Chapter 22 : It Never Lasts
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((A/N: Uhhhh..... yeah, I'm sure you've all had enough of them, but I can't apologize enough for making you wait so long!! Though by now you've accepted that I'm a busy person with a life outside of my fanfics. Don't get me wrong, I love writing them!! I just need more time!! Anyways, I've been really busy and exhausted, but I finally finished Chapter 22, and so..... here it is!!! Read, review, and enjoy!! Even if you hate me!))
((Disclaimer: So excited to see the new movie!!! And I don't own that either!))
I sighed as I prodded tiredly at the half-sized suit of armor I was supposed to be animating. Currently, the majority of the class had armor traversing the room, nearly running over students who were focused on their own spellcasting; others had arms waving, or heads nodding, or some sort of movement in any form. Mine, suffice it to say, was not quite so lively. Sirius seemed to have given up on helping me for the day, however; he was currently engaged in a furious conversation with James. I had the sneaking suspicion that he was using some sort of spell to keep their conversation quiet, as I couldn't hear the words even though the pair was standing not two feet away. I also got the feeling that I knew what it was about. Both boys looked rather smug, James embarassedly so. And Lily, showing off as always for the professor, was turning a shade of red that told me she probably knew what they were talking about as well.
With a roll of my eyes, I made a mental note to myself to kick both Sirius and James later. Stupid boys.
But enough of boys. It was almost Christmas, I reminded myself with another half-hearted prod at the motionless armor. I just had to make it to Christmas; then I wouldn't have to worry about Charms or classes or my family or anything else unpleasant.
Not that I was leaving Hogwarts. But that was the wonderful thing: I had nowhere else to be except with Sirius, and Sirius had nowhere else to be. And since Sirius and I had nowhere to be, we would be here, together, with nothing to interrupt our semi-platonic relationship from further developing.
I say semi-platonic because, ever since our first kiss, kissing him seemed to become an addiction. Or possibly just a habit. I loved kissing him, which was odd since I still didn't find his kissing extraordinary. Of course, we were still sticking to our compromises: I still wouldn't let him touch my breasts or, er, lower regions, though I got the feeling that his "come as it will" was coming along rather sooner than I expected.
But I still wasn't positive that I was in love with him. And that was the most important thing, was it not? That was why people dated, wasn't it? To find that one person who they loved enough to give themselves to? Or was I just horribly old-fashioned? After all, there were people out there like my father, who only married for money; and there were people out there like my mother, who married only for the attention that it garnered. Was there even such a thing as love? Or was it just made up, created for someone's amusement, or to give someone hope? How did you know when you were actually in love? How did you know when it was actually real?
And where the bloody hell were all these deep pressing questions coming from? They were questions I certainly had no answers to, so I dropped them, prodding again at the armor. Which remained motionless where it was. Damn it.
"You're still prodding too much."
I looked over my shoulder at Lily, who was still rather red faced and glaring in the direction of Sirius and James, and sighed. "Yeah, I figured. Don't know why I'm having such trouble with this..." I muttered, waving my wand instead. Green sparks flew from the tip, nearly lighting Olivia's hair on fire. I smirked and waved at her semi-innocently. Lily chuckled.
"You'll get the hang of it sooner or later." I rolled my eyes and she laughed some more.
"So are you and James going out?" I changed the subject. Lily's laughter cut off immediately, replaced by choking. I grinned.
"N-no! I mean, I--I know what you saw, but it wasn't--I mean, it wasn't what you think! I, well, we... Fuck, Ar, don't say it so loudly!"
Which was as good as a confession to me. I laughed. "Well, now, when did this--"
"Ar!" she snapped, and suddenly her wand was pointed subtly in the direction of my face, not quite quite openly enough to draw attention. I smiled.
"Right, right, apologies, Lils. We'll talk about that later." She glared at me but didn't argue.
Anyways, I didn't need her to explain. By the time I had the chance to talk to Lily where no one could hear us, it was all over school anyways. And seeing how oblivious the two became of everything else when they were near each other, it wasn't that hard to figure out how. From what I could gather, Sirius and I weren't the only ones to have seen the two snogging. It was quite apparent to everyone at Hogwarts that James had finally gotten his wish: he and Lily were dating.
Of course, I (along with Sirius, Remus, and Peter, I could only assume) was one of the few who got the juicy details.
"It just happened," Lily frowned, clearly hating the attention everyone was showering on her.
"Oh come on, Lils!" I argued stubbornly. "There has to be something, some story! Come on!"
She glared at me. "How did you change your mind and fall in love with Sirius?" she countered. It was my turn to scowl.
"Oh fine," I muttered. "Don't tell me, then. Anyways, I suppose it doesn't really matter; what matters is that you two are finally together!"
"I suppose," Lily conceded; then, to change the subject, asked, "Are you really going to stay here over Christmas holiday? You're more than welcome to come stay with me and my family. I'm sure that my parents won't mind much."
I shook my head and smiled. Lily seemed determined to believe that because I wasn't going home for the holidays, I must be lonely and family-deprived. "Lils, I already told you, you don't need to worry about me. I'm going to stay here with Sirius." She narrowed her eyes.
"Yes, well, that's why I'm worried."
I rolled my eyes. "Oh, please," I told her in an exasperated tone. "I'm sure you and James are farther along that road than me and Sirius." She glared at me, but didn't bother arguing; she knew it was the truth.
"You know, that wasn't what I meant, but I suppose that's good to know." She turned a raised eyebrow on me. "I actually was just hoping that Gryffindor Tower will survive the holidays. After all, you two still argue a lot; when you aren't busy snogging and being all couple-y and stuff, that is." I smiled. She was certainly right about that; just yesterday, we'd argued about where we would go on the next Hogsmeade trip (just before Christmas break started). I'd won that one; after all, when you walk away with no eyebrows, that typically means you've lost. Sirius did agree later that he looked quite ridiculous with no eyebrows and we'd laughed it off.
"No worries, Lils; I'll make sure your bed is left, at least."
Lily sighed. "I suppose that's the best I can hope for..."
I laughed; by this time, we had reached the Great Hall for dinner. Our conversation paused until we'd both sat down and loaded up our plates.
It's really a wonder I'm not fat, I thought to myself as I began eating a large portion of tuna casserole and seafood pasta. All the good food here...
My pondering of food was interrupted by a sharp rap on my head. With a grimace, I turned to face my brother, throwing on my best fake smile and saying politely, "Good evening, brother; what can I do for you?"
Apollo's response was brief: he dropped a packet of parchment next to my plate and walked away (you can't get much more brief than that). Seeing my father's curly handwriting, I tucked it into my robes and pretended nothing had happened, turning back to Lily as Sirius and James joined us. Lily gave me one of those, 'You're-acting-funny-but-I-can-wait-till-later-to-find-out-why' looks, instead smiling at her boyfriend as he sat down across from her.
"You two are so lucky that you didn't have detention with us; Filch was particularly horrible today," Sirius stated matter-of-factly as he piled food on his golden plate.
"I wouldn't call it lucky so much as I would call it smart enough not to pull horrible pranks on first years and think we'd get away with it," I responded, digging back into my tuna casserole. "What did he make you do?" I asked before Sirius could start griping about how someone like me couldn't possibly understand.
It seemed to be enough, as Sirius settled for a glare and said, "He made us scrub that mangy cat of his for over an hour; and then he had us go clean that nasty bathroom on the seventh floor for another hour. And then he made us sort some paperwork."
"Well goodness," I said sarcastically around a mouthful of pasta, "What the bloody hell did you do to that first year?"
Before the two could respond, Lily commented, "What's the Head Boy doing getting detention anyways?" And James looked so put out by this comment that we all burst out laughing, Lily included.
It was sad that, as much as I tried to prolong dinner, and the joyful banter that came afterwards, my bed came much too soon for me to be comfortable. I didn't even bother trying as I pulled out the parchment that my brother had left me with, knowing that if it was indeed from my father, whatever was written on it would be enough to make me uncomfortable regardless. Unfortunately, I was correct.
I do hope that this letter finds you in good health. I know your mother would be quite upset if it did not. I suppose I should also inquire as to your sister as well; though you know that you have always been more close to my heart.
Unfortunately, it is about your sister that I have written you. I know that, as is usual, she has chosen to stay at Hogwarts over Christmas holidays. But it is necessary for her to come home this year. An important person is coming to see us, and our image would be a bit... put off if one of our family was missing. I know that I could choose to write Artemis herself on the matter, instead of routing it through you. However, her feelings towards me, as we both know, are the reciprocals of mine.
She trusts you, son; she'll listen to you. So it falls to you to get her here. It's the normal consequences if you don't. For both of you. Don't fail me.
Continue to do well in school. See you at home.
It took me multiple times of reading and re-reading, and re-re-re-re-re-reading the letter to realize that it was my father demanding that I return home for Christmas holidays. I nearly snorted, remembering just in time that the other girls were also in their beds, probably not yet asleep. With a quiet sigh, I tossed the letter to the foot of my bed. The normal consequences, I thought to myself. He was quite serious about this, clearly, to go so far as to threaten both of us with them. The normal consequences consisted of a not-so-quick, not-so-painless, and definitely not-so-pleasant beating, berating, and beheading (figuratively, of course. We'd be dead if he actually beheaded us. Yes, it was abuse; yes, he got away with it. But what was I supposed to do?). Who could possibly be important enough that my father thought I needed to be there? My father wasn't tremendously well connected, even if we weren't exactly unknown.
Aw, well, I decided as my eyes fluttered shut and I rolled onto my side, finally hearing a few light snores from other areas of the room, I'm sure Apollo can deal with it.
"You can't just leave me all alone in this, Temmy," my brother argued as I continued walking towards Divination as if nothing had happened.
"Oh, come on, Olly, you know he won't beat you!" I retorted. "You've always been his favorite."
He grabbed my arm and jerked me to a stop. "You know that's not true." I gave him a skeptical look and he glared at me. "I mean, yes, I am his favorite, but he'd beat me as soon as he would you. You know that; you'd just leave your twin brother to go through that?"
I glowered right back. "Apollo, if you don't want to just deal with it, then don't go home. Stay, like I am. That way neither of us will be beat, and Father will just have to go on with his life. I mean, whoever it is he's trying to impress can't be that important, right?"
"Then what about Mother?"
Huh. I hadn't thought about my mother; if neither Apollo nor myself showed up for Christmas, not only would she be depressed to the max; my father would also probably take out his anger on her.
"I have to go back every Christmas because you won't."
"Well then, you go back and I'll not go back and it'll be just like every other Christmas! See, problem solved! Now, if you'll excuse me..." I turned to make my hasty exit; but Apollo was too quick. He grabbed my arm and twisted me around.
"Artemis," he said quietly, giving me the all-business face. "Please don't leave me with him. Is it really that hard to spend a Christmas with your family? For my sake?"
"But... I promised Sirius..."
"Temmy... if you and Black actually work out, you'll have plenty of Christmas's to spend together. And we both know that you'll never come back for another family one. You really want to put him over Mother and I?" And his look turned so pitiful and pathetic, an expression I so rarely saw on him, that I gave a sigh and turned away.
"Fine," I muttered. I supposed I owed it to my mother; after all, Apollo was right. There wasn't a chance that I would be going home for family Christmas's once I left home, not when it meant coming back to my hateful father. I would be free, even though it would kill my mother's happiness. I'd go home for her, and only for her. But Apollo didn't seem to care about my reasons. He just looked relieved. For the first time in quite a long time, my brother hugged me.
"Thanks Temmy. Everything will go all right, you'll see."
But I had the most horrible feeling that it wouldn't.
Sirius, unfortunately, seemed to agree with me.
"I don't get it," he said for the hundredth time later that day, outside in the snow for Care of Magical Creatures. "Why did you change your mind?"
So, maybe I'd neglected to tell him about the letter... meaning of course that his reasons for agreeing with me weren't quite the same and were more based on the fact that he was officially being ditched for Christmas holidays. But still. So instead I said: "I already told you, Sirius! This is the last time I'll ever spend Christmas at home. The last good thing that my mother will have with me before I run off after graduation and never come home again. I know you want me to spend it with you, but if you think about it: if you really love me, we'll get married and have a life together, right? So we'll have every coming Christmas from now until we die together. Am I right?"
Sirius, however, looked completely taken aback. "M-married? Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves, Artemis..."
I rolled my eyes. "Right. All I'm saying is that there will be plenty of other Christmas's. So don't worry about it."
Sirius sighed and glared at me. "I still don't get it." I turned to glared at him, taking my eyes off the Bowtruckle I was attempting to tame (stupid idea, I know; but I couldn't help it). This was clearly a mistake, as the creature bit my gloved hand hard enough to tear through gloves and skin, and escaped my grip to join its friends, who were watching me with wearly looks. Sirius pulled out his wand and performed the simple charm to heal the small cut, continuing: "I just mean that, you were so set against going home this morning; so what made you have this, er..." he waved his hands around as though he could draw the word from thin air, accidentally shooting sparks at a nearby group of Ravenclaws. They scowled at us as Sirius managed, "revelation. I mean, you clearly didn't think of it yourself."
I sighed. He clearly wasn't going to let this go. "Well, Apollo convinced me... I mean, he cares about mum too... I guess he knew that was the only thing that could convince me to go." Sirius continued to glare at me, but this time, he didn't argue.
"All right. If that's what you really want, Artemis. I'm sure Mr. and Mrs. Potter will be okay with me staying with them." He gave me one last look. "You'd tell me if it was something else, right? Something bad?"
He waited, but I couldn't bring myself to tell him yes; so all I did was smile sadly, hoping that he couldn't see through to the truths that I'd left out.
Thankfully, I was saved by James, who appeared to have heard his last name mention and decided to inquire as to why. As Sirius was distracted, telling him about my horrible dilemma, I turned my attention back to the bowtruckles, who seemed to notice my attention shift and who immediately fled towards the forest before I could snatch another one. I sighed; so much for that idea.
As the day wore on, I was repeatedly berated by Lily, who had been told by James that I wasn't staying with Sirius for the holidays, and repeatedly made to feel guilty about it by James, who was cleary very disapproving of my decision, and repeatedly glared at by Sirius, who was obviously still unhappy that I'd rather spend time with my mother and brother than him (which was completely false, of course, but what else was I supposed to tell him?).
The only one who seemed to understand, or a least to not feel the need to make me guilt-ridden, was Remus. Therefore, I spent a great deal of my time with him in the library, even though we didn't talk; we only did homework. But at least Remus wasn't trying to make me feel bad.
"Well, you clearly are just going home because its the last time you'll go home for a very long time," he said matter-of-factly when I explained the situation to him. "After all, if you look at you're history with them, and look at your attitude when it comes to your family, it's quite obvious that you would much rather be here with Sirius than home with your father, mother, and brother."
"Exactly!" I exclaimed, throwing my hands in the air and earning myself a dirty look from the librarian. "I mean, it's not like I keep it a secret, the fact that I absolutely hate going home, ever; especially when I could be staying here."
"Well... you can't pick your family, right?" Remus said in an I-don't-really-know-what-to-tell-you sort of way. And that was the end of that. Peace at last.
Even if it was hiding from Sirius in the most isolated part of the library with Remus, doing homework.
Why was Sirius being such a jerk? I asked myself for perhaps the millionth time. It was much too late for me to change my mind; and if he was going to be such a jerk, maybe I didn't want to hang out with him over Christmas break anyways. Besides, we were already on the train. Already halfway across the country, or whatever, to London, to Hell. Already too far out of reach to turn back now. I suppose I could just stay on the train; but no, Apollo would find me and drag me off. I could sneak off with my friends, hide in the crowd. But chances were my family would have a sharp eye out for me, expecting something of that sort and nabbing me anyways. I could steal James' invisibility cloak that he thought no one knew about but his friends; but how would I without him seeing me? And there was always the possibility that he didn't have it with him.
Nope, I was definitely stuck going home now.
I should have changed my mind while there was still time.
And still, Sirius glared and pouted and snapped at me when he spoke to me. Yup; definitely being a jerk. And anyways, he still had James to hang out with, right? It was better than what I had: my overattentive, overaffectionate mother; my inaffectionate, cruel father; and a brother who varied between those two extremes. I'd have picked James any day. Only Sirius would want it the other way.
"Ar? Artemis!" I snapped back to focus as Lily swatted my arm.
"Ow, Lils! What the hell?"
Lily smiled. "Well, if you'd listen when people talk to you, you wouldn't get hit, now would you? I asked what your address was. So I can send you your gift."
"Oh... er, right, I think it'd be better if you just waited on that..."
"Why?" Peter asked curiously; I glared at him and he cringed a little bit. "Er, I mean..."
"My dad just... isn't much into gift giving. And he tends to live by the 'what's yours is mine' rule. As in, everything under his roof belongs to him." Literally everything, including the people. But that would be kept to myself, at least for now. And forever.
"And yet, you'd rather spend Christmas with him than me," Sirius jumped to say. I resisted the urge to respond with "Fuck you," instead glaring at him.
"I never said that, you arse," I argued. "I said that this is the last Christmas I'll be going home and I feel obliged to spend it with my mother. Most definitely not my father."
"And not with me. Didn't occur to you to maybe, oh, I dunno, invite your boyfriend over, now did it?"
I blinked, a little surprised. Huh... "Actually it hadn't. Of course, now you say it!" I punched him in the arm. "Why the hell did you mention that earlier? It's too late now!"
"Why's it too late now?" James asked, breaking from his conversation with Lily about his address, and all the things he'd miss about her over holidays. "You can still take him. Trust me, I wouldn't be at all offended." He winked at Lily, who rolled her eyes at him. Everyone looked at me expectantly, not seeming to understand that I couldn't take Sirius home with me, at least not without giving my dad some time to get control of his ire when he found out. And Merlin knew how long that would take. Until then, everyone within range would be in danger of some kind of harm.
So yes, it was most certainly too late. But how was I supposed to explain to my best friends that my father was a dangerous madman who had the temper of a mother dragon whose eggs had just been poached? "Well... It's just that... er--"
"What my sister means to say," my brother interrupted, sliding open the door and looking around the compartment intently, "is that as much as she'd love to have Black come, my father and mother have decided this is going to be a family-oriented Christmas. And while, Merlin forbid it, you may someday, maybe become part of the family (and I very, very much doubt that will happen), you aren't family."
Sirius looked like he was actually going to gag at the idea; James, however, seemed suspicious. "Need something, Gaunt?" he asked warily, putting his hands in his pocket, where his wand was likely to be stowed. Apollo just smiled and nodded at me.
"Just making sure she doesn't escape. She's not exactly happy about having to come home; of course, you probably knew that, seeing how you're her friends and all."
Sirius scowled at me, as I'd asked my brother to come in here and berate him for being such a jerk. Not that it wasn't welcome.
"Of course," Lily answered instead, smiling at my brother. "And I suppose that, even though Sirius is upset at being left behind, it's always a good thing to spend a Christmas with your family. Even if you don't particularly enjoy it."
I stuck my tongue out at her. Apollo smiled back. "I agree. Anyways, I should get back now. Don't try to escape, Artemis,' he warned darkly, then he left.
Ugh, sometimes my brother was annoying. And he wasn't the boss of me!
Not that I was actually going to try to escape. As I said before, at this point, it was pretty much impossible. I sighed. Then cringed when Sirius kissed my cheek and put his arm over my shoulder.
"I'm sorry," he sighed loudly, rolling his eyes and speaking in a tone that implied that he thought I should be saying it instead. I would have rolled my eyes at him, but I had a feeling it would only make the situation worse; so instead I settled for a semi-blank stare. "I am!" he insisted loudly, glaring at me. "I mean, I suppose I understand why you'd like to spend your Christmas holidays with... you know, your family. But I guess I just... Erm, nevermind," he pouted glaring at me some more. I rolled my eyes at him.
"You know, I bet I could away from them sometime; we could meet up somewhere and hang out. I mean, it's not exactly the same... but that way, its not the whole break." Sirius didn't really respond, but I could tell that he was relatively happy with the suggestion. Satisfied, I leaned back into the seat, relaxed for the rest of the journey.
Which passed way to quickly for my tastes. It felt like only minutes after that that we were pulled into the train station, lugging out bags out onto Platform 9 3/4, searching the crowded platform for our families (I didn't search very hard). Lily almost immediately spotted her parents, gave James a big kiss, me a hug, and skipped over to join them. A split second after that, Apollo joined us, unfortunately having found our parents.
I turned to look at Sirius sadly; he didn't seem to have noticed the addition to our group. He was still looking around in the other direction. I wondered for a second who he was looking for: was he watching his younger brother, the unshunned, be greeted by their mother lovingly, feeling jealous? Or was he looking for my parents, not realizing they'd already been found, just awaiting (unhappily, maybe?) the moment when we would be torn apart for the holidays? Or maybe he was looking for James' parents, eager to start his holidays, even if it was without me? It was probably the last, I thought, more amused than disgruntled at the thought.
I poked him in the arm gently and he turned to me with a small frown. I smirked at his slightly pathetic expression, then nodded at my brother. "I have to go, Sirius," I told him softly, wishing that James and my family weren't all watching me (I hadn't spotted my parents yet, but chances were they were watching). Sirius face fell even further and he took my hand.
"Oh," he said simply.
I blinked at his forlorn-ness. "You really are going to miss me, aren't you?"
Sirius glared. "Are you saying you won't miss me?"
I snorted; "Of course I will! I don't even want to go..." I cut myself off before I said something I'd regret later. Instead I said, "But we can meet up sometime; I mean, he can't expect me to hang around the house all day, every day, right? So we'll just meet up over break."
Sirius nodded slowly. "Yeah, I s'ppose so." He pulled out a piece of parchment from his bag and scribbled something down on it, handing the sheet to me. "Here's James' address. His folks won't mind if you drop by. So... whenever. And..." he hesitated, looking around quickly and kissing my lips even more quickly before he pulled back again, looking into my eyes as if into my very soul. "If you need anything, or if you, i dunno, start feeling weird or something... just let me know. And you know where to find me."
I nodded, folding the parchment carefully and putting it in my pocket. "Thanks, I will." An awkward silence ensued before my brother finally cleared his throat impatiently. "Er, right, I'd better go." With a deliberate look at my father, who I'd finally spotted to my right, staring at us venomously, I pulled Sirius into me for a hug and a slightly longer kiss, and a mumbled "Talk to you later;" then I walked with my brother back to my parents, ready to take whatever was about to be thrown at me.
And let me tell you: I was not looking forward to Christmas holidays.
Sirius watched Artemis walk away, his lips still warm where her lips had pressed against his, unaware of James next to him saying something about it only being a couple weeks, even if it would seem like eternity. Sirius was more concerned with the sinking feeling in his stomach as she walked away; it wasn't exactly sadness, though he was rather sad to be parted from her (not that he, you know, was in love with her or anything; because he wasn't) but more like one of those feelings that you get right before something bad happens.
In the end, Sirius decided that it must just be the way she felt about the situation; maybe her obvious fear of her father (however she tried to hide it) was finally getting to him. And anyways, Sirius would see her over break, he would make sure of that. He would know if anything was wrong with her.
But why was the fear emanating from her, growing deeper as she walked away, so much more than just the fear of a scolding from a parent. What did Marcus Gaunt do to her to make her the way she was? Or was she just purely exaggerating.
"Sirius!" James yelled, punching his best mate in the arm and bringing him from his stupor. Sirius rubbed his upper arm and scowled at James. "You ready mate? My parents are right over there." Sirius nodded and gave Artemis one last glance.
"It'll be alright," he whispered to himself softly, earning himself a worried look from James; then he put his girlfriend from his mind and followed James into Christmas Holidays.
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