Chapter 15 : Dangerous Territory
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(chapter image by Jeanie @ TDA)
The conversation with Elsa had gone terrible to say the least. He had wanted to know how she was doing. He certainly hadn’t imagined that she would have admitted to wanting a man dead. That wasn’t like the girl he knew. No. Whatever had happened in Egypt, it had changed his friend. A change, he admitted, he didn’t like.
Leaving the bench where they had sat, Sirius wondered the grounds of the Yaxley home. With each step he took, he felt as though someone was watching. Pausing, he glanced around the yard. No one was there. The wind rustled the fallen leaves, picking them up and throwing them to the four corners of the world. A bush quivered before settling again.
He continued to walk again, ever mindful of the eyes that seemed to bore a hole into his back. Almost positive that Dominic was the one watching him, he shrugged off the feeling. Evander Yaxley had promised him sanctuary for the Christmas Holiday so long as Elsa wanted him there. While he knew that the Yaxleys liked him as well as his own family did, he was willing to endure the harsh looks, the disdain and distrust.
They’d once been friends, he remembered. Elsa was once meant to be his. Until he’d gone to Hogwarts and declared his independence from his good for nothing family. He’d been certain his friendship with Elsa was over the moment he was sorted into Gryffindor. Yet, she’d defied her own family in such a small way. She had kept her friendship with him. The only one, save Cordelia, who had.
And here he was, willing to throw that friendship away because of something she said under duress.
How was he going to make things up to her? He wondered as he wandered the yard. He’d left the house behind, and crossed the expansive field of dead grass. Crisp, sharp crunches echoed off the building behind him.
He didn’t know what had led him here. To the hill that over looked the small lake he used to swim in as a child. Now coated with a thin sheet of ice, he smiled at the memories that surrounded the home he knew so well.
As he sat there, his thoughts mulled over the truth that Elsa was not really the same girl he had known the year before. Dominic was to blame. He had always known her twin brother was a crazy as a loon. Of course, he had never suspected that he was a cold blooded murderer. Or that he enjoyed the hunt as much as the torture he inflicted on his victim. And while Elsa wouldn’t admit it, she was ever bit a victim of her brother’s twisted games.
Glancing back at the house, he could see the faint silhouette of Elsa standing in her room watching him. He couldn’t see her face, but he knew he’d hurt her again. She had risked being disowned by her own family to keep her friendship with him. He had nothing to lose and yet, he couldn’t return her undying loyalty the same way. What kind of Gryffindor was he?
With his head in his hands, he sat there allowing the cold afternoon air to seep into his bones. He didn’t deserve her as a friend. With everything she had gone through, with everything their world was going through, he couldn’t stand by her when she needed him most.
If it were James, he knew, it wouldn’t have mattered. He’d have been right there next to him. He would have gone to the ends of the world to make sure his best mate wasn’t left to stand in the dark alone. Why couldn’t he do the same for her? He had known her longer. Had trusted her longer. He’d loved her longer.
“Impossible!” he grumbled and shook his head.
There was no way he was in love with her. They were friends, always would be.
Determined to apologize, he forced himself to his feet and began his walk back to the house. If she hadn’t confided in him the way she had, if she had of waited until she knew he wouldn’t be mad at her, then he was certain things would have repeated themselves. He knew he was hard on her, expected that she be more like him in her views, but when he was confronted with her resistance, he grew angry.
He crossed the lawn quickly, his mind set on only one task: his apology. No matter how many times he ran it through his head, it sounded weird and flawed. Talking to Elsa had always been easy, apologizing when he was wrong was downright impossible. He never apologized to anyone. Except for maybe James. And now Elsa. He only hoped that she would accept his apology. That she would, as she had the last time, forgive him.
Convincing her that he wasn’t angry was going to be difficult. He was angry. He was mad as hell that she would even consider murder as an option. That wasn’t the girl he knew. The Elsa he knew shied away from the evil things in their world, hid behind an impenetrable wall of faith in her father. Had her wall crumbled? Had what happened broken her down and left her with very few people to trust in? Her father had rescued her. He had found her before it was too late. Yet, she was determined to see the man who had harmed hurt dead.
Up the stairs he climbed. He heard shouted in the hall and stopped. Hidden by a corner, covered in a shadow, he stood there and listened.
“You won’t tell her,” Evander shouted at Damon and Cordelia. “She’s barely just recovered. If she finds out he let you go, that she was his insurance policy against your betrayal, she’ll pull away from us all.”
“You don’t know that,” Cordie argued. “She’s stronger than she looks. She’ll pull through.”
“You don’t understand,” Damon glared at Cordelia. “We took too long getting organized. It’s my fault she was hurt in the first place. I broke the rules. I went to Evander. If she knew I’d been late, that I’d been the reason she was punished, she’ll never forgive me.”
“She’ll never forgive you anyway,” Sirius argued, stepping out of the shadows. “This is Elsa we’re talking about. She doesn’t like being lied to. She doesn’t like keeping secrets or having them kept from her. She deserves the truth.”
“You don’t have any say in the matter, Black,” Damon seethed.
Their long standing rivalry was only going to get worse. Damon was going to force him to tell Elsa the truth. He had promised as much. Though, they didn’t need to know that.
“Fine. Lie to her. I’ll be waiting to pick up the pieces when she realizes she can’t even trust her own family.”
The corner of his lips tugged at a smile. He’d won. He knew it. They knew it. And there was nothing any of them could do about it. They hated him enough to know the last thing they wanted was for her to go to him for any reason. Sirius was not the right sort of man for her in their eyes.
He stormed passed them and into Elsa’s room where she lay sleeping, probably from a mix of pain potions and sleeping draughts. Taking a seat next to her bed, he waited. He wondered how she could have slept through the argument outside her door when he realized she wasn’t asleep at all. Tiny tears slipped down her cheeks.
Sirius leaned forward and swiped them away with his large hands. He hated to see her cry, hated knowing that her own family was keeping her in the dark.
“I suppose I don’t need to tell you what you wanted to know,” he said soft, crawling into bed next to her and pull her into his arms as she cried.
He would have done anything to protect her from what she was going through. Instead, he was there, doing exactly what he said he would do: picking up the pieces. It had never occurred to him that all he had to do was wait. That in time, she would come to the same conclusion he had. Purebloods were not the sort one wanted to be associated with.
“Do you know why?” she sobbed. “What was so damn...” she faltered.
It wasn’t hard to figure out that she had managed to put the pieces together. She was smarter than she ever let on. Smarter than she ever allowed herself to acknowledge. And while he had no idea why this had happened to her, he knew it didn’t really matter. He’d be there for her always.
“The Dark Lord ordered something be stolen from the man. Gareth stole it. Whatever it was. When just our kidnapping failed to have it returned, he must have sent Damon to collect it. And to make sure Damon obeyed, I was whipped,” she cried even harder, soaking his shirt in her tears.
Slowly he rubbed his thumb over her shoulder, careful not to hurt her back. The last thing he wanted was to add more pain to her ever growing pile. Why was she the only girl he felt comfortable with? When a hug simply meant she mattered to him. When nothing was expected of him when he was there with her through thick and thin. Why couldn’t other girls be like her?
She wanted nothing from him but his friendship. She didn’t care that he had turned against his family. Or that he hated everything he had been raised to believe in. It didn’t bother her that he had been disowned and the only money he had to his name was what his uncle had left him. Nor did it matter that he was a Black, from a noble and ancient pureblood home. Money and infamy matter little to her. She was his friend for who he was, not who he was related to.
Blimey! He cursed. Maybe he did love her.
He could not ruin his friendship with her because he might love her. He would not risk her losing her inheritance, her family or friends because he might have feelings for her. While he was all for risks in everyday things, where her heart was concerned, it was not worth the risk of maybes and might haves. He needed to be positive that he loved her. Otherwise, all else would be lost.
Her tears slowed, and he realized she had fallen asleep in his arms. If her father caught them lying together in bed, he’d have Sirius murdered in a grotesque fashion. But she was comfortable, and if he admitted it to himself, it felt nice to be the one she turned to instead of Damon. Though it would piss Avery off to no end, he didn’t give two knuts what the sod thought. It was his fault Elsa was hurt in the first place.
They’d fallen asleep in each other’s arms, and when he finally woke night had settled around the world. As he rolled over, the bed next to him felt cool to the touch. Elsa hadn’t been there in a while. Siting up straight, he searched the room. She was nowhere to be found.
Immediately his thoughts turned to every possible thing that could have happened. Most thoughts were dark and bordered on morbid. Untangling himself from the sheets, he got out of bed. She had to still be in the house. He hadn’t even heard her leave, or anyone enter for that matter. Sure he knew he was a heavy sleeper, but he often woke whenever James snuck out of the dorms at night. Why then would he not wake when Elsa left?
Quietly he raced down the hall, his footfalls muddled by the carpet. He took the back stairs and entered the kitchen. Still, there was no sign of her. Where is she? He wondered as he continued to search the house one room at a time. He’d cleared the dining room and front parlour. He’d cleared the study. She was nowhere to be found on the first floor of the house.
A door creaked and Sirius made his way to where the sound had come from. The backdoor was slightly ajar. The wind had forced it open further. Worried, he threw on his shoes and ran out the back door. She had to be somewhere. He couldn’t lose her so soon after she had just been found. She could barely walk, how had she managed to make it all the way down stairs without anyone noticing?
He followed the well trodden path from the house. Footprints in the dead grass and leaves his only guidance. Somewhere, someone was playing a very foolish game. If Elsa was missing again, he’d never forgive himself.
Careful not to make too much sound, he picked his way through the open field, and down to the lake. There seated on a large boulder, illuminated by the moon, sat Elsa.
“What were you thinking?” He chided and pulled her into a worried hug. “You could have gotten hurt.”
“I just needed some air. I...” she paused, “I didn’t want to wake you. You looked so peaceful.”
They sat together, leaning against the rock, legs outstretched. She rested her head on his shoulders, and he held her close. They never spoke. Not a word. And even as she closed her eyes, and he kissed her forehead, nothing was said.
It wasn’t until his stomach rumbled, and her’s followed suit that the silence was broken. Laughing, Sirius pulled himself to his feet and helped Elsa stand. Bent on getting food and not getting in trouble, they returned to the house. No lights on the upper floor flickered into existence. They were safe from being caught for now.
With two bowls of ice cream in hand, Sirius and Elsa climbed the stairs to her room. They sat together in the dark of her room, not tempting fate by turning on a light. She laughed gently, as if amused by their behaviour. Sirius knew why. They had been seven when she’d crawled into his bed and fallen asleep. They had both woken in the middle of a warm summer’s night famished from their days activities. It had taken them near an hour to build up the courage to sneak down into the kitchen and knick two bowls of strawberry ice cream before returning to her room. They’d sat there in the dark then, as they did now, neither bothering to say a word for fear of being caught.
He smiled at the memory, which made the ice cream taste all the more sweeter. Setting his bowl down on her desk, he helped her back into bed. She didn’t protest when he pulled another blanket out of the cupboard and slept on the floor. Though, he assumed she thought he would have returned to his own room. Although he had considered it, and he knew she was safe in her own home, he wanted to be nearby in case she needed him through the night.
Getting comfortable on the floor was next to impossible. Though he had spread out a sheet beneath him, it did nothing for the carpet prickling his skin making him itchy. He tossed and turned, and eventually gave up entirely. Leaning against the wall, with his feet out in front of him, he closed his eyes to sleep. Of course he knew he had positioned himself almost directly in front of her door, so that should anyone come into her room unannounced, they would trip over him. Though, he suspected no one would actually do such a thing. Her family wanted her to rest as much as he did. Which was why he assumed no one had bothered to come yell at him for sleeping in her bed early.
“Sirius,” she whispered into the dark. “I can’t sleep.”
He could hear the distress in her voice. The fear that mingled with panic. Giving up his post by her door, he sat on the edge of her bed and took her hand in his. If he crawled into bed with her a second time, someone would suspect there was more going on between them than friendship. Damon would most certainly be jealous. Dominic would more than likely murder him in his sleep. Her parents would ensure that she never return to Hogwarts where she could be caught talking to him. The only one he suspected wouldn’t have a problem was Cordelia.
“I could find a dreamless sleep potion for you,” he suggested. “Or, I could wake Cordie.”
Elsa sat up and wrapped her arms around his neck. A thin layer of cold sweat coated her skin, her hair damp. He knew he couldn’t leave her, not for one second, when she was this afraid. She wasns’t leaving him with very many options. Being murdered wasn’t really on his agenda.
Holding her while she slept was harmless. No one would have to know. Not like anything is going on between us, he reminded himself. Mentally chiding himself for being stupid, and knowing what he was doing was playing with fire, he lay down beside her. Holding her close, she rested her head on his chest. If she could hear his heartbeat she’d hear the frantic heartbeat of a man not ready to face the consequences of his actions. Come morning, Sirius knew anyone who would see him leave her room would surely want nothing more than to end his life.
He watched her sleep. The steady rise and fall of her chest as she fell into a deep comfortable sleep, relaxed him. As long as he knew she was resting, finally getting the sleep she needed, he was content to break as many rules as necessary.
Though, he realized, she deserved better than him. If he were to ever reveal his feelings for her, should they prove to be more than just wishful thinking, he would be asking her to give up everything. He knew he couldn’t do that. Just because he had, didn’t mean she had to too. She had a family who loved her, a brother who, though psychotic, would protect her in the end; and friends who would do anything to make her smile. But was he really willing to continue being friends, to watch her fall in love with another man? The thoughts weighed heavy on his heart. At that precise time, it wasn’t a huge concern.
He knew in the end, he would have to make a choice: let her go or convince her that he was the right choice for her.
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