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Moonlit Meetings by KilledByDrapery
Chapter 37 : After the Dawn
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 2


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 Chapter 37: After the Dawn

 
I had the temperature up so high on the shower faucets that as it barrelled down on me, drenching my body--clothes and all--while steam circled around me like a tornado. Remus sat on the floor next to the shower stall, leaning up against the bathroom wall tiles like he wasn’t completely conscious of where he was. I closed my eyes, tilting my head up toward the ceiling and willed my body to get warm. It didn’t matter what temperature the water was, it still felt like ice water was being pumped through my veins.

“It would probably help you get warm if you weren’t still wearing your frozen clothing in the shower,” Remus mumbled under his breath--but just loud enough for me to hear over the sound of the water--like he knew what I was thinking.

I opened my eyes and tilted my head away from the stream of water so I could look at him. “I’m a happily married woman, Remus,” I told him jokingly.

“No, you’re not,” Remus countered. “You’re not married. You’re in a relationship, sure, but I’m not sure that’s even ‘happily’ anymore.”

I frowned.

“Plus, none of that even matters. It’s not weird,” he added almost as an afterthought.

I thought about earlier that morning when the sun had just peaked up over the horizon and he had transformed in front of me. It hadn’t been weird when he had been sitting in front of me in the snow naked, even though it probably should have been.

Pack mentality and all that, I guess.

Deciding that since his eyes were closed as he sat there that it didn’t matter anyway, I stripped off my dripping, cold clothing--everything besides my knickers, that is--reaching over from the tub and plopping them down in the sink. He was right--as he usually was, being Remus and all--and my skin warmed so quickly that after a moment I actually had to turn the water’s temperature down so I didn’t burn myself.

“Better?” Remus asked.

I sighed happily, basking in the water’s warmth. “Better,” I agreed.

After a few minutes more of silence, I looked back over at him. There was dried blood around his face from whatever he had hunted the night before as a wolf, and the cut under his eye had actually started to bruise about a half inch out from the opening.

“You should get cleaned up, too,” I told him. “You look like you fought a bear.”

“Not too far off, I’m sure,” he chuckled.

I shot him a pointed look even though he still wasn’t looking at me. “You didn’t fight a bear last night.”

“How would I know?” he countered. “I don’t remember what I did last night.”

I scoffed, grabbing a blue shampoo bottle off the built-in shelf in the wall in front of me. Squeezing a generous puddle into my palm, I capped it and put it back. Stepping back from the water, I started to lather it into my mess of hair, grumbling everytime I hit a tangle. The change didn’t help my hair situation in the slightest.

Remus opened his eyes, pushing himself up and stepped forward to the mirror above the sink. He used the side of his palm to wipe away the steam from the glass, peering inside the steam-less circle at his reflection. “I’ve seen worse,” he mused. “I once woke up inside a cow’s carcass.”

I looked over at him in disbelief, my stomach flopping as I tried to imagine doing the same. “Inside?”

“Inside.” He turned his head slightly, touching at the darkening area around the cut. “It was a farm about a kilometer away from my house and I had basically cut my way through half the herd by the time I woke up. I actually bathed in the pig trough afterward and walked back home wearing a lady’s frock that I found on a clothesline.”

Unable to stop myself from laughing, I grinned at him. “A frock?”

Remus glanced over at me and nodded. “Flowers and all.” He paused, trying to remember all of the details. “I actually went a couple days later and put it back, washed and everything.”

“That’s so ridiculous,” I laughed. “But I guess it’s better than you just stealing that lady’s frock completely.”

I had washed the shampoo and subsequent conditioner out of my hair, and I reached forward, grabbing a washcloth and lathering it up with soap.

“Come over here,” I told him, washcloth in hand.

Remus looked over, paused for a moment, and then stepped closer. Before I had a chance to tell him to, he peeled off the clothing from the upper half of his body, giving me full access to his chest. He removed everything from the bottom half as well, following my lead and leaving on his boxers. The blood from his kill was dried not only on his face, but down his throat and chest as well.

I moved back a step so he could join me in the tub, and then started on his chest, moving the washcloth along the trail of blood so the crimson/brown turned to a sudsy pink with the soap and water. He stood still as I worked, watching my face like he was trying to figure out a puzzle.

It was weird, my brain told me, that we were speaking this candidly about the change. But it felt so therapeutic to listen to his story. As though I had always been waiting for this moment--the moment I could just let go and feel understood. Like my life these past few years--stumbling and alone, confused and afraid--hadn’t been a complete and utter waste. I had just been waiting for this moment.

Naked. In a shower. Next to one of my boyfriend’s best mates.

When I worked my way up to his neck, he tilted so I could get a better angle and then opened his mouth to speak.

“How could you remember everything that happened last night?”

“I took the potion Dumbledore sent me,” I explained, “but when you howled, it was like…” I trailed off, trying to figure out how to describe it. “It was like my body just reacted. The werewolf part of me wanted to find you, so she sort of… broke through? But I think the potion grounded me enough that I could see and feel what was happening, but I just wasn’t the one with control. Like I was sitting in the back seat and she was the one driving.”

Remus watched me curiously as I spoke, taking in every word like it was oxygen.

When he didn’t speak, I continued with a question of my own. “Does he know about you as well?”

“Dumbledore?”

I nodded.

“He’s known for ages, I think,” Remus told me with a slight shrug. “I was bitten when I was five and the Headmaster was actually the one who brought me my letter before school.”

“In person?” I asked, shocked.

Remus nodded, a slight smile making its way onto his face. “We moved around a lot before I started school. I think my dad was so worried someone would find out about me, or I would get out and hurt someone. So Dumbledore found me before my eleventh birthday and told me that he could help me.”

“So he knew when he went to see you?”

He nodded again. “He might have just found out, or he might have known since it happened, I can’t be sure.”

“And he makes you the potion, too?” I turned slightly, running the washcloth under the water and reapplying soap. Turning back to him, I moved up to his jawline, dabbing at his skin as gently as I could.

“When he has the ingredients.”

I frowned at him. “What do you mean?”

“Sometimes they’re not easy to get, so I turn. It’s not too bad, since I have a safe place to turn when need be.” He paused for a moment, then reached out and pushed a lock of wet hair behind my ear. “You’re still young. He probably thinks it would be better to train your body to accept the potion, so he gives what he’s got to you.”

“I’m the same age as you,” I pointed out.

“I meant in the sense of how long you’ve been a werewolf, Serena.”

I blinked at him. “And that matters?”

“The potion works better when you take it young,” he explained. “When I started taking it in school…” he trailed off. “It didn’t work very well. I used to throw it back up most months, and the other months it didn’t stop the transformation at all.”

Moving up, I dabbed at the area around his cut. He winced but didn’t pull back, his eyes locked with mine. I trust you, they seemed to say. I wondered if he could see the same words echoed in my own.

“How long until it started to work?”

Remus considered for a moment. “About halfway through my third year, I think. I don’t really remember, to be honest. It was a… long process.”

My heart broke for him.

I reached up, running a hand down the side of his face, careful to avoid the bruised areas. “Remus…”

He smiled into my touch, but I could tell the memories weren’t being kind on him.

There was a small tapping on the bathroom door and I jumped. Remus whipped around, putting an arm out and pulling me behind him, pressing me between his bare back and the shower wall. I could feel my heart thumping loudly in my chest and I wondered if Remus could feel it as well.

“Colton?” The voice was James’s and I let out a breath I hadn’t been aware I had been holding. He tapped once more on the door and I heard the doorknob turn, his head peeking inside. It took him a moment to squint through the steam but when he found us, his eyes grew.

Remus didn’t say anything. I didn’t say anything. James looked like he sure as hell didn’t actually want to say anything. But, after a moment of staring at us, he cleared his throat.

“You guys should, uh…” he trailed off for a second, his eyes looking down to where my bare hip and thigh were poking out around Remus’s clothed hip. “You should hurry up. Peter just woke up, so I’m sure the girls won’t be far behind.” His eyes snapped back up to our faces, lingering on Remus’s, and then he disappeared, pulling the door shut behind him.

With the door shut, I stepped out from behind Remus, bloodied washcloth still in hand.

“That was…” I started, but trailed off, unsure what was the right word.

“Awkward?” Remus offered.

“Horrid?” I countered.

“Super bloody weird?”

I gave a short laugh. “Bloody.”

Remus raised his eyebrows at me. “Really?”

I grinned at him, holding up the washcloth and pointing at his face. “Bloody,” I repeated.

“You’re having a mental breakdown,” he told me with a short eyeroll.

“And you look like a trainwreck,” I countered. “But he’s right, they’ll be getting up soon since we conned them into going to bed so early last night.”

Remus nodded, taking the washcloth from my hand and pointing out of the shower. “Then away with you. Go get dressed.”

“Yes sir.”




After I dried off, I magicked my hair dry and put it in a bun on the top of my head, and dressed in last night’s pajamas that I never got a chance to wear. I left Remus to the shower and slipped out of the bathroom, closing the door behind me.

Sirius was in the hallway.

He was just standing there, looking at me oddly. Honestly, I couldn’t have said whether the look was from the night before, or from me coming out of a bathroom that still had the shower running, but he didn’t say anything on either case.

“Morning,” he said, his voice not giving anything away. His face, however, was blank. He sounded so normal, with a face that looked so...not normal, that I felt a chill go down my spine.

Back to reality, Serena.

“Morning,” I said in response and blinked at him, waiting for him to say something else. When he didn’t, I pointed toward my bedroom door. “I should…”

He nodded slowly and I looked away, darting through the bedroom door and pulling it shut, trying my best not to make any noise. Lily and Mary were still asleep when I looked to their unmoving forms, so I started toward my dresser to grab a set of clean clothes that would be more socially acceptable to wear all day than my pajamas were.

I was just finishing pulling on a pair of fuzzy socks when the girls began to stir, woken by my hip hitting into my end table and a muffled bullocks from a moment earlier.

“What time is it?” Mary’s voice was groggy when she spoke.

“Morning time,” Lily’s soft response came not a moment after. Lily turned onto her stomach, stretching her arms out in front of her with a groan.

I stood up again, rubbing the part of my hip that had hit into the table. Stepping back over Lily’s body, I made my way over to my desk and sat down. When I looked over at Mary--who was now sitting up--she was grinning at me.

“What?” I asked, stomach dropping in anticipation that she might ask why I wasn’t in my bed the night before.

“Today’s the day,” she announced.

“What are you talking about?” Lily grumbled into her pillow.

“Today’s the day that Lily frilly-pants Evans goes to a club. And dances. Like a human being.”

Lily turned and glared in the direction of Mary, even though she couldn’t see her from where she was laying. “I am a human being, Mary. And I don’t have frilly pants.”

“Just frilly knickers,” I nodded solemnly.

Lily sat up at that, face flushed with pink as she threw her pillow at me. “I do not! I have perfectly normal, plain knickers thank you very much.”

I shot Mary a knowing glance, grinning. “Methinks the lady doth protest too much. Do thou thinketh the same, milady?”

Mary nodded exuberantly. “Me thinketh the same thing...eth.”

“You’re the one with the frilly knickers,” Lily retorted in her best scolding voice. “You have a boyfriend and all.”

Mary raised her eyebrows, looking from Lily to myself slowly.

I frowned at her. “Just because I have a boyfriend doesn’t mean that I have frilly knickers,” I told her matter-of-factly.

Mary narrowed her eyes at me for a moment, thinking, and then a wide, amused grin reached across her face. “Or that he’s even seen her knickers.”

Both of us looked at Mary. I’m not sure who was more shocked, Lily (Gryffindor’s eternal good girl) or myself (the one who knew the full story).

Mary!” Lily screeched, her hands flying to her face in horror.

I wanted to cry out and tell her she was ridiculous, but honestly… After the night I had, what was the point? Sirius hadn’t seen my knickers yet. James had. And Remus had. But nope. My boyfriend had definitely not yet seen my knickers. I was in my sixth year, for Merlin’s sake. It’s not like I was a child anymore. Why hadn’t my boyfriend seen my knickers?

Self Goals:

1. Stop showing knickers to people who aren’t my boyfriend
2. Show boyfriend knickers


Mary’s face extended: brows raising, jaw dropping, eyes widening. “Merlin’s beard!” she shouted, then lowered her voice when she realized how loud she had gotten, whispering, “It’s true, isn’t it?” I didn’t say anything. “He hasn’t seen your knickers!”

I could feel the crimson creeping up into my cheeks, but when I looked over at Lily, it was her face that was the most pink. “No,” I declared, trying to own it. “He’s never seen my knickers.”

“Honestly,” Mary breathed, “I’ve officially heard it all. I can die having seen everything the world has to offer.”

I crossed my arms over my chest. “Why is that so hard to believe?”

Mary and Lily looked at each other and then back to me.

“Because,” Lily started. “You guys are always fawning all over each other.”

“Yeah, aren’t you, like… in love or something?” Mary added.

I shrugged. “We’ve never been alone like that before.”

Not with Sirius, that is. I couldn’t stop my brain from flashing me memories of my body pressed up against James in the Room of Requirement after the Winter Ball. His hands on my body…

Was I getting more flushed? Bullocks.

“This isn’t about me,” I deflected. “This is about whether or not Lily does, in fact, have frilly knickers.”

Lily huffed a sigh, pushing the blankets off her legs and getting up onto her feet. “Suddenly, I feel the need to shower in order to get away from you crazy people.”

“That’s a fair assessment,” Mary laughed.

Lily rustled around in her things, grabbing her morning supplies and disappeared out of the door. Mary yawned, stretching, and laid back down a moment later, declaring that she was going to sleep the day away.

“I’m going to go see my boyfriend,” I told her, grabbing a jumper from the end of my bed and pulling it on. “The one who hasn’t seen my knickers.”

“As opposed to all of your boyfriends who have seen your knickers,” Mary mumbled from behind her arm, which she had thrown over her face to block out the light. Her words amused her and she let out a tired laugh. “Begone, friend. I hope you wore cute knickers.”

I laughed and stepped over to her, dropping a scarf from the top of my dresser over her face. She smiled, draping it over her eyes as a makeshift sleep mask.

“I love you, S”

I laughed. “I love you too, M.”

When I walked out of the bedroom and down the hall, I had to stop in front of the door to Tyler’s old room and take a deep breath. I could hear them talking on the other side and I wondered how much of it was about me and how much of it was them deciding to put me down in my sleep.

I knocked softly on the door and then turned the handle, pushing the door inward. When I stepped inside, I was hit with a wall of laughter. Peter was red in the face, Remus was sitting on Tyler’s old bed, leaning up against the wall, and James and Sirius were sitting cross-legged on their respective floor-sitting mattresses. All of them were laughing and Remus was the first one to notice me, turning to me with an amused grin on his face.

“Serena!” he greeted.

The other guys turned to look at me and Remus motioned for me to come inside, patting the mattress next to him. I closed the door behind me and went over, sitting where he had offered and pushed myself back, leaning up against the wall as I looked over at the guys.

“Peter was just reminding us about the time they all changed for the first time and he realized his animagus was a rat,” Remus explained.

“You don’t get to choose what you transform into?” I asked, confused. I hadn’t seen Peter the night before, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t there. My werewolf might not have been able to see or smell him because he was so small.

“Unfortunately not,” Peter muttered, prompting the guys to let out another round of laughter.

I nodded to James and Sirius. “You two got lucky, then.”

Both of the guys looked mildly uncomfortable when I addressed them. Sirius glanced over at James, like he wanted to share in their feelings of me not telling them I was a werewolf, but James didn’t look back right away, which seemed to heighten the awkwardness in the air. Sirius looked back at me and forced a smile on his face.

“Sometimes it gets fleas.”

All eyes turned to Sirius.

“Fleas?” Remus asked, amusement and shock in his voice.

Sirius nodded. “Fleas. They itch like a horror.”

There was silence.

And then the laughter came back.

“Why haven’t you told us this before?” James exclaimed.

Peter piped in with, “Yeah we could have--”

“Fixed it?” Sirius cut him off with a laugh. “I’m not sure you--or anyone--would want to spend the time to give me a flea bath while transformed.”

“Yeah, you might have rabies,” James joked, reaching over and slugging Sirius in the shoulder.

“Who said I didn’t?” Sirius shot back with a wicked grin.

“Is it easy to become an animagus?” I asked between their laughter.

“You didn’t pay attention in transfiguration in the third year, did you?” Remus joked beside me.

I rolled my eyes at him. “Honestly, I was more worried about other things back then, Remus.”

James howled like a wolf and the boys laughed.

“You have to keep a mandrake leaf in your mouth from full-moon to full-moon,” Peter piped up. “And then make a potion and do a spell with it.”

I looked over at him, blinking. “That sounds...tedious.”

“Worth every second,” James said immediately, not missing a beat. His voice was strong and sure, but I heard a layer of emotion underneath when he looked over at Remus that couldn’t be missed.

They would do anything for him.

My chest hurt.

I pushed myself up, standing and making my way over to the door. “I should go check on my parents. Make sure they didn’t die or anything overnight.”

The guys looked at each other, but didn’t comment on my quick departure.

“We’ll see you down there soon,” Remus assured me when no one else spoke. I nodded and disappeared behind the door.
 






I knelt down, my knees turning wet with the damp grass in front of Tyler’s gravestone. Reaching forward, I pressed my palm against the smooth, cool stone face and sighed.

“I had this weird dream,” I started. I didn't need to say hi, I figured. He would know I was there if he had the ability to. “I think I was supposed to die yesterday.”

I paused, trying to put my thoughts into words but they were all coming to me in pieces. I pulled the bottom of my sweater down so it covered my bum and lowered myself down so I was sitting, knees up to my chin. I rested my chin on my knees for a moment, then turned my head and looked up at the brightening sky.

“James and them found me last night. I changed when I heard the howl and I couldn’t control anything, but I could feel it.” I turned my head back and looked at the headstone, looking at the etched “TYLER” in the stone. My eyes trailed over each crevice and I tried to picture him looking back at me, even though I hadn’t been able to do that in years. “I felt the control leave, Ty. Like it was all coming back only worse. I could actually remember it all.” I sighed and ran my hands over the top of my head, bringing them down to the back of my neck.

“Remus is the other werewolf. Though you probably already knew that…” I piped up again, then trailed off.

“There’s another werewolf?”

It wasn’t as though the voice behind me was foreign or strange, but I hadn’t been expecting my conversation to have another side.

My heart thumped angrily in my chest, startled by the interruption, and I looked up and back, assuring myself that it was just Casper and not someone else. The Gerard hair caught my eye and I turned back to Tyler’s headstone, willing my body to untense.

“Remus is another werewolf,” he repeated, rephrasing his question into a statement by way of answering himself. “You brought a werewolf home and you two were...loose last night?” he asked carefully, his voice flat.

A chill ran down my spine as I remembered the first time Casper learned about what I was. The anger. The hurt.

The rejection.

After a long, silent moment, Casper let out a bewildered sigh.

“Well that explains all of the howling last night, then.”

I heard a rustling of fabric and saw a sweatshirt fall to the ground beside me. Casper plopped down a moment later, crossing his legs in front of him. Turning, he looked over at my worried face.

“So you brought another werewolf home.”

I let out a breath I hadn’t been aware I had been holding. “I didn't know what he was.”

“Until last night,” he added.

I nodded. “Until last night.”

Casper was silent for another moment and then leaned over, bumping into my arm. “You have horrible luck.”

I couldn’t help it, I let out a laugh that filled the entire cemetery. The fact that Tyler would have found it hilarious too just seemed to make it all that funnier, and Casper was laughing beside me. When we stopped, Casper was still up against my arm and I leaned my head against him.

“Honestly, I don’t think I could do it,” he told me.

“What?” I asked, my voice coming out breathy in the chilled winter air, a puff emitting from my lips.

I felt him shift slightly, getting comfortable. “All of it. The werewolf stuff, the best friend drama, the Charlotte stuff.” He paused and then nudged me slightly, lowering his voice to add, “and whatever the hell is happening with James.”

I looked up from my spot against him. “What are you talking about? Nothing’s going on with James.”

“Right now?” asked Casper curiously. “Or ever?”

I didn’t respond to that and I was sure he knew why.

“If you don’t have feelings for Sirius anymore…” he began, then trailed off, offering me the opportunity to cut him off.

“I still have feelings for Sirius, Casper,” I told him plainly. “He’s my boyfriend.”

“I know he’s your boyfriend,” Casper sighed, “but if you’re having feelings for someone else…”

“I have feelings for Sirius. Strong feelings. That’s it.”

He was silent for a moment, pondering. I pondered too. As much as anyone could ponder while pondering their horrible relationship situation, that is. Pondering is ridiculous, I decided almost immediately.

“We’re going to a club tonight,” I announced before Casper could say anything silly again or ask me another ridiculous question.

Casper moved away from me so he could turn to face me square-on.

“A club,” he repeated.

“Yes,” I said with a curt nod.

“You’re going to a club tonight,” he repeated once more, his voice wavering a bit when he finished like he was trying to fight back laughter.

“Yes,” I told him again. “We’re going to a club tonight.”

Casper was silent as he blinked at me, confused. Then he turned to Tyler’s grave and said, “Ty, mate. I think your baby sister is going insane.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. “I’m not going insane, Casper.”

He glanced at me and then back to the stone. “Honestly, mate. Insane. She’s sixteen and talking about going to a club with both her boyfriend and his best mate--who she’s in love with--and another werewolf and a little pudgy guy that doesn’t talk much. I think we need to host an intervention.”

If Tyler could have laughed, he would have too. And he would chimed in with something else equally as ridiculous and funny. And I would have gotten mad at both of them and probably fumed and stormed off before realizing that I didn’t want to be mad at them and returning with my tail between my legs in surrender.

Before I had a tail, so to speak.

I rolled my eyes at him. “I’m going to the club with my friends,” I corrected him. “Which includes you, so you’re coming.”

Casper let out a barking laugh and picked himself up off the ground, brushing off the back of his pants and picking up his sweatshirt that he had been sitting on. “I’d rather eat my own vocal chords.”

I gave him a pointed look. “I highly doubt that.”

“I’d rather cut open my body and count all of the bones one by one.”

“Honestly, Casper...” I rolled my eyes with an exasperated sigh.

“I’d rather--”

I put a hand up to silence him and pulled myself off the ground as well, feeling the dampness of the snowy dirt soaking into my pants--which seemed to be becoming a habit in the last twenty four hours. I needed to invest in a good pair of snow pants.

“I get it,” I cut him off. “You’d rather be dead. Which is silly because I think Tyler would have rather been going to a club than chilling in a grave.”

Casper frowned at me. “It’s not fair to use your brother.”

I grinned at him. “You know I’m joking and so does he, Casper. Don’t be a stick in the mud.”

Casper stuck his tongue out at me childishly. “I’m still not going dancing. It’s not really my ‘scene’.”

I sighed. “Yeah, I guess that’s fair.”

Casper lightly set his fingers on the top of Tyler’s grave and slid them along the cool stone.

“You should go to The Broken Broomstick,” Casper offered a moment later, to my surprise.

“What?” I asked curiously, looking over at him like he was talking in another language.

“The club,” he offered, shooting me a look like he wasn’t sure why I was confused. “Tyler and I went there a couple times.”

I blinked at him. “You and my brother went to a club?”

“The Broken Broomstick,” he repeated. “It’s a muggle club a half hour train ride into the city. It’s supposed to be Halloween themed bar, but they play pretty normal club music.”

My brain couldn’t wrap itself around Casper and Tyler at a club. “A club…” I muttered, the side of my lips twitching into an amused grin.

Casper rolled his eyes. “Just check it out. You can charm your IDs and still be able to get home safe with the train since it runs late during the holidays for all the shopping traffic in the area.”

I laughed, smiling at him. “I’ll check it out.”




It didn’t take long before everyone was talking about The Broken Broomstick. I hadn’t specifically said it was only a girl’s night, so by the time I made it back home to change into yet another outfit that wasn’t soaked through with snow, and explained about Casper’s suggestion, all of the house guests knew about the plan. Including the boys, Charlotte and The Beard, and--unfortunately--my parents.

“So…” my mum started that afternoon while her and my dad were in the kitchen, flipping grilled cheese sandwiches on saucepans filled massive amounts of butter. “I hear you children are going out tonight.”

Lie? Don’t lie?

“Uh, yeah,” I told her, stepping up to the countertop and putting my palms down on it, feeling the cool granite seep into my skin. “I thought I’d take the girls out to show them the town.”

“And by ‘show them the town,’” Dad piped in, “you mean go dancing at a bar?”

“You don’t go dancing at a bar, honey,” Mum scolded goodnaturedly. “You go dancing at a discotech.”

“Nobody calls them that, Mum,” I told her, hoping that wouldn’t make them think more about it and tell me I couldn’t go.

“Clubs,” Dad offered, flipping a grilled cheese high into the air in a way that I was sure would end with it either stuck to the ceiling or flopped onto the floor in a messy splat.

“Oh, yes,” Mum nodded, “clubs. That sounds about right.” She turned to me after she said it, and I felt my stomach flop anxiously. “Is Charlotte going?”

My mouth went dry.

“Going where?” Charlotte’s musical voice asked behind me so suddenly that it made me jump.

Mum turned to where Charlotte was standing, off behind me to the right. “The club to go dancing,” Mum told her with a grin. “Serena was going to take her friends out onto the town tonight.”

The Beard (or “Jacob” as he called himself) moved up behind her, slipping her hand into his so effortlessly that it reminded me of her and Tyler when they first started dating.

“Dancing?” he asked curiously. “I haven’t been dancing since I was a kid.”

“You’re still a kid,” my dad pointed out with an amused note in his voice.

“I’m not sure my boss at work would agree,” he laughed.

Dad smiled and I felt my stomach flip again.

“It sounds like fun,” Charlotte agreed with a warm smile. “But I wouldn’t want to intrude on Serena’s evening with her school friends.”

“Oh, nonsense!” My mum scolded with a wave of her hand. “You two have hardly spent any time together this holiday break, I’m sure she would love the company. Wouldn’t you, sweetheart?”

I looked from my mum to Charlotte, and then over to the movement I saw on the staircase. Peter came down first, quickly followed by Remus who looked over at me the moment he was within sight. His face was taut and concerned as he surveyed me, and he made a beeline for me, touching the side of my arm gently.

“What are we talking about?” he asked, his voice light as though nothing were the matter.

“Serena was just letting Charlotte know how excited she would be for her and Jacob to join all of you tonight!” Mum explained, her face bright with the possibility of a rekindled friendship.

Not that we were really friends back then, either. But I don’t think she saw it the same way as I did.

Remus’s grip tightened for a moment in a silent urge for me to keep up appearances.

I pushed a smile onto my face and looked back at Charlotte. “I’d really love it if you came with us,” I told her in what I hoped was a heartfelt tone. “It’s going to be really fun. I promise.”

Charlotte looked so relieved at what I had said that she actually let out a breath as she widened her mouth into her perfect, easy smile. “In that case,” she started, looking over at her fiance, “I think we would be delighted to come with you.”

“Perfect,” I told her, making sure my smile stayed on my lips.

“Sandwiches are ready!” Dad announced a moment later, which saved me from figuring out a not awkward way to exit the conversation.

The group flocked into the kitchen, grabbing plates and piling them high with sandwiches, chips, and everything else my new Betty-Crocker-Dad had put out for a late lunch. While everyone moved around, Remus let his hand slip down from my arm to my hand, and he cupped mine in his own, squeezing gently before releasing my hand and moving to find food.

I exhaled slowly, willing my heart to stop thumping so hard in my chest.

In. Out. Breathe.

“You alright?”

Sirius’s voice was so low as he moved next to me that I almost didn’t hear him.

I nodded slowly, shooting him a smile that I hoped was even more convincing than the one I had given Charlotte. “Yeah, I’m okay,” I told him.

Sirius frowned slightly and reached out, slipping his hand into mine and pulling gently.

“Where are we going?” I asked him, but he didn’t need to respond.

Sirius moved us over to the staircase and started climbing, making his way up and into Tyler’s old room, closing the door behind us. As soon as the door closed, the noise of the first floor--laughing and joking and easy conversation that I didn’t have the heart for in that moment--disappeared. And then it was just him. And me. The two of us alone in my brother’s old room.

He had moved me in before him and I turned back to look at him as he leaned against the closed door.

His hair was hanging into his eyes slightly and I found myself staring at it, admiring how perfectly his dark hair complimented him.

And his eyes.

I hadn’t realized I was staring until he moved forward, closing the gap between us in an instant. He reached up slowly, placing his hands on either side of my face. He spread out his fingers, running them back through my hair and I held my breath as he moved, scared that a single move, a single breath, would break the trance and bring everything crashing down on top of us.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

His voice was barely louder than a whisper and I saw pain in his slate-grey eyes. Real pain. Pain I caused. His hands fell from my face as he spoke, and I felt cold where they had been a moment prior.

Unsure of what to say, I opened my mouth and let the first thing that came to mind through my parted lips. “I didn’t know,” I told him.

His brow furrowed slightly at my words. “Didn’t know what?”

“I didn’t know what you would think,” I explained, hoping that my words were making sense. “I didn’t know if you would be scared of me.”

His face fell even more, hurt painted as plainly as the smoothness of his skin.

“I would have been there for you, Serena.”

My blood felt like ice in my veins as he said my name. In that moment, I felt ridiculous. Why hadn’t I told him? He would have understood. He was my boyfriend. He cared about me.

I cared about him. I should have told him.

I felt my eyes well up with tears before I could even think of what to say next. When the warm salt water fell down onto my cheeks, I felt my throat constrict, making the words, “I’m so sorry,” come out in a choked, sobbing noise. Closing my eyes, I felt positive that this was going to be the end and I could feel the hurt shadowing over me like a blanket covered in spikes.

But he once again closed the space between us, wrapping his strong, warm arms around me and pulling me into his chest. He rested the soft side of his face against the top of my head and, as I cried, I could feel him holding me closer, his arms like pillars keeping me up. I breathed him in, sure that this would be the last time. There were too many secrets--too much I’d kept from him.

“I’m so sorry, Sirius,” I told him again, though I couldn’t have been certain he actually heard me since I was crushed up against his body.

Sirius pulled back slightly, putting a hand on my chin. He tilted my face up so our eyes locked and there were so many emotions swirling around in that grey abyss that when he leaned forward and pressed his lips against mine, I was so surprised that I didn’t even kiss him back.

Noticing something was off, Sirius pulled back for a moment, looking down at me with concern.

I opened my mouth to speak, closed it, and then opened it once more. “I just…” I started.

“This doesn’t change anything,” he told me earnestly when I couldn’t finish my sentence. “I want to be here for you. I’m so sorry you had to go through all of this on your own.”

On your own.


I blinked at him for a moment.

He didn’t know. Or he wasn’t certain, a voice in the back of my head said.

“Serena,” Sirius continued, his eyes showing something that I hadn’t seen in them before. A fire. An urgency. “I love you. I’ll always be here for you.”

In lieu of an answer, I reached up, wrapping my arms around him so my hands were positioned at the back of his neck and pulled him to me, crashing our lips together hungrily. Breaking free for a moment, Sirius whirled me around, pushing me up against the bedroom door and moving his hands down to my hips. I pressed on the back of his neck, deepening our kiss as his fingers played at the bottom of my sweater. Pushing forward into him, I let him know it was okay and he moved his hands up further, snaking underneath the fabric in a way he had never done before. I reveled at the feel of his strong hands against my skin, and I reached down to tug at the bottom of his own shirt.

Sirius moved back for a moment, pulling his shirt over his head and making it disappear behind him somewhere before moving forward to relieve me of my own. Hands on each other, we returned to kissing, and I barely had time to think before I felt him move to the button on my jeans. Pausing slightly, he pulled back and I realized how ragged our breathing had become.

“Is this okay?” he asked, voice deep and gravely in a way that sent a shiver up my spine.

I wasn’t sure if I actually managed to open my mouth to speak, but a moment later we were back together, and I was kicking off my jeans on the hardwood floor. Everything after that was a blur that seemed to swirl around us. Sirius grabbed his wand from the back pocket of his own jeans, muttering a silencing charm on the room and sealing the door so no one would be able to enter uninvited. Then he had me in his arms and we were moving back toward the bed. I remember steering him away, making us land--me on top of him--on his mattress on the floor.

Once we were both void of our clothes, Sirius flipped us over expertly so he was hovering over me, then leaned down, leaving a trail of kisses from the base of my neck down my chest. I arched up under his lips and when he pulled back to dig around in his bag for protection, I think I truly realized for the first time that it was actually happening. Lily and Mary had just been joking about him not seeing my knickers and then here we were.

He knew my secret. He had seen me transformed. And yet…

He still loves me. He doesn’t think I’m a monster.


Sirius leaned down, caressing the side of my face as he brought his lips down onto mine and then lifted himself away, giving me time to change my mind if I needed to. Our eyes locked in that moment and--before my mind had a chance to overthink things--I moved slightly forward, letting him meet me halfway. Our lips collided once more and that was that.

He moved so sure and gently that I didn’t feel nervous or scared or anything else that I thought I would in that moment. I had heard enough horror stories to know that the first time isn’t always this intense, magical, indescribable thing. But I had also read enough romance novels to know that when things are truly right, that it’s something much more emotional than what some of the other girls on the Quidditch team had told me; that it would be passionate and perfect despite any imperfections.

And in that moment when everything came together, I felt warm and loved and safe.

...and like something was missing.

 


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