It was, of course, a bitterly cold day; sleet-like
snowflakes were beginning to swirl around Adie as she settled down under the
beech tree. None of the other students were out in the grounds this Sunday
morning, unsurprisingly. Who wanted to be outside in the Scottish hills on a
freezing January weekend?
Adie was wrapped up tightly in a coat, several jumpers, scarf, and gloves. She turned with her back against the stinging wind, and opened up her book. Today, Adrianna just felt like being alone. It was a huge relief to be back at Hogwarts, but the others had told her that they’d witnessed the Diagon Alley incident, and she just didn’t feel like discussing it. Everything had been going so well at home, and, of course, she just had to go and mess it up. So to avoid having to try and explain her familial situation, Adie had sought solitude in the arctic grounds, knowing she’d be the only person to brave the winter weather.
Which was why it was such a surprise to feel a tap on the shoulder, and a familiar voice say, “Greengrass, you idiot – what, in Merlin’s name, are you doing out here?”
The deep voice made Adie’s stomach swoop slightly, and she cursed internally at her involuntary reaction. She turned round to face Sirius, the sudden blast of icy wind blowing her hood back and setting her hair streaming against the grey sky.
“What are you doing here, and why aren’t you wearing a scarf?” Adie replied, her words only just reaching Sirius before being snatched away by the gales. He settled down beside her, so that they could speak properly.
He shrugged. “Wanted to talk to you,” his words were short. “And I’m fine; it’s not actually too bad out here.”
Adie rolled her eyes, and clutched her coat tighter towards her, as if to emphasise the point that it was very bad out there. They passed a few seconds in silence before Adrianna shut her book, unable to properly concentrate on the words in front of her.
“I’m out here,” she began suddenly. “Because I want to be alone, and I don’t want to talk about Diagon Alley.”
Sirius nodded; he could understand that. Talking about his family was his least favourite thing to do – even James didn’t really know about what went down in the Black household. But talking to Adrianna about it would be different.
“I’m not here to make you talk – but maybe you’d be up for some listening instead?” he offered. Adie looked at him again, her interest piqued by his enigmatic words. He grinned at her, not in a tentative or wary way for once, but a genuine smile that she couldn’t help returning.
He leant back against the rough bark of the tree and began to speak. “It’s so hard, being caught in the middle. In some ways, you feel like Milo of Croton, desperately trying to separate these two halves of yourself. The part of you that wants freedom, and no restraints, and the part of you that just wants to be accepted by them –the part that doesn’t want to be the family disgrace anymore.”
Adie realised she was holding her breath as he spoke. For once, Sirius’ tone was gentle, and his words weren’t being said with a bite of anger, and sarcasm. He sounded like he was trying to advise and help her, instead of lecture her.
“As a kid, I was constantly trying to get in their good books, and nothing I did ever seemed to work. I’d always manage to stuff up somehow. By the time I was ten, I’d given up. I wasn’t who they wanted me to be, and I never could be. I didn’t agree with who they were, and how they acted, and I refused to be forced into following that path too.”
At this point, Sirius turned to look at Adrianna, who had been gazing at him intently, hanging off his words. As their eyes met, she looked away.
“But, I don’t know who I am,” she replied quietly, voicing fears she’d never acknowledged before. “Maybe, deep down, I am, and could be, the person they want. You’ve always seemed to think so, always said I was a Slytherin through and through.”
She tried to keep the accusatory note out of her voice, and not let him know how his words had hurt how and how they’d echoed round, and round her mind. He looked down too, and cleared his throat, a little abashed.
“I’m sorry about that, Adie,” Sirius used her nickname without really realising. “I was angry at the time and I didn’t mean it. I’ve been angry with you a lot, and it’s never been your fault – I want to apologise for that. I used to be almost envious of you; before I knew you, it seemed to me like you managed it so well. It seemed like you could live so comfortably between the Slytherins, your family, and having friends like Lily, and Em. Now, I know your life is just like mine was.
“But I made a change, Adie. I picked a side. If you carry on, you really will suffer the fate of Milo – you’ll get trapped between the two, and end up losing everything. You know that you aren’t like them, right? Don’t you see it, the way I did? No matter how hard you try, you can never meet their expectations?”
Adie met his eyes at last and Sirius saw her eyes were full of anguish. She couldn’t make up her mind; things weren’t as black and white for her as they had been for him. But she knew he was on her side now, he could help Adie and stop her from being condemned to a life she would hate.
“You feel so much happier when you’re not around them, don’t you? Everyone can see it. Why sentence yourself to a life you’ll be miserable in, all to try to please people, for whom you’ll never be good enough. We like you for who you are.” Sirius didn’t break their intense staring match as he said these words. Adie felt her stomach complete a few more backflips as she registered what he’s just said: “we like you”. He liked her.
Adrianna took in a deep breath. “You’re right, Sirius, it’s just hard. I still feel like -”
Her speech was cut off by another person joining the conversation, sprinting up to them from the castle. It was Reg, snowflakes covering his short, dark hair, and shivering without any coat.
The blonde girl looked at him in surprise; Sirius’ face had gone from earnest, to glowering in an instant.
His words were practically a snarl as he demanded, “What are you doing here?”
Reg shuddered in the cold, but managed to stutter out, “Adie, you need to come with me. It’s Cissy, she’s… just come with me.”
Adie felt her heart go cold. She knew, really, what was happening to Narcissa; it was the thing that Adie had feared since the start of the year. She’d known this fate was going to befall her best friend sooner or later.
“I’m so sorry, Sirius, but I have to go. Thank you, so much for this – can we talk later? Sorry, I have to run!” Adie grabbed his arm as she spoke, simultaneously packing up her things to leave. She desperately tried to convey how apologetic she was, seeing the hurt in his eyes.
“No, you don’t need to go anywhere with him,” Sirius’ voice was almost childishly petulant, and Regulus just rolled his eyes. “This is important, Adie. You bet we’ll speak later – I need you to understand what I’m telling you.”
“I do, Sirius. Thank you, it does mean a lot but I have to go – for Cissy.”
Sirius nodded in defeat, glaring sourly as Reg guided Adrianna towards the Castle, shooting a smug look at his brother as he went. Adie broke away from his hand, beginning to run towards the school; Reg followed her, walking as fast as he could. The other Black just watched their progress sadly, a heavy feeling in his stomach, his upset being twofold. The way she’d chosen him over Sirius and the fact this hurt Sirius so much. It was getting harder and harder for him to deny these feelings he harboured towards Adie.
As she skidded into the Entrance Hall, feet soaked from the light layer of snow now settled on the ground outside, Adie saw Narcissa descending the stairs, her trunk floating behind her. Adrianna had been right – Cissy was leaving Hogwarts, seven months before she was due to graduate. Her face was an impenetrable mask, but Adie could see Narcissa starting to slip in her attempt to hide her sadness and fear.
Lucius – it was all his fault, Adie thought viciously. He had left Hogwarts and was busy buying big mansions, and fancy clothes, and now he was tired of waiting for his fiancée to get out of school and join him. It happened quite often, in Adrianna’s pure-blood world; parents would condone it quite happily – after all, why would Narcissa need NEWTs? She was going to live her life as the dutiful wife of a rich, pure-blooded wizard. She would raise his children and keep his nice house. That was all her future held.
Adie ran up to her friend, as she reached the bottom of the staircase. Narcissa clearly hadn’t been expecting to see anyone, or been prepared to have to say good-byes. At the sight of her old friend, Cissy’s mask cracked completely and she was no longer able to hide her fear.
“I don’t want to go! I’m not ready for this yet, I hadn’t prepared myself. I was counting on a few last months of freedom yet,” the beautiful blonde whispered.
Adie wrapped her in a hug, burying her face in her long, pale hair. “Oh, Cissy, you haven’t been free in a very long time.”
Reg crept in the door, stopping at the sight of the two girls embracing. He’d never seen Narcissa so uncontrolled before. He’d never really stopped to consider the burden she might be under, always fixated on his own doomed fate.
“I’ll see you on my wedding day, I suppose. Be my maid of honour?” Narcissa tried to smile and make light of the situation.
“He won’t let me.” Adie’s reply was quiet, and final.
Cissy nodded slowly. “And I suppose that’s what my life depends on now, whether or not Lucius allows me.
“Oh, Adie! I know I’m moaning, I know I’m sad, and, yes, it will be hard. But I do love him – don’t pull that face! He adores me, and I’ll be treated like a princess. I do love him. It’ll be hard losing my freedom, but, as you said, I never really had much of that in the first place.”
Adie tried to smile. “Yes, I think you will be happy, if you let yourself.”
“And we’ll have each other again, one day. When you’re married, and our husbands go off to work together, then our children will have play-dates and we’ll meet up every day.” Narcissa’s voice was full of happiness, as she painted this picture. The scene to Adie, on the other hand, seemed incredibly gloomy and depressing.
“Maybe, Adie,” Cissy said, more solemnly now. “You could be happy too, if you let yourself.”
With that, Narcissa moved her trunk along again and headed towards the doors. She stopped briefly, to embrace Reg too, before leaving for good. She didn’t look back once.
Adrianna stood, leaning against the doorframe and watched Narcissa’s steady and dignified procession towards the gates. She would be happy, Cissy with Lucius; she would have the luxurious life she was used to, and he would treat her well. Could that lifestyle work for Adie too? Her head was swimming, what with her talk with Sirius and this awful, and surprise loss of Cissy. If she had been confused about what she wanted in her future before, now she was absolutely bewildered.
You could be happy, if you let yourself.
Yes, that was true. But which part of herself would she have to leave behind to attain that seemingly impossible state of “happiness”?