, refusing would be rude. My pureblood manners would shun an act as vile as refusing a good, handsome, pureblood boy!

But, apparently, they honestly did want an answer.

So I did the only thing I could do, I nodded and grinned as if it was my most cherished wish.

Rabastan took my hand immediately, inclined his head towards the breathless grown women fawning over him and said simply, “Excuse us, ladies.” Then, he led me to the dance floor.

“Thank you,” I breathed once we were gliding crossed the floor to the music.

He chuckled, “You looked like you could use someone to rescue you.”

I cocked an eyebrow at this. I needed no one to rescue me and he knew the feminist in me had her claws out at such a simple statement.

“Oh you know what I mean!”

“Mmmhmm,” I smirked. “You’d better say that.”

We laughed and he kissed me again quickly before twirling me around.

That’s when I saw them.

What was it about this boy that made me let my guard down this way? Why could I never keep my head in the bloody game when he was around me? How come I always forgot about important things when he started talking to me? Arrgah. It was becoming an issue.

Because, standing in a group just off of the floor, were Kat and Nora. In fact, it was a whole group of Ravenclaws standing together, laughing and talking.

My heart sang a tune of longing as I watched-captivated- over my boyfriend’s shoulder. He was saying something to me in a quiet, amused tone but I didn’t hear a single word. I was too engrossed in the group I should be in right now. I should have been laughing at the joke Leo was telling, I should be teasing Gabe about the girl he fancied with Everett and I should be flirting with the seventh years hanging around Kathlena too. It was beyond frustrating.

I could see Lanora watching me with her peripheral vision and took the opportunity to convey my feelings surreptitiously. I grimaced and made my eyes wide with a silent apology. I was sure she and the rest of my mates already knew I wouldn’t be able to speak to them tonight (um… we are Ravenclaws, thankyouverymuch) but I still felt horrid for pretending not to know them. Even if it was necessary, it was lower than low.

The song ended and another began. Rabastan didn’t let go of me so we kept dancing. I tried to tune in enough to laugh and “uh-huh” at all the right times but I was on high alert again now.

I’d seen my friends now all that was left was to see...

That’s when I spotted him.

Think of the devil, I suppose, and he shall appear. And appear he did. Circe, could the bloke possibly get more gorgeous? If he did, I was in a world of trouble.

Even though I currently danced with the most coveted bloke in seventh year, even though he was murmuring funny thing seductively in my ear, even though his warm hand was at the small of my back (dangerously low I might add); I still got a knot in my throat.

My stomach rolled with the parallels my past and present had become. I wanted more than anything to push my boyfriend away, walk up to Sirius, grab his hand, drag his stubborn ass to some dark, deserted room and snog his brains out again.

It was as I flashed back to that last kiss that I realized he was staring at me.

I knew that stare too. It was the stare of betrayal and anger. His eyes were cold and hard while the rest of his face was just blank. Potter nudged him on the shoulder and said something but he had no reaction. The prat must have noticed that Sirius didn’t crack a wicked grin or bark his trademark laugh because his eyebrows knit together in confusion. He followed Sirius’s eye line to see what had his attention so intently then glared at me as Rabastan gave me another twirl.

I felt my own eyes harden and my lips pressed together in a stubborn thin line. Merlin, how I disliked that prick.

He smirked at me insufferably and poked his friend again. This time Sirius responded, having noticed the obvious change in my expression. James whispered something to him, clapped him on the back and the next thing I knew he was strutting up to some sixth year Hufflepuff and leading her to the dance floor.

It took everything within me not to leap from my boyfriend’s arms and claw his eyes out. But I restrained myself and let my instincts take over. From birth, I’d been taught to have a thick skin. With two older brothers wrestling me to the ground every five seconds as a kid and parents who called too much emotion a weakness, I’d learned how to hide my true feelings.

My face became a frosty mask of indifference towards him and I determinedly turned my attentions back to Rabastan.

“Circe,” he murmured. “Could Mrs. Moon have picked a more appalling dress?” He turned me so that I faced the woman in question. She was a plain woman with blond hair and a particularly round quality about her. The dress she wore could not have flattered her less but she seemed happy enough. “Looks like two pigs fighting under a blanket, doesn’t it?”

I forced a laugh while inwardly outraged at such a comment. I knew Sirius was watching over the Hufflepuff’s shoulder and refused to give him the satisfaction of watching me scold my judgmental boyfriend.

“Well, at least she isn’t as bad as Mrs. Greengrass,” I whispered.

I knew I was picking on a pureblood and that was slightly dangerous but I felt confident enough in my situation at the moment not to worry. I was here, wasn’t I? I was proving my loyalty. They’d been given no reason to doubt me. I hadn’t run away. I hadn’t talked to Sirius. I wasn’t even joining my Ravenclaw friends in an innocent conversation tonight. Instead I was dancing with a young Death Eater. I was thoroughly sickening myself in every way in order to stay in the good graces of family and their circle. Why shouldn’t I be able to joke without someone suspecting foul play?

“I mean, honestly,” I continued sounding oddly like my cousin Rose. “What is she? A Muggle on Halloween? If she had any more makeup on I’d run from the room screaming.”

He laughed and I felt a sharp pang of guilt. Even though I disliked Mrs. Greengrass and her ilk immensely, it was unfair of me to criticize her like that. Yes, she wore too much eye makeup and crimson on her cheeks and her lipstick was a few shades too bright. But when had that given me the right to be so judgmental? What was happening to me? When had I become one of the cruel snobs I’d always despised? What had made me say such an underhanded thing?

Calm yourself, the methodical voice of Andromeda ordered in my head, nearly making me jump out of my skin. You’re just mad at my git of a cousin. You’re not a pureblood bitch.
How do you know? I challenged her silently. You know you’re truly loosing your mind when you begin to answer the voices in your head.

Because, she huffed. If you were one of them, you wouldn’t be feeling guilty right now.

Rabastan chuckled and said something but I was too distracted to hear him.

My eyes found Sirius’s again. I felt them begin to silently plead with him and I saw his face soften into confusion. But before he could react further, I reigned myself in and became indifferent again.

I tuned back into Rabastan’s on going commentary about the people around us and laughed loudly at a joke I didn’t find very funny.

The song ended again and my boyfriend stopped dancing.

When I looked up at him, his eyes were unsettlingly soft. I knew what he was going to say before he said it and my heart sped up, though not necessarily in a good way.

“Come on,” he whispered as he took my hand. He kissed my head and began leading me off the floor. “Let’s take a walk.”

I let him, of course. What else could I do? I couldn’t very well pull my hand away and say, ‘No, because that would require being alone with you’ to my own boyfriend. You just don’t do that! Not if you’re normal.

Which, okay, I am not but he didn’t know that yet.


“Rabastan!”

We turned to see his mother beckoning him over, no doubt because she wanted to proudly boast about her dashing young son. This happened a lot at these balls, I’d found out over the past week or so. I was exceedingly surprised I hadn’t been dragged over to meet on of my father’s Ministry colleagues or my mother’s friends. Never before had I been pulled aside by my parents so much. Usually, Rabastan would also be put proudly on display as their ‘stunning daughter’s fantastic catch’ (and yes, I’m quoting verbatim). In an attempt to avoid being the ‘fantastic catch’ this time I took immediate evasive maneuvers.

Rabastan sighed wearily.

“Go on,” I told him eagerly. I squeezed his hand reassuringly. “We’ll take our walk later. All that dancing made me thirsty. I’m going to go get a drink.” Not a total lie. I was thirsty, my throat had dried up like the Sahara but I highly doubted it was because of the dancing.

“Fine,” he pouted, briefly. Then, he kissed my cheek and went to his parents’ side. I watched him walk away with a sigh. Why did I like that so much? Where was my self-control these days? When had I become some hormone-crazed pureblood princess?

I shook my head and went to get a drink. It was as I sipped daintily on the goblin-made champagne that someone came beside me and a husky voice whispered in my ear.

”You know, conformity does not become you.”

I tensed and nearly choked on the swig of champagne in my mouth. Did he hate me this much? What had I done to make him want to cause my homicide? If my parents or anyone else in their circle for that matter saw him standing so close to me I’d be dead by tomorrow for sure.

“What do you want, Black?” I muttered through my teeth, trying not to move my lips. I’m surprised he even understood me.

“What do you want?”

I didn’t look at him, mainly because I didn’t want anyone to think I was actually conversing with him but also because I knew from that voice his blue eyes were gazing right through my soul. If I looked at him I’d never be able to look away again. I would melt into a puddle on the spot and everyone would know that Sirius Black still had me eating out of the palm of those big strong hands of his. I could not let that happen.

“Right now? I want you to quit harassing me,” I gritted my teeth tighter.

“If you didn’t want to be harassed you shouldn’t have worn that dress and it isn’t harassment if you like it.”

“Well, I don’t.” I answered the second part while biting back a smile at the first. So it had worked. He had noticed my dress after all.

“You sure seemed to like it in the corridor that night. Or was I imagining the part where you kissed me back?”

“Sssshhh!” I hissed at him like a cat as my face flush red.

That seemed to be enough of an answer for him because he went on, “I know you can’t talk to me here. But when school comes back we need to talk.”

“I-“

“Don’t argue, Mira. Just meet me at our place once term starts. Midnight. Don’t be late.” He walked away quickly and I felt icy loneliness mix confusingly with the warmth of affection.

Half of me was indignant at the fact that he thought I’d be at his beck and call that way while the other half was over the moon that he wanted to talk to me. To see me away from the fear and the pressure of this feud neither of us owned. Could Sirius Black actually be missing me?

Chapter 13: A Risk Worth Taking?
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Chapter 13~ A Risk Worth Taking? 


The next morning, I woke up with a headache that made me wonder whether an elephant had been sitting on it all night. I trudged over to my bathroom mirror and groaned. The curls from my up-do last night were still intact but smushed on one side of my head at strange angles because I’d slept on them. I’d also, out of fatigue from the night’s events, neglected to remove my make up resulting in the raccoon look this morning. I needed a shower, badly before my date with Rabastan today.

During our ‘romantic’ walk around the Minister’s Manor, Rabastan had complained that we hadn’t spent any time together this holiday.

“We’ve seen each other every night,” I managed to choke out a laugh, though my mind was somewhere else entirely. (Fine, I’ll freely admit, it was back in the ballroom with Sirius and his stupid demands.)

He wrinkled his nose and insisted, “Family obligation balls don’t count. I mean we haven’t gone out on a real, non-Hogsmeade date. Just the two of us.”

“Well, whose fault is that?” I teased him, quirking one eyebrow up and smirking. Merlin, I wanted to go back inside already.

He grinned, “Hey, it’s the modern age. You could ask me you know.”

“Yes,” I smiled. “But I won’t because I’m old fashion.”

“You are not!” he laughed. “You’re the biggest feminist I know!”

The sad part was that this was completely true. Purebloods weren’t too big on the whole equal-rights thing. Not that we women were oppressed or treated like second class; we were just expected to know our place. The whole bloody “seen not heard” nonsense.

“Yes, but I don’t make the first move in relationships,” I informed him. Not a lie. I mean, look how long I’d been waiting for Sirius to make a move. Too bad he made it too late. It would have been helpful if he’d have made the move before running away from home.

“Oh, I see,” he attempted a serious face but the grin on his lips shattered the effect. “So you’re a selective feminist.”

Had this been Sirius, I would’ve punched him in the shoulder or laughed and made some smart arse comment. Instead, I just glared, letting a small smile curl my lips, and returned to the original topic of conversation.

“So where do you want to go and when?” I asked, hating how submissive it sounded coming out of my mouth. I was definitely not a selective feminist.

“I was thinking, a day shopping in Diagon Alley and then dinner at this new restaurant that opened or maybe a picnic in the park by your house.”

My stomach curled in revulsion at the idea of going to the park Sirius and I had met in so many times to get away from our insane families. What if he wanted to sit near our place? It did have several choice trees that people liked to sit under on nice days. I couldn’t handle that on my first legitimate date with my boyfriend. It would be like Sirius himself was standing over me, taunting my attempt at a relationship.

“It’s too cold out for picnics,” I told him practically.

Not a lie. It was too cold.

“Diagon Alley it is then,” he grinned.

“Good. I need to stop in Flourish and Blotts anyway-“

He cut me off with a groan. “Not book shopping! On our date? No books, Mira, please! You’re not going to read on our date too are you?”

Sirius always went book shopping with you. The Andromeda in my head whispered, as if I hadn’t already been thinking it.

I was more bothered by his protests than I should’ve been. Not everyone liked books the way I did. I shouldn’t be so upset that Rabastan didn’t understand my fascination with the written word.

Sirius understood, the Andromeda voice reminded me.

I mentally glared at her for the unhelpful comments and put on a pouty face for my boyfriend. “Fine. No books.” It felt like a little part of me died just saying the words.

I tried to put all the implications of this simple little conversation out of my head as the warm water rolled down my back in the shower. I tried not to think about Rabastan or Sirius or my strange Andromeda voice but my brain just wouldn’t quit.

It went round and round in the most dizzying circle ever conceived. Would my date go well? Were Rabastan and I a good couple? Was I fooling myself? How long would this pureblood act last for me? Would I last until seventh year at least? Would I be able to get out of it by then? What place had Sirius been talking about? Was I going to go meet him at the start of term like he’d ordered? What did he want to discuss so badly? Was he going to kiss me again? Was I going to let him? Were we going to get caught together? What was Andromeda’s voice doing in my head? What was the real Andromeda doing right now? Were she and Ted still together? Was she happy? Over and over and over again until I could barely stand anymore.

When I stepped out of the shower I was all wrinkly. I dried myself off with my wand, put on the outfit I’d picked out the night before and the high-heeled boots I’d filched from Rosalie and curled my hair. I didn’t bother with very much makeup, just eyeliner and lip-gloss, because I felt like I’d been wearing a whole new face at every single ball this week.

“MIRA, SWEETHEART! RABASTAN IS HERE!” I heard my mother call sweetly from the first floor. I could almost hear the anticipation of wedding bells and grandchildren in her voice.

“I’LL BE DOWN IN A MOMENT!” I called back. I took a few deep breaths and checked myself in the mirror. I certainly looked the part of the loving girlfriend eager to go on her first legitimate date with her handsome boyfriend, if only I could make myself feel it.

I reached the top of the stairs and stopped. It may have been because of my handsome boyfriend or it may have just been the daunting task of walking down stairs in Rosalie’s boots but I suddenly felt my stomach turn uneasily.

I didn’t feel relief when I reached the bottom of the stairs, nor when we left the watchful eyes of my doting mother. All I could feel was my stomach crawling its way up my esophagus. When we got to the restaurant- a cozy little place, not far from Diagon Alley- it only got worse.

The hostess eyed me with distaste as Rabastan snaked his arm around my waist and told her that we would like a table for two. From what I could tell, she had mastered the spell that Nora had tried to teach me in third year. It was a spell that made your hair change colors with your mood. I was suddenly glad I’d never managed it, not only because my mother would have murdered me when she found out but also because I suddenly saw the disadvantage of displaying one’s mood. The hostess’s short inverted bob turned a delightful shade of sour-apple green.

Despite her obvious resentment, she put us in a cozy little booth table. I wasn’t sure whether I liked this or not. It seemed too intimate for a first date. I was uncomfortable with the fact that no one in the restaurant was likely to see us.

“Your server will be right with you,” the hostess said, a bit too cheerfully.

“So, what do you think so far?” he smiled, gesturing to our surroundings.

“I think that hostess better watch it or she’ll be getting my wand up her-“

His laughter interrupted my threat, “I meant about the restaurant.”

I pretended to consider this before shrugging, “It’s nice.”

Nice?” His nose wrinkled.

“Yes, nice,” I laughed. “I’m not going to wildly praise it before I’ve even tried the food!” I told him like the stuck up princess I was born to be.

He laughed again, “Touché, m’love.”

I suppressed a shudder at the endearment and turned to the server, who had arrived just in time. I suspected she’d been listening. Most likely the hostess had gushed to her about my boyfriend before she’d sent her over and, from the look on her face, Rabastan did not disappoint.

“Shall we order some then?” Rabastan asked, grinning at me the way the waitress was grinning at him.

“What can I do for you?” she asked with a suggestive sparkle in her eye.

I felt a flare of annoyance as she undressed my boyfriend with her dull brown eyes and another when he ordered for both of us without even asking me what I wanted. Did he think me incapable of deciding for myself? Was I going to take it lying down? No. No, I most certainly was not.

The waitress left us and I prepared to tear into him but before I could say a single cross word he grinned that wicked grin of his and said, “What will you do to her if you use your wand to impale the other one?”

I had to laugh at this, it was so typically Rabastan.

Feminism forgotten, I teased him back and the conversation flowed on easily from there. We laughed over our dinner, which was surprisingly delicious, and he deflected each and every flirtatious advance the very forward waitress through his way which made me happy.

We went for a walk after dinner and I began to think that perhaps I was making the right choice in denying my love for Sirius and choosing Rabastan instead. We had fun together, my family approved and he was intensely attractive. Maybe I could get over the rest of it. Maybe I didn’t have to leap off of that cliff and lose everything I’d ever known. Maybe I didn’t have to follow Sirius’s example. Maybe this wouldn’t be as hard as I thought. Maybe-

“Ah! Shit!” Rabastan hissed in pain.

“What? What’s wrong?” I said in a panicky voice. Then I saw that he was holding his left arm like it was broken. My eyebrows knit together but I tried not to let the ice cold horror that was running through my veins show on my face. I wasn’t supposed to know why my boyfriend always wore long sleeves. I wasn’t supposed to know what the sting in his arm right now meant.

The only reason I did know was because of Sirius. How he knew about the Dark Marks though, I had never asked. I wanted to know as little as possible about this particular subject.

“Are you not feeling well? Do we need to go back home?” I asked him, trying to act appropriately. How did a normal girl act when her boyfriend was actually sick?

“Yeah, I think we need to go.” He said, breathing deeply and straightening back out. “C’mon.”


***

Three hours later, I paced the floor of my bedroom impatiently. The second we’d gotten to my house Rabastan and my brothers had left together and my mind started spinning. Why did he need them now? What did he have them doing? Would they come back? And, more importantly, did I want them to?

The past few hours had made me re-evaluate things. I knew that no matter how easy it was to get along with Rabastan and how attracted I was to him, I could not get over this. I could not feign ignorance and live amongst people who stood for everything I loathed for the rest of my life. This would be exactly as hard as I thought. I couldn’t stand to think of what my boyfriend (it left a bad taste in my mouth just thinking the word) was out doing. What innocents was he hurting? Would I read of the havoc he was wreaking in the Prophet tomorrow? Or was it a lower key mission? More importantly, did it matter? No, it didn’t. I didn’t care how minor his and my brothers’ mission might be. The point was that they were on one to begin with.

Finally I heard a thump and a fair amount of shouting downstairs. My heart leapt into my throat and I rushed down the long grand staircase.
The blood was the very first thing I saw. Rabastan and Milo were both covered in it. A small vindictive part in the back of my mind was pleased when I noted that it was all their own blood.

My cousin Rosalie had arrived while I was upstairs, and while my aunts and mother showed my father and brother where to lay the injured boys and prepared to treat their injuries, she and my future sister-in-law played the role of overly emotional females who sob and scream in crisis instead of actually helping. I stood frozen in the doorway until my mother ordered me to hold Rabastan’s hand while she treated his broken bones.

I did as I was told, trying not to think about the blood that was getting on me because of it and straining my ears to hear as my brother told my father and Rabastan’s (who I assume had just apparated here, though the sound of his entrance was no doubt drowned out by all of the commotion) what had happened in subdued tones.

We almost had it.”

But?”
But the Order got it first,” Markus said gravely. “We split up because we weren’t sure who had it. Avery, Rabastan and Milo followed Potter and Black. Malfoy, Bella and I went after Longbottom and Dearborn.” He took a deep breath and shook his head wearily, “Potter and Black had it.” 

Potter and Black had it.
Sirius. My stomach rolled and heaved, attempting to eject the dinner I’d enjoyed with his attacker just hours earlier.

What had Sirius been fighting Death Eaters? Had he been hurt as badly as my brother and Rabastan? What the hell was ‘the order’? And what did they get that my boyfriend’s boss wanted so badly?

My thoughts swirled dizzily and I suddenly felt very light-headed. Rabastan had been chasing Sirius, fighting him. It made me uneasy just to picture. What had the love of my life done to my boyfriend? And why couldn’t I bring myself to care about anything but the fact that Sirius might be injured just as badly?

“How did they get like this though?” Mr. Lestrange hissed.

“Police car,” Rabastan sputtered, clutching my hand tighter as the incantation my mother was working over his leg hurt him. I hadn’t realized he was listening too.

“What?” Mr. Lestrange asked, at his son’s side in an instant. I didn’t like being so close to a man that, though he’d never been anything but nice to me, severely gave me the creeps. I’d heard too many stories of his ruthlessness to feel comfortable with him anywhere near me. Would his son end up being just as notorious? Would I one day feel uneasy being this close to Bas too? Would I be sticking around long enough to find out?

***

I avoided going to see Rabastan where he’d stayed in our guestroom the next morning. I’d tossed and turned all night, trying to decide what my next move would be. And I did have to make a move. It was time.

Sirius had chosen his side and was now battling those I was close to. He was putting himself in peril while I debated on which danger I could live with. The danger of associating closely with Death Eaters or the danger in rejecting them. I had to take action soon or I’d be forced in a direction I didn’t want to go.

The acute feeling of loneliness that I hadn’t been able to quite shake since Sirius had run away from home overwhelmed me now. I needed advice. I needed someone to assure me everything would work out, even if it was a lie. I needed to know if it was all worth the risk. But who could tell me that?

The light bulb turned on in my head.

Of course! Why hadn’t I thought about it before? Well, perhaps I had subconsciously. I just hadn’t had the motivation to act on it. But not I had plenty of motivation. My future was hurtling towards me faster than I would ever be ready for. There was only one person who would know the feeling. Only one person who could prepare me for what was coming next. I now knew what I had to do and I knew I had to do it soon.

***


It wasn't until the week before school began that I took the risk. The very considerable risk. One that, before I would've never dreamed of taking without the devious and clever Sirius leading the way. Assuring me we wouldn't get caught, holding my hand and distracting my thoughts entirely by the physical contact.

But I needed to talk to someone and there was only one person I could think of that could understand my suffering. Only one individual had been in such a similar situation. Only she could truly help me now.

Her decision had been slightly easier but it had still been love over the life she knew. She'd chosen to forsake it all for a boy and a life that her family would never approve of and I needed to know if it was worth it.

I tried to be as inconspicuous as possible, waiting for a rainy day and donning old Muggle clothes. A vintage T-shirt, faded jeans and a hooded sweatshirt. I threw the hood up- wishing I had an Invisibility Cloak instead (maybe I should've filched Potter's) - and tucked my ponytail back into it. I kept my head down but checked over my shoulder subtly- a ridiculous amount of times- as I treaded through the crowded streets of London.

When I got nearer, I took a detour. I shrewdly ducked into a dark back street to make sure I wasn't being followed, making my way through deserted allies with overflowing dumpsters and broken street lamps.

I wasn't scared of anything but being followed. I had my wand if anyone tried something- they wouldn't have a chance if I hexed them.

When I was almost certain no one had followed me, I slithered out of the alley way and back onto the main street. I kept my hood on as I walked slowly down the street. My pulse crashed in my ears, my stomach twisted sickeningly and my brain raced incoherently.

Why was I risking this? I was already in mortal danger, why did I feel the need to make it worse?

I stepped around a puddle on the sidewalk and clenched my hands into fists in my pockets- trying to concentrate on the light sound my footsteps made. I considered turning back but felt a twinge at the thought.

Not only was I in desperate need of guidance, but I really wanted to see her. Part of me was ridiculously excited to see the girl who'd been like my older sister for so long. I wanted it so bad I could taste it.

No, I wasn't going to turn back and pretend that my crazy impulse had never happened. I couldn't.

It began to drizzle again- a light breezy mist. The wind picked up and blew my hood off. But I didn't panic- I'd accepted that I was risking everything. If someone was following me, I would simply look at it as an intervention by fate. She'd be making the decision for me- what ever happened after that, happened. I would take it as it came and assume it would go the way it was supposed to. Even if that meant death.

I stopped in front of the unfamiliar flat apprehensively, would she be happy to see me? Or would she be angry at me for putting her and the love she’d left her family for in even more danger? Or would she be angry with me for not coming to her sooner?

I shook this futile worry away- I'd been in first year, for Merlin's sake! I couldn't have followed her if I'd wanted to. She'd understand that.

I forced my foot forward- one step at a time- until I finally reached the door. I took several deep breaths, trying to work up the nerve to knock on the door. Finally, I held my breath completely and risked a very tentative knock.

Seconds later the door opened and I came face to face with the ever handsome Ted Tonks.

For a moment, I felt like a drooling little first year again. He was still gorgeous as ever, with that strong jaw, prominent chin and those sandy curls. He looked slightly more mature and he seemed to have gotten slightly taller. But his eyes were exactly the same shade of earnest hazel that I remembered.

And then I was snapped out of my momentary daze by a wonderfully familiar voice.

"Teddy, love? Who is it? Is it the bo-?" Andromeda broke off abruptly when she poked her head into the hallway and saw me.

And then the rest of her body followed. I gasped in shock. Because on her hip, nestling her pretty face into Andromeda's neck as she slept, was a small baby girl with turquoise colored curls.

***

(Hey guys,
Sorry about that lack of
updates, writer's block hit me hard. And with all the craziness going on lately I just couldn't bring myself to work through it. But I think I've gotten through it. So I really hope you can lay your down pitchforks long enough to tell me what you think in a {hopefully good} review!
Love love love, RED)


Chapter 14: Andromeda's Advice
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Chapter 14~ Andromeda's Advice


The fact that Andromeda was a mother shocked me- though I'm not sure why, she was always the maternal type. The fact that her daughter was a metamorphamagus intrigued me. And the fact that said daughter seemed to take such an immediate liking to me baffled me entirely.

The only baby that had ever really adored me this way was Emi. I always attributed it to the ridiculous amount of time I spent at their house when she was a baby (which also served to annoy my big brother).

But little Nymphadora Tonks had only just met me when she woke up an hour ago. Yet there she was clinging to me as I talked anxiously to her mother.

In the last hour, she'd changed her curls to my exact shade of mahogany and manipulated her bone structure to look like mine as well. Her rosebud lips were full and a bit too curved- exactly like mine- her cheek bones were high and her face was heart shaped. Even her little almond shaped eyes were a duplicate, down to the very last fleck of gold. She looked like I had at that age, my younger self in the flesh.

She yawned and nestled herself into me as her eyelids fluttered.

Andromeda smiled softly- distracted for a moment. "She only duplicates people she likes. She's very talented that way."

A smile tugged at my own lips despite my stress. It was so hard to feel uneasy with the feeling of her little heartbeat on my skin, calming me with its fluttering little rhythm.

“Every day I think about the choice I made but I’ve never regretted it,” she murmured seriously as she gazed adoringly at the little girl in my arms.

“Do you ever wonder what it would’ve been like if you would have stayed?” I asked her.

“Sometimes,” she sighed. “But it isn’t a huge mystery.”

I looked at her, confused. “What d’you mean?”

“Think about it, Mira.” She leaned in with the intensity of her words. “Think about your future. You have two paths,” she told me with certainty. “The first is the road less traveled, leaving home. You’d be able to stop lying and you’d get to be with Sirius- don’t try to tell me that’s not a done deal because I know my cousin better than even you do. If you leave home, you two would end up together,” she insisted when I opened my mouth to interrupt her. “Beyond that though, you have no idea what is going to happen.” She let that sink in for a moment before continuing. “The second path would be the… well, I can’t really call it easy because it wouldn’t be, would it? I suppose it’s the one most of the people who don’t know the real you would expect you to take.”

“To stay with my family and Rabastan.”

“Exactly. And what do you imagine would happen in that scenario?”

“Well, I suppose I’d probably never have the courage to break up with him, would I? Because my parents approve of us so much and my whole family is so happy about it. I’d never be able to let go of that.”

“Not likely.”

“Which would mean that I’d have to marry him eventually,” I said, my eyebrows knitting together with that troubling thought. I couldn’t fit being a Death Eater’s wife in my perception of myself, though the picture in my head was crystal clear. I was horrified at what it showed me.

Rabastan and I with our arms around each other smiling plastically as three perfect raven-haired children stood stiffly in front of us, dressed in their best clothing and exhibiting the impeccable manners that had been hammered into their skulls since birth. I studied my own face in this image and saw my eyes, usually warm and swirling with flecks of gold, had hardened and turned cold with half-circle bruises underneath. I saw that the way Rabastan and I held each other just a little too formally for us to be truly comfortable.

I swallowed hard and the look in Andromeda’s eyes told me she knew exactly what I was seeing in my mind’s-eye. My head fell into my free hand, unable to stand that look for long.

“What am I going to do?” My agony was muffled into my palm and I looked back up at her pleadingly. I wanted her to tell me what to do and how to do it. I wanted her to order me to stop acting like a child and make the decision I would inevitably have to make. She didn’t though.

“Only you can know that, sweet.” She told me, maternally. “You know who you are. You know what you want. You just have to decide if it’s worth it.” Her eyes softened more than I would have thought was possible as she looked back down at her daughter. “For me, it was.”

***

It probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do, but I stayed for dinner. Teddy returned from whatever errand she’d sent him on and little Dora woke up again, demanding her mother’s attention. I didn’t have the courage to leave yet.

Perhaps I thought staying and seeing her life in action would push me in the right direction. But the passionate love she and Teddy still seemed to feel very deeply for each other just began to depress me.

I knew I would never feel that way with Rabastan, no matter how well we got along and how attractive he was. It wasn’t possible after the last week; the incident with Sirius had brought the fact that my boyfriend was a Death Eater into the forefront of my mind. If it had been an issue in the relationship before it was now a thorn that had pierced the very heart. It seemed to sharpen and fill out as the week went by and Rabastan remained absorbed in his mission. Without him there to flatter and tease me it was easy to hold onto the horrified feeling I’d felt that night. Not for my boyfriend but for his enemy. It was easy, without his tantalizing kisses to distract me, to remember how deeply I loathed everything he held to be right and true. How could I ever grow to love someone who was so completely opposite from who I hoped to be? Who I already was?

I watched Andromeda feed her baby (who had changed her hair again, this time to a curious magenta, though she kept my curly texture) as her husband gazed on in admiration, while still managing to keep up a steady conversation about nothing important with me. Occasionally, he’d lean over and plant a tender kiss on her head or nose or lips and I felt a hollow pang in my chest.

The only person I would ever be able to feel that way about was Sirius, I was certain of it. But, no matter what his cousin said, I just couldn’t trust that he’d feel the same way. No matter how passionately he kissed me when no one was around, his track record wasn’t exactly the best. How would I ever be sure that he wouldn’t abandon me again? It was so easy for him to just pick up and leave the first time, who’s to say he wouldn’t do it again? I didn’t think I could handle that.

Death Eaters? Sure. Disappointed parents? Perhaps. But I couldn’t have my heart broken twice.

I sighed when darkness began to creep outside.

“You have to go, don’t you?” Andromeda said sadly.

“Yes,” I said, unable to keep the melancholy from my own voice. It had been so long since I’d seen her, I wasn’t ready to say goodbye yet. But if I stayed much longer my mother would begin to wonder, if she wasn’t already. The last thing I wanted was to make my family suspicious of my whereabouts.


“I’ll walk you to the door,” she told my as I stood. She handed her daughter to her husband and led me out of the room. We reached her front door too soon and panic fluttered in my chest. Was this is then? Was this my goodbye to her?

“Can I come see you again?” I asked tentatively. “I mean, I don’t want to put you in any danger but-“

“Of course you can. And you will,” she cut across me with the confidence I’d always admired.

“I don’t know,” I bit my lip reluctant to make such a promise. I had been lucky to get away from my mother’s grasp this time, it would be like lightening striking the same place twice if I could manage it again.

“I do. You’ll be back. In the meantime, take care of yourself. And, I know you’re mad that he left you like that, but try not to torture that thick headed cousin of mine for too long, yeah?”

I hesitated, “I don’t understand what that means.”

“Yes, you do,” she winked and pulled me in for a hug and a peck on the cheek. Then she said cheerfully, “Bye, sweets. See you soon!”

And that was it. She closed the door behind me as I walked down the stairs in a daze- more confused than before in some ways.

I remained like that all of the way home. That is, until I walked through my front door and found my mother, father and brothers all standing in the foyer looking irate.

Oh, this could not be good. 

***
(I know it's short but it is very important and at least it's something right? Senior year has officially started and I thought, before things get too crazy, I should get as many updates as I can. Inspiration struck for some reason and this is what I got. hopefully more to come soon in this one and other stories of mine so keep an eye out! I'm already writing the next chapter in my head, no joke. Until then, I hope you enjoyed this one! 
Love, RED)


Chapter 15: A Very Unhappy New Year
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(I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm so so so so sorry! I haven't updated in ages, I know. College is distracting. Please forgive me and enjoy this chapter! xo RED)


Chapter 15~ A Very Unhappy New Year

 

The minute I saw them, my stomach dropped to my shoes and my heart leapt into my throat, beating faster than I’d ever felt it before. Was this what it felt like to have a heart attack? My left side wasn’t tingling or numb. I had no pains in my chest, more panicked tightness, but no pain. So it couldn’t be a heart attack, could it? I wasn’t sure. All I could feel was my pulse pounding and the nausea rolling in my abdomen. If I didn’t get out of here, Andy’s dinner would be all over the polished marble floors. 

 

They knew

 

They’d followed me, or someone else had and they’d come to tell my family. But either way, they knew where I’d been tonight. I would no longer have to agonize over the decision and its possible ramifications because I wouldn’t have to make the decision. My family was going to throw me out, or worse. Maybe they would torture me. Kill me? Part of me refused to believe them capable of murdering me but another part knew they’d probably all killed for their cause before (or, at least, my brothers had). The fact that I was the baby of the family would probably mean nothing in light of my betrayal. 

 

Purity of the blood and the Dark Lord reigned supreme to them. Anyone who challenged that, family or not, would be eliminated. 

 

This was it for me. It was all over. 

 

And, though I faced death at the hands of my family, part of me almost felt like a burden had been lifted. There would be more pretending. No more lying. No more fraternizing with people I couldn’t stand.

 

My only concern now was how this would go down. Would they let me leave? Could I get my stuff? Would I even be able to escape at all if they decided to cut the bad branch of the family tree off entirely?

 

I don’t know why exactly I didn’t notice the formal-wear but it probably had something to do with the inner panic attack I was currently experiencing. It was no ordinary panic attack. In fact, panic was not even a strong enough word for what I was feeling. My insides were in a chaotic frenzy and it felt like my skin was the only thing keeping them from going everywhere at once. I felt like I might combust.

 

Regardless though, I noticed their unusual attire when my mother said, “Where have you been, young lady? Oh, never mind! Go get dressed. Now!”

 

She tried to shoo me upstairs but I stood rooted to the floor in shock and confusion. “D-dressed? Wh-“ 

 

“Told you she forgot, mum,” Milo smirked. It wasn’t a malicious, you’re-so-getting-thrown-out smirk but more an amused, silly-baby-sister-would-lose-her-head-if-it-weren’t-attached smirk. It was teasing and indulgent. His eyes were warm and laughing, the way they had been all break, not cold and calculating as I expected. 

 

I glanced at Markus, his eyes were even warmer and an adoring smile danced on his lips. Even my dad was fighting a smile. I realized his own personal agitation had less to do with me and more to do with the fact that he didn’t want to go to whatever formal event it was I’d forgotten about and I was prolonging things with my tardiness. 

 

“Forgot what?” I asked, my eyebrow knitting together. 

 

“It’s New Year’s Eve!” My mother exclaimed, exasperatedly. “We’re supposed to be at the Malfoys’ New Year’s Eve Ball right now!” 

 

New Year’s Eve. 

 

I was late for a ball. That’s why they were mad. That’s why they were all in the foyer waiting for me in their formal-wear. 

 

Oh. My. God. 

 

Half of me was suddenly high on the fact that I was not going to face death, torture or being thrown out in the cold with just the clothes on my back tonight. The other half however, was crashing like a bird that had just been shot down by a hunter, freedom from pretense had been short lived but sort of sweet in its own way.

 

“Go! Go! You need to get ready!” My mother fussed. “I set your dress out on your bed already. Do you want my help with your hair and makeup?” 

 

“No, I’ve got it,” I murmured, trying to shake off my haze. I hurried up the stairs and into my room and shut the door tightly behind me before sinking to the floor. It took me a few seconds to realize I was crying but when I did it just made more tears spill over. 

 

What was wrong with me? Relief warred with grief as I tried to get a grip on what had just happened. I had had a taste - if only in my head- with what the consequences of my decision would look like. If I told them it would be ten times worse than only thinking they knew a few minutes ago. I thought back to what Andromeda said. It had been worth it for her, would it be worth it for me?

 

I sat there in a ball for about five minutes before my teary eyes spotted the blue evening gown I’d be ringing in the New Year with. It was gorgeous- of course- with a fitted bodice, sweetheart neckline and flaring skirt. No doubt, Rosalie and Tamora had helped pick it out. Was I ever going to be allowed to pick my own dresses? 

 

I sighed wearily and wiped the tears from my cheeks, pulling myself back up. If I didn’t go down there soon my mother would be coming up to see what was taking me so long. And that, I was sure, would produce uninvited questions. 

 

I stepped into the dress grudgingly, did my hair by magic and applied as little make up as I could get away with. Thankfully my pores and hormones were getting along today, despite the fact that I was PMSing, so I didn’t need to layer on concealer to hide any annoying breakouts. I wore a simple silver necklace with a small sapphire dangling from it (a gift Sirius had given me for Christmas last year) and matching sapphire stud earrings.

 

I took a few deep breaths as I stared at my reflection in the mirror. When I finally decided I would pass my mother’s inspection and that I could do so without crying again, I went downstairs. 

 

“What do you think?” I asked when I reached the foyer. 

 

“Beautiful,” my mother answered absently. “Let’s go.”

 

***

 

 

“I can’t believe we’re missing Michael Moon’s party,” Rosalie muttered next to me. 

 

This did not surprise me. The annual Moon brothers’ bash was always the same night as the Malfoy ball and Rose always wanted to be there rather than in the Malfoy Manor (though she wasn’t exactly alone in this wish). It was the biggest Hogwarts party of the year (outside of the castle itself that is). Michael Moon was a seventh year Ravenclaw who had somehow managed to remain friendly and neutral with everyone. Purebloods and Muggleborns alike loved Michael (I should ask him for some tips).

 

“Just wait until they get a bit more smashed and then we can slip out without them noticing,” replied Rosier in her ear. 

 

My cousin smiled mischievously as he nuzzled her neck and I fought the urge to puke all over them. “Sounds good to me. As long as we make it before midnight. You coming, Mirabelle?” 

 

I had no desire to go anywhere with those two but I didn’t want to stay at the Malfoy manor either so I shrugged and said, “I suppose so. If Bas is up for it.” 

 

“If I’m up for what?” Rabastan’s arms coiled around my waist and I felt his breath on my neck.

 

“Sneaking out of here to go to Moon’s party when all the adults are too smashed to notice,” Rosier answered with a smirk.

 

“Fantastic. I’m in,” Rabastan said before taking my hand. “Shall we dance, love?”

 

I let my boyfriend lead me to the floor with a sick churning in my stomach that had absolutely nothing to do with how tightly he held me to him and everything to do with Michael Moon’s party. 

 

Everyone went to this party. EVERYONE.

 

I wasn’t sure that I was up for another party at which Sirius would be present again (and there wasn’t a single speck of doubt in my mind that he would be). What if he decided that he couldn’t wait for our “talk” until we got back to Hogwarts and we were overheard by one of the Slytherins? What if he had a date? What if he snogged some girl in front of me again? 

 

As I danced with my boyfriend, a million different scenarios played out in my head. Most of them ended horribly, with Rabastan or Rosalie finally figuring out where my real loyalties were and myself being disowned before I could smuggle my stuff out of my house. Some of them, though, slipped into fantasies of myself and Sirius in some tantalizingly private corner of the house, far away from all of the rest of the guests. 

 

I imagined slipping away from Rabastan and my cousin to explore the rest of the house. Sirius following me into some room a floor or two above the party. I imagined the words we’d whisper and the declarations of love that would be made. But, the main thing I imagined was what we’d do behind a locked door. How I’d tangle my fingers in his curls and he’d slip his under my gown, how our lips would weld together and never part, how we’d continue where we left off without any interruptions or unpleasant recollections of other girls he’d kissed to stop us. 

 

A tiny piece of me felt guilty for harboring these dreams while in Rabastan’s arms but most of me just wished hopelessly that such fantasies had a chance of coming true. 

 

It was as I imagined lying on a bed with Sirius that I realized something. 

 

“Bas?”

 

“Hmm?” He sounded as if I’d interrupted some deep thinking. 

 

“I don’t have anything to change into when we sneak off to Michael’s.” 

 

“Don’t worry,” said Rosalie, who I hadn’t realized was dancing so near until she’d spoken. “I’ve got it covered.” 

 

I didn’t ask what she meant because, after fifteen years, I’d learned that I didn’t want to know all of Rosalie’s methods. It was just better that way.

 

Four more dances, two glasses of pink wine, and one drunken episode from Mrs. Parkingson later, it was time. It was clear that the adults were thoroughly smashed and would fail to notice our absence, the four of us snuck off to the study.

 

“Here,” Rose said shortly. She reached into her tiny silver clutch and I was mildly surprised when her entire arm was engulfed in the small bag. No doubt she’d enchanted it to fit a multitude of items she felt to be necessities. I couldn’t help but be impressed; the Undetectable Extension Charm was tricky, even for me (a Ravenclaw). I’d only managed it three times. “Wear these.” 

 

She shoved some clothes into my hand and told me to go into the closet and change. I groaned and griped but, in the end, stepped into the surprisingly roomy closet to peel off my ball gown and put on Rose’s clothes. I stepped out, feeling ridiculous and horridly exposed. 

 

“Rose, I think you gave me the wrong outfit,” I told her, pulling uncomfortably at the short skirt (who would choose a skirt in the middle of winter?). It was a tight black item paired with a forest green top with a plunging neck line. 

 

“No, I didn’t.” She told me, already dressed to the nines in a fire engine red, off the shoulder top with a white skirt even shorter than the one I was already wearing. “I chose that top especially for you. It makes your eyes pop nicely.” 

 

“I like it,” Rabastan told me and I saw that he’d changed out of dress robes into jeans and a blue shirt. “It makes you look sexy.” 

 

“Easy for you to say,” I scoffed at his suggestive grin. “You get to wear jeans.” 

 

“C’mon, Mira,” Rosier chimed in. “Loosen up.”

 

I glowered at him.

 

“You might as well stop whining,” Rose told me as she took down her updo and shook out her long blonde curls. “It’s your only option.”

 

She flicked her wand at me and I felt my own updo fall and my curls drape over my shoulders freely. It actually helped me feel a bit more covered to have my hair down, a bit less exposed. But not by much. 

 

“Fine,” I grumbled.

 

“Let’s go then, shall we?” 

 

I thought we’d be going be Floo Powder but Rose’s horrified look about the subject when I brought it up was my answer. Of course, Rosalie wouldn’t want to risk getting dirty.

 

“Then how do you suppose we’re going to get there? Brooms?”

 

“Of course not,” she told me. “We’re apparating.” 

 

“Um, Ro? I can’t apparate, remember? I’m only fifteen.” 

 

You can’t apparate but we can. You’ll go sidelong with Rabastan, obviously.

 

“But, my Trace-”

 

You won’t be apparating, technically, so the Trace won’t matter.” 

 

“Oh.” 

 

“Yeah, oh. Now can we leave please?” Rosier said impatiently. 

 

I glowered at him but took Rabastan’s arm nonetheless. Seconds later, I felt the unpleasant sensation of apparition. I held my breath until my feet touched the ground again and opened my eyes tentatively.

 

We were outside of a handsome manor, the kind my mother would have thoroughly approved of, with expertly trimmed hedges and ivy neatly draped on it’s face. The entire ground floor seemed to glow a haunting blue and muffled music thudded from somewhere inside. 

 

Rabastan slid his hand into mine and then began to pull me through the gate and up the walk, through the superbly manicured gardens, behind  Rosier and Rose. My stomach turned uneasily as Rosier knocked the door once with his wand once and it swung opened. I gasped. 

 

The party was not only hopping but the inside of the house was even more beautiful than the outside had been and somehow the blue glow seemed to make it even more enchanting. We moved into the crowds of loud, gyrating teenagers and Rosier lead us directly to some of their fellow Slytherins (who’d been lucky enough to get out of or not be invited to the Malfoys’ Annual New Years Eve Ball). 

 

I groaned, knowing that Rabastan had no hope of hearing it over the noise of the party. It was harder, by far, to hang out with these Slytherins when I knew there was another option. Usually, during breaks, I had no other option (well, not since Sirius had been disowned), I had to hang out with the purebloods in my family circle and their Slytherin friends or with my family or (my preferred option) spend my time alone. But my friends were at this party, as were plenty of other people I would get along with better than a bunch of Slytherins. I had other options. I had a whole house full of other options. But I couldn’t seize the opportunity to get some non-Slytherin- socialization in, because how suspicious would it look to ditch my cousin and boyfriend who I’d come with? However much I wanted to, I couldn’t just let go of Rabastan’s hand and walk away from the group to join my friends across the giant sitting room where the main part of the party raged. 

 

So, I stood next to my boyfriend and did my best to laugh when I was supposed to and joined in on the cheerful banter among them as if my full attention was on this little group. It was not. 

 

The cells in my body, while aware of Rabastan’s arm around my waist, did not seem to care about it. Not because I was used to having a Death Eater’s arm around me (though by now, I suppose I should’ve been). No, it was because every cell in my body was aware of another presence in the house. Every ounce of me that I could spare from the Slytherin group’s conversation was concentrating on a figure who, like my friends, was also across the packed sitting room.

 

Sirius stood with James and the other Marauders among a pack of mostly Gryffindors. I’d like to say that he watched me intently with that sizzling, broody stare of his. I’d like to say that he only had eyes for me and that it was obvious he was still thinking about our kiss. But, he wasn’t and it wasn’t. However, for once, there wasn’t a girl on his arm and he wasn’t flirting with any. I took comfort in this trivial fact. Instead, he was laughing at some joke I could not hear and enjoying conversation I could not take part in. 

 

My heart gave an empty sort of pang, I longed to go over there. I ached to march through the blondes that hovered at the edge of his circle, past the Gryffindors who constantly surround him, and fling my arms around him. I imagined he’d wrap his strong arms around me, lift me from the ground, and spin me, until I squealed that I was getting dizzy, like he always used to. I fantasized again about his lips on mine, my hands in his curls, my legs wrapped around his waist. How it would feel to slide my tongue-

 

“Mirabelle? Earth to Mirabelle?” Rosalie laughed.

 

“Huh?” I snapped out of my fantasy, realizing that I’d been staring into the space between Rosier and Avery and that my cousin had been asking me a question. The entire group was grinning at me in amusement. Silly Mira, staring into space again. 

 

“I’m going to get some Firewhiskey,” she repeated. “You want one?” 

 

“Uh, no thanks, Rose.” I said clearing my throat. 

 

My cousin simply shrugged and said, “Suit yourself.”

 

She came back a few minutes later with Firewhiskey for everyone. Even me. 

 

And, though I had told her no, I took it politely and pretended to sip at it as everyone else in the circle went through four or five more. When they were all slobbering drunk, my boyfriend became involved in a very vehement conversation about Potion regulations with Mulciber (though I’m sure neither of them knew anything about Potions regulations) and Rose and Rosier disappeared (no doubt to go violate a perfectly good bedroom), that’s when I took my chance. 

 

I mumbled something about going to “freshen up” in the bathroom and slipped away from the Slytherins, unnoticed by my boyfriend or anyone else. Instead of marching over to Sirius or joining my Ravenclaw friends, however, I went up the stairs to roam the house alone. If I went with either of the first two options, I would be sure to cause a scene. Rabastan might have been drunk and he probably would never remember it but I was sure he would not like it if he saw me with people who were not his friends at this party. I didn’t want to test it either way. I prayed silently that Rose and Rosier had actually made it into a room before they started shagging so that I had no chance of running into them in the maze of corridors and set off in the most untraveled looking direction. I wanted to get away from people. My head ached with all of the day’s events and I needed quiet to untangle my thoughts, at least partially.


I wasn’t terribly concerned about being lost in this massive manor house. I probably should have been since I could no longer hear the thumping bass of the blaring party music. But I just couldn’t make myself feel concerned in the calm quiet corridor. It was peaceful here. I could finally hear myself think. The solidarity was oddly comforting, the silence a nice change.


“Mira.”


Well, it was nice while it lasted.


My heart jumped into my throat and I whirled around on the spot.


Sirius stood behind me leaving against the wall, looking as if he often snuck up on girls who were in love with him in dark corridors. Which, I suppose, for all I knew he did. 

 

“You have got to stop doing that,” I told him in my best irritated voice. I wasn’t about to let him know that I was, in fact, terrified and thrilled to see him here. The fantasy I’d had in Rabastan’s arms earlier at the ball was suddenly a tantalizing reality and my stomach flipped with anticipation. 

 

“Well, how else am I going to talk to you? You treat me like a pariah when people are around.” 

 

My eyes narrowed. “It’s not like I have a choice!”


“There’s always a choice, Mir,” he countered, taking a step closer to me.


“Bullocks,” I spat at him. “You know better than anyone that when one leaves to be a blood traitor anyone they were close to falls under suspicion. Or have you forgotten when Andromeda left?”


“Funny you should mention Andy,” he smirked. The sparkle in his eyes made my stomach do another flip for several reasons. One being that it told me he knew. He knew I’d gone to see her. But did he know what we’d discussed? “She told me an interesting story about a visitor she had.” 

 

I sighed resignedly and raised my eyes to the ceiling where the firelight from the torches danced. “Fine, yes. I snuck out to see her. What of it?” 



“I don’t think your boyfriend would approve,” he replied, he was still smirking blithely but his voice had a bitter edge to it. 

 

“What business is it of yours?” I glared at him, crossing my arms defensively. 

 

This was not what I had fantasized about. There was too much talking and too little snogging in this reality. Instead of being lost in lust, I was just getting annoyed. I didn’t want to argue with Sirius anymore, I wanted to kiss him. But I didn’t want him to know that so I continued to be hostile. Why did he always insist on trying to get a rise out of me? 

 

“It’s very much my business, Mira,” his face and voice became serious as he took yet another step towards me. 

 

I scoffed derisively, “How? How the hell is it any of your-?” 

 

I didn’t get to finish because, once again, I found myself silenced by the lips of Sirius Black. 

 

It was better than my fantasies. Better than anything I could have come up with in my imagination. 

 

He held my face in both of his hands, keeping me from pulling away I suppose. What he didn’t know was that I was not in any way willing to move. My mother, Milo, and Rabastan could have all walked up on us and I would not have pulled away even slightly, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed them. I was too caught up in this delicious new feeling. 

 

It was a mix of strange and familiar. His hands on my face, his entire body pressing mine blissfully into the wall, the taste of butterbeer and Firewhiskey on his tongue, his five o’clock shadow against my chin. It was all Sirius and it all made me weak at the knees. 

 

After my initial shock, I responded enthusiastically to his lips, wrapping my arms around his neck and tangling my fingers into the little downy-soft hairs at the bak of his head. Once I’d made it clear, I had absolutely no intention of moving away his hands traveled from my cheeks, tantalizingly sliding down my neck before resting at my waist. It was such a different sensation, Sirius’s hands on my waist, more intimate than I would have expected. 

 

He’d touched me there before but never in this way, serious and steady. It was always in a silly way, usually to lift me up and throw me over his shoulder so he could throw me into a pool of freezing water fully clothed or something. So, the way he was holding me now felt completely foreign and it sent a warm sensation tingling through my veins. My skin felt hot and my pulse was pounding so hard he could probably feel it but a chill ran down my spine. Every sense and every cell in my body was electrified. The only part of my body that seemed to have shut off, for once, was my brain. It was as if the force with which his lips had come down on mine had knocked it clear out of my skull. And I was entirely okay with that. The fuzzy haze in it’s place didn’t bother me, it didn’t tell me to stop, it didn’t remind me that I had a boyfriend or that my mother might quite literally murder me if she found out what I was doing right now- it just let me be. I didn’t want to think, I wanted to feel

 

I wanted to feel his lips as they kneaded mine, I wanted to feel his teeth graze my bottom lip and his right left hand slide into my hair as the other curled even more tightly around my waist. I wanted to feel the kisses he trailed down my jawline and my neck as I caught my breath and his breath on my face as he whispered my name breathlessly- just once- before claiming my lips with his own once more. 

 

I lost track of time completely as we kissed with abandon in that dark hall. I was so swept up in the feelings that kissing Sirius sent buzzing through my body, a heard of elephants carrying mandrakes on their backs could have stampeded by and I probably wouldn’t have noticed. 

 

Sirius, however, must not have been nearly as involved as I was because he heard her and I (of course) didn’t. She must have made some sort of noise because, all of the sudden, he stiffened and broke our embrace. 

 

She was speaking to him even before I’d turned my head. 

 

“Sirius, we got a message. James already left and he told me to come find you because they need all of us,” Lily Evans said cryptically, with disapproval lathering her voice. She stood before us, hand on her hip, long red hair hanging down her back carelessly, eyes tight and brows knit together ever so slightly. Her emerald eyes were piercing but they were trained on Sirius (I sensed this was pointed). 

 

 Sirius cleared his throat and stepped away from me before stuttered. “Shit, uh-um, okay. I’d best catch up to him then.” He looked back at me eyes regretful and apologetic, his face serious. “We’ll talk at school, yeah?”

 

I couldn’t seem to access my vocal chords so I just nodded. 

 

He took my hand and gave it a squeeze then- much to my surprise- kissed me once more, a longing sort of kiss, before turning and walking away. 

 

Cold air rushed harshly to replace where his body had been pressed to mine and my heart was in my throat as I sunk back into reality. I was coming down from my Sirius high in a crash and burn fashion. I was so distracted by the complete flip my feelings took as soon as he was gone that I hardly noticed Lily Evans was still standing before me until she spoke. 

 

“I don’t understand you.” 

 

I looked at her, eyes widening. I’d spoken probably all of five words to the girl in my five years at Hogwarts. The only reason she knew I existed was because I was Sirius Black’s little friend who enjoyed tearing the mickey out of James Potter-who was obsessed with her. We’d never been friends or even familiar with each other. So, I was a bit confused at the forward angry-but-candid tone. 

 

“Um, sorry?” I replied, hesitantly. 

 

“First, you and Sirius are sickeningly close, then you completely ostracize him when he finally follows what he believes in, and now you’re stringing him along in dark corridors while your Death Eater boyfriend and his cronies are downstairs. Are you that cruel and selfish?” 

 

I blinked at her in shock. Trying to formulate a coherent thought to defend myself against this sudden ambush. I was still too fuzzy from Sirius’s kissing to access my Ravenclaw wit. I couldn’t comprehend quite what was happening because none of it fit into my schema of Lily Evans. 

 

She was nice, perfect and proper. She was most likely to be Head-freaking-girl next year. The only person I’d ever seen her confront like this was James Potter. And everyone knew that was only because she didn’t want to admit she was madly in love with him. She didn’t know me well and she’d never before given a damn about Sirius (one of the reasons my opinion of her had been high until now-she wasn’t one of the bimbos). So why the hell was she yelling at me? 

 

Before I could form a react to her first attack she continued on. 

 

“Oh, of course, I know you probably have never heard the word ‘no’ in your entire life. Mummy and daddy have taught you that the world revolves around you but, newsflash, princess- it doesn’t. Sirius has been through a hell of a lot and you have no right to play with his feelings like this,” she fumed, her eyes blazing into me- all judgement and accusations. “He was really torn up when you wouldn’t talk to him, when you wouldn’t even acknowledge him, and if all you’re going to do is hurt him then perhaps you should just go back where you belong. Back to mummy and daddy and your Death Eater-” 

 

That did it. 

 

I finally relocated my vocal chords and the anger that had been slowly building with each of her words was released. 

 

“Newsflash, princess,” I cut across her. “It is none of your damn business what happens between Sirius and me. Last term, you wouldn’t have even cared, so why my personal life is suddenly of interest to you now, I don’t know.” I told her, my voice seething. “But let’s get one thing absolutely straight. You have no idea what my life is like, so don’t pretend you have a clue. I have never lead Sirius on, all our lives it has been the reverse. So you wanna talk selfish and abandonment? Go talk to him. He left me. He left me in the situation I am in and basic survival instincts tell you to adapt or die. I acclimated myself, I tried to please my family so they wouldn’t hate me. I tried to fit in and pretend that my best friend hadn’t left me by myself in that hell without so much as a ‘Hey, I ran away and all of the Purebloods are going to keep you under a fucking microscope for the rest of the year’ warning,” I told her, my voice rising. 

 

Her eyes had widened ever so slightly, though I could tell she was trying to keep her hard expression. She was clearly surprised. I guess she hadn’t expected me to fight back. She hadn’t expected my to defend myself with the facts. She had expected me to meekly take her verbal abuse and scurry off so she could bask in her own perfection- the twit. She had expected a strictly one-sided attack, further proof of how very little this girl actually knew me.

 

When she was thoroughly caught off guard, I went in for the kill. “And speaking of leading people on, talked to James Potter lately?”

 

Her eyes widened without restraint now and I knew I had hit the nail on the head. I had heard snippets of gossip among the tawdry tales of the drama Sirius and I were supposedly living, that things were heating up between Lily Evans and James Potter. 

 

They had always bickered like an old married couple but everyone in Hogwarts could see they were eventually going to end up together. Up until today, I’d always thought the Evans could do better- now I was wondering, though I really disliked Potter, if it might not be the reverse.

 

According to the Hogwarts gossip, James Potter was using a new approach and the redhead before me was not entirely unaffected by his charms. He was allegedly doing his best to show her that he could be the responsible man she wanted. (Though, honestly, how successful could that really be considering it’s James Potter.) He was trying to be the man of her dreams. However, she continued to refuse him.

 

She was caught and she knew it. I could tell by the look in her eyes that she knew I had her. (So, perhaps the gossips at Hogwarts actually did get it right every once in a while.)

 

“Yeah, you’re a bigger topic of gossip than I am, princess. And from what I’ve seen and heard, you’ve been leading that boy on for ages. So don’t you dare criticize me and my life when you know absolutely nothing. Nothing,” I was finished and she was stunned into silence. 

 

Having won, my adrenaline still pumping through my veins (whether from the argument or the pre-cursing kiss I wasn’t entirely sure), I stomped off in the direction that I had come from. I left her standing there, still semi-frozen in surprise and blinking in confusion. Sirius, or rather James, must have fed her a different version of events. She had a false notion of me going into this attack. Typical. 

 

I wondered scathingly what the other version was and how much of it Potter had twisted in his retelling. And what the hell was it to Lily Evans anyway? She’d always looked at Sirius as James Potter’s mindless, playboy, partner-in-crime. Why all of the sudden did she care about some girl hurting him? I was so frustrated I could have pulled all of my hair out. Every inch of me seethed. 

 

Still fuming but trying very hard not to show it, I stumbled my way back to the party- hoping faintly through my anger that my absence had gone unnoticed. 

 

No sooner had I begun wading through the throngs of gyrating, laughing, and slurring teenagers in search of my boyfriend and his friends when Rosalie appeared in front of me. She looked almost sober and neither Rosier nor Rabastan were with her. Immediately, I was worried. 

 

“There you are!” She exclaimed at the sight of me. “I’ve been looking everywhere! Where the hell were you?”

 

“Rose, what’s wrong? Where’s Bas?” I asked, ignoring her question, her words and the frustration in them. 

 

“They had to leave,”she told me. “I only stayed behind to find you. We have to go.”

 

“We do?” I asked, my voice raising an octave in confusion and fear. 

 

“Yes, now.

 

Before I could ask why, she grabbed my arm and started pulling me towards the door, plowing through everyone in her way. My stomach turned uneasily, I had a bad feeling about this. A feeling that told me this was no coincidence. First Sirius leaving in a rush and now Rabastan, there was something going on. A fight had broken out and back up had been called for both sides. That seemed to be the only logical explanation. 

 

My mind whirled as my cousin dragged me out of the party. In the split second that I made eye contact with Nora and Lena (who both looked rather nervous themselves) I managed to shoot them an apologetic look. But my mind was not on them, my mind was on my boyfriend and the love of my life. My mind was on the fact that they were fighting for different sides and I was actually worried about both. My mind was on the possibility that my brothers could be fighting as well. 

 

Would Sirius kill my brothers if faced with that choice? Would the fact that they were my brothers make a difference or would he not care at all?

 

We returned to the Malfoy Manor and quickly rejoined the ball, only to find that our mothers were looking for us. We weren’t leaving however and that both confused and annoyed me. 

 

I wanted desperately to get home so that I could fall to pieces in private. 

 

In a vain hope, I searched the ballroom for Rabastan. He was no where to be found. In fact, many of the men and some women had conspicuously disappeared. 

 

I felt the panic rising in my chest, my breath got shallow and faster- as if it was trying to run from the panic that latched onto its heels like vines that would pull it back down. There was a knot in my chest, my stomach wouldn’t stop churning and my face felt hot. 

 

Mirabelle, are you alright? You look pale,” my mother asked, bringing my ever so slightly out of my panic attack. Trust her to be observant when it was least convenient. 

 

“Yeah, you look a bit peeky, Mir.” Narcissa chimed in. “Perhaps you should go sit down for a bit.”

 

It felt nearly impossible to get enough breath to speak but, somehow, I managed. “Um... I- I think I just need to go freshen up. Will you excuse me?” 

 

I didn’t wait for any replies. I had to get somewhere alone and fast so that I wouldn’t have a meltdown in such a public setting. I was coming apart at the seams already. I nearly ran out of the ballroom in my haste to be alone. 

 

I don’t know what made me go through the door in the foyer which I’d never seen opened before, but I did. I went through it 

and found a rather dingy little corridor. I immediately suspected that this is where the house elves of the house lived. Little black doors lined the walls on either side and the ceiling felt slightly too low. I tried to force myself to take a deep breath as I walked slowly down this isolated, claustrophobic hall but I paid no attention to where I was going. I had closed my eyes in the attempt and ended up tripping over a slightly protruding stone in the floor and grabbing an unused torch holder to catch my balance. 

 

To my surprise, several of the stones jumped aside, revealing what looked like a secret passage way to my trained eye. Even in the throws of hyperventilation, I was morbidly curious to see where it led. I crouched down into it, with no regard for my pretty dress, and began crawling. I told myself it would be a good distraction from what was probably happening at this very moment to some of the men in my life. It wasn’t but it did help me solidify the whole being-alone objective. 

 

That is, until I heard voices. 

 

They were faint but animated and the flame of my curiosity was fanned. I followed the distant sounds until I could begin to make out the words, separate the different voices. The closer I got, the more confused I became. At last, I reached a little alcove with a small vent in it. Through this vent floated the bone-chillingly familiar voices. 

 

Please, please...” 

 

“Time to prove yourself, Rabastan,” the delight in Bella’s voice made my stomach roll. If only because I recognized the other voice and the terror in it. 

 

I peaked through the vent and every muscle in my body tightened, my veins buzzed with adrenaline, and I suddenly had to try extra hard to keep my dinner down. 

 

Below me was a dingy, dark room full of a surprising amount of people, all wearing their clothes from the ball. They stood in a loose circle but, rather than being oriented towards the middle, they all seemed to lean oddly toward the figure at the far right, sitting in an oddly ornate chair. I shuddered as I realized who that was but I didn’t run in the other direction like my common sense was screaming for me to. Despite the presence of You-Know-Who, I was frozen-unable to move even a centimeter from the spot where I hid.

 

“Please, please, please don’t.” 

 

Anya Shuman, the seventh year girl in my house who had called me a bitch at the beginning of the year for hurting “Siri” was on her knees. The gray stone floor of the room I’d never been in before was already spattered with some of her blood and her whole body seemed to fold in on itself. Except when she looked up at my boyfriend with the most horrifyingly pleading look I’d ever seen and begged him. 

 

I don’t know why I didn’t realize exactly what she was begging for. Why hadn’t I understood what was happening? And, more importantly, what could or would I have done if I had? 

 

I didn’t know though. So, I just watched in confusion and abject horror as Rabastan (with the encouragement of the room at large-especially Bellatrix) rolled up his sleeves, revealing the tattoo I had been pretending did not exist, and then raised his wand. He wasn’t facing me, so I couldn’t see the look in his eyes but I did see him square his shoulders in preparation. Then, before I could even gasp in terrifying realization, my boyfriend had uttered the two most heinous words ever invented. 

 

“Avada Kedavra!”

 

 

I didn’t even wait to watch Anya’s body crumple to the floor before I was back on my feet and running. I didn’t hear the words of congratulations the others were giving Rabastan, I just ran. Once mobile, I didn’t want to stop. Ever. I just wanted to keep running as tears streamed down my face and my blood ran cold. My dress snagged on a few things but I didn’t care and I didn’t stop. I collapsed in hysterical tears halfway through the passage, unable to control myself. 

 

I tried to wrap my brain around what had just happened but the incomprehensible scene just kept playing like a bad movie in my head. I had just watched my boyfriend kill one of my classmates in cold blood. What had Anya ever done to deserve that? What had Bella said right before? 

 

“Time to prove yourself, Rabastan.”

 

Was that it? Was that the only reason that Anya Shuman would never even be able to graduate? Because Rabastan Lestrange needed to prove he was a big bad Death Eater just like all of the rest of them. Needed to prove he could kill just as heartlessly. To prove he didn’t mind having blood on his hands.

 

Hands that had touched me tenderly hundreds of times. I felt sick just thinking about it all. How was I ever going to face him again? How was I ever going to be able to pretend to belong among these people after witnessing that?

 

And then, just like that, I had my answer. 

 


Chapter 16: The Complicated Decision of Mirabelle Rose
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(Sorry that its so short guys! If I can get my Lit essay done tonight I may post another this weekend! Oh, also... I didn't really get to format this because my wifi is acting weird. So, sorry if things get a bit wonky! xoxo RED)

Chapter 16- The Complicated Decision of Mirabelle Rose


It was surprisingly simple, once my decision was made, to pick myself up off the floor and wipe my tears away. Thankfully, the Malfoy Manor was teaming with magic so I could freely mend and clean my dress with a few quick spells (then tuck in and hide the spots that my magic didn’t quite fix) and make sure no one could tell I had been crying. I pinched my cheeks to give them some color because I was certain that I was pale as a sheet. Then, I squared my shoulders, took a very deep breath, and walked slowly back down to the ball.


I got some of my shaking under control by the time I reentered the ballroom, enough that my mother might not notice. However, inside I was a complete mess. A complete mess who was determined to hold it together until it was safe to fall apart again.


I was a good actress. I knew exactly how to control my facial expressions in a crisis. When you disagreed with everything your family stood for, you had to learn how to act. It felt like all of those years of pretending to be something I wasn’t and feel things that I didn’t were training me for this moment. All of it was practice leading up to this, the big game. The exam that I just had to pass.


So I floated back into the room as if nothing had happened, while inside I was still keening. Mourning for my schoolmate’s stolen future, stolen life. Mourning for all the things I was losing in the wake of her murder. I had never been friends with her, being two years her junior. In fact, the only interaction I had had with her was when she lashed out at me with the rest of the females who were infatuated by Sirius’s charms earlier this year. However, seeing her death had made my heart cringe in my chest, made me ache for her and anyone who knew and loved her.


Outwardly, I pretended everything was okay and quietly reclaimed my place next to my mother. She was listening to Mrs. Parkinson speak of some insipid gathering she was planning and only acknowledged me by slipping her arm through mine.



A knot appeared in my throat and I tried desperately to swallow it before anyone noticed.


Despite everything, I loved my mother. I didn’t agree with her on anything and she drove me absolutely insane but I still loved her. She was still my mother. I loved my father and my brothers too, despite the fact that they all actively pursued everything I hated. I loved my niece more than anything. My family was completely and totally mad but I couldn’t help it, I loved them. My heart broke just thinking about how much I still loved my flawed family. I forced myself to stop thinking about this. I forced myself to focus on the mundane chatter around me because I didn’t want to cry. Because if I cried now, I would fall apart completely and I couldn’t afford to do that just yet.


I pretended to listen attentively to Mrs. Parkinson who was now discussing her oldest son’s impending marriage in so much detail that even my mother looked bored. Then, I felt someone on my other side.


My mother’s grin gave him away. I looked to my left just as he placed a hand on my waist and my mother relinquished her hold on me. My stomach rolled but my smile widened. I held on to every ounce of my acting skills with tenacious fingers as Rabastan smiled back.


To his credit, the smile didn’t quite reach his eyes. I noticed also that the hands that were now both on my waist were shaking ever so slightly. So, my boyfriend wasn’t as cold-blooded as I had concluded thirty-five minutes ago but it changed nothing. My boyfriend was still a murderer. I was still sickened by his touch, his very presence. I still couldn’t get Anya’s pleas out of my head; they played like a broken record. I was still acting with every bit of acting skill I could muster.


“Hey, baby,” Rabastan greeted me, his voice steady and confident as always. Well, apparently I wasn’t the only good actor.


“Hey,” I replied softly. He leaned in to kiss my lips and I reflexively moved. The very thought of his lips on mine making me inwardly shudder and not in a good way. He got my cheek instead and looked at me confused. “Not in front of my mom,” I told him, working for the playful, conspiratorial tone of a girl embarrassed by PDA.


My mom and Mrs. Parkinson and the other ladies around laughed and started talking about what a cute couple we were and how publicly affectionate they had been with their husbands at the start (gag me). But when I looked into Rabastan’s eyes, they were full of questions. I had never denied his kisses, never cared who saw, never stiffened when he touched me and he knew something was wrong.


Quickly, I looked away and pretended to listen to the older women gush about young love. Though my stomach heaved, I put my hands on his arms and drew them tighter around me. I felt some of the tension in his body release and tried not to let him feel the tension in mine. Boyfriend or not, I really didn’t want to arouse the suspicions of the bloke who had killed our schoolmate less than an hour ago.


Over the next half hour, I yawned excessively and let my face sort of drop in a tired way. And, even though I didn’t want him touching me, I leaned into Rabastan noticeably as a part of my act. I laid it on thick until my mother finally took notice.


“Are you tired, sweetheart?” she asked with heart-piercing concern in her tone and her face. The lines etched in her forehead were kind, her features lacked that sharp quality they’d had so much with me in the last few years. Instead, she was all soft and warm. The way a mother should be. The way I’d always wanted.


I yawned, ignoring the pang in my chest, and answered. “A bit”


“Well, you still look rather pale. Perhaps you should go home a little early and go to bed,” she said, feeling my forehead. “We’ll follow in an hour or two, I’m sure.”


I blinked. She’d said “you” should go home and “we’ll” follow in an hour or two, as in not now. She wanted me to go home alone, ahead of her, my father and big brother. There was no way I was getting that lucky. It couldn’t possibly be that easy.


For years, my mother had been a lioness, pouncing on every move I made- making sure I stayed on what she considered to be the “proper” course. She always had a need to control everything and everyone in our family, it was one of her qualities I couldn’t stand (mainly because it was usually directed at me). I had hardly been left alone during holidays (except when I snuck away with Sirius) since my first year. And even before that I had been careful watched and protected, as the baby and the only daughter. There was absolutely no way that it would be this easy to wriggle out of her grip. No way she was letting go, just like that.


My luck was just not that good. I was perpetually unfortunate. I had been the unlucky Ravenclaw in a family of Slytherins. I was the unfortunate girl who was mad for Sirius Black when he put me firmly in the friend zone. I was the one of the pair of us who had been left and had to scramble to adapt among the Purebloods. The whole school (save my friends and the Slytherins) thought that I was the one who had hurt Sirius. Most recently, I was unlucky enough to stumble upon my boyfriend murdering one of my schoolmates. My luck was pretty much non-existent. And yet…


“Go on, love,” she smiled encouragingly. “We’ll be home soon. You need your rest.”


I nearly went into shock on the spot. The endearment combined with how incredibly well my plan had worked was throwing me off. I had to regain my composure before they noticed.


I managed to disguise my deep calming breath as a disappointed sigh and replied, “I s’pose you’re right, mum.”


“Of course, dear.” Her smile got warmer as she leaned in and kissed my cheek. “There’s a fireplace in that room over there,” she pointed to the room adjoining the ballroom. “Just try not to get your dress dirty.”


“I will,” I murmured, leaning away from Rabastan and into my mother. “I love you, Mummy,” I told her, sounding like a small child. I couldn’t help it I had to say it. It was that best I could do under the circumstances.


“Mmm,” her eyes glowed with contented warmth as she hugged me. “I love you, too.”


I didn’t want to let go. These arms, though they rarely had encircled me in the last five years, felt safe in a way no other arms in the world could. This was the woman who had known me from the very first second I came into existence. The women who had carried me within her and nurtured me when I couldn’t take care of myself. She was the only mother I would ever have and I didn’t want to let go. I hated the thought of disappointing her. Despite everything, I hated the thought of leaving this golden sphere of love she clothed me in right now.


I doubted my mother would ever hate me or ever had. No matter what I did, I was almost certain in that moment, she would still love me. She would not show this love but it would always be there.


Of my father and brothers I was less sure. My father and I had lost our closeness, without a doubt. But I was still his little girl, wasn’t I? Would that keep him from truly hating me? Milo would most certainly hate me, with the same power that he loved me right now. His hate would be that much stronger because he’d loved me. It made it more personal that way. Oh, he’d say I was no one special to him anymore but deep down I would always be special- no matter if I was especially hated or especially beloved. Markus was the brother I was less sure would hate me. He may agree with Milo out loud or refuse to speak my name, but hate me in truth? I wasn’t sure. He had always been a good big brother. He’d defended his oddball baby sister. In my head, I compared my brother’s to Andromeda’s sisters. Milo was like Bellatrix, so firmly devoted to his beliefs that he would not hesitated to loathe any sibling who did not share them. Markus was like Narcissa, he would profess to feel the same passionate hate but would not really feel it. He would not call me his sister outside of his own home anymore but in his heart I always would be. He and his wife would be sad but I didn’t think they would really truly hate me. Even if they said that that was the case.


But how would they raise their daughter? Would she grow to hate me as vehemently as the rest of our family’s circle? Would she remember me as her loving aunt or would I just be a stranger? Would she grow to believe the things the rest of my family believed or would someone show her a different path? Who would she become without someone to slip suggestions of blood equality and peaceful Muggle coexistence in her ear? My heart ached just thinking about it.


I sighed longingly in my mother’s arms, wishing I didn’t have to let go. But I did.


After a long moment, we both pulled back and I memorized her face. Seeing some of myself staring back- the curve of my lips, the shape of my face, the color of my eyes. I memorized every line as she squeezed my hand and said.


“Get some rest. We’ll see you at home, sweet.”


I nodded but said nothing. I turned and began to walk away when a large hand closed around my wrist.


“I’ll walk you,” Rabastan murmured.


I suppressed a shiver and forced myself to act naturally. “To the fireplace?”


My grin was wide and tone teasing but I knew my eyes were cold. I also knew that he could still tell something was off. So, I didn’t tell him that I was perfectly capable to walk across the room by myself. I didn’t give him my independent woman lecture. I just wound my fingers through his to ease his mind and shook my head, forcing something near a giggle as if to say “silly boyfriend”. My mother and her friends all smiled affectionately, admiring what I’m sure they considered to be the epitome of a perfect pureblood young couple as we walked away hand in hand.


My hand tingled as we walked, like a thousand little bugs had crawled between us and were doing a little jig. I couldn’t wait to get to the fireplace so I could let go. We walked in silence but there was a palpable sort of tension. Could he feel it too or was that just my imagination running wild?


The room with the fireplace in it was a small, formal sitting room with red walls. By the looks of the pristine, antique furniture it was rarely used. The fireplace was large and ornate with gold serpents around the mantel.


I let go of Rabastan’s hand and gave him a hesitant, half-hearted peck on the cheek. I turned to grab some Floo Powder and make my get away but a large hand clasped around my wrist.


“Hey, wait.” Rabastan’s voice had a strange gentle quality to it. A gentle quality completely at odds with what I had seen him do an hour and a half ago. “Talk to me for a second.”

I looked him in the eyes apprehensively. “Okay, what do you want to talk about?”


“Are you sure you’re alright? You seem like...I dunno. Is something wrong?”


“Yes, I’m fine,” I lied. “Just tired. It’s been a long day. I think I really just need to go home and sleep for a while.”


He looked like he wanted to pry further. Like he wanted to say something else but instead he nodded. “Alright. I’ll see you tomorrow?”


“’Course,” I avoided looking in his eyes. Giving him another peck, this time on the lips. Then I turned back towards the fireplace and climbed in before he could stop me again. I shouted for home and threw the powder down, not bothering to take a last look at my boyfriend.


I spun around ten times (I counted to keep from hyperventilating), then stopped, swaying on the spot in my own fireplace. I stepped out, taking a deep breath, and looked around the sitting room that no one was ever allowed to sit in. I contemplated sitting on one of the chairs but thought better of it. I continued slowly through the room and into the foyer.


I was happy that none of the house elves were around cleaning. They would just have tried to be overly helpful and that would only slow me down. I did not have time to convince them that I was not hungry nor did I need help undressing myself.


My heels clacked up the stairs, echoing forlornly in the empty house, as I went to my room. I walked past my parents’ room and both of the rooms my brothers had shut me out of when we were kids. Finally, I pushed open my own door with a groan.


My heart got stuck in my chest as I stood in the doorway. A knot clogged my throat as I looked at the visual representation of who I was. The undertone of the classic mahogany furniture my mother had picked to replace my wrought iron crib told the story of my upper crust, stiff, pureblood family. In stark contrast, my colorful bed sheets, silly pictures, Ravenclaw memorabilia, and dizzying array of books told the story of who I was and who I could be. The clothes in my closet clashed noticeably, a mix of casual jeans and band T-shirts (mostly stolen from Sirius), school uniforms, and ballgowns and day dresses from my mother. The mess I’d made on the dresser this morning conflicted with the meticulous care the house elves took of the rest of the room. So many contradictions, something had to give.


I blinked rapidly and stepped inside, closing the door before I let my tears spill over once again. With the tears came a fierce ache in my chest. I sank to the floor, curling in on myself as the pain rocked through me. I sat there shaking and crying harder than I did even after watching Rabastan kill my schoolmate. Harder than when Sirius left. Harder than I did after becoming a Ravenclaw and realizing I would forever be the outcast of my family. I cried with abandon, not caring about my makeup or my dress.


I would have probably stayed there all night if I had not had a very small window of opportunity to seize. I allowed myself a few moments and then inhaled deeply. I had to pull it together. Time was precious.


I stood shakily, holding onto the door for support. Then, I wiped my eyes covering my fingertips in my mascara, which had finally given into the influx of tears. I reached behind me to unzip my gown and stepped out of it unceremoniously.


In nothing but my most uncomfortable strapless bra and matching black underwear, I crossed the room to my closet. I began removing clothing in bulk, all the things that were mine. My school uniforms were all old so I didn’t bother with those, all of the ones that fit me were in my dorm room at school. I did not touch a single dress or gown, I would not need them anymore. I threw all of the clothes that I wanted into my trunk without stopping to fold them.


As I moved to my bookshelf I mentally blessed Nora for using it to practice her Undetectable Extension Charms. My books went in with ease and I knew that even if I picked my trunk up and carried it out of the house myself, I would not fully feel their weight. With my bookshelves empty of their knowledge and wisdom, I moved to the dresser.


I removed every picture and Ravenclaw emblem from it and from the walls. Then, I grabbed a few items I thought I might want tomorrow morning, wherever I was. Next, I kicked off my heels and climbed on top of my vanity.


Years ago, when I was just beginning to feel the pull of Sirius’s mischievous ways, I found a hidden compartment in my bedroom wall. I was thrilled beyond belief but had nothing to keep in it but childish things: candy stolen from my brothers, the diary I could never quite keep up on, the Muggle Walkman and tape Sirius had given me that I did not want my mother to find. And then I became a Ravenclaw and my fellow pureblood Ravenclaw, Andromeda, ran away and started a new life. Even at eleven I understood what that meant.


She had nothing: no money, no possessions, and no plan. Just Teddy.


I didn’t have a Teddy. I didn’t have that commitment from the person I loved. I didn’t have security in the knowledge that I was not alone. I had no Teddy but I had all of the other reasons. So, at twelve years old, when my parents started giving me galleons to buy school supplies I began my collection. Every knut, sickle, and galleon I could spare went into my money bag and my money bag went into this hidden compartment. Every birthday, Christmas, every babysitting job and start of the school year I added to my stash. When I learned how, I extended the bag just like Nora had extended my trunk so that it would not overflow.


Now, on the cusp of sixteen, I took my money from its hiding place and put it into the inside pocket of my trunk. When the last of my possessions was packed I secured my trunk and stood in my ransacked room. Though I had little time left, I went into my bathroom and washed the layer of makeup and tears from my face. With another deep breath, I removed my impractical undergarments and replaced them with practical ones. Over them, I donned jeans and a dark hooded sweatshirt. I pulled my hair back into a bun and put my trainers on.


Professor Flitwick’s words of wisdom were at the forefront of my mind as I entered my room once more. I shrunk my trunk with a wand flourish that would have made my head of house proud and put it in my pocket, praying that my Trace would still be befuddled by the abundance of magical activity in my parents’ manor at all times. Then, I put another hooded sweatshirt over that one, both for warmth and to make sure my trunk had no way of falling out of my pocket. Wary of my ever-dwindling time, I locked my door in an effort to delay my mother’s discovery of my absence.


I almost didn’t bother, but at the last second, I scribbled a note and left it on the bed.


In my note, I told them why I was leaving and what I’d seen tonight. I told them I knew they’d hate me but hoped they wouldn’t. That I would love them always despite the fact that I was their polar opposite and against everything they stood for. I couldn’t be the person they wanted me to be. I had to just be me.


I grabbed my broom and opened my bay window. Then I turned for one last look at my childhood bedroom. The knot in my throat tightened again and the tears threatened to escape once more. My heart shuddered with an ache again that threatened to overwhelm me. But I had to keep it together.


I could not afford to lose it again at this stage. I had to hold it together or this would never work.



So, I turned my back on the room that had been my sanctuary and my prison. I stepped out onto the roof that my mother had scolded me for climbing on when I was younger, afraid I’d break my neck, and inhaled the crisp night air. I put my both hoods up to protect me, at least for a few minutes, from the biting winter chill. My pulse pounded in my ears, drowning out the night sounds of owls hooting and crickets chirping. Then, as I exhaled, I kicked off and soared into the air. I soared into the black night, leaving my house, family and life behind forever. My choice had been made. I wasn’t on the fence. I wasn’t torn.


Pureblood no longer, I was now a bloodtraitor.


Chapter 17: The Perks of Being a Blood-Traitor
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Chapter 17- The Perks of Being a Blood-Traitor

 

         After kicking off, I flew aimlessly for a while. I flew around the night letting what I had just done sink in.  

         I got high enough in the air to avoid getting hit by fireworks. I was confident no Muggles had hope of seeing me in the dark night sky in my dark jeans and black hooded sweatshirt. Not that I really cared if they did. At a time like this I couldn’t bring myself to care about much. Every once in a while I would dip low enough to see where I was and then ascend to invisibility again. The air was moist enough that it did not dry out my eyes. But my cheeks and nose became numb from the cold, my hands felt frozen to my broom. I really wished that I had thought about gloves.

 

         I expected to feel elated, light, happy but instead I felt raw. My stomach was still in knots, my eyes felt swollen with tears that I refused to let fall, and my heartbeat felt different, mournful. I waited for the burden on my shoulders to lift but it was still there. Maybe it would take time and a warm bed to sleep in before I could truly feel free of the tether I’d had around my ankle for the last fifteen years.

 

         I thought about where that warm bed would be. Who could I turn to?

 

         Not Andromeda. She had a husband and they had a baby to take care of, I was not going to intrude on their young, growing family. I was positive that I’d be welcomed with open arms but still, I could not bring myself to fly to their little London townhouse. That was a last resort.

         I thought about going to my second cousin Cecilia in Surrey. She had never been outwardly hateful towards Muggles or Muggleborns. She was one of those people who kept completely quiet on the topic and then subtly put distance between her and her family once she graduated without completely ostracizing herself. She’d moved into a flat with her boyfriend and her visits and owls became less and less. I hadn’t seen her since I was eight. I didn’t really know her. Even when she was around I didn’t really know her, so I thought better of it.

         My mind strayed inevitably to Sirius and I ached in my heart with the wish that he had his own place. I would go there but I would not go to Potter’s, even if I were welcome (which I was sure that I wasn’t). That was completely out of the question.

         Even as I thought about Sirius and wished he had gotten a flat somewhere in London I knew that I was glad I didn’t have that option. Though I had left my parents at last and our latest squabble had ended in a passionate, if incredibly confusing, kiss- inside I was still mad. For what? I was not even sure anymore, but the anger was still there. I could not ignore it, even if I wanted to.

          I could go back.

         Even as the thought crossed my mind I hated myself for it. It was true though. They probably hadn’t found the note. They probably hadn’t even gotten home yet. I could go back and pretend that this whole thing had never happened. Pretend that I had never left, that I’d been sleeping in the bed I’d had since I was four in the room that had always been mine. I could pretend that I was still the perfect pureblood daughter. I could find another reason to break up with Rabastan or make him break up with me. I could pretend I hadn’t seen what he’d done. I could pretend… but for how long? How long would I end up pretending? For a month? A year? Forever?

          No. Back was not an option. Not anymore. There was a small sliver of a chance that they had already found my empty room and farewell letter. And if they had, going back would be risking my life. Besides, I was done pretending.

         My options were few and dwindling with each thought until there was but one left. The Prewetts’ house.

         Nora and I had been invited to Kathlena’s house every summer since we started Hogwarts.

Obviously, with her family’s blood-traitor status, I hadn’t been allowed. I hadn’t even asked my parents because I knew their answer already and asking would have just caused problems for me. Nora, however, went every summer to avoid attending a family reunion with her parents. She hated acting like a Muggle around her distant relations and not being able to hex people who tried to pinch her apple cheeks.

         Up until now, I had never considered going to her house in my escape scenarios. Not even when Sirius had run away to his best mate’s. I couldn’t believe it had never occurred to me. Now that it had entered my mind as an option, it was the only option. I was astounded at my stupidity, how had I never thought of this? 

         I did not head in the direction of the Prewett house immediately, though I knew where it was from all of the letters and invitations I had received over the years. Instead, I flew around numbly for a while longer, trying to turn off my brain. It was a futile effort but after a while I managed to compartmentalize all of my thoughts and achieve some semblance of a trance state. 

         It wasn’t until I dipped low enough to see the sun had begun to peak above the horizon that I decided to actually head in the direction of Kathlena’s house. I soared over the suburbs outside of London until those suburbs became fields. I looked for the landmarks near the house and found what I was looking for when I spotted the yellow three story cottage about half a mile from a deserted hill with a tree that was a dead ringer for the Whomping Willow at Hogwarts and began to descend. 

         Though I had never been to Lena’s house, I knew that her room was on the third floor, facing the backyard. I knew that it had a balcony, with glass doors that had purple curtains. Kathlena’s mother complained that the curtains kept out so much light she could never get her to wake up in the morning. In reality, it was a combination of the curtains and the fact that Lena had a habit of staying up into the wee hours of the morning. 

         When I reached the balcony the sun had not even raised half way, most likely Lena and Nora had only gone to sleep an hour or two before. Especially considering they had probably gotten home from the party late. I wondered if it would even be possible to wake them up by knocking. I climbed carefully down from the white wrought-iron railing where I had landed and pried my frozen hands from my broom. I tried to knock but no one came. I considered sleeping outside in one of the little chairs she had but it was so cold.

         I sighed in frustration at my dilemma. Basic social etiquette told me it was incredibly rude and common sense told me it probably wouldn’t work but my only option was to take out my wand. I didn’t fancy freezing but I didn’t fancy waking up the entire household or even just Nora and Lena. I didn’t want to have to explain what had happened yet. All I wanted was to sleep somewhere warm. My eyelids had begun to droop closed as I reached under one sweatshirt and into the pocket of the other, where my trunk and my wand were stowed. I pulled out my wand, forcing my eyes to flutter open and muttered hopefully. 

Alohamora,” my voice was resigned to the likely outcome (or lack thereof) and my eyes were trying to close again as I swished my wand in front of the right doorknob. 

The muted click made my eyes fly back open in shock. I gaped at the open door for a moment and then shook my head. I was going to have to chat with Kathlena about her security measures once I was coherent again.  Times were too dangerous to leave doors unlocked.

        Surely her parents did not know about her lack of safety measures. She had three Aurors in her family who would have a collective aneurism if they found out about this. If she was not going to put at least one protection charm on her balcony, then I would. In the morning.

For now, I quietly entered my friend’s room for the first time. I closed the door with a click and made sure it was locked (not that it would help much against magic) before turning and taking in the room. My eyes were first drawn to the sleeping figures of my friends.

         All I could see was their heads above the covers. They were both breathing steadily, unaware of the turmoil that had engulfed me tonight. Lena was snoring slightly and, as my eyes moved around the room, Nora began to mumble something about bubotuber puss in her sleep. An affectionate warmth rushed into my chest for my friends but I couldn’t really feel it. I couldn’t really feel much other than my own crippling exhaustion. It was like I was flying above a storm cloud watching the lightning flash and the rain pour. I knew there were emotions down there somewhere but I wasn’t ready or alert enough yet to fly below and feel them.

         The room was the visual translation of Kathlena. The walls were buttercup yellow and the curtains were deep purple. They were the kind of curtains that were sure to keep as much light out of the room in the morning as possible, just as her mom had said. Kathlena was not a morning person so I was sure it was by design. The comforter on the bed was also buttercup yellow with lime green and the same shade of purple flowers all over it. There was a day bed set out with a set of blue sheets- Nora’s, I assumed- on them but both of them were in Lena’s bed. 

         There were clothes dotting the floor, leaving two trails around the room. The path indicated that they’d gone straight to bed after coming home from the party. I nearly tripped over one of Nora’s heels on my way in. And Nora’s bag was on top of the day bed, half opened and vomiting an array of colorful clothes. The wrappers and packages in the little blue rubbish bin showed me that they had been having quite the junk food extravaganza this week. Probably while watching all of the movies Nora brought with her. I had always wished that I could be apart of these movie nights.

         The thought occurred to me that now I could be. For some reason, though, it bothered me. 

         I sighed as I crossed the room. There was a large vanity with body lotions and perfumes that I had never seen Lena bring to Hogwarts on top of it. There was a scarcely populated jewelry box and a make-up bag that I had also never seen before. In addition to the glass doors, there was another window by the walk-in closet with a bookshelf underneath it. It was packed with all sorts of books; I could see that Nora had taken her to some Muggle bookstores to shop as well. I wondered when they had done this. This holiday? Or was it a running tradition they had that I just hadn’t heard about?

 

         I was too exhausted to go look at the spines of all of them, too tired to ponder what my new holiday routine would be, too scared to feel the joy I should be feeling at my liberation. Too exhausted to wonder if I would even be a welcome edition to the household in the morning. So instead of doing or feeling anything, I simply walked over to the day bed. I took Nora’s bag off and set it on the floor next to me, then took off my hooded sweatshirts with my trunk still tucked in the pocket and hung it gingerly on the hook on the back of Kathlena’s closet door. I removed my shoes and took off my jeans. I continued to methodically remove clothing until I was down to my thin long sleeve pink shirt and a pair of Wimbourne Wasps boxers that I had once stolen from Sirius’s laundry when the house-elves had brought it to his room. Then, I peeled back the sheet on top of the day bed and crawled underneath.

         I sighed again, this time contentedly as my tense limbs relaxed and the chill on my skin was chased away by the covers. I was too exhausted to stay awake but, the second my head hit the pillow I realized, too much had happened for me fall asleep. My brain just simply refused to shut off. So, I lay there for a long time, listening to my friends’ breathing steadily as the sun rose in the pink sky.        

         I mentally reviewed the night’s events and could not quite believe so much had happened. It seemed an awful lot of drama for one evening. It was a lot of drama for one evening. 

         It seemed like a week ago that I had gone to see Andromeda, looking over my shoulder in paranoia. Walking down the streets of London in terror that someone would find out what I was doing. Terror that I now knew had been entirely unnecessary. In less than twenty-four hours I had visited Andromeda, thought my family was disowning me, been dragged to a New Year’s party, been dragged to another New Year’s party, kissed a boy who was not my boyfriend but who I have been in love with forever, yelled at a self-righteous redhead, watched my boyfriend become a murderer, faked sick, been weirded out my unusually affectionate mother multiple times, and ran away from home. So much to process in such a little window of time left my mind warped. I was in shock, almost numb. My emotions were jumbled and my thoughts were tangled.

         Sleep. I needed sleep. 

         I needed that temporary oblivion. I needed that blissful unawareness.

         There would be plenty of time to let the equal portions of grief and elation wash through me. Plenty of time to try sorting out all of my feelings and plenty of time to sob uncontrollably when I was unsuccessful. I had chosen my path and I had my entire life to deal with the surprisingly confusing aftermath. I just wanted sleep.

          Eventually my spinning thoughts blurred into unconsciousness. Thankfully, I didn’t dream. The blackness lovingly embraced me. My weary mind was allowed to rest for a while. 

 

***  

         I had the feeling of coming out of a long hibernation when I woke. I didn’t open my eyes right away. Instead, I lay there and listened.

         I definitely was not alone. I could feel eyes staring at me. I could also hear the rustling of a crisps bag coming from the same direction. The smell of salt and vinegar reached my nose when I inhaled and I heard an irreverent crunch.

         My eyelids fluttered open and I found myself staring at Nora lounging on Lena’s bed, fully dressed in a jumper and leggings, reading a book. I looked to the foot of the daybed I’d snuggled into and found Kathlena watching me like a movie while she ate her crisps.

         “Told you food would wake her up,” Lena said to Nora, who rolled her eyes. “Morning, Sleeping Beauty. Fancy seeing you here.” 

         “You really should lock your door,” I croaked in my sleep-roughed voice. 

         “And miss the aneurysm Nora had when she found some random sleeping in

her bed? Now, what fun would that be?” She grinned at me wickedly.

         “Sorry, Nor,” I said closing my eyes and resting my head on the pillow again. “Didn’t figure you’d appreciate me waking you up to ask.” 

         “Yeah, no. Not so much.” Nora responded wryly.

         “So, do you want breakfast or should we just skip straight ahead to lunch?” Lena asked, crunching on another crisp. 

         I peaked an eye open in surprise. The question threw my brain even more off balance. It was not the one I had expected. I had expected her to ask why I was here, what had happened last night, how I had managed to get here. I definitely didn’t expect he to ask about food. But, then again, this was Lena. And if neither of them were going to bring up the subject, I wasn’t going to either. I wasn’t ready to talk about it yet.

         “What time is it?” I asked, still sounding like a chain- smoker.

         “Half past noon,” Nora answered in the same dry voice as before. A smirk tipped up one side of her lips.

         “So, lunch.”        

         “Wonderful,” Lena clapped her hands like an excited child. She got to her feet and Nora closed her books and did the same. Apparently they’d been waiting for me to get up. “Mum is making sandwiches.” 

         I paused. Reluctance and uneasiness stopped the air in my lungs.

         “Will your mum be okay with me staying here?”

         Lena looked at me like I’d sprouted another head. “Well, obviously. You were invited, weren’t you?”

         And without another word she bounded from the room. Nora laughed and shrugged at me then followed. 

        

         Mrs. Prewett was quite possibly the best cook ever. All of the fancy, magically prepared, house elf meals at my house could not compare to hers. In the three days I’d been here I had gained at least as many pounds. 

         I moaned my approval of her mashed potatoes. No one could ever accuse these of being bland. The rest of Britain was being served tasteless lumps while a flavor fiesta was exploding in my mouth.

         “So, lovelies, Sunday is fast approaching. We need to discuss our game plan,” Mrs. Prewett began, after our food comas had set in.

         Lena and Nora shared an eye roll.

         “What are you going to do on Saturday night?” She asked in the tone of a primary school teacher.

         “Pack,” Lena and Nora droned in unison. 

         “Why?”

         “So we aren’t late,” Lena replied.

         “What else are you going to do?”

         “Wake up early.” Nora snickered, looking pointedly at Lena.

         Lena stuck her tongue out in response. 

         “Very ladylike, Kathlena.” Mrs. Prewett was the one to roll her eyes this time.

         Her answer was to show her tongue again this time coated with mashed potatoes. I grimaced. Nora laughed. Mrs. Prewett glared. Even as she glared though, her mouth twitched with a smile.

         This familial environment was something I wasn’t used to. Even at their most gooey, my family did not share this kind of camaraderie. The Prewetts had the kind of family closeness that I’d always longed for, even before I’d disgraced the family by becoming the token Ravenclaw.

         My mother would have had a stroke if I showed her my food. She would probably have hexed my tongue to stick to the top of my mouth or something as punishment.

         A wave of grief hit me as I thought of her. Grief that I had not been expecting to feel. The smile that had danced across my lips at the light-hearted moment faltered. My friends pretended not to notice, but judging by the sudden weakness of their own smiles, they did.

         When we’d gotten enough energy to drag ourselves up the stairs, we collapsed onto Lena’s bed. Or, at least, I did.

         Tonight was to be our second consecutive movie night. Lena and Nora had introduced me to the delight that was Muggle cinema and I was fascinated. 

         I sighed at my engorged stomach and realized that the other two had fallen silent. That was never a good sign. I looked to my right and they were both sitting up facing me, looking expectant.

         My stomach sank with dread I knew what was coming before Lena said it.

         “I think its time you tell us what happened on New Years.”

          I sat up and sighed shakily. I was honestly surprised that they hadn’t mentioned it before now. But they’d been tip-toeing around it for three days. It had to come up eventually but I still wasn’t ready. I swallowed hard and tried to keep from tearing up. What was wrong with me?

         I took a deep breath and began at that morning. Before I knew it, everything was pouring out. I was talking so fast that I wasn’t even quite sure they could understand me but I kept talking anyway. I told them everything from Andromeda’s house to kissing Sirius to deciding to finally leave. When I was done, the silence was a heavy, tangible thing. Tears perched on my eyelids threatening to splash my cheeks in big, fat drops.

         After what felt like a few hours, or maybe years, Nora broke the silence.

         “Wow.”

         Lena followed up. “Damn.”

         “That was quite a night you had.”

         A laugh spurted out through my quivering lips. “Yeah.”

          A second later, they engulfed me in a group hug. The tears poured over and a sob ripped through me. It was as if the floodgates had been forced open, smashed by the pressure. In the arms of my friends, I mourned. I mourned for the family I had lost, the only one I would ever have. I cried for the fact that I’d never watch my niece grow into the beautiful woman I knew she’d be. I cried because I would not be there to temper the extreme environment she would grow up in. I wept for the familiar places I would never be welcome in again. I wept for the girl I watched them murder; it felt like a part of me had died with her.

         I lost control entirely, keening in pain. I cried for so long that my voice grew hoarse. Finally, when my tear ducts were dry and my eyes were swollen, my best friends tucked me into the bed and held me until I fell asleep from exhaustion.

 

         I should have known. I should have known who they’d call if I had a mental breakdown. I should have remembered that Mrs. Prewett and Mrs. Potter were friends.

         When I woke up, it took me a moment to realize where I was. It was dark and quiet. All that I could hear was another person breathing beside me, the same person who was holding me. It took me another moment to realize that that person was not Nora or Lena. The arm was too thick, with too many muscles. The hair on it tickled my arm and the big hand held mine gently, but firm.

         My whole body tensed but not because I didn’t know whom that arm belonged to, but because I did. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that Kathlena had told her mother and her mother had called Mrs. Potter and Mrs. Potter had sent-

         “Sirius.”

         It wasn’t a question.

         “Hey, Belle.”

         I turned to face him but couldn’t see his eyes. He leaned in and kissed my forehead. And, as if I hadn’t already done enough of it tonight, I began to cry.

         I cried into Sirius’s shirt and he held me. We didn’t say anything else. He just held me. And I felt safe and loved. I was still mad at him. I was still confused about my own feelings. I was definitely still confused about that kiss we’d had. I didn't quite know where we stood in this moment. But he was here, letting me cry and snivel and ruin his shirt. He was here and that was all I cared about at the moment. 


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