Nobody slept that night. Instead we sat awake, huddled around the newly rekindled fire, wands at the ready. Sirius held me close, unwilling to be parted, and on my other side I clutched Jasper’s hand.
He had not spoken much, not even to answer the burning and worried questions our friends had asked us. I think he was still in shock, but the warning seemed to have pushed me into action, not scared me to a stop.
“So, who is he?” Asked Lily, for about the fifth time this night, just to clarify. I didn’t answer this time, Jasper did. He let go of my hand and looked around at our friends, his expression solemn, thinking the same thing I was.
What about them? What would he do to them? Would they be in danger, merely by knowing us? We couldn’t be sure.
“He’s the man who killed our parents.” He said clearly, though his voice shook a little. Inside my head I mentally added, tried to. Because it had not been all his doing. I had played some part in it too.
“He’d been following us for weeks leading up to their deaths, we were on the run. We had… had something that he wanted, and something he would do anything to possess.”
I saw James open his mouth to ask what exactly it was we had, but Lily hit him. I was glad. I didn’t want to tell them, just yet.
“We suppose he’s been looking for us,” Jasper continued on. “We though we’d lost him, but apparently not.”
“But why does he want you two?” Peter asked looking terrified, his mousy head just sticking up from underneath his sleeping bag. I couldn’t blame him.
“Because last time, he didn’t get the full set.”
We lapsed back into silence. No body spoke over the crackling of the fire. At some point I must have drifted off to sleep, because all too soon I was being shaken awake by Remus, and the scents of breakfast were drifting towards me from the kitchen.
“Good morning,” He said softly. I smiled weakly and stretched my stiff limbs. “It’s ten o’clock. We were going to let you sleep, but breakfast was being served.”
Mumbling thanks I staggered to my feet and shuffled out into the kitchen. Everyone was looking just as bleary-eyed as I felt. James had fallen asleep, his hand outstretched towards the milk jug. Jasper’s face was taut with worry, but he smiled a brief, relieved smile when I walked into the room. I slid in between him and Sirius once again.
Sirius’s arm snaked around my waist and he kissed the top of my head.
“Are you alright?” He asked softly, staring into my face and pursing his lips at what he saw. I tried to smile, but the muscles in my face were frozen.
“Yes,” I whispered back. “Just tired.”
From the head of the table, Leon spoke.
“Lulah?” I looked away from Sirius to Leon, who was folding the paper and putting it aside. He pushed his reading glasses down his nose, and looked at me solemnly.
“We were thinking,” He began, his tone heavy with regret. “We were thinking that perhaps it would be best if you returned to Hogwarts early. I’m sure Dumbledore can supply more protection than we can.”
And although it saddened me to leave them, I had to agree. Dumbledore certainly could supply more protection to us, and I didn’t think I could stand another night, lying awake, wondering if he was watching us, through the bushes.
I nodded, and Leon spoke again. “Of course your friends can all go back home if they want.”
“NO WAY!” A unanimous cry of protest and apparent outrage at the suggestion rose from our five friends. Even James managed to raise his head to give a groggy “what?!”
“We’re not leaving Lulah and Jasper.” Sirius said defiantly, looking at Leon sincerely. For a moment, I saw a smile tug at the corner of Leon’s mouth.
“That’s all very well then. But I trust you’ll tell your parents.” They nodded their allegiance, and acknowledged the unspoken agreement to not tell them exactly why.
That afternoon, our bags were packed. Lily, James, Peter, Remus and Sirius had all removed their luggage from the Potter’s house and now, all seven of us stood around the fireplace. We were going to floo into the Three Broomsticks, and then make our way up to Hogwarts.
Dumbledore had already been sent a letter, alerting him of the circumstances. I wondered if anyone else knew. I hoped not.
One by one we marched into the emerald flames until at last it was just Jasper and I. We turned our backs on the fire to face our Aunt and Uncle. Tears streamed down Audrey’s face, and Leon pressed his lips tightly together.
“We only just got you back.” Whispered Audrey, holding out her arms for a hug. I embraced her tightly.
“Sorry,” I whispered into her honey scented hair. She hugged me tighter and the ends of her golden curls turned into flames. She laughed madly.
“Don’t be sorry, my darling girl. It was a pleasure having you back.” I wiped the tears from my own eyes and walked over to Leon who was just releasing Jasper.
“Lulah,” He murmured hugging me as well. “Stay safe Tallie.” He whispered, and for once I did not object to anyone other than my father using my special nickname. Leon was unnaturally hot, and I knew that any second, he too could erupt into flames. I smiled. We really were dangerous us Duaaon. I hugged him tighter before letting him go.
“Goodbye Uncle Leon, Goodbye Aunt Audrey.” Jasper said, stepping back and picking up his trunk. “We’ll write to let you know how we’re getting on.”
“Every day!” I promised as I watched Jasper step into the fire. Our family merely smiled.
And then Jasper was gone, vanished in a puff of green flames, and I followed along shortly after that.
The days passed by quickly at Hogwarts, melding into weeks, fading into months until Valentines Days was rapidly approaching.
There had been no more messages, but their absence made me even more anxious than the initial note had. As corny as it sounded, it was quite, too quiet, and I didn’t like that at all. I had been expecting a letter a day, bad nightmares, cold sweats… instead, nothing. It was unnerving.
At least we knew one thing. Hogwarts’ defenses were holding up.
The seventh year students had entered exam mode. You spoke to Lily only if you wanted to have your head ripped off. You asked Anna to copy homework, only if you wanted to die and you even looked at me, only if you wanted to have the whole frickin castle blown up.
I was not handling the added pressure well. Not when my mind kept wandering to the dark lair where he could be hiding, or the night my parents had died. I tried hard to concentrate, but it seemed the more I tried, the less it happened.
It was nearly impossible for Sirius and me to spend time together anymore. He was shut away in his common room and I in mine. Once we had tried to all study in the room of requirement, only to be driven mad by Lily, repeating the Runes alphabet out loud. Our time together was limited and our last year was drawing to a gradual close.
For once, Valentine’s Day came as somewhat of a relief. We stopped studying for a day, even Lily, and spent it out in the grounds and at Hogsmede.
The snow left over from winter had vanished, leaving behind a deluge of new growth. The seasons were turning and spring was on its way. The Hogwarts grounds were beautiful.
Lucy, Greta, Elise and I sat on the very same pier I had jumped off, that day when Sirius proclaimed his love for me. I smiled at the memory, and I smiled because I was sitting with some of my very best friends, with my feet dangling in the water and my mind, for once, free of thought.
“Well,” said Greta. “If I had a boyfriend, I’d want him to take me some place quiet. I don’t get the whole going clubbing on a date thing. Where’s the romance in that?”
I agreed while Elise and Lucy shared a smug look. I imagined Anna might have grinned as well, had she not been in Hogsmeade today with Andrew Robson, who apparently hadn’t like Tabitha Cleary at all.
“What?” Demanded Greta, but they wouldn’t tell her. I thought I knew. I’d heard a rumor from Lucy that the very same Michael Smith of Hufflepuff that Greta had liked since fifth year was planning to ask her out for dinner tonight. I wondered if Greta would think that was romantic.
“What about you, Lulah?” Elise asked her white blonde hair glittering in the sun. I looked into her wide blue eyes attempting to fathom what she meant.
“Sorry?” I asked, smiling confusedly. Now it was Greta’s turn to share a look with someone. She and Lucy swapped an amused glance.
“Where’s Sirius? I thought you’d be at Hogsmeade together?” My mouth formed an ‘o’ of realization and I laughed.
“I was banned form going.” I admitted. “Apparently he’s doing something tonight and he needs today to plan with Remus and Peter.” They looked puzzled at the exclusion of the fourth Marauder’s name. “James is probably off snogging Lily somewhere.” And comprehension dawned on their faces.
“Ooh! I wonder what it is.” Giggled Lucy, splashing the water around with her feet and wetting us all.
I wondered as well, and then I pushed Lucy into the lake. That’s what friends are for.
I wasn’t holding back, not now. Sirius’s hand ran across my stomach and I sighed. Why had I been denying myself this for so long? I pressed myself against him harder and he pressed back in response. His lips molded around my own and his warm tongue ran lightly across my bottom lip.
I slipped my hands up his shirt, feeling the soft skin of his back and the curve of his spine as he moved against my body. His hands began to fiddle with the hem of my shirt. I could tell, even in the heat of the moment Sirius was being a gentleman.
“Take it off.” I gasped, before his hands gripped the bottom of my shirt and pulled it up over my head. We stopped for a moment, pressed against the wall, panting. I stepped back and his eyes followed me. He’d never seen me like this before. He’d never seen the skin of my stomach, or my pale, near-exposed breasts. I watched him swallow once and take a deep breath before he reached out to touch my face.
“You’re beautiful.” He murmured, as I began to work on his buttons. He looked on as I quickly unbuttoned his shirt and pulled it from his shoulders. It fell in a heap along with my discarded shirt. We stared at them for a moment before returning to our sensual tango.
I stretched out a hand and slid it down his chest, across his stomach and to the top of his pelvis. I felt his muscles tense and his body shiver. He wrapped his arms around me as we fell back onto a bed. Thank God the room of requirement was built to accommodate.
We resumed our kissing, this time slower. It was more like a test now. See what happens if you kiss there… or there… maybe even there. My breath became jagged as Sirius worked his way from my mouth down. But of course, he stopped at my collar bone, coming back up to capture my lips once more.
I liked the feeling of skin on skin, as we moved against each other. His hands were firm, but not pressuring. I loved him for that.
And then we stopped, our energy spent. We had pushed ourselves far enough for tonight. I closed my eyes and rolled over to face him. He was on his back with his eyes closed. The dim candlelight made him look beautiful, like a scene from a movie. His ivory chest rose and fell with the motion of his breathing. I loved him so much, I hope he knew that. I trusted him with my whole soul.
I slid across the bed to him and wrapped my arms around his body. His arms tightened around me in response and I felt him breathe into my hair.
We were in the room of requirement. Call it cliché, but to me it seemed the perfect place. Rumour was that Lily and James had ‘gone all the way’ in here, but both of them refused to disclose the information. I didn’t mind so much for it changed each time I visited. Nothing was ever the same here. I imagined for them it would have been some place exotic and bright. That would suit them.
For us, the room was dimly lit by flickering candles mounted on the walls. A large bed sat in the middle of the room. On one side there was the large open fireplace, and our discarded picnic dinner and on the other side a couch and bookshelf. It looked like the study of a rich and lonely man, but I think that suited us just fine.
We lay there for some time, not talking, just breathing and touching each other gently. After a while, Sirius moved. He pulled away kindly to look at me cautiously. I had an idea what he was about to say.
“Lulah,” He started, very softly and very carefully. “Would you mind… would you mind telling me how your parents died?”
I smiled sadly, but I had been ready for this. I had been ready for days. I planned to tell him everything.
“I was fifteen when it happened,” I began in a whisper. “It was the night of Jasper’s and my fifteenth birthday. We were living in Romania at the time and our parents had organized a party. It was mainly for relatives and a few work colleagues, y’know? But it was nice that they were throwing a party, I guess, and I didn’t mind much who else was invited because one person in particular had been invited as well. You see, there was this one guy… one man… who I liked. He was the one.”
I stopped here to see his reaction but he was just staring at me with the same intensity as before.
“Go on,” He whispered. So I did.
“His name was Rostam Ayers. He worked in the same department as my mother and father. He was nineteen, smart and … and very good looking.” I glanced up from my hands again to check his face, but he did not look mad. A little confused if anything, but everything would make sense in due course.
“We’d been… experimenting with a relationship for a few months now. Amazingly, my parents approved.” I laughed dryly here. “They trusted Rostam so much. So did I. Jasper didn’t though. He hated him, he always did. I guess that’s why he was so cold towards you at the start… just making sure.”
I shifted my position on the bed so that I was now no longer facing him but lying between his limbs, resting on his chest. His arms wrapped accommodatingly around me and he stroked my hair. I started to talk again.
“Anyway…that was the night it happened. The night it all really began. Of course, he’d been planning if for months beforehand. We never suspected a thing. You see… Rostam had noticed something odd about my parents. Why were they so fast? Why could they see all these miniscule details so clearly? Why were they so impervious to pain?”
I took a deep breath. This was a long story.
“You see, physical pain, it doesn’t really do much to us. It hurts after a while, but we have to be emotionally weak first. I guess it’s just one of those weird dragon things.”
I felt Sirius nod his head. He kissed my forehead and I pushed on.
“So the night of the party Rostam took me out on the verandah… well, you can imagine what happened.” I could feel my face burning with shame. I wanted to badly to cry, but I had to finish this story for Sirius, I had to. “Later on he told us that that was when he put the tracing spell on me.”
But I couldn’t help it. The tears started to fall, thick and fast. I was gasping for air before long, scrubbing furiously at my eyes, but the tears refused to stop. Sirius held me in his arms and waited for me to calm down. At last I somehow managed to stop sobbing. I took a deep shuddery breath.
“You don’t have to do this Lulah.” He whispered. “I’m so sorry, I should’ve realized. It as a stupid thing to ask of you.” But I refused to stop. I wanted him to know. It would be worse leaving the story unfinished.
“We’d been receiving anonymous letters for months, threats, warnings. No matter what spells and enchantments we put on the house they always seemed to find a way in. Never in a million years did we suspect Rostam.
So on the night of the party a howler arrives as we’re cleaning up. It’s just us, Leon and Audrey and Rostam left. I remember we were joking, laughing about something… and then it exploded. ‘bang, bang, bang goes the hunter’s gun, so run dragon, run dragon, run, run run.’ It said.”
Behind me I felt Sirius shiver. He wrapped his arms tighter around me, burying his face in my hair.
“I don’t know how mum and dad stayed so calm. ‘Make a diversion’ they said to Leon and Audrey. ’Act like we’ve gone to hide out with you’. Like it would have worked anyway.” I laughed wryly again. “Rostam was standing right there.
Anyway, Leon and Audrey left. They went off to their house in England. The one you just visited. They were planning to leave the next morning; we’d just had a slightly less life-threatening scenario in mind.
Then, Rostam says to us ‘you go, go somewhere- anywhere. I’ll stay here, guard the place. I’ll put up spells, set traps, just make sure you’re safe’. So we packed our bags lightly and were gone within the hour.”
Tears were streaming down my face again, but I was finding it easier to breathe this time.
“I remember thinking he was so brave, so wonderful. I missed him for the few weeks we were on the run. I couldn’t wait to get back, for everything to be back to normal. What an idiot. In reality, he was just biding his time. Waiting to get us to a place where our deaths would be most spectacular.
He found it. About two weeks after we’d hit the road he followed us to the outskirts of this small fishing village, in Greece one night.
I was so happy to see him. We were saved, I thought. Wonderful Rostam caught the bad guy and saved us. I loved him so much in that moment. And then I saw the way he was looking at me.”
Sirius’s grip had grown stronger on my body. I couldn’t hear him breathing into my hair anymore. “Oh Lulah…” He murmured softly. “Oh…”
He didn’t seem capable of saying any more, so I went on.
“He explained it all then. He wanted the power. That was the way he had been raised. Power was everything. I don’t know what he planned to achieve in killing us. To take it somehow or… just remove the threat, I’m not sure. But he was going to kill us.
Mum and dad were yelling at us to run, to save ourselves. We weren’t even fully awake yet. But there was no way we were leaving them. I didn’t even fully comprehend that there was a duel going on until one of the spells hit me. And then somehow, somehow there were mum and dad in a panting, bleeding heap on the ground. Rostam stood over them, wand pointed at their hearts.”
I lost control of my voice then. I was so close to the end though, so I kept trying. The rest of my words were a shaky mess.
“I was so scared and so was Jasper. We couldn’t do anything; we didn’t know what to do. I was so scared. All I remember is blind panic. Everything was getting hotter. Mum and Dad kept yelling at us- ‘go, run, go!’ but we didn’t move. We just sat and watched as Rostam walked around our parents torturing them, explaining how he’d done it all. As he told them that it was the tracing charm he’d put me that got him here. I was just the tool.
Jasper tried to get up then, but he’d put this weird bondage spell on us and we couldn’t move. And then, he turned to look at his with this horrible smile. ‘Bang, bang, bang’ he said; then he killed them, watching us the whole time.”
Sirius’s grip was almost painfully tight on my body.
“And then everything exploded. Jasper and I did it. We lost control, I don’t know how exactly. It was like a bomb or something…. And then we re-awoke… we were in a muggle hospital, completely healed bar a few scratches. They told us it was a car-bomb and our parents had been killed in the accident.”
I curled around in my position so that I was facing Sirius once more.
His face was so pale, his eyes wide, horrified orbs. Tears ran silently down his cheeks. I smiled weakly at him.
“And that’s it.”
With a choked half sob, half-laugh he took me in his arms and held me to his chest. I listened to the steady thrum of his heart.
“I’m never going to let anyone hurt you Lulah, not ever again.” He murmured into my hair, holding my tighter still. And I believed every word of it.
I knew he never would.
A/N: And the mystery is revealed. Ok, I want serious feedback with this one guys. Does it even make sense? I mean, obviously it makes perfect sense to me, but I wrote it and understand completely what I’m saying. However, opinions? Please? I was actually really sad when I wrote this chapter. I’ll admit, I cried a little :P
Write a Review The Burn-Out Heart: Chapter 18- Return To The Fray