“You're going on a date with Sirius like that? Seriously?”
“Like what?” I look over at Lily with raised eyebrows. “And, oh ho ho, no one’s ever made that pun before,” I add dryly.
Lily folds her arms from the bathroom doorway, no doubt just finishing up her outfit for her Merry Meaningless-Chocolate-Giving Day date with James. And, of course, the beautiful redhead looks gorgerous as per usual.
“It’s an hour before they start opening the doors to go out to Hogsmeade and you’re still sitting here wearing… wearing…” She gestures soundlessly at my outfit.
“Wearing what?” I pop into my mouth another chocolate from a box I received earlier this morning from Ed and sit up on my bed. I look down at my clothes and shrug. “Okay, Lil, first of all, just because you need two hours to get all prettied up for your boyfriend, doesn’t mean I can’t throw something on in the last couple of minutes and look just as pretty.” Obviously, a bluff. “And, second of all, how do you know whether or not I’m changing?”
At this, Lily’s displeased expression breaks into an excited smile. “Really? So what’re you wearing then?”
I turn back to my box of chocolates and lay back down on my bed. “This,” I reply blithely.
I look at her over my shoulder and grin. “I lied. Just this.”
“But all you’re wearing is an oversized t-shirt and sweats!” she practically shrieks at me. It was as if my not-so-glamorous outfit physically pained her, which, let’s be honest, it probably did. “How can you go on a date like that?!”
I roll my eyes and sit up in bed again. “It’s not even a real date, Lil. I mean, they basically forced Sirius to ask me to go to Hogsmeade with him. He probably doesn’t even care what I wear!” I pop another chocolate in my mouth. “And I seriously,” I take a moment to swallow before continuing with a shrug, “don’t give a crap either.”
“But that’s the same outfit you wore to sleep last night!”
“My point exactly.”
“Ceciliaaa,” Lily whines as she pounces onto my bed and wraps her arms around my shoulders. “Ceciliaaaaa!”
I look down at her in alarm. “What is it, what do you want?”
Lily glances up at me and flashes me a wicked grin. I look back at her, terror in my eyes. We sit like that, staring at each other for almost a minute… until Lily finally says the words I’ve dreaded ever since I befriended her…
“I’ve got you.”
“AGHHH, HEEEEELP!” I start yelling at the top of my lungs, half-laughing at the same time, as Lily drags me off my bed and towards the bathroom. “SAVE MEEEEE!” I continue bellowing so loudly that other girls start peeking out of their curtains to watch in amusement at my failed attempt to make Lily let go of me.
I try to make another break for the bed again, but Lily hurls me into the bathroom and before I realize what’s going on, she pulls off my sweats, flings an armful of clothes at my face, and slams the bathroom door closed.
“Lily!” I shriek. “Give me my pants back, you perverted little git!”
I hear her giggling outside the bathroom and, after taking a few seconds to catch her breath, she calls through the door, “If you don’t want to walk out in your underwear, I suggest you put on the outfit I got for you! It’s either that or your dignity!”
“I’ve already lost most of my dignity, so that’s not much of a threat!” I call back.
“I’m sure negative points exist!”
I groan and shake the clothes off my head, scrutinizing the outfit Lily hurled in my face.
Oh, ye of little faith. No sense of humor when it comes to fashion, this girl! Of course I was going to change out of my lounge clothes before meeting up with Sirius, but… well, I guess there’s no harm in properly dressing up. Lily’s clothes are altogether way more fashionable than mine after all.
A few minutes of shuffling around later, I straighten up and open the door for Lily’s stamp of approval. She looks up at me from her place sitting cross-legged on the floor and immediately jumps to her feet with a squeal.
“Cecilia, you look adorable!”
“Perfect. So, that means I’m done right?” I twirl around once and then make my way out the door, but am quickly impeded by Lily again, who grabs my arm and flings me onto a stool in front of the mirror.
“Not a chance.” She grins at me. “Still got to do your hair and makeup, remember?”
“No, I don’t remember. I don’t even remember agreeing to this!” I complain as she takes out her wand and spins me around on the stool to face her instead of the mirror.
Humming to herself, she starts working on my hair, which, according to her, didn’t need much work since it was naturally wavy. A bit of eye makeup and an artful tousle of my hair later, Lily spins me back around to face the mirror.
Her eyes widen at my reflection. “Blimey, Cecilia, you look exactly like—”
“My sister…” I groan, slouching back against her legs. “I look exactly like my sister.”
Despite our strikingly different personalities, people always seemed to have trouble telling me and Sonata apart. Small wonder why I typically wore an assortment of band t-shirts, jeans, and canvas shoes with my hair in a ponytail and glasses on the tip of my nose. That way, it was a simple matter of tomboy and not-tomboy. My desire to remain separate entities from my sister did little to convince me to dress otherwise. But now that Lily had forced me out of my nerd clothes, everything from my cute girly clothing to my beautifully accentuated eyes screamed Sonata Vance.
Lily raises an eyebrow at my interjection. “Er, well, I was going to say you look exactly like a model, but that works too?”
“Nevermind, it’s not a bad thing.” I look over my shoulder to grin at my best friend. “I guess what I mean to say is I look great. Thanks, Lil.”
She beams at me.
“So, now am I done? Can we go now?” I ask hopefully.
Lily grabs my hand and pulls me out the bathroom door. “Yup, let’s go! I bet Sirius is just dying to see you!”
“Oh! There they are, there they are! James! Sirius!”
I watch as Lily prances through the snow and practically leaps into James’ arms. And suddenly… I have a disturbing image of me and Sirius doing the same. My hand slaps over my mouth as I try really bloody hard to not burst out laughing. Blimey, even if we did start dating, I can’t imagine Sirius and me ever acting like that.
My eyes catch Sirius raise his eyebrows at my reaction before grinning and then making his way towards me.
He was sporting a maroon hoodie and dark jacket layered over a black button-down and jeans – of course, his signature canvas shoes included. It was casual, but I can’t help but think… for some reason, he looks ridiculously attractive today. Is it the outfit? Hmm, no, can’t be. It’s not much different from what he usually wears on the weekends. Wait, has he just been getting more attractive lately? Why would that happen, that’s so weird…
“Hey,” I hear Sirius say once he finally reaches me.
I glance up at him just in time to see his eyes scan over my outfit and suddenly, somewhere in the back of my mind, I’m glad Lily dressed me up for once.
“Hey,” I reply almost shyly.
I look tentatively back at Sirius to see him staring at me with an odd look on his face. I don’t know how to explain it, but it felt like he was looking right through me.
“What?” I ask, unable to tear my eyes away from his face despite the awkwardness of the situation. But he doesn’t reply until…
“Hey! Jon, took you a while!”
“Aw, shut it, Paul. Filch stopped me at the door!”
“Well, quit dawdling, let’s go!”
Sirius snaps out of his daze and blinks hard before apologizing, “O-oh, sorry. I didn’t mean to, uh…” He rubs the back of his neck awkwardly. “I was just thinking, er, you look like your sister.”
His response makes me raise an eyebrow dubiously. “Um, thanks? I mean, we’re twins. We kind of always look alike.” I pause. “Wait, so you do know Sonata! Oi, this isn’t the first time you’ve been dodgy about this. How exactly do yo—”
“Whatever-forget-about-it-you’re-missing-the-point!” Sirius suddenly interrupts, waving his hands in front of my face in an amusing attempt to distract me from my thoughts.
I smack his hand away. “What point?”
“You look nice today, that’s the point.” And before I can make a witty comment about his missing the point himself, Sirius grabs my hand and turns back towards the road to Hogsmeade. “C’mon then. If we’re forced to go on a date together, then we might as well make the most of it right?”
“Make the most of a out of a forced arrangement?” I say with a wry smile. “Think of what our parents would say if you reacted that way to our engagement.”
He just laughs in reply.
As we walk down the pathway into Hogsmeade Village, I glance around at the various shops and buildings, their quaintness further augmented by the pink and red decorations and giddy couples ambling through the streets. Like a cheesy cliché, almost every girl and guy pairing is holding hands and having giggly conversations with each other. Apparently, Sirius had noticed this as well because he squeezes his gloved hand over mine and grins over his shoulder at me.
I bite my lip to keep from smiling, but Sirius spots me and chuckles.
“So, ever been to Hogsmeade before?” he asks, pulling me closer so we’re walking side by side instead of me trailing behind him.
I shake my head. “Nope, though I’ve read about it.”
Sirius stops in the middle of the square and spins around. “Anywhere you want to go in particular?” He waves absently at the shops around him. “Honeydukes for the best sweets in the world? The Three Broomsticks for some wickedly delicious butterbeer? Oh, Zonko’s Joke Shop!” he finishes excitedly.
“A joke shop on Valentine’s Day? Real romantic.” I snort at the carefree grin on his kid face. A chilly breeze blows through the square and I shudder, pulling my coat tighter around my body. “F-for now, how about just somewhere warm?”
Sirius smirks at my shivering figure and reaches down to grab my other hand. “You git,” he says in a low voice as he raises both my gloved hands to his face and breathes over them, “you should’ve worn thicker gloves if you’re so sensitive to the cold. What, did you forget it’s still the middle of winter or something?”
His warm breath makes me blush furiously and I look anywhere but at his face. “These are the only gloves I have,” I mumble. “I left my other pair at your house over the holidays.”
“I’ll buy you new ones then.” I look up to see him grinning at me. “But later,” he adds. “You wanted something warm right?”
Before I can even protest, he pulls me through the doors of the pub behind him.
We step into the old-fashioned bar and I let out a sigh of relief to see a rather minimalist décor of pink and roses. Sirius was acting so sweet that I thought he’d gone mad and was going to drag me into that gaudy romantic café I had read about. Madam Puddifoot’s, I think? To be completely honest, that’s probably something Remus would have done.
“Hey, Madam Rosmerta! The usual, yeah?” Sirius calls out to the barmaid behind the counter.
She looks so young and beautiful that I’m almost shocked she’s not still a student.
“What’s the usual?” I ask him rather naively as we find seats at the far end of the crowded bar. It’s so packed with people that the only space left was a table jammed awkwardly into the corner of the room. We literally have to step over the edge of the table to even reach the seats.
“Butterbeer, of course. What, you’re acting like you’ve never had it before,” Sirius says incredulously as he takes the seat next to me.
I scratch the back of my head. “Well, not that I recall at least. I didn’t get out of the house much when I was a kid because, well, I mean, you would know.” I give Sirius a meaningful look. “But it’s basically semi-alcoholic butterscotch right?”
Sirius raises an eyebrow at my response. “No, wait, don’t you remember? We used to sneak out and go to the Leaky Cauldron all the time for butterbeer!”
“Sirius, there’s loads of stuff I still don’t remember about you,” I point out.
“Yeah, and it’s killing me…” He groans and ruffles his hair in frustration before grinning at me. “Alright, whatever then. Making new memories is easy. Let’s down this butterbeer, get you warmed up, and then we can run off to—” And I never found out where we were going to run off to because, right then and there, Sirius Disapparated.
Okay, I lied.
He actually just disappeared from my field of view within a split second. But I swear, he ducked down in his chair so bloody fast that he could’ve passed the Disapparation test just by pulling that gag.
Huh, wait a minute.
There could be only one reason why Sirius would ever vanish at the speed of light. I glance over the many heads in the crowded bar towards the pub door and, well, whaddya know?
“Oi!” I wave to the incoming Quidditch captain and his girlfriend. “Rize Hertz! Looking for Sirius?”
“Shut up, you twit!” Sirius hisses from his place huddled on his chair. “Shut up, shut up, shut up!”
Smirking at his obvious discomfort, I make another exaggerated wave to catch Rize’s attention. “Hey, Hertz, he’s over here! Hiding as usu—”
And before I can even finish that thought, Sirius dives over to cover my mouth and, as predicted by the almighty forces of inertia, we crash to the floor. You’d have thought the usually perceptive Quidditch captain would have heard the unmistakeable bang of bone on hardwood, but at that very moment a roar of laughter echoes throughout the bar. Seems like even Lady Luck herself fancies Sirius Black.
Though power of luck or not, Rize probably heard the loud “OW, WHAT THE BLOODY HELL WAS THAT FOR?” that spewed out of my mouth not a second later.
Sirius slaps a hand over my mouth again, still sprawled on top of me on the bar floor. “Sorry, momentum, alright? And be quiet, you git! Do you want Rize to find me here?”
“It was a bloody joke!” I yell through his hand.
“Not funny! You know how Rize gets around m—”
“Sirius?” Rize’s question floats innocuously over to our side of the table.
Sirius flinches and, just as Rize leans over to glance around the table, he grabs me by the shoulders and flips us over through the long tablecloth and under the table.
“What are you doing?” I hiss at him. “Let me go!”
I place my hands on the floor to push myself off of him, but before I can even budge, Sirius grabs my waist, effectively preventing me from moving any further.
“Like hell I’m going to let you go out there and rat me out!” Sirius whispers furiously. “Just stay still until Rize leaves!”
“Do you even realize how mortifying it’ll be when someone finds us here? Under the bloody table?!”
“Well, hello there, Mr. Hertz. Whatever are you doing here in the corner?” Madam Rosmerta asks, her voice muffled through the tablecloth.
“Oh, afternoon, Madam. It’s just that I thought I saw Cecilia and Sirius around here a second ago. Do you know where they went?”
Out of the corner of my eye, I watch Madam Rosmerta’s feet shuffle around to the back of our table and return. “Speaking of which, so did I! I wonder where they ran off to…”
It’s at this point that I actually start to panic. Lily’s right; there are definitely negative dignity points. We need to get out of here.
“Okay, I’m sorry I tried to get Rize on your case again, alright?” I whisper to Sirius as I watch the pair of feet move around the table again. “How’s this? The next time they go around the back of the table, let’s just make a break for it.”
Sirius narrows his eyes at me skeptically. “Actually though.”
I roll my eyes. “Yes, I promise not to get you caught. Happy?”
“Fine, alright. On three. One… two… wait, what the?”
Suddenly, a corner of the tablecloth is flipped up, only to reveal the curious faces of Madam Rosmerta and the Quidditch captain himself. “Why hello, Sirius dear. Having fun down there with Miss Vance?” she smiles down at us.
The two of us almost snap our necks as we simultaneously turn to gape at her dumbfounded. This is even more embarrassing than I imagined. I hate to be that one person who says I told you so, but… SIRIUS, I TOLD YOU SO.
At least he has the decency to look flustered about it.
“Er, no, Madam… I mean, we were just—”
“Getting your fork?” Madam Rosmerta lets out a hearty laugh as we awkwardly return to our seats. “Oh, tell me an excuse I haven’t heard for the past four years, Sirius dear! And where’s James? Not with you today?”
“Oh no, he’s here alright,” Sirius replies with a grin, apparently having quickly recovered from his embarrassment. “He’s probably with his girlfriend at Madam Puddifoot’s.”
“Ooh, finally got the girl, has he?”
“Yeah, finally. Remember we used to spend ages here just listening to him complain about it?”
Madam Rosmerta lets out a ringing laugh. “Those were the days!”
I look from Sirius to Madam Rosmerta several times before blurting out, “How do you guys know each other so well?”
Strange that she would be on first-name basis with Sirius and James, plus, even talking about relationship problems! I thought Hogwarts students only got to go to Hogsmeade a few times a year.
At this, Madam Rosmerta chuckles. “So, this is the Cecilia Vance I’ve heard so much about? She’s even more lovely in person, Sirius dear, I can see why you like her so much.”
Sirius immediately turns a tomato red. “See, this is why I don’t like telling you anything…” he mutters before grabbing the two glass tankards from Madam Rosmerta’s tray and pushing her back towards the bar. “Stop blabbing all my secrets! Don’t you have customers?”
“If you say so, dear!” Madam Rosmerta flashes me a wink before moving away.
I raise my eyebrow at Sirius as he slides the drink over to me. “Talked quite a bit about me, huh?”
Sirius takes one look at the teasing grin on my face and scowls. “Geez, this is what I get for just one night of blabbing…” He raises his drink to his lips, but upon taking a sip of the beverage, immediately sprays a mouthful of it over the table. “AGH, MADAM!” He wipes his mouth, coughing. “Madam Roseme—you idiot, don’t drink that!” he adds hastily, grabbing my drink right out of my hands before I can curiously take a sip of it.
“Problem, Sirius dear?” The barmaid strides over and whips out a kitchen towel from her apron. “Oh, you, made a right mess of the table you did!”
Sirius coughs again before raising both tankards to show the barmaid. “Madam, I asked for butterbeer, not firewhiskey!”
I gape at him incredulously. So that’s what he spit out?
Madam Rosemerta, on the other hand, looks at Sirius almost indignantly. “Oh ho! You asked for ‘the usual’ didn’t you? You and James spent so many years begging me to serve you two hooligans underage and now you don’t want it?”
At this, Sirius turns to point at me. “Cecilia is here too! Are you mad?”
“Oh, that’s right!” Madam Rosemerta snaps her fingers as if she suddenly realized. “There are always so many customers on Valentine’s Day that I completely forgot! Oh, well, forget I said anything, Miss Vance. Here you go, don’t mind me!” She places down two tankards of butterbeer from the assortment of drinks on her tray and strolls away.
I watch her in astonishment for a moment before turning to Sirius. “So, you do drink firewhiskey? That whole bit about having high-alcohol tolerance, you were serious?”
Sirius presses his palm to his forehead. “I should never have brought you to the Three Broomsticks…” he groans before explaining, “James and I went through this phase last year of sneaking into Hogsmeade every so often and having a few drinks with the other villagers. I mean, not that we went all the time or anythi—”
“Drinking Game King, he was!” Madam Rosemerta calls from across the bar and half of the customers burst out laughing.
One old man actually walks over from his place by the bar to slap a hand over Sirius’ shoulder. “What a charming young chap!” he remarks. “Why don’t you come ‘round anymore, son? I still haven’t had my chance to challenge the reigning champion myself!”
“Because I’m underage, Mr. Williams!” Sirius retorts quickly, now rather red in the face.
“Never stopped you before, lad!”
The old man chuckles and gives Sirius another hearty smack on the back before returning to his seat. Sirius groans and buries his face in his arms. I have to press my hand over my mouth to keep myself from exploding with laughter. Even today, I feel like I’m seeing a whole new side of Sirius Black. How much more can I possibly learn about this guy?
“Some story,” I giggle as I prod his arm teasingly. “It’s not even that embarrassing. Why are you so shy all of a sudden?”
“You think I want you to hear all these lame stories about me?” Sirius demands, his voice muffled through his arms. He raises his head to grab his drink. “Believe me, it was just a phase, I swe—AGH, RIZE HERTZ!” He jumps and almost spills butterbeer all over himself. “Bloody hell, you scared the crap out of me. Have you been here this entire time?!”
I follow Sirius’ gaze and yelp when I realize Rize is standing right in front of the table watching us. He had been standing so still that I didn’t even notice him!
“Sirius, you look really good today…” he mutters, still staring at Sirius as if in a daze.
“What the hell, mate, and you say you’re not ga—”
“I wanted to give you this.” Rize reaches into his pocket and pulls something out, placing it on the table before Sirius.
Sirius stares at the object for a moment, completely deadpan. “Chocolate. You’re give me, a guy, Valentine’s Day chocolate.”
“It’s not Valentine’s Day chocolate!” Rize interjects indignantly. “It’s just been a while since I’ve seen you on the pitch and you’re a really good Quidditch player! I mean, giving it to you today was just a coincidence and, well, I know it’s chocolate and all but—”
“Did you give some to your other star players?” I point out, gesturing towards myself. Not that I actually want chocolate from Rize… the bloke’s just clearly in denial!
Rize looks at me as if puzzled by the question.
“Well, did you?” I inquire again.
Rize glances at Sirius out of the corner of his eye and then looks down at his feet. “Er, no.”
“Exactly,” a voice remarks from behind him.
I glance up to see an arm wrap around Rize’s neck in an armlock. Regina peeks out over Rize’s shoulder, a weary look on your face. “You wanted to give Sirius your present and you gave it to him and he doesn’t want it. Can we go on our Valentine’s Day date now, Rize?”
“Yeah, seriously.” Sirius takes the bow-wrapped chocolate and places it back into Rize’s hand before pushing him away. “Worry about your own girlfriend before running to me!”
“No, wait, take the chocolate!” Rize yells as he’s dragged towards the door. “It’s not for Valentine’s Day, I swear! You’re just a really good Beater! Siriuuuuuuus!”
The door slams shut and Sirius finally slumps back in his chair in relief. He turns to face me only to find me with my chin propped on my hand, watching him with an amused look on my face.
“Your life is so exciting,” I comment cheerily.
He laughs. “Ha ha… I don’t need your biting sarcasm, Cecilia Vance,” he replies dryly as he takes a swig of his butterbeer. “This is definitely not how I planned this whole date thing to end up being like.”
I take a drink of my own butterbeer (which tasted excellent, by the way) before grinning at him. “I’m not being sarcastic! This is kind of the most fun I’ve ever had on a date. Not that I’ve ever been on a proper date before,” I add thoughtfully.
Sirius raises an eyebrow at me. “This is all it takes to make you happy? Embarrassing myself?”
“I didn’t mean it like that, dummy.” I laugh and hit him in the shoulder. “I mean, the date’s anything but ordinary, but compared to the fairytale date Remus probably would’ve taken me on, this is suits us better right?”
“Huh—oh, wait, I mean…!” My eyes widen and I slap a hand over my mouth. Bloody hell, how could I have let that slip out so casually?!
Sirius frowns. “Did he… did Remus actually ask you out?”
I slowly lower my hand from my mouth, now feeling extremely guilty about my slip-up. But then again, what was I going to do, just keep it from him forever? Isn’t it weird enough that Sirius doesn’t know about this? I thought they were best mates, but Remus just asked me behind Sirius’ back completely out of the blue. Not that it’s any of my business, but… knowing the engagement and everything, I’m not sure what Remus was trying to achieve by asking me.
“He did, didn’t he?” Sirius asks in my silence. “That’s why you two looked so awkward when Lucy dragged him into the whole asking fiasco.”
I bite my lip before mumbling, “Yeah, he brought it up when I bumped into him after I got back from St. Mungo’s.”
Sirius watches me for a moment, his hand fiddling with a napkin on the table. “Then” he continues slowly, “would you have said yes if I didn’t end up asking you the next morning?”
“Well, I was kind of waiting fo—”
“Do you like him?” Sirius asks suddenly.
I just stare at him, my words caught in my throat. “I…”
His question caught me off guard. Why would he ask me this? The thing with Remus happened so unexpectedly and I had so much school work to catch up on that I never even gave myself the time to think about Remus’ feelings, or lack thereof. But still, have I ever given any indication that I reciprocated? I’m close with Remus, that much is true, and I’m still not sure how I feel about what he said, but I don’t…
“Bloody hell, you seriously like him?” Sirius’ words pull me abruptly out of my thoughts.
I blink. “Wait, what?”
“You hesitated,” he points out. “I asked you if you like him and you literally hesitated.”
I gape at him incredulously. “What—I was thinking! He’s one of my best mates and I just found out that he might like me, of course I’m going to think about it!”
“You…” Sirius lets out a short breath in disbelief. “You’re not joking. You might actually have feelings for him? And you didn’t think to tell me this before going on a date with me?”
“Well, no because I don’t—wait, yeah, aren’t we supposed to be on a date? Why are we even talking about this?”
“You’re the one that brought him up!”
“You’re the one that starting asking me all these random questions!”
Sirius glares at me. “Well, if he’s on your mind so much, then why don’t you go find him and you two can have your fun romantic Valentine’s Day date! Sorry I ruined your plans by asking you in the first place!”
“What? Sirius, I just told you I was enjoying… ugh, you’re so infuriating!” I throw my arms in the air in frustration and push myself up from my seat. “Fine!” I decide to yell back furiously, “Maybe I will go find him!”
“Fine, see if I care!”
“Fine, I don’t care if you do!”
And with that, I step over the cramped table and storm out the door, just barely catching the, “Smooth one, Sirius dear,” from the bar counter in all my rage.