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Chapter 11 : Egyptian Heat
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(chapter image by everafter @ TDA)
For two months Elsa let herself forget about her hatred of Damon. She would attend Quidditch matches with him, and cheer him on when he played; they’d spend weekends together studying. Rather than allow Snape to tutor him in Potions, she had reluctantly at first agreed. With each passing day, she found her resolve slipping. He wasn’t just her brother’s best friend any more, or the boy she was to marry. Somehow in three short months, he had managed to capture her heart.
Sitting in her room, her trunk packed to return home for Christmas, Elsa found herself torn. Her friends were remaining at Hogwarts for the break, leaving her to deal with her family alone. Though, she had managed to convince her father to allow her to spend much of her break with Damon, it wasn’t without its arguments. Her Christmas break was packed full of shopping and very little time to spend with family, which was exactly how she wanted it. The less time she had to spend near Eleanor or Dominic the better.
“All ready?” Cordelia asked from the door way.
“Yea,” Elsa answered drearily.
“We’ll see you soon. Dumbledore made arrangements for Sirius and me to arrive on Christmas around seven with all the other guests.”
Nodding, Elsa left the dormitories with Cordelia. They said nothing as they joined the rest of the students heading home for the break. Goodbyes were said, leaving Elsa to search the crowd for Damon who had promised to spend the train ride home with her.
The train ride home had been uneventful, but as the train pulled into the station, Elsa felt a thrill of anticipation. She had searched the crowd to find her mother and father standing with Damon’s. While she wasn’t going to be joining them for the first week of Christmas break, she was happy to see her parents all the same. For the first time in six years they finally saw things the same.
With her hand in Damon’s they exited the train together and said their hellos to their parents before they were whisked away on a one week shopping trip.
“You’ll take care not to get into any trouble?” Marisol said sternly.
“Promise Mum,” she replied.
“Gareth has assured us that if things become dangerous there he has an escape route planned,” Evander explained, “if you for a moment don’t want to be there, just write and I will come and pick you up.”
It never ceased to amaze her how concerned her father was about her safety when he was one of the reasons their world was in chaos. If he were not a Death Eater she would have understood his concern. No Death Eater would be crazy enough to attack a child of another Death Eater. With a slight laugh and a roll of her eyes, Elsa hugged her parents and followed Gareth and Damon to the awaiting portkey.
They arrived in Cairo and immediately Elsa was overcome with a sense of dread as the hot desert heat nearly suffocated her. She couldn’t fathom why she had agreed to traveling away from her family, the cold of England and the safety of her home to spend a week with Damon and his brother. The sun rose high in the sky as they trudged through the hordes of witches and wizards for their hotel.
While she had expected a large, lavish hotel with all the amenities, she was pleasantly surprised to find they were staying in a modest looking building. It wasn’t until Damon held the door open for her and a burst of cool air blasted her did she realize she was sorely mistaken. The hotel was grand and lavish on the inside with high ceilings and hieroglyphics etched into the walls. Large sphinxes sat lazily on either side of reception, and statues of the ancient Gods stood guard around the doors.
If she hadn’t known better, she would have thought they had gone back in time. A quick glance out on the street was all it took to reassure her that they were in fact still in the same time. Letting Gareth deal with checking them in, Elsa found a comfortable chair to sit in and wait with Damon perched on the arm of it.
“You look surprised,” Damon said with a soft chuckle.
“This place is deceiving,” Elsa answered. “The outside doesn’t match the inside. I could get lost in a place like this. Can you feel it? The history of this place, it’s all around us demanding attention.”
Damon smiled and nodded at her as if he too understood, though she doubted he did. She had always read about Egypt and its wondrous history, of its Pharaohs and Queens, of the pyramids and lost cities. It had always been a dream to travel here and immerse herself in the history and culture of ancient times. She had never expected that she would be given such a chance while still in school. There was so much to see and do that she found herself sitting on the edge of her chair with anticipation.
“Please tell me we can go to Alexandria?”
“Because! Don’t you want to see where the Library of Alexandria once stood?”
“Not really,” he answered dryly, and she scowled at him. “For you, I am sure it can be arranged.”
Rolling her eyes, she leaned back in the chair and tried to curb her excitement. There was nothing she could do until Gareth returned with their room keys. He had promised they would be able to spend the afternoon in the market place to finish their Christmas shopping and then they would spend the rest of the week sight-seeing. All she wanted to do was drop her luggage off in their room and begin her adventure.
“I wish Sirius was here,” she mused and looked up when she felt Damon stand up.
“Why?” He snapped.
“It doesn’t seem fair that I’m here, on this adventure without him. I’ve never done anything without him before. It’s odd.”
“I don’t believe this!” he fumed. “I spend weeks convincing Gareth to plan this trip for us, and you want that blood traitor here? You always want to spend time with him. I thought we were making progress here. I thought you accepted that you and I are meant to be together.”
“You’re just like the rest of your bloody family!” she screamed at him not caring that people were beginning to stare at them. “I thought you were different Damon!”
“What the hell does that mean?”
“It means, Avery, that you are no different than any other pureblood prat who can’t see past blood status! Why was I so stupid to think you were different?” She said throwing her hands in the air and storming away.
Pushing her way through the crowd that had formed, Elsa found she had no idea where she was going. All that mattered was that she put as much distance between her and the Avery’s. Weaving her way through the halls, taking doors and following signs, Elsa stepped out into the annoying Egyptian heat. Throngs of tourist filled the pool, while some searched for some shade and relief from the unforgiving sun.
Shedding her robe, she tossed it on the ground beneath a large tree that didn’t really give her any shade. Already she could feel her cheeks begin to burn. Sweat pooled on the small of her back and neck, her hair matted to her skin. Her anger forced her to her feet and she began to pace.
“Drink?” a gentleman asked her.
“Water?” she snarled, not intending to turn her blackened mood towards the unsuspecting waiter.
He handed her a bottle of chilled water before scurrying off to attend to another guest, leaving her to stew.
Get over it, Yaxley, she heard Cordelia’s voice of reason within her head. She knew her friend would have said just that if she were there with her. Had she really expected Damon to be any different than the rest of his family? For months she had been able to see past the fact that he was an Avery and a boy who believed almost religiously in the ways of their fathers. She had always known what he was like, they had grown up together. He wasn’t perfect. He was human and had his faults.
That a girl, she heard and couldn’t help but laugh out loud at the thought of her inner voice sounding so much like her friend. “I wish you were here, Cordie,” she whispered and sank to the ground beneath the tree. With her head in her hands, she silently cried. One small comment had blown up in her face, and she didn’t really even understand why. Damon had nothing to worry about, she knew there was nothing between her and Sirius.
“If you are done turning into a lobster, our rooms are ready,” Gareth said, startling Elsa from her thoughts.
“Where is Damon?” she questioned quickly wiping away the tears.
“I sent him up with your luggage. As it is, father has a mess to clean up after you two.”
“Don’t be daft, Yaxley. It’s unbecoming of a lady. Your little public display of hatred. It is only a matter of time before that hits the paper. I am certain your father would disapprove.”
With a groan, Elsa hung her head in shame. She could already picture the headlines: Blood Boils in Egyptian Heat. Followed by an article that would shine an unwanted light on both families; how could she be so stupid? She had been protecting her family’s reputation for months by keeping Dominic’s indiscretions secret. The last thing she needed was to be seen in the Prophet because of her argument with Damon.
She followed Gareth back into the cool building and up the grand staircase and paused midway up. What was she going to say to Damon when she saw him? They had a week together and they couldn’t spend it fighting. The very last thing she wanted was to ruin her own trip by being stubborn, but could she really apologize for something she didn’t even understand? There wasn’t anyone she could talk to, and for the first time she felt helpless. No one understood her boy problems better than Lily, who was spending time with her own family and Cordelia was stuck at Hogwarts until Christmas.
“You coming, Yaxley?” Gareth asked from the top of the stairs.
With a curt nod, Elsa dashed up the stairs to catch up. Worry seeped into her bones as she rounded the corner and was lead down an empty corridor. Her shoes clicked on the sandstone tile, as she ran her fingers over the ornate carvings in the walls. For the smallest beat of a second, she was able to forget that she was angry with Damon, and allowed the history of the hotel to fill her. Promising herself that she would spend time researching their accommodations, she put her problems aside. There was no sense ruining their vacation.
Gareth opened double doors into a grand room unlike anything she had seen before. She felt like an Egyptian Princess walking into a palace. Ancient looking gold sconces illuminated the room with firelight, casting shadows on stone statues guarding the doors. More hieroglyphs lined the walls around the doors and for the first time Elsa wondered if they were some sort of protection spells worked right into the foundation of the hotel.
“Your room is at the end of the hall, Damon’s is across from yours,” Gareth stated. “I will be in the room beside Damon’s.”
Nodding, Elsa made her way down the hallway, and paused just before Damon’s room. Is he in there? She wondered as she stood there a moment. Deciding it didn’t matter, she walked passed and glanced inside to find him lying on the large bed staring at the ceiling looking sullen. His luggage lay at the foot of the bed, untouched and his boots had been kicked off. He didn’t seem to notice that she was standing there watching him. While he certainly didn’t look happy, she was certain he wouldn’t want to be ignored.
Crossing the room, she stood beside his bed before he noticed her. She wasn’t certain what to say to make him feel better, or to even make sense of it all. But as she sat on the edge of the bed, she realized it didn’t really matter. He tried to hide the pain he felt behind a mask of uncaring, but she had seen through it.
“Are you jealous of my friendship with Sirius?” she asked suddenly.
“What do I have to be jealous of him for?” Damon answered, but the truth was laced in the lie.
“You are!” Elsa said with shock in her voice, “Oh Damon, you have nothing to be jealous about! There is nothing between Sirius and me, we’re just friends. Besides, I’m not stupid, I know I’d lose my family if I even considered a relationship with him.”
“You could have fooled me.”
“All your time is spent with him. He’s arrogant, rude, and thinks he can get away with everything, and you say I’m the prat? He is no different than the rest of us.”
“Except he turned his back on his family, was disowned, and would sooner fight against You-Know-Who then join him. Its more than anyone in your family or mine can say,” Elsa said.
“And you love him for it.”
“If you use the word love in the sense that I love him like a brother, then yes, I love him for it. If you are using the word in that I romantically love him, then I think I might drown you in the pool later for being stupid,” she said with a light teasing laugh. “I don’t love him, Damon. I can’t even say I know what love feels like, but I certainly know that the only feelings I have for Sirius are those of friendship.”
“I’d like to believe that,” he answered.
“I’m here, in Egypt with you. Yes, I may want him here. Doesn’t mean I’d change that I’m here with you.”
“Except that you’d sooner be here with him.”
“No. I’d sooner you forget that he’s a Gryffindor and can’t stand pureblood semantics; that he’s not like you or Gareth. I’d like you to remember that I’ve given you a chance to prove to me that you are the right man for me to marry, that means accepting me for who I am, and who I’m friends with. Don’t screw it up, Damon,” she said, standing and walking to the door. “I don’t give second chances.”
Leaving the room, she leaned against the wall and released a heavy sigh. Was she doing the right thing? She wasn’t sure if she had made matters worse in telling him the truth, but as she entered her room she knew that only time would tell.
She found her luggage on the bed and immediately began putting it away in the wardrobe. Every time she thought about their fight in the lobby, she couldn’t help but wonder if she was overreacting or if he was. Sure she was angry with him for what he had said, but they weren’t words she hadn’t heard before nor were they lies. Sirius was a blood traitor even if she would never see him as such.
Was she in love with Sirius? The simple and quick answer was no, but as she stood on the balcony of her room, staring out into the vast Egyptian Marketplace with the heat making it difficult to breathe, she knew that things between her and Sirius were never simple or easy. Her boy issues weren’t getting any better and alone in her room she knew they were only going to get worse.
Turning, she returned to her room, closing the balcony doors behind her before grabbing a change of clothes and locking herself in the bathroom. A long, cold shower was definitely in order to wash away the heat and anger that she still harboured. The gentle trickle of water soaked away the sweat and cooled her, loosen the tension in her body. She may not have had an answer for her problems with Damon, but they had a full week to spend in each other’s presence.
They spent much of the afternoon in the hotel where it was cool, rather than venturing into the Marketplace where they were bound to burn. As the sun began its slow decent behind buildings, Elsa and the Avery brothers ventured into the still crowded market. Peddlers hollered from every directions, children tugged on the hem of her skirts trying to draw attention to their parents display of goods, fish and other assortments of foods were shoved into her face as they made their way through the throngs of people.
Merchants promised spells and trinkets of protection against You-Know-Who and his Death Eaters, which had Gareth rolling his eyes, and Damon snickering. Elsa couldn’t help but feel sorry for them. While they were taking advantage of the growing situation across Europe, there wasn’t a spell or charm that could protect you from the Dark Lord.
A woman grabbed her wrist, startling Elsa as she spun around and glared at her. “Let me go,” she said sternly.
“Tell you the future,” the woman began. “The Gods show me things.”
“No thank you,” Elsa whispered.
“Free,” The woman continued.
“Elsa?” Damon called back to her. “What’s taking so long?”
“This woman won’t let go of me.”
“Let her go,” Damon demanded, as the peddler woman grabbed for his wrist.
“You two are in grave danger. You must leave this place at once and never return. Egypt will be the death of one of you.”
“Please let go,” Elsa asked again and found her wrist released.
“Death stalks you, Elsa Yaxley! Wherever you go, he will follow you!” the woman called after her, as she rushed to catch up with Gareth.
Shuddering as she slowed behind the older Avery, Elsa wrapped her arms around her. She couldn’t shake the feeling that that woman was right. She had already seen a girl die in her arms. Damon put his arm around her waist and pulled her close, but the comforting gesture left her feeling even more uncertain. She wasn’t willing to put anyone at risk, and she certainly wasn’t willing to lose someone who mattered to her.
“That woman was certifiably crazy,” Damon said. “Don’t let her bother you.”
“That’s easy for you to say, Damon. She knew my name. How could she know my name?”
“Probably picked your pocket, found something with your...” Damon paused at her pointed look.
“I’m wearing a skirt, Damon, I don’t have pockets.”
He glanced over his shoulder to find the woman still watching them. It was a little disconcerting as they continued on their way. Elsa rested her head on his shoulder and tried to push the thoughts of the crazy lady’s words out of her mind. Death was not stalking her, she reminded herself as they turned the corner and came face to face with a shady looking fellow. Nearly screaming, Elsa moved back behind Damon.
The man moved out of the way and allowed them to walk passed, but as Elsa glanced back at him, she found him staring at them as well.
“What is with the locals?” Elsa asked softly. “They keep staring at us.”
“Just ignore them,” Gareth instructed. “No one would be stupid enough to actually try anything.”
“Here? In Cairo? Our names don’t hold that much weight here. If we were Malfoys, maybe,” Damon said with a slight laugh.
“It will,” Gareth replied.
Elsa shuddered at the insinuation and tone in Gareth’s voice. Death Eaters were not to be trifled with, and they scared her like they did any witch or wizard. If she were not a Yaxley, she would never have ventured away from the safety of Hogwarts for Christmas knowing there was a war going on outside the strong castle walls. Instead, she gripped Damon’s hand in hers and followed closely behind his brother.
“Inside,” Gareth instructed.
They stood before a glass window filled with various objects that Elsa couldn’t even fathom a use for. Many things looked like strange torture devices. A faded wooden sign hung above the window, but she couldn’t see through all the sand and grit to make out the store’s name. Instead, she followed Gareth through the door and was immediately taken back by the musty rank smell of the shop. Cringing, she turned to look out the window. She would rather deal with shady locals, creepy little old women who sputtered deranged prophecy than stand in the shop.
“Naveed,” Gareth said, leaning on the counter.
“You shouldn’t be here,” the shopkeeper, Naveed, said hastily.
“No choice. Do you have what I requested?”
“Yes. You owe me,” Naveed answered pulling a box out from under the counter.
Elsa watched as Gareth checked the contents of the box quickly before snapping the lid shut and nodding to the shopkeeper.
“There is only one,” Naveed muttered, “the owner is local. He refuses to sell the scroll for any price.”
“I need that scroll, Naveed!” Gareth seethed, and for a moment, Elsa thought he was going to torture the shopkeeper. “Get me that scroll!”
Gareth turned, heaved the box under his arm and stormed out of the shop leaving Elsa and Damon staring after him baffled. No one said a word as they pushed their way through the market again. The last thing Elsa wanted to do was anger the older Avery. She knew he had a volatile temper at best, and she certainly didn’t want to be involved in another argument. Though, her interest was piqued by the mystery of their visit.
By the time they reached the hotel, the sun had set, yet the heat lingered behind like an unwanted guest. Promising herself some time poolside, Elsa found her mood lightening. Her fight with Damon forgotten for the moment, she found that if it weren’t so hot she might actually enjoy Egypt more. Under the stars of a different country, with Damon at her side, she could almost feel romance in the air – if she weren’t still mad at him for being stupid and jealous.
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