Seventeen…Noelle thought to herself. She ran a hand through her hair, feeling the snarls at the end. Pulling gently on the reins of the beautiful charcoal stallion, she brought him to halt. She sat on top of her horse, gazing over the beautiful English countryside that adjoined James' family estate. Leaning forward, she scratched Orage between the ears. She had named the stallion because of his unpredictable personality. Orage meant 'storm' in French, and that was exactly how the animal behaved.
When Sirius had given her the horse as a birthday present a week ago, they had brainstormed for hours about a name. Deciding to take a stroll to the stables to visit him for inspiration, they had heard loud crashes coming from inside. Noelle rushed inside, only to find her new horse rearing up on his hind legs, and banging his front legs against the door of his stall. She had yelled at him,
"Calme! Il semble comme le tonnerre!"
Sirius had laughed, and said,
"You should name him Orage…you know, like a storm…he's making more noise than one!"
Noelle had immediately latched onto the name, and he had been Orage ever since. He even resembled gathering storm clouds in the way his shimmery coat changed from grey to inky black.
She swatted at a fly that had landed on his neck and he bobbed his head in thanks.
"Qu'est-ce que tu dit, mon ami? Le temps pour rentrer?" (What do you say, my friend? Time to go home?)
He stamped a foot onto the hard ground and Noelle laughed.
"I will take that as a yes."
Nudging him sharply behind the girth, she urged him into a fast canter. The wind whipped her dark blonde hair back from her face and tears leaked out of the corners of her eyes. The strong animal lengthened his strides and Noelle leaned slightly forward. Rather than stopping to open the four-foot gate, she directed him for it. Gathering his muscles, Orage pushed himself and his rider over the obstacle easily. After they had landed, Noelle began to rein him in slightly. She sat deeply in the saddle and enjoyed the rest of the ride back to the Potter estate.
Waiting at the door to the stables, Sirius squinted his grey eyes. If he wasn't mistaken, Noelle had justpersuaded that screwy horse of hers over a four-foot fence. He shook his head. She really was incorrigible.
Noelle saw Sirius leaning casually against the fence. Her breath caught in her throat as she drank him in. It never ceased to amaze her that he had such an unbreakable hold over her. Her face lit up with a grin as she pulled up alongside him.
"Have a good ride, chérie?" he asked her as he reached up to help her down.
She jumped down with her hand in his.
"Of course. I think we have become used to one another." She grinned at the black horse, and stroked his neck. His coat was gleaming with sweat and she grimaced. "I need to walk him very well before I put him away. We had a long ride."
Sirius nodded. "Want some company?" he asked.
"Only if it is you." She said with a wink.
"Who else would it be?" he joked.
As they slowly circled the paddock, Sirius glanced down at Noelle. She was walking with her head down, a sad sort of smile on her lips.
"Anything wrong?" he asked her.
She lifted her head. "No. Well, yes. I am just a little upset that I did not even get a note from my parents on my birthday."
Tears threatened to spill over her lids, but she blinked them back. Sirius stopped her.
"It's okay to cry, Noelle. It's only natural to be upset about something like that."
She shook her head. "Non. They are no longer my family. The only family I have is Lily, and James and his family. And you, of course." She said softly, looking up at him through her lashes.
"We're the only family you really need." He said with a caring smile on his face.
He placed both hands on her shoulders. "Noelle, I told you last year. I am going to take care of you for the rest of your life, and I mean it. I can give you a good life, and no one will ever love you the way that I do."
His voice was heavy with emotion, and she felt her heart swell with happiness. She flung her arms around his neck, and hugged him tightly.
"Thank you, Sirius."
Beside them, Orage grew impatient. He snorted and stomped his hoof on the hard ground. She looked at him.
"What do you want?" she said with false sternness in her voice.
He tossed his magnificent head back and tugged on the reins. Noelle laughed and Sirius fell in love with her all over again. Her laugh truly was magical.
"Alors, let's get you settled." She led him to the side of the barn and removed his tack. Charming the hose, she sprayed water over the animal. Steam rose from his back, and he neighed in satisfaction.
Sirius perched himself on the fence to watch. Noelle was still very small, but she looked so much healthier than she had when they had first met. Her hair had gotten even longer, and her cheeks glowed with life. Her navy eyes hardly ever held dark shadows anymore.
As Noelle continued to bathe her horse, she kept sneaking glances over at Sirius. They had been at James' for almost a month, and the time was coming when Sirius would have to return to his house. She knew he was dreading it, but he refused to talk about it. She had offered again to go with him, but he had not been veryreceptive to it. He never wanted to ask for help or support in anything, and sometimes it frustrated her beyond belief. She loved him, and she knew that he loved her, so why wouldn't he let her help him? She must have had an angry look on her face, because Sirius called out to her.
"Wow, Noelle. You look furious! What's wrong?" he asked her.
"Nothing." She replied.
She turned around and directed the charmed hose to spray him in the face. Yelping when the cold water doused his skin, he scrambled off of the fence and growled at her. She was doubled over with laughter at the sight of a drenched Sirius.
"Oh, you are in so much trouble, Frenchie." He said.
Noelle raised a perfect eyebrow.
"Did you just call me 'Frenchie'?" she asked incredulously.
She mumbled another incantation and the water coming from the hose doubled in volume and the temperature dropped even more. Sirius shrieked and dodged the icy stream. Using her wand as a pointer, she made it follow him around the paddock. Finally, he had had enough. Whipping his wand out, he yelled a charm.
The hose stopped spraying water and dropped lifelessly to the ground. Sirius reached up and flipped his wet hair out of his eyes. He glared angrily and slowly began to make his way over to her. She bit her lip, trying to stifle the giggles that were threatening to explode from her mouth. She couldn't help it. The sight of Sirius, soaking wet was just far too funny to ignore. His wand was still clenched in his hand. He raised it and pointed it at her. She laughed even harder.
"You would not dare hex me. You wouldn't." she said, crossing her arms over her chest.
"Try me." He said menacingly.
He muttered something under his breath and she felt herself being lifted off of the ground. Her heart rocketed to her feet and she shrieked in horror. Nothing terrified her worse than heights. Ever since she was a little girl, she had never liked heights. Flying was even very difficult for her to do, but as long as she had something to hold onto, she was usually alright. This, however, this hovering in the air, with nothing to support her, made her nauseous. She could feel her lungs tightening as Sirius waved his wand and she went higher and higher. She couldn't even scream.
Sirius saw how green his girlfriend had become and began to slowly bring her back to earth. Once he had her close, he turned her so her feet would land on the ground. The instant that her body made contact, her legs collapsed and she tumbled into the dirt.
"Oh, shit! Noelle, are you alright?" he asked, quickly coming to her side.
She was fumbling in her riding jacket with shaky hands. Her face was paler than he had ever seen it. She found what she was looking for and quickly uncorked a small vial. Downing the contents rapidly, she placed a hand over her chest. Within minutes, her coloring had returned to normal and her breathing became more regular. She gave him a withering stare.
"Do not ever, I mean EVER, do that to me again." She said sharply.
"I'm sorry, baby, I didn't know you were scared of heights." He apologized.
She shook her head.
"Non, not scared. Terrified. Horrified. Completely petrified of heights."
He stroked her blonde hair.
"I won't do it again. I didn't know."
She smiled weakly at him.
"I know you didn't. It is alright, I am fine."
He pulled her into an embrace. Within seconds, she was trying to push him away.
"You're soaked! Let me go!" she said, struggling against his arms.
"Wonder how that happened?" he said wryly, not letting her go.
She pulled out her wand and began to charm his clothes dry.
"Thank god we're seventeen now, eh?" he said with a smile. "It's so much easier to use magic for stuff like this. I think the Decree for the Restriction of Underage Wizardry is a crock anyhow."
"I hardly think that you are one to talk about following rules." She said with a smirk.
"Yeah, but that's why you love me." He said with a wink.
Rolling her eyes, she pushed herself to her feet. She whistled sharply for Orage, who had been watching the two teenagers with a great deal of interest. She grabbed his lead line and began to walk him towards the stables. Once he was in his stall, she latched the gate securely and went outside to join Sirius.
"I need a bath." She said, pulling a face.
"Yeah, you do." Sirius said, pretending to grimace. He dropped an arm around her shoulders and headed up the path to the main house of the Potter estate.
James was stretched out on the patio with a long roll of parchment in his hands. He looked a lot more cheerful than he had in the past week.
"News from Lily, Prongs?" Sirius said with a grin.
"Yeah. She says that she'll be able to come probably next week, because her parents are going to meet Petunia's fiancé's family. Can you believe someone actually wants to marry that twit?"
Sirius' jaw dropped and Noelle elbowed him sharply.
"Be nice, you two." She said, trying her best to sound stern.
"Nice? About her? Forget it. I'd take Pettigrew over Petunia any day." James said with a snort.
Noelle laughed, but Sirius gave James a dirty look.
"Prongs, he really isn't that bad! Just talk to him! All he wants are friends. He doesn't really have too many."
"Gee, you don't say?" James said, trying to sound innocent.
"Oh, shut up." Sirius said, plopping down on a bench across from James.
Noelle took a seat on a marble bench next to where James was seated.
"What else does Lily have to say?" she asked.
"Not a whole lot." James said, quickly rolling up the parchment. "Oh, she did say happy birthday to both of you."
"I wish she could have been here. That was a great night." Noelle said nostalgically.
The Potter's had thrown a huge birthday party for both her and Sirius. Their birthdays were only about a week apart, so it was easier to celebrate them together. Many of their school friends had made the journey to James' house in Manchester to stay for the weekend. There had been tons of food, gallons upon gallons of butterbeer, and a live band that had played well into the night. Thanks to well-placed Silencing charms, there had been no complaints from any of James' Muggle neighbors. Noelle had finally returned to her room in the wee hours of the morning, only to find that her ears were ringing so badly she couldn't even think of sleeping. So she had crept up the stairs to the same room where Sirius had given her the star in their fifth year. To her surprise, he was already there. She had curled up against his warm body and they had kissed until neither one of them could take it any longer. Afterwards, he had pressed his lips to her forehead and whispered in her ear.
"It makes sense that we should make love where we had our first kiss."
Sometimes he could be so thick skulled it made her want to punch something. But then, out of nowhere, he could completely blow her mind with how romantic he was. Since that night, he had been Apparating into her room after James had fallen asleep to spend the night with his arms tight around her. She was sleeping better than she had in years, just because of how safe she felt in his arms.
James' voice snapped her out of her reverie.
"Hmm?" she said, turning her head slowly to face him.
"Hungry? Mom's got lunch on the table."
"Non, I need to shower. I'll be down shortly."
She stood and hurried through the vast corridors until she reached her room. It was the same room she had always taken at his house, and it was slowly beginning to feel like home.
She pulled off her sweaty riding clothes and turned on the shower. Steam quickly poured out of the large glass enclosure and enveloped her in milky white clouds. She adored this bathroom, how it was so large and had a bathtub that was perfect for lounging for hours in. Stepping into the shower, she closed her eyes and let the water cascade over her body.
It happened again. She saw herself in a wedding gown, walking down a long aisle on her father's arm. The altar was so far in front of her that she couldn't make out who was standing there. It seemed to take forever to make it even halfway down, but once she was, her vision began to clear. As she tried to make out faces, the hallucination left her as quickly as it had arrived.
She shook herself briefly, and then reached for the faucet to turn the water off. Stepping out of the stall, she wrapped a towel around herself and sat on the bench of her dressing table. She bit her nails nervously. Why would a vision of her wedding leave her so frightened? She wondered. A pecking on the window sill distracted her and she got up to let Etoile inside. Reaching for the scroll in his beak, she glanced at the handwriting on the address label. Recognizing it instantly, she paled and fainted dead away.