Gwen stood alone on the snow-covered hill, gazing out at the town below. The sun was saying its last goodbyes to the day, painting the world in a soft gold as darkness began to stretch its fingers across the sky. Two or three stars had already sparked to life, and a gentle but persistent breeze disturbed the creaking swings nearby. The little park was deserted for the night, and even the lampposts nearby remained unlit. There were few people who cared to venture out in the cold at nightfall. Snuggling up by a warm fire with a warm family was preferable on this Christmas Eve. And yet, Gwen had felt suffocated in the house. She sought solitude, with only her thoughts as company. Although usually averse to cold conditions, she wanted to feel the icy wind biting at her exposed face, whipping her hair into her eyes. The chill seeping into her bones was welcome. It reminded her that she was real. She thought of everyone back in Number 12; of the kids probably talking and joking over a bowl of Mrs. Weasley’s hot soup in the kitchen, while the Order was locked away in the upstairs room, discussing a fascinating subject: Gwen.
She couldn’t stand to be in the room, hearing her name thrown around like she wasn’t there, or like some sort of science project or weapon instead of a human being. It was unbearable. Gwen had slipped away unnoticed, but was unsure how long it would be before someone came looking for her. She sighed, her breath creating a frosty cloud in the winter air. Her mind was far from easy as she stared across at the serene landscape before her. The turmoil and uncertainty inside in no way matched the quiet little town below. The lampposts were all coming alive on the streets, casting yellow circles of light in the snow. Soft lights emanated from the windows of the little houses, and Gwen could almost feel the warmth from the fires crackling in the hearths. She pictured the people inside, cozy by the flames, in a world all to themselves. She sighed again, wishing that that was her life, her reality. Instead, a fear she dreaded her whole life loomed in front of her, and she worried that that fear was about to become real very fast.
Does he know?
This question had plagued her for over a week, bouncing around in her head ever since that day she had been forced to use her “gift”, as some called it. Her secret gift. Something to remain hidden. It was a tremendous ally for the Order, and a tremendous enemy if used against them. If he discovered what she was, he would stop at nothing to have her join him. He could never have knowledge of her. It was to be avoided at all costs. She was only to use her power in life or death situations, when there was no other way to survive. And the use of her power had been unavoidable.
The only way out. The only way to save Harry, who would one day save her, along with the rest of the world. She squeezed her eyes shut and shook her head. It had been the only way. She knew it had been the only way.
Her thoughts inevitably led her back to that day, and her memory of the battle played out in her mind for the millionth time:
Harry, wandless, was at the mercy of Bellatrix Lestrange in the deserted courtyard behind St. Mungo’s. The other Order members unconscious or fighting two death eaters at once. It had been a bad idea to visit Arthur so frequently. They had created a pattern too easy to follow if they were being watched. The same number of aurors each time, the same route taken. A trail plain as day. Arthur was coming home soon anyway. They shouldn’t have come again. Now they had been ambushed, with death eaters surrounding them. They were outnumbered, with 6 underage wizards to worry about. They had no time to catch their bearings before the death eaters attacked. A couple aurors fell quickly, not having time to react to the sudden appearance of the death eaters. Gwen flattened herself against a wall, yelling for Harry, Hermione, Ron, Ginny, and the twins to do the same as curses flew around them. After being assured the kids would stay put, Gwen sprang into the battle, throwing curses left and right, hitting her targets more often than not. Her skill was unmatched, and three or four death eaters fell quickly at her hand. Only a few aurors remained upright and fighting, but she couldn’t focus on that at the moment. Protect Harry. Always protect Harry. She started towards Lupin, who was dueling two death eaters, when she heard a shout. She spun around to see Bellatrix yanking Harry up from the ground, her wand at his throat. Hermione lay motionless on the ground as Ron tried to revive her, and the twins and Ginny were firing curses the best they could from behind a crumbling statue.
“No!” she cried, starting towards them. The remaining death eaters flanked Bellatrix on both sides and began to back away down a dark alleyway. Bellatrix wore a nasty sneer on her face, her eyes glittering with malice. She gave Harry another sharp jerk as she raised her wand, and Gwen felt the incantation rather than heard it. She stopped dead in her tracks, immobilized with fear. Fire erupted from Bellatrix’s wand. Fire in the shape of dragons, chimaeras, and other fire-spouting creatures. Gwen barely had any time to make a decision. She had to use her power. Use it or everyone here would die. She stretched her arms in front of her as the fiendfyre reached her. She envisioned herself as a sponge, and absorbed the flames as they engulfed her. It was very uncomfortable to absorb so much fire at once, but she pushed through, knowing it was the only way. She felt the fire seeping through her skin, being soaked up by her veins and becoming part of her blood. The fiendfyre was gone in only a couple seconds, and as the last of the flames disappeared, the aurors sprang into action. They rained down spells on the remaining death eaters, who were all stunned at what had just happened. Bellatrix was forced to drop Harry as Gwen sent a well aimed curse straight at her face, and with a last, unreadable look at Gwen, dissaparated.
It had been the only way. The Fiendfyre would have burned them alive. She had only used her power defensively. Maybe the death eaters hadn’t really seen what she did. Maybe they didn’t realize what she had done. But how else would the fiendfyre have disappeard? There is no countercurse, and it is nearly impossible to control. They had to know. And now he had to know. Fear started to rise up inside her, but she forced it down with a hard swallow and shake of her head. She couldn’t give in to it. She wouldn’t. Not until she knew for certain.
The sun had finally disappeared, and a half moon was rising to take its place in the dark sky. The cold had begun to creep through her gloved hands, and she shoved them deep into the pockets of her coat. The wind started to blow insistently, throwing her dark hair all about her face, but the biting cold was oddly soothing. After absorbing the fiendfyre, she had given into an awful fever. Her blood had felt like it was literally boiling in her veins, and her skin felt like it was on fire. Singe marks had appeared all over her clothing where her skin had become so hot as to eat away at the fabric. She was delirious for days. It had been too hard on her to take in such ferocious heat all at once. Plus, the fiendfyre was very dark magic, which heightened the aftereffects considerably. It had been the worst reaction she had suffered yet, but had almost fully recovered.
She shivered under all her layers and continued to stare out, not really focusing on anything in particular. Her thoughts strayed back to Grimmauld Place, wondering if Snape had returned, bringing news from the other side. He would be able to tell the Order if her secret was no longer secret.
“What a wonderful Christmas present” she thought sarcastically to herself. “Every year I ask Santa for Voldemort to show up on my doorstep. This year he’s finally going to deliver.”
She was once again lost in her thoughts when she heard the crunch of footsteps in the snow behind her. She tensed at the initial shock of shattered silence, but was otherwise undisturbed.
“I knew someone would be along eventually,” she said quietly, not even glancing behind to see who it was. “But I wasn’t expecting you." A small smile played on her lips. "I’m surprised they let you out of the house.”
“Well, I’ve never been one for rules and I don’t plan on starting now,” Sirius replied, also smiling.
He came to a halt beside her. They stood side by side, both staring down at the hushed town, letting their smiles slowly slide off their faces as their thoughts consumed them. After a minute or so of silence, Gwen finally worked up the courage to speak. She just hoped her voice would let her.
“He knows,” she said, almost whispering, with the tiniest lilt of her voice suggesting it was a question, and also betraying that she still held the smallest hope that it should be a question, instead of a statement.
Sirius hesitated, and slowly nodded his head, still staring straight ahead. Gwen nodded, also keeping her eyes locked ahead, chewing the inside of her cheek. Her face betrayed nothing. She was the picture of serenity on the outside. They stood in silence again, watching as lights went off one by one in the little cottages as people went off to bed. Gwen tried to feel as calm as she looked, to squelch the fear gnawing at her insides. Tears threatened to flow, but she blinked furiously, denying their release. When Sirius finally turned to look at her, her face was as still and tranquil as their snow-blanketed surroundings. The only thing that gave away the distress she felt was how hard she squeezed his hand when he reached for hers.
She turned and looked at him. His grey eyes searched her face, looking for a sign of what she was really feeling. His gaze finally rested on her eyes, and she knew he found it. Her dread and fear, though absent from her face, were teeming behind her big brown eyes. He reached up to touch her face, a crease forming between his brows. His finger delicately traced her cheekbone, and his touch brought everything she was feeling to the surface. Her tears defied her and spilled over onto her cheeks. She quickly turned away so he wouldn’t see, but he caught her face in his hand and brought it back around. He placed his hand under her chin and turned her face up towards his. The pale moonlight shone on the tear tracks running down her cheeks.
“Don’t hide it,” he whispered, looking at her with so much care and concern that she buried her face in his chest and let her tears go.
Sobs racked her body as he wrapped his arms around her and held her tightly. Gwen allowed her feelings to overwhelm her bit by bit, each wave bringing fresh tears, and Sirius’ arms tightened around her. She stood there, pressed against Sirius, her fear almost too much to bear. She was amazed that she could be so vulnerable with someone. But everything was different with Sirius. So easy, that it wasn’t traumatic to let him in on everything she was going through. And he, God love him, could handle anything she threw at him. They stayed there, unmoving as her tears finally ran dry and she took a few deep, shaky breaths. She pulled away gently, wiping her cheeks on her sleeves, and looked up at him. He smiled softly down at her and ran a hand through her hair. His grey eyes once again roamed her face.
“Hello there,” he said gently, still smiling.
Gwen couldn’t help managing a small smile of her own.
“Hello,” she whispered back.
Her troubles were momentarily forgotten as he leaned down and kissed her tenderly. Without hesitation, she put her arms around her neck and pulled him closer, not allowing a break in their kiss. His lips moved against hers with such sweet perfection neither party ever wanted it to end. It was Gwen who unwillingly broke this kiss, and they looked at each other, faces flushed and eyes bright.
“I’m glad it was you who came for me,” she said softly, tracing his lips with her gloved finger. “You’re always just what I need.”
“Oddly enough, there weren’t too many volunteers. Who wants to spend their Christmas Eve out in the cold looking for you?” he said teasingly, giving her a toothy smile.
Gwen laughed, grateful his sense of humor knew no bounds. He could lighten even the heaviest situations.
“Plus,” he added, “I knew where you would be. I didn’t exactly get permission to leave, but no one said ‘Sirius, don’t go out looking for her,’ so I took that as free reign.”
“You would,” she said rolling her eyes, but laughed again.
She looked into his beautiful eyes, and reality hit her once more. The laughter died from her face.
“We should go back?” Gwen asked.
Sirius nodded sadly, stroking her cheek with his thumb. She sighed, not keen on facing the rest of the Order. But it had to be done. Time to face the music. A ridiculous expression in her opinion. Music was marvelous. Who wouldn’t want to face it? Her situation was grave. No one would want to face it. She reluctantly pulled out of Sirius’ arms, still holding fast to his hand, when he said,
“We can’t go back just yet, though.”
Gwen looked up at him, confused, and recognized the glint in his eyes. That ‘I have something up my sleeve’ glint. Literally or figuratively, she never knew.
“What?” she squinted up at him suspiciously.
He dropped her hand and started digging around in his pocket. So it was literal this time. Uh oh. He wasn’t about to…was he? They had only known each other for 6 months. Surely he wasn’t that much of a bone-head. A brand new fear that had nothing to do with Voldemort began to rise up. No. He wouldn’t do that. Not now. Would he? She didn’t even try to hide the apprehension on her face as she looked at him, expecting him to pull out a little velvet box with an uspeakable evil inside. He found what he was looking for, and hand still in his pocket, he looked straight into her eyes. She held his gaze, not knowing what to expect.
Slowly, he lifted his hand and pulled a sparkling silver chain out of his pocket, and on the chain hung a stunning pendant in the shape of a rose. The rose was also silver, each petal covered in tiny diamonds, with a larger one in the center of the flower. She would have loudly exhaled a huge sigh of relief if her breath had not caught in her throat. Never had anyone given her something so exquisite. The moonlight reflected off the stones, which glittered like the snow, throwing dancing flecks of light onto Gwen’s face. She stared wide-eyed as he held it before her eyes, all apprehension forgotten.
“Like it?” Sirius asked, although it was all too clear from his tone that he was all too pleased with himself. “Perhaps you were expecting something else?” His eyes glittered mischievously.
“Sirius, I-“ she felt too choked up to go on. And she did not feel like crying again.
“Here, let me see you try it on.”
He moved quickly behind her and put it around her neck, his fingers fumbling a little with the delicate clasp. Gwen stripped off her gloves and reached up to touch the rose hanging just right of her heart. It was cold to the touch, and the diamonds winked up at her in the pale light. She absolutely loved it. Sirius moved back in front of her, and smiling, took her hands in his.
“Wow, finally, I found a safe place to keep that thing,” he said with a wink. “It looks pretty good on you. I guess I’ll let you keep it.” She barely heard his teasing as the mysterious coldness the necklace held seemed to sink into her skin, soothing the remaining heat coursing through her.
“I enchanted it, you know,” he continued, “It always stays cold. So the fire inside won’t burn too much.” That was enough to send her over the edge again. She threw her arms around his neck, and a few rebellious tears escaped. Never had anyone been so perfect.
“Happy Christmas, love,” he whispered in her ear. She responded with a passionate kiss for his lips. Neither wanted their embrace to end, but eventually they had to come up for air. Sirius tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear as he cupped her face in his hands.
“Ok, now we should go,” Sirius said reluctantly.
Gwen had temporarily forgotten the rest of the world still existed, which happened frequently when Sirius was around, but all those ugly feelings began to resurface as she thought about returning to Grimmauld Place. She sighed and looked up into Sirius’ beautiful grey eyes. Her hand went up to touch the rose around her neck, and she said,
“As long as you’re around, nothing can be too terrible.”
Sirius smiled and said “I’ll always be around, love.”
He gave her one more sweet kiss, and took her hand to lead her away. She looked over her shoulder for one last glance at the sleepy town below the hill, then turned and walked with Sirius back to reality.
A/N: Thank so much for reading! Please drop a review! It only takes like, 30 seconds :)