The Grass Is Always Greener

Chapter 20

As it turns out, Adie’s buoyant happiness lasted about a month more. Despite the trouble she was getting from the brothers Black (Sirius seemed no more friendly towards her and Regulus a little too friendly), Adrianna was completely content. A lot of this feeling stemmed from the lack of Lucius and Bellatrix at Hogwarts; Adie felt so much more free. She was at complete liberty to visit who she wanted, when she wanted without fear of backlash from the terrible two, and without worrying about reports of her behaviour being sent back to her parents.

What cut this happiness short was the arrival of the Christmas holidays. As usual, Adrianna was commanded by her parents to return home as opposed to staying at school. There was a slight silver lining in the fact that no one seemed to be staying at Hogwarts for the holidays that year, so Adie hoped she wouldn’t miss out on too much.

Sirius, Adie heard from Peter, would be going to the Potters’ home in Devon. For the first time, she felt real jealousy at situation. The small sense of liberty that she’d had over the past month or so was gone now – Sirius was going to have that feeling full-time now, and that was turning Adie green with envy. She almost felt as if she was more deserving of this freedom – surely his home life wasn’t as bad as hers?

Adrianna was one of the last off of the train, saying her farewells to her friends in the compartment before exiting at a different carriage. She could at least attempt to start the holiday right by not rubbing her “inappropriate” friendships in her parents’ faces. And, to be fair, her parents did greet her quite warmly; her mother gave her a very brief, stiff hug and her father clapped her on the shoulder. Callie, already waiting with them, just sneered at her big sister before motioning brusquely at Dave to take her luggage.

Adrianna supposed the reason behind their marginally improved moods were the lack of reports from Lucius, and things like her friendship with Regulus may even have earned her brownie points. It was these times that made Adie’s negativity towards her family melt away and reminded her of exactly why she could never do what Sirius had done. It just meant too much to her, to earn even this tiny bit of approval from her parents. She was so eager to please them.

Once they got home, they fell into the old familiar pattern. Things were slightly better, Adrianna felt, something had shifted. However, she couldn’t deny that she was still friends with Muggle-borns, and Potters. No one mentioned Sirius’ running away; once, when they’d been discussing Regulus Black, the conversation had skirted dangerously close to Sirius and her parents’ tension was tangible.

Christmas had passed and a few days after the celebration, Adie received a note from James.

Adie,

We’re all meeting in Diagon Alley tomorrow to spend a bit of that Christmas dosh. Fancy meeting us there? I know you might be hard for you to make it, so no problems if you can’t join us but it would be great to see you. I miss you!

James.

Adrianna scribbled back a quick reply with her apologies; she didn’t even bother to ask her parents. It would have involved too much lying and upset the balance, and Adie was pretty content with her familial situation right now. Of course, it was nowhere near perfect or like anything that James, or Remus, or Emmeline had. But it was good, for her.

Naturally, this contentment could not last and its downfall arrived the next morning when Lucille Greengrass announced that she would be taking her daughters shopping to Diagon Alley. Adie tried not to let her panic and frustration show, but public outings with her family never ended well. She could just about survive within the house, yet at balls and in public, open places she would inevitably say or do something that did not fit in with the Greengrass and pure-blood aristocratic etiquette. The added risk of seeing her friends just filled Adrianna with yet more dread.

James, Peter and Sirius were lounging on one of the benches outside Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour, devouring a couple of fudge cornets as they waited on Remus, Lily, Peter and Emmeline.

The latter two strolled round the corner, hand-in-hand, with Remus and Lily behind them. Peter and Em looked quite the solid couple, and their togetherness was the reason the Marauders had felt pressed to invite the girls to their jaunt to Diagon Alley in the first place.

Remus shot James and Sirius a smirk as he joined them on the bench; the trio were rather amused to watch Peter with a girl. He was usually by far the least confident with the female of the species, and it was quite nice to finally see him at ease, and with a real girlfriend. Lily sat down next to Remus, purposefully avoiding the space next to James, who smiled at her quickly in greeting before turning back to the remains of his ice-cream. He was really trying to get over her, finally accepting the knowledge that nothing would ever happen between them. He’d decided it would be better this way; James had thought his perseverance might pay off, but evidently not. And, the more he thought about it, was it really that great a feat to get Lily Evans, if it was only because he’d worn her down with years of whining? If he ever did (by some miracle) manage to take her on a date, he’d want it to be because she wanted to as well.

As Sirius too polished off the last of his sundae, the gang departed from Fortescue’s, and headed up the cobbled street towards the branch of Zonko’s. Even Lily didn’t take too much persuading to take a visit to the shop – she may not have liked what the boys used the products for, but she couldn’t deny the magical talent behind Zonko’s merchandise. They all passed a happy hour in the shop, testing out the tricks on each other with much laughter (and only a little sulking on Lily’s part).

Adie was not having such a fun time. After having been forced to try on – and eventually, purchase – several horrible dresses in Madam Malkin’s, Lucille had shepherded her two daughters into an upmarket coffee shop. Adrianna was staring sullenly out of the window, picking at the fancy pumpkin pastry in front of her, trying to tune out Callie and her mother’s happy babble about their new clothes, and the Nott family ball they were due to go to. She was snapped out of her reverie by a cross whisper from her mother.

“Adrianna! Stop glaring out at the street like that. It creases your whole face up, and it doesn’t do you any favours – and you need all the help you can get, frankly.” Lucille uttered this criticism bluntly and casually. She didn’t really even register that her daughter might possibly be hurt by this comment.

“It doesn’t exactly reflect well on us, either. Please, Adrianna, do try a little harder. It’s not the most difficult thing in the world, is it? We all have to do it sometimes.”

Her mother’s last sentence was almost a whisper. Adie didn’t have to ask what “it” was; she knew her mother was referring to the Slytherin mask of apathy, the one Narcissa was so famed for. The one that hid all your emotions so well, feelings of boredom, discontent, upset, anger. It also hid your joy, happiness, laughter but that was considered a good thing in the pure-blood world of the Greengrass family. It didn’t do to be showing too much enthusiasm.

And, yes, Adrianna agreed: it was very easy to slip into that mask, and quite a relief to numb yourself from feeling, and from emotion. But for Adie, there was an ever present fear that she would not be able to leave the mask behind, like Narcissa again. The blonde found it so hard to laugh, and relax even when it was just her and Adie together – free and unencumbered by the restraints of their society. Adie feared that more than anything else.

However, the look on her mother’s face indicated that arguments would not be tolerated. So she deadened herself to it all, feeling her face become politely disengaged. A bored, slightly supercilious played on her lips as her mother returned to the conversation she’d left off with her better daughter, relief on the older woman’s face now.

The rest of their stay in the café carried on in much the same manner. A few family friends joined their table: Mrs Lestrange, a Flint, and a Yaxley girl. Adrianna greeted them all coolly and politely, just like her sister. Beneath her façade, she could have sworn she saw Mrs Lestrange shoot Lucille an impressed look, pleasantly surprised by Adrianna’s correctness. Internally, Adie hoped this wouldn’t make her a potential-wife candidate for either of Mrs Lestrange’s unpleasant sons.

Finally, Lucille excused herself and her daughters, and called the excursion to an end. Gillie, who had been waiting patiently outside the café, had organised their Portkey back home, and she was waiting with it outside the Scrivenshaft’s shop across the road. Adrianna could feel all eyes still remaining at their table on her as she left the coffee shop; she knew their discussion would be about her unusually good behaviour.

However, they were not the only eyes on her. Sirius had halted the group five minutes ago upon seeing a familiar golden blonde head of hair in the café window. Sirius recognised the coffee shop immediately from torturous Sunday afternoons spent in there as a young child. The rest of the group around him were discussing whether they should try to communicate with Adie, or whether it would be better for her if they just left it.

Sirius, however, was concentrated on her face. Adie’s normally radiant, smiling features were unusually disdainful and cool – an expression he was more likely to see on the face of Narcissa or Bellatrix. It gave him a shock to see Adie like that – she looked like a pure-blood, like one of the girls he used to have to dance with at balls and such like. Sirius felt his old annoyance and hatred for her swell back up again, resurfacing from where they had been buried for the past year. In some ways he was glad, it was much better this way. Better than those odd (dare he say it, romantic) feelings he had been experiencing towards her before.

The others had come to the conclusion that it would be best to leave Adie be, for fear of her parents’ reactions. They were about to cross the street and continue on their journey towards the Leaky Cauldron when Adie exited the café, behind her mother. Her friends quickly drew back, and waited by the entrance to Zonko’s, and making sure their paths did not cross.

Sirius watched Adrianna’s passage carefully, his eyes fixed on her. All the grudges he’d held against her, all the reasons he didn’t like her came flooding back; she was so easily swayed by her family, that she would end up like the rest of them was inevitable.

Then a very small thing happened. Adie stumbled slightly, catching the heel of her boot in a small pothole in the road. She landed on her hands and knees, laughing slightly to show the passers-by, who had turned in concern that, she was alright. She righted herself, and automatically checked for signs of damage. The hem of her robe had collected some dust from the road, so she picked it up and bent to brush it off again. However as she leant down, her arm was snatched up by her mother, yanking her upright. The others could see from their shadowy spot how tight Mrs Greengrass’ grip on her daughter was.

Lucille hissed in her daughter’s ear, still dragging her determinedly across the street, “Honestly, Adie, I should have known you would mess up somehow! You simply cannot do anything right. That was so unladylike! Would Cissy, or Alecto do that?”

Adie just kept her mouth shut; knowing that in the long run, keeping silent was the best option. She grabbed the silver spoon Gillie was holding, along with her mother and sister. One lurch of her stomach later and she was standing in the middle of the living room with her mother screaming at her, and shaking her. Just for one little mistake, a mistake she’d barely had any control over.

Sirius watched her stumble, and as she fell to the ground he felt his stomach lurch. The look of humiliation, and resignation on her face as her mother grabbed at her made him feel sick. He felt so awful for her, from years of being in her place, being the family disgrace. He felt so angry at himself for having those stupid, angry emotions towards her. Suddenly everything was lit up for him with perfect clarity. He needed to talk to her, to Adrianna, and make things right between them, for once and for all.

They carried on walking, once the Greengrass family had disappeared, the others all discussing “poor Adie”. Sirius was caught up in his own private thoughts, and imaginings of conversations they might soon have, rehearsing his words and what he wanted to tell her.

Inside the café, Mrs Lestrange raised one eyebrow and turned back to her drink. The Yaxley daughter smirked slightly to herself, exchanging a glance with her Flint friend. Of course, they’d expected no more from her. That girl was a liability.


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