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Chapter 16 : Freedom
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If you judge people, you have no time to love them.
~ Mother Teresa
It took her longer than usual to calm down and her vague memories of the night terror were that it was one of her worst for a long time and despondency set back over her as she thought to herself what was the point of allowing herself have fun and be happy when she would always have the past hanging over her? No-one could help with that anymore.
Going down to breakfast the next day she was in a very bad mood and totally immersed in her own thoughts. It wasn’t until she was disturbed by a pat on her shoulder and turned to look into Sirius’ face that she remembered that it was Saturday and the beginning of his turn with her. He would have to have been blind to not notice the way her expression immediately dropped and then hardened. She nodded at him and went back to her breakfast with a sinking feeling in her chest. He slipped into the space beside her and just watched her eat.
‘’What are you doing? What’s so interesting about my porridge?’’ Willow demanded, already feeling her hackles rise as she felt his intense gaze on her face.
‘’Didn’t get much sleep did you love?’’ he drawled lazily as he leaned back in his seat and the intensity faded from his eyes.
Willow just scowled at him and quickly finished her breakfast. Weekends were one thing James hadn’t factored into his hastily construed plan, but everyone else had had the decency not to crowd her out for the whole day Saturday and Sunday but rather continued with the meal thing and occasionally spent time with her in the evening. It seemed however that Sirius had no intention of following that schedule as he followed Willow out into the Entrance Hall. She had risen relatively early that morning after her sleepless night and thus there weren’t many students about the place. Upon reaching the doors to outside she turned to face her shadow;
‘’I’m not going to be doing anything particularly interesting you know, so there’s no need to follow me, I’ll see you at lunch.’’ She said forcefully and spun back around continuing her path outside.
She was so preoccupied with feeling the wind and faint drizzle on her face that it took her a minute to realise that Sirius was still there with her. She felt annoyance rise within her and she was readying herself to shout at him, when she paused. Sirius was the type of guy who, in her mind craved attention and so maybe if she didn’t give him any he would just get bored and leave her alone. So she continued with her plan and spinning back around she headed down the part of the forest nearest the lake. There she and her shadow followed the tree-line beside the water for about 10 minutes until she stopped and turned into the forest. Sirius was at this stage very confused, as he had hardly thought Willow was the type of girl to disobey the rule that forbade them from entering the forest and this was a part of the wood that he himself in all his exploits had never visited.
After wondering through the trees for a few minutes they reached a small clearing that led back to the water’s edge and right there with waves lapping up against its roots, was the largest, knottiest, oldest looking tree Sirius had ever seen. Its branches were huge and reached out over the water and as he stood there staring around him, Willow walked to the tree and grasping some of the lower branches pulled herself up until she reached a limb about mid way up the tree and crawling out onto it she rested her back against the trunk and stretched her legs out along the wide length of the branch over the water.
Sirius just stood alongside the tree for a few minutes, lost in thought until eventually his head snapped up and he followed Willow’s path up the base of the tree. However he decided not to join her on her branch and instead proceeded to one slightly above it and the left a little. They sat in silence for a long time; Willow kept expecting Sirius to try talking or to eventually get bored and leave and so she remained tense for a while.
After almost an hour of silence though, she realised to her surprise that he wasn’t going to do either of those things and so she relaxed and stared out over the water, losing herself in her thoughts. They sat like that for almost three hours, with Willow just staring into space. She couldn’t see Sirius’ face from where she sat unless she craned her head upwards, so she missed the fact the he spent the majority of those hours just watching her. The expression on his face was both soft and closed simultaneously and he showed no sign of agitation or restlessness as he observed her. For reasons unknown to herself, Willow felt more at peace with herself and her surroundings as she sat there then she had for a very long time. She didn’t understand how she knew, but she knew for certain that Sirius wasn’t going to disturb her, or say something to hurt her and she felt comfortable in his presence.
In time though her stomach reminded her that it was nearing lunchtime and she decided to head back to the school. She began to prepare herself to climb back down the tree, her least favourite part of spending time here. She had often come here over the years to be by herself and think and she had lost count of the amount of times she had fallen as she tried to climb down. However before she could even begin her descent she saw Sirius’ legs dangling before her and she watched as he quickly manoeuvred his way down to the base. She grumbled to herself about show-offs, but with more humour than anger and Sirius smiled at the tone of her voice.
Slowly and carefully, she proceeded down the way she had come up and it was going smoothly until she slipped on a branch near the end and with a sinking feeling, prepared herself for a crash landing on the forest floor. But it never came and instead she felt Sirius’ arms catch her around the waist and halt her slide. They stood there for a moment; Sirius behind her with his arms wrapped around her waist and his chin slightly resting on the top of her head. Willow felt such a strange familiar feeling overcome her at such a simple touch, and she couldn’t identify it for a moment. Then suddenly it came to her; she felt safe, like this boy that she barely knew would never hurt her and that he would protect her; just like she had felt in his arms after her attack on Rosier. This realisation prompted her to quickly extricate herself from him and turning she mumbled a ‘’thanks,’’ and headed back to the school. Sirius watched after her for a moment with an inscrutable expression on his face and then with a start he realised she had gotten pretty far, and he didn’t know his way out.
When they reached the edge of the forest and could see other students making their way back into the castle for lunch, both of them felt, inexplicably disappointed and regretful. Willow realised that despite her misgivings she had, without the exchange of a single word, had one of the best times of the past few weeks with Sirius, the last person she had imagined she could ever feel affinity for. And just as she thought that, insight hit her.
She stopped abruptly and turned to him. He stood there staring at her with a slightly quizzical expression on his face.
Guilt and shame wrestled with each other for control of her heart and all of a sudden she felt like a little girl again explaining to Edmund how she had managed to destroy his favourite broom. It had been so long since she had bothered to think about anyone else other than herself and her feelings and she knew this would have disappointed her brothers. They had raised her better than that. When she decided that losing people she cared about was too hard, and she was just going to shut everyone else out for good, she had never stopped to think about how selfish and hateful a decision that was and how blind it would make her to seeing the true character of a person because she would never allow herself to stop and learn.
‘’I’m sorry, Sirius, I’m so bloody sorry! All this time I’ve been so angry and resentful of how you and everyone else has been judging me that I never stopped to consider the fact that it was my own fault; that I locked everyone out and let them assume what they wanted because I didn’t have to the will to care! I didn’t give anyone a chance to get to know me but then I felt upset because no-one did! Not only did what I do blind others from the real me it also blinded me to their characters. I never cared enough to bother to learn anything about any of you six except what this school told me. I’ve judged you all and have been judging you just as you did to me! Like today; I just assumed that the school heartthrob and mischief-maker wouldn’t be able to withstand more than 5 minutes without having attention on him, that you couldn’t have the depth within you to merely sit in silence.
And I’m sorry for that.
I’m not saying I completely believe that all my conceptions of you are wrong, of any of you. But I have never really given you a fair chance to prove them wrong,’’ Willow stuttered out.
She all of a sudden felt disgusted with herself, for the past few weeks she had been spending time with all those people and yet not allowing them to show her who they really were, she had interpreted everything they did through her own prejudiced eyes and she knew without a shadow of a doubt that her brothers would have been disappointed with her. Sirius watched her face and knew exactly what she was thinking,
‘’Willow maybe you have being doing that, maybe you have judged us without a fair trial but in all fairness its exactly what we did to you, and we did it much worse. We forced you into a box with only the barest of scraps of information and we kept you trapped in there. You’ve formed these impressions on observation and we all present a different face to most people than what we really feel. Don’t for one second beat yourself up over this, because not a single one of us would blame you,” he paused to catch his breath; he had said all of that in such a rush in an attempt to get Willow to listen.
He could see the shame on her face and whatever about the truth of what she had said, he didn’t want her feeling anymore pain. No matter what the cause, but especially not because of him.
“How about we just all begin again, recognising that none of us truly know each other?’’ he suggested to her with an open smile on his face and he stuck out his hand for her to shake.
Willow glanced up at him. His face was as open as a book at that moment and she could see kindness and determination that written there. A sudden surge of emotion rushed through her body, and for the first time in a long time it was positive. Yes she was scared and nervous but she was so sick of feeling that way. She’d had enough of hiding in the background and imprisoning herself; she wanted freedom and this boy was offering it.
So with a deep breath, Willow looked in Sirius’ eyes, smiled widely at him and shook his hand. She had never felt as vulnerable in her whole life as she did at that moment, but it was time to take the jump.
Sirius was struck dumb for a moment because as Willow smiled at him, her eyes came to life and he saw the flecks of gold and silver in their depths that sparkled and seemed to almost twinkle and with that one simple movement her whole face changed and he recognised that Willow Bell was beautiful, so very, very beautiful. Still a little star-struck he didn’t realise that he hadn’t let go of her hand until she softly chuckled and with a soft tug, freed her hand and propelled him in the direction of the Great Hall.
As they reached the doors, Willow turned to him and said, ‘’let’s sit with everyone else today.’’ Sirius stared at her for a moment and with a loud laugh he picked her up in a big bear hug; upon releasing her he grabbed her hand and, ignoring the slightly shocked and apprehensive look on her face, led the way into the Hall.
James, Remus and Lily were the only ones sitting at the table, because Peter had an extra class for Charms and Alice was sitting with her long-term boyfriend Frank Longbottom at the Ravenclaw table. They had all been wondering where Willow and Sirius had disappeared to all morning; James and Remus could tell that Lily was half-thinking that Sirius had forgotten about Willow and was off with a girl in the castle somewhere. Remus was keeping an iron hold on the conversation because it was so rare an occasion, before Willow appeared, that Lily would sit anywhere near James and the last thing Remus wanted his friend to do was mess everything up by asking her out, or lashing his usual extravagant praises on her. Surprisingly James had behaved pretty well so far and Remus had even noticed Lily fighting to hold back a smile once, or twice.
James had been in the middle of telling a story about quiditch practice that morning, when he suddenly stopped mid-sentence and stared at something over Lily and Remus’ heads. They both spun around to see what he was looking at, and immediately their jaws dropped. A beaming Sirius was gently leading a slightly anxious but serene looking Willow by the hand in the direction of their place at the table. The trio was immediately struck by the brightness of Willow’s face and the glitter of her eyes and they glanced at each other in excited astonishment. Sirius and Willow arrived at the table and with a flourish of his hand Sirius helped Willow into the bench beside James, before plonking himself alongside her. Willow looked up to meet the slightly confused, but ecstatic expressions on Lily and Remus’ faces and she smiled at them hesitantly before they burst into grins themselves. James watched this exchange and after staring incredulously at Sirius who just smirked at him, he chuckled lightly and wrapped one of his arms around Willow’s shoulders in a sideways hug.
‘’Guess you couldn’t stick much more of Sirius and decided that all of us is better then one of him any day’’ he remarked with a snarky grin at Sirius who stuck his tongue out in return.
Willow grinned at this exchange and deciding that pretending that there was nothing unusual in this arrangement was the way to go, she reached forward and began to help herself to some lunch.
A/N: Well there's Sirius, at last! And Willow has finally decided to risk herself! PLEASE let me know what you guys think because this was the scene that I wrote before any of the other ones, it prompted the whole story basically and I'd really like to know if it lived up to expectations or disappointed anyone?
Also I have some slightly bad news. Because I'm insane, I'm going to be attempting NaNoWriMo this November so its going to be a crazy month! I'm not saying I definitely will not be updating during November but please don't be angry or surprised if it's December before you hear from me again. Then again lovely reviews and an extended visit from my Muse might make me better at multi-tasking!
Oh! and if anyone has any time I have a new one-shot up that I personally love and I'd love if any of ye would like to give it a look :) Ok enough rambling from me!
P.S: Alsooo I know I've made a mistake regards the timing, I ended the last chapter saying it was a Sunday and now all of a sudden its Saturday but what I meant to write in the last one was that it was Friday night when Willow had her nightmare, I'll go back and edit it when I get a chance!
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