“Hey James, could you pass the salt?” asked Sirius, turning in his seat to look directly at Claire, who was seated three seats away to his left.
“Sure,” she said quietly. She took the salt shaker in her hand and passed it down to him, not meeting his eyes. She returned to her meal without another word.
“Thanks,” he said loudly, looking at her meaningfully.
She nodded and avoided his stare. Sirius glowered.
“Is everything alright?”
Claire looked up from her notes to see Lily surveying her with a combination of interest and concern.
“Of course, why wouldn’t it be?”
“You’ve been really quiet the last while,” Lily said carefully. “James said you don’t participate in Arithmancy, and you keep to yourself in Charms and Potions. And you don’t sit with Sirius in History anymore.”
“Just NEWT stress,” she replied offhandedly.
“You and Sirius didn’t get into another row, did you?”
“You know you can tell me, right?”
“I’m going to ask James if anything happened.”
“You do that.”
Sirius waltzed into the Transfiguration classroom and set his bag atop his desk. He glanced around the room and frowned, spying Claire seated at the very front of the room. Though McGonagall never assigned seats to her students, the Gryffindors had made a habit of sitting together at the back of the room, with Claire and Lily occupying the desks directly in front of Sirius and James. Students began to file in quickly and Sirius took his seat, looking absentmindedly at the front row.
As James took his seat to Sirius’s right, Sirius felt Lily brush past him and hurry to the front of the room. As she passed, she turned her head to look at him, an apologetic expression on her face.
While Peter had landed himself in detention with Slughorn for melting his third cauldron, Remus, James, and Sirius lounged alone in the boys’ dormitory, giving off the impression that they were studying. Eventually, James threw away his Transfiguration notes (and the issue of Quidditch Today that he had hidden behind them) and lay back on his four-poster.
“Padfoot, why is James avoiding you?”
Remus looked up from his journal. Sirius scowled.
“Come off it – she’s ignored you every time you try to talk to her, she doesn’t sit next to you in class anymore, and she won’t even look you in the face. Lily said she won’t even talk to her about it.”
“You and your girlfriend talk to each other about me and James?”
“No. She brought it up first.”
“It’s nice to know you can go long enough without sucking each other’s faces to have a conversation.”
James became pink in the face. “We’re not talking about us, we’re talking about you. What did you do?”
“I didn’t do anything!”
“It doesn’t seem that way,” said Remus. “She’s not the ignoring type.”
“You must’ve done something really stupid this time. She normally just sets your pants on fire or something.”
“I didn’t do anything,” Sirius insisted.
“Whatever you say,” said James, offhandedly, reaching over to his magazine again. “But if you don’t get your shit sorted out soon, I’m just going to jinx you both, because you guys not talking to each other is really annoying.”
“You’ve been avoiding me.”
Claire looked up and saw Sirius standing directly in front of her, his arms crossed in front of him and his eyes hard. Her mind immediately summoned an image of his bare chest, and she felt her fingers itch.
“I haven’t,” she said defiantly, forcing herself to look into his face.
“Don’t give me that,” he said in a low voice. Claire could not be sure if his voice was angry, hurt, or embarrassed.
She sighed. “OK, I’m sorry. I just need some… time to myself.” She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and she caught Sirius’s eyes following her movement.
“We need to talk,” he said finally, his voice serious.
“Of course,” she said. She hesitated for a moment. “I have to go now. Bye, Sirius.”
She turned on her heel and hastened away and down the hall.
“I won’t forget!” she heard him call after her.
It was past midnight and nearly all the other students had gone to bed. Sirius had heard from Lily that Claire had taken to staying up late in the Gryffindor common room because she had difficulty falling asleep. At a quarter past twelve, he quietly crept down the staircase leading from his dormitory to the common room, and sure enough, there was one lone figure sitting in silence by the fireplace. Half expecting her to have a book in her hands, Sirius was surprised to see that instead her eyes were set on the dancing flames, distracted and glazed over. He walked towards her and stood in front of her, but she said nothing. After a quiet moment, she lifted her head and looked at him with an expression of curiosity and calm.
“Hi,” she said finally, smiling at him strangely.
“Hi.” He took a seat in the armchair opposite her and they merely stared at one another across the table for a whole minute.
“Couldn’t sleep?” he asked.
“No,” she said, placing her hands in her lap. Another silent moment passed by.
“We need to talk,” he said, “about the other day.”
“I know. I’m sorry for avoiding you.”
“Will you be honest with me?”
“What if I’m not prepared to be honest?”
“I promise to be honest with you,” he said. “Or, as honest as I can be giving the circumstances.”
“The circumstances?” Sirius wasn’t sure he liked the strangeness and aloofness of her manner.
“This is pretty damn weird.”
She smiled. “Yeah, it is. Alright then, what would you like to talk about?”
“I kissed you.”
“And you kissed me back.”
She sighed. “That’s not something I know how to answer properly.” He stared at her, feeling his frustration building. “Why did you kiss me?”
“Because I wanted to. I like you, James. I fucking like you, OK?” She looked taken aback at this declaration. Sirius continued. “You came to help me and you were looking the way you do and I just couldn’t help it so yeah, I snogged you, and I’d do it again. I just thought, since you kissed me back, you might like me, too.”
Even in the light of the fire, Sirius caught her blush. She dipped her head and watched her hands as she twisted her fingers nervously. He waited for her to speak again, more out of a lack of anything else to say than patience.
“You like me?” she said finally.
“I don’t know. It didn’t really hit me until recently.” He paused. “Do you like me?”
She sighed again, more heavily, and looked up to meet his eyes. “Listen Sirius, this is going to be a lot to get off my chest, and some of it may not make any sense to you and it may hurt your feelings, but you’re just going to have to suck it up, OK?” she said, resuming her usual confident attitude, if only for a moment. “You’ve always been my friend, or whatever the hell we were. I mean, you were always an irritating wanker, but I never hated you and I could tell you were a good person behind all that arrogance and nonsense. So I started to warm up to you. And I guess, these… things that I’ve been feeling, I never really knew what they meant because I just assumed that it was because I was getting to know you as my friend. I mean, you saved me from falling out of a tree and you did all those nice things – I’m supposed to feel all, warm and fuzzy about those thing, right?
“And when that thing in the hallway happened, and you were bleeding like that, and my throat closed up and I don’t think I’d ever been so scared for someone in my whole life, and I wasn’t really sure what I was feeling until you kissed me. And I realised, I liked it.”
She stopped for a breath, having been speaking at record speed. Sirius smiled, pleased at her confession. When she spoke again, her voice had slowed down considerably.
“Except here’s the thing, Sirius: I’m not supposed to like you. I mean, you’re arrogant, and you’re a bully, and you’re just so full of shit sometimes. And the way you are with girls, too! How you just go from girl to girl in the blink of an eye. I’m not supposed to like someone like that.” Sirius felt a blow to his chest at her words. He let her continue. “And your reputation with girls – how am I supposed to know that it won’t be the same with me? How am I supposed to know that you haven’t said stuff like this and done stuff like this to other girls before me? I don’t want to be played the idiot, Sirius, and I’m not going to let you do that to me.”
She stopped and for a moment, Sirius thought she was finished. “Anything else?” he asked.
Claire swallowed. “I’ve been avoiding you because I didn’t really know how I felt about you, and I wasn’t really sure what I wanted. I’m still not sure what I want. I’m going to need some time to think about this.”
“Oh.” Sirius did not know what to say. It was not the first time Claire had left him speechless. He stared at his hands but could feel her eyes on him.
“I’m sorry, Sirius.”
Without another word, she rose from her seat and disappeared up the staircase.
“OK, so, start from the beginning. What happened?”
Sirius sighed and looked at his hands. “This whole rubbish with her ignoring me started a few weeks ago – you know that duel with Snape and Rosier? When he used his Sectumsempra and I was sitting in the hallway until Pomfrey and McGonagall showed up?”
The three boys nodded solemnly.
“Right, so apparently after Pete ran into the common room screaming about it, James went looking for me and she found me and started to have a fit about how I was going to have scars and she decided to fix me up herself, but she couldn’t really do much. And I don’t know what happened or what made me do it, but she just kept talking and she was going crazy and she smelled so good and – and I just kissed her.”
Peter gasped. James smirked in satisfaction. Remus frowned thoughtfully.
“And she kissed me back! So we snogged for a good minute before you lot all showed up. Since then she wouldn’t even look at me.”
“But you’ve talked to her, right?” asked Remus.
“I caught her in the common room the other night and we got to talking about it and now I’m more confused than ever because none of what she said made any sense.”
Sirius quickly recounted the night where he had met Claire in the common room to his friends. The four boys sat quietly for a few moments, pondering carefully what to make of the situation.
“I’ve got it! She obviously fancies you, but she’s just trying out that hard-to-get rubbish girl do,” said James confidently.
“Oh, like when you were sure Evans was just playing hard to get, even when she almost hexed your nadgers off?”
James glared at Sirius. “Fine, if you don’t want me to be supportive of your ridiculous love life.”
“Well,” said Remus, clearing his throat, “how exactly do you feel about her?”
Everyone looked at Sirius curiously. Sirius’s face fell. He gave them a meaningful look. James’s smile widened.
“That doesn’t leave this room!”
“Calm down, no one else would give a damn about your inner romantic turmoil,” scoffed James. “Well, if you like her, did you tell her?”
Sirius opened his mouth to answer, but Remus held up a hand. “She said she’s feeling conflicted because of your track record and she’s worried that she’s just another girl to you, right? So, what I’m thinking you should do, is make it clear how serious you are about her. She needs to have confidence in you.”
“Yeah, that’s all nice and dandy, but what if she doesn’t fancy me at all?”
“She said she likes you, didn’t she?” asked Peter.
“Exactly. She obviously fancies you. She’s just too daft to figure it out.”
“James, you’re not exactly a romantic authority,” said Remus. “It took you seven years to get Lily to go out with you.”
James shot him a mean look while Peter hid a chuckle behind his hand. Sirius sat thoughtfully for a moment, replaying Claire’s speech over and over in his mind.
“I guess we’ll just have to wait for her to figure it out then, won’t we?”
“And you just walked out?”
Claire nodded sadly, her hands clasped tightly together in her lap. She watched as Lily chewed on her lip in thought.
“Well, I’m not really sure what to say. I mean, he’s not all bad and I don’t believe he’s the sort of bloke to tell a girl all sorts of nice things just to get into her knickers,” she said finally. “So if you realise that you do like him, I don’t think you need to worry about it ending badly.”
Claire waited. “And?”
“And what? I’m not some sort of oracle that’s going to tell you what to do. You’re going to figure out whether you fancy him or not on your own. I’m just telling you that if you did fancy him, it wouldn’t be the end of the world.”
“Thank you for your gloriously insightful wisdom,” Claire replied sarcastically.
Hello, everyone! I hope you're still sticking with this story - it's a bit wonky, isn't it? But I like the direction that it's going in and I'm currently writing snippets for future chapters. If everything goes as planned, this is the halfway point of the story. Please review - I love reviews! And thank you for stopping by!