Chapter 1 : Inescapable
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January 16, 1981
"Here's your coffee. Can I get you anything else?"
I smiled and shook my head at the waitress. She gave me an answering smile and moved on to another table. The scent of her cloying perfume lingered in the air even once she'd gone.
I couldn't be absolutely sure, but I had a feeling that the day was Monday. I'd been out of work for four weeks to this day, and every day of those four weeks seemed to have drifted into one long, everlasting dream of January cold and job interviews and cafés. No one wanted to hire me - not when I had no records of any sort of education. That was what you got for going to school at Hogwarts and then trying to find a job in the muggle world.
Outside of the window, I watched as the rain began to fall. A laughing couple stepped under a bus shelter to put themselves out of the rain's reach, and an old woman with only a very small amount of hair and a purple knitted cardigan pulled a compact umbrella out of her handbag.
I hated the rain. It was inescapable, soaking into the thin fabric of my only coat, quick to dampen the shirt and skin beneath it. And then with the wet it wasn't long before the cold set in. The cold was inescapable, too. It sunk into my bones, taking hold of my fingers and toes.
I shuddered, pulling my gaze back to inside the smoky, dimly lit café. In here the air was slightly humid due to lack of proper ventilation, the tables were sticky and tea-stained, and tinny radio music played from some speakers attached to the wall.
On the other hand, when I shared a flat with an aggressive forty-something man called Paul with a drinking problem and plenty of rowdy friends, this place seemed like heaven. Especially when I considered that the flat had no central heating and that I had little more than a mattress to sleep on. Of course, this café would seem even more like heaven once Paul kicked me out - and that would be pretty soon if I couldn't find a job to pay him the little rent that he expects from me.
"Emmeline? Emmeline Vance?"
I jumped at the sound of my name being called. Well, my old name. I went by Sophie now. Emmeline sounded a bit odd to muggles.
Turning in my seat I turned to find a person who I hadn't expected to see for the rest of my life. He had dark hair that fell to just above his shoulders and that crept onto his beautifully sculpted cheekbones. Even from my seat I could see the startling dark, stormy grey of his eyes.
"Sirius Black?" I said.
We'd been in the same year at Hogwarts - I'd been quiet at school and had merely observed him from afar for most of the time. But in Seventh Year he'd dated my best friend, Marlene McKinnon. I'd got to know him a bit at that point - but of course, when he broke her heart it was just sort of an unspoken thing that I would have to hate him and stay away from him for the rest of forever. I guess now that I was 20 years old that didn't really matter anymore.
In all honesty, I was quite surprised that he'd recognised me. I had fancied him at school - who wouldn't, with a face like that? But he'd never really properly acknowledged me, apart from an occasional glance in my direction whenever I came and talked to Marlene.
"So it is you," he said, breaking out into a grin. "Wow, two years has changed you." He picked up his drink and came to sit in front of me. "We all thought you'd gone and set up a little bookstore in Kent or Cornwall or something."
I snorted. "And who's 'we', exactly?"
He shrugged. "A bunch of people from our year who have just kind of stuck together."
"Well, I wish I had set up a bookstore." I sighed.
He looked down at me with those grey eyes of his. They hadn't changed one bit. "What you doing now, then, Vance?"
I shrugged. "Nothing. I'm out of work."
"Oh. Well, that makes the two of us."
I appraised him curiously. "I would have thought that you'd set up some sort of booming business with the rest of your gang. What was it you called yourselves? The - "
"Marauders. Yeah, I know." He smirked. "We were a little self-important back then."
I looked up at him, brushing my dark hair out of my eyes. "And now?"
He grinned. "I can't say we've changed all that much."
There was a moment of silence, and I took the opportunity to take a sip of my coffee. I could feel him watching me and wondered what he was thinking.
"Why London?" he asked suddenly.
"Hmm?" I said.
"I mean, why are you here? Why not stay in Diagon Alley?"
I felt colour come to my cheeks and looked down at the table, letting my hair swing forwards to hide my face.
I looked up. "You can't call me that!" I snapped.
He sat backwards a little at my tone, looking sort of shocked.
"Sorry," I muttered. "But I don't go by that name anymore."
His eyebrows creased. "Why not?"
Another awkward question. I guess he was great at asking those. "You know what, let's not talk about me. Let's talk about you. If you're at all as self-important as you were in Seventh Year then that won't be so hard." I grinned, trying to make a joke out of it, but his face remained serious. Ha. Serious Sirius.
He gazed at me for a moment longer before glancing at his watch. "Shit. Look, I've got to go." He pulled a piece of paper and a pen out of his pocket and scribbled down something onto it before placing the paper into my hands. "This is James' address - we're having a dinner tonight - there'll be people there that you know. Come."
And with that, he was up and gone within a matter of seconds. I watched his dark figure as he disappeared into the steadily falling rain.
A/N - I hope you enjoyed the first chapter! Do review, I love to hear what you think!