Henna sat quite still for many minutes after Albus Dumbledore had left. Her heart thrummed a rhythm in her chest, and she allowed the feeling of it to engulf her, filling her ears. Her mind worked frantically, pressing itself for answers and solutions. Would Dumbledore be able to get the money from her parents? Would she really be able to go to a school? She almost smiled. That would be wonderful. She had always enjoyed school, even the homework. That is until that fateful day.... Pushing the heels of her hands into her eyes, she tried desperately to push the fear and doubt from her mind.
Her stomach grumbled, informing her of its condition. She didn’t need its voice, however, as she was well aware of her great hunger. It sent shooting pains throughout her middle, often causing her to double over. She looked around for anything to eat, some form of blood. She couldn’t let things get as bad as they had the last time, or she might lose all sanity. She couldn’t let that happen, in fear of having somebody discover her feeding on some defenseless rodent. Her feet itched to move; she needed to walk around.
The warm sunlight crawled across the floor, leering at her like a cat, waiting to pounce. She edged out of the bed, her pale white feet coming in contact with the wooden floor. She closed her eyes, allowing a few more breaths to calm herself. She stood up, expecting to feel great pain. When she didn’t, she opened her eyes back up in surprise. She looked at her arms and saw that not only were her hands bandaged, but somebody had gotten rid of the majority of her cuts and bruises. She let out a sigh of relief, and her movement was made with much more ease than last night. She walked to the other side of the room, and opened the door softly. She didn’t know why she was sneaking around, but she was so used to making sure nobody noticed her, it had become a habit.
Her feet skittered nervously across the floor, and she felt like she shouldn’t walk on such cleanliness. She was afraid to touch anything, she felt contaminated. She remembered taking a bath, however, and she looked down at her newly cleaned feet. It was amazing. She hadn’t taken a proper bath in months, if not more. Down the hallway she went, searching for stairs. That was when she caught sight of a bathroom. She was about to pass it, but curiosity got the better of her. Cold tile rubbed her feet as she entered, and immediately she felt a feeling of peace. She had been in here last night, but had been too tired to notice anything. It had a large Jacuzzi, and a shower. Counter-tops covered an entire wall, and on it were bottles of differently colored soaps and lotions. She picked up a bottle of lotion and squirted some onto her hand. Smelling the sweet fragrance, she rubbed it on her hands.
She felt like a child, rushing to try the new things, turning the water on and off. It had been so long.... She hadn’t lived in a house for at least two years, and the only bathrooms she went in were those of dirty restaurants and bookstores. She was about to try out a bottle of bright blue liquid when she caught sight of herself in the mirror. Her heart nearly stopped. It was a completely different person. Her hair and face were no longer coated with dirt. Her eyes no longer had purple bags beneath them. She actually looked quite nice, except for the pale, gaunt expression she was sporting.
Her blonde hair curled about her face, and she touched it in amazement. It hadn’t been able to give in to its natural curl for a long time. Washing it in sinks of public restrooms wasn’t exactly recommended. It felt soft and silky beneath her fingers, and she snorted in amazement. Next she examined her face, and saw that it was perfectly grime-free. Freckles dotted her face like sprinkles on a beautiful cake. Her deep brown eyes sparkled, giving a sense of mystery and indecision. She licked her rosy lips then, nerves setting in as a person she hadn’t seen in years stared at her. The sight of herself looking clean brought back memories, memories she thought she had lost forever. She looked like a sweet little angel. Angel.... That’s what her father had called her, but obviously he had never meant it. He had abandoned her with great ease, but before that, before they had caught her, things were wonderful. She could remember her mother fixing breakfast for her like a robot. She had been so young then, and things had seemed so...innocent.
She never noticed the way her mother avoided any emotional conversations, and never realized that all of the business trips her father took weren’t all they seemed to be. Unless his business was a busty woman named Monica. When her mother found her father was cheating, Henna became excited. She was sure that she would finally see some emotion, or maybe some tears. No, all she saw was frustration. She could remember perfectly watching her mother like a hawk, praying to see tears. It was an odd prayer, but an honest one.
Henna never wanted anything more than she wanted her mother to show a side that was human. Soon things began to get out of hand. Her father kept cheating, and her mother simply started to ignore it. She often heard her mother muttering to herself. She loved his money, and it was quite clear that was the only reason she tolerated his “business” trips.
“Hey! I see your up now,” a voice said, interrupting her trip into the past. “Would you like something to eat? The Potter’s are at work, but James and everybody are downstairs. They’ve managed to fix some toast I think.” Henna turned to see Lily rolling her eyes. “Honestly, they’re hopeless. I’ll go down soon and fix them some real breakfast.”
“No. I’m not hungry,” Henna said, trying to look refreshed.
“Oh, come on. You haven’t eaten anything since you’ve been here!” Lily said, smiling brightly. She thought she was simply trying to be polite. “I know you must be starved.”
“No, I ate some food last night. Really, I’m fine,” Henna insisted, starting to edge backwards.
“You didn’t come downstairs last night,” Lily argued. “I slept on the couch the whole time, and nobody came down the steps. I’m a light sleeper.”
“I’m a light walker,” Henna retorted, getting frustrated now. This had become more than a simple argument over food. Henna knew she was about to find out the size of Lily’s stubbornness.
“Listen, I don’t know what your problem is, but Remus is being completely honorable, and has put up with your bad attitude. He may not want to hurt your feelings, but when you threaten the heart of one of my friends, I can get angry. You have no idea how happy it would make Remus if you simply went down to eat breakfast. Is it such a hard task? No, it’s not. Now go downstairs and have a bloody piece of toast!” Lily was fuming. Henna stared in shock.
“Fine,” she finally hissed. She hated giving up. So, she gave Lily the coldest stare she could muster, and went down the steps. Lily’s eyes narrowed. This was going to be more difficult than she thought.
Remus sat at the table, eating little and talking less. His heart was in his cereal, and he felt utterly depressed.
“What did the cheerio’s ever do to you, mate?” Sirius asked, watching as Remus jabbed ruthlessly at the poor little bits of cereal. “Give them a rest!”
“Leave him alone, Padfoot. Remus is sick,” James said, trying his best to sound like a stuffy doctor.
“You are?” Peter said, raising his light-colored eyebrows. Remus frowned, wondering what James was getting at.
“He has all the symptoms!” James said, nodding. “Look at him, he’s about to drown himself in the milk over there, and if you’ll notice, his ears nearly fly off his head if he hears a creak by the steps. The guy is love sick!”
“Ha ha,” Remus said sarcastically. “You’re sense of humor is so hilariously witty.”
“I know,” James said, rubbing his fingernails on his jacket to clean them. He obviously didn’t notice Remus’ tone of voice.
“There is only one way to take care of that, Moony,” Sirius said, his face deadly serious. “Otherwise it could very well be fatal!”
“What does he need to do?” Peter said unwittingly.
“He needs to shag somebody. It’s the only way!” Sirius said.
“Good luck on that one,” James said jokingly. “The only guy that could do that as quick as is needed is me.”
“And that isn’t going to happen anytime soon,” a new voice interrupted. Lily came into the kitchen, a triumphant smile on her lips, but a hint of frustration in her eyes. James cocked his head as a question, but she simply shook her head, telling him to wait until later.
“Ouch,” James said, covering up their silent conversation. “Hey! It’s Hannah, right?” he said then, seeing the other person that had followed Lily. Lily came and sat on his lap, and everybody looked expectantly at the newly arrived girl. Sirius’ eyes lit up.
“Whoa, she cleans up nice!” he whispered into Remus’ ear, but Remus wasn’t listening. Instead he was staring at her, and she was meeting his gaze without hesitation. Worlds seemed to collapse and reform with the amount of time that passed while they lost themselves in each others eyes. They soared through the universe of tension the other created. Remus shifted uncomfortably, and noticed that nobody was moving or making a sound.
“Have a seat,” Remus finally choked out, shoving Sirius aside and pulling up a chair beside him. Sirius snickered and whispered something that sounded like, “Whipped.”
“No thanks,” she said. Lily rolled her eyes.
“Do we need to go over this again?” she said, but then she stopped and considered. Now she didn’t see stubbornness in Henna’s eyes. Now she saw terror. “We won’t bite,” she said in attempt to ease her unfounded fear.
“Well, Remus might,” James joked. Everybody hissed for him to be quiet, and Remus shot him a glare. “Just a joke,” he quickly amended.
Henna stood frozen to one spot. She cowered in the shadow of the doorway, and watched as the others bathed themselves in the morning sunlight. How was she going to get out of this one? The entire table was brightly lit, and she could already feel its glares. She needed to do the spell to keep herself safe. That’s it. “Um, I’ll join you in a second. I need to use the bathroom.”
“You just did,” Lily said, remembering finding her in the restroom moments later. Henna looked like a dog that had been shot.
“Well maybe I have to go again!” she said, her cheeks turning red at her embarrassing lie. Lily, instead of looking ashamed of herself, looked suspicious. She simply nodded. Henna didn’t wait a second later, but rushed to the bathroom.
“Way to go, Lily,” Sirius chastened. “Why did you have to make her feel like an idiot in front of us? She’s already awkward enough.”
“Yeah,” Peter interjected. Lily only rolled her eyes.
“Oh, don’t be silly. She has a secret, and I plan to find out what it is,” she stated. Remus gave a sigh.
“Good luck. I’ve been trying to get it out of her ever since I met her,” he said.
“Which in reality has only been a few days,” James pointed out. “She’ll come clean soon.”
“You make it sound like she’s a murderer,” Remus said defensively.
“You never know,” Sirius intoned. Remus snorted. “Well, she certainly looks a lot better now that she’s cleaned up.”
“Is that all you notice about anybody? What their physical appearances are?” James sighed, exasperated.
“Of course not! I’m friends with you, aren’t I?” Sirius pointed out. Everybody but James began laughing, but they stopped when they heard footsteps. Henna was returning. “Oh great, back to walking on dragonshells.”
“Shut up,” Remus said lightly. They watched as Henna walked in the room and sat down at the brightly lit table.
“Toast?” Lily said, offering her a piece of toast. Henna looked at the soggy thing and nearly vomited. They expect her to eat that?
“Thanks,” Henna murmured, taking it. She noticed everybody was watching her. “Haven’t you ever seen somebody eat toast before?”she snapped. They all jumped and looked away. She took an awkward bite from the toast. Her canine teeth extended into the bread, and began trying to suck blood from it. She tried hard to stop her initial reaction to having food in her mouth. Except that this piece of bark wasn’t food. Slowly she was able to recall the teeth back to normal, and hoped people didn’t notice her deep concentration. She practiced chewing. God, it had been a long time since she’d had to chew something. Her mouth didn’t seem to work properly, and a piece of toast nearly tumbled out of her mouth.
Next came the hardest part. She took a deep breath, and tried to swallow. It was absolutely impossible. Her throat made wild motions, and she waggled her tongue about, trying to force the food down, but it was simply impossible. Maybe some water would help. She picked up a glass of water, and felt its vile taste filling her mouth. She tried desperately not to gag. She wanted very much to simply spit the food onto the ground, but she noticed that Lily was watching her intently. What was that odd look she had on her face? Whatever it meant, it made Henna angry. This was enough to urge her onward. She struggled for a few more minutes, but after awhile she managed it. She sent a triumphant look over at Lily.
Lily returned the look with one of her own, but her’s was one of realization, and not triumph. She nodded and then turned back to James, who had been talking to her, and not realizing how inattentive she was. Henna was confused by their silent conversation. What had Lily realized? Why did she keep giving her looks as though she had won. Henna had been the one to swallow a bit of food!
She nearly laughed at herself. What had she been reduced to? Now swallowing had become a great achievement? Sighing she snuck a look over at Remus. He was looking particularly nice today. His sandy hair was falling in his dark eyes as usual, and he sported a smile, yet she sensed depression beneath the smile. It seemed that she wasn’t the only person hiding something.
“I’m going to take a walk,” she said abruptly, having given up on trying to eat. Maybe she would catch a rabbit outside.
“I’ll go with you,” Remus said, also standing up. Henna looked alarmed. She opened her mouth to resist him, closed her mouth, and then opened it. She needed to feed, and she should definitely stay away from Remus. He had an odd way of making her expose her emotions. She hated that, and yet...
“Alright,” she muttered. Everybody, including her, was surprised by this answer. They had all expected her to refuse. Sirius wiggled his eyebrows at Remus, who ignored him. He walked out of the kitchen, and then went to the door. He held it open for her, and she stared in amazement. He was opening the door for her?! “Ummm...thanks....”
“Anytime,” he said automatically. She went out, and he followed. They began to walk through the surrounding woods. Henna found it very calming to listen to the birds, but also very frustrating to know that right now, she could be feeding on one of them. They walked quite comfortably in silence, until finally Remus spoke.
“How have you been feeling lately? Still mad at me?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said honestly. He looked disappointed, but took in the truth and stood proud with it. What would it be like? To just be herself around him? To forget about trying to hide everything, and just have fun? Would the consequences be to great? Yes, she decided.
“Where did you get that scar?” he asked. Henna froze, and turned slowly to him. White cold fear ran through her body like a poison.
“Wh-what?” she stammered. Remus noticed her tone of voice and frowned.
“The scar on your back,” he said, moving to indicate what he meant. It was sticking out the back of her tanktop. As his hand neared her back she grabbed his hand and threw it back at him. He got extremely mad at this. Did she think he would hurt her or something? “You don’t have to act like I’m murdering you. I just want to now where you got that scar!”
“It’s none of your damn business!” she hissed. He folded his arms together.
“Why won’t you just tell me?” he ground out. He didn’t care if he was being insensitive. He was tired of giving his all and getting her attitude in return. “What have I ever done to make you distrust me?”
“What have you done to make me trust you at all?!” she yelled back at him. He stared at her incredulously.
“Hmm, let’s see!” he said, pretending to think. “Not only have I given you a home, but I most-likely just got you into a wonderful school! I stopped you from going to jail, and maybe, just maybe, I have feelings for you!” he screamed the last part, and took him a few minutes to realize what he’d said. Did he really just admit his strange infatuation with her? Oh god, he had.
Henna didn’t know what to think, or say. Did he really just say that?! Her heart did somersaults, and she felt butterflies fluttering inside her. Her eyes filled with rare emotion. Remus couldn’t tell if it was good or bad. Henna was so confused. How could he say that?! She could never feel the same way about him....right? She wasn’t capable of loving somebody. She was a bloody vampire. She might hurt him....
She saw his eyes cradling his heart, exposing it to her, begging her to take it. He was utterly vulnerable, and he knew it. She knew, for once in her life, then and there, that she was in control. She realized that he had split his heart in half, opening it for her examination. It was up to her to decide what to do with it.
“A man cut me with a knife,” she admitted. His eyes brightened, and his hope was restored. She wouldn’t have said that if she hadn’t cared for his feelings. He felt very much like punching the air in victory. Instead he listened to her words, and they began to form anger. Somebody had actually stabbed her?!
“Why? Who!?” he seethed. Henna shrugged.
“I don’t remember his name. Please don’t ask me why. I’ll just refuse to answer, and I don’t want to hurt you anymore,” she said. She couldn’t believe it. He was able to puncture her mask so easy. She felt like a young child, but she wanted to know, “Do you really have feelings for me?” she whispered. Remus sighed and closed his eyes.
“I have feelings for the little part of you that you let me see. The rest is a mystery,” he muttered. Then he stepped closer. “Why won’t you just let me in? Tell me who you are, where you came from, why don’t you have a family?”
Henna stood frozen. She couldn’t tell him. He was practically a stranger to her! “I’m sorry,” she whispered. It was enough. He knew she wasn’t going to tell him anything...yet he made a promise to his heart. He would get it out of her one way or the other. There long silence was soon interrupted by a large owl floating towards them. Remus’ eyes widened, and he looked extremely happy about something.
“Dumbledore,” he said, taking the letter. “It’s for you.” Remus handed her a letter, smiling brightly.
“What is it?” she asked nervously, flipping the envelope over in her hands.
“Open it,” he said, as though it were Christmas morning, and he had just given her a present. She opened it, and her eyes quickly scanned the parchment. Her eyes sparkled with something that was different than anything she’d shown so far. It was happiness. He nodded, and sighed with relief.
“Is this....” she said, as though she couldn’t believe it. Remus nodded.