chapter image by abscae!
Fortunately for both of them, the following day was Sunday, giving Sirius plenty of time to coach Eleanor in the ways of the birds and bees. He was successful in making it all sound like a big joke, which it was to him, if not her. She loved watching him, the way that his expression changed every few seconds: from an ear-to-ear grin to a serious frown, then to something completely different a moment later. He seemed to laugh at almost everything, especially the topics that were supposed to be sombre in nature.
She had to admit that she liked him a lot, but then so did all the other girls in the school, except Lily, of course. No one could guess who she was interested in. It certainly was not James Potter, who too obviously hankered over her. In fact, none of the Marauders earned her affections, though she often worked on class projects with Remus Lupin, who was the most studious of the Gryffindor boys. There was also Severus Snape, who Eleanor had caught staring after Lily at the strangest of times, but since that afternoon in fifth year, Lily had not even glanced at him, much less spoken to the dark Slytherin.
But Eleanor did not want to think about Lily. It was enough to make her stomach grumble in protest.
“Hungry already?” Sirius asked with a raised eyebrow. He could do it perfectly.
Eleanor shrugged, trying to look innocent. “It is almost lunch time.”
He looked as though he were about to burst out laughing, but he that seemed to be his favourite facial expression. “It’s only eleven, you goose. Didn’t you eat breakfast?”
She screwed up her face, trying to remember. “Yes. The scones were so lovely today, didn’t you think?”
“With the clotted cream?”
He shook his head, still smiling. “Honestly, Ellie, you almost eat as much as I do.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment.” She wasn’t a bird, so why should she eat like one?
Rolling his eyes, he sat back on the window ledge. They were in an empty classroom, Ancient Runes from the appearance of the unintelligible symbols scrawled across the blackboard. The high windows let in sunlight, channelling it through ancient leaded panes, but even their size could not dwarf the height of Sirius Black, who sat so leisurely against the stone window frame that he could have been there since the castle’s creation. Some would have said that it was his blood that made him that way, others would have blamed it on arrogance, but Eleanor was not so sure. For all the expression he put into his face, he did not seem to allow his true emotions to show through the facade. It was his most important feature – being able to hide himself behind the archetype that others slotted him into.
“So, where were we before your stomach made it’s presence known?” He looked upwards, as though mentally flipping through the pages of his great knowledge. “Ever snogged someone before?”
She turned bright red. “No.” Her voice was so quiet, it was difficult to hear her in the otherwise silent room.
“Alright, we’ll just have to practice to get it right then.” He was enjoying this way too much, in Eleanor’s opinion. Not that she would mind if he kissed her. To have a first kiss from a guy like Sirius Black had to mean something, right?
He patted the space on the ledge beside him. “Come up here. It’ll be easier this way.”
She swallowed, then climbed up beside him, managing to thrust her elbow into his side while she did so. Perched so close to him as he swore and rubbed his rib cage, she noticed for the first time the smell of his cologne. Now how many young men his age wore stuff like that? Not too many, she guessed. It was a nice touch that put Sirius above the rest of them, which made her feel all the more out of her league. Why had he asked her of all people?
“Now I’ll put my hand here.” He slipped his arm around her waist, placing his hand on the small of her back, then he took her hand and planted it on his shoulder, close to his neck. “That’ll do, I guess. So I’ll pull you closer.” This took a bit of effort on his part. She did like to think that she was only big-boned, not overweight, though her mother tended to disagree. “And you can use your hand to bring our, um, lips together. Yes, that sounds good.”
Eleanor hesitated. “You sound like you haven’t done this before.”
He laughed. “Of course I have! It’s just that I, um, aren’t used to doing it so artificially. You know, it usually happens on its own. Rather like this....”
Before she could respond, or even think of a response, he was already kissing her. Well, it was more like snogging, since his free hand was doing a bit more than just resting against her and his mouth was doing more than just kissing her. His tongue entered her mouth, caressing hers until she found the strength to return the favour. It was so strange, so unfamiliar, and she wasn’t really sure if she liked it or not. Perhaps it just took getting used to?
Both her hands were now on his shoulders, and his were around her waist. At least they were for most of the time they embraced. Eleanor ran out of breath much faster than she expected, but was afraid to pull away too soon in case he thought she didn’t like it. Finally, he pulled away from her lips and touched his mouth to the corner of hers, then made a trail down her throat towards the neckline of her robes. What he’d do after that, she couldn’t even imagine, but the feeling of his lips against the sensitive skin of her throat made her sigh unexpectedly and her arms tightened their hold around his shoulders, trying to prevent him from ever stopping.
No, no, no! her mind roared, but she pushed the fears away. So this is what it was all like! She closed her eyes as each time he touched her, whether with his hands or lips, made her feel more and more beautiful, more and more like Lily and her friends, more and more like the girl she’d always (though secretly) dreamed of being. Sirius Black had wanted her as a girlfriend, not any of them, so surely she had to have something that they didn’t, right?
He stopped kissing her, but still held her close, his body shaking with laughter. He leaned down to plant a smooch on one of her still-blushing cheeks.
“Okay, that went even further than I expected! I wasn’t sure if you had it in you, Ellie. You were perfect!” He leapt down and reached up his arms to help her off the ledge. “Imagine the looks on their faces if we did that in the Common Room, or even the Great Hall!”
Eleanor’s eyes widened with fear. “Merlin, no! What would they think?”
His smile did not fade, though his eyes frowned. “We want them to think something, Ellie, something about both of us.” He did not explain his verbal riddle, instead leading her to the door, his hand gripped around hers. “That should be enough for today, don’t you think?”
She nodded, feeling very confused. “I have some work to catch up on.”
“Godric’s girdle, you sound so much like Remus. He’s always about, making excuses that he has to get this-and-this done.” He sighed. It was a very unhappy sound.
“At least he’s good at his homework, though. I’m hopeless.” She made her sigh sound equally mournful. “I’ll be lucky to get into any NEWTS classes, with the way things are going now with my grades.”
They rounded a corner, passing some younger Hufflepuff girls who gasped when they saw Sirius and Eleanor’s connected hands. There were many whisperings in the corridor and the sound of running footsteps. Eleanor wondered just how quickly the news of their... um... romance would fly through Hogwarts. She could just imagine the sort of glances she’d be getting in the Great Hall at dinner, and breakfast, and lunch, and tea..... oh Merlin.
“You shouldn’t worry so much. It’ll all turn out fine.” His voice was distracted. It was like he hadn’t even heard what she’d said. They were going up the Great Staircase, stopping every few platforms to wait for the moving stairs to put themselves into place.
She watched the staircases, observing how they went into place just as Sirius had placed their hands in all the right places. It had started as the most manufactured kiss in history, yet from Sirius’ behaviour afterwards and now, it was like it had become more real than he’d meant it to be, that he hadn’t wanted to enjoy snogging her so much, or that he hadn’t expected her to enjoy it so much. Surely he knew that she was one of his admirers, albeit from a shy, modest distance. It certainly was not so modest anymore, she thought, barely holding back a laugh as she remembered how she had kissed him back.
He smiled sideways at her as they passed a group of Ravenclaws on their way to a study area. His eyes sparkling with mischief, he pushed Eleanor against a wall miraculously not covered with portraits and kissed her full on the lips. She felt his hands subtly guide hers to hold on tight as he moved to guide her legs around him. Her gasp was lost against his mouth as her weight was balanced between the wall and his body. She managed to peek over at the Ravenclaws, who with wide eyes and scandalised expressions, hurried off, whispering behind their hands.
With his lips against the nape of her neck, he murmured, “How did they take it?”
She moved her head aside to mutter in his ear, “They were scandalised. Why did you do that?” Although she herself was scandalised at his behaviour, his touch still made the hair rise on her arms and made her heart sigh with pleasure.
Sirius put her down with surprising gentleness and brought her hand to his lips. She wondered if her face would become permanently red if this sort of thing started happening all the time. He was smiling down at her with pride, as though she’d done something just right. He still held her hand, stroking it with his thumb.
“You’re perfect, Ellie. Absolutely perfect,” he said. “I couldn’t have made a better choice than you.” He turned to continue up the stairs, dragging her along like a favourite toy. “I’ll let you be for the rest of the day. Can’t have you getting behind in your homework, can we?”
She decided that she did not completely trust him. There was something churning in his brain, some plan that could only be another prank, another trick to deceive the world, her included. Whatever he had up his sleeve, he wasn’t about to make it obvious, but Eleanor swore that she would watch for that tiniest clue that would reveal his plans. Even when he kissed her, even when he touched her, even when he made her feel more vulnerable than anyone could ever make her, she would keep a look out, making sure that he wasn’t doing it to embarrass her more than her very existence already did.
They entered the Common Room together, Sirius giving her a quick kiss goodnight before running up to his dormitory, where Eleanor supposed his friends were waiting to hear the news of Sirius’ conquest. Boys must talk about that sort of thing all the time, that and Quidditch. She watched him run up the stairs, two at a time, and turned to smile shyly at the Gryffindors assembled around the fireplace. Lily Evans and her friends were among them, squinting, gaping, and otherwise staring with surprise at Eleanor Digby, who had just been kissed on the lips by the most popular boy in (some claimed) the whole of Hogwarts.
Leaving the Common Room silent for what had to be the first time in decades, Eleanor skipped up to her dormitory, passing the neat, nicely-made beds to her own mess in the corner. She liked the fact that it was a mess, with her clothes, both clean and soiled, spread out across – and under, in some cases – her bed, and her textbooks and parchments crushed together in the very battered trunk that had once been her Great-Aunt Ethel’s, the one who had lived as a missionary in Africa for twenty-four years before coming home complaining of the bad weather down there.
She knelt in front of the trunk, weeding through the discarded sweet wrappers and old socks until she heard footsteps coming up the dormitory stairs. If she was lucky, it’d be a seventh year going up to the floor above her, but if not....
“Eleanor, can I talk to you a minute?”
Of all the people who could have entered the room at that very moment on that particular day after experiencing that particular kiss in front of the other Gryffindors, the one person who would have had to come to speak to her was Lily Evans: the most perfect of perfect girls.
Eleanor sat back and turned to look up at Lily. “Yeah, sure.”
“It’s about Sirius Black.”
“Who else? I saw you there.”
Lily bit her lip, frowning. “I sure he meant us all to see it.”
Although she agreed with the other girl, Eleanor shrugged. “That’s just how he is.”
“I’m sure.” Lily sat down on her bed, her fingers nervously tapping out a beat on her thighs. “Did you ever think that he’s doing all this for a reason? That he’s using you?”
It was like the other girl had been reading her mind, or just that Lily was a much quicker in realising things for what they really were. Lily was being nice to her, it seemed, but could she also be trying to poison Eleanor’s mind against Sirius? The way that he’d been so happy, so boyishly gleeful, each time they’d kissed made her wonder if he was doing this for something more noble than a simple prank. He said that he was desperate, that none of the other girls would understand, but she would. He had sought her out, had begged her to listen to him, had stayed to ask her even though she threw the bitterest of insults at him. And he had kissed her. She couldn’t forget that, no matter how much she still couldn’t decide if she’d really actually enjoyed it.
After a few minutes, she realised that she hadn’t yet responded to Lily’s question. Blushing again, she looked up into Lily’s impossibly-coloured eyes. No one should be allowed to have eyes like that.
“He has a good reason and I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt,” she said, surprising herself with how mature and impressive it sounded. “I won’t let him hurt me.”
Lily nodded, not looking at all pleased. “Alright, if that’s how you want it to be.” She stood up and moved towards the door. “Just be careful, Eleanor.”
Becoming less sure of herself by the minute, Eleanor faked a smile. It must have been painstakingly obvious that she wasn’t really happy about anything at all. “Thanks, Lily. I will.”
When the other girl had left, Eleanor stood up, only to collapse on her bed, her mind almost full of Sirius. What did she feel about him? What did she know of him, other than what she had heard from other people? He had pushed himself into her life, and within a day, had nearly pushed himself into her heart. She remembered the little moan she had made as he had first pressed his lips to her throat, and the feeling of his hands touching her waist, her face, her body. But those things were only physical. He knew how to laugh, but there was always the little bit of darkness in his eyes that made the laughter seem so distant, so unreal. She liked how he made her felt, but did she actually like him?
Now that was the question. Screw Shakespeare. He knew nothing about real life.
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