Chapter 11 : Annabelle, Snowmen and Air Ducts
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Black glared back at me. "It isn't a joke. And if you don't want them to try and get in here, maybe you want to shut up?"
I humphed through his hand and took a deep breath, steeling myself for what I was about to do next. I licked his hand. He immediately drew it back and gave me a disgusted look.
"Merlin, you are weird."
"You had your hand over my mouth," I murmured. "I'm not the weird one. I was just trying to get your disgusting paw off of me."
He smirked at me. "Watch it, James, or you'll see just how dog-like I can be."
"Yeah, I know you imbecile," I said, rolling my eyes. "You basically saved my life as that flea-ridden mutt."
"Oh yeah, I had forgotten about that. Huh, fancy that!" He squirmed around, seemingly trying to find a more comfortable position on the small cot, but all that ended up happening was him transferring me onto his lap. "More comfortable like this isn't it?" He whispered into my ear.
I shivered as his breath fluttered on the back of my neck and I felt him laugh silently from underneath me. Something I was absolutely not okay with, in passing. Very uncomfortable with the entire thing. Not thinking about how his skin was surprisingly soft and his muscles unsurprisingly defined.
GAH! Not thinking about that! And he's breathing on me again, making me shiver.
"Cold, James?" He whispered, making me shiver again.
Blast him! "No! Now shut up, you insufferable arse! And why am I sitting on you, exactly?"
"Erm, because we need to conserve body heat?"
I groaned and moved off of him, shuffling over to the other end of the cot. "Merlin, you are such a horny teenage numpty, it sickens me."
"You were the one who licked me!"
"And you're the one who insisted on visiting me in the hospital! I didn't initiate this."
"I thought it was nice of me to check up on the girl I severely injured!"
"Maybe you shouldn't have injured me in the first place!"
"You ran into my bludger!"
"And you hit it at my seeker!"
"That's what beaters are supposed to do!"
"And I did what good teammates are supposed to do! Are you honestly going to tell me you wouldn't have done the same for Potter?"
"Of course not! You almost killed yourself. Do you know how many people who kill me if I tried to kill myself?"
"Yes, because no one cares if I try and kill myself. It's not like I have friends or family or a fan club. Oh wait! I fucking don't!"
Black sighed, crossing his arms and looking at me. "You do have friends. I know for a fact that Meaver talked Dumbledore's ear off until he let her come, and Carter wasn't about to let you go with only one visitor."
"Wow," I whispered, crossing my arms like he was, "my only friend and my quidditch captain…"
"You have family too. Your sister visited you –"
"It's not as if I asked her to."
"And as for a fan club, well, I'd be honored to be part of your fan club. I think you are way more beautiful than you give yourself credit for." I tensed as he uncrossed his arms and legs, shuffled towards me, and put a hand on my cheek. "You don't see it, but you are gorgeous…"
My eyes widened as he leaned in closer. Stop him! The little voice in my head screamed. Turn your head! Take his hand off of you! Stop letting him pull you in! You complete idiot!
But I didn't. And then our noses touched and he took a deep breath. And so did I. And he leaned in closer, and then…
"Are you guys kissing?"
I turned quickly, the small child's voice jerking me out of my semi-comatose state. I saw Black lower his head to rest it upon his arm from the corner of my eye, his hand lightly touching my chin, jerked from its spot on my cheek when I turned. But it was the small girl in front of me that had captured my attention. She was in a small hospital gown and her hair was disheveled, as if she'd just woken up. I quickly slipped off the cot I was on and knelt down in front of her.
"Nope. No kissing here!" I whispered feverishly as Black scoffed behind me. Ignoring him, I kept my attention on the child. "What are you doing here sweetie?"
"I'm sick. Mommy and Daddy are keeping me here until I get better."
"Oh, that's good. You will definitely get better here. Now what's your name?"
"Annabelle. I'm six years old!"
"Oh, that's a beautiful name, Annabelle. And six years old? Wow!" I said, distractively, trying to keep my mind off of Black.
"What's your name?" She asked, reaching over and lightly pulling on a strand of my hair.
"My name is Lexi. And I'm sixteen years old."
The little girl nodded and quickly glanced at Black. "What's his name," she said even quieter, making me lean closer to hear her.
"That's Bl – That's Sirius. He's a… A friend of mine."
"Were you gonna kiss him?" Annabelle asked.
"No," I said quickly. "Definitely not."
Annabelle nodded slowly. "Yes you were. My Mommy and Daddy do that all the time. They say it's because they love each other. Do you love Siri-bus?"
"No. And we weren't about to kiss. Now, why are you here, Annabelle?"
"I told you. I'm sick and –"
"Yes, you're here to get better. But why are over here? Next to me?"
Annabelle started biting her bottom lip and looked over at Black, fear on her face. "There was a lady. A scary lady. And Mommy and Daddy say she's the reason I'm sick. I had a nightmare about her, like always. I heard her say horrible words. And Daddy says that when I have a nightmare that I find one of the Healers and they'll make it go away. But the door won't open and I heard you two talking. You aren't Healers, are you?"
I shook my head. "No, sweetie, we're not. Now how about we get you back to your cot, okay? That way when your Mommy and Daddy come back they know where to find you."
She nodded fearfully and Black made to get down from the cot, but she flinched and he quickly froze in place. I looked over at him and he shrugged.
"Annabelle," I asked quietly, "why are you afraid of Sirius?"
She had stopped playing with my hair but had started playing with her own, fretfully tugging on a strand of it. "The scary lady had his eyes."
Black swore and I turned to give him a furious glare. "Don't worry, Annabelle. Sirius is nice. I'm nice, right?" The child nodded. "And he's my friend, so he has to be nice, right?" She nodded again. "Okay then. Let's get you back to your cot."
I stood up quietly and took Annabelle's hand, looking back at Black who was still precariously perched on 'our' cot. He raised his eyebrows at me and I nodded as I swiftly and silently brought Annabelle back to her bed. He leapt off the cot and landed without a sound, shuffling after us. I pulled back Annabelle's curtains and picked her up. Walking around the cot, I lay her down with her head on the small pillow and sat next to her.
"You'll stay here with me, won't you?" She asked in a small voice.
I smiled. "I wasn't about to leave, sweetheart."
She nodded, but looked fearfully to something behind me as I felt something tangle in my hair. I turned and saw Black playing with a few strands of my hair. Frowning at him, I turned back to Annabelle.
"Remember Annabelle, Sirius is my friend. He's not going to hurt you, I promise," I said, reaching out and placing my hand over her tiny one.
She nodded quickly but didn't take her eyes off of him as he began tugging at my hair. "Can I play with your hair?"
I smiled and giggled. Turning to Black, I pulled my hair out of his grasp as he frowned. I crossed my legs, facing him, as I felt Annabelle shift behind me, and suddenly small, cold fingers were threading their way into my hair, careful around the bandages. Black smirked at me and crossed his legs too, mirroring my position, so I rolled my eyes and stuck my tongue out at him.
"What happened to your head?" Annabelle asked as she lightly traced the white gauze pad on my head.
"That was my fault," Sirius said, before I could answer. "I accidentally hurt her while playing quidditch."
Annabelle's fingers slid to my neck and I shivered. Black waggled his eyebrows at me and I may or may not have – bet on may – have given him the finger out of Annabelle's sights.
"But I thought you weren't supposed to hurt people you liked," Annabelle said.
I grinned. "You're not. But Sirius isn't the kind of boy who keeps to the rules."
"Is Siri-bus a troublemaker?"
He laughed quietly and nodded. Annabelle's hands dropped to my back as I felt the cot shift as she sat down. She lightly feathered the ends of my hair before stopping entirely. Sighing, she began to trace patterns on my back.
"I can't reach your hair. Bend back," she demanded.
"I can't, it'll hurt my head."
"But standing up is hard. I get tired," she whined.
Black looked around me to smile at Annabelle. "Do you want to sit on my lap? You'll reach higher."
Black winked at me and I rolled my eyes. He swiftly got off the cot and moved over to Annabelle, lifting her up and sitting down. I felt tiny hands thread their way through my hair again, and a larger hand pulling them away anytime they got close to my bandages.
I closed my eyes as the cold fingers massaged my scalp and suddenly I felt a fingernail trail down my right arm. I shivered and felt rather than heard Black laugh behind me. I silently cursed at him in my head, rather vividly too, as he began to trace things on my arm.
"Guess what it is," he murmured as Annabelle ignored him.
I opened my eyes and stared directly ahead at the brick wall as I felt his finger trace three circles and a strange sort of square on top of the rectangle. Smiling, I added three buttons, one carrot nose and two coal eyes in my head.
Black laughed and traced a checkmark on my arm. He lifted his finger and brought it back down again. Annabelle was all but forgotten. He started to draw something else; a circle with two little triangles on the side, and inside, two dots, an upside down triangle and a curved line.
"No!" He exclaimed, seemingly offended.
I grinned. "An idiot." He scoffed and I giggled. "A dog, right?"
"Right you are."
"And is it a black dog, shaggy and with a loopy grin?" I felt a checkmark on my arm. "Like I said, an idiot."
He pinched me and I giggled. Annabelle's fingers slipped uncomfortably close to my bandages but I felt Black's steady hand guide it away. His fingers went back to my arm and traced a loopy line that didn't connect to itself. I cocked my head, jarring Annabelle's hands a little, not realizing what the drawing could be. He traced it again but I didn't say anything.
"It's a letter," he said, tracing it again.
"G!" I said, happy that I finally got it.
He traced a checkmark, then began tracing a single circle.
"O?" Checkmark. "A line?"
"G, O, space. Go?" Checkmark. "T… O… Space?" Checkmark. "Go to… H… O… G… S… M… E… A… D… E… Go to, hogs – Hogsmeade. Space. W… I… T… H… Go to Hogsmeade with..."
I tensed as I realized what was coming. But Black didn't seem to notice. His fingers traced the letter M on my arm, but I kept quiet. He traced it again and again, but I just stared at the wall. His fingers eventually dropped off of my arm and I sighed, closing my eyes, focusing on Annabelle's small hands.
A large stone of guilt settled in my gut. I reached behind me and fumbled for his hand, finally grabbing it and pulling it closer. Taking my finger, I slowly traced a jumble of random lines on his palm, not doing any kind of pattern, until I finally lifted my hand and then put it back down again.
I traced the letter I slowly and waited a few seconds before continuing. Then I traced the letter M, followed by a line at the bottom, then the letter S, one O, two R's and a Y. I'm sorry.
I pulled my hand away and put it next to me, closing my eyes again. But then I felt a light touch near my wrist. His fingers opened the tight fist I had made and entwined his fingers with mine. I felt a jolt in my stomach, but didn't take my hand away. He began to run his thumb along the back of my hand and I suppressed a shiver.
What are you doing? I screamed at myself. What are you trying to do? You are being sucked in by the Casanova of Hogwarts. He has more conquests than you have centimeters of veins in your body! Stop it, now!
But I didn't. And I let him hold my hand as Annabelle played with my hair. I had almost forgotten that we were in a lockdown until a sharp scream filled the air. I jumped off the cot, ripping my hair free from Annabelle's fingers and my hand from Black's grasp. Another scream ripped through the silence and the familiarity of it hit home like a ton of bricks. I felt the blood leave my face as my sister's wail pierced my ears.
"Cami!" I screamed, running towards the door. "Cami! CAMILLA!" Sobs racked my body as I slammed myself against the door. "CAMI!"
I felt Black thread his arms around me as he pulled me away from the door, but I kicked out, trying to make him let me go. He put his hand over my mouth to try and shut me up but I shook my head violently and ripped his hand away.
"Get off me Black," I hissed. "CAMI! Cami!" Black let go of me and I rammed into the door, jiggling the handle. "Cami! CA –"
My voice left me, my mouth opening and closing but no sound coming out. I turned to see Black standing with arm outstretched, wand pointed towards me. I gave him a murderous look.
"Now Ace," he said, his hands put up defensively, "you need to be quiet. You don't want them to try and get in, do you?" I shook my head. "It's your sister, right? Well, I get that you feel the need to go do something, but you have to be quiet. I'll take the spell off of you if you promise not to start screaming at me and at the door."
I reluctantly nodded and he waved his wand. I opened my mouth and let a small noise filter out. But almost as soon as I opened my mouth again to hiss at him for hexing me, I realized something. Snapping my head up, I rushed at him and began hitting him.
"You can do non-verbal magic? And you used magic on me? After injuring me in a magical game, you were willing to use more magic on me? You idiot! You complete and utter idiot," I hissed. "Now if you want me to stay quiet, you are going to help me out of his stupid room, or gag me, because I am getting out of here and helping my sister!"
Black caught my wrists as I finished and brought me closer to him. "Listen, you numpty. Your sister needs your help, and all you're doing is yelling at a door. You want to do something, right? Then shut up and follow my lead," he murmured.
He let my wrists go, his eyes flashing dangerously. Turning, he made his way towards Annabelle's cot, letting me follow behind. Leaning against the bed frame, he smiled at Annabelle who was playing with a small stuffed rabbit.
"Hello Annabelle. I'm going to need you to do something for me," he said quietly. Annabelle looked at me, a small touch of fear in her small brown eyes, but I nodded at her. "Annabelle," Black continued, "can you hide under your bed for me?"
She nodded and got out of her bed. I realized what Black was planning on doing a second later and I walked over to the little girl. Helping her inch under the cot, I handed her a pillow to put under her head and a quilt from the bed to keep her warm. Passing her the tiny stuffed rabbit, I laid down on my stomach and put my hand on her head, smoothing away her flyaway blonde hair.
"We're going to need you to be quiet, okay? Sirius and I are going to leave, but when we're gone, I need you to be completely silent. Only come out or say something if it's an emergency or if your Mummy or Daddy come get you. Okay?" I asked.
She nodded. I smiled and got up, wiping a tear from my eye and glaring at Black.
"Now how are we going to get out?"
He smiled and looked up.
I swore quietly so Annabelle couldn't hear. "You have got to be kidding."
I banged my head against the metal top of the vent and swore softly as my head began to pound. Skimming the bandages on my head, I placed my hand on my temple and stopped, wincing.
"Are you going to keep moving or not?" Black hissed from behind me.
"I'm sorry if the fucking injury you gave me is slowing me down. Next time, I'll go out of my way to avoid you."
"You're the one who ran into my fucking bludger."
"Oh fuck off Black. You're the reason I'm not in a hospital cot, lying down and relaxing."
"Yeah, because you can be relaxed during a fucking death eater attack."
"Better than being in an air duct."
"You're the one who wanted to leave."
"My sister is in fucking trouble you insensitive arsehat."
"Yeah, I'm the insensitive one…"
"And what's that supposed to mean?"
"Nothing. Just keep crawling."
I rolled my eyes at the pouty teenage boy behind me, even if he couldn't see me, and continued on my route. The insufferable boy was getting on my last nerve. I was this close to turning around and cracking him a good one on the nose. When I finally stopped again, I was crouched in front of two separate air duct tunnels. Sighing and sitting down with my head bowed down, I turned to Black.
"What way?" I asked, resigned.
"I don't know. It's not as if I know where I'm going. Ask someone you care about."
"The hell is that supposed to mean?"
He sighed and rolled his eyes. "Nothing."
"No, it's fucking something. Stop moping and tell me who the fuck pissed in your cornflakes this morning."
"I had waffles this morning."
"Ooh, waffles. Do you not know what I meant?"
"No, I know what you meant, but perhaps I don't really want to talk to you."
"WHY THE FUCK NOT?"
"BECAUSE YOU'RE CONFUSING ME! You're such a bitch half the time, but then you're nice and caring and you seem to like me, but then you change and become that sarcastic bitch again and I don't know what to do. You're sending me mixed signals!"
"Yeah? Well that's rich coming from the fucking playboy of Hogwarts, always with his tongue down another girl's throat. How am I supposed to feel when the boy who's known for being a player starts to show interest in me, even though he's hated me for the last few years?"
"I don't know, maybe happy? Someone's actually paying attention to you for the first time since Diggory, who was only with you because you were desperate!"
My breath caught in my throat. I turned away from him, my eyes burning, tears threatening to spill over. He had no right to say anything about me or Diggory. No right to talk to me about anything that happened between Diggory and I. No right to talk to me about mixed signals or being happy that someone thought I was pretty. I turned and gave him one last look before getting back on my hands and knees and crawling into the right tunnel.
"Ace, wait up! Ace! Lexi! JAMES! Damn it! JAMES!" Black called from behind me.
I heard him make his way through the air duct, but being much smaller, I was much quicker. Trying to move quickly and quietly, I didn't notice the small vent ahead of me as Black finally caught up to me. He grabbed my ankle and I fell, making a loud bump against the silver air duct.
"Damn it James, when I say wait up, you mind waiting?"
The tears were falling down my face as I turned around and looked at him. He glanced at me and backed away, letting his hand fall off of my ankle. Concern flashed over his face but I didn't care.
"Get off of me," I said darkly, even if he wasn't touching me. "Get off of me and go away. I don't want to talk to you again. Ignore me in the corridors at school, ignore me in class. If you so much as look at me again, I will personally throw you into the ocean with a rock tied to your feet and your wand snapped in two."
He nodded, moving farther back from me. He seemed ready to say one more thing to me, but suddenly the air duct began to shake. I looked down and then up again, locking eyes with Black. His grey ones reflected my green ones, panic and confusion overwhelming every other emotion.
A sharp light suddenly burst from between us, almost hitting my feet, severing the air duct and sending a scream of cut metal into my ears. The air duct bent under us and suddenly, another light was sent up directly in front of me, singing off the small hairs that stuck out at odd angles at the crown of my head.
"Black," I said, my voice shaking as the air duct began to buckle. "Sirius!"
Just as our gazes met again, the solid platform beneath me fell, dragging me along with it. I screamed as it fell, but it was quickly cut off as I hit the ground with a seemingly bone-shattering crash. My right shoulder screamed in protest and my breath caught as my head was jolted.
"Sirius?" I croaked as I coughed. "Sirius?"
"Ooh, pretty boy Sirius is here, is he? Sirius, Sirius! Where are you?" A young witch with corkscrew black curls and eyes that rivaled Siri – uh, Black's, cooed in a baby voice, so different from her outward, over-sexualized appearance.
She looked up at the ceiling above me where a large rectangle, the same size as the air duct piece I was lying on, was cut out. The strange witch giggled and raised her wand, muttering something. Suddenly, Sirius flew from the hole in the ceiling and landed on top of me, hitting my wrenched shoulder and I cried out in pain. He immediately rolled off of me but almost as soon as his weight was lifted, I felt an unimaginable pain in my shoulder. Looking up, I saw the strange looking witch standing above me, one of her high-heeled boots digging into my shoulder.
"And look who this is. Does little Sirius have a girlfriend?"
She dug her foot even harder into my shoulder and I let out a sharp cry of pain. Black leapt to his feet on my other side.
"Bellatrix, stop it."
"Oh, so this is your girlfriend. Hello darling," she said, looking down at me. "Met my cousin, have you? Little bit of an idiot, that one. But I haven't properly said hello!"
"Would you like to become properly acquainted with me darling?" She dug her boot in harder and I whimpered. "I guess so. Crucio!"
My body spasmed as pain coursed through my veins, so much worse than anything I'd ever been through. I heard screams and it took me a second to realize they were mine. Everything else seemed murky, slow as if time had slowed down.
Through the slits of my eyes, I saw Black being held back by two large men in silver masks, as Bellatrix laughed, her wand pointed directly at me. It felt like hours but suddenly, the pain was gone. My breaths came in jagged chucks, tears covering my cheeks as I found myself in the fetal position. Clutching my knees, I sobbed into my arm.
"Bellatrix, please. Don't," Black was begging.
"Well, sweetheart," Bellatrix said, turning her attention to me and ignoring Black, "still want to be this tosser's girlfriend?"
"I'm… I'm… I'm not his… his fucking girlfriend!" I said between heaving sobs.
Bellatrix cackled. "You're not. Then what do you think of my baby cousin you wittle bitty Gryffindor?"
"I'm not a… a fucking Gryffindor either. And I think… I think that he's an arse. He can… go… go to hell."
"Ooh, a feisty little girl. Got some fire in you. I can see why you like her, Sirius. Too bad she's a lying bitch… Crucio!"
I screamed again, feeling as if my limbs were being ripped from me by savage wolves, while my blood was being boiled and my organs were being frozen and crushed under a hammer. But it was so much worse. When it finally stopped, I tried to breathe but it ended up in small little gasps.
My cheeks were covered in tears and the pain in my shoulder was nothing compared to the ache that the Cruciatus Curse left. I opened my eyes and saw Black straining against his captors. Bellatrix said something, but her voice was caught in the muffled veil over my senses. I hiccoughed as tears ran down my face again. As the tears slowed and my breath returned to normal – or somewhat normal – I heard Bellatrix and Black talking.
"Now what are you doing in St. Mungo's of all places, Sirius? Shouldn't you be playing good little Gryffindor at Hogwarts?" Bellatrix cooed.
"Just let her go! Please! She's only here for her sister. She doesn't deserve this."
"Oh, and are you going to take her place? Not likely, blood traitor. We have plans for you."
Bellatrix turned back to me and pointed her wand towards me again, pain exploding from every pore in my body. But this time I bit my tongue, trying not to let a sound pass through my lips. As the pain continued, tearing my skin and leaving acid as bandages in its place, a moan of pain escaped my lips and the whisper of a cackle came through the foggy air around me, remnants of Bellatrix's giggle. When I couldn't take it anymore I screamed out. But suddenly, two hands were on my face, wiping away the tears that had leaked out of my eyes again.
"Hey, it's going to be okay. Just take a breath," Black said quietly. "It's going to be okay."
I nodded, pain exploding in my head, tears still running down my cheeks. "Promise me. Promise me it'll be okay Sirius," I said through my cracked throat.
By the way, screaming is really not good for your voice.
"I promise. Just take a deep breath. It's going to be okay."
I nodded again. He wiped away more of the tears and brushed some of my flyaway hairs back.
"Stay strong, Ace."
I smiled through the sobs but almost as soon as my smile formed, his hands were ripped away and a sharp cackle ripped through the air.
"Told you the bitch was his girlfriend. Crucio!"
Meaver had Lexi's head in her lap, trying to cool her down by placing her cold hands on her best friend's forehead. When we had first gotten thrown in the room, she had stumbled and fallen, hitting her head on the ground, but I had stayed standing.
Prongs, Moony and Wormtail had been sitting in a corner, bruises and cuts showing clearly on their exposed skin, Kendra and Lily were in another with Meaver, Day and elder James, the same bruises evident on them as well, and many other people scattered about the large room. As soon as Lexi had hit the ground though, Meaver, Day and elder James had leapt up and ran over. Meaver had glared at me until I moved over to the other marauders, though, so I had no idea how Lexi was doing.
"You're staring again, mate," Remus said.
I turned to him and scoffed. "You aren't even looking at me, you're staring at Meaver."
James scoffed. "You are totally staring, Padfoot, don't even try and make excuses."
"Well, she's hurt. I'd like to make sure she's okay."
"Yeah," James said, "that's all you want."
"She's a bet, mate. Just a bet."
"Really?" Interrupted Remus. "Because the bet's just woken up."
Author's Note: So, I know this is usually when I insert another chapter about the Gryffindor party, but this chapter is actually split into two because I couldn't cut it short. Hope you like it! Read and review!
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