The Grass Is Always Greener

Chapter 23

Adie was on tenterhooks all week. All she could do was sit and wait for news; summons home, or to Dumbledore’s office. She was pretty certain, though, of what it was she was waiting for. Her parents must have picked her a suitable husband. Her life was set in stone now – once she was married off and cooped up in that inevitable grand mansion, there was no turning back.

Still, Adrianna clung to the idea that she might be happy, although it was with far less conviction now. Maybe it was Rabastan? But he gave no outward clues that he had been promised to her, and if Regulus knew about it then so must all the other Slytherins. So, Adie deduced that it must be a Hogwarts graduate – Yaxley, or maybe one of the Flint brothers? How would she ever find any semblance of contentment with any of them? It was hopeless.

Despite frequent pestering, Lily and Emmeline could not perceive what it was that had managed to sink Adie’s mood even lower. No one knew, except Reg, who avoided Adrianna studiously – even missing his Transfiguration session with her. The girl had spent the hour awkwardly perched on the desk, alone and waiting, whilst the other pairs worked. Sirius shot a few glances her way during the lesson, wondering to himself where his brother was and what he was playing at, but he didn’t speak a word to her. He hadn’t all week; it wasn’t a frosty, or angry silence, more like he had nothing left to say to Adie. As she reflected upon this she realised that it probably hurt her more, that way.

Her highly anticipated news came one morning, curiously, in the form of a letter. Adie was startled to see the family owl land amongst her breakfast things on Tuesday, and recognised her mother’s handwriting immediately. As she flipped over the letter, and shooed the bird away, Adrianna’s ideas were confirmed by the family seal on the back of the envelope. She got up, abandoning the remains of her toast, to read the note in the Entrance Hall. Adie assumed it would be summons to return home one weekend; her parents would have bullied Dumbledore into letting their daughter leave school for matters of “urgent family business”.

Her shock, therefore, when she read the letter, was enormous. It took her a few moments to remember to breath, and she realised that she had involuntarily sat down on the steps leading up towards the Charms rooms.

Adrianna,

As it is your penultimate year of education at Hogwarts, your father and I decided it was time to come to the customary decisions regarding your future. You will need a husband to support you, and give you a family, and a proper life; we, as your parents, have taken it upon ourselves to select a suitable man for this purpose. We know your very individual views on life, Adrianna, and realise that this may sound somewhat archaic to you, but it is a method that works for everyone. You will be secure and happy, and we will be safe in the knowledge that our daughter is leading a respectable and proper life.

Your conduct over the Christmas break has reassured your father and me, and we see no need to remove you from education before your stipulated seven years. Of course, you still have some way to go before you could ever be credited as a proper young lady, but that is what this union is for. In addition to this, after leaving Hogwarts you will live with your future mother-in-law for a year before marrying. This will best set you up for married life and being a good wife to your future husband, Regulus Black.

We trust this decision will have positive outcomes for all parties involved, and hope that you do us proud – entering the Black family is a success indeed for you, Adrianna. We shall see you in the Easter and discuss these plans further.

Regards,

Mother and father

Adie’s mind was completely blank, unable to process this information, she felt numb. How could they tell her through a letter? That was almost the worst part of the whole awful situation –their utter callousness, to control her life and then dictate their instructions by way of a stiff, formal note. Adie crumpled the parchment in her fist.

And the way they’d tried to act as if what they were doing was a favour, an act of kindness for her? No, perhaps they weren’t taking her out of Hogwarts, but solely because Regulus was younger than her!

It suddenly hit her: Regulus – this was practically worse than a Lestrange! Adie felt herself begin to panic, and wondered if she was getting hysterical. The thought of a life with Reg filled her with dread, and she couldn’t work out why. His speech to her before all made sense now – surely she would be reasonably happy with him? He didn’t want that life either; together they could just live almost normally. She would never have to worry that she’d married a Muggle abusing arsehole, or anything. Their relatives would always be unpleasant shadows in their lives, with forced family occasions, and having to name their children after stupid constellations. Yet for the most part, it would be just them, away from it all and being as ordinary as they could be…

Merlin! The thought of children filled Adie with absolute horror. She could not work out why all this upset and dread was hitting her now. As much as she had despised the idea of a life with Lestrange, or Yaxley it had never terrified her as much as this reality of being Regulus’ wife. Why, though; wouldn’t she be much happier with her friend?

Then she realised, why it all seemed so bad – it was the wrong Black brother.

She did not want Regulus, and it was with a heavy heart and far too late that she realised that she did want Sirius. She had the wrong brother; the one who was her friend, and support, but not the one that was right for her, the one she needed.

Adrianna cursed herself for this epiphany, coming far too late. Why had this not seemed so crystal clear to her a month ago, when Narcissa left, when Sirius was waiting patiently under that beech tree to help her leave this life? It was too late now.

Adie was barely aware of the people swarming past, her filing out of the Hall, and pushing past her to climb the stairs. She snapped into focus, however, upon seeing a familiar dark head walk past her towards another corridor. Adie was on her feet instantly, running after him.

“Sirius,” she spoke his name as she approached, all four Marauders turning at the sound. The other three grinned at Adie in greeting; Sirius just looked confused by her even talking to him.

“I have to talk to you,” she explained. “You have a free now, right?”

He shrugged, still bemused, but James nudged him forcefully – he was evidently hoping that the conversation would repair relations between the two. Little did he know, Adie thought grimly. Sirius, however, did murmur his assent and followed Adrianna warily to the steps leading out on to the grounds.

“Wait,” he said suddenly, pausing in his steps. “You don’t have a free lesson.”

He was right. “I just don’t feel up to class this morning; and what I have to tell you is urgent, I don’t know who else I can talk to.”

Sirius’ mystification deepened at this enigmatic comment but he continued to walk with her, past the beech tree and onwards towards the Quidditch pitch. Adie lead the way up to the empty stands silently, seating herself on the cold wooden bench with Sirius joining her.

“What’s going on, Adie?”

The girl shifted, unsure of where to start. Should she dive into the whole “I’m engaged to your brother” debacle? Adie was pretty sure that this wasn’t the appropriate situation or circumstances for proclamations of love. What a soap opera her life had become…

“You were right, about me being next,” Adie began to speak. “I mean, I won’t have to leave Hogwarts like Narcissa, but it’s happened. My life path has been chosen for me, and set into stone, and I left it too late. I’ll never escape it now; I’ll survive, but, you are right, I don’t think I’ll be happy.”

Sirius stared blankly out at the grey skies – Adie wasn’t even sure that he had heard, or registered her words. He ran his hands through his hair, and Adrianna could see his face was weary.

When he spoke, his words were equally as heavy. “So they’ve picked your pure-blood prince of a husband then. A good little Slytherin boy who won’t leave his family, who’ll tether you down and stop you from doing what I did – what you want to do?”

Adie swallowed, not wanting the lump she could feel forming in her throat to evolve into tears, or even worse, sobs. The emotions she had been holding back, and controlling so well up until now, threatened to come bursting forth and drown her.

“You can still do it!” Sirius’ tone had changed completely. He now leant forwards, grabbing Adie’s hand, and urging her with bright eyes. “Leave it all, leave them, and him – why does this change the situation? It’s only helped you realise what you really want!”

Yes, Adie thought mournfully, I do know what I want now. It’s you, and it’s something that I’ll never have, whether I leave this all behind or not.

She did not say this to Sirius, however, instead she said, “The thing is, I can’t leave him. Sirius, it’s Regulus. I’m… Merlin, I’m engaged to Regulus, and I can’t leave him because he’s my friend. And we will have a stable, bordering on normal life. This is the closest thing I’ll get to happiness! I wish it felt right, and good, it doesn’t at the moment but in a few years’ time…”

Sirius didn’t look that shocked or angry, as Adie had expected him too. Maybe he’d had a better idea that this was coming, hence his perpetual anger with his brother? He just seemed to be mulling over her words in an unusually calm way. She studied him carefully, analysing the smallest flickers of emotion that she could read running across his face. But what Adie saw confused her; he just seemed quite resigned to the idea – in fact she was sure that mostly, Sirius’ features just seemed to be lined with a solemn sadness.

“But,” Sirius spoke at last, breaking the awkward silence. “But why can’t you leave him?”

His words were small and said with genuine curiosity – no sarcasm, or anger. Adie didn’t know how to answer his query, not having asked herself this question yet. The fact was that if she did do what Sirius had done, to leave behind his family and sever all his ties with them (which Adrianna wasn’t sure she had the strength to do in the first place) then she would not only be taking away her small chance at happiness but Reg’s too. Now her life was intertwined with his, whether she liked it or not; to run now would harm him, and his happiness. Could she ever do that to him? No, of course not – he was one of her closest, most supportive friends. And, on top of that, who was to say that the move would even guarantee her happiness?

So what if it had worked for Sirius, with his network of close Gryffindor friends; for Sirius, who had never fitted in, never wanted to fit in, and had been even less accepted than Adie by the pure-blooded society. Here, with this proposal of marriage to Regulus, Adie was being offered what could be a very good solution to all of her problems. This was a guaranteed decent life. Running off and abandoning this plan, and her family, could lead to her losing everything and never finding that elusive “happiness”.

Either way, whether she left or stayed with Reg, she knew she would never, ever have Sirius.

Adie met Sirius’ eye, unsure of how to even try to begin to convey this to him. Before she could start, however, he stopped her.

“Wait,” as he began to talk, he removed his hand from hers, where he had grabbed it earlier. Adie’s stomach flipped slightly, not even having realised that they had been sitting, hands intertwined for the past few minutes. “You don’t have to explain to me. I get that this could be everything you need. This could be perfect for you; maybe it’s actually me who’s being selfish. I was lucky, I have the life I always dreamed of because I took the plunge and deserted my family. But Reg could give you the life that you have always wanted. Who would I be to do anything other than support you from here on in?”

At that point Adie lost her last shred of control and could hold back her emotions no more. As the tears coursed down her face, her hand somehow making its way into Sirius’ grasp once more, Adie could not decide whether she would look back on this as the best, or worse, decision of her life.


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