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The Fire Inside by FiendFyre
Chapter 5: Ch. 5
The sun finally brought its face above the horizon, casting the world in the pale light of a new day. The open curtains in Gwen’s study allowed the light to flow in unhindered. Soft sunbeams played across her face, over her closed eyelids, causing her to stir on the couch. She kept her eyes shut as she frowned, rearranging herself to lie on her side. The squeak of leather as she moved mystified her. One eye cracked open, blinking into the bright light saturating the room. The other eye quickly followed suit, and she realized she had fallen asleep in her study. She sat up quickly, immediately regretting it as blood rushed into her head and black spots appeared in her vision. She put a hand to her head, still squinting against the glow coming through the windows, and looked up at the clock above her desk. 5:43. Ugh, not even the birds woke up this early. She groaned as she swung her legs over the edge of the sofa. A blanket that had been wrapped around one of her legs fell to the floor as she stood up and she bent to grab it, puzzled at its presence. She looked over at the armchair by the fireplace, where it usually made its home, then back to where it lay in her hand. Perhaps she had forgotten that she had grabbed it before lying down? She folded it and placed it on the back of the chair.
A slight frown was still on her face as she walked over to the window. A cold, wispy mist covered the grounds. Frost laced the ground and the upper parts of the trees. The new sunlight played on the miniscule pieces of ice on the grass, making it twinkle as Gwen shifted ever so slightly. As much as she hated the cold, she had to admit that winter had its own beauty to admire. Well, as long as she could admire it from inside.
Her eyes refocused as she looked at the ice crouched in the corners of the window. She tentatively brought her hand up and laid her palm against the glass. The icy cold made her instincts kick in, yelling at her to retract her hand, but she held it there. Slowly, she could feel it start to sink through her skin, into her veins, freezing out the very heat in her blood. It felt as though someone was sticking needles into her hand, up her arm, as it reached to her elbow. It burned, as only ice could. Finally, she couldn’t stand anymore and yanked her hand back. She grimaced as she held her stinging hand to her chest. Too much bare skinned contact with a freezing object made her powerless, and hurt like a bitch. She had learned that the hard way.
Little 7 year old Gwen stood fidgeting anxiously by the front door as her mother put layer after layer of clothes over her head. Gwen looked longingly out of the window at her friends already playing in the snow outside.
“Mooom hurry up all the snow’s gonna be gone!” she whined as she struggled to get an arm through her coat.
“Alright, alright, I’m almost done,” her mother said, exasperated with her squirming child.
“There,” she declared, putting a snug hat on Gwen’s head.
Gwen immediately burst out of the door to join her friends, but her mom quickly called her back.
“Gwenny! Your gloves!”
Gwen raced back and grabbed the red gloves from her mother’s hand. In her excitement she was able to ignore the sting of the cold air on the few exposed bits of her face.
“Be safe!” her mom called after her as she hurried over to her friends next door.
In all her haste to not miss any more fun, little Gwen had shoved her gloves into her pocket, not realizing they had fallen out as she ran. Her best friends were in the process of building a snowman when she got to them, and she didn’t miss a beat in joining in. Gloves were forgotten, and she plunged in with bare hands, helping form the base of the little snowman. The joy of being included was enough to temporarily numb her bare skin to the cold. She was having so much fun that at first, she didn’t feel the cold burn on her hands. It wasn’t until they had started on Mr. Snowman’s head that she realized something was wrong. Her little hands were pale as the snow, and it felt like someone had injected ice straight into her veins. From her forearm to her fingertips, it felt like she was on fire. All she remembered was starting to scream, her friends looking at her like she was crazy, and her mom running out of the house. Then she blacked out.
At age 7, her powers had not fully manifested, so the chilling process had been slower, and more gradual. Fully grown, it would take no more than 2 minutes of direct contact to completely incapacitate her, temporarily stripping her of her power, not to mention putting her in intense pain. She shook her hand and felt her warm blood slowly bring it back to life.
Sighing, she sat down at her desk. The finished letter to her mother lay next to a blank piece of parchment, on which she had planned to write Sirius. She noted that her candle hadn’t burnt down to a stub overnight. Maybe a draft had blown it out? On top of a graded stack of papers, she saw a note she hadn’t noticed before. As she picked it up, she didn’t immediately recognize the writing on the note, but soon realized who it was from.
There was a meeting last night. Not the Order kind. I came to your room, hoping you would still be awake, but arrived to find otherwise. In any case, there are things you should be made aware of. I’m free tomorrow evening if you want to talk. Please come by my quarters at any time. Oh, and I should warn you not to fall asleep with candles burning, but I think you would be okay in the event of a fire.
The mystery of the blanket and the candle were now solved. Severus had been in her room, found her asleep, and tucked her in?
The significance of these thoughts were overshadowed by the quick wave of unease that came over as she put down the letter.
"Great way to start the morning," she said out loud to herself with a sigh.
Gwen went about her day with a knot in the pit of her stomach. She had been so distracted by the note she had been unable to even begin her letter to Sirius. Something must be wrong, terribly wrong, for Severus to personally come to her room last night. All throughout her lessons that day she couldn’t shake her feeling of dread. At lunchtime, she sat at the staff table, quieter than usual. She pretended to listen as Aurora chatted nonsense on her right, nodding in the appropriate places with an encouraging “mhmm” occasionally. Her mind refused to be distracted. She looked down the staff table, past the empty headmaster’s chair, to where Severus sat on the other side of McGonagall. Apparently, they were deep in conversation. Severus’ body was slightly angled towards Minerva, and her back was almost completely facing Gwen. She could almost guess the subject of their hushed tones. Suddenly, Severus’ eyes flashed to hers as he finished talking, and Gwen blushed at being caught trying to eavesdrop, but she didn’t look away. His face was grave, and his eyes told her all she needed to know. She wrenched her gaze away from his, staring out across the emptying Great Hall. Aurora said a hurried goodbye, muttering something about forgetting to grade star charts, and left. Gwen barely heard her, taking slow, deep breaths to calm her dizzy thoughts. She knew it was bad. The way Severus had looked at her confirmed it. He would not,for her sake, smile and pretend everything was fine. She knew him well enough to know he would never placate her with false hope. His personality wouldn’t allow him to be anything but straight with people. And yet, his kindhearted deeds last night were surprising, what with the blanket and candle and such…She wondered what Sirius would do if he knew Severus had been in her room. She smiled sadly at the thought. Oh Sirius. He was the type to soothe her fears with whispers of “everything’s going to be ok”, even if it wasn’t. Sometimes she needed to hear that. She needed to be wrapped tightly in his arms, seemingly safe from the world. He was a distraction when she was at her wits end. A beautiful distraction. With arms that never seemed to be able to hold her close enough. She could almost feel his breath on her neck, and the warmth from his bare skin coming through his thin shirt…
The bell to start afternoon classes suddenly sounded, snapping Gwen out of her fantasy.
“Crap,” she muttered to herself, standing quickly and hurrying out of the Great Hall behind a few lagging students.
Severus’ eyes followed her until she was in the entrance hall, and out of sight.
As she speed walked up to her classroom, her need for Sirius became almost overwhelming. She wanted him there, to hold her hand, stroke her hair, when Severus delivered his news. Alas, she would have to face it alone. Not even Dumbledore would be there with a comforting pat on her arm. Her brows furrowed in confusion at the thought. Why was Dumbledore not telling her whatever it was? Where was he? She was forced to rearrange her thoughts as she looked out at the expectant students in her class. Worry would just have to wait.
Gwen paced back in forth in front of the door to Severus’ office. The dungeons were cold, but her blood was pumping so hard she didn’t even feel the chill.
‘Just knock, get this over with,’ she thought to herself.
She stopped pacing to stare at the doorknob. Her bottom lip was almost chewed raw the way she had been going at it all day. She walked forward quickly, raising a hand to knock on the dark wood, but her resolve melted and she uncurled her fist. Her palm rested against the door, followed by her forehead.
“Come on, Gwen,” she whispered out loud to herself.
The door suddenly swung open and Gwen jumped back in surprise. Severus stood in the doorway, an amused expression on his face.
“I thought I should come out and stop you before you wear a rut in the floor,” he said.
Gwen’s mouth fell open.
“You—you knew I was out here?”
“Of course. I thought you’d eventually work up the courage to knock. I guess I was wrong,” he smirked and stepped to the side so Gwen could pass into the room.
Gwen snapped her mouth shut in defiance. She narrowed her eyes and strode past him into the room.
A large fire crackled in a fireplace to the left, keeping the cold air from the hallway at bay. Gwen looked around curiously. She almost never ventured down to the dungeons, and had certainly never been to Severus’ rooms. A large, dark, mahogany desk covered in papers sat facing the door by the far wall. Two black leather couches formed an L-shape around the fireplace, with a coffee table in the middle. A black armchair sat by a stretch of bookcases standing along the same wall as the fireplace. She saw a doorway off to the right of his desk, which she assumed went into his bedroom. There was at least one candle on every surface in the room, giving it a cozy glow. Gwen assumed he had done this for her benefit. It made her forget she was in the dank, dark dungeons.
“Can I offer you something to drink?” Severus asked from behind her.
“You can offer. I’ll refuse though,” she teased, looking back and smiling.
The corners of his mouth twitched.
“Well then, can I offer you a seat?” he asked, motioning to the couches.
“Now that I will take you up on,” she said as she moved gracefully to sit down on one of the couches.
He sat on the other.
Gwen’s joking mood evaporated in an instant as they sat in silence for a few moments. Severus was staring into the fire, but she could tell his eyes weren’t focused. She waited patiently, not in any hurry to hear what he had to say. Her whole body was tense. Finally, Severus looked up. Gwen leaned forward imperceptibly. She didn’t realize she was holding her breath.
“As I mentioned in my note,” he began, “there was a meeting last night. Only the Dark Lord’s most trusted servants were in attendance. I, being one of those servants, was obligated to be there.”
Gwen said nothing, waiting for more. He studied her face for a moment before going on.
“You had managed to keep yourself a secret to the Dark Lord, until you displayed your powers last month outside St. Mungo’s. As expected, Bellatrix immediately informed him of the power you seemed to possess.”
Gwen nodded, growing impatient. She had heard all of this before.
“You’re identity was unknown, seeing as you are a foreigner. This is one instance when being an American is beneficial, I suppose,” he said, smiling slightly at his own joke.
She resisted the urge to roll her eyes as he continued.
“I was in a delicate position,” he said, rising from his seat and walking over to the fireplace.
“How much should I divulge about you? They obviously knew you were in the Order, and as a supposed spy, I was expected to give them all the information I could about you. I, of course, lied, telling them that even the Order had kept you a secret from its members. That only Dumbledore knew what you were. Lying to the Dark Lord’s face is in fact a very treacherous path to take, but my expertise at Occlumency paid off once again. There was a small problem, in that even though I supposedly didn’t know about your...ability, I was in fact expected to know your name. You remember we discussed this with Dumbledore before term resumed. As Dumbledore instructed, I gave them a false surname,” he said, studying the fire as it danced in the grate.
He paused and looked back at her. She sat, stock-still, knowing what he would say next. He walked slowly back over to the empty couch, sitting on the edge closest to her. Gwen swallowed hard.
“They discovered your real name through an outside source,” he said quietly.
“Who?” she asked quickly.
“I have no idea, Gwen,” he replied, shaking his head.
Gwen nodded, and swallowed. She could handle this. This wasn’t that bad.
“There’s something more,” Severus started again. “They know about your mother…and where she lives.”
Gwen’s head snapped up.
“They intend to take her, using her as bait to make you…come out, as it were,” he said.
He had the good sense to look truly concerned as she felt her world start to slip. Her mouth opened, but she couldn’t find words to put with her thoughts. Severus made to put his hand over hers, but thought better of it and leaned back on the couch.
“Dumbledore left for the States as soon as I told him last night. He’s going to find her before they do, and perform the Fidelius charm. We’re going to keep her safe, Miss Bradley. We’re going to try as hard as we damn well can,” he finished in a whisper.
All Gwen could think about was how long it took her to write back to her mother. How she still hadn’t sent off the letter. How she had neglected her, and how the letter sitting floors above on Gwen’s desk might never be opened. Gwen cleared her throat.
“So—so what about you? I mean, don’t they know you lied about my name? What will they do?” she breathed.
Severus’ eyebrows pulled together in confusion.
“All of this and you’re worried about what’s going to happen to me?” he asked, and gave an incredulous chuckle. “They know how hard Dumbledore has tried to protect you, so it’s not too far of a stretch to think that he wouldn’t even give us your real name. So I’m in the clear. I’ll be fine,” he finished, a small smile on his lips.
Gwen nodded slowly. She was trying to wrap her brain around everything Severus had said. She knew Dumbledore would keep her mom safe. He would reach her in time. He had to. She suddenly found herself thinking of Sirius, and how much she wished he was there with her.
Gwen sat in silence for a few minutes, sorting through her emotions. Severus sat patiently, hardly moving as he watched her.
“What should I do?” she finally whispered.
“Nothing,” Severus answered gently. “Hogwarts is the safest place for you right now. You should carry on as normally as possible, and don’t, under any circumstances, leave the grounds alone,” he finished, sounding stern.
Gwen nodded again, staring at the floor. Eventually, she pulled her gaze from a spot on the rug and slowly stood up. Severus mirrored her movements, reaching forward at one point as if to lay a hand on her arm. He stopped a few inches short, and slowly let his hand drop back by his side.
“If there’s anything I can do…” he started, trailing off as he looked at her.
Gwen gave him a weak smile and said, “Just keep me updated please, Severus.”
He gave her a hesitant smile in return, and walked over to open the door for her. She paused in the threshold and looked up at him.
“Thank you, Severus,” she said softly, and turned into the cold, stone hallway.
“Goodnight, Gwen,” he whispered, closing the door.
Gwen reached the comfort of her room, and sat down immediately at her desk. The walk from the dungeons had given her some time to clear her head, and gain some perspective. She convinced herself that Dumbledore would take care of everything. He was Dumbledore. But no matter what she made herself believe, her longing for Sirius only got worse. She pulled a blank piece of parchment towards her and dipped her quill in ink. Her hand stood still, the quill poised over the parchment, unmoving. Anger suddenly flared up inside her. She hated that the only way to reach the man she loved was through a flimsy piece of paper. She slammed her hand down on the desk, splattering ink everywhere. The parchment underneath her hand started to crinkle and burn, blackening as her hot, angry energy flowed out of her hands. She took a few deep breaths, trying to get a handle on her temper. Her teeth clenched as she forced herself to calm down. Eventually, she was able to settle down, and she threw away the singed parchment and retrieved a fresh sheet. She dipped her quill once again, took another deep breath, and began.
My love, it seems you have a very clear idea of what I am going through without you. I miss you so much that it hurts sometimes. It’s been like going through my day without my right arm. You’ve become such a part of me, of who I am, that not being with you feels wrong, unnatural. I feel like my heart is just melting inside my chest when I think about you, and how far away you are from me. I don’t know how I’m going to be able to stand your absence for 4 more months. I need you so much right now…
Gwen had to pause in her writing to wipe the tears off her cheeks. She rested her forehead in the palm of her hand, squeezing her eyes shut as more tears spilled from them.
“Sirius,” she whispered out loud, and before she knew it, she was sobbing.
Her body shook as her emotions took control, unchecked. She didn’t feel that she had the strength to suppress it any longer. She wanted him there. She wanted to look at him, and touch him, and hear his voice. She needed him to tell her that everything was going to be alright. She needed him to lie to her. She longed for the alternate reality he could provide her with for just a little while. She missed her escape.
She continued to sit there at her desk, even after her tears had run dry. As she read over what she had written so far, warning bells sounded off in her mind. If she sounded this desperate for the whole letter, there was a real risk Sirius might act impulsively and show up on her doorstep. She sniffed and wiped the back of her hand across the drying tear tracks on her cheeks.
“Pull yourself together, Gwen,” she told herself sternly.
She had to be positive, for his sake. Talk chit chat crap. Keep him safe. A few composing breaths later, she continued.
…I need you so much right now, but I take comfort in the fact that each day that goes by is one closer to seeing you again. Our reunion will be that much sweeter. So I beg you, stay safe until then. Don’t do anything rash or reckless. I wouldn’t be able to bear it if anything happened to you. Please, keep yourself out of mischief. It’s a lot to ask, I know, but do it for me.
Classes have been going great. When it gets warmer out, I’m planning on having the 5th years reenact a famous battle from the Goblin Rebellions. I’m really excited about it, and I hope the students will be too. I will make history fun if it kills me.
If you do end up learning how to knit, I could really use a new pair of mittens.
Now, I have something to tell you. Some…news that Severus told me just tonight.
Gwen paused, took a deep breath, and continued.
As you know, Severus gave Voldemort a fake last name when he disclosed all his “information” about me. Well, it seems they found out it was a fake, and someone uncovered my real one. So they know exactly who I am, that I teach at Hogwarts, everything down to the name of my 6th grade soccer team. I mean, football. Why can’t you people just speak English? Anyway, they found enough to locate my mother.
Fresh tears threaten to leak from her eyes, but she blinked them back.
Dumbledore left for America this evening and he’s going to get to her first. She’s going into hiding. She’s going to be okay. Please tell me she’s going to be okay, Sirius. Tell me what I need to hear. It’s strange, even with all that was going on today, you were at the forefront of my thoughts. It’s like an unceasing cycle. I always end up back at you. I love you, Sirius, and I am devoted to you. You are the only one for me. I miss you with every part of my heart, but I know these four months will go by faster than we think. I will be in your arms again before you know it. Stay safe. I love you.
She sat back in her chair, frowning at the lie she had written. She knew the months would drag by agonizingly slow, but she needed to keep him feeling positive. She needed him to stay put. She sealed the finished letter in an envelope and put it on the edge of the desk by her mother’s. She ran a finger over her mother’s address, another wave of guilt washing over her. But everything would be fine. Her mother would be okay. She sighed. Without Sirius there, she had to tell herself her own lies, and they were much harder to believe coming from her. She blew out her candle and went to bed, praying for a dreamless night.
A/N: Thanks a million for reading! I'm really enjoying this story and I hope you are too! Please review :)