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Chapter 44 : Smitten
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Sirius could have been better.
Maybe he was being a tad selfish. After all, he was together with Scarlett, James and Lily were still—surprisingly—together, Remus had shut up about his fancy, and Peter had shut up altogether. In all honesty, things were going very well for Sirius, just like things normally did. Technically, his life was perfect.
Still, he could have been better. Two things had come to his attention, and, in the way that vague curiosities attracted him, they had prevented him from achieving absolute contentedness because they kept picking and picking and picking—
One of these things was Scarlett, or, more specifically, her behavior.
She had been acting strangely as of late, though it was something that anyone else wouldn't have noticed. However, Sirius had a knack of noticing when people close to him were troubled, especially Scarlett, who he had begun to read like a book.
It was so subtle, always tucked somewhere within a smile or a laugh, but it was there. It was not something he could properly identify; Scarlett did not offer him any help, because, every time he asked, she would tell him that he was crazy and there wasn't something wrong.
But there was, and Sirius knew it. He could feel it so obviously inside him that not for one second did he consider that he was wrong. He had asked her about it relentlessly; he had asked questions that would goad her into telling him what was so troubling.
But Sirius knew Scarlett. He knew that if Scarlett was troubled about anything that she would pretend it wasn't there, even though she claimed she had a balance. She would run away from it and ignore it because she didn't want to confront things that had to be confronted.
That had to have been one of their biggest differences. Sirius loved confrontations and conflicts and consequences. He loved when people were red-faced and yelling at him for something he had done, and he anticipated gleefully the moment right after he pranked someone when his enemy's eyes would turn black with bad intentions. He craved when people yelled at him because people were amusing. If it wasn't someone he particularly cared about Sirius would annoy and pester them until they fought and fought and fought, because that was what Sirius did.
Scarlett, on the other hand, was the opposite. Completely. Unlike some of her friends, she did not have a frightening temper or a violent streak. She was very cool and collected, almost too much, and she didn't let much get to her. Above all, though, Scarlett loathed arguments. She hated when people were angry or disappointed. She didn't try to please everyone, though: she merely ignored them or the conflict so it was impossible to be pleased or displeased by her. Although many thought of her as a bitch, it was generally due to her Slytherin roots, and she didn't try to disprove that. She let people believe it because, if they didn't trouble her she didn't bother them either.
But, in reality, Scarlett was terrified of consequences. She had plenty of sins, plenty of things she knew would hit her later, and she was afraid of the inevitable time when everything would collide. She hated guilt. She hated being yelled at. She hated to face her problems, because her problems were not going to be easy on her.
So Sirius could only assume that Scarlett was troubled because something had come to her attention that she had been avoiding. Her avoidance was almost subconscious; it made her unable to connect the puzzle pieces and determine her future. Even though she read the stars, everything that she had seen she passed off as a dream or a spurt of the imagination. She didn't want to believe anything that could be bad.
So she was troubled because a puzzle piece had come to her. Because she was starting to realize that her avoidance only made things worse...
That was the first thing that made it impossible for Sirius to be content. He was concerned for Scarlett, more than he should've been, and his concern diverted his concentration.
The second thing was, of course, the marriage.
It loomed over every single day like a black cloud. Although Sirius and Scarlett had enjoyed themselves—oh, how they had enjoyed themselves—in the outlook, when he left he was reminded of how much time remained until the wedding. Each snowstorm got heavier as winter grew, and with every single inch of extra snow another day flew away.
It began at three weeks, right around when they had kissed, and then it had shortened itself to two weeks, right when Scarlett stopped feeling guilty. However, two weeks did not last long, and each day slipped through his fingers, even as he desperately tried to grab onto it.
One week and six days came and left. One week and five days was there and then it was gone, too. One week and four days barely came to his attention before it vanished. One week and three days were the fastest hours he'd ever known. One week and two days seemed to not even exist. One week and one day made its leave soon after, and, like pulling petals off a dandelion, Sirius soon realized that there were hardly any spare days left.
Seven days. Seven bloody days.
The day of this heartbreaking realization was a Saturday; winter break had just begun. The trains were coming on Sunday to take him back to James's as well as cart Scarlett off to Dijon, France, where she would get married, where he couldn't stop it.
So, yes, Sirius could have been much, much better.
Scarlett was silent; she had been consistently for the last couple of nights, and again, the same uneasy twinge unnerved Sirius. He looked over at her, noting how her head was bowed as if frustrated, but, determined to stray away from the topic, he also noticed how the blanket that had come to stay in the outlook was folded neatly next to Scarlett and was piling up with snow.
Sirius rolled his eyes as Scarlett started to shiver. Her stubbornness was, at times, willing to listen to common sense, but when things like this came up she was firm in fending for herself. It was enough for Sirius to sigh and shake his head; Scarlett had a tendency to be insufferable.
At Sirius's sudden sound, Scarlett removed her head from where it had been resting on her knees and turned towards him. There was no doubt whatsoever that she looked slightly less rested— though Scarlett and Sirius both were notorious for late nights and early mornings he had never seen her look so worn out. Her hair was very messy, as if she had had a rough night.
But what set off—again—the surge of concern was simply the way she looked at him. Her lips were very slightly turned downward, and her eyebrows were as well, though to someone at a distance she looked emotionless. Her eyes were widened, though it was not due to innocence, and, combined with the rings under her eyes, she looked lost. Her chocolate brown irises reflected in the scarce moon, and for an instant Sirius swore he saw something that he shouldn't have; he immediately felt intrusive.
However, it only took Scarlett a few seconds to recompose herself. She rearranged the barrette in her hair so it was slick and pulled back, and she rubbed her eyes in an attempt to get them to look less exhausted. Stretching her limbs, she returned Sirius's glance more sarcastically and evenly than he had predicted. Alternating her glance between him and the blanket, a small smirk rose on her pallid cheeks, and she put her fingers on the blanket cautiously.
"Really, Sirius?" she asked, one of the first things she'd said that night, but not wanting to ruin her mood Sirius nodded stubbornly. She shook her head with mirth. "The blanket is—it's bloody covered in snow," she pointed out. "And it's charming of you, but it's unnecessary, and if you really wanted to get me a Christmas present I would've fancied another barrette. Not a blanket."
"I took your gift," Sirius argued. "And I'm certain that I will never find a time to wear a Slytherin scarf. You should be glad I'm not burning it in effigy."
"I'm happy you like it," Scarlett said.
"In any case, you don't need a barrette," Sirius pointed out. "You need a blanket to stay warm. It's simple science."
Scarlett scoffed. "You know science?" she retorted, and she shook her head as her smirk grew. "Besides, there are plenty of other ways to stay warm. I was doing just fine five minutes ago."
Sirius smirked. "True," he agreed. "There are other ways to stay warm."
Even though snow was smacking every inch of Sirius's skin due to heavy winds he was sure that Scarlett's cheeks were as hot as summer. Muttering something incoherent under her breath, she turned away again, putting her chin on her knees once more and clenching her fingers.
Sirius internally grinned. Even though it was another example of Scarlett's tendency to ignore, it was still so attractive. Moreover, it was a challenge for Sirius.
And Sirius adored challenges.
He leaned in closer to her, his lips barely brushing her skin, and Scarlett shivered, though Sirius knew it was unrelated to the weather. He wrapped his arms around her still stiff body and allowed his lips to touch right below her jaw, and finally Scarlett succumbed, leaning into him and placing her head on his chest.
She closed her eyes for a couple of seconds peacefully, but opened them soon after, her pupils directed at the fantastically shining ring that was still on her finger. Groaning almost inaudibly, she averted her gaze towards Sirius and kissed him once more. Though it was, without a doubt, more hesitant than Sirius expected from Scarlett, it was no less pleasant, and he groaned as he remembered the ring on her finger, breaking the kiss and allowing her cheek to rest on his.
"I don't want you to get married," he confessed, frustrated. "I really, really, really don't want you to."
"That is bloody fantastic," Scarlett returned, and her breath left goosebumps on his neck. "That's bloody fantastic, Sirius, 'cause I don't want to get married, either."
Silence overcame the couple for a while; Scarlett shifted positions so that the back of her head rested again on his chest. "I really don't," she murmured, intertwining her fingers with Sirius's. "I'm seventeen. And I'm... I'm not ready. I don't want to marry Theodore... I'm afraid what's going to happen to me... or us, what's going to happen once I get married? It's a bad choice, the wrong choice... but," she said bitterly, "it's not even a choice, is it?"
"If you don't want to," Sirius said as he squeezed her hand, "well, why do you even bother, then?"
Scarlett immediately became rigid at the question; her thumb, which had been grazing Sirius's hand, froze, and he could feel her body suddenly become alert. After a few seconds of quiet, Scarlett said, "Well, I have to."
"No, you don't," Sirius said, though he knew the argument was pointless. "You really don't."
"Yes, I do," Scarlett said confidently. "Even though it seems like it would be so easy to walk away... what would my family say? What would everyone say? They all think I'm more than happy to get married. And Theodore..." she trailed off, and sighed, twirling the ring on her finger. "I don't want to marry him," she said, "but I have to. And that's the way it's always going to be.
"That's not a choice, though," she reminded him. "I am not ... choosing Theodore. It's something that has to happen. I can't change it, even though I want to... you know," she said, "that I chose you... I did not choose to get married, you see? But I chose you. I didn't have to—life would've been easier—but... I did because I couldn't imagine life any other way."
She sighed. "I'm really worried about it, you know?" she muttered. "What if... everything..."
But she trailed off, her eyebrows furrowing. "What if... you came?" she said slowly, as if the idea had just sprung upon her. "What if you came?" she said again. "Toujours pur, right? You could get away with it. You could probably get away with inviting a few of your mates. It'll be a big, plastered, happy family."
Sirius stared at her as if she was insane. "I got disowned," he said frankly.
"Yeah," Scarlett persisted, "but it would still make sense! Your brother's going! Marlene McKinnion is going, and she's been disowned too! Just... you could get away with it. I know you could."
She turned to meet his gaze, then, her eyes wide and abandoning her pride. "Please," she said quietly, and his willfulness melted away far too quickly. "for me?"
"Fine," Sirius said. "Sure. I'll go."
Sirius had not intended to say that at all. He had definitely wanted to say no to her and tell her that he would so much hate to see the thing he dreaded most happen. He wouldn't have even minded if they fought over it, because he was supposed to have remained inflexible. Stubborn, like he had always been, like he was.
What had happened to him?
He didn't know. All he had known was that as soon as she had looked at him he had been ready to do anything she had asked. It was almost as if she had hypnotized him, because in those seconds that she had looked at him Sirius hadn't had a proper grasp of who he was. He had felt smitten; there really was no better way to describe it.
Because that kind of emotion had never been felt by Sirius. Ever. He had never felt that way towards anyone. It scared him, scared him more than clowns or getting old or even death; any other fear paled. Whatever the feeling was, Sirius was more terrified of it than he'd ever been of anything else.
It was not as if it was an unpleasant feeling, but it was intoxicating. And it was consuming in a way that Sirius was not used to. In those moments that she had begged him to go the feeling had surged and, just like that, he had been absolutely hers.
Scarlett smiled at his response and thanked him, and again he felt it dizzy him. What had she done to him? What was going on? Had she enchanted him? Slipped him something? Or was she just incredibly good at being seductive?
Merlin, what was wrong with him? He had not been lying when he had told Scarlett that she was unlike any other girl he'd fancied, but he had never expected to feel something as powerful. He had expected the lust. He had expected the pleasantness that came when she held his hand. He had expected the way everything lit up when she entered any room, regardless if she was with her friends or not.
He had not expected this.
He might not have expected her, but he had adapted. He had adapted to many of the surprises she had given him, from his fancy to the first time they had kissed to her guilt to lust. He had grown used to the way he felt about her.
But this was so much. It buzzed in him still, and even though he was terrified he couldn't help but hug her closer to him simply because he liked the way it felt.
Because, in the end, he liked being close to her. He liked talking to her and he definitely liked kissing her. Though he didn't like when she was upset, he still felt a desire to console her when she was troubled. He liked laughing with her and bantering with her whenever she felt fiery. Because he liked being there for her and he liked being hers and he liked her being his.
But... did he love it?
What was more, did he love her?
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