Chapter 6 : Act 5 - The ways the world stops turning
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Act 5 – The ways the world stops turning
“Anything that happens, happens. Anything that, in happening, causes something else to happen, causes something else to happen. Anything that, in happening, causes itself to happen again, happens again. It doesn't necessarily do it in chronological order, though.” - The hitchhikers guide to the galaxy
There are some things in life that you can’t help. Things that will happen no matter what you do. They are meant to happen and it’s impossible to stop them from happening.
If for example, a child is born into a family that sees life in a certain way, that child is expected to see it in the same way. This is normal, there is nothing wrong or right about it. His first thoughts are not going to be his own, but those of the people around him. It’s the way it is for everyone: our first contact with the world happens though out family, and it conditions us, the view of the world we are going to have.
And yet, sometimes we stray. We don’t meet expectation, we elude views instilled in all those around us. Sometimes the child disagrees. Sometimes, his eyes see the world in a different way.
Can there ever be a ‘why’ to that? An explanation? Some reason why this would happen to this child and not his brother, her sister, their cousin? Which rule would have regulated it? What crystal ball or algorithm could have predicted it?
None. Not one. There were no rules, no guidebooks. No real reasons.
Everything that happens, happens. Deal with it.
Sirius Black believed himself to be the proof of that. As he sat astride his bike with only the groaning roar of the engine for company and waited for James to come down, Sirius knew that he had no answers still. To this day, his differences with his family were an anomaly for which he didn’t know the ‘why-s’. He had just accepted it as something he could not change, a fact of life. There is no rhyme or reason, no code to break or golden rule.
And when everything gets to be a blur around you and you don’t know where you’re going, that’s when you hit the gas even harder, when you go faster. And from that point on, the curves you take are going to be taken by instinct. That small voice in your head and the balls to follow it are the only thing that matter. The only things you have. Being true to oneself was ultimately the only weapon you have against the chaos of world.
“Prongs, if you take one minute longer I’m leaving you here!”
“Would you calm the bloody hell down! I’m almost at the front door.” James’ grunt came from his pocket where Sirius kept the two-way-mirror. And wouldn’t you know it, in that same instant the front door opened and James came out.
“You take longer getting ready then any girl I’ve waited on.” Sirius said as he passed James a helmet while his friend gave him the middle finger.
“That must be a substantial enough number to offend me.” James responded with a smirk.
“Only according to urban legend.” Sirius said, suddenly edgy as they both put on their helmets and he put his bike in gear. “And that pisses me the fuck off by the way. Like I’m any more of a slut than you are!”
James laughed heartedly at that. “Yeah, well, not everyone has the ability to stir rumour like you do.”
Sirius snorted. “Bollocks.”
“… and besides, you’re the only bloke I’ve met that get defensive over it.”
“Because it’s bollocks.”
“And because you don’t like feeling like you’re the butt of the joke.” James added.
Sirius gave the bike a sudden jab forward, making James almost fall off, cutting his snicker in half - earning himself a nice string of swearing that would have made a trucker proud and a sound slap in the back of his neck that left his ears prickling.
“That was for objectifying me.” Sirius deadpanned even though his neck was bloody sore.
“Whatever you say, man-whore.”
Instead of replying, Sirius hit the gas so fast that James had to hold on tight to keep from falling back on his ass. James’s laugh resonated in his ears. It was good that he was in such a good mood today, after spending most of last night chasing Avery down every corner of Nocturn Alley. That motherfucker had made a clean work of covering his tail and they’d almost caught him, but not quite.
Next time Sirius saw that fuck-face, he was going to give him a dose of his own medicine. Maybe slap him in a car and make an omelette of him, as Avery had tried to do.
But whatever. Sirius had better plans for the day.
The Grace Kelly Look-alike, who was aptly named Cleo - which suited her sunny personality to a tee - was the one he was going to have lunch with right now. She had invited him and James for a get together with friends and since Sirius had nothing better t do until full moon was near, he’d said yes.
He noticed Cleo's bright blond hair from afar. That had been what had initially made her stand out from everything else around her. As soon as the roar of his engine settled in, Cleo turned his way and waved at him cheerfully, starting to run towards him at full tilt and somehow making it look so cute that he couldn’t help a smile.
“Hi. Thought you would stand me up.” Cleo said but it was obvious in her confidence that she didn’t really think he would have. He winked at her in response.
“Hi James.” she said and nodded very discretely towards the Academy’s steps where a bunch of girls and boys was sitting.
“I’ve told Gianni that we would be coming, so he's waiting for us. You’ll see, he makes the best pizza in London."
They walked to the Academy’s steps and the girls from last night greeted both him and James with smiles and warm hellos. All of them, except Alicia McKenzie who was sitting on the looking the way she always looked: an effortless knockout… and staring at him with knowing smirk on her face that was sure to get on Sirius’ nerves.
Sirius had never bothered to find out where that particular antipathy McKenzie held for him came from. He didn’t care and wasn’t interested enough on the girl herself to find out or make her change her mind. But he did know that she displayed such a keen antipathy only to him: she had a fine relationship with James, was civil enough to Peter and was more than friendly to Remus.
In fact, Sirius recalled with a smirk, she was always particularly nice to Remus. Too bad for her that old Moony was as elusive as ever to female charms – and Sirius wasn’t above subtly remind her of that every now and then.
Oh, maybe that was why she hated him!
“Well, this here is Gregory, and that one is Maddox. You already know the girls – Mary you haven’t met, she wasn’t with us last night, but there she is now in all her snarky glory. Chat yourselves up while I get my bag – I’ll be just a second.” Cleo said as she smacked a kiss on Sirius's cheek. He watched her as she swiftly made her way through the crowd.
"Wow, Sirius Black out in daylight… Who died?" Alicia pointed out, drawing Sirius's attention back to her. Her humour was as sour as ever.
"Nobody yet, buts it’s only one o’clock." Sirius replied in kind and Alicia’s smile widened. But as always there was something in it that wasn’t entirely friendly. Something a bit suspicious, cat-that-got-the-mild kind of smile.
"So James, have you made up your mind about the Harpies offer yet?" She asked, turning to James and interrupting the conversation that had started up between him and Lola.
"Not really. But I know I want to finish school first. If they want me so badly they’ll have to wait until I’ve finished my education." James replied offhandedly.
“What are the Harpies?” Lola asked, a bit confused.
“Just a local football team up north that has scouted me.” James lied fluently. He was used to make these kinds of parallels, seeing that he and Sirius spent a lot of time in the muggle world during their summers. And Sirius knew that the best lies are those that keep closest to the truth.
“But you don’t want to go?” Lola asked, still confused as to why would James reject such an opportunity.
“I want to, sure, but I’m one year short of finishing school, so why drop out in the end?” James replied with a shrug.
Sirius couldn’t help a smirk. It didn’t matter what Prongs told everybody, because Sirius was sure that his education came second to another reason, who seemed to be a little more important: a redhead reason with striking green eyes and a lethal temper. Sirius couldn’t even wrap his head around the lengths and depths of his friend’s obsession. It was strange how someone he knew so well could have pockets of behaviour that completely escaped Sirius’ understanding.
"So... shall we?" Cleo said smiling as she fitted herself by his side, her breath a little short. “The restaurant is just around the corner.”
"Hey princess, aren’t you forgetting someone." One of the girls – the one with the curly brown hair - said as she checked out her nails with what looked a lot like a devilish smile on her face.
Cleo sighed, obviously annoyed.
Cleo rolled her wide blue eyes. "What Mary?"
"You didn’t invite Anya this time did you? Talk about selective friendship." This Mary characters pointed out, not without a hint of mock in her tone. Sirius noticed that McKenzie looked away, as if he was pretending not to hear the conversation.
"I’m afraid Anya’s ego wouldn’t fit in Gianni’s little place." Cleo replied, causing little chuckles from those around her.
“Oh well, we’ll just have to make do without her then.” Mary said flippantly.
Cleo rolled her eyes. “Yes, the loss is incapacitating me. Can we move on?”
"Just pointing out the obvious." Mary said with a shrug but the little smile she was displaying made Sirius curious as to what she was really going on about. he hated the way girls were so passive aggressive. Wanna say something, then fucking say it, don’t piss around it!
"Who's this Anya again?" He asked Cleo, a little irritated, but managing to sound as dethatched as always.
"Just some girl we used to be friends with." Cleo replied vaguely, obviously trying to drop the topic. Sirius didn’t particularly like the way the blonde emphasized the ‘used to’ in that sentence. To him, the fact that she could so easily dismiss someone who she used to call a friend meant that she either had never had a real friend, or that she and him had a very different conceptions of friendship.
And he didn’t miss the cold stare that McKenzie send Cleo’s way either.
Mary chuckled. "Oh, its 'used to' now, is it? What, dropping her out of the club because she was a bit too honest with you?"
Sirius looked at this Mary again. Even though she didn’t speak in what could be considered a polite manner – in fact the girl looked like she was enjoying getting on Cleo’s nerves – but she didn’t look like she was lying either. Probably because nobody contradicted her.
"Oh please. The girl's got some deep issues, alright. Can we just go?" Diana said and she sounded much angrier that Cleo had.
Ok, so obviously this Anya chick wasn’t really popular among these girls. But Alicia still was resolutely not joining the conversation and that was enough to make Sirius interested, because one of the things that most irritated him about McKenzie was that she always had something to say about everything.
"Everyone's got issues." Sirius said a bit more strongly than he meant, because only for a split second, number 12 Grimauld place was all he could think about.
“Why not invite her as well?” Sirius proposed, looking at Cleo, who suddenly looked very uncomfortable.
“Ah, but she can’t do that now you see, because Cleo purposely invited us all when Anya was close enough to hear that she wasn’t being invited.” Mary said, now looking like she was really getting a kick out of the awkwardness of the situation. Personally he couldn’t get where the punch line was and he wasn’t sure he liked Mary either. She reminded him a little too much of Marlene McKinnon - always telling the truth in the worst ways.
He hated Marlene McKinnon.
“Not to mention that Blondie and miss D. over there have been oh-so-subtly laughing their arses off at Anya’s expense all day long. Inviting her to lunch would be a bit incoherent at this point, don’t you think?” Mary pointed out with a smirk that tasted more like revenge than just plain teasing. She was enjoying this, Sirius realized, and it had nothing to do with her being insensitive. Maybe she was friends with this Anya…
“Will you shut up Mary?” Alicia hissed, now angry, but this Mary chick didn’t look fazed in the slightest. Which admittedly gave her some credit ‘cause McKenzie could be intimidating to other girls when she wanted to be.
“No, I don’t think I will.” Mary said with the kind of calm that spoke volumes about her defiance.
Ok, this was way more passive aggressiveness than Sirius could take…
“What’s the big deal?! I’ll invite her, save everyone the cold sweat. Where is she?” Sirius stated, making Cleo do a double take.
“She’s the one sitting by the east columns, the girl with black hair and bandaged elbows.” Mary provided all the needed information despite Cleo’s protest. But the last part, that was the one that caught Sirius’ attention.
Bandaged elbows huh?
He looked at McKenzie for confirmation but she wouldn’t meet his eyes.
So it was her! It was funny how when you start one regular day never knowing who you’re going to meet…What had she said her name was? Anastasia something… Sirius smirked. His Guardian Angel alright. This was going to be fun.
He dogged Cleo’s protests with a quick ‘be right back’ and climbed the stairs two by two. Anya or Anastasia, whatever her name was, he was not going to waste the chance to talk to her today, even if only to annoy her a little. She had been so very easily annoyed last night. But maybe that had been because she had been hurt, scared and bleeding.
Sirius tried to keep the wince to himself. He should have been more careful and not thrown her to the ground like that, with no warning, but he hadn’t exactly had the time to request politely. And one had to give the girl a little respect, especially for the way she had straightened her spine and almost bit his head off the second he had suggested she might be somehow weak.
Of course, the fact that she got so defensive over it meant that she had a secret fear of being considered weak, but that was no matter. She’s still snapped at him like a terrier.
He recognized her immediately. Because of the bandages of course, but also because it was easy to pry her apart from the crowd. She had her back to him and was as inconspicuous as any wallflower in her faded-grey baggy sweatpants, the dark brown of her hair contrasting starkly with the pristine white T-shirt she was wearing, making it easy to tell her apart from everyone else because she seemed like a black and white spot in the colorful display of people swarming around her.
Between the low-hanging sweats and the loosely fitting - and short - Tshirt, a strip of a good three inches of skin of her lower back showed. The graceful arch of her spine being exposed so casually made him wonder, for no logical reason at all, what her bellybutton looked like. The thought seemed pervasive for some reason, but still particularly ridiculous, especially because of the way it had just popped into his head like that, without rationale. Almost as instinctual as the curiosity he had regarding that strip of skin, of what would it feel like under his hands, if it would really be as soft as it looked…
Sirius smirked, internally laughing at himself. It was fun to be reminded sometimes that despite all the bullshit in his life, he was still an 18 year old boy.
He forgot that more often than not.
More often than not, it didn’t feel that way…
“Hello.” Sirius said simply. For all the reaction she gave, he might as well be speaking to a wall. That is when he noticed she was humming something. It sounded like she was … counting? And she was doing it in some kind of rhythm.
Sirius mentally shrugged. He'd seen plenty of weirder.
“Hellooo! Anyone in there!” he put a hand over her shoulder, but at the mere contact she turned around fast as if he had touched her with a hot poker.
That was when he saw the headphones and understood why she hadn’t heard him. What he didn’t understand though was why she stared at him as if he had two heads and took a step back from him, effectively smacking the back of her head against one the nearest columns in her hurry to put the Atlantic between them.
She hissed and rubbed her head with both her hands. The scene was so funny that despite his not wanting to embarrass her, he couldn’t help a chuckle that escaped. Well, at least he managed not to outright laugh in her face – that had to count for something.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to startle you.” he said, trying to contain his laugh and sound like he meant his apology.
She looked at him, embarrassed and annoyed.
Now in the daylight, he could see her better. Her hair looked just as dark as it did by night, but the sun showed reflections of all kinds of dark brown and mahogany, not plain black. It was straight and fell a little past her shoulder-blades in soft layers. She was pale, almost as if she didn’t see the sun much, very thin – her hipbones jutted out a little in a way he found not attractive at all - and as silent as she was still. In fact she was looking at him as if she was appraising him with those huge round eyes of hers that kinda reminded him of a bad tempered toad – not even the thick fringe over her eyes could hide her annoyance.
Her nose was small and pointy, her lips on the thin side, her face round like a moon; but the arch of her jaw was graceful, almost delicate. Actually, she was so slim that everything about her seemed delicate. Birdlike almost. The collarbones that the neckline of her T-shirt allowed to see seemed so breakable that he might snap them accidentally.
Hard to believe that this was the same girl that had practically dragged him out of a bewitched car last night, probably saving his neck in the process.
Sirius put on his most cheeky smirk and watched her gather her composure as if it was a blanket around her. She straightened her shoulders and her back, facing him almost at eye level. She was tall, maybe 5’7 or 5’8.
“Fancy seen you again huh.”
She didn’t so much as move a muscle. “Yeah, fancy.”
“How are your elbows?”
“They’re fine. Thank you.”
So, she was not a big talker then.
“Need some ice for the head?” He teased. Her eyes flashed.
“I’ll live. Are you lost?”
He had to smile at that. “Nope. So you’re a ballerina and a witch huh? What’s that like?”
A beat passed.
Damn, the girl was good. She hadn’t even blinked once. It was kinda captivating. His smile became intrigued, his curiosity piqued.
“You don’t like me.” He stated. “You don’t know me, but you don’t like me.”
Her eyes sharpened. “I know you.”
“Yeah, we met last night. And as I recall, besides doing me the grad favor of dragging me out of that car, you weren’t very partial to me last night either.”
This time he saw her roll her eyes and the gesture spoke more of her irritation than any snarky comments she would have voices.
“You do realize that we follow the same school right?” She asked suddenly, her voice smooth, but strained at the same time. Now it was his turn to be baffled.
“We do? You go to Hogwarts?”
“I am a witch, I live in England - the dots are not so hard to connect Black. I thought you were supposed to be smart, but apparently that is just one more rumour not to believe about you.”
Well, he wanted to say, there are a lot of homeschooled kids in England, especially those that want to pick careers that have nothing to do with magic – like ballet for instance - but he didn’t. This time he wanted to lay on the charm and not on the irritation.
“You’ve heard rumours about me?”
“Never of the nice kind, I assure you.” She deadpanned as she sat down on the border of the railing and took a swing out of her water bottle. “Apparently you ate a living duck once.”
This time he laughed hard. He’d heard that one. Prongs had had a filled day with jokes about it.
“Oh yeah, everything but the beak and feet.” And this time his cheekiness earned him a twitch of her lips. That was almost a smile. So, she was human after all!
Sirius took a step closer and leaned against the railing, right in front of her. “This is weirder than I expected. You go to Hogwarts, huh. How come I don’t know you?”
“That sounds like something between you and your god, Black.”
Sirius snorted. She had a sense of humour alright, but on the dark side. He liked that. “I was thinking out loud actually.”
She hummed. “First signs of lunacy, take care.”
And she wouldn’t budge an inch. Stubborn.
“So I’m told.” He said slowly.
This girl was aloof and stinging like a bee, but there was a layer of edginess under that thin skin that clashed with her so obvious confidence and nonchalance. It was the way she’d looked at him, like a deer caught in the headlights, the way she moved around him: she manoeuvred herself carefully enough to be just a little farther away from his range. It was the fact that she had a wicked sarcasm and a penchant for glaring that made him curious. How as it possible that he had no recollection of her from Hogwarts? Who was this girl?
She had gotten up and grabbed her sports bag. “I’m assuming that since you’re still standing there staring at me, which is rude by the way, …”
“I don’t mind.” He interrupted, only making her narrow her eyes at him some more.
“…then you have something else you wanna say to me. Would I be correct?”
His lips twitched. “You wouldn’t be incorrect.”
“Then spit it out, will you, I have classes to go to.”
Her impatience only made him smile wider. Why did this girl dislike him this intensely? And if this was the case, why had she jumped to help him out last night?
Such a little bundle of contradictions…
“You gotta eat though, am I right?”
“I eat just fine, that’s what the cafeteria is for. Is there going to be a point to this in the near future?”
He had no idea why her rudeness didn’t quite manage to irritate him, to make him snap at her in kind. That was new for him: Sirius didn’t take any bullshit from anyone… but this time it was different. Probably because she was snarky, but she lacked the malice, the mean intent. It was just banter really, and that as a game to him, one he liked playing. And he had a sneaking suspicion that so did she.
“I’m having lunch with a bunch of your friends. Care to join us?”
For the first time, he’d left her quite speechless. She just stared at him.
“Are you serious?”
“Sure. I was told you had a little misunderstanding…”
“No misunderstanding. Thanks for the offer Black, but I’ll pass.” Then that little twitch at the corner of her lips turned into an almost smirk. Her face looked a lot more interesting with that expression on. “We’ll have to do the whole ‘bonding-after-a-traumatic-experience’ thing some other time.”
Sirius held back a chuckle, but his eyes danced with amusement. “Oh sure. And we’ll hold hands and skip afterwards.”
He didn’t miss the fact that she smiled this time, even though the curtain of her hair almost covered it.
“Whatever. Enjoy your lunch Black.”
He watched her disappear inside the hall with the rest of the students that were getting back to their classes and then turned back down the steps with a silly smirk on his face that he hadn’t even noticed he was wearing.
Cleo was pissed. “You sure took your sweet time.” She said coldly.
“I tried my best persuasion skill, but she wouldn’t bulge. Apparently she’s not so fond you all.”
Both McKenzie’s eyebrows made for her hairline. “She said that?” The disbelief in her tone was acidic and clear as daylight.
“No, but that was my impression. So, shall we, I’m starving.”
“Oh my god, I’ve eaten so much that I think I’m going to puke... or take up at least three hours of running to burn all those calories." Lola said as she held on to her ever-flat stomach. James who was walking by her side smiled at her comment.
"Oh please, you barely ate half of your pizza. I had to help you with the rest." James said as he passed her the water bottle, which she took with a grateful smile.
"Yeah, but I don’t usually eat stuff like that. I’m not allowed to."
"It’s Friday Lola, you can stuff yourself if you want to." Cleo said offhandedly.
All their previous company had somehow disappeared and by now it was just the four of them. But, again just as Cleo had predicted, Lola and James were comfortable enough with each other not to be bothered by it. Interesting how girls tended to know things like that.
“Today being a Friday has something to do with what you can eat?" James asked, looking a bit confused at Lola, who couldn’t help a small smile.
"Well, we're kind of on a rigid diet. And there're this one day a week, usually Fridays or Saturday, when we can eat all we want." Lola explained cheerfully.
"Basically, our dear Lola has been starving since she was like, ten years old or something. But not me! I can eat anything I like as long as my keep my weight in check. Those who do classic ballet are the borderline-anorexic ones." Cleo said, making a face at Lola, who reacted instantly.
"That’s so not true! We eat healthily! How else would we be able to dance non-stop 7 hours a day huh?"
"Yeah, but you eat gooey stuff, like barely boiled eggs and yucky-looking vegetables. Not to mention that thing Sasha makes you drink, what is that?" Cleo shivered theatrically.
“It’s a protein juice, keeps us strong but without weighting too much on the stomach… But it tastes awful. The only way to drink it is bottom’s up, so that you don’t have to feel the taste longer than you have to.” She added making James chuckle.
Sirius looked at them, at the easy smile on his friends face, at his relaxed demeanour. He was about to suggest to Cleo leaving the lovebirds alone and whisk her away someplace, when he saw something that most definitely should not have been there.
By ‘there’ meaning in broad daylight, in the middle of muggle London.
Sirius stared at the corner between the main road and an alley, frozen, every muscle constricted to the point of pain. He couldn’t believe his eyeballs! It was impossible. It couldn’t be.
Please... it can’t be...
"Sirius?" Cleo asked, apparently confused and a little concerned by his sudden rigidness.
“Girls, I’m sorry but we gotta go. It’s urgent and I just remembered.” Sirius said sternly, giving Prongs a meaningful look. By the way his friend’s eyes sobered up in an instant, Sirius knew that he had gotten the gist of the conversation.
Sirius interrupted Cleo with e quick and rather stiff kiss on her lips. "I'll make it up to you, promise, but now I really have to go."
"We’ll be by tomorrow, we can go out again." He continued but he was just spouting words off, not caring if they made an effect or not. Cleo said something he didn’t hear. In that moment, he really didn’t care whether he saw those to girls ever again.
Sirius almost shot off the sidewalk as soon as he felt that James was holding on tightly enough not to fall. The way his friend was driving made James uncomfortable.
"What is it?" James yelled as they sped through the second-hand alleys.
"I just saw Regulus." Sirius said. His voice was unsteady. And even though Sirius knew that he really didn’t need to add more, he spoke anyway.
"He was with Bellatrix and Mallfoy. They apparated in broad daylight, can you believe their nerve!" Sirius said through gritted teeth. By now James had realized that they were following them. What he didn’t know was where they were following them to.
"Alright. How do you know where they were going?"
It took a few minutes for Sirius to answer. Fact was that he didn’t know. How could he know, he had only seen them apparate and then disapparate again. By accounts of all logic he couldn’t know where they would be.
But logic had nothing to do with this. Because this exact scenario, with his little snooty brother walking off somewhere with one of his deranged cousins was his worst fear come to life – that’s how he knew. He saw it unfold before his eyes whenever he thought of Regulus and the fact that he had left him behind.
So how did Sirius know where to go? Was it because he had nightmares about it? Or because the only reason he had postponed his escaping from his wretched family was that a little boy who now hated him... A brother he loved was the only thing that kept Sirius tied to his past. And he didn’t seem to be able to let go of it.
He could not.
Sirius didn’t bother concentrating on anything except for the road. He even avoided thinking too much about what he would find once they got to their destination. But had he been coherent, he would have been sorry that he robbed James of a really nice opportunity to meet someone interesting; he would have noticed the way Cleo looked so angry and Lola so very disappointed.
But even if he had been paying attention to what was going on around him, Sirius wouldn’t have noticed the eyes that followed him from one of the many windows of the Ballet Academy. Not even then would he be able to distinguish the face of the unknown girl that had been staring at him from behind the glass. Her hand pressed against the cool glass surface would have been only an indistinguishable raindrop in the middle of a storm.
So he would have missed the curiosity stamped on her face and the way her eyes followed him as he disappeared behind the corner, leaving behind himself only the echo of his bike’s engine.
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