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The Complicated Life of Mirabelle Rose by Ginny_RED_Potter
Chapter 12 : An Abundance of Ballgowns
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 59


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(Oh my gosh! SO much to say on this one! Every force of nature seemed to be against this update! No joke! School, work, pathetic excuse for a social life, swine flu, family obligations, writer's block and computer glitches! It's a wonder I even GOT to this point! Sorry for the slow updates but as I said, I ran into some issues. This is literally the third time I've tried to post this chapter. The last two times I was in the home stretch -both times- and my computer went all exorcist and kicked me off! 
Anyway, as you may already know, this story won a Dobby Award {Most Orignal... imagine that} and it only seems appropriate that I thank all of you readers on here who must have nominated it and voted! So thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you!!!! Ha ha ha! And I would love it if whoever nominated me would tell me in a review or something so i can thank them personally and all of that! But yeah, that was beyond cool!
And, I guess, last but not least {since I'm too tired to remember what else I was going to put in this} I wanted to put in a shameless plug for my Meet The Author page! Yes, I FINALLY figured out how to make one! I don't know if anyone will be interested, but just in case! I'd love to hear from everyone! Because sometimes I wish I could carry on a conversation with a person when I reply to a review but I can't so here's a way for me to talk to everyone more! 
So, since I've made you lovely, patient readers wait long enough and you're probably skipping over this anyway, I'll let you get to the chapter... Enjoy! 
<3 RED
P.S. Keep an eye out for updates on my other stories ;] )


Chapter 12~ An Abundance of Ballgowns 


A party. The night I came home from school. Lovely idea, mum, thanks.

It's not like I'd be tired or anything. No way could I possibly want to soak in the bath for hours and then pass out in my bed and lie in till noon tomorrow. No matter how disgusting and exhausted I feel from traveling all day, I'm always up for a party. Especially one with a bunch of old, drunken Death Eaters slobbering all over you like you are some hot babe at the pub on Saturday night rather than their family friend's teenage daughter.

I stared at myself in the mirror, trying to tune out my mother's shrill voice shrieking out orders to the houselves. A headache thudded dully in my head and I contemplated whether or not I could get out of this ball if I told my mother about it.

Probably not.

My mother was far too excited to show off tonight to let me stay hidden upstairs all evening. She wanted to boast about the house, our lavish decor, her handsome sons- one married with a gorgeous baby girl and the other engaged to a witch from one of the finest pureblood families around- and, for the first time since I was eleven, she also wanted to flaunt me around for all her friends to see. Her youngest child, her only daughter. Her precious baby girl.

I was back to being her pride and joy.

I was young, vibrant, almost pretty with Rosalie and Tamora fussing over my makeup. I was no longer influenced by people of questionable loyalty (as far as they knew) and now had a beau from one of the most respected and pure families in our circle. A dream come true for my entire family.

I knew this because the second I appeared on my sister-in-law's arm it was like someone had gone haywire with a time turner and I was back to being nine and the adored, spoiled rotten, baby of the family.

"Miri!" my mother exclaimed, as she had when I was a child. She rushed down the stairs (where she'd been supervising some houselves as they hung mistletoe eight feet apart) and- before I could grasp what exactly was going on- scooped me into a tight embrace.

Yes, she actually hugged me.

I had not been hugged by either of my parents since the day I left for Hogwarts more than five years ago.

It felt strange, this obvious sign of affection. On one hand, it was warm and wonderful. Almost comforting. I felt at home in my mother's arms, in a way. But on the other hand, this simple hug felt alien. It was tinted with conditions and expectations. I took it with a grain of salt. I let the dubious liquids swirl in my stomach and bitterly recognized what had brought on such maternal approval.

Amazing what boys could do to your life. I wasn't sure if mine had been ruined by them or saved. Or both.

"Are you hungry?" the woman wearing my mother's body asked. "Do you want me to have Gypsy make you something?" Before I could answer, she summoned her favorite house elf and ordered her to make my favorite meal. "You look peaky." She eyed me closely, in maternal way that I hadn't seen in those green eyes since I was ten. She nodded to herself. "Much too thin. Gorgeous, but much too thin." I nearly gasped in surprise as she pulled me into another hug.

My head spun as the approval gushed.

Then, Milo- one of my least favorite people, the brother who'd made my life hell- came and had much the same reaction to my presence as my mother had, minus any girlish squealing.

"Hey Mira!" he grinned with open arms.

I was so dazed from my mother's praises that I didn't see what he was playing at until he'd wrapped those arms around me and lifted me off the ground in a bear hug. And then, I was so stunned that all I could do was blink, speechless, as he set me back on the ground.

Normally, had he tried a stunt like that, I'd have hexed him into last week and gave his privates a swift kick for good measure. But all I could do now was gawk.

"How's my favorite little sister?"

My brow furrowed as I gaped up at him.

What was wrong with my family? Were they even my actual family? Or were these some Aurors disguised by Polyjuice Potion who thought they were supposed to be nice to me? Obviously, if they were, they hadn’t done their research. Were they Imperiused? But, that was stupid. Who would Imperius my family? They were on the Death Eaters' side already! Hell, let's be honest, my brothers were Death Eaters!

"I'm your only sister," I heard myself reply flatly. My mouth seemed to have disconnected from my brain again, like that dream I had in the hospital wing with Sirius.

Instead of sneering and making a snide remark in reply, he laughed.

Yes, actually laughed.

Like I'd made a joke! Like something about this situation was funny.

And rather than scolding me for being a smart ass, my mother laughed as well!

I felt shock cross my face and my brain seemed to suffer some sort of traffic jam among so much confusion.

After five years, I'd pretty much accepted that certain members of my family were going to resent me forever. But now, all my theories were being jumbled and the world seemed to flip on its axis.

And the worst part? I kind of liked it.

I couldn't help but smile as the warm crackling fire of acceptance and love chased away the chilly draft I thought would never again leave this big manor. I knew it had conditions to it but it felt so good to be loved again I really didn’t care for the moment. I couldn’t bring myself to burst this rare bubble of family felicity. I laughed with the rest of my family as Emilia recited the new poem her mother had taught her. I played with my niece, sister-in-law and brothers when they began an impromptu game of sardines until my mother very maternally ushered me upstairs to get ready for her lavish pre-Christmas ball. My brothers and Tamora went home to get ready and drop Emilia with her babysitter for the night.

It was only when I was in my room, away from the gushy intoxicating familial atmosphere, that my senses returned. Reality hit me again like a boxing champion and I wasn't sure whether I was in a nightmare or a dream come true.

All I was sure of was that if I didn't get to the toilet in two point five seconds I was going to hurl all over the expensive floor that the houselves probably scrubbed clean this morning. I made it just in time for the contents of my stomach, which was admittedly not a lot, to come back up.

I cleaned myself up in the shower, letting the warm water wash away all the grime and grit from the train. All the drama of school slid off of me and down the drain. I didn't think about my family or Sirius or Rabastan or anything. I just relaxed and let the rushing water drown out all thoughts.

I dried myself off by magic, knowing that there was so much bewitching and enchanting in this house today the Ministry would never be able to tell it was me. I grabbed the red gown my mother had laid out for me on my bed and slid it over my head without the usual internal complaints.

Mum had told me to call her, rather than one of the houselves, to help me put it on- no doubt so we could bond and chat about my new boyfriend. But I called neither, I wanted to be alone. The longer I was alone, the longer I had to make sense of things. Or the longer I had to pretend none of this nonsense was happening in the first place. Maybe, being withdrawn from the scene of family approval for longer would help me resist it when I had to go back downstairs again.

That's when my headache started.

Sick of looking at myself, I torn my eyes bitterly away from the mirror. I plopped down onto my bed, entirely unconcerned about the condition of my still unzipped dress. I stared at the ceiling, feeling utterly disgusted at how easily I'd been lured in. Had I lost all my pride? These were the people that had disdained and virtually ignored me since I was eleven and I was going to forgive them that easily? I don't think so. The acceptance had strings, the love had conditions. Every ounce of affection would be wiped clean if I told them I was repulsed by their pureblood elitism. Every drop of delight at my homecoming would dry up in an instant if I informed them I didn't want to be a Death Eater, nor did I fancy becoming the trophy wife of one. No matter how gorgeous and charming he was.

How could I have been sucked in so easily? How could I pretend to be one of them? Was I even pretending anymore? Had I crossed over the line? Had I gone too deep undercover and evolved into one without my knowledge?

"Mirabelle! Are you alright, sweetheart?" my mother's voice suddenly simpered on the other side of my door.

I broke from my repulsed train of thought and sat up, fumbling with the zipper of my gown.

"Yes, mummy!" I called back, my voice sounding off even to my own ears. I took deep breath and clenched all my torso muscles, forcing the zipper up. How she expected me to breathe in this thing I shuddered to think.

"You really should be getting ready, love. Do you need my help getting your dress on?"

I waddled to my door, holding my dress up away from my feet so I didn't trip and putting it back down before I opened the door so my mother wouldn't know I was being unladylike.

"No, I've got it all by myself," I told her like a chipper five year old. Sudden affection or no sudden affection, I still knew how to revel in that lovely look of shock on my mother's face that an ice queen such as herself rarely revealed.

I did not, however, know how to enjoy the surprise fading into a strangely soft smile and a playful chide. "Sweetheart, I told you to call me when you were getting ready!" she laughed.

Yes, laughed.

As if, for the past five years we'd had the mother-daughter relationship of everyone's dreams. Like we were the epitome of functional. The perfect example of love and warmth and all of that cozy fluff.

But this time, rather than being drawn in, I played the part. I did what I do best. I acted like the perfect pureblood daughter. Deciding that, the reason I found the role so easy to slip into was that I was so practiced at it by now it was practically effortless.

"Sorry, mummy," I smiled sweetly. "You can still help me with my hair if you like." I was torn in two with the small girl in me praying desperately for her to say she wanted to and the teenager who'd been ignored since she was eleven wanting her to go away and leave me alone, in that order.

"Of course, baby!" She gushed like some sort of sickening goo Professor Slughorn would make us concoct in Potions class. The next thing I knew, she'd pulled me over to the chair in front of my old antique vanity and sat me in the chair. "Now let's see," she pulled her wand out and began waving it over my limp chocolate brown strands, making them come to life. "Perhaps this."

On of her warm hands combed through my hair softly and I had to resist the urge to jump away. It was so parallel to everything I'd come to know about my icy mother. So contrary to any previous patterns of behavior that I almost had to vomit in the shock of it all.

You vanished your food, remember? And you already threw up the food you ate this morning. An unhelpful voice in my head reminded me as my empty stomach growled in addition.

Oh. Right.

My nerves were on such alert that, when my mother had the busy houselves make me a steaming plate of my favorite food, I couldn't bring myself to eat it. So I'd preformed a vanishing spell under my breath, confident that the Ministry would never know as the magic was running wild through this manor today. And, besides, they had much bigger issues to worry about lately than a bit of under-aged magic.

People were disappearing left and right. And I, due to some expert eavesdropping, already knew of three impending Death Eater missions and a murder that had happened a month ago. Yes, the Ministry had bigger fish to fry.

Two of those said fish, wearing their finest new dress robes, poked their heads in as my mother was putting the finishing touches on the half-halo, half-elaborate ponytail (which was essentially weaving tiny red rosebuds she'd conjured out of thin air throughout).

"Mum, the Rosiers and Donovans are here," Markus said, coming in to sit on my bed.

"Yeah, and Lucius just owled to say that he, Narcissa and the rest of the Malfoys are on their way as well," Milo added, not to be outdone by our older brother in anything.

No taunts? No scoffing? No backhanded compliments or stage whispers about the smelly stench of Ravenclaw in the room? The whole thing was just bizarre.

"Alright, boys, " my mother waved them off busily. Too intent, apparently, on the task at hand. "Go and entertain our guests with your father and tell them we'll be downstairs in a moment."

I gaped at her in the mirror. I couldn't hide my shock any longer. She was actually brushing off my brothers -her precious princes, her baby boys, her reasons for living- for me.

Was I sleeping? Was this all some very bizarre creation of my delusional subconscious? Was Sirius still living at his house and not Potter's? Was Rabastan Lestrange still just some repulsive Dark Lord crony with a nice ass? Was this all just a mixture of dream and nightmare that I would wake up from at any moment? Or had I just been transported to some very weird parallel universe, where up is down and down is up?

It had to be one of those because this could certainly not be reality.

"Alright," Markus said obediently and he and Milo quitted the room.

But not before Milo- my sadistic bastard of a brother, MILO! - turned and said, "You look pretty, little sis."

Yes, 'You look pretty, little sis.' as if he and I had a completely normal brother-sister bond. As if he was allowed to say such things. Leaving me with just one last question...

WHERE THE HELL DID MY FAMILY GO?!

***

One sister-in-law and one cousin playing make-up artists, three glasses of champagne and two hundred guests later I was dancing with my boyfriend as hordes of guests looked on.

For some reason, my love life seemed to interest an outrageous amount of people in my family's circle. They were all insultingly shocked that Rabastan and I had gotten together. I thought I knew the reason (him being a Greek god reincarnated and me being... well, me) until I went into the powder room.

"... Mirabelle Echols, though? Who would have thought?" a shrill female voice laughed.

Me being myself, I could help my following actions. I had to eavesdrop, it's what I do! I’d been best friends with a Marauder, for Merlin’s sake! So, I hid behind a wall where they weren’t likely to see me unless they were really looking for someone.

"Not me," another answered. "I thought for sure she would follow Sirius to the ends of the Earth. I thought she’d end up marrying the blood traitor."
"Yeah, I think everyone did." The other voice laughed with disbelief, "Never expected she'd join the Dark Lord."
"And start dating Rabastan, the golden boy" the first laughed with her.

Maybe she’s a woman scorned.” The second giggled in delight at the idea. “Maybe all those rumors about them being a thing were really true. Sirius has been known to break hearts. Maybe that’s why she’s doing the opposite of what he’s doing.”
“I wouldn’t put anything past her at this point. That girl is becoming as unpredictable as a PMSing Hippogriff.”
They left the room, laughing at the joke and I tried to swallow the knot in my throat. It was good that I was in the toilets because I suddenly felt sick to my stomach.

People thought I was a Death Eater? Or, at least, following the ‘Dark Lord’? Were they deluded?

No, you’ve just been acting like one of them. An irritated voice said to me. Why are you surprised?
Yes, but I wasn’t that good of an actress. Was I?

“What are you doing in here, gorgeous? Hiding from all those wandering eyes?”

Startled, I turned to see Bellatrix observing me with a knowing expression. Her dress was an almost frightening blue that flared out at the knee and her black hair was pinned halfway back and tumbling down behind her. If I wasn’t so intimidated by her she might have been beautiful.

I snorted unlike the lady I was supposed to be. “Hardly. I was just taking a break. Freshening up, you know?”

“Sure, that’s why.”

I forced a smile and shook my head, as if I found this affectionate teasing pleasant rather than slightly terrifying.

“So, how is school? Anyone giving you trouble?”

Just by the way she said it I knew that she wasn’t just asking a general question.

Nope. This one was loaded.

She was asking if Sirius and his cronies were bugging me. She was asking if his adoring fans were spitting at me in the halls (which they’d stopped doing once Rabastan was officially in the picture). She wasn’t just asking if I was doing alright at Hogwarts.

In Bella’s eyes, I had no doubt, that I was now considered closer to her than her runaway cousin or even her Muggle-loving sister. (Also, the fact that I was dating her little brother-in-law couldn’t hurt my cause either.) Which is why I knew that given the choice between one of her turncoat relatives and me (a sympathizer in disguise) she would choose me in half a heartbeat? Sickening as it was, Bellatrix was all about blood purity.

So, I did the only thing I could do without inadvertently causing someone’s torture and/or death. I laughed.

Yes, laughed, rolled my eyes and said, “Do you really think Bas would let them?”

Her grin sparkled disturbingly. “No, I don’t suppose he would.”

“Well,” I heaved a fake sigh, wanting very much to get out of this conversation as fast as humanely possible. “I suppose I shouldn’t keep him waiting much longer or he may spontaneously combust with impatience.”

“That’s likely.”


I laughed along with her as I made a beeline for the door. I seriously considered just going up to my room and locking myself in there for the remainder of the night. But, no doubt, Rabastan or one of my family members would notice my absence and coming searching for me so I thought it best to get my explanation out of the way now, rather than when someone was banging on my bedroom door. I decided that a headache was a good enough excuse to get me out of this affair.

I’d tell my mother that my head was hurting and I needed to go lie down. Then I’d go upstairs, change into something I could breathe in and try not to think about the fact that I was thought to be a Death Eater by a good deal of the population.

I entered the gaiety of the ballroom once more and almost immediately, Rabastan claimed my hand.

“What took you so long?” he whispered in my ear. I could tell by his tone that he’d been fending off potential dance partners in my short absence.

Forgetting my excuse, I grinned. “Miss me?”

“Always,” he replied. I felt him kiss the top of my head as we made our way to the dance floor and my stomach rolled.

The last time a bloke put his arm around me and kissed my head, I’d been absolutely thrilled to pieces. This felt like a mockery of it and I was so far from thrilled it was almost laughable. It felt like some sort of sick echo of that happy moment designed just to show me how big of a gap Sirius had left behind him.

This whole evening felt empty to me. I missed all of the usual rituals for these types of affairs. Even though this time I had a boyfriend and the general approval of the room, I wasn’t as fulfilled as I thought I would be.

My family looked at me adoringly as I danced with one of the most handsome young men in the room but I could only wish for the days of dancing with a very different (though just as, if not more, handsome) boy and being virtually ignored or looked at with suspicion. Instead of standing in a circle chatting politely with close family friends, I wanted to being laughing in a corner of the room with my best friend like all the times before, mocking the purebloods recklessly together. And rather than sneaking upstairs with my boyfriend; I yearned to slip away, unmissed, with my best friend.

“What if they come looking for us?” I hissed, as Rabastan pulled my up the grand staircase- further and further away from the laughter and the public setting of the ballroom. My pulse crashed in my ears and my stomach turned nervously as I thought about why he wanted to leave the party.

A detached chamber of my mind mused on how different this was from the times I’d snuck away with Sirius. My pulse had crashed in my ears with the hope of certain events taking place rather than any real anticipation of them. It was an entirely different type of nervousness and yet very similar at the same time. Was this how every girl felt when a very handsome boy convinced her to sneak away from the herd?

“They’re so smashed they wouldn’t be able to tell us from the table clothes.”

This was true.

Still, I wasn’t sure I wanted it to be. I almost wished my mother had been less attentive to her cocktail and more aware of where her daughter was. I wished my father hadn’t been discussing business with his Ministry friends when the boy trying to steal his daughter’s virtue was around. I wished my brothers had been fulfilling their protective duties in accordance with their new attitudes towards me rather than catching up with old school friends and comparing successes. Perhaps if any one of them had been paying attention they would have been able to save me from my current internal debate. If one of them had pulled us back into the party and insisted we stay in public view, I wouldn’t have to make the wretched decision of how far to let my (gulp) boyfriend go tonight.

We reached my bedroom and Rabastan kissed me passionately before swinging the door open as eagerly as any male about to “get lucky” would. But, rather than the sight we expected- an empty bed and a tidy room, we walked in on what can only be described as an abomination in the making.

There on MY BED were Rosalie and Rosier sucking face.

Scratch that. They weren’t just sucking face. They were also groping and attempting to undress one another while sucking face.

It was quite possibly the most disturbing sight I’d ever had the misfortune to see, made even more mentally scarring by the fact that it was all taking place ON MY BED!
Apparently Rabastan felt the same way because he shouted, “YUCK! What the hell? Bloody fucking-!”

Rose and Rosier didn’t seem to hear his violent reaction, however. They just continued trying to eat one another’s faces. It was beyond repulsive.

But Rabastan didn’t become the youngest Death Eater because he gave up easily so he yelled again. “OI, SLAGS!”

My cousin and her conquest jumped apart, turning their lip-stick-smeared faces in our direction. There was a moment of loaded silence in which my fury warred with disgust and all three of them seemed to wait for the results. When I had managed to choke down the vomit clawing its way up my esophagus, I was finally able to speak.

“Out!” I squeaked, barely able to contain my horror.

They jumped off my bed, Rose mortified and Rosier seeming both disappointed and amused. I stepped aside and they scuttled passed us and down the hall as quickly as possible. Probably on the hunt for a new room to defile (and, despite his new attitude towards me, I really hoped it was Milo’s).

Once they’d rounded the corner there was a moment of silence between my boyfriend and me before he promptly burst into a fit of laughter.

“It’s not funny!” I squealed, slapping him lightly on one broad shoulder. He kept on laughing, harder than before. “I am so not getting on that bed now.”

He stopped laughing but I went on without pausing.

“Not until I burn the sheets at least-“

“Mira-“

I continued ignoring him, “-maybe burning the whole mattress would be best.”

“Mira-“

“Mum won’t like it but she’ll just have to-“

“MIRA!”

I stopped talking and my boyfriend smiled a little triumphantly. Then his mouth turned down in a grave grimace. “Was it that much of a turn off?”

I pictured the scene in my head again of Rosier creeping his hand up my cousin’s dress while they did the tongue tango and nearly threw up in my mouth.

“Definitely.”

He sighed, a massive sigh, then held out his arm like a proper gentleman. “I suppose we should return to the party then,” he suggested, all politeness but I could tell he was disappointed as I took his arm.

I, for one, was tremendously relieved. Almost relieved enough that I didn’t mind having to burn my mattress.

Almost.

I liked Rabastan. I really did, but the fact still remained that he was a Death Eater and (despite my efforts) I was still in love with Sirius. Which complicated things. I wasn’t ready to go further than snogging yet with such confusion still swirling around the issue.

I sighed, pretending to be disappointed as well, while secretly allayed. “I suppose we should. Agrippa forbid if they came looking for us.” As much as I shuddered at the thought of what Rosalie and Rosier were doing at this very moment, I was even more horrified at the possibility of my mother or someone in my family coming to look for me and finding Rabastan and I in a similarly compromising position.

So, I promptly pulled my boyfriend back downstairs to the ballroom where there were plenty of witnesses watching our every move.

***

The rest of the week passed with monotony.

Every day the Echols household oozed with sickening affection and every day I had to remind myself that there were strings attached. It took a more effort than it should have to keep my head above water instead of drowning in the river of family love and approval. I kept to my room, the realm of sanity, as much as possible but it was never long before someone (mainly my mother) would come looking for me.

I quickly found out that, in my absence, my mother had gone even more mental than before. Presumably after she’d found out that I was dating a bloke from one of the most prominent pureblood families, she’d gone bought every ball gown in England for me to wear to the various social events we were invited to this season.

All I had to do was pick out a dress to wear for each night- as we were invited to a ball every single night of the week- and put it on. Usually, I just grabbed one randomly and threw it over my head. Then I’d flick my wand in the way that Rose and Tamora taught me to take care of hair and make up. Not exactly a stimulating process.

So Sunday morning, I dragged my feet all the way downstairs to the dining room for breakfast- yawning the whole way- and was entirely unsurprised by the first words out of my mother’s mouth.

“Good morning, sweetheart!” She simpered maternally. I know, it was beyond disturbing. “Are you excited for tonight?”

“Sure,” I replied drowsily. I had no idea who was throwing what swanky ball tonight but I really wasn’t interested. I already had a dress and a dance partner, so what was the point of even thinking about it?

She and my father- who had only just looked over his copy of the Morning Prophet as I started buttering my toast- laughed indulgently. As if I had said the most delightfully clever thing in the world.

“Sure? That’s all? I thought you’d be itching for it to be night time,” my father chuckled.

I shrugged indifferently. “Why? It’s just another party.”

This seemed to amuse them again.

“Just another party?” my mother repeated. “Love, this is the ball of the season! It’s the Minister of Magic’s Annual Christmas Eve Ball!”

The Minister of Magic’s Annual Christmas Eve Ball. My heart sank into my stomach and my blood ran cold. The Minister of Magic’s Annual Christmas Eve Ball. I was surely going to be sick. The Minister of Magic’s Annual Christmas Eve Ball. My stomach rolled and heaved uselessly several times before I realized I’d had yet to even bite into my toast.

I’d completely forgotten about that horrendous event. The yearly torture I was forced to go through was never quite completely without The Minister of Magic’s Annual Eve Christmas Ball. The one where every prominent family or important person in the Magical community was invited.

Sirius and I had, of course, always stuck like glue during this one, even more so than with all of the others. The only two people in the ballroom that were being ripped in half by obligation and desire. It was a rare balancing act we did on a daily basis (one that he got sick of, I guess).Pretending to be perfect pureblood children and also showing the world that we weren’t like them, we had risen above our raising. The act was particularly difficult to keep up during this event. So we clung together just in case one of us needed rescuing. He’d whisk me to the dance floor where our Hogwarts friends would inevitably be and we would talk to them nonchalantly there, often unnoticed with all the festivities around us.

But I had no Sirius this year.

Oh, he’d be there. Undoubtedly.

The Potters were always at these events, being one of the most respected families in our world. And since he and Potter were in the passionate throws of their bromance he would certainly be at James’s side. He’d show up if only to see his family squirm in the discomfort of having to share the ballroom with such a traitor.

But it would be painfully different this time. Because I had no partner in this balancing act anymore. I wouldn’t have someone to save me if someone who really knew me said something in front of a pureblood. I wouldn’t be able to say anything to my friends as he twirled me around. I wouldn’t even be able to smile at them from a distance across the room.

Instead, I knew, I was going to have to act the part of good pureblood daughter to the fullest extent. Half way would not be enough this time. I wouldn’t even be able to acknowledge my friends. Nora was staying with the Prewetts for the Holiday, since her parents decided to visit her brother in Germany (where he was doing some top secret work for the Department of Mysteries), so this time both she and Lena would be there and I would have to pretend they weren’t.

That would be the hardest part.

My appetite had evaporated, I picked at my food for several moments as the conversation between my parents moved onto other things. Then, when I could stand it no longer, I abruptly excused myself from the table and went to my room.

I paced for a long time before deciding to make the best of things. There was nothing I could do about having to ignore my friends. But that didn’t mean I had to be completely miserable. There was still a way I could have some fun at this catastrophe.

I went to my freakishly large closet and searched through the abundance of ball gowns my mother had bought for me. I extracted several options and then tried them on one by one trying to see myself through the eyes of a bloke. Which one was enough honey to draw the most elusive of flies?

Finally, I slipped the silky emerald green fabric of a new dress over my head and looked at my reflection in the mirror. It looked…good. Even thought I had no makeup on and my hair was a mess this dress managed to create the allusion of sex appeal I didn’t have. My green eyes popped wildly, my hair looked even darker and my porcelain skin created a nice contrast. Something about the way it draped elegantly over my frame made me look taller.

I knew instantly, this was the one that would drive him wild.

It was a backless halter that hugged my curves at just the right places with a skirt that flared out playfully at my knees. It had a V-neck that showed off just the right amount of cleavage. It covered enough that my father and brothers wouldn’t completely flip out when they saw me descend the stairs but, at the same time, hinted tantalizingly enough to keep the eyes one me tonight. I had to hand it to my mother on this one; she knew what would drive boys mental.

It may have been risky but I didn’t care. I was feeling vengeful today and this was the perfect way of seeking my justice. I now understood why Kathlena always called girls in general the artful gender. Was this how women in the olden days operated? Was this how they kept their sanity and got their way? The cloak-and-dagger method? If that’s what you could call this. There was absolutely nothing subtle about this dress.

That was the idea though. Everything about this dress screamed ‘notice me!’ And, damn it that was exactly what he was going to do tonight if I had anything to say about it.

He’d kissed me, which meant he must find me mildly attractive on a physical level, so tonight I was going to torture him as best I could. It wasn’t subtle by any means but it was a more furtive way of making sure he was the one writhing in discomfort this time.

The only down side was that, while torturing Sirius, I would also be accomplishing the goal I knew my mother had ultimately had when she bought this dress. Because this dress would drive Rabastan crazy as well.

He was my boyfriend after all. I may not know a lot about having a boyfriend but I knew that any boyfriend assumed that his girlfriend dressed up for him. Not some guy she wanted to piss off even more. And when said girlfriend dressed up her boyfriend usually tried to enjoy that to the fullest extent.

I shivered, but not because I was cold.

Maybe this dress wasn’t such a great idea after all. I mean, I was only a fifteen year old witch, not a twenty-two year old runway model.

“Oh! You look gorgeous!”

I nearly jumped out of my skin at the sound of Rosalie’s voice. I hadn’t even heard her come in. I looked at her behind me in the mirror. If I looked gorgeous there were not words for Rosalie’s caliber of beauty. Though she seemed to be very stuck on the same shade of red for all of her gowns, no one could deny that the girl knew exactly what worked for her. The dress draped over her willowy form and dipped off of her shoulders tantalizingly. No doubt she and Rosier were going to do what they had been doing a lot lately (though, thankfully this time it would not be in my bed).

I grimaced, though not entirely about her comment. “Really? I was thinking of putting on a different one. “

“Don’t you dare,” she said severely. “Come here, I’ll do your hair.”

She came closer, hiked her dress up to reveal her wand (strapped to her leg by a garter) and pointed it at my head. Pink spirals came from the tip and wove themselves around my locks like a snake coiling around its prey. Within seconds, my hair was in a very fancy up-do.

She surveyed me carefully, biting her bottom lip. “It needs something.” Her eyes narrowed in concentration as she tried to figure out what was missing. “Ah!” Her face lit with knowledge. She flicked her wand once more and small white flowers wove themselves into my hair as well. She smiled in approval, “Of course! Perfect!”

For once she let me do my own makeup. Though she did bark several directions from my bed (where she lounged until I was ready).

“Finally, we can go!” She huffed dramatically; once I announced I was ready as I would ever be.

My legs turned to jelly, making it clear that the only way I was going was if I was dragged. There was a spark of hope in me that I was about to fall violently ill and wouldn’t have to go but Rosalie was there to squash it immediately. She pulled me downstairs, where our parents were gossiping and demanded that we all leave immediately.

You’d think that she and Rosier hadn’t seen each other for years rather than hours with the way she acted. I stared at her dubiously. No way could he be that good of a snog. It was Rosier for Merlin’s sake!

“Alright, Rose, we’re going,” My mother laughed. “Mira, take my arm, sweetheart.”
With a grimace, I obeyed. I was feeling sick enough as it was, side-long apparition was certainly not going to help that fact. But she would probably have an aneurysm if I suggested Floo Powder. This event was too formal to arrive covered in soot. I shut my eyes tight and braced myself for the sucking feeling. The invisible hook seemed yank on my belly button and I was being pulled forward into a black hole.

Breathlessly, I felt my feet touch the ground again. My stomach heaved in protest, but I’d been prepared for this. That’s why I hadn’t eaten all day. I was not about to embarrass myself at the biggest event of the season by vomiting all over my dress.

I opened my eyes to the usual splendor at the Minister’s Manor. Every nook and cranny was filled with glimmering Christmas decorations; tinsel, garland, glittering trees, red bows, white lights. Candles and mistletoe floated over head. Violins serenaded the throngs of guests, all dressed to the letter in their most beautiful gowns and refined dress robes. The dining table was aching under all of the food it supported and the ballroom was waiting in the wings for dancing couples to litter its marble floors.

The meticulous details around the lavish space could only be attributed to one woman- a woman who could rival my mother in the art of being a good hostess. Celeste Burby the regal wife of Richard Burby, Minister of Magic.

I shook my head at the heavenly site and almost forgot my nausea amongst the awe it inspired. Almost.

Just as I was mentally giving the woman kudos for her exquisite taste and party throwing expertise, she appeared in all her glory.

“Caitira!” she exclaimed upon seeing my mother.

“Celeste, darling!”

They embraced each other and kissed cheeks primly before the excited chatter began.

Celeste Burby was once Celeste Avery, the first internationally famous magical supermodel and my mother’s childhood best friend.

So, needless to say, once they got together you could hardly pry them apart. I felt a rare stab of admiration for my mother and aunt as they laughed with the Minister of Magic’s wife as if she was just some everyday person rather than an internationally famous witch, who once modeled for the most expensive magical clothing companies in the world and carved the way for women in the world of magical business. Celeste had the uncanny knack of getting along with everyone, even the “blood traitors”. She was the perfect wife for a Minister of Magic, able to set her personal views aside and be polite to all sorts while maintaining her status in the pureblood world.

The Minister himself followed his wife a few moments later and struck up a conversation with my father and uncle about a business deal they may be in on together in the very near future.

I looked around and found the Rosalie had already disappeared, off to find Rosier no doubt (ew). So I was on my own. Not for long though. It was only a matter of time before Rabastan would find me and then I knew I’d be at his side for the remainder of the evening. I forced my expression to remain neutral while inwardly gagging at what that implied.

Tonight, I would be forced to be what I loathed. One of those gooey, submissive pureblood girls who followed her parents or refined young pureblood boyfriend around and oozed false perfection all night long. I’d always laughed at those girls but tonight I would have to play that role myself.

I didn’t dare wander away from my family. There was too much danger of running into my friends or worse the Potters and him. I wouldn’t risk my neck like that in front of all these witnesses. So, I stood there quietly next to my mother like a good pureblood daughter.

“Oh and Mira! Darling, you were so quiet I almost didn’t recognize you!” I heard the Minister’s wife laughed and snapped back to attention.

I forced an easy going smile and said, “Hello, Auntie Celeste.”

She hugged me in the same way she’d hugged my mother and I had to be careful not to wrinkle her pink designer gown.

“You look stunning, sweetheart! Absolutely stunning!” She told me blue eyes glittering over the astonishingly high cheekbones.

“That she does,” a deep voice from behind agreed. A strong arm snaked around my waist and I stiffened for a split second. Would I ever have a normal reaction when cute blokes snuck up on me like that? Probably not.

After a heartbeat, I began to breathe again. I forced a sweet smile and relaxed into the role I’d be portraying this evening with a resigned sigh. “Hello, love,” I greeted Rabastan cheerfully. Though I didn’t feel anything even resembling cheerful.

“Hello,” he grinned wickedly before giving me a quick peck on the lips. Then he turned to my parents and our hosts with a polite bow. He politely showered compliments on the adults and engaged in small talk; pointing the Minister, my father and the uncle in the direction his father was, before getting to the ultimate point of his appearance. “Mrs. Echols?”

My mother giggled.

Yes, giggled. Like a bloody school girl!

“Oh Rabastan, dear, I’ve told you call me Caitira.”

He grinned charmingly before continuing, “Caitira, would you mind terribly if I stole Mirabelle for a dance?”

“Of course not, sweetheart!” She gushed, “I’m sure Mira would love to! Wouldn’t you, darling?”

Four pairs of eyes turned to me expectantly.

Did they actually expect me to answer? I thought that question was rhetorical. It certainly should have been. I mean, I couldn’t very well refuse, could I? He was my boyfriend after all. And even if he wasn’t, refusing would be rude. My pureblood manners would shun an act as vile as refusing a good, handsome, pureblood boy!

But, apparently, they honestly did want an answer.

So I did the only thing I could do, I nodded and grinned as if it was my most cherished wish.

Rabastan took my hand immediately, inclined his head towards the breathless grown women fawning over him and said simply, “Excuse us, ladies.” Then, he led me to the dance floor.

“Thank you,” I breathed once we were gliding crossed the floor to the music.

He chuckled, “You looked like you could use someone to rescue you.”

I cocked an eyebrow at this. I needed no one to rescue me and he knew the feminist in me had her claws out at such a simple statement.

“Oh you know what I mean!”

“Mmmhmm,” I smirked. “You’d better say that.”

We laughed and he kissed me again quickly before twirling me around.

That’s when I saw them.

What was it about this boy that made me let my guard down this way? Why could I never keep my head in the bloody game when he was around me? How come I always forgot about important things when he started talking to me? Arrgah. It was becoming an issue.

Because, standing in a group just off of the floor, were Kat and Nora. In fact, it was a whole group of Ravenclaws standing together, laughing and talking.

My heart sang a tune of longing as I watched-captivated- over my boyfriend’s shoulder. He was saying something to me in a quiet, amused tone but I didn’t hear a single word. I was too engrossed in the group I should be in right now. I should have been laughing at the joke Leo was telling, I should be teasing Gabe about the girl he fancied with Everett and I should be flirting with the seventh years hanging around Kathlena too. It was beyond frustrating.

I could see Lanora watching me with her peripheral vision and took the opportunity to convey my feelings surreptitiously. I grimaced and made my eyes wide with a silent apology. I was sure she and the rest of my mates already knew I wouldn’t be able to speak to them tonight (um… we are Ravenclaws, thankyouverymuch) but I still felt horrid for pretending not to know them. Even if it was necessary, it was lower than low.

The song ended and another began. Rabastan didn’t let go of me so we kept dancing. I tried to tune in enough to laugh and “uh-huh” at all the right times but I was on high alert again now.

I’d seen my friends now all that was left was to see...

That’s when I spotted him.

Think of the devil, I suppose, and he shall appear. And appear he did. Circe, could the bloke possibly get more gorgeous? If he did, I was in a world of trouble.

Even though I currently danced with the most coveted bloke in seventh year, even though he was murmuring funny thing seductively in my ear, even though his warm hand was at the small of my back (dangerously low I might add); I still got a knot in my throat.

My stomach rolled with the parallels my past and present had become. I wanted more than anything to push my boyfriend away, walk up to Sirius, grab his hand, drag his stubborn ass to some dark, deserted room and snog his brains out again.

It was as I flashed back to that last kiss that I realized he was staring at me.

I knew that stare too. It was the stare of betrayal and anger. His eyes were cold and hard while the rest of his face was just blank. Potter nudged him on the shoulder and said something but he had no reaction. The prat must have noticed that Sirius didn’t crack a wicked grin or bark his trademark laugh because his eyebrows knit together in confusion. He followed Sirius’s eye line to see what had his attention so intently then glared at me as Rabastan gave me another twirl.

I felt my own eyes harden and my lips pressed together in a stubborn thin line. Merlin, how I disliked that prick.

He smirked at me insufferably and poked his friend again. This time Sirius responded, having noticed the obvious change in my expression. James whispered something to him, clapped him on the back and the next thing I knew he was strutting up to some sixth year Hufflepuff and leading her to the dance floor.

It took everything within me not to leap from my boyfriend’s arms and claw his eyes out. But I restrained myself and let my instincts take over. From birth, I’d been taught to have a thick skin. With two older brothers wrestling me to the ground every five seconds as a kid and parents who called too much emotion a weakness, I’d learned how to hide my true feelings.

My face became a frosty mask of indifference towards him and I determinedly turned my attentions back to Rabastan.

“Circe,” he murmured. “Could Mrs. Moon have picked a more appalling dress?” He turned me so that I faced the woman in question. She was a plain woman with blond hair and a particularly round quality about her. The dress she wore could not have flattered her less but she seemed happy enough. “Looks like two pigs fighting under a blanket, doesn’t it?”

I forced a laugh while inwardly outraged at such a comment. I knew Sirius was watching over the Hufflepuff’s shoulder and refused to give him the satisfaction of watching me scold my judgmental boyfriend.

“Well, at least she isn’t as bad as Mrs. Greengrass,” I whispered.

I knew I was picking on a pureblood and that was slightly dangerous but I felt confident enough in my situation at the moment not to worry. I was here, wasn’t I? I was proving my loyalty. They’d been given no reason to doubt me. I hadn’t run away. I hadn’t talked to Sirius. I wasn’t even joining my Ravenclaw friends in an innocent conversation tonight. Instead I was dancing with a young Death Eater. I was thoroughly sickening myself in every way in order to stay in the good graces of family and their circle. Why shouldn’t I be able to joke without someone suspecting foul play?

“I mean, honestly,” I continued sounding oddly like my cousin Rose. “What is she? A Muggle on Halloween? If she had any more makeup on I’d run from the room screaming.”

He laughed and I felt a sharp pang of guilt. Even though I disliked Mrs. Greengrass and her ilk immensely, it was unfair of me to criticize her like that. Yes, she wore too much eye makeup and crimson on her cheeks and her lipstick was a few shades too bright. But when had that given me the right to be so judgmental? What was happening to me? When had I become one of the cruel snobs I’d always despised? What had made me say such an underhanded thing?

Calm yourself, the methodical voice of Andromeda ordered in my head, nearly making me jump out of my skin. You’re just mad at my git of a cousin. You’re not a pureblood bitch.
How do you know? I challenged her silently. You know you’re truly loosing your mind when you begin to answer the voices in your head.

Because, she huffed. If you were one of them, you wouldn’t be feeling guilty right now.

Rabastan chuckled and said something but I was too distracted to hear him.

My eyes found Sirius’s again. I felt them begin to silently plead with him and I saw his face soften into confusion. But before he could react further, I reigned myself in and became indifferent again.

I tuned back into Rabastan’s on going commentary about the people around us and laughed loudly at a joke I didn’t find very funny.

The song ended again and my boyfriend stopped dancing.

When I looked up at him, his eyes were unsettlingly soft. I knew what he was going to say before he said it and my heart sped up, though not necessarily in a good way.

“Come on,” he whispered as he took my hand. He kissed my head and began leading me off the floor. “Let’s take a walk.”

I let him, of course. What else could I do? I couldn’t very well pull my hand away and say, ‘No, because that would require being alone with you’ to my own boyfriend. You just don’t do that! Not if you’re normal.

Which, okay, I am not but he didn’t know that yet.


“Rabastan!”

We turned to see his mother beckoning him over, no doubt because she wanted to proudly boast about her dashing young son. This happened a lot at these balls, I’d found out over the past week or so. I was exceedingly surprised I hadn’t been dragged over to meet on of my father’s Ministry colleagues or my mother’s friends. Never before had I been pulled aside by my parents so much. Usually, Rabastan would also be put proudly on display as their ‘stunning daughter’s fantastic catch’ (and yes, I’m quoting verbatim). In an attempt to avoid being the ‘fantastic catch’ this time I took immediate evasive maneuvers.

Rabastan sighed wearily.

“Go on,” I told him eagerly. I squeezed his hand reassuringly. “We’ll take our walk later. All that dancing made me thirsty. I’m going to go get a drink.” Not a total lie. I was thirsty, my throat had dried up like the Sahara but I highly doubted it was because of the dancing.

“Fine,” he pouted, briefly. Then, he kissed my cheek and went to his parents’ side. I watched him walk away with a sigh. Why did I like that so much? Where was my self-control these days? When had I become some hormone-crazed pureblood princess?

I shook my head and went to get a drink. It was as I sipped daintily on the goblin-made champagne that someone came beside me and a husky voice whispered in my ear.

”You know, conformity does not become you.”

I tensed and nearly choked on the swig of champagne in my mouth. Did he hate me this much? What had I done to make him want to cause my homicide? If my parents or anyone else in their circle for that matter saw him standing so close to me I’d be dead by tomorrow for sure.

“What do you want, Black?” I muttered through my teeth, trying not to move my lips. I’m surprised he even understood me.

“What do you want?”

I didn’t look at him, mainly because I didn’t want anyone to think I was actually conversing with him but also because I knew from that voice his blue eyes were gazing right through my soul. If I looked at him I’d never be able to look away again. I would melt into a puddle on the spot and everyone would know that Sirius Black still had me eating out of the palm of those big strong hands of his. I could not let that happen.

“Right now? I want you to quit harassing me,” I gritted my teeth tighter.

“If you didn’t want to be harassed you shouldn’t have worn that dress and it isn’t harassment if you like it.”

“Well, I don’t.” I answered the second part while biting back a smile at the first. So it had worked. He had noticed my dress after all.

“You sure seemed to like it in the corridor that night. Or was I imagining the part where you kissed me back?”

“Sssshhh!” I hissed at him like a cat as my face flush red.

That seemed to be enough of an answer for him because he went on, “I know you can’t talk to me here. But when school comes back we need to talk.”

“I-“

“Don’t argue, Mira. Just meet me at our place once term starts. Midnight. Don’t be late.” He walked away quickly and I felt icy loneliness mix confusingly with the warmth of affection.

Half of me was indignant at the fact that he thought I’d be at his beck and call that way while the other half was over the moon that he wanted to talk to me. To see me away from the fear and the pressure of this feud neither of us owned. Could Sirius Black actually be missing me?


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