Chapter 10 : Dancing In A Hurricane
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Harry was sitting by the fireplace in the deserted common room, smiling and laughing with Sirius. They had just been talking about Harry's latest triumph against Malfoy which had led Sirius into a story of a prank he and James had once pulled on Remus. As the laughter subsided Sirius fixed his gaze upon his godson.
"Excited for the holidays?" he asked Harry.
"Of course. Are we all staying at Headquarters?"
"Yes, the Weasley's are coming as well as some of the Order members who may feel the need to drop by." Sirius explained. Harry nodded slowly.
"Is Professor Nox invited?" he asked tentatively. Sirius let out a long breath.
"I invited her, but she's not sure if she's coming."
"Why did you lie to me?" Harry asked angrily. Both he and Sirius had tried to gracefully dance around the subject in an effort to keep things light but Harry wanted answers, and he was still quite angry at Sirius.
"Harry, we were friends a long time ago. I haven't seen her in sixteen years, and her life is rather...complicated. She made it clear her past is none of anyone's business. If she didn't want to tell you who she was I agreed to respect her wishes and said nothing."
"Does she really think I wouldn't understand having a complicated life? Why does she have to be so secretive?" Harry wondered bitterly.
"Truthfully, Harry, I don't know. I personally think she went about this entirely wrong, but it's not my place to judge." Sirius said with a slight groan in his voice.
"There's something else, you're not telling me." Harry stated simply.
"It's for her to tell you when she's ready to." Sirius said gently. Harry just stared at him for a moment before they heard footsteps on the landing.
"You'd better go." Harry whispered sadly.
"Alright, well I love you. Stay out of trouble...and Harry?"
"Give Valora a break. I'm sure she has a good reason for keeping you in the dark." Sirius said before his head dissapeared from the fireplace. Harry stood and kicked the sofa in frustration.
"In the dark about WHAT?" He questioned aloud, to nobody in particular. On top of everything else that was going on with the war, and Voldemort, and the horcruxes, he didn't have time for secrets and more confusion. Besides that he still had the mystery of this 'Half-Blood Prince' nonsense. Harry brushed his hair out of his eyes and walked up to bed, wishing very hard that Professor Nox had never come to Hogwarts.
Valora was sitting in the Great Hall eating her breakfast when she recieved the letter. One look at the writing and she carefully stashed it away in her robes, planning to read it at the next available moment. Once her breakfast was gone she turned and left, heading towards her office. Inside she tore open the envelope.
Have to talk to you. Shack after classes.
Valora groaned and quickly threw the letter into the fire. This was becoming a nuisance, not to metnion suspicious and dangerous. Sirius was supposed to be hiding out, laying low, not cavorting around Hogsmeade. He probably thought himself to be dangerous and courageous to be slipping around unnoticed, but it was only a matter of time before he would be caught.
When Valora arrived at the Shack, Sirius immediatley swept her up into his arms, making her gasp in surrpise.
"I missed you." He said breathlessly. Valora rolled her eyes in annoyance.
"I just saw you yesterday." She said pushing him away gently. Sirius shrugged with a small smile, until he noticed the serious look plastered on Valora's face.
"What did you need?" she asked, already bored with the situation.
"I wanted to see you." Sirius said, obviously unhappy about her lack of enthusiasm at seeing him.
"That's all? Sirius, this is dangerous. We can't keep meeting like this. My excuses are getting really terrible and people are beginning to wonder about my almost weekly trips to Hogsmeade. Now I've been down here two days in a row. How do you think that looks? Don't you think before you come here?" She demanded angrily. Sirius stared at her for a moment, before nodding.
"You're right, I'm sorry. I'll try to space out my visits, but don't ask me to stop coming here, Valora. I won't." He told her flatly. Valora rolled her eyes yet again.
"I don't see you making this much of an effort to see Harry." she noted dryly. Sirius frowned at her.
"I check in with Harry as often as I can, and you know as well as I do that he can't just waltz down to Hogsmeade whenever he likes."
"True, but since he has the invisibility cloak, and most likely the map as well, I wouldn't doubt that he knows the way through the Whomping Willow. It would be almost nothing for him to get here. I on the other hand am without a cloak or a map, or even a good excuse anymore."
"Please, you have the map memorized."
"That has nothing to do with-"
"I don't care, Valora. If it's too much trouble to come and see me then don't come." Sirius said angrily. Making to walk past her, but she gripped his arm tightly.
"Don't you dare act like I'm abandoning you. You're being needlessly reckless with both of our lives." she hissed angrily.
"Yes, because there are so many Deatheaters in Hogsmeade." Sirius said snottily. Valora's eyes narrowed.
"There are Deatheaters everywhere, Sirius. Stop acting like a child and think about how dangerous what you're doing is. Of course I love seeing you but daily and weekly occurrences are too often. I think that if this continues it should ONLY be during Hogsmeade weekends." Valora said, releasing her grip on his arm. Sirius took a few deep breaths and stared at the floor.
"Alright." he said finally, still not looking at her. "You're right. I wasn't thinking. I'm sorry." He said glancing up, looking terribly remorseful. Clearly he'd just been swept up in the excitement of feeling like a teenager again. She understood perfectly and so leaned up and kissed his stubbly cheek before smiling quickly.
"I'll be a few days behind Harry and his friends but I promise I'll visit over the holidays. Alright?" she asked. Sirius's smile widened and he kissed her forehead and held her close to him, hugging her very tight. Valora at first was comforted and then began to wonder why this embrace was lasting so very long. She gently pushed off of him.
"I'll see you at Christmas, then." She said before going back towards the castle. Sirius watched her go with mixed emotions. On the one hand he was thrilled that she was coming to Grimmauld place for Christmas, maybe the three of them, Harry, Valora and himself, would begin to feel like a family, but on the other hand he didn't like how she was so serious just now. She had been the voice of reason when they were younger but she had never quite taken that tone with him. It reminded him, oddly enough, of a certain greasy haired git whom he hated with a passion.
The holidays came quickly. The students swarmed the halls, carrying luggage and wishing each other a happy Christmas. Valora sat quietly at her desk finishing up a few essays she had put off marking. She had asked her students to write a paper on the pros and cons of the Unforgivable Curses. She didn't want to praise them but the unforgivables certaintly came in handy when a situation became desperate. A soft knock from the doorway pulled her gaze from Malfoy's essay (which was getting an F becuase he had failed to list any cons of the Unforgivables).
"Hello, Harry." she said, unable to keep the surprise from her voice.
"Hello, Professor Nox." he said gingerly, gauging her reaction to him. It was almost like he expected her to hate him. Why on earth would she hate him? The boy was curious and rightly so.
"Are you here about your essay?" Valora asked, confused by his presence.
"Oh, well it was a B. Nice work but you got a little wordy and began to rant about the Killing Curse." Valora said with a small smile.
"Sorry if I can't seem to see the good in that one." Harry said, sounding more than a little bitter. Valora groaned inwardly. She didn't want to tell him that Neville had gotten an A for at least attempting to point out pros of the Cruciatus curse.
"Well if you're not here for your essay, then what are you here for?" she asked, sincerely curious.
"I came to apologize...for following you. It was wrong. Not to say that you haven't been acting suspiciously, because you have. You're really cryptic and secretive and it's really annoying because I know that you know more than what your saying and I don't understand what could be so important that you lied to me and convinced Padfoot to lie to me, but I shouldn't have followed you. I should have come to you with it myself." Harry blurted out. Valora smiled slowly.
"I'm sorry too. I'm...I'm not used to people asking me questions. I haven't been around people who know me for a long time. I hope that soon I can explain this to you, but let me tell you this Harry: I'm a bit of a coward, and I'm not ready to tell you who I am. So, for now, you'll simply have to settle for Professor Valora Nox, your 6th year DADA teacher." Valora told him gently. Harry's lips were pursed but he nodded and seemed somewhat at peace with that statement.
They were both silent for a few moments, until Harry shifted the suitcase that was in his hand, which Valora just noticed. The young boy cleared his throat a little.
"I suppose I'll see you at Christmas then?" he asked, with raised eyebrows. Valora smiled wide at his easy acceptance of what she said to him.
"Yes, I'll be following in a day or two." she told him.
"I'll see you then." He said with a small half smile, before walking out towards the entrance hall. Valora quickly scribbled something on a piece of parchment before walking out towards the hall herself.
There were students cramming near the open doors for carriages to take them to Hogsmeade station. The heads of house stood in various places trying to direct the flow of traffic. Valora stood with Minerva for a while trying to get the Gyrffindors into some semblance of a straight line but it didn't seem to be working. There were still just a blob of students filling the hall. Valora decided to abandon what seemed to be a futile mission and walked towards the Owlery. On her way she passe by Severus, slipping the small note into his hand, which was already open. His fingers instinctively curled softly around hers and she felt a little thrill go up her spine. It was like they were sixteen again. She hadn't bothered to give him any clue as to why she wanted to see him. The note had been blunt and very short.
I'll meet you in your office at nine.
Valora sat in front of her mirror and brushed her hair for what seemed the millionth time. She wasn't normally so worried about her appearance but she wanted to look nice. Not that how she looked truly mattered, because once she said what she had to say he would probably be too shocked to see straight...or too angry. Maybe he would stop speaking to her, and that small comfort of his voice would be taken away again. Valora stopped and took a good look at the woman in the mirror. Since when did she let fear keep her from saying what needed to be said? Well actually that was how she spent most of her life, but not with Severus. He was the one person in the entire world who knew everything about her. Every flaw, every painful memory, every joy, everything. That man knew every corner of her soul.
She picked up the hairbrush and ran it through her hair again. She laughed a little at herself. She was reminded of the Yule Ball in her 6th year.
She despised dancing. She could keep rythym well enough and enjoyed the music but Valora was not a dancer. She lacked that specific grace. Still Lily had forced her into a dress of long, pale pink silk. Valora had almost immediatley changed it to black. Lily frowned and attempted to pull Valora's hair into a twist but the restless young woman broke free.
"Just leave my hair down, Lily. I don't even want to go to this thing let alone have uncomfortable pins in my head all night. It's not like I'm trying to impress anyone." Valora said pulling out the pins Lily had already managed to stick in. The copper haired beauty let out a harsh sigh of defeat and threw her hands into the air.
"Fine. I give up."
"Thank you." Valora said smiling.
Walking down into the common room was slightly uncomfortable. With the exception of James, the marauders had chosen to go without dates. Valora however knew that Sirius would probably stick to her side tonight. He tended to do that. Always overprotective, the big-brother type it seemed to Valora. James smiled wide when he saw Lily, in a champagne colored gown that set off her hair and eyes beautifully. In truth she was a little jealous. Not of the attention, just the ability to bring a room full of men into utter silence just by mere presence. Remus was the first to speak to Valora.
"You look lovely, 'Lora." He said, kissing her cheek lightly. She smiled. Remus was so sweet. She couldn't wait until he found a girl of his own. He deserved what James already had; someone, beautiful, intelligent, and completely genuine.
"Are you allowed to be wearing that?" Peter asked cautiously, his eyes flicking nervously to the low back and plunging neckline of her dress. Valora laughed a little at him.
"The worst they can do is tell me to leave in which case, I will, without complaint." She told him. Everyone groaned. She had made no secret about her displeasure at being forced to attend the ball. Sirius grabbed her elbow and steered her towards the Great Hall.
Dancing, it seemed, was much less difficult when you had a capable partner. Sadly, Valora only danced with Remus twice. Peter nervously twirled her and almost tripped her at one point. Luckily James' helping hand prevented that disaster. Sirius, on any other occasion, was a marvelous dancer, but tonight his wandering eye and lack of focus had him stepping steadily on Valora's toes. Still he insisted on dancing with her. She didn't realize it was probably just so other boys couldn't ask her.
Valora didn't bother looking for any sign of Severus. She knew he wouldn't be here. They had already discussed, at great length, the unnessacery thing that was a Yule Ball. He had wasted no effort at voicing his disdain for the tradition. Valora realized, as Sirius twirled her effortlessly, that she missed Severus desperately. She longed to be with him, and she knew just where to find him. Now how would she get out of this terrible ball without anyone following her? She bit her lip in thought.
AHA! genius struck.
"Sirius, could we sit this next one out?" She asked gingerly. He put a hand on the small of her back and leaned in to hear her better.
"What's that, love?"
"I don't feel too well, I need to sit down." she said with a quiet but urgent intensity. Sirius immediatley guided her towards the benches that lined the walls. She crossed her arms over her stomach and doubled over as a artificial spasm of pain washed over her. Sirius rubbed her back dutifully.
"Is everything alright, 'Lora?" he asked nervously. Valora nodded slowly, then took a sharp intake of breath as another carefully planned pain hit.
"What's wrong?" He asked again. Valora managed to glance at him sheepishly.
Sirius blushed and nodded, trying to be understanding. Valora let out a tiny cry of pain.
"I think I might go lie down." She said slowly, taking care in standing. Sirius stood with her, looking uncomfortable.
"Should I, go with you?" He asked nervously. Valora shook her head sincerely.
"No, stay here and have a good time. I'm fine, Sirius. A girl gets used to this kind of thing." She said with blunt honesty. That was all she needed. Valora watched as relief came over his face. He pecked her softly on the forehead before she walked away, out the doors, and out of sight.
Valora continued to clutch her middle in mock pain until she was safely on the third floor. She soon abandoned her facade and ran towards the library as fast as her black high heels would carry her without falling. The door opened quietly and she poked her head inside. Madame Pince was snoring loudly from behind her office door, obviously thinking she had no reason to be paying attention, thinking every student would be at the ball.
Severus glanced up from his homework when Valora walked in and he drank in the sight of her. Her long, chocolate hair was in loose waves and slightly frizzy from the humidity caused by the atmosphere of the dance. Her cheeks were flushed from running and her lips curved up into a smile. His eyes went still downward towards her body which was very much exposed in the dress she wore. It was black and looked like silk, clinging to her every curve, with a slit up the side and a deeply plunging neckline. She walked toward him slowly, carefully, trying to see his reaction to her.
"Why aren't you with Potter and Black enjoying the ball?" He asked honestly. Valora looked a little wounded but didn't let the remark sink in too much.
"I didn't want to be there with them. I wanted to be with you." She said quietly. Severus stood and opened his arms for her, and she gladly rushed into them. His fingers were cool against her bare back and she breathed in the smell of him, resting her head agaisnt his shoulder.
"This is completely ridiculous." He muttered. Valora looked up at him, frowning.
"What? That I want to be with you?" She asked, sounding hurt.
"No, well yes. In a way. It's just ridiculous that you look so beautiful and it's wasted on me." He admitted, letting Valora glimpse at his insecurity. She smiled reassuringly, as she always did when he doubted his self-worth, and kissed him lightly.
"It's not wasted." she whispered. Severus groaned and Valora knew what was coming. Another explanation about how dangerous they were together.
"Do you know what this is?" He asked, gesturing to the smal space between him. Valora pursed her lips and narrowed her eyes.
"No, but I'm sure you're going to tell me."
"It's a storm. No, a hurricane. It's intense, and violent and dangerous. I'm not sure- I'm just-"
Valora cut him off with a kiss. She knew he was right but she didn't care. A little danger kept things from becoming dull, and besides she knew it was far past turning back from what they had. A connection that surpassed everything else. It transcended their secrets, their loyalties, and their sense of self-preservation. Valora slipped his hand down to her waist before taking his other hand in her own.
"What are you doing?' He asked as she began to push him around in circles, between the rows of books. She smiled up at him.
"Dancing in a hurricane." she replied simply. Severus sighed before smiling and taking the lead. Valora smiled wide in delight to discover that he was a natural dancer. He moved lightly but purposefully, easily swinging her around the shelves and twirling her with little effort. She almost felt graceful with him. He wasn't distracted like Sirius, or shy like Peter and her was certaintly not as distant at Remus. However he was much less respectful than James had been with Lily. James had kept his date at an appropriate distnace while Severus held Valora tighly to him, as they spun about the quiet, empty library. She knew, without one doubt, that she loved him.
Walking downstairs to the dungeons she suddenly felt her nerves dissapear. She was going to do this. she had to do this. If she didn't she would drive herself insane with the 'what if's' that seemed to keep popping into her mind. She had to tell him that she was still the sixteen year old girl, running to the library to see him. She still wanted to dance in the hurricane. She still loved him.
She knocked softly on the door and Severus's deep, resonant voice came from the other side.
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