A/N: Happy birthday to me! Um, this chapter is awesome. It's as happy as I am right now. As always-- I love and appreciate and respect feedback of all flavors and kinds, it means a lot to me to know that you guys are here; if you do not feel like reviewing, I am eternally grateful that you are taking the time out to read :) On that note, enjoy!!!!!! This is the beginning of the end, I fear(!!)
When she thought back to that night, there was one part that Scarlett remembered especially.
They had Apparated to an isolated part of Hogsmeade, near the Forbidden Forest. Scarlett was still under Voldemort's control, fighting him but getting nowhere. Behind Scarlett there were groggy footsteps accessorized with the comment that "Padfoot just wanted one last drink to sleep on". Voldemort continued to manipulate her body, edging her closer and closer to Rowena Ravenclaw's tree.
And then she saw him. Through a foggy window in the Hog's Head, she saw him, hunched over a beverage, his hair slightly falling toward his face. She saw his rough and large hands wrapped around the drink; she saw even more of him as he looked up at the bartender, saw his mouth and his olive skin and that sparkle of life in his eye that Scarlett saw in no other—
And another force possessed her as she saw him, a force so powerful and so familiar that Voldemort retreated immediately in fear and she regained her body back. Her limbs were heavy and her body ached from the pull of resistance it had just dealt with, but the new force replaced Scarlett's soreness with another soreness, a tender and desperate soreness.
Even though she saw him it was not enough; she had to see him again and again and fought the urge to run as she approached the Hog's Head. She entered and the bell on the door indicated her entrance but she barely heard it, fixated on seeing him again. Sirius responded to the entrance and saw her just as she saw him, his eyes as set and determined as hers as he stood from where he was and walked toward her.
She saw him and he saw her and they saw each other, and then as he put his hands on her back and she put her hands on his neck she remembered how he became all that she saw.
They kissed each other then passionately, and when she reminisced on their reunion after that night Scarlett remembered most of all how she had shook when she realized that she had never been more excited to see someone as she was to see Sirius.
The first thing Scarlett said to Sirius was, "I love you."
They had broken apart from their kiss and had ventured outside to walk around Hogsmeade, preferring intimacy. Both were incredibly cozy, Sirius's hand in hers and their bodies close, and for a few moments they hadn't been able to say anything, both still star-struck that here they were, together again after months of being apart.
Of course, as soon as she said it he said it too; the words meant so much to her, filling her up with feelings she had only remembered hollowly from months past. She felt so warmed from being with him again that, in joy, she recognized Voldemort's once overwhelming presence was now hardly a wisp, contained within his own disgust of the human emotion called love.
"I missed you, Sirius," she said, inhaling his scent and pulling herself closer. "I missed you so badly."
Sirius squeezed her hand. "I missed you too. I hated—that I was so close—"
"But not really," she said, knowing the feeling all too well, and he nodded.
"Can you tell me what happened?" he asked her. "From that night?"
She remembered that night; Voldemort had always used it to taunt her, to will her into submission by reminding her of how she had seemed to lose everything. That night, she had been made to say things that she never wanted to say—things about how she had never loved Sirius, about how her allegiance was with the Death Eaters, about how she had played Sirius, toyed with his heart to get what she wanted...
And, just as vividly, she remembered Sirius's own response to her words—how he had denounced her, how pathetic she was, how cowardly.
A lot of things had been said since that night. Since that night, the disgust he had wrongly held for her, the helplessness she felt about him, had faded in favor of the desperation that seemed to prevail over the atmosphere. Now, he knew about the French, and she knew clearly Voldemort's motives. Tenereus had died. Theodore had begun dating Ambrose. Sirius himself had gone on a date and Scarlett had fainted from exhaustion.
All of these things had happened since that night, and although Sirius looked at a changed Scarlett and Scarlett looked at a changed Sirius they still looked at each other, looked at each other with the same passion that they had had while they had fallen in love in the outlook. All of those things had happened, but at the end of it all he still wanted to be with her. He still wanted to be with her.
Months had passed and things had changed, and they had changed, but their love certainly did not.
Scarlett, though overjoyed to be with him again, still considered her words carefully. She knew that there was a limit on what Voldemort would allow her to say, even though his influence over her now was less than it had been in months. "I never meant any of those things that I told you," she said; a huge weight lifted off her chest as she said it. "I never wanted to say any of those things to you."
She shuddered. "Voldemort wanted me to do much worse. He wanted me to hurt you. Kill you."
Although Sirius kept his composure, she noticed how he tensed. "How can he have the power to make you do that?" he asked cautiously.
Scarlett felt trapped as she tried to respond. "He—" she was suddenly seized with a bout of coughing, and she realized that no matter how much of a wisp he seemed he would still never let her say the words that she wanted to say. Only when the idea of telling him had been banished from her mind did her coughing stop and she dared to speak again. "The Dark Mark," she said finally, "imprisons you. Hurts you until you do what it wants."
She stared blankly at her feet as all of those months, all of that pain, rushed into her memory. "I fought as much as I could," she said. "But I couldn't fight forever."
Sirius thought about what she had to say for a while. "Is it still there?" he mustered. "I mean, does it still hurt you?"
"Yes," she said without hesitation. "But it's worse now."
Sirius's hand, which was intertwined with Scarlett's, clenched. "What can I do to help?" he asked desperately. "Scarlett, you need to see somebody. Dumbledore—he could help you—"
"I don't think I—" Scarlett choked on her words as she processed the thing she was next about to say— "I don't think I will be allowed to get any help. I don't think he will let me.
"And please don't—don't go and cause trouble, Sirius," she urged. "He will find out what you are doing and then I don't know how strong I am anymore. I would die if you got hurt."
Sirius exhaled. "There has to be something," he countered. "If you don't want to be a Death Eater, Scarlett, someone can protect you. Voldemort... is not the strongest force out there. Evil is nothing compared to good. All right?"
He kissed the top of her head and she couldn't help but smile. She had forgotten Sirius's ability to make it all seem so easy—the possibility of escape, the possibility of a better life, the possibility of all of the other things that he had enlightened her to. And as he said it, she couldn't help but believe him; maybe, with his help, good could conquer evil.
"I missed you," she said again; she didn't think she could say it enough. "You make everything better."
Sirius smiled despite himself. "Well, now you're making me blush," he joked.
She laughed; her heart felt light as did her soul. "Sirius Black, showing humility?" she said in reply. "What did I miss the past three months?"
Sirius laughed, a bark-like laugh that made Scarlett's heart beat faster. "So are you going to tell me about your date with Deena?" she teased. "Did you have a good time?"
"Eh," Sirius replied, shrugging. "Nice girl. Very pretty," he said thoughtfully.
Scarlett rolled her eyes as Sirius smirked. "You're an ass."
"What about you?" Sirius questioned. "My brother just can't stop asking about you, you know."
"He knows," she said. "Or at least he acts like he does. To be truthful, I haven't really made him believe otherwise. I figure if Georgiana knows Regulus deserves to know." She paused. "Speaking of, what in the name of Merlin—Georgiana and Remus?"
Sirius smiled. "I don't know," he said. "I kind of figured. He's fancied her for awhile. I was just sort of shocked, to be honest, that she fancied him back. Really thought her and Cornfoot had something going on..."
"It was weird," Scarlett admitted. "Seeing them together. It reminded me of us."
There was silence as Sirius thought about it himself. "What did she end up doing?" he asked, his voice no longer amused. "I went out drinking with Peter and James. Remus decided to go to the wedding." He took a deep breath. "It made me think that maybe—"
"No," Scarlett said, cutting him off. "She broke it off."
They each reflected on the choice quietly; Sirius began to stroke Scarlett's hand with his thumb, and Scarlett leaned into Sirius's arm, memorizing the feel that she had forgotten after months of absence. "We never ended it," Sirius said lowly. "Not even when we did."
"No," Scarlett said again, "but their relationship wasn't the same as ours."
Sirius cleared his throat. "You know..." he began, and then stopped. "I'm not going to leave you, Scarlett. I never should have in the first place."
Scarlett closed her eyes; she wished that the night, that her independence from Voldemort, would last forever. "It's so dangerous, Sirius," she warned. "There are Death Eaters everywhere. Voldemort will find out."
He shook his head, though, rejecting all that she said. "I don't care," Sirius said firmly. "I'm sick and tired of trying to pretend that this isn't happening. It is happening, Scarlett. I mean, what else can I do? I can't just sit back and let you faint again, can I?"
Scarlett remembered that vividly; that feeling that there was a snake inside of her body, piercing her heart, was perhaps one of the most violent displays of Voldemort's power. "That was a fluke—" she said, but he cut her off, growing more passionate.
"Why did you faint, anyway?" he asked. "You never told me. How can I leave you alone when things like that are happening to you? That doesn't seem like it's safe either, Scarlett."
"Remember that day...how... before I fainted... we looked at each other?" Sirius said nothing as Scarlett continued. "I fainted because... we shouldn't have looked at each other."
Sirius seethed but Scarlett wasn't done. "Imagine if we were together and people knew," she said. "Everyone would know that Theodore and I broke up."
"I don't give a damn about—"
"I know you don't, but think about it," she said. "My family, your family, Theodore's family—they would all be disgraced."
"There are things more important," responded Sirius, "than the opinions of a few people. What really matters, Scarlett, what should really matter to you... like it does to me... is that you're getting hurt and it's getting worse. There is nobody's good opinion that matters more than your safety."
Scarlett closed her eyes and came closer to him. They stopped walking as she embraced him, taking in the whole of him, the essence of him, for the first time in a long time and potentially the last time for an indefinite amount of time. "I love you," Scarlett said. "Things will get easier, Sirius. One day."
He wasn't letting the issue lie so easily, however. "I'm going to keep looking out for you," he said. "You can't stop me from looking out for you, Scarlett. Or wanting to be with you, no matter the danger. Because I know..." He kissed her gently and it made her heart stop. "Even with all of the consequences... you want to be with me too."
Scarlett said nothing and held him closer. "Why did you come to Hogsmeade tonight?" he asked her. "Did you not have a good time at the wedding?"
The question was innocuous, but it had Scarlett instantly tense; he couldn't have any inkling of what Voldemort was looking for because she knew that if he started looking he would easily be dead. "Something like that," she muttered.
He couldn't know how close she had been to finding what Voldemort was looking for either.
Because, as she stood with Sirius, feeling the night slip away as she realized she would have to go back to the wedding to prevent suspicion, she made a decision. A clear choice, one that Sirius couldn't stop her from making just as much as she couldn't stop him.
She wanted to be with Sirius more than anything, but knew that if she made the slightest misstep in being with him that it would mean instant death for them both. And Sirius didn't deserve to die. How could anyone so lively, so soothing, so important, lose his life because of her mistakes? He had told her in the past to change her situation; now it was too late. Voldemort had infiltrated her and, with every moment, he became stronger.
Yes, she had been lucky today. If Sirius hadn't been in the Hog's Head she would have been dead. But she also recognized that Sirius wouldn't be so opportune all of the time. Moments like this, where fate intervened to give her another chance, were few and far between.
She was running out of chances, but with the one she was given she made a choice.
Scarlett no longer feared death as she did before. She had tiptoed so close to the edge of death, and her life had been threatened so many times that she had grown to feel in her heart that death was the only option. Sirius's life could be spared, but not hers.
It was an unfortunate truth that had taken her months to understand. And now, now that she had confronted it and accepted it, she had the freedom to choose what type of death she wanted.
She didn't want Sirius to die. And he wouldn't have to.
So, as Scarlett kissed Sirius again, she kissed him with a twinge of sadness. She knew that she could have Sirius, have him for now at least. She knew that she could continue fighting Voldemort with the ferocity she had before. She knew that, one day, when she was least expecting it, he would overcome her in an attempt to find Rowena's choker.
But...she also knew that he didn't have to get what he wanted. She could wait until the last possible second before letting the choker slip out of his fingers, an extremely rare opportunity wasted. It would kill her, but it would save the choker.
It wasn't a romantic reality, Scarlett knew.
But, with any luck... if she could have the strength to do it, good would prevail, for once, over evil.
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