Chapter 27 : Let It Be
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merde (French) - shit
un ivrogne (French) – a drunkard
“When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom: let it be.” – The Beatles, 1970
Marianne Minot exhaled as she rounded another corner and ignored the snoring portraits in front of her. Although she normally loved rainy April evenings – the atmosphere just called for a plush armchair, good book, and piping hot cup of Earl Grey – tonight, for some reason, she dreaded the stormy weather. It unnerved her.
The water droplets continued to loudly splash against the stain glass windows and soon, Marianne passed Professor Slughorn’s office, continuing her late night Prefect duties on the Sixth Floor. Although she had not encountered any trouble so far, the Ravenclaw knew from experience that ill behaved students lurked at every hour of the night. Marianne grimaced. Her shift was coming to a close, but that did not mean she was destined for 30 minutes of solitude.
“Merde,” she grumbled tempestuously.
Marianne took a second to compose herself before soldiering down Glanmore Peakes’ Corridor towards the East Wing; the portraits’ wheezes faded into the distance. When she finally reached her destination, the Prefect let out another small huff just before greeting the two suits of armor that guarded the large hall.
“Have you seen any students tonight?”
“…We have not,” they answered after several pregnant pauses. Marianne narrowed her eyes.
“Are you sure?”
“… Yes, Ma’am.”
“Have you been bewitched to say that?”
“ … Certainly not.”
She rolled her eyes before muttering a countercurse under her breath. The suits twitched and returned to their original conditions; they uncrossed their pikes and granted her entry.
“There is one student inside, Ma’am. We will alert Argus Filch.”
“Thank you, but that will not be necessary. I will deal with them myself,” Marianne said just before closing the door behind her.
When she spun around, she noticed that a black haired boy had lit a fire in the large ornate fireplace and pulled one of the sizeable couches directly in front of it. He was hunched over, scribbling away on some piece of parchment, and paid her no attention. At first, Marianne couldn’t recognize the student, but when she saw a discarded gold and scarlet tie next to a large pile of brand new Zonko’s products, she deduced the occupant.
“Sirius Black?” she tested. “Is that you?”
The Gryffindor threw a glare over his shoulder, his eyes piercing with indignation; he exhaled a stream of smoke and subsequently placed his cigarette between his lips and went back to his scribblings.
Marianne frowned. Her gut feeling told her to send him back to his common room - for their last after hours meeting had involved a nasty fight with a pack of Slytherins - but her compassionate side knew he was still hurting from his recent breakup with Gemma. Marianne sat down on the couch next to him and still, he ignored her completely. His eyes were fixed on his last minute Charms essay.
“Sirius,” said Marianne. “It’s 2 in the morning. I’m sorry, but I have to ask you to go back to Gryffindor Tower.”
“You’re sorry?” he repeated, taking offense. “Yeah, whatever.”
“Sirius, I don’t really have a choice.”
“Stop calling me Sirius!” he demanded. “Your tone is full of pity - which is something I can't stand. Now clear off, I’ve got to finish this.”
“I’m not -”
“Society soirées, clipped syllables - you think you’re so high and mighty, don’t you?” the boy snapped. “Marianne Minot, plantation heiress, taking pity on the renegade Sirius Black. She can’t help it! It’s in her nature!”
“I said stop calling me that!”
“Enough!” Marianne finally exploded. Her pureblood persona immediately shielded her fragile state of mind and her fists balled up at her sides. “I am not pitying you, I am only telling you very nicely that you can’t be outside of the your common room this late. It’s my job to tell people that.”
“Yeah, whatever,” he restated as he rolled his eyes.
“Look, I know you have a certain talent for breaking the rules ... and normally I wouldn’t be this insistent, but the suits know you’re in here. My hands are tied.”
“You reversed the spell?” Sirius groaned. “Fan-fucking-tastic.”
Marianne couldn’t help but let a surprised gasp tumble out of her mouth.
“What is wrong with you?” she demanded. “Why are you acting like this?”
“Why should I even tell you? You’d never understand,” he barked. “You and your perfect life ...”
Sirius slammed down his quill in anger and proceeded to roll his parchment into a cylindrical coil, packing up his things in a hurry. Even though she disagreed with him wholeheartedly, Marianne sat transfixed, still not believing his list of vile insults.
“You know what? I’ll tell you anyways,” he sassed. “You have everything you could ever want, all with a haughty snap of your fingers … but I can tell you from personal experience that you can’t straddle both worlds, dear. You make one decision – one choice – and your flawless little life changes forever. Sometimes you don’t even mean to make it, it just happens. And then you’re alone, left to pick up the bloody pieces.”
His emphasis echoed throughout the room. Marianne’s harsh mask splintered as sympathy, once again, started to bubble up inside her; Sirius was clearly still tormented by his drunken decision on James’ birthday and estranged pureblood family. The Ravenclaw watched him stand up abruptly, shove his homework into his leather messenger bag, and throw it over his shoulder. As a last sign of disrespect, Sirius bowed grandiosely.
“Good luck with the rest of your patrol, Miss Minot, sorry to be such an inconvenience.”
The door slammed shut, but Marianne barely heard it. She stared at the fire, bewildered and befuddled. The Prefect tried to cling her to stoic pureblood demeanor, but soon, even her apathetic disposition couldn’t keep her whirring thoughts at bay. As Marianne lowered her face into her hands, her logical side tried to console her, reasoning that he was just taking all of his anger out on her. But her emotional half couldn’t help but feel extremely mistreated.
However, after a couple of minutes, the Prefect was able return to her guarded state of mind and returned her hands to her sides, took a deep breath, and looked up at the ceiling.
“Almost done,” she reminded herself as she pushed down her misery. “Almost there.”
With a small heave, Marianne rose to her feet and thanked the suits of armor for being of service, brushing off their complements about her speedy negotiation skills. After they crossed their pikes and returned to their duties, the Ravenclaw returned to her own and continued down the corridor, desperately hoping that she would not have to deal with any other students out of bed. She thankfully got her wish and when her Prefect shift on the Sixth Floor finally ended, she sprinted towards the large staircase.
Yet, she did not venture towards the Ravenclaw Tower, but instead, sauntered up the stairs towards the Room of Requirement.
When the hidden door finally appeared, Marianne threw it open and jumped inside to be reunited with the only person who made her feel with complete ease. Though, this time, she noticed that their secret plantation getaway was quite different, for the turquoise Caribbean waters were inky and dark with the reflection of the waning Moon splashed across its waves. A cool tropical breeze brushed against her exposed skin and Marianne turned her head to see a rustic gazebo sitting on their favorite beach.
The romantic gesture warmed her heart, but the Ravenclaw’s lips drooped downwards with anguish; for some reason, she still felt unnerved and twitchy and Sirius’ outburst certainly hadn’t calmed her down. Marianne kicked off her shoe - stopping for a moment to wiggle her toes in the sand - and then made her up the stairs of the small oceanfront structure. The pureblood finally laid eyes on Remus and hoped he wouldn’t ask about her day. She didn’t want to relive it all over again.
Yet, instead of poking and prodding, the Gryffindor asked one simple question as he turned around and gestured to the cup in his right hand.
“Oh yes please,” she sighed wistfully. For the first time that night, relief trickled down her spine. “That would be lovely.”
“Right then,” Remus grinned, motioning to the wicker love seat in between them. “Just give me a mine.” She sat down, pulling a thin blanket over her legs, and smiled softly when he handed her a delicate white cup and saucer. As she took a sip, the warmth from the tea spread throughout her body.
“This is delicious,” Marianne remarked.
“It’s peach,” beamed Remus. “And decaffeinated.”
“Thank you,” she muttered into her cup as she took another sip. After another graceful swallow, Marianne nestled against him and felt his arm slowly curl around her shoulders. She adjusted her blanket and threw part of it over Remus’ legs to ensnare him further.
For a moment, the Ravenclaw considered telling her boyfriend about her earlier run in with his best friend ... and yet again, felt herself being pulled in two different directions. She knew they weren’t on speaking terms - Remus was extremely angry with him for cheating on Gemma - but she also convinced herself that Sirius’ biting words had actual teeth and did not want to reexamine them. Thankfully, both parts of her agreed that this was not the time to speak about such matters, and so, she silently let her head rest against Remus’ chest.
Her jittery fingers picked up her teacup and lifted it towards her mouth.
Despite the tea’s calming effects, Marianne’s throat tightened. She dreaded his next question and prayed it had nothing to do with Sirius Black.
“- how did I do?”
“Hmmmm?” she tutted in confusion.
“The book I gave you,” Remus laughed, “The Great Santini. Two days ago, you asked for something to read, but gave very strict instructions to find something that you would never otherwise come across – something that wasn’t a classic. I loaned you a contemporary American Muggle novel, which if I do say so myself, is the very opposite of your own life experiences … so how did I do?”
Marianne gulped and looked down at her tea, her old nervousness intensifying with every breath.
“You hated it, didn’t you?”
“No,” she muttered softly.
“Have you even started it? Is that why you have such a guilty look on your face?”
“I finished it a couple hours after you gave it to me, actually. I couldn’t put it down,” Marianne admitted. Remus’ eyebrows popped up in surprise, but she chose to fixate on the waves as they crashed against the shore. “I had to go to the Library the next day to look up all the Muggle references I didn’t understand, though … I just don’t know how I feel about it. I loved it but …”
She let an aloof puff of air pass between her lips.
“Who is your favorite person in the entire book?”
“Mary Anne,” Remus smiled, mentioning the main character’s younger, sassy sister. “And not because her name is the American pronunciation of yours. She’s absolutely hilarious. You?”
“I don’t know,” she repeated just before taking another apprehensive sip.
“Well it seems we must do a full analysis of the text then,” the Gryffindor teased. “Start from the beginning …”
Marianne rolled her eyes dramatically, but still obliged him.
“As you know, the book follows a family of American Muggles as they move from Atlanta, Georgia to Ravenel, South Carolina – it's on the Atlantic side of the country if I’m not mistaken. The father, Bull Meecham, is in the Marine Corps and forces them to move around from military base to base. To him, everything revolves around the Marines – he treats the rest of his family like new recruits, making them recite the official Corps Hymn over and over again and beating them into submission.”
“Sometimes literally,” Remus lamented.
“Yes, sometimes literally,” Marianne agreed with a frown. Her agitation continued to grow with every word she spoke. “So you have this alcoholic fighter pilot - who dubs himself ‘The Great Santini’ and never lets anyone get the best of him - ruling over his kin with an iron fist and taking most of his anger out on his eldest son, Ben. He humiliates the boy every chance he gets.”
“Because he’s jealous,” Remus cut in. “He can’t stand the thought of his own son becoming bigger and stronger than The Santini.”
“Right,” she agreed, “so there’s this power struggle between the two the entire book. The rest of the family has their own little stories – I agree, Mary Anne’s sarcasm and wit is extremely entertaining – but I couldn’t stop reading until I figured out who won, so to speak.”
“Did you like the ending then?”
“I don’t know. I’m still conflicted.”
“It’s a shocker, innit? So, it seems you love Ben.”
“But I don’t know if he’s my favorite character.”
“I don’t know,” Marianne groaned as she set her teacup on the side table next to her. With an annoyed grunt, she fell back into Remus’ embrace. “Although the point of view moves around a lot, I feel like Ben is the main character, so I should like him the most. He takes after his mother and is kind and caring, making friends with the outcasts of the town. I didn’t know this, but at the time, befriending an African American would be like if I got engaged to a Muggle - it just wasn’t done. So he’s compassionate and courageous, all at once … but he’s stubborn and brash, just like his father.”
“Who you can’t help but loathe.”
“But you don’t.”
She leapt to her feet and began to pace back and forth, her hands moving grandiosely to punctuate each sentence.
“You want to hate him, you really do. He’s a horrible man who thrusts unwanted tradition on you, making you adhere to the iron clad rules of history and honor. He wants to you to be perfect, even if that means you have to break the rules sometimes. And he is un ivrogne. He drinks and drinks and then comes home to pick on your defenseless family. So you stand up to him, thinking about giving him a taste of his own medicine …”
Marianne’s eyes floated towards the horizon.
“But you can’t. Because he’s your father, the man who raised you … the man who provides for you and keeps you from falling into the cracks. You feel like you owe him, but at the same time, you know that he’s not always the bad person you make him out to be. He’s passionate, courageous, steadfast … and very hilarious at times. You love him … and you hate him … and …”
“Marianne,” Remus said softly, “you aren’t talking about the book anymore, are you?”
As his words hung in the air, Marianne realized he was absolutely right. She was not talking about Bull Meecham … she was describing about her own father, who shared many of the fictional character’s strengths and weaknesses. Seconds later, her disquietude finally reached its peak. As another wave crashed upon the shore, her emotions overwhelmed her stern defense mechanisms and reduced her to silent tears. Remus immediately reached out to comfort her, but she brushed away his affection and gravitated towards the other side of the gazebo.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I should have given you something else to read. I didn’t know.”
Marianne sighed heavily and wiped away the black streaks of mascara from under her eyes with the end of her luxurious silk sleeve. She took another deep breath, paused for a moment, and gracefully composed herself. In an act of total desperation and practicality, the Ravenclaw’s brain slowly diverted towards its natural state - towards logic and reason.
“No,” she began to psychoanalyze, “it’s not just the book. I think it’s a whole lot more than that. Shall we look at the facts?”
Marianne continued with a heavy, but determined heart.
“I have a father who’s breeding me to become the perfect heiress, but I mask all my objections with a hard edged persona … and I don’t want to anymore. I want to just be. The duality is making me jittery, high strung … so when I ran into Sirius -”
“When?” Remus interjected suspiciously.
“Tonight, just before I got here,” she explained, her sanity growing with every confession. “I had to shoo him out of the East Hall. He practically exploded, telling me I had such a flawless existence that was bound to fail. I tried to brush it off – I know he’s still crucifying himself for his betrayal – but I think that when I was describing Ben’s thoughts towards his father, my real worries came out. Analyzing the book helped me channel my own emotions, to get to the real reason why I’ve been upset for the past couple of days.”
She paused for a moment to look down at her bare feet.
“I’m sorry for ruining our literary discussion.”
Marianne expected Remus to keep his distance, but instead, he crossed over towards her and gently placed his hands on the sides of her face. Her lip quivered emotionally as she looked directly into his eyes; her heart raced with insecurity. However, all of her doubts slowly melted away when she noticed that he was grinning wolfishly.
“What?” she asked. “What’s so funny?”
He laughed softly, kissed the top of her head, and pulled her into his arms.
“Do you know how precious you are?” he whispered into her ear, his breath tickling her neck. Marianne felt her lips turn upwards as he released her. “You just had an existential crisis, but you’re more upset about ruining our scholarly debate.”
“I can’t help it,” she said with a small laugh, her smiling growing by the second. “It’s in my nature.”
“Merlin, I love you,” Remus muttered just before he ducked down and pressed his lips against hers. Marianne’s smile widened and she delicately kissed him back, snaking her arms around his neck. Another gust of tropical wind blew through the trees and the couple continued to physically express their affection.
“Do – do you think you could stay with me tonight?” Marianne tested when they finally broke apart.
“Here?” he clarified. “In the Room of the Requirement?”
“I don’t want to,” she said with a gulp, “do anything sexual, I just want you to hold me.”
Remus nodded tenderly and the room quickly responded to their intentions, making the wicker loveseat transform into a rustic white four-poster bed. The Seventh Years pulled back the linen sheets and nestled and wiggled until they reached a comfortable position under the covers. She sighed happily and Remus yawned loudly just before kissing her shoulder and resting his head next to hers.
And moments later, all of Marianne’s problems vanished as she let herself just …
Author’s note: Huzzah, another chapter!
So, we are now entering what I like to call “Act III” of the story. There will be 10 more chapters (two more rounds) and then the story will be complete. If you thought the last chapter was dramatic, just wait. It’s about to get a lot worse, ehehehe!
Thank you to everyone who has reviewed/favorited this fic so far. You guys really make my day, for real :D
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