Chapter 8 : He Looked Left; She Turned Right; Meant To Be Together But Not That Night
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That stopped me.
I had my mouth open, mid-sentence, and I froze. Literally just stuck there with my mouth hanging open. Only aware of the churning feeling on guilt in my stomach.
“How… how do you know about that?” I asked, swallowing.
“Does it matter?”
Oh God. His voice. He might not have hated me before but I was absolutely certain he did right now.
That was what mattered.
But so did something else. “Yes. It does.” I found my voice and fought to keep it smooth. “Who told you?”
No one knew about this. No one was there. There were (thank god) only two people that knew anything about it and one of them was mortified by the whole thing and the other, whilst slightly bemused, would have the good sense not to mention a word to another human being.
“Worried that lover boy’s been spreading it around?”
“No.” I said, shortly. Ray wouldn’t do that.
“You’re a fan of secrets, aren’t you Dee? What’s wrong with a simple, public relationship? Is it that drama? Is that what keeps you interested?” His tone was teasing - it could almost have been playful banter between friends. If you excused the cold contempt beneath the words.
A wave of goose pimples erupted across my arms, and I found myself retorting, “Obviously not or I’d have stayed with you.”
Where did that come from?
Why was I a bitch when I got defensive? And only to him, it seemed. It happened when we were forced to do that stupid duel thing and now it was happening again.
And this time there was no one around to prevent a possible homicide.
There was a second that the fury on his face slipped.
Just a second.
Maybe I imagined it.
But he didn’t say anything.
“How did you know about the kiss?” I asked again, clearly but quietly into the silence.
Again, I thought for a moment he wasn’t going to answer. I thought maybe he was too busy holding his temper in and reminding himself of the consequences of murder.
Then, “The kiss.” He said, looking from down at his hands up to my face.
I wasn’t sure what that was supposed to mean.
“As in, one.” He clarified.
“Yes, one.” Why was I still being snippy? It was sort of automatic. “I don’t know where you got this idea that I’ve been carrying on in secret with him all sodding year but -”
“What am I supposed to think? He’s there all the time -”
“No he isn’t!”
“Yes, he is. Whenever you’re not with Lily, or you’re not with Londy, or you’re not with your Quidditch team, you’re with him -”
“Of course I am! He’s my friend, what am I going to do? Pass up hanging out with him for some alone time? I don’t do alone time!”
“I know.” His voice dropped. I don’t know what he was thinking but I could probably make an educated guess that it was similar to mine - thinking of all those times the two of us had just lazed around doing absolutely nothing together just because it was better than lazing around doing absolutely nothing alone.
My mouth seemed dry. When had it gotten dry? It was difficult to swallow.
Our conversation - if you can call all sort of raised voices, accusations and insults being thrown around a ‘conversation’ - had suddenly gone from careering along at a confusing pace to a complete standstill.
He knew about the kiss. He’d built up some sort of a story to it on his own. He thought I’d… me and Ray…
But now he knew the truth.
So then what?
I was still catching up with it all.
Sirius got there quicker than me, and the anger from his voice was gone. I probably ought to have been glad, but I couldn‘t bring myself to overlook the slightly empty tone and the way the words were drawn out. “Why did you kiss him?”
“How did you know?” I repeated the question I’d asked too many times already. My voice sounded kind of feeble now.
“Why, Dee?” Definitely didn’t sound mad anymore. This was worse. This was genuine hurt. The way he asked it brought me back to myself, last year. Me, asking him that very same question.
Though I don’t know if I ever did ask it aloud.
But that pain, that difficulty, that need to understand…
That was exactly what had been running through my mind when I found out about him and Marlene.
And I remembered how, at the time, nothing he could have said could have made me feel any different.
“Does it matter?” I asked, echoing his own words in nothing but a weak shadow of the vehemence he’d spoken with.
He didn’t even need to answer. It was all over his face. In a way it was a relief. This was the Sirius I used to know. The one that I understood. The one that failed, so endearingly, to hide any sort of feeling beneath an act of bravado. The one I always saw through.
I’d almost forgotten what it was like to know him.
Yes, it mattered.
Of course it sodding did. This wasn’t like me, blinded by betrayal, dismay and disgust for the few weeks after I found out. He’d known… how long had he known? I couldn’t very well ask now; when I already owed an explanation.
But it seemed… it seemed as though he’d known for a while, anyway. I suppose that would make sense. Maybe even since the beginning of school.
“We can’t be friends…”
Was that why? Was that why everything had been so difficult?
I tried to imagine how I’d have felt, if the roles had been reversed. No matter if there was any hope for the two of us or not - it would have hurt like hell to believe that he’d be able to just pick up with anyone else.
And it’d be worse for him. If I thought about it now; if I’d given it even a moments thought I’d have expected him to come back with a rebound girl. Any one of the Slags. That would be the Sirius thing to do. It was, in fact, utterly bizarre that he hadn’t so much as bothered looking at another girl all term. And equally bizarre that I’d been so self-absorbed as to not realise.
But me, I wasn’t the one you’d expect to do that sort of thing. I’d never been that sort of girl. So for him to believe that I had…
If it had been him; it’d have hurt like a bitch. And I’d have tortured myself over it, naturally. But deep down I wouldn’t have truly believed that whoever it was really meant something to him. I’d have been scared that maybe one day they would. But girls… girls usually didn’t mean a whole lot to him.
But I wasn’t like that. He knew me. He knew I could never be with someone I didn’t care about. And he’d thought that Ray… and me…
And I hadn’t even thought about it. Hadn’t considered for a second how it’d look me suddenly hanging around with this other and, I guess it had to be admitted, pretty much perfect guy. Of course I hadn’t thought that. Hadn’t I spent my whole school life with just a handful (ok, two) close girl friends and the rest guys? My brother and Ro; Oz, Blakely and Simpson; Sirius and James…
It completely went over my head, how it would look to anyone else.
Especially one who knew about the kiss.
He was still waiting for an answer.
Looking at me, hard. But not in a way that scared me a little, as it had just minutes ago. This was less anger. More of just a set mouth in a thin line, eyes that couldn’t disguise the hurt, anticipation, the setting yourself up to hear something that there’s a strong chance you don’t want to hear.
But you need to hear it.
I began as he had - so long ago now, it seemed - telling me ‘how it was‘. His ‘frame of mind’, he’d called it.
“I thought you hated me,” I told him, “Most of the summer.”
He didn’t say anything. Didn’t explode, as I’d done when he’d tried to explain what led to him sleeping with my brothers girlfriend, in outrage at him blaming it on me. It struck me momentarily as odd, that both of these events had occurred when we weren’t together. And yet they could cause so much hurt.
“Maybe you did.” I said, when he didn’t say anything to the contrary. I mean, he’d as good as told me that he hated me, that last day of term at the train station. “I don’t know, whatever. All summer, I thought that. And I didn’t want to think about it. I just wanted to forget. And Ray… he didn’t care that I was moping around feeling sorry for myself. He wasn’t treating me like I was made out of glass. He was annoying. Normal. He was my friend. I thought you hated me. I thought I hated you. Then Freddie came to see me. And he… he didn’t. What you’d done to him was so much worse than any affect it had had on me but he just… just forgave you. Just like that.” I could still hear the element of wonder in my voice. Freddie being forgiving. Whatever he’d been doing on his travels, it must have involved a whole lot of reflection and self-appraisal.
The old Sirius would have made a lame joke at that point. But we both knew that wasn’t going to happen. He barely spared a second to look taken aback.
“So then…” No. That hadn’t been when I’d forgiven him. But it had helped. “So then that kind of put it in perspective, a bit. I didn’t hate you for what you did. I didn’t try to understand it, but that wasn’t… what was hurting.”
Before I even said it, I guessed that he knew what it was that had been killing me all summer. He’d known it when he’d written the letters, and he knew it now.
“What you said…” I didn’t want to get into it. I didn’t want to weasel an apology out of him, not matter if it was sincere or not. “Well. I thought you hated me. And the night before we came back to school… I just needed to get it all out. I needed to tell someone. Not someone who would pat me on the back and tell me it would all be ok. Not someone who would take my side and call you every bad name under the sun. I needed to figure out what the hell had happened and what the hell it meant to me. I needed someone brutally honest. I didn’t want to go back to school without…hearing it. From a neutral point of view. And Ray… he‘s good at that sort of thing. He sees things how they are. With people, anyway.” I distinctly remembered pulling my hair out trying to teach the boy the difference between mimblebus mimbletonia and eggplant.
Throughout this very thorough but very sketchy speech, Sirius hadn’t uttered a word. And it seemed he couldn’t keep his gaze on my face. With every sentence I uttered he seemed to become more uncertain, his eyes skitting from my face, to my hands fiddling agitatedly with my t-shirt, to the floor. But all with a concentrated look on his face.
I didn’t know what that meant.
It could have meant he was taking in the information, using it to figure out what he’d been feeling and where he’d misunderstood. Or it could have meant I was talking utter arse and he was having trouble following.
I sighed. “I shouldn’t have kissed him. It wasn’t premeditated. It wasn’t romantic. More scarring, actually. For him. It was a pathetic, stupid, spur-of-the-moment plan to figure out how I felt. Not about him. About…”
How hard was that to say?
I couldn’t form the word. But I hoped he got the gist.
“I know it was a shit idea. And I know it doesn’t make sense. But it did in my head. I thought I needed to figure out if I could feel anything for anyone else or if I still…”
Argh. Couldn’t say it. Bugger.
I didn’t even wind down gradually, or trail off with some sort of suggestive mystery about the whole thing. Just cut myself off awkwardly, leaving the words unsaid and the air uncertain about whether I was done talking.
So I shut up.
In a conversation, that’s normally the cue for the other person to start talking.
But he didn’t.
So I didn’t push him.
But I was painfully aware of every second crawling by.
Every. Single. Second.
He just stood there. Not saying anything. Not looking at anything. Standing. And nothing.
However, I wasn’t capable of that. It was the awkward gene. I definitely possessed it.
What was I even expecting?
What did I want him to say?
“Um. It’d be really good if you’d say… something. Like… you know. Right about now.” I said, quietly so as not to startle him.
For a second the only sign that he heard me was that his eyebrows raised a little.
Then, “What do you want me to say?”
Well, that was the fucking question, wasn’t it?
I took it as a rhetorical one. Question, that is. Maybe he was stalling for time as I so often would.
Why did he need to stall for time?!
“Why did you tell me all this?” Questions. Was that all he could come up with? Another question. Another way of avoiding what I was asking him. Bloody hell, the boy had spent way too much time with me through the years. That’s the last time I used that defence mechanism; it was sodding annoying.
“Because…” It was time to trust my brain to take over and not stress over what to say. It wasn’t doing me any good. So feel free, brain. Fuck. We’re screwed. “Because you didn’t know.”
My mouth was carrying on, “You thought… and that wasn’t true. So I wanted you to know. Because I’d want to know.”
Another mind-numbing pause during which I frantically worried that I was the one that should be talking.
“And it was supposed to make a difference?” He eventually asked.
Yes. That was the first answer that came to mind. Because, really, things had been pretty much unbearable between us. Which was why we’d been spending minimal time together, and even when we were together we’d talk fucking Quidditch to keep our minds off it. And even when we weren’t together… was he totally off my mind?
So maybe that was it. Maybe this was selfish. Maybe all I wanted to do was clear my mind and not give a damn about what he thought.
If that was true I could consider my mind clear right now, couldn’t I? And I can tell you right here right now, it was anything but clear.
So maybe… maybe the only way for my mind to be clear would be for him to accept it. To be ok with everything I told him. To be himself again.
Fucking hell, even the thought of that - of him being happy without me - greeted me with a flood of anxiety; twisty stomach and everything.
I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t be around him if he was completely fine and I was…
What was I?
I forced myself to look up from the floor - just to see if that made a difference to the crap-load of mess in my head - and jumped to find him looking right back at me with unnerving scrutiny. I swallowed.
“You’re crying.” He said.
“What?” I was completely thrown for a second before hastily rubbing my eyes. “No I’m not.”
My hands did come away damp. But that was completely besides the point.
He didn’t even need to come back with a ‘yes you are’ retort. He could see it, and I could feel it, now. The welling up. The slight blurring of my vision as tears threatened to spill over. At least I wasn’t sobbing or snotting. For that I ought to be thankful, I guess. That had happened the last time I’d told him how I’d felt -
The last time.
The last time I’d… told him what I felt?
Was this it? Was this that earth-shattering moment where I finally saw the light through the stupid, crap-filled chaos in my head?
It must be. I was sure. I was… ninety eight percent certain.
I felt something. Still felt something. For Sirius Black.
This was it.
I kind of thought it’d happen with more of a bang, to be honest. Given my track record.
So that was my moment of enlightenment.
That was it.
Ok. Understated. I can do understated.
That was my moment.
Didn’t mean he’d had one. Didn’t mean anything.
He still… he was still sodding silent.
He turned around. Oh, fine. Turn your back on me now, too. That’s exactly what a girl wants when she’s (alright, internally) admitted she wants you.
I wanted him.
Then he was turning back around. He had his school shirt in his hand. Took a step forward and offered it out to me. His face still didn’t give anything away. Still that sullen look that I was fairly certain was etched onto it forever. I hoped he didn’t get wrinkles.
And holding out a shirt to me.
I stared at it.
“For your…” He gestured to my face.
I touched the wetness on my cheeks with my fingertips.
Well. That was embarrassing. Humiliating. Touching. Something.
The correct response? Maybe there is one. Maybe there isn’t.
But I’ll sure as hell tell you what the incorrect response is. And that’s a manic laugh.
That’s right. I laughed. It was manic. Interspersed with tears. Probably came across as something between a hysterical drunk and moderately psychotic.
And now cue embarrassment.
Still hadn’t stopped laughing.
Through my tears I saw it happen. ‘It’ being the transformation on his face. So slowly and so gradually that I almost didn’t realise it was happening, the frown lines withdrew, the set line of his mouth curled up at one end and his eyes… they just seemed more… Sirius.
And he looked amused.
That was better than I could have hoped for.
But I didn’t want that hope to show on my face. I thought maybe there was some was I could retain maybe just an ounce of pride. A pinch, maybe? So I took the high road - buried my face in the shirt he was offering.
I heard a low chuckle. Just a tiny one. More just a slightly-humoured exhalation, even. But, holy hell, he had laughed.
I pulled the shirt from my face and jumped too see him close. Closer. He was closer, right? He had to be - if he’d been that close before I’d have noticed for sure. I’d have been worried he’d resort to some sort of crude, bare-handed homicide.
It was hard to drag my eyes up to his face. Mainly because of the insane behaviour I’d just indulged in and its subsequent embarrassment. But also because I wasn’t sure if I could keep that hope from my face one little bit.
After roughly fifty five years when I did manage to look him in the eye, I couldn’t move. He was looking right back.
This had to be the closest I’d been to him since… since…
But that look. That look in his eyes; I hadn’t seen that before. This wasn’t like how he’d looked at me before… before all the crap when things were good. But it wasn’t bitter in the way that he’d been (reluctantly) looking at me this year.
This was different. No trace of bitterness, disgust, any of that. This look contained traces of affection as his eyes skittered around my face, taking it in. But mixed with something conflicting. Still hurt, in that look. Hurt and something else. It looked kind of… kind of sad.
Still couldn’t move.
“Dee.” And his voice. He hadn’t said my name - not like that - in so, so long. Not with that warmth. It made me want to just sink towards him, to feel him against me and smell that smell…
Still. Couldn’t. Move.
He raised a hand up to my face. The unexpectedness of the movement made my stomach jolt. He was going to touch me. He hadn’t touched me for… oh for the love of Merlin, stop doing that! Stop comparing this to before. This isn’t before. This is now.
His fingertips brushed my hairline - eliciting another pang in my gut - easing a couple of curls away from where they were falling into my face. This reminded me of how I looked. I hadn’t slept. I hadn’t changed. I hadn’t done anything with my hair since pulling it back into a messy knot before Quidditch yesterday.
But only for a second.
Because his fingers dropped to my cheek. Was I breathing? I couldn’t tell. Trivial matter, anyway. Hate breathing. Except, you know. To live.
“I’ve missed this.” He said, his voice low enough for me to get that it was hard for him to say. Kind of like he didn’t really want to say it. But I didn’t care. He was saying it. I was drinking in every word. Watching his mouth form every sound to make sure it was real. “You. So much.” Still that serious look on his face.
And sad. Why would he look sad? I was having trouble fighting the elation that wanted to paint itself across my face. And he looked sad.
I raised my own hand to touch his - the one on my cheek. But before I could make contact he pulled his hand away and I was left with my hand tracing thin air.
“But…” He looked down.
He looked down.
Why ‘but’? And why look down?
“… But I can’t.”
Well. That registered.
If I was originally breathing, that sure as hell cut me off.
He was still talking. I wasn’t listening. Random words were registering but I was still stuck on ‘I can’t’.
“… It’s not that…”
I definitely wasn’t breathing. That was going to be an issue in a minute.
“… it’s just…”
In slow motion my hand dropped from where it had frozen at face level. Fell to my side. I was staring at his face but not really taking it in.
“… I can’t just…”
That was all I was getting from this.
I tried to move backwards but I was still against the foot of one of the beds. Nowhere to run.
I could run.
“… just need time…”
He needs time.
I had to leave now.
I’d got what I’d come for, hadn’t I? Better than I’d hoped. In one (heated) conversation I’d got it figured out. He thought I was a raging slut. My explanation didn’t appear to have changed anything. I figured out that I still… I still wanted him. Despite everything.
And he didn’t.
I wanted him here and now.
He needed time.
We definitely weren’t on the same page.
So I did it. The thing that I’d always done. The thing that drove him madder than anything else. The thing I’d promised - so long ago, now - to stop.
Ran straight out the door
Ran down the staircase.
Ran clear across the common room.
Ran slap-bang into Lily.
“Ow. Deb you…” She caught me by the arms and her eyes flicked in the line of my dash, to the boys stairs, “Oh, finally. What -”
“He needs time.”
My voice sounded abrupt, but fine. Fine. Maybe I was fine. Maybe…
“What…” Lily started.
“He needs time.” This time it broke.
This time all the exhaustion from losing a nights sleep, all the stress from avoiding him, every emotion that probably should have been played out months ago leaked into it.
And it probably served me right.
A.N. Crikey! Sorry for the long update. And kind of short chapter. Or maybe it's not short. Just seems it because it was all in the one setting. I don't know. But anyway.
The big misunderstanding is finally out! Hurrah!
Sirius knows the kiss is just the kiss.
But Deb doesn't know how he knows.
But she knows how she feels.
And Sirius... just managed to screw everything up again despite best intentions.
How awful. I hope you even slightly liked even some of it thought. And I hope you are generous enough to leave a review!
Thanks for reading!
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