Christmas came faster than any of them realized it would. With Ines and Sirius arriving a mere two days beforehand, there wasn't much time for the usual festivities. But the Potters welcomes the chaos and worked with it. Ines had to be woken up Christmas morning, as she never had to before. Christmas wasn't a family event for her, it was a business experience. A time to meet with people under the false pretenses of a celebration, people her parents deemed worthy of coming to celebrate with them. She received gifts, but the sentimental meaning and worth behind them steadily decreased once she had been sorted into Gryffindor. James had woken her up, first with soft knocking, and when that didn't work a jump on the bed. "Happy Christmas Ines!" he yelled, "Happy happy Christmas!". Despite being woken up with such a start, she was glad that at least it was by someone she loved. She scrambled up "I'm up, I'm up!". He grabbed her hand and whisked her from the room. She passed Sirius briefly, he was leaning in the doorway to his room, most likely laughing at James' childlike behavior.
Christmas at the Potters felt as if a spell was cast over the world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. The tree was decorated to the brim with lights and beads, looking less like a tree and more like a children's art project, but the Potters loved it. Ines, James, and Sirius sat around the tree and Ines was shocked to find gifts with her name on it. She turned behind her, to Euphemia, who seemed to understand her expression and nodded as a bright smile crept onto her face. She had gotten practically a whole wardrobe of clothes, Euphemia citing the reason to be that she couldn't wear James' clothes forever. She received a Holyhead Harpies banner from James as well as a package of sugar quills which she dove into immediately. She felt terrible, she hadn't gotten anyone anything, she didn't even expect them to hold Christmas at all.
Once the festivities died down, Fleamont announced that breakfast would be ready in a bit. They all stood to go to the dining room, but a hand around Ines' wrist stopped her. It was Sirius, he pulled something from one of his pockets, a flat rectangular leather case. "For you," he said, giving it to her. Her eyes rounded with surprise. "You didn't need to give me anything. Thank you. I didn't expect.. oh." This last as she opened the case and beheld a necklace arranged on a silver chain. The charm was a garland of sparkling flowers, lilacs, her favorite. "Do you like it?" Sirius asked casually. "Yes, of course, it's... breathtaking." Ines had never imagined owning such jewelry. She had plenty in her room, all very expensive and excessive, but none with this much meaning and goodwill in giving it to her. He took the necklace out of the box and carefully fastened it around her neck. Just like he'd imagined himself doing when he bought it. That might even be why he bought it - so he'd have this moment, under her hair. He ran his fingertips along the chain and settled the pendant on her throat. "When did you have the chance to buy this?". His eyes flitted downwards as if embarrassed by his answer. "I got it at Gladrags Wizardwear when I went to Hogsmeade with Cynthia.". Her eyes met his, now looking at her. The glance transmitted an unspoken message, yet one that confused Ines. He had bought something for her, had been thinking of her, on a date with another girl. Yet, he had kissed Cynthia all the same at the end of it. She didn't want to ask how, but James was her saving grace and called them into the room. Seated at the table, Ines received a glance from Euphemia, and Sirius a similar one from James, but they left it alone.
She wore the necklace all the time, over the course of the next five days it had become a part of her. Euphemia had never asked about it, but it didn't matter as she seemed to have already come to an understanding on her own. Getting ready for Benjy Fenwick's new years party, she kept it on. She felt as though it complemented her outfit. She was wearing all black, but expensive black. The kind of deep, soft black that causes someone to fall into it. A simple sleeveless dress, the highest of heels, a pair of stunning uncut amethyst earrings, and Sirius necklace. She exited her room to find James and Sirius talking in the hallway, but their conversation ceased at the sight of her. They hadn't gone to many parties like this together. The majority of parties were after Quidditch wins so they were all in their uniforms. Ines watched Sirius' eyes as they traveled up and down her body, before landing on her necklace. He smiled like he did every time he saw her wearing it. "Should we get going?" James whispered, and they nodded.
It was very possible that Euphemia and Fleamont knew they weren't spending New Year's Eve locked up in their individual rooms, but at this point, they had come to accept the fact that they were going to get into some sort of trouble. Benjy's house wasn't too far from James' but a walk in near darkness didn't make it easy. He lived in a much more secluded area of Brereton Park. While many families had their homes visible from the street, his was tucked back behind a windy drive and a forest of trees. The closer they came to his house, the louder the music and shouting became.
His home was a colossal affair by any standard, it was a factual imitation of some Hôtel de Ville in Normandy, with a tower on one side, brand new under a thin beard of raw ivy, and a marble swimming pool, and more than forty acres of lawn and garden. In his blue garden men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars. Inside they were greeted by a large room full of people. One of the girls in yellow was playing the piano and beside her stood a tall, dark-haired young lady engaged in song. She had drunk a quantity of champagne and during the course of her song turned to slurring rather than singing. She saw plenty of her classmates, many from her year and a few from above and below.
Ines would usually thrive in this environment, a party like this usually had her dancing on top of a table, or in a bedroom with a boy whose name she couldn't remember, but it was different this time. But this new feeling melted away when she saw her friends. She sprinted through the crowd towards them. Lily was holding a drink, a rare occurrence, talking to Emmeline. Behind them, Marlene was talking to Benjy. Ines had only seen him a few times before, he was a Hufflepuff in the year above us. She flung her arms around them, and they nearly toppled over with her force.
Once realizing it was her they hugged her back, just as excited to see her as she was them. She separated and looked at them all individually. They were a family that welcomed her no matter what, no matter her blood status, family, or who she kissed. She felt tears in her eyes but pushed them away. Lily seemed to notice but kept quiet. She smiled, "Now, where are the drinks?". Emmeline led her to a table in the kitchen, stacked to the brim with every possible alcoholic drink, both wizard and muggle. She poured herself a cup of Firewhiskey and downed it in a second. The burning feeling as the liquid traveled down her throat was soothing, she knew if she felt it enough she could forget about the week she'd been having. Which is exactly what she did.
Six firewhiskeys, three shots of some muggle alcohol, and two hours of dancing later she had almost forgotten everything completely. Alcohol freed her, as bad as it was. She welcomed the poison, and let it consume her. She didn't have a care in the world, that is until she saw Cynthia. She was holding two cups in her hands and was searching around. When she spotted Ines she squeezed her way through a dancing couple to her. "Hi, Ines! Nice to see you! Have you by any chance seen Sirius?". Ines looked at her with distaste and continued to dance. "Haven't seen him." She said sharply, turning away. Cynthia grabbed her shoulder and Ines tore it from her. Cynthia was confused by this, yet angered all the same and stalked off. She turned back to her dancing friends, all looking at her, puzzled. "What did she want?" Dorcas yelled over the music. "I haven't the slightest," Ines said, surprisingly articulated considering the mass amounts of alcohol she had consumed.
They danced for another thirty minutes before Ines needed a break. The alcohol was getting to her now, she was feeling sick. She pulled Lily in and spoke into her ear "I'll be right back, I need some air.". "But it's only five minutes to midnight!" she called, but Ines ignored her and kept walking. She made her way up the stairs and past many bedrooms. She had been in one of them last year with Montague Knightley, and another one down the hall with Quentin Trimble the year before that. Now they were filled with different people, and she was glad she wasn't one of them. There was a small balcony, stretching over the roof of the house.
It wasn't a good idea, but she climbed over the railing onto the roof and walked towards the slope of the roof and laid down on it. The stars glittered in the sky and as the number of people at the party grew and laughter and bodies moved in outlines around the kegs of beer in a curtsy of youth. She loved it. Even as a child, she had preferred night to day, had enjoyed sitting out in the yard after sunset, under the star-speckled sky listening to frogs and crickets. Darkness soothed. It softened the sharp edges of the world, toned down the too-harsh colors. With the coming of twilight, the sky seemed to recede; the universe expanded. The night was bigger than the day, and in its realm, life seemed to have more possibilities
She was brought out of her thoughts by the sound of feet hitting the roof tiles, and she looked up to find Sirius walking towards her. He was obviously quite drunk himself, made evident by the lack of balance in his steps. She smiled, and held out her hand, helping him from his unstable steps bringing him next to her. "Cynthia's looking for you" She muttered. He scoffed "I know, it's why I'm out here Ines.". She turned to face him now, their faces were inches from each other. "I like the way you say my name, I wish I had a better one.". "Why do you say that?".
"My parents gave me and Oberon our names with the intent of them having an alternate meaning, one that they decided. My entire existence is branded by my name. Ines means Chaste, kind, innocent, gentle, and ... pure.". He listened intently, and Ines appreciated it. "Oberon's is pretty much the same, it means 'the purest blood out of the heart', noble, and pure. But he doesn't care, he embraces it. I hate it, he just gave in and embodied his name, he basks in his purity. Just as my parents wanted us to. As different as I am to them, I can't escape my name.". There was a beat of silence before Sirius broke it. "Well, maybe that's the good part of it. You're practically stomping on the person they want you to be, the Ines they want you to be. Taking the name that they branded with you, and making it your own, defying their expectations.". She slid her head onto his chest, the both of them still looking up at the stars. "I wish I could be named after a star, like you, they're so wonderful. The stars we are given. The constellations we make. That is to say, stars exist in the cosmos, but constellations are the imaginary lines we draw between them, the readings we give the sky, the stories we tell.". Her head was pressed against his chest and she could hear the erratic beat of his heart, its pulse matching her own. She felt it too, the exhilaration, and underneath it the thin electrifying undercurrent of fear, at the feeling of forbidden-ness of what they were doing.
They heard the calls from down below and inside, the countdown had started. Ines sat up, followed closely behind by Sirius.
"Happy new year Sirius".
"Happy new year Ines".
She looked up into his eyes, seeing the reflection of the constellations above her in his eyes and she felt as though she could drown in them.
He reached out and held her, it seemed as though he was holding onto her because it was the only way to stop them from being swept away into the night.
Then she was kissing him as she had never kissed him before and it was blissful oblivion, better than firewhiskey; like he was the only real thing in the world.