Chapter 49 : Valentine
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“So, what exactly did Hermione tell you yesterday?” Sirius asked his wife casually, waiting for her to finish getting ready for them to go out, supposedly to get some shopping done at Diagon Alley.
“Not much,” Mia replied from the bathroom. “She just asked for us to meet her and Harry at the Hogs Head by three this afternoon.”
He casually observed something in his hand that he’d just fetched to give Mia – it was Valentine’s Day, after all. The woman deserved to be pampered for that day, no matter how messed up the world might be. “So, she really didn’t say what they wanted us there for?” he asked before hiding it behind his back as he heard her walking back to the room.
“No. Only that it was a plan she’d come up with for Harry’s benefit.” She entered the room and grabbed her coat from a chair. Then, she looked at him and raised an eyebrow. “What are you hiding?”
He watched playfully the curious look on her face – he’d always got a kick out of watching her. And she did look really good that day, as always: all that brown hair, very slightly waved, falling loosely over shoulders – so silky, he thought, and how his fingers always itched to run over it –, her skin, pale but not in a sickly way, contrasting with it so wonderfully… the best part was that he knew he’d still adore her if she shaved her head and covered her body with blue paint.
“What is it?” she asked again, trying to peak and see what was behind his back.
Sirius took a step in her direction and showed her what he’d been hiding behind his back. A single red rose, which he used to touch her chin lightly. “Mrs. Black, will you be my Valentine today?”
She smiled. “Is that for me?”
“If you say ‘yes’, it is.”
“Well, I guess it is a ‘yes’, then,” Mia replied, still smiling softly as she got hold of the rose and smelled it. “Just because of the flower, obviously.”
He chuckled. “Honey, I don’t mind what it is for, just as long as you say ‘yes’. Now, I can take you out for our muggle lunch date.”
Mia raised an eyebrow. “Lunch date? Weren’t we supposed to go to Diagon Alley to get you that broom polishing oil thing and the other Quidditch stuff you needed?”
Sirius snorted. “That was just an excuse to get you to be ready just in time. Why would I take Alex off to Elizabeth’s if we could very well take him to Diagon Alley with us? No, Daddy wanted some time alone with Mummy so he could take her out… and snog her in dark alleys, maybe.”
“Well, aren’t you a plotting Valentine, Mr. Black?” she replied as he enveloped her waist with his arms. “Why lunch and not dinner, though? Not that I’m complaining.”
“Well, for starters because I reckon all the restaurants will be packed for dinner tonight and none of us is a fan of very crowded places. Second, I figure that with all the unexpected stuff that has been coming up lately, we’d better get this done before anything happens all of a sudden. Merlin knows that this little meeting we have in Hogsmeade might end up in a big mess, considering the secrecy around it.”
Mia smiled, looking at the rose she was holding, before wrapping her arms around his neck. “Well, I’d say those are two very valid reasons.”
“Great. Then, we can seal the deal,” he told her with a smile before kissing her lips very softly, feeling hers curl under his. She always tasted so sweet to him…
Mia pulled away a few seconds later, still smiling at him. “We’d better get going, don’t you think? We only have three hours before we have to meet the kids at the Hog’s Head.”
“That’s more than enough time, I’d say,” he assured her.
She placed the rose in water and took his hand before they left the house together. It had been a few months since they’d had a real date with just the two of them, Mia thought. Between Alex, their jobs and all the trouble that surrounded their lives like a thick cloud, they rarely had any time to do it – not that they didn’t like sneaking kisses and sometimes more at home and the school. But those dates were special: there were no interruptions and no worries then… and didn’t Sirius tend to get extra romantic, if that was even possible?
They could have apparated directly in wherever place he’d planned to take them but instead, being a muggle date, they took the tube and after a bunch of stations ended up in a little restaurant in the middle of St. James’s Park. The green that surrounded them together with a rare sunny February day was the perfect match for their mood of the day.
“You know, I’m starting to think I made a decent choice by marrying you,” Mia pointed out later as they ate desert. “Too bad for all those girls you went out with before me.”
He shot her a grin. “Poor souls – they’re lives are ruined for losing a catch as perfect as me.” Sirius faked a sigh.
Mia raised an eyebrow. “Modesty, however, is very low on you.”
He chuckled, before eating bit of his very fancy three-name flavour ice cream. “You knew about that long before you fell for me. In fact, you love my lack of modesty. It gives me such character.”
She smiled. “Sirius Black wouldn’t be Sirius Black if he was prudish and meek. I guess because I love you, I also love your lack of modesty.”
He grinned widely – deep down Sirius wondered if it was normal to feel all gooey in the inside, even after so many years together, by hearing her say that she loved him. Who cares about normal, anyway? He thought. If in fifty years he was still able to look at her and feel butterflies in his stomach, he’d just thank Merlin and be happy with it. “I love every bit of you.”
“I know. I love every bit of you too,” Mia replied with a warm smile as he reached across the table to touch her hand. “So, what are your plans for the rest of this date?”
“Well, it’s rather sunny outside, isn’t it? We could take a walk through the park or around town before we need to leave to Hogsmeade.” Sirius told her calmly, brushing his fingers absently on the back of her hand. “Unless you have plans of your own, I mean,”
She shook her head. “No, a walk sounds very nice.” Walks with him always ended up becoming more than walks: a little stolen kiss here, a small detour to snog there, other little things… the man knew how to entertain a woman. “Wanna switch deserts now? I think I’m stuffed with this pie – need something different.”
He chuckled. “Sure, why not?”
“Oh, by the way,” Mia said as she reached for his ice cream. “I’m surprised and proud to notice that you, Mr. Black, still haven’t tried to jump me today. So far, it’s the second Valentine’s Day in a row when you don’t beg for some action. Some self control you have…”
He frowned. “Self control my arse! Last year doesn’t count – Elizabeth, that dictator healer of yours, had forbidden us, remember? Because of the baby.”
Mia snorted – he’d looked so pained from time to time because of it… “Poor you.”
“Exactly – poor me! But this year I’m saving the jumping on you for later,” Sirius told her.
“What about that ‘better get it done soon or something will get in the way’ philosophy?”
He smiled. “Love, unless a catastrophe happens – which I’m praying not to –, nothing will be strong enough to keep my hands away from you tonight. It will be memorable.”
They left the restaurant a few minutes later and after taking a walk around the park, they continued it on the streets of London. At that time of the day, streets weren’t very crowded, allowing them to walk hand in hand calmly and made some detours to one or two alleys in order to enjoy a good old snog.
It was little over one hour and a half after they’d left the restaurant that they reached Charing Cross and decided to drop by the Leaky Cauldron so they could apparate to Hogsmeade without the risk of being caught by muggles. However, just a couple of streets down from the pub, they unexpectedly saw Lulu… who happened to be holding hands in a very non-casual with a guy Mia recognized as Gabriel McKinnon with a bunch of glamour charms on, to remain his identity hidden from the world. The two were several yards ahead, oblivious to the fact that they were being watched.
Mia turned to Sirius with an eyebrow rose and he reflected the look – apparently, she wasn’t the only one surprised by seeing her mother out with Gabe on Valentine’s Day.
“Well, look at that,” Sirius said with a grin. “They look pretty happy.”
Her lips curled slightly. “Yeah, they do,” she said under her breath. “Lulu’s always thought Valentine’s Day was big joke. I wonder how the hell Gabe got her to go out.”
“You do mad things for love,” Sirius said. “So, you’re happy with it? Your mother dating… well, dating your father?”
Mia raised an eyebrow at him – he rarely referred Gabriel as her father, as their relationship was just the one of friends. But she understood his point this time. “You know I was expecting this to happen sooner or later. It was no secret she never got over him… or him her.” She sighed. Knowing Lulu, Mia was pretty sure that if they saw her, they’d probably jump as far from each other as it was humanely possible. She knew Lulu would tell her about them when they were ready for it. “Well, we should probably get going.”
“You’re right,” he agreed. “You know, I was thinking… Gabe will never get bored with her around, will he?”
Mia chuckled. “No, he most certainly won’t.”
They had time to drop by the three broomsticks to grab themselves a butterbeer and enjoy a short exchange of words with Kingsley, who was in charge of keeping an eye on the kids for the Order, before making their way to the Hog’s Head.
It was disconcerting the number of students they found snogging on their way there – those kids took the occasion seriously, Mia thought. More seriously than she remembered them taking it on hers and Sirius’s time. Of course, the two of them were always an exception.
They entered the pub to find it considerably less packed than the Three Broomsticks and the barman, who they knew to be Dumbledore’s estranged brother, absently polishing glasses.
“Oh, bloody hell,” Sirius mumbled when he noticed who Hermione was sitting with at the end of the pub. It had to be the least likely person he could ever imagine to see that day: Rita Skeeter.
It had been a while since they’d seen one of her articles anywhere – more specifically, since the end of the Triwizard Championship. Sirius imagined she would have been delighted to be part of the Daily Prophet’s mission of trashing Harry and Dumbledore and wondered why on earth she wasn’t doing it.
Hermione got up from the chair as soon she saw them and walked across the pub to meet them. Mia raised an eyebrow at the young girl as soon as she did. “Is that Rita Skeeter?”
“Hum, yeah. She’s part of the plan,” Hermione said, a bit nervously.
“Part of the plan?” Sirius asked in disbelief. “Skeeter?!”
“I promise she won’t she won’t pull anything on you,” Hermione quickly said. “She really doesn’t have much of a choice…”
“What does that mean?” he asked her.
Hermione coughed and looked around to check if any of the very few costumers was listening. “Well, at the end of last term, I discovered if bit of sensitive information on her.”
“Sensitive information?” Mia asked.
“She’s an unregistered animagus,” the young girl whispered.
Sirius’s face was of surprise. “No way.”
“Really, she is,” Hermione assured. “A beetle. Of course, I’ve used that information to incentive her to take an extended leave from her job at the Daily Prophet. She knows very well that if steps a toe out of the line, she’ll be shipped to Azkaban before she can even fetch that horrid green quill of hers.”
“You’ve been blackmailing her?!” Mia asked in shock – she wasn’t sure if she should scold or praise Hermione for it, honestly.
“She’s the one who started it,” Hermione reminded her.
“That’s just brilliant!” Sirius said. “You wouldn’t mind if I threatened her with that too, would you? So many jokes…”
“Not at all,” she replied. “Pity Ron isn’t here – he’d like to help with that.”
“Oh, where is he, anyway?”
Hermione sighed. “He’s landed himself in detention with McGonagall. Brawled with Michael Corner from Ravenclaw when he found out he was taking Ginny on a date today.”
Sirius’s face fell. “Ginny’s on a date?”
The girl nodded. “Yeah. It’s nothing serious, really. Ron’s just a git and got ridiculously protective. Ginny nearly hexed him. You should have seen Harry’s face watching it – blank as a sheet.” She gave Sirius a knowing look. “One would think he was scared of something.”
The poor kid must be terrified by now… Sirius thought. That would only slow him down from taking the step and asking Ginny out. “I don’t suppose he’s gotten himself a date as well…”
She shook her head. “Last I saw him, he was at Honeyduke’s with Luna, Izzy and George – Fred’s taken Angelina out, I think.”
“And speaking of Harry…” Mia said just as he entered the pub too and narrowed his eyes when he saw the reporter sitting at one of the tables.
“Not her again! What is she doing here?!”
Hermione huffed and asked them to go ahead to the table while she explained Harry why Rita was there.
There, the woman gave them one of her very wide and acid smiles. “Well, well, the Blacks,” Rita said. “Such an honour to have you sitting here with me.”
“We wouldn’t be sitting here if we didn’t have to,” Mia replied, glaring.
Skeeter glared back – she still hadn’t forgotten when Mia had burned her previous notes of her interview with Harry at the beginning of the Tournament. “What matters is that you’re here, isn’t it?” She turned to Sirius. “Well, Sirius… I can call you Sirius, can’t I? Oh, silly question of course I can. Lovely. Well, back to the point, you’re quite the man of the moment ever since that mass breakout, aren’t you?”
“Why, Rita, would I be the man of the moment because of it?” he replied, between annoyance and simple confusion.
“Oh, everyone is curious to find out how you’ve escaped Azkaban – you were the first to succeed, after all. If you gave me the exclusive, I might write it nicely for you,” Rita suggested, batting her eyelashes and shooting him a charming smile.
“I was under the impression you had taken a rather forced leave of absence,” Mia pointed out.
Rita straightened herself up on the chair. “I’m sure Her Highness would give me a break to help. It’s just a little exclusive, no harm at all.”
Sirius faked a smile back at her. He’d give her the exclusive… “Well, if that makes you happy.” He gave a long sigh. “I asked the Dementors nicely. See, those blokes are all honey in the inside… so misunderstood. They’ll do anything for you if you’re polite. You should keep that in mind, in case we ever land you there in a flask like a tiny little… what’s the name of the insect I want to say? … Ah, beetle. Like a tiny little beetle, Skeeter.”
Rita, who had been searching for her quill in her crocodile-skin purse, stopped and narrowed her eyes. “Well, that was just unnecessary. A person offers…”
“Stop bugging them or the deal’s off and that’s a promise,” Hermione said irritably as she and Harry joined them by the table.
“What deal?” Rita replied. “You haven’t mentioned a deal yet, Miss Prissy, you just told me to turn up. Oh, one of these days…” She took a deep shuddering breath.
“Yes, yes, one of these days you’ll write more horrible stories about Harry and me like you did last year,” Hermione replied indifferently. “Find someone who cares, why don’t you?”
“By the time that green quill of yours finishes writing the article, you’ll be saying hello to your new neighbours the Big House,” Sirius added, amused. Oh, he could sit there all day long cracking ‘you’re going to Azkaban’ jokes. The best part of it, he concluded, was that the chilling feeling he usually got whenever mentioning the orison was gone.
The blonde pursed her lips. “They don’t need me at the Daily Prophet to run horrible stories on Harry this year,” said Rita, shooting a look at him. “How has that made you feel, Harry? Betrayed? Distraught? Misunderstood?”
“Frustrated actually,” Harry replied. “Because Fudge is either too much of an idiot or too much or a coward to believe Voldemort is actually back.”
Rita shuddered at the mention of the name, nearly choking on the firewhiskey she’s just sipped but quickly recomposed herself. “So you actually stick to it, do you, that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is back? You stand by all this garbage Dumbledore’s been telling everybody about You-Know-Who returning and you being the sole witness?”
“I wasn’t the sole witness. There were a dozen-odd Death Eaters there as well. Want their names?”
“I’d love them,” she said, her eyes shining dreamily before she started a ramble, imagining the headlines for the article with Harry accusing respected members of the wizarding society of being Death Eaters which, she concluded at some point, Hermione would never allow her to post.
They were all shocked and speechless, however, when Harry’s friend said exactly the opposite: she wanted Harry’s story running out there.
Of all them, Sirius was the first to regain his voice. “Hermione, are you… are you mad?! You want her to tell the world what Harry says about You-Know-Who? Her?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?!” Rita asked Sirius in an offended tone.
“Clearly that you are a nosy, sensationalistic and liar of a reporter,” Mia replied frankly. Oh, how annoying was that woman? Why bother holding her tongue – she was sick of doing it around Umbridge, anyway.
Hermione sighed and explained that hardly any other reporter would be willing to write that story – Rita was their only chance to let people know the whole thing, what they were about to fight against. She looked at Sirius and Mia again. “I’ve asked you two to come because he needs your consent to give this interview. She can’t do much harm when she knows what we know.”
Rita huffed on the background. “One of these days…”
“Oh, shut it,” Sirius told her, out of patience for her rambling.
Mia didn’t look so pleased with the deal but she turned to her godson. “It’s up to you, Harry. Do you want to do this?”
He nodded without hesitation. “Hermione’s right. People need to have the chance of learning what they’re fighting against. Even if they all think I’ve lost my marbles.”
Always noble, Mia thought. She turned to Rita, then. “You’ll write the true story. The facts exactly as Harry reports them. He’ll give you all the details, he’ll tell you the names of the undiscovered Death Eaters he saw and he’ll tell you what Voldemort looks like now.”
“And you’ll write every name he says in the article,” Sirius added. “Make sure you highlight Malfoy’s, by the way. With an illustrative picture with Cissy in it. I’m sure they’ll just be delighted.”
“The Prophet will never print it,” Rita stated, nonchalant.
“We’ve got that covered too,” Hermione informed her. “The father of a friend of ours is the editor of a magazine and he’s agreed to publish this as soon as you have it ready. You will send the article to me and I’ll redirect it to the Quibbler.”
“The Quibbler? You think people will take him seriously if he’s published in The Quibbler?!”
“I’d rather be published there than in that daily trash people call a newspaper,” Harry countered.
“And let’s talk seriously,” Sirius added, “these days the Quibbler has much less bull than the Prophet. Their version of the Azkaban breakout was just ridiculous. Anyone who knew Pettigrew and with half a brain knows he’d grow wings and fly before he’d ever command a massive breakout of Azkaban on his own. Too much of a wimp.”
“All right, let’s say for a moment I’ll do it,” she said abruptly, facing Hermione. “What kind of fee am I going to get?”
Hermione laughed. “How about nothing? Or else, I’ll have to inform the proper authorities that you are an illegal animagus.”
“Of course, you can always win some money by writing a book on life in Azkaban from an insider’s point of view,” Mia pointed out.
Rita looked like she wanted to strangle all of them. “I don’t suppose I’ve got any choice, have I? Will I at least get a quote from the distressed guardians of Harry Potter?”
“You want a quote? I’ll give you a bloody quote,” Sirius told her irritably. “Get that quill ready ‘cause I’m saying it now: ‘Kiss my a…’”
“Sirius!” Mia and Harry shouted at the same time, wide eyed before he could finish it.
“She’s asked for a quote,” he told them innocently. “I’m just providing it for her.”
“Yes and we both know she has more than enough nerve to publish it with highlights!” Mia stated. Rita smiled, confirming she would. “Scratch that or the parchment will burn like last time!” Mia warned her.
The blonde showed her sharp teeth but did as she was said and began firing questions away at Harry under their scrutiny.
The interview lasted roughly an hour and after it was finished Sirius and Mia made question of getting as far from Rita as it was possible, apparating back home after quickly telling Harry goodbye.
Sirius sighed as they walked up the stairs. “I’ll confess that Rita compared to Umbrige is as delightful as a baby laugh.”
“Well, yeah, you have a point there,” Mia agreed. “There isn’t much we can compare to Umbridge, really. Unless we’re talking about typed of poison, that is.”
“And the best part of this meeting: it didn’t ruin our day, after all. I’d say Harry being able to tell his story makes up for Rita,” Sirius announced triumphantly before he looked back and gave her a seductive look. “Which means, maybe we’ll be able to start those plans I had for tonight a bit earlier.”
“Ah, and what were those plans again?” she asked, faking confusion just they reached the floor of their room. “Because I can’t seem to rememb… wow,” she said as he suddenly scooped her off her feet. “What was that for?”
“It’s hard to put in words my plans for you,” he explained, carrying her into the room. “How about I show you instead?”
She let out a sigh. “Ah, well, if you really have to…”
“I really think I do,” Sirius assured her before he used his feet to close the door behind them and gently placed her on the bed before lowering his mouth to hers, a breath apart. “And I don’t think you’ll be disappointed, Mrs. Black.”
A/N: The interview with Rita... one of my favourite parts of the book. Anyway, one more chapter for you. Only a handful (alright, a really full handful) before we jump into the next volume... I hope you enjoyed this one... it certainly was a nice to write. Feedback is very welcome, as always. Review!
Disclaimer: Parts of the interview with Rita were quoted from "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" (chapter 25 - the beetle at the bay)
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