Quit your whining, I’m sure it didn’t take you that long
to write that letter. It was barely a roll. And do you really
think I care that you had to miss a crappy football match
to finish it? Quite frankly, I’m glad Uncle Nigel made
you stay in to write to me. Maybe he’s gotten the hint
about my ignoring him and finally sees the error in his
Don’t suppose there’s been any mention of my rescue?
I’m counting the days, buddy. If you haven’t kidnapped
me away from this nightmare by the time I’m meant to
start school, you’re no longer my cousin. Let’s face it, you
need me. If only to do your washing, fine. I’m ok with it.
In the mean time, I left that book of domestic spells on
the side in the kitchen. It’s probably been used as a place
On the bright side, I found a cat. His name is Bruce and
he’s been back most days. Not for long though. Even he
probably thinks I’m insane. Aunt Pearl and Felicia certainly
do, since I did a runner that day they’ve been treating me
like a delinquent. All I did was go bloody shopping for the
day. Wasn’t even worth it, I ran into that weird, rude guy I
told you about and was roped into spending the day with
his friends. For a bit it seemed like they were better company
that Aunt P and Felicia but then he went and proved me
Anyway, gotta love you and leave you Walty-poo. More news
with a letter of the same length ASAP, please.
“Susannah!” Aunt Pearl jumped up from her seat at once as soon as I stood up.
I stifled a giant groan and managed to utter calmly, “Yes, Aunt Pearl?”
“Where are you going?”
“To the bathroom.” I said, pointedly.
“Ah.” Aunt Pearl sat back down primly, “Yes, well… carry on, dear.”
Gritting my teeth into a smile, I left the room graciously before sprinting the last few steps into the bathroom and slamming the door with slightly more gusto than was required.
Aunt Pearls bathrooms all had a little sofa thing in them. A ‘love seat’ they called it. Well I certainly didn’t want to think over the connotations of that - who in their right mind would… in a toilet? Whatever, it was useful for times like these - I could throw myself across the thing and spend a precious few minutes to myself.
Ah, freedom. Shame it only appeared when I needed to empty my bladder. Still, it was better than nothing. I half expected Aunt Pearl, Felicia or the house elves to follow me to the loo these days.
Since my bid for escape to Diagon Alley, almost a week ago now, I’d been under near constant surveillance. Of course I hadn’t told Aunt Pearl where I’d been; I’d merely said I stepped out for a breath of fresh air and a walk around the grounds and I’d lost track of time.
It didn’t help my case when the gateman had informed her of how I’d legged it down the drive and past him into the lane. Stupid man, anyway. What harm would it have caused him just to back me up? Sure, I’d then snapped at him something along the lines of how he wasn’t doing his job to an adequate standard if he let me run past him. He’d then protested that this was not a prison, and the inhabitants were free to leave whenever they pleased as far as he knew - his job was to stop people coming in when they weren’t supposed to.
So that backfired and the short and short of it now is that my old buddy the gateman has new orders not to let me out.
Not a prison, my arse.
Not only this, but it seems that now Aunt Pearl and Felicia are of the opinion that I am, if possible, even more insane than they originally believed.
They find this all a huge embarrassment - huger still when they came across my shopping from Diagon Alley - and watch me fearfully whenever we have company, as if I’m going to in some way act like a nutter and show them up.
As if. I’m well trained in the art of fitting in, now. For the most part. My only major issue nowadays is that I can’t seem to stop myself yawning when I’m bored. I try to sort of stifle/swallow it but that only ends up in a rather constipated look.
I’m not sure which is worse.
But whatever. The point is, it was a Saturday.
Ordinarily this would be no cause for celebration, all I had to look forward to was another sodding dinner dance. For the fourth week on the bloody trot. Thank God there were only another two weeks of summer holidays left after that; therefore only two-to-six more events. Hopefully. These midweek affairs threw me out on a loop.
So I shouldn’t have been looking forward to it all week.
I wasn’t, in fact.
I mean, I had absolutely no reason to, did I? Just another dress, introductions, too much cutlery to keep track of and…
No. It wasn’t that.
Whatever it was, this ridiculous reason that I was looking forward to this evening; it definitely, certainly, one hundred percent wasn’t because I was looking forward to seeing him.
No one little bit.
Alright, so he’d seemed vaguely human for a considerable part of that afternoon.
Alright, so I’d found myself actually liking his mate, and his mate’s parents.
Alright, so I’d accepted that he had actually saved me from a fairly dodgy situation vis-à-vis the hooded troll-hag-person. Once he’d explained this point to me more times than strictly necessary.
But that didn’t mean we were friends. That didn’t mean I was looking forward to seeing him.
He called me Annie. He called me out on, well, everything. He implied that I was like him. An outcast.
How rude is that?
Well, I suppose… I suppose it was the truth.
My name is Annie, he just oughtn’t be aware of it. Curse me again for telling him it. Stupid moment of madness.
And the ‘which is the real you’ thing. And the outcast thing. That was just the truth too. But, again, he really shouldn’t know that. What gave him the right to know that? To know me? I hadn’t told him, therefore it was God-Damn-Bloody-Rude for him to make these assumptions. I was Susannah now. I had to be. I wanted to be.
‘See you at the weekend’, he’d said.
Wasn’t looking forward to seeing him one little bit.
Not his inappropriate comments, not the way he was the only person in the sodding country that seemed to actually know me, not those pretty grey eyes and certainly not that infuriating, devilish smirk.
Not one little bit.
“Susannah!” There was a rap on the door.
So long, privacy. Nice knowing you for a brief five minutes.
“Are you quite alright?”
I took a long, steadying breath as I drew myself up from the loveseat. “Quite alright. I’m just coming.”
I distinctly heard a sigh of relief. She’d probably been worried I’d been making my escape through the plumbing.
“Ok dear. It’s just that we only have a matter of hours before we have to apparate to the Black’s -”
“Pardon, Aunt Pearl? I didn’t quite hear that?” Calm voice, calm voice, pretty voice… close enough.
“The Black’s, sweetheart. The dinner dance? We spoke of it only a moment ago…” Ah, the familiar sound of Aunt Pearl worrying for my mental health.
“Oh, of… of course. You just didn’t mention where the event was being hosted, that was all,” I explained, serenely, ignoring my hammering heart. “It will be lovely to see Narcissa again, thank you ever so much for introducing us -”
“Yes, it was wonderful to see the two of you hitting it off like that,” Aunt Pearl mused, “And, of course, you shall see one another this evening, although -” Alright, I knew it was coming before the words had even left her mouth. I knew. Of course. “- although the dinner dance tonight is being hosted by Orion and Walburga Black, Susannah. Narcissa’s Aunt and Uncle, not her parents. You remember their son’s, Sirius and Regulus, of course -”
For the love of Merlin, shut up heart.
“Vaguely,” I internally groaned and mimed hitting my head against the wall. I couldn’t actually do it, of course. She’d have heard and thought I had my crow bar out or something. You know.
I’d known it was coming. Sure.
So was this hammering heart dread? It had to be. Dread of being in his baffling, accusing, judgemental presence again.
It had to be.
“Coming, Aunt Pearl.”
“And then Lucius said -” Narcissa broke off into a peal of pretty, prim laughter. I’d probably have snorted. Well. It depends. If it was anything Lucy-Boy said I can’t imagine I’d be particularly tickled. He really hasn’t said anything at all of interest to me ever in the past few weeks. Apart from that one time he warned me that I had a basil leaf in my hair.
“Hmm?” I pressed my lips together in what I hoped they’d interpret as a smile, aiming for the ‘the suspense is killing me’ look.
Narcissa giggled a little more. “Oh, you tell her what you told me Lucius,” She simpered.
Narcissa. Whom I’d though had shown some potential personality.
Lord save her.
Lucy-Boy embarked on yet another scintillating tale while I stared at Cissy.
Just when had she turned into a such a… well, a clone? A clone of every other woman hanging onto every word of every agonisingly dull gentleman in the room.
Hasn’t she even mocked this, just a couple of weeks ago? “Why don’t you run along to find Rodolphus, Bella, you know how much he loves you hanging onto his every word…”
She had said that, hadn’t she? She’d actually sneered? I wasn’t imagining it?
Looking at the clone in front of me, I couldn’t say.
My match-making plan, or management, as he’d called it - oh, shut the bloody fuck up thinking about him - appeared to have gone slightly too far.
The bloody arse was right.
“Susannah?” Narcissa was waving a gloved hand in my face, “Were you even listening at all? You look flushed, are you quite alright? Perhaps you’ve had one too many glasses of champagne…”
“I’m fine.” I brushed off her concern, genuine though it may have been, and willed my cheeks to cool down. Why in the name of Merlin’s armpit were they even red in the first place? I hadn’t asked them to be. There was no reason.
I raised my hand in an automatic reflex, to cool down my cheeks with the backs of my fingers, but all I felt was the room temperature touch of silk.
Damn unnecessary accessories.
I saw Aunt Pearl looking in my direction from across the dining hall, where she was being shown to her seat by Regulus Black. She widened her eyes pointedly and nodded the tiniest amount back at Narcissa and Lucy-Boy. How could she tell I was being rude and reprimand me from all the way across the room? Was she watching me the whole time? Wasn’t that considered rude?
“Sorry, Lucy-B… Lucius,” I smiled apologetically, “Do continue.”
He waffled on a bit more and I strained to keep my focus but I lost track of the conversation following his third ‘thus’ and his fourth ‘hitherto’ while we were waiting for Regulus to return to the doorway to show us to our seats.
I wasn’t wondering where he was or anything. The other one.
So it came as quite a shock - and unpleasant one, might I add - when a hand lightly cupped my elbow and a voice rather near my ear announced, “I’ve got these guys from here, Reg.”
Like I said.
And those goose-pimples emerged through disgust.
Regulus gave him a slightly disapproving look. I wasn’t sure whether it was for his lateness - the guests had been here for over forty minutes… not that I was counting or anything - his nonchalant attitude to the ushering job, or his use of slang.
Whatever it was, Regulus didn’t cause a scene, as I probably would have if it had been Walt just back from skiving off some sort of a job back home. But that’s just how it was here. He just toddled off back to seat the next batch of people.
“Lucius, good to see you, mate,” Even the way he swung for a handshake was ‘different’. All sort of casual and uncouth. If a hand shake could be uncouth. Well this was.
“Likewise.” Lucy-Boy plastered a rather obvious fake-smile on his face and pulled his hand away with a little more force than absolutely necessary. Sirius didn’t seem fazed.
His grin just broadened.
“And Narcissa,” He turned to his cousin, “Radiant as ever.”
Narcissa seemed close to rolling her eyes, “I wish I could say the same to you, cousin,” Her tone was light and politely teasing, but her eyes lingered critically on his hair - free from the restriction of whatever grease the rest of the male society seemed to use, and dishevelled - and his lack of tie beneath his suit and dress robes. You could see a glimpse of a light golden pectoral muscle, if you looked closely enough -
“And Annie -”
My gaze snapped up to his face and I prayed that, after the blush Narcissa wouldn’t stop dribbling on about earlier, my cheeks perhaps couldn’t get any redder.
Thankfully, although my bodily functions were quite happily to do as they pleased, my brain was on the ball.
“It’s -” I began to correct, automatically.
“Oh, that’s right,” He tapped a hand to his head in a very obvious parody of self-depreciation, “Of course, it’s Susannah. How ridiculous of me. To call you by a name other than that of which you introduced yourself to me. Absurd, even.”
“Annie. My name is Annie.” That’s what I’d said to him.
For the thousandth time I cursed my moment of madness. Why, oh why, could I not have just been concentrating for once? Susannah. My name is Susannah. How hard is that? I’ve told about a million people my name is Susannah in the past few weeks. Why did my brain choose to malfunction around this dolt?
“Quite.” I didn’t smile. This seemed to delight him even more. What was wrong with this boy? Hadn’t he been reproachful, disappointed, bordering on angry when I’d stuck to Susannah that day in Diagon Alley? Now it was all fun and games, was it?
“Looking a little flushed, Susannah -” I hate him, I hate him, I hate him. “Now, let’s get you seated. Ah, here we are”.
We walked past ‘Narcissa’ and ‘Lucius’ name cards (which completely defeats the object of being shown your seats, if you ask me) and paused by ‘Susannah’.
“Thank you ever so much.” I decided to be gracious. After all, Aunt Pearl might be in hearing distance and might decide to cut me some slack if I behave.
“Ah, what a coincidence, right next to me.” He pulled out my chair for me.
“That name card says ‘Evan’,” Narcissa pointed out.
“No, it doesn’t.” In a deft movement, Sirius had plucked up the embossed card and, amidst great tutting, leant over the table to swap it with another, managing to knock over two goblets in the process.
“You’ve just swapped them,” Narcissa continued to point out what everyone else had seen with their own eyes.
“Come now, Cissy,” Sirius smirked, condescendingly, “Do you think me and Reg were asked to seat the guests just so that they could worry amongst themselves who sits where?”
Narcissa merely sniffed, unwilling to protest any further and draw any attention. Forgetting herself, she even dropped into her own seat before Lucy-Boy drew out the chair for her.
“You don’t mind, do you, Annie? Oh, sorry, Susannah?” There was a mischievous twinkle in those grey eyes as they flickered from me to Aunt Pearl.
Oh he was infuriating. He knew! He knew that Aunt Pearl was currently assessing my behaviour and he knew that if I made a scene and embarrassed her in the slightest way, she’d probably have some sort of a break down.
I took the seat he was offering. “It’s ‘Regulus and I’,” I informed him.
“Sorry?” He took the seat next to mine. Even the way he sat was uncouth; chair all unaligned and elbow on the table… Oh for the love of Merlin, stop bloody labelling his every move.
“’Regulus and I’,” I repeated, “Not ‘me and Reg’.”
That had been rule number one upon my arrival. I’d foolishly thought that Aunt Pearl genuinely wanted to know what I’d done with my day when she’d asked, and so launched into an account of what ‘me and Walt’ had been up to once I’d got my packing sorted.
“‘Walt and I’, dear,” had been closely followed by “it’s rather frowned upon to ramble on so, Susannah, darling”.
Tell that to Lucy-Boy.
“Didn’t know you took such a keen interest in grammar,” Sirius remarked, “Though I suppose I ought to be thankful that you seem to listen to me, unlike Malfoy over there.”
I blushed. Again. I ought to point out that he was speaking rather loudly and had Lucy-Boy not been otherwise occupied wooing Cissy, he definitely could have overheard.
“I’ll have you know, Lucy-B… Lucius and I were having an extremely riveting conversation about -”
“Yes?” Sirius prompted, stifling that stupid smirk.
“You know,” I blustered. Quick, what in hell were these people interested in? Aunt Pearl and Felicia seemed to largely discuss frocks and suchlike. But perhaps that was more of a female thing… still you never know. Nah. Better not risk it. Quick. Erm… money? Blood status? Literature? “You know, like… money and… stuff.”
“Riveting.” Sirius nodded solemnly in agreement.
“It was.” I said, loftily.
He just looked at me for a moment with something like amusement on his face, head slightly on one side, before letting out an excessively loud and abrupt bark of laughter and taking a swig from his goblet.
“And does Malfoy know of your little excursion into Diagon Alley?” He asked.
I frowned, then remembered it wasn’t ladylike and smoothed my face, but didn’t reply. Partly because I thought hissing ‘no and don’t you dare tell a soul or I’ll have my eyes scratch out by two mortified blondes whose names being with P and F’, might not be appropriate dinner conversation.
“Didn’t think so. Pearl and Felicia would never let such a scandal get out, of course,” He said, conversationally, as if I’d answered him at all.
I stared. How the bloody hell did he know I got caught?
“Yeah, of course you didn’t get away with it.”
And how the bloody hell did he know everything I was thinking?!
Again, I stared, silently asking the question of how the fuck he knew.
“Don’t feel bad,” He grinned, “It was your first time. Bound to be messy. It’s only once you’ve snuck out a couple of hundred times that it becomes smooth and easy. They never know I’ve even left my room.”
“Oh, and by the way,” He added, in a conspiratorial whisper, “And Pearl’s watching you like a hawk.”
I snapped my gaze up to Aunt Pearl, seated across the table about five seats down, with a faintly horrified expression that was probably a result of the individual sitting right next to me. Probably thought he’d tip me over the edge entirely.
I wondered whether it would be more frowned upon to carry on conversation with The Outcast Sirius Black, or ignore a companion at the dinner table. It seemed that neither was going to get me those Brownie points I so desperately needed. Quite a pickle, I’d found myself in.
All thanks to him.
“Rosier,” Sirius called, across the table. “Enjoy the seat, mate. Thought you’d be delighted at the chance of a little quality time with my mother and brother. I mean, who wouldn‘t?”
Evan Rosier, whose name card Sirius had swapped his with, had found himself seated between Walburga Black and Regulus. He’d appeared fairly baffled to begin with, but at Sirius remark his eyes narrowed as he understood what had happened and where he was meant to be seated.
But, of course, he said nothing on the subject. Without even a blink of an eye, he ignored Sirius and turned to me.
“Susannah, a pleasure to see you again.” He nodded with, I had to admit, a dashing smile.
Still, dashing smile or not, I hadn’t forgotten my moment of terror during that dance that time, when his face had gotten rather too near to mine for comfort. Irritated though I was to be sat next to the berk I was currently residing by, I couldn’t help but feel slightly relieved that I wouldn’t have to be on my guard for the entire evening.
“You too,” I smiled, politely, but quickly averted my eyes and daintily (well, almost… nothing was knocked over, anyway) arranged my napkin on my lap as the starting course appeared on our plates.
“Kind of did you a favour there, didn’t I?” Sirius said, again excessively loudly. For the love of Merlin, did he say or do anything at a socially acceptable level? Sure, the sound of people tucking into their food might have masked a whisper, but I was fairly certain that Rosier, if he chose to, could have heard that particular comment at that particular volume.
“Don’t know what you’re talking about, Black.” I said, nonchalantly, as I picked at some sort of seafood dish.
He dug into his own food, thankfully swallowing before speaking. I’m not sure I could have contained my disgust at that. Even Walt and my uncles weren’t that disgusting, I’d made sure of it.
“You know, Susannah,” After being momentarily surprised and thankful that he’d used my given name, I recognised the tone of his voice and sensed that something irritating was going to follow. Oh hell. Maybe I was actually getting to know him a bit. How unfortunate.
He continued. “You ought to know something before you get to Hogwarts. Lying, in most circles, isn’t generally accepted. Now I, on occasion, may bend this rule for the good of my own amusement and the entertainment of others; so, luckily for you, I don’t judge you too severely. However if you continue with these lies you’ve started on, then pretty soon you won’t be able to tell the difference between lies and the truth. That’s to other people and to yourself.”
Throughout that little speech, the mocking tone of voice had considerably lessened, until both his words and his eyes relayed a penetrating seriousness. It made me uncomfortable and to occupy myself I heaped my fork with prawns and looked away.
“So, Susannah, Annie; whoever you are. Just something to bear in mind. As you already seem to be having some trouble with it.” He finished off. I could still feel him looking at me.
I could see my fork shaking. A prawn was threatening to fall off. If I noticed that then he was almost certain to. I meant to lay it down neatly but instead it hit my plate with a clatter.
“Excuse me.” I pushed out my chair, barely remembering to lay my napkin on the seat, and exited the room just slow enough not to be noticed as in a hurry.
The bathroom. I needed the bathroom. I’d become to think of the bathroom at Aunt Pearl’s as my place of sanctuary in the past week, which could be extended to other bathrooms. People were reluctant to interrupt you when you were in the bathroom. It was only when it got to a quite frankly embarrassing amount of time spent in there that Aunt Pearl would ever eve knock, clearly worried about my bowel movements.
Only problem was, I had no idea where the bathroom in this place was. And every pretentious, sculpted door looked essentially the same. What was wrong with having a ‘Loo Here’ sign, perhaps? Or at least a ‘Ladies’ or ‘Gents’. I’d have been happy with either - both provided some privacy.
I climbed the stairs, pushing open doors along the way. Some opened, others didn’t. Portraits sniffed and tutted their disapproval at the sight of a young girl nosing around their house in the middle of dinner, but few actually spoke up. And if they did, it was relatively easy to pretend not to understand their poncey accents.
I realised I was stamping a little up the stairs. How odd. That wasn’t good for the ‘slipping away from dinner’ plan. Nor was it very mature. Well, sod it. I could be immature if I damn well chose.
If he could, I could.
And he was. It was immature to act like a prat clowning around one minute and then all serious as if I’d personally wronged him the next. How was I supposed to know what was real?
That’s what he said, a little voice in my mind said.
That’s what he said. If you don’t stop lying, you won’t be able to tell what’s real and what’s not any more.
I don’t lie to anyone. Well, alright. But if I do it’s selective. For my own and others best interests. I know when I’m telling the truth.
What about lying to yourself?
Oh, who asked you, little voice?
I knew who I was, of course. It just wasn’t as simple as he made out. It wasn’t a case of Annie or Susannah. I was both of these people. I couldn’t just erase one. Then where would I be?
I erase Annie and it’s as if the past sixteen years of my life were nothing.
I erase Susannah and I let Aunt Pearl down. I make enemies. I’m an outcast.
Just like him.
He’s happy enough.
Look, for the love of all that is chocolate, will you shut up?
Maybe there’s more to life in England than you’ve seen so far. Remember Diagon Alley? Remember the Potter’s?
“Shut up!” I practically shrieked in my head.
Not in my head.
“May I ask what you’re doing loitering around my bedroom?”
I jumped and almost lost my footing on the stairs. I had to grasp the polished wooden banister quite firmly.
Why the hell did he always seem to appear when my thoughts weren’t entirely innocent?
“Are you following me?” I asked, fighting to keep my voice even and unflustered.
Sirius laughed and folded his arms. He stood at the foot of the stairs I was halfway up, blocking the landing down to the other staircases (and my escape). Bollocks.
I couldn’t help but notice that he’d discarded both his dress robes and his suit jacket, and that his crisp white shirt actually fit him very nicely, especially around the upper arm area…
Oh, SHUT UP!
“You make it sound kind of sinister,” His lip quirked, “But yes, actually. You left in rather a hurry - a controlled hurry, I’ll admit - and I came to apologise if I upset you.”
Well, I had not been expecting that.
“Oh. Right.” I couldn’t form any more words than that, and I’m fairly certain that my forehead was all creased up with working out if he was serious and, if so, what the hell fell on his head in the brief couple of minutes after I’d left the table to make him into a decent human being.
This amused him, but he still asked, “So. Accepted?”
“My apology. You accept?”
“Oh. Right.” Is that really all you can come up with, brain? “Yes. Ok. I suppose.”
He smiled then, a genuine smile. Almost. “Good. I’m not saying I didn’t mean it, because I did. I’m glad it’s hit home but I’m sorry you’re upset.”
“I said I’m -”
“I’m not upset.” I protested.
His eyebrows rose. A lock of his dishevelled hair had fallen across his forehead, the same deep brown as the eyebrow. His hair, that is. Not his forehead. No, his forehead was a kind of pale gold colour, like a tan, kind of… the sort of tan you can get with skin that clear and pale that is…
“Ok. Fine.” He shrugged, “Then just carry on up to my room. As you were.”
“That was my initial question, remember? What you’re doing hanging around my room?”
Ah. I looked up at the topmost landing - when had I climbed so many stairs? I’d been too busy with my internal rant that I’d lost track of all stairs and doors. I could see now, that there were two doors opposite one another on the topmost landing. One with a neat placard informing the reader not to enter the room without the permission of our mate Reggie. The other was almost covered by a red and gold striped flag.
No member of this family would display red and gold - the colours of Slytherin’s rivalling house, so I was told. No one but…
“Feel free, by all means. I personally find it to be somewhat a relief after so much silver and green about the place. Not to mention so many breakable ornaments or furniture. But that might be a personal bias. Just, you should probably know that you send a particular message when you wander up to a bloke’s room alone…”
I glared at him. Then stopped. Not ladylike. Right.
Oh, fuck it. There was no one here but he and me. I could glare all I like.
“I was looking for the bathroom.” I informed him, haughtily.
“It’s right next to the dining room.” He informed me right back.
I gathered my skirts in one hand and attempted to descend the staircase with some sort of dignity. I knew I’d have none if I opened my mouth so I kept it closed.
I had to squeeze past him a little, as he didn’t move from his position in the middle of the landing, but I managed it. Or rather, I thought I was going to manage it. I’d just put out a foot - complete with killer heel - out to pass him when he turned his head to look at me.
It made me freeze. I don’t know for the life of me why. The last time someone’s face had been that close to me - other than Felicia when she was scrutinizing my makeup - I’d almost cricked my neck leaning away (cough - Rosier - cough).
But I was frozen.
For a moment, just a moment, his expression was without that God-awful smirk. And it was nice. It made me notice the fullness of his lips - not a girly fullness, just like a… a soft fullness - and the contrasting hard line of his jaw.
Just because it was at my eye level. That’s all.
But I still couldn’t move.
Of course it wouldn’t last. I knew that. But I didn’t know if it was a good thing or a bad thing. Then came my answer.
The return of the smirk.
Of course it was a bad thing.
“Oh, and Annie?”
Hang on, why the bloody hell could I still not move? It was over, this bizarre little moment. He wasn’t just a nice jaw and pair of lips, he was a prat again! I can get away now!
Do it, you moron!
What was wrong with me?
I couldn’t even open my mouth to correct his misuse of my name, for crying out loud.
“What?” Oh thank god, I managed to unfreeze. Slightly croaky voice, true, but barely noticeable. I hoped. I was no longer frozen, anyway, this was the point. My mouth, anyway, that is. The rest of me was still wedged nicely between his body and the wall.
Not nicely, I mean. Of course.
Horribly, in fact.
“It’s ‘pardon’,” He smirked all the more as I finally managed to drag my eyes up to meet his. I can’t say it was any easier than looking at his mouth, but it was definitely more socially acceptable. “Not ‘what’.”
I hate him, I hate him, I hate him.
I needed a retort. Needed something clever, needed something witty, needed -
I wasn’t sure if I was irritated that someone had gotten there before me or thankful that I was saved.
“Rosier.” Sirius nodded, turning his head towards the voice without moving his body at all away from me.
Eurgh. Definitely wasn’t grateful about the identity of my saviour.
“More people heading up to my room, I see.” Sirius carried on, “Can’t say you’re quite so welcome, Rosier, mate -”
Rosier looked fairly bewildered as he took in the proximity in which Sirius and I were standing, and the space between us (i.e. none). Then his expression hardened.
“I was looking for Susannah.” He said, curtly, “Susannah, your Aunt is wondering where you’ve got to. She was quite worried -”
I’d had it up to here with my ‘Aunt’ and her ‘worries’. Alright, I wasn’t quite there yet with the whole fitting in thing. Alright, I’d broken a couple of (hundred) rules. But she could stick her bloody worrying where the sun don’t shine.
“She’s not my Aunt.” I snapped, without thinking.
Then, at Rosier’s raised eyebrows and Sirius’ growing smirk, regretted it.
Act like a lady, Annie, for God’s sake. You are one, it shouldn’t be difficult!
“I’m sorry.” I amended, “I’ll be right there. I was just looking for the bathroom, you see.”
All said prettily and perfectly. It was as if I’d never snapped at him in the first place.
Apart from Sirius’ inability to conceal his satisfaction at my inappropriate behaviour.
“Excuse me,” I said to him, without looking up again at those lips or those eyes. It wasn’t safe.
For a moment too long, he stayed stock still. I thought I could even feel his heart beating.
Or perhaps it was my own.
“Black. Susannah has asked you to step away.” Rosier commanded, brusquely, “Has no one ever told you it is impolite to deny a lady her personal space?”
I almost laughed. That was rich coming from face-space-attacker.
I knew that Sirius would be thoroughly amused by it too, but neither of us actually laughed. Me because I was distinctly and disturbingly aware of how much I didn’t actually mind him in my ‘personal space’. He because, well, because he obviously had some way to provoke Rosier, with his next words. I knew it before he even opened his mouth.
That was just his way.
Wait, I knew his way? Oh, for God’s sake.
“Actually,” Sure enough, he spoke up with assurance, “You’ll find that Susannah, here, was the one that invaded my personal space. Isn’t that right, Susannah?”
I hate him, I hate him, I hate him.
He’s right, though, isn‘t he?
Oh, you can piss off.
“Thank you for your concern, Evan.” I snatched up my skirts again (when had I dropped them?) and stepped briskly away. “I lost my way. Sirius was just directing me.”
I don’t know why I even felt like I needed to explain myself. I had nothing to hide, so why should I? Even if there was a bit of a strange moment there just before Rosier popped along. So what? Who cared?
Every single person in that dining room downstairs, that’s who.
For some bizarre reason, they actually seemed to like me. Unlike Aunt Pearl and Felicia, who had lost all hope, they thought I was fitting in marvellously. I was ‘different’, sure. I was quirky. But I was polite, gracious, sophisticated…
Well, yeah. So they thought.
I was doing well.
I was a nice girl, but I was impressionable. After all, I hadn’t long been introduced to this way of life. After spending so many years living with my fathers brothers - who didn’t appear to have a great fan base in these parts - I was at risk of being lead astray. Hence Aunt Pearl and Felicia’s worries.
Wouldn’t want that Sirius Black influencing the new girl.
“He wasn’t bothering you?” Rosier held out an arm for me to hold, with a dark look behind us at where Sirius was now lounging against the wall and watching us with the smallest smile on his face.
I looked at his arm, offered out to me. I didn’t want to take it. For one thing I thought it all a bit silly how people went around hanging onto one another. We could all walk unaided, thanks very much, what did we need to hold onto someone for? And for another, I didn’t particularly want any contact with Rosier after the face-space-incident. He hadn’t been shy in making his intentions obvious, and quite frankly I didn’t want to give him another opportunity.
But I had to.
I would be impolite not to.
That, and a refusal was exactly what Sirius Black wanted to see.
He’d love it, throwing a spanner in the works there. Mixing it up a little. It seemed he lived to defy these people, and now he’d decided he wanted an accomplice.
Well, sometimes he did.
Other times he just wanted someone to vent his feelings out on. Goody for me.
I took the arm.
“Not at all.” I found myself assuring Rosier, as we took to the staircase, “You needn’t have worried. We were just talking, is all.”
“Yes, well.” Rosier sounded fairly troubled by this, and patted my hand. I struggled not to flinch as he continued, “It’s very rare that Sirius Black will depart from the usual rubbish he spouts to say anything worth listening to.”
There was a delighted laugh from behind us. “I’m right here, you know.”
“I do.” Rosier didn’t turn around.
“I know you do.” His voice was thoroughly amused, and he fell into step behind us, “And I find it very chivalrous, what you’re doing here, Rosier. Protecting the vulnerable lady and all. But I’m afraid my actions were completely honourable. I’d never plant any ideas in Miss Vaisey’s head, as you’re suggesting. Anything we do or discuss is entirely on her own terms, of course. And I think she knows this.”
What a load of crap.
On my own terms indeed. Not planting any ideas indeed. Honourable, indeed.
If that stupid smirk was anything to go by, he knew exactly what he was doing…
He’s got a point, you know.
Oh, wonderful, you’re back.
Just saying. Wasn’t that what you found so unnerving about him? The way he only ever seemed to say exactly what you werethinking?
No. It’s not. It was… it was…
Sirius Black knows how you feel because you feel the same way as him. He’s just bringing it into a shared understanding.
No he’s not! He’s a prat!
You tell yourself that.
He doesn’t know. He can’t know. We’re completely different, he’s… he’s an outcast.
And I’m accepted.
I’m finally doing it, slowly but surely. I’m fitting in.
I’m not like him.
“More lies,” Rosier was saying, dismissively.
“Yes, quite.” I shook my head of these pestering thoughts, “You ought to be careful, lying like this, Black. Sooner or later you won’t be able to tell the difference between the truth and a lie. Wouldn’t want that, would we?”
No, we bloody well wouldn’t.
You and me both, mate.
A.N. For once, I'm not going to let myself apologise because I have an adequate excuse for my rubbish updating skills, which is... I'm in the middle of a move to the other side of the world. True fact. But, alright, I will apologise for not making this clearer sooner. I can't help it. I'm sorry.
However, Annie is not abandoned. And I would be delighted if I find that I still have any of my faithful readers and reviewers still with me :) and of course any new ones I am also entirely grateful to.
So, I'd love to hear what you think about Annie in this chapter, Sirius, Rosier, Cissy, Lucy-Boy... any of them. The changing dynamics etc etc, and dare I say that word may get out that our dear Susannah has been fraternising with that outcast Sirius Black?