“Sorry I’m late Professor,” I said as I strolled into class. Even though I didn’t sound very sorry about it, Slughorn seemed to buy it.
“Yes, yes,” he replied distractedly. “Take a seat.”
I beamed at him and sauntered over to my seat next to Millie. I’d escorted the lovely Miss White up to the castle (no one can accuse me of not being a gentleman – even as a dog) to make sure that she made it up there in one piece. It is absolutely amazing to see that someone who’s so graceful in the air, can be so clumsy on the ground. Actually, come to think of it, it wasn’t that amazing after all.
But it was still a nice walk.
Which, of course, made me very late for class.
I’d had to dash back to Gryffindor Tower and take a quick shower because all that tramping through the snow made me smell like wet dog. And let me tell you something about wet dog smell: it’s only almost bearable on an adorable dog such as myself, but on a human being, it suggests that you don’t shower very often – or like to wear pure wool in the pouring rain.
Seeing as I wanted to make a good impression on my almost-girlfriend, especially considering what I was about to ask her, smelling clean and not like wet dog was desirable.
I slid into my chair next to Millie and looked over at what she was doing. A cauldron was bubbling away with some sort of vile liquid in it, whilst Millie sat there cutting something (which looked suspiciously like sheep’s brains) with rather more concentration than was probably strictly required.
I sighed inwardly. So she still wasn’t acknowledging me.
“Hey,” I said quietly. She was trying really hard not to be obvious about the fact that she didn’t want to be anywhere near me anymore, so I figured that if I talked to her, she would at least answer – even if it was in monosyllables.
“Hey yourself,” she said. Three syllables! It must be my lucky day!
“What? No concerns about where I’ve been?”
“Is it really any of my business?” Yes. Yes, it is. You’re my girlfriend – you’re supposed to care. Why don’t you care?
“What if I’d seriously hurt myself or something?”
“If you were either dead or dying, I’m pretty sure I would have heard about it. Eventually.” She shrugged. Did this woman have absolutely no feelings for me whatsoever?
I scowled. She still hadn’t even glanced my way for even a microsecond, so it was quite ineffective. “Would you care?”
“Care about what?” she asked absently. She’d finished mutilating the sheep’s brains and was now in the process of adding every slither very carefully to the potion.
“If I got hurt?”
“Mm.” Is that non-committal or what?
I couldn’t help it – I crossed my arms and I am ashamed to admit it, pouted. “So you wouldn’t care?”
“I never said that.”
“But you didn’t say you would, either.”
“Fine. For what it’s worth, yes, I would care!”
“Are you just saying that to make me shut up?”
“What do you think?” I could hear the annoyance starting to creep into her voice. She only sounded faintly annoyed when I didn’t get a question right in Arithmancy after about the eighth time I’d attempted it nowadays, so it sort of surprised me that she sounded that way.
I took a moment to consider my next words. “Sorry.”
“About what?” How had she already forgotten about what we were talking about? Was I that unimportant in her life?
“For making you annoyed. Just before.”
For the first time that lesson she looked at me. Okay, it was just a brief glance in my general direction, but I was getting a little desperate here. “That’s okay. I’m used it by now. Have you seen the powdered brains anywhere?”
Hadn’t she just added brains? Why did she need to add more brains? Was this some sort of brain farm potion? “Here.” I held out the box.
She reached for it without looking.
Our hands brushed.
She almost dropped the box.
Ha! So she does like me! Or maybe my slightest touch repulses her so much that she flinches at the mere thought of it.
Best to go with the first option – my ego stays in a better condition that way.
At that thought, I felt myself smirking. I knew how much she hated me smirking, but it was kind of an occupational hazard – it went with the whole Sirius Black image.
Which she also hated.
“Thanks,” she murmured, moving closer to look into the cauldron’s mouth. In that movement, her hair swung down to cover the side of her face, hiding what little I could see of it. Over the past few months I’d come to realise that this was a practised move. So. She was hiding something.
I moved in a little closer.
Our knees touched for a second.
Her hand, which was slowly tipping the contents of the box into the cauldron stopped. Just for a second.
“So,” I said, in a valiant effort to strike up a civil conversation.
“So,” she echoed, fastidiously not looking at me. She could be right stubborn when she wanted to be.
“We need to talk.” I winced as soon as I’d said those words. Now was not the time to fling out the first words that came into mind, buddy.
“We are talking.”
“No. We need to talk, talk.”
Finally, she stopped what she was doing and looked over at me.
“Want to talk, talk right now?” she asked, quirking up a single eyebrow. I almost kissed her.
“Um, I was hoping for a little more privacy, actually.”
She looked at me for a second, regarding me with her firewhiskey eyes. “Okay. When?”
“Um, what are you doing after dinner tonight?”
“Right. Well. When will that finish?”
Her eyes drifted over to look at something more interesting than me over my left shoulder. The only consolation was that they’d drifted away in thought, not because she couldn’t bear looking at me anymore. “Well… it gets dark out pretty early these days and James’ got patrols tonight, I think, so if we’re lucky, we should be done by about eight.”
“Great!” I sounded too excited then, didn’t I? “Meet me in the kitchens after your practice then?”
Her eyes flicked back to my face. Without a single change in expression, she replied, “Alright. It’s a date.”
Why did I say it was a date? WHY? Because in no shape or form was this a date. I mean, I only have a GIANT CRUSH ON HIM, why on earth would I want to go on a date with him?
And in the kitchens of all places?
What kind of place is that for a date anyways?
Yeah, that’s right. It isn’t. So clearly, this isn’t a date.
Even though I said it was.
But he doesn’t have to take my word for it.
He probably won’t even remember.
“You’re late,” he smirked lazily at me from a table that was out of the way of the House Elves. What on earth were they doing so busily in here at this time of night?
“No. You’re early,” I replied as smoothly as I could, which was quite a difficult task because there were butterflies tap dancing in my stomach.
His eyes roved over me, making me feel a little self-conscious. I’d come straight here (because I wanted to get this over with and NOT because I wanted to see him) so I was still in my Quidditch gear.
“Is it snowing outside?” he asked.
“No,” I replied shortly.
“Then why are you wet?”
“I flew into a cloud,” I muttered. Merlin, don’t I feel stupid right now?
He frowned. “Shouldn’t you get out of those clothes then?”
“I mean, you should get out of those clothes and into some dry ones. You’re going to get hypothermia otherwise.” He looked mildly embarrassed.
“I’ll be fine.”
He didn’t say anything else, but still looked worried. Strangely worried. Why would he care if I got hypothermia?
“What did you want to talk to me about?” I asked as I sat down opposite him. I realised this was the same table we’d been sitting at when he’d come snowballing into my life. I’m not into Divination or anything, but this did not bode well.
“Right. Well,” he cleared his throat. “Right. Christmas holidays are coming up.”
“Yes, I’m aware.”
“What are your plans?”
“I’m staying at Hogwarts. You?” Am I seriously missing out on a hot shower right now because this guy wanted to make small talk?
“Oh, well. I’m going over to the Potters’. With James.”
“Yeah, I remember her mentioning something about that.”
“Mrs Potter’s a really nice person, you know.”
I looked at him. He was acting weirder than usual. “I know,” I said slowly. “The Potters and my mother were neighbours – sort of.”
“Yeah… um, James was telling me…”
“Whatever it is Sirius, can you just spit it out already? I want to go take a shower.” Why on earth did I say that? He doesn’t need to know that I want to take a shower!
He stopped talking and looked at me.
I looked at him.
Then he said really fast, “Mrs Potter wants you to come over for Christmas so she can meet you.”
That’s never good.
“Say something,” I said. I couldn’t bear it anymore.
“Because she thinks you’re my girlfriend and it’s been a really long time since I’ve been in such a, um, long-term relationship as this, and well…” I ruffled my hair nervously. Millie was still looking at me like I was crazy. I probably was crazy.
“Well?” she prompted.
“Well, she’s kind of like my mum… actually, the Potters have sort of adopted me, so…”
“It’s only natural that she’d want to meet her second son’s girlfriend,” Millie finished. She was smiling faintly. That’s a good thing… right?
I sighed in relief. “So you understand? You’ll come with me to the Potters’ over Christmas break?”
“Sirius, I understand, but I won’t do it.”
I felt myself deflate. “Why not?”
“Because Sirius.” She was enunciating her words carefully and slowly. This couldn’t be good. “I’m still not out of the first mess you got me into.”
She had a point. “Look, I’m sorry about that –”
“Sorry? Sorry?” Was that the wrong thing to say? “What on earth am I supposed to do with a sorry?”
I was getting a little mad, but I was getting even more desperate. “Millie, please. Hear me out.”
She didn’t look like she wanted to hear anything I said, but she waved her hand, indicating I should continue.
“You know that I ran away from home back in fifth year, yeah?”
“Well, once I did that, the Potters took me in. Looked after me. Gave me a home, a real home, something I’d never really known before then.” Okay, okay, I was laying it on a little thick, but like I said, I was getting desperate. I didn’t want to lose Millie just yet. And I didn’t want to break Mrs P’s heart.
She was looking at me the way she looked at me when we were on our date at the Three Broomsticks. It was exceptionally powerful, that look. Stripped a man’s soul bare, it did.
“So I really, really, don’t want to disappoint Mrs P.”
“And bringing your fake girlfriend home to meet the closest thing you have to parents isn’t disappointing at all, is it?”
“Not if they don’t find out about the whole fake thing, no.” I threw her my most charming grin.
“You’re unbelievable!” She made to get up. “I can’t believe we’re even having this conversation right now!” I was losing her, and I knew if I lost her now, there was no way I was ever getting her back.
“Wait!” On an impulse, I grabbed her hand as she walked past.
She stopped dead in her tracks. She turned around slowly to look at where my hand was holding hers. Her eyes were wide and her mouth was slightly open (don’t think about her mouth, don’t think about her mouth). I was sensing I had a slight advantage here.
“Please Millie. I really need you to do this for me.” I was begging now, I knew, and as a general rule, Sirius Black did not beg, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
Her eyes snapped to my face. “Why?” she asked. Fair question.
“Because it’ll make them happy.”
“I think it’s kind of a parent thing. Seeing your children happy somehow translates to their own happiness.”
“So you’re willing to feign that you’re happy with me just to make them happy?”
“Well, I’m not exactly unhappy with you, so it shouldn’t be too hard, should it?”
She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but okay.”
“Thank you Millie! You’re the best fake girlfriend any guy could ever ask for!” I jumped up, and without thinking, gave her a big hug. I’m not really a hugging sort of person, but I thought the occasion called for it. I felt her tense against me, so I let go quickly. “Sorry about that. Didn’t know what came over me.” I said a little sheepishly.
“That’s, um, alright,” she said, looking down to brush out her Quidditch uniform. I couldn’t help but admire how nice her legs looked in them. All long and shapely… “And I believe what came over you is known as joy.”
I grinned at her.
“Stop doing that. You look like a moron.” She scowled.
My grin grew bigger.
Uh oh. My grin fell.
“Let it be known for the record that I am not doing this for you, I am doing this for your surrogate mother. Having spent the little amount of time I have around you, I have no idea how she can even like you, let alone love you, so in my opinion, the woman probably deserves a little happiness on your behalf in her life. That is the only reason I am doing this. Understood?”
“I hear you loud and clear.” Merlin’s bloody beard, I am nowhere near her favourite person right now, am I? Not that I’m even in the top one hundred usually, but she’s not so obvious about it. She usually acts like I’m at least #99.
“Also, there is going to be as little PDA as believably possible and try not to look too infatuated with me. We don’t want them thinking we’re in love or something.”
“Would that be such a bad thing?”
“Yeah, it would, because the next crazy thing you’ll be asking me to do is marry you.”
“Only to make them happy.”
She gave me the stripping-a-man’s-soul-bare look again.
“You really do love them, don’t you?” she asked quietly.
“Yeah, I do.”
She smiled slightly. “It’s kind of cute.”
She looked like she regretted saying that.
“Well, it wasn’t exactly what I was aiming for, but I’ll take what I can.”
She regarded me for a moment longer, then shaking her head, made to leave.
“Wait!” I tightened my grip on her hand – I’d forgotten I was still holding it (some subconscious part of my brain had slid my hand down to hers after I hugged her – sometimes I loved my subconscious brain).
“What now Sirius? I wasn’t kidding about that shower, you know.”
I was sorely tempted to tell her how much I would like to join her in that shower, but somehow, I imagined that would not be endearing me to her. And endearing was a pretty necessary thing right now. So, I fought down that urge and locked it up into that place in my brain where such inappropriate teenage male thoughts are locked up until such a time as when they can be properly dissected in privacy. “You smell fine to me,” I blurted out instead. Okay, I needed to work on this a little bit.
She rolled her eyes. “What did you want to say?”
“I just wanted to say… thank you… for everything. You really are the best girlfriend a guy could ask for.” A little bit of subtle hinting there. Yeah, I’m seventeen and male, sue me.
“You mean fake girlfriend,” she corrected. So she noticed the accidentally-on-purpose slip-up. This could be a good thing.
“Yeah, of course.”
She shook her head again, but I could tell she was trying to fight down a smile. Success! “Goodnight Sirius.”
She didn’t leave.
We just kept looking at each other.
If she didn’t leave soon, there would be no force on this planet that could stop me from kissing her.
“You can let go of my hand now,” she said quietly.
“Oh! Right, sorry.” I let go of her hand reluctantly. It had been icy cold when I’d grabbed it. I wonder if she wanted me to warm up the other one for her? Would it be weird of me to ask? Yeah, probably. I should just grab it and avoid that whole awkward situation.
Yeah, because this situation wouldn’t be awkward at all.
Oh great, so now my stupid voice of reason has developed sarcasm. Can’t someone just Avada Kedavra this sorry bastard already?
“So I guess I’ll see you tomorrow, then?” I asked as she walked away.
“You can count on it, seeing as we go to the same school and all that.”
“Right, of course.”
I wish she’d said it was a date again.
AN: See? I didn't make you guys wait too long for their talk! And I was ecstatic to read all the reviews which all seemed to suggest to me that everyone adored Snuffles! I have a HUGE soft spot for dogs, and I was cuddling mine the whole time I was writing the last chapter. And fear not, Snuffles comes back! But what do you think of this chapter? I wanted to show Sirius as a bit of a more caring person - and I reckon that he really does love the Potters. So tell me what y'all think!