Chapter 23 : Of Weddings and Black Dogs
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“Do you, Jaclyn Ann Marriot, take Stephen Matthew Hale, to be your lawfully wedded husband in sickness and in health, until death do you part?”
Even from here I can see Jackie’s fat tears rolling down her face and even from here I can see that mesmerized look in Stephen’s eyes and the soft way he is brushing his fingers across hers.
I struggle not to fidget uncomfortably at this cream contraption around my body as Stephen says his vows and gorgeously brings Jackie into an extremely energetic kiss that says more than his vows ever did. In spite of myself, I can feel that itch in my nose that warns me when I’m about to cry. Across from me, John’s eyes look suspiciously watery. We make eye contact and he tries half-heartedly to wink but I can tell he’s about to cry. Big baby.
I think as the only boy in the family left, since dad died, John has felt like it was his duty to protect all of us, mum, me and Jackie. Jackie getting married to someone as sweet and good as Stephen probably made John feel fulfilled. We were happy and whole and dad would be smiling. Happily I remember the last words dad spoke to me from Leaves of Grass, the last poem he read. I can hear the lilt in his voice, the subtle stutter but most of all I can see him, eyes twinkling and smiling softly.
“Love, that is all the earth to lovers — love, that mocks time and space,
Love, that is day and night — love, that is sun and moon and stars,
Love, that is crimson, sumptuous, sick with perfume,
No other words but words of love, no other thought but love.”
The tears are freely flowing now as I reach for my sister just as mum, sobbing loudly, envelops both of us in a huge hug. John, not one to be left out, weasels his way into our embrace. Jackie laughs with tears in her eyes as all four of our foreheads touch, we laugh uproariously and bring each other closer. Finally John lets go, mum reluctantly releases her grip and I step back from my radiant sister.
“I love you,” she mouths before being whisked by a crowd of well-wishers and new family.
And suddenly it’s then I realize what I was supposed to say. Say to Sirius! His demand that I just say it. Say the words that my sister spoke so effortlessly, so sincerely, so without doubt or misgivings or misinterpretations, just say it!
“I love you,” I breathe amazed.
This amazement follows me for the rest of the ceremony, catching up to me as I sit in the reception hall and watch as couples dance only a few feet away from me.
So he knew? Knew that I loved him? Did he kiss me because he knew? Questions pour into my mind yet this feeling of weightlessness does not leave me. It’s roomy and drenched in a glow that I cannot put a name on but suddenly I see darkness entrenching on this happiness. How long had he known? This was surely the reason for his avoidance of me and perhaps maybe the reason why he wanted to see me. In some twisted way, it was exactly as I had imagined it. A proposal, a love proposal. But rather, it was a discussion on my love for him, not the other way around as I would have liked to imagine.
This would explain that long period of silence. I had lost a friend because said friend knew how I felt about him and hasn’t talked to me since. Obviously, I know what his feelings are. Also those long stares, as if he wants to tell me something, can be directly traced back to the fact that he knows, and has known for a long long time. The kiss, the night before or morning actually, was a culmination of those months we hadn’t talked. And yet that kiss ruined everything. It made my logical reasoning for why he didn’t like me or dare I say it, love me back, evidently hard to believe.
Why did he kiss me then, if he didn’t love me back? Ugh. I hate throwing around that word. Love. Love. Love. Blah, real love was what I just witnessed in that little white church, real love was just feeling it and just living in it.
And my freak out only just proved how much I hadn’t gotten why he had stopped talking to me. I suppose in some way he stopped talking to me because he knew how much it pained me to be with him and do nothing about it. Maybe in some bizarre way he was trying to lessen the pain.
Analytical and critical, ah, such true Ravenclaw intelligence. Yet, how could I be so dense? He knew! Of course he knew! My actions, my avoidance, my awkwardness and everything surrounding me always led back to him. HIM.
Argh, I so did not want to be thinking about this right now. Not when I have sweet Stephen’s best friend’s nephew coming over and asking me to dance at the reception. You know, the American ones? I just need to forget about it, do Sirius a favor, and forget about everything.
“So… dance?” Stephen’s best friend’s nephew asks again in his American drawl.
You know what? I will forget about it.
“Dance,” I repeat and promptly follow him to the dance floor.
Once we head to the middle of the floor, I get a good look at him. He’s tall, lean and has this flyaway hair that is untamable, and nice straight, almost dainty looking nose. Perfectly handsome.
“So sister of the bride, huh?” he says as he swoops me into a waltz.
“Groom’s best man’s nephew?” I counter, trying my best not to stumble.
He laughs effortlessly, obviously showing off his dancing talents.
“Yeah, I really have no idea why I’m here either,” he says. “I think Stephen wanted to set me up on a blind date with you actually.”
“Don’t be embarrassed. I think it’s funny and you’re cute,” he states. Ah. The American straightforwardness.
I don’t respond to this, simply blush like an idiot.
“So Janelle was it?” he continues on after I don’t respond.
“Yes,” I say mildly surprised he knew my name. “I’m sorry I don’t know yours?”
“Daniel,” he grins.
“I once had a fish named Daniel,” I comment vaguely. I never had fish named Daniel. This is just my insane mind trying to work out a conversation. What a compulsive liar.
“Oh really?” He tilts his head inspecting me.
“Yes, um… he died though,” I say stupidly.
He clears his throat. Really? Out of all the stupid fake stories I could tell? This one was the best?
And that is really all I can remember of that. It seems sort of useless really. A attractive foreign boy (if Americans can be considered foreign) and a rather clichéd setting, you think I’d be set for a romantic whirlwind where Sirius Black was just that minor character that somehow introduced me to my one true love. Plus it just got awkward when he wanted to know where I went to school. How do I put this lightly? I am a witch. I can do magic and can probably turn you into a frog (although not really, I’m quite atrocious at Transfigurations).
When I find myself whisked back to school I am sad to see my family and new brother go. I floo into Professor Flitwick’s office where he is waiting for me to arrive. Standard protocol and everything since that one lunatic wizard has been threatening the wizarding world with his pureblood hypocrisy. Flitwick looks relieved and asks politely how the wedding was and I tell him it was splendid and that I’m awfully tired so could I please just skip the whole day, please? Flitwick being the incredibly softy that he is, sighs and agrees saying he’ll excuse me. I beam brilliantly and trudge my way up into the Ravenclaw common room one step at a time, trying to scheme up ways to avoid Sirius Black for the rest of my life.
It was lunch and Sirius Black was noticeably less lively in that dull way a diamond might be after being thrown in the dirt. His friends had noticed this gloomy state and as a result tried to cheer him up. Not even James, purposely irritating Evans and having water thrown into his face as a result could cheer him up. Sirius wasn’t pissed exactly; he was contemplative and well… quiet. Just a little off and more distant. The problem?
He couldn’t get that kiss out of his mind. It had felt like an outer body experience, like he was looking at it from the outside of a glass ball with a dice placed precariously in it, watching as fate and chance took over. Distorting and rolling. Bollocks, he was using words like fate and change in a real sentence and clearly not making any sense. It had felt like an outer body experience but something strong tied him down to absorb that heat, that warmth and her. All of her. Everything came back to her.
Reggie had said she loved him but he hadn’t heard it from her, hadn’t actually witnessed it. But that goes without saying because apparently he was just a blind sod to begin with. Peter could have danced naked across the corridor for all he knew and he probably wouldn’t have seen. A blessing of course in that respective but insanely maddening in the Janelle sense. My God, he even had a name for this disturbing effect.
He clenched his fork and his thoughts drifted to the time when Janelle had stabbed him in the eye with a fork. He winced but couldn’t help the little smile that came over his face at the thought. Sirius realized he was smiling and cursed. He jumped out of his seat at the table and with a mumbled, “loo” to his friends; he left in a wake of utter confusion. He blearily made his way towards the Quidditch Pitch but was stopped short when he saw the girl in question, the girl he couldn’t get out of his mind, turn the corner.
Impulsively he followed her. She was walking slowly and he couldn’t but help but notice the way her chestnut hair fell loosely onto her shoulders, or the surprising length of her legs for so short a person, and the way her arms swayed back and forth, back and forth rhythmically. She was adorable, he concluded. And this contrasted so sharply with the girls he had dated (dated used in loosely of course), gorgeous, fierce and utterly boring.
It dawned on him how much of a creep he must look like. Yet somehow he had to talk to her. Somehow. He looked around him and upon noting that he was alone, transfigured into a huge black dog. He sprinted on all fours and caught up to Janelle. Reaching. Reaching. Janelle turned and stopped. Sirius jogged lightly up to her wagging his tail happily.
Sirius noted with amusement at the widening of Janelle’s deep brown eyes and was satisfied when recognition flashed through them. Suddenly that recognition was turned into a snarl.
“You!” She pointed.
Sirius merely cocked his head and eyed her balefully.
“You’re the bloody dog that stole my bag and almost let me drown in that stupid lake! Bloody hell, you belong to Sirius don’t you!?” She exclaimed angrily. Sirius only sat there looking innocent and managed to charm his face into that terribly irresistible puppy dog expression that just sucked girls in.
“Ugh, don’t think for a minute that will work on me,” Janelle warned but even as she said it, her hand was caressing the bottom of his ears. Just where he liked it too! He wagged his tail even more and Sirius noted with pleasure how nice she smelled, coconuts and vanilla.
“Fine, fine, I suppose it wasn’t your fault that I almost drowned. It was due to my own stupidity and horrible attempt at trying to pass Eli Yanover as my boyfriend to make your prat of an owner jealous. Turns out he was gay. Eli that is. Not your owner. Of course there always is that possibility…ouch!” Janelle rubbed her leg as the dog bumped his head against her leg.
“Leave it to Sirius to find a dog that is completely loyal to him,” she sighed. The black dog nudged her softly in an apologetic manner.
“Look,” she said, “why don’t you just run along and go annoy someone else yeah? I’m tired and I want to take a nap. Shoo!” And with that she started to leave. She had only made it a couple of yards when the black dog whimpered and followed after her. She looked to her right and found the dog walking happily beside her. She sighed and let it follow. She would run into the common room and shut the door and leave the dog outside but she couldn’t shake the feeling of protection as the dog jogged and barked along side her. She would have liked to play with it but there was no way in Merlin’s urn that she was going to keep Sirius’s dog with her. What if he found it with her? The awkwardness of that situation was just too overwhelming to bear.
Sirius on the other hand was much contended with the absentminded petting he was receiving. However when she started to give worried glances his way as she answered the knocker’s question (Mind over heart?), he made up his mind to follow her inside. He would not be ditched. As the door the Ravenclaw common room opened easily, he barreled his way in. Janelle let out a cry of indignation and made to catch him. Luckily, the common room was empty. Sirius always liked the Ravenclaw common room with its quiet dignity and blue hues and he liked it even more because of the plushy cushions, which he bounced on happily. Janelle only stared and rolled her eyes. She walked up the staircase and looked down haughtily.
“Well?” She demanded, “Aren’t you coming? I can’t very well leave you in here. Somebody might take you.”
Sirius was only happy to oblige and noticed with excitement that they were going to the girl’s dormitory. Of course Sirius had already been in there before but as a human not a dog. He heartily wished he was a human right now.
Janelle led him to a ruffled corner by the window. Her bed had the usual blue silk comforter but strangely also had a huge fluffy brown blanket that looked hand woven on top of it. On her side table pencil crayons littered the opened drawers, along with what looked like a camera, numerous poetry books and some musical contraption. He did recognize a stack of musical things, the Beatles, a muggle band James had introduced him to. He trotted closer to inspect the pictures on the stand and saw a moving picture with a middle aged man with laughing lines and beard, a pretty woman that was squinting into the camera with confusion, and John and Jaclyn around 11-12 years old with a buck tooth girl squashed in the middle of them grimacing as her twin siblings sandwiched her. Attached to that was a picture of Jaclyn and that blonde bloke Sirius had seen at the Quidditch match. There was also a still picture of John in mid trip with his mouth in a comical ‘O’.
He was about to bark to attract her attention when he looked over and found Janelle, still in her everyday clothes, fast asleep on her bed, her mouth slightly ajar. And looking at her there he was filled with instant tenderness and just like the time in the hospital wing after the disastrous lake incident, all he wanted to do was just be there for her. It was such a simple desire that he lightly sprung up into her bed and settled himself next to her. Unconsciously, Janelle turned to her side and draped an arm over him. Asleep she snuggled herself into his warm fur. Sirius rested his head but he couldn’t sleep. He was busy watching Nell and he finally understood why.
A/N: Sorry for the insanely insanely long wait. College applications. School. Scholarships blah blah. Anyway, it's been a long time coming and I hope you don't hate me too much! I hope you liked it and you know what to do;)