“Tookie, please get the door!” Mother ordered our ancient House Elf. Tookie, a wrinkled creature of countless years old, hobbled and wobbled over to the door and slowly opened the large double door with difficulty.
Mrs. Black, a tall smug and rather unpleasant looking witch stepped through the door with a horrid smile plastered on her pallid face followed by the tall and dark Mr. Black who looked equally unpleasant.
Regulus, of whom I had only seen pictures from Sirius, stepped through next with Sirius. Regulus looked quite similar to Sirius except his face might have been thinner and more pale, he was just a mite taller and he did not posses the quiet amusement that always seemed to linger in Sirius’s eyes. But he had the same handsome, sharp features and messy, long dark hair that Sirius too possessed.
Sirius meanwhile looked the same as he had that last day I had seen him. Irresistibly handsome and haughty but with a distinct air of quiet confidence. I hated and loved him at once.
“Dear Margeurite!” Mrs. Black said, going over to Mother and kissing her briefly on both cheeks. “How wonderful it is to see you again!”
“And you too, Antaresa.” Mother said, smiling widely. “And are these your two sons?” she gestured at Regulus, who immediately popped up and smiled, and Sirius, who slouched and averted his eyes embarrassedly.
“Why, yes…this is Regulus, he just got a job at the Ministry you know!” Mrs. Black said, seemingly forgetting about Sirius altogether. I immediately felt a reinforced dislike of the witch.
“Oh really?” Mother said and they spent a few minutes discussing Regulus’s apparent success at the Ministry.
They continued to mingle and chat about Merlin-knows-what. I was meanwhile trying drastically to think of an excuse to exit the room. For Sirius kept trying to meet my eyes and, though my instincts were telling me to do the same, I avoided him as much as I could with my sight.
“Would you like to join us in the Dining Hall?” Father said. "The Elves have just informed me that dinner will be served shortly." And perhaps then we can discuss the generous donation…”
Our two families made our way into the Dining Hall and took our appropriate seats at the long table that had been decorated with wreathes, lights and candles in spirit of the holidays.
Father sat on the edge of the table and Mother sat on his left with Mr. and Mrs. Black next to her. Leopold and Regulus sat down on his right which left Sirius and I two seats next to each other on the far end of the table.
Great! We just had to sit next to each other! I thought angrily as I threw back my chair and sat down in it and crossed my arms.
“Tookie!” Mother called and the House Elf suddenly appeared. “Please go and prepare the salads! We are ready to be served, I think.” she ordered.
Tookie bowed low and disappeared. Meanwhile Mother, Father and Mr. and Mrs. Black chatted about something or another (I was preoccupied with thinking up an excuse to leave) while Sirius sat looking almost nervous and Regulus and Leopold chatted politely. I sat there, thinking frantically while shooting furtive looks over at Sirius, who had not returned one yet. I was stuck in the most horribly awkward position I could ever dread. I did not know how to get out of this.
Then about ten minutes later, horribly, the conversation somehow managed to turn to the subject of me.
“Yes, Melanie was a top student at Beauxbatons and continues to excel at Hogwarts! We are both very proud.” Mother said, smiling widely at me. I did not return the grin but merely shifted uncomfortable in my seat. Sirius let out an almost inaudible cough.
“Is that so?” Mrs. Black said, smiling in quite a fake manner. “Well that is very impressive. You have quite the gem on your hands, Marguerite!”
“And how old is this gem of a daughter?” Mr. Black asked in a booming voice, a horrifyingly amused look on his face.
“She is a seventh year at Hogwarts, actually,” Mother said, flipping back her blonde hair.
“Oh? Why so is Sirius!” Mrs. Black said, gesturing finally to her other son.
“Oh? Well have you two ever met, Melanie? I was not aware that Sirius was your age!” Mother said, causing my face to instantly redden significantly. I had not mentioned Sirius at all to my parents.
More than met, I thought, almost amused. I looked at Sirius. He was looking furtively over at me at last. I finally met his gaze. His gray eyes sparked with emotion and my stomach did a back flip. No no no!
“Oh? Well you should have told me, Melanie! I could have set you and dear Sirius up for a date!” Mother giggled heartily, winking at Sirius as she did. She obviously had no clue that that one sentence had pained my heart more than she could imagine, not to mention that it embarrassed me more than I have ever been.
That is it. I thought. I didn’t think I could take it much longer. It had only been hardly an hour and already my mind was set in overdrive.
Mrs. Black laughed and took a sip of wine. “Now, about that donation…my husband and I were thinking...”
I found myself spacing out of the conversation over the next half hour. I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t eat the food that was laid out in front of me, and I certainly couldn’t stop myself from looking at Sirius every time he spoke or even moved.
“Pass the turnips, please.”
I jumped. These were the first words Sirius had directly spoken to me all night. I looked up and hastily picked up the bowl of vegetables and passed them over. Sirius took the bowl and our hands touched for a brief moment. A wave of electricity passed through me, tingling and teasing. I gulped and looked away, nervously pushing my hair out of my face.
“Thanks,” he said. His voice was soft and almost desperate.
“Your welcome,” my voice was unusually high and timid. I pushed my hair back again and averted my eyes.
Another half hour passed. My parents and the Blacks had now begun their negotiations over the donations. Leopold had gotten up to leave, stating that he “needed to get to sleep early” which I thought was rubbish. But knowing my brother, he was as bored as ever.
Regulus and Sirius both had remained quiet all the way through dessert. Sirius still hadn’t spoken since he had asked for the bowl.
I myself had not even spoken unless Mother or Father had asked for something so I had somehow been brought into the conversation. Sirius, it seemed, noticed this and still tried to retain strong eye contact, which I anxiously tried to deny but found it increasingly harder and harder with each passing second.
As Tookie and the other Elves took away our dessert plates, Mother, Father and Mr. and Mrs. Black decided it was time to move their conversation to the lounge. As they stood up and gathered themselves, Regulus bid everyone good night and apparated home.
I was not looking forward to having to sit in the lounge with the adults and was about to tell Mother and Father that I would also be needing an early night’s sleep but I was suddenly tuned out of all happenings in the world as I felt a soft, warm hand grasp mine from under the table before I stood and a ghost of a whisper in my ear.
”Meet me upstairs…” Before I could respond, Sirius had gotten up out of his chair and was excusing himself from the table.
“I will leave you adults to your dealings,” he said, winking at them turning and making his way out of the room, his eyes meeting mine for a heartbeat as he did. “I’ll be upstairs if you need me, just looking around a bit.” He winked.
A flood of emotions washed over me. My mind was reeling with a thousand questions. What? What does he mean? What’s going on? Should I go?
I took a deep breath. What was I going to do? I could not talk to him. It was impossible. It was too painful. But my body, seeming to take on a mind of its own, found itself standing and excusing myself and telling everyone that I would also be leaving them. My footsteps echoed off the stone floor as I hurried along the corridor towards the staircase up to my room, following him.
Oh no! Oh no! Oh no! I thought frantically with every step I took. I could see him ahead of me, walking slowly, as though on a tour, exploring. He did not look back at all.
He turn to his left, and for a moment I thought he was going to turn to look at me but he did not, but instead walked through the door at his side and closed it behind him. It was my room. How had he known?
I found myself staring at my closed bedroom door a minute later, heart beating wildly. He had passed through these very doors only seconds ago. I gulped, reaching my hand out to the cold handle. I grasped it and slowly turned it, pushing the door open as I did.
As the door swung open, I peered into the mellow darkness. Sirius was standing over by one of the windows, staring vaguely out onto the grounds. His head turned to spot me as he heard me take two slow steps toward him.
“Melanie…” he whispered. He seemed at a loss of words, as I was.
Before I could process what was happening, before any reason took its place in my mind, I ran over to him and fiercely kissed his lips.
My heart seemed to stop for that wonderful, wild moment. All my worries seemed to disappear into nothing and the whole world melted away into his lips. I felt his hand slowly rise up to my hair, stroking it.
“Melanie…I’m so sorry.” He whispered against my lips. I felt the tears that had been shunted away all night finally well up.
“I know,” I said, breaking apart from his lips.
“I was so stupid,” Sirius said, running a hand through his dark hair and pulling away to take a seat on my bed. “I was a complete git. I shouldn’t have kissed her. But I did and there is nothing I can do to change that.”
I felt the tears fall against my cheek. I sat down beside him. My heart wanted to believe him and forget about all that had happened and jump into his arms again but my mind was telling me not to and to send him away.
I did not know quite what to say, so I just looked out the window, wishing none of it had ever happened.
“Sirius,” I said, raising my hands to his face, looking into his eyes. I did not know what to say. He gently leaned forward to graze his lips against mine, a ghost of a kiss,
I swallowed, blinked and said quietly but strongly, “I’m willing to forgive you and move on,” I saw a shimmer of hope and relief in his gray eyes before I continued, “But it will take time for me to trust you again, you have to understand that.”
He took a breath, resting his hand on my cheek.
“I know, Mel.” he paused, took another deep breath and said with wholesome sincerity, “But you have to understand something, too…” he trailed off, waiting.
I blinked again and stared up at him, waiting as well.
He took a deep breath again and said softly, ”I love you.”
I bit my lip and tears enveloped my face again.
“Don’t say that,” I sobbed, bowing my head. “Please…” It was too hard for him to say things like that without me wanting to just jump in his arms and forget everything.
Sirius wiped away the tears that were now steadily falling down my cheeks and, evidently in desperation, said, “Why, Mel? Why can’t I say that? It’s true! I love you!”
He took my hands in his and kissed them, looking into my eyes. “Mel…please...”
I looked back at him and said quietly, determining to keep my voice strong even though I knew I wanted to break down right there and then, “You are making this too hard, Sirius…I do not want to do something stupid…”
Sirius kissed my forehead. “You are not doing anything stupid, Mel…now tell me the truth. How do you really feel? I know you don’t want to keep this distance anymore than I do! Tell me!”
I looked at him, sitting there, obviously in complete desperation to have me back, obviously regretting what he did.
“But we can’t just go back to how it was, Sirius! Don’t you see?” I sobbed, pulling away from him. “It would be so foolish!”
But Sirius was slowly shaking his head. “No, Mel. It wouldn’t be foolish. It can go back to how it was before. If you forgive me and if we learn from this,” he paused, deciding something and then continued, “If you love me.” And he sat there expectantly, staring at me.
I licked my lips, and stared back. “But…” I started, but faltered. But what?
Sirius, his eyes showing all the hurt and confusion that was in my heart, said, “Don’t…don’t you love me?”
I looked into his eyes for a moment, and then broke the connection. I had to think.
Do I love him?
Love is a very strong word.
But do I?
I looked back into his hopeful eyes and very quietly and said with all the truth and sincerity I could muster, “I do love you, Sirius.”
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