chapter image made by espoirPERDU @ TDA
I was numb; I felt nothing. My finger spun dizzying circles on the surface of the lake. I watched the ripples grow bigger and farther away from me until they disappeared from my sight completely and into the dark of the night. Everything was okay as long as I kept making circles. If I stopped even for a second my world would fall apart. Everything I had been pushing back would explode and I wouldn’t be able to control it. I could feel the panic bubbling in the pit of my stomach; I viciously fought it back. I had finally regained control of myself and I wasn’t going to lose it again. I shook my head and concentrated on the ripples. I couldn’t let myself think.
The snow sparkled brilliantly and the lake shimmered in the soft moonlight. It was a perfect winter night but I could barely see it. It was a comfort to know that through all the bad things in life there was still beauty. I needed that comfort to keep me sane.
“You’re going to freeze to death,” his voice drifted over me slowly and was muffled as though I was hearing it through a dream.
I didn’t speak. If I did everything would explode from my mouth. I heard the snow crunch beneath his feet as he walked toward me. He draped a warm furry blanket around my shoulders. It was then I realized I was shivering. The icy cold washed over me suddenly. The freezing water that I had previously been numb to felt like a thousand knives piercing my skin, but I kept spinning my circles. I needed to keep spinning my circles.
I felt him sit next to me in the snow. Gently he took my hand that wasn’t in the water and rubbed it between his warm hands. Slowly the feeling came back into that hand. He pulled my other hand out of the water. He watched me cautiously to see what I would do. I sucked in a breath. I could feel the panic coming back. Before I could completely fall apart I put a finger of the hand he had just warmed into the water. Immediately I was able to breath again.
He said nothing. I don’t know how but he knew I needed my hand in that water. He warmed my frozen hand. Slowly the need to have my finger gliding in careful circles eased and I was able to pull me finger out of the water without freaking out. That was when embarrassment hit me. I had lost my cool in front of Sirius. I felt weak, I hated feeling weak. He grabbed both my hands and warmed them for me.
“Do you want to talk about it?” he asked cautiously.
I looked up into his concerned grey eyes and shook my head then thought better of it and nodded. If I didn’t tell somebody at least some of it then I would go crazy.
“The letter was from my sister.” I explained. “I told you about how she always points out my imperfections and is trying to give me a happy ending.” Sirius nodded his head. He watched me intently soaking up all of my words. “She’s getting married.” I could feel my anger returning. “She found her prince charming. She’s getting her happily ever after just like she always dreamed of.” My hands shook violently. “He’s perfect. There is nothing wrong with him. He’s sweet and romantic. He treats her like one of the princesses in her precious fairytales. She’s making mom and dad so proud. At least they have one daughter that’s not completely worthless.”
A tree branch snapped and fell to the ground barely missing hitting us. Sirius jumped and stared at it shocked. I cursed loudly and took deep breaths to sooth my anger. It didn’t work; another branch fell near us. I squeezed my eyes shut tightly. Control, I needed to get control.
The anger faded from a furious fire to burning embers. A cold wind blew through the air and I shivered. Sirius stood up and held out his hands for me to take. I took them and let him pull me to my feet. He hugged me tightly to his chest attempting to protect me from the cold.
“I don’t think you’re worthless.” He whispered in my ear and despite myself I smiled.
She was sitting by the lake. I could see her outline from the window in the Gryffindor common room. I wondered if I should go talk to her. She had to be freezing and it had been several hours. She had to be calmed down by now. I deliberated for a few more minutes before running up to my dorm and grabbing my warmest blanket. I then hurried out of the common room and ran outside. I slowed my steps once I got closer to her; I didn’t want to scare her. Her finger drew perfect circles in the water; she was shivering.
“You’re going to freeze to death,” I told her gently.
She didn’t move; I wondered if she even heard me. Slowly I made my way toward her. I could hear my feet crunching the snow they walked on. I draped the blanket around her shoulders. Maybe she wouldn’t be so cold now. I sat down next to her and gently took her hand that wasn’t in the lake. I rubbed it in between my hands trying to make it warmer. Her skin was colder than ice. She had no shoes or coat on. Why would she sit out here in the freezing cold? I know that she likes snow and being cold but she was beyond cold.
I felt her hand grow steadily warmer. I hesitated in grabbing her other hand but decided I needed to. I watched her carefully. As soon as her finger left the water her breathing became harsh and labored. I could see the panic in her eyes. Quickly she stuck a finger of the hand I had just let go of into the water. Her breathing returned to normal and the panic settled.
A million questions pushed at my mouth but I held them back. I know that if I was her I wouldn’t want to talk to anyone. She could talk to me if she wanted to but I wasn’t going to make her. Gradually her tense body relaxed and she was able to remove her finger from the water.
“Do you want to talk about it?” I asked concerned and grabbed both her hands.
Why was I so concerned about her? Why did I care so much if she was okay?
She shook her head wildly but quickly stopped and nodded. I was surprised. I thought she wouldn’t want to talk about it. Her eyebrows pulled together and she bit her lip nervously before starting to talk.
“The letter was from my sister.” She whispered. “I told you about how she always points out my imperfections and is trying to give me a happy ending.” I nodded my head to show her I was listening. “She’s getting married. She found her prince charming. She’s getting her happily ever after just like she always dreamed of.” I could feel her shaking in anger. Her eyes were filled with a raging fire. I could hear jealousy laced into her words almost completely hidden by her anger. “He’s perfect. There is nothing wrong with him. He’s sweet and romantic. He treats her like one of the princesses in her precious fairytales. She’s making mom and dad so proud. At least they have one daughter that’s not completely worthless.”
A weird protective feeling washed over me. Behind her mask of childlike innocence she was hurting and she had let me inside just for a second. A large branch suddenly fell from the tree above us. I jumped. Cinderella didn’t look surprised that it fell and it suddenly dawned on me why Andy said she left so she wouldn’t hurt anybody. She couldn’t control her magic when she was angry. Another branch fell to the ground. She took several deep breaths. She eventually stopped shaking and was able to push the anger aside.
She shivered as though suddenly remembering she was cold. I stood up and helped her to her feet. She leaned against me and I wrapped my arms around her. I longed to help her and make her stop hurting.
“I don’t think you’re worthless,” I whispered to her. I felt her smile against my chest and it brought a smile of my own tugging on my lips. I made her feel better and for some reason it made me feel good.
I woke up the next morning to Marissa’s alarm clock at 5:00. I groaned and rolled over. I hate Mondays. Why did Marissa have to get up so early, she doesn’t need three hours to get ready? That’s just crazy but she’s crazy. I heard her jump right out of bed and thankfully she shut off her stupid, annoying alarm clock. I hate alarm clocks. They are pure evil, right behind the shoes of death of course. I pulled a pillow over my head and tried to block out her annoyingly happy voice telling us to get up. I don’t understand how she can be that happy as soon as she wakes up. It doesn’t make sense to me. Slowly the other girls started coming to life and got out of bed.
“Cinderella, get out of bed right now.” Stephanie and Marissa yelled at the same time.
I grabbed my never before used alarm clock off of my bedside table and threw it at them. I smirked in satisfaction when I heard the Stephanie yelp in pain.
“Cinderella!” she yelled at me. “That is not funny,” she screamed as I shook with laughter.
It was my turn to yelp in pain when Stephanie threw my alarm clock back at me. I mumbled incoherently into my pillow.
“Good morning,” I heard Gaby yell as she no doubt skipped happily into our room.
I groaned into my pillow. Gaby is not someone you want to be around in the morning if you want to sleep.
“Get up sleepyhead.” She shook my shoulders. “We only have three hours to make you beautiful.”
“I could care less if I was beautiful,” I mumbled.
“You have a boyfriend now, Cinderella. You have to look your best for him.”
I groaned. Having a boyfriend was a pain. Stephanie, Gaby, and Marissa forced me to wake up even earlier just so they could make sure I looked perfect. Who cares if I look perfect; I’d rather sleep.
Eventually they dragged me out of bed. I was too tired to fight so I willingly let them get me ready. Gaby bounced while sucking on a chocolate frog. That girl does not need any more sugar; she has enough of it to last for the rest of her life. After they were finished with their usual torture they practically dragged me down to breakfast. We sat at our usual spot. As soon as I sat down I pushed everything out of my way and laid my head down on the table.
“Cinderella,” Stephanie whined, “you’re going to mess up your hair,”
“Oh-no, we can’t have that.” I heard Sirius say sarcastically.
I smiled, “shut up. It’s not nice to make fun of people,” I mumbled.
He laughed at me, “but it’s so much fun.”
I turned my head to look at him. With his eyes he was silently asking if I was okay. He smirked and nodded slightly to let me know that he understood that I wanted to act as though nothing had happened. I was still a little embarrassed. I felt vulnerable around him now that I had let him inside. It’ll be okay, I told myself, he won’t tell anyone. And somehow I knew that was true. I didn’t know how but something in his eyes told me he would never tell a soul about my breakdown last night. I smiled brightly at him. It felt good to know that he would be there for me and that I could trust him.
I watched Cinderella’s and Sirius’s silent conversation with a smile. He already had a stronger bond with her than Andy, Gaby, Marissa, or I had with her. She didn’t trust easily, I don’t think she even trusts me completely yet, but she trusted him. I could see it in her eyes. I don’t think she even realized she was falling for him. I could see the look in her eyes. She was falling faster than she could keep up and so was he. Neither of them knew how much they were growing to need each other. Over Cinderella's shoulder and two tables down Remus watched me curiously. I nodded toward Cinderella and Sirius and smiled. He shook his head in disbelief. Our plan was working.