Chapter 7 : Worse Then Better, Worse Then Better
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I suppose it doesn’t sound like that big a deal.
I should make it clear that never in my life have I flirted with him before.
I know that he’s incapable of communicating without some kind of flirting involved (sometimes I swear I even see it between him and James, now that’s a scary thought) but I never got involved!
It was all so humiliating, thinking back over the past events. The eye contact, the smirking, the giggling. Oh hell, he’d even commented on it. “… such an evil giggle.”
Well I suppose it makes it slightly better that it wasn’t a ‘girly giggle’. But I did not giggle.
When did it happen? When did I start responding to his stupid flirting? Or had I initiated it?
Not only was it flirting, it was childish flirting. The sort of thing that only happened between twelve-year-olds.
It was awful.
All these realisations running through my mind. At dinner. When I was seated with both the culprit and our best friends.
No one was paying enough attention to me to notice my mouth dropping in horror.
Sirius and the boys were still most likely plotting something, and James and Lily were still squabbling. No, not squabbling – flirting.
I had to bit my tongue to stop myself groaning.
I. Did. Not. Flirt. With. Him.
Yes, you did.
I know I did.
I pushed my plate away, suddenly no longer hungry.
“Hi, Debbie!” The upbeat, tinkling voice belonged to Marlene.
She and Freddie ambled up to the table with their hands entwined as usual. Looking at her now, with her hair pulled back into a conservative ponytail and her uniform perfectly straight, you’d never recognise her as the drunken fool who threw up on my feet.
Unfortunately, their arrival meant that they were actually paying attention to me, unlike my friends.
“What’s up, Deb?” Freddie asked, recognising my look of dismay.
How do I answer that without making an uncomfortable scene? I can’t, is the correct answer.
Luckily Freddie didn’t wait for a response. “You heard Oz’s ridiculous plans already?”
It’s an odd mix when you’re both relieved and filled with an ominous feeling.
Relief that I didn’t have to think of a pathetic excuse that my brother would see right through, but dread at Oz’s latest scheme.
“Not… in detail…” I managed to compose my face and tell a half-truth.
“I won’t spoil the surprise, he wants us all over there now. He’s practically smiling, he’s that excited.”
Oz did not smile. Ever.
“Wait and see. I’m shitting myself. Anything Oz thinks is worth smiling over is going to be torture.” Freddie grimaced.
“I’m not going to be able to walk for months am I?” I moaned, the prospect of Oz putting us through hell for the next two months before the next game temporarily took pride of place for stressing out in my brain.
“Nope. He’s completely deranged. I guess I can’t blame him –he wants to keep up his title as undefeated for the cup. We’ve got to beat Slytherin to be in with a chance.”
As always, James’ ears pricked up at the sound of the mention of his beloved sport.
“But you’ve got to beat them by two hundred and fifty points to be in the running.” He informed us, “It’s practically impossible!”
He laughed, joined by Sirius. Freddie’s joking face immediately set in a hostile glare.
“I’m glad you think it’s funny.” He said, his voice dripping with sarcasm, “Seeing as you won that last match on a technicality…”
Oh, here we go.
I am a competitive person. I should really care more about the sort of things that Freddie, Oz, Sirius and James get worked up about. But I think there must just be a massive difference between male and female levels of competitiveness.
I’m the worst for the playful, petty mockery of the other teams before the matches, but if we lose, we lose. There’s really nothing we can do about it, so why be bothered by it?
“A technicality? Oh come on.” James scoffed, “I admit it was close but Dunhill fell off his broom -”
“After a hit from a bludger from this prick –“ Freddie nodded at Sirius with a dirty look, ”- when the snitch wasn’t even in sight. He shouldn’t have been aiming for him. He should have been aiming for the chasers -”
“If you recall, the chaser in possession of the Quaffle was your sister,” Sirius said, coldly, “And the last time I hit a bludger at her, however accidentally it was–“ I wasn’t even sure if I even believed that, let alone Freddie. But it was true that he hadn’t aimed for me since. “- it didn’t end well. What, you want me to aim for her now?”
It was an impressive argument, calmly said and clear. But Freddie never lost an argument.
“Just because one player is in possession it doesn’t mean you aim just for them. I don’t know about your squad, but our chasers play as a team.” Freddie replied coolly, completely dismissing the memory of him tackling Sirius mid-match.
There was some kind of silent fight going on. James and Sirius were glaring at Freddie, and he was giving them equally filthy looks. I wondered if I should back him up? Then I noticed Marlene’s look of disgust towards James and Sirius too. She didn’t even care about Quidditch. Freddie’s opinions of my friends must have rubbed off on her more that I realised.
Fortunately our cheery little gathering was broken up.
“Mate, you have one job which is to fetch your sister and you can’t even do that? Oz is practically bursting a blood vessel.” Ro grinned, appearing behind Freddie, seemingly oblivious to the unfriendly atmosphere.
Freddie turned his back on James and Sirius with the air of someone being ‘the bigger man’ and nodded over to the Ravenclaw table to Marles who followed him over. I didn’t even realise Marles was capable of producing a dirty look. I have slightly more respect for her after seeing her sneer at Sirius. Is that wrong?
“Little Deb, get your arse into gear. You’re going to love this…” Ro was the only person on the team to find Oz’s schemes amusing rather than terrifying. Nothing seemed to dampen his spirits.
“Just tell me this,” I said, gloomily, “Does it involve any pre-dawn starts?”
Ro laugh and pulled me easily from the bench by my waist. He half-carried, half-dragged me over the team, grouped at one end of the Ravenclaw table, without giving me a chance to say bye to Lily. I guessed I wouldn’t be going to the Gryffindor common room tonight. James and Sirius would be in foul moods after the dispute with Freddie, and in any case I didn’t want to risk any more accidental flirting.
I sat besides Londy who looked as apprehensive as me. I had a feeling Oz was going to be getting an earful from her after this revelation.
“Alright, guys, I have this plan…” It always began like that.
There was a team groan which he silenced in the way that only Oscar Dunhill can with an evil eye.
Instead of plunging straight into this plan, he droned on for a while about the points margins, the teams that were still in the running, who had to beat who by how much to get to the finals… I tuned it out. I never had much patience for that sort of thing. I don’t know who sits and works these things out (yes I do – Oz and James) but I feel a little sorry for them.
I occupied myself by watching the Great Hall empty around us.
“… so this is it…”
I could hardly contain my excitement. Freddie was right. Oz had some kind of creepy sadistic smile on his face. It looked alien on his usual intense face.
To put it lightly, his ideas were met with some hostility.
“Six in the morning again?”
“You want us to run…”
“Quidditch is played on brooms, you moron!” Londy practically shrieked.
Couldn’t have put it better myself.
“We still need a good basic fitness level, especially cardiovascular and muscular endur…” Oz calmly explained.
If I had been the recipient of aggressive glares from four large males and Londy, as he was, (I didn’t include myself, being the one player smaller than him and therefore not as such intimidating) I would have run screaming from the table. Not, as he did, coolly explained the reasons behind my madness. Especially Ro, towering over him by at least six inches, and Freddie. Both a year older than him.
“You’re insane.” Freddie told him.
Oz grinned that scary smile again, “But I’m right.”
“And I’m captain so there’s going to be no arguments, right?”
We all muttered incomprehensible answers of agreement.
“So tomorrow we’ll start. Six. Don’t be late.”
Just what I need.
“I think – I’m – dying – a little.” Londy gasped, trying to keep running but resting her hands on her hips, making her waddle rather than jog.
Oz had set out a ridiculous course for us to follow, running from the pitch, around the lake and the edge of the forest and back, then another course for us to follow on our brooms. He must have gotten up at least half an hour earlier than the rest of us to prepare it. In fact he probably didn’t sleep.
The boys were all at the airborne part of the course now, Londy and I could see them swooping through the red, shining rings that Oz had conjured, as we trekked around the forest, trailing far behind them.
“I’m – going to – kill – him –“ I puffed as we rounded the corner back up to the pitch.
It was six-fifteen in the morning. The sun was barely up. We hadn’t even had breakfast.
And, as a result of this, I was beginning to see red spots in front of my eyes.
“Nara, Little McKinnon, keep moving! You’re falling behind!” Oz roared as he swooped above our heads, closely followed by Freddie, Ro and the other boys.
He was going to pay for this.
Falling behind? That was an understatement. If we slowed down anymore we’d be going backwards.
“I thought we were meant to be fit?” Londy chuckled as we finally reached the airborne course and managed to inconspicuously pause for breath.
“We just let everyone else assume that,” I kicked off into the complicated pattern of fiery rings that Oz had spent so much time conjuring.
He really shouldn’t have made the effort. I had absolutely no idea where they began, finished or linked up. I zoomed aimlessly in and out, content in ignoring Oz bawling at the top of his voice, so at an inhuman volume, that I was doing it wrong and ruining his course.
Londy seized this opportunity to piss our loving captain off and set off in her own direction, criss-crossing paths with me and generally blocking the boys way.
When we eventually gave in to his hysteria he ordered us to begin the entire course again and if we so much as uttered a single word we would be ‘off the team’.
I’d forgotten the joys of a heartless captain.
“Fun training?” Lily asked, innocently at breakfast.
She was met with a stony silence as I crammed half a slice of toast in my mouth. She looked enquiringly at Londy on my other side. Londy responded by slamming her goblet of juice down on the table with unnecessary force.
“That bad, huh?” Lily sounded sympathetic.
“They’re overreacting because they couldn’t manage a single lap of the course without collapsing,” Ro informed her, ever present grin on his face. Despite the fact that we’d been at practise for two hours he was his usual animated self, digging through the mound of bacon and sausages on his plate with vigour.
He chuckled in the face of the identical glares Londy and I sent him.
“Oz suggested they go for a run every morning so they can keep up with the rest of us.” He added, helpfully.
If I could, I would hate Rowan. But the thing was, he wasn’t poking fun, he was genuinely amused by the situation. It was impossible to hate him, it’d be like hating an adorable, jolly puppy. But like an Alsatian or a Great Dane or something.
Lily laughed at this, but had the sense not to say anything else and left me to stew.
To tell the truth, despite the sadist tendency of Oz’s training sessions, it had been a relief. I’d been so out of breath in the majority of the two hours that all the available oxygen had gone to my body rather than my brain, and I’d had to concentrate so much on figuring out Oz’s stupidly complex drills that there was no room for any other thoughts.
When it came to lessons, on the other hand, I didn’t need to concentrate particularly hard. This left a lot of room for unwelcome thoughts.
I put all my energy into not staring inappropriately… or giggling… or any type of communication in general. Harder than it sounds when Sirius was in every one of my lessons, and either next to me or opposite me in the majority of them.
I cursed the day that we chose our NEWT options together. Back in the simple days of innocent friendship.
Ignoring him was one thing. Although it gave me an unpleasant feeling every time I shrugged his arm from my shoulders or looked away when he caught my eye, it wasn’t really that hard.
The hard part was the accusing thoughts running through my mind.
Why had I flirted with him to begin with?
Because I liked him?
Liked him how?
Better than before?
Differently than before?
Did I want to be with him?
If I didn’t know the answers to these questions, how could I even make the decision to ignore him in the first place? What kind of person ignores one of their best friends anyway?
And he noticed it, I know he did.
After I squirmed out from under his arm for the third time on the way to Potions, he didn’t try again. Just turned his back on me to speak to some of the girls from his house.
I tried extremely hard not to care.
But, to be honest, when he parks his bum on the desk that we share to lean back and chat with a particularly doting mousey-haired girl, it’s a little difficult. Especially when Lily, at the desk in front of me, is too busy conversing with James and paying no attention to her friend in need. I can’t help but notice that she’s flicking her hair in a rather similar manner to Sirius’ little pal.
To block out the giggles of Mousey, and her apparent need to touch Sirius’ arm when he made a barely amusing comment, I loudly assembled my caldron and, for once in my life, was the first ready to start.
“You’re a little eager aren’t you?” Sirius swung his legs over the table so that he was facing me instead. Mousey looked a bit put out that he so quickly diverted his attention from her to me and flounced off to her own seat.
“You know me,” I smiled sardonically, “Can’t get enough of… the…” I squinted at the blackboard, “…draught of living death.”
That didn’t sound at all morbid or creepy.
Sirius didn’t seem to be in any hurry to begin. He swung his legs and watched me as I prepared the ingredients; chopping, grinding and slicing away.
I bit back the instinctive teasing remark about staring, anxious not to initiate any flirtatious behaviour. That had to stop. Anyway, since when had it been instinctive to flirt with him?
But it was unnerving to feel his eyes on the side of my face.
“Are you alright?” He asked, suddenly. He slipped off the table and into his chair in one motion.
“Mmmf.” I gave a non-committal nod of the head.
“What does ‘mmmf’ mean?”
What does it mean? You tell me what it means you fat prat! You’re the one that used it a record amount of times in a single conversation not so long ago!
“Fine.” I said, not looking up. Anyone would think I was engrossed in my chopping. I will be receiving Oscar nominations for this performance of ‘girl not interested’.
“Right.” He managed to get an unbelievable amount of doubt into that single word. I carried on with my chopping performance. “How was training this morning?”
“Hard.” I said. This one-word answer thing was working well for me. If only I could get rid of the urge to look at him.
“I heard Dunhill was pretty hard on you?”
“I hope you gave him hell for it?”
Apparently he got bored of the one-sided conversation. He didn’t seem to be looking at me any more, which was a relief. I shook my hair over my shoulder so that it partially hid my face and hazarded a glance at him. He was looking down at his hands folded on the table. His hair was falling forward over his forehead, looking even smoother and darker than usual in the eerie dim lighting in the dungeons.
“Why hide behind your hair?” He asked, suddenly, looking up with a smirk. “I can handle you staring.”
Fuck. Caught again.
“Shouldn’t you get started?” I asked, ignoring his mocking smile and the blush creeping over my cheeks.
“Or I could nick half of your ingredients.”
He reached over to swipe some of my beautifully cut roots. I smacked his hand away with the flat side of my knife.
“Ow! You could have stabbed me!” He snatched his hand back and pouted.
“Serves you right,” I stuck out my tongue, then realised that I was responding to him so stopped abruptly and turned back my Advanced Potion Making.
“You know you want to give me half your ingredients, DeeDee…” I didn’t have to look at him to know he would be giving me The Look. So I avoided it.
“I most certainly do not.” I said, lightly.
“Please?” He didn’t give up easily.
There was a silence. Evidently he was flummoxed that The Look didn’t work. He didn’t say anything for a full two minutes as I began to stir and simmer as the textbook directed. Then he shifted in his seat towards the desk next to us.
“Hey, Mary, fancy lending half your ingredients to this poor, stupid but good-looking lad who I hear is falling behind?”
Mary, a.k.a Mousey, gladly obliged with a titter and a flick of her light-brown hair. I recognised her as one of Lily’s dorm mates. Sirius had probably ‘dated’ her before, or at the very least snogged her. My stomach churned uncomfortably but I focused on my potion, which was rather a darker shade of orange than it was supposed to be.
After class I practically sprinted out of the door to get away from the copious amounts of ‘Oh Sirius!’ giggles.
I darted quickly into the first girls bathroom that I could find and slumped against the stone sink.
I let out a breath that I hadn’t realised I was holding. It steamed up the mirror so that all I could see of myself was a blurry pink face surrounded my a mess of dark waves.
Why was I red in the face? Was it that hard to see him… moving on?
Because that was what he was doing. Moving on. It was exactly what I’d been expecting. Him to go back to his normal behaviour. It was a good thing, right?
I had wanted him to move on. I’d wanted this.
But I hadn’t expected to feel like this about it. Suddenly his normal behaviour was making me feel… awful. I hadn’t felt like this before. It made my stomach seem to twist up, my face go hot and my eyes prickle.
Oh fuck. I was jealous.
I didn’t want him moving on. I wanted to be the one moving on.
But I wasn’t.
I groaned out loud in realisation.
I wasn’t moving on. This wasn’t, as I’d originally thought, something I could move on from.
I wasn’t moving on. I didn’t want to move on. So what did I want?
To be with him?
That was stupid. All the same reasons not to want that still applied.
I mean, I had the evidence at face value, right now. Look at him – moving on, flirting, back to normal. His attention span was short as ever.
“Not this time.”, he’d said when I’d confronted him about it.
Implied that it was different.
I splashed some water on my face and dried it on my jumper.
He was moving on. I wasn’t.
What was I going to do?
I had too much pride to tell him that. Didn’t I?
“I thought it was supposed to get easier?” Londy moaned as we trudged back up to the castle the next morning. Our second six o’clock training session was no better than the first. No, it was worse than the first. Oz kept us out there practically until lessons started to perfect one of his drills.
“Maybe it gets worse first, then better,” I suggested, trying to ignore the blazing ache in my calves.
Worse first, then better. That had to be it. For both my problems. Training and Sirius. Worse, then better. That’s all.
“I suppose it’s worth going through the pain so that I can kick Oz to death with my new leg muscles,” Londy mused.
“I’ll help.” I winced with each step.
“Oh, I won’t need any help. Don’t take this away from me.”
Worse, then better, I chanted in my head to distract me from the pain in my legs and the stress in my head.
At dinner last night I’d walked in to see Sirius still with Mousey. Well, not with her. He wasn’t particularly paying her a lot of attention, mainly chatting with James and Remus, but when he turned to give her the odd flirty comment or cheeky grin…
I sat with Freddie and Ro. Facing the other way.
Worse, then better.
That was going to be my new motto. I was optimistic.
Spoil by seven little words from Londy.
“Oh, hey,” She said, “What are you doing here?”
My chanting in my head faulted as I took in Sirius lolling against the stone wall.
“You guys are really late,” He said, answering Londy but looking at me, “Do you even know what time it is?”
Londy looked at her watch and squawked. “Oh hell, I’ve got History of Magic! See you later, Deb,” She hobbled speedily through the Entrance Hall and up the stairs.
“We’ve got Transfiguration,” Sirius said, standing up properly now, rather than lounging against the wall. He nodded for me to go through the door. My stomach tugged a little as he didn’t sling an arm around my shoulders to steer me down the corridor like he usually would.
“Since when do you care about being late?” I was still scrutinizing his face to see what he was thinking. In the last few days I’d become really bad at that.
Or maybe I hadn’t wanted to know.
“I care that you haven’t had breakfast,” He produced a bacon sandwich wrapped in brown paper from his bag.
A bacon sandwich. The snack I couldn’t resist.
The smoky smell took me back to Christmas eve and I searched his face again for some sign of recognition. Just the barest hint of a smirk.
“Thank you.” I said, a little formally.
“No problem,” He replied, equally formally.
The corridors were empty; Oz must have kept us out extra long. The only sound was the muffled chatter of the classes through the doors we passed and the padding of our footsteps.
So quiet that it began to bother me. I started to become annoyed at the separate sounds of our steps and tried to keep pace with Sirius’.
Bad move. His strides were a fair bit longer than mine so I had to leap a little.
I stumbled a little, and he caught me under the elbow to stop me ploughing forwards onto my face.
He held on tightly, rough on my elbow but where his thumb was on the soft underside of my arm tingled.
I flinched and he let go quickly. I carried on walking and with just a seconds hesitation he fell back into step.
“Have I done something wrong?” Sirius asked.
Did you do something wrong? I’ll tell you what you did wrong! You ruined everything! You slept with me – twice – and then you moved on without me! That’s not fair!
“No, nothing wrong,” I said, lightly, wishing that I did have the guts to actually say what was on my mind rather than trying to seem cool. What more did I have to lose?
Only my pride. Fat lot of good that’s done me recently, letting me fall into bed with my best mate. Twice.
“I thought… we were ok. It was all ok and then suddenly it’s not.” His eyes were on the side of my face but I kept mine firmly forward.
Were we really having this conversation? And when the hell was it ‘all ok’? Did I miss something?
It took me a moment to realise that he was waiting for a response.
“Are we ok?” Sirius pressed.
“I don’t know, are we?” Alright, I was stalling.
“I thought so. Then you started ignoring me again- ”
Because we were flirting! It’s weird! Don’t you get it?
I took in our surroundings and realised we’d stopped just down the corridor from Professor McGonagall’s classroom. We were so close I could hear James’ voice, probably pratting around and showing off as usual.
“- I just want to know what’s going on, Dee. Are we…” He trailed off.
“Moving on?” I supplied, delicately. I bit my lip and dragged my eyes down. I couldn’t meet those stormy eyes. Not when they looked like that.
“Isn’t that what you wanted?” His hands were tensed into fists at his sides.
The silence said more than words could have.
It seemed to stretch for minutes on end but it could only have been a few seconds.
“Mr Black! Miss McKinnon!”
Professor McGonagall was standing impatiently outside her classroom with her arms folded in front of her black robes.
“Would you care to explain why you are loitering in the halls during lesson time?”
I looked up to see Sirius still frozen staring at me, a look of apprehension on his face that was almost painful. It was probably similar to my own frightened expression. Not frightened of McGonagall, but terrified of what had been left unspoken. Unspoken yet obvious.
I’d done it.
Accidentally, yes, but I’d still done it. Put my feelings out there to get stamped on.
Which was extremely likely to happen. He was moving on quite happily. In fact he was probably only frozen to think of a nice way to say ‘Piss off and leave me to shag around you silly slapper’.
And his silence left me to clear up the mess.
“Well?” Professor McGonagall tapped her foot sharply against the stone floor. No noise was coming from the open classroom door. Nosy gits were all listening shamelessly.
“I… um… Quidditch…” I frantically searched for a reason for both of us to be late but came up with nothing. Nothing but the truth. This is why I don’t lie.
“Quidditch?” She wasn’t buying it.
“Dee had Quidditch,” Sirius suddenly recovered, “And her lovely captain kept them going through breakfast so she fainted. I was helping her.” Sirius lied smoothly, smiling charmingly. I thought he was laying it on a bit thick.
But I forgot. This was Sirius.
Alright, she still didn’t totally buy it. But she was more convinced by him than me.
“Just get inside, quickly.” She jerked her head to the classroom and we darted in ahead of us looking suitably abashed.
The only seats left were at a desk at the front. And it was a theory lesson. I couldn’t decide if this was a good thing or not. On the plus side, the desk was at the front and we would be under the eagle eye of McGonagall so our conversation was brought to an abrupt halt. But then, if it was a practical lesson I could have snagged Lily from James and been so busy that I wouldn’t have to talk to, or sit near, him.
It was unbearable. Two hours of absolute tension.
I sat bolt upright in my chair, as far to the edge of the desk I could sit without looking suspicious. Despite my muscles pulled taut in horror, my quill shook as I scratched out the bare minimum notes I could get away with. I didn’t even hazard a tiny glance at Sirius.
This was past the ‘not wanting to look at him because he’ll see me’ thing. This was ‘ not wanting to look at him because I’ve accidentally told him something stupid’.
Why had I done it?
I hadn’t even made a conscious decision that this, that he, was what I wanted.
Nothing had changed. But everything had.
I wanted the end of the lesson to come quickly, so that I could pull out of my statue-like position and run. But I didn’t want it to end because then I’d have to face the consequences.
In the end it came too quickly. I wasn’t ready for it. I was still scanning my mind for possible excuses I could use, possible alibis. My favourite as of yet was ‘I had something in my throat so I couldn’t answer’.
I swept my things into my bag quickly as I stood up. Secretly I was trying hopeful about the running away option.
I was foolish to believe even for a moment that he’d let me go.
“We’re finishing that conversation,” He said, blocking my way. His tone was casual, as Lily and James were approaching.
I opened my mouth with no reply in mind, but Lily interrupted.
“You’re so lucky she didn’t give you a detention, Deb! You were twenty minutes late! Did you really faint? I didn’t think Oz was that bad.”
“Yeah… um, bad. I’m alright.” I babbled. Idiot.
“That’s awful!” Lily took my welfare very seriously. She was probably planning a lecture for Oz right now. She linked my arm and marched me off to our next lesson, Sirius and James trailing behind as James described the elaborate prank he’d almost executed on his own.
“It would have worked if Pete wouldn’t have gotten in the way, too. Perfect. Stupid prat caught McGonagall’s attention so I couldn’t do it…”
“That’s shit. Gutted.” Sirius mumbled. I suspected my own answers to Lily were just as convincing. How our best friends were oblivious to it I don’t know.
My acting must have been better than I thought, though. Throughout Herbology Lily remained unaware of the terror in my head. I think I may have even made a few jokes, though I couldn’t remember uttering a single word all day.
I was on edge all through lunch and the afternoon waiting for Sirius to continue our ‘conversation’.
Conversation indeed. Makes it sound like an innocent chat.
“I’ve got to patrol after dinner,” Lily told me after last lesson. “At eight o’clock. And the boys have Quidditch practice –“ Oh thank Merlin. “What are you doing tonight?”
Hiding. Running away. Forever.
“Probably hang out with Londy,” I heard myself saying, just like usual. God, I was good. No one would know of my plans to run for the hills. Oh who am I kidding, I’d never make it if I can’t even manage one of Oz’s training sessions.
The boys passed us on the way out to Quidditch. I wasn’t paying a lot of attention (alright I was, but no one could see through my perfect mask of indifference) when they walked past us.
There was just the softest brush against my arm and a low voice by my ear.
“Don’t run away this time.”
I jumped and looked up to see them carry on without stopping to speak. I couldn’t help but notice that Lily was looking a little put out as well.
As for me, a sudden surge of anger burnt through my veins. I don’t know where it came from; I’m generally not an angry person. Irritation, yes; fury, no.
Don’t bloody run away this time.
I did not run away.
Well, I wouldn’t have to if he didn’t keep bloody… seducing me! Eurgh.
I’ll show you don’t run away.
That’s how I found myself lurking around the back of the changing rooms while the Gryffindor team changed after practice. Slightly regretting my impulsive decision to prove him wrong.
How was I supposed to show myself? I didn’t want to make an announcement in front of the whole team, thanks very much. Or any of them for that matter. And Sirius was sure to leave with James. What was I meant to do?
My stupid idea was sounding stupider by the minute.
I shrank back into the shadows as a group of three players left the changing rooms together.
Stupid, stupid, stupid.
My heart was leaping around like a hyperactive twit in my chest as two more players left. Now it was just Sirius and James. I strained to hear them.
“Hurry up!” James was whinging. “Evans is on patrol and I want to go and help her before she finishes!”
“She’ll just give you detention, mate.”
“Not if I’m really helpful.”
“No she won’t! I’ve thought this through, she’ll be glad of the company; the other prefect on rounds is that prat Johnson. She’ll be relieved to see me.”
“A galleon says she hexes you.”
“She won’t! Why are you in such a bad mood?”
“I’m not in mood -”
“You are, you’re sulking like a little girl -”
“I’m just thinking.”
There was a pause.
“Nothing. I’m just, uh, having a little talk later with…”
“Oh. Well, good luck mate. I need to run off to meet Evans. You wouldn’t lock up for me would you?”
“Alright. Remember my galleon tomorrow.”
“She won’t hex me!” James’ voice rang out loudly as he opened the door and hurried up to the castle. To be honest, I was with Sirius on this one. James’ plans had little logic to them. I only had a second to feel amused at James before I got that tearing feeling in my stomach again.
Running away right now had never sounded so good.
But no. Proving him wrong.
He had his enormous kit bag slung across his shoulders as he fumbled with the keys. For a moment I remained in the shadows admiring the way the moonlight hit his sleek wet hair and the way his tight white t-shirt pulled across the muscles in his back.
No, stop these thoughts.
Oh wait, don’t. I’m allowed now. Now that I’ve admitted it to myself.
“Hey.” I stepped out from the shadows.
The key in Sirius’ hand screeched against the metal lock as he flinched in surprise. The noise seemed to ring out in the soundless night.
“Dee?” His face automatically lit up then clouded with confusion and apprehension. “What -”
“I can’t do it.” I cut him off, before I lost my nerve.
“Move on. I can’t.” I bit my lip and waited for a response. My heart and gut were jumping around doing some sort of fandango in the region of my throat. I’d done it. I’d said all I could. Now it was up to him.
“But it was what you wanted.” Sirius said slowly.
I looked searchingly into his eyes. All the other times I’d refused to meet his eyes seemed pointless. Why had I had such difficulty before? How else was I supposed to get some little hint of what he was thinking? Hadn’t I cared what he thought back then?
His brow was furrowed above his dark grey eyes. But I couldn’t work out the emotion in them. Had I really thought he was so easy to read before?
“I did want that.” I said, blurting my words out in a rush, a lump growing in my throat. This was a mistake. He still wanted to move on and he was embarrassed by my pathetic display. “I’m sorry. I wanted it and I tried and I thought it was OK but then the flirting and -”
The lump in my throat and the prickling in my eyes became too much. My voice shook and I took a gulping breath that did no good.
“Shhh, it’s alright.” Before the tears could spill over he had gathered me into his arms, dumping his bag unceremoniously on the wet grass behind him.
“It’s not.” I practically wailed. I hated hearing the break in my voice. “I ruined everything. Well you ruined it first and then we made it better and you were moving on and now I’ve ruined it and, and… and -”
“Dee don’t cry, love,” His arms crushed me against his chest and his face was buried in my hair. “Come here.” He manoeuvred us towards the stands and cradled me in his lap on one of the benches in the bottom corner.
Stop being so nice to me!
His gentle words just made it worse. I was bawling like a baby, and all that was running through my mind was ‘sodding hell, only I would handle this situation like this’.
He didn’t loosen his hold on me until my sobs had subsided into heaving breaths, then sniffles, then eventually calmer inhalations.
I felt the overwhelming exhaustion that always follows crying, and I was sure my face would be swollen, watery and red.
A rush of embarrassment swept through me and, as usual for me in awkward situations, I had an inappropriate response. A stupid laugh.
“What?” Sirius smiled in bewilderment at my irrational response.
“I came here to prove you wrong about me being a coward and running away,” I smiled and sniffed through the tears in my eyes. “And then I go and make a massive prat of myself by howling all over you.”
Sirius chuckled too. “To be honest, you just got me even more confused.”
“Don’t be. I just…” He brushed my hair away from my eyes and tilted my head up by sticking a finger under my nose. It was a familiar gesture that he used to always use so that he could see my face when I spoke, but he hadn’t used it in ages. “… Did you mean it? You don’t want to move on?”
“Mmmf.” I answered, avoiding his eyes even though they were about three centimetres from my own.
“I’m sorry.” I said. “I’m being stupid and selfish and it’s not fair. You should go. You should go back up to the castle and forget I said anything. Go and find Mouse – I mean Mary.”
“Mary Whatever-her-name-is. Lily’s mate.”
“Why exactly should I be doing that?”
“Because you were moving on. And I should be fine with that. I’m just not as good at it as you -”
“DeeDee. Listen to me. I don’t know what you’re talking about but nothing’s changed. For me anyway. I still mean every word I said before.”
“But you were moving on -”
“Will you stop saying that? I was not ‘moving on’.”
“If you say it again I’ll drop you I swear.”
I stiffened and held tighter onto his arms but they circled me more tightly, contradicting his words.
“Everything I said before. That still applies.” He tipped by head up again and looked seriously into my eyes. Oh no, the look. With this proximity how was I going to avoid the ‘lost in his gaze’ syndrome?
It was even worse than before. I couldn’t drag my eyes away, I was frozen. And I wanted nothing more than for his to lean his head in just that little bit, to feel his lips on mine again after two weeks of barely any contact. I could practically feel it, his lips warm and soft but his jaw solid and firm, his cheeks slightly bristly where he hadn’t shaved for a few days.
“What about you?” Did his voice sound a little bit hoarse?
It was like coming out of a deep sleep or a dream, trying to pull myself together in the fierceness of his gaze.
“I think… I thought I wanted to forget it. But I couldn’t. I wanted… you.”
He didn’t move but his eyes seemed to crinkle up in a smile, even though the rest of his face didn’t change.
“So you want me and I want you.” He said, still horrendously close to my face.
“But you -”
“Seriously, Dee, say ‘moved on’ one more time and I swear -”
“Just you.That's all I wanted. Then and now and forever.”
Makes it sound so simple. So sincere and genuine.
“That’s the thing.” I said, controlling the level of my voice. I couldn’t afford to shake right now. “What I said before still counts too. You still change your mind a million times a day. You’re still you.”
“It’s really not like that this time!” He looked frustrated, like I wasn’t getting something. “I promise -”
“Sirius, how many people have you flirted with today?”
That threw him a little. There was a beat of silence.
“No one.” He said, insistently.
“Define ‘flirted with’.” It was his turn to look down. From my position on his lap I could see his annoyingly long eyelashes sweep his cheek.
I exhaled sharply in annoyance.
“I don’t mean to do it, Dee. I just, I can’t, I… It just happens.” I could see in his face that he knew it wasn’t a god enough answer.
“Things like that can’t ‘just happen’. It’s just one step from flirting to -”
“I wouldn’t do that to you. Never ever.”
“You’ve done it before.”
“When are you going to get that this is different to before?”
“How am I supposed to get that?” I realised I’d raised my voice to match the aggravated tone in his. There was a couple of seconds silence in which I looked out across the shady pitch, streaks of navy and black in the growing darkness.
The few moments before he spoke were bizarrely peaceful.
“I like you… I care about you a lot. You’re my best girl mate and you’ve been more than that to me for ages. I want to be with you. Properly. I want Dee McKinnon to be my girlfriend. Not a random fling, hook up or one night stand. I wouldn’t ruin what we already have for that. I want the real thing.”
The words sounded strange coming from his mouth. We’d had real talks before, deep conversations that we couldn’t have had with anyone else; but I’d never heard him say anything like that before.
“Why can’t I just have one chance -”
Because you’re a slag!
“- It’s all I need. I won’t mess up.” He buried his face in my hair again. “Promise.”
Maybe he did mean it. Maybe he would try his best and I would try my best and it…. Would actually work. I was starting to believe it.
“One chance?” He tipped up my head once more.
Could I do it?
Could we do it?
My best friend. My boyfriend.
I would trust him with anything in the world. Why did it feel so much more risky to trust him with my heart?
With his hand still lightly holding my face our eyes were exactly in line. I knew one thing. I could not go back to viewing these eyes with friendly indifference. I couldn’t remember the absence of the fluttering in my stomach when he looked at me.
Without breaking eye contact I leaned in even closer, resting my forehead on his. My lips were above his in my elevated position; I planted the lightest kiss on the bridge of his nose.
“One chance.” I breathed, that smug smile on my face again. “Don’t you mess it up.”
A.N. - Oh the cheeeeese! Apologies to fluff-haters.... It was just that every single way of doing this chapter ended up fluffy. I'm still not totally sure about this chapter, it starts off too slow and then seemed a bit rushed to me. I'd love to hear what you think! Oh and I apologise for the wait. I've gotten to the end of my completed chapters now, but the rest are all planned out, I just have to do the long winded bit! Oh and also, longest chapter yet - over 7000 words wheeey!
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Preview of Chapter 8 - Just Don't Get Your Face-Gunk On Me...
“McCann, shut your mouth. You don’t know what you’re talking about.” Sirius said, quietly, but I could feel his arms rigid against me.
His low tone of voice was dangerous. It signified him trying to maintain control. Usually it didn’t take a lot to tip him over the edge, but recently, especially with me, he’d shown more patience than I’d credited him with, so I wasn’t that worried...
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