Chapter 33 : Fade to Black
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"Kris, don't be so mean to it."
"It gave me detention in three classes!"
"Well, it's just a cat... Maybe it's lost, or--"
"Lily, please. I think it knows I stole Remus' next door neighbor's cat on Christmas Eve. Now all the cats in England are being...magnetized...to...take a swing at me...with their razor sharp claws! To gouge my eyes out!"
Amber and Lily erupted into loud cackles as I winced at the realization of my own childish words. My strained expression then softened into a silly smile as I shook my head and glanced down at the feline.
"What do you want from me, cat? Do I smell like fish or something?" I quickly held onto my robes and brought them to my nose. With an exasperated sigh and eyes the size of Bludgers, I pressed my robes into Amber and Lily's faces.
"Get that out of my face," Amber laughed, fancying my storm.
"Kris, seriously. It's not 'all the cats in England', it's only this one. And we should just find out if it belongs to anyone before your death glare ends its life," vocalized Lily calmly.
"Lily, seriously," I mocked, turning to the redhead. "McGonagall, Slughorn, and easy-going Flitwick thought I brought the stupid cat to class. Pets aren't allowed in classrooms unless it's important for them to be there, and now, I have detention for the rest of the week. Whoever this cat belongs to will get a piece of my mind. Mark my words."
"Well, don't do anything rash. It's not as if whoever the cat belongs to planned on it following you to class," Lily said eloquently. "You did tell the professors the part about it not belonging to you and that you couldn't get it to stop following you, right?"
"Stop looking at me," I demanded of the cat, its black ears perking curiously. I ignored Lily unintentionally and continued to have a glaring contest with the medium-sized, black, furry figure. Lily studied the cat inquisitively -- as though a trace of remembrance was waking up within her brain -- and stole a glimpse back at me with her brows furrowed.
"Quit being childish already and look at me!" Lily demanded, setting down her messenger bag onto the wet, moss-embedded walkway. The cat sprinted backward just in time, cheating an injury.
The snow was melting away, as it was late February. There were barely any of the white blankets left to sport the sodden, green grass. Even though snow and I became good friends that winter, I hadn't much cared that it was fading away for another year. It had been my birthday on the sixteenth, and I turned seventeen. And though I tried to the best of my ability not to think of him, Sirius was always popping into my head, and I realized I was now his age.
We were outside of the castle, coming back from Care of Magical Creatures class. Lily had yet to address the reasoning behind my looking at her. Just when I thought she wasn't going to, she abruptly spoke.
"Listen to me. Do you know which creature we just learned about?" A serious Lily stood a mere five inches away from me, a hand placed sharply on her left hip.
My eyes widened as I began to think. "The...umm… The Xyler? What has that got to do with cats?"
"No, not what we learned about today. We were learning about the Warden and the Wearch when we came back in January. Do you know what Professor Bingee had with her that day?"
"Isn't a Warden the adult form of a Wearch?" I inquired uncertainly. Lily nodded hurriedly, her emerald eyes sparkling over in slight frustration (happening upon my interruption).
"And we know that Wardens and Wearches control the weather, supposedly, of course." Lily rolled her eyes. "But did you read the passage that Bingee gave us that day?"
"No," Amber and I both voiced. Amber even snorted.
Lily pressed hot air out of her mouth and folded her arms over her chest. "Honestly. Well, it said that the Wearch gains more ability once it becomes of age and turns into a Warden."
"How does this have anything to do with a cat??" I asked, staring down at the black cat with my nose wrinkled.
"Do you really want me to answer that?" snapped Lily as she picked up her messenger bag from the small, cold cobbles. "I read that Wardens gain the ability to control one specific element. It also said that each Warden family specializes in a different weather element."
"This is ridiculous," I muttered, shaking my head. "That's not even possible."
"And that has nothing to do with cats!" Amber piped, high-pitched. Lily and I stared at her for her obsession with the cat. "Well, it's true," she added briskly, shoving her nose in the air with raised eyebrows.
"Like I said, you don't want to know," Lily said feverishly, her few last syllables heavily spoken. "I think we should--"
"If you don't tell us, we're probably just going to go back and read the passage in our books, anyway," I pointed out in heat, despite the cold air around me. "So you might as well save us the trouble."
"I..." Lily began, unsure of what to say. She finally caved in after a dose of unblinking stares from Amber and me. "Oh, alright, fine. It said somewhere in the middle of the one section I was reading that it is common for Wardens to become animagi."
"And you think this cat -- this common, regular, plain, old, black cat -- is really a person," I sighed, rubbing my temples. "That's the most absurd theory I have ever had the displeasure to hear."
"It sounds stupid, but--"
"Lily, please.... It's just a cat. Look at her."
"A cat," sounded Amber, looking at me as though I was supposed to realize something and receive a downpour of icy shivers trickle down my spine. It didn't come.
"A black cat," Lily added, a rapid flow of energy pulsating through her veins. This caused her to talk just as fast. "This black cat was with Bingee the day we learned about Wearches and Wardens! Is that some sort of coincidence?!"
"Maybe, but do you reckon this belongs to her? Professor Bingee, I mean." I pointed at the cat as Amber bent over hesitantly, taking the kitty safely into her arms. She started stroking its sleek coat gently while she listened to it purr a tune of enjoyment. "I just want it out of my sight. When I was nine, I tried to play with cat at Diagon Alley, and my Dad...he pulled me away from it and said not to touch it.. Now, I don't like cats."
Amber and Lily just gaped at me in silence for a few seconds. I exhaled. "I was nine, okay?"
As to not waste time, Amber continued our other conversation. "Wait, how do we know that this cat belongs to her? It could be anybody's cat. I mean, look at it. It's black…and common...and stuff," Amber countered pointedly, despite her last words.
Lily shook her head whilst trapping her bottom lip with her pearly whites. "Bingee's cat had a distinguishable mark on her stomach. I remember because the lesson that day was hard for me to hear from all the way in the back, so I sort of just tuned it all out and became familiar with the distractions around me... Anyway, it was in the shape of a cloud or a sun or some odd sort of thing... It was the only white on the cat. And look at this -- flip her over, Amber."
Amber did as she was instructed, Lily's intellect grasping for control of the ordeal. It hissed warningly. I stepped back with a nervous giggle. "Charming, really."
Lily nodded at her own thoughts. "We have to speak to Bingee. Now."
"Right this second?" I asked, trying to straighten up as my unruly hair whirled into every which way.
"Right this second," Lily repeated in a sluggish nod.
We started to head over to the forest where Professor Bingee could be seen by the vibrant purple robes she was wearing. As we set foot, Amber dropped the cat and began to call to Lily and me.
"Wait!" yelled Amber as Lily and I turned around.
"What?" Lily sighed, searching the ground for a patch of dark fur. The cat was running to me. I whined in irritation.
Lily and I were waiting for a response from Amber after moments of silence, when suddenly, she said, "Do we, by any chance, have time to go up to our dorm? I'm feeling the craving for Bertie Bott's and--"
"Amber!" hollered Lily with impatience.
"Okay, I'm coming, I'm coming," Amber groaned. I stifled a violent giggle and started walking along blindly. I heard a foul hiss from below, so I looked down and naturally jumped backwards in shock. That…and I was facing some pretty sharp teeth.
I wasn't watching where I stepped, and since the cat was walking so close by, I accidentally stepped on its tail. Oops...
"Sorry, cat." Looking into her otherwise cute but worn-out appearance, I began to immediately see an acute change.
The cat's normally yellow eyes started fading to gray to form a lavender hue. The lavender faded into a darker purple, a violet. Pain...
"Please tell me....that I'm not the only one who saw that." I whispered to Amber and Lily, implying a creepy atmosphere.
"Holy Godric Gryffindor! The eyes turned purple when you stomped on its tail!" Amber shrieked, her mouth unsealed and eyes wide.
"I'll go fetch Professor Bingee. You two stay here and make sure the cat doesn't go anywhere," Lily spoke with a tone of awe and rejection to what was happening.
As Amber and I nodded quickly, Lily started to run farther away from us. I couldn't keep my own eyes off of the cat because then, I was captivated.
I began to gradually bend over with my arms outstretched slightly. The cat's eyes were now nearly invisible against its black fur as its eyes' tinge faded to black. Dreamily backing up, the cat ran off in a sprint towards the Dark Forest.
"Don't go!" I called to her, a feeling of stupidity grasping my chest. I let her keep running, and I didn't go after her. That was idiotic of me. "This is unreal..."
"And ironic," Amber reminisced in a low utter.
"Her tail still hurt. She was afraid of me." I frowned, standing upright again to face Amber. "And her eyes turned black."
"She was probably only scared because you stepped on her tail," Amber reasoned quietly.
"Maybe, but don't you have a weird feeling about this?"
"You mean your furry friend?" Amber stared into the dark trees bordering the forest without sharing her thoughts.
"Amber," I huffed, gaining her attention. "That cat's eyes change colors with her moods. Just like mine."
"So you found a cat that has color-changing eyes--"
"With no proof of it ever existing--"
"Because it ran into the Dark Forest," I snapped coldly, rising from the couch with a sigh. I gazed into the fire of the Gryffindor common room while folding my arms over my chest.
"Because you let it."
"Shut up, James."
"What did Bingee say when you got to her, Lily?" Remus asked interestedly.
"She actually yelled at me for wasting her time," scowled Lily, turning her head. She was watching me pace the common room. It was welcoming and toasty, and I could feel in my cheeks the cold and hot air contaminate each other.
"She claimed the cat wasn't hers," Amber inserted with a lengthy sigh.
"Then how come it was at her class the day we learned about whatever you were droning on about?" Sirius sounded as though he was about to strangle the very life out of Professor Bingee.
"Maybe she never even noticed the stupid cat." I exhaled for an extended amount of time.
Lily, Amber, and the Marauders all looked defeated. None of them had the slightest inkling of what to say. I sat back down next to Remus, careful to avoid Sirius' eyes.
The trouble was, we had been back for almost two months, and Sirius had unwillingly been brought back into the bad tendency of dating his fan girls. Sure, one might ponder as to how this habit awoke without his will, but it was really quite simple: Loneliness.
He didn't want to deal with me and my stubborn-ness, so, he -- as he had so happily bragged -- saw to it that he would satisfy other girls. Sirius Black was no longer a virgin.
We had many verbal fights since we were back, but I never thought it would come to what we reached. He went from spilling water on me flirtatiously and singing Christmas carols to picking things to argue about. Did he plot those very things in his mind?
What hurt the most wasn't the fact that he was getting to know other girls (if you know what I mean). What hurt was that he had no problem sharing it with me, and I thought he loved me once before. I hadn't caved in to Snape's pestering because I barely wanted to hear it. I longed for Sirius to bug me, to ask me to go out with him, to wrap his arm around my waist or kiss my cheek just to have me slap him for trying a move...a poor move.... But I never got that. What I once wanted to fade out was fading me within.
"So, what now?" I asked to nobody in particular.
"We should forget that it ever happened. The cat is gone and there's nothing left to do or say. So, what can you do..." Remus patted my back as Amber began to lean into him. I found myself staring down at my hands.
My Christmas present was being fidgeted on my finger as I thought over my possibilities. To dwell on or not to dwell on; that is the question.
"Okay," I released, looking up. Sirius was staring at my hands, so I stopped moving them.
He saw it. He saw the opal, silver-banded ring.
"It's settled then," James inserted quickly. "No more cat talk. I'm going to bed."
"So am I," said Peter in a docile tone.
It was fairly past midnight. The previous half hour, I arrived back at the common room after serving my first night's detention that week for doing something that I didn't do.
People began to flee the common room to heal their tired eyes. I was the only one left, but then I noticed that Sirius was still sitting with only the firelight in all the darkness.
What could he possibly want from me?
"Don't you have a girl waiting for you upstairs?" I could feel the icy words escape my mouth, traveling from my frozen lips to an innocent Sirius. He winced at the bitter-cold caress of my voice.
"Why do you have to be like that?" Sirius shook his head as if in slow motion.
"What do you expect me to be, Sirius?" I inquired rhetorically, emitting a soft heave.
"Anything but a bloody bitch," he spat in hot anger. My ice and his fire fueled him; it made him stronger and me weaker. I felt like crying, but no tears would tumble.
I turned my head, purely appalled at his behavior. Never had I once heard him speak to me that way. He was always worshipping the ground I walked on, and now, he was putting up a battle... Actually, it was more like a war.
"What are you doing still down here?" My voice no longer had the shiny ice glaring off of it, but it was replaced with a dull, weak, defeated monotone.
Sirius could now tell that he had hurt me, and his face softened. He breathed in the fumes of burning wood from the fireplace and ran his left hand through his dark brown hair.
"I thought I wanted to talk to you, but now I'm not quite sure," he said, no trace of an apology.
"Then leave," I said in that same boring tone.
"Why should I?" he snapped, looking into my eyes. "The common room is a place that any Gryffindor may retire to at any given time. I feel like it right now."
"Fine, then I will leave." I put an emphasis on the word "I." As I was about to go up to the girls' dormitory, I heard his voice pierce the air.
"If you can't face me, then why are you wearing that ring?"
I stopped in mid-ascend. "You expect me to walk backwards?"
"I expect you to be brave enough to not walk at all," Sirius said.
"You really are amazing, Sirius, and not in a good way," I chuckled to myself in disbelief. "You wanted me to leave. Remember? Of course not, you're too busy thinking of more ways to make me cross..."
"Make you cross? How can you even say that? Have you forgotten everything we had? Everything we know about each other?" Sirius grabbed my hand dutifully. It was not an act of kindness or lust. He only wanted to gain my attention.
I looked into his eyes, and he looked into mine. "Don't get confused. Let me help you."
"I'm not confused; I know exactly what you're playing at. I don't like this game, Sirius," I said metaphorically. "I want to quit playing."
"I'm sorry," he said softly, "But there's no back door out of reality. Even if you find one, and you walk through it, something will make you turn back whether you want it to or not."
"How poetic," I flared, yanking my hand back. "I don't need life lessons from Hogwarts' own heartbreaker. I'm going to bed. Good night."
He seized my arm as I spun to greet the stairway again. I furrowed my eyebrows and felt a helpless emotion twitch in my stomach.
"LET GO OF ME!" I barked as he took me in his arms. This isn't what I had in mind.
"Kris, please," Sirius said, struggling to keep me tame. "I don't want to hurt you, I just want you to listen to this one thing I have to say, and then you can leave. I promise."
His voice in my ear decayed as I heard him say promise.
"Haven't you learned that your promises mean nothing to me anymore?"
He released me in delay, and I found the ground again. "Go on," I urged. "Say it. Say it if it means anything at all, if it will make me better."
"I am a bloody fool who was a huge git to ever let you go," Sirius said firmly. "It was my biggest mistake and the reason I would go back in time. I love you, Kris Lupin, and I'm sorry for hurting you."
Waiting for the laughter to pop, I realized it wasn't coming. It was no joke, and he really meant it. After everything he put me through -- the break-up, the arguments, the bragging, the emotional harm -- he still loved me, after all.
"Do you expect me to fall head over heals and accept your apology? Just like that?" I started to feel light-headed. "Do you expect me to say 'I love you' back after everything you've done and just forgive you?"
Sirius was panicking, and his face distorted into a strain. "Sort of," he said shyly. Sirius Black -- shy?
I let out a puff of air and let my face become familiar with the palms of my hands. Looking up at Sirius, I spontaneously wrapped my arms around his neck and kissed him.
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