Chapter 9 : I Heart Warts...
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It’s never fun to watch your boyfriend swarmed by a flock of screeching, pooing owls.
It’s worse if it’s Valentines Day.
At least he had to decency to look embarrassed.
There was a bit of a stunned silence as he was pelted with envelopes before the Gryffindor table erupted with laughter. James sifted through the pile, furiously counting.
“Twenty-eight.” He announced, “I think that’s some kind of a record. You make me sick, Pads.”
“Just because your record is three.” Sirius retorted, scowling.
“The one from your mum doesn’t count.”
James scowled back and Sirius grinned triumphantly before attacking his plate of bacon and sausages.
“Are you not even going to open them?” Lily asked, looking thoroughly repulsed by his mouthful of meat. She had her own smaller collection of red, pink and white envelopes stacked beside her plate. I was pretty sure I recognised James’ handwriting on at least four of them.
Sirius caught my eye before answering. I could tell he was wondering how I’d react. I raised an eyebrow and looked back down at my plate. To be honest, I was wondering how I was reacting right now too.
Oddly, I wasn’t exactly annoyed. Oh alright, I totally was. Sure it was a little unnerving that he could have his pick of probably any girl in the school, twenty-eight of whom had the guts to send him a card. But I was amused more than anything. It was pretty funny every year to see his reaction to the cards, and him and James bickering over it. But this was even funnier, to see how uncomfortable he was in front of me about it.
“No.” He said, in answer to Lily’s question. Like it was no big deal.
“But one of them might be from Mystery Girl!” Lily grinned.
Yup, that’s right. The whole Mystery Girl thing was still going on. Sirius still stiffly changed the subject whenever it was brought up by James or Lily. Only now I didn’t jump out of my skin whenever it was mentioned.
“Why would she send me a card, Evans, when she doesn’t want people to know about us?” Sirius said, in a bored voice.
“Well that’s not very romantic. Did you send her one?” Lily looked disapproving.
“Maybe. Maybe not. If I did I wouldn’t send it by morning post. I’d give it to her in person.”
“What’s this?” Marlene joined us, sliding onto the bench beside me. “Sirius Black is sending a Valentine’s gift?” She laughed derisively. “What’s brought this on?”
Lily delightedly filled her in on the Mystery Girl situation. All the while Marlene’s eyes were on Sirius, her expression scathing. Blimey. Freddie’s attitude really had rubbed off on her.
“Interesting,” Marles said, her tone sounding anything but. “Wonder why she wants to stay a secret? Not that I blame her. You’re not best known for your commitment, are you?”
“For your information it’s been a month,” Sirius told her, coolly, carefully not looking at me.
“Interesting.” Marles repeated.
“Babe,” Freddie appeared, swiftly kissing her on the cheek. “Love you. Happy Valentines Day.”
I think I vommed a little in my mouth. What happened to my brother? When was he replaced by this drip? What happened to ‘Valentines Day is a commercial event, not a romantic one’?.
They minced off together without another word. Bloody hell they were a bad influence on each other. Marlene’s insane, sentimental cheerfulness was turning Freddie into a soppy git, and Freddie’s sarcasm and ability to dislike people was toning her down a little.
Was that what happened in relationships? A few months down the line would I turn into a huge slag and Sirius turn, well, neurotic? Scary.
Wait, what am I thinking? A few months down the line…
I couldn’t honestly believe it would last a few months, right?
This past month has gone pretty quickly…
It was true. It seemed to have shot by in no time at all, but at the same time it seemed like Sirius and I had been together for ages. The month was just a blur of hidden significance behind each innocent gesture, stolen kisses and staying up late to have some time together.
I hadn’t even had to decapitate him for flirting too much. And I’ll freely admit that I was on the look out. If I tried to remember why I’d gotten myself into this whole relationship situation it just seemed like a blur. I mean, why had I risked the potential heartbreak and humiliation? All I knew was what was going on right now. Which was good.
So he’d either given it up, the compulsive flirting that is, or was just pretty good at hiding it from me. To be honest, I didn’t really care which it was. I was having such a hideously sappy good time right now, I was prepared to overlook it.
One time when he was walking me back to my common room way past midnight, that was when I noticed was a horrendously coupley couple we really were.
He was kissing me goodnight. For about the eleventh time. After each kiss he wouldn’t loosen his arms or make any movement to leave.
“I should go in,” I said. “I have training tomorrow morning…”
“Why are you still holding my shirt then?”
Ok, maybe I was to blame a little too.
I still didn’t loosen my grip on the back of his shirt.
“Ok, one more, then I’m going up to bed.” I grinned.
“Without me.” Sirius pouted.
“Uh-huh.” I stretched up to kiss him.
Ok, so since New Years Eve we hadn’t slept together. We just couldn’t. It was all too obvious for me to suddenly be spending an inappropriate amount of time in the Gryffindor boys dorm. With James, Remus and Peter in there too. Romantic.
And I don’t think he dared suggest a broom cupboard to me. He probably guessed, correctly, that my response would be some sort of bodily harm.
“I really have to go to bed now,” I mumbled into his lips as the kiss deepened.
“One more.” He smiled and pulled me in tighter.
Oh, if you insist. The only reason I was protesting was because I knew what was coming next.
After a few moments Sirius moaned. “I hate you, McKinnon.”
“Hate you too, love.”
“Come back to my room.”
“You know I can’t.”
“I know.” He moaned again. “This sucks.”
That’s what it was like every time I spent an evening with him. Like I said, sickening. It was like a ‘you hang up, no you hang up’ thing, but in person.
We were the sort of couple that we used to make fun of. Apart from we did in private. Making it all the more cringe-worthy.
James and Lily would have a field day if they knew.
They were already having trouble adjusting to Sirius being serious about Mystery Girl.
“So you have got her a card?” James demanded, “Bloody hell, this is for real.”
“Like I said, maybe I have, maybe I haven’t,” Sirius smirked.
“This is weird.” James grumbled. “You’re not allowed to be secretive about girls. It’s not right.”
“It is right. What’s not right is how you asked me to help you write Evans card,” Sirius said, grinning. “Normal people don’t share that much. And poetry’s not my forte...”
“Shut up.” James replied, cleverly. I couldn’t help but notice that Lily’s cheeks were a little pink.
I must have been smirking because she gave me her ‘prefect’ look. It’s scary.
“How come you haven’t opened your card, Deb?” Lily asked.
I looked down and for the first time noticed a gold envelope beside my goblet. When had that got there?
“That’s not mine,” I said, automatically. I just didn’t get Valentine’s day cards. Ever.
“Oh, it must be for the other Miss Deborah McKinnon, then,” James said, sarcastically as he read it. He seemed to have appointed himself the official card inspector of the day. “Bloody hell, whoever it is obviously doesn’t know you very well to write Deborah on it…”
“Or they know her too well, and they’re doing it as a joke,” Lily pointed out, eagerly. “Open it.”
I did so, ripping it open to look as if I didn’t care. To disguise the fact that my fingers were shaking a little.
I stole a look at Sirius. We’d said we wouldn’t do the whole card and present thing. Why would he go back on his word? I knew he wasn’t into the not-telling-people thing, but he wouldn’t have actually signed the card would he? Just to get it over with?
Oh balls. Would he? It was the sort of thing he would find funny. But would he be laughing when James and Lily ostracised us, Freddie murdered him with his bare hands and locked me away in a tower?
He should think these things through!
His acting skills were improving. He looked vaguely interested but not overly so, just as a friend should.
It was quite a plain card, just black with a red rose on the front. I opened it expectantly, ready to see those ominous words… To Dee, my secret girlfriend… only not so secret anymore, haha! Gotcha!...
But it was blank.
Literally blank. No message, no name, not even one of those sad little quotes already printed onto the card. Blank.
“That’s weird.” James frowned, “What’s the point sending it if you’re not going to write anything?”
“Probably a joke,” I said, looking at Sirius. He wasn’t looking at me.
“Or maybe they’re so shy they don’t even want to give you a hint as to who it is,” Lily said, ever the romantic. “That’s so sweet! Right, who do you think it is…”
“Avery,” James sniggered, nodding over at the Slytherin table where their Quidditch captain was sat, the epitome of everything non-Valentines day. I’m going to go with a toad, for the animal he reminded me of. Based on the boils on his face.
We headed down to the dungeons to Potions, the first class of the day.
“Or Mulciber,” He snorted again at his own lame joke. “Or Snape -” He was cut off mid-guffaw but Lily slapping him around the back of the head.
“Leave them alone, Potter! I admit they’re foul human beings but they are human…”
“I was just messing about!...”
I hung back a little and let them march ahead with their argument.
“I thought we agreed about the card thing?” I hissed to Sirius.
“Uh-huh,” He was looking directly ahead.
“So why did you send me one, you prat?!”
“I didn’t,” He said.
“It wasn’t me.” Oh, excellent. The calm voice was back. He must have been telling the truth….
“I meant what I said. If I was going to send a card I’d do it in person.”
“So who the bloody hell?” I wondered aloud.
“That was going to be my next question,”
I wasn’t a fan of Calm Voice. Especially when I could hear the gritted teeth.
“Weird. Huh. Erm… never mind,” I decided that now would be a good time to change the subject. Before that vein in his temple exploded.
Oh, ok, we weren’t done yet.
“You mind? You mind me getting one card? Remind me how many you got again?” I asked, pointedly.
“Yeah but -”
“Nope. You have no argument. Zip it.”
“We wouldn’t have this problem if we told people,” Sirius said, loudly, over me. We were just going into the Potions classroom.
“Shh! People will hear!” I hissed, as if me whispering would make up for his inane loudness. Fortunately no one was remotely interested in our conversation.
“Good.” He said, sulkily plonking himself down in our usual seats.
Professor Slughorn bustled in, huffing and puffing as he apologised for being late.
“I don’t like having people looking at you, sending you cards. They wouldn’t if they knew.” Sirius said in a low voice. Just where did this Sirius come from? My Sirius was noisy, flirty and laid-back, not this bitter, insecure guy in front of me right now.
“You got twenty-eight cards,” I pointed out. “Even if people knew I reckon you’d still get a good round ten or so. I’m… I’m ok with it.”
“Leave it. It’s fine. I don’t care that you got a hundred and fifty cards, so you don’t have to care that I got one.”
“But I do.”
“Well you shouldn’t.”
“I can’t help it.”
He was so stubborn, had to have the last word. I ignored him and got up to fetch the ingredients.
My first Valentines day with a boyfriend wasn’t starting off so well.
“Little Deb’s got a card!” Londy shrieked. We were in the Quidditch changing rooms.
That’s right. Our oh-so-romantic captain had scheduled a training session on Valentines Day. My already amazingly romantic day was climbing steadily downhill.
Londy’s ear-splitting tone caused the rest of the team to come barrelling in.
“Oh come on in, don’t worry about us. It’s not like we’re changing or anything.” I yanked my top back down. Not quickly enough for Freddie though, who averted his eyes uncomfortably.
“Look!” Londy snatched the card from my bag and brandished it about.
“Oi!” I reached for it but she held it out of my reach.
“What does it say, then?” Blakely asked, thoroughly entertained.
Londy jumped onto the bench as if preparing to read it aloud. Have I mentioned how sensitive and kind my team-mates are?
“Oh.” She looked stumped. “Nothing.”
“Ah! Sending a card then are we, Little McKinnon?” Ro grinned wickedly.
“Aw, all grown up!” Blakely smirked, “Right lads, bets on who it’s for. Hmmm. My money’s on Avery…”
Bloody hell, he was more like James than I gave him credit for. Do I actually have ‘I heart warts’ tattooed on my forehead?
“Higgins!” Londy screeched, “I put a galleon on Neill Higgins!”
Poor little Neill Higgins was a second-year boy who’d tried out for the team this year. I’d defended him when the rest of the team had roared with laughter at his attempts at beating. It wasn’t his fault the bat was so heavy. If I’d dropped it on my toe, I would have cried too.
I scowled at them all sniggering and guffawing. Getting louder by the second. I folded my arms and huffed a bit. There was going to be no stopping them now.
“Snape!” Ro practically bellowed, “It’s perfect! ‘Oh snivelly Severus, this card reminded me of your slimy, slimy hair, and the red, red rose reminded of your beautiful bloodshot eyes’…”
The others roared with laughter.
Lily might not think Ro was so sweet and fun after that comment. She was oddly defensive about the weird Slytherin that used to follow her around.
“Are we quite done?” I demanded, attempting to copy Lily’s prefect voice.
Clearly I didn’t have it down.
“Slughorn!” Londy giggled, “Change my bet, Blakely, I’m definitely thinking Slughorn, I’ve seen you eyeing up that walking moustache Deb -”
“Freddie!” I appealed to my big bro, not joining in with the victimising but not stopping it either.
“Leave it out, lads, stop taking the piss out of my baby sister,” Freddie clamped me under his arm and gave the other guys stern looks. They immediately looked a little more abashed. Sometimes it did come in useful, having a six foot five brother. I expect Blakely was remembering Freddie’s particularly good kidney punch. And Ro… well, Ro was even bigger than Freddie but he was just a sweetie, his jokes never went too far.
“Sorry, Little Deb,” Ro chuckled, mussing up my hair, “It’s alright,” He added in a stage whisper, “You can give me the card in private!”
“Shut it, Wilson,” Freddie smiled, Ro being the only person he completely trusted with me, “Everyone knows she’s not dating till she’s thirty.”
I flinched involuntarily at the rush of old emotion that came with the familiar line, causing Freddie to look down at me in concern.
“Stop it,” I said, in a low voice, “You’re not Dad, Freddie.”
“I’m not… I wasn’t…”
The rest of the team tactfully started loudly exchanging Valentines Day anecdotes.
“You know that’s what he used to say.” I whispered fiercely, squirming out from under Freddie’s arm. He stood completely still as if afraid to move.
“I didn’t mean… It just came out, I… I’m sorry, Deb,” His voice was softer than mine. His brown eyes met my hazel ones, his brow furrowed with the unease etched on his face.
Everyone always used to comment on how alike we looked when we were little, with our identical curls, dark eyes and fair skin, but now the only reason anyone guessed we were siblings was because they’d known us both for so many years.
It always seemed to me that Freddie had stayed the same; same anxious round eyes, same almost-black hair, same complexion. The only differences were his curls cropped close to his head and his size, no longer that skinny little boy. I was the one who had changed.
My eyes had always been hazel, but they used to be so close to brown that they looked identical to Freddie’s. As I grew up they lightened and the rings of green, blue and grey became more prominent. Whilst Freddie had pretty much shaved off his hair, I’d let mine grow out past my shoulders, and as the years passed my skin had become more sensitive to the rare English sun and tanned quickly. It was silly, but it was only at that moment that I realised how much we’d changed, not just physically but in every other way. I used to think of us as two halves of the same person, he was my brother, my best friend and my guardian.
Now here we were, spending less and less time together, different friends, different lives...
I’d never kept a secret from Freddie in my life before. How could I? I was so appalling at lying and he knew me so, so well. Now I’d kept something from him for two months.
It’s alright, I told myself, it’s not for selfish reasons. It’s to prevent a certain someone getting the shit kicked out of them.
We really were different people now. I felt a bit hollow, but satisfied at the same time. I was my own person now.
But here I was, needing his protection again. From my own sodding team mates.
“Sorry,” He repeated and tentatively held out a hand to me.
I fought back the surge of emotion at his prior words and took the hand.
“It’s fine. I’m sorry,”
He studied my face seriously. I knew he wanted to say something else, bring something else up that I didn’t need, so I turned quickly and picked up my kit.
“Are we going to get any privacy at all or are we supposed to change with you gits here?” I addressed the rest of the team. Oz regained his captain’s madness with a jolt, seemingly shocked at his lack of authority for the past few minutes.
“Come on,” He barked, “We’ve lost ten minutes already. I want you changed and in the air in two minutes. If you want any time at all with your sweethearts tonight I suggest you get a fucking move on.”
“It’s fucking sadistic, that’s what it is!”
I winced at Londy’s raised voice as I stepped out of the shower into the icy air of the changing rooms. We’d finished practice for the evening… after three hours.
The banshee herself stormed into the girls changing rooms with her sheet of dark hair whipping dangerously around her face.
“He is completely insane.” She snarled, kicking off her shoes viciously. They slammed into the wall beside me, showering my feet in mud. I jumped and clutched my towel. Just in case Oz stormed in after her on another rant. It had happened before. And we all know from earlier how much privacy us girls are granted from our team mates (i.e. none).
“D’you know, I used to actually like Quidditch?” Londy carried on, “Way back before we had to train for stupid hours every day. Before I couldn’t physically walk up the stairs the next day. Before I used to have a social life. Now I’ve forgotten what fun actually is.”
She was exaggerating. But only slightly.
“I can hear you, Nara!” Oz boomed from outside.
“I’m only repeating what I said to you, ass-hole!” She yelled in reply.
“Fucking hurry up and get changed already!”
“Like you have anyone to get back to!” Londy scoffed.
“Oh, and you do?”
“That’s not the fucking point! I’m -”
“Get changed and pipe down, Nara.”
Londy swept her towel into her arms, muttering furiously, and stomped into the shower. I listened to the spray gurgle into action and the steady hiss of the water, clutching my towel around me. I couldn’t bring myself to expose myself to the cold air to get changed.
It had been a rather excessive training session, as usual. It had been a month since Oz started his ridiculous fitness sessions and they didn’t seem to be getting any easier. Tonight tempers were running high with the majority of the team anxious to be getting back to their other halves or to the party going on in the Ravenclaw common room.
I dug into my bag to take out my warm clothes and my fingers brushed against a piece of rough, crumpled parchment.
You have to go owl someone on the way back, right?
P.S. Dunhill is a prick.
Well, that’s the loving Valentine’s message I’ll be getting from my boyfriend, I’m guessing. Touching. Unless it was from Londy. It did sound like the sort of thing she’d say.
I stuffed the parchment back into my bag and dressed in a hurry.
What a sodding idiot. He just didn’t think.
I’m supposed to make the excuse that I have mail to send… which I’ve never done in my whole time at Hogwarts. Who would I have to write to? Auntie Rosemary and Uncle Derek? I don’t think they’d appreciate the shock particularly. Which meant I’d have to pretend that I actually was sending a bloody Valentine’s card.
And then the second, and clearly more important point, what was I supposed to wear? I was at bloody Quidditch training for crying out loud. The only options I had were my muddy kit or a pair of ratty old leggings and a vest top. Highly attractive, especially when paired with the Wasps hoody that Freddie got me for Christmas.
Despite all this, a warm feeling spread through my gut and I was smiling to myself like a buffoon. I’d been thinking all day that our pleasant exchange on the way to Potions was going to be as intimate as my Valentine’s Day was going to get. Half-witted, neurotic thoughts had been flying through my head all day, stupid things like this was going to make him realise that I wasn’t worth the hassle, that he’d be having a better time with someone else. Someone blonde and thick with a name like Chrystal or Bianca. And I didn’t even know anyone with those names.
Londy emerged from the shower with three towels wrapped around herself. And she still had Goosebumps. I was fully dressed with my bag on and everything.
“You’re ready already?”
“Uh-huh,” I nodded, “I’d wait, only I’ve got to… to send a… card.”
Damn you, stupid bloody ass-hole Sirius Black.
I winced and waited for the ridiculing to start.
“You’re actually sending a card?!”
Ouch. That was loud. Fortunately the majority of the boys had already departed for the castle. The only one left was Oz who, in all honesty, had no interest in my personal life. Thank Merlin. He was probably drawing up plans for our next torture – I mean training – session.
“Um, yes,” I was internally planning ways to make Sirius pay.
“Oh my Go -” Before she could finish her exclamation I hurried out from the changing room, yelling goodbyes and apologies for not waiting for her. I could still hear her shrieks when I was halfway up the hill. Mingled with Oz roaring at her to hurry the fuck up. They would make one adorable yet scary couple.
By the time I reached the owlery I was huffing and puffing after sprinting up the stairs. Seriously, Oz’s fitness sessions were doing nothing. I paused outside the wooden door to regain my breath. I wrinkled up my nose in distaste at the smell emerging from the room. Nice choice for a little rendezvous here, Sirius.
I pushed open the door and immediately my eyes focused on the silhouette by the stone window ledge. He must have heard me coming but he remained with his back to me, a broad black shape against the starry sky even when I picked my way noisily across the poo-littered floor.
“You could have at least washed,” I commented with a grin, standing next to him and following his gaze out across the lake. He didn’t even raise a smile. “I mean… I was joking. You know, the stink of owl crap… I didn’t mean it…”
“It’s my brothers birthday today,” Sirius cut across my babbling smoothly, in a bleak monotone.
I didn’t say anything. Family was a sensitive issue for the both of us. Back when we were friends we’d talk about just about anything, appropriate or not (seriously, I had a freakishly accurate insight to the male mind). But family was our taboo issue. Just not something we’d bring up.
I knew the basics of his snooty, pure-blood manic relatives, I knew that he’d finally made the big move of running away in the summer, I knew that he’d been planning to do so since he was twelve years old. But this was just from comments in passing and everyday grumbles. We’d never made it past the superficial when it came to it. So I kept quiet, partly out of respect, partly because I didn’t have to foggiest idea what to say.
“Oh.” I barely had time to ponder why he was bringing this up before he continued.
“This time next year he’ll be of age.”
I really had no clue where he was going with this.
“They’re going to make him join them. I know it. The Death Eaters.” He kept his voice and his gaze steady, his line of vision above my own.
“You don’t know that…” I said, tentatively.
“You don’t get it.” He turned to face me, his steely grey gaze intense in the starlight. “You don’t know how they work, Dee. The people he’s been hanging around with, they’ve got contacts. It’s all they’re living for, like all they want to achieve.”
“Is your brother…” I didn’t know how to put it. Is he one of them?
“Is he like that? No. He’s not a bad kid, he’s just… impressionable. He’ll go along with it without thinking about the consequences. They’re changing him already. I look at him and I don’t even know him anymore.”
I cast my mind back to conjure up the image of Regulus. His features so similar to Sirius, but imbalanced somehow. Sirius’ haughty features were softened to an arrogant confidence by his easy smile, whereas Regulus’ face was a mask that never seemed to slip. On Sirius, the deep grey eyes made me melt, but on Regulus they made me uneasy.
They were so similar, yet at the same time so different. When they crossed paths Sirius would nod his head in acknowledgement, keeping his mouth set in a straight line, and Regulus would do the same. What was behind these expressions? Fear, resentment?
“You know what scares me the most?” Sirius leaned onto the window ledge, his shoulders hunched. “That could have been me. If I wouldn’t have got this opportunity to escape, by being sorted into Gryffindor, I’d be stuck just like him. I wouldn’t have seen the real side to them, what happens when you do something to make them mad. I might have been a good like Slytherin, might be getting the mark on my next birthday -”
“No.” I said. “No you wouldn’t. You were put in Gryffindor for a reason. You had something that he… that he didn’t. You were never going to be a Death Eater. Ever.”
“But my brother…”
“Don’t go making assumptions. You don’t know anything yet. He’s got a year, no matter what the situation is now, it can change. It will change.”
Sirius exhaled loudly and pushed his weight back from the window ledge. With that movement his mood seemed to abruptly change.
“That’s the wisest thing I’ve ever heard you say, DeeDee.” He smiled, still not back to his fully-fledged idiotic grin, but close enough.
“Oh I’m full of the wise shit. I just don’t want to make people uncomfortable.”
“The wise shit?”
“That’s the stuff. You want some?” I was talking bollocks. But it made him laugh.
“I’ve been a pretty shitty boyfriend today haven’t I?” He asked, pulling me in for a hug. I rested my head on his chest. Well, I say rested, I mean I was clamped there. His hugs squeezed all the air out of me, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.
“Oh come on. I was a prat about the stupid card thing at breakfast, then I was in a massive mood all day about that, and then Reg…”
“I don’t care about all that crappy Valentine’s stuff.” I told him attempting to squeeze him back. It was true, alright?
“Nope.” Oh, maybe I cared a little. Twenty-eight cards, for crying out loud! But the whole Regulus thing kind of put it into perspective.
“Well, that’s a shame. Because I was totally going to make it up to you.”
I brightened up a little right then.
“But if you don’t care about it, it’s fine. We can just hang around in here. You know, I barely notice the owl crap smell anymore…” He broke off into laughter. “Come on you materialistic little shit, follow me.”
He stepped up onto the ledge.
“Wait, what the hell are you…?”
“I won’t let you fall, love. Promise.”
I looked doubtfully at his outstretched hand. Where the bloody hell was this going?
Evidently I hesitated for a second too long because he hauled me up beside him.
“Ok, so you don’t actually trust me. Good to know, Deeds.”
“I… wha… you… you’re not known for thinking things through, you prat!” I prattled on, avoiding looking down. I didn’t have my broom with me, therefore I wasn’t comfortable being hundreds of feet above the ground.
“Put your foot here.” Sirius ignored my nonsense, and patted a gap in the wall at about waist-height, where a stone had fallen out.
“Do it.” He lifted me a little and guided my foot into the opening.
“I’m going to fall! You’re insane.” I held onto his arms. Then realised that they were holding me, and not anything stable. “Hold on to the fucking wall!”
“I’ve got you. Now put your other foot on that ledge on top of the window.”
“You are insane. I knew it.”
“Do it! Look, you can pull yourself up. Use your hands.” He prised one of my hands from his arm and placed it onto the ledge.
“Why do I want to get onto the roof?”
“Will you stop asking stupid questions and just do it?”
“Please?” He was trying to hit me with The Look, I knew. Hence why I was stubbornly not turning my head. “It’s worth it, I promise.”
“I’d rather stay in there with the owl shit…”
“I’ll drop you.” He loosened his grip for a fraction of a second, causing me to squawk in panic.
“I hate you,” I told him, in the face of his sniggering. I pulled myself up onto the ledge, shaking like a leaf the whole time. I swayed dangerously and let out an odd squeak as a gust of wind howled by my ears. I didn’t look down.
“Now just step up onto the roof,” Sirius called, clambering up after me with an unfair amount of ease.
I stayed where I was, crouched on the tiny ledge clinging on for dear life. Just step up onto the roof, indeed. That would involve letting go. And surrendering myself to the mercy of the mocking wind that I swear was trying to pry me away from my frozen position.
“I pictured this going more smoothly.” Sirius managed to haul himself up beside me and yank me up with him onto the roof.
“You pictured me merrily skipping up the side of the tower up onto the roof? And you’ve called yourself my best friend for how long?”
“Not once have you mentioned that you’re afraid of heights -”
“I’m not afraid of -”
“Are you going to appreciate this one little bit?” Sirius interrupted.
I looked around for the first time.
“Oh my…” I trailed off. “This is amazing!”
The parapet was strewn with glass jars filled with conjured fire, casting a warm glow over the stone slabs and turning the bitter wind into a balmy breeze. Beyond the wall, which made me giddy to think that I’d just climbed over it, the view of the grounds was incredible. The lake glittered in the clear starlight, the surrounding willow trees were eerily pale as they yielded to the late evening wind. Past that, the Forbidden Forest was a dense sea of black, ever-changing shapes, the Quidditch pitch small and insignificant in comparison.
“You can be romantic!” I exclaimed, in mock shock.
“I have my moments,” Suddenly he was right behind me, his body enveloping mine and his breath on the side of my face. “Pretty cool, huh?”
At that moment, that virtually perfect moment, a flood of doubt descended on me. The flawlessness of the view, the way he’d so efficiently wrapped himself around me, the way he smiled as he heard me catch my breath when he kissed my neck…
“I pictured this going more smoothly…”
“What?” He asked, not moving.
I didn’t answer. My mind was too busy suffocating in doubt.
“Dee?” This time concern laced his words. “What’s up?”
“Tell me what you’re thinking.”
“How many times?” I asked, my voice barely a whisper.
“I… what…?” He heard the tone of my voice and withdrew, instantly, instinctively.
“How many times have you done this before?” My voice was stronger.
“You know what.” Now my voice was like ice. “How many times have you used this… this slimy little thing… this fake romance… this -”
“Whoa, Dee. It’s not like that, I -”
“How many times?” My teeth were gritted.
His pleading expression slipped just for a second, less than a second, but long enough.
“I don’t believe it.” I spun around. “I’m so stupid -”
“It’s not like you’re thinking.”
“Really? You haven’t lured hundreds of girls up here to have your fucking way with them?”
“Not…” He blurted, then stopped himself.
“Not? Not what? Not while you’ve been with me? Oh, bloody well done.”
“That wasn’t what I was saying -”
“Oh, so you have?”
“No - Dee, you’re not giving me a chance -”
“I gave you your chance. One chance remember?”
“How am I supposed to have messed it up? By something you’re assuming I’ve done way before you even looked in my direction?”
Ah. When you put it like that…
“You just…” I was still tense with anger but now my argument had fallen through. I couldn’t say what I wanted to say without sounding like a complete and utter moron.
“Just what?” How did he always manage to flip my arguments so I come out as the one in the wrong?
I bit my lip.
You said this was different, I wanted to scream, You promised!
I couldn’t say that. That would make me one of the masses. The masses fighting for his affection, fighting to be the one.
“Just what?” He repeated.
Definitely not saying it. For once I was going to get away with my pride in tact. Bloody hell.
“Nothing.” I turned to look out over the edge of the parapet. It really was beautiful. It was the most romantic thing anyone had ever done for me. Shame it wasn’t actually for me.
“I’m sorry.” He leant his forearms against the wall next to me, somehow sensing that I couldn’t face him touching me right now. “I’m not saying I’m in the wrong, because I don’t think I am. I just… you know what I was like before, you more than anyone. But… Bollocks. I’ve said it before, are you going to make me say it again?”
I was still looking away, concentrating on the view so that this clashing mix of anger, weariness and guilt didn’t consume me.
“You are, aren’t you? Bollocks. I hate this, I sound like Prongs…”
I hid a smile at that. If he was comparing himself to poor, love-sick James then… oh I just didn’t know what to think.
Sirius took in a deep breath. “I meant it, before. You are different. This is different. I did…uh, take advantage of the view… you know, before. But that was just… it didn’t mean…”
I’d rarely heard Sirius dither so much. How bloody hard is it to say, it was just sex? Because it appeared that that was where he was trying to go. Were my ears to delicate to hear it or something? Because he really had no consideration for that before, including me in his vile man chats for the past two years.
“I never wanted to bring anyone up here just… just because. Just to share it with them, or to see them smile. This is different and I keep fucking up because I haven’t got a clue what I’m doing and it’s the first time it been… important. To me.”
The anger in me seemed to fizzle out. Hearing him say that so sincerely, in his stupid awkward way because he was worried about sounding like a prat. To me, of all people. I was there when he trapped his finger in the portrait hole and cried (“I got something in my eye! I wasn’t crying…”), I’d listened to him and James disputing the pros and cons of tomato ketchup versus mayonnaise on chips for forty-five minutes, I’d waited for him for an hour and half as he chose what to wear to go out. But it wasn’t gone completely. There was still that niggling feeling, urging me not to let him off completely.
“You just, just treated me like one of The Slags,” I said, looking up at him.
For as long as I could remember his gang of admirers had been christened ‘The Slags’ by Lily and me. Sirius hadn’t protested once, and had referred to them by that name on more than one occasion himself. Only now did he choose to look aggrieved.
“You’re not,” He said his eyes on mine. “Because I need you. I never needed anyone before but now I do need you. I realised it from when you were avoiding me…”
“I need you to tell me to shut up when I should do, I need you to put me in my place, I need you to smile because it makes me smile, I need you to protect me from your brother…”
I grinned, remembering just as he was, the many instances in which I’d had to step between the two of them when Sirius had made an accidental, badly chosen comment.
“…You see? And now I’m done talking bollocks. Please don’t make me say anything like that ever again, it’s not good for my manhood.”
“Ouch. I suppose that’s as close to an ‘I forgive you’ as I’m going to get?”
My life was chaos, just then. Good chaos, amazing chaos, fun chaos. But chaos all the same. I couldn’t remember ever feeling so confused, so busy, so torn between spending time with my friends and my brother, or my… my Sirius.
There was one thing in my life, however, of which I was absolutely certain… No matter what the outcome of this thing between Sirius and me, I was going to be one amazing spy.
Seriously. It came to me as I lurked in corners on the way back to the Ravenclaw common room that night. Sirius had wanted to walk me back but I thought Valentines Day would be a little… crowded in the halls. And I was right. Honestly, it was gone three in the morning, yet there were lovers skulking about all over the place.
Disgraceful. But fortunately they were too blinded by their other halves to notice a lone girl sneaking back up to the common room.
When I made it safely back to my bed avoiding detection, after silently applauding myself I wondered what the other couples in my life had gotten up to tonight.
I would put money on Freddie pulling some elaborate romantic stunt for Marlene. It stung a little that that was my first thought, because that meant that my Freddie, the one who scoffed at couples on Valentines Day and spend last year gorging himself on Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans with me, had virtually disappeared.
James and Lily… well. They’d been diligently ignoring one another all day after Lily opened her stack of cards at lunch and James realised that his four were not the only ones there. He’d immediately scowled around the Great Hall, most likely plotting the death of every male who happened to glance in her direction. He’d then preceded to read his cards out aloud whilst Lily pretended to be engrossed in a conversation with Mouse Mary. For the rest of the day they’d both been in distinctly snappy moods.
What about Oz and Londy? They’d been the only two left at the Quidditch pitch after I left. If they hadn’t killed each other I would bet that they were making loud and passionate… drills up for tomorrow. No, who am I kidding. The moment Oz proposed that Londy would have killed and buried Oz in an instant, and performed some sort of voodoo torture on his broomstick.
They’d probably ended up at the party along with the rest of the team and drunk and eaten themselves into an appropriate stupor.
I hadn’t really noticed the debris from the party on the way up to bed, but in the morning I had to pick my way carefully around overturned chairs, hundreds of empty bottles scattering the floor along with unidentifiable snacks trodden into the deep blue carpet.
When I reached the Great Hall I scanned for Lily as I always did. She seemed to have gotten over her annoyance with James, probably temporarily knowing them, and was chatting away normally with him, completely not noticing my arrival. Sirius was sitting looking extremely bored next to them.
It was he who caught my eye.
He looked half asleep with his head resting on his hand, not aware that his elbow was practically in the butter dish. My eyes were drawn to the outline of his arms through his thin, white school shirt, and the top of his chest where his top buttons were undone with his tie hanging untied around his neck.
A smile crept across my face as his zoned out stare met mine, and I melted all over again when his face lit up upon seeing me.
Then my view was obstructed.
A broad expanse of white stepped forcefully into my line of vision and a large hand took my arm.
“Morning, Little Deb!” Ro said, brightly, before casually hauling me back out of the hall.
“Ro! What? I’m hungry!” I complained, trying to look over my shoulder back towards the Great Hall. Sirius was sitting upright now, an angry frown evident on his face. I tried to smile apologetically but it probably came across more as a grimace.
“Just following orders, sweetheart,” Ro was thoroughly amused.
“What are you doing?”
As you do.
We ended up in an empty classroom. Empty other than the five other people sat on various desks in a semi-circle.
“Morning, beautiful!” Londy beamed.
My heart sank. Bollocks.
“We just have a few questions,” Blakely’s grin was, if possible, more mocking than Londy’s. Even Oz had the hint of a smirk on his face.
“Freddie!” I glared at his amused expression, “You’re supposed to be my brother.”
He shrugged, a wicked gleam in his eyes that I hadn’t seen since, well, since the summer. “What can I say, I got curious,” He smiled. Seeing him look a little more like the old Freddie... And for once without Marlene...I couldn't really stay mad at him.
I switched my glare to Londy, the evil, gossip-spreading culprit. “I will kill you, Londy Nara.”
She giggled, gaily.
“So, Little McKinnon, we have reason to believe that you were sending a Valentine’s card, yesterday night,” Blakely, ever the entertainer, took the role of interrogator. “This insinuates both withholding information from your loving teammates and friends, and also direct lying to us. What do you have to say for yourself?”
I glanced behind towards the door but Ro was stood there with his arms folded across his chest. The others were leaning forward slightly, expectant. No escape.
A.N. Hi! Here's chapter nine, I'd love to hear what you think about it! What you think about the story, where you think it's going, which characters you like and hate... any comments or criticism are welcome!
Thanks for reading! Rx.
Preview of Chapter 10 - Catch Me First
"You're not going to tell me." The hurt look on his face made it so much worse.
"I can't..." I was horrified to hear my voice cracking.
"You can't? You can tell Lily but you can't talk to me? Is this about the trust thing again? You don't want to get that close to me because you think I'm going to hurt you?" His voice faltered. "Because it's not fair Dee. It's not fair that you get to choose how deep you're in when I can't help it."
He let me go, a look in his eyes as if he didn't even know me anymore...
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