Chapter 10 : Exploding Snap
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“Hey, we’re going to start a game of Exploding Snap. Wanna join?”
It's Emmeline's voice from over near the fire with everyone else.
I had only just been making my way up to my room after returning from the forest. But I stop, shrug and hesitate for a moment. Well, may as well take my mind off everything, right? “Sure, why not.” I answer as I redirect myself towards their huddle.
And it does help take my mind off everything. It’s actually quite fun. We’ve teamed ourselves up, girls versus boys. Even though Remus and Peter are outnumbered, they’re good sports about it. I actually laugh and return to something resembling a carefree state for the first time in what feels like forever.
“Ooh, match! Get it Ems!” Marigold squeals as two matching cards are overturned in the building pile. Both her and Remus dive to push their hands down before the card explodes. Emmeline manages to wedge hers below Remus’, gaining our team one point and ensuring the safety against the sparking pop.
“Hah! Take that!” Emmeline gloats, as I give her a high five.
Remus smirks and lays out a new set. “Next time you won’t be so lucky,” he says with a faux ominous tone. But Emmeline is poised and at the ready, her back straight and her hand at attention.
“Let’s go chaps, we’re tied up now. “ Her eyes haven’t left the down-turned cards. I ready myself as well, half knowing Emmeline will probably beat me to it anyway.
Remus quickly overturns each pile, and we all sit tensely, waiting for two of the card’s symbols to match up so we can claim it. A fish, a raven, a whale, a beetle…
The next card is overturned. Marigold lunges for the card, shrieking “MATCH! MATCH!!"
But she’s wrong, that’s a raven not an eagle, which is the one we’re looking out for. Emmeline screeches, “NO STOP YOU TWAT IT’S A RAVEN!!” but it’s too late; Marigold has plopped her hand down upon the incorrect card. There is a split second of complete silence as we wait, and then the whole pile explodes with a deafening ‘SNAP’ into a ball of fire. We all erupt in giggles and laughs in surprise and fall back, shielding ourselves form the ashes and sparks.
“You dolt!” I tease, as Marigold lays back, half in laughter and half in confusion.
“But it was an eagle!”
“A raven!” Emmeline shouts at her. “Not the same!”
We all laugh more as Emmeline uses her wand to reset the deck.
“And what is all this fun being had without me?”
We look up towards the portrait hole to see James sauntering in with a grin on his face at the sight of us, rolling around laughing on the floor with cards spread out every which way around us.
“Oh, hey Prongs,” Remus says between laughs as he picks up the scorched cards and reorganizes them into two piles. “Care to join?”
“I would, except you lot are about to miss dinner. I came to get you all, out of the kindness of my heart,” he lays a hand over his heart and gives an exaggerated genial expression.
Remus snorts with laughter. “Right.”
“Oh hey Rora back from the wild woods, I see?” James says to me with a wink. I just narrow my eyes at him with a smirk.
“I’m starved, I’ll be going then!” Peter hops up eagerly followed by Marigold and Emmeline.
Remus starts picking up the cards and stowing them back in the box. But they are spread out in all directions across the common room floor. I bend over to help him.
“You lot go ahead, I’m going to help Remus clean up. Meet you later,” I wave them off.
Once they’ve left, it’s just Remus and me in the common room.
“Thanks Rora,” he says with a smile to me. I just smile back with a nod of the head.
After a minute of silently collecting the cards, Remus carefully asks, “So, how are you?”
I stop for a split second. How was I? Well, that was a question wasn’t it.
“I’m…fine.” I say, not meeting his gaze. “Just loaded down with studies, y’know.”
“Mmhm…” he says, before carefully continuing, “And you’ve talked to Sirius?”
I let out a short breath. How many times would this come up today?
“I don’t want to talk to Sirius.”
“Well you should.”
“Why?” I ask unhelpfully.
“You need to. For both your sakes.”
I look up to him, staring knowingly at me with those tired hazel eyes. It’s impossible to blame Remus. He’s the most good-natured out of all of us. “But Remus-“
“Come on Aurora. I know you’re avoiding him. We all notice.”
I say nothing. Even though I had a feeling they all sensed it (I mean, really, how could you not?) but it was almost embarrassing to have it pointed out to me. I thought everyone would just accept it and get over it. But apparently not.
“It’s not that easy, he’s being so difficult about it-“
“And you’re not?” he interjects. This stumps me. It was kind of true, I guess. But still, what was I expected to do? Go over and confess my stupid schoolgirl crush and that I got my little sensitive feelings hurt? No thank you.
“I’m doing my best,” I say, shoving the last of the cards in the box.
“Well, I think that you can work things out. He cares about you.”
“I’m not sure what he wants anymore,” I mutter.
“Well, I’m his best mate. And I can tell you that I know you two can be friends again. I know both of you better than either of you know yourself,” He smirks at me. I raise a brow at him.
“Oh, do you?” But I smirk right back.
“Yes. Trust me.”
“I do, Remus. I trust you.” I say.
“Well good. Because we’re all getting bloody tired of having you two moody rainclouds around,”
I give a sharp laugh. “Well so sorry to be such an inconvenience to you.” But I process his words. Was Sirius really being all that moody, too? Because form my point of view, he seems unfazed. Which only added further insult to my injury.
“Anyways, c’mon,” Remus says as we finish our cleaning. “Let’s go to dinner. I have a chicken leg with my name on it.”
Later, we are all back in the common room after dinner.
“Rora, mind giving me a hand with this equation?” Remus asks me, holding out his Arthimancy homework. I crane my neck over to get a look at it.
“Substitute the variable there….and don’t forget the Xavier Principle…that calculation there is off because you haven’t accounted for it….” I mutter after giving it a glance. Remus immediately pours over his scrawled calculations and crosses out and fixes.
“Blimey, I wouldn’t have even noticed…thanks,” he says gratefully. I just give a short nod. I was used to being the resident tutor when it came to maths around here by now.
“So Rora,” Marigold scoots over to me, her bouncy blonde curls tied up into a know above her head. “What are we doing for Halloween?”
“Party, I expect?” I’m not sure why she’s asking me this. It was usually up to the Marauders to plan out the yearly party. “Right Remus?”
“Hmm?” He snaps out of his focus on his math problem. “Oh yeah…James is planning it, naturally.”
“See,” I say, making to return to my textbook. Marigold looks unsatisfied with this answer.
But before she gets a chance to prod more information out of us, the portrait hole opens with a bang. It’s Sirius, walking through, of course. I quickly look down. I can feel the burning sensation of everyone’s eyes on me. I know they’re watching, waiting for me to say something to him. To invite him over, even.
I make eye contact with Remus, and he nods his head in encouragement. Emmeline is beside him, raising a brow at me. But my tongue seems to freeze, and I say nothing. I watch him deliberately not look over at us, headed for the boys’ dormitory staircase.
I cover up my face with my book, to shield it from my friends’ view. I cannot deal with this right now.
But before even another minute goes by, I hear the aggressive slam of a book on the table. “Alright, that’s it! For the love of Godric Gryffindor, I am tired of this. You two are driving me absolutely mad.”
And suddenly someone has grabbed my wrist, disentangling me from my book, and is dragging me across the room. I realize that it’s Emmeline, her raven hair flowing up and down as she forces me up. She drags me over to Sirius, who has only just barely started to ascend the steps and, with her free hand, grabs his shoulder and pulls him vehemently backwards.
“What—what the bloody hell are you doing?” Sirius exclaims, trying to fight here off. But she somehow manages to manacle the both of us and pulls us towards the portrait hole.
“Em, what are you doing-“ I yell, trying to claw her hands from around my wrist.
But Emmeline’s grasp, whether from anger or pure willpower, holds strong as she drags us forth down the corridor.
“Seriously Ems, stop this-” I beg. I exchange a nervously panicked look with Sirius. Both of us have abandoned our ignoring to share in the bizarre moment, it seems.
“Let us go, Ems, seriously,” Sirius pleads darkly. But she isn’t listening.
“I need an empty room, I need an empty room….” I hear her hurriedly whisper to herself as we walk (or stumble and thrash about, more like) down the hall.
Then, as if out of thin air, there is a large wooden door in front of a long expansive stone wall. She opens it, take a quick look around, and nods as if she is approving it. And chucks us through.
I stumble forth and have to catch myself on one of the large stone pillars.
I turn back around to see Emmeline standing in the doorway with her arms crossed. Before closing the door, she looks straight at us commandingly and practically orders, “You. Both. Talk. Now.” and with that she slams the door. I hear a loud and ominous thud and click. The lock.
Sirius immediately tries to turn the handle, but it’s no use. We’re locked in. I don’t know what enchantments she used on the other side of the door, but it’s surely not budging.
“Emmeline! Let us out!” I shout. All I hear is a muffled reply of “Not until you two idiots talk!” followed by footsteps.
I turn slowly back around. There really isn’t any avoiding it now.
He’s standing there, his face angry and bemused simultaneously. He’s pursed one corner of his mouth. His long dark hair, disheveled form the struggle, falls over his eyes. He stares back at me expectantly.
“So. Sirius.” I say hesitantly. I am not prepared for this in the slightest.
“Aurora.” he replies, his voice noticeably casual in comparison.
There is an awkward silence as we stand there in the sunlit expansive stone room, completely alone and at a loss for words.
“So you want to explain yourself?” I say finally, crossing my arms. Might as well get straight to it.
“Explain what?” He answers nonchalantly, as if he had no idea why I had been avoiding him.
“Why you’ve done my head in all year?”
“Rora-“ He attempts to come towards me, his arm outstretched for mine. But I jerk away.
I take a deep breath. “I want to know how you really feel.”
“What do you mean?” he asks lazily. It’s like he’s trying to be difficult.
I try to form a coherent explanation. But my mind is in a state of shock that this moment is even happening.
“You made it seem, at the party, like you…wanted me.” I start hesitantly, not meeting his gaze. “And then…” My voice is slow, and tangled. I can’t seem to achieve rationality.
“Then what?” He interrupts impatiently.
“You go and snog other girls as if…” I can feel my throat swelling up. Why was this so damned difficult to say? This isn’t coming out right.
“As if you don’t care about me….as if I don’t matter.” I mutter pathetically. Not exactly the angle I would had planned for.
“Rora, that’s not what happened-“ He answers firmly, a certain tone of pleading in his voice.
“Really? Then what, from your point of view, happened?” I say. I can begin to feel that edge of anger build in my stomach.
He avoids my question. “I don’t see how I was in the wrong here-“
“You bloody kissed me, you twat!” I’m suddenly shouting now. Hot tears are pooling and threatening to pour if I’m not careful. The frustrations and tensions of the past few weeks are starting to collect and surface. “You kissed me and then I turn around for a few minutes and you’re snogging some fifth year girl you just met? Really?”
“That’s not how it happened, I-“
“That’s exactly how it happened!”
I’m so angry. Angry at him for everything. For making me believe he thought more of me. Of us. For leading me on. For embarrassing me. For squashing my heart and splitting it. For ruining our friendship.
“Rora, listen to me. I was just drunk and fooling around. I never said…I never meant-“
He stops mid sentence. But it’s too late; the hurts already been done.
There is a silent moment. I can tell his frustration is building, but I just want to disappear into the floor.
“You don’t even know what you do to people, do you?” I say after another minute, my voice barely above a whisper. I fear my hands will start to tremble with how overwhelmed and angry I am.
He lets out a growling sigh and throws his hands up, hooking his arms behind his head as he turns around in frustration. “And what does that mean?"
“It means that here you are, acting like you never did anything to make me feel this way, when you were hinting and flirting all year.” My voice rises. “But I’m done I can’t deal with this if you’re going to be so stupid-"
This seems to set him off. He’s turned quickly back around, his face riddled with anger and shock. “Stupid? Flirting? Me?” He practically shouts at me. “Don’t act like you haven’t been doing the same thing, Rora.”
“I have not been flirting. If anything, it’s only in response to what you’ve been doing to me!” I yell back
“What? Rora, this is hardly just my fault! If you hadn’t-”
“Hadn’t what?” I demand, suddenly finding my guts. “Hadn’t thought like a NORMAL person that maybe since you kissed me and flirted that MAYBE you liked me more than a friend? Am I the crazy one here?”
At this he let’s out a sort of strangled growl of irritation and sits down on the ledge near the window, his head in his hands.
I cross my arms again and turn away, staring at the ceiling and willing my eyes to stay dry.
We’ve never fought like this, ever. It’s like we’re behaving like two completely different people. I was so unprepared for this conversation. It’s not fair. This isn’t how it was supposed to go.
“Look, I just, I can’t-” I try to start. But it’s not use, my voice has finally cracked and I feel the warm moisture grow in my eyes. I try to hide my face but Sirius has noticed. He immediately gets up and comes to me.
He gently takes my hands from my face. Though I am still overcome with anger, I let him. He slowly takes my chin in his hand and guides my face towards him, so I have no choice but to stare into his eyes.
And before I can even stop him or figure out what’s going on, he fiercely and roughly kisses me.
I don’t even have time to react, to punch or slap him. He’s locked his arms around my waist and is pulling me closer. Something seems to erupt from inside me. My rational thoughts have flown out the window. I don’t stop him.
I can feel his tongue, his warm lips, he hand at the small of my back. The smell of his hair, the warmth of his body. Closer than I’ve ever been to him.
I take strangled breaths in between our kisses as he gently pushes me back so we’re squeezed against the wall. I couldn’t escape even if I wanted to, but I don’t seem to care.
I grab my hands onto his dark locks that have fallen over his brows and closed eyes. I pull his face even closer to mine. I can feel him smirk beneath my kiss but I don’t open my eyes. I want to focus on the taste. The touch. The smell of this moment.
There is a crash behind us. We jerk apart, as if electrified by a curse.
The figure standing in the doorway is probably the last person I would want to see at this moment. It’s Professor Lancaster.
“Oh,” he stumbles in, clearly surprised at the room being occupied. “Black, Mockinglow, it’s you two.”
Sirius immediately puts me down and backs away. “Sorry to surprise you, Professor,” he says politely. “We were just talking.”
“Yes, I can see that…” Lancaster stares pointedly at me. I want to disappear into the floor. I can feel the hot rush of blood filling my cheeks.
“Sorry, we’ll go…” I mutter, eyes downcast.
“Yes, off you go. It’s nearly nightfall and you two know better than to be out of your common room.” Lancaster agrees, clearly wanting us to go to escape this awkward situation.
Sirius takes the opportunity to leave and brusquely walks out without a backward glance.
Lancaster’s icy eyes survey me up and down, no doubt puzzled by my obviously distraught state.
“You okay, Miss Mockinglow?” He asks before I get the chance to leve, in what I assume is meant to be some form of kindness.
“Yes,” I answer tersely and I make to leave as well, but Lancaster grabs my arm.
“You sure, Aurora?” His eyes seem to pour into mine. I clench my jaw and narrow my eyes at him.
“Yes, sir. Let me go please,” I yank myself from his entrapped grasp and hurry out, not looking behind me.
As I desperately rush towards the common room, I feel a strange sensation come over me. For the first time in my life, I need someone to talk to, to spill to. I go directly towards where I know I will find Emmeline and Marigold.
“What the fuck?” are the first words I utter (or rather practically shout) at them when I enter our dormitory room.
They look up, taken aback at my unusual spurt of emotional output. Marigold is sitting at her desk, fixing her hair. She turns around frantically at my shout, quite comically, her arms still above her, with two hairpins stuck between her swollen lips.
“What?” Marigold asks though the pins. Clearly, Emmeline had not yet let her in on her plot.
But my eyes are trained on Emmeline, who is sitting on her bed, nonchalantly reading through her notebook as if she had not only a quarter of an hour previous forcibly kidnapped her two best friends. “So how’d it go?” she asks casually, not looking up.
I feel my anger coming back full force. “Why did you do that, Em?” I demand. “That was not okay.”
Emmeline looks up with a raised brow towards me. “Because if I didn’t, you two sure as bloody hell wouldn’t.”
I scoff. “I wasn’t ready, it was too soon-“
“It’s been weeks, Rora,” she says firmly. “It was time, whether you liked it or not.”
“Wait what happened?” Marigold interjects, clearly upset at not begin let in on the secret. She lets her hair down and scuttles over to us.
I look back over at her and say with mock chipperness, “Oh nothing, I just was forcibly confined with Sirius Black in a room in which we shouted, yelled, fought and snogged only to be broken apart by Professor bloody Lancaster.”
Emmeline’s head snaps back towards me at this. “Wait, you two snogged?”
“Yes, right after we took turns shouting at one another,” I say exasperatedly.
“Just snogged? No passionate makeup shag?” Marigold looks disappointed almost, ignoring the fighting part of my explanation. I am too flustered to be irked at this, like I probably usually would be.
“No, Marigold. No shagging. Because luckily for me, Lancaster showed up,” I say sarcastically. I still can’t even believe the last fifteen minutes even happened.
“Wait what? Explain!” Marigold squeals.
“One minute we were shouting and then the next he damn near bloody captures me and we’re kissing. I don’t get it.” I say with a shrug. “I don’t even think I realized what happened. I sure wasn’t expecting to kiss-“
“Did you object?” Emmeline asks carefully.
“Well…not exactly.” I recall how I practically flung myself at him.
“How did it go from fighting to snogging?” Marigold exclaims in confusion.
“I don’t even know!” I have now started to develop a splitting headache. This was all too much. I fling myself backwards on my bed and close my eyes.
“Rora, wait. Did you and Sirius end on good terms?” Emmeline prods further.
This snaps me back up. “Good terms? Um, what do you think? Lancaster came in and shooed us away before I even go the time to realize what was even fucking happening to me-“
“Rora!” Emmeline looks frustrated now. “Ugh you are impossible. So all that was for nothing? You haven’t resolved anything?
I give her an incredulous look. “No, Emmeline. We haven’t. Because that’s not how normal people go about resolving problems!”
Emmeline narrows her eyes at me. “Well, we’ll just have to try harder next time.”
“There will be no next time,” I warn her. “Let me handle it, okay?”
Emmeline gives a sharp laugh. “Except you can’t. That’s what I’m here for."
I scoff at this and turn back around on my side and pull the covers over my head. “Right. Goodnight. I’m going to sleep and hoping this will have all been a nightmare.”
“Oh, if I had been the one snogging Sirius Black I certainly wouldn’t call it a nightmare-“ I hear Marigold tease with a giggle.
I roll my eyes and practically shout, “Goodnight, Marigold.”