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Chapter 14 : Things Like This
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It did not feel any different.
When Scarlett finally entered the outlook (at an admirable fifteen minutes late), looking tired and vague, Sirius did not feel any different at all. In fact, he felt the same shade of slightly irritated and somewhat relieved to see her come so late, as he leaned against an uncomfortable ash tree in the dead of a chilly night.
It did not feel any different, but it was, irrevocably so. Even when Scarlett took her place next to him, Sirius could tell it was different, even just from the way the side of his arm sparked at her proximity, his veins igniting all the way to his heart.
It did not seem any different at first sight. Even Scarlett seemed to be playing along with normality, looking up at the sky as she was supposed to for a very long time, Sirius sneaking confused glances at her along the way. If any bystander, including Tenereus, looked at the couple, they would have seen no shift in their moods from the day before.
But, there so absolutely was.
It stayed like this for ten minutes or so, the only shifts in silence being either a sigh from Scarlett or a clearing of the throat from Sirius. Every once in a while, Scarlett would look over at Sirius flatly, and he would return her gaze, wondering why he couldn't help but notice the variety of tones contained within her irises and how beautiful they all were together.
After the time had passed, though, Scarlett apparently seemed to come to a conclusion, falling down the side of the tree so that her knees were bent, and Sirius quickly followed, repositioning himself so that he was looking up at the night stars that watched them both.
They stayed in that position for a long time, but not as long as before and with more interrupting sighs from Scarlett. It may have been five minutes before Scarlett finally broke the silence.
"How are you, Sirius?"
He blinked at this, looking over at Scarlett in disbelief. "How am I?" he repeated, as if the thought that this was the question she initiated conversation with, after so much pondering, was baffling. "How am I?" When Scarlett nodded in response, Sirius considered himself, looking back towards the trees and thinking. How was he?
"I'm frustrated," Sirius replied, figuring that honesty was the best policy. "And confused."
Scarlett looked over at him sharply. "Are you really?" she asked, though it was not a response that served for a cue to elaborate; on the other hand, it seemed to be more skeptical than anything, as if she were accusing him of lying.
"That's very interesting," she muttered, though she wasn't necessarily talking to him. Then again, she wasn't really talking to herself; it seemed to be a reflexive response, a thin cover to disguise the fact that she was thinking and thinking still rather heavily.
"What about you?" Sirius found himself asking, and Scarlett looked over at him again before turning back towards the trees. "How are you, Scarlett?"
Scarlett laughed. "I am frustrated," she responded, irony hanging in every syllable of her tone. "And I am confused." She picked up a branch from the ground and began to stroke her fingers up and down the sinewy bark. "Isn't that the icing on the cake?"
Sirius smiled, but unlike most grins from the boy it was extremely sarcastic. "Extremely," he agreed. "Would you like to explain why?"
Scarlett considered for a brief moment, and then nodded. "Unless you don't want to hear it," she forewarned, and Sirius scoffed. "It does verge into the over-dramatic."
"I think I can handle it," Sirius challenged her, and Scarlett looked over at him, giving him a smirk that--to his confusion and frustration--made his stomach contract.
"It's about Theodore," she began, and she gazed deeply at the branch in her hand as Sirius took a deep breath (he had been expecting it). "It's just..." she trailed off, and her face glowed a very slight red in the twilight. "Well," she said, and she sighed with the air of getting something relevant and humiliating off of her chest. "Theodore and I kissed."
Sirius pretended to look surprised, but he really could only muster a scowl; Scarlett didn't notice. "And I didn't even know I fancied him until this year." She looked over at Sirius. "Don't you think there's something wrong with that? Don't you think it would have made so much more sense if I had fancied him years before? It should be too late for things like this to change, but it isn't. And it should make sense, but it doesn't."
She leaned a fraction of an inch closer to Sirius. "It doesn't make any sense, and... I don't know why. I mean," she verified, and Sirius internally groaned, for he didn't well fancy listening to Scarlett's love life, "I know why it doesn't make sense. I just don't know why it happened. Now."
"Because you fancy him," Sirius said blankly. "And he fancies you."
"You think so?" she said quietly, and Sirius nodded though he hated to. "Then what am I supposed to do?"
Sirius thought over his words carefully. "It shouldn't be something you have to think about," he said. "I don't know, when you fancy someone, whatever happens happens. It's not something that can be planned, it's just something that kind of springs up at you out of nowhere."
He couldn't help but appreciate the irony of what he was saying to her, and he couldn't help but hate that things like this were the type of things that sprung up and changed everything when, as she had mentioned, it should have been too late to change anything.
"What about you?" Scarlett asked, and Sirius saw her curiosity flare for once, radiating off of her as strongly as her flushed face had. "Why are you frustrated, Sirius? What are you frustrated about, anyway? I thought the life of a Gryffindor was supposed to be perfect and perfectly not frustrating."
"It is," he said amused; however, the frustration and confusion that bit at his flesh caused his smile to fade. "There is..." Sirius stopped with reluctance. "There is a girl," he said finally, and he rolled his eyes as he wondered how it had come to this.
About two or three weeks ago, if someone had told Sirius that he would befriend and eventually fancy Scarlett, he would have laughed for weeks. However, that idea was much more believable than the fact that in three weeks he had gone from absolutely loathing her to talking to her about his love life (and no matter what Sirius wanted, it centered primarily around her. Merlin, how had it come to this?).
Scarlett, on the other hand, was taking this progression much more casually, though that was likely because her mind was centered around Nott. If she had been making sense--and as she had said, she wasn't making sense at the moment--she would have recognized how many mistakes existed between this relationship that was coming into existence between a Gryffindor and a Slytherin.
Sirius saw the mistakes. He hated them. They bothered him like frays in a jacket, like a question impossible to answer. There was very clearly a mistake that was being made in this outlook, but for whatever reason he still bothered to come back, even though he really did not want to fancy a Slytherin in the slightest. This, as he had told Scarlett--though with much less detail--confused him terribly, and in those bleak periods of time during History of Magic or Potions he kept going back to it, trying to find some reason as to why he was acting the way he was. Why, he wondered, did he bring upon himself suspicion and falsehood that made his friendships--which were even more secure than they were seven years ago--filled with the sense that someone was not wholly telling the truth?
As for Sirius's frustration, that was simply the effect from the cause. Why did he feel the want--or maybe even the need--to come here, night after night? Why did he even bother listening to Scarlett, when the formerly preferred way of shooting her with insults was, in a sense, much safer? Why did Theodore Nott--who, unlike the other Slytherin boys, was relatively inoffensive--suddenly and whole-heartedly nauseate him? Why did the thought of Scarlett and Theodore together--in any setting--make him angry? Why did he care, anyway? Why did he even bother fancying what Scarlett's life consisted of? Why did he feel like he had to protect Scarlett? Why did he feel like he wanted to be with her?
Despite everything, why did he want to kiss her?
And, simply put, the built-up onslaught of questions was too much to bear. Even Sirius--who had prided himself terribly on being reasonable--felt completely worn and, yes, felt completely confused and frustrated.
But he did not feel numb, he realized. Maybe in his mind; his brain was too exhausted to respond to this theory. But, as for emotionally, Sirius could not even try to be numb. He was already feeling too much; as if to prove this, Scarlett shifted her weight, and though her forearm was covered by an extremely heavy layer of robe, a shock still penetrated throughout his body.
He wanted to feel numb completely, to let his mind take over his body, so that he would not feel a thing. Sirius, more than anything, wanted to be emotionless, wanted to be petty... wanted to be the meanest, most immature person in the world. Sirius wanted to be anything that could not be related to adoration. He wanted to just be numb and to be numb with every ounce of energy he had.
But for whatever reason, when it came to Scarlett, he wasn't.
That was a thought that made him more uneasy than he could ever remember feeling.
"A girl, huh? Who?" Scarlett questioned, interrupting his thought. Sirius looked over at her, and he again wondered just how Scarlett could have missed the warning signs.
He also realized that he really didn't want to be venturing into this conversation.
"Er," Sirius replied in as casual a tone he could muster, "I think it would be best if we stopped talking. About this, I mean. Just--" and he choked on what he was going to say, feeling the atmosphere change before his eyes-- "I'm not really the type of person--"
"I bet you're dying to tell."
Sirius looked over at her, and for a second all he could do was give her that blank stare of disbelief. On her face there was a prominent smirk, one that took extravagant lengths to cover up the true reason why Sirius was so reluctant.
"I bet you are," Scarlett insisted. "I bet that it's someone like Ambrose, someone I know, and you're just afraid to tell me because you think I can't keep secrets."
"It's not that," Sirius maintained. "It's just something that I'm not all that interested in sharing."
"C'mon, Sirius," Scarlett pleaded, and her eyes were so large and so full of those stunning shades of color that Sirius didn't breathe for a second. Scarlett, on the other hand, moved slightly away, as if some part of her subconscious, somewhere, believed that she was flirting.
And she was, undoubtedly. Even if she didn't know it.
Sirius sighed. He was sure that, if he continued refusing, she would continue pleading. Assuming he knew Scarlett well enough--and he may as well have--he was sure that she was stubborn enough to continue badgering him, which would, unfortunately, continue the flirtation that made Sirius uncomfortable.
So there was no way to win; this was not very surprising to Sirius. How were you ever supposed to achieve victory when you were fighting a lopsided battle?
And, so, he spoke, but he swore upon himself utmost vagueness. After all, was there any other way to converse about someone to their face about how you might fancy them but you want to hate them, all while still maintaining your dignity?
"There is a girl, yeah?" Sirius started. Scarlett gestured for him to continue.
"So," Sirius stalled, and Scarlett just barely narrowed her eyes, "I mean, it's not like it's all that different than any other girl I've fancied. It really isn't that big of a deal," he added, as if he were trying to convince himself instead of her of this.
"But you were frustrated," Scarlett pointed out. "And confused. So you are, very clearly, lying to my face."
"I am not," Sirius insisted. "I am merely leaving out the grisly details."
Scarlett snorted. "Yeah, right, Sirius. If you're going to leave out the fun, then you might as well stop talking right now so you can save your breath."
"Fine," Sirius snapped. "I fancy her. I think. I'm not really sure. And if I do--I definitely don't want to, and I never thought in a million years that it would be possible. So I don't really know what to think and there's absolutely nothing I can do about it. If I were smart I would leave her the hell alone."
There was a sliver of a second where Sirius believed Scarlett had him all figured out. There was a moment where she looked over at him and he could, slightly, see the sparkle of realization in her eye. There was one instant, one terrifying instant, where Sirius was convinced Scarlett had seen through him.
But, in the seconds that followed after, she merely shrugged. "Tough luck, mate," she said sympathetically. "Maybe you should try to avoid the hell out of her. Or maybe you could work some of that Gryffindor magic that makes Slytherins hate you so much."
"Ha, ha," Sirius said dryly, attempting to be amused, but his mind was occupied on things that were not amusing in the slightest.
If only he could avoid the hell out of her.
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