AN(ne): Hi guys! So here we are, at the very end of this story. There is really only one chapter of substance yet before the final chapter. Chapters 98 and 100 both will be very short (100 being the epilogue)... potentially you could have all this story on HPFF in the next ten days. Woooow. After five years on this site, it will finally be finished. I will be very sad when that happens. For those of you that have read, THANK YOU, and I hope that you enjoy this installment, where I think everything happens as it should. It's short, but it says what needed to be said.
On that note, enjoy!!!
When Scarlett had been younger, in the years before she had met Sirius or married Theodore or fought Voldemort, she had taken pleasure in the simple exercise of running. When she had begun to visit Tenereus in the middle of her fifth year, the air had been so cold it might as well have been frozen, and even if she had been dressed comfortably there was always the chance that the path she took, where there was an opening in the trees, there would be inches and inches of snow.
Thus, the solution had always appeared to her to run. She had started as a way to warm her body during those frigid winter adventures two years ago, but when the springtime had arrived she had found other reasons to continue running. For so long, going to Tenereus's outlook had been a way to escape, and nothing represented escape more than running. Running cleared the head and alleviated any pain or stress from the day.
The activity grew to have deeper meaning once she had become friends with Sirius. In her seventh year, the idea that running through the forest also represented running away from her problems extended to running from the expectations of her society, and eventually from the increasing problem of her arranged marriage.
Then, through November and into December, when the traces of emotion started to breeze into her soul like a refreshing wind in the suffocating, balmy air, she ran with more excitement than she ever had. Why? Because running suddenly had another meaning to Scarlett. It became more than running away from problems. It became more than trying to stay warm. It became more than a way to clear the head.
In many cases, the journey was worth more than the destination. But when it came to running from November on, Scarlett had to admit the adage wasn't true.
She began to run with such enthusiasm solely because of the destination—from the notion of being with Sirius rather than from the notion of being away from Theodore.
And now, now that she had a plan and a promise...now that there was a future that lacked ambiguity and mystery...there was no one else that she wanted to run to more.
As soon as Dumbledore had left her, winking subtly at Scarlett when the coast was clear, she had run. Run out of the Hospital Wing, through the hallways, with no set destination in sight other than in the arms of a boy that had given her life—life in the sense of vitality and youth and spark rather than the mechanical breathing, blinking, being of the society she had come from.
Sirius had been responsible for her revival. It was true. If he hadn't seen something in her, a thing that had been completely unseen by her own ignorance, she would have been safer. Might have lived longer.
But would that have been living?
No, there was something to the living that Sirius had introduced her to that was an addiction. It was addictive to be free in the way that he was, to act on the basis of good and evil rather than someone else's expectations and standards. There was something to it, the risks she had taken, because it led to rewards that she never before would have fathomed.
The reward of thwarting Voldemort, yet again.
The reward of walking away from it all — of wielding the power of the word no to those things she found unsavory.
The reward of having Rowena's choker, safe around her neck and out of Voldemort's hands... the reward of knowing that the goodness that Rowena had treasured far more than the relic had another chance to be preserved.
And for all these things, selfishly, Scarlett most preferred the reward of Sirius Black. He was fire and he had caused conflagrations in the forest of her life. But that was only because he had known that those trees were rotten and that only fire would lead to the regrowth. The revival. Each and every reward which had before been outrageous and unreachable. He had challenged her and teased her, attracted her and comforted her, made her laugh and made her wonder.
And his spark had gone to her soul. That soul that Voldemort had been gnawing away at, bit by bit, influence added onto influence—did it mean anything? It was the spark that had done the most for her, that meant the most to her.
It all manifested in that glimmer between her pupil and her iris as she ran. The sparkle in her eye, like jewels, shone in the sweet summer air, brightened by a layer of tears.
And then she noticed him. He was leaning against a wall with his friends casually, Remus with chocolate, James wiping his glasses, Peter's hands in his pockets.
Sirius himself was laughing. She loved when he laughed; his smile was infectious and it was wide. His smile was unusual in that it was not perfect—some might have mistaken it for arrogance, and some might have been intimidated by the force of the emotion in his expression—but while it was not perfect to some there was nothing Scarlett had ever known that had been more perfect to her.
He could have been at any other place in the castle, alone or even in the middle of a class with his peers. He could have been studying or sleeping or maybe even eating.
An infinite number of ways existed that Scarlett could have seen Sirius after their sixteen days apart.
But it was that laugh, that carefree essence of freedom that he exhibited so fully, that made that way remind her why she loved running so much.
She had been waiting to reach her destination.
She wanted to call out his name to get his attention, but it had been her footsteps that had alerted Sirius to her presence. His laughter faltered for a second as he turned himself towards her, and his friends quickly followed suit even though Scarlett didn't for a second focus on anyone else but Sirius.
Instead of calling out his name, she laughed. She laughed with levity, and her bell-like sound of joy said the words that both of them were thinking: at last. Voldemort was never gone, it was true, but with the Order of the Phoenix in their futures he might be threatened.
Side by side. Slytherin and Gryffindor? It didn't matter anymore. With graduation so close, the only term that they could be coined by was blood traitor.
Blood traitor and blood traitor, side by side. She rather liked that.
When she reached him her response was as automatic as his was; she jumped into his arms and he caught her, taking a step back to account for her momentum. Immediately they began to kiss, her hands in his hair and his free hand resting on the small of her back, and they were lost in each other for a minute, lost in the fact that they found each other...
"Ew," James said, his nose scrunching.
For a beat it was strained, as Sirius and Scarlett broke apart to look at him. Did Slytherin and Gryffindor matter more than she had thought?
"Padfoot, get a room," Remus supplied, smiling, and the beat passed. The beat passed as Scarlett realized that Sirius's friends, who she had spent almost all of her Hogwarts career openly disliking, were now people that she was going to fight side by side with as well. They were no longer enemies, divided by House. They were going to be friends.
And she rather liked that too.
She grinned as Sirius dropped her, the two still close as Sirius's arm snaked around her waist. "It's too adorable, isn't it?" Scarlett joked, and Sirius looked over at her, surprised. "Might even give you and Evans a run for your money, James."
James rolled his eyes sarcastically while Remus snorted. "Never," James insisted. "We complete each other. You two—yeah, you're adorable, I suppose—but Lily and I just can't be beat. We're unstoppable."
"A tour de force," Remus added.
"Yes, a tour de force. Our love is so brilliant that it transcends language barriers, right, Moony?"
"Well, that phrase has been pretty much integrated into the English language—"
"Yes, exactly what I said," James interrupted, "transcendental. Our love is transcendental."
"Someone feels threatened," Sirius chimed in, looking down at Scarlett. "I think we're getting to him...Our love must be too much to handle."
Scarlett beamed that he said it and that he could say it and that he could say it in front of his friends. "Too adorable," Scarlett said. "That's what it has to be."
"We should give you two lovebirds some time, shouldn't we?" Remus mused. "We're glad that you're okay, Scarlett. We'll probably be around the lake if we're not in the common room."
"All right, all right," Sirius said. "Moony, Wormtail, if, you know, he starts crying—our Prongs is pretty sensitive—please let me know. It never gets old."
Everyone but James laughed. "Yeah, you two have your fun," James said. "We'll see ya."
James good-naturedly punched Sirius on the shoulder, and the three other Marauders made their leave so that Scarlett and Sirius were left alone.
They only stared at each other at first. It was as if they were seeing each other for the first time; in a way it was true that their reunion was unlike any other time they'd met before. Scarlett had finally seen what Sirius was like around his friends, while Sirius had seen Scarlett without the imminent threat of an enemy.
And both...both were clearly in public for the first time ever. Yes, they had not had the most stringent of rules in months past, but it was now that they no longer felt that there was anything to hide.
Under the public spotlight, Scarlett and Sirius shone just as brightly as they had under the canopy of stars in the outlook.
"You're okay," Sirius said, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear. "You're okay. Thank Merlin you're okay."
"I know," Scarlett replied. "Everything is going to be okay, Sirius."
They embraced, their foreheads resting on each other. "I'm going to be in the Order," Scarlett whispered, and that simple sentence caused an enormous smile to break out on Sirius's face. "And we're going to take Voldemort down."
Sirius kissed Scarlett then, joyfully, and she responded with enthusiasm.
It had been a journey for Scarlett and Sirius to be together. They had spent six years hating each other only as the result of prejudice. When they had become friends, and then something more, the world had seemed to reject them, whether the rejection was from Theodore or Voldemort.
But now, here they were, together. The journey had been arduous, but now, here, the destination had made the journey completely and utterly worthwhile. They would have endured a thousand journeys to stand where they now stood, wrapped in each other's arms. A million journeys, so long as they were together at last, the future as bright as the sparkles that shone in both of their eyes.
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