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The World is Ending by _EmBoDiMeNt_Of_A_nAtIoN_
Chapter 20 : Repairing What's Been Broken
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 5


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((A/N: Oh my god, I survived!! It was.... horrifying!! They made me....... work!! Nah, to be honest it wasn't that bad, though I wouldn't recommend it for fun... Anyways, I guess my point is: I'm back! And I'm ready to jump back into The World is Ending!  However, I have to add that I'm now in school and I won't have a lot of time to write, so I won't be able to update as fast.  But I'll get them out as quick as I can! So for now, read and review!! Hope you enjoy it!!))

((Disclaimer: I’m not J.K. Rowling.  If I were, I’d be rich! :D))

I sighed as I looked at my shredded bed canopy.  Such a good vent, they were; violence always helps when you’re trying to calm yourself.  Of course, that’s not necessarily a good thing.  But it was definitely better to maim my bed curtains than to maim Sirius.  I’m sure my teachers would agree; well, most of them.  Sighing once again, I took out my wand, muttering “Reparo” and watching the gashes mend together before me.  That done, I set to repairing the shattered picture frames and mirrors one by one, grimacing each time I caught sight of my bloodied knuckles.  

I’d lost control again, so contained by my fury that I began to destroy the entirety of the girls’ seventh dormitory.  There had been shredded bedding, clothing strewn everywhere, bottles of perfume and other makeup smashed against the wall, pictures hurtled across the room as my ire controlled me.  Finally, once again, my own pain brought the anger to a close.  As I’d punched the vanity mirror, fragments had flown everywhere, mostly embedding themselves in the hand that I put all of my strength behind.  

Now everything was fixed; everything, that is, besides my cut-up and bruised hand.  I examined it carefully for leftover shards of glass, but found none.  I conjured some gauze and began to wrap my bleeding hand, wondering if anyone would notice the bandages.  The cuts were shallow, most of them, and they wouldn’t take long to heal.  But the time that they did take would be fraught with questions about how I’d gotten them.  Could I pull of another “I tripped” lie?  After all, I wasn’t an enormously clumsy person; would my friends and teachers believe me if I told them that I’d fallen again?  Perhaps I could just tell them the truth: I’d been angry and frustrated, and I’d ended up punching the mirror and hurting myself.

Oh, yes! the voice cooed in an amused tone.  Tell them all about how you get so angry over such small things!  Make them think that perhaps Artemis is a bit too unstable for school.  Let them in, explain how a voice in your head feeds you its anger and leads you to self-harm.  I’m sure that that is something that they’d love to hear about.

I pursed my lips, staring into my own ice blue eyes.  The voice was right, of course.  I couldn’t tell them the truth; they’d think that I was crazy.  They’d probably send me to St. Mungo’s for hearing the stupid voice in the first place.  No, I couldn’t, wouldn’t tell them the truth.  

But I definitely needed to think of something more creative than “I fell.”  I sat on my bed, brainstorming: I fell; I was attacked; I was rummaging in my trunk and cut myself on a broken vial.  

This was ridiculous!  I had to have something with sleeves long enough to hide my hands somewhat.  Something besides my school robes.  Maybe I could magically extend the sleeves.  Then again, I might just end up setting myself on fire if I tried that.  Grinding my teeth together, I started searching through my trunk.  Nothing.  Merlin, I was a failure.  Silently, I pulled out my wand again, praying that I didn’t light myself on fire.

In the end, my sleeves were only singed, but I was willing to overlook this fact because they now were widened and lengthened to cover my hands down to my knuckles.  The bandaging was only barely visible, and if I kept my hands in my pockets, and moved fast when I had to reveal them, I knew I could get through this without letting the others know that I’d cut myself up.  Again.

As if right on cue, Lily waltzed into the room, humming quietly and smiling to herself.  I watched her with my eyebrows raised in amazement and amusement while she twirled happily, then froze as she caught sight of me and my smirk.

“Oh, er, Ar, what are you doing in here?  I thought you would be in the library...”

“And yet, here I am.  You look awfully chipper, Miss Evans; but wait, let me guess: it had nothing to do with James,” I said snarkily.  Lily blushed darkly.  “Come on, Lils, out with it!  Did something happen?  Or is this just going to be the normal Lily Evans from now on?”

Lily snorted.  “Oh, please!  The day me going around humming and dancing is normal, I beg you to hit me over the head with a shovel.  Repeatedly.”

“Note taken.  So then what happened?  Did he kiss you?  Only with your permission this time?”

“No.”

“Was it his little surprise at lunch?  Have you two finally decided to be a couple?”

“You know, Ar, you’re completely killing my mood here.”

I scowled at her.  “Oh, alright!  No more questions.”  Pouting, I collapsed once again onto my bed, belly down.  

“You know,” Lily said suddenly, “you’ll never guess who asked me for advice in the common room just now.”

I glanced at her.  “Okay... was it that Alice girl in sixth year?”  Lily shook her head.  “Er, that frizzy-haired blonde in second year?”  Lily shook her head again.  “Um, Peter?”

“Closer.”

“Remus?”

“No.”

“Well it can’t have been Sirius... was it—“

“Ding ding ding, we have a winner!  Sirius Black asked me for advice, if you can believe it.”  I gaped at her.

“About what?” I finally coughed when she just continued to smile at me snobbishly.  Her smirk grew wider.

“Girls.”

“Girls?” I repeated.  “Since when does he need help with... girls?”

Lily just smirked and shrugged.  “Dunno.  He asked me about girls and their rules.”  I could feel my face coloring, but I was powerless to stop it.

“R-rules?” I stuttered.  Lily nodded.

“Yes.  Girls and their rules for their boyfriends.”  She cocked her head at me, as if waiting for my response, but I couldn’t think of anything; my mind seemed to have gone blank.  So instead, she continued: “Apparently, he’s thinking about asking a girl out, but she has a lot of rules that he doesn’t know if he can keep.  Rules about snogging and stuff.”

“I see,” I said quietly, sure that my face had to be maroon by now.  Lily didn’t look worried, however, so I assumed that it wasn’t.

“Yes.  He asked me what I thought he should do about the girl.  He said that he thought he might actually like her more than any other girl he’d ever dated, but he wasn’t sure because he didn’t know her as well.  He really wants to go out with her, but as I said, he feels her rules are a bit... strict.”

“And... what did you tell him?” I asked uncertainly.  

“I told him that this girl probably has these rules for a reason: perhaps she’s afraid that he’ll hurt her if she lets him get to close.  He should ask her out, and he should make an effort to keep as many of her rules intact as he can; but if he really can’t deal with them, he should compromise with her.  Of course, this is assuming that he gets the date in the first place; seeing as he wouldn’t tell me who the girl was, I can’t say for sure if my advice will be of any use at all.”  She was peering at me intently, as if she were attempting to look into my soul.  I scowled at her.

“I think I know.  But I’m not going to tell you,” I told her before she could ask.  She pouted.  And then she smirked.

“It’s you, isn’t it?”  

I couldn’t stop the indignant snort.  Even though it was true, I guess I couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea that Sirius might actually have a little crush on me too.  However, admitting to Lily that I might sort of like Sirius, and he possibly could like me back, didn’t seem very... me.  “Wh-what makes you say that?” I asked her, painfully aware that my face was on fire.  

“A few things.  One: You’re as red as a tomato; it’s not very inconspicuous.  Two: He was stuttering madly and looking around like he was afraid you’d walk in and overhear us.  And three: You two have been giving off signs since... well, at least since the beginning of the year, if not earlier.  And don’t give me any bollocks about me being loony or anything, because you can ask James and he’ll agree with me.”

“Well, that’s because he’s in love with you and would jump off a cliff if you asked him to.  And I have not been giving off any signs!” I sniffed haughtily and puffed out my cheeks.

“I see.  And yet, you don’t deny that you like him.”  She smirked at me, putting her hands on her hips.

I frowned at her.  “I do.  As a friend.  Nothing more.”

Lily burst out laughing.  “I don’t believe you!  All that pressuring me to give James a chance, to stop lying about how I might like him, and here you are doing the same thing!”

“I do not—“ I cut myself off, grinding my teeth.  She was staring at me with the Look, conveying to me clearly that she knew I was lying to her.  “Give me one sign that I’ve given that I like him,” I told her with a scowl.  “Give me one, and I’ll admit it.”

“Did you admit it just now?”  I shot her own Look back at her.  “Oh, all right, all right.  That’s way too simple anyways.  In fact, I’ll give you five.  One: James told me that on the train ride here, you and him looked like you two were going to start snogging any minute.  Two: Your antagonizing of each other at the beginning of this year, e.g. you transfiguring him into an asexual bald skunk, and him charming your dress robes invisible at Slughorn’s party, were clearly just antics to get each other’s attention.  Three: I’ve seen the looks you two give each other when you think no one else is watching you.  Four: When Sirius was dating April, you were the one most upset about it, and you were the reason they broke up, ultimately.  And finally, five: James and I overheard Sev in the Three Broomsticks telling your brother that he’d seen you and Sirius up there, alone.”

I gaped at her in horror at this latest revelation.  Snape had told my brother.  My brother would tell my mother.  My mother would tell my father.  My father would be irate.

 

I should have just let Sirius curse the little toerag.  Would have solved everything, really.  But no, I had to be all noble and get between the two.  Well, see if I protected Snape next time.

Oh, and there was also the fact that, if Lily and James had heard Snape telling Apollo, odds were that others had heard him as well.  By now, it was probably all over the school that Sirius and I had been together at Hogsmeade this morning.  

Stupid toerag.

“All right, fine!” I said when I recovered from the realization that my secret was definitely out.  “Fine, yes, I like him, a little bit.  A very little bit.  And, yes, he may have admitted that he likes me, a very little bit.  I may have laid down a few rules, he may have not liked them, and we may have overreacted like we usually do.  I mean, what do you want me to say?  I’m not going to say that I love him.  I’m not going to say that he’s the one.  And I’m not even going to say we’re dating because we aren’t.  Now just... Gah!” I finished with a slight hint of hysteria; Lily smirked at me.  

“That’s what I thought.  What sort of rules did you give him?”

“I dunno.  No kissing until after the third date.  No shagging.  He couldn’t... you know, touch me in places until sixth date, which I feel is reasonable, but he obviously didn’t think so.  I told him I couldn’t let my grades slip either.  And then he told me my rules were bollocks, I told him he had no substance, then called him an arse, and then he told me I was the queen of all bitches, I told him we clearly weren’t meant to be together, and he said fine and we both left.  And it definitely wasn’t a date!  See, we were just going to hang out because you and James and Remus all had dates and Peter had to do homework.  And then we went up to the Shack and things just got... well, strange, I suppose, would cover it.”  I bit my lip.

“Did he ask you out?”

I glared at her.  Lily’s questions were always impossible to not answer, because if you didn’t you’d look guilty of whatever it was she was accusing you of.  This question was no different.  Slowly, I half nodded.  “Well, sort of; I mean, it started out more sarcastic, and then he just said, ‘if that’s what you want,’ and neither of us really gave a straight answer, so... I don’t know!  Then we both got mad and stormed out.  To be completely honest, I don’t know what the hell I want anymore.  I’m so bloody confused!”

Lily sighed and sat down next to me on my bed.  “I feel the same way about James.  Except, well, we don’t fight nearly as often as you and Sirius do anymore.  But it feels like diving into the Black Lake: You don’t know what the bloody hell’s in there, you’ll just be happy to make it out alive.”

I snorted.  “I’ll be lucky to make it out alive.  Why do boys have to be so—“ I paused and gestured at the room wildly, though of course the room had nothing to do with boys.  Perhaps what I was gesturing to was the sky, or maybe it was the air, or maybe I was trying to illustrate the maddening quality that all men had.  Regardless, I groaned and fell back into my comforter, wishing that life wasn’t so bloody complicated.

***~~~***

Dinner that evening was... well, strange.  The Marauders, Lily, and I spent the entire meal almost in silence, which was odd enough without the fact that Lily and James kept giving each other adoring looks.  Of course, they would instantly look away from each other and right to Sirius and I with worried looks.  Sirius, meanwhile, was staring at me, looking very much like he wanted to say something but didn’t quite know how to phrase it.  Remus and Peter kept exchanging baffled looks, obviously not having been told anything.  And I just sat and glared at my dinner.  

I thought about bringing up some random topic, if only to reduce the awkwardness of it.  But no; I couldn’t think of anything but my frustration at men, and seeing how the majority of the conversers would be men, it would probably only be more awkward.  So I remained silent, listening to the chatter of the other Hogwarts students.  At last, Lily finished her meal, and I pushed my nearly untouched plate away.

“So, Ar,” James said as I went to stand up.  I froze and looked at him.  “Did you ever find anyone to go to your aunt’s funeral with you?”

I frowned at him, wondering what the bloody hell he was on about.  “Er, no.  None of you lot want to go, and I’m not just going to go up to some stranger and say ‘Hey, you want to go to my great aunt’s funeral with me?’ now can I?” 

“Actually, you could,” Remus told me, “but it might be a little uncomfortable.”

“Oh, shut it,” I told him.  “The offer still stands, though, if any of you feel up to it.  It’s just a little funeral.  I promise I won’t cry all over you.”

“I’ll go.”

All of us turned to gape at a red-faced Sirius, who continued to stare at me stubbornly.   

“Er, what?” I finally managed to stutter.  He rolled his eyes at me.

“I’ll go with you,” he repeated.  “As long as you really don’t cry all over me.”

“Okay... Anyone else?” I asked, looking at Lily desperately.  If Sirius went with me... well, things would be awkward, to say the least.  Come on, Lily, I thought, please!

“Well, I would go with you, but seeing how Sirius has just offered...” Lily trailed off with a thoughtful look.  “Besides, maybe if Sirius goes with you, you two can work out your differences.”  She glanced toward me (very inconspicuously, I might add.  You could tell because Remus and Peter grew even more confused) and then looked at Sirius with the exact same look.  

“Yeah, but... Sirius doesn’t really want to go, do you, Sirius?”  

“Well neither do I,” Lily told me bluntly.  I scowled at her.  “What?  It’s a bloody funeral, for the love of Merlin.  No one wants to go to a funeral.  Besides, I have an essay to write.” 

“I hate you,” I told her bitterly.  She grinned at me.

“I hate you too.”

“Whatever,” I snapped.  “I’m going to bed early.”  And I stood up and walked away.  Merlin, I thought viciously, why the bloody hell were they ganging up on me?

The voice in my head laughed; but I didn’t find it funny.

***~~~***

The next morning, Sirius and I were at McGonagall’s office and it was eleven o’clock exactly, just as she’d ordered.  Sirius was tapping his foot impatiently as Professor McGonagall shakily handled her pot of Floo Powder.  I had my arms folded across my chest, scowling at the wall.  In case it wasn’t obvious, I really didn’t want to go at all.  But my mother, not to mention my father, would beat me senseless (probably not literally...) if I didn’t go.  It wasn’t that I didn’t like my great aunt; I loved Di more than almost anyone else in my family, except maybe Apollo.  It was because I really did hate the sentimentality of funerals.  Weddings.  Most places and events were people cry.  Yuck.  

Speaking of Apollo, he was standing to my left, in an identical position and with an identical scowl on his face.  He too had brought along a friend, his girlfriend, to be exact.  Her name was Weddy Bullwell, and unlike most Slytherins, Weddy was actually attractive enough to be called pretty.  In fact, some might have called her beautiful, though certainly none from any house other than hers.  She had long plaited black hair, fair paper white skin, and mean, cold green eyes.  Currently, she had her right arm hooked with Apollo’s left, and she was glaring at me with the glare she typically saved for her boyfriend’s sister.  Aka: me.  She hated me, though I honestly have no idea why.  

Finally, McGonagall was ready; Apollo went first, and then Weddy.  I went next, feeling nauseous spinning in that whirl of green flames.  I hated using the Floo Network.  But it truly was faster, I thought wearily as I stumbled out of a completely different fireplace than the one I’d stepped into.  Apollo and Weddy were waiting for me; Weddy glowered at me, but Apollo left her to steady me.  

“Thanks,” I told him.

“I need to talk to you,” he muttered, waving Weddy back as she huffed.  Yeah, definitely hated me.  She was a Slytherin through and through, which was kind of ironic because I was the one related to him.  Apollo took my hand and dragged me away from the fireplace; we’d come out in the entrance hall of what I assumed was the place where the funeral was being held.  Apollo was leading me to a hallway, away from where everyone else was going.  I saw Sirius emerge from the fireplace, looking around for me and making a confused face when he saw me being dragged away.  Weddy said something to him, probably snippy, and I didn’t get the chance to see if he said anything back.

“I think I know what this is about,” I sighed as soon as we were alone.  Apollo scowled at me, and I knew I was right.  “This is about Sirius, right?  Lily said Snape told you he saw us.”

“He did.  Now I have to ask you: are you dating Sirius Black?”  

“No.”  He gave me a skeptical look.  “I’m not dating Sirius.  You can ask him if you like.”

He glared at me.  “If you’re not dating him, why did he come with you?”

I snorted.  “How should I know?” I lied.  “He offered to come, I said okay.  If you want to know his reason, you’re going to have to ask him.”

He snorted and smirked at me.  “You know I know you’re lying.  There’s something more to this.  There’s something more between you two.”  He went silent, just looking at me with his eyes narrowed, thoughtful.  “You like him,” he said finally, looking at me with disgust.  I scowled.

“And you like Weddy.  I know you want to threaten him or blackmail him or whatever to get him to stay away from me, but if you do that, you know I’ll have to do the same to Weddy.  We’re both descendants of Slytherin, and you know I can’t ever really suppress that.”

He glared at me, looking like he was ready to strangle me.  I just shrugged at him.  

“Like I said, we aren’t dating.  Not at the moment, anyway.”

“But you’re hoping you will be soon?” he asked, still looking angry with me, but also looking very amused.  I blushed.  Sometimes, being twins sucked.  Apollo sighed and folded his arms at my lack of answer.  “Fine, I won’t tell him to keep away.  But—“

I groaned.  “But” was never good, especially in the Wizarding world.  “No ‘but!’ You know how much I hate ‘but’s! Can’t you just, I dunno, follow him or something?  Spy on us and make sure we don’t go too far too fast?  I mean, seriously, he’s already gotta deal with me; I don’t know if he can handle you too!”

Apollo smirked.  “Oh, I’ll have someone follow him.  But I’m still going to talk to him.  I don’t want him turning my little sister into a slag.”

I grimaced.  “As if I’d let him.  Please, Apollo, can’t you just let it—“

“Either I talk to him, or I tell Mum and Dad.  And you know Dad won’t be happy.”

I scowled.  “Oh, so now you’re threatening me?”  He just smiled.  I finally sighed and rolled my eyes.  “Fine, fine, do what you want.  And by the way, you’re only like a minute older than me!  You can’t go around calling me your little sister!”  

He gave me a look that clearly said he didn’t care, and then he led the way back into the hall.  Professor McGonagall scolded us for wandering off, then told us that we would meet by the fireplace after the funeral.  It was so contradictory that I almost argued with her; then I thought better of it and dragged Sirius away instead.  Of course, the second I turned around, I nearly turned back around to tell McGonagall I’d stay with her.  It was preferable to spending time with what I came face to face with.  

“Er...” I said stupidly.  My father just glared down at me.  My mother, meanwhile, cried, “Artemis!  Oh, honey, I’ve missed you so much!  It’s okay, darling, you can cry now, Mummy’s here!” as she pulled me into a stifling hug.  I could hear Sirius snickering behind me.  “Oh, and who is this?” my mother asked, obviously having noticed the laughter as well.  She released me and looked Sirius up and down.  

“Sirius Black,” I introduced.  “This is my mother, Lucretia, and my father, Marcus.”  My father barely spared a glance for him, presumably recognizing him as a notorious blood traitor.  I glared at him; he was talking to Apollo and Weddy, occasionally shooting me venomous looks that matched Weddy’s perfectly.  

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Gaunt,” Sirius said, holding out his hand to shake.  My mother took it cautiously, as if she were afraid she would catch something from him.  Yup, my family.  I hated them.  Most of the time.  “I’m terribly sorry for your loss,” he continued, bringing his hand back to his side as he reminded us why we were here.  My mother’s face fell, and for a second I thought she might break down.  Instead, her smile returned.

“Thank you very much.  It’s very kind of you to attend this with my daughter.  I’m sure Artemis is... heartbroken, even if she doesn’t show it.  She doesn’t like to cry, you know.  Even as a baby... but Diane was her favorite of my relatives.  I remember when she used to play with dress up in all of Diane’s old clothes!  Those dresses were her favorite!  She even tried on a few of Di’s bras!  Though of course she wasn’t quite, er, developed yet.”  

I blushed.  This conversation was quickly going downhill... for me.  What the hell!  I was five years old, for Merlin’s sake!  I didn’t even know what bras were!  “Mum!” I hissed, scowling at her while Sirius laughed.  

“And Artemis and her cousins, Timothy and Zachary, they used to eat Di’s pies; they made a game out of it.  They ate as many pies as they could, and whoever ate the most would win.  I remember Artemis coming home one day, holding her stomach and bawling because the boys had made her eat pies until she puked!”

I ground my teeth.  My stomach hurt just thinking about all that pie.  I guess I probably should have stopped the first time I’d puked, but those boys were just so damned cocky!  “Mum, we should go in,” I interrupted as she started on another story, something about me running around in nothing but a diaper in Diane’s garden.  Sirius was laughing so hard I was afraid maybe he’d need a diaper.  My mother looked around just in time for my father to take her hand and pull her towards the door.  Unfortunately, the six of us found seats together.  To my relief, however, I ended up between Sirius and Apollo, who sat next to Weddy, who sat next to my parents.  

I wasn’t at all surprised to see so many people at my Great Aunt Di’s funeral.  Di was a great person, loved by most, hated by those who practised Dark magic (like Voldemort).  I listened as the speakers started up, talking about all the good times they’d had with Di, talking about all her wonderful qualities, all her funny quirks.  They talked about her wonderful family, whom had also died in the Death Eaters’ attack.  They talked about her strong sense of right and wrong.  They talked about her will to live.

Halfway through the service, I hardly noticed Sirius take my hand.  A few minutes later, her leaned in towards me and whispered, “You said you weren’t going to cry.”

“I said I wasn’t going to cry all over you, and I’m not,” I whispered back, unnerved by how shaky my voice was.  With a sigh on his part, and a severe tensing of muscles on mine, Sirius pulled me against him.  

“You’re so stupid,” he told me quietly.  I was vaguely aware of the voice in my head laughing manically, my brother’s eyes on my back, and Sirius’ heart beating against my ear; but I pushed all that away, closed my eyes, and listened to the people talk about my great aunt.  And suddenly, I only hoped that my life would be as full as hers.

***~~~***

“You sure you’re okay?” Sirius asked me for the hundredth time as we stood patiently in line to bid my great aunt a final goodbye.  

“I’m fine,” I insisted with a scowl.  My tears had dried, my annoyance returned.  “And you’re getting really annoying, you know.  It’s perfectly natural to cry at funeral.”

“Not for you.”  I glared at him.  He grimaced.  “Er, I mean, you never cry.  Usually.  So, you know, it’s just weird.”

“You’re a moron,” I told him, folding my arms and scowling at my “older” brother, who was standing in front of me.  “I’m not a bloody robot.  I have feelings, you know.”

Sirius sighed.  “Yeah.  I know.”

This rather stumped me.  All the sarcasm and witty insults we usually tried to through at each other, and now this?  I didn’t know what to say, so I said nothing.  In fact, we both remained silent until we finally reached my great aunt’s coffin.  I looked down at her, with her pale white skin and her eyes closed.  She almost looked... fake, lying there.  It was hard to think that a week ago, these pale hands had been filled with life, her eyes open and filled with spark and ferocity.  I swallowed at that thought: that thought that life could be here, completely normal one minute, then gone the next.  I shivered.

“You sure you’re okay?” Sirius repeated.  I glared at him.  “Sorry,” he muttered, taking my hand in his.  I was a little surprised that it made me feel comforted, having his hand in mine.  We both turned back to the coffin nervously.

I bit my lip.  Sirius was muttering something under his breath, but I ignored him.  In fact, he disappeared, as did everyone else.  It was just me, alone with my great aunt.  I sighed.  “This is weird,” I told her body, tilting my head as if I were curious about something.  “Talking when I know you can’t answer.  But it’s not your fault.  It’s his.  You’ve always worried about me, but I guess you should have worried about yourself.  Anyways... Thank you.  For believing in me and for the advice you’ve given me.  I’m glad I followed it.”  I sighed again.  “Good luck in whatever the hell comes next.”

Sirius snorted and pushed me away, sensing my conclusion.  “Let’s go, McGonagall’s probably waiting.”  

“No she’s not, she was behind us.”  Sirius stuck his tongue out.  

“Shut it.  Anyways, I wanted to talk to you.”

I grimaced.  So there had been a reason that he had opted to come with me.  But what did he want to talk about?  “Er, can’t it wait until... well, I dunno, we’re alone?”  He frowned at me, then started herding me towards the same hallway that Apollo had shoved me into earlier.

“Better?” he asked, but he continued without waiting for my answer.  “Listen, Artemis, I feel kind of bad about what happened in Hogsmeade yesterday.  We, er, well, we both have short tempers, and we both overreact easily, and we both said things we probably shouldn’t have said.”  He paused as if waiting for agreement, or perhaps at least compliance and tolerance.  So I nodded.  “So I’m sorry.  I have to be honest with you: I absolutely hate your rules.  But!” he said, silencing my snarky near-comment with a warning glare.  “But I think that we can compromise.  Of course, that’s a two way street.  I can’t compromise with myself; believe me, I’ve tried and it doesn’t work.”  I gave him a curious look, but he just waved me off.  “I can compromise.  The question is: will you?”

I stared at him blankly.  He was willing to compromise?  Oh, this might not turn out too well, I thought to myself.  The voice cackled.

Two stubborn teenagers?  Compromising?  This ought to be entertaining.

Sod off, I told it.  It just laughed some more.  

“I... I can compromise too,” I said hesitantly, then hastened to add, “but not on the shagging part.”  Sirius looked like he was going to argue, but instead he just shook his head. 

“Fine.  No shagging.  But the rest is compromisable."

“Fine.”

“Fine.  Then we can start with the kissing part.  I say I’ll snog you whenever I bloody well want to; you say we have to wait until after the third date, right?”  I nodded, looking at him suspiciously.  For some reason, I had a feeling that the voice would find this entertaining.  “So how about after the first date?”

I glared at him.  “After the second.”

He scowled back.  “Three days after the first date, unless the second date falls within that period.”

I narrowed my eyes dangerously, but nodded.  “Fine, three days after the first date.”

“Okay.  Next: making out, aka touching/groping or snogging in the more intense sense.”

“I said sixth date, you said right after first snogging.  Third date?  And when we say touching/groping, I mean no, er...”

Sirius scowled at me and sighed.  “No naughty places?”  I nodded and felt my face getting warm, sure sign of more blushing.  “Fine.  But we aren’t going to set a day for that, it’ll just come as it will.  It’s a rule begging to be broken.”

My glare deepened, but I let the comment slide.  “We already agreed no shagging, and I’m still serious about putting you before Lily.”

“Deal.  Is that all?”  He still looked upset about the fact that I had rules for him to follow, but he just pouted and looked at me expectantly.

“Yes.  I’ll let you know if I come up with anymore.  I’m kidding!” I said hurriedly, looking at his frustrated grimace with a smile.  “That’s it.  We’ll just wing the rest.”

“Great,” he said dryly.  We stood in silence for a minute, until we heard our names being called and rushed back into the hall we’d first arrived in.  McGonagall gave us a scathing look.  

“We’re going,” she told us, her lips thin as usual.  “Say goodbye to your parents, and we’ll return to the school.”

“Bye, darlings!” my mother cried, hugging me and my brother tightly, and shaking Weddy’s and Sirius’ hands once more.  My father gave me nothing but a scowl, patting Apollo on the back and bidding Weddy farewell.  Then he pulled my mother away into the milling crowd of mourners.  McGonagall clicked her tongue impatiently.  

“Come along now, I’ve got work to do.  I have to have lessons planned, you know!”  Oddly, the funeral seemed to have healed her of all the grief she’d been experiencing earlier.  With a tight-lipped frown, she thrust the container of Floo Powder at me.  

Within minutes, the five of us were standing back in McGonagall’s office and she was shooing us away, which was something we did gladly.  Sirius and I walked side-by-side down the corridor, in silence; Sirius had just opened his mouth to say something.

“Black!”  

Sirius and I grimaced at the sound of my brother’s voice echoing along the corridor.  We both turned to face him, and I was rather surprised to see that he’d sent Weddy away.  He glowered at me and jerked his head, clearly giving me the sign to go away.  I sighed and shook my head, turning back to the end of the corridor.

“I’ll wait for you at that statue of Godwin the Goblin next floor up, Sirius,” I called back, leaving my brother and Sirius alone in the corridor.  I could feel Sirius’ glare on my back, so I shrugged, not bothering to turn around.  As I trekked up the stairs, I began to think a bit better of my decision.  Apollo had said he was only going to talk to him; but then, Apollo was in Slytherin, not to mention related to him.  Of course, Apollo would probably just act all tough and overprotective; and then Sirius would act all tough and badass.  As I came to a stop in front of the statue of a crippled old goblin, I thought that the “talk” would probably end up a duel, or at the least a fistfight.  I was just about to go back down the stairs to stop it when Sirius appeared at the bottom.  He was still glaring at me, unsurprisingly.  I stopped at the top and waited for him to join me, also unsurprised that when he did, it was with a soft punch to the upper arm.  

“Thanks,” he said sarcastically.  “Just ditch me with your brother.”

I sighed.  “Sorry.  He said it was either that or he was telling my dad, and you saw how my dad was.”

“Yeah, uncannily like my mum.  I bet they’d get along real well.”

I snorted.  “I’m sure they would.”  He smirked and kept walking; I fell into step next to him.  “Let me guess: he threatened you?”

He laughed.  “You really do have a freaky twin bond thing, huh?”  I rolled my eyes at him and he chuckled some more.  “Yes; he basically said that if I hurt you in any way, I would regret it.”

“And what did you say?”

“I told him to sod off and mind his own business.  He called me an arse, I called him a stupid bastard, we both walked away.”

I sighed and shook my head.  Boys and their stupid... well, boys were stupid.  We continued on through the castle.  We were in the Fat Lady’s corridor when Sirius stopped.  I stopped too and looked over at him.  

“What’s wrong?” I asked, frowning at him.  He took at deep breath.

“So... we’re officially dating now, right?”

I looked at him thoughtfully, pursing my lips a little.  “Er, I suppose so.  Er, I mean, yes?”  He raised an eyebrow at me.  “Yes,” I repeated more firmly.  “Officially.”

“Okay.”  He maintained his nervous stare, suddenly acquiring a pinkish tinge in his cheeks.  He held out his hand.  “There wasn’t a rule against holding hands, right?”

Now I blushed too, many thoughts flitting through my mind.  If I held his hand... people would stare at us.  They’d know we were together.  And it would be awkward.  I hated awkward, and I hated being stared at (though admittedly I got enough of that with my slightly psychotic behavior and the rumors Melanie had spread about me).  But then again, people would eventually figure out that we were dating; they’d stare anyways.  And really, there was no getting around the awkwardness.

And anyways, I realized suddenly, I wanted to hold his hand.  I wanted that comforting feeling of having his hand in mine, our fingers laced together.  I wanted the warmth of his palm smooth against mine.

I wanted to be Sirius’ girlfriend, because strangely, it felt right.

So with a small smile, I placed my hand in his.


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