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Chapter 12 : The Tortures of Waiting
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Moody and Tonks quickly ushered Harry, Ron, Ginny and Hermione inside number 12 Grimmauld place. Inside Molly immediatley descended on them with bone-crushing hugs. She was fussing over them, asking about the train ride and telling them that Bill and Fleur would be coming up sometimes tomorrow. From behind her the twins grinned at some secret joke while Harry looked over their heads for Sirius who was leaning against a wall grinning. Harry pressed toward him and threw his arms around him. Sirius gripped him tightly, a huge smile on both their faces.
"How are you, Harry?" he asked quietly, leaning back to get a proper look a the young man's face. Harry glanced quickly at the others before leaning in a bit closer to Sirius.
"Can we talk?" Harry asked.
"Of course." Sirius said leading Harry into a small room that was lined with dilapidated bookshelves and equipped with a dirty and abused looking desk that was covered with papers and books.
"This was my father's study. He spent most of his time in here. Avoiding my mother, I think. Not that I'd blame him for that." Sirius said sadly, no doubt his own unhappy memories coming back to him. He glanced back at Harry before settling into the armchair behind the desk and smiling.
"What did you want to talk about?" he asked, turning all of his attention to Harry, who was leaning against one of the bookshelves, his brow furrowed in deep thought.
"I spoke to Professor Nox again." Harry told him. Sirius raised an eyebrow and made a tiny gesture for Harry to continue.
"She wouldn't tell me anything, but I know you know something about her. I want to know what you're hiding from me, and why you're hiding it. I trust you Sirius but this is becoming ridiculous. If you all are doing this to protect me it's a bit pointless, because I really don't see how one person could put me in more danger than I'm already in." Harry said angrily, but calmly. Sirius laughed lightly in agreement.
"Sit down, Harry." he said, and the young man did that, sitting across from his godfather as Sirius leaned forward, resting his forearms on the desk.
"I knew Valora since before my first year at Hogwarts. She's from a well-to-do pureblood family. Her parents were friends with my parents, but the Noxes were not nearly as rigid and one-minded as the Blacks. We grew up together and when it came time for school we were sorted into the same house. My parents were of course furious, and Valora's were dissapointed as well but didn't seem to mind as much. Mrs. Nox had been in Ravenclaw anyway.
"Valora had never gotten along with girls very well, she's too practical to be caught up in things like flowers and dresses. So she joined in more with your Dad and Me, Remus and Peter. She was the unofficial marauder. She had a hand in most of the pranks we pulled. I don't know if life at Hogwarts would have been the same without her. She helped tutor Peter and me in potions almost all the way through school, played beater since her thrid year. She was the one who helped convince your Mum to give your Dad a chance. She was also the one who came up with the idea of becoming an 'animagi' to visit Remus." Sirius explained with the wistful expression of remembrance on his face. Harry smiled in spite of himself.
"So why the secrecy?" he asked catiously. Sirius's face darkened slightly.
"Her life wasn't so wonderful outside of Hogwarts. Her mother died the summer before our 4th year. As for her father...he was terrible. He became an alcoholic after her mum passed and she'd come back from summer holiday with new bruises all the time. He never wrote to her and I can only imagine what happened when she came home. She stopped going home for Christmas by her 6th year, and only spent 3 weeks of her summer there before the marauders came and got her. I remember her dad didn't want her to leave and actually hit her, so I showed up and knocked him out, and told her to get on the bike." Sirius paused in somber reflection "He died a few weeks later. Murdered. One of the earliest of Voldemort's victims. She didn't cry. Then that year just flew by and after school we all got swept up in the war, and then she got herself into so much trouble."
"What kind of trouble?" Harry tried but Sirius shook his head.
"I've already told you more than she wants you to know about her. It's her life, Harry, her story. You especially know how frustrating it is for someone to know everything about you without you having told them."
"Yea." Harry agreed bitterly. Sirius groaned before reaching forwards and ruffling Harry's hair affectionately.
"She's one of my oldest friends, Harry. I trust her like I trusted your Dad. I know she'll tell you when the time is right, but for now she's sticking to her guns. Pardus will tell you when she's good and ready, okay?" Sirius asked. Harry nodded with a small half smile, then furrowed his brow again.
"Her little nickname. It means leopard. That was her patronus and her animagi. She used to say it only further proved that she and I fought like cats and dogs." Sirius remembered with a big smile. Harry smiled at his godfathers reaction to a fond memory before hugging him again and rushing upstairs to tell Ron and Hermione.
"Do you think Professor Nox is the Half-Blood Prince?" Hermione asked as Harry paced across the room. Ron snorted beside her.
"It's 'Prince', Hermione, not 'princess'." he said, condescendingly. Hermione's eyes narrowed.
"A woman is perfectly capable of inventing a nom de plume, Ronald."
"Both of you, stop for a moment." Harry interrupted. "It's not Nox. Why would she write her own name with a heart next to it? It makes no sense. No, it's got to be someone who knew her, most likely someone in her year."
"But marauder names are a secret. The only people who would know are Sirius, Remus, Pettigrew and your dad, right?" Hermione clarified. Harry shrugged.
"In theory, but my mum knew them. It wasn't a secret society or anything, just a group of friends with nicknames. It's possible more people knew them." Harry said, sinking next to Ron on the bed.
"Well then a bloke definetly wrote the book." Ron said quietly.
"Honestly, Ron!" Hermione snapped.
"No, really! The name has a heart next to it, see?" Ron said, pointing at the book. "So unless a very masculine lezzie wrote this, which I doubt, it was probably someone that liked her back in school. A boyfriend or something." Ron said. Hermione sat in a miffed silence, unable to deny the obvious logic. Harry hid his smile and continued talking.
"So we should probably find out who dated Nox back in school." Harry said.
"Could it be Sirius?" Hermione asked carefully.
"What?" Harry and Ron asked at the same time.
"Well, you said they knew each other almost their whole lives, they've been best friends, they still talk. Maybe they're....together."
"Maybe, but I doubt it. Besdies if Sirius did write this, wouldn't he have mentioned it by now? And he said Valora had to tutor him in potions almost all of school, so that's probably out." Harry said, his mind wandering more towards thoughts of Valora and Sirius. Did they date? Were they a couple? Was that the secret that Harry wasn't allowed to know yet?
"Suppers been ready for ten minutes already! Get down here!" Mrs. Weasley yelled up from floors below. Harry tucked the book safely in his trunk and he, Ron and Hermione rushed downstairs.
After dinner, Harry sat beside Sirius on the couch watching Moody play the twins in a game of Exploding Snap. Moody was losing both the game and his patience very quickly, and it was quite amusing to watch. Harry leaned over to his godfather a bit.
"Sirius?" he whispered.
"Yea?" Sirius whispered back.
"Was Professor Nox....'with anyone' when you were in school?" he asked tentatively. Sirius frowned and took a moment before answering, pretending to watch the game. For a second Harry thought Sirius was going to ignore him before the man answered very quietly.
"Oh, I thought maybe, the two of you..." Harry trailed off, letting the insinuation hang in the air. Sirius nodded and gave a tight smile.
"I really cared about her and she cared about me. We were best friends, but by the time I realized what I felt they were hauling me off to Azkaban." he said simply taking another sip of his cider which sat on the side table. As Moody lost for the thrid time he grumpily retreated to the kitchen. Fred and George looked up and caught Harry's eye.
"Care to test your luck, Potter?" Fred asked with a sly grin. Harry smiled back and got up to play. Sirius smiled. It was good to see Harry playing around and laughing like a normal sixteen year old boy. Still, he wondered if his love for Valora was that obvious. Well it couldn't be since she obviously didn't realize it. And the thing about when he realzied he loved Valora was only partially true. He had always loved her, but he had realized at the end of their sixth year. He hadn't really done anything about it though until the night before he was arrested. The years between the two events had been torturous. He remebered one night in particular...
"So then you add essence of gardenia to the wormwood, but only if the potion smells like magnolias."
"I don't even know what bloody magnolias smell like!" Sirius complained throwing down his potions book in disgust. Valora rolled her eyes and snuggled onto the couch.
"They smell like FLOWERS! You stupid wanker." She said bitterly, throwing a blanket over her legs which weren't very well covered in a pair of soft grey shorts.
"What's your problem?" Sirius asked, standing off of the floor and sitting next to her. Valora pulled the blanket higher, until it was tucked beneath her chin.
"I'm tired as hell, I stayed up late to help YOU pass a potions exam and YOU'RE giving ME attitude! THAT is my problem." She said angrily, staring into the fire. Sirius ran a hand over the back of his neck feeling slightly bad about the situation since she was right.
"Too right, you're sorry." she said caustically and Sirius had to smile. It was funny when she was mean to people, even i it was to him. Sirius reclined on the couch and the sat there in the quiet, until Valora spoke up again, clearly having calmed down a bit.
"Did you want to run through a few more potions?" She asked, exhaustion clearly audible in her voice.
"Not tonight. Let's just rest a bit." He said, Valora sighed and he could hear the smile in her voice.
"Excellent idea." She said curling up against him and resting her head on his shoulder. Sirius wrapped a strong arm around and held her close to him, resting his head on top of hers. He wasn't sure exactly when but during some point they fell asleep.
Sirius woke up to Remus prodding him awake with his wand. He looked first at his friend and then out the window where it was still dark, then back at Remus.
"Moony, what the bloody hell are you doing?" He asked in a tired whisper. Remus raised an eyebrow.
"I could ask you the same thing. What's all this?" He asked gesturing to Sirius and Valora. They must have been half asleep when they changed position but they were no longer snuggled into a ball in the corner of the couch. They were stretched out on their sides, Valora's face pressed against Sirius's neck. His arm was still around her middle and his hand was resting on her waist. Both of their shirts had ridden up slightly, as had Valora's shorts, revealing a better part of her smooth, quidditch toned thigh.
"Shite. We fell asleep, and that was it. I swear." Sirius said, pulling the covers up over the woman sleeping beside him. Remus fought a smile and just shook his head.
"Well you both had better get to bed soon, and you're lucky it was me who found you and not McGonagall doing midnight rounds."
"Yea, thanks mate." Sirius said. Remus smiled and walked back off to bed and Sirius took a moment and moved Valora close to him. In her sleep she adjusted herself easily, her hands resting lightly on his chest and her eyes fluttering with dreams bebeath closed lids. Sirius pressed his lips to her forehead, reveling in the moment, because he knew it would end too soon.
Valora sipped her cider and glanced around the hall at the much depleted student body. The school was like a ghost town during holidays, not that she minded. She and Severus hadn't spoken at all yesterday or today, and tomorrow evening she was leaving for Grimmauld place. Outisde that light rain that had started that afternoon was gathering force and coming down harder. Beside her Snape stood and went to leave. As he walked by Valora felt him press something small and thin into her hand. She fought to keep the happiness and nerves from her face, and struggled to keep her eyes forward and not to watch him leave. When the door had closed behind him she stealthily opened the note in her lap, eager to see what it said.
Restricted Section at 10:00
Valora crushed the note in her hand and slipped it inside her robes. She glanced up at the clock. It was only 7:00 now. Three hours. That was how long she'd have to wait to hear his answer. Valora knew it would be a torturous three hours but hopefully...hopefully it would be worth it.
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