Over the following day I was overwhelmed by a sense of… sort of a second sight, I guess. I could sense things, things I couldn’t see before.
It was fascinating, insightful…
“I sense a lot of resentful feeling directed to me today,” I informed Lily in a wise and mysterious manner. “It’s odd, this inner eye I’ve developed. It’s fairly subtle, I don’t think anyone else would notice the things I do but -”
“- I really feel that I’m certain about this, you know?”
“Debbie, stop it.”
“Now, Lil, I knew you wouldn’t understand. I can’t really explain it, it’s just this sense -”
“Will you shut the hell up about this inner sense?!” Lily eventually roared.
The sheer volume send a cluster of first years scuttling off down the other end of the dinner table.
I blinked. “That was unnecessary.”
“Give it a rest, Debbie McKinnon. You ‘sense’ these resentful feeling my arse. Oz has been glaring murderously at you for the entire day since you told him you can’t make tryouts. Londy is of the opinion that you’re betraying feminists everywhere by agreeing to be ‘friends’ with Sirius and has informed you of this approximately eighteen times. And despite the two of you assuring James and I that you’re ‘friends’, you’re still avoiding one another like the bloody plague. Resentful feelings, you say? A trained chimp could work this out. Inner eye indeed.”
I blinked again as Lily shook her head exasperatedly and slopped a thick chunk of chocolate cake onto her plate with a little more aggression than was absolutely necessary.
“Oz has still got his death stare trained on me?” I asked, after Lily had soothed her rage a little with a couple of forkfuls of cake. She glanced up.
“Yes. Oh wait, no. He’s looking away, he’s… Oh, ok. False alarm. He was sneezing. Now he’s staring again.”
“I don’t know how many times he wants me to apologise.” I complained, internally tallying up the number of times I’d said ‘I’m sorry’ in the last nine hours or so. It was a lot. “It’s not my sodding fault I’ve got detention. I tried to explain about the Defence Mishap but it just sounded -”
“Irrational? Ridiculous? The actions of two incredibly thick, slightly insane, jilted lovers?”
I was going to respectfully ignore that.
“I think you had to be there.” I relented.
Lily was shaking her head, all condescending and superior again.
“And we are friends now.” I added, catching onto her comments about Sirius after a delay.
“Friends talk to one another.” Lily pointed out.
“Well yes but, you see, we haven’t quite had the chance…”
“They sat at the table behind us in Transfiguration.”
“Well yes but I was quite occupied…”
“And opposite us in Charms.”
“Well yes but…”
“And we all walked to Defence together, even if Professor Dawlish won’t let the two of you work on the same side of the room again.”
“Why are you blaming me?!” I demanded, defensively, “I’m not… we’re not… He’s not been talking to me either!”
“Which is why I’ve got James on his case.” Lily answered, coolly.
“Oh great. Thanks. Detention’s going to be a breeze then. You know I’ve missed my old buddy Awkwardness. Hasn’t been around since, oh last night…”
“I meant it when I said you needed to make an effort,” Lily scolded me. “It’s not about just making an agreement that you won’t hex one another. You have to really mean it. You have to want to be friends.”
“Do you, though?” Lily’s eyes were narrowed and all too knowing.
“Of course. I told you. I don’t want him to hate me. I don’t want it to be like that…”
“But do you really?” She now proceeded to widen her eyes, creepily.
I stared. “Yes. That’s why I said it. Lil, what are you -”
“Is that really what you want?” She reverted back to the narrowed eyes. Perhaps she had a twitch. Or something. She was shifting around and pulling a rather odd face. I was confused.
“What? Yes! Why would I want him to hate me? I don’t get it. What… have you got something in your eye?”
“No.” All in an instant the twitching and weird faces disappeared, she let out a heavy sigh and attacked the remains of her cake with her fork, muttering under her breath.
“Right. Ok.” I watched her warily for a moment. This Head Girl thing was really getting to her. Here she was acting like an escapee from the St Mungo’s Psych Unit, with an abnormal interest in other people’s affairs and willingly referring to James by his actual name rather than ‘Potter’ or ‘Prat-head’.
“Just don’t ignore each other in detention.” Lily said, after a short pause. She sounded fairly sane again after her brief bout of lunacy. “It’ll just be horrifically uncomfortable and I’m pretty sure one of you will just about explode with the stress of it all.”
“You exaggerate.” I told her. “It’s fine, I told you. We’re friends. Perfectly fine.”
She wasn’t exaggerating. She was in fact freakishly accurate.
On more than one occasion that day I’d contemplated how much stress I’d need to be under for the adrenaline and hormones to kill me.
I think I’m just a highly stress-prone individual on the whole. After our ‘agreement’ last night I’d gone to sleep peacefully and optimistically, expecting things to be on the mend the next morning. Or at least easier.
All it took was a second of eye contact and the sight of him ducking his head to avoid looking at me for the outbreak of stress hormones to begin.
I managed to control myself. Only had a minor spasm.
But still, my beliefs that my stress response was abnormally sensitive was rapidly gaining credibility.
It was ridiculous. We’d agreed, we were friends again. Like he said, civil. How hard can it be?
Very, it turns out. When you still haven’t mastered the whole ‘looking at him’ thing.
I tried, honestly. I fully intended to make casual conversation early on in the day to break the ice again, and then it would all flow wonderfully from there and we’d be back exactly where we were a year ago with no meddlesome, non-platonic feelings and so suffocating awkwardness.
It didn’t work.
Definitely still awkward, and definitely still bombarded with feelings that I really didn’t even understand anymore.
And then, just to top it off, we had detention.
When I was supposed to be at Quidditch try-outs.
“Just go in already.” Ray rolled his eyes and leant back against the stone wall at the bottom of the staircase, the essence of cool, while I dithered like a prat on the bottom step.
“But I’m early. Right? I shouldn’t go yet. It’s still early. Who’s ever early to detention, anyway?” I rambled, stepping back and forth on the stairs.
“It’s seven o’clock.” An amused smirk was growing on his face and he closed his eyes leisurely and rested his head back against the wall. “It may have been early when we arrived. But you’ve since spent ten minutes delaying going up the staircase. And, flattered though I am, my company’s really not all that scintillating.”
“Seven o’clock.” I echoed. “Well, when do you think’s an appropriate time to arrive at a seven o’clock detention?”
“Just a shot in the dark here, but I’m going to go with seven o’clock.”
“You’re supposed to tell me what I want to hear.” I informed him, annoyed at his lack of help.
“Sorry.” He grinned brightly and tapped his Prefect badge. “On duty.”
“I knew I should make cooler friends. It’s just not good for my reputation being the sister of a former Head Boy, best mate of the Head Girl and mates with the Head Boy and a prefect and/or probable future Head Boy. They’re no fun.”
“Seven-oh-one.” Ray ignored my nonsensical uttering, as any normal human being really ought to. “Hey, speaking of Prefect stuff, I should probably continue with my actual patrol rather than accompanying delinquents to their detentions.” He heaved himself from the wall, where he’d apparently become comfortable in the last ten minutes. “Just go up there.”
I took a brief glance up the staircase to the Astronomy Tower, where the detention was being held. Ray laughed uproariously.
“What?” I demanded.
“It’s detention, Deb. Nothing you haven’t done before. Stop looking up there like you’re about to walk the gallows.” He grinned the infuriating ‘secret-joke’ grin again. “It’s kind of cute how nervous you are.”
“Cute?! Nervous?!” I scoffed. “I am not.”
“Go up there, then.” He dead-panned.
I glared. “I’m not nervous. I’d just rather not spend any extra time in the awkwardness, thank you.”
“So don’t let it be awkward.”
“I told you what happened.” I threw out my hands in exasperation.
“Yeah, you agreed to be friends. Oh wow, I can barely imagine the horror -”
“Just because you know exactly how to act in any sort of social situation, doesn’t mean we’re all as bloody good at it.” I sighed. “I can’t just decide that it’s not going to be awkward, it just is. And the more I try to make it easy the worse it’ll be, I just know it.” I was overwhelmed by another wave of panic. “Oh God. I don’t even know what to talk to him about any more.”
Ray laughed delightedly. “Seriously, so cute.”
“It is not!”
“So, so cute.”
“Stop saying that and help me!”
“I can’t help you.” He shrugged, wicked sparkle still in his eyes. “You said yourself, the more you try the worse it is. Just get through it. Only a couple of hours.”
I shook my head fiercely, to rid it of the flush I could feel surfacing even at the thought of the uncomfortable conversation, or lack of, that was bound to occur. “Oh God. I’m pathetic. I really shouldn’t be allowed out in public. And now I’m late. Fuck. And I’ll be out of breath when I get up the stairs. Great.”
“Call yourself a Quidditch player?”
“I haven’t run since the summer.” I realised, then corrected myself. “We haven’t.”
“We’ll do it sometime. I miss it.” Bloody hell. I was actually telling the truth. I missed running. Therefore enjoyed it. Londy wouldn’t let me hear the end of this. Oz would be thrilled though. If he ever forgave me and/or even let me back on the team for missing tonight.
“Sure.” Ray looked at his watch. “Seven-oh-five, Deb.”
“Argh. Ok.” I smoothed down my shirt. Then stopped, appalled at myself. “Oh God. What am I doing, caring about how I look?!”
“So cute.” Ray couldn’t resist the dig for a final time, and I didn’t hesitate to beat him around the head. “Ow, sorry.”
“Don’t call me cute, twat -” I was half-way through saying when a movement out of the corner of my eye caught my attention. I stopped mid-battering to look. “Oh.”
I wasn’t the only one late to detention.
For a full ten seconds we stood still, as if that was going to make my old buddy Awkwardness forget we were here and skip off to annoy someone else.
Like that would ever happen.
When it sank in that my arm was frozen in midair, Ray’s arms were still raised in an attempt to defend himself and Sirius’ tie was all skew-whiff as if he’d been running (to get to our detention on time - neither of us had done a good job at that, had we?) I immediately felt foolish and lowered my arm, and Ray swiftly followed suit.
But still we stood there. Me looking at Sirius. Sirius looking at the space between me and Ray, steadily (surprise, surprise) avoiding my gaze. Ray even not managing to remain entirely cool and alternating glances between me, Sirius and the window behind my head.
The silence that lingered was one of the incredibly tense ones in which I usually had to repress the urge to brighten up with a witty joke. This was one of the worst. I was on the verge of telling a knock-knock joke.
Oh God. We were supposed to be friends! We’d talked last night. Alright, it had been uncomfortable, but there had been words coming out of our mouths and smiles and a hand shake… You don’t get any more officially-friends than that, do you?
I’d just been about to open my mouth, hopefully to announce in a socially-acceptable way that we ought to be going upstairs and not coming out with a knock-knock joke, but there was no guarantee… I’d literally opened my mouth when Sirius seemed to come to life from his statue stance and barged past me to take the stairs.
Well that was rude.
Ray raised his eyebrows and we both listened to the quick but heavy footsteps ascending the tower.
“I told you.” I groaned. “This is going to be torture. He couldn’t even stand being around me for thirty seconds. Why did he even agree to be friends in the first place if he was going to act like this? Did he really think James and Lily would fall for it? They may be blinded by optimism but I think, I think, they might just see that we’re not bosom buddies.”
“Don’t be stupid.” Ray said, “He just wasn’t expecting to see you just yet. Must have been a bit of a shock.”
“And the minute-long journey up the stairs was going to prepare him?”
“Shocked, my arse. I was bloody shocked, but I didn’t rudely barge past him without saying anything, did I?”
“No, but you did kind of stand there like a moron.”
“So did you!”
“I’m not his ex-girlfriend.”
Well that was true. Apparently we were forgoing the ‘non-girlfriend’ joke now. I was supposed to have accepted it all.
“Ok, ok. I’m going.” I took in a deep breath. “Enjoy your rounds, geek. I’ll see you tomorrow if I don’t have to resort to throwing myself from the tower.”
“It’s really not.”
“Bollocks. See you tomorrow.”
I could hear his chuckling as I climbed the stairs. It was an odd feeling as they wound up the tower. With each turn, every corner, I both dreaded seeing more stairs and having further to climb, but also dreaded seeing the open doorway leading onto the tower top. Because that would mean I’d have two fun-filled hours to spend with my new ‘mate’.
I had strong suspicions that my new mate was slightly gone in the head. Who agrees to be friends with someone, ignores them all day and then acts like a complete tosser and barges past them knowing full well that they have to spend time with said person?
I’d been dreading it, so you’d have thought I’d have been expecting it a little, but when I actually reached the top of the stairs my stomach knotted up as soon as I saw that silhouette against the orange and purple streaked sky. Along with…
“Miss McKinnon, so glad you could make it.” Excellent. Dawlish was quickly become one of my most clichéd and hated teachers. Any and all lines that you hated coming out of a teachers mouth - he’d say it. Complete with the bright sarcasm as if he’s the first tosser in the world to utter such a phrase.
I realised I was staring gorm-lessly at Sirius’ back and jumped, stopping myself. God. Good thing he was staring moodily over the battlements and (shock) paying me not even the slightest bit of attention.
“Sorry, Sir, I…” I had no excuse lined up. What a prat. I’d had the whole strenuous stair journey to fabricate one and I’d instead chosen to just mull over my own complaints.
“Was too busy loitering in the corridor with Quinn? I happened to see you on my way up.” Dawlish raised his eyebrows, managing to look both disapproving and self-righteous.
“Are you suggesting I was seeing things, Miss McKinnon?”
I’m not eight-fucking-years-old!
“No, Sir.” I gritted my teeth.
“In future please note that it is essential to arrive to a detention on time. I will speak to Mr Quinn’s Head of House myself -”
Oh God. Sprout. I’d heard many stories from Ray about his lack of ability in Herbology, way too many of which ended with my prat of a friend squirting Professor Sprout with some form of toxic pus, breaking greenhouse windows or injuring a classmate. Ray had cheerfully insisted that Professor Sprout was ‘out to get him’ for both his poor Herbology skills and the way he’d convinced her to predict him half-decent grades before failing dismally in most subjects.
I could see where she was coming from, if I was honest.
“No, Sir, don’t.” I quickly interrupted. “It wasn’t his fault, he told me to come up here ages ago, I just… He‘s a good prefect.” I finished, lamely.
“Then you ought to do your best not to lead him astray.“ Dawlish shook his head. “You have not got off to a good start, Miss McKinnon. I spoke with Professor Flitwick and from your academic record, dedicated Quidditch performance and aspirations to be a healer, I’d have really expected better from you.”
I was aspiring to be a healer? I stared dumbly, before remembering my careers meeting with Professor Flitwick back in fifth year.
I’d been overwhelmed by the five hundred and eighty or so pamphlets he’d presented me with and so, when asked what career I’d like to pursue, had blurted out in a panic that I wanted to be a Healer. I had no such ambitions. Hell, I still had no idea what I wanted to do when I left Hogwarts, and that was coming round all too quickly.
I’d only realised after the meeting that the reason ‘Healer’ had come so quickly to mind was because that was what Freddie wanted to do.
“Um, sorry?” I said, as Dawlish seemed to be awaiting some sort of an answer.
“Now, Mr Black, on the other hand…” He turned his attention from me to my ‘mate’.
Sirius turned around slowly, still not looking in my direction. He seemed pretty composed. Statue-like. The usual.
“… average grades… a fair Quidditch record, although rather too many suspensions for aggressive conduct… copious detentions… It speaks for itself.” Dawlish said.
Sirius shrugged, “What can I say, I’m a lost cause.”
Dawlish completely missed the sarcasm, “There is no such thing, Mr Black. You have the potential to go far if you’d just apply yourself. Your spell work in class has been outstanding, and many if not all of your teachers have supported this claim. If you’d just put half as much effort into the coursework and exams, you could leave Hogwarts with the NEWTs to reflect your ability.”
There was a short pause, following this oh so motivational speech.
“Uh. Yeah.” Sirius shrugged again.
“So you’ll work a little harder?”
Oh Lord, he genuinely thought we were in primary school. He must do. No one speaks to seventeen year olds like this, do they?
“Mmmf.” Sirius’ grunt could have been interpreted either way, but Dawlish beamed painfully optimistically.
“Excellent. I’m putting my trust in you. Both of you.” He looked sternly to me. “I’m trusting that I can leave the two of you to the job of polishing the Astronomy equipment with no trouble, is that understood? I have assured Professor Calledine that everything will be in pristine condition for her midnight, second-year lesson.”
Oh God. I could just imagine the look of pure fear on Professor Calledine’s face if Dawlish had mentioned my name in the same sentence as her precious equipment.
My problem wasn’t that I hated the subject, on the contrary, I’d been extremely enthusiastic. Too enthusiastic. Many a telescope suffered as I tried my hardest to correctly use all the dials and knobs at the right times. She’d often taken pity on them and rescued them before I could damage them beyond repair. I’d dropped Astronomy without a backward glance. If I wasn’t immediately good at it, I wouldn’t try. Then I hated it. Simple. Brattish, but simple.
“Is that understood?” Dawlish repeated.
“Sure.” I answered, resisting the urge to batter him with a telescope. Sirius contributed with another grunt, already looking back over the battlements.
“Excellent.” Dawlish departed with a swish of his cloak, and as I listened to his footsteps fading, my intense dislike for him was replaced with that familiar old awkward silence.
I should say something.
Do it, then.
“Um…” I cleared my throat.
Sirius didn’t turn around.
What was I even planning on saying? Why are you ignoring me? That sounded pitiful even in my own head.
I sighed and picked up a ragged piece of cloth and a jar of polish. Might as well start.
Polishing telescopes. Thrilling.
I rubbed fast, irritable circles into the cold metal.
Who even cared if their telescope was polished? It’d been two years since I’d taken the stupid subject, but I can safely say I never arrived to class, sat down and thought ‘oh how wonderfully shiny this telescope is. I am immensely thankful to whoever is responsible’.
There was a slight chance that I was projecting my resentful feelings towards my ‘mate’ onto the poor, defenceless telescope. A slight chance.
“You don’t want to be a healer.”
I jumped out of my skin and smudged a thick line of oily polish down my third telescope. He was talking to me now?
I looked up, to see him still looking out over the battlements. Ok. Couldn’t look at me, sure, but could talk to me.
“No.” I said, sounding eerily calm. Calmer than I thought was possible, anyway. Thought I may as well tell the truth. He knew that I’d never for a second wanted to be a healer, there was no way I could lie.
“Why does he think you do?” My, wasn’t he chatty all of a sudden? The sentences were short and clipped but still, they were sentences. Words. Sounds. The first I’d received since our little ‘agreement’.
“I panicked.” Well this was embarrassing to admit. “In the careers meeting back in fifth year. It was the first thing that came into my head to get Flitwick and his leaflets off my back.” My sentences were considerably more fluent and natural than his. Not that it took much. But still, I took all the pride I could get.
“And he believed you?”
“You heard Dawlish,” I cringed at the thought, “I’m a model student, apparently… not sure when that happened, if I’m honest… why would he not believe me?”
There was a brief silence and I wondered if I’d crossed the line between honesty and arrogance. Then I pointed out to myself the company I was in. Arrogance certainly wasn’t an issue. Then I scolded myself for even worrying about it.
For a while I thought he’d gone back to his broody staring over the balcony, leaving me scrubbing neat circles into the telescopes, slightly neurotically. God, I felt like Lily.
Then he spoke up again. “I told McGonagall I wanted to go into banking.” I could hear the smile in his voice but it didn’t stop my snort of incredulity.
“She told me to stop being so ridiculous and smacked me with her spectacle case.”
“She did not.”
“She did. Then I told her I could sue, and she gave me a leaflet for Magical Law.”
I chuckled, briefly and quietly.
“Then she snatched it back and said she wouldn’t be responsible for putting me in such a position of political power.” He finished.
This was weird. His voice sounded pretty much normal. So normal, in fact, that if I shut my eyes and blanked out everything that had happened in the past year I could pretend that it was normal.
But he still wasn’t looking at me.
“So what do you want to do?” I asked, grasping the chance to keep the conversation going. This was very almost not awkward. Achievement.
There was another short pause in which I scrubbed some more little circles into the telescope. This was going to be the shiniest damn telescope of the bunch.
“You know what I want to do.” He said, a little shortly but not sounding particularly harsh.
“Oh.” Of course I did. “Yeah. Just thought you might have… I don’t know -”
“Changed my mind?”
Well of course. That was stupid, really. To think he’d have changed his mind. Just because so much else had changed since whenever we’d talked about that, didn’t mean everything had. Some things stayed the same.
“You and James still out to get the bad guys, then?” I recovered reasonably well.
We lapsed into another silence. This time I felt a little more at ease, distracted from reality with the fond memories of some of Sirius and James’ not so cool behaviour. Had any of the girls in our year seen some of their more immature play fights as they enacted some sort of Auror-crime-fighting-duo-scene, they would definitely have lost a few admirers.
But they never would act like that in front of anyone else. Of course. Even Lily and I would never have known of their nerdishness had we not nicked James’ invisibility cloak that one time and hidden in their dorm. That had been a major one-up to us. Their faces as we threw off the cloak, consumed by giggles…
That was the thing. The whole statue-mask thing. The not letting anyone see who you really are or what you really feel thing.
I’d never been on the outside of it before. I’d always been let in. And now, here I was, stuck out here with everyone else that had no idea what was going on in that overly-long-haired head of his.
“What about you?” He asked, interrupting my reminiscing.
“What do you want to do?”
I swallowed. “Are we really sat up here discussing careers?” God. That almost-not-awkward thing really was just wishful thinking.
Sirius seemed to consider. Well, I assumed so. Hard to tell when someone still hasn’t turned around. “I suppose we are.”
I pretended to be extra interested in my scrubbing, not that he was even looking. If he was, he might have worried a little about the state of my mental health. This was seriously obsessive cleaning behaviour. Lily-behaviour. Not Debbie-behaviour. Never Debbie-behaviour.
“Why do you still do that?” He asked, suddenly.
“Scrub?” I asked, stupidly, halting my circles.
“What?” He turned around. Finally, he turned around.
Oh wait, it was because I was so stupid. Well that’s embarrassing.
“What?” I countered, in the usual way of pretending he’d misheard me.
It worked. Always does.
“I said, why do you still do that…” He was leaning back against the stone balustrade now, with his arms folded across his chest. “… Answer my question with a question. Avoiding answering.”
“I don’t do that.” I replied, haughtily. Of course I knew I did. I pulled that one out of the bag all the time. And it usually worked. But of course, he saw past it.
“Ok.” He shrugged. “So, what do you want to do after school, then?”
“So we are talking about careers?” I said, feebly.
I swallowed again. “I don’t know. I don’t want to do anything. I just… I can’t imagine doing anything.”
“You don’t want to grow up.” Sirius noted, so shrewdly that for a moment he could have been Ray.
“Whatever. Analyse it all you want. I don’t care. I haven’t got a clue what I want to do and I don’t plan on worrying about it.” I shrugged in a cavalier fashion.
“Awfully defensive for someone who doesn’t care.”
“Why do you care?” I snapped, without thinking.
There was a brief pause in which Sirius’ posture, leaning casually back against the wall, didn’t change, and I became aware that I was scowling at him so looked away hurriedly.
Like I said. I could always be trusted to make a difficult situation worse.
“I don’t know.” He said, in a low voice, sounding rather as though he were wondering that himself. “Maybe I’m just curious as to why we’ve never talked about that in three years.”
“It never came up.” I said, directing my attention back at my polishing. I couldn’t help but notice that whilst I’d made a (rubbish) attempt to polish a good few telescopes, he hadn’t lifted a finger. Did he not feel the same need to do something with his hands as I did?
“And if it did you just changed the subject.”
I looked up with a sharp sigh. “Do you have a point?”
He shrugged. “Just making conversation.”
Wonderful. Was it that difficult?
Um. Yes. Of course it bloody was.
And apparently I was going to make no effort to help him keep this pleasant chat going. I moved to my next telescope while he leant back over the edge of the battlements.
I kind of knew I shouldn’t blame him, I suppose. I’m not totally ‘dense’ (in Lily’s words). After our not-so-matey day he was only trying to bring up some generic topic to get us back into the swing of this talking thing. It wasn’t his fault that it was a touchy subject.
But whatever. It had struck a nerve and so now I was in the midst of ignoring him.
“What about Quidditch?” He asked.
Apparently my ignoring-him performance was wasted.
“What about it?” I asked, with a sigh.
“You never thought about carrying on with that?”
I laughed in spite of myself. “Are you kidding?”
I squinted at his silhouette against the orange sky. I don’t know what was so interesting about the view that he was leaving me to clean every telescope on my own.
“Don’t be stupid,” I said, “You have to be incredible to even get a trial.”
And I’m not. I wasn’t going to sit there and put myself down so that it sounded like I was fishing for compliments, so I dismissed it.
“No.” I said, airily, “I haven’t thought about it.”
I thought we were going to lapse into another silence when he spoke again.
“Your try-outs are today.”
Thank you for the reminder. “Yep.” I nodded.
“I imagine Dunhill is thrilled you’re missing it.”
“Of course, he’s just completely the gracious and forgiving type. I wouldn’t be surprised if he announces three new chasers just to spite me.” I voiced a worry that I hadn’t wanted to seriously acknowledge. I’d made jokes about Oz kicking me off the team but to be honest, it was a genuine possibility. This year he was sure to be even more manic - it was his last year to keep up his winning streak - and I wouldn’t put it past him to ditch me for not being dedicated enough.
“Nah. Far as I can see he’s only picking two at a time to go up against Simpson. He’s joining in himself.”
I looked up sharply. “What?”
He looked down at me and jerked his head towards the grounds. “See for yourself.”
The Astronomy tower had the most perfect view of the Quidditch pitch. I cursed myself for overlooking this and missing a considerable amount of the trials, then obviously projected this onto Sirius for conveniences sake.
“Why didn’t you tell me you were bloody watching them you twat?” I growled, abandoning my polishing and joining him at the battlements, “Just let me sit there like a muppet while you watched the whole sodding thing -”
“What did you think I was doing? Enjoying the scenery?”
I decided it wouldn’t be a good idea to bring up how the summer had brought out a nature-lover side to me. Kind of.
“How many have tried out already?” I asked, even though I wasn’t extremely pleased with him.
“Eight, as far as I can tell. First two were shocking. I’m surprised we couldn’t hear Dunhill’s voice screaming at them from here. Second two were average - could keep airborne anyway. Third pair weren’t bad, good ball handling but didn’t manage to score a goal apiece. These two - one of them’s pretty good but the other’s just sitting there.”
“Oh god.” I watched as the one Sirius had dubbed ‘pretty good’ fumbled an easy catch. “You’re being generous aren’t you.”
“I’ve got to play with two of these.” I said, as the forth pair descended and were replaced by he next two. I couldn’t imagine playing with new people. I hadn’t properly considered it. I suppose I’d been hoping that the new Freddie and Ro would be… well, the new Freddie and Ro.
“It’ll be alright once you get used to playing with new people,” Sirius said, wincing as one of the players missed the hoops by a good five feet or so, “I’ve had a new partner every year and we’ve got by fine.”
“Yeah, but you’re enough to make up for one shitty beater,” It was the truth. On the Quidditch pitch Sirius was everywhere, making the whole experience of watching him narrowly avoiding death or serious injury for the entire game way too stressful. “Whereas Freddie and Ro were enough to make up for me.”
Sirius looked down at me without turning his head. “Stop putting yourself down.”
“I’m not!” I wasn’t! I definitely wasn’t going to whine at him. Much. “You can’t win a game with one chaser; it’s impossible. And besides I needed Freddie and Ro’s strength to make up for my lack of.”
“You’ve got the speed to make up for it.” Sirius went back to watching the try-outs. They seemed to have stopped the two-man competition and there was a whole bunch of them zipping about. “The only person who could keep up with you when we played you was James. And you’ve got better. I saw the Slytherin game.”
“Mmmf.” I concentrated on what was going on at the try-outs so I didn’t have to form an appropriate response to a compliment. I was bad enough at taking compliments anyway, much less when they were from someone from the opposing Quidditch team, ex-boyfriend, person who’d been ignoring me all day up until half an hour or so ago.
“Hey, there’s one that’s not too bad.” Sirius pointed, “With the Wasps t-shirt… not accounting for terrible taste…”
“Hey, enough of that.” I nudged him sharply in the ribs, but watched the player he was indicating. He was right. The Wasps lover was the one getting most possession of the ball and looked fairly in control. “But you’re right. Maybe that’s my new team mate. We’ll get on just great - we can compare wardrobe choices.”
“Because that’s a foundation to build a friendship on.” Sirius commented, still watching the players.
Oh yeah? Try building a friendship from a mutual agreement to get on for the sake of your friends. Sound familiar? Moron.
“Who is it? Do you recognise them?” I squinted but it was getting pretty dark.
“Nope.” Sirius shrugged, then let out a low whistle as the player turned into a sharp dive to retrieve the fallen quaffle, “Shit, good Barron Dive though.”
“Not really.” I watched critically, “He over-rotated a little and so lost a good few seconds. Oz drilled me on that one for months in fourth year.”
“For a beginner though.”
“Not bad.” I relented.
“Harsh.” Sirius grinned.
I laughed, then was surprised at myself. Holy hell, I was actually more or less at ease. Enough to laugh anyway. And we were partaking in a definitely normal conversation.
“I suppose I’m just comparing to my brother and Ro.” I said, wistfully.
Sirius was quiet for a moment. “It’s ok to miss them.”
“I know.” I said, “I do.”
I did. I wasn’t totally pathetic, I could get by on my own and it even felt natural enough that I’d forget they weren’t here for a long time. But on occasion I’d suddenly realise that they weren’t here, and that I didn’t have a clue where in the world they were, and that things were different and changing and I didn’t have my brother and…
I’d panic. On these occasions. Just briefly, until I could find Lily or Ray to clam me down/ tell me to stop being so irrational.
Ok. Maybe I was pathetic.
“Have you heard from him?” Sirius asked. His voice was carefully casual. This was not to get confused with Calm Voice, which indicated a battle over temper. Rather, this was merely an attempt to sound cool when we both knew it was an awkward question.
“Once.” I said. The try-outs seemed to be over. There were no little figures zipping around anymore, just vague shapes on the ground trailing back up to the castle. I turned my back on the dark grounds and leant back against the battlements. “I haven’t written back yet. I’ve sort of…” I trailed off, realising in alarm where this sentence was heading.
Apparently it was obvious to Sirius, as he finished it off for me. “Got into a habit of that.” He said, quietly, standing up straight and for the first time, picking up a rag and a jar of polish.
Oh now he needed to do something with his hands.
I didn’t have the faintest idea how to reply.
Oddly, all I could hear was Lily’s voice in my ears. He wrote to apologise.
And I hadn’t replied. Hadn’t even read it.
He thought that was your ever so compassionate way of saying you didn’t give a shit.
I racked my brain to try and remember what I’d done with the hundreds of letters that had remained unopened over the summer.
I remembered when I was packing… I remembered wondering whether to keep them.
I remembered thinking I could get rid of Freddie and Ro’s, now I’d seen them.
I remembered Lily telling me to keep them to prompt her with her news.
I’d sorted through them quickly, picking out the one’s with Lily’s handwriting on. Those ones were lining the bottom of my trunk in my dorm. The rest… the rest I hadn’t sorted. I’d classified them all as Freddie/Ro ones without examining them, stuffed them to the bottom of my trunk. Any messy scrawl I’d decided must have been my brother’s or Ro’s… I didn’t think…
I thought he hated me.
I never thought he’d write.
What did he write? I was yearning to know. He wrote to apologise, Lily had said.
Would that have made a difference?
“I’m sorry.” I blurted out.
Sirius didn’t stop with his polishing. I recognised those little circles he was making with his rag. Those were obsessive circles, when you were trying to pretend someone didn’t exist.
After a few more seconds of vicious polishing he replied, “Doesn’t matter now.”
Your manic polishing begs to differ.
I agitatedly bit my lip, just standing there like a mug watching him furiously scrubbing this sodding telescope. With his downcast eyes mostly hidden by that ridiculous mess of hair, I could have just pretended to believe him. It would have been easier.
But something about the way I could see his jaw clenched tightly stopped me.
I stood in front of him. He must have been able to see me, I was literally less than a foot away from him, but his gaze remained firmly on the telescope. Polishing.
I was pretty sure I was about to make as sincere an apology as I was capable of, and he was polishing. Polishing.
Enough, with the fucking polishing.
“Sirius…” I put my hand on his to stop him distracting himself. It worked a bit too well. He froze but kept his eyes down. I could see them close for a second and his forehead furrowed.
“Don’t.” He said. Only he didn’t sound hostile, as I half expected. Just… defeated. “Just don’t.”
“I only meant…” I’m sorry. Really sorry. That was all I meant. But I couldn’t finish.
He looked up. Lit only by the moonlight and a dim lantern near the staircase, the definition of his face was enhanced in the white light and shadow. It made his stormy eyes gleam and the intensity in them more extreme. It stopped me mid-sentence.
It wasn’t The Look. The Look made me feel warm and wanted. The Look was smouldering and tender. This was something else. Something that stopped me halfway through forming the words and made me forget how to breathe for a few seconds. This made me feel…. Guilty.
In that instant I didn’t want to just say I was sorry for being selfish and not reading his letters. I wanted to say I was sorry for ruining everything. I wanted to say I was sorry for last year. I wanted to say I was sorry that I couldn’t change for him like he’d changed for me. I wanted to say I was sorry for the way I’d reacted. I wanted to say I was sorry for hating him. I even wanted to say sorry for everything he’d done.
I wanted to say anything that would make all the crappy bits just go away and let us go back to the good times.
“Don’t say sorry.” He said, dropping his gaze again. I still couldn’t tear my eyes away from him. From his stupid, unreasonable hair to his absurdly long eyelashes sweeping over his cheekbones. Fuck.
"But I -"
"It doesn't matter anymore."
I didn't say anything. I didn't trust myself. So when he spoke again it could have been to me or to himself.
“It doesn’t matter any more.”
A.N. Yo. So. It seems I have something to apologise for after every chapter, and this on is based around how little is in it. This was originally meant to be two, but the word count racked up and I thought poo, better get this up. So it's split. I apologise if it seems a bit filler but its actually got a lot of important stuff in there, and I tried to take into account that people wanted a little more Ray/talking/drama/awkwardness...
Anyway, please let me know what you think, as always! On another note I'm AMAZED at my review count so far. You are, by the way, awesome.
The truce. Fail. Then ok. Then fail again. It's Dee and Sirius, they're innately incapable.
A bit of Ray time... and I threw in a little Ray meets Sirius for shits and giggles. Best of friends?Or not so much?
Who hates Dawlish a wee bit?
The completely awkward little careers chat
Slightly being normal
Then the letters came up, as was inevitable. And they failed to get it out in the open AGAIN.
God. That all looks awful and like the type of story that would completely frustrate me.
Please love me anyway!
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