I sunk into the hot, bubbly water and sighed. In a few days it would be Christmas and I was spending it alone.
“I should get Charlie something for Christmas,” I said aloud before submerging my head in the water. This was the only time I could relax, but something was different that night. The normal serenity that enveloped me had an edge to it that I couldn’t explain.
I grabbed a razor and slowly began shaving my legs. I watched as my hand brought the blade from my ankle to my knee. I felt detached from it; as if I were not shaving, but just watching someone else. The razor was swished around in the water and then brought again to the ankle, up the leg to the knee. Ankle, up, knee, water. Ankle, up, knee, water. Ankle, up, knee…
I sat staring at the pretty cake on the table wishing that I could just eat it. Charlie jumped onto my lap, licking my face. I was so excited when my dad gave the puppy to me before he left. I happily, petted him before he noticed Sean playing with a ball and he left to attack my brother.
“Cake time?” I asked my mum when I saw her. She turned to me and I was surprised by how ill she looked.
She shook her head. “No, Nienna, it’s not cake time.”
Without a word she sat opposite me at the picnic table. “Sean, C.J., come here.”
“What is it Mum?” Sean asked as he finally let Charlie have the ball. C.J. came up next to him.
She looked at the three of us and tears started to form. “There…there’s been an accident. They aren’t sure what exactly happened, but…”
“Did anyone get hurt?” C.J. questioned as he sat next to me.
My mother nodded and had to wipe her eyes before continuing. “Yes, honey, people were hurt. Daddy was hurt too.” Her voice was starting to crack, but she held on.
Sean, C.J., and I all looked towards the gate, fully expecting to see our injured father.
“When is Daddy coming?” I asked, not understanding the looks on my mother or my oldest brother’s face.
“Daddy’s not coming, Nienna.”
I could feel the tears start in my own eyes. “He promised. It’s my birthday!” I argued.
She let out a small sob as she stood up and wrapped me in her arms. “I know, I know.” My brothers joined us as we all started crying. My daddy wasn’t coming home.
“Ouch!” I yelped as my mind returned to the present. I looked down at my right leg and the small cut the razor had made. I couldn’t believe the amount of blood that was coming from such a small wound. I touched my finger to it, causing a small stinging sensation. I put the razor back on the shelf and grabbed my shampoo. As soon as I opened the bottle the fruity smell filled the room.
“Mmm, strawberries and vanilla.” I poured some onto my hand and started to massage the substance into my scalp, enjoying the small luxury.
I laughed as he leaned in to whisper in my ear once more.
“Why do you always find me so funny?” He asked, amused. I giggled more before lightly smacking his forehead.
“How am I to take you seriously when your name is Sirius? That’s like thinking a dog named Lucky is actually lucky!”
A loud barking laugh emitted itself from his lips. I couldn’t help but stare at them, a stupid smile on my face. How could any man have lips like that? I shivered slightly knowing all too well just where those lips had been.
His large grin turned to a frown. “Princess, you are the only reason I can’t be serious.”
“Oh?” I asked. I could feel a slight blush come to my cheeks.
He nodded. “If it wasn’t for you, I could do some things and you wouldn’t think I was just playing.”
I raised my eyebrow. What was he getting on about? “I don’t understand. What can’t you do?”
“This,” he whispered softly. He leaned in again, but his destination wasn’t the same. His lips gently pressed against mine. A sudden shock quickly melted away as the kiss deepened. Soon our tongues were entwined and we were slowly falling back onto the couch. His hands joined in, caressing the curves of my body. It seemed like hours had passed before we broke apart, but I couldn’t help but want more.
I rinsed out my hair and grabbed the conditioner. I couldn’t believe how my mind was slipping, but try as I might, I couldn’t stop it. The memories flitted about like clips from a Muggle movie.
I sat on the bank, staring into the muddy water. I had never seen it so calm before. It was almost as if the lake was mourning too.
“Nen, what are you doing out here?” Sean came up behind me already dressed for the funeral.
“I’m not going. I’m staying here forever.” I continued to look into the water, wanting to go in, but not daring to touch it. I heard my brother sit next to me.
“I don’t want to go either, but we need to go. We need to say…” he cut off.
I sniffled and swallowed the lump in my throat. “I won’t say anything! This isn’t real. C.J. isn’t…He’s just sick,” I paused, not quite sure what I was saying. “I’ll go into the house and find him lying sick in bed like usual. He’ll be there! He’s always there!”
I looked over at Sean. His brown eyes were glossy and tears streaked his face. My will to keep from crying was weakening. I couldn’t believe what had happened.
“Nienna, please, you’re just making this harder. You have to accept that C.J.’s gone!” He buried his face in his hands as I started choking on the growing lump. I had to be dying, that was the only excuse for feeling this way.
I shook my head. “He’s not gone. He can’t be!” I could feel the tears start to fall and my nose began to run.
“C.J. is dead!” Sean yelled. “He’s dead and it’s all my fault! I could have saved him. It was my responsibility to look after him and I failedI killed him!”
I watched in horror as my brother’s body shook violently from the sobs. The tears began to pour from my own eyes and I wrapped my arms around him as tightly as I could.
“Sean, please don’t blame yourself! You didn’t do it. Please don’t talk like this.”
He hugged me back. “I’m sorry, sis, I’m so sorry. I promise I won’t let it happen again,” he sobbed.
After several minutes, we pulled apart and shakily stood up. He patted my back as I wiped the tears away and sniffled some more.
“We need to be strong, now,” Sean started as we walked back up to the house. “For Mum’s sake. She needs us.”
I nodded. “We need her too.”
I inhaled sharply. My body felt light and my mind was even murkier. I rested my head back and started to breathe slowly. In and out. In and out.
I cautiously stepped into the wobbly boat and plopped down opposite a dark haired boy I didn’t know. Another, blond haired boy stood at the front waving his arms around. When we started off the boy still stood, his movements became more erratic and the boat swayed dangerously.
“Sit down,” the boy next to me barked. “You’re going to make us capsize!”
“Oh, lighten up. This is fun.”
I was starting to feel sick. Nothing about this was fun.
“Please stop,” I begged as the water splashed into the boat.
“You two are such ninnies.” He started rocking the boat even more.
More water splashed into the boat, soaking both me and the black haired boy.
“Enough!” the boy yelled and grabbed hold of the crazy boy’s robes. A struggle ensued and before I knew it the blond was in the water and getting picked up by another boat behind us.
“Thanks,” I whispered, the queasiness fading.
He shrugged his shoulders. “No need to thank me. He was a git.”
I nodded and we sat in silence until we reached shore. He stepped out and began to walk away when he seemed to change his mind. He held his hand out for me to take and helped me on to the grass.
“I’m Sirius,” he said once my feet were firmly on the ground.
“Oh, I’m Nienna.” We started walking towards the castle, ahead of the other students.
“Do you know anyone here?”
I nodded. “My brother Sean is a seventh year Hufflepuff. What about you?”
“I have some cousins here. What House do you think you’ll be in?”
I thought for a moment. “I’m not sure; probably Hufflepuff like my brother.”
“Yeah, my whole family is in Slytherin. I figure that’s where I’ll go too.”
“Slytherin the bad House?”
He shrugged. “Depends on who you are.” He looked at me curiously as we reached the castle and a stern woman met us. “What are you anyways? Pureblood?
I shook my head. “Half, my dad was a Muggle.”
The lady led us inside and through the Great Hall where other students looked us over as they chatted. We stopped at the base of some stairs that led to a stool with a hat.
“That’s the Sorting Hat,” Sirius told me. “That’s how we’re sorted.”
I already knew that, but I said nothing because the Hat started to speak.
“Upon the head
of Gryffindor I sat
Until the day
I became the Sorting Hat.
One by one
I've sorted all kinds
And remember kids
I never confuse signs.
Those dear Hufflepuffs
So loyal and fair
Welcome all to their House
As long as they care.
Wise ol' Ravenclaw
Accepts only the brightest
Their charm and their wit
Takes them to the highest.
Slytherin is proud
Of their pure blood
Sly and Ambitious
They strive for power above
Then brave Gryffindor
Their courage sets them apart
They'll be sure to always use their heart.
So come here
Do not be afraid
I'll be gentle
As I sort you away!”
The lady then began reading from a list of names.
With a half smile at me, he walked up to the stool and the teacher put the hat on his head. He sat there for almost a minute before the hat came to a decision. The Slytherin table waited expectantly.
“GRYFFINDOR!” The Sorting Hat yelled. The whole hall was quiet for a couple of moments before the Gryffindor table started cheering.
I looked towards Sirius and felt so bad. He seemed scared, not at all like how he was earlier. He didn’t even look at me as he slowly walked to the red and gold table.
Several other students were sorted, but none of them caused the confusion that Sirius’s had. I was becoming more and more nervous. I saw my brother smiling at me from the Hufflepuff table next to his girlfriend, Alorah.
My breath stuck in my throat as I walked over to the hat. I glanced at the Gryffindor table where Sirius was avoiding the glares of the Slytherins. I sat down on the hard wood stool and the lady placed the hat upon my head.
“Ah, Miss Ladden, how good to meet you. It’s a shame that I did not have the chance to meet your brother C.J. as well,” it began.
“Yeah…” I mumbled.
“Now, let’s see where you belong. Very loyal, I see. Just like your brother. Not power hungry, eh? Slytherin wouldn’t do then. You’re protective of your loved ones, but would you risk your own life for them? Hmm…”
I looked at Sean’s eager face and then back at Sirius who looked so lonely. “How could you put him in Gryffindor? He’s miserable.”
“What?” the Hat started. “Oh, the Black boy. He belongs in Gryffindor. He would have been worse off in Slytherin. He just doesn’t realize it yet. Now, back to you. I think you would be content in Hufflepuff, but content is not happy. No, that won’t do. I know just the place. GRYFFINDOR!”
My mouth dropped as the other Gryffindors yelled. I glanced at my brother who gave me a smile and gestured for me to go over to the Gryffindor table. I quickly pulled off the hat and set it back on the stool. Careful not to trip, I made my way to the red and gold table where they welcomed me with high fives and pats on the back. I couldn’t help but grin as I sat down across from Sirius.
“Welcome to Gryffindor,” he said with a half smile. “At least I’m not the only one who didn’t expect to be here,” he said almost miserably.
“Cheer up,” I told him with a smile. “The Sorting Hat is never wrong. Besides, now we get to be in the same House!”
He let out a small chuckle. “Yeah, at least I have a friend.”
I grabbed the body wash and squeezed some onto my shower poof. I scrubbed my arms, harder than necessary, in an attempt to scrub away all of the memories. I just couldn’t escape them.
“Sarah, can you stop please?” I walked down the corrider with my bestfriend and she was getting on my nerves.
“Oh, Nen,” she started with the annoyingly high-pitched voice she had recently adopted. “You’re being such a nag today.” She flipped her blond hair and winked at a seventh year Ravenclaw. I rolled my eyes as he gave her a wolfish grin.
“Why do you do that?” I asked as we walked into the Potions classroom earlier than usual. Only Snape was there, working on an extra credit potion. We sat down at a table and I set my book and quill on the table top.
“What do you mean?” she asked as she pulled a hand held mirror out of her pocket and carefully examined her painted on face.
“That!” I pointed to the mirror. “You’re obsessed with how you look and what guys think of you. Why have you changed all of a sudden?”
Sarah laid the mirror on the desk as she spoke. “You wouldn’t understand because no guys are interested in you. You don’t have the pressures that I do. A lot of the boys around this school have their eyes on me.” She paused to look in the mirror again. “They want me, Nen. I’m here to please them and they love it. That Ravenclaw I winked at, well, I’ve spent the last few evenings with him in the Astronomy Tower.”
My jaw dropped. I had no idea about what she had been doing.
“Really, Nienna, you’re lucky. I’m almost jealous. You don’t have to worry about all of the stuff that I do. That skinny dancer’s body of yours won’t attract anyone. Then your plain brown hair that just,” she lifted up a clump of it and let it go. “Lays there. No one will ever bother you since you’re so ugly.”
I stared at her for a moment. “What did you just say to me?” I asked, the anger rising.
She picked the mirror up again. “Which part? When I called you ugly?”
I nodded, unable to do anything else for fear of attacking her.
“Well, you are.” She looked at me and smiled. “It’s nothing to be bothered about! Like I said, you are so lucky to be ugly!”
My body was burning up. I could see Snape watching us. Disbelief was written all over his face. I heard the door open, and the Marauders walked in. They were joking and laughing as usual and I found my way to get away from Sarah without hurting her.
I quickly stood up, knocking the wooden chair to the ground and stomped over to where the boys were. They looked at me funny and quickly stopped laughing as I took the chair next to Sirius, pushing James out of the way.
“What’s wrong, Princess?” he asked as he leaned back in his chair as if there was nothing abnormal about me sitting in the place normally reserved for his best mate.
“Her!” I snapped and pointed to the blonde who seemed oblivious to my absence. Sirius raised his brow, encouraging me to explain, but I just kept pointing and my rage increased every moment that she failed to acknowledge that I was no longer next to her.
I lifted myself out of the tub and reached for the baby blue towel on the rack beside me. Slowly I started to dry off; the feelings from the last memory were still affecting me. Even though it had been a few years it still hurt that she had said that to me.
I shook my head, trying to eradicate the thoughts and water droplets flew from my hair. I wrapped the towel around myself and started to clean out my ears when I heard someone walking around downstairs.
I immediately looked around for my wand before remembering that I had left it in my room.
“Shit,” I whispered to myself as I quickly searched for something else to use. I settled on another long towel as being the best possible weapon and quietly headed towards the door.
I opened it slowly, but the door squeaked alerting the intruder who started up the stairs. I wrapped up the towel as tightly as I could and hid behind the door. The steps slowed as they reached the landing and stopped for a short moment before heading towards the bathroom.
My breath caught in my throat and I waited for my chance to strike. The intruder pushed the door open slightly more and it pressed against my head. The person took a couple of steps farther into the bathroom, looking around intently. I could smell the person’s cologne, recognizing it to be a distinctly male scent. I waited for him to clear the door before attacking. Once he made another step into the room I slammed the door shut. He started to turn towards me and I whipped the towel across his face.
“Oh, bloody hell!” he yelled as his hands went up to protect his face as I attempted to hit him again. He backed away from me. “Nienna, knock it off!”
I gasped and dropped the towel. “Sirius?”
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