I tossed my suitcase into my small room. Luckily I didn’t have that many possessions, so one trip back to the Leaky Cauldron was all that was required to bring all my things over. Remus came huffing in a moment later, dragging my heavy trunk behind him.
“Thanks,” I said, patting him on the back. “You’re a real pal.”
“I hope being a great pal comes with certain benefits like fanning and giving me a drink,” he replied.
“Don’t be silly.” I laughed as I checked my watch. “We don’t have time for that. I have to be back at Diagon Alley for my sho—job in an hour. You want to walk me back there?”
“What?” he sputtered.
“Well… because I’ll need to be able to walk back here, won’t I? I can’t Apparate yet, so I’ll need to know the way,” I said, shrugging.
“Oh… well, that makes sense.”
Suddenly struck by how rude, selfish, and presumptuous I was being, I hastened to add, “I’m sorry. You don’t need to. You probably have other things to do. Maybe if you could just give me some directions…?”
“No, it’s fine,” he assured me. So we started out for Diagon Alley on foot, making lighthearted chatter along the way. Remus was surprisingly easy to talk to, and his voice was just as easy to listen to. Smooth, gentle, quiet… it didn’t grate on my ears at all. I regretted that I hadn’t taken the chance to get to know him better during my sixth year at Hogwarts. A pity. I could tell he’d be a wonderful friend.
“Remus?” I asked on a sudden whim.
“Is Siri… ously thinking about what you’re going to do once you get out of school m-making you depressed?” I caught myself from making a mistake. It wouldn’t do for me to be asking after Sirius.
Remus looked at me funny, a frown on his face battling with a small smirk on his mouth. It was as if he knew I was about to ask about Sirius, but something kept him from laughing.
“Yeah…. I don’t know what to do… I’ll be happy with any sort of job, I guess.” He shrugged, looking particularly melancholy.
“What? You’ll settle for anything that comes your way? I didn’t expect that of you.” I laughed. I realized this was a mistake when he looked away.
“Most people don’t,” he muttered.
I felt as if someone—namely Remus—had slapped me in the face. Why was it that I could never say something right for a change? Something that wouldn’t offend and wouldn’t send a nice person like Remus into a brooding silence.
“I’m sorry. I must have offended you,” I offered quietly after a moment. “These days… I just don’t think before I speak.”
“These days?” Remus turned back to me with a faint smile. “You mean you aren’t like that normally?”
I smiled back at him because he was right, though he meant it in the nicest possible way. Before I could say something, however, I bumped into someone. Because we had been turning a corner, I hadn’t noticed.
“Sorry.” I seemed to be saying that a lot today. It irked me in a rather irrational way. It seemed rather unfair that I was saying I was sorry in such a humble way; I wasn’t used to it.
“Faye,” an all-too-familiar voice said, sounding slightly surprised.
“Sirius.” I inclined my head slightly, only to see him exchange a significant glance with Remus before smiling cheerily at me.
“What are you doing, tramping around with Remus?” Sirius asked in a fake, wounded tone.
“W-we’re going…”—what could I say? Something that wouldn’t sound the wrong way! But what?—“fishing.” I blurted out the first thing that came to mind. Both Sirius and Remus looked at me strangely, and Sirius even went as far as to touch my forehead with the palm of his hand.
I took a hasty step back, and the corners of his mouth deepened in amusement.
“Well… catch some big fish then. I’m heading home,” Sirius declared. Here he glanced at Remus yet again! What was it…? Were these two in on some sort of secret job, trying to communicate through significant glances how best to get rid of me? I shook these tiresome thoughts out of my head, instead opting to concentrate on the help that Sirius had offered to me a few days ago.
“Wait…. Sirius… remember what you said the other day?” I asked. To my embarrassment, I squeaked on the word “remember.”
“Yeah,” he said slowly, his eyes stabbing into me. I looked away, feeling too open by meeting his eyes.
“Um… well, does the offer still stand?” I was very aware of Remus’s presence and Sirius’s intense stare as well the small smile playing around the corner of his mouth.
Sirius grinned widely just as I quickly glanced at him to see his reaction; I averted my eyes. His smile was too breathtaking to look at, damn him. But I saw his hand reaching up… and he tugged on one of my curls. “I’ll tell you more about it the next time we see each other,” he promised. With that said, he flounced off down the street, whistling as he went.
Remus didn’t say anything about it, though he was smiling in a suspicious way. We didn’t have that much more to walk… and once we reached the Leaky Cauldron I bade him a thanks and goodbye.
Remus said, “Try to get home earlier to meet the owner, alright?”
“Wait, you never told me his name—” But Remus had already Disapparated with a pop.
Damn him and his ability to Disapparate. Huffing angrily, I made my way down to Madame Mae’s Fashions, where another torture session would commence.
I rubbed my eyes and then lifted my face to the sky. It was a dark blue; my shoot had lasted until late evening. Recalling what Remus had said to me about meeting the owner of the flat, I felt a twinge of apprehension. It was a good thing that I was going to see Melanie first.
My mood dropped yet another notch. Even though I went as often as I could, my visits didn’t do anything for her. Melanie didn’t even know. And to my shame, there was a small part of me that kept on insisting that I should stop visiting, stop bothering…. After all, every time I saw her, a fresh bout of terrible emotions assaulted me, and nightmares about the Death Eater attack plagued my dreams. It hurt to see her. Something inside me ached and refused to stop aching for a long time after I removed myself from Melanie’s room. I didn’t want to deal with it anymore.
Some guardian I’d make, I thought bitterly. It hadn’t even been a month and I was already starting to chicken out of seeing her. I was tired of my job, tired of my life… tired of her and the things she made me remember and the responsibility.
Once I reached St. Mungo’s and submitted to all their routine safety checks, I made my way to the fourth floor and peeked into the ward where I knew Melanie was situated. My heart clenched painfully, a feeling that was all too familiar to me. I quietly slipped into the room and sank into a chair next to Melanie’s bed, keeping my eyes well away from her still figure all the time.
I opened my mouth to talk, but there was nothing to say. Melanie couldn’t hear me anyway. The noises—cries, screams, shouts, footsteps, etc—outside the ward served as a wonderful distraction from Melanie.
When I finally dragged my eyes up to Melanie’s face… I felt it again. The burning feeling of rage coupled along with an overwhelming sense of loneliness and helplessness. She had lost weight; it was obvious. And there was a long cut on her forehead, a product of some sort of Dark spell—that obstinately refused to heal… I knew that if I were to lift up the blanket, I would see more injuries like that. Her skin was pale… so pale, and her cheeks looked unhealthily hollow.
Like every time I saw her, a sense of reality crashed down on me. I was never going to see Tracy and David again. Melanie might be handicapped for life. I was facing financial troubles that would see me turn forty before I was twenty. The rage inside me wouldn’t let me forget my mistake of the day: acting normally around Remus.
How could I pretend so well? Talking with Remus had just been so easy… too easy. It was like none of this ever happened, like Tracy, David, and Melanie meant nothing to me!
But… if I didn’t pretend… then people would give me that pitying gaze that I abhorred. It’d be better if they were in pain, just like me, trying to find some reason to keep going.
At this thought, I was filled with a self-disgust so great that I wanted to rip myself apart. I felt a tingling in my hand, but ignored it. What was wrong with me? I wanted one thing… and I wanted the complete opposite as well! Why did I want others to go through what I was going through, just so I would feel better about my pain…?
Why did I leave Andrew in California with only one measly, reserved note that didn’t cover half of the things I could have told him?
Why hadn’t I owled Grace?
I was reduced to a pathetic weakling.
Except… Melanie still needed this pathetic weakling. And I couldn’t let her down. I’d let down enough people in my life… I didn’t need to add more. I leaned forward and grasped Melanie’s unresponsive hand in my own.
“Please… be all right. I’m going to do everything I can to handle this… help you. I promised your parents. I won’t let you down. In return… you can’t let me down. You have to live… you have to!” I said desperately.
Melanie didn’t respond, of course. I don’t know why I still expected her to revive at my words… all those cheesy dramas on TV were lies, all lies. I kept a silent vigil at her side until I vaguely noted that I still had to meet the owner of the flat, and it was already close to ten.
Giving Melanie’s hand one last squeeze, I whispered, “Please don’t be disgusted with me.”
I left St. Mungo’s with a heavy heart. But I knew it would be over soon… the pain would be swallowed up by the void inside me.
Maneuvering through the dark streets was quite a challenge, and I found that I had to backtrack several times while finding my way back to the flat. There were moments when I was sure that I couldn’t find it again… but then I stumbled along a vaguely familiar road and ended up in front of the building. I remembered the windows.
Now… if only I could remember which number was the right apartment. Was it 427 or 428? Damn.
Rubbing my temples, I decided to take a chance. I tentatively knocked on 428, wondering if the owner would be mad at such a late wake-up. Whoever was inside was obviously surprised, and I heard a thump and a bunch of swear words. Perhaps this was the wrong apartment… I contemplated moving away before he answered the door. But—too late.
The door swung open, and I found myself staring at a old, shriveled up man with white hair. Startled, I blinked at him, and he blinked back. He was obviously waiting for me to speak, which was only fair since I had come banging on his door at eleven at night, and this probably wasn’t the right flat—he looked so confused.
“Um… were you the one looking for a new maid?” I asked embarrassedly. God, I had to kill Remus for not telling me who the hell the owner was!
The old man looked at me dumbly and shook his head. But then his face split into a toothy grin, and he regarded me leeringly.
“Oh, okay. Sorry to bother you.” I turned to go, but then he spoke up.
“That’s all right. I guess I could use a maid like you around,” he cackled.
Now that was disgusting. Lecherous old men roaming around… ew.
He wasn’t even rich! How did he expect anyone to take him up on his offer? Ew.
I walked down the hall and around the corner near the stairs, waiting for the door to close before peeking out cautiously to go try 427. It wouldn’t do if that dirt clod knew where I’d be.
It was precisely now that a realization struck me. I could have just stuck in the key that Remus had given me and see if it would work! But no… I just had to forget that I could think and go knocking on the door. Disgusted at myself, I took the key out of my bag and fitted it into 427’s keyhole. It swung open silently, and I entered the dimly lit flat.
I felt as if I were intruding. Where in the world was the owner? I didn’t want to go and screw up my first impression by having him mistake me for a burglar of some sort and smash something over my head. Or spell me.
Damn it! I didn’t even know if he was a Muggle or not!
Remus had to die….
Though it was partly my fault for not even asking! God, how stupid was I going to get before I stopped regressing?
“Hello?” I called. “Um… this is Faye Prewitt. The new”—I grimaced—“maid.”
The lump on the couch that I had previously mistaken for a pile of blankets stirred. A head of black, tousled hair popped out, and I found myself staring at…
…Sirius Black’s face.
For a moment, neither of us moved. An alarming sense of unreality swooped over me. This could not be happening.
“What the hell are you doing in here?” I managed to get out. “You broke in, didn’t you? Have you been stalking me?!”
He ogled at me, still obviously sluggish from sleep. “I live here!”
My jaw must have dropped to the ground by now. I couldn’t register this information. If this flat was Sirius’s…
Then that meant that I was working for Sirius. I was his maid. I was effing living with him!
“You—you…” I struggled for words.
“Yes, it’s me.” Sirius actually had the audacity to smirk at me before sitting up and stretching languorously. He didn’t seem surprised at all. This thought made another piece click. I had been set up! Remus’s “good friend” had been none other than Sirius! Why hadn’t I thought of it?
“You—I can’t live with—with you,” I sputtered.
“Why not? I need someone to clean up… and the board’s free! Isn’t that what you’re looking for?” Grinning, he stood up and ran a hand through his hair. “Well, I’m beat. We’ll talk more in the morning when you… calm down a bit. Oh, and remember to be ready with breakfast!”
With that said, Sirius walked over to a door and disappeared behind it.
Calm down? That bloody git had set me up, and he wanted me to calm down? I had to… do something about this. First on my list: kill Remus. And then, of course, move out.
But a pang of doubt and uncertainty struck me. Would I gain anything by moving out? No. I would have to go back to the Leaky Cauldron and waste money for the few weeks we had before school started when Sirius was offering a free place to stay. And hadn’t I made myself a promise to give Sirius’s “help” a chance? And… this was his offer, though he’d gone about it in a roundabout, sneaky way.
Taking a deep breath, I knew I had reached a grudging decision. Whatever my thoughts of Sirius… he was trying to help, and I needed help. I rubbed my eyes rather angrily before sneakily opening doors to see which one was my room. I could deal with this. It wouldn’t be that different from school anyway, right? I would deal with this… one freaking step at a time.
Starting in the morning.
Remus. I am going to kill you and feed your bones to a hippogriff!
“Faye! Wake up! Is this how you’re going to go about on your first day?”
I groggily opened my eyes, Sirius’s voice loud in my ears.
“I haven’t had breakfast yet, and I’m hungry.”
“Go to hell,” I mumbled into the pillow.
Then something shoved me over and over again. “Why won’t you make me any-y-y-y-y-y-y?”
I growled in frustration. Why couldn’t he make his own bloody breakfast?
“You’re my maid, remember?”
Oh. Right. That.
With a groan and a monumental force of will, I threw off my warm blankets and sat up—only to fall back down to languish in pain after my head collided with Sirius’s.
“What?!” I swore, swiping away tears of pain from my eyes. “What do you want?”
I resentfully looked up at Sirius’s all-too-happy grin. This was already turning out to be a bad, bad decision. Horrible mistake. Stupid blunder. I threw my blankets off of myself and stalked out into the kitchen, where I stopped dead, realizing—for the first time—that I couldn’t cook. I had never cooked anything by myself before. I didn’t know how to handle myself in a kitchen!
But I couldn’t let Sirius and his big, fat, stupid smirk know that.
Sirius sauntered over to his couch and flopped down with a sigh while I went into the kitchen and began pulling out random pots and pans. An awkward silence followed.
Sirius was the one to break it, since I was too immersed in trying to figure out what to make. “So… how was your summer?”
“It was…” I trailed off when I remembered he knew. “Fine.”
“Really.” His voice clearly showed his skepticism.
“Yes, really.” Digging around the cabinets for some oil, I spotted some bread and decided to make toast. If I could. Fifteen minutes later I was frantically scraping some burnt eggs off the bottom of the pan and onto the only slightly burnt bread. I looked at my mess of a breakfast doubtfully, but in the end I decided that Sirius was able to swallow anything, judging from the way he ate at Hogwarts.
Resolutely marching out of the kitchen, I plopped Sirius’s plate in front of him. Good thing I hadn’t made any for myself. It looked… terrible.
Sirius eyed his breakfast before raising his eyebrows at me. “It is the best you can do?”
I looked away, a twisty, uncomfortably feeling worming its way into my gut, and I didn’t answer.
“Fine,” he sighed. Then I heard a crunch of burnt bread, and I looked up. Sirius was eating the thing! He was eating the disgusting toast I had made, something I wouldn’t even do! I watched as he struggled to keep his expression bland. After he was through with about half of it, I decided I couldn’t stand it anymore. He was only eating it because he pitied my pitiable cooking skills.
“Don’t eat this,” I sighed, grabbing the plate away from him. “It tastes like shit. Even I don’t want to put you through that.”
“How thoughtful of you,” he said dryly, swallowing his last bite painfully. “I appreciate it.”
“Good,” I responded before glancing at the clock situated above the fireplace. “I have to go in half an hour. Get up. I’ll clean this place up a bit.”
“Naw… I think I’ll sit right here and watch you.” Sirius settled himself deeper into the couch and propped his feet up against the low table. Rolling my eyes, I bent over to collect some clothes and a blanket from the couch arm and folded it. Then I proceeded to explore the rest of the flat, looking for a closet to put these things away.
“Hey, why don’t I take you to work?” Sirius asked after a while, standing up and following me around the apartment. I sighed in annoyance. Oh, joy. Even more time with him.
“No, I’m fine.” I turned away from him and hunched a shoulder
“No, really. I want to take you. I need to go out anyways.”
“No, it’s fine.”
“But it’ll be faster,” he insisted.
“Well, I need exercise!” I snapped.
“No, you don’t! Your figure’s great!”
“Thanks,” I said automatically, used to these comments after modeling. “Wait a second… that’s not the point!”
“Great, it’s settled, then,” Sirius said cheerfully before grabbing up what looked like a set of car keys. “Let’s go.”
“But I’m not done cleaning—!” Sirius ignored me and grabbed my hand and dragged me out of the door.
“Wait, you have a car? You can drive? But you’re not Muggle-born…” I tried to say as we clattered down the stairs.
“I don’t need to be.”
“Is this legal?” I half-yelled, trying to twist my hand out of his grip.
“Uh… I’m not sure. But does that really matter?” Sirius shrugged a shoulder uncaringly.
“I should think so!” I think my eyes were bugging out by now. We entered the garage.
“Here she is, my hot new ride!” Sirius gestured at a rickety, rusty old car of an indeterminate color. Through the dirty, clouded-up window I could see that the stuffing was coming out of the seats, and there were heaps of stuff lying around in the backseat.
“You expect me to ride in that?” I asked, thoroughly unimpressed. “I thought you were rich.”
Sirius made a great show of rolling his eyes. “Not that car. It’s this motorcycle! What, you expected me to be driving that old dump?” he scoffed. “Never. I, Sirius Black, will always travel in style.”
I finally noticed the huge, shining motorcycle sitting in front of the unstable-looking car, and I gasped with amazement. Sirius apparently had good taste.
“Here, pull your jaw up and put this on,” Sirius said; I could hear the grin in his voice. He just had one of those voices when anyone could tell if he was smiling or not. He tossed a helmet at me, but instead of putting it on, I hesitantly turned it over in my hands.
“Don’t you need one?” I inquired, holding the helmet back out towards him.
“Nope.” Sirius whistled cheerfully as he threw one leg over the bike and revved it up and brought it out of the garage. “Come on, get on or you’ll be late.” I reluctantly put the helmet on and buckled it before climbing on the bike behind Sirius.
“Hold on tight,” Sirius instructed a mere second before the bike shot forward. Biting back a shriek, I had to lunge forward and grip his shoulders, which put me in a position too close for comfort. It was better than putting my arms around his waist… but hanging onto his shoulders made me feel distinctly unsafe and apt to fall at any moment.
“Are you sure this is safe?” I yelled into his ear.
“Yeah, don’t worry! I’ve had this baby for a month!” he shouted back. A month. Was that supposed to comfort me? It was then that I remembered the most important part of driving…
“Do you even have a license?” I shouted in panic.
“Why would people need a license to go around and drive? It’s perfectly safe from what I’ve seen! Besides, we don’t need licenses of brooms, why should we need them for cars?”
Oh dear God. I was on the back of a motorcycle traveling at an alarming speed, weaving through the line of traffic, with a guy who’d had it for only a month and didn’t know what people needed licenses for.
A few nerve-racking close scrapes, sharp turns, and car beeps later, we arrived at the Leaky Cauldron.
“Were you trying to kill me?” I demanded shakily, throwing myself off the bike with wobbly legs. “I can see why you don’t have a license! You’d never pass the tests!!”
Sirius waved his hand dismissively and said in a smug voice, “What are you talking about? Did you see how much control I had? You thought I wasn’t going to make the last corner, but—!”
“Whatever.” I cut him off and tossed him his helmet. “Thanks for the ride… I guess.”
“Try to be back early,” he called after me, “to spend more time trying to make something presentable to eat.”
I didn’t even turn around to glare at him; it would make that grin I knew was on his face grow wider. Stupid. Just because I couldn’t cook for jack shit didn’t mean anything. Nothing at all.
“From the way you cook, I’d say you’ll have to be back a couple of hours early!” he shouted, a smirk very apparent in his voice.
Some people could be such jackasses.
It was rather amazing to me that I got back to the flat before Sirius did. While I cleaned up, I pondered about Sirius’s life, something I found as a welcome distraction from my thoughts. Sirius seemed like the sort to just laze around the house… but I supposed that he had a job. After all, he did live by himself. But he was rich… why would his parents let him live in a small apartment like this? Surely the Blacks could have gotten somewhere better… unless Sirius’s parents weren’t on very good terms with him.
Upon having reached that conclusion, I wondered for a while what Sirius’s true relationship with his family was. I had seldom ever heard him speak of them, and not ever proudly. He himself had never referred to his family’s apparent wealth; I had heard that all from others. Perhaps he had some painful experiences with his family. This realization made me feel rather startled in that I’d known him for a year, and even been attached to him for a few months… but I had never bothered to find out. I knew him, his personality and his reactions… but I didn’t know anything about him.
For some reason, these thoughts made me feel distinctly uncomfortable with myself. My plan for self-improvement was dashed after all… dashed the moment I’d heard about Tracy and David….
And even worse… I felt a spark of sympathy for Sirius. After all, there had to be something wrong with his family for him to be living alone so soon, and in such a small flat, when he was supposed to be filthy rich. So he was just like me now… no family to go back to. In an obscure way, I was glad he was like me. Not because it must be painful for him or any spiteful reason…. But I was just glad that I didn’t feel so alone anymore.
After I finished vacuuming, I decided to try to tackle dinner and make spaghetti. From my explorations of the kitchen, I knew Sirius had the materials… I think. If only I knew all the correct ingredients. But my decision turned out to be a horrible mistake.
When the door opened, announcing the arrival of Sirius, I was frantically trying to keep the spaghetti sauce from burning, though it already was and was giving off a disgusting odor, a sure sign that I had done something wrong. At the same time, the noodles I was cooking had boiled over the rim because the fire was too big, and the harsh sizzling sound from the water hitting the hot stove coupled along with the fire alarm made a very alarming scene. Sirius obviously thought I was on the way to burning the apartment down, because he rushed into the kitchen and waved his wand around.
A jet of water struck me square in the face as Sirius attempted to quench whatever fire appeared to be on my face. I choked in surprise, spitting out the water that had made its way into my mouth, and I automatically let go of the pot holding the ruined spaghetti sauce to cover my face, which turned out to be yet another bad idea because it dropped (no kidding!) onto what could only be Sirius’s foot, if his yelp of pain was anything to go by.
“What the hell? What have you been screwing with?!” he bellowed, once more aiming the jet of water at my face.
When would he realize that my face wasn’t on fire?
“Sirius!” I gurgled. “Stop shooting it at my face!”
When the water wasn’t removed, I stumbled forward blindly, trying to knock Sirius’s wand out of his hand. I think I stuck my foot into the spaghetti sauce, and I catapulted over, knocking into Sirius. I was roughly picked up and shoved aside, and then a huge sizzling sound announced the extinguishing of the open flame on the stove.
There was a moment of ringing silence (the fire alarm was still going) as Sirius and I catalogued how bad I’d screwed up. I cringed in shame and opened my mouth to apologize, but to my surprise, Sirius started laughing.
I stared down at myself, realizing how ridiculous I looked. I had put on an apron—I had no idea why Sirius was in possession of an apron—over my street clothes, and my foot was stuck inside the pot of spaghetti sauce, which was still rather warm. Something tickled in the back of my throat, and it emerged as a full-throated laugh. It felt so weird, after not laughing for so long.
Then a knock on the door interrupted us. Sirius limped over and opened it, with me following behind him as soon as I pried the pot off my foot. The old man from next door stood there with an annoyed expression on his face.
“Are you two young ones quite all right?” he said with concern.
“Yeah, fine,” Sirius managed, shooting me a Look. “Just an accident in the kitchen.”
The old man pursed his lips in disapproval and then looked at me. I suppressed a groan. His lecherous, disgusting side wasn’t about to surface, was it?
As a matter of fact, it was.
“You can still change your mind and be my maid, if you like, dear,” he cackled. Sirius rolled his eyes angrily at this and slammed the door, saying, “Go home, Mr. Frangle.”
“Is he always like that?” I asked Sirius, who was scowling and still managed to look handsome white scowling.
“Yeah. Don’t pay attention to that crazy geezer.”
I laughed again, until I realized that I was enjoying myself. In Sirius’s company. I hadn’t even thought of Tracy, David, Melanie, Voldemort, and all those other people while I’d been preoccupied with cooking. How could I forget it that easily? It was supposed to be my responsibility, and I was slacking. Again.
I bowed my head and said, “Sorry, Sirius. I’ll go clean it up,” before hurrying to do just that.
So... I've been gone a long time. Sorry. I hope you enjoyed that. I don't think it's quite up to par... but I guess that what not writing for a long time does to a person. sigh. Anyway, I hope everyone has a very merry Christmas! This was my Christmas present to you guys!
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