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The Art of Breathing. by AC_rules
Chapter 29 : Shift.
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 55


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A/N - The delay in this chapter is down to my beta being busy, but he's great so all is forgiven :) It's nearly the easter holidays so I might be able to write a couple of chapters in advance then, but it's my GCSE year and... it's going to be pretty busy. Thank you guys for reading - a thousand reviews (a thousand and sixteen actually) - it means so much you wouldn't believe. Please keep reviewing :D 

"I've been crushed like paper
I've been washed like rain
I've been scared of sleeping
In case I wake up the same"

Kasey Chambers - Falling into you

The fact that there was now possibly, or most likely if I was completely honest, a life sentence hanging over my baby brothers head meant any good Christmas feeling had quickly evaporated. The house had suddenly turned very sombre and in the end the three of us flooed to St Mungo’s.  Dad insisted that we couldn’t all go and Karen had to stay behind to look after Ria, and I’d insisted that I had to come which Dad wasn’t happy about. When I realised that I had burnt my fingers quite badly in the mini blaze (which now sounded like the easy problem to deal with) it was decided that I had to go in anyway to get those checked out.

Johnny had completely frozen up once he’d realised what the big deal was about, and I felt bad that he couldn’t even be happy that he was a wizard for a minute or two, because he was dying.

I wasn’t sure how much more our little family could take.

“Ephaiyadaphia research ward please,” I requested once we were at the front of the queue. The receptionist was blonde and bored looking. She cast her eyes over the three of us before opening her  mouth very slowly and saying “What?”

“Ephaiyadaphia research ward,” I repeated. She looked at me blankly. “Nathaniel Peacock and Healer-”

“Nate?” the blonde asked, tilting her head to one side in interest. “The hot one?” she asked, and I gritted my teeth in frustration.

“Ephaiyadaphia research ward. Where is it?” I repeated, and she raised her eyebrows slowly.

“None of them are in today – It’s Christmas,” she said pointedly, looking at her bright pink nails.

“Can you get one of them in please? Now.”

Receptionist-woman picked up the phone and began tapping in a number very deliberately. She blatantly knew it off by heart. “Hello is Nathaniel there? It’s Jessica Caudwell. Hi, sorry to disturb you but I have a red-headed girl who’s insisting on seeing you. Yes I know it’s Christmas...”

“Tell him it’s Mary McDonald,” I said, smiling sweetly.

“Mary McDonald,” the receptionist – Jessica Caudwell – repeated before putting down the phone immediately. “He’ll be right in. Sit over there please,” she said, gesturing towards a waiting area, looking mildly pissed that my name had been all he needed to come in. I would feel a bit satisfied but I was too worried.

“Thanks,” I said sarcastically, before walking over to the seats in annoyance. It would have been quicker just to write him a letter. Hopefully it would only be as simple as a blood test and a charm or potion to heal my burns. We wouldn’t keep him for long. I really didn’t want to ruin his Christmas even if mine had been ruined already.

I threw myself down on the nearest chair in frustration, which I regretted when it hurt a lot more than I thought it would – those seats were bloody hard. I swore and Dad didn’t even bother to reprimand me. Was it bad that I was more annoyed than sad? Because that’s how I felt. I didn’t feel sorry for Johnny sitting there and wondering when he was going to die, I was just angry that this had to happen to us. At Christmas. My very last Christmas. Was it too much to ask that the day went perfectly without some minor disaster? I didn’t think it was, but apparently God hates me.

Great.

“Mary, isn’t that that boy,” Dad said, looking over at the doorway where three people had just appeared out of thin air with a loud crack. “Serious?” Dad asked, and I shook my head without even looking up.

“Sirius is with his parents over Christmas,” I answered flatly, staring at a spot on the floor.

“No it is I think, with his friend – the one with glasses.”

“James?” I questioned, still not looking.

“Yeah. I think so. It looks like them from here,” Dad said, and I decided he was just trying to distract himself and me – there’s no way he’d even remember what Sirius and James looked like. Plus Sirius was with his parents and James wasn’t.

“He’s running his fingers through his hair, he looks mad...” Dad was describing, and I sat up suddenly and glanced over.

It was Sirius and it was James. What were they doing here? My mind was racing as I tried to make sure that it definitely definitely was the two of them, but there was no doubt about it – even from this far away I could see that James was indeed running his fingers through his hair in his usual frustrated manner and... Sirius did not look good.

Shit. He had dried blood all over whatever he was wearing and he looked white even from here.

“I’m going to see if...” I began, standing up and practically running across the foyer area.

“Yeah,” Dad muttered and I wondered if he’d just seen the blood too. His whole shirt was sodden with it, and it looked as if the shirt had been white before. My pace picked up and James turned to look at me in surprise.

“Oh,” James said, and Sirius also turned around to face me. It looked even worse from close up. He had deep gashes (which had obviously been healed quickly) and there was dried blood everywhere. His eyes looked completely dead and I’d never seen him look so... broken.

“Shit,” I muttered, and I put a hand to my face automatically – I couldn’t help it. There was so much blood. It was matted in his hair in big clumps, and there was still some trickling down his forehead.

“The blood isn’t all mine,” Sirius muttered through a bloody lip, which made him look as if he’d been punched – the rest of it was definitely magical wounds. “If you think this is bad, you should see the other guy,” Sirius said, but his voice was weak and it scared me. I just stood there open-mouthed and stared at him without further comment.

“What are you doing here?” James asked curiously.

“My brother set fire to the wrapping paper with my wand,” I said, holding up my hands to show the burns on my fingers. “But... what...?” I trailed off.

“Look, we have to go,” the woman said (James’s mother?), and I noted she was also covered in blood (I’m assuming Sirius’s) and she was looking flustered. “These spells aren’t going to hold up for long. Sorry, I’m Mrs Potter. Call me Julie. We just really need to get this sorted out,” she said, and I nodded twice. “Lovely to meet you...”

“Mary,” I supplied.

“Mary! Mary McDonald? Yes of course, sorry, come and find us later or something or write. You’re welcome to visit any time you like!”

“Mum,” James said softly, putting a hand on her arm and guiding her away from me. He mouthed a sorry at me and Sirius lifted his hand up to wave but winced and dropped it quickly.

I bit my lip and watched Sirius walking away. Having watched him walk a lot more than I should probably care to admit the differences were very noticeable. He was limping very slightly but he was trying to act as if it wasn’t hurting him at all. His hands were in his trouser pockets and I’m sure they were clenched into fists and tensed up. James was standing close next to him, shoulder to shoulder; to give Sirius a bit more help without making it look obvious that he was hurting.

I wanted to rejoin them and sit and hold his hand as they healed his wounds.

“Is that...?” Nate asked, suddenly behind me.

“Sirius,” I finished, turning away quickly. “Johnny did magic,” I told him, and his eyes widened. “With my wand,” I continued. “Sparks,” I said, and held up my fingers to show the burns, which were blistering. My head was numb but racing at the same time as I tried to piece things together, but I couldn’t get Sirius out of my head now.

 “Let’s go up to my office,” Nate suggested, and Dad nodded slowly as me and Johnny stayed completely silent.

*********

It seemed obvious now that something like this would happen. My life was just like that; endless waves of crap just being thrown on top of me, then the minute I’d managed to crawl my way to the top and get something sorted – throw on another pile of crap. My life was a joke. Somebody’s sick idea for amusement – hey look at that girl! She’s dying, her sisters suicidal, her mother’s dead, her step mum’s pregnant, her brother’s dying and her boyfriend’s bleeding to death! Ha ha!

I kicked the wall angrily and a sharp stab of pain shot up my foot. It didn’t help much.

I was angry. I just wanted to shove my middle finger up in the air and tell the world I wanted it to fuck the hell off because I was done with it. It sucked. It was a great big pile of crap that I couldn’t be bothered try and climb out of because, let’s face it, it’s impossible to.

“Mary,” Dad warned, as I swung my foot at another wall and kicked it hard. He didn’t look best pleased and I didn’t blame him.

We were waiting in Nate’s office where he had left us to get the results of the test, which would take exactly fifteen minutes. He had been able to confirm so far that he definitely had it, and was definitely dying, and now we were just finding out how long he had left.

Johnny was sitting as white as a sheet on the only seat in Nate’s office. Dad was pacing up and down the office and I was kicking and punching the wall at regular intervals to release some of the anger that was flooding through my veins and clouding my vision. I wasn’t shaking anymore, so I was glad of that, but I was still too furious to be able to function properly.

“How long?” I snapped, after another few minutes of kicking the wall and sighing in frustration as if I thought that it would achieve anything at all. I was so annoyed that I didn’t know what I wanted to do with myself, but waiting here wasn’t on my list in all honesty. I was itching to destroy something properly or start yelling at someone but it hardly seemed fair to start yelling at Johnny or Dad.

I really wanted to go and find Sirius and scream at him.

I’m such a bitch.

“9 minutes,” Dad answered, and I glared at the wall in frustration and banged my fists against in frustration. Screw you God. You can’t even speed up time when I need you to.

I suddenly had another flash of the state Sirius was in and I felt myself get even angrier.

The wait I’d had to suffer through had already brought me to the conclusion that the only explanation of Sirius’s.... condition (oh bloody hell, now I’m acting like he’s dying too) was that his parents had done it, or got someone to do it for them. Either way, they were responsible, and it made me hate the whole Black family with a passion, including Sirius.

It made no sense but I really wanted to be able to be mad at him and not have to deal with his pile of crap too. I wanted to get angry at him and upset him because I knew it would a) make me feel better b) help him to understand my general mood and emotional crap that I was carrying but considering his parents had almost killed him I couldn’t really do that.

 I had to be the nice supportive girlfriend and I was not in the mood. Newsflash - I am not nice and I never will be nice, especially when I’ve just found out my brother’s dying.

The one good thing about Sirius being practically murdered by his family was that I was guessing he could come to the New Year’s party and help me get back at Charlie Malone.

I hate myself. I actually do. My brother’s dying and my boyfriend’s bleeding buckets and I’m thinking about getting back at a guy who didn’t even actually do anything wrong. I’m such a full on bitch.

I punched the wall again and tried to stop thinking because I was just annoying myself. I was annoying myself so much that I wanted to scream and punch myself until I was unconscious, so I didn’t have to put up with my stupid freaking self.

“How long?” I asked, through gritted teeth for the third or fourth time.

“Two minutes,” Dad answered, stopping pacing to glance at his watch.

Johnny suddenly looked up and for the first time I realised that he was terrified. He’d never had to face this type of thing before and he was only eleven years old. When I was nine and found out about it I’d already known somewhere in my heart, but it had always been accepted that Johnny was not magical and would not die. This was... the last thing any of us had thought would happen.

I couldn’t make anything better though. He didn’t want me here to say ‘I’ve gone through the same thing’, he needed his moment to deal with this big news and I could be part of it. I resisted the urge to kick the wall again because my toes might start bleeding and I didn’t need two injuries in one day.

I bit my lip and found that I was now dying (haha, funny) to do anything rather than just stand and do nothing, but there’s hardly much to throw yourself into at St Mungo’s unless you’re a Healer or a cleaner.

There was a movement outside the door and we suddenly looked towards it all together. My heart rose up in my chest and started beating far more erratically than it probably should. This whole excitement would probably knock another few days of my life or something but there’s not much I could do about that. It’s not like I could stop my heart beating (well, I could but that probably wouldn’t improve my health and I had a feeling it would annoy a few people).

“Good news or bad first?” Nate asked, stepping through the door and looking emotionally drained. He hadn’t been surprised though, it had been like he’d expected it. He had been the one to mention two potential cases, and now there were four confirmed cases and I wondered if that would be enough to speed up the cure even a little bit.

“Bad,” I said firmly, leaning back against the wall as Nate pulled out a new graph like the ones I’d looked at so many times myself.

“Johnny,” Nate said, bending down and talking directly to him – I admired him for it; he always had been a brilliant nurse/healer/doctor type person. “This line is the line at which your body will cease to function.”

The death line.

“This is the line of the average person without Ephaiyadaphia,” he said, pointing at the longest line on the graph. “The body starts deteriorating around here... This line shows the normal person with Ephaiyadaphia, which would give you a life expectancy of around... twenty one. Your blood tests show that your case is a bit worse than the average, and I’d give you four more years – so you’ll be fifteen years old,” Nate said.

I took in a sharp breath and regretted it – I didn’t want to make this any worse than it already was for him and I just had. I bit my lip and tried to stop myself from making any noise. He would be two years younger than me when he died, that was just... horrible. Considering I’d found out when I was nine I would have thought that he’d have held on for a little bit longer.

“You said there was good news?” Johnny asked, and a wave of pride filled me up with his words. He was so much better than me at this. He didn’t even seem to be upset yet – shocked maybe – but now that he had actually figures he seemed to be much more relaxed and his normal self.

“You’re not going to die,” Nate said, a smile beginning to stretch over his features. “The cure will be ready by the beginning of the summer holidays. Then you’ll be on a strict six week course of treatment, which won’t be pleasant. You’ll be throwing up all the time, going dizzy, fainting, and unable to breathe. You’ll be in St Mungo’s for the whole summer. After the summer is over you’ll be permanently cured, and you can go to Hogwarts on September the first and learn how to become a wizard.” 

“Really?” Johnny asked, his eyes wide with excitement. “I get to be magical?” He seemed as enchanted by the idea as Becky had been. It made my eyes brim up slightly, but I held any tears back and smiled as Johnny basked in the good news.

“There is a small possibility that it won’t work, but I very much doubt that,” Nate said. He was obviously confident otherwise he wouldn’t have mentioned it at all. He’d never mentioned anything to do with a cure to me in all the years I’d been suffering from it – now he was sure so it didn’t matter.

“That’s what I was checking whilst the test was being taken place, and they’re absolutely certain that it will be ready this summer,” Nate said, and he seemed genuinely thrilled. I couldn’t blame him. He’d just saved at least three people’s lives and was able to tell an eleven year old boy that he could become a wizard like he’d always dreamed of.

I could feel Dad’s eyes on me, but I fixed a smile onto my face. Nate continued adding details about this amazing super cure to Johnny and I knew he was avoiding looking at me. He’d regret talking about it in front of me later I was sure, but now he was too excited.

“Do you know where Sirius is?” I interrupted, forcing a smile onto my face as I asked him. “I should find out what happened.”

As if I didn’t already know. Nate looked at me, and he suddenly looked very tired again.

“Third floor, Kirsten ward,” Nate said. Dad nodded, giving me permission to leave and I walked out of the office and shut the door behind me.

Tears of anger and sadness burst from my eyes as the injustice of it all hit me. Why couldn’t I have lived just another few months?  Just a few more stupid months and then I could have had forever and ever.  Two tears dropped down my face before they dried up again, and it seemed like I couldn’t even cry properly anymore – what was a girl supposed to do when she needed to let out emotions if she couldn’t even cry properly?

I realised with a jolt that I wanted to see Sirius really badly.

*****************

When I finally stumbled across the Kirsten ward, which took a lot longer than I deemed necessary I’d managed to talk myself out of doing something incredibly stupid like screaming at him as if it was his fault, and throwing myself on him (yes I did consider it in great detail before deciding it probably wouldn’t be the best idea).

I pushed open the door of the ward nervously and saw that, as always, nothing is as simple as it could be. The ward was big, and knowing my luck Sirius would be in the very last bed. The ward was lined with people who all seemed to have lost a fair bit of blood, which apparently happened a lot on Christmas day. 

A healer with bright blonde hair and eyes that sparkled a little too much for me to like her stopped in front of me and smiled brightly. “Who are you looking for, darlin’?” she asked.

“Erm... Sirius Black. I was told he was in here.” 

“I’m afraid he’s not seeing visitors,” she told me, still smiling as if she was delighted by this.

“I’m his... girlfriend,” I said awkwardly. I truly did hate the word. She didn’t seem to believe me.

“I’m sorry but he’s not seeing visitors.”

“Hillary, who is it?” Sirius’s voice said from a location unknown, and I rolled my eyes and crossed my arms over my chest.  Of course he would be on first name basis with her – she was blonde after all.

“I’m sorry, just a moment,” she said, walking over to a bed that I assumed had Sirius in it. It was over to the left and behind some curtains that I’d never have thought to look behind.

“Right,” Hillary (why did he know her name?!?) said, walking back over to me and smiling happily.  “You can come right over now,” she said, and I sneered at the back of her head.

“Mary,” Sirius said, pulling himself upwards and wincing. “James tells me that you were thinking about replacing me,” he said, smirking.

“Only temporarily,” I replied, sitting down on the seat next to his bed.  “You can leave,” I said, turning to Hillary and smiling sweetly. I really did not like her.

Sirius smirked slightly. “Jealous much?”

“Not at all. It must hurt her face to smile so much, at least I hope so,” I added, and Sirius smirked again.

“Nah, she’s just hovering because it’s obvious that this wasn’t an accident,” he said, gesturing to himself. “I think she’s scared someone’s going to come and finish me off.”

“Before she can get her happy little fingers all over you.”

“Ah, jealousy. It makes me feel like you actually care,” Sirius mock-sighed.

“I do care, just in a more abstract way. I take it this was the handy work of your parents?” I asked, taking in several new scars that hadn’t been there before.

“Oh, mother dearest can’t claim the credit for all of it – she wouldn’t want to get blood all over her expensive robes.”

“I don’t blame her; you have made a mess of your lovely dress robes,” I commented, noticing what he was wearing (and I think quite understandably) for the first time. “If wasn’t for the congealed blood I would say you looked quite dashing.”

“It was Malfoy, Lestrange and darling cousin Bella who did most of the work. Plus a few others,” he muttered, looking at a gash on his right hand bitterly. “I would have fought them off but I’d already been stunned. Bella revived me because she thought it might be more fun, but then I managed to apparate away, which I don’t think they’d expected considering we haven’t done the lessons yet.  Still, I missed James’s place by quite a way, and then I had to stagger half a mile like this. Hurt myself doing it too – lost a fingernail,” he added, holding up his hand where his fourth finger was quite notably missing the nail. Ew.

“That sucks,” was all I could say in response. “I’m sorry,” I added as an afterthought.

“Ah! We’ve seen the back of emotional Mary for another month.”

“Yay. Let’s throw a party.”

“We should!” Sirius said seriously. “I’m finally free of my family for good!”

“Why?” I asked slowly.

“I have been officially disowned and burned off the family portrait.”

“What did you do?” I asked softly, scooting myself closer to him so that our arms were touching.

“Told Voldemort to stick it, in different words,” Sirius said. “Have a good Christmas then?”

“No. It’s been horrible,” I muttered bitterly. “It was really good until Johnny set the wrapping paper on fire. Then it was shit.”

“Care to elaborate?”

“Not particularly.”

Sirius pulled himself into a more upright sitting position and pulled me closer to him so I was sitting on the bed rather than on the chair. “Missed you,” he said simply, and it didn’t even make me cringe. I ran my finger very lightly over the new scars on his face, trying not to cause him any pain.

Sirius closed his eyes as I traced one scar down the side of his neck and stopped at his collarbone. More out of curiosity than anything I reached for the top buttons of his shirt and undid them to carry on following it downwards. It stopped right in the centre of his chest, a few millimetres away from his heart.

“God,” I said softly, as I realised there were so many of them all coming down to this one point.

“I could get used to you undressing me you know,” Sirius commented as I stared. Having seen him topless before I knew that he had had some scars previously, but now he was sure to have marks there for the rest of his life. It looked like some crazy tattoo where the lines all started at the heart and branched outwards, except it was inflamed and painful-looking rather than being ink.

“They were really trying to kill you,” I said softly, and Sirius brushed my hand away and looked at me.

“Can we talk about it another time?” he asked, and I nodded, reaching up to kiss him softly.

“I missed you, and I’ve been really worried about you,” I said, without even feeling the need to vomit into the nearest bucket. Sirius smiled and wrapped his arms around me properly, and I curled up onto his chest (very gently to avoid causing him any pain). 

Sirius touched the back of my neck with his fingers and it made my heart stop for a tiny second. He did it again, brushing his fingertips across my skin, but this time my heart sped up inside my chest. 

“I can feel your heart beat,” Sirius said, looking as if he was concentrating very hard. Then he did the neck thing again and laughed when my heart continued beating at double speed. I shook his hand off my neck, and instead he leaned in to kiss me.

I really had missed him and it was only now, with my arms wrapped around him, that I realised quite how much. Everything felt so much better and the extent of it scared me.

“You coming to this party to make this guy jealous for me then?” I asked, pulling away for a second.

“Of course,” Sirius replied, before closing the gap between us again.

**********

“Erm...” Healer Hillary said, walking behind the curtain and clearing her throat loudly to interrupt our little snogging session, which admittedly looked quite bad considering I was also on his bed. In my defence I was on top of the covers and he was underneath.

Sirius seemed to find the whole thing amusing rather than incredibly embarrassing.

“Yes?” he asked, without moving me.

“There are some more people to see you. They say they’re not family or related but they need to see their daughter,” Hillary said, looking pointedly at me.

“Two men and an eleven year old boy?” I asked, and she nodded. “Well I don’t think they’re planning on killing him,” I told her, smiling sweetly and untangling myself from Sirius to return to the more respectable part of the bed. “Unless they see me like this,” I added to Sirius after they had left.

“Ah, interruptions,” Sirius muttered, disgruntled. “Shame.”

“Agreed,” I added, trying to straighten out my muggle clothes a little bit, so I looked... respectable.  “Let’s have a conversation about something so my parents think that... so how were the first few days?” I said, changing topic as the curtain was pulled backwards and my dad, Johnny, and Nate walked over to the bedside.

“They weren’t too awful in honesty. Obviously they weren’t exactly charming but they didn’t try to murder me – until Christmas Eve,” he added. I suddenly realised that his shirt was still undone and I bit my lip.

“Hey,” I said, turning towards the others and smiling. “Dad, Johnny, this is Sirius,” I told them, and Sirius smiled and nodded at them.

“I’d shake your hand, sir, but I’m a little worse for wear at the minute.”

Dad’s eyes glanced over the scars all running towards Sirius heart and his eyes widened.

“She’s healed these quite well,” Nate commented, also looking at Sirius’s chest and nodding. Considering how much they’d been bleeding before I had to agree.

“Are you in a movie?” Johnny asked, looking up at Sirius with his eyes wide.

“No,” I answered for him. Despite muggle studies I doubted Sirius knew what one is. “He’s not attractive enough.”

“Love you too dear,” Sirius said jokily, and my heart jolted suddenly. I tried to pretend I hadn’t noticed his mistake (which it undoubtedly was) and distracted myself with turning to Dad and Johnny.

“You’re welcome to come over sometime in the holiday, once you’ve recovered. We’ve got to go now,” Dad said.

“Can I floo back in twenty minutes or so?” I asked, and they nodded. Dad waved at me awkwardly, and Johnny appeared to be walking on sunshine and practically skipped out behind him. I expected the only reason they were letting me stay was because of the whole ‘Johnny’s going to live after all’ thing, which is great but... I’m not.

I should get special treatment considering I’m dying and all.

“Now what can we do in twenty minutes?” Sirius whispered in my ear as the others turned to leave.

“Game of chess?” I suggested, smirking.

“You obviously haven’t played chess against me before.”

“Why, is it fun?” I asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Everything’s fun with me, remember? Hillary, would you mind pulling the curtain back again? For my protection,” Sirius said, and Healer Hillary scowled at him but pulled it back dutifully. “You know I don’t think it’s fair that I’m practically topless and you’re fully dressed. We should probably even things up.”

“As fun as that sounds I really don’t think now is the time or place,”  I said pointedly. Sirius smirked at me and I felt my heart beating funnily and I smiled back. Obviously somehow Sirius controlled my happiness a lot more than I realised – I hadn’t felt this good since the beginning of holidays (which was, admittedly, only three days ago. I had turned into a sap.

****************

Mrs Potter and James interrupted again twenty five minutes later, but this time Hillary hadn’t bothered to warn Sirius that there was someone coming, probably because she knew that we would probably be in a compromising position (although maybe not as compromising as she expected) when they turned up.

As it turns out when the curtain was pulled back I was half sitting, half lying on the hospital bed with Sirius sort of... straddling me with one hand holding me down (in a non creepy and completely normal way) and the other one resting on my back underneath my top.  I flushed red the moment I saw Mrs Potter’s face and I’m sure it didn’t exactly make me look any more innocent.

“God,” James said, although it was obvious he was trying not to laugh.

“Feeling better?” Mrs Potter asked Sirius calmly. “Hello dear,” she said, addressing me as if this was a normal occurrence (although considering that Sirius had obviously stayed with her before it probably was).

“Hi,” I said, awkwardly wondering if it would be worse if Sirius moved off me, or just stayed where he was. I opted for pushing him off me a little and Sirius moved over too, so that he was no longer on top of me (oh Merlin, how do I get myself into these situations). “I’m Mary,” I told her, although she already knew that.

“Oh yes, I’ve heard all about you,” Mrs Potter smiled kindly.

“All bad?” I questioned. “I’m sure none of it was true. I’m brilliant,” I said, stumbling over my words in a rush of nervousness.  “Sometimes,” I added. Mrs Potter’s smile widened.

“James said the boys are invited to a party,” Mrs Potter continued, and I nodded. “If you really want to get this guy jealous, you should invite as many guys as you possibly can,” she advised me. “And flirt with all of them.”

“Don’t,” Sirius warned. “And there’s no need to invite that Wood bloke. Or what’s-it-McKinnon either.”

“Definitely invite them. If they make him jealous, then this Charlie guy is going to be so green that he turns Irish. Hmm... What does this Charlie guy look like anyway? How tall is he?” Mrs Potter continued, and I found myself liking the woman a lot.

“He doesn’t look like much, and he was about the same height as me, but he’s grown a few inches since then.”

“Well you’re not exactly tall,” Sirius said.

“Not exactly short either,” I countered, and Sirius raised an eyebrow at me.

“So me, James and Remus will be taller.”

“And Wood,” James added.

“He’s not coming,” Sirius said firmly.
 
“Why not? He’s a good bloke.”

“No,” Sirius said again.

“Is he good looking?” Mrs Potter asked, amused at Sirius’s reaction.

“Oh yes, very much so,” I answered, glancing at Sirius sideways to see him look even more annoyed. “Swoonworthy.”

“He has a funny shaped nose,” Sirius said. “And he can’t play Quidditch.”

“He’s better than you though right? More important position – Keeper.”

“You know what they say about keepers,” Mrs Potter said, raising an eyebrow at me. “Good hands.”

“Definitely,” I agreed. “You can tell if they’re a keeper just by looking at their hands.”

“Your father played keeper you know, James,” Mrs Potter added. “There’s a reason why they’re called keepers – you don’t want to lose them.”

“Oh shut it both of you,” Sirius said darkly.

“Good kissers too,” Mrs Potter continued, ignoring Sirius completely.

“Really? I thought he was too... hesitant,” I told her, thinking back to the awkward experience in the corridor.

“You better be joking about that.” Sirius looked at me for a minute. “You practically cheated on me!”

“No, actually Sirius, we both know you’re the cheater here,” I said coolly, and Sirius’s expression stayed frozen for a minute.

“Get anything nice for Christmas?” he asked, changing the subject. “Actually, I can give you your present now - sort of. “

“I thought it was too big?” I asked in confusion.

“It’s something you said you wanted the first time we went to Hogsmeade together,” he continued, ignoring my question entirely.

“If you ask me it’s a ridiculous present,” Mrs Potter said, but she seemed amused.

What had I said I wanted on our disastrous date? The only thing I could remember telling Sirius I wanted was to go to the toilet, and to own Madame Puddifoots so I could destroy it all with a humungous axe. I highly doubted he had brought me a toilet or Madame Puddifoots (although that would be big and ridiculous). 

Sirius was digging around in his pocket and pulled out something that looked like a set of keys. Bloody hell – he had brought me Madame Puddifoots! I held out my palm and he placed the keys – or rather key – into them. I stared at him as if he was a lunatic.

They didn’t much look like they were for a place like Madame Puddifoots. It looked more like a set of car keys than anything else...

“I practically had to drag you away from the shop. You could look a little grateful? You would not believe how much that cost the Most Ancient and Noble House of Black.”

“I’m sorry?” I asked, still looking at the keys in confusion. I ran my finger over the edge of the key and tried to think of anything that required a key that I’d said I wanted the first time we went to Hogwarts together...

Wait. That wasn’t the date. That was the assignment for Quiggles and I had said I wanted...

A motorbike.

A fucking flying motorbike.

“Is this...?” I asked, and Sirius smirked at me as if it was obvious.

“The keys to your brand spanking new motorbike – yes, yes it is,” he said, and my jaw literally fell off my face (although not really literally as that would be bloody painful, but you get the idea).

“Ridiculous,” Mrs Potter said. “The moment Dumbledore finds out it will be confiscated, and I bet he already has done considering you left it in her dormitory – which you shouldn’t have been able to get to. I expect an explanation for that one.”

“You bought me a motorbike?” I asked dumbly, and Sirius nodded.

“It’s not like a big deal,” Sirius continued. “I had access to my parents accounts and I knew I was going to get disowned this Christmas, so I was trying to spend as much of their money as possible to annoy them – not that they’ll notice.”

“That is incredible,” I said, trying to stop myself from squealing like a girl.

“And I figured that the Hogwarts grounds would be an excellent place to ride a flying motorbike. I’ll teach you how to ride it properly though so you don’t die,” he added.

“Wow,” I said, realising that I sounded more than a little stupid.

“No offence dear, but shouldn’t you be getting back to your family now?” Mrs Potter reminded me, and I suddenly realised that it was Christmas Day and I should have been back home... thirty minutes ago.

“Oops,” I said, standing up quickly and shoving the keys in my pocket.

“We’ll see you off,” Mrs Potter smiled.

“I’ll get out by tomorrow. So I’ll come and visit,” Sirius said as if it wasn’t rude to invite himself.

“And you can come and visit us too dear,” Mrs Potter added.

**********

I felt out of place in my new muggle-in-fashion-clothes that Lily insisted we bought. I had received a very long reply to my letter saying that James had brought her a year’s supply of owl food and Sirius had brought her an owl (well he’d brought her an owl cage and a voucher to go and collect her own from Diagon Alley as he couldn’t very well wrap up an owl now could he?). She’d then gushed about how lucky I was to have such an amazing boyfriend and that she thought I shouldn’t try to get back at this guy with a fake boyfriend, because I might upset my amazing one (she really liked the owl...). She also suggested that we go shopping immediately so she could get her owl and that we could buy some fashionable muggle outfits for this party (that we just had to go to). The letter continued on for several pages and it amused me quite a lot. I’d stuck it in my scrapbook.

I’d replied saying Sirius was in hospital, recovering well and now staying with James. I also told her about my flying motorbike (which still made me grin like a fool every time I thought about it) and that the shopping thing sounded like a good idea too. 

She’d replied in the same manner as the first letter.

Alice had also replied suggesting we invite Frank too, and maybe Mike Longbottom, but that might be a bit awkward. She’d then asked him to come with her new owl (courtesy of Sirius). I’d also had a letter from Jeremy saying that yes he was available (much to Sirius’s annoyance) and could probably help ferry people around as he could apparate, being the year above us.

On boxing day the family had come over and after a fair bit of discussion Sirius ended up coming too, and meeting my entire extended family, which had been... awkward (but I also enjoyed it because I had a feeling one of my grandmas thought I was a lesbian and I could show him off).

On the 27th of December I had gone to the Potters and was shown around James’s mansion, which was huge. Sirius also offered to prove to me that he had better hands than Wood, which I laughed at and politely refused.

 On the 28th we had gone shopping (we being Alice, Lily and I) to both muggle London and Diagon Alley. Lily now had her owl, which she’d named Prongs for a reason I didn’t understand at all (James’s idea?).

 On the 28th Karen, Becky and I had gone shopping and had a girly pamper day. My hair was now brown, almost matching my natural colour, and cut shorter so it hung around my face nicely. I’d brought more clothes, told them both about the purpose of the party, and generally felt very pampered and relaxed. I could definitely say that Karen and I were getting on a lot better.

I had to say that the yesterday – the 29th – had been the best though. Sirius had come over again and we’d gone on a proper date this time. I’d showed him where I lived and taken him to my mother’s grave and somehow it was just... lovely. We sat on one of the cliff tops looking out over the sea and he had told me all about his family, beginning and end, so I’d told him more about my mother, Becky, Johnny and Ria. Then we had dinner with all the family and they’d all seemed to like him a lot. It had been pretty much perfect until Dad had pulled out a photo album of when I was little; me dressed in fairy outfits and running around on Easter egg hunts.

“Never saw you as being so girly,” Sirius had said when we were in my room again. “I assumed you’d been like how you are now forever,” he said, picking up one of the trinkets on my desk. “I thought you’d be a five year old running around and insulting everyone,” he continued, making me laugh.

“Sorry to disappoint,” I said, still half laughing.

“No disappointment – it makes you even cuter,” Sirius answered, pulling out a photo frame that was turned backwards against the wall.

“Don’t touch that,” I said, suddenly standing up and pulling it away from his hands. I bit my lip and turned it around slowly. “Christmas Eve,” I said, looking at their faces behind the broken glass, which I vividly remembered smashing.

“Your Mum?” Sirius asked.

“That’s her,” I said pointing. “Becky, Johnny, Dad,” I said, pointing to them in turn. “I wasn’t talking to her and I refused to be in the picture. She died a few hours later,” I finished, and Sirius wrapped his arms around my waist.

I’d taken the photo out of the frame now and stuck it on the first page of my scrapbook.

The doorbell rang and I shook myself – that would be Lily and Jeremy.

I ran down the stairs two at a time and pulled the door open to find them there. Lily looked gorgeous in her muggle dress type thing. I honestly had no clue what it was, but it suited her. She looked a lot nicer than I did that was for sure.

“We need to sort out your make-up,” Lily said, confirming what I’d been thinking and pulling my back up the stairs to my bedroom.

“The other guys will be here soon!” I told Jeremy, hoping he didn’t find it too awkward to be standing in my hall way on his own. It wasn’t like there was much I could do really except invite him to come and join in with the make-over. I didn’t think he’d appreciate it.

Lily pushed me down into my chair as soon as she’d dragged me to my room

“You have a lot of make-up,” Lily told me as she attacked my face. I could hear the growing noise of people downstairs, which I assumed meant that more people had arrived (via floo). Alice arrived in my room a few minutes later and began to do something to my hair. Every so often she tugged at it a little too hard and Lily would snap at me for moving. I rolled my eyes at their behaviour and Lily sighed irritably – apparently that wasn’t allowed.

Marlene McKinnon also came into my bedroom once she arrived (she lived so close that she’d been invited to this party thing anyway, and her and her brother were going to accompany us). She was quiet and leaned against my wall, just staring at me.

“Are you quite finished?” I snapped, and Lily muttered something about how me moving didn’t exactly help matters. “We’re going to be late.”

“You just want to go see Sirius,” Alice said, pulling on another strand of hair.

“So sue me,” I muttered, and Lily sighed in exasperation. I’d forgotten how annoying they were.

“Sorry to break up the fun,” Sirius’s voice suddenly said from the doorway. “But we really need to leave now.”

“One second,” Lily snapped before whispering. “How does he know where your room is?”

“I told you he’d visited, and if you’re going to ask me questions can you stop sighing when I actually answer.”

“I didn’t know he’d been in your room,” Lily added, ignoring my other comment. “What did your Dad say?”

“Nothing,” I snapped. “I am done,” I said, pushing them away as I stood up.

“Aren’t you going to look in the mirror and be grateful?” Lily asked, pushing me away from the door and towards my mirror.

“You look really nice,” Alice said as I looked at myself. I looked all right; better than I had done before, but still not quite up to Lily’s standards. Like I’d ever be.

“Thank you very much,” I said sarcastically, before grabbing my heels off the floor and exiting the room before Lily decided that my eyes weren’t equal, or that I needed more blusher on to hide the fact that I was so pale.

“Hey!” I said to everyone who was congregated around the bottom of the stairs.

“Hello Mary-fairy,” Sirius smirked, and I rolled my eyes at him – prat. He’d picked that up from one of the stories Dad told about me when I was little, and it definitely was not going to stick.

“Let’s go – we’re late.”                                                                  

“Fashionably late,” Lily corrected me, coming down the stairs behind me. James wolf-whistled and Lily didn’t even look as if she was resisting the urge to hit him – she blushed. “Sirius! Thank you for the owl! Mary said you were in St Mungo’s – what happened?”

“Oh, nothing important,” Sirius shrugged. “And it’s no problem. James said you didn’t have an owl and we couldn’t have that now could we?” Sirius joked, wrapping his arm around my waist and smiling at me. Sirius really smiling was rare, but seemed like a much more regular occurrence this side of Christmas, and now he was out of his parent’s house. I would have thought that having his relatives practically killing him would have put him permanently in a bad mood, but as he said yesterday, he no longer felt like he owed them anything or was connected to them in any way. He was glad that they’d disowned him and made it final because now he didn’t have anything to do with them at all. He was happy.

“Let’s get going,” Sirius said, and I realised I’d been staring at him. I flushed slightly and looked downwards.

“Right, let’s go,” I said, although I’d been slightly thrown off.  “Bye Dad!” I called, opening the door and letting us all out.

“I’ll lead the way – the village hall right?” Sirius said, and I nodded.

“How do you know the way?” Lily asked, disgruntled.

“Oh I know Caister-on-Sea like the back of my hand, don’t I Mary-Fairy?” Sirius said, with his arm still wrapped around me.

“Yep, like the back of your hand. Not that the back of your hand is that great.”

“Hey now, I told you I could prove to you that my hands are freaking awesome,” Sirius smirked, and I rolled my eyes at him.

“Funny,” I said sarcastically.

“I’m being completely Sirius,” he said, and I hit him. The others were all walking in two’s and three’s behind us. It felt strange to be walking round my hometown in such a large group – there were over ten of us altogether and I couldn’t think of a time when I’d ever been in that size group here. “You look hot by the way,” Sirius added. “Although Lily’s make-up was completely unnecessary.”

“Charming as always.”

“That’s me.”

“Mary, can I talk to you for a sec?” Lily asked, and I dropped back and let Sirius fall into step with James. With the absence of Sirius’s arm around me I felt cold and very vulnerable.

“Yeah?” I asked her, and she glanced at Sirius’s back for a second.

“You haven’t...” she said quietly so that no one else could overhear. “You haven’t slept with him, have you?”

“No!” I answered indignantly, folding my arms over my chest. “Do you think I’m some kind of...?”

“You’re looking at him like you’re one of them,” Lily said worriedly. “Like the sun shines out of his arse. It doesn’t, and you used to know that.”

“What are you saying?” I asked, suddenly feeling confused.

“Look, he’s going to hurt you. I promise you,” she said, glancing at his back again. “You know what he’s like and I know that you care about him a lot more than you’ve been letting on. I’m just worried about you,” she said, and I wrapped my arms protectively around myself.

“Okay.”

“You’re not mad at me?” she asked, and I shook my head. “I honestly think that he is different with you, but... it’s Sirius you know?” she said, and I nodded. She was right. I was setting myself up for heartbreak.

“How are we going to walk in?” Alice asked. “I think you should walk in by yourself first Mary – so he thinks you turned up alone. Then we come in, and then the others, and then Sirius,” she suggested.

“Can we not just walk in normally?”

“No!” Lily exclaimed. “Alice is right; we need to plan this out. Guys, you have to flirt with every single girl you see, and make sure all of them are more into you than this Charlie bloke. Except Sirius – you only have eyes for Mary right? Alice, Marlene and I will have to be as unavailable as possible so that none of his friends think they have a chance with any of us. If this guy has a girlfriend or a sister – seduce her with everything you’ve got and stick your tongue down her throat. Okay, everyone got it?”

 Lily scares me.

“Mary, this guy was trying to get you into bed right?” Sirius asked me quietly. I nodded, feeling slightly shaken by Lily’s words. “Then we have to act like we’re sleeping together to really make him jealous. Are you okay with that?” he asked. I thought about what Lily said and how much I wanted to get back at Charlie.

“That’s fine.”

“We’re here!” someone said excitedly.

“Mary, you go first,” Alice said, pushing me forward. I walked towards the door, almost tripping in my heels and pushing the door of the hall open.

There weren’t many people here, which meant that it only took Charlie and his friends a few seconds to spot me.

“Look who it is,” Charlie said, walking towards us with his buddies like some sort of gang. I felt the presence of the others behind me, but I felt more nervous and edgy. I looked like a fool and any second now I was going to fall over or burst into tears. “It’s the Virgin Mary,” he mocked, and then suddenly I could feel Sirius by my side. He kissed the side of my neck softly and said – quite audibly – “Virgin?” as if it was some kind of joke.

Maybe this was actually going to work.


A/N - More on the party next chapter, this isn't all you get. Fave quotes, questions, opinions, feedbacks ect... it's all appreciated a lot. Bascialy, please review :D 


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