Even if he wasn't in a hurry, Sirius went down the stairs two steps at a time, as it was usual in him. No one who observed that carefree and (to be honest) arrogant boy could imagine all he had been through, and all he had still to go through at his parents' house. You saw him passing by and you could admire his looks, envy his intelligence, hate his arrogance or laugh at his personality; but not a single person (except for his friends) advanced deep enough into his grey eyes and soul to see that actually, his life wasn't that happy. The disowned Black, the boy without a family because he had rebelled against something that was wrong.
The dark-haired boy spotted a curly mane peeping out the sofa and he smiled without even noticing, approaching to her and covering her eyes with his hands. The girl placed her own tiny hand on his and smiled.
"Hi, Sirius." The boy uncovered her eyes and went round the sofa, flopping down next to her.
"How did y'know it was me?" he asked, taking his shoes off wihout using his hands and making himself comfortable. Bree left the gigantic book aside and shrugged her shoulders.
"Your smell, I guess." She answered. Sirius seemed outraged and Brianna burst out laughing.
"Because of my smell? Do I stink or something?" He said, folding his arms. The girl shook her head, rolling his eyes at Sirius' expression.
"Everyone has their own scent. I just recognized yours, that's all. Don't worry; you won't frighten away whoever you were planning to get off with." She answered, tucking a curl behind her ear. It jumped out of its place and Sirius stretched it, straightening it, but when he let it go, it comically bounced back.
"And what do I smell like?" The boy asked. She seemed to think about it.
"I don't know
it's not easy to describe it. Like
like breeze, like a forest
Like outside." Immediately after saying so, she blushed. Sirius smiled when he noticed it, but he made no comments about it; despite they knew each other so well, his friend got ashamed and blushed because of the tiniest, most trivial details, fact that the marauder found adorable.
"Then, I smell like
freedom?" He asked. Brianna gave a hint of a hald smile.
"Exactly." The boy liked to hear it, because that was how he was. Everything in him yelled freedom; Sirius would never be able to stand being locked. Bree couldn't understand how had the boy beared being at his parents' place without exploding
it was probably because he spent most of the time with James and the rest, and very little at Grimmauld Place. That relaxed Brianna; any kind of prison, even in his own house, could easily destroy her friend.
"How are things?" Sirius asked, placing his head on Bree's lap, who got a little nervous; even if he hugged her all the time, he had never lied down on her legs, and for some reason, that made her feel awkward. 'I'm so silly', she told herself, just as she did every time she felt she was blushing when she was with him. But that was just how Bree was; even with her girl friends and with Eli she felt uncomfortable with certain topics or comments.
"Okay, I guess. Everyone's acting weird since Hallowe'en, but there hasn't been much time to chat about it lately, with all the homework and stuff. That, and the fact that the only one willing to talk is Becca; Lily, Sam and Eli ar even quieter than me when it comes to their feelings." Sirius nodded and stayed silent for a while.
"I know that probably what we did ended up screwing everything up with James and her
" He left the last word hanging. He hadn't talked to Bree about it yet: they had seen each other very little since the ball. On one side, because both her and his friends appeared to had had quite a busy night at the ball (and they needed advice and attention the days after that), and on the other side, because it was true that they had loads of stuff to do. Of course, he didn't do half of it, and the other half was a piece of cake, but in general, the atmosphere at the castle was a chaos, at least for the older students.
"Yeah, actually, you it did, but it was bound to happen. I already told James some months ago that he would have a hard time trying to change." Sirius sighed, staring at the roof.
"I just wish it was easier. I don't know what to do to help him." Bree smiled; if other people knew that side of Sirius, 'arrogant' wouldn't be the first word they would use to describe his personality anymore. Her smiled turned sad as she asked:
"And how are you?" Still staring at the roof, the boy shrugged his shoulders.
"Fine." Bree sighed; the boy knew why she was asking him that, but he always did the same thing when she wanted to talk about it.
"I mean how're you with your brother."
"With James? Fantastic." Brianna sighed with frustration, and Sirius couldn't help but smiling.
"You know what I mean." She said, and now it was the boy's turn to sigh.
"He's not my brother anymore." He answered harshly, but Bree knew that there was also sorrow hidden in his voice. Impulsively, the girl placed her hand on the boy's forehead, softly stroking the locks of hair that fell over it. Sirius closed his eyes.
"Don't say that
" whispered Brianna, but the boy shook his head without opening his eyes.
"You don't get it, Bree. I'm not saying it because I can't stand what he has become, nor because partly I feel it's my fault, because I couldn't avoid it. And it's not because I lost him. I say it 'cause it's true; he is not my brother anymore. I'm not a Black anymore. And to tell you the truth, I'm glad." The bitterness his words oozed saddened the girl; she wished there's something she could do for him. The boy sat up and smiled, giving her a quick kiss on the nose.
"Cheer up, Nana," he said, winking. "The Gryffindor team will need pretty cheerleaders like yourself to help them win." He managed to steal a smile from her. "I still don't get why don't you try out for the team. You're awesome! Next year we'll lose a couple of good chasers, that's your chance."
Bree wrinkled her nose: she hated to be in the spotlight, and that was unavoidably one of Quidditch's consequences.
"You could be in the team too; you fly quite well." She replied. Sirius grimaced.
"I'm not that good," he said. Bree was the obly person (besides the Marauders) to whom he would admit something like that, leaving all his haughtiness aside. "I get by, but besides, d'you really think I'd keep enough discipline to stand all those trainings and stuff?" Bree laughed and nodded.
"Promise me you'll try out someday." The boy asked.
"Only if you promise to draw me someday." She knew she had won: Sirius showed her his drawings but he would never agree to draw her; he didn't even accept to draw the marauders when they had asked him to.
The boy gave her a one-sided smile and tucked his hands in his pockets.
"Actually, I have already drawn you." He admitted. Right then, Lupin and Pettigrew went down the stairs, and Sirius winked at her goodbye before disappearing through the portrait, leaving her really blushed and surprised
Sam rushed down the stairs, tucking an arm into the sleeve while she ran; she had gotten distracted and now she was running late; in less than five minutes she was supposed to be in the dressing rooms to hear Bailey's little speech.
"Hey!" they called her from the Great Hall's door when she was about to reach the exit. The girl turned around and smiled when she saw Eli walking towards her and waving a red and gold flag. The boy smiled back. "Did you oversleep?" Sam blushed; her rober were twisted and her dark hair was tied in a sloppy ponytail, with loose locks all over.
"No, but I'm running late anyway," she said, trying to adjust her clothes with the broom in her hand. Eli motioned her to approach to him.
"Come'ere, I'll do something with yout hair, it would be uncomfortabe to have it all over your face when you have to throw that quaffle." The girl did as he said, walking towards him and sitting on one of the steps. Her friend sat behind her and undid her ponytail, braiding her long, dark hair with agile fingers. He softly brushed her neck's white skin and she felt it burn at the touch, but the boy didn't seem to notice. When he was done, he stood up and held his hand out at her to help her do the same.
"Thanks." She said. Eli took the bangs out of her face, smiling sideways.
"Good luck. Go crash those snakes." Sam nodded and rushed away. The Ravenclaw watched her go, standing there with a lost gaze and an absentminded smile.
"That's sabotage, Rivers." The boy gave a start and turned around: the one who had spoken was Black, who was accompanied by Pettigrew and Lupin.
"And how's so?" he asked, frowning puzzled.
"Distracting one of the best chasers in the team, you know Gryffindor's the best and want us to lose so that Ravenclaw has a better chance of winning the cuo, huh?" By his tpne, Eli knew he was joking, but he pretended not to understand what he was saying.
"I have no idea of what you're talking about, Black." He said, smiling with his eyebrows rose. Right then, Becca, Lily and Bree were leaving the Great Hall.
"Of course you do. What did you do, give her a good luck kiss?" the blonde asked, moving her brows up and down suggestively. Eli rolled his eyes.
"I just wished her good luck." He answered, turning around and heading to the grounds, followed by the other six.
"She better not have her hair in a braid, or I'll now it was you." Lily replied, catching him up and puting her arm around his shoulders with some difficulty: he was getting taller and taller!
The delegation sat in the bleachers swarming with students, most of which were wearing Gryffindor's colours; no one wanted Slytherin to win. They managed to get great places close to the pitch with some sexy looks from Sirius and seductive eyelash fluttering from Rebecca, that made a group of girls and a group of boys move some seats to leave them six seats in a row.
"Look at them, selling their bodies for a good spot," Lily commented with dramatism, making Lupin and Pettigrew laugh and earning a flag hit on her head from Black.
The atmosphere of anxiety and fervour quickluy infected the group, who clapped and cheered louder than anyone when seven figures wrapped in scarlet appeared on the pitch.
As soon as the game begun, Sirius transformed.
"I think he's kinda scaring me," Becca whispered at Lupin's ear when Black started yelling and swearing while Bree tried to stop him from jumping off the bleachers. "Are you one hundred per cent positive about his mental health?" Remus laughed.
"D'you find him saner the rest of the time?" It was the Ravenclaw's turn to laugh.
"You're right," she said. "And actually, Eli isn't acting as sane either
Her friend, as anxious as Black, jumped on his seat every time Gryffindor lost the quaffle or a bludger grzed Sam, yelling energetically whenever she scored.
The match was quite hard-fought, because even though the lions' team was excellent, they had to admit the Slytherins weren't bad at all; but the most stressfull moment (even more than when later the snitch appeared right above the serpents' seeker's head) was when one of the gigantic apes that was a Slytherin beater threw with all his might the bludger at Potter (who was crossing the pitch at an impressive speed with the quaffle in his hand). The heavy metallic ball collided against the chaser's side, who was thrown against the bleachers, quaffle and broom included. All the spectatoes gasped in unison when James' body crashed against stand provoking a sharp noise, but to everyone's surprise the boy quickly recovered, doing an impressive maneuver to avoid falling and throwing the red ball at Sam, who had flied towards him to help him.
The public's cheers were deafening, and James used the time it took his teammate to score to overfly the pitch with his arms in the air, enjoying as always everyone's admiration.
Once the momento had passed, everyone relaxed, especially the marauders, who had made a great effort not to rush to help their friend.
And they hadn't been the only ones with that instinct: next to them, with her hands on her mouth, stood Lily, still tense. Only then she realized she had stood up, and she barely remembered yelling. It was normal; Bree had screamed too, but what she couldn't understand was why she was feeling so anguished. She sat on her seat again with her eyes fixed on the pitch, but she wasn't able of concentrating in the match; only later she would know about Gryffindor's victory, when the players were already safe and sound on the ground.
Lily snorted with irritation, walking towards the owlery at a quick pace and with a big scowl; running into Potter on her way there hadn't contributed to improve her mood. The last few months, the boy0s behavior was pretty much like a weathervane; some days he showed clear signs of maturity, and some others (like today) he behaved like an arrogant prick, especially when the redhead was around. What the hell was wrong with him? That prat had to get himself checked by a doctor, a healer, a psychiatrist or whatever; he had to have some sort of mental or personality disorder.
The girl had to admit that, deep inside, she had believed Potter was changing; that was why she had got so dissappointed during the Hallowe'en ball. But, why had she cared? She didn't give a fuck if Potter grew up or not; it would be better if he did, 'cause he would quit being a pain in the arse, but
disappointment? Why had she felt that? And now that changeable behaviour was driving her mental, bute ven more realizing that she thought so much about it. If there was something she certainly didn't think about was the way she had felt about a month ago, when he had been hit by that bludger. And when I say she didn't think about it, I mean that it didn't leave her mind, even if she tried to lie to herself. She didn't even understand what had she been thinking when it had happened, but what she did remember very well was the feel of anguish that had overwhelmed her. Stupid Potter, he wouldn't leave her alone even in her own thoughts.
Definitely, running into him at the Hospital Wing's door hadn't been good for her mood. And if to it, we add the exams, Aidan, Remus and her father, we might have an idea of what the redhead's mind was right then. She had been avoiding Aidan since the ball; the truth is that his behavior that night had really bothered her. First with Eli, and then with herself. She understood the jealousy, but it had been excessive and rude. And then it was okay if he was mad at the marauders, she was too, but it hadn't been chivalrous at all to leave her there and go away angrily. The Hufflepuff might be a really sweet bloke and a nice person, but the other aspects of his personality Lily was getting to know mitigated her desire of kissing his dimples. And we better not start with the kissing stuff, because thanks to Potter and his crew, it seemed like the redhead would have forever the title of "never-been-kissed".
And now Remus had commented her that he would go to the Hospital Wing 'cause he was feeling sick again. There's not much tos ay about the thoughts that darkened Lily's mind that days of the month.
And as if it wasn't enough, she had received a letter from her parents; they would both spent Christmas Eve at her father's sister house, a woman she didn't even know and lived somewhere in North Ireland (That wasn't a good sign; it meant her father was not okay and wanted to see that part of his family one last time). They thought it was better if they travelled alone; the trip was a bit expensive and neither Lily nor Petunia would enjoy very much spending a week at a house full of old people; so Tuney had accepted the invitation of one of her friends and was going somewhere her sister didn't remember. That meant the redhead would be spending Christmas at Hogwarts
At least Bree and Sam where staying too.
She sent the letter telling his parents what she had decided to do and turned around to go to her Common Room, but when she did so, she gave a start.
"Sev!" she exclaimed, smiling once the surprise was over. "I didn't hear you arrive."
"I thought I had seen you heading over here and wanted to say hi," he said with his peculiar voice, "Getting ready to go home next week?" She shook her head, taking her friend's arm and walking away from the owlery with him.
"I'm staying here for Christmas," she said, and her friend frowned. "Mum and dad are travelling and Tuney is going somewhere, so I've decided to stay here. You're staying too, right?" She knew he was; Severus used every chance he had to stay away from his house.
"Yeah, as always," he answered, staring at her with his inescrutable eyes. Lily nodded and sweetly squeezed his arm, making him smile too. "Shall I walk you to your Common Room?"
"Sure, but I wanted to pass by the Hospital Wing first, Remus is supposed to be there." Snape stopped walking and grimaced, and Lily rolled her eyes.
"Come on, you can't hate Remus that much too, Sev." The boy said nothing for a while and they kept walking, until he finally blurted out:
"Have you noticed that the last two months the four of them had mysteriously dissapeared for a day or two?" Lily gave a start; she had noticed, but she didn't think anyone else had. "I bet today and tomorrow we won't be seeing hide nor hair of them. And Lupin has always disappeared like that. There's something weird in that bloke."
Lily felt as if something heavy fell into her stomach: she wasn't the only one who had noticed that about Remus. However, she would definitely not share her theory with her friend, even less now that, when she checked her calendar, she had found a perfect blue circle (indicating the moon cycle) right next to this day. But Severus was too busy taking about it to notice his friend's sick expression.
"Every month," he repeated like he was hypnotized.
When they were reaching the Hospital Wing, Severus noticed something glued to his friend's rucksack and took it angrily. Lily stared at him with surprised and the boy gave her the crumpled piece of parchment. On it, it could be read: "I'm unavoidably and irrevocably in love with James Potter." Lily's anger was visible in her face.
"Bloody moroon" she hissed, tearing the parchment into pieces,forgetting about Remus and insulting Potter all the way to the Common Room next to a really happy Severus.
"Meeeery Christmaaaas!!!" Sam yelled, leaping on her and jumping up and down the bed with excitement: she adored Christmas. "Come ooon, Lily, uuup, it's Christmas day!!!" Lily smiled; that time of the year took the girl's inner child. A sharp knock followed by a moan made the redhead think that Sam, who used to forgot how tall she was, had bumped her head. Lily couldn't help laughing when she saw her sitting on her bed with a hand on her head and the widest smile.
"The presents!!" Bree exclaimed from her bed, which made the redhead suddenly and unvoluntarily sit up and drag herself to the foot of the bed. Satisfied, Sam went back to hers to open her own gifts.
Lily opened the packages with excitement, thanking Bree and Sam their respective presents and making a mental note to do the same thing with her parents, Eli and Becca. She was really happy when she opened Remus' gift: it was the book she had been looking for! And the beautiful blue quill Severus had sent her was going to come in Handy. She would have to thank them both as well.
When she was about to check what her friends had received, she saw a little package she hadn't noticed before; who might have send it? She took it and gave a start when she read the tag: James Potter. She hesitated a bit before opening it; what if it was some kind of prank? But she ended up doing it anyway, turning monochromatic when she saw the content and read the note: 'I've asked Sirius to draw you for me, but he wouldn't do it. As you can see, my attempts weren't really successful - Lily let out a guffaw when she realized that the strange shape next to the message has supposed to be her. Potter was really good at everything but drawing was certainly not one of his various skills. so I decided to give you something different, but that's still you. A lily for my Lily. James.' Under the note, inside a gorgeous little box, there was a hair slide in the shape of a beautiful white lily that emitted a slight silvery gleam. She looked up wishing that her friends hadn't noticed her blush, but it would have been hard to tell which one of them was redder. They stared at each other and burst out laughing.
"You first. "They all said in unison, laughing again. Finally, the redhead was the first to admit it.
"Potter." She said. Bree squealed excitedly and jumped out of her bed to see Lily's present, letting out an admired "ooooh" when she saw it and starting to say romantic nonsense. Sam approached too and shrugged her shoulders:
"Kind of corny, but pretty. Good for Potter." Lily blushed even more: she wasn't sure about how she felt about the present.
"And what did Eli give you?" she asked raising her eyebrows and looking at Sam.
"Who said it was Eli?" she answered on the defensive. Lily rolled her eyes and Bree said:
"Please, Sammie, save yourself." Sam snorted and took her bangs out of her eyes.
"Fine. He sent me a perfume." She said dryily, holding it out to the redhead. Both her and Brianna smelled it and smiled
"It's the same one you always wear." Bree said, and Sam nodded.
"I know." She said.
"Apparently he does too." Lily mumbled, and then said: "What aboyt you, Bree?"
The little brunette went read again, flinging herself down into the bed and covering her head with the blankets.
"Come again? I didn't hear you." Said Sam when the girl's voice came out stifled from inside the blankets. Bree uncovered her head a bit.
"I'm so, so stupid," she said, covering her head again. Sam and Lily looked at each other and approached to her friend. On the night table, they found an amazing drawing of Bree drabbling something in a parchment absentmindedly. It was spectacular; from her curls to the tip of her eyelashes.
"Black." Lily mumbled, remembering what Potter had wrote her, and Sam seemed surprised. She sato n Bree's bed and forced her to uncover her head. The girl sighed and stared at the ceiling.
"I'm so stupid," she repeated, "I think I've fallen in love with my best friend."
"And only now you realize about it?"
"It'll work, you'll see," said Peter sitting at the armchair's foot, biting the chocolate frog. James, sitting on the sofá, thanked him with a smile. "She has to like it, it was a really pretty hair slide."
"And if she doesn't, we'll think of something, Prongs." Said Sirius, sitting by the fire playing with a compass; as they had all stayed at Hogwarts for Christmas, they had woke up early to work in their newest project: "The Marauder's Map".
Remus place the big piece of parchment on the table and nodded.
"It's perfect, Padfoot," he said in an approving tone. "Now we'd have to draw the Ravenclaw Tower and stuff, and then the Room of Requirement." Sirius frowned.
"But I already drew the Room!" he exclaimed. The lycanthrope looked at the map again and shook his head, and his friend approached, puzzled.
"It's not posible! I swear I had drawn it. I'm not going insane." He said. Remus frowned and seemed to understand.
"I think I know what's going on. Let's see, sketch it again." He said. James leant forward to look and opened his eyes wide when, once that Sirius finished drawing it and left the quill aside, the ink lines disappeared as if they had never been there.
"It's unplottable," he said. Peter looked at him without understanding. "It can't be displayed in a map." He explained.
"Well, whatever, we'll go on with it later," Sirius said, gathering the materials and puting them into his rucksack. "It's Christmas day."
"Yeah, and we're gonna enjoy it, James added, stretching. "We were lucky your transformation was last week, Moony; you'll be able to enjoy the day in peace."
"Yeah, besides, it was our little Christmas gift; nothing better than a great adventure." Said Sirius.
Lily covered her mouth with her hands to avoid any noise coming out of it, but she couldn't stop tears from flooding he reyes. She had went down the stairs because she had thought she had heard Remus' voice and wanted to thank him, and she hadn't been able of avoiding listening to the last part of the conversation. Even though what Sirius had said made no sense at all, the rest of it did: Tiredness, rings under his eyes, monthly disappearances. 'Moony', scratches, secrets. Full moon.