Chapter 3 : Pillow Talk
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Despite this, Herbology classes were still resuming in the greenhouses, leading to some frosty breath and sour attitudes. Unfortunately for me, seventh year Gryffindors got to make the trek out into the icy air first thing Monday mornings.
The sky was a solid stretch of grey and I could see my breath puffing out in front of me as me, Lily, and Dorcas jogged arm-in-arm across the lawn, trying to keep our heart rates up as we braved the cold.
The greenhouses proved to be warmer than the outdoors, but only because they provided relief from the whipping wind. The miserable weather had led to the death of many resident plants, or for some the refusal to come out of the sanctuary of their pots. Professor Sprout, appearing dejected, assigned us to a full hour of sorting the many baubles she collected from the Agrilaphia plants into different pots based on size and color- busy work that did nothing to take our minds off the plunging temperature.
Next to me, Lily was talking so fast that a white cloud was ever-presently formed in front of her lips, voice quick and low so that James, currently working at the next table with the other boys, wouldn't be able to hear her continued play-by-play analysis of yesterday's date. Apparently I was being paid back for hiding out the night before.
"...and he brought me a flower, but it was a daisy, not a lily, and I can't tell if he was being really clever by not doing the cliche thing or if he really didn't put any thought into it at all-"
"Daisies are your favorite," I pointed out, trying to work as quickly as possible hoping to be let go early. "I'm sure he picked that up while he's been following you around the last few years. I think you're overthinking it."
"Maybe you're UNDER thinking it," Lily retorted with a huff and an impatient stamp of her foot.
"Dor and Emmeline are really more helpful in the dating department." I sighed with a shrug. "Don't do it as a rule, don't discuss it as an enriching life choice."
Her retort was only a dubious laugh. "Of course you don't, Mar."
"Tell me again about what you both ordered," Dorcas piped up, grabbing Lily's attention and rescuing me.
I returned my own attention to the potted plant in front of me, fingers shaking as I tried to sort the orange baubles from the pink. I was getting careless but it was hard not to- my fingers were gripping the seeds too hard and didn't want to unclench.
"Marlene, hey," The voice came from across the table, from the mouth of Colin McKenzie, a Hufflepuff in our year. I had known him since fourth year but only in passing; due to our proximity in alphabetical order we were often paired up for class projects.
"Colin! How's it going?" I asked with the biggest smile my frozen cheeks could muster. "Are we still set to work on that potions practical next week?"
"Yeah, uh, definitely, I'll meet you down in the dungeons after our class," He was looking at me with a funny squint on his face. "What was that you were saying about not dating?" He ran a hand through his ruffled blonde hair and I blushed three different shades of red, embarrassed that he had been listening in.
"Oh, yeah I...don't. Generally. It's like...not my thing." I definitely didn't know him well enough to be talking like this. "At all."
"Oh that's..okay, yeah. Didn't know that, it's- I did not know that." The air surrounding our conversation got tangibly awkward as we both both faded off with lame coughs. Time seemed to move in slow motion and the plant project had never seemed so fascinating.
"WOW, it's cold out here!" I said, much too loudly in an attempt to sound casual. Several people working at our table snapped their heads in my direction, startled by the sudden noise. Lily snorted out a laugh next to me. "I am freeee-eeeezing," I finished off lamely, at a more normal level.
I wound up blushing further and pushing myself to finish sorting seeds as fast as humanely possible, devoting all my concentration to making my frozen fingers fly.
I was working so hard that I didn't notice right away as a heavy, warm weight fell ceremoniously onto my shoulders. Confused, my hands flew up to my arms, which were now covered by a second cloak, lined with fur and darker than my own. My body gratefully accepted the extra heat as I put my arms through the sleeves and burrowed into the fur, but my brow furrowed as my head twisted around, scanning the greenhouses for the culprit.
My eyes landed on Sirius across the room, slipping back into his place between Remus and James, shivering slightly without his cloak.
His eyes rose to meet mine and I was struck by how old he looked for a moment- dark circles had formed under his eyes and the lines in his face seemed to be reaching deeper. He hadn't slept soundly the night before, but I didn't think anything of it until now. Sirius didn't smile before he lowered his head back to his work, dark hair falling gracefully over his eyes and his callused hands working on autopilot.
We didn't speak for the rest of the week.
Classes and the bad weather dragged on for the rest of the week. By Friday, the sky overhead was closer to a swirling black than a solid gray and I was exhausted. Sirius didn't kick me under the table at breakfast and he seemed increasingly withdrawn.
Fridays meant no classes for the seventh years, but the bad weather had everybody in low spirits so there was a lot of couch-sitting and mid-afternoon-napping going on.
The Gryffindor common room was comparatively cheerful, and the fire was blazing around the clock. James and Lily were curled up together on the couch (gross), Emmeline was nowhere to be found (bonus!) and Dorcas was sitting between Peter and Remus at one of the low tables in the corner, trying to put together the finishing touches on a transfiguration presentation they had teamed up for.
I descended the stairs from the girls dormitory, yawning and stretching as I tried to convince my body to wake up from the nap it had just taken. I hadn't bothered to get out of my oversized t-shirt and running shorts that I had passed out in; I was aiming to be back in bed with a good book in the span of a few hours, if everything went my way.
Sirius's cloak was rolled up and folded over my arm and I hugged it close to my chest as I bounded into the common room and looked around. The usual suspects were all accounted for, except for the one I was on the lookout for. Before I could even say anything, Remus caught my eye and pointed me toward the boy's stairs.
With a huff, I hopped barefoot across the warm carpet, wincing as my toes made contact with the cold stone steps. The door at the top of the stairs was closed tightly, odd for this time of day. I pushed it open hesitantly, eyes adjusting to the darkness.
"Sirius," I singsonged softly, stepping into the dark room and closing the door behind me. There was a dark shadow sitting at the edge of his mattress, head in hands that lifted in my direction when I entered. "I thought I would bring this up to you."
I held the cloak out at arms length and took another step toward him, never having seen him in a mood like this and not sure I wanted to get mixed up in it. Sirius rose slowly, dark form coming toward me, reaching out and pulling the cloak out of my grasp and throwing it onto the bed.
"Thank you," he said stiffly, standing two heads higher than me and rigid. I definitely didn't feel welcome here, so I backed away slowly, blindly finding the doorhandle in the darkness. "You don't have to go, it's fine." His voice cracked slightly as I began to twist it open.
"I would, but I have to, uh...do the thing for...trans- herb- charms." I stammered out, shrinking even further toward the door awkwardly. This dynamic was not doing good things for the energy between us.
"Yeah, I get it." he said, his voice duller and flatter than I have ever heard it in my life. "Nobody wants to be around the downer." He turned on his heel and made a beeline back toward his bed, flopping unceremoniously onto the mattress. I sucked air into my lungs deeply, exhaling with a sigh before making my way over to him.
I pulled myself onto the bed next to him, rolling onto my side and running my nails up and down his back. I was completely useless in this sort of situation but that didn't mean I didn't know the fundamentals of basic human comfort. After a few minutes of this, he let out a groan and sat up at the headboard. I did the same, leaning my head on his shoulder and offering up a hand on the knee (I was making all sorts of comforting gestures today, I deserved a medal in friendship, let me tell you).
Sirius put an arm around me and ran his hand up and down my arm, sending chills down my spine. He laid his head on my head, his hair falling onto my face and tickling my nose. Normally I would have teasingly told him to get a haircut, but I didn't have the heart to break the silence.
"I don't want to talk about it," he said softly, giving me a one armed squeeze.
"Well good," I said cheekily, turning my face and planting a firm kiss on his cheek. "Because I don't want to talk about it either." A thin laugh escaped him and he hugged me tighter. I tossed my legs over his lap so that I was turned to face him. "Really though...if something's on your mind, lay it on me. I can take it."
"It's just family stuff," he said vaguely, waving his hands as if that would make it less abstract. Sirius didn't like to talk about his family life, and I had always been careful not to challenge that, even last summer when I heard the news secondhand that he had run away. I knew he had a brother at the school, but that was about it. "There is something I would like to lay on you though." he said devilishly, waggling his eyebrows at me as he leaned in and planted a kiss on my lips.
"I think you should go over that again, I'm not sure I really got it." I challenged, shifting again so that I was sitting on top of him, one knee on each side of his body. Sirius obliged by leaning into me, teeth lightly closing over my lower lip before he kissed me deeper.
I let out a soft noise and kissed him back, guiding my hands to the buttons on his shirt, carefully opening them one by one. When his shirt was open, I ran a hand over his tanned chest, resting it on his shoulder for support. His lips planted themselves everywhere: my cheek, my earlobe, the tip of my nose.
My heart rate picked up dramatically as I pressed my forehead against his, and I could feel him smiling even though my eyes were closed. He kissed me again, hands grazing down my sides and coming to a rest at my hips. He exhaled heavily and I took that as my cue to push the shoulders of his shirt down around his elbows, and from his elbows to the surface of the bed. He pulled it out from behind him and threw it to the floor just for good measure.
I kissed him on the shoulder and then in a pattern down his arm, across his chest, over his heart- I felt it beating steadily against his ribcage. Sirius's hands wove themselves through my hair, and he pulled me upward so that our lips collided again. He paused abruptly and pulled back, looking into my eyes and raising his eyebrows as a question, permission to go further (as if he needed it at this point). I nodded in return and kissed him more intensely; his hands found the hemline of my shirt, lingering for a moment before he tugged it upward, pulling it over my head and tossing it into the darkness with his.
He started at my lower back and rhythmically moved his hands north, lightly scratching my skin into swirled patterns; he traced his way up to my bra clasp and fumbled on the clip, blindly pushing into it, his lips never leaving mine though he was laughing lightly at his faux-pas. The fumbling continued as he soldiered on (being who he was, you'd think this would be a strong suit by now, but it wasn't so). His lips found my neck, grazing his teeth lightly over the skin, giving me the chills in the way he knew drove me crazy.
"You are something special," he whispered into my ear, moving his hips against mine, lips dancing across my shoulder before returning to my neck. "Marlene, you are really-"
"WHOA!" The room suddenly flooded with light as the voice sounded from behind me, accompanied by the banging open of the door.
Mood completely shattered, I jumped what felt like ten feet into the air, sputtering out nonsensical expressions while I scrambled to put as much space between me and Sirius as possible, pulling a pillow across my chest and hiding behind it.
James stood in the doorway, eyes wide and frozen to the spot like he wanted to move but couldn't remember how.
"Whoa, whoa," he said again, putting his hands up in surrender and stumbling backwards out of the room, clearly just as embarrassed as me. "I am so sorry, I'll just-"
Remus suddenly appeared behind him, coughing nervously as he realized what was going on. I felt my face flushing a dark red as they mumbled something lame about waiting in the stairway and ducked out of the room.
The moment the door closed, I began to cry.
Sirius jumped into action faster than I would have thought possible, after he got over the shock value of seeing tears come out of me for the first time in his life. I was going to town, too- my shortness of breath turned into nervous hiccups as I tried to quiet myself down.
"Honestly, I'm surprised it hadn't happened sooner," he said with a shrug, hopping out of bed to find my t-shirt for me, acting casually but lowering his voice to a calm, even, comforting tone. He gingerly dabbed my eyes with the shirt before he helped me pull it over my head. He even fluffed my hair dramatically, just for good measure. "You look lovely," he promised, planting a kiss on each tear rolling down my face, stopping them in their tracks.
"Oh Merlin, I'm sorry," I sniffed, rubbing off what makeup was left on my eyes. "I never-"
"Don't mention it!" he laughed with a wink, rubbing his hands up and down my upper arms, warming me up. He flicked me in the forehead with his pointer finger and then pushed me down onto the bed so I was laying flat. "I'm going to let those guys back in. They can't sleep for twelve hours straight if they don't get a head start on it!"
The reentrance of James and Remus was not as awkward as I was picturing. Peter had joined them by this point and I know he had heard about what was going on from the others. He craned his neck at me and squinted, and I pulled the pillow even tighter around me. Peter had a reputation for being a bit of a creep, to be perfectly honest.
"Marlene is going to spend the night, if that's okay." Sirius said nonchalantly, scanning the room for any objections, as if they were likely to come.
"As long as you keep it down," James teased, tossing a wink in my direction before he hopped into his own bed, pulling the curtains closed around him. The others followed suit, and soon the room was dark again, filled only with the sounds of heavy breathing and someone breaking off into uneven snores.
Sirius held me close to him, and I could feel him beginning to doze off. I was too alert to fall asleep, all I could think about was if things would be different somehow. Surely everyone had known what was going on between us, but this was the first time anyone had ever witnessed it firsthand. I'd always come in when the room was empty for the night (oddly enough it had happened at least once a month, a curious pattern I'd never thought about too hard), or when we had all been drinking and the curtains were drawn.
"Maybe now that they know you're here," Sirius said softly, failing to suppress a yawn and nuzzling his head into my neck. "You won't have to sneak out in the morning."
He had barely gotten the words out before I felt his breathing deepen into regular half-snores and he was gone for the night.
The sun had barely risen when my eyes opened on their own. I was still groggy, but I wriggled out from under the dead weight of his arm, trying not to get tangled up in the bed curtain as I passed through it. I had just touched the door handle when I heard an insistent cough from behind me.
Whirling around, I saw that James was sitting up in bed, evenly watching me with his arms crossed and a frown on his face.
"Good morning," I said quietly, my voice hoarse as I pushed a lock of hair behind my ear, discomfort at being caught bubbling up in my stomach.
"One day he's going to wake up before you," James said quietly.
"I'll rethink my exit strategy," I answered softly, opening the door.
"Please don't hurt my best friend." came his reply, bolstered with a maturity and level of caring I'd never seen in him before. Lily was right about him becoming an adult, slowly but surely.
"I would never hurt him." And then, on my way out, "Nobody is going to get hurt."
Lie, lie, lie, lie, lie.
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