Chapter 25 : Sixteen Saltines
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Who’s jealous, who’s jealous, who’s jealous, who’s jealous of who?
If I get busy then I couldn’t care less what you do
But when I’m by myself, I think of nothing else
Than if a boy just might be getting through and touching you
~ Sixteen Saltines ~ Jack White ~
“This is ridiculous.” Lily sighed, slamming down a massive pile of books onto our table in the library. “I can’t cope with this workload anymore, I’m going to crack under the pressure.”
“You’ll be fine.” Alice said patiently, lifting her wand pointing it at the nearby window, which opened to allow a freezing breeze to drift in. This caused Frank, whose eyes were drooping, to sit up straight and alert. Alice smiled, looking pleased with herself.
“But you’re Ravenclaw’s. You’re supposed to be good at this stuff.” Lily said.
“You get better grades than me.” Frank pointed out.
“But everyone always said you should’ve been in Gryffindor.” I reminded him. Frank shrugged.
“I hate studying theory. I’d rather be out there doing it, you know? Especially after days like this…” There had been a few particularly nasty stories of Death Eater activity in the Daily Prophet today, which sparked a fresh wave of fear and misery among Hogwarts’ population. One story was that Bellatrix Black had spent her honeymoon following her marriage to Rodolphus Lestrange torturing Muggles abroad. Another was that Fenrir Greyback had been set upon the Macdonald family, not just biting them and infecting them with lycanthropy, but actually brutally killing them. Mary and her elder brother Jasper who had graduated the previous year were the only ones left now, and she had been in classes in spite of this. She had been seen working ferociously hard all day, only to collapse at dinner and be taken to the Hospital Wing.
“Did you find out how she is?” I asked Lily.
“Apparently she just kept babbling like she was crazy to anyone who spoke to her. Madam Pomfrey’s not letting her leave for a while.”
“It’s awful.” Alice whispered. “Really awful.”
“Don’t worry, we’re gonna kick their arses for this.” Fabian appeared around the corner. He gripped his cousin’s shoulder comfortingly.
“We’re? I thought you were too young to join…” Alice stammered nervously.
“Yeah, but not for long.” Fabian grinned. “I finish school this year, and I’m going straight into the Order…”
“Sssh! You’re not meant to talk about it so openly.” Alice warned him.
“But you’ll all be there when you can be, won’t you?” He looked around at myself, Lily and Frank. We all nodded. It was a general consensus that we would be joining the Order of the Phoenix after Hogwarts. Alice and Frank were going to be Auror’s anyway, after all, and Lily was a talented Gryffindor. I felt I had to, that I couldn’t not join after what happened to me last summer. The depression and torturous nightmares had taken on a bloody quality as of late, and I was beginning to feel more angry than upset about those events. I owed those people, the icy-eyed one, a decent fight. “So I don’t have to worry about leaking it to the wrong people, do I?” Fabian rolled his eyes. Marlene appeared around the corner.
“There you are Fab. Oh, hi everyone. Homework?” She guessed. We nodded again. “You wait ‘til next year, NEWTs are going to be the death of all of us.”
“Speaking of death, we were just talking about doing a few of its Eater’s in.” Fabian told her, slipping an arm around her shoulder. Marlene nodded, an uncharacteristically fierce look coming onto her face.
“They’ll see.” She growled. “Anyway, this kind of morbid conversation isn’t helping anyone’s fighting spirit really. You know everyone in the school is just feeding on the misery. I don’t see the point; it’s better to fight with a brave face than struggle with anxiety over it all.”
“It’s scary though.” Alice said. I saw Frank squeeze her hand over the table comfortingly.
“Don’t lose your nerve, cuz. You’ll be fine.” Fabian told her. “Anyway, we’re off now. Have fun studying!” He gave a sarcastic cheery wave before they left. We all sat looking at each other.
“Marlene has a point, though,” Lily piped up after a few moments of silence, “Let’s talk about something else.”
“Like?” I asked.
“Have you spoken to Sirius?” Alice questioned brightly. I sighed and groaned, sitting back in my seat. Since I’d recounted the boundary agreement conversation Sirius and I’d had, neither Alice nor Lily had stopped talking about it. Frank appeared to feel the same way as I did. He looked at me and rolled his eyes.
“I think I’ll take a rain-check on this conversation. Plus I have Quidditch practise in twenty minutes. Later, guys.” He kissed Alice on his hurried way out of the library. I looked down at the book I was supposedly trying to read, hoping they’d forgotten Alice’s question. However, they didn’t take their eyes off me so I knew they hadn’t. Giving up hope, I looked back up at them.
“No, I haven’t spoken to him. But we don’t really have anything to talk about. Two weeks isn’t long enough to start, you know…”
“It hasn’t really stopped Remus and Perry. I mean, I know they’re not official, but…” Lily said awkwardly.
“Yeah, but that’s them, isn’t it?”
“Sirius dated Perry too.” Alice reminded me.
“Yeah, they went on one date, and they never went back out because-“
“Because Sirius was more interested in you.” Lily finished. I glared at her and she smiled. “I don’t know why you even care about waiting. You obviously like him.” I bit my lip. I wished I could undo the conversation I’d had with Sirius, if I was honest, but the reasons for this contradicted each other.
On one hand, I wanted to go back to normal, when we were just friends, and for me to not have to feel this unwanted burning in my stomach, or the tingle on my skin wherever he was near. I didn’t want my heart to leap into my throat whenever he smiled at me. I knew all of these things added up to me liking him, and I knew this time it was real, it wasn’t a little crush like I’d had on Remus. This terrified me because I’d already given up so much to Sirius that I was afraid to give anymore of myself in case he took back what he’d said.
On the other hand, I wished I’d never had the conversation for the exact opposite reason. I wanted to give him everything, and that scared me even more. A big, reckless part of me wanted to go hopping, skipping and jumping with Sirius into the first real relationship of my life. But our boundaries had prevented anything from happening. It had seemed like a good idea, the best thing all around, but even still…
These two sides seemed to be two different Erin’s. The first was the Erin before the kidnapping who wanted to hide away behind her books, and the second was the post-kidnapping Erin who was determined to live on my own terms, without worrying about the consequences.
“It’s bad timing.” I said after a time.
“You’re single, he’s single…” Alice listed, raising an eyebrow at me.
“Who’s this?” I nearly screamed when Sirius appeared behind me. Jumping, I turned to glare at him. He was grinning easily. “Not thinking about dating James next are you, Erin?” I widened my eyes, and Lily came to my rescue, thank Merlin.
“My love life is none of your business, Sirius.” She said.
“Your love life?” Sirius asked, sitting down beside me. “Are you thinking about dating James? I mean if you are, it’s only about time.” Lily flushed.
“No, we weren’t talking about James.” She said.
“Oh, do tell.”
“Just this guy in Hufflepuff. Seventh year.” Alice filled in. Now Lily looked relieved.
“Oh okay. Nah, you can do better than a Hufflepuff, Lily.” Sirius said wisely.
“Really? I guess that’s my problem resolved.” She laughed falsely. I frowned at her.
“Erin, I was just wondering if you wanted to work on those Runes translations tonight.” I noticed his arm was round the back of my chair, apparently automatically. However, his grey eyes followed mine and noticed this too, and he quickly removed it. I felt that dropping sensation in my stomach.
“Uh, I suppose so.”
“Cool, because I lost my copy of Spellman’s Syllabry.”
“No problem.” I said blankly.
“I’ll meet you at your common room at eight then.” He said, standing up and stalking off. Me, Alice and Lily all looked at each other.
“You have to tell us everything.” Lily growled.
So at eight, I exited Ravenclaw Tower, and Sirius was already waiting for me. He was leaning against the wall opposite the door, looking casually arrogant. He grinned when he saw me though, and the roguish side of him shone through. It was strange, how different he seemed now that I was without the blinkers of Remus Lupin on my eyes. I seemed to be seeing him in the same light of so many girls before me, and I wasn’t sure I liked it. I didn’t want to enjoy the feeling of his eyes on me. I’d changed out of my school robes and I was conscious that usually they hid my figure from prying eyes.
“Where are we going to study?” I asked him.
“I thought we might get out of the castle for a bit- go for a drink in the Three Broomsticks and study there.” He suggested. I raised my eyebrows as he produced an Invisibility Cloak out of his bag and threw it over us. Then he pulled out a large piece of folded parchment. He tapped it with his wand and muttered, “I solemnly swear I am up to no good.” A detailed map, complete with moving dots representing people, along with their names, appeared. “Filch is on the sixth floor and Peeves is in the trophy room. All the other teachers are in their offices.” He said after a minute’s study. Then he led me down to the third floor, where we entered a passageway concealed by a statue of a one eyed witch.
After sneaking out of Honeydukes, Sirius pulled the Cloak off us and led me with a casual stroll into the pub.
It was as busy as I’d ever seen it, and Sirius got us some Butterbeers. We then found a table and pulled out our books. We did really study for a while, but I was getting distracted by Sirius leaning over and glancing at my copy of Spellman’s Syllabry. I found myself with my quill poised, though not actually getting any work done. Eventually, Sirius noted.
“You alright?” He asked.
“Yes,” I said, and then, “No, I’m not.” I lay down my quill and Sirius copied me, frowning. “Sirius, our conversation the other day…”
“Want to revoke rule one?” He asked excitedly. I shook my head.
“No, I mean… what in the name of Merlin did you mean when you said ‘for now’?” I cried.
“No physical contact for now.” He shrugged.
“But does that mean-“
“-that I would like physical contact in the future? Of course. And I do intend to get it. But I’m willing to wait.”
“Sirius,” I sighed, “I thought you…” I felt a fool saying it; I wasn’t really sure what I wanted from him, myself, but the thought that he only wanted to sleep with me again, even though he’d said he loved me… well, it hurt. I couldn’t say it, but Sirius seemed to know.
“You do mean more to me than that,” He said quietly, “But I can barely keep my hands off you at the best of times… I am attracted to you, you know that. It’s not the most important thing, but it’s there.” I felt a shiver go down my spine, but also warmth in my stomach. “I’m not going to force the issue, yet. I know you need time, okay? Halloween was clumsy, and I’m sorry for it. I don’t intend to go about it that way okay?”
“Who says I want you to go about it at all?” I wanted to know.
“You can’t blame a guy for trying.” Sirius shrugged, picking up his quill and continuing his work as if this was the most normal conversation in the world
A/N: Hello, finally another chapter! Please review :)
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