Chapter 13 : Smile Like You Mean It
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There were a large number of reasons why Theodore Nott was angry.
One of them was his sister Georgiana, who walked alongside him, asking unendurable questions that he wouldn't have answered even if he came with good graces. She had, apparently, forgotten about their fight, instead venturing to the common ground of teasing: particularly, Scarlett. It was enough that he had decided to tune her out, instead focusing on reviewing Charms in his mind, which only seemed to frustrate him more.
Scarlett was also becoming rather burdensome. In some aspects, it was not really her fault; she had not been the one who had decided that he should fancy her and think about her constantly. Even still he blamed it on her, though, and the definite onslaught of denial, honest and true, was enough to make him irritated.
But then there were other things that Scarlett could have controlled, things that would have still annoyed him if they were still friends with each other. This was mainly due to her sour mood throughout the week and how negligent she was being with her schoolwork this year.
And, finally, there were things that did not anger him, but made him very alert and constant, hardly bothering to get a sound sleep. It had to have been his curiosity, curiosity that made him uncomfortable, that had caused this, but that was only an unfortunate side-effect of the questions that no one bothered to wonder about or answer.
Where and what did she always do when she was gone, when she was in the forest? Why was she always so constantly tired, even when Tenereus had given her a day off and she had slept for hours on end? How did she feel about the wedding? What did she do when she skipped class and why did she skip so often?
And, most importantly, why-oh-bloody-why was she so pretty, and so funny, and so smart, and so fascinating? Why that, when compared to Ambrose Katalina or Deena Anderson, she always outshone them, even though they had astounding beauty that made them the most fancied people at Hogwarts? He didn't understand.
Theodore had always believed that that was enough burden for anyone to go around with, but with the intense abundance of schoolwork and the mission he had been assigned he felt on the verge of a very terrible migraine. In fact, he wished he could have omitted what he was doing now so he could instead relax and maybe clean up his act a bit so he wouldn't be so irritated the next day... but that, of course, was impossible.
Because he had to be a nice guy.
In fact, he had found himself being 'a nice guy' for a good hour or so, looking out at the very twilight sky on a rackety wooden chair as he attempted to negotiate and renegotiate. Beside him, Georgiana looked awfully pleased with herself, muttering her own assumptions about what they were doing so quietly he was sure that he wasn't supposed to be hearing it.
"No," he insisted, again, looking at Christopher Zabini with enough distain that it was surprising that he didn't flinch.
It was no surprise that Theodore Nott was not all that well acquainted with many of the boys in Slytherin, except for when Quidditch was involved. There were occasional times when he would partner in class with someone like Brady Scott, but he otherwise stuck with his group of five, normally being paired with Scarlett while Georgiana went with Ambrose or another Ravenclaw.
It had never been smart to befriend four women, especially when one in particular was especially eligible. It made life intensively complicated, especially in fourth year, when he had simultaneously fancied Ambrose, Scarlett, and Bellatrix. That had soon passed over--most of it, anyway.
But, when compared to the utter stupidity of Christopher Zabini, Theodore rather found himself in favor of his female friends; while they had the power to be utterly tempting, they were not nearly as thick as Christopher Zabini, a very wealthy boy who had decided to stick with his wealth instead of show any talent. It was enough to make Theodore extremely frustrated, even more so considering the situation.
It was very hard to keep a polite face around him, but he had to. This was important enough that Theodore didn't want to screw up.
"Not seventy galleons?" Christopher asked, his face screwing up in distaste as he flashed the five beloved tickets in front of Theodore's face, close enough to snatch and run away--a thought which became more and more desirable as time passed.
"No," Theodore repeated, and beside him, Georgiana snickered. "Sixty-five is my final offer, Zabini. You'd be making a profit for something you didn't earn, anyway."
Christopher glared, and on his side, Georgiana looked over at him angrily, as if he had made a mistake. Frankly, he was tired enough that that was of little concern to him, and he turned back to Christopher with the same about of determination in his face as before. "Your choice..." Theodore muttered, and, in a very discreet movement, Theodore slid his sleeve backward, revealing a very pale wrist with one deathly exception. Next to him and scowling, Georgiana copied the motion; across from them, Christopher's face paled.
"You don't scare me," Christopher said. "You don't."
"We believe you, Zabini," Georgiana said quietly, disguising her Dark Mark with her sleeve. "Of course, it would be much more believable if you had the same mark on your wrist. You wouldn't want to get in trouble, would you?"
Christopher looked at Theodore's Dark Mark, which was still exposed, before turning back to the couple with a resigned look on his face. "Sixty-five, fine," Christopher said, and Theodore shoved the money to him, looking indifferent. "You better use 'em, though. Those tickets are quality box seats. Wouldn't want you to waste 'em or my pa will kill me."
"Don't worry, Chris," Georgiana cooed, and Christopher blushed, directing his attention to anything else but her. "Theodore has a very good reason for the tickets, don't you, Theodore?"
Georgiana grinned as Theodore's cheeks mirrored Christopher's, and Theodore distracted himself by looking at the tickets. "See, Chris," Georgiana threw out nonchalantly, and Christopher looked at her as if what she had to say was the most important thing in the world, "Theodore wants to give these as a gift to his--er--" Georgiana paused, looking at Theodore with expectancy, though his face flushed another degree darker, refusing to meet her eyes. "What is she, exactly?"
"A friend," Theodore said evenly, though he was a very deep shade of crimson, making Christopher look up with excitement. "She is a very good friend."
"Yeah, she is?" Christopher said with amused malice, a smile creeping up on his face. "Really, Nott? What friend is this, eh? Bellatrix?"
"No," Georgiana and Theodore said simultaneously, and Theodore's face heated up again as he looked at Georgiana in trepidation, a look that she disregarded with ease.
"It's Scarlett," Georgiana explained, and Theodore gave her a look of honest hatred, offset by the deep color of--ironically--scarlet upon his face. "See, they both fancy each other, and he's hoping that this will be the tipping point, because she absolutely adores Quidditch."
"All the best, then, Nott," Christopher said, though by the look on his face he wanted everything but. "Really, I'll be rooting for you."
"I'd prefer if you didn't, really," Theodore insisted. "It's just, you know, I don't want everyone to know--"
"Please, they'd love to," Christopher said, and Georgiana nodded, mischievous.
"--because it would ruin our friendship," Theodore continued. "And I would just really--appreciate it--if you could refrain from telling everyone--"
"I think it's interesting, and I think people should know," Christopher said, with an edge that clearly refused any pleading. "And, don't worry, mate, it won't be so bad. You know, with your Mark and all." Winking, he left the siblings alone--one gleeful and one less than pleased.
"I hate you," Theodore finally said, breaking the silence, and in response Georgiana laughed.
"I know, don't you love it?"
Sirius didn't really know what to think.
It wasn't as if he was completely gobsmacked of any thought, incapable of forming a simple thought or assumption. In fact, he had been thinking and assuming quite a bit since he returned from a remarkable all-nighter with the subject of his thoughts.
He knew he didn't fancy Scarlett Devous and that was reassurance enough to continue living. All through October first, he had agreed on that and that only; that, maybe while he thought her pretty, in a spur of the moment mind you, he did not think her beautiful, and definitely did not fancy her, a Slytherin.
Furthermore, when he had thought it he had been on the verge of absolute exhaustion! How could he be expected to account for his thoughts then, in that gentle part of night where everything was silent except for traitorous thoughts? And even if he had been perfectly awake when he had thought it--and again, he hadn't been--there was still perfect explanation as to why he had thought...what he had.
The scenery--the sunrise--the pure exhaustion from running--this friendship that they had started--the reasons, or excuses, accumulated at a rapid rate. Scarlett wasn't stupid; maybe she had done something to him? Maybe this wasn't his fault, anyway? Because, after all, hadn't she told him: "You're going to be very, very sorry that you said that."
Was this her way of payback, of vengeance, for his keeping her up so late? When she had said that, had she somehow known that he would find her pretty at that moment? And maybe this whole time, she had just been seeing him because she--yes, maybe she fancied him and maybe for all sodding hell this was all her fault instead of his own?
Sirius shook his head. That was outrageous, and even though it was the most plausible thing that he could think of, he was incapable of believing Scarlett could fancy him in the slightest. He could not even imagine her finding him attractive.
But, his mind thought dangerously, he had thought her pretty, even beautiful; did that mean that he fancied--
Sirius shook his head again. Absolutely outrageous.
The absolute most disturbing thing about these thoughts were that they refused to quiet, even as the sun continued to rise. Even when he was entertained or occupied or alone or with someone, bloody hell, he still thought about it.
And it refused to stop, as his mind defended what it had thought in the spur of the moment by making devilish suggestions that he thought her stunning and was merely hiding the inevitable from himself. These were all waved off adamantly, but like a good fencing match the thoughts kept fighting back, trying to see him wrong.
Fortunately, Sirius was stubborn, and Sirius was proud, and Sirius would never ever believe that he fancied someone like Scarlett.
There were so many logical reasons, really, that he couldn't--that he didn't--fancy her. She was not remotely attractive in the slightest, even though a late night and a sunrise had made him think otherwise; in fact, compared to Deena Anderson, she was practically nothing.
Then, there was the simple explanation that she was a Slytherin, and as a common rule Sirius didn't like Slytherins in the slightest. The way they talked, the way they sauntered, the way they cried as they went to the Hospital Wing--
Well, he actually did rather like that.
But he didn't fancy her! The thought was so properly unaccompanied by guilt or denial that he believed it very true and waved it off, just like that. Even if his mind did not want to close the matter, he did, and he would not let a stupid little notion consume him, however irritating it was.
So, on the morning of October second, Sirius definitely did not let these sacrilegious ideas get the better of him, instead excited for every possibility the day had to offer (that did not involve his thoughts). The first surprise, thankfully, was a very good one: the first Hogsmeade visit of the year had been scheduled. This left all the Marauders, especially Sirius, very happy and distracted and did he mention that he was not thinking of Scarlett?
That surprise had been enough to waver Sirius from any belief that there would be more to come, but, in his case, he believed ignorance was bliss. Sitting down at the Great Hall, he relaxed visibly, joking and laughing with his friends as if Scarlett Devous had never existed, as if she were not in the periphery of his eye--
Scarlett was tired.
Of course, she could have simply blamed it on Tenereus, for pushing her so incessantly and persistently. Her homework, also, could have been to blame, seeing as it now stacked up so tall that people had begun to place their drinks on it as a coaster.
But, more than anything, she blamed it on Sirius Black, who, incredibly, had found a way for her to stay out much later than she should have. She had only begun to delve into the Gryffindor's personality, and she was absolutely shocked to find that Sirius was actually rather funny when he did not feel prejudiced towards her. He was talented at imitation, she found--his Slughorn was untouchable--to the point that she would be entertained by him until the hours were old. She could have almost sworn that Sirius did this intentionally to get her exhausted, but she had enough trust in him that refrained her from thinking so; not plenty, of course, but enough.
And it really sucked that she had to sacrifice sleeping to see him and be entertained by him.
Yet she couldn't forget the other reasons that kept her so tired, as Scarlett found herself sitting at the Great Hall on the morning of October second at an hour that was unholy thanks to Quidditch tryouts. She squinted as the grabbed a croissant to eat, shielding her eyes with her hand so as to see more clearly. A yawn escaped her, very briefly, and she groaned, putting the croissant down and holding her head in her hands in fatigue.
Mornings were always awful.
As if she had sent a signal of irony his way, Theodore appeared and sat next to her; he looked impassive if not a little nervous, and she put a mild hand up in hello before wincing as the sun hit the side of her face. Theodore stared at her for a brief second before reaching across the table-- across her--to grab his own croissant, an action that caused Scarlett's heartbeat to increase rapidly.
"You're in a good mood this morning," Theodore complimented in jest, and Scarlett nodded, smiling with as much energy as she could muster. At that moment Bellatrix and Narcissa took the opportunity to appear, looking just as cranky as Scarlett felt. "Something bad happen last night?"
"No," Scarlett answered, as she yawned again. "I stayed up too late, though." She took a bite of her croissant--though she could not help grimacing, Merlin she was so tired--and Theodore looked at her curiously before tasting his with reluctance that quickly relaxed.
"Really?" Theodore replied, looking over at Christopher Zabini in silent worry, who seemed oblivious to Theodore's presence. This relaxed Theodore a good deal, and Georgiana laughed aloud before she could stop herself.
"What?" Scarlett questioned, and Georgiana looked over at her as Theodore rolled his eyes at his sister. Scarlett looked over curiously, alternating her glances between the couple. "What is going on?"
"Oh, nothing--" Georgiana said, but before she could finish Theodore interrupted her, his voice rushed and panicky.
"I have something to give you."
"This is awesome."
Breakfast at Gryffindor was always something to look forward to, even in the worst hours of the morning. Not only were Gryffindors enthusiastic, but Sirius was lucky enough to be friends with the most entertaining bunch of them all.
The whole of Gryffindor was abuzz about Hogsmeade, and James wasted no time in making his opinion known. Sirius looked towards him, taking a bite of sausage as he nodded fervently. "I know," he said, muffled, and Remus rolled his eyes, buttering his toast in a much more polite manner than James and Sirius could ever muster.
"It's not until Halloween, though," Remus pointed out, and Sirius shrugged. "Why would you want to be planning something that isn't going to happen for another month?"
"Because it's fun, that's why," James explained rationally, stealing a sheet of homework hanging out of Remus's bag and copying it on parchment of his own.
"Because we don't have anything better to do," Sirius suggested, snatching Remus's homework from James and copying down a few answers hastily. James glared and crossed his arms.
"Because we feel like it," Peter chimed in, and the other Marauders looked at him for a short second before James seized the homework in triumph, leaving a morose Sirius and a worried Remus. Peter sullenly took a bite of his hash browns.
"I want that when you're done," Sirius said. James nodded impatiently, his tongue sticking out as he wrote a question down in scrawled, messy handwriting. He wrote down the good majority of the paper in less than a minute, all of it looking entirely illegible.
Before James was completely done, however, Lily Evans passed by, waving to Sirius and Remus and patting James on the shoulder casually before walking away. James ceased writing, his face turning blank and his tongue retreating, before he dropped Remus' paper right on his breakfast. Remus looked absolutely flabbergasted and a little appalled at the sight, and James picked it out as soon as he could, even though his motions seemed slurred.
Sirius raised his eyebrows. "How's that going for you?"
James shook his head fervently.
"He doesn't want to talk to her," Remus explained, who looked at the paper and sighed at the stains. "He's figuring that, because he started fancying her because of 'the chase'--" and Remus made quotations with his hands-- "he figures she'll do the same. It's awfully ridiculous."
"Shut up," James replied, and to further his point he threw Remus's homework back on his breakfast, where the grease soaked through the date and a little bit of the answer to number one. Remus grabbed it hastily and shot James a death glare that could have sunk ships.
Sirius smiled at the spectacle as he idly glanced around at the Great Hall. He even passed over the Slytherin table, giving Snape the daily stink eye before turning his attention to none other than Scarlett, who looked extremely tired but completely fixated on whatever Theodore was saying to her.
An unwanted--and unneeded--pang of emotion flew into Sirius's system at the sight of her, and to fight the uncomfortable feelings that arose within him he turned to Remus, who was looking at his greasy paper with terror. The sight would have amused Sirius most days; now he looked down at his breakfast sullenly.
Georgiana and Scarlett both stared at Theodore, although Georgiana looked away when Theodore met her gaze with an expression akin to contempt. "Really?" Scarlett repeated, and Theodore turned back to her as her eyebrows furrowed. "Like what, Nott? Homework or something?"
"No," Theodore replied, sounding uneasy.
"Um, wedding?" Scarlett guessed blankly, and Theodore shook his head. "Halloween? Happy-month-in-school? Happy announcement of Hogsmeade? Happy Saturday? Happy something, I'm hoping."
Theodore laughed. "You're getting warmer, I think."
"It can't be for my birthday," she said slowly, sifting through her mind for an occasion that deemed itself worthy. "My birthday's in December."
"Wrong," he contradicted, in an equally slow voice, and they stared at each other for a beat in contemplation, Scarlett growing nervous as time progressed but refusing to back down. She vaguely noticed that her heart was beating faster than it should have.
"Well, what is it, then?" Scarlett asked, her voice surprisingly even, and Theodore blinked in reply. "Theodore? What is it?"
Theodore blinked again, moving rather sluggishly towards his bag, where Scarlett could plainly see a silver box with a ribbon adorning it. He handed it to her without an expression on his face, while his probably good-intentioned sister watched the scene unfold with an immobile smirk.
"Georgie?" Scarlett asked, confused, shaking the present to hear what was in it; it made barely a sound. "Georgie, do you have any idea what this bloody gift is?"
"Not me," Georgiana said innocently. "I'm curious to know why you're getting a birthday present in October, too. You know, Theodore, if you really want to keep power-shopping, my wedding is in March, and I would really appreciate my gift around Halloween."
Scarlett smirked, and with deliberate movements took the ribbon off of the box, Theodore watching her intently. "Okay," she said, her hand gripping the top of the box with uncertainty. "Let's see what this is."
Scarlett took a deep breath, looking back up at Theodore for support, before removing the top, revealing something that she had to blink twice at in disbelief. Then, when she finally deduced that the gift was real, her mouth opened and closed in awe.
For there, lying on light pink tissue paper, were five Quidditch tickets, each with a gold insignia near the top to indicate box seats; seats that anyone would have surely died for, Scarlett included. Looking at it closer, she read:
QUIDDITCH EUROPE FINAL
Puddlemere United Versus the Chudley Cannons
Monday, October 31, 1977
Great Britain Stadium:
"Experience magic in Great Britain!"
"Bloody hell," Scarlett breathed, looking at them as if they were presents from heaven, before placing them very carefully on the table as if guarding them with her life. She never broke eye contact with the tickets, her eyes bugged and excited, before turning back to Theodore with her mouth slightly open and her face rather flustered.
But, before she could even bother saying something--a tremendous thank you, for instance, or an inquiry on how he had possessed them--her mind completely failed her, and she stopped short.
Because, right around then, she realized that Theodore was actually rather attractive, even with the darkest of rings circling his eyes and his hair mussed. Immediately afterwards, she came to understand, even, just how nice he was--how these tickets must have taken some effort to possess and how he had been willing to get them for something as trivial as her birthday. He even knew that this was exactly what she had wanted, exactly what she hadn't expected, something that had brightened even the dullest of days and put such a drastic change on the day that Scarlett was still rather confused.
Throughout her confusion, however, there was no doubt in her head that Theodore was perfect, that he had always been perfect, but she had been petty and had taken him for granted. She didn't even realize, until now, how much she had missed him throughout her foul moods, and how much he made her happy even when he hadn't said anything especially hilarious.
He was absolutely perfect, and Scarlett hadn't realized it until just then.
And, before Scarlett could even grasp what she was thinking or what she had learned, she became incapable of thought. Her heart had raced ahead of her, pounding ludicrously, burning incomprehensibly, and before her mind could find itself in the present Scarlett had already run off with her heart and placed her lips right where Theodore's were.
Sirius didn't know what he was thinking.
In fact, he wasn't even aware that he didn't know what he was thinking, because he didn't seem to remember how to think in the slightest. All he could really focus on--not breathing, which seemed to have stopped, or blinking, which seemed to have frozen--was what he was seeing, even if he would have preferred to see something much different. This was strange, really, because not many unusual things happened in the Great Hall, but Sirius could not take his eyes off of what he had accidentally stumbled upon.
He had always known that Scarlett and Theodore Nott fancied each other equally, and that had been something that he had been willing to disregard without any thought. He had never thought much of it; he had even, at one time, hoped that they would get together, just for the pleasure in knowing that their friendship was forever lost.
So why was he so irritated?
Irritated, even, did not even seem to fit what he was feeling; no word really did. It felt awful, nearly nauseating, enough to ruin whatever good mood the Gryffindors had and place instead a dreary and depressed aura around their table.
But nauseating didn't cover half of it--nauseating didn't even cover nearly any of it--because there was so many things that he honestly didn't understand. Even nausea. Right now, all Sirius could really comprehend--even more than his name, which had gone missing and didn't seem close to return--was that Scarlett Devous and Theodore Nott snogging was not something he particularly fancied.
In fact, he hated it more than anything, and the sharp stab of annoyance and loathing infiltrated his senses, putting him into a disarray more powerful than any nausea or lack of thinking could. It flushed his face blotchily, and his eyes narrowed. His bones felt unusually heavy and hot, uncomfortable in his robes, the fabric itching tenfold than what Sirius could remember.
It seemed as if every single one of his senses were stronger--the scene that he was watching was becoming sharpened, even though all he really wanted was for it to go away--his hand, clutching his fork direly, felt like it was made of flames--and he could even taste and smell a sickly poison rocketing throughout his system--
And his hearing, normally crystal clear, felt like everything was being echoed as if in a large tunnel, pounding on his head and nearly bringing on a migraine.
He didn't even know what he was thinking.
It seemed an eternity until the scene shifted, though it was, in reality, only a second or two; Scarlett and Theodore broke apart, both of their cheeks flushed a light, careless pink.
But Sirius didn't honestly give ten Knuts about Theodore Nott, and instead turned all of his focus on Scarlett, who had turned back to her food as if nothing ever happened, her face bowed even though he could see the heat radiating off of her face. The sun glowed brightly on the top of her head, shining on her like heaven was giving him a sign, making her look exactly like an angel...
An angel, he realized, that should not go around snogging people like Theodore Nott... an angel that shouldn't go snogging anyone...
Except for him.
And then all at once he became inundated with those thoughts, those stupid and catastrophic thoughts, which fought against everything he thought he knew. For the millionth time he thought in his head that he did not fancy her, trying to respond to the cataclysmic scene that had unfolded before his eyes...
But, unlike before, the thought of not fancying her did not fit as it should have.
That realization shocked him, brought his senses back to order, as James nudged him. "So, Hogsmeade, huh?" James asked offhandedly, hardly noticing that Sirius looked completely and utterly shell-shocked.
With difficulty Sirius regained his composure, smiling like he meant it. "Yeah," he said, clearing his throat. "Yeah, Hogsmeade. Can't wait."
But all he could think about, really, was Scarlett.
You're going to be very, very sorry that you said that...
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