Chapter 17

Then, as soon as it had begun, their shared moment was over, and it was now tainted. Her father stood at the end of the hall, flanked by Walburga. His eyes bored into hers, and then into Sirius. He strutted down the hall, as Ines and Sirius still clung to each other. He ripped Ines from him, ripping the sleeves of her dress in the process due to the sheer force of his grip. "You insolent whore! How could you! The effort that was put into arranging this engagement and this is how you thank me?". Behind her, she could hear the sound of a slap, and Walburga seething. The only thing holding her together being the moment she just shared with Sirius. "I don't want it! I don't want to marry Regulus! I want to marry who I please, not under your idiotic jurisdiction!". These words earned her a slap to the face as well. He gripped her arm again, his fingernails boring scars into her, and dragged her down the hall in which he had come. She could hear Sirius struggle behind her "Stop! Leave me alone!" he yelled.

They passed the open door to the ballroom, many people were staring, they had heard the whole thing. She saw her mother, seated behind Oberon, in her usual state, quiet and obedient. She was gripping Regulus, probably in an effort to convince him that Ines would still be a worthy wife. Narcissa and Lucius looked at them, they had ruined their moment in the spotlight. Ines made eye contact with Oberon, his face was as impassive as ever, and it angered Ines. She wanted him to do something, anything, give her a pitying look, something to communicate that it would be ok and he didn't hate her. But it never came, and she continued to be dragged from the Manor. Sirius was writhing in his mother's grip, calling her horrid names, all of which she shot back at him. They made it to the entrance and they were dragged outside the doors. "Don't expect to ever come home again!" Victor yelled, and Walburga nodded. Their parents didn't say a single word more to them and simply shut the door. They were a sight to be seen. Sirius' dress robes were mangled and his hair was a mess. Ines' dress was torn in its sleeves, and her lipstick was smudged, not easily noticed due to the tear tracks on her cheeks. They stood close, catching their breath, unable to comprehend the life-changing events that had just taken place in less than five minutes.

Ines could only stare at the lilacs flowing into the front of the house from the back garden, which she had been just looking at through the window. Sirius snapped her out of her trance, placing his hand on her shoulder, he was crying too now. Ines stared at him and laughed. He smiled a bit and chuckled with her. They were free and were weirdly relieved about it. She placed her hand, still shaking, into his and they walked down the steps to the end of the driveway. But, at the end of the driveway, they halted. They had their wands on them, but what use were they under the statue of secrecy, Ines held hers out, wondering what they could possibly do. Before one of them could say a word, a gigantic pair of wheels and headlights screeched to a halt exactly in front of them. They belonged to a triple-decker, violently purple bus, which had appeared out of thin air. Gold lettering over the windshield spelled The Knight Bus. Ines had heard of it a few times but didn't expect it to appear like this, regardless of it not being on command. Then a conductor in a purple uniform leaped out of the bus and began to speak loudly.

"Welcome to the Knight Bus, emergency transport for the stranded witch or wizard. Just stick out your wand hand, step on board, and we can take you anywhere you want to go. My name is Kenneth Towler, and I will be your conductor this eve —" The conductor stopped abruptly. He had just caught sight of the two of them, clad in their best clothes. "What is it you two are all gussied up for? Getting married?". "No," Ines stated, "we were at a wedding.". He took a moment, thinking, before coming to a realization and looking at them in a whole new light. "The Malfoy wedding wasn't it? Aye, i've heard much about it.". "So — so this bus," he went on quickly, hoping to avoid the subject of the wedding, "did you say it goes anywhere?". "Yep," said Kenneth proudly, "anywhere you like, long's it's on land. Can't do nuffink underwater. 'Ere," he said, looking suspicious, again, "you did flag us down, dincha? Stuck out your wand 'and, dincha?" "Yes," said Ines quickly. "Listen, how much would it be to get to Cheshire?". Sirius turned to her, Ines mouthed 'James' shrugging. He nodded, they both knew he would be the best person to look to for help in this situation. "Eleven Sickles," said Kenneth, "but for firteen you get 'ot chocolate, and for fifteen you get an 'ot water bottle an' a toofbrush in the color of your choice.". Sirius rummaged in his left pocket, extracted his money bag, and shoved some gold into Kenneth's hand, and they both stepped up into the bus.

There were no seats; instead, half a dozen brass bedsteads stood beside the curtained windows. Candles were burning in brackets beside each bed, illuminating the wood-paneled walls. A tiny wizard in a nightcap at the rear of the bus muttered, "Not now, thanks, I'm pickling some slugs" and rolled over in his sleep. "You two 'ave this one," Stan whispered, pointing to a bed right behind the driver, who was sitting in an armchair in front of the steering wheel. "This is our driver, Ernie Prang. These is erm, wot did you say your names were again?". They struggled to get their words out as the bus peeled out of the driveway, and sped through the country roads. "Sirius Black and Ines Avery" Sirius managed. He narrowed his eyes, "Black and Avery huh". He looked at Ernie, the young driver, who reciprocated the same look. Ines had seen this look before. Their names were well known, as well as the prejudices they stereotypically held. The bus continued to speed through streets, they passed through cities, suburbs, and rural areas. One by one, wizards and witches in dressing gowns and slippers descended from the upper floors to leave the bus. They all looked very pleased to go.

"Right then kids," said Kenneth, clapping his hands, "whereabouts in Cheshire?". "Brereton Park," said Sirius. "Righto," said Kenneth. " 'Old tight, then . . ." They were thundering along Charing Cross Road. Ines sat up and watched buildings and benches squeezing themselves out of the Knight Bus' way. The sky was getting a darker, and it had begun to rain. Ern slammed on the brakes and the Knight Bus skidded to a halt in front of a tall pearly gate, surrounding the border of Brereton Park. It was a fairly affluent area, housing mostly magical families. Ines gathered up her dress and made her way through the bus and out the door with Sirius trailing behind her. The second they stepped on the ground, the bus zoomed off. The rain was pouring now, the two of them ran as fast as they could in their fancy clothes through the gate and up the street. Luckily, James lived in one of the first few homes, and there was no need to be running through the countryside for at least an hour. They made their way up the drive, his house slowly coming into greater view. Looking up and up and still farther up at the great tomb yard top of the old house. For that's what it seemed. The high mountain peak of the mansion was littered with what looked like black bones or iron rods, and enough chimneys to choke out smoke signals from three dozen fires on sooty hearths hidden far below in dim bowels of this monster place. With so many chimneys, the roof seemed a vast cemetery, each chimney signifying the burial place of some old god of fire or enchantress of steam, smoke, and firefly spark. even as they watched, a kind of bleak exhalation of soot breathed up out of some four dozen flues, darkening the sky still more, and putting out some few stars. Years of inheritance had built this house. James' parents had him much later in life, and considered him the greatest gift in life, and gave him everything he could possibly want. Ines had always admired them, so willing to go the extra mile for their son.

They made it to the door and Sirius used the lion-shaped door knocker to notify the house of their presence. Ines shivered in the rain, and Sirius held tightly onto her. The door opened and James slid into view, thanking his house-elf and then looking up at the two of them. He was severely caught off guard. He wore an oversized Chudley Cannons tee-shirt and his boxers. He nearly dropped his toothbrush at the sight of them, before yelling "Come inside! Let's go!". They walked in gladly, wiping their shoes on the rug. "James dear who is it!" they heard, Euphemia call before she and Fleamont rounded the corner. They caught sight of them and immediately grabbed the blankets from the nearby couch and wrapped them around them. They then ushered them over to the couch closest to the roaring fire. "What's happened?" James asked, "Aren't you mean to be at the Malfoy wedding?". Sirius nodded "We were, our parents took the occasion to kick us out, I don't think we'll about allowed home any time soon". James handed them both some warm tea that his father had gotten "Well why? What's the reason?". They were silent. Ines couldn't look at Sirius, she just might give it away. The Potter's seemed to understand that this wasn't something they wished to speak of and left it alone.

James turned to them "They'll stay with us won't they?". Ines bowed her head, near tears again. It had been a whirlwind of a night, she had been exiled from one family and were welcomed into another. "Of course they will, we have plenty of room. They can have the guest rooms.". Sirius had tears in his eyes "Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Potter, we can't say it enough.". Euphemia stood, "Please, call us mom and dad.". They were led to the respective guest rooms. Ines had been down this hall before, they passed James' room and the next door down was to belong to Sirius and the one across the hall was to be Ines'. Her new room was mostly cream colored, she had a large bay window adjacent from her bed. She turned to Euphemia who was gazing at her from behind. Fleamont was across the hall, helping Sirius set in. "I can't thank you enough, really.". She smiled, glancing around the room and then at her. "I've always wanted a daughter, and despite the circumstances, I'm glad it's you that's here.". Ines basked in her words, she had always been Agnes' child, but she's never been her daughter, never been anyone's daughter. She strode over to her and hugged her, shocking her for a bit. She was aware that Euphemia was old and frail, but she couldn't think of it at the moment. They pulled away and Euphemia wiped away a small tear. "You can stay as long as you please, lets dry you off and get you settled. I'm sure James' will loan you something to wear until we can get you some clothes.". Ines nodded and thanked her again.

She showed her to the bathroom, and quickly flitted into James' room and came back with a shirt and shorts. The shirt was red with a Gryffindor emblem, and the shorts were gray and drab, nothing compared to the ball gown she currently wore, but it had its comforts. She showered, changed, and took a moment to breathe. So much had happened, she was unsure if it was real life or just a dream. She thought about her family, or the lack thereof, and how they handled her leave? she bet it was easy. She thought of Regulus, how did he feel about the whole ordeal? had he spoken of it to Oberon? how did he feel? She thought of Sirius. he was fast becoming the excitement of a tomorrow she never used to look forward to. It scared her, but she let it be. In time, she thought that the hurt would fade and it would be easier to just let it go. She found that in every boy she had been within the past few years, she found Herself looking for him but she felt that he had gone on with his life, and didn't want to think about loving her. It felt good to know she was wrong. She wanted to remember how it felt to be with him for the brief moments at the wedding, as much as it scared her.

She walked across the hall but halted before opening the door. Listening in on conversations had gotten her in trouble before, but she couldn't help herself. "I really care about her, and I know that that kiss may have ruined a lot, for the both of us, but I can't bring myself to regret it.". All at once it was just too much, and Ines felt something about to snap. She drew back into the shadowy side of the doorway, out of site. Then she slid down the wall to the ground and put her palm over her mouth to hold in her breath and her feelings both. Her feelings towards him contradicted everything she had felt before.

There are many different types of kisses. There's a passionate kiss of farewell, like the kind Dmitri gave her at the end of the summer they had spent together before he moved closer to his school, Durmstrang. The kiss that's trying to say "I can't really be with you but I want to be" like William gave her the year before, claiming him and Camille were on a break. There's the first kiss, one that is gentle and hesitant, warm and vulnerable. But all of those peoples' kisses meant nothing because there was the kiss of possession, which was how Sirius had kissed her. It went beyond passion, beyond desire. His kiss was full of longing, need, and love, like all those other kisses. But, it was also filled with promises and pledges, some of which seemed sweet and tender while others seemed dangerous and exciting. He was taking me over, staking a claim. She welcomed it.