After spending so much time with Sirius lately, it was a relief to have him avoid me for the past week. Although I was confused, I needed time to figure things out and fill Paige in on everything that had happened. I really needed some best friend advice, so naturally she stepped up in my time of need.
"Sirius Black is so fuckable."
"Paige!" I exclaimed, throwing a pillow at her head. "That is so not the point!"
"I'm sorry, but come on, Annie. Haven't you thought about kissing him, even just once?" She was sitting on the floor of the Ravenclaw dormitory, wrapped in a blanket, while I hung upside down from the side of my bed. The other girls were at dinner already, but we'd decided to skip the meal and just pick at our stashes of junk food hidden around the room.
"Yes...no...I don't know!" I responded, sighing. "It's complicated. He's complicated. One minute we're joking around with each other, and the next he's sulking about Merlin-knows-what. And now he's avoiding me like the bubonic plague!"
"What's the bubonic plague?" Paige asked curiously.
I groaned. "You should have taken Muggle Studies with me. But seriously, Paige...what do I do?"
"Well...do you like him?" she asked simply.
I hesitated for a moment. "I'm afraid to like him," I finally admitted.
The truth was, I'd been pushing away these thoughts for a while now. Pining over someone unattainable would have just hurt me more, so I avoided the topic altogether. If I didn't think about it, it didn't exist...right?
"He scares me sometimes," I continued. "Especially since I'm not his 'usual type', whatever that means. I'm not the kind of girl who could hold his attention for more than five minutes."
"According to Rose you are," Paige pointed out.
I bit my lip nervously. "What if she's wrong?"
Despite getting along with Sirius fairly well, he was still a Marauder. He was still a sarcastic, rude, arrogant boy who mocked others every chance he got. He was hard to handle, and honest to a fault. But for some reason...I couldn't stop thinking about him.
I sat up on my bed, going temporarily blind as the blood rushed from my head. "Paige, If he found out that I had any kind of feelings for him - big or small - he would never let me live it down."
"I understand why you're worried." My best friend moved to sit next to me on the bed and threw an arm around my shoulder. "He's not a very compassionate bloke...but what if Rose is right? What if he thinks you're different?"
"But I'm not different," I told her dully. "I'm the same person I've always been - just some girl he never noticed. Why would that have changed?"
"You'll never know unless you try." Paige gave me an encouraging smile, which I returned half-heartedly.
Maybe this would all work out. I was always taught to give people a chance...I couldn't just back out of my friendship with Sirius because I was scared of putting myself out there. Whether he liked me or not, I would have to face him eventually.
It was now or never.
Sirius was pacing around an empty classroom, trying to calm his frazzled nerves. He hadn't talked to Annie in exactly seven days, but that didn't stop him from thinking about her non-stop. He missed her. Not just in a romantic way - he missed their long talks, and laughing about nothing. He missed his good friend Annie.
So, naturally, he had to torture himself by avoiding her even more. Sirius would use anything as a distraction, even when he knew it wouldn't work. Nothing could make him forget.
But when the door to the classroom creaked open, his heart began to beat erratically. "How's it going, Harper?"
Sirius heard a high pitched giggle, and turned to face the tall blonde he'd asked to meet with. Harper was always ready for a good time.
"I'm alright...how are you doing?" she said, sauntering up to him. "You still stuck on that girlfriend of yours?"
He shuddered as Harper's hands raked down his chest, stopping on his belt buckle. Normally, he'd be happy about this sort of predicament. Now, Sirius just felt sick to his stomach. But that didn't stop him from reaching up to run his fingers through her hair.
His hands were shaking. And when he closed his eyes, Annie's face floated before him, smiling her sweet, trusting smile. Sirius couldn't say that he was surprised - she was always there, in the back of his mind. If he'd been anyone else at Hogwarts, if he'd been anyone else in the world, he would have given in to what he so desperately wanted. But his soul was black, black as his name, because he was bitter and sad and lonely. He would only hurt her in the end.
So when Harper finally kissed him, when she finally put her hands inside his shirt, Sirius pretended that they were Annie's lips, and Annie's nails scratching his skin. He pretended that they were Annie's whispers and sighs. He closed his eyes and let his other senses take over. He didn't need to see, didn't want to see - in his mind, Annie was standing right in front of him, and observing anything else would have shattered him into a million pieces.
Annie. Annie. Annie. Her name itself could have pushed him over the edge.
I didn't allow myself to think as I flew through the corridors, trying to find Gryffindor tower. All I knew was that if I didn't talk to Sirius immediately, I would lose all of my courage. And we had to set things right before it was too late.
When I finally reached the portrait of the Fat Lady, I realized that I didn't know the password. She glared down at me, as if daring to ask her for admittance.
"Look, um, I know I'm not in Gryffindor, but this is an emergency," I said, trying to sound innocent. "I just need to - "
"Absolutely not!" The Fat Lady sniffed, turning away from me. "Unless you have the password, I cannot allow you to just waltz in there and - "
Her sentence was cut short when the portrait swung forward and a fifth year scrambled through the hole. "Thank you!" I called to him, diving into the Gryffindor
I glanced around wildly, finally spotting Remus Lupin and James Potter near the fireplace. They looked up as I hurried towards them, eyebrows furrowing.
"Where's Sirius?" I asked breathlessly.
"Annie, what are you - "
"Where is he?" I repeated. "It's important."
"I think he went to the fourth floor," said James, still looking very confused. "Said he wanted to be alone, but - "
"Thanks, mate." I raced away from them, coming out into the corridor and ignoring the Fat Lady's shrieks. As I trudged up the stairs, I tried to figure out what I would say to Sirius when I found him. Would he even want to talk to me? Or would he be in one of his moods?
Once on the fourth floor, I slowed down to a normal pace in order to check the empty classrooms. By the time I'd looked through the sixth doorway, I'd almost given up hope. But then I heard a noise from the next room over. It sounded like someone was moving around in there.
When I pushed the door open, I was unprepared for what I saw. Sirius was sitting in a desk chair, straddled by a blonde girl, and both of them were shirtless. They had been kissing, but stopped abruptly once they realized I was there.
"Annie," Sirius croaked out, his blue eyes wide and red lips swollen.
I didn't know what to say or how to act. On one hand, the blonde thought that I was his girlfriend. It would be strange if I didn't blow up when I found my boyfriend cheating on me. But on the other hand, Sirius and I weren't actually dating. He was at perfect liberty to snog whomever he pleased.
That didn't stop the tears from filling my eyes. I will not cry. I will not cry. But what else could I do? I felt like such an idiot.
I decided to take the easy way out, and ran away like a coward. So much for setting things right.
Sirius stormed into the Gryffindor common room, slamming the portrait hole behind him. He ignored the raised eyebrows of his friends and continued up the dormitory steps, planning to collapse on his bed. But he was just too angry; Sirius couldn't control the fire raging inside his chest.
Fuck anger management, he thought to himself, kicking his open trunk across the floor. The contents spilled out everywhere, but that wasn't satisying enough. He yanked his bedside drawer out of the night table and smashed it to the ground, reveling in the sound of splintering wood. Before he could find something else to break, James and Remus barged through the doorway.
"Padfoot," James said quietly, staring around at the mess. "What - "
"Annie found me hooking up with Harper Bennett," Sirius blurted out. He didn't even have the grace to look ashamed about what he'd done. No matter how much it hurt him, Sirius was glad that Annie found out. He'd purposely made her look like a fool by meeting Harper that night - although they weren't really dating, everyone at Hogwarts thought they were. She must have been so embarrassed.
Good, he thought roughly. Maybe she'd realize what a dirt bag he was. Maybe she would stop treating him better than he deserved.
"Why are you so upset about this?" Remus asked carefully. "You and Annie are just pretending to date."
Sirius narrowed his eyes at the pair of them. "I know that," he growled.
"Don't take this out on us," James snapped at him. "We're on your side, mate. We always have been."
"I wish people would stop saying that," Sirius muttered, perching on the edge of his bed.
Remus sat down next to him. "Saying what?" he asked quietly.
"That they're on my side, or they're trying to help me!" Sirius ran a hand through his hair. "For the past seven years, I've been nothing but rude to the lot of you. I don't deserve your friendship...I never have."
James just shook his head and gestured toward the floor. "The good outweighs the bad, mate."
Sirius looked to where his friend was pointing. There, in a jumbled heap, was evidence of all the extraordinary things they'd done together in their years at Hogwarts: the Marauders map, the invisiblity cloak, the two way mirrors, the knife that unlocks anything and everything. It was like a story of their friendship, and how close they'd become without even realizing.
He looked up at James and Remus, struggling to find his words. "Thank you," he said finally. And then, because Annie had already turned him into a big sap, he added, "you're the brothers I've always wanted."
I'd never been one to dwell on the past, but it was hard to forget the image of Sirius with another girl. For almost three months, I'd been playing the role of his girlfriend; I was the one he held hands with, and I was the one he'd talk to about anything that was on his mind. But it was stupid of me to think that he would be faithful to someone he wasn't actually dating. None of it was real.
Except it felt real. And that's what hurt the most.
Now, I was sitting in the Ravenclaw common room with my best friend, trying to figure out my love life. Or...lack thereof.
"At least you found out before you told him how you feel," said Paige, ever the optimist.
I nodded. "True. That would have been embarrassing. At least now I can play it off and let those feelings fester until I rot from the inside out."
"Don't worry. After this year, you'll probably never see him again."
I smiled at Paige, but that thought struck very close to home. Because the fact was, I liked Sirius Black. And not just as a friend, either. I liked his infuriating smirk, and his loud laugh. I liked his unnaturally blue eyes, and the way he'd wink to make me blush. I liked his confidence, his stupid jokes, and his sarcastic remarks. I didn't want to leave Hogwarts and never see him again. I wanted to know more about him...I wanted more of Sirius Black.
"But we don't always get what we want," I murmured to myself.
"What?" Paige asked loudly.
I sighed. "Nothing. I'm just wondering what I'll say to him when I finally come out of this tower."
"What are you going to say?" said a voice to my right.
I looked around and saw Lily Evans coming toward us, her red hair shining like a beacon.
"How did you get in here?" I laughed.
"I just answered the eagle knocker's question," she replied, sitting next to me on the couch. "But this isn't a social visit, Annie. I heard about what happened with Sirius."
I shrugged at her and smiled nervously. "It's not a big deal...we're only pretending to date each other."
"It is a big deal," Lily sighed. "After avoiding my feelings for James since first year, I can recognize when two people belong together."
"We - we don't belong together," I sputtered. "I just...I misunderstood his intentions. That's all."
Lily looked disappointed. "So what are you going to do?"
I stood up and pulled her with me. "We are going to the Gryffindor common room so I can find Sirius and break off our fake relationship. Then I'm going to take a nap."
When James came back upstairs, Sirius already knew what he was going to say. He could tell by the wariness in his best friend's eyes. So he hopped off the bed and straightened his tie.
"Annie's here," James told him. "She wants to see you."
Sirius nodded before following him down the dormitory stairs, emerging into the common room with a foreign nervousness spreading throughout his body. He spotted her right away; she was standing by the portrait hole with Lily, rocking back and forth on the balls of her feet. When Annie finally saw him coming, she smiled. She actually smiled.
"Hey," she greeted him easily. "I figured we need to talk. Would you mind taking a walk with me?"
Sirius had insulted, betrayed and humiliated Annie, but here she was, talking to him like it was nothing. She never ceased to amaze him. "Sure," he said gruffly, leading her back through the portrait hole and into the corridor outside. "Where to?"
Annie shrugged and started forward. "No where specific." There was an awkward silence before she cleared her throat. "I know things are pretty weird now...I just wanted to let you know that I'm not mad."
Sirius laughed darkly. "You're not?"
"No." She shook her head. "But I don't think I should pretend to be your girlfriend anymore. I won't let you make a fool of me."
He'd expected this. He knew that she would rationally remove herself from the situation. It was such an Annie thing to do.
But it still hurt.
Sirius had planned to tell her everything - how he felt, why he was such a jerk all the time, what made him act the way he did. He wanted her to know. But she seemed so...distant. She obviously didn't want to be involved with him anymore, even though Annie had said she wasn't mad. How could he ruin their friendship like this? How could he explain and beg for her forgiveness when this was all his fault?
"Okay," he said finally. "I guess I understand that."
Annie was surprised. "You do? And you're...okay with this?"
No, he wanted to say. I like being with you. The entire time I was with Harper, I thought about you. You make me happy, Annie. You see me for what I am, and not once have you given up. That means more than you'll ever know.
Annie was giving him a chance to fix this. Instead of taking it, Sirius just nodded his head. "Yeah."
"Alright then." She smiled up at him one last time, blinking those big brown eyes. "I'll see you around?"
Annie reached out and squeezed his hand. Sirius couldn't breathe.
"Yeah," he repeated blankly. "I'll see you around."