Happy New Year
“Hey, Cecilia, my mum wants you to go get ready early again.” I hear a voice call to me from the doorway.
I raise my eyebrows at Sirius upside-down from my position on my back on his bed. “For what?”
He shrugs and slams the door behind him, falling back onto his bed next to me. “New Year’s Eve party at the Malfoy Manor, only it’s more party and a lot less ball this time around.” Sirius snatches the piece of parchment out of my hands. “What are you reading?”
“Just another one of your letters. They’re addressed to me anyway.” I lunge for the stolen parchment half-heartedly with my dinky little arms before giving up. “By the way, did you really accidentally set Professor Grubbly-Plank’s hair on fire with fireworks in your third year, or are you just pulling my leg?”
Sirius snorts. “Of course we did. Why else do you think she’s half-bald right now?”
Still? Blimey, those are some intense fireworks.
“Do you actually not care that I’m reading all these letters you never meant to send?” I ask, glancing at him.
Sirius shrugs and tosses the parchment back to me. “Whatever, it’s not like you’d understand what I’m saying in them anyway. My mastery of vague language is astounding.”
“Understatement of the year,” I mutter under my breath as I roll back onto my stomach and start reading the rest of the letter. “You know, maybe I’ll spontaneously remember the answer you gave me that one night and then we’ll see who’s talking!”
“Oh really?” Sirius laughs teasingly. “Well, maybe you could try finding out again tonight since you’re still sleeping here.” He gives me a mischievous look, but before he can move an inch, I spring up off the bed and run towards the door.
“Fat chance, playboy!” I call out over my shoulder as I wrench the door open. “As if I’d fall for that again!”
And with that, I slam the door closed, just barely catching Sirius’ “Don’t forget to go to the kitchen fireplace when you’re done!” from behind me. My eyes narrow in thought. The kitchen fireplace? Not exactly what I imagine when I think party, but, hey, I wouldn’t put it past the Blacks to have a fireplace big enough to fit a hundred people. Sigh, rich people.
I meander through the door to my old room and up to the closet, starting to go through all the luxurious dresses for the second time this holiday break.
“Come to me, girly. Coooooome to meeee—”
“Oh, shut it, Jeeves. I’m a little busy here, alright?” I call out to the pedophilia-afflicted ghost butler behind me.
Jeeves isn't much of a threat while the sun's still out, but once it gets dark, he can get terrifying as bloody hell. Precisely why I ended up practically living in Sirius' room, much to my dismay. But, of course, I can't exactly move all of my dresses there, so here I am again.
Now with much more experience in this whole dressing up thing (well, if you could call only one other time experience), I find a dress and accessories with considerably more ease. In record timing, I’m in front of the mirror, touching up my messy updo and make-up.
Not too shabby. The dress is a little shorter than I would usually wear, but, hey, no one said I was supposed to be waltzing right?
“Well, assuming I’m even going to dance,” I mutter to myself as I make my way out the door and towards the kitchen. Huh, for a New Year’s Eve party, it’s suprisingly quiet. I peek my head through the kitchen door. “Heeeello? What the… no one’s he—”
“Good evening, Miss Vance!” a voice squeaks from behind a kitchen counter.
I spin around to see a tiny house elf running towards me with a flower pot in her hands. “Oh, hi, Arby,” I reply with a wave. “Where is everyone?”
“The guests are already at the Malfoy Manor!” She holds up the flower pot. “You are to arrive by Floo Powder, Miss!”
“Ohhh, right. Now it all makes sense.” Though I do vaguely remember Sirius mentioning that earlier. I grab a handful of Floo Powder and throw it into the open flames before stepping in and saying loudly, “Malfoy Manor!”
A dizzying spin and half a dozen fireplaces later, I stumble out of the Malfoy fireplace to a staggering blast of loud music. My hands immediately fly up to cover my ears.
“What the hell?” I yell to no one in particular.
The fireplace seemed to have spit me out into a large ballroom, only this was definitely not a ball. The room was completely dark, save for magical orbs of light floating at intervals near the ceiling and flashing purple and white lights in time to the music. The Weird Sisters were playing on the opposite side of the room and the entire floor was filled with witches and wizards moshing and dancing to the music.
How the bloody hell am I supposed to find anyone in this horde of people?!
I’m about to turn around to literally just go back into the fireplace when I feel arms shoot around my waist so abruptly that I actually let out a yelp of surprise. I turn my head to see Sirius grinning at me like an idiot, evidently amused by his little grab at me. He’s wearing all black: a loose tie and casual button down over damaged jeans and his usual canvas shoes. The thought runs through my head before I even realize it.
He looks really good.
“Surprised ya, huh?” he yells over the noise. “Took you long enough to get here! You look nice though!”
“What’s the deal with this?” I shout back, gesturing wildly at the pandemonium. “Are the Malfoys crazy?”
Sirius laughs. “It’s New Year’s Eve! What better way to end the year than to get completely mental?”
“I mean, I guess so—eep!”
My words are cut off suddenly when Sirius grabs my arms and pulls me straight to the center of a gigantic mosh pit. I just stand there awkwardly as he starts to jump up and down, head-banging to the song.
I feel almost dazed. The music is pounding against my eardrums and the flashing lights are seriously blinding enough to be seizure-inducing. There was so much commotion that I almost didn’t notice when Sirius grabbed me by the shoulders and shook my out of my stunned stupor.
“Dance, stupid!” he yells in my ear, though I could still barely hear him. “Or do you not know how to?”
At this, I look at him indignantly. “Oi! I may be a nerd but I’m not that incompetent!”
He just laughs. “Oh yeah?”
As we dance (me probably looking like a right idiot) in the middle of this swarm of people, numerous thoughts race through my mind. They speed in and out of my head so rapidly, I can barely even focus on a a few:
Blimey, where’d he learn to dance like that. My heels are killing me. I wonder if he’s done this with all his girlfriends. Wait, I love this song. How long until the year ends? Some guy just stepped on my foot. I wonder what else’s he’s done with his girlfriends. The same guy just stepped on my foot again. It’s getting really hot in this room. What the hell am I doing?
I feel Sirius’ hands close in to tighten around my waist and his head rest on my shoulder, breathing lightly against my neck. His touch almost makes me jolt out of his arms in surprise.
“What are you, drunk?” I ask jokingly.
But instead of the outright denial I expected, Sirius shrugs and says, “Yeah, maybe.”
“Okay, now I know you’re just pulling my leg.” I roll my eyes. “As if the Malfoys would actually allow alcohol in the drinks.”
Sirius laughs. “No, I’m serious. I heard some 7th year Slytherin dumped a bottle of firewhiskey into the drinks and spiked them. Miiiight want to lay off the punch for the rest of the night.”
This actually does make me jolt out of his arms, but he grabs my hand turns be around to face him. He rests his head against my forehead and sticks his tongue out at me. “Doesn’t mean I drank it, you git.” He pauses for a moment. “Then again, I might’ve,” he says, smirking mischievously. “How am I supposed to know if I’m drunk or not? I’m underage, remember?”
“Well, I wouldn’t exactly put it past yo—agh, what the!” Arms suddenly snake around Sirius’ neck and pull him away from me. I actually jump back, startled.
“Hey, Sirius baby, long time no see.” The blonde behind him smiles suggestively, her arms still around his neck. “Hope you didn’t miss me too much while you were off fooling around with this girl.”
What am I, a bloody statue?
“Good to see you too, er…” Sirius glances at me in momentary thought and then says, obviously taking a shot in the dark. “Sarah!”
She narrows her eyes at him. “No.”
“No, it’s Selina!” She smacks him across the head, annoyed.
But the irritated look on her face quickly dissolves into that seducing smile again. “Guess you were never good with names, huh, babe? Still, I guess I could forgive you if…” Selina fingers the silver chain around his neck with one hand, the other snaking around his stomach to grab his belt buckle. “You know… this necklace?”
My eyes almost bulge out, appalled. Is this seriously happening right now?
I see Sirius gag subtly before slipping out of her arms. “Yeah, er, look, Sel. Sorry but this necklace is strictly off-limits.” He gives the necklace a tug before sliding an arm around my shoulders and pulling me to him. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I was having a bit of a moment with my girl here. You get me?”
As much as I try to ignore the multitudes of Sirius’ ex-girlfriends, I can’t help but smile to myself as Selina gives him a scathing look and stalks off. Wait, did he just say his girl? Was that… a part of the act or something he just said instinctively? Honestly, I don’t think I even know anymore.
Sirius heaves a huge sigh of relief and then grabs my hand, pulling me out of the crowd. “These guys are getting a bit too crazy for my tastes. Let’s get some fresh air!” he calls over his shoulder.
I give him a grateful look. The room was starting to get rather stuffy.
The cold, winter air outside the ballroom feels like a splash of ice water on my skin. I look up to the starry sky, watching the snow falling softly to the already whitened ground, and sigh. My breath comes out as a cloud of steam against the cold air and I shiver slightly, now acutely aware of how little I was wearing.
But no sooner than it occurs to me, Sirius wraps his arms around my shoulders, trying to warm me up. “Sorry, I should’ve thought twice about bringing you out here when you’re wearing that cute little dress.” He grins apologetically at me. “But I seriously needed to get out of there before more drunk girls recognized me from school.”
“Typical. A new year’s almost here and you’re as philandering as usual.” I roll my eyes, though my instinct to snuggle close to my only source of heat at odds with my mocking tone.
He shrugs, laughing. “Can’t teach an old dog new tricks. What can I say?”
“Wouldn’t kill you to at least try,” I retort with an over-exaggerated sigh. “And last I saw, you’re a bloke, not a dog.”
“The irony.” Sirius snorts to himself. But then he turns his head to me and kisses me on the cheek. “Here’s me making an effort. Satisfied?”
I blush furiously and break away from his arms. “Alright, now I know you’re drunk,” I call out behind me as I stalk into the forest behind the Malfoy Manor.
I hear Sirius laugh again and start to follow me. “Just because I kissed you, you immediately assume I’m drunk? Talk about jumping to conclusions.”
“Well, you’re the one who joked about being drunk in the first place. Talk about reaping what you sow,” I retaliate.
“Hence the word, joke.” He pauses before calling out, “This adventure is all fine and dandy, but you do realize we have to go back at some point right? Plus, shouldn’t you have trouble walking so far in those heels?”
“You shouldn’t be talking. I’m pretty sure drunk people have loads of trouble just walking straight.” I stick my tongue out at him over my shoulder, not bothering to slow down.
How far does this forest go anyway? Forever? Blimey, who knew the Malfoys owned this much land? But not long after I finish the thought, the grove of trees becomes sparser until…
“Oh, wow…” I breath out in awe.
I run to the cliffside and look down over the wide expanse of forest below. This can’t possibly all belong to the Malfoys, can it? They own more land than the Vance and Black families combined! As I gaze over the valley, my ears pick up the soft sound of rushing water. Curious, I get down on my hands and knees and look over the edge to see a small river running along the bottom of the cliff wall and pooling into a pond just below us.
“Blimey,” I hear Sirius mutter as he plops himself down next to me. “I hate Lucius Malfoy’s guts, but even I have to admit this is pretty impressive.”
I swing my own legs around to sit down on the cold grass. “How far down do you think that is?”
Sirius peers over the edge and shrugs. “Dunno. Fifteen meters or so?”
“Blimey, that’s farther than I thought.”
“Living on the edge I guess.” Sirius grins. He looks at me for a moment before wrapping an arm around my shoulders and pulling me against his chest. “I wouldn’t mind just staying here anyway though. Being with you is a pretty nice way to start the new year.”
I let out a short breath of amusement. “Bet you five galleons you wouldn’t have said that if you weren’t drunk.”
“I never said I was,” Sirius admits. “I have a high alcohol-tolerance anyway.”
Why am I not surprised… It’s just like him to have tested something like that while still underage.
“And has it ever occurred to you that me kissing you might mean something other than me being drunk?” he continues in a low voice. “Or has the way I treated you for the past month not given you any indication whatsoever?”
I lift my head off his chest to look up at him. “Sirius…” I start.
But he pushes himself off the ground and walks a few steps back towards the forest before turning around. “Alright, I know… I know that this is going to be completely at odds with how I’ve treated you when I first met you and, yeah, it was my fault. I get that. But you’ve read nearly all of my letters. You have to—you must know that I care about you way more than I act like I do.”
No, he’s wrong. Even in his actions, I have noticed. He still teases me like he always had, but lately he’s been so… gentle. I’d never seen him look at anyone the way he looked at me.
“And this, this whole engagement thing,” he continues, running a hand through his hair. “It’s so messed up, I know, but just because our parents are making us do this, doesn’t mean that we have to make it this hard. It doesn’t have to be something we have to force ourselves to do. At least, for me… I’m not forcing myself here.”
I slowly push myself off the ground to face him. My heart feels like it’s going to pound right out of my chest.
“I know I’ve fooled around with girls in the past and I admit I was a bloody idiot about it, but they were just a distraction. Just a way for me to try and divert my feelings to anything but you because you weren’t there before and now you’re here with me right now and… I just… I like you, alright?”
Sirius just looks at me, his chest rising and falling heavily as if he just lifted the weight of the world off it. There was a indiscernible look in his eyes.
“Just say something, Cecilia. Anything.”
I don’t know.
Somehow my mind can’t seem to process everything he’s just told me. Did this revelation come as a shock to me? No. I think I can say that some part of me knew for a long time, but just couldn’t believe it. Sirius Black, the only guy at school that’s wanted by nearly everyone. What could a guy like that possibly see in me? And how… how do I feel about him? Do I like him? Do I hate him? Indifference? Love…? I can’t think right now. I don’t know how I feel.
In my desire to run away, my legs instinctively take a step back and immediately I regret it. My mind was so jumbled up and confused that I had forgotten that there was no ground behind me. The world slows to a near stop as I feel my feet lose their footing and my body is suddenly pulled downward. I see is Sirius lunge for my hand, but before he can grasp my fingers, the image of him is obscured by the rough edge of the cliff and I realize I’m in freefall.
Air rushes out of my chest as my body hits the surface of the water. Stars burst across my eyes from the impact and, as I plunge into the paralyzing cold waters, a vague part of my mind realizes that fireworks were shooting across the sky.
Happy New Year.