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Like a House on Fire by 800 words of heaven
Chapter 16 : Recognising Forks
 
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Lily's POV:

“Millie, do you remember what this is?” I asked, waving a fork in front of my best friend’s vacant eyes.

Her eyes came into focus a little and she stared at the piece of silver that was dangling in front of her. “A fork?” she answered, shooting me a puzzled glance. Bear with me for a sec, this is going somewhere, I promise.

“And do you know what a fork is used for?”

“Um… eating?”

“Exactly!” I said, beaming at her. “Well done Millie! Now, can you tell me why you’re not eating?” I asked, my tone losing all its sugary sweetness.

“Oh.” She glanced down at her plate, seeming to notice for the first time that there was actual food on it. “I’m not hungry,” she said after a moment spent frowning at her food. At least, I assumed she was frowning at her food, because that was the general direction she was looking in, but because of those bloody dreamer eyes, you never really could tell exactly what Millie was looking at.

“Why aren’t you hungry?” I asked. She’d been eating even less than usual.

She shrugged. “I’m just… not, you know?”

Sarah decided to notice the world that didn’t just consist of her dinner and looked up, mashed potato in mouth. “Issh shomefing whong?” Sarah asked around her full mouth. Classy, Sarah, classy.

Millie considered the question. “No…” she finally said.

“Then eat! The potatoes are delicious!” Sarah cried, stabbing her fork viciously into her potatoes for emphasis.

Millie gave a faint smile. “Nah, maybe later. I’ll just, um, I’ll just be in the library, uh, studying. I’ll see you later.” She abruptly stood up and swung her bag over her shoulder, almost knocking out a little first year and tripped away from the table, towards the door.

 

I sighed and turned back to my own food. I frowned as I chewed through my steak. There is no better food to ponderously chew through than steak. “Hey Sarah, does Millie seem… a little different to you these days?” I asked.

Sarah turned her attention away from Remus who was sitting diagonally opposite her, seemingly oblivious to her attention as him and James were in an intense discussion about Quidditch plays or something equally as riveting (not). “What do you mean?” she asked.

“She seems… spacey.”

“Lils, Millie always seems spacey.”

“I mean spacier than usual.”

Sarah thought about it then shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe it’s just a thing.”

“You don’t think she’s pregnant do you?”

“What?” screeched Sirius. Apparently he’d been listening in.

“She’d be eating more wouldn’t she?” Sarah said, completely ignoring Sirius.

“Wait, wait, wait! Exactly how would Millie be pregnant?” asked Sirius.

“I don’t know! Why don’t you tell me?” I asked, shooting him an accusatory glare. The nerve of the prat to go and get my best friend knocked up!

“I assure you, dear Lily, no matter whatever else Millie is, she is not pregnant!”

“Good!”

“Good!” We glared at each other for a minute or two.

“Um, what’s going on?” James asked. He’d finally noticed that something that didn’t concern Quidditch was going on around him.

“Nothing,” Sirius and I both said at the same time, giving each other a final glare.

“Doesn’t look like nothing.”

I sighed. “Millie’s been acting weird lately, that’s all.”

James instantly turned towards his best mate. “Padfoot, what did you do?” he asked.

“It wasn’t me!” Sirius cried, throwing his hands up in the air in defence. “And why is it my fault?”

“Because it’s always your fault,” said Remus tiredly.

“You better not be doing anything! We’re up against Ravenclaw next and I need my Seeker in top form!” James cried.

“That match isn’t until next term,” said Sirius, unable to keep the incredulity out of his voice.

“Potter, first of all, she isn’t your Seeker –” I started.

“That’s what I’ve been telling him,” Sirius muttered.

Ignoring him, I continued, “And secondly, there is more to Millie than being the Seeker on the Gryffindor Quidditch team!” Stupid Quidditch and stupid Quidditch captains! They were going to kill my best friend!

“You’re not training them for war still, are you?” asked Sarah.

“I was never training them for war! Quidditch is a demanding sport and it requires players who are in peak physical form –” James began heatedly.

“Are you still training them that hard?” Sarah asked again.

“No. Not since they almost committed mutiny on me,” he muttered the last part.

“Serves you right,” I said. “But back to the issue at hand. Something’s wrong.”

“Here’s a new idea,” Sirius began, and I could tell by his tone that this wasn’t going to go anywhere helpful. “Have you considered just asking her?”

Sarah and I glanced each other and burst out laughing.

“What’s so funny?” Sirius asked, looking bemused.

“Have you ever asked Millie anything, ever?” I asked, once I’d gained control of myself again.

“Yeah, heaps of times –”

Sarah shook her head. “No, not stuff like that. Have you ever asked her about her feelings?”

Sirius threw a look over towards his friends but they’d conveniently busied themselves with dessert. Looks like you’re on your own pal. “I’m a bloke, Sarah. Blokes don’t ask about feelings.” He shuddered at feelings.

“You may be a bloke, but you are also a boyfriend, and it’s part of your job description to make sure that your girlfriend is happy, or at the least, notice when she’s not and be there for her!” Sarah dictated.

Sirius looked like he’d just realised what he’d signed up for.

“Honestly, how have you two even lasted as long as you have without talking to each other?” I asked.

“We talk!” Sirius said heatedly.

“Yeah? About what?”

“Um… you know, stuff…” Sirius trailed off.

I shook my head. “You’re beyond help, my friend, beyond help.”

 

~*~

 

Sirius' POV:


Exactly what do we talk about again? Oh yeah, that’s right! We talk about Arithmancy and how I’m such a total loser at it… and we talk about Potions and how I’m such a total loser at it… and we kind of talk about everything that involves me being a total loser is some shape or form, come to think of it. And it’s more as if Millie berates me for being such a total loser and I shoot witty remarks back at her.

 

Our conversations are riveting. Really. They are.

 

It was after curfew and Millie still wasn’t in the Common Room. Normally, I wouldn’t care less where or what she was doing, but my little, ahem, chat with darling Evans was still bugging me. My Charms homework forgotten in front of me, I switched between staring broodingly at the portrait hole and into the fire. Neither was telling me where Millie was. She couldn’t still be in the library – Madam Pince kicked everyone out ten minutes before curfew. Actually, she could still be in the library and even the Pincer could miss her. I’d noticed that Millie was very good at hiding, especially in the library.

“Mate, just get the Map and find her already,” Moony sighed, after I scrunched up the third piece of parchment and threw it into the fire to watch it burn. I felt it added quite nicely to my brooding untouchable image.

“Who says this has got anything to do with her?” I asked defensively. It was not cool when Sirius Black was caught brooding over his girlfriend – especially his pseudo-girlfriend.

“Because I’m not an idiot.” Touché, Lupin, touché.

It was my turn to sigh. I really shouldn’t care this much. Really, I shouldn’t.

 

Glancing swiftly at the Map to see if the coast was clear, I made a beeline for the door to the Great Hall. I’d spotted Millie on the Map somewhere in the grounds. What on earth was she doing out there? It was a cold and dark November night and here she was, sulking around the grounds! I traipsed around, frowning at the Map under the feeble light from my wand. It seemed as if she was in the boathouse… strange choice. However, if I thought about it, it wasn’t so strange. No one would ever think to look in the boathouse for anything… except you know, boats. But who goes looking for boats anyways? Especially in the freezing autumn weather, where you’d rather be curled up in a comfortable armchair in front of the fire in the Common Room… thinking up new and inventive ways to prank the student population with your best mates and NOT about how much you wanted to snog your quasi-girlfriend when you were both locked in there, because really, that’s what broom cupboards are for.

And yes, I realise that she might have been on the verge of a panic attack.

The snogging would have distracted her, I swear. I’m a great kisser.

Word.

 

She didn’t notice when I walked in to the relative warmth of the interior of the boathouse. She was situated in a far corner, legs crossed, back against the wall, wand lying beside her, shedding a little pool of light, with some sort of book in her lap. From where I stood watching, it seemed as if she was scribbling something… literally. Was she… drawing?

I sauntered up to her and plonked myself down next to her. Finally, Millie decided to notice, and notice she did, quite violently actually. She must have jumped a full foot in the air, her hand jerking across the paper and a yelp escaping her lips.

“What the hell, Black?” she squeaked, after her initial shock had worn off. I wasn’t too worried – it hadn’t been that big of a scare – she still managed to sound pissed off at my appearance. As usual. I wondered whether she would still be annoyed at my presence if I had kissed her in the broom cupboard… hmm, this theory might be worth testing.

“Millie, I didn’t know you drew,” I frowned, choosing to ignore her question.

“There are quite a few things you don’t know about me,” she said, returning to her sketch. Strangely, her voice didn’t hold any sort of bitterness at the fact, but it still made me feel uncomfortable. Whether she gave a damn or not, the point was that she was still right.

“What are you drawing?”

She sighed. “You’re not going to leave me alone until I tell you, are you?”

Even though she wasn’t looking at me, I grinned at her. “Nope.”

“That’s a very annoying habit of yours, you know that?”

“What, being stubborn?”

“No. Knowing when to stop but not giving a hippogriff’s behind anyways.”

I grinned at her again. Maybe she’ll think I’m debonair or something. She shook her head (clearly, the debonair thing didn’t work out), resignedly saying, “It’s a sketch I’ve been working on for a while now.”

“Of what?” I was genuinely curious to know. What captured Millie White’s attention so?

“Our Potions classroom, funnily enough.”

“That’s a strange thing to draw.” And that was a very insensitive thing to say, oh King of Cool.

She shrugged. “I was bored one day in class and there didn’t seem to be anything better to draw…” She shrugged again and continued with her drawing.

I was silent for a moment. For how long had she been sitting next to me scribbling away and I had never noticed?

“It’s not a big deal if you didn’t notice, Sirius,” she said.

How did she know I was thinking that?

“You’re easier to figure out sometimes than you would have people believe.” Her voice was teasing, but she shot me a small smile to soften the blow a little.

“I am?” I asked, completely thrown off by this new turn in the conversation. Or it might possibly be the faint smell of blueberries wafting in the air, but I couldn’t be sure.

Her smile widened a little. “You are. Sometimes.”

I regarded her for a moment. She held my gaze, but her attention wouldn’t remain for too long on me, inevitably returning to what I assumed was her sketch book. “Or maybe you’re more perceptive than you let on,” I murmured. Her hair chose that moment to slip from behind her ear to swing in front of her face like a curtain, but not before I caught her fleeting smile, and a stronger scent of blueberries. Merlin, how I loved blueberries.

 

We sat there not talking for some time, the silence broken only by the sound of the lake water gently lapping against the walls, the scratch of Millie’s pencil on paper and night time outdoors sounds, far away.

“I can see why you come here,” I finally said, my voice sounding unnaturally loud in the peace of the night, even though I spoke quietly. “I mean, no one thinks to check outside the castle for wandering students and it’s protected from the elements…”

“And it’s usually very peaceful too,” Millie added without looking up from her sketch. She was really into it.

It took me a moment to realise she was poking fun at me. “Hey!”

“Get back to the castle Sirius. I think the lack of sleep is making you slower than usual.”

I let out a laugh. “I can’t. I have to make sure my girlfriend doesn’t freeze to death!”

I thought my voice was joking enough, but instead of getting another smile (yeah I know, I wish) or even a snarky reply, Millie sighed and asked quietly, “How much longer do I have to do this?”

 

I was surprised into silence, but I recovered quickly and asked, “Do what?”

“You know.” She waved her hand vaguely. “This. You. Me. Us.”

“Why? Did something happen?” Had another guy caught Millie’s attention? And why was I feeling so weird about it, if he had?

“No… nothing happened. It’s just… I’m tired of pretending.” She sighed again, but her eyes remained steadfastly locked on the sketch book. “This might be normal for you, but for me…”

“I know,” I said quietly.

Her head swivelled towards me and she looked me in the eye. “Do you really?” she asked, her eyes searching mine. Her amazing, dreamy, firewhiskey eyes…

“Millie,” I began gently. “I don’t know if we can anymore.”

“What do you mean?” I watched as confusion subtly changed her features. She was looking quite cute…

“Well, people, most importantly our friends seem very comfortable with the idea of us being together.”

“So? What does it matter to people, even our friends, what happens between us?” I saw a spark of stubbornness light up in her eyes, something that I hadn’t seen before. The girl had some fighting spirit in her, which is always nice.

“It would make things a bit awkward, wouldn’t it?”

“Would it?”

I was about to answer that of course it did! We’d been together for a month now (which was a considerable amount of time for me), but then I stopped.

Millie gave me a sad smile. “It shouldn’t be awkward between us. Nothing happened!”

“Did you want it to?” I asked. The question just sort of slipped out, but now that it had, I was glad that I’d asked it.

“It’s a bit too late to ask what I wanted, Sirius, but for what it’s worth, then no, I didn’t.”

That’s strange. I was disappointed to hear that she didn’t like me. “So… you don’t like me?” Way to go sound insecure Black!

“No, I do like you… sort of… sometimes, but let’s face it Sirius, you’re not exactly boyfriend material, and you know it.”

“I am too!” Finally, a normal emotion! Outrage! “At least, I could be.”

“Yeah, maybe, eventually, for the right person, but…”

“You and me?”

“I cannot believe you could even entertain such an idea for a moment.”

“No…”

“Exactly.” She sounded almost… happy at the idea that we’d cleared that up. Why wasn’t she heartbroken, or at the least, a little upset at the idea that we’d never work out? Unless…

“Hey! Are you saying that I’m not good enough for you?” I asked heatedly.

She seemed unperturbed. “I’m not saying that at all. I’m saying you’re not my type… and I’m not yours. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

Wasn’t there?

“So. Can we end this? It’s becoming more unbelievable by the day.”

“But I kind of like having you around,” I murmured. What? I did? Since when?

“I’m sure you’d get used to it.” She grinned. “Eventually.”

“Next Hogsmeade weekend.”

“What?”

“After the next Hogsmeade weekend. We can call it quits after the next Hogsmeade weekend.”

“But that’s not until next month! Why wait so long?”

Because it gives me a whole month to convince you that we could work! “Because it’ll seem a little more believable if we come back from a date or whatever mad at each other.”

“It’ll still be believable if we get mad at each other tomorrow and break up the next day. It’s not that big of a deal.”

“I know, but I want to do this properly.”

“You want to break up with me properly?”

No, I want to take you on a real date so I can prove to you that we are believable. And trust me when I say this, that there is no other reason why I want this to continue. The only reason. Not because I like you or anything. No. No way. You’re not my type. And I’m not yours. Instead of saying all of this to her, I said, “Yeah. Let’s go out with a bang, shall we?”

She looked at me for a moment; a ghost of a smile pulled at her lips. “Why not?”

 

“So tell me what are you actually doing down here?” I asked after some more time spent in companionable silence. Operation prove-I’m-great-boyfriend-material is online. And I’m never watching another James Bond film again. Ever.

She looked at me in surprise. “I’m drawing. What does it look like I’m doing?”

“You could have drawn in the Common Room – there’s better lighting there. It looks like you’re hiding, but the question is, from what?”

She closed her sketch book with a snap. Had I pissed her off? That wasn’t a good start. Good boyfriends didn’t make their girlfriends unhappy. Or if they did, they tried to fix it. Or something. She didn’t say anything for a moment. “It’s nothing,” she finally said.

“It has to be something. Otherwise you would have stayed in the castle. It’s warmer.”

“Really, it’s nothing.”

“Yes, it is.”

“No, it’s not.”

“Yes, it is.”

“No, it’s not!”

“Yes –”

“Drop it, Sirius!”

I was once again shocked into silence. There was that fighter spirit again, burning brighter in her eyes. “So it must be something big, then?”

She let out a frustrated sigh. “Sirius, do you not understand the meaning of the word, no?”

“I understand the meaning of the word no very well – that’s why I don’t stop pestering.”

“Well, at least you’re bright enough to realise you pester. Realising you have a problem is half the battle won. Or something like that.”

“What’s wrong?” I asked quietly, trying to sound as sincere as possible. Maybe it was time for a new kind of attack.

She sighed again (she seemed to be doing a lot of that) and scowled at me. I was amused that she thought she could intimidate me into stop bothering her. It was quite hard to take any sort of threat seriously from Millie.

“You know I won’t stop asking until you tell me.” Did that sound a little smug? Meh, what the hell?

“You’re such an idiot.”

“No, that’s not it. As annoying as you may find my presence, I’m quite certain that it wouldn’t cause you to spend a night in the freezing cold in a boathouse.”

Her scowl deepened. Merlin, didn’t she look just adorable when she was mad? A distant part of my brain wondered if this was the best way to go about things. Shut up distant part of my brain – no one cares what you think. “You won’t understand.”

“Try me.”

Another searching look. Who knew that such dreamy eyes could look at you with such an intensity? But I held my ground. “I miss my dad,” she said quietly.

 

She was right. I was way out of my depth here. I couldn’t handle grief! Hell, I couldn’t handle any sort of emotion! I still giggled when someone said bum and found fart jokes incredibly funny! I’m a bloke for Merlin’s sake! Abandon ship! My brain screamed at me. However, as usual, I ignored the sage advice of my brain and ploughed on. “Um…” Well done, Black. Now she’ll really respect you for your eloquence.

“I told you that you wouldn’t get it.” Once again, she surprised me by not sounding bitter about it. Did this girl not feel emotion the way most people do? Clearly, said the distant part of my brain again. It turned out to be my stupid voice of reason. No wonder it was so distant. “No one does,” she added, so quietly that I almost didn’t hear what she said.

“You’re right. I don’t understand, and I can’t empathise, but I can sympathise.”

“I don’t want your pity.” Now is not the time to be prideful, woman!

“And I’m not giving it. Sympathy’s different.”

“Then what are you trying to do?” she asked suddenly.

“What do you mean?” I was taken aback. Again.

“Why the sudden interest in my emotional wellbeing?”

“Because I care.” That surprised her. Don’t worry, Mills, it surprised me too. “We all do. And I want you to know that we’re there for you, whether you like it or not.”

She just looked at me in silence. After what seemed like an age, she finally smiled and said, “I choose stubborn people for friends, don’t I?”

I grinned. “The stubbornest. Now come on. Let’s see if we can sneak into the castle without getting caught, shall we?”




AN: YAY! Relationship progress FTW! And also some much awaited Sirius POV and a new POV as well. What did you think of Lily? What did you think of Sirius' revelations? What did you think of it in general? What do you think about anything at all really? Can't wait to hear what y'all think!


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