Chapter 1 : Wings
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“Shut up! Will you just be quiet for one minute!?”
“I am so sick of this!” I slammed my book on the table, entirely disgusted with myself and with him and with everything in my world.
“You don’t trust me at all! This is not my fault, Arianna.”
I swallowed the retort that rose like bile in my throat. He had no right. He had no right and he knew that. I met his gaze full on and he recoiled a bit. “Not your fault?” I said through clenched jaw. “Unbelievable,” I said, ripping my jacket off and throwing it over the edge of the couch. Next I set to work on the vase of lilacs he had given me about a week ago. I grabbed the withered stems and threw them on the floor in distaste. “Absolutely unbelievable.”
“Rin, please,” he said, hand reaching towards my shoulder. I deliberately dodged him, shrugging off his advance. My skin sang. I was hot and cold all at once. I felt dizzy. I put a hand to my forehead, closing my eyes for a moment.
“Just sit for a moment. Don’t hurt yourself.”
“Back the hell up and quit pretending you care, Sirius,” I swatted him away, irritation in my voice.
“I do care,” he said cruelly. There was a moment of silence where I stood, bent over, one hand on the couch and one hand grasping the material over my heart. My chest was constricting painfully. “I do care, Rin,” he insisted, voice softer than before.
“Please,” I whispered, my chest growing tighter with every passing second. Panic settled in me. I could feel the room starting to spin. I wanted him out before it happened. I couldn’t bring myself to embarrassment like that. Not in front of him. Not now. “Please leave me alone right now.”
He didn’t move, only stood there looking at me. I was getting desperate. I could hardly hold myself up anymore. I was on fire. My heart was pounding against my ribs, in my throat, in my wrists. I was short of breath. I grabbed the glass vase the lilacs had sat in only moments ago and threw it at him. It narrowly missed his head. There was no way I could aim like this. “Go!” I cried as my knees went.
“Arianna,” he said as he went towards me, shoes crunching on the broken glass.
I was shaking my head in protest, so short of breath I was gasping. “I told you to go! Go! You rutting Bastard leave me alone!” I screamed, the end of my sentence dying off in a strangled gurgle. That got to him. He recoiled, disgust on his face. He looked as if he was going to throw something back at me, but stormed back down the stairwell where James and Lily were now standing in astonishment.
“Rin!” Lily cried, vaulting up the stairs towards me. “Why didn’t you yell for help? Where the hell is Sirius going?”
I was hyperventilating. My vision had gone black. I couldn’t hear her anymore. My entire world was the pounding of my heart. Thrum-thrum. Thrum-thrum. Thrum-de-thrum. My irregular heartbeat; the skipping pulse that would one day bring me to my knees for the last time. Until then I would hold on to Sirius with everything in me. Even if I had found him with another girl. Even if I had found the arms of another man in return. Vengeance I had sought but it was he I would always desire. I wrapped myself in that thought as I lost all consciousness. Sirius was the only man I would ever love.
“I am so sick of this!” Sirius raged through the common room, violently tipping a chair over as he stormed from one wall to the opposing.
“Mate, sit down for a minute and talk to me,” James insisted, patting the cushion next to where he sat.
“Sirius, we can help you if you calm down enough to speak coherently,” Remus, always the reasonable one, added.
“She just- she’s always- She drives me up a wall!” he exclaimed, ripping his tie off.
“I gathered that,” James said, eyebrow raised. “Why don’t the two of you break it off already? You’ve both been with other people as it is.”
Sirius rounded on his friend with fists clenched.
“Sorry mate, forgot,” James looked towards the fireplace. “You’re in love.”
“Sirius, if you guys are always fighting, maybe you need to consider what is best for both of you. Mental health is a very important thing. Besides, you’re going to give yourself an ulcer,” Remus said as he sat back, putting his feet on the table.
“Do you live in a barn?” James shot at Remus. “Don’t put your hairy muffs on my table.”
Sirius made a strangled noise of frustration and was off pacing once again. “She just – I’m afraid to fight back with her because I’m always afraid-“ he gestured towards the staircase, allowing his sentence to trail off.
“Padfoot, you can’t control her health,” Remus said softly. “She’s gotten on for seventeen years without you and she’ll get on for-“
“-another two years? One?” Sirius said, defeated. He went to the couch and haphazardly sprawled across it, his feet dangerously near James’s face.
“Padfoot-“ James started, but he didn’t know what to say to that.
“I just-“ Sirius sighed. “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to make it up to her.”
“Mate, I don’t think you can ever make it up to her. You got caught with another broad.”
“And might I add, Arianna also got caught in her own digression,” Remus said pointedly.
“That’s not her fault,” Sirius insisted. “She was retaliating.”
“Oh,” James said, “of course. That makes sense.” He rolled his eyes enthusiastically.
“Lily,” Remus said, standing up. Lily had just descended the final stair into the common room. Sirius was on her in a hot second.
“Is Rin alright?” he asked.
“Sirius back off of her,” James demanded, shoving past Sirius.
“Rin’s fine,” Lily said, eyes sad. “She passed out so she’ll have to go to the infirmary again tomorrow and report it but she came to a couple seconds later and she’s fine. She’s in bed.”
Sirius turned and violently kicked the nearest object, which happened to be Peter’s shin as he crept closer to hear what was so exciting. “I’m going up there, Lily, spell the staircase.”
“Sirius didn’t mean that Peter,” Remus said as Peter hopped away in agony.
“I am not letting you go up there right now, Sirius,” Lily said, arms crossed. “Rin needs to rest or she’ll be worse off.”
“Worse off? Dragon dung!” Sirius went to the staircase, determined to top it, and got approximately four stairs with leaps before it turned into one large slide and cast him off. He sat on the ground, a rumpled mess, angry and worried. He looked to Lily. “Please?”
“Gah!” Lily pulled out her wand, charmed the staircase, and Sirius flew out of sight.
“Is it me or does he become more unbearable with every passing day?” Remus asked as he reclaimed his spot on the sofa.
“It’s not entirely his fault,” Lily countered. “Rin gets worse every day. She doesn’t want him to know but the healers don’t think she’ll make it to graduation.”
“Did Arianna tell you that herself?” Remus asked softly.
Lily’s eyes filled with tears. “Yesterday,” she admitted.
“Shit,” James swore as he sat forward, elbows on his knees. “When is she going to tell Sirius?”
“She’s not,” Lily said. The room went cold.
“She’s not going to tell him?” Remus asked in surprise. “That’s not fair to Sirius at all!”
“Look how neurotic he’s become since she told him about her disease! He ran off with another girl!” Lily defended Arianna fiercely.
“He’s only seventeen and the girl he’s in love with told him she’s sick and can’t be with him – what would you have done? And besides, she told him they couldn’t be together because she doesn’t want to put him through it with a clock hanging over her head. He was a free man.”
“James!” Lily cried in shock. “No! No not at all! Arianna loves him very much! She was doing that to be righteous. She loves him and doesn’t want to hurt him!”
“Then she shouldn’t have gone off with that Hufflepuff guy, now should she have?” James shot back.
“James,” Lily said in the calmest voice she could. “My best friend is very sick. I don’t want to argue this with you.”
James, knowing this was perhaps not the time to push it, reached for her hand. “I’m sorry, Lils. I’m sure Rin will be alright.”
“Graduation is in three months,” Remus said softly. The room was very silent other than Lily’s soft sniffling for quite some time after the comment.
As it was, Graduation Day came before the seventh years knew what had hit them. The final exams, internship placements, apartment shopping – all went in a blur. Sirius and Arianna remained in the state they had existed in for months – desperately in love with each other but frustrated with their circumstances. Rin pushed Sirius away as hard and devoutly as she could and Sirius protested in any small way he could. At times he was off with other girls, at times he sulked around the common room. He gained a reputation as a man who liked his woman often and quick. He was unhappy and hateful. Nothing Remus or James said could pull him from the depths he allowed himself to wallow in. Now, as they all stood in their dorm room for the last time, they all felt as if they were nearing the precipice of something large; something unpredictable and explosive.
“Padfoot you always did look like a prick in dress robes,” Remus smiled over the other man’s shoulder in the mirror.
“You look a bit peaked, Moony,” James slugged Remus in the shoulder as he turned, laughing. They had dealt with their monthly visitation only a week ago and Remus was just recovering.
Sirius was sitting on the other side of the room on the edge of his bed. James turned his attention to him. “What’s so interesting out there Padfoot? We’re free men today!” He exclaimed with joy. For good measure of his comrades understanding his happiness with the situation he bodily shoved Peter backwards onto the nearest bed. Peter could only sputter pathetically in response as Remus put James in a headlock.
“Free men,” Sirius mulled that for a moment.
“Come on, Sirius,” Remus coaxed. “We’ve worked for seven years for this day! Celebrate with us!”
James peeked from behind Remus’s back. “Is this still about her?” he asked. “Celebrate that too if you must!”
“Celebrate that too?” Sirius asked, turning to his mates.
James went back to the other side of the room again, lifting a cup to his mouth. Remus knocked it from his hand and the liquid went skittering across the floor. James gave Remus the look of a young child caught with his fingers in the cookie jar as the scent wafted through the air.
“Whiskey. Really James?” Remus stared disapprovingly at his friend.
“We have a ceremony in an hour for Merlin’s sake!” He shook his head in disappointment. “Keep your trap shut,” he warned him.
“Keep his trap shut about what, Moony?” Sirius stood from the edge of the bed. He was much taller then Remus.
“Nothing Sirius. Button up your shirt, why don’t you? We should go down to the common room to celebrate with everyone else,” Remus tried to distract him.
“What Remus here is trying to avoid telling you to celebrate is that the girl you won’t stop moping about after is alive and well and she wasn’t even supposed to make it to Graduation! Take that you bloody healers!” James gestured emphatically in the air and slipped, falling flat on his behind. He stopped, realizing what he had said and swore vehemently.
“What?” Sirius reached for his best mate, shoving Remus out of the way. “What did you say, James?”
James looked away, not wanting to respond. “You let your tongue slip once, brother. Go for it again or I’ll throw you against that mirror. What did you say about Rin? What do you know that I don’t?”
“Sirius, put James down,” Remus said. “Lily told us a couple months ago – the healers didn’t think Arianna would make it to Graduation but she clearly has and is clearly fine so you can put James back on the ground and get ready to go. It was for the best.”
“For the best?!” Sirius dropped James and turned on Remus. “You all knew! Why didn’t you tell me?”
“What good would it have done, Sirius?” James shot back. “She’s fine!”
“What if something had happened to her?” Sirius roared.
“You wouldn’t have been able to stop it!” James roared back. Sirius stopped, turning to stone. “You can’t stop it, Sirius. She’s sick. You can’t stop it.”
Sirius shook his head as if trying to clear it. “I’m in love with her,” he said softly, looking up at his three best friends in the entire world.
“I’ve spent every day of the last three months worrying about her and wishing I was with her. She drives me up a freaking wall but I’m desperately – ugh.”
“Jeez, Padfoot,” James sighed. “I’m no good with that mushy shit.”
Remus placed a hand on Sirius’s shoulder. “We should go, Sirius.”
Sirius straightened, buttoning his shirt and smoothing his tie as he fought to gain control of his facial features. He raised his head after a few moments and followed his three friends from the room. It was time to meet the future and whatever it may hold.
I didn’t know why I was there. I didn’t know if it was the right thing to do but it felt like what I had to do. I couldn’t – I couldn’t go without seeing him. My breath was coming in painful gasps just from making my way up the walkway and to the front door. He could have a woman in there, someone else. He could not be home. He could not want to see me at all. I grabbed the cold silver knocker and let it fall.
A moment later the door opened and he was standing there before me, looking no different than he had four months ago. He took in my appearance, looking as if he had seen a ghost, and suddenly grabbed me. “Arianna,” he breathed.
“Sirius,” I buried my face in his neck. I could hear my heart pounding in my neck. I was feverish and my eyesight was dimming. “Sirius it is so good to see you.”
“Arianna, what in the hell are you doing here?” he asked.
“Can we go inside?” I asked, hand flying to my chest.
“Of course,” he said, suddenly flustered as he ushered me inside. “I’m sorry it’s a bit of a mess,” he apologized as he placed me on a couch in the very small and hardly furnished living room. “Do you need something? A drink maybe?”
“God no, Sirius,” I said, my voice raspy. The coughing was getting worse and had all but taken my voice from me. My ribs constantly complained from the strain caused by the force.
“Rin,” he said, staring at me. “What are you doing here?”
I looked at my hands, small and insignificant in my lap. I had lost a lot of weight in the past few months. The time was coming. My horizon was quickly approaching. I had pneumonia for the third time this year alone. My eyesight was dimming, almost completely gone in one eye. The only reason I was able to walk was sheer will. My body had given up on me – as we had known it would. I was ready to let go. In fact, I had let go. I had let go of everything in my life. I had said my goodbyes and I had waited in the dark of night for my eternal sleep to claim me, but something wouldn’t let me slumber. So here I found myself, staring up at his blurry figure, desperately wondering how to tell him I was madly and irrevocably in love with him and that this was the last time he would ever see me. I was going to die and it was going to happen very soon.
“Sirius,” I started. “Do you remember the night I told you I was sick?”
He knelt on the ground before me, taking my hands in his own. “Yes, Rin. I’ve thought about that day and its repercussions for months.”
I coughed, the sound was violent but I was beyond pain at this point. I squeezed his hands to reassure him as best I could. “Sirius,” I started. How was I supposed to tell him? What was it that made the words alright to speak? How was it acceptable, even possible, to look someone you love so dearly in the eye and tell them you have to go? How do you explain such acceptance to someone? “Sirius, I have a tumor on my lung. It has spread very quickly-“ he was standing up, bringing me with him. My knees cried in protest. He was moving too fast and my head spun. “-it’s malignant. It has continued to spread and will continue to spread. I don’t have much time left.” He began to speak and I interrupted as quickly as I could before I lost the ability to try and fully explain myself
“Sirius, everything will be okay,” I focused on his eyes as best I could. “My illness has made me vulnerable to many things. With such a low T-cell count my body is very susceptible to outside forces. It was a matter of time until one of them was very serious.”
“I don’t understand, Rin,” he said softly. I could tell by the expression on his face he was struggling. His fingers were warm around my very cold ones. I took a deep breath, the wind whistling through my throat.
“Could we sit?” I asked. His knees gave out and we were back where we had started.
“I don’t understand what you’re saying, Rin. James- at Graduation James said you were- Merlin he said you were dying and that you weren’t supposed to live until Graduation!”
I looked away from him. Lily must have told James. I didn’t have the care to be angered with her now. “Yes, Sirius. That’s what they believed was the truth at the time. But clearly they were wrong.”
“Why are you here?”
“To be honest?” I sighed. “To be honest I came to say goodbye to you.”
“No!” He was on his feet again. “No! Absolutely not! You will not!”
“Sirius, please.” For the first time in months there were tears in my eyes. “I’ve made peace with this, please, Sirius.”
“No!” In a characteristic display of emotion for the both of us he grabbed a porcelain figure and threw it bodily at the wall. “No, Rin!”
I was crying now. I hadn’t cried since the last time we had met like this, two months before Graduation. Two months before my death sentence was fulfilled. I was living on borrowed time now. Existing in an ethereal space as if I was supposed to. Living without the permission of healers and my body. Whatever it was that was keeping me alive was killing me inside.
“Sirius, I didn’t come here for this.”
“Why then?” I realized by the shake in his voice that he was crying.
“Why are you here, Arianna? Why? What is it you want from me? I can’t save you!” He threw the second figure to meet the tomb of the first.
“My hands are tied, sweet one,” I whispered. “I have fought as long as I can; as long as I care to really.” I looked to him, his face swimming through my tears. “Let me go.”
He crumpled, a single sob escaping. “Rin,” he exhaled. “Rin, please.”
“Let me go, Sirius.”
He was shaking his head in refusal but wouldn’t say anything. I slipped my hands beneath his chin, forcing him to look up at me. “Let me go.”
It was almost like magic. When he met my eyes again and I saw that resolution in his I actually felt a weight lift. My throat opened, my eyes cleared and my skin softened. My fever disappeared and my mind lost its haze. I felt as if I could stand, as if I could jump and scream for the first time in months. I closed my eyes, relishing in the beauty of it all. I felt the smile on my lips as things began to slip away. For a small moment I heard him sobbing, felt him grabbing at my limbs and holding my body against his chest. I heard him declaring his love for me, apologizing for all his wrongs. I wanted to reach for him, to stroke the hair from his forehead and kiss him but I was unable to move. A dreamy haze had come over my body. I was pleasantly warm, as if I had been lying in the sun on a beautiful day. I smelled lilacs.
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