“Er, Cecilia? You haven’t touched your Astronomy homework all night.” Remus nudges me with his elbow and gestures towards my blank star chart. “Need help? Though you probably already know these constellations better than I do.”
I jolt back to my senses and look down at my homework. “Oh right,” I reply hastily. “No, it’s okay. I’ll get started now.”
“You sure you don’t need help? You look pretty out of it.”
I shake my head. “I’m fine, really. Just kind of tired.”
“If you say so...” says Remus, watching me with a slightly concerned look on his face.
I give him a weak smile before plopping my head back down on my propped arm and staring back into the fire. Homework huh? I pick up my quill, dip it into my ink bottle, and place the tip on my star chart. Homework huh...
Remus and I are sitting at our usual study spot on the couch in front of the Common Room fireplace. Scrolls and textbooks sprawled over the coffee table we had dragged up to the couch, along with an assortment of snacks for our epic O.W.L. study session.
Nourishment for nerds. And, boy, are Remus and I two of the most epic nerds in our year.
Really, any other day I’d be so down with working into the late hours of the night with my best mate and stuffing my face with chocolate frogs while we poured through Transfiguration textbooks, but I haven’t been able to concentrate on anything this past hour. Why? Well, earlier, I caught out of the corner of my eye Sirius and Lily sneaking out of the portrait hole and, as much as I hate to admit it, I can’t stop thinking about it. They were actually pretty discreet too! I blame it all on my newfound ability to notice Sirius Black anywhere he goes, bloody hell… Seriously though, what could they possibly be doing together at an hour to midnight?
“Nice black hole, mate. Though I’m pretty sure that’s where Orion is supposed to be.”
“Black hole?” I blink and look down at my star chart to see a giant blotch of ink where my quill was placed moments before. “Ah geez!” I pull out my wand and point it at the parchment. “Tergeo!”
“Are you sure you don’t need help with homework?” Remus asks again, now looking somewhat amused.
“I’m just tired, honest,” I insist, but the skeptical look on his face makes me flush. “Really, the thing with Sirius and Lily isn’t bothering me at all!”
Remus raises an eyebrow. “I didn’t say anything about Sirius and Lily.”
My face reddens. “Good because it’s not bothering me!” I say quickly before grabbing my star chart and an armful of textbooks. “I’m going up to the dorms. I need to write a letter to my sister anyway.”
“If you say so,” Remus calls again to my retreating back. “That star chart is due tomorrow, by the way! Don’t just fill it with black holes!”
“You know I know better than that!” I retort over my shoulder.
“Not right now you don’t!”
I wince at his words.
Was it that obvious how out of it I was? Guess I wasn’t being all that discreet.
After throwing my homework and textbooks onto the nightstand, I collapse onto my four-poster bed and pull out a paper and quill from my bedside drawer. I dip the quill in ink and begin writing absently on the scroll of parchment.
“Hey Sonata, here’s your obligatory annual letter,” I mutter to myself as I write. “How’s term going so far at Fu Shu? Catching up with work after spending so long in St. Mungo’s has me swamped these days. I’m glad to be finally back on my broom though. Are you still in the dance club at school? You should show us your routine the next time you’re back home. Anyway, Sirius has been giving me major stress these days as usual, so sorry I don’t sound all that enthusiastic. Anyway, love you, sis. Hap—”
“Hey, Cecilia! Professor Grubbly-Plank wants to see you down by the Forbidden Forest.” James suddenly pops his head in through the door of the girls’ dormitory.
I look over at him in surprise (not so much that he was even here, since he and Sirius had long ago discovered a myriad of ways around the anti-boy spell). “What, at this hour? Why?”
James touches his chin in mock-thought. “Maaaaybe it has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that we let loose all the knarls into the forest during the lesson today behind the professor’s back?”
“Bollocks, I knew that would bite us in the arse soon enough,” I groan before hastily finishing my letter and rolling it up to tie onto the leg of Lily’s owl. “It’s so late though. She didn’t even give me a heads up on detention!” I complain. “Plus, why aren’t you going? It was your idea!”
“Yeah, but you’re the one that did it.”
I let Lily’s owl loose through the window and give James a wave as I pass him in the doorway and out of the portrait hole.
Great, my first bout of detention. What a week. Though it’s weird… it may be my first detention but I’ve never heard of a professor calling a student out so late. I’m pretty sure the headmaster wouldn’t approve of this at all, but then again who am I to go against a teacher?
I firmly explain my situation to Filch at the front doors before stepping out into the night. Immediately, I wrap my arms around my body as a shudder runs up my spine. It’s pitch black out here… Why did I let James convince me that pulling a prank during Care of Magical Creatures was in any way a good idea?
I’m just about to turn around and admit to the professor later that I chickened out when a ghostly voice whispers in my ear.
It was the most clichéd scare tactic in the history of ever, but (as I shamefully might add) it totally worked.
I let out an ear-splitting shriek, trip over my own feet, and faceplant into the grass. But as I try to scramble to my feet again, my hand connects with some sort of wooden plank and the moment I feel it topple over, the hill is suddenly aflame with light.
“What in the world…?”
I push myself off the ground and onto my knees, but before I can get a good look at what exactly got set on fire, a pair of arms shoot around my waist and pull me to my feet. For the second time, I let out another yell of shock.
I hear a hardly subdued laughter behind me and look over my shoulder to find none other than…
“Sirius!” I gasp in relief. “Bloody hell, can’t you find anything better to do than scare the living crap out of me?!”
All I get in reply is Sirius’ muffled chuckles into my shoulder.
I roll my eyes and attempt to wriggle out of his arms. “Right, I’m glad you’re so amused that you’ve managed to hear my girly screams of terror,” I snap impatiently. “Now, can you please let me go? I have to get to detention.”
At these words, Sirius just laughs even harder.
And suddenly, everything clicks into place. I stop struggling and stare at him flabbergasted. “The professor never called me.”
Sirius finally stops chortling and grins at me. “Yeah, that’s right.”
I let out a short breath of exasperation. “Ha ha, very funny. You got me,” I say dryly. “So, what did you call me out here for then? Don’t tell me you mistook me for Lily or somethi—”
“Blimey, you never give me the benefit of the doubt, do you?” Sirius laughs incredulously. He reaches up and turns my head back to the front. “Is my presence so shocking to you that you completely ignored the fact that the grass is on fire?”
“Oh, right, I forgot…”
I let my eyes follow his gaze to the scorching bright light before me and my jaw drops.
Placed on the hillside before me are hundreds of candles spread over a wide expanse of grass, the light from the candles so bright that it’s almost blinding in the pitch darkness. But as brilliant as the flames are, I’m still able to make out the words that they spelled.
“Happy Sixteenth, Cecilia…?” I whisper in disbelief.
And before the words can even register in my dazed mind, Sirius grabs my shoulders and flips me around to hug me. “Yeah, it’s midnight!” he says, the glee in his voice unmistakable. “Happy Birthday! What, don’t tell me you actually forgot!”
“What, I…” I stammer out feebly.
Actually what with everything that has been happening with Sirius, plus O.W.L. studying, plus the Valentine’s Day aftermath, I really had completely forgotten. Which is mental because I even sent a Happy Birthday letter to my sister earlier this evening! I mean, we’re bloody twins, of course we have the same birthday! Blimey, stress makes fools of us all…
But wait a minute.
I push myself half out of his arms to look up at him. “So, this is what you’ve been doing the past two weeks?”
Sirius shrugs. “Yeah, pretty much.”
“Everything with Lily… it was all for my birthday?” I ask, completely gobsmacked.
“Er, yeah, I mean, that’s why I had trouble making excuses for why we were spending so much time together since we were trying to keep it all a secret,” Sirius explains, rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly. “But it wasn’t that weird right? I don’t know why you were so upset about it. It made me feel so bad.”
“Because you two were, I don’t know, like flirting or something back in Potions class!” I frown. “What was I supposed to think?”
At this, Sirius’ cheeks turn pink in the candle light. “Oh geez, bloody hell, that was for like five seconds! You saw that?”
I raise an eyebrow at him.
“Right, this is kind of awkward… We were actually kind of poking fun at you. I mean, we were talking about what we should do for your birthday and then Lily said I should just treat you all ladies-man-esque or whatever like I used to other girls and I told her you’d totally hate that. And she was like, ‘can you imagine Cecilia acting like one of your fangirls like this,’ and yeah, well, it was funny at the time.” He laughs nervously. “Now that I know you saw that, everything kind of makes way more sense now.”
His explanation makes me slump my shoulders dumbfounded. Of course it was just a joke, what was I thinking? That sounds way more like them than assuming they were flirting or something!
“So, I’m betting my socks that you going off to Hogsmeade alone with Lily has a perfectly good explanation as well, huh?” I grumble, now thoroughly annoyed with myself.
“Alone?” Sirius repeats, his brows furrowing. “No, James was at Zonko’s with us. I thought I gave it away completely when I told him in the locker room, but thank god Rize burst in when he did.”
I slap a hand over my eyes in exasperation. “Oh my geeeeez…” I groan. “Everything makes sense now, how could I have been so daft!”
Sirius chuckles and pushes my hand away to rest his forehead against mine. The close proximity makes my heart stop for a split second… which is definitely not healthy.
“So some misunderstandings got passed around, so what? You’re such a grouch sometimes,” he teases. “Aren’t you at least a little bit happy that I remembered your birthday after all these years?”
I swallow, trying to find my voice again while my heart is racing one million beats per minute. “Yeah, p-pretty impressive,” I manage to get out.
Sirius grins and lifts his head slightly so his forehead isn’t resting against mine anymore. But he doesn’t pull back. His face is still dangerously close to mine. If I just leaned forward… even just a little bit…
“Don’t sound so surprised,” he continues, the corners of his lips still tilted upward. “You make it sound like I don’t think about you all the time.”
He runs a thumb over my cheek and I feel my breath hitch. “If there’s anything I’ve learned about you these past few months, Sirius Black,” I whisper, a smile spreading across my own lips, “it’s that you never cease to surprise me.”
He raises an eyebrow, grinning slyly. “Oh really?” His hand moves to the back of my neck. “You must’ve seen this coming though,” he murmurs, his breath warm against my cheek.
“Predictable…” I breathe out.
My eyes flicker closed as he brings my face closer to his, his every touch sending a tingling sensation up my spine. My hands grip the front of his shirt even tighter as I press closer against him. I feel his lips brush against mine and our breaths connect…
“WHOOOOOO, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CECILIA!”
“Wow, you have the worst timing.”
“Yeah, shut up, James!”
We hastily break away and look up to the closest rooftop to find the entire gang sitting on the edge, legs swinging and glowing wands waving in our direction.
James cups his hands around his mouth and bellows, “Yeah, get it, mate!”
Sirius spins around laughing, his arms still wrapped around me. “The hell with you, Potter!”
“Don’t curse me off yet, you two!” James roars, a broad grin on his face. “There’s still the grand finale!”
The three of them point their wands behind them and suddenly a mass of fireworks fire into air, showering the night sky with a breathtaking sight of exploding lights. I slap my hands over my mouth, barely suppressing my shout of amazement.
Sirius grins at my reaction. “You like it? Was it worth nearly emptying out Zonko’s entire stash of Filibuster’s Fireworks?”
I fling my arms around his neck, unable to stop laughing out of glee. Sirius chuckles and wraps his arms tighter around my waist.
“Happy Birthday, Cecilia.”
“I never thought I’d say this, but you’re the best, Sirius Black,” I say, grinning up at him.
He sticks his tongue out at me. “I know.”
For the first time in my life, I was completely and unashamedly ecstatic. On this magical night, Sirius gave me everything than I could ever ask for and more. It didn’t matter that we were probably going to get in loads of trouble for nearly setting the grass on fire, or being on the grounds after dark, or firing a multitude of explosions in the air.
None of it mattered.
Because right at this moment, standing here in this playboy's arms, the idea of marrying Sirius Black... didn't seem half bad.