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Chapter 10: The Gazebo
He was halfway through their plate of fettuccine alfredo when he stopped and looked up at her.
“Do you want to go out with me tonight?”
Lucy took a sip of water, twirling a single noodle from her side of the plate around her fork. They had worked out a system about lunch; instead of letting him devour the entire meal, she would set aside a small portion for herself before he started, and he could have the rest. However, he refused to finish eating before she had finished her own allotment. Still, she could choose a couple of crumbs or an entire plateful, depending on her mindset for that particular day.
“What?” She asked, giving him a look that suggested that she wasn’t taking him seriously.
“You know, on a date. Like the old days.” Sirius smiled, the corners of his eyes crinkling slightly. It was funny; the expression made him look a bit like a wise old man, and yet he was clearly just an overgrown boy in body and soul. He leaned back in the booth, folding his arms across his chest, and looked at her, awaiting her answer.
Lucy smirked, but she looked down at the pasta. “I don’t know what you think this is, Sirius—”
“Nothing.” He quickly added, interrupting her. “What I mean is… I know you’re not my girlfriend. You haven’t been for a long time. You don’t even have to be my friend if you like. I just mean that time has dealt us another hand, another chance to have fun. Like we used to.” His soft irises searched hers, looking for a reminder of days gone by. “You had fun, didn’t you?”
“Of course, loads.” She smiled. “But I don’t think either of us is nearly ship-shape enough to go gallivanting from one pub to another, not these days.” She felt embarrassingly old as she said it.
“Speak for yourself.” Sirius smirked back at her. “But in any case, I don’t want to drag you into anything. How about a cup of tea or something? My treat.”
She looked at him curiously. “Your treat?”
“I’ve still got my vault at Gringotts.” Sirius said, slurping down some more of the fettuccine. “It’s sort of a pain to break into it, though, so I’ve gotten Kreacher to take over for me.”
“You mean the house elf?” Lucy remembered him from the couple of times she had gone over to Grimmauld Place, recalling that he was a terribly unpleasant creature but unmatched in his domestic skills and ambitions. In truth, Sirius’s wife would have lived like a queen; Kreacher would insist upon doing every inch of the cleaning and bit of the cooking on her behalf. Now that she considered it, it was interesting that he had resumed ownership of the ancient house. If he was the last family member alive, though, perhaps it didn’t matter that he was being actively hunted by the law. She hoped Kreacher wouldn’t get too chatty if the Aurors paid him a visit.
“Yes, you remember, happiest little servant you ever saw.” Sirius said dismissively, and took a gulp of his water as he finished up his portion of the pasta. “Anyway, tea? You want to go?”
“I’ll go out with you.” Lucy smiled, and she was reminded briefly of the day when she had first said those words to him, lying on the shore of the Black Lake in a bikini while James gazed longingly at Lily and Remus and Peter watched from afar, both still somewhat shy around girls. “But I think tea sounds a bit boring, honestly. We’re only so old.”
“Right you are.” Sirius grinned, seeing shades of the girl he had once been in love with. Perhaps years of living under Snivellus’s rule hadn’t broken her after all. “What do you have in mind?”
Lucy hadn’t been in Muggle London since she’d moved into her flat, and it was even stranger to know that she was currently walking its streets in the company of a supposed mass murderer and fugitive. Still, it would be difficult for anyone to believe that Sirius was under any kind of stress. He walked easily at her side, lightly grasping her hand whenever they passed through a thick crowd and politely releasing her fingers whenever they were clear of the danger of being separated. His worn face bore a relaxed smile, and he would occasionally lean closer to her and whisper a comment about someone they’d passed or an interesting booth on the side of the street.
There were a plethora of such booths to be found tonight. The witch and wizard had unwittingly planned their spontaneous night out for the same evening as a cultural festival that spanned several streets and a large square. Lucy was quite enamored with the splashes of color that surrounded her, admiring the bright scarves and blankets that livened up the bleak brick that composed the buildings the booths stood against. Some sold jewelry, claiming the pieces were made with rare imported stones, while others peddled exotic teas and art from foreign lands. At one point, they even passed a basket full of kittens, and Lucy was sorely tempted to ask for one.
“How can you buy any of this?” She asked him quietly, unable to deny the enjoyment she got out of being close enough to feel the heat radiating off his skin. “I mean, without Muggle money?”
“I’ve got that.” Sirius replied, and his hot breath on her cheek sent pleasant shivers up her spine, arousing another fistful of memories from their rest. “Lily taught me how to change it once.”
“Brilliant.” Lucy said, feeling a sharp pang in her chest at the sound of her old friend’s name.
Evidently, Sirius noticed her change of expression. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“No, it’s okay.” Lucy stuck her hands in the pockets of her long skirt, continuing to glance around idly as she traversed the temporary market with him. “How was the wedding?”
“Beautiful.” Sirius replied softly. “I was best man.”
Lucy smiled at him. “I’m not surprised.”
He returned the smile sadly, continuing. “She had Dorcas and Marlene there, you remember them?”
“Yes.” She replied. “As bridesmaids, you mean?”
“Mmm-hmm.” Sirius nodded. “But it wasn’t the same. You should have been there.” His voice had gained the slightest edge of bitterness, and she felt her own emotions welling up in her throat.
“I know.” She said quietly, pausing and letting the crowds swarm around them.
Sirius paused, turning and looking at her. “You would have appreciated the funeral.”
“I went.” Lucy said.
“I didn’t see you.” He said, sounding surprised.
“I sort of stayed to myself, in the back.” She replied. “But yes, it was very nice.”
“What about him?” Sirius said in a harsher tone. “Did he come with you?”
“I didn’t see him, and he didn’t come with me. I was already gone by then.”
Sirius felt a gentleman bump sharply into him, and he felt as though the people around them would pull her under their feet if he didn’t protect her. He gently took her hand, leading her forward. “And then what? You came here?”
“I wandered around for a while.” Lucy tucked her arm under his elbow, keeping close to him. “Stayed in hotel rooms, worked odd jobs. I stumbled upon this place, just like all the others.”
Up ahead, the crowd was thinning out slightly, splitting out into two directions. Sirius could see the result for the change; a warmly-lit gazebo stood in the middle of the square, decorated with musicians from various corners of the world and the same bright scarves that marked the rest of the festival. A handful of couples moved together quickly in the lively music, enjoying their moment of romance before the gazebo was torn down and disposed of in the morning light.
As the pair approached, the music slowed considerably, and Sirius turned to his date. She looked at him hesitantly, unsure what to do with him now that the moment had taken a turn for the romantic. In all the time that she’d gone out with him, she could remember only a few moments of traditional affection, most of them commanded by holidays. Usually, they were either fighting or working out their differences between the sheets. Sirius wasn’t one for flowers, candy… dancing. Especially not this kind, bound up close to one another in the throes of a love song.
“Come on, can’t hurt.” He said, and for some reason, she followed him onto the floor.
They waltzed awkwardly at first, but after a few moments she grew used to the feeling of his fingers on her back, and they swayed back and forth, his hand grasping hers loosely. She relaxed somewhat, resting her chin on his shoulder, inhaling what Azkaban hadn’t stolen of his familiar scent. She closed her eyes, and the sight of the couples around them faded away, replaced with years of memories, each more painful than the last. Her first Christmas with Severus, which she’d spent sleeping on the couch next to him in the otherwise deserted Slytherin common room. The sight of Sirius kissing someone else’s lips, the first time he’d forgotten to watch out for the evidence. Severus casting a curse at him as he put his hands to her a little too roughly for her liking. The last time she’d seen Lily, her beautiful face tarnished by disappointment, regret.
Come on, can’t hurt. She felt tears welling up in the corners of her eyes, but she couldn’t pull away, no matter how much or how little she wanted to. It could hurt, and it did, so very badly. But his eyes were closed now, his breathing was even, he wanted definitively to be here with her. If she pulled back even slightly, the illusion that everything was all right would shatter forever.
Can’t hurt. She pushed Severus from her mind as best she could, feeling like a traitor all the way. If she wanted to be in control so badly, she had to stop living in the past, had to stop letting her failed relationships dictate her life. She had a new chance now. She could explore him again.
Though it felt very right, more right than anything had felt to him in some time, he was still surprised when he felt her edge forward, closer to him rather than further away. She wasn’t pulling back as she had been for days; no, she was kissing him and making him ache to have her. They weren’t sexual kisses; they were more innocent than that, the pitiful expressions of a young girl who refused to let her world turn upside down again. He clung to her fiercely with his lips.
As he felt one of her tears splash awkwardly onto his cheek, the music around them faded away.
An older Muggle woman next to Sirius, spinning slowly with her elderly husband, opened her eyes and moved to applaud the small chorus of violins. She caught sight of Sirius’s unkempt hair, and another glance found the tribal tattoos uncovered by his half-buttoned shirt. She tried to scream, but she couldn’t muster up a noise. The sharp intake of breath in the silence was enough.
Sirius’s eyes shot open, and he pulled back from Lucy, hearing whispers all around him. He didn’t dare to see the faces of any of the Muggles, and he tugged at her hand, taking off with her at a full sprint into the night. She came willingly, her tears forgotten with the shock of discovery.
As he put yards between them and the Muggles, Sirius had a very sad realization.
It was supposed to be his treat, and he didn’t get the chance to spend a single bit on her.