Chapter 38 : Breathe Your Name
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The first thing Scarlett realized about December was that it brought about plenty of change. The snow was beginning to fall heavily and all the time; because of it, Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures had a higher chance to be cancelled. Students were unwilling to venture outside after classes, instead taking more solace in the castle and more specifically their common room where a fireplace was. Decorations for the holidays were already beginning to be put up, and not a single day passed that didn't include some confrontation with mistletoe.
However, despite how much change there might have been in December, it was always accompanied by things that stayed the same. Though Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures got cancelled often, it still accorded with the other classes in the sense that it slowly and steadily got harder and harder. Although students stayed within the castle they were still as rowdy and amiable as ever. And despite the fact decorations for Christmas littered the corridors Scarlett didn't feel an ounce of holiday spirit.
As far as Scarlett's life went, many things were exactly the same. Georgiana still teased Theodore and Scarlett, though their romantic relationship had already reached its second month and she had a ring on her finger. Narcissa still loved Lucius and Bella still thought she was being silly. Ambrose continued to spread rumors; the Marauders continued to bother the group. Sirius was still there and was as good a presence as ever.
And the feeling had not gone away.
It had been subjected to plenty of Scarlett's theorizing, but it had not been properly solved. There was just no way to describe it; by December it didn't ever go away, even when she was away from the outlook. The only time the feeling made any indication that it was not rigid was that it seemed to escalate during tired moments at the dead of night with Sirius.
Another thing that had not changed about Scarlett was that she didn't want to know what caused it.
However, something that did change was that her curiosity was growing. And now she needed to know.
It was something she couldn't control, really; she was at ease enough. But that feeling continued to dance on the edges of her mind as if it had no intention of ceasing, and that was something that Scarlett could not stand. Although she didn't want to know, because the answer might not be something she liked, she still needed to because the desire to end it was aching in her every movement. It was hand-in-hand with her increasing curiosity; it was something she did not want but still had.
She could feel it festering then. That night, feeling adventurous, the two had climbed up an enormous cherry tree whose branches were aligned in a way that almost resembled a bowl. It was strange and beautiful, and that night they had found comfort by lying down on a particularly large branch they could share but only if she rested ever-so-slightly on Sirius's chest. The night was nearing the early hours of the morning, and she could feel the fatigue covering her like a blanket. They had gone in silence for hours, Scarlett eyeing the stars in some futile attempt to figure out what she was feeling and why, Sirius struggling to remain warm.
Scarlett rubbed her eyes and groaned inaudibly. "I'm so tired," she muttered, hugging herself tighter as another breeze passed the couple. "Do you want to go back?"
"Not really," Sirius replied.
"Me either," Scarlett said in return, and the silence settled over them once more but only for a few seconds.
"When'd you get that ring?" Sirius questioned, and though it was in the same bored tone Scarlett could sense a slight edge to it. "I haven't seen it before."
"A couple days ago," Scarlett said quietly. "Do you like it?"
Sirius grabbed her hand and examined it; the feeling spread throughout her in a tremor. Contemplating for a couple of seconds, Sirius finally responded. "It looks good on you," he said finally.
"Thanks," Scarlett said thoughtlessly. "So, how are you?"
Sirius shook his head and snickered. "I hate that question," Sirius said. "What about you, Scarlett? How are you doing?"
"I'm... frustrated," Scarlett answered, feeling a wave of déjà vu hit her. "And confused." She laughed bitterly. "Sirius? Feel like answering yet?"
"I'm feeling pretty good, actually," Sirius said, lighthearted. "Why are you frustrated and confused? Is it Nott again?"
Scarlett shrugged. "Not really," she confided. "Although I don't know what I want when it comes to this ring." She stared at it again, determinedly, before sighing. "Merlin," she muttered, suddenly shocked. "I'm getting married."
"Uh-huh," Sirius said, slightly amused. "You are."
"I'm getting married!" Scarlett yelled, waving her hand around as if there was something disturbing on it. "Married! In twenty-two days! In about three weeks I'll be Scarlett sodding Nott!"
"Bloody hell," Sirius said, completely entertained except for the part of him that hated what she had just said. "You're going to be a walking pun, aren't you? What asshole planned that one?"
"My mum, and shut up," Scarlett said darkly. "You can't really talk, you know. Sirius."
"I know," Sirius assured her, grinning. "It's great fun though. You'll always have a go-to joke when things get awkward with your mates. Plus you will have the ultimate comfort that your name is quite possibly the stupidest one in the entire universe. There's actually nothing wrong with it. It's a miracle."
"Again, shut up," Scarlett said, looking at her ring again. "When have things ever gotten awkward with your mates, Sirius? I thought that the life of a Gryffindor was supposed to be... fabulous."
Sirius let out a bark of laughter. "You've met Peter," he elaborated. "Peter gets nervous 'round us all the time. He acts like he's still shocked that he's mates with us. He's used are you serious jokes so often I don't even really notice it anymore. Actually, come to think of it, I haven't really noticed Peter lately. I mean, don't get me wrong, he's a good enough mate, he's just a broken record. I imagine he's kind of like our Bellatrix."
"How would you know what Bella's like as a mate?" Scarlett asked.
"She seems like the kind of person that would say the same kind of things over and over again," Sirius answered. "I mean, she's more--aggressive, I guess--than Peter is. But I could see the two of them being a good couple."
Scarlett chuckled. "Peter and Bella?" she said skeptically. "Bella would tear him apart. Plus, Slytherin-Gryffindor relationships aren't really Bella's thing. I mean, I don't know about Peter--"
"But they are your thing," Sirius interrupted. "Slytherin-Gryffindor relationships. Right?"
There was one moment--one terrifying sliver of a second--where Scarlett could almost identify what she was feeling. There was one split moment where she looked at Sirius and she could see and identify the sparkle in his own eye. There was one instant--one terrifying, breath-stealing instant--where Scarlett had it all figured out.
But, instead of grasping onto the information, she merely let it slip away like a good dream and laughed instead. "'Course, Sirius," she said. "But I'm pretty sure you know as well as I do that I am not Bellatrix and I never will be Bellatrix, thank Merlin."
Sirius smiled, but it did not last very long. "You're stalling," he pointed out expertly, and Scarlett shook her head. "Tell me why you are so confused and frustrated. I bet you're dying to tell."
Scarlett groaned. "I don't want to talk about it."
"I bet you do," Sirius contradicted. "I bet you were waiting for the day when you could tell me whatever was on your mind."
"I'll tell you," Scarlett proposed, "if you tell me what your big secret is. Everyone's got one."
Sirius paused, but only for a second. "You tell me what your problem is," he negotiated, "and I'll tell you. All right?"
"Fine," Scarlett said. "It's a long story, though."
"We have time," Sirius reminded her. "It's only two-thirty."
Scarlett took a deep breath. "Okay then. Well... I don't know, I hate being curious," she started. "I hate it, and even though I am sometimes, it doesn't change the fact that I don't like to be. Ever. It's never a good idea to go around and ask questions, because if you do, then you could get screwed. And that's not the way I operate, necessarily.
"It's the same reason why I don't like to scream," she continued. "I hate it. I don't like whenever other people try to help me in anything. I just don't. I work alone, you know? Maybe you don't agree with me, but that's me. That's Slytherin. And that's just... well, it's the way I am.
"Not that screaming has anything to do with what I'm trying to say," she rambled. "It's just... I hate being curious. And I know you love it. But really, what is the point? Where is the excitement in knowing that sometimes the truth isn't so pretty? I don't get it."
"So what are you curious about?" Sirius asked, predictably inquisitive.
"I have no idea!" she responded with energy. "The weird thing lately is that it's getting worse and worse and it isn't stopping. I can't tuck it away. It's like this stupid ache and every time I think something I just wonder, well, why don't I ask about it? What would happen if I actually tried to figure it out? But you know what? I always ignore it! And even though I can say that I don't want to be curious for so long it's only a matter of bloody time before I can't help myself and then every single moment it follows me around! Like a goddamn cat! Or something!"
Sirius laughed, but it did not seem very genuine. "So what are you trying to say?" he attempted to advise. "Tell me, if you didn't worry about the consequences, what would you do, right now? To try and stop the ache?"
Scarlett took a deep breath, abruptly resigned. "I feel so weird," she said, shaking her head. "I feel funny. Sometimes I wake up and I know I've just dreamed something but I have no idea what it is. Sometimes I walk around with Theodore and I wonder if... maybe I'm making a mistake. If I'm not supposed to be what I have to be."
"I know it's stupid," Scarlett muttered, feeling ridiculous. "I know it doesn't make any sense, but I feel... just... so weird, Sirius..."
"Are you saying that you believe in fate?" Sirius asked when he finally could muster a response. "I think it's a load of bullocks. If I believed in fate, and if I followed it, I wouldn't be here, would I?"
Sirius attempted to get more conciliatory words. "You don't have to do what they tell you to do, Scarlett."
Scarlett smiled hopelessly. "When Theodore gave me this," she said, changing the subject as she showed Sirius the ring, "I felt happy. I really did. I care about Theodore so, so much, and that was what was supposed to happen. What needed to happen. It was so perfect when he gave me this.
"But I still felt funny, too," she confided. "I could feel it in my stomach. I felt... bad, somehow. It was so perfect... so, so perfect. But I felt wrong. It felt wrong. Like it was staged or something. Stilted. But it was exactly what was going to happen all along.
"It's just... I get the feeling that what's supposed to happen isn't... and I feel like what isn't supposed to happen is the way things are happening... and I don't even know what's going on and I don't know how I feel about it and I don't know what's causing it... I don't know what's going to happen. I thought I did before, but I don't, Sirius... and I have to know. I don't think I can stay like this for much longer."
Sirius tried to stomach all that she was saying. "Just because you read the stars... it doesn't mean that you have to know the future. Sometimes it's good to just let things happen. To stop worrying about it.
"And more than anything," he said firmly, "don't concern yourself over what people are telling you to do. There's no plan you have to follow. The worst consequence...I mean, in my opinion...is doing something you disagree with and then you wake up and you're in a place you don't want to be."
Scarlett smiled. "Thank you." The words were said so softly that they almost evaporated into the winds, but she knew that she was close enough to Sirius that he could hear her.
"You have to tell me your secret, though," she whispered, as she moved closer to him. "You promised."
Scarlett could not help noticing that it was colder. She could not help noticing that the winds were now blowing fervently and whipping her hair all around even though she attempted to compose it. She could not help noticing that she was cold, so cold, but being close to Sirius made her so much warmer.
Scarlett could not help noticing that, at the question, Sirius laced his fingers in-between hers. She could not help noticing that it felt nice; she could not help but note that, even though he was only grasping her hand, her whole body had become hot.
She could not help but be aware of the feeling, and it swarmed throughout her body like butterflies and honey, slow and lazy but fluttering in a way that felt good. She was getting tired, and she was on a bloody tree, but she felt so comfortable.
She could have stayed there forever. With him.
"Do you remember back in October?" Sirius asked, his voice soft but rough, low but exciting her entire body. "We talked about how frustrated and confused we were, do you remember that?"
Scarlett nodded soundlessly, and Sirius continued. "And you told me about Theodore," Sirius reminisced. "And I told you about a girl I fancied? I said... I said it wasn't that big of a deal. I said I should try to avoid her because I didn't want to fancy her.
"But I still do," he said slowly. "I think about her all the time. But now it... it is a big deal. It's huge. And I can't avoid her and I never even started to try because I never wanted to. And I never will.
"I'm almost afraid," he said softly, "because I'm not used to it. And I don't know what's going to happen, and every second it--it grows on me. And I know that there's one-in-a-million shot of ever getting with her. I know that my friends would hate me. Plenty of people would.
"But I can't stop it," Sirius murmured. "And now...it's out of my control..."
"Sirius..." Scarlett muttered, tired but warm, and he nodded, hardly concentrating on anything.
She could feel the feeling all around her now. She could feel it biting at her toes and grasping her body and warming her up. She could feel it tingle in her nerves and pump in her heart and possess her, completely possess her, until she became the feeling.
And then she was at another decision point: did she want to deny her curiosity or pursue it? Did she want to pretend nothing happened, nothing was happening, or did she want to open her eyes and understand what emotion it was that surrounded her? Did she want to continue traveling on the safe road--the road without surprises--or did she want to take a chance and venture out into the forests of unpredictability and the truth? Did she want to cringe every time the feeling erupted or try to discover what it meant? What did she want to do: be afraid but be safe or be brave and take risks despite the consequences?
Scarlett didn't know, but when she felt Sirius give her hand an idle squeeze she found herself leaning closer to him and resting her head on his chest. Instead of leaving or trying to start a fight with Sirius or simply moving away she held his hand and relaxed with him under a canopy of stars.
And as her curiosities grew larger and she approached the answer, she knew that in some way a choice had been made. Only time would tell if it was the correct choice.
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