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Before They Fall by Jchrissy
Chapter 21 : When Past Collides With Present
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 11


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Perfect CI by heartfelt. @ TDA
Chapter 21 - When Past Collides With Present
Lily stepped into the small bathroom, leaning her body against the door the second it closed and letting out a sigh. They’d been lucky on their journey to Swansea; everything had gone smoothly. Their check-in had been uneventful thanks to Mrs Potter, who had helped Lily to transfigure her Apparation license into a driver's license. And she’d even held her tongue when James insisted on paying for the room, knowing he couldn’t be talked out of it.

Her lips curved into a smile as she stepped over to the shower and pulled the faucet up. James had been so sweet when he’d suggested buying himself a second room, but it seemed silly to get two instead of the one with double beds. It was just like the Heads’ Quarters, only there was no wall separating them as they slept. And it saved him from paying another eighty pounds.

The sound of laughter slipped into the bathroom. Lily was sure that James was still playing with the lamps. He’d been amazed by electricity since the moment they arrived; he’d even tried to show Butterscotch how one little flick could turn the light on. Too bad for James that kittens could care less about the boring happenings of the human world. Not when there were so many strings to find and small areas to explore.

She slipped off her clothes and stepped under the steaming water, her tired body relishing in the feel of it. It was just after four o’clock, and that gave them a few hours until they met Petunia down in the restaurant attached to the Inn. Maybe they could go explore the town a bit? Butterscotch would probably want to go out and stretch his legs. Or maybe they should just stay in the hotel, and she could hyperventilate for a few hours. That definitely seemed like the best idea, considering the amount of anxiety fizzing around inside her. She knew she’d be nervous to see her sister again, but now that it was getting so close, she couldn’t believe just how nervous.

James had been able to distract her for most of the train ride. They’d talked about school, about his family, bits and pieces of hers. She’d told him about the summer that they visited some of her mum’s distant cousins in Ireland, and how much she loved it there. James had even made a comment about how fun it would be to go there for a graduation trip with the whole group.

How was it possible they were not only on a trip together, but already talking of more?

Lily finished rinsing her hair as she let her thoughts circle around that. It wasn’t like anything between them had moved incredibly fast... it was just so strange to think of where she and James were with their relationship. Even when she’d realized that she liked him in the beginning of the year, she never thought they’d feel this... serious.

Not that he’d dropped down to one knee and confessed his undying love or anything. Well, not in the last few years, at least. In fact, neither of them had even brought up the L word. It was way too soon. But that didn’t change the fact that it still felt so serious to Lily. Maybe it was because she knew this wouldn’t be just a temporary type of boyfriend. They wouldn’t date for a few months, realize they had nothing in common, then part amicably. It was James. It wasn’t the same as the beginning of most relationships, because they already knew so much about each other. Maybe that’s what made it feel different... the fact that there didn’t seem to be the sort of awkwardness that the first month or so of dating someone usually held. They didn’t have to play any games to make sure one of them really did like the other.

She stepped from the bath and toweled her body off, glancing at herself in the mirror. Suddenly, she became very aware of how she looked without clothes on. Or, more specifically, how someone else would think she’d look without clothes on.

It wasn’t as if anyone was going to see that anytime soon. But that didn’t stop her from thinking about it. Eventually, well, if she and James did stay together, he’d see her naked. Not tonight, of course. But eventually.

She glanced over her body again before closing the towel. She wasn’t someone out of the racy photos in the Witches Gone Wild magazine, but she still thought she had a rather cute body. Normal, but cute.

She stopped in the middle of pulling her pajamas on (she didn’t want to risk wrinkling the clothes she’d picked out for dinner) and shook her head. How on earth had she gone from thinking about what the evening would be like to how she looked naked?

God, Lily. Get a grip. For now, she just needed to concentrate on getting through tonight.

She cleaned up the water puddles she’d created throughout the bathroom, then grabbed her things and opened the door.

“Okay, the shower is all yours,” she started, before realizing that it was entirely too quiet. “James?” she said softly, tiptoeing to the bed that he was stretched out over, Butterscotch curled up above his head.

“Nap,” he muttered, obviously half asleep. “Long train ride.”

She covered her mouth, stifling a giggle, and moved to turn away from the bed when his arm snaked out and wrapped around her waist.

“Nap time for you too,” he mumbled, pulling her onto the bed. She was about to argue, but the warmth radiating off of him and the soft blanket he was pulling over her were too much, and suddenly she realized just how tired she was.

“Let me at least set an alarm,” she mumbled, then leaned over and fiddled with the clock placed on the nightstand. Thirty minutes should be more than enough for a nap.

“I hate alarms,” he complained, but waited for her to finish before pulling her back into him and nuzzling his head against her neck. “You smell good.”

James’s easy presence relaxed her, but it wasn’t enough to completely diminish her anxiety about the evening. What if Petunia didn’t even remember the dinner, and they waited for hours but the almost newlyweds never showed up? What if they did show up, but no one spoke the entire time? Or if-

“Lily, I can hear you thinking from over here,” James mumbled. “Wanna talk about it?”

She was about to say no, to tell him to sleep, but instead she found herself nodding. “I’m just worried it will go poorly,” she admitted, though she supposed James was more than aware of that.

“We’re going to go have dinner with your sister tonight. I’ll be nice, and I won’t make mean jokes or turn her into a weasel. You’ll be your normal sweet self. What could go wrong?”

“I could accidentally bring up something about magic, and then she’d get angry and her fiancé would probably get angry and everyone would be angry. Or she might forget to come. Or she’ll-”

“I promise, no matter what happens, it’ll be okay,” James assured her, hugging her body tightly.

“But James, last time I really spoke to her, even before the funeral things went badly.” She hadn’t meant for her voice to sound so unsteady, but she knew it did.

“What happened?”

Did she really want to get into all this? She knew she was the one who brought it up...but maybe she shouldn’t have. Though, as much as she tried to ignore the memories, they still felt so alive in her mind. Maybe talking to James about it would help.

She took a slow breath before speaking, wanting to sound much stronger than she felt. “When we were in the hospital, after our parents passed and we had to talk to the doctors and identify the bodies, Petunia asked for a minute alone with me.” Lily blinked back the sensation of tears, and tried to focus on the feel of James’s calloused hands rubbing through her still damp hair. “And she begged me to fix them, James. It was the first time we talked about my magic since before fifth year. And she, she started crying more, and she told me that she knew my teacher could turn into a cat, and she knew that bones could be fixed with a potion. She must’ve been paying attention in the past when I talked to my parents. And she...”

Lily closed her eyes tightly, trying not to see the memory of her sister’s desperate face, dark eyes rimmed red from tears. “She just kept begging me. I told her I couldn’t, that there was no spell, no potion, nothing to bring someone back from the dead. But she just kept crying, and just kept begging.” Lily’s voice was barely audible, the salty tears no longer captive behind her green eyes.

“Lily,” James whispered, pulling her tighter into him. “You couldn’t help them, Lily. No one could have, not even Dumbledore. You can’t feel bad about something that you had no control over. Your sister has to realize that.”

“I didn’t think she’d ever talk to me again, James. She stomped out of the hospital, I tried to chase her but she wouldn’t stop. And now that we’re here, that this is all happening, part of me thinks maybe she will forgive me, but I don’t even want to hope that, because what if I’m wrong?”

“Listen to me, Lily Evans,” James began, leaning up on his elbow. “There is nothing to forgive you for. You would have done anything if you could have, and she knows that.”

Lily nodded, wiping the fat drops from her face. The only person she’d ever shared that story with was Alice, and it had been so hard that she was certain she’d never talk about it again. But having James know everything about what happened between her and Petunia was like lifting a suffocating weight off of her chest.

“James?”

“Yeah?”

“Thanks for coming.”

James didn’t answer, instead he curled himself back around Lily, grabbing Butterscotch from the pillow and tucking the kitten under her arm. Between the small ball of fur cuddled against the front of her, and the warm body wrapped around her, she felt her eyes grow heavy once more. Yes, she definitely needed a nap before this evening.

“We’re just a few minutes from ze ‘ouse,” Belle said, running a hand through her hair as she shook out the uncomfortable feeling the Portkey left behind. “It’s not too late for you to turn around and run,” she added, raising an eyebrow at Sirius.


“You know, maybe I’ll take you up on that. Just give me this Christophe bloke’s address, and I’ll be off.” Belle rolled her eyes at the boy, but still she felt her lips curve into a smile. She pulled her cloak tighter around herself, trying to ward off the December wind. The Portkey had dropped them off at a private park, and from there they could have Apparated directly to Belle’s parents’ front lawn. This was a small area with only four other estates, and they were all owned by magical families. But she needed the few minutes of walking to steady her nerves.

“So,” Sirius started as his pace evened out with Belle’s. “We’ll get on with the fake pleasantries, then after dinner it will be time?” Belle nodded, relieved that she didn’t have to explain to Sirius why things had to work like this. He’d grown up in this lifestyle, he understood.

“Belle?”

“Mm?”

“You’re brave, you know.”

She glanced up at him, her gaze meeting his, and felt herself calm down by just a fraction when he slipped his much larger hand into hers and gave it a reassuring squeeze.

She tried not to glance around too much, but she couldn’t help it. So many memories had been made there. Walking with her sister to and from the very park that she and Sirius had just left. Playing tag with some of the younger kids until it got too dark and the house elves came to collect them and bring them back home.

Maybe things with her family hadn’t ended well, but they weren’t always bad. While her parents had never been anything but cold, she still had friends to play with, delicious picnics to eat on Sunday afternoons, people to run around in the snow with when their tutors deemed it too dreary outside to study. Plenty of things other children dreamed of having.

“You know,” Sirius began, distracting her from her thoughts. “When I first started spending a lot of time around the Potters, and would go to their house during summers and stuff, things were really different for me. I can remember this one time when Olivia and William were talking about a Quidditch player that I’d never cared for. I was still pretty young then, it was the summer before third year, and I hadn’t spent a ton of time with either one of James’s parents up to that point.

“William asked me what I thought about the player, and I said I liked him. I didn’t, but I was so used to adults getting angry at me if I disagreed with them, and I really didn’t want James’s mum and dad to hate me. Anyway, I don’t remember what happened after that. I s’pose we just went on with our day.” Sirius paused, and Belle glanced up, surprised to see him looking off at nowhere in particular. He wasn’t one to usually get lost in his own thoughts.

“And zen?” she prompted, impatient to hear the rest of the story. He looked down at her, and used his free hand to tuck a stray hair behind her ear before continuing.

“And then, when James and I were getting ready for bed Olivia came into James’s room and asked him to go help his dad with something downstairs. I got nervous, because I’d never been around just his parents without him. Olivia sat me down and told me that she knew I didn’t like the Quidditch player, and that I just said that to please William. She said that I had my own brain for a reason, my own opinions, and I was never to feel like I shouldn’t share those. If I didn’t agree with something, or didn’t like something, then I needed to say it.” He stopped again, his lips curving into a smirk. “As long as it didn’t have anything to do with her cooking, I could have all the opinions in the world.”

Belle had to resist the urge to lace her arms around Sirius. It was so easy to picture him as a young boy, trying to put on a tough appearance but so full of hurt and broken pieces.

“They took a lot of things from you, Belle,” Sirius continued as they made their way closer toward the estate. “Just like my mum and dad took a lot of things from me. They would have given me plenty: all the money I’d ever need; the respect of the most elite people in wizarding society.... but it wasn’t worth what they were taking. Your parents can still give you plenty. But before we go in that house, I want you to think about how much of you they’d strip away, who they’d turn you into, in trade for those things they’d give.”

Belle nodded and almost closed her eyes as the front of the red brick house came into view. All she wanted was to turn to Sirius and beg him to take her back Britain, where she could continue pretending her past didn’t bother her. If she tried hard enough, she knew she could convince him. But then she’d be left feeling like this for years, probably for the rest of her life.

“Sirius?” she whispered as they came to a stop at the towering, wrought iron gate. “Don’t let me give zem any more parts of myself today. I can’t ‘andle losing more.” She met his gaze as she spoke, knowing she was showing more fragility than she’d ever been comfortable with. His smoky eyes were softer than usual, every trace of laughter that typically lived in them absent.

“They’re not taking anything from you today, Belle. You’re getting something back.”

And with that, he bent down and pressed his lips lightly to her cheek, letting them linger for just a moment before backing away. The heat they left was still tingling as they turned to the gate walked through it, hand in hand.

The dimly lit hallways made James want to pull his wand out. Although, considering it was now hidden carefully in his sock under the leg of his black dress trousers, it would be a bit more difficult to get to. He was happy Lily had agreed that they should take their wands, though. She’d told him that hers was hidden on her as well, but as he glanced down at her, he couldn’t imagine where. Her jumper was tight enough that he’d see it bulging out from somewhere. She probably did something sneaky with it, like transfigured it into one of her own fingers so she could just go shooting spells if necessary.

“What are you chuckling about?” Lily asked, glancing up at him, her cheeks were still the same shade of pink they’d been for the last half hour. Poor Lily had no hope at all of hiding her nerves.

“I’m just imagining you shooting spells from your fingertips, is all,” he answered honestly, chuckling even more at the look she gave him before continuing forward.

James tried to focus on what it would take to make sure everything went okay this evening. He hadn’t been sure if it was even possible for him to dislike Petunia Evans any more than he already did, but after the story Lily had told him earlier, he was certain he’d surpassed even his own expectations. He knew that not matter what, he’d never be happy about spending time with the girl. She’d done too much to Lily. But he could at least figure out how to be polite for the evening, if it meant seeing that big smile spread across his girlfriend’s face.

James glanced down at Lily again, and resisted the urge to kiss the top of her head. She’d sprayed something on her red strands right before they left, and he’d made the mistake of touching the top of the bottle only to find out it was some hard, sticky substance. Hairspray was what Lily called it. Not a very creative term... he wondered who came up with it. Well, he wouldn’t be testing its abilities by kissing the hair that was coated with it.

“That’s it,” Lily said, glancing at a restaurant connected to their Inn. “Are you sure you want to do this?”

“Well, you’ve been starving me all night promising me dinner,” James joked, but he stopped her before she could walk any further. “Lily, everything is going to be okay.” He leaned down and met her soft, gentle lips with his. He’d grown more familiar with the sensation of kissing her over the last month, but that didn’t stop his head from spinning. She was the first to break the kiss, and James had to give himself credit for not throwing her over his shoulder and carrying her back to their room so they could spend the rest of the night snogging.

“You ready for this?” she asked, smiling at him. Her eyes still betrayed her nerves, but he knew the red in her cheeks was now from something entirely different.

They walked to the woman who was standing behind a podium, clipboard in hand.

“We’re meeting my sister, Petunia Evans. I’m not sure if we have reservations,” Lily said as the woman glanced back down to her list. James felt an odd sense of pride at the way Lily managed to sound so confident, even when he knew that right now she felt anything but.

“Ah, yes,” the woman said. “Petunia Evans and Vernon Dursley have already arrived. If you just follow me, I’ll be happy to lead the way.”

James felt Lily’s hand clamp tighter around his, and he couldn’t help but wonder what this bloke would be like. Vernon hadn’t been at the funeral, so neither of them even had an idea of what he looked like. With a name like Vernon, James wasn’t expecting much.

They began weaving through the restaurant, the smell of steak and seafood reminding James of how hungry he really was. He kept his grip tight on Lily’s hand, knowing they couldn’t be more than a few steps away from wherever her sister was sitting.

“It’s the table just back there next to the window,” the lady said as she stopped.

James followed her finger, and instantly recognized the face of the other Evans sister. Sitting next to her was an overweight man who, James was happy to say, truly looked like he deserved the name Vernon. See, he hadn’t been judging someone just by their name. He had good instincts, that’s what it was.

“Hello, Petunia,” Lily greeted as they reached the table. James was genuinely impressed with how smooth Lily was able to make her tone sound.

“Lily. This is my fiancé, Vernon Dursley.”

“Nice to meet you, Vernon. This is my boyfriend, James Potter.”

Boyfriend. He’d never heard her say it out loud. He smiled his best charming smile and shook their hands before pulling out Lily’s chair. See, they were off to a good start. The evening would go perfectly fine.

Belle laced her fingers together, keeping them from fidgeting as she and Sirius stood in the large entrance of the Leclair Estate. A house-elf had already let them in, and Belle knew it would be just seconds until her mother and father came walking through the French doors. They’d be dressed in attire that made it look like they were preparing to dine with royalty, and their faces would be completely emotionless

Before Belle could even finish her mental calculation of what the next few minutes would bring, those very doors were creaking open and an attractive couple came walking in. It was odd, seeing her mother’s face again. It looked so much like her own, so much like her sister’s, but a million times harder than Belle ever wanted to be. Her blue eyes, just a touch lighter than Belle’s, had no laughter dancing in them, no emotions swirling their color. And her father, God could he even be called that? Belle could almost count the number of real conversations she’d had with the blond man. His features were beautiful, like he’d been carved from stone. She remembered being little and thinking how perfect her father looked, how she wanted to fall in love with and marry a man just like him.

Her eyes couldn’t resist darting to her right and resting on the boy just inches from her. His dark hair, as wild as the man it belonged to, was longer than usual, curling up just as the base of his neck. He was nothing she ever thought she’d want. He didn’t control his emotions. He was either sickeningly happy or moody as hell. He always had something to say, always had something going on in that dangerous mind of his.

No, Sirius Black certainly wasn’t the type of man that her younger self ever could have imagined falling for. But, as she compared the idea of the man she used to think she wanted, to the person by her side, she knew she would choose Sirius any day.

The sound of her mother’s heels clicking over the marble floor drew closer, and Belle glanced from Sirius to the couple coming toward them. The two people she was certain she’d never want to become.

“‘Ello, mother,” she said evenly as the woman held out her hands to administer a very false show of affection. “Father,” she added, nodding her head.

“Isabelle.” Had his voice always been so lifeless? Had it been so long since she’d heard her father talk that even his tone sounded odd? “I can’t tell you ‘ow relived I am to ‘ave you in our ‘ome again.”

It was the first knife. The first lie they’d tell to make her believe that she was wanted. She wasn’t. What they wanted was to tie together their image again. To look like France’s perfect family. Their two daughters, both grown and beautiful, to display to the world.

“Yes,” her mother added, nearly pulling her tight lips into a smile. “Nous ignorions que t'avais convié un invité.”*

“Mother, I’d rather we stick to English zis evening. It would be rude to exclude my guest from ze conversation,” Belle said, crossing her arms. She glanced at Sirius, who seemed to be completely at ease.

Her father cleared his throat and sent his wife a warning glare. It was obvious he’d made it clear that she was to be on her best behavior if they wished to bribe their youngest daughter back home. “We just weren’t expecting company other zan you,” he said with a nod to Sirius.

“It was a last minute plan,” Belle lied, though she knew there was no reason for it. She didn’t have to act like she cared about pleasing them. That wasn’t what she was there to do. But she did need to get through dinner. “Zis is my friend, Sirius Black.”

Sirius stepped forward, shaking both their hands. Belle saw her father wince before he was able to cover it, and knew Sirius must’ve been squeezing somewhat harder than necessary.

“Mr. Black, I’m Nathanael, and zis is my wife Claudette. I’m pleased zat my daughter ‘as at least made some respectable acquaintances at zat godawful school of ‘ers. I believe zat my company ‘as done business with a family member of yours years ago when we were working to secure somethings with your Minister of Magic.”

“Yes, that would be my Uncle Cygnus. He used to be quite involved with the Ministry.” The way Sirius said the words sent chills down Belle’s back. She knew whatever he was involved in must not have been good.

“Well zen,” her mother began, the tone of her voice already drilling a headache behind Belle’s eyes. “I’m pleased zat you come from such a prominent family.”

“Yes madam, I do. Although we don’t see each other often.” Oh God, Belle thought, this certainly wasn't going ideally.

Before she could change the subject, her father was already speaking. “Busy with school and working on your future, I trust?”

Sirius paused a moment, like he was actually giving the question a moment’s though. “Not necessary. I think what keeps us from spending more time together is the fact that we draw our wands on each other nearly every time we come into contact. I found it beneficial to cut ties with them long ago. But if I see them again, although I can only wish it won’t be until I’m standing over their graves, I’ll mention that you both send your regards.”

Belle clamped her lips together to keep her mouth shut. This was, without a doubt, the worst way they could have started the evening off, but she still wanted so badly to laugh.

Her mother caught her bearings first, and cleared her throat before addressing them. “I suppose you’ll both want to get cleaned up before we dine. Isabelle, I’m sure you remember where ze guest bathroom is. Your bathroom and room ‘ave both been prepared and are fit for use. We’ll dine in ‘alf an ‘our.”

Belle knew her mother was incredibly close to breaking her control and saying something insulting to Sirius, because she turned around and walked back through the French doors without a second glance.

“Yes, well zen. We’ll see you both shortly for dinner. Isabelle, we’ve asked for your favorite vanilla pudding to be prepared.” And before Belle could so much as nod, her father followed her mother’s lead.

Sirius turned to her, his eyebrow raised. “You hate vanilla. Chocolate’s your favorite.”

“Yes, I do. It’s funny ‘ow you know zat after months with me, and zey’ve had years and still don’t.”

It was a small thing, her father not knowing a food she disliked, but it still reminded her of how little she actually meant to them.

“That’s why I’m standing beside you and get to be part of your life, and that bastard is still wondering what burned his hand when he shook mine.”

Belle almost reprimanded Sirius for using that word to describe her father, but before she could, she realized that it was completely accurate. That’s exactly what he was. And he didn’t deserve to have her defending him. It took a minute for her mind to get across that, and realize what the ending of Sirius’s sentence had been.

“What did...” she started, reaching out and grabbing the boy’s right hand. It didn’t appear any different.

“Just a little charm Mr. Potter taught me,” Sirius said with a wink. “Now, we better go upstairs and get cleaned up. I’m clearly much too dirty to dine like this.” Sirius gestured to his simple black robes, with the Gryffindor crest sewn into them. It was a far cry from her mother's silver and lace ones, or her fathers charcoal colored ones with the sterling silver cufflinks. But she liked him much better like this. At least the torn up Muggle jeans that she was certain were under the robe weren’t visible.

“Come on, Princess,” Sirius said and she realized she hadn’t responded. “Let’s get this show on the road so we can get out of this castle. I say, if we get out of here early enough, we find somewhere to stop for ice cream after.”

Belle felt her eyes light up. The idea of celebrating the cutting of her ties with these people by getting ice cream seemed more than fitting.

She laced her arm through Sirius’s and began leading him up the stairs.

Maybe it was because her parents’ false affection had been so easy to see through, or simply the support Sirius was giving her, but something had her fear switching over to anger. She knew that if she got angry, she could walk out of this house without a single tear being shed. And that’s what she wanted. She had no reason to ever cry over these people again.

As the second floor came into view, a rush of memories flooded into her. She and Adeline sitting at the top stair, trying to listen to the parties their parents would throw. Sneaking snacks up to her room, and always making sure to stop halfway up and peek through the banister to be certain that the coast was clear before darting to her room.

As they stepped onto the second floor, she couldn’t help but walk to her bedroom first. She knew she should have showed Sirius around, but it was too tempting. She creaked the door open, ready to be crushed with a wave of emotion as she remembered all the hours she’d spent there. Instead, she was faced with a sickening feeling that stabbed into her. The room. It was identical to how she used to keep it.

A photo of her and Christophe still sat on the nightstand.

Her school robes were folded neatly on the chair.

It was like they’d thought that if it was still all there, if they forced her to come face to face with the memories, she’d regret walking away from them.

“Belle, let’s go into a different room,” Sirius whispered. She tried to respond, but her eyes were latched onto the moving, laughing photo of herself and another girl. The girl she’d thought she was best friends with for six years. The one who threw the first insult when the entire school found out she was pregnant. But it wasn’t just that one. The pictures, they were everywhere. Different girls, different friends, except their faces weren’t smiling. They were smirking. Their eyes hungry for gossip, their cruel laughter filling the room and drilling into her heart like it had that very day her entire world had fallen apart.

“Belle,” came his voice again as he wrapped his arm around her waist and led her back out of the room.

“I’m sorry,” she began, her previously built up anger diminishing. The shadows of her past took over, holding tightly and pressing the pain back into her. “It’s just... all of zat. Zose pictures, ze robes, I destroyed it all before fleeing to Adeline’s house. I know it’s childish, but I ripped every single picture to shreds and I stuffed everything I had from Beauxbatons in ze back of ze closet.”

“They put all the pictures back together? Hung them back on the walls?” Sirius asked, his voice hardening as she nodded her head.

“I’m so sorry,” she said again, hurt that he had to see her break down like that.

You’re sorry?” he asked, anger filling his words. She glanced into his eyes, surprised at the rage that burned so visibly in them. “You’re sorry? You have nothing to be sorry about! Those sick fucks knew you were coming, Belle. They did that so you’d have to go in there and come face to face with every reminder you struggled to get away from!” He turned from her, his voice nearly yelling now, and gripped hard onto the wooden banister. She was sure he was struggling to keep his hand there, to stop it from going into the wall.

“Those stupid bastards think they can screw with you like that? Make you hurt so much that, what, you’ll decide you should stay to get it all back?” He stepped farther away from her, and before she realized what he was doing, he began stomping down the stairs.

“Sirius, where are you going?”

“To end this bloody charade and get you the fuck out of this house,” he shouted, not even turning around. “I’m not going to sit back and watch your mind get screwed with all night.”

She rushed after him down the stairs, ignoring the drumming of her heart, and tried to catch up with him before he got to the French doors. “You can’t do it zis way, Sirius!”

He stepped halfway to the door and turned around to face her. “Fine. If you don’t want me to do it, you’re going to. You’re going to tell those stupid, worthless pieces of shit what a bunch of nutters they are. And then we’re going to leave.” She watched as he tried to struggle with his own self control, but he was losing. His hand was shaking as it reached to grab hers.

“Zey may not ‘ave known how I would react. Maybe zey zought it would be a nice gesture to put zings back how zey were before everything ‘appened,” she whispered, wanting to hold onto a shred of hope that they was still some good in her parents.

“Belle,” he began, massaging the palm of her hand with his thumb. She was sure the gesture was to calm himself down, and not her. “Belle, does any part of you really believe that?”

Belle thought about his question. Her mother may be a pathetic woman, but she was smart. Terrifyingly so. Did she believe Claudette would overlook any small detail about her visit? Did she believe the woman was above using any sort of tactic to get her emotional enough to stay? God, she wanted to. She wanted to think that she could talk to her parents like adults, get all her pain out there, then her and Sirius would leave and maybe years down the road, burnt bridges could be mended. But they couldn’t do that. They couldn’t handle her thinking for herself, so they’d tried to remind her of all the things she had in this house, all the things she lost, hoping she’d fall back into them.

“No,” she finally whispered. It was a small word, but something in it lit her own fire. Because she didn’t believe that. She knew they wanted to hurt her. They wanted to hurt her so bad that she’d have no choice but to need them. And who the hell actually tried to hurt their own child? The crippling heartache she’d felt moments ago started transforming back into the rage, and she knew Sirius was right. It was time to stop playing their games.

She nodded her head a fraction, then stepped to his side and slid her fingers into his. She needed every ounce of support she could get. Her hand gripped the cold metal door handle, and before she could change her mind, she pushed it open. She led Sirius through the main area of the house, knowing they’d be tucked into the study. They were only a few steps away when she heard a voice, one that belonged to neither her mother nor her father.

It’d been months since she heard it last, but she’d recognize it anywhere. She froze up, her body turning to lead. Sirius tugged at her, and she had no choice but to follow, praying silently that her ears were deceiving her. As they took the final step into the study, a boy stood brushing off his robes, still covered in the ash from the Floo.

He looked up at her, and a smile crept over his face.

“‘Ello Isabelle, it’s been ages.”

She couldn’t answer, her tongue threatening to suffocate her. She ordered her mind to shut down and tried to ignore the sound of her heartbeat, so loud it might as well have been a canon going off.

She met his eyes, though it almost killed her to do so, before saying as confidently as she could, “Hello Christophe.”

Sirius let Belle’s hand drop from his, and curled his fingers into fists. Every part of him wanted to launch his body at the thing standing in front of them, but he managed to keep his feet in their place. At least until they learned whether this coward was here to grovel at Belle’s feet as he should be doing.

“Mother, father, what’s going on?” Belle asked, and he felt his self control slip farther away at the shaky tone of her voice.

“Well,” Mrs. Leclair began, crossing her arms like she was insulted that her daughter would speak to her that way. She was about to be a hell of a lot more insulted when Sirius lost all of the control he was managing to hold onto and broke a man’s face open on their precious white carpet.

“I zink it’s fairly obvious,” the bastard interrupted, his voice sounding just as pathetic as Sirius would have imagined. “Isabelle, your parents are concerned about your future and requested zat I come by and talk some sense into you. Just because I ‘aven’t forgiven you for what you tried to do to me, doesn’t mean I want to see you throw away all ze ‘ard work Mr. and Mrs. Leclair put into you by running off with zis classless, greasy animal.”

The insult that was thrown at Sirius barely even registered. He was already too suffocated in the sound of his own blood pumping through him. “You don’t forgive her?” he began, taking a step closer to Christophe and shaking Belle’s small hand off of his forearm. “You don’t forgive her for trying to clean up the fucking mess you left her in?” His hands were no longer responding to his attempts at keeping them in his pockets. One snaked out and grabbed the front of the worthless bastard’s robes, pulling him so close that their noses were just inches away. The other held his wand steadily to his throat. “You don’t forgive her for having to stand up for herself when no one else would?”

“Excuse me,” the bastard started, trying to cover the quiver in his voice. “I don’t believe zis is any of your concern.”

“Sirius,” came Belle’s voice, but even that wasn’t enough to pull him back.

“You don’t, do you?” he asked, his tone sounding terrifying even to his own ears.

“Look ‘ere,” Mr. Leclair bellowed. “I want you to release zat young man zis instant!”

Part of Sirius wanted to dare the spineless man to come over here and try to make him, but he was too focused on what was in front of him.

“Look, whatever she ‘as told you,” began the pathetic creature under his grasp, his tone nearly begging Sirius to listen. “She’s lying. Zat’s what she does. She’s always done zat, and what you zink you’re about to do isn’t worth it, not for ‘er.”

Nothing the boy said in that moment could have been worse.

Sirius released his grip on the robes, and lowered his wand a fraction. He saw a small flash of relief go through Christophe’s eyes, like he thought he’d said the right thing to calm the enraged man down. But that was proven wrong in an instant as Sirius’s large fist went crashing into the bastards face.

“Stop!” Claudette Leclair cried as the blond boy’s body spiraled to the ground.

Sirius moved to pull him back up, just to hit him and watch him collapse again. But before he could, a jet of sparks went flying by him.

“Mother!” Belle shouted, and Sirius turned around just in time to see her pulling out her own wand and pointing it at her mother’s face. “Drop your wand, now. Sirius, let’s go.”

Sirius glanced down at the pile of shaking bones curled onto the ground. He wouldn’t have turned down getting a few more punches in, but he supposed he’d done good enough work.

“Isabelle Leclair you will not zink of stepping foot out of zis ‘ouse with zat maniac!”

Sirius thought Belle would simply ignore her deranged mother’s order, but instead she lowered her wand, and hooked eyes with the woman.

“Maniac?” Belle started, ice coating her words. “‘E’s ze maniac for sticking up for me? For defending me when none of you ‘ad ze courage to do so?” Belle stepped closer to her mother, a kind of confidence radiating off of her that had been absent all evening. “‘E’s ze one in ze wrong for doing what you were too useless to do, and defend your own daughter? Zat poor excuse of a ‘uman being,” she pointed down at Christophe, “left me when I needed someone ze most, and zat’s bad enough. But you turned your backs on me, you turned your backs on your own child! And I ‘ope you never forgive yourself for zat.”

As if in slow motion, Sirius watched the scene play out in front of him. Before he could so much as move to stop it, the sound of flesh meeting flesh was already ringing through the room.

Lily took another large gulp of her water before trying once again to keep the conversation afloat. It felt like they’d ordered their food hours ago, but she knew it couldn't have been more than twenty minutes.

“Well, you see,” Vernon started, and Lily wanted to plug her ears. The man had done nothing but make himself sound like a pompous git all evening. She glanced up at him as he took a swig of beer and wiped a few loose dribbles off his face before continuing. “It won’t be long now until I get moved over to Grunnings. And with the salary that is attached to that, I’ll be more than able to purchase a house that’s much more suitable than the flat we’re living in. I think, if we’re speaking frankly here, it’ll be much nicer than anything most people can afford. I’d be able to purchase it sooner, if I hadn’t already put such a large sum down for my Ford Capri. But that baby’s not even a year old, newest on the market.”

“And Ford, that’s a car model, right?” James asked. Lily felt extremely grateful for how much effort he was putting into keeping things moving along. She and Petunia had barely even spoken to one another. Each time she tried, her sister would make a comment about Vernon, and that would get the big oaf talking again about himself.

“Well, of course it’s a car! What else could it be?” He threw his hands onto the table and laughed heartily. Lily was desperate not to see the glances that were being thrown their way, and instead averted her eyes out the window that the table was nestled against.

“Well, Vernon,” Petunia began, her tone silky enough to make Lily want to vomit. Good gracious, how could she even stand the man, let alone talk so sweetly to him? “James may not be about to afford a car, so he wouldn’t know the makes and models.” Lily snapped her eyes from the window to her sister. James had been nothing but agreeable all evening. Why did Petunia have to keep throwing jabs at him?

“Well,” James began, and Lily could hear the relaxed tone of his voice betray hints of annoyance. “It’s not that I can’t afford a car, we just don’t have much use for them.”

“Not much use for a car?” Vernon’s beady eyes were full of mockery, and Lily struggled to try and change the subject.

“So are you guys planning on buying a house soon after the wedding, then?” she asked, meeting Petunia’s gaze. It was odd, looking into the face of someone you’d grown up with and barely feeling like you recognized them. It wasn’t even just Petunia’s looks that had changed. Sure, she’d lightened her dark hair a bit so it was growing closer to blonde, and she was wearing these terrible, huge pearl earrings that reminded Lily of the style elderly woman wear. It was more than that. Something just felt so unfamiliar about the woman.

“Well of course, it’s the proper thing to do,” Petunia said, rolling her eyes like she couldn’t believe Lily would ask such a silly question. “And besides, we’ll want to start a family rather soon after, and you can’t really raise a child in a flat, now can you?”

A family? Her sister was actually going to have a child with this man? The thought of it made Lily’s stomach churn.

“Now Petunia,” Vernon bellowed. “Just because we don’t think it’s proper to raise a child in a flat, doesn’t mean that’s true for everyone. For all you know, James here could have been raised in one!”

Lily glanced again at her sister, hoping so much that her pleading look would be enough to get Tuney to shut her git of a fiancé up. James might be tolerant, but he wouldn’t handle being insulted all night, and the last thing Lily wanted was for this evening to end on a dramatic note.

Just as James started speaking, their waitress stepped over with entrees in hand. Thank God. Now maybe Vernon could get some food in his mouth and that would prevent him from talking.

“Thank you,” Lily said, as the woman slid a plate in front of her, then moved to James. He nodded at her, thanking her as well, and their waitress’s cheeks flickered to pink.

“And you ordered the rack of lamb,” she said, continuing over to Vernon, the flush of color instantly fading.

“Hmph,” he started, and Lily wanted to bang her head on the table. “I ordered a rack of lamb. There’s nothing on this. Couldn’t even feed a child.” Lily felt herself wanting to shout at him that the waitress doesn’t control the food portions, and that he hand plenty of food right in front of his face.

“I think that’s just the average size of our portions, sir,” the young brunette said as she placed Petunia’s entree down, her eyes glancing nervously around.

“I guess there are some places that have to make all their money by cheating people out of a proper meal, eh?”

“Vernon,” Lily started as pleasantly as she was able. “I’m sure we’re all more than happy to share if you’re still hungry.” Lily glanced at the waitress and nodded her head to the side. The girl took her cue and hurried off, probably to beg another server to take their table.

“Take food from you both? Well, good god, the boy can’t even afford a car and was raised in a flat! I’m not going to take one of the only decent meals he may eat for the next while out from under him!”

“Excuse me,” James began, a dangerous edge clipping his words. Lily struggled to think of a way to smooth it over. All they had to do was finish eating and pay the bill, then they’d be done. But before she was able to distract him, James was already continuing.

“I very well was not raised in a flat. My parents’ home could probably fit ten of whatever house you plan on purchasing inside of it. And even if I was raised in a flat, I still wouldn’t be half as much of an arse as you are.” He kept his gaze steady on the pink faced man across from him, and Lily felt like he was daring Vernon to challenge what he said. The silence hung through the air, and Lily risked a glance at her sister. Oh god. She had tears in her eyes. What on earth did Petunia have to be upset about, Lily wondered angrily. Maybe she was upset because, in less than twenty-four hours, she’d be marrying the world’s most intolerable man.

Just when it seemed Vernon had found his voice and cleared his throat, a white glow on the outside of the window distracted them. Lily looked over, and was certain her heart stopped. Standing on the outside and facing into a restaurant full of Muggles was a glowing, white dog that Lily knew without a doubt was Sirius’s Patronus. The creature lifted his paw, and scratched at the window. James jumped from his chair and took off in the direction of the exit. Lily’s heart constricted, and she hoped to God Sirius was just playing some sort of terrible prank and nothing was wrong.

With her worry about why the dog was there, she’d nearly forgotten about her sister sitting across from her until Petunia’s sharp voice bit through the silence.

“What on earth is that thing?”

Sirius sat on the bench, Belle nestled under his arm with his cloak tucked over her like a blanket. Sirius was still playing out their departure from the mansion in his mind. It’d been nothing but a chaotic blur. Claudette had lost every bit of her control the second Belle had stood up to her, the deep red mark printed on the young girl’s face was proof of that. Sirius didn’t know whether he was more angry at Claudette for giving it to her, or more proud of Belle for not even showing the woman one ounce of weakness.

“‘Ee just laid zere. ‘E was too scared to even get up and fight,” Belle said, giggling. Sirius thought she might have lost it after all the stress of the evening, because all she’d done was go back over how brilliant watching Christophe getting knocked to the ground had been. He agreed, of course, and would cherish the aching feeling in his knuckles from delivering that punch for as long as it lasted. But his nerves, his emotions were still too raw to really enjoy it. It’d taken all his self control not to pull his wand out and curse the fuck out of that woman. What he needed more than anything right now was for someone to talk him down. He needed to hear that he’d done the right thing by getting Belle out. He needed James.

He knew that he’d probably screwed up the dinner with Lily’s sister. If it was still going on. But he just hoped his Patronus had been able to find his best mate, because he didn’t think he could handle not seeing him right now. And he needed to get Belle somewhere safe. He knew there wasn’t much of a chance that her parents would try and get the authorities involved, which was the only benefit of Mrs. Leclair raising her hand to her daughter. Now they could twist the story around and plead self defense. But just because there wasn’t a large chance, didn’t mean there wasn’t any.

They just needed to get safely back. He needed to see James; Belle needed to see Lily; and he wanted to crack open the bottle of Bordeaux wine that he’d lifted from Leclair’s mansion.

“Look,” Belle whispered, pointing at a glowing object as it moved closer. Sirius could just make out the antlers. The noiseless hooves sped closer, until it was close enough to reach out and pet. Sirius let out the breath that’d been stuck in his chest. That was the farthest they’d ever sent their magic before, and even if he hadn’t voiced it, he’d been terrified it wouldn’t make it.

“We’re at the Seaside Inn. Take the Portkey to Alice’s, Floo to my parents and get your bike. It’s too far to Apparate.”

Sirius felt a small panic try and wash through him, but quickly drowned it out. He hadn’t been on his bike since the accident with Lily’s parents. The machine had been too hard to even look at, so William stored it at their house.

But right now it was their best option, and he’d make it work.

“Sirius,” Belle whispered, and he glanced down at her. The sky was nearly dark, but he could still make out the glow of her eyes. He lifted the arm that was curled around her and gently touched the place where her mother’s hand had collided into her cheek. Before he could stop himself, he lowered his head down and touched a soft kiss to the delicate bone.

“I should have stopped her somehow,” he mumbled, a heavy feeling of failure building up in him.

“Sirius Black. Don’t take zis away for me. I made ‘er angry enough to break ‘er perfectly built control and actually slap me.” She let another giggle bubble through her throat, and Sirius decided that whether she was losing it or not, he didn’t care. He was just happy she wasn’t crying.

“But Sirius,” she started again, her tone somber. “I can’t ‘andle being back at Alice’s home right now. Not zat I don’t love ‘er, but I just can’t do it. It’s too much like that one.” She nodded her head in the direction of her family’s estate.

“Don’t worry, you’re coming to Swansea with me. We’ll stay there with Lily and James tonight, and head back to the Potters’ tomorrow. Then if you’re still not ready to go back to Alice’s, you know you can stay there.”

“But zen Alice would be lonely.”

A snort of laughter escaped Sirius, and Belle shifted to look up at him. He was sure she was glaring. “Belle, Alice usually spends the entire break at Frank and Augusta’s. Her parents pretend she’s up in her room, but she usually just comes home once every few days.”

“Why didn’t she say anything?” Belle asked.

“I’m sure she just wanted you to have a place to stay. Your other option was with us at James’s, but I don’t think she wanted you to feel like you had to stay with us.”

“Why wouldn’t I want to stay with you all?”

Sirius paused for a second before answering. He knew why Alice gave Belle another option. The girl was a genius; she could see through people faster than anyone he knew. Which is why he was certain that Alice realized if Belle wasn’t constantly around him, maybe that’d give her the chance to miss him and want to be around him. Really, Alice was basically just a puppeteer pulling all their strings until they paired off according to her plan. But considering her plans were always the best, he didn’t have too much of a problem with that.

Sirius took a slow break before answering. “Alice was probably worried about you being stuck there because she knows me. And she knows it wouldn’t be too long until I couldn’t resist doing this...” He never thought his actions through first, maybe if he would have, he’d have decided now wasn’t the best time to create a first kiss. After they’d both just been through hell and were more on edge than ever. But he didn’t think about any of that, instead he acted on what he wanted, and leaned into Belle. Everything else faded away as he become completely lost in the taste of her kiss.

AN
Thank you guys so much for getting through this massive chapter! As always, thank you to my awesome beta, CambAngst!

I've been really excited to post this one. What did you guys think? Was the length a killer?

*Witches Gone Wild is a play off of the title Girls Gone Wild, created by Joe Fracis.
* translates to - We weren't aware you invited a guest. At least, that's what Google Translator told me.


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