Chapter 20 : Let the Sky Fall
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My dearest sister,
From your last letter, I’m touched that you poured some much of yourself onto parchment. This suggests intense desperation if you have been pushed to even seek out my advice. Indeed, this is a sticky situation you have gotten yourself into, getting tangled up with two different boys who are best friends at that. My head spins at how you managed such a feat when you despise socialising so much. I hope you know the use of Amortentia is strictly illegal.
Unfortunately, when it comes to matters of the heart, my knowledge is limited to my own personal experience. As you know, Currer and I fell in love at first sight when we came face-to-face at the welcoming feast as first-year Ravenclaws. Since that fateful day, he has been the only man in my life. I know that I am one of the fortunate few to have found my soul-mate so easily and despite your resentment, I had always hoped that the same would happen to you. Six years may separate us but you still hold a special place in my heart as the first sibling I was blessed with though Priscilla and Achilles both mean a great deal to me as well.
As to your dilemma, something Dad once told me comes to mind. When Currer and I decided to get engaged, Dad sat us down for a serious talk about love. There is no doubt you will be treated to it as well when your time comes and when it does, I only ask that you act as though it were the first time you were hearing it.
According to Dad, there are only two types of love: Lightning and Destiny. I think their names speak for themselves but for the benefit of comprehension, I will explain further. Lightning is that wondrous immediate spark of recognition, where you cast your eyes on that person and know immediately that you have been struck by love. Destiny on the other hand means that your lives are invariably intertwined, whether you like it or not, and that the fates have dictated that you were meant for each other. Dad of course went into much greater detail but I don’t want to confuse you anymore than I already have.
I hope this is of some help but if you truly want my advice, then do not dwell on such trifles. You will only worry yourself sick and your energy is better utilised elsewhere, namely your studies. Dad and I will be more than happy to assist you in this area.
Yours ever loving
“Another Pulitzer Prize winner from Helen?” Lily asked.
“Huh?” Dollie looked up.
“Your forehead only crinkles like that when Helen writes to you,” said Vivian. “You age at least half a decade every time.”
“Good to know,” Dollie said dryly.
“So what’s Little Miss Perfect’s latest sermon about, which lipgloss best keeps your lips moisturised when kissing arses?” said Vivian snidely.
Dollie shrugged, folding the letter up. “Nothing worth mentioning.”
As was always the case, Helen was right on the Galleon to a certain extent. Desperation had indeed driven her to this point. It was the eve of April’s end, the ugly scene between Sirius and Remus weeks past. She hadn’t spoken to Sirius since, ignoring all his attempts at communication. Remus had retreated deeper within himself, more sombre than usual when she took him to the infirmary to be treated. Unshakeably loyal, he had told Pomfrey his injuries were Quidditch-related and would only talk to Dollie monosyllabically.
Convinced she was the root of the problem and without her notebook to vent into, Dollie had inscribed everything on several sheets of parchment. Holding the damning evidence of her deception in her hands, she was just about to throw them into the fireplace and watch them burn when it occurred to her that the confessional deserved to be read, that something could come out of it, something that could help her set things right. Acting on the impulse, she added a few more flourishes to restyle it as a letter to be read by a pair of fresh eyes. Or maybe she was a glutton for criticism, Merlin only knew how much she’d been forced to grow up with.
But Helen really missed the mark on this one. Dollie wanted practical solutions, not philosophical drivel. The last thing she needed was to have her head filled with even more gratuitous notions about love.
The Amortentia bit was uncalled for, though.
“Merlin, does she iron her parchment? I bet it’s scented too.”
Dollie sniffed the paper. “Jasmine.”
“Figures,” Vivian snorted.
Helen always meant well but those intentions were usually overshadowed by her inability to be anything other than flawless. She sat at the top rungs on the ladder of success, having accomplished every life goal as prefect, head girl, straight-O student and now leading the strategic planning division of their father’s potion distribution company while Dollie struggled finding her footing and slipping ever further down the ladder.
“Don’t even think about it!” Dollie warned when Vivian offered Sock some of her jam. She’d put the owl on a strict protein diet and exercise regime. Flying laps around the owl tower was taking off some of the feathered inches but they still had some ways to go before he could return to his petite self again.
Vivian pouted and dropped the raspberry glob on her toasted butterscotch bread. She was on her fifth slice. Despite her revelation of being without child, Vivian still couldn’t relinquish her adopted habit of eating for two. It was just that morning Dollie had found Vivian magically stretching out her robes in the bathroom to accommodate her expanding girth. Vivian had since tempered her previous hysterics whenever her weight was brought up but any comment Dollie made, however well-meaning, sent Vivian into utter denial.
“I still can’t believe you left me out of the lurch, Doll,” said Vivian.
“It’s been weeks. Let it go, Viv,” said Dollie, skimming the surface of her rice pudding with her spoon.
“I had to find out from second-years. Second-years! I could have died from the humiliation.”
“Sorry you were deprived of the privilege.”
“My best friend, caught between two of the fittest lads in school in a duel for her affections. You’re living every little girl’s fairytale!” Vivian exclaimed.
Dollie rolled her eyes. “That’s hardly what happened. It was a stupid disagreement.”
“Explain the bruises and broken nose then,” Vivian challenged.
“Have you two talked since then?” Lily asked cautiously.
Dollie shook her head. “The holidays have made it easier. Besides, what’s there to talk about?”
“Maybe it’ll help to look forward, get your head out of the present.” Lily dug through her satchel and extracted several pamphlets, leaflets and brochures.
“Oh yes, Lily, let’s look forward to one day becoming rusty old cogs in the system, that always cheers me up along with choccies and warm bubble baths,” said Vivian.
“I’ve lost count going through these. It’s like a whole new world that’s opened itself up to me.”
In spite of her dour mood, Lily’s glee was infectious and if only to humour her, Dollie picked up a pamphlet whose title read, ‘THE QUILL IS MIGHTIER THAN THE WAND: GET INKED IN WIZARDING PUBLISHING’. She flipped through it with feigned interest. Her appointment with McGonagall in her office regarding the compulsory career advice was on Thursday at three-thirty. Honestly, she had hardly given the appointment any thought.
In typical Evans fashion, Lily had already sorted her pamphlets into three neat piles beside the butter dish.
“Should I ask?” said Dollie.
Lily touched the first pile, “Worth a second look.” The second, “Chin-strokingly intriguing.” And the third, “If only there were more of me.”
“You’re putting far too much thought into this. Just follow my lead and marry an obscenely wealthy doormat that caters to your every whim,” Vivian stretched languidly like one of her Persian cats. “A lady of leisure, that’s my career path.”
“Vivian Costa, ladies and gentlemen, an icon of feminism,” mocked Dollie.
Lily’s face crinkled in disappointment. “That can’t be all. Surely you have bigger dreams than that.”
“Dreams only happen to those who’re asleep on their feet. You can’t blame me for being realistic,” Vivian shrugged.
Wordless, Lily conceded wearily and went back to shuffling through her pile. “When I was younger, all I wanted to be was Judy Garland.” Lily turned when Dollie snorted into her orange juice. “Always happy to amuse you, Dolls. Do I even want to know what your plans are?”
“You know very well she’s going into the family business,” Vivian interjected. “Mucking about with yucky ingredients and smelly potions.”
“Yeah, everything’s already written out for me,” Dollie mumbled, her back hunching over.
“Don’t look now,” Lily said in a low tone, “but there seems to be some dissension in the ranks.”
Where they were sitting didn’t offer a perfect view but craning their necks at the right angles allowed them a fair enough glimpse. A dishevelled Remus unsteadily entered the Great Hall, looking like he hadn’t seen sleep in days. Nowadays, people rarely saw him take his meals there which earned him a few curious gazes when he made his first appearance as fresh-faced as a Dementor.
He ambled to the end of the Gryffindor table where the Marauders were sitting. Some first-years respectfully made way for him and when he attempted to occupy the vacant seat, he faltered. He hemmed and hawed, the perspiration on his brow glistening in the morning sun.
“I SAID, YOU’RE NOT WELCOME HERE.”
Sirius’ familiar rich baritone erupted and shattered the breakfast calm into a thousand glass whispers. Dollie dug her elbows into the table and pushed herself forward, managing to catch sight of the Marauders’ telling expression. Peter’s conflicted uncertainty, James’ obvious discomfort, Remus’ unmasked anguish and the pure odium that marred Sirius’ handsome face and sent a shiver down Dollie’s spine.
“I can’t watch. It’s too ugly for me.” Vivian tore her eyes away.
“That’s not right.” There emerged the familiar cherry-flush that tinted Lily’s cheeks whenever she bore witness to injustice. “No one deserves such cruelty, and in front of everyone at that!”
Dollie had nothing to add. That’s because she had gotten up and was already almost where the proverbial train wreck was taking place.
“There you are, Remus. Lily was wondering that as partners, whether you’d like to go over some strategies for the practice duel later in Defence against the Dark Arts.”
Remus stared at her so confounded, she might as well have spoken Mermish.
“I mean, I told her that defeats the entire purpose of the exercise but you know Lily. ‘In the spirit of fairness’ and all that nonsense,” she added.
“Dollie, may I have a word?” Sirius cut off her stream of conscious.
Not wanting to subject Remus to any further form of pain and especially the risk of her getting caught in the middle of it again, Dollie pointed and gave him a nudge forward to get him moving. “I’m sure you can spot that particular shade of auburn but if not, that shocking strip of unnatural pink should be enough of a guide.”
“I don’t want you speaking to him,” Sirius said firmly.
Dollie’s blue eyes widened. “Excuse me?”
James tugged on Sirius’ sleeve. “Don’t do this, Padfoot,” he pleaded.
“Who do you think you are, telling me who I can and can’t speak to?” said Dollie, struggling to keep from getting too shrill.
“I’m your boyfriend or has that little fact slipped your mind?” said Sirius, folding his arms.
Dollie flushed. “I always thought blonde jokes were beneath you, Black.”
“Don’t turn this around on me. I’m not the villain here.”
“Could have fooled me,” she said coolly.
“It’s for your own good!” he shouted. “You’re too blind to see what’s really going on.”
Dollie blinked several times and flinched at his raised voice. “Maybe you’re right.”
“No, wait, that came out wrong,” he said, shaking his head to get his thoughts in order.
“I have nothing more to say to you.” She turned heel and bolted.
Sirius scrambled out from the bench and chased after her. As the Gryffindor table was situated farthest from the Entrance Hall, Dollie was subjected to an ocean of judgemental eyes following her as she made her unceremonious exit with Sirius close behind. Feigned composure carried her through to outside but she was not spared.
Sometimes it was hard to believe that only a thousand students resided in Hogwarts. She felt like she had just escaped from double the amount in the Great Hall only to find gaggles of teens loitering around, waiting for something to save them from their self-induced doldrums. They got their wish.
More swarmed in from every doorway under the pretence of going about their lives but really, they couldn’t miss an impromptu performance starring Hogwarts’ unlikeliest love match caught in what was shaping up to be a very public lover’s quarrel.
The crowd grew thicker but only one stood out front and centre, smiling proudly while giving her a thumbs up. Dollie was just about to introduce her own finger when Sue shook her head disapprovingly and extracted something from her bag. Dollie blanched when she saw Sue holding several copies of her notebook and began to fan herself, reiterating her implicit threat. If Dollie didn’t execute what they agreed on, every person in Hogwarts will have in hand their very own copy of Dollie’s notebook.
‘Truth only hurts the guilty,’ Sue had ominously said when they made the deal and she was right.
Dollie knew what she had to do.
“Please, I only need you to listen,” said Sirius.
“I won’t do this in front of an audience,” she asserted and quickly yanked him into the nearby broom closet amongst catcalls, locking the door behind them. “Any chance you can make the door sound-proof?”
Sirius complied and gave the first genuine smile she’d seen in weeks.
“It’s very out-of-character of you but I do appreciate the peace offering,” he crooned, his hands fumbling in the dark.
“Don’t be a boy about this!” she slapped his hand away and yanked the chain above her to illuminate the cramped, dank room. “Go on then, say what you need to say.”
“I... I don’t know where to start,” he faltered.
“Maybe I should then,” she offered. “What’s gotten into you lately?”
He opened then closed his mouth like a goldfish.
“What did Remus do that was so awful?” she pressed.
“I can’t say,” he said with a sliver of reluctance. “It’s private.”
“Has it anything to do with me? You can’t blame him for what happened if that’s what this is about. It was an accident,” she said.
A darkness came onto his face and casted shadows into his eyes but quickly softened when his eyes fell on her cheek. She stiffened as he leaned in and kissed each individual scar with such profound tenderness that she was almost convinced they’d attached to Sirius’ lips and left her skin forever.
“You must understand, everything I do comes from having your best interests at heart. I won’t apologise for that,” he said kindly, his warm breath sending tingles into her face.
“Maybe not, but I’m not the one you have to apologise to,” she said.
He reeled a little but tried hard to hold on to whatever calm he had. “If you only knew the truth, you wouldn’t be so forgiving.”
“How can I if you won’t tell me?”
“Why can’t you trust that I’m right and be on my side?”
“Because I don’t know if it’s the right side or not!” Dollie cried, unable to keep her voice even.
“That’s why I’m asking you to trust me!” he shouted back.
“I can’t! Not after what you did right in front of me.” She inhaled deeply before continuing, “I always put up with the fact that you had a questionable sense of humour but you really scared me that day. I don’t think I can ever look at you the same way.”
“I’m still the same where it counts.”
More than anything, she wanted to believe that was true but knew deep down it wasn’t. Throughout their relationship, she had glimpsed brief flashes of that vicious streak, from the tutu incident he’d subjected James to the many instances of targeting Snape with tricks that bordered on torture. Always she’d turn away but that day with Remus, she’d been forced to stare the ugly creature straight in the face when it finally broke its leash.
He’d shown his true colours and they were as murky as his name.
Stop lying to yourself, Kent! You can blame this on Black all you want but we all know were here because of your cowardice.
Dollie winced at the internal accusation but didn’t deny it.
“The lies have to stop,” she said softly, almost hoping he hadn’t heard her.
“What lies? I’d never do that you.”
“It’s all my fault. I let this get out of hand.”
The truth spilled from her lips like an overturned cauldron. She had made a mess of everything with her duplicity. If the notebook was released to the public, she would be exposed as the fraud that she was. How could she play with so many feelings and not expect anyone to get hurt?
The worst blow would be to Sirius, who had done nothing wrong except love her.
He stared at her with an expression devoid of comprehension. Concern lit up his eyes as he grabbed the ends of her shoulders, perhaps fearful that she would at any moment collapse to the ground.
“You’re delirious, you don’t know what you’re saying.”
She shook her head. She had to get it out and make him understand before she completely lost her nerve.
“I wish it didn’t have to come to this.”
She wouldn’t look directly at him but felt his grip on her tighten, as though he sensed what was coming and bracing himself against it.
“Don’t. Please, don’t say it.” He tilted his head upward.
“This... Us... We need to end.”
There was a long, pregnant pause.
“Does this have anything to do with Remus?” he asked.
“No,” she said half-truthfully. “This isn’t working anymore. Maybe it never did.”
“We never made sense,” she insisted, by now trying to convince herself more than him.
“So what? Why should that stop us?” he demanded.
“It’s complicated,” she faltered, realising too late how stupid that sounded.
“So is the rubix cube Remus got me for Christmas and I could still solve the damn thing,” he countered.
“Don’t make light of this.”
“Tell me what I can do to make things right. Just say the word and I’ll do it. I... I really like you, Dollie. You have to believe me. I really like you. I don’t want to say the other thing because I don’t want to scare you.” He reached for her hands but they were already safely tucked away in her pockets.
This wasn’t working. Already she could feel her bottle shrivelling, warming to the idea of curling up in Sirius’ arms like that night in the hospital bed and forgetting the world. This wouldn’t be enough to push him away. She had to shove him over the edge then look down on his broken spirit. It sickened her that once upon a time she could have resorted to something so unfeeling. But more than that, she wished she could go back to simpler times when nothing mattered, especially her.
It was all a game.
You were just collateral damage.
I never cared about you.
None of it was real.
Remus Lupin is the one.
She could say any of it and be free.
So she said nothing.
Dragging his elbows down, she made him unfasten his grip on her shoulders. Somehow, their hands found each other. An apology bubbled in her throat but only leaked from her eyes. Slowly, she began to silently count. When she reached ten, she tore herself away from him and wrenched the door open.
Time to wake up and face reality.
“STAY AWAY FROM ME!” Her hoarse throat could barely manage the stress but she soldiered on.
They were still there, her adoring public rewarded for their patience. The intermission had been brutal. It had been too quiet in the broom closet with most fearing a reconciliation. The unassuming room had a strange effect on its occupants.
Animated faces salivated while cheers and gasps met the exiting duo. Sirius had his arms outstretched but was unsuccessful in fully blocking Dollie’s onslaught as she grabbed whatever student paraphernalia was at hand and sent them flying at him.
If it was a show they wanted, it was a show she would give them.
“STOP THAT! WHA - ?”
“YOU WANT TO KNOW WHAT I WANT? I WANT NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU!”
Are you watching this, Sue?
“BUT I DON’T –”
“LEAVE ME ALONE!”
Is this what you wanted?
“Please, Dollie, Please...”
Are you happy now?
This is the end.
A/N: Don't hate me too much but this has been sitting in my Documents Folder since February (maybe?) but I haven't been happy enough with it to post up. Even now, I'm on the fence. I don't know if you can tell but this chapter was heavily influenced by a very famous British institution ;). You just have to look at the title to know, hehe.
Of course, please leave a review and don't worry, it's not the end yet. We still have some ways to go so I hope you'll stick around for the journey.
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