Chapter 15 : Quiet, Man
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To say we sprang apart would be an understatement.
To say we sprang apart so violently that Sirius shoved the armchair back so that the poor sod in it was a hair’s breadth away from landing in the fireplace and I nearly face-planted over a coffee table… That was closer.
Confronted with Freddie’s face contorted in fury, I was surprised to find myself calm. Calm enough to wonder why there was still music playing, still people chatting amongst themselves over the far side of the room when more than half the room had frozen at the deafening volume of Freddie’s roar. I was just idly wondering whether the sudden silence would alert Lily and James when I was brought back into reality and the gravity of the situation hit me like a slap to the face.
Or like Freddie’s fist on Sirius’ face. Which happened. Again. For the second time in one night.
“Freddie!” I screamed, as Sirius’ hands flew to his mouth just moments after my lips had been there. Again, though, he didn’t fall. For a moment I considered that it might actually help if he did. Play dead and all that. But no, Sirius had to be a stupid, proud ass-hole and stay upright.
When he let go of his mouth I saw that the cut had been split open again and fresh blood was spilling from it onto his chin, his shoulder and the front of his t-shirt. I spun to face Freddie and felt sick to see the same blood on his fist.
“What are you doing?” I demanded from Freddie. It was a stupid thing to say really, I knew what he was doing – or what he thought he was doing – protecting me. In his stupid, crappy way. We’d known it would come to this, which was why I’d avoided it at all costs. But it was a whole other thing seeing it unfold before my eyes.
Freddie was frozen in place, his arms held tensely at his sides, the fists still clenched tightly. The shock in his face held it rigidly, his eyes wide but his mouth a firm line, his lips thinner than ever.
This was as bad as Sirius’ calm voice. Freddie being frozen was Freddie struggling to maintain control.
I didn’t know what to do.
Sirius wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, only succeeding in smearing blood across his jaw and making the whole mess a lot worse. He glanced at me in panic, clearly not having a clue what to do. I ached to hold his hand, to clean up his face and make it all better.
But for the first time, we had no way out of this. Short of yelling ‘April Fools!’. But it was July.
Still Freddie remained stationary.
Oh hell. It was up to me to do something. This couldn’t be good.
“Um… let’s… shall we go outside? Somewhere a bit quieter?” I suggested, my voice shaking. Somewhere quieter? That’s a laugh. Since Freddie knocked the room silent with his bellowing the only place quieter than this would be a sodding morgue.
I stood stupidly between the two of them when no one replied. “Okey-dokey, I’ll lead the way.” Okey-fucking-dokey? I was definitely well on the way to having a nervous breakdown.
Then I was faced with another conundrum. Whose hand did I take? If it were just me and Sirius, I’d take his hand. If it were just me and Freddie, I’d take his. Let’s face it, they both needed it. One was in a state of furious shock and the other had just been clouted around the face for the second time in under an hour. I’d just caused Sirius bodily harm and I’d just caused Freddie a possible heart failure.
I looked desperately from Sirius’ bloody, swollen face to Freddie’s horrified, enraged face. And back.
I took Sirius’ hand.
He was my boyfriend. Having just been and quite possibly about to be beaten senseless by my brother. Unless I could do anything to stop it. Which was unlikely, as I hadn’t before.
I was an awful girlfriend. How many times had the both of them saved my arse? And look at what I do to them.
Awful girlfriend. Awful sister.
But still. A united front. That was it. Sirius and I had to come across together for Freddie to listen for even a second. That and I hoped maybe Freddie would be less likely to throw another punch if I was attached to Sirius.
A muscle jumped in Freddie’s jaw but I ushered him ahead of us towards the portrait hole.
Bollocks. Was I doing the right thing, taking them out here? Was it just less witnesses for the murder scene? Balls, this is why decisions shouldn’t be left to me, I can’t handle it.
I squeezed Sirius’ hand and cleaned away a little of the blood that he’d wiped up his face with my robes.
“Sorry,” I whispered as he flinched away when I got too close to his swollen lip.
“Could have been worse,” He whispered back, a twisted shadow of his former goofy grin on his lips. He pressed them very softly onto my forehead.
“Debbie! What’s happening? I just Freddie hitting… Oh. I… what?” Great. Lily. Just what we needed. Her eyes travelled from Sirius’ bruised face to my own ( not such a feat, it was attached to his ) to our clasped hands.
I was so wound up, the churning in my stomach that I’d gotten every time I’d even considered this moment – telling them – was nothing compared to the nausea I felt now. I was so uptight, so filled with dread, that at the sight of Lily’s startled face I laughed.
Literally. The stupidest reaction I could have had.
Giggles escaped the corners of my mouth and my shoulders, which I’d been holding so rigidly, shook with silent laughter. Then when James emerged from the crowd with a similar expression to Lily, setting Sirius off with a bark of laughter of his own, that did it. I fell against Sirius, weak with peals of laughter and we laughed as if this was the funniest night of our lives, not one of the most stress-inducing.
When we finally pulled ourselves together James and Lily were stood in identical poses – arms folded and expressions expectant, awaiting an explanation. Sirius slipped an arm around my waist and grinned his swollen, lop-sided grin.
“In case you were wondering, we’re together,” He announced theatrically to James, Lily and the entire gawking room. I spotted Londy doing a celebratory dance on a table on the far side of the room, where she had been in the middle of a new rendition of the Macarena with Blakely, who was now scratching his head and looking mildly befuddled. I spotted Marlene eyeing the two of us like we’d just rolled in dragon crap. I spotted an unusually pale Ro, glancing from me and Sirius, to the portrait hole and back.
I heard the portrait hole slam shut with unnecessary force, and turned to find that Freddie had disappeared.
The high spirits that had come from our fit of laughter drained from both our faces.
“It’s been nice knowing you all.” Sirius announced again, grimly. He caught Lily and James’ eyes and jerked his head over at the portrait hole. Without another word, Lily climbed through followed by James, and then without being asked, Marlene cut in before Sirius and I reached it.
“After you,” Sirius commented sarcastically. Marlene threw him an icy look before climbing out in front of us in as dignified a manner as she could. “And after you, love,” He gestured extravagantly in an attempt to keep upbeat.
“This is it.” I said, pausing.
“Uh-huh. I’m… nervous.” Sirius looked surprised.
“It’s finally sunk in?”
“Yup. Shit. What do we say?”
“The truth, I guess.” I said, simply.
“The truth? That I shagged you at Christmas and then persistently nagged you until you’d be my girlfriend?”
“That’s what I thought. Ah well, we’ll think of something.”
“Uh-huh. Just don’t call it a ‘thing’. Londy didn’t respond well to that.”
“Never mind. Just go.” I pushed him towards the portrait hole and looked back at the room as he climbed out. About seventy-five pairs of eyes avoided mine, and for the first time since the whole incident began I had the time to register how embarrassing it all was, and my face flushed crimson. Great.
“Um. Bye now. Sorry for the… um. Yeah. Have a good party.” I babbled, before scrambling out of the hole in a hurry. Into an even more awkward atmosphere.
James and Lily were stood side-by-side, still assuming their identical expectant poses. Freddie was still in his ‘controlling his temper’ stance. Marlene was clinging to his arm.
Not one of them looked impressed. But Sirius hadn’t been killed yet. That was a plus, I suppose. He was stood straight-backed, facing them all. When I clambered from the common room he deliberately, defiantly took my hand.
Although it made me feel braver, I couldn’t help but notice that the four of them immediately stared at our entwined hands.
I supposed they had to get used to it.
I hated the looks on their faces.
I opened my mouth to say something but my throat muscles seemed paralysed. Again, with the instinctive response. It was fight, flight or freeze all over again. Freddie had taken ‘fight’. I’d have taken ‘flight’ if Sirius hadn’t held my hand – maybe that was why he did it? – so I’d had to settle for ‘freeze’. Not very productive, if I’m honest.
“Ok.” Sirius exhaled loudly, “I don’t really know what we need to say -”
“An explanation would be just fucking dandy.” James was uncharacteristically cynical.
“I said it, didn’t I?” Sirius snapped back, “We’re together. Me and Dee. I don’t know how else you want me to put it -”
“How about when, where, why, how? Because by the looks of this it’s been going on a while.”
I was clinging onto Sirius’ hand like a lifeline. It was awful to see the two of them speak to one another like this. I’d never seen either of them get past brotherly bickering – not once had I seen them bitter at each other like this.
“Why?” Sirius caught onto that one word. “What the fuck do you mean, ‘why’? You know why. I’ve always -”
What? Always what?
“Yeah I know you always have. But you’ve also always said you love my Mum but I don’t see you sucking face with her and Merlin knows what else the two of you have -”
“Hey!” I interrupted loudly. It would do no good for the conversation to get into that territory just when Freddie appeared to have a hold on himself.
“And you always said,” James carried on, though thankfully on another track, “That you weren’t serious. That you’d never do anything to ruin the friendship. Not just you two but all of us -”
Always. They kept saying always. What the sodding hell were they both ‘always’ saying? And why wasn’t I aware of it?
“It doesn’t have to ruin anything, mate.”
“Don’t call me mate.” I’d never seen James like this before. His words cut like a knife and it wasn’t even me he was speaking to. It couldn’t be like that between me and Lily. I wouldn’t let it. “Not when you’ve been lying to me for fuck knows how long -”
“Ok, let’s stop right there.” Freddie’s voice cut in, curt and quiet, but carrying enough authority to stop James mid-sentence. “How long?”
My eyes darted to my brother, still in the same stance but apparently able to speak smoothly now.
“Um. Since -” Sirius started.
“I was talking to my sister.” Freddie practically spat.
“Well talk nicely to her then.” Sirius retorted, coldly.
Freddie glared and closed his eyes for a second. “Deb. What’s going on?”
“Um.” I squeaked, “Like he said. We’re…”
“How long, Debbie?”
“Since Christmas.” I whispered.
Freddie let out an involuntary hiss of rage and spun around to stalk away. I was so consumed in my anxiety in watching him that I barely registered the betrayed tone in James voice.
“I can’t believe this.” He said, shaking his head, “That you’d lie to us for that long…”
I tore my eyes away from Freddie as Marlene followed him making comforting noises. But instead of landing on James, who was making all the fuss, my eyes landed on Lily. Standing silently watching.
“I didn’t… we didn’t want to.” Sirius protested.
“But you did. That’s the point. Don’t you get it?”
“I’m sorry.” Sirius said, helplessly.
“I just can’t… you can’t do that. People don’t do that to their friends.”
“I know that. That’s why I’m saying I’m sorry -” Sirius was getting frustrated. Even though he was the one in the wrong he couldn’t stop his guard coming up. He followed his friend as James took to pacing the narrow corridor. Still Lily was just watching, her eyes blank.
“I don’t want to hear it right now, ok?” James opened and closed his mouth and his fists a few times agitatedly.
“Can’t you at least be a little bit happy for us?” Sirius demanded.
“Happy for you? For lying to us?” James wheeled round to face Sirius. For a long, bizarre moment I genuinely thought that one of them would throw a punch from their stiff shoulders and mutinous expressions. Then all very quickly they both slumped, the fighting stance gone, and it was hard to imagine that there had ever been such a moment at all. They were brothers, after all.
“Please.” Sirius said, shortly.
“I am happy for you, mate. I am. If this is all… and you’re really… and you’re both happy. That’s great. But you did lie. This is just… too much. Right now. I can’t.” James looked almost apologetic as he raised his hands in some sort of defeat and walked away.
Sirius stood very still and watching him walk away. He closed his eyes. Then he opened them again. He looked from the corner James had just turned, to me and back. Then back to me. His wide eyes gave him the vulnerable look of a young boy, strangely out of place in his tired, bruised face.
“Go,” I said, gently pushing on his arm. He looked completely confused – overwhelmed – and I just wanted to pull him close and wipe the little boy look from his face. “Go after him.”
“But…” Sirius tore his eyes from mine for a second to spare a glance at Lily, then Freddie and Marlene.
“He needs you. I can -” I started to say, not really thinking through what I was saying.
“No. I’ll go.” Lily spoke up for the first time since leaving the common room. The party. I’d completely forgotten that it was going on, and if I listened I could hear the thump of the music playing from behind the wall. Strange how, when my stress levels were being stretched to breaking point, the rest of the school could enjoy a good victory party.
Lily didn’t look at either of us as she made to pass Sirius and follow James.
“No, Lil. Please.” I reached out a hand to stop her. She flinched at my touch.
Sirius stood awkwardly between us, not sure what to do.
“Lily?” I appealed to her. She wasn’t turning around to face me but she wasn’t walking away. I didn’t know if it was a good thing or not. “Please say something.”
“I haven’t got anything to say.” She shrugged as she turned to half face me. It was as if she was still ready to walk off but she couldn’t quite do it. “It’s like James said. You lied. I’m happy for you both, really. And if you’d told me in the beginning I would have been ecstatic. But you lied. For, what, six months?” Her expression was one of pure hurt – she just couldn’t understand how I had done that to her.
“I’m sorry.” I said, pathetically, an exact imitation of Sirius’ words to James. Useless words, but what else could I say?
“I know. But you still…” She shrugged again and it seemed like she was just about to leave when she paused again and asked, “Why?”
“Why did you lie about it?”
I opened my mouth uselessly. There were a million reasons. Some of which were more important to me, some of which were more important to Sirius and some of which would be more important to Lily.
“Lots of reasons.” I said, lamely.
I took in a deep breath ready to reel off my list. Some of them I wasn’t hugely comfortable disclosing in front of Sirius, judged on previous rows, and some of them made me all too aware that Freddie was only the other end of the corridor. I didn’t know if he was in hearing distance or not.
“Ok, one, I was scared. I was scared you’d think I was stupid for even considering giving this Muppet a chance.”
“Hey.” Sirius frowned, then pulled an accepting face as he realised that now was not the time to defend himself.
“I mean you and I both knew, more than anyone, what he was like. I thought you’d think… I was embarrassed, I guess. Embarrassed that I’d been so stupid. Embarrassed that I liked him. Embarrassed that I hadn’t realised before. Because, apparently everyone else did. According to Londy, Rosmerta… erm, James if I understood what the hell he was on about a minute ago…”
“You still should have told me. I’m your best friend. Or so I thought…”
“I know. And that was kind of another reason. I didn’t want it to muck things up between us four. You know how easily things get between us… and by us I do mean mainly you and James… Can you imagine what would have happened? Every little argument Sirius and I had, you and James would have been dragged into. Forced onto sides. Against each other. And let’s face it, you find more than enough reasons to hex him as it is…”
As I got into my rant a ghost of a smile grew on Lily’s face. It was still overshadowed by the hurt and betrayal, but it was there.
“And I didn’t want that. Especially as… now don’t freak out, you mug,” I warned Sirius, who didn’t look at his most comfortable, “… Especially as I wasn’t sure anything would come of it.”
Sirius frowned as, I was pretty sure, he was remembering what I fondly referred to as the Bathtub Barney. I was anyway. I had a very vivid memory involving gross intake of bathwater, excessive awkwardness and Sirius accusing me of exactly what I had just admitted. And I may or may not have denied it all at the time.
Needless to say, he didn’t look overjoyed. But for once he held his tongue and seemed to respect that my explaining to Lily was more important.
“I mean, hell, I didn’t expect it to last six weeks, let alone six months…” I wasn’t as such making it better for myself. Judging on Sirius’s steadily deepening frown. “So I didn’t want to kick up a big fuss over something that didn’t need to effect all of us.”
“But now it does effect all of us.”
“I guess it does.” I consented. “But if things would have been simpler…”
“If I wasn’t such a horrendous, untrustworthy man-whore, apparently,” Sirius couldn’t help but make one bitter comment, “I mean, that’s the general idea I’ve got from what you’ve just said.”
“Quiet, man-whore.” I shushed him with a prim look, hoping that he had enough sense to know that I did actually realise that his man-whore days were behind him. I suppose he didn’t look thoroughly offended, leaning back against the wall with his arms folded.
“So if it was anyone but man-whore over here,” I jerked my head at Sirius sulking over by the wall and again the ghost of Lily’s smile threatened to appear, “And if… you know, if I didn’t have a murderous older brother…”
We shared an understanding look, and as we glanced nervously over at Freddie, for the first time that evening I felt like I might have my best friend back.
“He’s actually reacted quite well.” Lily whispered, watching Marles whispering fervently to Freddie in an apparent attempt to comfort him. “I expected worse from him.”
“You do know he’s punched me twice, right?” Sirius asked, indignantly.
“Definitely could have been worse,” I agreed. We both ignored Sirius. “But it could still happen.”
Freddie was staring at the wall over Marles’ head, expressionless apart from his eyebrows pulled together.
“Thanks for that vote of confidence, love.” Sirius scowled half-heartedly at me.
“Quiet, man-whore.” I shushed him again with a faux-dismissive flick of my hand.
He caught my hand mid-flick, forgetting for an instant the gravity of the situation and growled playfully, “I’ll show you man-whore…”
Lily cleared her throat and nodded pointedly in Freddie’s direction. Although my brother wasn’t looking, Sirius dropped my hand immediately. Lily stared at us both with a look filled with curiosity, compassion and comprehension.
You understand, I silently begged, I know you do. Although she had every reason to be hurt that we lied, I could no longer see it in her face. I marvelled at the kindness and understanding of my best friend.
“This is going to take some getting used to.” She said, blithely.
I smiled in relief and hugged her tightly.
“Alright. Ok. Ow. Now you’re crushing me,” She huffed, “And don’t you think you can get away with it that easily. I haven’t forgotten that you lied. And I haven’t forgiven it. I just… understand. That’s all.”
“I love you.” I told her, not relinquishing my hold. After the awful ways James and Freddie had reacted I didn’t want to let go of her, for fear that it might turn out that I’d imagined her whole reaction.
“And I love you too, sweetie,” She patted my back. “But it looks like you’re going to have some serious explaining to do any minute right now with Brother Dear.”
I glanced over my shoulder and saw that Marlene had given up on calming Freddie down anymore. She’d done her best I suppose, I mean he not longer looked like he was in danger of steaming at the ears. But the cold stare in our direction wasn’t exactly a positive sign.
“Do you want me to stay?” Lily asked, quietly.
“No, it’s ok.” I said, meeting Freddie’s gaze and biting my lip, “But just you remember that you are bloody amazing, Lily Evans. And you are and always will be my bestest, best mate.”
“I never doubted it,” She gave a mocking, dazzling smile. “I’ll go and find Potter while you… erm…”
“Yeah.” The churning sensation in my stomach was back. I hadn’t even realised that it had disappeared with Lily’s anger until it came back. Somehow I didn’t think Freddie was going to come to an understanding quite so readily as Lily.
“And I think you’ll be joining me, mate,” Lily announced to Sirius.
“Uh, what?” Sirius was startled. Lily didn’t leave room for a choice at the best of times, and right now she had his forearm in a vice-like grip of surprising strength for a willowy redhead.
“You’re the one that’s got stuff to explain to him, not me,” She said.
“But… Dee, don’t you want me to stay here with you?” Sirius looked from me to Freddie to me again. I didn’t know if the anxiety in his expression was from the prospect of another episode of Freddie’s wrath or from Lily’s unyielding grip.
I caught Lily’s eye and understood what she was doing. Maybe she was right. Perhaps I’d have better luck bringing Freddie around if I used the ‘Little Sister Act’ rather than the ‘United Front’ act. And with Sirius not around, Freddie couldn’t injure him. Always a plus.
“No. No, she’s right. You should go. Talk to James.” I said, reassuringly, “I’ll be ok here. Just… talk to him, and bring him back here once he’s… you know, alright.”
Maybe we could all have a drink together and be civil.
Or maybe that was wishful thinking.
“Are you sure?” Sirius looked once more at Freddie, who seemed to be becoming a little impatient. If he was so bloody impatient they why the hell did he not come over here? If he was being so immature as to not want to be around Sirius…
“I’m sure.” I said. “Go. I’ll meet you back here soon. And everything will all be good. Deal?”
“Deal.” He smiled, and allowed himself to be towed away by a Lily on a mission.
I could hear her down the corridor saying loudly, “Now, I know you’ve been together a wee while now but there are some ground rules I have to lay down if you’re going to be dating my mate…”
I almost chuckled, until Freddie approached. It struck me that I was scared. Of my brother. The one that I’d relied on to get me through everything, through all the fear. I wasn’t scared that he’d hurt me, not at all. I was scared of his reaction, because for the first time in a long, long time, I didn’t know what it would be.
Then I saw the dried blood, still staining his fist . Then I wasn’t so scared. I was just plain mad.
“Oh, you’ll come over now then,” I said, heavy on the sarcasm, “Now that he’s gone. Real mature there, Freddie -”
“It’s not about being mature, Deb.” Freddie said, in a low voice almost completely devoid of emotion, “It’s about not letting myself kick seven shades of shit out of the little bastard.”
“Oh, smashing. That’s kind of you.” I didn’t relent.
“It’s not for him. It’s for me. I promised myself I wouldn’t scare you, and then I go and punch your best mate… your boyfriend…” He seemed to struggle to spit the word out. “Twice in one night.”
“You did do that.” I agreed.
“But can we agree that it was within reason?”
“Within…” I echoed, “Freddie, you can’t go around…” I stopped abruptly, sick of the feel of a pair of beady blue eyes on me. I looked down from Freddie’s face to the pale, perfect face at his shoulder. The one giving me an icy glare. “Marlene, could you give us a minute?” I asked, probably rudely.
“This is to do with me too,” Marlene protested in her stupid, tinkling voice. “You’ve kept it from me as well -”
“Are you kidding?” I asked, bluntly. “I don’t care what you think. I don’t owe you anything. I’ve explained to my best friend and I’m going to explain to my brother. Then maybe I’ll explain to you another time if I feel the need. But don’t hold your breath.”
Marlene’s mouth opened in a little ‘o’ of shock that didn’t quite reach her eyes. “Freddie, would you -”
“Freddie, please make her leave.” My patience was wearing thin. I think it was the nerves. I’d never been so blatantly obvious with my feelings about Marlene before. I’d kept it reigned in to protect Freddie’s feelings. All he wanted was for us to get along.
But Freddie’s eyes didn’t leave my own as he said, “Marles, go.”
“You’re just going to do as she -” Marles objected.
“Marlene this is between me and my sister. Please leave.”
As I watched Marlene turned smartly on her heel and march back toward the common room I couldn’t help but feel a small triumph that Freddie had finally put her in her place a little bit. Alright, it was a little harsh. But Little Miss Sunshine needed that once in a while. ‘To do with her too’ indeed…
Freddie was still staring at the wall over my head and breathing far too slowly and regularly for it to be natural.
“What are you doing?” I asked, nervously.
“Ok.” It didn’t seem like he was readying himself to pursue Sirius and finish what he’d started. “Why?”
“So that I don’t hit something.”
I flinched automatically at his harsh tone. It didn’t sound at all like him. It sounded like…
My jerky movement had caught his attention. He looked down at me and for the first time since his outburst there was some emotion on his face. Concern. Tenderness.
“Debbie.” He sounded hurt. “I don’t mean… I don’t mean you. I wouldn’t. You know I wouldn’t hurt you.”
“I know.” I said. I did know. I didn’t know why I’d cringed away from him. It wasn’t that I was scared he’d hit me, it was just instinct… that tone of his voice…
He moved his hand suddenly, lifted it from where it had been hanging limply at his side. It seemed for a moment that he was going to take my hand. Then he thought better of it. But he didn’t relax the hand.
He closed his eyes as if he had a headache.
“Shall we walk?” I suggested. It might make it a bit easier if we were doing something with ourselves.
Freddie nodded and we set off at an unhurried pace down the corridor in no particular direction.
I decided that my pointless questions and comments weren’t getting me anywhere, so I waited for Freddie to speak. It was awful. All I was aware of was the churning in my stomach and the regular soft padding of our feet, still both in trainers and sports gear from the match.
The match. We’d won the cup. It seemed so long ago that I’d scolded Sirius for ruining my night for me. Now here I was ruining the victory for Freddie too.
“So.” Freddie said, in that odd flat voice. “You and he are -”
I jumped at the opportunity to answer, so glad that he’d initiated conversation that I didn’t wait for him to finish.
“Yes.” I answered hastily.
Apparently that wasn’t the answer he was looking for. His hands curled into fists and his forehead furrowed. That was odd. Surely he’d gathered that we were together already? From his reaction, I mean… and he’d heard Sirius say it, for crying out loud. And he’d said it… ‘your boyfriend’, he’d said…
His voice wasn’t so flat when he spoke again, “You and he are having -”
“No!” I jumped in again, realising my mistake from before. Then I realised that I’d jumped in with a lie. “Oh, I mean… yeah… no! We -”
“You are or you’re not.” Freddie said through gritted teeth.
“Freddie! Are we really going to talk about that?” I asked, a little hysterically. I literally could not and would not talk to my brother about sex. After he’d physically attacked the person in question twice without such incentive.
Unfortunately that kind of answered his question for him. He let out his breath in a long, low hiss and for a second his fists shook. It was a long time before he spoke again. Twenty steps. I counted.
“I just wanted to know what I was dealing with.” His voice was flat again.
“Dealing with? Freddie, nothing needs to be dealt with. I’m just telling you -”
“You’re ‘just telling me’? I don’t… I don’t know where to start Deb. With how completely disturbing the whole thing is for me anyway? The fact that it’s him? I mean, how dumb can you get? Then there’s the small fact that you’ve lied to me for, what, six months -”
“I’m sorry.” Those useless words again.
“No. If you were sorry you wouldn’t have -”
“I’m sorry that I lied. I’m not sorry that I did it.”
“I mean that I’m with him, you prat.”
There was another long silence in which Freddie’s breathing became no more natural, but his fists slowly relaxed. It lasted until we reached the North Tower, on the opposite side of the school. Still, it was me to initiate the conversation, not him.
“He’s different, you know. To how you see him.” I said.
“I highly doubt that.” Freddie said, curtly.
“He is. Don’t you trust my judgement? I know him. He’s good. That doesn’t sound a lot but I really mean it. He cares about stuff – not just me, but everything. He might act like he doesn’t but he does.”
“I... What?” Whatever I was expecting, it wasn’t an agreement.
“I know he cares about you. I can see that.”
“You can see…” All I could do was echo his words back to him.
“Of course, I’m not blind. I see how he looks at you. I see what he does for you, and all without you asking. He’s crazy about you, I know that.”
“You know that? Then what’s wrong? Isn’t that all that matters -”
“What matters is that he’s also an arrogant, selfish bastard. You can’t trust him, Debbie.”
“I can.” I said stubbornly, “He’s not like that anymore.”
“How do you know?”
“Because he promised me.” I pounded down my old insecurities. “He promised me this was different. Since he’s been with me -”
“Debbie he’s…” Freddie stopped in the corridor and threw out his hands. “I said I could see that he’s crazy about you, right?”
“But that hasn’t changed, you know. He didn’t suddenly become crazy about you exactly six months ago or whenever it was that you actually got together.”
“What are you -” I had no clue where he was going with this.
“He’s always been nuts about you, and everyone’s always been able to see that. But that’s the thing. He was so besotted with you, but that didn’t stop him fucking around did it?”
“But… that was before -”
“Before what? Before you gave it a title? Look, Deb, if you’re that into someone you don’t get around doing all the shit that he did. Whether you’re with them or not.”
“I don’t -”
“Look. Do you want to know why I hate the scumbag so much?”
I nodded, my head still reeling with Freddie’s words. Getting my head around what he was saying. Weighing it up. Believing it…
“I hate him because when he was supposedly so head over heels in love with you, he made a pass at my girlfriend.”
“He hit on Marlene. When he was so crazy about you, when he knew that she was your brothers girlfriend. He still tried it on with her.”
“How do you…”
“Know? She told me. She turned him down, obviously. Told him exactly what she thought of him too, from what I gather. And no more than he deserved.”
I opened and closed my mouth a few times. I was speechless. Sirius hitting on Marlene. But he’d always…
“Sirius hates Marlene.” I said aloud.
“Uh-huh. And why do you think that is?”
Because she rejected him.
It hurt my head. Not because it was so hard to get my head around – I mean it was simple. It was exactly the sort of thing that used to get Sirius into trouble. Exactly the sort of thing I usually ended up helping him get out of, picking up the pieces when he went too far. But combined with Freddie’s reasoning it all became more blurred.
You don’t do that when you’re so crazy about someone…
“But he’s told me all that.” I said, recalling Sirius’ many attempts to explain it all to me, back when I was so hesitant about becoming his girlfriend. His attempts to make me trust him once and for all. “He didn’t keep it a secret. He was doing all that for some sort of attention. It got him attention from girls to make himself feel better and it got him attention from me when I had to rescue him from everything. Why didn’t he ever pick the nice girls? Why did he never settle with someone who would take thing easy, where things would go smoothly?”
I needed the attention, Dee, I heard his words in my ear as if he were saying them now, not six months ago, not from them, but from you. I needed to keep fucking up for you to help me. I needed you to keep saving me because it meant you cared.
“And you don’t think hitting on your brothers girlfriend was a little too far?” Freddie asked, sceptically. I could hear in his voice how angry it made him still. No matter how long ago it was – it must have been ages if it was before Sirius and I were even together.
“He would never have done anything.” I said, confidently.
“You don’t know -”
“I do. You think he’s slept with everyone he hits on? And to be frank, Marles is the biggest bullshitter I’ve ever met. He probably vaguely flirted with her and she got the wrong end of the stick.”
“Don’t talk about her like that.” Freddie said, sharply.
“You can’t see it? Freddie she’s a mug! She’s got you jumping through hoops for her, manipulating you to do everything little thing for her and no one else. She’s not perfect, not matter how hard she tried to act it.”
“She’s not… I love her, Debbie. I really do. She’s not making me doing anything. Anything I do is because I love her. And she’s not a liar.”
“I don’t believe a word she says.” I said, obstinately.
“You don’t have to. I love her whether you like her or not.”
“Well then I don’t care if you like Sirius or not.”
“Marlene didn’t try and hit on your boyfriend -”
“I wouldn’t be so sure.” I said, mulishly, “You’re so quick to believe her it could have been the other way around -”
“It wasn’t.” Freddie said tightly.
“Ok. You believe what you want and I’ll believe what I want.”
We’d both stopped walking. For a moment we stared at each other. Me with my arms folded and my lips pursed, Freddie a mirror image. Except a distorted mirror that was about a foot taller than me and twice as wide.
“So what do we do now?” I asked.
“Go back?” Freddie proposed.
“Are you going to hurt my boyfriend?” I asked blatantly.
“I’ll try not to.” Freddie said grimly.
“I won’t.” His teeth were clamped together again. “But I still hate the bastard.”
“Even though you can see than he cares?”
“He can prove it for the rest of his life, I’m still never going to like him.”
“That’s what I was afraid of.”
We began to make our way slowly back to the common room. The silence between us wasn’t comfortable, but it wasn’t awkward. It wasn’t quite understanding, more just resigned. We’d said what we wanted to say, and there was nothing we could do about it.
“I wanted to like the person you chose to be with.” Freddie said, unexpectedly. He didn’t stop walking; didn’t look at me.
“I always figured that, in the end, you’d go for the nice guy. Someone I approved of. Someone, you know, a little bit scared of me so I could make them treat you right -”
“Well don’t tell him I said this, but Sirius is actually a little bit terrified of you.” I consoled him.
“No he’s not. If he was he wouldn’t have fucked my sister -”
“I’m sorry but he wouldn’t. He needs to be taught a lesson -”
“There have been plenty of lessons taught today already thanks. I don’t think he’ll be forgetting his battering for a while.”
“Good.” Freddie griped.
We walked in silence for a little further before I spoke.
“If it means anything, I wanted to like Marlene too.”
Another short silence.
“It does. Mean something. I guess.”
We reached the common room and paused outside of the door. We could hear the music still blaring out from behind the wall; the party was obviously still in full swing. I hoped that by now the majority of the room would be too intoxicated to remember/care about the scene earlier.
“Promise you won’t hurt him?” I asked just as we were about to go in. I wondered if Sirius would even be in there. Whether he’d managed to make it up to James. Whether he’d found him at all.
“Ok.” He hesitated a moment too long.
“I promise.” Freddie heaved a sigh.
I climbed into the common room, suddenly hit by a wall of warmth, chatter and music. The room was still packed. There weren’t as many people as before but those that remained had vacated the armchairs and sofas to congregate in a crowd in the middle, making it hard to locate anyone in particular. I couldn’t see Sirius, James and Lily right away.
I turned to Freddie and said into his ear, “And you’ll be nice?”
He snorted. “Nice?”
“I don’t want to give the guy a heart attack from the shock, Debbie.”
“Ah. Ok. Well be civil then.”
“Civil. I can try that.”
“I just want us to be able to have a drink together and… just be with each other. Without violence. Please.”
“I said I’ll try it.”
“Thank you.” I said, squeezing his arm. I spotted a lone group occupying a couple of sofas in the corner by the spiral staircases that lead up to the dormitories. “Hey, look. There they are.”
James looked up and caught my eye. His face, although not so full of laughter as it usually was, contained more emotion than before. The look he gave me seemed to be conveying that he was ok. That he accepted it all. It made me smile in relief.
But apparently that wasn’t enough for Lily. She spotted him looking over at us, smacked him on the arm and whispered something fiercely into his ear. Next thing I knew, the two of them were making their way across the room towards us. I glanced up at Freddie’s face and saw that he was looking, not at the two approaching us, but the two left on the sofas. Sirius and Marlene. I could read in his face how angry it made him to see them even in the same room together, let alone at the same group of chairs. It didn’t matter to him that Sirius was slouched in an armchair looking firmly in the opposite direction to the sofa that Marlene was perched on. He still couldn’t take it.
I couldn’t summon up the same feeling. I truly did believe that Freddie hadn’t gotten the whole story. I knew Sirius. I knew what he would and wouldn’t do, and I could confidently say that he would flirt with her just like he’d flirt with anything with a pulse, but he wouldn’t have taken it any further. It was Marlene. He wouldn’t.
“Deb.” James reached us. He seemed apologetic. “I’m sorry I took it like a git. I… they explained it to me. All of it. Why you didn’t tell us right away and I get it. I don’t like it but I get it. So, yeah. Are we… are we ok?”
“James!” I felt a flood of emotion similar to when Lily had accepted it all. “Don’t be so stupid. It should be me asking you if we’re ok. I’m so, so sorry for lying and everything. I really am. I just want everything to be ok between us. All of us.”
“It is.” He smiled, about as close to his normal goofy grin as it was going to get. “It’ll take a while, but it’ll be ok. Right?”
“Right.” I hugged him. “You’re awesome, you know that?”
“Yeah, I’ve been told once or twice.”
“By your Mum?”
I squeezed him and let him go. “Thank you.” I was actually overwhelmed at the understanding and the sheer kind-heartedness that Lily and James had shown.
I was aware of Freddie standing tensely next to me. “We were just going to grab some drinks, and we hoped we could all… you know. Sit together. For a bit. If you want?” Bloody hell that was hard to spit out. It felt like some sort of completely odd and twisted date. Double date. Triple date. Eew.
“Sure. Butterbeers?” James asked, enthusiastically. We made our way over to the stash of drinks that someone – I was betting Blakely – had gathered from Merlin only knows where. My hands weren’t free so Freddie picked up two for himself and Marlene, and two for Sirius and I. Without me asking. It was only a small gesture but it made my heart reach out to him. He was trying. He was accepting.
We cut back around the gathering in the middle of the room to stop the bopping, writhing bodies knocking over our drinks. We approached the sofas from behind, so all I could see of Marlene was the back of her head. Her hair was sleek and perfect and her shoulders were straight. How could the back of someone’s head annoy me that much?
Something was different, though.
Sirius was no longer staring moodily in the opposite direction. His steel-grey eyes were cold and hard and his bruised mouth was twisted into a scowl.
As we approached I could hear Marlene’s words, calculating and manipulative in her pretty, girly voice. “- I don’t know why you even bothered. He’s not going to let you near her now he’s found out.”
“I don’t care.” Sirius was saying, his eyes fixed on Marlene. “It’s not up to him, it’s up to Dee. And she wants to be with me.”
Marlene scoffed. “Finally got what you wanted then. I suppose it’s all over for you, now that the chase is gone -”
“No.” Even from a distance I could hear that his teeth are gritted. “This is different. You know -”
“So you love her?”
“It’s a simple question, Black.” She said, scathingly.
Sirius’ mouth was set for a moment and I thought he wasn’t going to answer. “I’ve wanted this for as long as I’ve known her. I’ve just let her brother batter me twice. What do you think?”
“I think you fucked me and you moved on when I told you you couldn’t have me -”
I stopped listening. The earth lurched on its axis and took me with it.
“I think you fucked me.”
I stood stock still but I heard it again.
“I think you fucked me.”
“I think you fucked me.”
It rang in my ears, kicked at my gut, my chest, behind my eyes.
“No Marlene. I told you it was mistake and we agreed not to bring it up again.”
I could barely hear him. I was still caught on the first earth-shattering profession.
I sensed movement to my side. My eyes swivelled towards it. Freddie. Next to me. Seeing what I was seeing; hearing what I was hearing. He was holding four bottles by the necks. Then he wasn’t. They slipped from his fingers falling straight, hard, fast to the ground.
They exploded. Showering our feet with shards of glass, oceans of warm butterbeer, overpowering, sickly-sweet foam.
Sirius’ eyes jolted away from Marlene’s. In an instant the cold hard look switched to many in succession. Disgust to shock to dismay to panic to imploring to pleading. His mouth was opening but I couldn’t hear anything, just the echo of the smashing glass.
Marlene turned. She was shouting too. Shouting at Freddie. Sirius shouting at me; Marlene shouting at Freddie. We stood motionless, numb.
Sirius and Marlene.
Sirius and Marlene.
The thing I’d been so sure he’d never do.
I’d defended him.
Sirius and Marlene.
A.N. Yoohoo! First thing I'll say is DAMN IT another cliffie ending. I honestly don't mean to do it, it just happens! How about I PROMISE the next one won't be?! And if it is you can all... I don't know, find some way to punish me. Second thing is EVERYBODY FINALLY KNOWS! So exciting!
Well done to those who suspected Marlene you little detectives, you.
I'd love to know what everyone thinks. I'm sorry it wasn't as funny as the other chapters, but I kind of wanted this to be at least a little bit realistic. I know that Freddie and Dee didn't manage to get all their issues out in the open but in real life that's the way rows generally go, isn't it? But fear not, they'll get there. And I'm sorry that Lily/James were so accepting so quickly. Only thing was that would have taken up a lot of words and would have been repeated tenfold for each bloody one of them. And in my defence JKR did say that Lily is uncommonly kind and shizzle... right?
Anyhoo, crazy long authors note.
Please leave a review!
P.S. THIS IS NOT THE END! I estimate that there will be eighteen chapters plussss...... erm sequel anyone? *hides*
P.S. (3/9/09) As of today I am back at college, so I'm really really really sorry but updates will be few and far between...even more so than usual...But I will try my best!
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