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Fragile Things by paper_xtigers
Chapter 9: Ch. 8 - Of Breakdowns and Birthdays
Ch. 8 - Of Breakdowns and Birthdays
August 27th should have been any other normal day. But seventeen years ago, 4:27am on August 27th would forever deem the day something to be celebrated.
I watched my clock change, as the six transformed into a seven. Happy Birthday to me, I thought with little enthusiasm. I knew I should have been sleeping or at least attempting to sleep, but I just could not make my mind stop buzzing enough for me to do so. This wasn’t the usual pre-birthday jitters that you get when you’re too excited to sleep because you know when you wake up the entire day is about you. This was the fact that it was the first birthday I would be spending without my parents.
I wiped the few tears that had escaped the corner of my eye and rolled over, pulling my blanket up to my chin and squeezed my eyes shut. In a few hours I had to wake up and go running with James and Sirius, I would need the rest. Finally after about ten minutes of begging my body to relax, and pleading with my mind to stop racing I felt myself sink comfortably into the mattress.
It didn’t last long. Not for the first time was I woken up by someone shaking me and calling my name. But this time, I was not wholly out of my nightmare yet. Their voice wasn’t familiar to me, their hands on my shoulders was not a familiar weight. They were an entity from a night terror sent just to bring me into another.
I lashed out, kicking and screaming. My fists hit soft flesh several times before they grabbed my wrists and forced me still. After a couple more moments of struggle, they released their hold on my wrists and their hands clamped against either side of my face.
“Elaina, stop!” they shouted. “Stop! You know me, look at me!”
I shook my head violently, willing the visions from my nightmare to disappear as my sight became less blurred and everything came sharply into focus. James had a hold of my face, his eyes wide and dark in fear as blood dripped from his nose and onto his shirt.
Relief flooded his face when he realized my eyes were finally focused. “Thank Merlin,” he sighed, dropping his hands. “I thought we lost you there for a moment.”
“Did I do that?” I asked, reaching out and wiping away the blood from his upper lip.
A grin came across his face. “Lily’s done worse, I assure you.”
“I’m sorry, James,” I replied. Then I sighed, running my hands over my face just because I needed something to do with them because they were shaking. “A full night of rest, that’s all I want. Why is that too much to ask for?”
“What did you have a nightmare about?” James wondered slowly. He was being cautious because I had yet to tell him and Sirius what I was having nightmares about.
I shook my head, knowing that I could not lie to him and say that I didn’t remember. “It’s not important,” I tried to tell him.
“The hell it’s not!” he insisted. “You almost broke my nose, Elaina, I think I deserve to know what you’re having nightmares about.” I was silent for a minute and James sighed before he brought his hand up and tucked some of my hair behind my ear. Any member of James’ and Sirius’ fan club would have probably died of a heart attack right there, but I knew it for what it was: a boy showing affection to a girl he had come to see as a sister. “Come on, you can tell me.”
We sat in silence for a minute while I thought of how to tell him what I was dreaming about that was causing me such distress. In my head, I had the truth laid out for me to see; but, I didn’t want to tell James the whole truth. Slowly, I picked through the truth taking out the things I could without it consciously becoming a lie. I had to choose my wording carefully because if one thing contradicted another, it was a lie and I wouldn’t be able to say it. I would be telling the truth in scope, not in detail.
You never realize how much you lie until you can’t anymore. Any normal person could say that they didn’t like say… apple pie, when in fact it was their favorite dessert and they happened to have a slice every night with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Why you would lie about whether or not you liked a dessert, I don’t know, but the point is you do it because you can. I could never even say that I liked apple pie because, in fact, I hated it. Such a simple lie and yet something I could never say.
I took a breath, “I’ve been… reliving the night my home was attacked and sometimes… it’s different.” I explained quietly. “Sometimes I know the Death Eaters - friends from school… sometimes my parents die in more horrific ways, sometimes I die because I wasn’t quick enough …” I swallowed thickly before continuing, “Another one I have is the same thing happening here… Death Eaters attacking and killing your parents and you, and Sirius…”
What I failed to mention to him is that when I recognize the Death Eaters in the dream where they attack my home is that I’m among them. It’s usually the Death Eater that killed my mother, while he lay at my feet gasping for his last earthly breaths, then the mask falls away and he has my face. It’s much the same in the dream where they attack James’ house, only instead of me being among them they’re thanking me for leading them there calling me “brother” or “sister” and when I look down I’m clothed in Death Eater garb with a Dark Mark emblazoned on my forearm. And they don’t kill James and Sirius in front me… they make me do it.
“I’m sorry, ‘Laina,” James whispered, squeezing my hand. “Are you still coming with Sirius and me, get your mind off it?”
“Yeah, just give me a minute to get ready,” I told him, pushing my blanket off.
Ten minutes later after changing and stretching, I was walking into the kitchen, my sudden appearance bringing a stop to the hushed voices Sirius and James had been talking in. I didn’t need to see the looks on their faces to know I was the topic of their conversation. Why this suddenly irritated me, I don’t know. Maybe it was the accumulation of everything that had happened - my parents’ deaths, their funeral and then the hearing and now my birthday. Maybe it was the fact that they were talking about me and my nightmares instead of to me about my nightmares.
“Are we ready?” I asked, coldly.
Their eyebrows slanted together at my tone obviously wondering where it had come from and what warranted it. But I didn’t say anything as I turned from the kitchen and walked out the front door. I at least had the common sense to wait for the boys to join me before I started jogging down the street. For the first mile we jogged, James and Sirius alternated trying to be beside me but every time I sped up. When we reached the second mile marker, we picked up the pace a little bit, the first two miles having been considered our warm-up.
I loved to run because it allowed me to clear my head. The only thing I had to focus on was my feet hitting the pavement one after the other and to keep my breathing rhythmic. The sound of my heartbeat in my ears drowned out any other noise around me. So I ran thinking about how I hated what my life had suddenly turned into. I was vaguely aware of passing our usual stop and turn around point, of James and Sirius following me past that point, of them calling my name telling me to slow down or stop.
But I kept running.
I ran until every breath I took burned like fire, until my calves screamed, until my veins pumped acid and my heart threatened to burst through my throat. I ran until the world on either side of me disappeared, as if someone had taken an eraser and wiped everything away leaving a blank white canvas; until the wind was a deafening howl in my ears.
Feel free to consider this my woe-is-me, emotional breakdown.
I wasn’t sure how long I ran for, but my legs finally gave out underneath me, collapsing me into lush green grass that stuck to my skin. I rolled onto my back, panting for breath as I looked up at the grey sky. My muscles were shaking, twitching and burning. There was not one inch of my skin that was not slick with sweat and my clothes were clinging to my body in an uncomfortable manner. I was sure my organs and arteries were seizing as my fast-beating heart tried to pump blood through my veins.
After a couple minutes, my heart rate returned to a safer beat and I sat up evaluating my surroundings. I had collapsed at the edge of an empty playground in a neighborhood I didn’t recognize. How far did they let me go? I wondered as I stood. My legs were unsteady and felt like jelly, barely able to support my weight as I ambled over to a swing and sat down.
I stayed there for awhile, watching the children and their families come and go. As I watched them, I realized I envied them, the children that is; envied their innocence, their naïveté. To them the world was new and fascinating, it was a vast place that called out to them to be explored. They had no idea that a war was brewing in a world that lived right alongside their own. They had no idea that if Voldemort and his Death Eaters could not be stopped, they would fall victim and prey to the darker side of my world. If they did, they would realize that the world was actually much smaller than it seemed.
Something wet and cold brushed against my hand making me jump, startling me from my reverie. I looked down, sitting beside me was a large dog with thick, black as night fur. It whined and head butted my hand, signaling that it wanted me to pet it.
I sighed, placing my hand on top of its head. “You scared me, you stupid mutt,” I told it affectionately as I scratched behind its ears. I felt around its neck, but could not find a collar. “Who do you belong to, huh?” It wasn’t a stray that much was for sure, it was too taken care of. The dog made a noise that I swear sounded like a laugh as it tilted its head. “… I swear if I didn’t know any better, I’d say you could understand me.”
Then suddenly, the dog barked and bounded away from me. If I had any strength left in my legs, I might have tried to follow. I sighed, leaning my head against the chain of my swing, the dog momentarily forgotten.
“Elaina! For fuck’s sake, there you are!” came Sirius’ voice. I didn’t even have time to acknowledge him, or wonder how he found me before I was hauled to my feet and pressed against him, suddenly feeling safe. I could feel his heart jack hammering against his chest as he held me. “What the fuck were you thinking, running off like that!? We’ve been looking for you everywhere!” he hissed against my ear, but the way his voice shook was not from anger.
I brought my arms up and encircled them around Sirius’ back wondering why he sounded so… scared. He held me so hard against his body that it almost hurt, it was if Sirius was afraid that if he held me loosely, I would wriggle free and run again. Finally after a moment or two, he pulled back, resting the palm of his hand against my cheek, the other coming to lay against my hip. His usual grey eyes were darker and troubled, rimmed in both fear and relief. Sirius’ thumb was running along the angle of my cheekbone as he searched my eyes, but for what I don’t know.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered to him.
He released the breath he seemed to have been holding in his chest and brought my face forward until he pressed his mouth firmly against my forehead. Then his arms circled around my shoulders as he rested his chin on the top of my head. “Just don’t scare me like that again,” he said, barely a whisper.
Sirius squeezed me one last time before letting me go and taking the empty swing beside the one I was previously occupying. I was baffled by the fact that without his arms around me I felt colder, my legs felt weaker without his strength supporting me and my head was dizzy with the smell of him. And nothing explained the way my stomach pitched when I saw him striding toward me. I shook it off accounting it to the fact that I was exhausted, dehydrated and starving.
“So, do you wanna tell me why you decided it was a good idea to run off by yourself?” Sirius questioned as I re-took my swing.
I watched him dig into his pocket and produce a worn, frequently visited pack of cigarettes. He placed the butt delicately between his lips and lit the head with a lighter. Sirius took a long drag while the air between us filled with the scent of clove, and I couldn’t help but marvel at the fact that he was the only person I knew who could look graceful while they smoked. As he let the secondhand smoke plume out of his mouth he looked at me expectantly.
I hung my head, gripped the chains and pulled them toward me. “It’s my birthday today.” I saw him look at me from under his dark lashes and I ignored the glimmer of sympathy I found there. “For the first time in years, I didn’t wake up smelling the chocolate chip waffles my mum would make me for breakfast… I thought it would get easier once the funeral was over, and then once I was cleared at the hearing. But today’s reminded me that it’s not and I don’t know what to do.”
It also didn’t help that James and his parents were a crushing reminder of what I didn’t have anymore. Yes, in the few short weeks I had lived with them the Potters had become like a second family to me, but they didn’t share the blood in my veins.
Sirius sighed, tossing the cigarette to the ground and snuffed it out with his boot. “I’m going to let James know I’ve found you before he rips his hair out.”
I gave him a quizzical look, “How are you going to do that? We’re -who knows- how far away from home.”
Sirius dug into the pocket of his jeans and produced a small, round, gilded mirror. “Two-way mirror, James and I made them.”
I nodded, trying to figure out how two under-age wizards had made a two-way communications mirror while Sirius walked a few feet away from me. “Prongs, I found her, she’s all right.”
“Thank Merlin! Did she tell you why she ran off!?”
“It’s her birthday.”
“Well fuck me. Now I feel like an arsehole because we didn’t know!”
“Tell me about it. Anyway, we’ll be back soon.”
“Alright, just make sure it’s before Mum gets back from Diagon Alley. I really don‘t want to have to explain to her that we lost Elaina.”
“Will do, talk to you later.”
Sirius walked back over to me and stood in front of me offering his hand. “Why’s Mrs. Potter at Diagon Alley?”
“She’s getting our school supplies, we do go back in four days in case you had forgotten,” he told me.
“Right…” Actually, I tried to forget. I didn’t want to know what the upcoming school year held for me, and I was not eager to find out.
“Well, come on then,” he said, leaning down and taking my hand so he could pull me to my feet.
“Where are we going?” I demanded as we started walking, well, more like as I stumbled along behind him.
Sirius looked over his shoulder and cast me a crooked grin. “You’ll see.”
Ten minutes later found me sitting in a muggle diner in a booth with cracked, ugly, yellow vinyl seats across from Sirius who merely smirked annoyingly. I had pestered him the entire walk over demanding to know where we were going and telling him I didn’t want to go because the longer I walked the more feeling I lost in my legs. All he told me was that I should’ve thought about that before I decided to run off the way I did.
“Why are we here, Sirius?” I asked wearily.
“You’ll see,” he said, as a waitress approached our table.
“Hi, my name is Vanessa and I’ll be taking care of you two today,” the girl said as she placed two menus in front of us. “Can I get you two something to drink?”
As I went to open my menu, Sirius reached across the table and snatched it away from me. I sent him a withering glare as he turned to the waitress. She was around our age and I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at the way her cheeks flushed when Sirius smiled at her.
“We’ll both have an order of your famous waffles but with chocolate chips in them and two coffees,” he told her.
My mouth dropped open as he handed her back the menus. The girl blushed even brighter when her hands brushed Sirius’ and as she walked away she bumped into a table. Sirius turned back to me, his smirk having morphed into a smile.
“I told you that you’d see,” Sirius said as our waitress reappeared with our coffees. “Thank you,” he said to her.
“Sirius you didn’t have to do this,” I told him, wrapping my suddenly cold hands around the warm mug.
“I know, but why break a birthday tradition?”
I looked down into my dark coffee desperately trying to ignore the way my throat was tightening. I had yet to cry in front of James or Sirius and I would not start simply because he was taking me out to breakfast on my birthday. The only thing that showed my sudden discomfort was the way I ran my fingernails along the ceramic of my mug.
“So,” Sirius said, conversationally, “why didn’t you tell us that you could play Quidditch?”
I shrugged, “You guys never asked. You asked if I liked it, if I followed and James asked me if I was any good at making plays, but you never asked if I played.”
“How come you never tried out for the house team?” he wondered, picking up the sugar and pouring some into his coffee.
I laughed scornfully, “Right. That would have gone over so well with my friends. It was bad enough I was in Gryffindor, I didn’t need being on the rival Quidditch team to add to their trust issues. So I settled for playing in summer leagues, but my father wouldn’t hear of it this summer because I’d be away from home.”
“Why were you even friends with them, I’ll never understand that, you’re nothing like them,” Sirius said with a shake of his head.
“I knew them my whole life. We were paraded around at parties and events, forced into each others company from diapers,” I looked up at him. “You remember what it was like, our parents hoping we’d make a connection with a member of the opposite sex so they wouldn’t have to formally arrange a marriage to ensure pure bloodlines succeeded.”
Sirius cast his eyes downward, glaring into his mug. So he did remember what it was like. Try as much as he like to deny it, Sirius was a Black one of the oldest pureblooded lines in wizardry. Like me, he and his younger brother had been paraded around amongst “respectable” society from the moment we could walk on our own. We had the legacy of our bloodlines on our shoulders and it showed in the way our chins were held parallel to the floor, the way we held our spines so straight it almost hurt. It even showed in the way we talked, slow almost a drawl because we learned that people would come to hang on our every word waiting to know what we would say next. It was a heavy burden to bear.
“So your parents were like them, we’re they?” he wondered, unable to keep the sharp edge from his tone.
I couldn’t help but laugh. “No, they weren’t, that’s the funny thing. Their act was the one they put on at parties; the hoity-toity pureblood attitude. At home they weren’t like that. ” I shrugged, “In a way, I guess they were like the Malfoys, or the Lestranges or even your family because they needed the connections that associating with them brought. But in the end they used those connections for good and ended up being nothing like them. My dad became Head Auror, my mum founded a charity at St. Mungo’s… and I ended up in Gryffindor.”
Then Sirius smiled, but as he opened his mouth to say something our waitress reappeared and presented us with our chocolate chip waffles. Sirius waited to take a bite of his as he watched me take my first bite, seeming satisfied with the contented noise I made, he chuckled and forked some into his mouth.
“Happy Birthday, Elaina.”
There you go, chapter 8! Yay!! And you got a little bit of Sirius/Elaina "fluff" if you can even call it that. They're so cute, it almost makes me sick that I made them this way, haha. But, their feelings for each other are not going to be realized for awhile, it's not going to be that easy. Besides, I have quite the scene planned out for when the rest of the Marauders find out about Sirius' feelings toward Elaina (especially James and Lily). Should be a good time.
Also... WE'RE FINALLY GOING TO HOGWART'S NEXT CHAPTER!! I know you're all excited, you've waited a prologue and eight chapters and now it's finally happening! That chapter is in James/Sirius' POV.
Next, I'd like to thank everyone that has reviewed or addded this story to their favorites list, I love you all and I really, truly appreciate it! :)
Send me some love! :)