Chapter 21 : Of Shocking News and Black Coats
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The jacket smells like him. Irrevocably and tauntingly so. The mere fact that I actually remember what he smells like makes me feel a tad bit creepy. Also, if it hadn’t been for the gaping hole in my dress that revealed my granny panties, I would have most definitely given it back to him. I contemplated burning the damn thing but upon realizing that the suit belonged to James’s father, I refrained. It would have been easy to tear the jacket with an unparallel aggression as soon as I got home and stuff it in the dark corners of my closet, but I didn’t because I couldn’t. The jacket was simple, black, and elegant, so ‘forgetting about it’ was difficult, particularly because it practically breathed Sirius. The damn thing haunted me. It became so irritating that I had grabbed it on the way to the train station, trying to rid myself of the weight, the heaviness and the moist tears. Some things people can’t handle, you know?
I sit heavily in my compartment alone, forehead pressed to the cold glass of the window as I breathe. I absolutely loathe this feeling, the unexpected slip and the inevitable fall. This loneliness feels like a bubble, throbbing painfully and expanding. I close my eyes and try to breathe, try to relax and be the happy, awkward little Janelle again.
Oh god, I just referred to myself in the third person.
There is something wrong with me. I know it. I open my eyes again and find that my breath fogged up the window, an extra coat of protection from the world. I watch as it begins to fade away. I watch and watch and watch until finally it disappears.
I think of all the things I want to say to his face. That I’m not afraid, that I am different and proud of it, that I refuse to conform because what I am right now, this minute, is somehow not enough. I want to tell him that I was probably almost somewhat in love with him. I want to tell him that the glance of indifference in the hall, the turning of his back, the sudden interest in his shoes, the careful calculations of seeing me, leaving and avoiding, scars and hurts. I want to tell him that I am over him, though it’s painfully obvious I’m not.
I sit on a bench in front of the great hall with his jacket in my hands. I toy with the collar and try to smooth out the wrinkles. My foot taps in nervous precession, a tap, tap, tap. When I see his familiar tall frame, the soft hair, the relentless grey eyes, my foot stops and I get chills. I stand up quickly, awkwardly. I head toward him clearly trying to act nonchalant. I’m fairly sure I look everything but nonchalant. I try to meet his eyes but find that my eyes cannot rove up that far, so I stare at the tiny freckle above his lip.
“This is for you,” I say stoically. I straighten my back a little. I cried over this boy.
“I didn’t think you were going to give it back to me,” he replies surprised.
“I couldn’t burn it because it belonged to James’s dad,” I say tilting my head. I hand it over to him and he grasps my hands for a brief moment. I hastily take my hand away. “Anyway, thank you.”
“Nell..,” he begins to say, his eyes pleading.
“Don’t what?” he moves closer.
“You don’t have to be nice to me,” I smile tightly. “I don’t want you to waste your time.”
“I get it. You said so yourself. Awkward conversations are just not your cup of tea. I just wanted to give back the jacket. It’s yours. Well not yours, James’s dad, but I thought I should give it to you because…” I stop suddenly. “I thought I should give it to you because you lent it to me and it was only right.”
“Thank you,” he mutters.
“You’re welcome,” I say politely.
“I’ll be sure to give it to Mr. Potter,” Sirius says.
“Good,” I mutter and tear my eyes away from the sight of the freckle.
He bends a little so he’s looking at me in the eye. I stare back in surprise.
I cried over this boy. I cried over this boy. I cried over this boy. I cried over this boy.
“What happened?” he whispers, quietly. He moves closer than before. The space between us becomes more precious to me. I am over this boy. I am over him.
“About what?” I ask alarmed.
“About this big awkward thing between us!” He blurts out.
“I don’t get what you mean,” I reply stubbornly. I try looking away, averting my gaze from his scorching glare of anger, of impatience and of things he cannot understand but he insists. He moves closer, his gaze steady. I think of the fog on the window for moment and imagine it as a barrier between him and me, a silent iridescent breath.
“I think you know exactly what I mean,” he steps closer. “Is it because you still think I’m an arrogant, conceited git?”
“Along those lines,” I reply as I wring my hands together. “Do you think I’m still pathetic?”
“I never said you were pathetic,” Sirius responds defensively. “I said the way you act around people is pathetic.”
“Oh lovely,” I roll my eyes, managing, thank God, to still my stupid heart.
“You know what I mean,” he insists.
“I am not a mind reader, Sirius Black. I don’t know what you mean; I don’t even know what I mean half the time so your half-assed attempts at clarifying things for me are clearly failing,” I breathe.
“Janelle, I like your company,” he says bluntly. I notice, sadly, that he has stopped moving closer to me.
“People also like the company of dogs and cats and toads and teachers,” I say.
“I like your company as a human being,” he growls furiously.
“A pathetic human being,” I reply. “Well, according to you anyway.”
“Bloody hell, Marriot, I’m trying to apologize to you!” He says deafeningly.
Passersby look at us curiously, Sirius Black with whitened knuckles holding on to a black jacket and a mousy looking thing trying to hide the fact that her knees have gone all jellylike and the fact that she’s obviously struggling between punching and kissing him.
“Sirius, calm down,” I hiss, embarrassed. I can feel my ears flaming up. My head has this dull roar in the back, blocking all thoughts and comebacks.
“No, Nell. It’s you that needs to calm down,” he says, his voice lowering. He moves toward me again. His grey eyes become hard, daring me. “You’re too uptight to see what’s in front of you. It’s you that needs to calm down, Nell. Not me.”
“I—I,” I stutter stupidly, completely lost for words.
“Yeah,” Sirius states as if I just proved a point. He sighs and runs his fingers through his hair. “I’ll see you around.”
And he leaves, holding on to his jacket loosely in his right hand; a graceful casualness and indifference that I resent while I’m standing here alone with nothing to hold on to wondering where it all went wrong.
As soon as Sirius turned the corner he stopped his ridiculous masquerade of coolness. He balled the jacket in his fist and threw it hard against the wall. It hit the wall with a dull thump and pathetically slid to the ground. Sirius stared for a moment at the black heap on the floor. He sighed and went to pick it up. As he swiped the jacket into his arms he got a whiff of a scent that was very familiar, like strawberries and coconut.
It smelled like her. Sirius shook his head in disbelief because not only did he automatically know what the smell was, he knew who it belonged to and because he knew, it had made him happy.
Why did he care so much about being her friend? Why did he even give a damn? She was a girl for Merlin’s sake. A girl. Girls were usually easy for Sirius. Yes, there was the initial day, okay maybe hour, of thinking of nothing but a girl, but usually after thinking about a girl, he got her. And yes, there had been a couple of girls that Sirius actually considered dating for longer than a week.. However, Janelle wasn’t like any of those girls. She was just Janelle. Janelle Marriot. Crazy adorable Janelle.
“Oh well if it isn’t my big brother,” a dry voice said, ripping Sirius out of his reverie.
Sirius immediately tensed. He turned around to face him. Sirius surveyed his brother warily. He saw his father’s eyes, the shape and the coldness and Sirius wondered when it all went wrong.
“What Reggie?” Sirius sighed. “I’m tired. Save your whining for another day.”
Sirius felt a twinge of guilt at the tone of indifference in his voice. In the beginning he had notions of ‘saving’ his brother, wanting to show him that there was another way, another route and that he wasn’t alone. But his parents had gotten to Regulus first, tightening their hold on his malleable brother for they would not allow another disgrace to the “Most Noble House of Black”. Sirius scoffed.
“Where’s your blood traitor friend?” Regulus sneered.
“Probably planning a prank on you,” Sirius shrugged, unaffected. He had long learned how to deal with empty threats from his brother and the rest of his family. After all, they were mainly just that, threats – nothing more. Besides, it was easy to pretend cool indifference in the face of resentment and hate. Secretly, all Sirius wanted was a look of gratitude or acceptance, or his father’s proud gaze or his mother’s dark smile. But those pathetic days of wanting were gone. His mother preached pureblood teachings while his father remained extremely cruel. There was no love in his family. There never was. And when Sirius ran away last summer, everything turned to solidified hate that weighed on his shoulders and ground at his teeth.
“How about the half-blood Ravenclaw freak that always follows you around? Your latest project?” Regulus said snidely.
Sirius clutched the jacket closer to him in anger.
“She isn’t a freak and she isn’t a project,” Sirius said, gritting his teeth.
“Oh, is that right?” Regulus stepped closer and looked at his brother directly in the eye. Sirius noted with surprise that Regulus was almost as tall as him. “I know how you love projects. I was one of them wasn’t I? A failed attempt to try and make me be like you.”
Despite everything, despite Sirius’s sudden urge to throttle his brother, the barely visible pleading in his brother’s eyes made Sirius’s heart lurch uncomfortably.
“Not like me,” Sirius said, meeting his brother’s grey gaze. “I tried to make you believe in yourself. You don’t have to follow mother and father’s rule like a whipped puppy, Reg. I tried to make you believe in you.”
Sirius did not like the way his voice cracked or the sentimental tones this conversation was taking. Regulus did not like the way his throat itched and his desperate urge to believe his brother. Neither liked it at all.
Regulus quickly composed himself, remembering his mother’s warnings and his father’s threats. He is not part of this family anymore, he thought.
“Is that what you’re trying to do? Get Marriot to believe in herself?” Regulus snapped. “Stop trying to play God.”
Before Sirius could even answer Regulus continued.
“I kissed her, you know? To get back at you,” he added in a taunting whisper.
Sirius stared in shock. His grip on the jacket tightened and a sudden inexplicable anger overwhelmed him. Sirius saw her face, probably red and flustered with her lips in constant motion, eyes darting to the side in awkwardness and the gold in her eyes finally closing as his brother kissed her. Sirius saw red. He had somehow believed that Janelle was always his. He was her friend, the one she told stories to and was completely weird and mean to yet sweet and vulnerable. When Burnett had started flirting with her he saw it as comical and slightly dangerous but his brother, his brother… why?
“She kissed me back,” Regulus laughed pathetically, “And that’s when I found out.”
Sirius narrowed his eyes.
“She’s in love with you.”
At first it didn’t hit Sirius because he heard the words ‘love’ and ‘you’, but it hadn’t quite pieced together in his mind. And then it hit, like a big gust of wind. Sirius didn’t understand how his brother got to that conclusion, but Regulus didn’t lie, and the way his brother had said it had given the truth away.
She loved him. For Merlin’s sake, he hadn’t even gotten past the fact that Regulus and Janelle kissed, how the hell was he supposed to grasp the fact that she was, what, in love with him too? She loved him? Why?
Regulus was almost amused at the palate of expressions that passed through Sirius face. Anger. Disbelief. Confusion. Anger. And finally confusion again. He didn’t know why he had divulged this information to his brother, gave him a sliver of happiness, while simultaneously killing his own pride. He could have twisted the story, made a mess of Janelle’s and Sirius’s relationship but he didn’t because he couldn’t. He couldn’t because he liked Janelle and he couldn’t because despite everything, Regulus was not a liar and he didn’t hate his brother enough to ruin the one person who might change everything.
Sirius barely registered his brother’s departure. He was in a state of complete shock. He stood holding on to the jacket. Janelle’s face swam across his eyes. Her thick brown hair, her golden brown eyes, the awkward quirk of her lips, the sadness when he said told her to calm down, to look around her, at him, to forgive him. She was vulnerable and vindictive at the same time. He thought about the gentle sorrow when she handed him James’s father’s jacket, the way she wouldn’t look him in the eye, and suddenly Sirius realized how much he had been hurting her.
She loved him and he wondered why. He never asked for this.
“Merlin, I hope he takes his shirt off.”
I look up, momentarily distracted from my book by this disturbing yet completely typical comment from a couple of fourth year girls. They giggle madly and I curiously look to see who they are ogling. Mistake numero uno on my part. Of course it’s Sirius Black. Of course it’s him. And he would be lounging by the lake with his new tan from the sun looking like Adonis.
Its spring and it’s been a total of eight weeks and two days of complete and utter silence. I finally get where the term ‘stony silence’ comes from. It’s from the incredible urge I have to throw rocks at his head. Stupid arse. He made me cry, that’s all there is to it. Crying is pathetic. He is right. I am pathetic. So what if my anger is a poorly disguised ruse of my actual feelings, my shredded self-esteem and well… argh… it feels so clichéd and awful saying this…. my broken heart.
There. I said it. Anger is so much easier than self-pity. Plus, in the beginning I got the satisfaction of seeing his alarmed face. Now, for some reason, he just looks guilty And suddenly as if he can read my thoughts he turns in my general direction. The sun catches his black waves. Surprise. Surprise. A guilty look crosses his face.
The fourth year girls squeal and giggle, thinking he’s looking at them. His gaze shifts from me to them, a bored compliancy on his face. He looks up at the sun again, says something to James, and hops up. He takes off his shirt and with a devilish wink at the girls (clearly not me!) he dives into the lake.
I sniff. I hope he drowns. I would go back inside but it’s such a nice day and I refuse to let Sirius win. I refuse. I dig my nose deeper into my book, a perfect model of a proper Ravenclaw, for once. It’s not long however when the stupid, bloody, fourth years start gasping. I frown into my book. Do not look up. Do not look up. Another gasp, a wistful sigh. Do not look up.
I look up. Mistake numeros dos. He’s breathtaking. Wet and tan with his perfectly toned and defined chest, long strong arms and his hair all plastered to his face. Immediately, My cheeks flame up as a number of indecent thoughts run through my head. My jaw drops and before I can close it he makes eye contact. Smoldering.
For a brief moment I think I am going to see one of his playful smirks, the tug or trembling of his lower lip that says he’s smiling. But I don’t. Instead, I get a deep penetrating stare that makes my body feel like it’s been dipped in molten lava. I feel like he’s constantly on the verge of telling me something but then he stops and then looks away as if I’m too painful to look at.
Lately, however, actually ever since that day when I gave him his jacket back, I’ve been on the receiving end of those long soulful stares. It’s hard seeing as how it just reminds me of how I used to make fun of those stares, joked to myself that some poor girl was probably peeing in her pants because of it, and now, look at me, I’m that girl (minus the bladder issue of course).
I resume my reading, a.k.a reading the same line over and over again. I shift uncomfortably. Again, I hear whispered excitement and close my eyes in frustration. I rub my temples and try not to let my killer extinct take hold. I hear the rustling of grass next to me and I hope dearly that it isn’t any of those stupid forth years asking for my food. A shadow floats over my book. I sigh.
“Look, I’m not going to share my snacks. My sister’s fiancée just made me some homemade chocolate because I’m on my period and I tend to get really depressed since… well.. since.. whatever. So if you could please go away that would be great.”
This is when I look up and see his face. His wet and amused face looking slightly uncomfortable.
I open my mouth to say something but he cuts me off.
“Nell, we need to talk.”
<b>A/N: okay, okay you can throw rocks at me for the super long update. go ahead i deserve it. i hope you guys still like the story and for those who continue to read this, thank you so much for your time and patience. I do this for you. And see the little box down below? feel free to leave your thoughts, favorite quotes etc...hahah. thank you guys so so much. a special thank you to Nora, for the beautiful chapter image and patience with me with helping me make his chapter. You rock.
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