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Chapter 15
To Merlin’s Belly-Button Fluff, And Back.
Head under water and you tell me to breathe easy for awhile; but breathing gets harder, even I know that.- Sara Bareilles, Love Song.

I felt my head hit the bank, as I slipped into the water. I could almost, almost, hear my neck crack. I think it somehow interrupted my fall, causing a massive buzzing in my head and for me to scrape down the lake edge.

  Cold water pierced my skin, cascading down my spine and through my very core like shards of glass. Everything slowed down. I heard once that when things slow down, it makes everything easier. That is a load of bollocks. Slowness drags everything further than it was intended. Slowness didn’t help me that night, and I was certain - to Merlin’s belly-button fluff and back - that it wasn’t bloody going to help me now. I opened my mouth to scream, only to choke and send water down my throat. In place of my curdling cry were bubbles; they glinted maliciously at me as they floated to safety, while I plunged further down.

  Suddenly, I wasn’t sinking anymore. My jeans, heavily frayed at the bottom, caught onto a splintered log that was spearing out from the edge of the lake. I panicked, scrambling desperately for my life as freezing water sliced down my throat. I could feel the thread of life I lived unravel at the edges. Maybe my number was up. I frantically kicked my legs, attempting to get free. The buzzing in my head, that had been present the second I was submerged, was slowly fading.

  All was silent.

  I closed my eyes, my struggle falling to a cease. It was no use. My number was up. I let the water slowly kill me. People always said that drowning would hurt, but the numbing ice-cold water was surprisingly gentle now. I should learn not to listen to people. Oh, well; I wouldn’t have to now. I was suddenly disappointed by the fact that my beautiful dress was only a spell. At least, if my body was found, I was something more to look at than an ugly girl in tattered jeans.

  If I was found.

  The water was comforting. I could almost feel it’s arms around me, holding me close. I let my eyes flutter open, a faint smile on my lips that I could not explain. The water had even taken the form of Sirius in front of me. Nice of it, really, seeing as he was the person I really did want to see before I died. Perhaps to kick him for being such a prat, or perhaps to tell him I loved him and snog him senseless.

  I was aware, abruptly, that the water-shaped Sirius (or was he Sirius-shaped water?) was taking my jeans off. Uh… maybe not what I meant when I said snog him senseless…

  The water-Sirius slipped down, pulling my jeans away. I remained still, thinking I could hear a melodious voice from somewhere in the depths of the lake. Or in the depths of my mind; it seemed that the two had become one in some sort of ceremony that was my death. Sort of like a collaboration mind-water marriage. I think I would have liked to get married. I would have worn a blue dress, and a white dress was out of the question because of more ways than one and -

  I felt arms around my waist. This person was not Sirius, despite the uncanny look the boy’s eyes. It was the same panic that the water-Sirius had a moment ago. I didn’t know I wanted to see Regulus before I died, but the company was nice all the same. An image of myself waving merrily at him, while we both drank tea in a child’s swimming pool, flashed into my mind. The water was doing weird things to me.

  My jeans were off, and I felt lighter. I shut my eyes, waiting for a bright light when the buzzing came back. I coughed, panic flooding through me again. I was being wrenched upwards. My head burst through the surface of the lake; the minuscule droplets of water that surged around me were like glass again.

  I took a breath of air, coughing up water. Carried to the bank like a baby, I let my hazy eyes open a fraction. The worried eyes of Sirius met mine. Sirius and Regulus had been real after all, then. That was comforting to know. I liked that thought better than a drowning fumble between a dying girl and a fragment of her imagination. Admittedly, he was a hot fragment… but a fragment all the same.

  “You scared me!” Sirius’ voice rang though my ears as he gently placed me on the floor. He held me close, his body a source of comfort against my shivering one, “Don’t ever, ever do that to me again!”

  I noticed how soaked he was. His dark hair stuck to his face, and yet he still looked picturesque… in a wet-dog sort of way. I could only imagine how I looked… actually, on second thoughts, I’d rather not. I had noticed how purple my hands were. I glanced at them, and Sirius noticed. He rubbed them softly. He looked over my shoulder, “Reg.” His voice held retained alarm.

  I turned too. Regulus hovered behind me with uncertainty, looking out of place and less picturesque than his older brother did. He looked worried.

  “Yeah?” His voice shook.

  “Get Madame Pomphrey, fast,” Sirius didn’t add a please. Regulus still hovered. Sirius added menacingly, “NOW!”

  “You look like a wet dogs.”

  The two brothers looked at me so fast that I was surprised neither got whiplash. My words had been croaky. I closed my eyes contentedly, shivering slightly. When I opened them, Sirius was shaking me. Regulus was gone.

  “Stay awake!” He urged, alarm evident in his shaking voice. I smiled. His eyes widened. I deliriously imagined them popping like balloons. I giggled faintly.

  “Not shivering ‘nymore,” I grinned giddily, “I’m ‘kay, Sirius.” I reached out to touch his face, but I didn’t really have the strength to lift my arm up. I gave a frustrated sigh, glaring at my arm. Sirius wrenched me up into his arms, carrying me into the Great Hall. I began to close my eyes again.

  “Claire!” Sirius said desperately, “Say awake!”

  I couldn’t see further than Sirius; everything was blurry. I could hear screams, and worried voices that quickly became a low hum. I was suddenly aware that I had no jeans on.

  “’m in my knickers,” I slurred, with a giggle, “Oh no, oh no…” I would have blushed, but I couldn’t feel my face heat up. I could feel my legs burning.

  Sirius slipped a big, warm jacket over my shoulders. I wasn’t sure where he got it from. Rubbing my leg, attempting to warm me, he gave a tiny chuckle, but his eyes certainly weren’t laughing, “I had to take your jeans off. They were caught on a log, ‘Ree. You bloody need to take care of your clothes. You scared me.”

  I let out a snort, but it slurred again, “My hands are blue… my eyes are blue… your eyes aren’t blue…” I let my eyes flutter shut.

  “Stay awake, ‘Ree!”

  “Why?” I let my head loll lazily, “You went to the ball with Lynne… you can’t…” I couldn’t remember what he couldn’t do.

  “I’ll explain later,” Sirius whispered, “Please, please stay awake, Clairy. I’m not allowed to move you far. Pomphrey’s on her way.”

  Sirius tapped my cheeks, forcing my eyes open again. I smiled hazily, burrowing into Sirius’ chest. My breathing was slow, delayed, as my world faded to black…

  “’Ree?” Sirius’ hand was on mine the second my eyes fluttered open. My head throbbed uncomfortably. Everything was white.

  “Am I dead?” I asked, my tone surprisingly business-like.

  Sirius gave a small chuckle, “No, you aren’t.” He stroked my hair, concerned, “You fell. Don’t you remember?”

  I nodded, “I remember falling.”

  “Nothing else?”

  I shook my head, looking around the room. I was in the hospital wing. I could see the patron’s silhouette through a crack in the curtains that gave me privacy. She was speaking in hushed tones to someone. Sirius grimaced, “You were very confused. The hypothermia got you in seconds. Madame Pomphrey said that’s normal when the water is cold enough.”

  I tried to sit up, failing badly. My back gave a dull ache, “Bugger. How long have I been here?”

  “A week,” Sirius said softly, gesturing to the silhouette behind the curtain, “She gave you one of those dream-less sleep potions.”


  A terse silence fell between us. I tried to gather my thoughts. I opened my mouth, when Sirius blurted, “I’m sorry.”


  “For - wait, you didn’t notice I went to the ball with Lynne?”

  I shrugged, glaring at him, “We’re not together. Why’d it matter to me?”

  “I agreed, because-”

  “Save it.”

  “Because,” He said louder, his grey eyes flashing, “I wanted her to stop making your life hell by stupid rumours.”

  “You’re an idiot.”

  We looked away from each other, with flushed cheeks. He reached out to hold my hand. I moved it, glaring at him.

  “I know I’ve been an idiot.”

  “So do I.”

  “I’m sorry.”

  I snorted, “Oh? I thought you were doing it on purpose to piss me off.”

  “I love you.” Pleading, grey eyes met mine. I’d come to notice that Sirius’ were the most particular colour grey. The different shades were inquisitive. There were tiny flecks of gold, like an Aztec sun, around the inner ring. The outer ring was one of the lightest blues I had ever seen. I couldn’t be angry at him when I was looking at him. I glared at the curtain instead. Stupid curtain, telling me it loved me when it had to level of emotion of a curtain.

  “I’m not a game,” I whispered so quietly, I hoped he hadn’t heard me.

  “You’re a death sentence.” I looked at him. “Claire, you confuse me so much. Before, it was just me I thought about. That much was easy. You’re the first thing in my head when I wake up, the last thing on my mind when I go to sleep… not to mention the starring role in every one of my dreams.” He winked. My expression remained solemn, wiping the grin away from his face. He said faintly, “It was scary,” He paused, adding as an afterthought (or an epiphany), “I don’t think us being away from each other is working.”

  Oh, well done. I think I’d have conversations with more intellectual substance with the bloody curtain.

  “I’m stupid.” He looked at me again. I looked back.

  “I wouldn’t say you’re stupid. You are, but I wouldn’t say it.” He flinched, but his expression changed into one I was more used to. The corner of his mouth quirked up into a crooked grin as I said, “You are a fucking idiot, Sirius.” Then, I kissed him.

  I’m an idiot, too.


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