Chapter 11 : Thirteen Budgies
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This chapter is dedicated to the amazing people that have reviewed every chapter yet... if it weren't for them I may have given up long ago! Enjoy! Rx.
“I think we should tell them.”
These were the words that made me choke on a large mouthful of heavily perfumed bath water when they left my boyfriends mouth.
“Are you taking the piss?” I asked, icily. Well, icily was my intention. It didn’t work out as such because he was rubbing my back after my choking hysteria.
“No,” He said, solemnly, “I want to tell them.”
I was in a compromising position. See, if we were sitting around in the common room, or walking along the halls, I could just have said “You’re having a laugh, mate,” and walked off, avoiding the topic forever.
But Sirius Sodding Black was clever. He’d picked the opportune moment. We were in the bath.
I know, it makes me cringe too. Bathing together, for crying out loud. Can you get anymore hideously sappy? I think not. He was even sponging my back as he said it.
And Merlin only knows what was going through Remus’ head when he gave him the password to the prefects bathroom. There was a chandelier in there for crying out loud. A golden chandelier in the same room as Sirius Black. We’d only been in there two minutes before he hit his head on it and knocked two candles off.
Of course the daft prat had asked Lily for the password first. She snorted in his face. Remus wouldn’t do that sort of thing.
He’d caught my eye and grinned his stupid, sexy, devilish grin when he first asked, in front of me. I had to admit it beat sneaking off the Room of Requirement or behind the greenhouses, but I’d been a little offended.
“Is it because I smell bad?” I’d asked, suspiciously, “Because if you just told me I’d understand.”
He’d laughed then pulled an incredulous face at my unamused one.
“No, love,” He shook his head and wrapped his arms around me, “It’s because I want to have a nice, romantic bath with you. And see you with your kit off. But mostly the romantic thing.”
Turned out he was right about the kit off business thought. That was what had me stuck, unable to walk off. Because I’d have to faff around for at least five minutes retrieving my clothes from the far corners of the bathroom. I don’t even know how my knickers ended up on the portrait of the mermaid, they seemed to have a life of their own in these situations.
That, and he could be extremely persuasive in his own unclothed state. I didn’t think he’d noticed how easily influenced I was when he had his body out, but evidently he had. Well, to be fair he’d have to be a mug not to, I turned to putty at the sight of his broad chest, the light sprinkling of chest hair, defined abs, narrow hips…
“You want to tell them,” I repeated, like a complete moron. Sirius was firmly but gently (and probably very deliberately) sponging my arms, running it slowly from my neck down to my fingers and back. “Who, precisely?”
“Everyone,” He was sitting behind me, and leant forward, resting his chin on my shoulder to look at my face, “James, Lily…. Uh, Freddie…”
“Are you insane?”
“No,” He said, slowly, rubbing his cheek on my shoulder and smiling, “It’s been nearly four months -”
“And we agreed on six.” I said, pulling a mock stern face.
“But I want to now,” He pouted.
“Because… because. I don’t know. Everything’s just perfect, nearly. That’s the only thing left to do.”
He made it all sound so simple.
But he was right. Since we’d had that talk in the hospital wing and I’d told him… pretty much everything… we had been about as close as it’s possible to get. As close as it’s possible to get when one of you has detention five nights a week for the next two months, anyway. I’d had to wait until he finished tonight, meaning I wouldn’t get to sleep until the early hours of the morning, meaning I’d be a complete waste of space at Quidditch training and all day tomorrow… but I didn’t care. At all.
“That’s the thing,” I said, twisting round to face him, “It’s so perfect, I just don’t want anything to ruin it,”
“It won’t ruin it,”
“It won’t be the same though. Not until they get their heads round it. Which, by the way, will be never. For Freddie.”
“But I don’t get to see you in the evenings, and then when I see you in the day time I can’t even do anything and it’s bloody killing me…”
That was true. Sometimes, if I had training and he had his training and he had detention… we wouldn’t be alone together for days at a time. And we had to sit together in most lessons as if everything was fine and dandy. I had to constantly remind my twitching fingers not to rebel and run themselves through his hair or up his chest of their own accord, which left no room for any actual work.
It was like waiting for an electric shock, the anticipation of him accidentally touching me, or even looking at me. I was constantly on edge, sitting bolt upright as far away from his as I could get because I knew that if I even smelt him my traitorous hands wouldn’t stay put.
“I know,” I said, uselessly, “And I’m sorry… I just… you know why I don’t want to…”
Because you’re a big fat coward.
Shut up, brain.
“Right. Well if it is just because you’re worried about their reactions -”
“What d’you mean, if? That is the reason. The only reason.” I didn’t like the dubious tone of his voice.
We hadn’t changed our positions. I was still sat curled up in his lap and his arms were still encircling mine. But the change in the atmosphere in the few seconds that we were silent was about as obvious as if he’d have leapt up and stormed off.
I wasn’t good with awkward silences. I couldn’t even keep a straight face, it was a bloody good thing we weren’t facing each other. If he was dense enough not to notice the discomfort in the air (quite possible) then my wide eyes and half-beam-half-grimace with my lips pressed together would certainly have clued him in.
Blimey, if he didn’t say anything soon I’d put money on it that I’d start bobbing my shoulders up and down in a pratty dance or something equally casual to pass the time. Or I’d come out with a hugely un-funny joke… Oh sodding hell here it comes…
“Why did the chicken -”
“But is that the only reason -”
We both started talking at the same time and both stopped abruptly when we heard the other talking. Excellent. Not at all adding to the awkward ambience.
Especially as he was now staring at me a little oddly.
“Chicken?” He asked.
“No I mean… I… uh… you go first.” Good thing I was already flushed from the hot bath, I didn’t think my face could get any redder.
“You really haven’t gotten any more normal, you know, as time’s gone by,” Sirius commented casually, as if he were commenting on the weather rather than the state of my mental health. Charming.
“What were you saying?” I pretended to ignore that extremely hurtful comment. Oh, who am I kidding, it’s not like I was really of the opinion that he thought I was normal.
“I just… is that the only reason? That you’re worried what they’ll say?”
Honestly, I thought boys were supposed to have trouble sharing their feelings? Why did I get the one who poured it all out at every given moment? Why was he constantly questioning?
“Yes.” I said, a little indignantly.
“It’s not that you’re embarrassed of me?”
My mouth dropped open. Again I was thankful that I wasn’t facing him as that, along with my probably smeared mascara wasn’t what most would call attractive.
Was he kidding? What exactly was I supposed to be embarrassed of? The fact that I had the most gorgeous boyfriend in the school? The most gorgeous, smart, sweet…
Oh. Right. That wasn’t the side to him that most people saw. The Sirius Black that the rest of the school saw was the arrogant, womanizing prat with a penchant for hexing Slytherins and giving girls the run around.
“Are you?” He misinterpreted my silence.
“Don’t be stupid.” I said, side-stepping the question, “That didn’t even cross my mind…”
Until you mentioned it. Now however…
If you stop asking me…
“Because I kind of get it if you are. I mean there are a good few people that aren’t, um.. my biggest fans -”
I couldn’t stop myself laughing.
“- Alright, that’s a bit of an understatement,” Sirius buried his face in my neck and I could feel his unashamed grin against my skin. “And I just thought you might be embarrassed about what they’d say… I know I was a bit worried that they’d put you off me…”
“If anyone knows what you’re like it’s me,” I said, “I don’t think a couple of pissed-off ex’s would enlighten me any more to be honest,”
“Then… why? Why not just tell everyone?”
“Because of what I’ve been saying all along!” A niggle of annoyance was prodding at my brain.
“Yeah but -”
“I don’t want them to know,” I said automatically through gritted teeth, “There’s no point stirring everything up if…” I stopped, realising where my inattentive nattering had gotten me. It didn’t escape Sirius’ notice either.
“If…?” Oh Holy crap. The return of Calm Voice. I hadn’t heard that since the Avery Incident.
“If nothing. Just no point stirring things up.” I invented. I really, really wish I could lie.
“You meant if we’re not going to be together for long. Didn’t you.” It wasn’t a question. And Calm Voice was a little shaken. A bad sign.
I opened my mouth to lie again but stopped. I didn’t want to lie to him just to avoid confrontation. I closed it again without uttering a word.
“I can’t believe you still think… Four months, Dee. After four months you still think..” He exhaled loudly, and although I couldn’t see him I could picture his furrowed forehead and clenched jaw – a characteristic of him clinging on to the remains of his temper.
“I don’t think that!”
“Really? Because it kind of seems like you do.”
Oh excellent, he was getting scathing too. That got my back up.
“Maybe I am, then. That would be the logical reaction, right? Remind me how long your longest relationship has ever been?” I matched his tone.
I felt him stiffen almost as if I’d actually hit him.
He didn’t say anything. It was weird, it was like he was a part of me. I could feel his resentment, frustration and guilt. I felt like I wanted to hit something because I knew that was how he felt.
When he spoke it was in a strained voice. We were even beyond the realms of Calm Voice.
“Please tell me you’re just saying that because you’re pissed off.”
“Please tell me you’re just saying that because you’re pissed off.” I retorted.
“That doesn’t make any sense.”
Were we really sixteen? Because we were acting like four-year-olds.
“It does. You’re just reading too far into things because you’re pissed off.” I theorised.
There was a pause.
“So you don’t think I’m a slag?”
“Oh I do think you’re a slag. I just accept it now.”
Oh balls, I was doing the flippant comment thing again.
He turned me around so that he could see my face. Oh he was smiling. He’d finally caught onto my pathetic sense of humour.
“And you’re not embarrassed of me?”
“I’m embarrassed of your eating habits. And your dancing. But of you? No.”
Argh, I couldn’t stop.
“And you do think we’ll last?”
“That all depends on you,” I kissed him lightly but left my lips lingering on his as I spoke, “You’ll just have to convince me…”
He pulled me in closer, “You know, I can be very convincing…” He whispered.
And with that, all insecurity was forgotten. But can you blame me?
It was eight o’clock in the morning. I’d gotten to bed at two after my midnight bath with Sirius, and here I was returning to the dormitory after an early morning run.
The most shocking thing was… this wasn’t a compulsory run, set by Oz.
“Are you insane?” Londy sat up in her bed, squinting in the early morning light. Her hair was hilariously flat on one side and ruffled up on the other. I thought about commenting on it but I did actually value my life, and Londy wasn’t a morning person.
“Nope,” I replied, cheerily, on my way to the bathroom.
“You’ve just been for a run,” She said slowly, clearly of the opinion that I was lacking in brain cells, “By choice.”
“You’re not under threat of torture by Oz?”
“You chose to?”
Londy ran a hand through her bed-hair, making it stand up on end even more and scrutinized me critically.
“Insane.” She diagnosed, before flopping back into her bed. “Wake me up when the shower’s free.”
I caught sight of my face in the partially steamed up mirror when I was in the shower.
Bloody hell, I was beaming like a loon. That was why Londy thought I was nuts. I’d just been running for the best part of forty minutes and here I was looking blissful and content… and slightly crazy.
This was the height of mortification. Because I knew why I was grinning like a cheerful, annoying prat. It was obvious.
Oh I hate that Sirius Black sometimes.
I had no control over my emotions anymore.
If he was angry, I was angry, as we saw last night when he almost lost his temper. What I said must really have gotten to him, he hadn’t even lost it with Avery in detention for a good week and a half. And even then all he did was stab him in the eye with his wand. Didn’t even require an overnight hospital wing stay.
If he was happy, I was happy. And that was a problem… well not a problem, just an embarrassment… because, quite gratifyingly, his face lit up like a moron whenever we got some alone time these days so I could instantly feel my mouth widening like an identical twit.
And last night… last night was pretty perfect. I mean, the whole weird sarcastic fight aside. When we’d eventually gotten bored of the bath we’d lolled on our backs beneath the open window and looked at the stars. To start with I was more occupied with the way he was lightly running his fingers from my chin down to my belly button than looking at the stars, I mean I had no clue about Astronomy, I’d dropped it after OWL having been a bit (a lot) on the crap side at it.
“Want me to show you my star?” Sirius asked, suddenly.
“Sure. My star. Sirius. It’s where my name’s from.” He said, as if it were obvious.
“Your name’s from a star?” Of course it was. His family were the most pretentious bunch of nerds in the history of the world.
“Uh-huh. My whole family’s named after them. Sirius, Orion, Bellatrix…”
“Oh,” I felt irrationally inferior. As if being named after a star makes anyone any more or less superior, “Well I’m named after my Great Aunt. She smelt of old tea bags and had thirteen budgies.”
Sirius’s shoulders shook with a throaty laugh. “That’s way more impressive. At least there’s a story and a sentiment behind it. Your mum and dad obviously liked this Crazy Budgie Lady and wanted you to be just like her -”
“That’s not sentimental, that’s sadistic.”
“- It shows they cared about you. I got lumbered with ‘the brightest star in the sky’. All mine cared about was their expectations of me. Who they wanted me to become, not who I was.”
I kept quiet. He spoke bitterly but there was an air of resignation. Perhaps he’d actually accepted it and put it behind him. Then I remembered hearing him talking about Regulus’ birthday… the obvious fear for his brother… I knew he’d never be able to entirely put his family in his past.
“You could always change your name,” I said, to brighten up the silence, “I’ve always thought you looked like a bit of a Bernard.”
“Bernard sounds like an old man with a phlegmy cough.”
He barked out another laugh and looked back up to the night sky.
“So are you going to show me this ‘brightest star in the sky’ or what?” I asked, following his gaze.
“Right. See the star there, look directly up from the Quidditch pitch, there’s a cluster of about five…”
“Yeah...” I totally didn’t. They all looked exactly the sodding same for crying out loud! In the general area he was pointing there were about seven million twinkly twits.
“You see the one in the middle?”
“You don’t see it do you?”
“Not in the slightest.”
“Good, because I was bullshitting. I haven’t got the foggiest idea which star is me and I couldn’t give a shit.”
“Oh, thank God. I thought I was going to have to pretend to see it every time we were out on romantic strolls.”
“We don’t go on romantic strolls.”
“That is very true.”
He chuckled. “Tell you what, you pick one. That can be me.”
I smiled and squeezed his hand.
“Ok, got one. You see that big one, poking out from behind that cloud?” I pointed.
“Oh, come on, the big shiny one! You can’t miss it!” Even I would be able to identify this one.
“That’s the one.”
“Dee, I’m not being named after the moon.”
“But it’s the only one we’ll be able to recognise!”
There was a pause.
“Excellent. You shall now be known as Sirius Full Moon Black. It has a nice ring to it.”
“It’s not a full moon.”
“Oh, picky, picky. Three-Quarters moon doesn’t have the same effect alright? You will be Sirius Full Moon Black and you will like it, mate.”
“I sound like a wannabe Seer. Maybe if I introduced myself as that in Divination I wouldn’t have failed.”
“You got a T. I don’t think any amount of awesomely cool name would have helped.”
“That is also true. Bollocks.”
Alright, it didn’t sound like the most perfect, romantic night. But it was us. This was about as dreamy as it got. And it made it more special because we were pratting around like the prats we were.
Londy was still staring at me warily when I emerged from the bathroom, and then when she came out. It was starting to weird me out. I mean, I was getting dressed! I couldn’t ignore it any longer when I was doing my mascara in the mirror.
Her face suddenly loomed up behind mine, making me jump so I poked myself in the eye.
“Ow! Fuck… What the…” I wiped my eye and succeeded in wiping black all down one side of my face. Excellent. “What is so fascinating?” I demanded, fumbling for my wand to fix my now watering eye.
Londy kept up the staring for a few seconds, not even looking concerned about my possible blindness. Once my face was clear she spoke.
“You’re having sex.” She accused.
I choked on my own spit. “Pardon?”
“You’re having sex.” She repeated, louder.
I cast a glance around the room and saw that our dorm-mates had frozen in their morning routines with scandalised looks on their faces.
“Londy!” I hissed, “I am not having sex,” I reassured the two shocked girls. They weren’t convinced.
They hurried about picking up their things like startled bunnies. Londy had a smug, knowing smile on her face as she waited in silence for them to leave. I thought about making a break for it but Londy had an unbelievable amount of strength for her five foot one frame. She was the first female beater in fifty years, after all.
“Who is he?” Londy demanded as soon as the door closed.
“Who is who?” I asked, serenely.
“I will hurt you Debbie McKinnon,” She practically growled, “Who are you having sex with?”
“I’m not -” I started, then yelped as she grabbed a fistful of hair threateningly. “Ah! What makes you think I’m having sex?”
“You’re acting like a crazy person!” She practically shrieked, “You’re all happy -” She pulled a disgusted face, “You’re going for runs, you don’t even get pissed off with Oz or Blakely any more, and when you’re quiet you sit there day-dreaming with a soppy look on your face.”
“I do not!”
“You totally do. You’ve been getting a good seeing too, Little McKinnon -”
“- And I want to know who it is!”
Londy’s expression changed from smug and accusing to girly pleading mode.
“Please, Deb! I won’t tell a soul, I promise -”
“You’ll tell everyone.”
“I’d never! Please, please, please, please -”
“I’m not telling you!”
“Ah, so you’re not denying it,” She grinned wickedly.
I opened and closed my mouth a few times like a complete plank while Londy leapt onto her bed and sprawled on her stomach facing me.
“You dirty little slut, you!” She laughed delightedly.
“So who is it?”
“I can’t tell you.” I resumed my mascara application in an attempt to appear dignified.
As if she’d let me off just like that. She was like a little puppy, a terrier or something, that wouldn’t let something go once she got her teeth into it.
“Why the bloody hell not?”
“Londy can we please just leave it?”
She laughed incredulously, “No way! What’s the problem? A friend’s bloke?”
“Attached? Gay? Psycho? Girl?”
“No! To all the above. Just… regular complications.” I gestured vaguely.
Well. After her examples of complications, mine did seem a little inane. Because I was worried what my best friends and brother would say?
As if she read my mind Londy suddenly sat up and a look of understanding passed across her features. “Oh. It’s because of Freddie, isn’t it?”
“Mmmf. Kind of.”
“Bloody hell he would hit the roof...”
“Chop this blokes bollocks off.”
“Thank you for the reassurance. I’ll be sure to come to you in the future for sympathy.”
“Yeah. So you can’t say anything,” I pleaded, “I’m serious. No one can know at all. Even Lily doesn’t…”
“Deb! You think so low of me! Of course I won’t!” She was completely sincere, “You can trust me.” Her dark eyes were wide with earnestness.
“No problem. Just so you know if you do want to tell me -”
“Londy, shut up.”
“Where’s Freddie?” A swish of blonde hair obstructed my view for a second as Londy and I sprinted to reach the tables before breakfast vanished… Our little chat (or confrontation) had made us late.
“I don’t know, Marles,” I craned my neck to see over her shoulder. It was too late. Breakfast was over. “Haven’t seen him.”
“No!” Londy wailed at the sight of the empty tables. A little overdramatic but understandable. We had Transfiguration first.
“Are you sure? When I got to breakfast Rowan said he’d already taken off -” Marles looked concerned.
“I can’t do it, Deb! I need food before lessons! Quick, there’s time to go to the kitchens before Transfiguration!” Londy pulled at my arm, completely oblivious to Marlene’s irritation.
“Yeah, um, sorry… I’ll tell him you’re looking for him if I see him… um… yeah, bye!” I didn’t want to brush her off like that but Londy’s impatience for food was both catching and confusing. She was dragging me by my sleeve towards the kitchens before I even had time to see if Lily, James and Sirius were in the Great Hall.
Five minutes later we were skidding to a halt outside the Transfiguration classroom wiping the crumb from our mouths and arguing about who was going in first.
“You do it!” Londy said, peering through the glass.
“No! It was your idea, you physically dragged me to the kitchens…”
“But she hates me!” Londy moaned, “This is the last lesson before Easter, she’s sure to give me detention in the holidays…”
“…And I’m useless under pressure -”
“You’re doing it. Go -” I pushed her to the door.
“Debbie?” A voice, much too deep to be Londy, sounded. I whirled around.
“Freddie! Marles is looking for you… Wait, why aren’t you in class? You’re late -”
“I really don’t care.” He said, indifferently.
Londy and I both froze in our peering into the Transfiguration room and turned slowly to stare at Freddie. He didn’t care about Marles? My brother would never say something like that…
“You what?” I blurted. He looked uncomprehendingly at me.
“What? Deb, I need… can I talk to you for a minute?” He looked from me to Londy anxiously.
“Debbie you can’t leave me to go in there on my own!” Londy began frantically, but then stopped at the look on Freddie’s face. “Oh. I get it. Right. Ok. I’ll be brave…”
“Freddie what’s…” I asked, but he shook his head and gestured for me to follow him. I was starting to get a little panicked. He really wasn’t acting like himself.
I followed him outside, pulling my robes around me as we walked through the chilly spring wind. Eventually he stopped around the back of the castle, away from the greenhouses, the lake and anywhere else public. We were standing in an awning, sheltered a little from the wind and from anyone who might interrupt.
“What’s going on?” I asked. His hands were deep in his pockets and trouble was etched onto his face.
He pulled a hand out of his pockets, a creased piece of paper in his fist.
“I got a letter.” He said, slowly. It sounded as if he were having trouble choosing his words.
“Ok? About…?” I was still majorly confused. Who would he have gotten a letter from, someone important enough for us both to be standing out here in the cold instead of in lessons, important enough for him not to care that Marlene was worried about him?
“It was to me and you. I read it, but I… I wish I hadn’t. I was just going to throw it out but…” He trailed off, chewing on his lip and not looking at me. He wordlessly held out the paper.
It was a muggle letter, with a stamp and address written in biro on paper, not ink on parchment. The address was familiar.
“It was sent to Auntie Rosemary and Uncle Derek?” I asked. Freddie nodded, his eyes still fixed firmly on his shoes.
“I don’t understand,” I shook my head, “How did it get sent here… they don’t know…”
Rosemary and Derek were under the impression that Freddie and I spent our terms at a boarding school, paid for years in advance by our parents. In reality, we rarely spent any time at the Home, even in the holidays. Not enough time for them to suspect from our behaviour that the idea of us attending a wealthy boarding school was ludicrous. As if they paid us that much attention anyway. They had six other teenagers to deal with; the two that were out of their hair for the majority of the time weren’t high on their radar.
“Dumbledore,” Freddie answered simply.
I returned my attention to the letter, my hand shaking a little as I unfolded it. I didn’t know whether it was from the cold or the anticipation. Any letter like this couldn’t be good. Especially if it was significant enough for Dumbledore to have it forwarded onto us.
I read the words but they didn’t sink in, they didn’t mean anything to me. All I could see was the familiar handwriting, the paper was shaking too much to take much in.
“Wh-what does it mean?” I asked, looking up to see Freddie’s troubled eyes on me.
“What do you… have you read it?” Freddie asked, perplexed.
Freddie took the letter from my hand and pulled me down onto the step behind us. He sat next to me, holding my hand and took a steady breath before talking.
“It means he’s getting out. Soon. And… he wants us to go and see him.”
“He wants us to…” I repeated, my mind too numb to come up with any original words.
“Yeah.” Freddie tightened his grip on my hand. “But we don’t have to. I’m not… I’m not going to.”
I looked up at him in surprise. “You’re not?”
He looked like he thought it was obvious. “Well, yeah. Course I’m not. I don’t even see how he expects us to…” His chocolate eyes locked onto mine. “Do you want to?”
“I don’t… know.” I shook my head, trying to pull up some thoughts or some reason. My mind wasn’t working properly. “He’s our Dad, Freddie.”
Freddie’s hand flinched in mine.
“I don’t care.” It sounded like his teeth were gritted. “He’s not. Not after… everything changed.”
“But you can’t decide just like that, in a matter of minutes…”
He looked a little uncomfortable. Realisation hit me.
“… You knew. Already.” I accused.
“No… I didn’t, I -”
“That’s why you’re so decided. That’s -”
“No, Deb, I didn’t know. I kind of guessed, I speculated… just from bits I picked up before -”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” My voice got a little screechy.
“I didn’t think you’d want to know! I didn’t want to. I wish I didn’t now. I just want to forget him.”
“But -” He was our Dad. For real. Once…
“Deb, he’s a monster. He’s not the same guy who used to save the day, shelter us from everything. It changed. He messed up. He messed us up.”
I felt as if he’d slapped me. “You think we’re messed up?”
“No, that’s not what I… well, yeah. It is what I meant. We were kids. And we had to deal with all that. And we’ve had to live with it for… for seven years.
I was struck by another bolt of comprehension.
“That’s why you were so fucked up isn’t it?”
“Debbie!” He automatically rebuked my language, then almost smiled at how pointless that was right then.
“On Mothers Day. That’s why you were so… out of it. Because you knew he was getting out.”
“I guessed… But I didn’t know he’d expect us to fucking visit.”
“You don’t want anything to do with him.” I said. It was obvious. I hadn’t realised how much resentment and… well, hatred that Freddie had been storing up.
“I don’t even want to think about him.” Freddie said, simply. “And I don’t want you to have to think about him because I know how much it hurts and… I can’t let him hurt you again. That’s why I was just going to throw it away. But then I thought you deserved to make the choice for yourself.” He looked like this was a reluctant conclusion he’d come to.
“Thank you.” I squeezed his hand, shaking slightly. “I’m glad. And I do get why you don’t want to go. I just… I just need to think about it, OK?”
“OK. I’m just… looking out for you, Deb,” Freddie smiled wryly. “Funnily enough, that’s just what he asked me to do.”
OK. Reasons to go…
I only had one, but it was a major one. He was our Dad.
I didn’t know how Freddie could just erase that from his memory. Alright, he’d changed. Almost into a total stranger. But the good times counted for something, right?
I was four. I was watching Freddie and Dad kick a ball around with some neighbours in our box-sized garden from the patio doors, my hands and nose pressed against the glass. I watched the matching boyish grins on their faces jealously. It wasn’t until Dad noticed me standing there that a similar smile spread over my own face, as he took me in his arms and announced that I was on his team.
I was six. I was painting at the kitchen table. We couldn’t afford aprons so I was wearing a plastic carrier bag with holes ripped in for my head and arms. I got some paint on the wall by accident and cried because I was worried what Mummy would say when she got home. Dad wiped away my tears, took my paintbrush and turned the green splotch into a picture of a tree surrounded by multi-coloured flowers.
It was summertime. Some friends were round for a barbeque and everyone kept encouraging the Mason’s grubby son Lewis to kiss me on the cheek, and laughing indulgently when I wailed and hit him whenever he came near me. Just as I was about to throw a major paddy Dad swept me into his arms and announced that his angel wasn’t dating anyone until she was thirty.
He was always the one that was there, wasn’t he? The one who calmed Mum down when she got poorly, the one who entertained me and Freddie when she wouldn’t get out of bed, the one to laugh genially and call for a takeaway when she burnt the dinner… Wasn’t he?
Reasons not to go.
Only one, again. He stopped being our Dad. It all changed.
He stopped being the one that was always there. The only person I could rely upon was my brother, only a year older than me. It was completely unfair that Freddie had to spend his childhood looking me when he shouldn’t have even had to look after himself.
I was eight. Me and Freddie were walking home from school. We heard the screaming before we reached the front gate. Freddie turned around immediately, took my hand and led me back to the park, where we stayed until it got dark just holding on to each other. It wasn’t till we got back that I saw the little marks on his palm from my fingernails and I realised how tightly to him I’d been clinging.
I was nine. Mum and Dads alarm had been going off seven times. We were going to be late for school. I crept out of the room, tiptoed around Dads unconscious drunken body on the living room floor, past Mums open bedroom door where I could hear her whimpering in her sleep. Freddie was in the kitchen. He slid me a bowl of cereal across the table and turned on the TV.
It was nearly tea time. Mum had just woken up and was begging Freddie to do the ironing for her before Dad got home from work. It was too late. He got in when Freddie was getting the ironing board out and the yelling started. At Mum for not doing the ironing, for getting Freddie involved, at Freddie for encouraging her. I sat huddled in the corner being ignored, closing my eyes before anyone got hurt.
I don’t know what tipped him over the edge. What changed him from doting father and husband into… something else. There wasn’t any big event, anything I could pinpoint. It could only have been the chronic stress, the gradual accumulation of everything he’d had to do all those years.
Reasons to go. Reasons not to.
He was our Dad. He wasn’t our Dad.
I rolled over in my bed so that I was facedown in my pillow. I didn’t know what to do. I should follow Freddie. After all he’s done for me, he’s the one with my best interests at heart.
But did I want to follow Freddie for the rest of my life?
I didn’t hear anyone coming up the staircase towards the dorms, because I wasn’t expecting it. Everyone would be in class.
I don’t know how I wasn’t expecting it, really. Of all the people who are least likely to be in class, there was one who would be particularly bothered that I wasn’t there.
I heard the door swing open before the knock.
My head jerked at the sound and I sat up, my mind racing to think of an excuse that would both explain why I was in my dorm in the middle of the day and make the intruder so uncomfortable that they’d leave. If it was a boy I was definitely going with lady issues. If it was one of my dorm-mates I’d bawl a little until they made their escape.
But of course it wasn’t someone I could manipulate like that.
“Hey.” He was leaning against the doorframe just inside. The broomstick in his hands answered my unasked question of how he made it past the stairs.
Deep grey eyes looked me over, searching for the reason that I was brooding in my dorm rather than by his side in class. As if he’d be able to tell by my physical appearance. My eyes were dry, I hadn’t cried at all. That both relieved me and worried me. I mean, if I couldn’t cry about it what did that say about me? Heartless?
“So. What’s up?” Sirius stood awkwardly by the door throwing his broom from one hand to the other. The way he stayed there even though he was so obviously uncomfortable made me want to throw my arms around him. Bloody hell, if I were in that situation I would have long since legged it.
Then I realised that he was waiting for an answer.
What was I supposed to tell him? I hadn’t even sorted it out in my own head yet, let alone offload it onto someone else. Someone I really liked, and didn’t want to mess stuff up with.
“Um.” I uttered, just for the sake of making some sort of noise to fill the silence.
Tell him. My better half was telling me. A problem shared, and all that. Talking about it would maybe help me figure it all out, and make all less overwhelming. When I’d told him before… it had made things so much easier. And we’d been so much better for it, he knew I trusted him with one of the hardest things for me to talk about.
But you can’t bloody tell him! My selfish, irrational side was screaming. It’s too much! This is something you’ve never told another living soul, it’s something that belongs to you and Freddie. No one else. What would he think? Think how differently he’d act…
“Come on,” Sirius crossed the room. I felt the mattress sink a little as he sat down, my eyes averted. “You can talk to me, love.”
I could almost feel the weight of his words, reminding me that I’d confided in his before and that he could take it. Could he?
I picked at my bed covers, knowing he could sense my hesitation. He stuck his finger underneath my nose and tipped my head up. I attempted a smile at the old gesture.
Bloody hell. I was going to do this. This was the enormous step that I’d never taken with anyone.
Well, I’d already crossed more lines than I knew existed with Sirius. But this was the most dangerous yet.
“Ok,” I said, meeting his gaze, “This is it.”
Three days later, I was sat on the train, watching the grey countryside whip by on the London train. My head was resting against the cool glass, rattling with the movement of the train along the tracks. It was starting to give me a headache, but I was in one of those zoned-out stares, staring at nothing, where you physically can’t drag your eyes away.
I couldn’t believe what I was doing. The more I thought about it the more I was convinced that it was a bad idea. So it kept to my blank window-staring, keeping my thoughts firmly else-where.
I thought of Sirius solemn expression as he listened to every word I poured out, as he processed it carefully. The earnest look in his eyes when he said he thought I should go.
“You think I should just forgive him?” I’d asked, in astonishment. Surely Sirius, of all people, understood how I felt. He knew better than anyone what it was like to escape your past.
“I’m not saying that.” He answered and paused, biting his lip, before his next words. “I just… I think… You should never give up on people, that’s all. Not when you know there’s even a tiny bit of good in them.
“But he… Freddie says he changed…”
“He had to have that little bit of good in him to start with. If someone turns bad, surely they had to be good in the first place? For you to notice?”
It hurt my head.
“You are not good at explaining things.” I told him, while he smiled at my expression.
“But I’m right?”
“If you could get that good person back, you would. Right?”
“Yes.” I didn’t hesitate.
“Then you shouldn’t ever give up.” He said simply. I knew then that it wasn’t just my Dad we were talking about. I wondered when he was going to actually take that step and talk to Regulus.
I kept this thought firmly in my mind to stop the flood of doubt. I was taking that step, so maybe that would encourage Sirius to.
But I couldn’t help my train of thought slipping, and letting in the anxiety and the endless stream of attempts to foresee what I was putting myself through.
And if I was this bad, I thought, then Merlin only knows what was going through the mind of the boy opposite me.
I caught a glimpse of his expression in the window; mouth set in a taut line, dark shadows surrounding his usually warm eyes which were flicking their worried stare annoyingly between me and the distant countryside.
“I’m fine,” I said, resisting the urge to roll my eyes as his mouth opened.
“I didn’t say anything,” Freddie protested, the hint of a smile on his face for pretty much the first time since I’d told him my decision.
“I foresaw it,” I told him, “You’ve only asked me if I’m alright about thirty times in the last few hours.
“Well, if you change your mind we can just turn straight round when we get to Kings Cross.” His eyebrows knitted together, “You don’t have to do this, Deb. You don’t owe him anything.”
“I owe it to myself.”
He made a grunt of acknowledgement and resumed his window-gazing.
“Are you alright?” I asked. He didn’t appear anymore worked up about it than me. But Freddie had always been better at coping than me. He’d had to be.
For me. He did everything for me. It was because of me that he was even on this train in the first place. I knew he was massively opposed to going, but here he was.
“I’m fine,” He imitated my own words and tone.
“But are you?” I ignored his light-hearted humour, “Have you talked to anyone about this?”
“What’s to tell?” He was doing that trick I often did, of not looking at me, keeping his eyes averted in an attempt to appear nonchalant. I’d have to tell him sometime that it didn’t work. Ever.
“Just to get it off your chest.”
“I don’t need to get anyone else involved. I’ve got you.”
“We don’t… talk about it.” I pointed out, gingerly.
“Because you don’t want to.” He said, as if it were obvious, “But you will. And when you do you can talk to me.”
I opened my mouth without considering what I was going to say. So it was left hanging open in a very intelligent manner. So I closed it again.
Freddie had this ability to make me feel guilty. He didn’t mean to, it wouldn’t even cross his mind to manipulate me like that, me or anyone. He just always told the truth, and the truth had a habit of making me feel guilty.
He hadn’t spoken to anyone about this because of me. Because he was relying on me to be his confidant, just waiting until I was ready.
“Bu… I…” I shook my head, “You shouldn’t have to wait for me. Sometimes it’s better to talk to a neutral person. Haven’t you told Ro?”
“Haven’t you told Lily?” He retorted, taking his eyes from the window.
“I was planning on it,” I said, defensively.
I was planning on it. Because Sirius told me to. I just hadn’t had a moment with her to myself for the last week or so. She and James seemed to come as a joint package nowadays. The two of them and their ever present bickering. And I would have told James too, I just… I should tell Lily first. She was my best friend. She deserved to be the first to know. And James… well. James had had a pretty easy road, family-wise, compared to the rest of us. It wasn’t the sort of thing he could relate to.
“Good, you should,” Freddie said, “It’s not good for you to just rely on guys. You’d find it easier to talk to Lily.”
Apparently not. Seeing as the only person I’ve told is the epitome of ‘bloke’.
“Maybe you should talk to Marles, then,” I said, “If girls are so much easier to talk to.”
“I don’t want to upset her,” Freddie said, sincerely, “It’s not the sort of thing she’d take well. She once cried in Potions when I accidentally stepped on a Flobberworm. And it was already dead.”
“You were in first year. And you’d put it in her hair.” I remembered.
“Yeah. Well the point is, she cries easy -”
To get her own way, a shrewd voice that sounded a lot like Ro whispered in my ear.
“- And I don’t want her sobbing every time she looks at me.” Freddie sounded faintly horrified.
“Yeah but now you’ve been acting really weird and she doesn’t know why. Like on Mothers’ Day, and for the last week. It’s not fair to worry her. You should tell her. I told Sirius…” I trailed off abruptly, realising in horror that I’d just compared myself and Sirius to Freddie and Marles. Indicating that we were the same. Indicating that he wasn’t my platonic best friend.
“You told him?” Freddie’s look of horror at having Marlene crying turned to one of distaste, “Seriously? Before Lily?”
Oh thank you, Lord, for ignorant boys. I shall hereon never criticise them for being unobservant again.
“Yes,” I said, sounding superior and calm, “He’s been there for me, recently…”
May as well start bigging him up for when we have to tell Freddie… Oh hell, don’t even think about it.
Freddie’s face fell for a moment, and I realised that he thought I was implying that he hadn’t been fulfilling his role as big brother/hero.
“No… I didn’t mean you haven’t…” I started, but he interrupted.
“I’m sorry. I know I’ve been a mopey git but you know now why. And it’s good that you’ve talked to someone. Even if it is him. I suppose he is one of your best mates…” Freddie still looked dubious, “… Seriously, him and not Lily?”
“Well, he asked,” I realised, “Lily’s never asked. She’s too worried about my feelings. Sirius is just more…” Romantically involved? “Curious.” That works too, I guess…
Freddie grunted in reply and resumed his stance of staring out of the window, leaving me to my own thoughts.
I was resigned now to the fact that he didn’t like Sirius, and there evidently wasn’t a whole lot I could do about it. If I didn’t compliment Sirius in front of him, Freddie’d carry on thinking he was a prat, if I did say nice things about him, he’d get resentful that I was closer to Sirius than him. I couldn’t win.
I’d worry about that later. I still had the next few months to figure out how to tell Freddie. Sure, we’d agreed on summer to tell them, but I was all for waiting until the last possible minute. Say, before leaping from the train…
The scary thing was… The scary thing was that I knew now that we were actually going to have to tell them. Before, I’d been waiting for something to screw up. I’d been sure something was going to happen, something bad enough to break us up so that we wouldn’t have to tell anyone.
But now here I was, fairly certain that we were going to be together long enough to have to tell people about us. I wanted us to be together that long. I couldn’t imagine not being with Sirius.
This was exactly why I didn’t want to share things with him. I didn’t want him to be the person who knew me better than anyone, the person who knew all of me – the good and the bad – because I knew that I couldn’t lose someone like that.
But he had become that person.
And without me realising it.
I let my head fall against the window once more, so that I was a mirror image of Freddie. Moody frown and all.
Sirius Black had crept into all areas of my life without warning.
He was the one I complained to (about Oz. And Blakely. And Ro. And Londy…). The one I bossed around (Well I didn’t really need to, he let me get my own way). The one I wanted all day every freaking day. The one to put up with me and my cowardly demands (not telling people), my stupid comments (christening him Bernard and Sirius Full-Moon Black in one night).
Bloody sneaky git.
The man across the table from Freddie and I was a complete stranger.
I took in the receding hairline, the heavily lined face, the thin lips, searching for the familiar face of my father. At the same time, his eyes roamed from my face to Freddie’s searching as intently as the two of us.
I waited. Waited for the emotion to hit me. The love, the affection, the angst, the resentment, the fear.
But none of it came.
It should have. Everything about the room screamed that he was dangerous. The numerous sets of heavy metal gates we’d been through, the two guards by the door, the alarm system…
My hand was clasped tightly in Freddie’s. I didn’t know if it was me gripping him with the strength of a vice or the other way around.
Suddenly, the stranger’s face broke into a smile. And there he was. My Dad.
His eyes crinkled up when he smiled, just like mine did. His jaw protruded like Freddie’s did. He tried to stop himself grinning like a loon by pressing his lips together, a habit that Freddie and I shared.
“You came.” He said, extending his hands out to us. Freddie didn’t let go of my hand and I still clung to him, but Dad didn’t seem to notice. “Look at you both. You’re so grown up…”
Had I really been afraid of this man? Looking at the uncorrupted joy on his face of seeing us, his kids, I’d never believe that he could have done the things he’d done.
I noticed his expression falter as his smile met Freddie’s uncomfortable stony face. Then his eyes swivelled to me and I returned his tentative smile.
“Debbie… What happened to my little girl, huh?”
“Um, still here.” I moved to sit down, dragging Freddie with me seeing as my hand was clamped in his. Even sitting down he was the definition of awkward, sitting stiffly upright. “The way he’s acting you’d think I was still about eight.” I nodded in Freddie’s direction in a lame attempt to lighten the mood.
Freddie’s scowl just deepened.
Dad didn’t miss it. His grin crumpled at Freddie’s obvious refusal to join in.
“And so he should,” Dad recovered and tried again, “Still looking after her like I told you to, son?”
With an immense effort Freddie met his eyes and lifted his chin in acknowledgement, like a weird half-nod.
After an awkward few seconds silence, Dad made another stab at conversation.
“So how’s school? You… you both got accepted to some elite school? Best in the country, I heard. That’s… um, good.”
I smiled fake-modestly. Of course he’d heard that. They weren’t exactly going to tell him the truth – that his two kids were a witch and a wizard. Our down-to-earth, no-nonsense father wasn’t going to believe that.
“Couldn’t bloody believe it when they told me,” He carried on, “My kids at one of them schools! ‘Specially you, Freddie. The amount of phone calls home I had about you in primary school…”
And the amount of smacks around the head he got for it… I silently added. He seemed to conveniently forget that part.
“… Still raising hell, boy? I wouldn’t be surprised if you’d been kicked out, you know that uptight headmistress was threatening us with that when you were ten…”
Freddie showed no sign of being about to communicate so I piped up.
“Freddie’s Head Boy, Dad.”
His eyes bulged and a hoarse laugh burst from his mouth.
“Head Boy? You’re having me on…”
His surprise wasn’t exactly unfounded. When we’d been in primary school Freddie had been, in the words of our frustrated teachers, a ‘right terror’. Skipping class, talking back to teachers, refusing to participate, pulling ridiculous, elaborate pranks instead of working…
Well, he’d basically been the primary school version of Sirius and James.
I suppose, looking back, he’d been acting out at school because he couldn’t at home. In class, he wasn’t looking out for me the whole time so he made the most of it and acted like the kid he was, rather than the guardian he had to be at home.
The teachers lost their patience with him and our parents, threatening them with suspension, expulsion, the lot. All they saw was a cocky little boy who wouldn’t listen to them and couldn’t be controlled with a firm word or two. They didn’t realise that a firm word wouldn’t scare him in the slightest because of what he saw and went through at home. And all our parents saw was a sulky, quiet kid, not the extroverted ‘terror’ that the teachers droned on about.
I was the only one who saw both sides to him. And I was too young to realise that he mucked about at school just because he could get away with it there, before coming home and being manipulated and scared.
Then when… it happened… when we got sent away, he gradually changed into the Freddie he was now. He was still a little prick at times before we went to Hogwarts, and even in his first and second year, but he grew into himself now that he didn’t have to constantly switch from being on edge to acting out, and settled somewhere in the middle.
“Nope. No joke. He’s a pretty good one too.” I said, defiantly.
“Well, good on you, boy. Showed them, huh?”
Again Freddie grunted in response. I could understand his cold front. If things hadn’t changed there was no way in hell he’d be Head Boy. He’d be the Sirius Black of his year, for crying out loud. And here he was again.
“And what about you, sweetheart?” Dad asked.
“Um, what?” I was thrown, both by the fondness in his voice and the words he was saying. What about me? What? “I’m younger than him, Dad. I’m not Head Girl…”
“Oh, right. Yeah. Stupid of me…”
“And I don’t ever plan to be. I’m not even prefect or anything like that.”
I guess I was the one who hadn’t changed. Especially compared to Freddie. I was still the quiet one, the one that got overlooked, the one who needed her brother the save her all the time.
“She’s on the basketball team.” Freddie spoke. An actual sentence for the first time. I was too busy being shocked at him speaking to realise what he was saying.
“Basketball? My little girl?” Dad looked from Freddie to me.
Oh. Basketball. I suppose that’s the closest thing to Quidditch he could think of.
“Oh, yeah.” I didn’t really know what to say. There wasn’t anything I could say about basketball without giving away the fact that I didn’t have the faintest idea about the sport. “Only because of Freddie, really. He was on the team and then I just sort of tried out too.”
“They let boys and girls play together?” Dad’s forehead creased up.
Balls. Is that not how it works in normal schools?
“Oh. Um, no. He’s on the boys team and I’m on the girls.” I invented hastily.
“I was going to say, that would be a bit dangerous wouldn’t it, having lads playing with girls…”
You have no idea.
“Yeah, can you imagine me against someone Freddie’ size,” I smiled wryly, and even noticed the shadow of a smirk on Freddie’s face.
“I wouldn’t hear of it,” Dad smiled, not understanding the joke. He changed to subject, “So you’re all finished with school at the end of the year, Freddie?”
“Heading off to university, I guess?”
I almost smiled. University was such a foreign concept to us, something we just heard talk about from people in the summer holidays. Many of Freddie’s friends had left the previous year to go to university, and a lot of them would be going this year too. We just couldn’t get out heads around it. More learning after school? Aside from job training? Strange.
But it was natural that those not in the know would expect us to go to university, after all, we did attend such an ‘elite’ school…
“Actually no.” Freddie spoke actual words again, for the second time. “I’m thinking of going travelling for a year.”
“Really?” That was news to me. It hadn’t really occurred to me to wonder what Freddie would be doing next year. “With Marlene?”
“Uh-huh. We’ve talked about it.” His voice sounded so much more at ease when he was talking to me.
“And Marlene is…?” Dad asked.
“My girlfriend.” Freddie’s curt voice was back, addressing him again.
I could practically hear the silent conversation behind their stares.
“I’d like to meet her.”
“That’s not going to happen.”
But of course they settled for stony silence. They were men, after all.
“So when would you be going?” Dad settled for a neutral question.
“We haven’t decided yet. I’ll wait until Deb’s back at school, obviously.”
“Well, you know, if you didn’t want to wait… Actually this was what I wanted to talk to you about…”
I didn’t understand right away, but Freddie’s expression read ‘No’ more clearly than if it was tattooed on his forehead.
“Just let me finished before you but in, alright?” Dad requested.
Freddie opened his mouth, then closed it and nodded once, his expression not changing.
“Right. Well you know I’m getting out. Soon. Really soon, actually. If everything goes smoothly I’ll be settled in a new home by the time you break up for summer. And the thing I wanted to ask you… well you see if you want to, you have the choice to move in. With me.”
It took a few seconds for his words to sink in, then my first instinct was to laugh. Move in? With this man we’d been reacquainted with for approximately fifteen minutes? It was ridiculous! And after everything we'd been through, everything he'd done. Visiting him was a big enough step, giving him a chance I could do. That's why I was here. But moving in?
“And you’ll know that we also have the choice to have nothing to do with you.” Freddie replied, smoothly.
“I can see that you’ve made your mind up,” Dad said, his voice giving a little, “And I almost suspected as much. Always been the stubborn one…” A ghost of a smile crossed his face, “But Debbie…”
I blinked. This was getting more absurd by the second. Move in alone with him? Without my brother?
“Me and Deb stick together.” Freddie stated, as if he was reading my mind, “We always have.” His tone added the implication, which you’d know if you’d been there. “And if you even considered for a second that I’d leave her with you -”
“I’m her father. Not you.” Dad’s tone was almost pleading. How things had changed. Pleading with Freddie as an equal, not the little kid that used to get kicked around.
“You haven’t been her father in seven years. No, more than that. You haven’t been our father since you first picked up the whiskey.” Freddie sat up and squared his shoulders, daring him to deny it.
“Don’t try and talk to me about things you don’t understand.” Dad matched his posture and I felt that familiar rush of fear. The one that I hadn’t felt in seven years.
“You’re right, I don’t understand. I’ll never understand how you can stand to look at yourself after letting the drink ruin your family.”
“You have no idea what it’s like -” Dad cut across Freddie, raising his voice. Freddie responded by scraping his chair back as if he was about to stand up.
That sound came a close second to breaking glass. The unmistakable sound of a chair being violently scraped across the floor. It was another warning sound. You knew, in our house, if you heard that sound that in about five seconds someone was either going to be getting an earful or a smack around the head. And in most cases, there was no time to do anything about it.
This time, however they both stopped. Freddie was looking at me and Dad, who had had his eyes on Freddie, followed his gaze.
“You see that?” Freddie returned his attention back to our Dad. “That’s what you do to her. I haven’t seen her flinch at that sound in seven years, and then you come back into our lives and look at her. You scare her.”
“You’re the one that moved your chair -”
“But you’re the reason she’d scared.”
Dad stopped dead. He hadn’t taken his eyes off me. “Debbie. You know I’d never hurt you, sweetheart?”
I stared back at him in silence. You did! I wanted to say, but my mouth wasn’t working. The same incredulous look was plastered on Freddie’s face.
“I did some things I regret. I didn’t give you kids, or your Mum – especially your Mum - the treatment you deserved. And I admit I raised a hand to you, Freddie, more than I like to remember. I deeply, deeply regret that. But Debbie, you’re… you were my baby girl. I would never ever have hurt you, sweetheart.”
I could see Freddie about to explode, so I spoke up.
“But you did.” I was confused.
“You did raise a hand to your baby girl.” Freddie practically spat, “In fact, you had both hands around her neck, if I remember correctly.” He was shaking a little. Really not a good sign. There were a number of prison officers that would probably be more than happy with a break to their monotonous day by jumping the kid you was ready to murder his father.
“Don’t be ridiculous.” Dad shook his head. “I understand that you’re angry with me for the way I treated you. But don’t make out I would maltreat my daughter -”
“You did, Dad.” I said. “It was when…” I knew what I had to say. What I had to talk about. “It was when we found… Mum. When I walked in and I screamed and…”
My breaths were shaking a little and I could hear sobs building in my throat, threatening to come out.
“No. You’re making things up. When we found your Mum I called the ambulance. I tried to wake her up, I tried to stop the bleeding, I -”
“You were hammered. I could smell the drink on you when I had to pry your hands off your daughters neck.” Freddie said, deliberately bluntly. “We were the ones who tried to wake her up. We were the ones that did everything we could because you then passed out on the floor.”
My eyes were hot and prickly and my chest was spasming with trying not to cry. Freddie’s words made it worse but the way our Dad didn’t understand… didn’t remember…
And his gobsmacked expression indicated that he truly didn’t. Of course he didn’t. If he’d remembered that he would never have expected us to visit, to move in with him. He genuinely didn’t remember, whether it was because of how intoxicated he’d been or whether he’d blocked it out I didn’t know.
But I did know that he'd had his chance. You really only get that one shot to truly have your kids trust, and that's the first time round. How could he ever really be our Dad again when we couldn't trust him? We'd be constantly on edge, waiting for him to mess up, waiting for it to happen all over again because he couldn't remember how bad it had been the first time...
He looked to me for confirmation.
“You did.” I said, quietly.
“It was your fault.” Freddie said, coldly. “She took her own life because of you. You killed her.”
A.N. Aaargh! Ok this is a very nervous authors note for several reasons...
1. The huge huge wait for the update. I'm so sorry but exams and deadlines and all the usual excuses.. plus this is the hardest chapter I've written yet! The Sirius/Dee stuff is all very natural to me but the interaction between Dee, Freddie and their Dad was sooo much more difficult! Which brings me onto point number two...
2. The drastic change in the mood! I'm sorry if it really didn't seem to flow, jumping around from the angsty Dee/Sirius to the fun Dee/Sirius to the fun Dee/Londy to the sad Dee/Freddie.. but this is all a necessary part of the story and just gives you insight onto Dee and Freddies characters really.. I hope it all seemed ok!
3. The sheer length of the bloody thing! Thank you so much if you ploughed your way through it (and this excessively long authors note), it means a lot!
Anyway, apologies aside I'd love to hear what you think! Dee and Sirius' argument getting old.. possibly indicating that it may soon come to a head? About their stupid lovey-doveyness? Londy? And of course the Freddie/Dad stuff...
Thanks for reading!
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