The next morning was quidditch training. Quite out of her normal routine, Marion got there early and was enjoying having the open sky and the crisp cold air to herself. As she flew laps around the pitch, swirling loops around the goalposts at each end every time she turned, she smiled at the satisfying sound the wind made as it whipped her hair over her shoulders. It wasn't good enough to make her want to get up early every day of her life, or even any more often than she already did, but after the week she'd had it was enough to lift her spirits.
Her peace was unexpectedly disturbed when the bespectacled, mop-headed team captain rose up next to her on his own broom. Once she was aware of his presence, she dived down and swerved to change direction in the hope that he would stop following her. No such luck. He pulled up and spun around, fighting against the wind and Marion's speed to get level with her again.
“I didn't know you knew the day started before noon, love.” he called over. Marion apparently wasn't in the mood for his jokes. She made a hairpin swerve and changed direction again, flying even faster. Despite her best efforts, it wasn't long before James caught up again.
“Look, I'm sorry, Marion, okay?” he shouted over the howl of the wind. “I know I should have believed you. You and me have been like brother and sister before we could walk, and I'm stupid for doubting you and for making you feel like that counted for nothing.”
He thought he had hit a winner with the depths of his apology, but again Marion changed directions to avoid him. She was getting better at it too; this time she dropped three feet and corkscrewed under him. The turn he needed to make to catch up to her almost made him lose his glasses, but eventually he managed to get back within shouting distance. Every time he flew closer to her, she moved away.
“Listen, I'm sorry. I really am! I'm stupid and selfish and suspicious and-”
“I think the word 'shithead' really says it for me.” Marion cut across him. From what he could tell from her tone, she was still very angry, but thankfully went he chanced a look across she was smirking at him expectantly. James sighed and rolled his eyes; he knew she wanted to hear him say it himself.
“Alright! I'm a shithead. Are you happy now? Is the wicked witch of the west dormitory appeased?” he grumbled. She beamed and slowed to a halt so he didn't have to chase her any more.
“Yeah,” she giggled. Beneath them she spotted the other players shuffling out onto the pitch looking groggy. James looked down to see too.
“We should get down there.” he said.
“Just so you know,” Marion called out before they flew down, “we're always friends, you and me. Don't forget that the next time you do something stupid.”
James rolled his eyes and the two of them descended to meet the others who were still yawning and using their broomsticks as leaning posts. Among them, they spotted Sirius sporting a fresh-looking black eye and a cut lip. Since he hadn't yet apologised, Marion grasped her opportunity for a little payback.
“Did Snape finally have enough of your being an arsehole and strike back?” she jeered, earning laughs from even James. Sirius didn't argue, but silently grimaced not looking amused.
“Don't worry,” James patted him on the shoulder once everyone else was up and hovering, “I know there's no way Snape could have done that and gotten away with it.”
That evening, Marion snuck out to the owlery after hours. Whenever things had been particularly taxing and she needed to rant, she'd send a letter to her sister about how bitterly unfair everything was and she felt better. She didn't even need to wait for a reply to feel the weight lift off her shoulders.
Sitting in the quiet among the comforting hoots of the owls, she made an effort to huddle herself up in the feather-strewn hay pile she was sitting on. The nights were drawing in and the air was bitter cold. She hadn't thought to wear anything other than her thin silk night robe past the warm Common Room since she rarely got cold, but now she found herself tucking her knees under her chin and clasping her arms around them. The fluffy brown owl sitting on the bale next to her eyed her curiously, as if he knew her mistake. She frowned at him.
As she rubbed her upper arms in an attempt to create a little more warmth, she was startled by the softness of a blanket she had not brought with her descending over her shoulders. Being too cold to question it, she wrapped it around herself and looked back towards the door to see where it had come from. To her astonishment, there stood in the doorway was Sirius Black. His wand was still pointing up in his right hand from where he had levitated the blanket. She looked away again as he tucked his wand back into his robes, but she could hear him approaching. The sound of his feet crunching on the hay got louder the closer he got. The brown owl flew off as he sat down beside her, and she hid from his gaze behind a sheet of her chocolate hair.
“I followed you out.” he muttered. “I know that sounds creepy, but I wanted to get you alone to apologise.”
Marion inclined her head towards him. “I'm listening.”
She became very aware of his eyes on her, but she didn't look back at him. She tugged on the ends of the blanket around her neck and stared at the floor. Sirius sucked in a deep breath of the cold night air, his exhale leaving a wispy trail.
“Okay, so I'm not sure what to say other than 'I'm sorry'.” he murmured. “I'm sorry I jumped to conclusions, and I'm a total dickhead to embarrass you like that in the Common Room. I should have known you wouldn't have told anyone, least of all McGonagall. In fact, I promise from now on I'll believe anything you tell me.”
“Really?” Marion asked. Her expression softened and she finally looked at him, smiling.
“Yeah.” Sirius confirmed confidently, a dazzling smile gracing his bruised face. Marion rolled her eyes as he grimaced and put his hand to the cut on his lip as it stretched open and began to bleed a little.
“Come here, idiot.” she chortled, taking his face in her hands and using the corner of the blanket to dab away the blood. “Jesus, Black, what did you do to this person for them to want to make this much of a mess?”
“Huh, well that is a fun story.” Sirius chuckled nervously as he shook his head out of her grip.
“By 'fun' do you mean embarrassing and a bit painful?” she inquired with a cocked eyebrow. Sirius nodded, wiping his chin.
“Uh, yeah.” he mumbled. When he didn't elaborate, Marion became slightly concerned.
“Seriously, Black, what happened to your face?” she asked, putting her hand under his chin and turning is head to better analyse his wounds. He shrugged her off.
“It's nothing.” he said dismissively, though he knew it wouldn't convince her. Her eyes narrowed.
“Clearly it's not nothing to someone if they did this to you.” she reached out again and this time cupped his cheek to turn his face. He was surprised that she had been cold since the skin of her palm was so warm and soft.
“Do you really want to know?” His voice was guarded, like it was specifically she who shouldn't know, but still she nodded. Her curiosity always won over her sense of caution.
“Well then I suppose I should tell you. But don't hit me, and don't interrupt.” he warned. She gave him a funny look. “Promise?”
“Alright, I promise.” she sighed.
Sirius lay in his bed fully clothed. He hadn't wanted to go to breakfast. He didn't even want to get up. He now knew why he never bothered feeling guilty about anything; guilt was a horrible emotion. Not all of it was his fault, but still he couldn't do anything about it. The person who had caused all of it wasn't about to recant, and that couldn't be helped. Then again...
He wasn't proud of the idea, but it was better than feeling guilty. He lazily lifted his left arm to look at his watch; breakfast wasn't over yet. It went long on Sundays to allow for a lie in. Dragging himself out of bed, he combed his messy hair out of his face and hastily left his room. He didn't think at all about the consequences of what he planned to do, or how his friends would react once it was done. One thing he knew for certain was that would bring more guilt, and that was not an option.
Striding confidently down the halls, he eyed the faces of each passer by looking for one person: David Berkeley. He had circled around all the passages to the Great Hall and so far no joy, so he decided to try his luck in the corridors that led to the Ravenclaw Common Room. Soon enough fate smiled on him, as his prize waltzed unknowingly right towards where he had hidden himself behind a suit of armour. He couldn't believe also that he had been fortunate enough to catch him alone. When David was parallel to him, Sirius jutted out his arm and, with a thud, David was pinned against the opposite wall.
Sirius' strong grip held him firmly in place, his forearm pressed steadfastly against his throat. David's face saved him no pride, but Sirius' eyes were as cold and steely as iron, hatred and resentment carved into the handsome features of his pale skin. No mercy was shown with him; once a traitor, always a traitor.
“What the hell do you want?” David choked, clawing at Sirius' unmoving arm. He only added more pressure.
“Who the fuck do you think you are to rat us out? And to toy with a girl whose done nothing to you just because you're unsatisfied with your own miserable life.” He growled, feeling his canine instincts tugging at his gut. David's eyes widened when he realised he knew everything, and looked even more frightened.
“I-I'm sorry, Black. Mc-McGonnagal was gonna take 100 points from every house and... and I never meant to hurt Marion. I'm sorry! Black... you're cho-king me.” David stammered as Sirius pressed harder.
“Sorry?” he barked, and David swore he was actually barking, his voice rumbling in his throat like a growling dog. “You don't know the meaning of the word, you worthless, backstabbing, taddle-telling little weasel! Not yet anyway.”
Putting his left arm over his right, he pushed again even harder until David's face was turning purple. He wasn't going to really hurt him, just enough so he got the message and was paid for what he had done to he and his friends. And for what he did to Marion too, which was far worse than a week's worth of detention, though Sirius would never admit to that.
David began to squirm against his grip, more forcefully than anticipated. In his anger, Sirius had forgotten David too was quite a well-renowned quidditch player, and had strength of his own. He severed Sirius' hold on him, punching him straight in the eye with a deafening crack at the collision. He wasted no time in taking a second swing, which hit his jaw. Sirius doubled over, dabbing his lip, which was now oozing a steady flow of blood. David stood over him, running a hand wearily over his own throat and coughing to catch his breath.
“Look, Black, yes I told on you and your gang of juveniles, but I see that as speeding up what was inevitable. As for Marion, she's hardly innocent, is she? Be honest, the girl's a tart. Never with the same guy for five minutes. I knew she'd be the easiest to... test things out.” he was looking down at Sirius mockingly, not seeing the fire stirring in his eyes behind his sheet of messy black ripples. “You can have her if you want her. For what it's worth you're a good looking guy, not that you didn't know and relish that already, and she won't look twice at anyone who isn't. But then, you're probably still too scared to even ask-”
Sirius' fist collided with David's jaw, stopping his cruel words dead. A second blow jabbed at his abdomen with such force he fell to the floor clutching his stomach. After kicking him in the chest and winding him for good measure, Sirius grabbed a handful of David's light tresses and dragged him up to face him again.
“You better not think of coming near any of us again.” he sneered menacingly in his face. “Not me, not James, Remus, Peter or Preston. And if you do, I'll do you the courtesy of teaching you the meaning of the word 'sorry'.”
“Still Sirius Black to the rescue, eh?” David smirked, the blood seeping from his nose staining his teeth. “Don't think you're the only one she told things to. She told me about what you did to her ex, you and Potter. The one who cheated on her over the summer. I'd be careful. Keep rushing around bashing all her boyfriends when she's done with them and she might figure out you fancy her.”
Sirius tugged sharply on David's hair to hush him. “This is about what you did to me and my friends, dirtbag. I don't have the patience to listen to whatever bollocks you want to conjure up to justify yourself.”
He cast David to the floor and walked away without looking back. The further he walked away, the more his anger subsided. By the time he was back in the Common Room and was greeted with the sight of his friends, he was ready to let it all go. It was done with.
“Oh my God, Black... I'm so, so sorry!” Marion shook her head and held it in her hands. Sirius removed them. He had skilfully skated over the parts of the conversation where David had implied he had feelings for her, because that was not something he wanted to have her think. They were getting on fine now, but when things went back to normal it would mean a whole lot of ammunition against him.
“Hey, that's okay. I didn't do it all for you, you know.” he grinned cheekily at her and she rolled her eyes and smiled. “But it seems like Balls-out was right about one thing. I'm something of an official boyfriend basher. So for the next one, should you require my services again...”
“You're the first one I'll call.” Marion chuckled. They smiled at each other for a moment, then Marion's smile morphed into a look of curiosity. Sirius' smile flickered as she reached up one of those warm hands and used it to cup his cheek.
Paralysed in confusion, he sat there in stunned silence, letting her caress his jaw with her gentle touch. He wanted to move back, he wanted to ask her what she was doing, but his body wouldn't let him. Then his grey orbs bulged as her lips came to rest on the bruise swelling on his eyebrow. Just for a moment her pert lips rested on his eye socket before she drew back again. She bit her lip, nervous for his reaction.
“Why did you do that?” he asked once his voice had returned to him, surprisingly calm. Marion sighed, puffing a trail of mist into the night air.
“Muggles believe it helps the healing.” she whispered with an upward twitch of her lips.
“Really?” Sirius cooed smugly.
“I thought you said you'd believe anything I told you from now on?” she returned. Sirius gave a loud, hearty laugh.
“You know, I have a cut lip as well.” he said without thinking. He abruptly lost face when he caught himself, his grin fading and eyes darting around anxiously. Marion stared blankly, not knowing what to make of the comment.
Sirius hung his head in his stupidity, rubbing his forehead with one hand. When he removed it, however, Marion's face was less than an inch from his. His limbs seized up again, not allowing him to move. Every fibre of his being was telling him to scream and run and never speak to or about Marion Preston again. But as he was thinking, he hadn't noticed he was moving closer towards her.
He would have given anything at this point to be able to claim he wasn't acting of his own free will, but even after he realised what he was doing, he didn't stop. He just leaned closer. Marion continued to lean into him too, reaching up once more to hold his face in her strangely warm, small hands. She paused for a second to give him the option to stop her, but he met her halfway.
Her feathery soft lips lightly brushed against his with a quiet, muffled sound. Both of them stayed still, as frozen as statues. Eyes closed and lips still paused a whim's distance from each other. Marion's eyes then fluttered open, and she looked away, shuffling back a little and removing her comforting touch from his face. Sirius' heart stopped.
“Better?” Marion asked in a voice so quiet Sirius barely heard it. Her body was still facing him.
A shock flew up his spine, creating a sudden unwanted urge, but at least this time he could say his body was indeed acting of its own accord. His hand turned Marion's chin back in his direction and his lips pushed themselves back to hers, this time more hungrily.
The experience was odd to say the least; kissing someone when the very thought of it had made you gag since you were eleven. But Sirius had to admit he was enjoying it. More than that, he didn't want to stop. He didn't have enough room in his mind to comprehend the surprise that she was responding to him, moving her lips in sync with his, enjoying it as much as he was.
A tingling warmth suddenly arose in spots on his scalp, making the hair stand on end. Marion's fingers had slipped into the dark tendrils of his hair. She moaned into his lips at the contact, the satisfying sensation echoing and reverberating in his mouth. He moaned back in enticement as she combed through his hair, tugging lightly on the ends before sinking back in.
His conscience was screaming at him how wrong this was, and that he should let her go, but Sirius was no stranger to ignoring his conscience. He wanted this, and so he'd have it. Whenever his conscience disagreed with him like this, for some reason he always pictured it as Remus frowning at him. But he soon pushed that thought to the back of his mind.
Sirius' hands sneaked under the blanket and found Marion's waist. She was radiating heat from there too. How could she ever possibly feel cold? He felt her shudder under his touch and he gave a satisfied smirk against her lips. He then felt her tongue prodding gently at them.
“Well, I'm going to hell anyway.” he thought as he opened his mouth. Again, this wasn't what he was expecting. He had thought it would evolve the kiss into a battle of dominance. See who could bruise the other's lips the most, or push their tongue further into the other's mouth. She was surprisingly gentle. Dare he think it, passionate?
It wasn't until she muttered his name in a low and wanting voice that they both woke up. Hearing it from the outside rather than a conscience they could ignore seemed to impress on them both the ridiculousness and recklessness of what they were doing. Marion hastily let go of his face and pushed him away, pulling the blanket closer around her and hiding behind her hair as Sirius retracted his own hands from her waist.
What had he done? How could he have been so stupid? So subordinate to his instincts. He buried his face in his hands. This was not what he wanted. Not long-term. This was going to loom over him worse than the guilt had this morning. It would eat him alive. He couldn't look her in the eye. He'd done the same thing David had done, more or less. Used her to test something, and then realised it wasn't what he wanted. For the first time in his living recollection, he felt disgusted with himself.
He heard Marion shoot up. “Erm, we should um... we should probably...”
“Yeah, right,” he got up too. “Yeah let's just...”
Neither one could say anything more than that. They both started forward in the same path, stumbling and stepping back and forth to let the other go first. After a minute or so of awkward side-stepping, they turned their backs to each other and walked around the hay bale and towards the door. Sirius was sure to hold back there and let her go first to avoid a repeat and the possibility of staying in this situation a minute longer.
The entire walk back they kept their distance, Marion cocooning herself in the blanket and Sirius shoving his hands in the pockets of his robes. The bitter wind howling at them was the only sound that played about their ears, teasing and taunting them, reminding them of what they'd done.