Through the rustling of the leaves, Claire heard a deep chuckle coming from the ground. She maintained a vice-like grip on the sturdy bough as she craned her neck towards the familiar sound.
“How’s it hanging?” called Sirius, standing at the base of the tree with a bemused expression.
“This isn’t funny!” Claire cried. Her feet dangled perilously above the ground as she held onto the thick branch. Despite her situation, she felt embarrassment bubble up inside of her and she felt sure that not even the dying leaves could hide the redness in her cheeks.
“May I ask how this predicament… came about?” Sirius crossed his arms and took a step back.
“Some kid’s cat ran off and ran up this tree,” she explained, “so I climbed up to get it down, so I saved the stupid cat, but then I couldn’t get down myself. Heights and I don’t exactly get along.”
Sirius let out a bark of laughter.
“How long have you been up there?”
“If you’re just going to stand there laughing at me, you can sod off,” Claire snapped.
“Alright, alright,” he said, beginning to roll up his sleeves. “Would you like help getting down?”
Claire quickly glanced down at the ground and felt a great stab of terror. “You know what, I think I’m perfectly fine up here,” she replied, gripping the tree even more tightly.
“Oh, come off it, James. You can’t stay up there forever.”
“I can try,” said Claire stubbornly.
“Listen, I’m right here,” Sirius said softly, his voice coming closer to her. She looked down and saw that he was standing directly beneath her. “You’ve got to jump down.”
“No. Hell no.”
“I’m going to be here to catch you, you’ll be fine,” he said, soothingly. “Look, you’re not even that high up.”
Claire felt him carefully reach up and gently place his hand on her foot and she felt some of her tension ease away. She looked down to see him smiling up at her holding his arms out encouragingly. She considered him for a moment and she closed her eyes tightly.
“C’mon, Claire. I’m right here, so just jump down.”
Taking a moment for composure and a deep breath, Claire eased her hold on the tree slowly before she felt gravity take over her body, and she was suddenly plummeting towards the ground at full speed. She cried out in horror, waiting for her body to break from the impact of hitting the ground. Sooner than she expected, she felt Sirius’s strong arms around her body and hold her steadily in the air, saving her from hitting the ground. Claire threw her arms around him and buried her face in his neck, taking in shallow, shaky breaths. She smelled the muskiness of him in the crook of his neck and on the collar of his shirt.
“It’s alright, you’re OK now,” she heard Sirius say, his deep voice rumbling through his body. While still cradled in his arms, she felt him begin to walk and she once again became acutely aware of the fact that she still remained suspended in the air.
“Bloody hell, Sirius, where are you taking me?” she cried, her head quickly shooting up as she looked around apprehensively.
“Back to the castle,” he said, calmly, “and maybe we should have Pomfrey take a look at you.”
Despite her aversion to the hospital wing and Madam Pomfrey’s notorious fussiness, Claire could not help but feel appreciative of his help. She felt a sudden rush of affection and before she knew what she was doing, she leaned her face up and placed a soft kiss on Sirius’s cheek. He stopping walking and curiously turned to look at her.
“What was that?” he asked.
“Thank you,” she said, sincerely, smiling slightly, “for getting me out of that tree.”
He smirked. “Maybe I should save your life more often. I knew one day you’d fall for me.”
Claire rolled her eyes, but could not bring herself to be annoyed. She grinned.
“Maybe you should put me down,” she suggested. “I’m still having a bit of a panic attack, here.”
Sirius slowly lowered her feet down and set her upright before they set off for the hospital wing in a companionable silence.
Claire turned to look at Sirius as he walked towards her, a serious expression on his face. He sat next to her on the sofa and flung his arm across the arm of his seat and turned to face her. She put down her book.
“What the hell was that?”
She frowned. “What are you talking about?”
“What was Lawson doing talking to you?”
“Are you really going to start this rubbish up again?” She felt her pulse quicken as Sirius’s words ignited a spark of anger. “I can talk to whomever I want, Sirius Black, and it is none of your business!”
“Because he’s so innocent, I’m sure,” he said, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
“Actually, if you must know, he was asking about Herbology,” Claire said loudly. “Not that I owe you any sort of explanation!”
“He’s a complete idiot! All he wants is to get into your knickers!”
“Oh, like every other bloke who’s ever asked me for help with their homework?”
“You have some serious mental problems. What possible reason would these people have for chatting me up, anyway?”
“Because you’re cute,” said Sirius before he could stop himself.
Claire blushed, caught off guard by his response. She quickly swallowed the feeling of pleasure and bashfulness at his remark and raised her chin, haughtily.
“Mad, absolutely mad, you are,” she said evenly. “Now piss off, I have an essay due tomorrow and I’ve had enough of your chauvinistic and territorial behaviour for one night.”
Sirius heard a tinkling laugh coming from the water. He tuned out Remus’s lecture and turned towards the Black Lake and saw Lily Evans and Claire James sitting beneath a tree, Lily laughing and Claire explaining something animatedly. Out of the corner of his eye, Sirius caught James’s attention to Remus falter in favour of Lily’s melodic laughter. As Claire continued her anecdote, Sirius began to wonder what exactly she was saying and he began to wish that he could hear it for himself. Suddenly, a breeze passed through them and Sirius found his eyes, and not just his mind, wandering.
The hem of Claire’s skirt caught the light breeze and Sirius watched it dance about her thighs, riding up higher than he was used to seeing. Her legs, one tucked beneath the other, had been shed of the standard tights, exposing the expanse of creamy skin. In the grass her Gryffindor scarf lay tossed and forgotten, by her black shoes, robes, and school bag. She had rolled up the long white sleeves of her blouse and the fabric had pooled at her elbows. The top three buttons of her blouse were left unbuttoned, the collar was flattened against her lapel, and the glow of the sun was reflected off of her bare collarbone.
Sirius’s eyes wandered to her face and he was struck by her broad smile and the brightness of her skin in the sunlight. Her dark hair, tinted with red and gold in the light, framed her face, softly blowing in the wind. A white hand came up to tuck a few stray strands behind her ear and Sirius followed its movements as it slowly came down and folded itself in Claire’s lap.
A shock of pain spread through the back of Sirius’s head, pulling him out of his reverie, and he spun back around to see Remus frowning at him.
“What the bloody hell was that for?”
“You never listen to me, do you?”
Claire heard a loud, familiar bark of laughter and she looked up from her Transfiguration homework to see the usual group of James, Remus, Sirius, and Peter surrounding the fire place in the common room. The room was dark, save for the orange light emanating from the dancing fire. James was telling a joke and the other boys were laughing, Sirius the loudest of all. He had seated himself on the largest sofa so that his back was to her, his arm thrown back casually behind the back of the couch. His dark hair was messy and stood on its ends, so that with the reddish light in the background it looked ablaze. Claire’s eyes traced the outline of his strong profile, gazing at the straight lines of his brow, nose, and chin, set off by the apparent softness of his lips.
His arm hung limply behind him and she admired the definition in his forearm, a trait in men she was never able to resist. The blood rushing to hand forced the veins into prominence, but she found that she did not mind. His skin was pale – not as pale as hers, but pale enough to strikingly contrast the darkness of his hair. The cuff of his shirt had been hastily rolled up and it settled at the end of his forearm before his elbow, exposing the sharp and clean lines of his arm. Claire eyed his long fingers, hanging lazily. His hands, like his build, were broad and thick, and she thought that they would be large enough to completely cover hers. Claire wondered if his skin was rough and hard, or soft and smooth. She felt a sudden longing to reach out and touch him, but in a moment it had passed.
Sirius, instinctively aware of being watched, turned his head back and met her eyes. He smirked.
“See something you like?” he asked, winking cheekily.
Her face remained expressionless and unimpressed. “Kindly shut up. I’m trying to study here.”
Claire was late for class. She had thrown on her school robes, grabbed her book bag, and was now hurtling down the fourth floor corridors as she raced her way to class. Panting, she reached for the door, gentled pushed it open, and slipped silently into the classroom. Professor Binns’s monotonous droning allowed her to slide into her seat unnoticed by anyone but her sitting partner, Sirius Black.
“Late again,” he whispered, grinning.
“I was up late last night for Arithmancy,” she explained.
She reached into her bag and pulled out two sheets of parchment, a quill, and an inkwell. Checking her watch, she felt a stab of despair when she realised that she had already missed twenty minutes of that day’s lecture. She had laid out her things on her desk, when Sirius slipped a sheet of parchment towards her.
She glanced at what he had written and her heart welled with gratitude when she realised that he was sharing his notes with her. Sirius was notorious for never taking notes in his classes.
Claire sent him a grateful smile. Sirius returned the gesture as he kicked his feet back and closed his eyes for his usual nap.
He looked up from his hands. Claire was hurtling down the hall way, an expression of absolute terror creased her face. Sirius did nothing but stare in bewilderment as she ran toward him and fell by his side in a whoosh of black robes. He smelt her perfume as the air swirled around her.
“Holy – what, what the bloody hell happened?”
Sirius coughed. “What are you doing here?”
“Peter ran into the common room screaming bloody murder,” she prattled on, speaking very quickly and almost incoherently as Sirius knew her to do when she was nervous or scared. “Then he said you were duelling some Slytherins and you got seriously hurt.”
“He was exaggerating”’ he answered nonchalantly, but he did not move.
“Let me see what’s wrong,” Claire insisted. She drew her wand, looking at him intently.
“I’m fine,” he said. “It’s fine.” He moved his arm and Claire caught his wince.
“Sirius Black, if you don’t show me where you got hurt right now, I swear to Merlin, Morgana, and Circe, I will –“
She stopped short as he pulled back the collar of his shirt to reveal a large gash across his collar bone. Her eyes widened with horror.
“You should see the back,” joked Sirius humourlessly.
“Turn over,” she demanded. He did not argue.
He slowly sat up and turned his back to her, struggling not to show any signs of pain. He lifted up the back of his sodden and torn shirt. When he heard her gasp, he knew that she had caught sight of the slashes on his back – all like the one on his chest, but deeper and more numerous. He felt like he had been whipped.
“We have to get you to the hospital wing,” she said after a moment, her voice shaking. She quickly got to her feet and reached down to help him up.
“James, I can barely move.”
“You’re going to have scars!”
“I’ll take my chances.”
“Don’t be an idiot,” she said. When he did not move, she crouched down again and said, “Fine, let me.”
Hesitantly, he turned his back to her as she gently pulled his shirt up and over his head. He welcomed the cool touch of her hands on his burning skin and he suddenly wished that she was touching him like this under different, less distressing circumstances. The stinging and blistering of his skin had slightly subsided as Claire continued to work her magic and Sirius breathed a sigh of relief. He longed to reach for her hand.
“Alright, I’ve used a Cooling Charm to calm your skin a little and I’ve cleaned off the blood,” she said hurriedly, and Sirius could hear the worry in her voice. She dropped her wand by his shirt. “But nothing I do will close up or heal the wounds. It must’ve been some Dark magic that did this.”
“That’s OK,” he said. “Thanks.”
“Sirius, how did this happen?”
He frowned. “Don’t worry about it.”
“Tell me.” Her voice was soft, but he could hear the authority behind it.
“Pete and I ran into Snape and Rosier,” he said reluctantly. He did not elaborate. She did not push the subject. No one spoke for a moment.
“Peter should have reached the hospital wing by now. We sent him as soon as he told us what happened.”
Sirius said nothing but turned back to face her, not bothering to put on his ruined shirt over his wounds. Claire’s eyes immediately flew to the one on his chest and her mouth fell open when she saw that it was still bleeding. Sirius watched the shape of her lips as she pursed her lips and he felt something stir within him.
“Oh, let me take care of that one.” She reached for her wand and leaned forward, but before she could turn her attention to the wound, Sirius placed his hand at the base of her throat and stopped her. He felt her rapid pulse and her smooth skin beneath his palm. The softness of her long hair brushed past his skin and he felt his fingers itch.
“No, you don’t have to do that,” he said, swallowing hard.
“Sirius, I need to at least stop the bleeding and clean it up. Stop being difficult, just let me take care of it bef – “
He cut her off hastily, closing his mouth over hers in one swift motion. She pulled away instantly, saying loudly, “Sirius, it’s going to –“
“I don’t care,” he said huskily, placing his lips on hers once again, and this time she did not protest. His stomach churned triumphantly and he moved his hand from her throat and reached it into the thickness of her hair as she returned the kiss, moving her lips against his. He ran his fingers through her hair, kissing her hungrily. He could sense her restraint and before he could wonder if it was because she did not want him or because of his injuries, she pulled away again.
“Someone’s coming,” she whispered against his lips, her face hovering just in front of his.
Sure enough, a series of hurried footsteps could be heard turning the corner at the end of their hall, and Claire moved away from Sirius. As Peter, Remus, Lily, James, Pomfrey, and McGonagall raced down the corridor, Sirius shot a curious glance in Claire’s direction. Her face was deliberately turned away and her cheeks had turned an unmistakeable shade of scarlet.
Author's Note: I hadn't intended for this chapter to move so quickly, but I've been fleshing out this story a lot more and I have some other plans for these two lovebirds. I really do love Claire and Sirius. Please leave a review! I lovelovelove them!