Chapter 16 : How to Ruin Christmas
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(chapter image by Jeanie @ TDA)
The Yaxley household was a flurry of activity as the family prepared for their annual Christmas party. If Marisol wasn’t snapping about the floral arrangements, she was harping that her youngest daughter’s choice of dresses was not suited for a young girl. Elsa had remained in her room the majority of the day. While not quite quiet, it was better than listening to her mother rant about how things were not going her way.
Lazing in her mother’s favourite chaise, which had been moved early that morning, she flipped through her sixth year book of spells. It was Christmas Eve and she knew she should feel something, anything, but the dread that had settled around her soul. The only time she felt comfortable in her own skin was when Cordelia and Sirius were around.
Looking up from her book, she found that Sirius had disappeared and Cordelia was searching the wardrobe for something ‘decent’ to wear to the party. Marisol had laid out several different dresses that Elsa was meant to choose from, and though time was ticking by quicker than she had anticipated, the thoughts of changing into anything that wasn’t comfortable annoyed her.
“You aren’t going to find anything in there,” Elsa laughed, and rested the book on her lap. “Mum went through it with a fine tooth comb this morning. Anything that didn’t ‘suit her tastes’ were thrown out, everything else is lying on the bed. Have at it. I’m sure something will look amazing on you.”
“Why did I let you talk me into coming?” Cordelia huffed and flopped down on the bed ignoring the ruffle of silk and satin.
Idly her friend ran her fingers over the dresses next to her. Shaking her head, Elsa moved stiffly across the room and looked at the attire her mother had chosen. Some, she found, were hideously ugly. Those she tossed on the floor satisfied that they would wrinkle and irritate her mother further. She tossed two at Cordelia and pointed her to the en-suite bathroom. The rest she went through to decide which ones she liked enough to even bother trying on.
There were dresses of varying colours and patterns; some with long sleeves, others with short sleeves. An ugly satin, powder blue dress was tossed on the floor, followed by a silver dress that looked like faded steel. Each dress had more going against it than it had going for it. If it wasn’t the colour, it was the fabric, or the pattern, or the large flower at the hip, or...the list went on. By the time she was finished, she was determined she wasn’t attending the party. She refused to wear anything that wasn’t pretty, or at least made her feel like a princess waiting to meet her prince at the stroke of midnight.
No. She was determined to look her best, not like a five year old dressed by her mother.
“Try this,” Sirius said handing her a dark bag before turning and leaving the room again.
Where’d he come from? She wondered and slowly unzipped the bag that held a gorgeous dress within.
She ran her fingers over the softest vibrant pink silk she had ever felt. A tiny smile graced her lips as she hung the dress on the hook within her wardrobe. Carefully she removed her clothes. Glaring at the mirror when she caught sight of the scars that had formed on her back, she turned away. Forcing herself to focus on the positive, she slipped into the dress. A single thick strap wrapped around her neck. Her mother would freak when she saw how low the v-neck of the dress swooped, but she didn’t care. She loved it. It pushed the limits and made her feel beautiful.
The softest of creaks echoed softly off her walls as Sirius re-entered the room. She stood with her back to him, but that didn’t matter. She wanted to surprise him at how beautiful she looked.
“Tie me up?” she asked holding out the ties for him to use.
“I hope you don’t mind that it exposes your back?” he asked softly, though it didn’t really seem like a question.
“Not at all. Every person who is coming tonight works for You-Know-Who and he’s responsible as much as the man who ordered me whipped,” Elsa answered and looked at the large bow Sirius had tied. Turning, she faced him. “How do I look?”
“Beautiful,” he answered, and handed her a tiny box with a pink bow on the top. “I know Christmas is tomorrow, but I figure this would be of more use tonight.”
Shocked, she opened the box slowly. There, seated on a cushion of velvet was a diamond bracelet. She knew she couldn’t accept it. It had to have cost a fortune, one she knew Sirius didn’t really have. Sure she knew he had inherited a fair bit of money from his uncle, but surely he wouldn’t be so foolish as to spend it on her?
“Please don’t try to give it back. You deserve it. It will make you look like a princess tonight.”
She offered her wrist to Sirius. How could she deny such a gift when he was so sincere about buying it for her?
“Where’d you get the dress?” Cordie asked finally leaving the bathroom.
“Is there something we should know about you Sirius?” Cordie teased.
“No,” he answered honestly. “I met Lily in Diagon Alley. She’s spending Christmas with her family. She was all too happy to come help me pick out a dress for Elsa.”
“But why?” Elsa questioned.
“After taking a look at what your mother picked out, I knew you wouldn’t be satisfied with any of them. It was far better to purchase a new one than force you to wear such an ugly assortment of dresses. Lily has excellent taste in clothing. She’s always looked good.”
“Do you have a crush on Lily?” Elsa demanded, shocked at the idea that Sirius might actually fancy someone of the opposite sex.
“Not that I’m aware of. Nor would I ever cross James that way. “
It was a good enough answer to her. Elsa smiled at him, and spun around to stand in front of the mirror. If she took her time she would be ready for the party in no time. She loved the way the fabric hugged her body. The bracelet Sirius had bought her caught the light of the mid-afternoon sun, sending kaleidoscope colours dancing across the floor.
Had it not been for Sirius, she imagined her Christmas going entirely differently. He knew how to make her smile. Most importantly, he knew how to make her forget about the troubles that threatened to tear her apart.
Glancing over her shoulder at him, she found him staring at her; an indistinguishable look in his eyes. Was that admiration? Love? Love? There was no way that Sirius was looking at her with love in his eyes. They were friends, nothing more. She could never be with him, even if she wanted to. A relationship anything more than platonic friendship would have her disowned. Her loyalties were forever with her family, despite the fact that she had her doubts even now.
Dark clouds had filled the sky, blotting out any sign of the setting sun. Standing in the hallway, Elsa watched the first of the guests arrive from the landing. No one seemed to notice her, and she was grateful. It had taken her several hours to get ready for her mother’s party, and though she was primped and ready, she wanted to make a grand entrance.
Her plan was simple: when the last of the guests had arrived, she would descend the stairs and join them. She’d mingle. She’d go as far as to say hello to all her family’s friends. Anything more than that, she couldn’t agree upon.
Only minutes before the first of their guests had arrived, her father had pulled her aside to have a pep talk with her. Was her disdain for all things pureblood related so clearly written on her features? She wondered as he led her into her room. His words, though serious, were utterly meaningless to her. She had listened of course, like a polite daughter would. But everything she had planned for the evening was to muddy the calm waters, to make their perfect little pureblood lives a little darker.
No one was safe in this war, least of all their children. They had chosen the side of evil, of that she was certain. She was a prime example of what could happen if you crossed the wrong person. You-Know-Who didn’t give a damn who was caught in the cross fire, so long as he got what he wanted. They were all replaceable. They were all worthless. She planned on reminding them all exactly where they stood.
So she waited in the shadows of the upstairs landing. She watched as the Avery’s arrived, followed by the Rosiers. The Malfoys and Blacks arrived together, each greeting her parents as long time friends would: a hand shake and a kiss on the cheek. Slowly but surely anyone who was anyone in pureblood society was standing in the grand hall, opened and decorated for Christmas.
If the Ministry were wise they would strike now. They’d storm the Yaxley home and capture as many of their enemies when they thought they were weakest. So sure were the men and women of their safety that Elsa inwardly cringed. No one is safe, her mind hissed.
Turning, she planned to retire to her room. Why did she need to attend the stupid party anyway? No one wanted her there and she didn’t want to spend a second in the same room as murderers and thieves.
Dominic stood in the shadows watching her watch the crowd, and only when he knew she had seen him, did he move towards her. He said nothing as he took her by the elbow and led her towards the party. She would have been happier if anyone else had escorted her through the house. Dominic did nothing if it didn’t benefit him. Perhaps it was reward enough to know he was forcing her to do something she had no desire in doing. Perhaps he enjoyed her discomfort and malcontent so much that he could, without being told, lead her to the hall.
Boisterous laughter filled her ears as they stood in the doorway. Eagerly she sought to find Sirius and Cordelia, even Damon. Anyone who could save her from the monster that was her brother.
“There they are!” Marisol squealed in delight, as Damon took up beside Elsa.
With his arm looped through hers, Damon guided her towards their parents. He said nothing, though, Elsa noticed him glance towards her several times. Even if she couldn’t tell what he was thinking, his eyes sparkled in delight, his lips curled in a handsome smile that lit up his face.
Pausing before they reached their destination, he moved to stand in front of her.
“You look stunning,” he whispered.
“Thank you.” She smiled, and offered him her arm. She could play this game. It was all part of the plan. “Mum, Dad,” she said as they stopped in front of them.
“What are you wearing?” Marisol asked, her voice nearly inaudible, but Elsa could tell she wasn’t impressed. “People will see your back.”
Elsa laughed as if her mother had said something funny, though her eyes burned with anger. “Let them.” She said through pinched lips before turning to Damon. “Do you care?”
“If this is what you want, no,” he answered.
Shrugging, she moved away from them. Pushing her way through the crowd that had begun to chat about nothing and everything, she sought to find her friends. Whispers of the scars of her back soon reached her ears, and while she couldn’t figure out who had said what, she didn’t care. Let them talk, she reminded herself. They were the cause of it after all.
She found Sirius leaning against the French doors leading out into the garden. A genuine smile lit his face as she made her way towards him. At least with him she knew she didn’t have to hide behind a false bravado. She didn’t have to pretend to be happy and content, nor that she liked the people in the room. Sure, had things in Egypt turned out differently, she might not have had a problem with the people her parents called friends. She might not hate the way their eyes lingering on her back made her feel. Instead, she wanted to scream and cause a fuss. She wanted them to know how much she hated them. They needed to feel her discomfort; though, she hoped the sight of her marred back caused them some sense of remorse, she knew that for most they took pleasure in the sight of pain inflicted on others.
“Have they stopped staring?” Elsa asked quietly not daring to look over her shoulder to see how many would look away.
“Nope,” Sirius answered with a light laugh. “I don’t know whether to be impressed or not. You sure know how to make an entrance.”
“Do they look uncomfortable?”
“Some of them. Though, Lestrange can’t seem to take his eyes off you.”
“Rabastian.” At her look of disgust, Sirius laughed, “if it makes you feel any better, Damon’s staring too.”
“Not really....anyone else?”
“Bellatrix and Narcissa.”
“Wonder what they want,” Elsa said, glancing over at the Black sisters.
Neither looked away, which surprised her. She was certain they would. As if by acknowledging them, they moved across the room. Narcissa glided regally towards them, while Bellatrix lumbered like she’d broken her foot. Glancing at their feet, Elsa couldn’t help but smile when she found Bellatrix had snapped the heel on her shoe. That was one sure way to anger the oldest Black sister.
“Bellatrix, Narcissa,” Elsa said politely. “You look lovely.”
“That dress is gorgeous,” Narcissa said, a smile on her face, though Else knew it was as fake as the friendship she had once offered. “Where did you get it?”
“Sirius bought it for me.”
“Really? And where would he get the money for that?” Bellatrix laughed.
“Jealous?” Sirius questioned, not caring that his cousin was poking fun at him.
Elsa looked over her shoulder to see the playful lopsided grin on his face, and couldn’t help but smile at him. His being there was going to cause a number of problems, but she didn’t care. His parents hadn’t acknowledged his presence, and he didn’t seem bothered by it in the least. Goading Bellatrix seemed more like another way to make things more interesting and muddy the waters. Though, slightly dangerous; she knew Bella’s reputation as well as the next person.
“Of a traitor?” Bella laughed coldly, “never.”
Rolling her eyes, making Sirius laugh, Elsa turned to look at the sisters. “Was there something you wanted?” she asked, not caring who she pissed off.
“We were concerned,” Narcissa began. “You are associated with the wrong sort. It could be bad for your reputation.”
“The wrong sort?” Elsa did everything she could keep the anger out of her voice. “The wrong sort? Let me tell you about the wrong sort...” she felt a hand snap over her mouth and tried to bite Sirius for stopping her.
“Don’t say anything that you’ll regret little one,” Bella said using the pet name she had once given Elsa when they were younger. “You don’t want to bite off more than you can chew.”
She watched as the Black sisters turned tail and left. Fuming, she spun around ready to let Sirius have it, but as soon as she did, she realized he was probably right. Her father had warned her to behave and yet, she was ready to insult every last one of them, herself included.
“One day you’ll get your chance to let them know what you think. Tonight is not the night,” Sirius said wisely, and resumed his leaning on the glass door.
“When did you get so wise?” Elsa asked a slight teasing note in her voice, her anger forgotten.
“It’s not wisdom, not really. Bellatrix would only ensure that You-Know-Who found out exactly what you said. You’d be dead before school started again.”
Watching the party again, Elsa couldn’t help but be jealous of the people in attendance. They were so happy and carefree. They didn’t care that there was a war going on, or that their children were in danger. They didn’t mind that people they knew were dying, no one seemed to care that she – a daughter of a respected pureblood – had been injured in the cross fire. It angered her and upset her at the same time. They should care. They should bloody well do something to protect their families.
Sirius pushed off the door, and guiding her out of the room, led her to the parlour. She knew he wasn’t stupid, nor could he ignore her moods. If he left her in there, she knew she would say or do something that would land them both in trouble.
“Sit,” he instructed as he closed the door. “If you don’t relax, you’re going to have them ready to tear you to pieces. There are other ways to make them angry, Elsa.”
“You mean like walking out on your family?” She snapped, not quite happy he’d pulled her away from the party where she was ready to give them all a piece of her mind.
“Only if you want to be disowned, shunned, and ultimately hated.”
“I don’t want that,” she answered simply, and watched the flames on the fire flicker. “I just want them to see what they’re doing. Sirius, they are hurting people! Innocent people. Children are being caught in the middle of this bloody war! Look at what they did to me! And not one of them cares.”
He sat beside her, and draped his arm over her shoulder. She knew he understood where she was coming from. It had always been a sore spot between them, that she could continue to be loyal to her family when he had seen all the bad things that had been going on in their world. He’d given up his family to follow what he believed, while she remained content that her family would keep her safe. She had been sorely mistaken.
Now though, she was teetering on the edge of indecision. If she chose the same path he did, she’d have nowhere to go. She’d lose her family, the parents that she loved, and be left with nothing to her name. She wasn’t him. She couldn’t walk away from it all. There had to be some sort of compromise. Something she could do that would help her feel normal again. She couldn’t fight in the war, her spell work was atrocious. She couldn’t support the Order of the Phoenix, she’d end up dead. Her options were limited.
Why couldn’t she had been born to a normal family where making the right choice was easier? Couldn’t she be a normal sixteen year old for once? Her friends meant the world to her; sure they weren’t the ‘right sort’ as Narcissa had said, but they were her friends. She would do anything to keep them safe. Tabitha and Vera meant the world to her. They were smarter than some of the purebloods she knew, and had better hearts too. Yet, to the purebloods in her life they were worthless.
“What am I supposed to do?” Elsa questioned defeatedly.
“I don’t know,” Sirius answered. “I can’t give you that answer. In the end, you’ll know what you have to do.”
“Even if it means I lose all this?”
“If you decide that is what you need to do, then yes.”
“I can’t lose everything, Sirius.”
“You won’t. You’ll always have me.”
“That’s sweet, but that won’t give me somewhere to live, or food or shelter. That won’t protect me from the evil in the world. I don’t think I could ever walk away from this.”
“You are assuming I wouldn’t do everything I could to protect you. I would.”
“Dominic would stop at nothing. He’d kill you.”
“He can try.” She could hear the cocky tone in his voice.
“You aren’t indestructible, Sirius. You’re human. You bleed just like any other human.”
“Don’t burst my bubble.” He teased.
Elsa laughed, and rested her head on his shoulder. Why couldn’t her relationship with Damon be this easy and comfortable? Being with Sirius made all the bad things seem smaller. If she was honest with herself, she knew she could get used to the feel of his arms around her, the way he smelled faintly of the rain, or the knotted feeling she had in her stomach. Except, honesty was the last thing she wanted with herself. Not where Sirius was concerned. Nothing could ever happen between them.
Twisting slightly, she looked up into his eyes, a hint of mirth and mischievousness hidden in the endless depth of grey. She could get lost in such a look. For a fleeting second, she wondered what was going on within his mind. Did he feel anything towards her, like she did for him? Did he feel the flutter of ten thousand butterflies in his stomach like she did? Did he wonder what it would be like to kiss her, to feel his lips against hers?
All at once she realized that she didn’t give a damn anymore. Everyone who mattered always seemed to disappoint her, everyone except Sirius. Sure he had his faults: he became angry when she lied, hated the truth that she would protect her family to a fault, he was arrogant and cocky. But she also knew that he was all those things and more. Sirius was not one sided, he just didn’t let many people see the many facets of his personality. She was lucky enough to get to see all of them.
As if reading her mind, he leaned forward hesitantly and she knew in that moment, he was going to kiss her. His lips were soft and cool against hers. Surprised at first, she kissed him back. All the answers to her questions, her worries and fears, rushed through the floodgate of that one kiss.
Sirius loved her.
And surprisingly, she loved him.
Terrified by what she felt, she pulled away from him. There, written as plain as day, was the depth of his love. He’d do anything for her. He’d protect her from her brother; hide her from the Dark Lord, journey to the center of the Earth and back again to show his love and affection. What was she going to do about his sudden change of heart?
“How...how long have you...” she sighed.
“Known I had feelings for you?” She nodded as he finished her questioned. “I really started thinking about it yesterday; but it wasn’t until just now that I knew for sure.”
She buried her head in her hands and tried to clear the cobwebs away. There was no way they could be together. She couldn’t love him. It was impossible. Having feelings for him was going to the end of everything.
“Hey,” he said softly, and she could hear it in his voice: the slight inflection, the tone that told her he loved her. “This doesn’t change anything.”
“This changes everything, Sirius!” She yelled at him and stood up. “I thought I was finally understanding what I felt towards Damon. I thought I was finally getting a handle on my emotions, and now I have to figure out what I’m doing about you! We’re friends, friends don’t kiss each other that way. I shouldn’t feel this way.”
He stood up and took her by the shoulders. He didn’t understand what she was going through. He had nothing to lose where she had everything to lose. Damon was right, he had every reason to worry about Sirius. Sirius who had always owned her heart, who she would love undeniably until the end of time. She couldn’t be one of those girls. She couldn’t let herself love him. She was not going to give up her family for love.
His lips pressed against hers, more passionately, as if this kiss were his last kiss. Her hands snaked up his chest and over his shoulders. He held her close and didn’t let her go. Did he not understand? This wasn’t just a kiss. It would never just be a kiss. It was the beginning of the end. How was she going to be friends with him knowing he loved her? How was she supposed to fall in love with Damon when her heart would always want Sirius?
Tiny tears slipped down her cheek, as Sirius was pulled from her arms. To her horror, she found Damon, face red with fury, throwing Sirius around the room. In a flurry of punches, she stood there uncertain of what to do. She should have known this would happen. She should have know Damon’s jealous would only lead to misfortune for Sirius.
“STOP THIS!” she screamed at them, but her voice fell on deaf ears. “DAD!”
Dominic reached the room first, and seeing his friend beating on Sirius pulled the door shut and locked it with a quick spell. Any reason to stop the adults from entering sooner, giving the boys more time to beat Sirius to death, was all he needed.
Standing, Damon looked down at Sirius whose face was barely recognizable and pulled out his wand. “She’s mine, Black!” he seethed. “She’ll always be mine.”
She realized in that moment what they planned to do. Throwing herself in front of Sirius, she stood defiantly glaring at her brother and his friend. She would not let Sirius die, not so long as she drew breath.
“If you really loved me,” Elsa began, looking at Damon. “You’d trust me. You wouldn’t try to kill my best friend.”
“He was kissing you!” Damon argued, his wand pointed at her chest, though he wanted only to harm Sirius. “MOVE!”
“Don’t make me move you!”
“Don’t make me hate you. Don’t push me into his arms.”
“There won’t be any arms to hold you once he’s dead. Now. MOVE.”
The door swung open. Evander strode into the room followed by Gareth and his father. Seeing Sirius on the floor, he glared at the two boys. Turning, Else kneeled beside Sirius, trusting her father to keep him safe, to keep him from dying.
“Sirius?” She questioned, gently placing her hands on his arm.
Pulling his wand out of his pocket, she used it to check for any injuries that might be life threatening. Several broken ribs were the serious of his injuries. Calling for their house elf, Elsa instructed her what she needed, and watched the elf disappear. She cast several spells and watched as Sirius’s skin began to stitch itself back together.
By the time the elf had returned many of the cuts that Sirius had sustained had been healed. Using the warm water her elf had brought, she gently washed away the blood on his face. His right eye was swollen shut, but he could see her.
“Hey,” she said softly. “I have to set your ribs. It’s going to hurt.”
He nodded, and it was all she needed before she pushed his shirt up around his shoulders. Dark black bruises had already begun to form. She could see where one rib had almost punctured his skin, while the others, she couldn’t see. Lightly, she ran her fingers over his chest and using his wand began to set the ribs. Groaning, he held onto her wrist, never taking his eyes off her. Once his ribs were set, she helped him sit up and wrapped a bandage around his chest.
“Drink this,” she instructed him. “It’ll help with the pain, and will take care of mending your broken ribs. I set them, but I don’t know the spell yet to heal them.”
“Where,” he gasped.
“Did I learn to do that?” She laughed. “They are probably the only spells I know how to cast properly. Half of them are way more advanced that I should probably know.”
She smiled at him, before standing and turning towards her brother and Damon. Anger seeped into the smile she held. Gripping Sirius’s wand tightly in her hand, she pointed it at Damon.
“Get out!” she seethed.
“You’re not serious.”
“Try me.” Her voice as calm and cold as she could make it. “I don’t want to see your face in my house. In fact, I don’t want to see you ever. GET OUT!”
Exhausted and crying, she watched Damon turn and storm out of the room. She sank to the floor and looked over at Sirius. Had she really just broken things off with Damon? Where she thought she should feel relieved, she felt dread instead. Her life felt like it was falling apart.
“Elsa,” Sirius whispered, and lifted his hand to wipe away her tears. “I’m sorry.”
“For making you cry.”
“You didn’t make me cry.”
“Yes, I did. Before Damon showed up, you were crying.”
“I...” she sighed, there was no use lying to Sirius. He’d know. “I was thinking too much. You need to rest. Daddy, can you help Sirius upstairs to his room?”
Cordelia flew into the room as Evander helped Sirius up off the floor and helped him upstairs. She looked between her two friends, and went immediately to Elsa’s side. She wanted information, gossip, anything, but Elsa wasn’t willing to give her anything.
“Go with Sirius, please?”
“Yes, make sure he’s safe,” Elsa whispered. “Keep him safe for me.”
Elsa watched as her friends left the room, leaving her with only her brother and Gareth to watch over her. Did they think she was going to do something? She didn’t know. Pulling herself up from the floor, she moved slowly across the room and sank into the sofa. How was she ever going to explain this to her father? He would not be impressed.
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