Chapter 2 : The Proposition
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Thanks again to the magnificent Magpie @ TDA!!! :)
Now, before I go on, let’s freeze the story for a minute and take a quick step into the past.
It was December, and I was crying.
“I just don’t understand,” I said slowly, between uneven breaths, “what you’re doing with me, when it’s her you really want.”
“I don’t want her, Aislin!” said Sirius firmly, pressing his palms against my cheeks, and using his thumbs like windshield-wipers to dry my tears. “Haven’t you been listening to anything I’ve said? I want you. And only you.”
I looked away from him, staring out the window of our room at the Leaky Cauldron. Outside in Diagon Alley, snow was falling.
“You believe me, don’t you?” he said pleadingly.
I closed my eyes.
Letting out a loud, angry breath, Sirius released me.
“Don’t you think you’re being a bit hypocritical?” he asked venomously. “Two days ago you were telling me it’s okay if I see other people. And now you’re going mad because I had a three minute bloody conversation with someone I haven’t seen since I was three years old.”
“I didn’t mean that!” I wailed, burying my face in my hands, overwhelmed by confusion. “I don’t know why I said it! I just thought it was inevitable that you would want to go after someone else, but I thought that…that even if you did, I wouldn’t want you to leave me alone.”
“I am not going after anyone else, got it?” said Sirius angrily. “And I’m not leaving you! Why don’t you believe me? You said you trusted me!”
“I lied!” I said loudly, amazed to hear myself finally saying the words. “I want to trust you, I want it so badly, and I suppose I hoped that if I said it out loud, it would somehow make it true…”
“Well that’s fucking brilliant, Ash,” said Sirius sarcastically, standing up and stuffing his muscular arms through the sleeves of his linen shirt. The white fabric contrasted strongly with his hair, creating a beautiful cameo effect. “You still don’t trust me. We haven’t made any progress in all these bloody months.”
I shut my eyes again as Sirius buttoned up his shirt. Tears squeezed out from the prison of my eyelids and made a break for it, running down my face. I heard the bed creak as Sirius stood up and grabbed his jeans.
“I’m sorry,” I muttered.
The sound of rustling fabric stopped. I looked up timidly, and saw Sirius standing at the foot of the bed, frozen with his jeans around his knees and a pained look on his face.
“Aislin…” he said quietly. “Fuck.”
Sirius took a step toward the bed and stumbled. Cursing and stepping out of his jeans, he crawled up onto the bed, propping himself up on top of me with his elbows and knees. I blinked up at him through my tears.
“Look, I love you, got it? I fucking love you, girl,” he murmured, pressing his forehead gently against mine. “But if this is going to work, you’re going to have to tell me what’s going on in that head of yours. You can’t go around saying things you don’t mean. You can’t… Don’t be my mum, Ash. I can’t handle it when you act like that…like her…”
“I love you,” I told him.
“So you’ll try to be honest with me?” he asked, moving his head back to stare into my eyes.
“I…yeah, I’ll try.”
“Good,” said Sirius with a small smile, rolling onto his back beside me. “I don’t ever want to lose you, Aislin.”
He closed his eyes, still smiling wanly. I let my eyes wander slowly from his dark, sleek hair, and his aristocratically handsome face, all the way down to his toes. Sirius was an image of dark perfection. I knew that his family still haunted him, though he usually did his best not to let it show. He was troubled – but he was always able to rise away from his ghosts and be brave, strong, and compassionate.
I didn’t want to lose him, either.
Nine days later, we broke up.
“Excellent,” says James, “I’ve been wanting to talk to you for a while now, O’Keefe.”
I look around and see that the rest of the Marauders are already at the Front Entrance of the castle. So James must have purposefully fallen behind with some excuse so that he could talk to me. Creepy.
“So, what d’you want?” I ask cautiously as we continue toward the castle.
James sticks a hand into his hair, casually mussing it up so that it looks even stupider than it did five seconds before. I cringe.
“Well, it’s…it might sound a little strange,” he says, looking over his shoulder to make sure nobody’s listening in.
“This is already strange,” I remind him.
He laughs and nods. As we walk over the lawn together, I’m drawn back into a muddled collection of memories. I remember walking along this same path, my waist enveloped by Sirius’ arm, drawn so close against his body that we bumped against each other with every step. I remember James walking along beside us, cracking jokes, with Remus and Peter tailing behind.
“Look, I know we haven’t really been speaking since the first term of last year,” says James, “but I always thought you were cool.”
“Cheers,” I say rather sarcastically. He was openly laughing at me in front of an entire class just a few hours ago – but now, all of a sudden, he thinks I’m cool. He must really need my help. “What d’you want?”
“I’m in a bit of a spot, O’Keefe,” says James quietly. “Have you noticed that the other Quidditch teams’ players are starting to turn up in the Hospital Wing? Last week it was the Slytherin Seeker. Then two weeks before that it was Davies, from your team. Then the week before that it was one of the Hufflepuff Chasers. Can you see why that looks bad for my team?”
James frowns. “People are going to start to think that my team’s responsible for these injuries. Which we’re not. Contrary to popular belief, Gryffindors don’t go around randomly clubbing people.”
“And what does all this have to do with me?”
“You can help me,” says James simply. “I need you to help me find out who’s been doing this. I’m sure it’s no one on my team, but because I’m Gryffindor Captain, I’m not going to be able to do much investigation outside of my own House.”
“Right…” I say slowly. “But again, why me?”
James shrugs. “Sirius always trusted you, so I figure I can trust you, too.”
I feel my face heat up.
I hate that bloody word.
“Er…and does Sirius know you’re asking me this?” I say, caught off-guard.
“No.” says James, looking slightly guilty. “I thought it’d be best not to tell him. He’s still, er… Well, I know you two aren’t on the best terms, anymore.”
“Right,” I say again. “So, why should I help you, Potter?”
“I hadn’t thought of that part…” he admits. “Er… Maybe you’ll just help me out of the goodness of your heart?”
I laugh out loud. “I haven’t got any.”
“Or…I know a few secret passages out of the castle,” says James carefully. “If you need anything from, say, Honeydukes, I’d be able to smuggle it in for you…”
My eyes widen, and James grins – he knows he’s got me. I realize that Sirius must have mentioned my uncontrollable sweet tooth to him at some point. And all this time he’s been analyzing the knowledge, sizing me up, knowing he’s got something I want.
I am a whore for sweets.
“You’ve got a deal,” I say, “you crafty bastard.”
James laughs, sticking his fingers into his hair for the third time in five minutes. I’m starting to wonder if it’s a nervous tick, or a symptom of some sociopathic condition. He’s definitely half-evil. He’s the kind of kid that Dumbledore and Voldemort would have if they got together.
“Excellent,” he says. “I’ll be in touch.”
He hurries off to rejoin the other two-faced spawns of Satan, aka, Marauders. It’s funny how similar they are – they’ll act polite when they want something, but the minute they don’t need you anymore, they’ll stab you with an ice pick.
Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating, but the point is: Marauders are not to be trusted. I’m just in this for the chocolate.
I slink behind the group of fellow sixth-years, scowling, on my way to Defense against the Dark Arts. When we arrive in the classroom, I take my usual seat next to Corinna, and throw a glance over my shoulder at James.
Over dinner, I tell Corinna about James’s proposition.
“Interesting,” she says thoughtfully, slashing viciously at a piece of roast lamb. “Did it ever occur to you that he’s the one who’s been going around cursing Quidditch players, and he thinks asking you to help investigate will throw suspicion off of him?”
“No,” I admit, feeling stupid. “He’s a Gryffindor – he may be a prat, but he wouldn’t do something that dishonorable.”
“So’s Sirius,” says Corinna, “and you can hardly call him honorable – look.”
Corinna points over to the Hufflepuff table, where Sirius is surrounded by fifth-year girls (including the one he was snogging earlier) who are all staring at him admiringly. I want to slap each and every one of them. Their eyes are wide and hungry, like they’re fattening him up so they can eat him.Get away from my man! mind-vomits some instinctive, cave-woman-esque part of me. I have to remind myself that he’s not mine, anymore, and peel my eyes away from the grotesque sight.
“Well, I’m glad he’s keeping such good company, at any rate,” I say sarcastically, “It’d be really annoying if he constantly surrounded himself with whores…”
Corinna laughs pityingly. “But anyway, I’m just trying to say that you shouldn’t trust James Potter just because he’ll buy you a load of chocolate frogs.”
“It’s nothing to do with chocolate frogs,” I grumble. “Anyway, I don’t trust him. I’m just cooperating with him for the moment.”
“Fine,” says Corinna, going back to her lamb. “But don’t blame me when the Fat Lady mistakes you for her sister and James Potter turns out to be a serial killer. By the way – Andrew Davies asked me to Hogsmeade next weekend. The horny bastard.”
“What?” I say, dropping my fork. “You said no, right?”
“Actually, I said yes,” says Corinna with a mysterious smile. “Don’t freak out! I’m only doing it so I can get a little revenge…”
My jaw drops. “You’ve been watching too many Muggle chick-flicks…”
“Maybe,” Corinna purrs, “but the fact is that I deserve closure. And by closure, I mean his ugly-ass head on a plate.”
She’s such a badass.
Somebody taps me on the shoulder, and I turn around. Standing behind me is Professor Flitwick. I almost laugh out loud at the sight of his pastel-colored robes, which make him look vaguely like an Easter egg. I wonder if he lost a bet. Or if they were a gift from his mother. Or if he made them himself.
“Miss O’Keefe, there’s a Prefects’ meeting going on as we speak,” he says authoritatively. “You’re late.”
It’s hard to take someone to take orders from someone who looks so absurd, but I feel so sorry for him that I stand up. Then I feel even worse, because now I’m towering over the poor guy.
“Fine, fine, lead the way, oh fearless leader,” I sigh.
If you imagine the Minister of Magic’s lounge room, and then put it on crack, you’ll have a pretty accurate picture of the Prefects’ meeting room. The carpet is burgundy and fluffier than James Potter’s hair. I’ve often considered coming in here just to sleep on the carpet – no joke. There are big, cushy, high-backed chairs and portraits of the Hogwarts school board members.
Sitting down in one of these chairs, I suddenly feel like I’m the boss of some big private firm. As Flitwick goes over the details of Halloween feast decorations, I imagine employees walking into my office, shaking with fear. I imagine myself firing them one by one, and hitting a little button on my desk that sends them flying out the window into a pit of Acromantulas…
“Now, because the House-Elves will be busy in the kitchens,” wheezes Flitwick, “we’re going to need as much help as we can get with decorations. Thus, the Prefects will be taking a large role in decorating the Great Hall. Now, the Gryffindor Prefects…”
Blah, blah, blah.
Everyone around me is zoning out. It’s pretty hard to pay serious attention to a guy who looks like a puffskein barfed him up. The Slytherin Prefects are all huddled up, whispering to each other. They’re probably thinking up ways to turn their decorations into horrific death traps. My fellow Ravenclaw sixth-year Prefect, Christian Fitch, seems to be falling asleep in his chair. Only Remus Lupin is still listening to Flitwick with unwavering attention. I watch him, admiring his determination.
Corinna has a point – he really isn’t too bad-looking. His hair is almost exactly the color of honey, and his eyes are large and sweet. Too bad he’s empty on the inside.
Right after Sirius and I broke up, I got an anonymous letter full of undiluted Bubotuber puss. I had to have my hands bandaged up for three days. It got all over my thighs, too, and I still have scars.
And I’m pretty sure Remus Lupin is the only boy in my year who was paying attention during our lesson on Bubotubers.
Suddenly, as if sensing my gaze, he looks up at me and smiles. I frown and look back at Flitwick, who seems to have finally realized that he’s not getting through to anyone.
“On Saturday afternoon,” he says loudly, making everyone jump, “you will be meeting in the Great Hall.”
Everyone nods, looking put-out. A meeting on Saturday afternoon will cut our Hogsmeade trips short. Not that it matters to me – Corinna will apparently be going with Andrew Davies, so I was planning on staying back anyway.
“Right then,” says Flitwick, waving a tiny, shriveled hand. “You are dismissed.”
Remus catches me outside the door.
“Hey, Aislin,” he says pleasantly.
“Hi,” I say, not breaking my stride.
“I’m sorry about earlier,” he says, walking along beside me. “It’s funny, it seems like I’m always apologizing to you…”
“Gryffindor tower is that way,” I say coolly, pointing.
“Right, yeah,” says Remus, “I just wanted to apologize and to say…er…goodnight.”
“Goodnight,” I say emotionlessly. I almost feel bad for being so rude to him – but then I remember the Bubotuber puss.
“I really am sorry!” calls Remus as I continue down the corridor.
I speed up.
Yaay, I hope you enjoyed chapter three! :) I think I’m going to have a flashback about every two chapters, because I like giving more insight into Sirius and Aislin’s relationship. Please leave a review for me, I love your feedback!
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