Chapter 1 : Trails in the Dark
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Since it has been so long since my last update (over a year, yikes!), help on grammar, word choice, and so on is greatly appriciated.
Now, please enjoy.
at TDA for the chapter image!
Trails in the Dark
December 1st, 1976
A dimmed presence of the moon's light danced in the air this evening. Clouds choked most of the silver rays, but what did reach the ground caused the snow to glisten in a way I couldn't describe. The cold was suffocating, as it always was in the midst of winter and I grew tired of feeling like I was bringing in icicles with each breath, but even I had to admit how marvelous the snow looked tonight. So bright, so soft, so red.
I froze and looked to the ground again. Red? No, that wasn't right. Snow was white and occasionally yellow, but never red. It took only a moment for a shiver ran down my spine, not from the cold this time, but from the realization of what this red coloring was. It was blood, and there was a lot of it leading straight into the Forbidden Forest along with a set of small, staggering footprints.
The hair on the back of my neck rose as I looked around. What happened here? My first instinct was to turn around and head back to the castle to curl up in my warm bed, but then my curiosity overwhelmed me. Was someone hurt? Did someone need my help? For once it might be my turn to play the hero, my turn to do something right and be praised. I knew my mind was made up with these last thoughts. With a quick glance behind me and a deep breath to cool my sudden nerves, I trudged into the shadows of the forest.
Darkness engulfed me.
The air was even cooler in the trees, so cold it actually hurt to breathe. I pulled my scarf up over my face, but even that didn't help shield my lungs from the burning cold. Light was scarcely available here, for the dense trees with their long branches blocked out majority of the moon's rays. I was careful to not step on the dribbles of blood, which lead deeper into the forest away from the path Hagrid would normally take each morning (which was easy to distinguish as his foot prints were three times the size of mine). The trees grew closer and closer together along the red trail, making it nearly impossible for me to step through without getting a twig stuck in my hair or my robe caught on a branch.
I pushed forward, though, being careful not to lose vision of the bloody trail. At one point, when the clouds covered the moon and night became too overpowering, I was forced to dig into my pocket for my wand.
“Lumos,” I whispered. My heart skipped a beat, my own voice had startled me and made my ears ring with the realization of how quiet it was out here.
As light flooded through the area from my wand, my heart dropped and the cold rushed deep into my bones. The red trail had ended, and so did the foot prints.
I was puzzled. The area was completely deserted. I took a few steps backwards, looking for the prints that should have continued ahead of me. The person who should have been at the end of this trail appeared to have been lifted away. Something was not right here.
I looked up into the branches, but the trees were so dense it was impossible to spot anything farther than the first few twigs. Whoever this person was either climbed, or was taken up.
An uncomfortable feeling dipped into the lowest points of my stomach. Was it possible for someone who was bleeding that badly to climb?
Fear made my gasp. My stomach rolled with a new wave of discomfort as I realized that something was horribly wrong here. I didn't know how I knew it, but I did. Regretting even stepping into the forest I turned, quickly as I could, and fled from the spot. In my haste, however, I tripped and fell to the cold ground with an 'oof.'
I sat as quietly as I could, trying to hold in my ragged breaths as fear built up inside me. I was in danger and calling out now would only get me into trouble faster.
"Please! Is someone there? I need help!" the voice called out again, quavering with each word. It was a girl’s voice, I noticed, soft and pleading. Maybe I was overreacting, perhaps there was no danger… Yes, surely the dark had simply frightened me a bit.
"Who are you?" I asked, slowly pushing myself up from the ground. I tried to see into the trees, but my wand light only reached so far.
"I'm Annabel," the voice answered. "Are you-" She fell silent, and suddenly I grew curious.
"Am I what?" I asked, forcing the fear in my throat to flee. I walked closer to her voice, but still she was no where in sight.
She was above me somewhere. But where? I scanned the branches ahead of me, but still she was out of sight. "Yes, I‘m a student. Are you?"
"What are you doing in the forest," she asked, ignoring my question.
"I should be asking you the same thing." I heard a sigh and the breaking of a twig. I squinted, wishing desperately that the light from my wand could reach further.
"Someone was following me, I tried to get as far away as possible…" I could hear the strain in her voice from fear, or pain, or perhaps both. She fell silent, and shuffled in the branches for the moment. Before I realized what was happening, the girl fell to the ground. Her knees buckled under her and she fell into the white snow, gasping in pain.
I knelt down beside her and grabbed her waist to hold her steady. "I don't know what happened," she whispered. "It all happened so fast. I didn't realize I was hurt until I climbed into the tree."
"You don't know who did this to you?" I asked.
"No," she said in a gasp. "I'm just in a lot of pain." She heaved herself to her feet using my shoulders to aid her balance.
"We should go back to the castle," I said. "Madame Pomfrey will heal you just right."
"Sure, Madame Pomfrey," she said as if she was only half listening. "What is your name?"
"I'm Sirius Black," I said, watching as she took a shaky step forward. "Can you make it to the castle alright? I can carry you if it hurts too much."
"Oh no, the pain isn't so bad now that I'm standing upright," she said with a quick shake of her head. "So you're a Black?"
I grabbed hold of her waist with one arm, leading her through the thicket, and held out my lit wand in the other. "Yeah, I suppose I am," I said. "I mean, sort of."
"Is all this blood mine?" she asked, stopping to examine the red trail. She placed her hand over her stomach, where I guessed the wound was, and brought her hand to her face. Blood dripped from her fingers. She shuddered and continued forward again. "What were you doing out so late at night, anyway?"
"Just walking. Thinking, you know." The trees, quite suddenly, opened up into a wide space. The castle loomed in the short distance now, and the moon offered enough light I was able to stuff my wand into my pocket. I looked to the girl at my side, taking in her blonde hair and squinting eyes. I frowned, wishing I could be of more help.
"You weren't the one following me, were you?" she joked as the silence grew thicker. She managed a smile before grimacing with pain again.
"No, I couldn't hurt anyone as pretty as you," I said. She laughed at this and, from what I could see, rolled her eyes. "I don't think I've ever seen you before, anyway." I looked at her blonde hair again, it looked so foreign and beautiful. It would definitely be a head of hair I would remember. "What house are you in?"
"Ravenclaw,” she said after a moment of heavy breathing. “I’m in your Potion’s class, though. I make a habit of avoiding people who might distract me from my work. Your buddy, Potter, is far too troublesome for me to meddle with.”
I reached into my memory, trying to remember Potions class. My mind drew a blank. “I feel bad for never noticing you before,” I muttered.
Silence followed us as Hogwarts grew closer. She staggered a few times more, the walk was becoming more difficult for her, and I helped by offering her support. She mumbled thanks and continued forward with determination.
I helped her into the castle with as much stealth as possible. Being out this late was strictly forbidden, and sneaking back in was not an easy task. It took several minutes to get inside, and even more minutes to get to our destination.
"I can take it from here," she whispered as we approached the door to the Hospital Wing. "Thanks for, um, everything." With that she turned the handle of the door and entered the room. She turned to look at me, her eyes meeting mine through the darkness. Within seconds, however, she was behind closed doors and I was on the other side, staring at where she stood only moment before.
I was in a daze as I turned to make my way to the Gryffindor tower. All the way up the stairs only one thing stayed in my mind, and it was the pair of deep purple eyes that had just disappeared behind that door.
I tried to think of an explanation or any logical reason as to why someone would have such startlingly bright eyes. Not just bright, but purple! Was something like that normal? Was it a Muggle thing? Maybe Annabel was a Muggle-born, and it was a hereditary mutation that was common in her family. It was definitely a possibility, perhaps a bit odd but there were weirder things known to happen to Muggles.
I shuffled up the stairs to my dorm, so immersed in my thoughts I hadn't even realized there was someone still awake when I walked in.
"Where were you?”
I was shaken so quickly from my deep thoughts that gasped with shock, looking up in surprise to find a sandy-haired boy sitting up in bed, curtains drawn only halfway around his bunk. He held his lit wand in one hand and used the other to flip through the pages of a book.
"Out," I answered, unbuttoning my overcoat. I sighed at the incredulous look he gave me as I allowed my coat to fall to the floor. "Prongs was on the staircase when I planned on coming up." It felt odd to say that. Had it really only been a few hours ago that I was fighting with James? It felt like centuries.
"You guys are still at it?" Remus questioned, dog-earring the corner of his page and pushing the book to rest on his feet. "Honestly, you two bicker as much as an old married couple. I say you just forgive each other. A girl is a stupid reason to break up a perfectly good friendship."
"Well, I've been thinking about that," I said. I hadn't actually thought of anything other than Annabel (it felt weird to even think her name), but I quickly came up with an answer for him. "He can have her."
"What, just like that? I thought you liked Lily?" He squinted his eyes and pulled his eyebrows together in confusion.
"I do like Lily,” I sighed. “But I’ve decided I like having Prongs as a friend more." Remus eyed me with curiosity. “Look, Lily is a friend. And I had a quick moment where I thought she may be more than that. I doubt she’s into me anyway, so why should I ruin a friendship over someone who doesn’t even like me?”
Remus thought for a moment, than said with a smile, “You asked her out didn’t you?” I stared blankly at him. “And she said ‘no’ to you. And now you don’t want her because she rejected you.”
I thought for a minute of a rebuttal, and decided against hearing a longer banter from Remus. I simply nodded my head. “I’ll let Prongs know, then, that she’s all his.”
"He's not here," Remus said. "Him and Wormtail decided they were hungry. They went to the kitchens."
"They're not here?" I looked over and noticed each bed was unoccupied.
"That's what I said," he shrugged. "I'm sure they'll be back soon, they've been gone quite a while."
"Oh." I looked down at my fingernails, as I often did when I was distracted. "They're in the kitchens. By the Hospital Wing…" I trailed off.
"The kitchen isn’t that far off from the Hospital Wing, you're correct." I felt his gaze on me. "Are you feeling alright?"
"Huh?" I kicked off my shoes and began rummaging for an appropriate outfit, though my eyes weren‘t fully seeing what was in front of me.
"You seem distracted," Remus shrugged. "Is something wrong?"
Oh it was just like him to be full of questions. "Yeah, Moony. I'm perfectly fine. I'll just go to sleep now I guess." I felt his eyes on my as I switched from my school uniform to my pajama pants, but I didn't care. I climbed into bed and pulled the curtains around me in a daze.
Could James have been down there, under the cloak, when I was with Annabel?
Not that it mattered. James and Peter would simply give me hogwash for being with a girl, but there was something in me that wanted to keep Annabel a secret.
"Must you eat that now, Wormtail?" James hissed as they trudged down the hall underneath his invisibility cloak. Each year it felt as if it got smaller and smaller. They had to walk at a much slower pace so their feet wouldn't stick out from the bottom. James could only imagine the fun Peeves would have with a pair of unattended feet. "You chew too loud!"
"S'not my fault," Peter grumbled, swallowing whatever it was he had in his mouth. "When you ask for something crunchy, the elves really give you something crunchy."
"Shh." James stopped dead in his tracks, his ears reaching beyond his presence. His eyes were of no use in the dark corridors.
Voices. Yes, he was sure of it, he heard voices…but they didn't sound like any of the Professor's. He motioned to Peter to move forward and together they walked as invisible as ghosts to the Entrance Hall.
"Thanks for, um, everything."
That was a girl's voice. Following the statement came a soft "clink" of a door being shut. The Hospital Wing? Had someone been hurt? But only seconds later, out of the darkness came Sirius Black, his eyes glazed over in a daze. Peter stepped forward, but James stopped him by shoving him backwards. Losing his balance, Peter stumbled to the floor with a loud "thump,” dragging the cloak along with him.
Eyes wide, James looked up at Sirius, who was now slowly climbing the staircase. It appeared that he hadn't heard the ruckus they were causing. In fact, James was sure he could have yelled to him and Sirius would still be unaware of their existence. Silently James helped Peter to his feet and thrust the cloak around the two of them so they were hidden once again.
"What's his problem," whispered Peter, who was rubbing his sore backside. "He looks as if he's just seen a ghost."
"He doesn't look scared," James whispered back. "He looks like he's lost his mind."
"You think a Slytherin is doing him in?"
"Nah, no Slytherin would have that kind of power." James looked around the silent hall, and just as he was about to move forward the same "clink" of a door he had heard earlier rang in his ears. From the darkness a girl rushed to the stairs. Hurriedly she ran up the stairs two steps at a time. The two boys stared on in awe.
"Padfoot has a new girlfriend," Peter stated. "Does that mean you two are friends again?"
"You think that's his girlfriend?"
"She's following him, isn't she?" Peter asked.
"Maybe you're right," James said. "I guess that would mean Lily's all mine then."
"I guess," Peter shrugged. "Come one, let's get up the commons. Moony's probably wondering where we are by now."
"Sure." James started the slow movement to the staircase, his mind on the blonde girl that had appeared from the darkness. He wondered what it was she wanted with Sirius.
I awoke with a start the following morning. The sun had barely risen over the horizon, but the light was enough to force me from my slumber.
I felt numb for a few moments, confused almost because there was an air in the room that felt unfamiliar. Then out of no where memories began to flood back into my mind. A memory of a girl with blonde hair and purple eyes.
I was surprised, because I so badly wished to see her again! I would walk into the Potions classroom today and look for her bright hair and…
Reality rushed to me as I realized what today was. It was the first day of Christmas break and therefore I would not get the chance to see if I really had overlooked her in Potions class. Annabel.
"Morning, Padfoot," Remus yawned. My heart started as his voice rang into my ear, I hadn't realized anyone was awake.
"Yeah, uh, morning to you too," I muttered, crawling out of my sheets. I quickly dressed in the first set of clothes my hands trembled over. I had troubles buttoning my shirt, and I fumbled with the zipper on my slacks. My mind felt fine, but my heart told me I was nervous.
“You look…” Remus paused and looked me over, “Nice.”
I looked down to see myself in my best clothes, something I would have worn to a formal family affair or on a tour to the Ministry of Magic. I silently cursed my subconscious for being difficult with me, and quickly changed into an old pair of trousers. I was too shaky to bother with my shirt, but figured I’d leave it un-tucked.
On a normal day, I would have waited for James and Peter to roll out of bed and join me for breakfast, but today didn’t feel like a normal day. When all were distracted (James and Peter remained in bed fighting sleep and Remus was rummaging through his items) I slipped soundlessly through the door, walked down the steps, passed through the empty common room, and out the portrait hole.
I began to walk swiftly to the Great Hall. Was it crazy for me to think that she would decide to stay at Hogwarts over Holidays? It was a definite possibility that I was willing to check into.
Then, suddenly, I froze mid-step. There, wandering down the hall, was Annabel. She was walking as if she were in deep thought, but suddenly her back stiffened. She turned to me as if I had called her name.
She didn’t look surprised to see me. Actually, it seemed to me that she had sensed my presence all along.
"Hi, Sirius," she called. A flicker of a smile could be seen on her face and I shivered with joy, for her voice sounded just as pleasant as before.
I nodded as a response, scared that I might say something wrong. She frowned at my lack of answer so I cleared my throat and spoke up. "You feeling alright?" I asked, striding to her side. "Looks as if Madame Pomphrey fixed you up just fine."
"Oh, yes," she said with a nod. "Yes, she did a good job."
"Quite wonderful," I said, at a loss for words. Her eyes looked even brighter in daylight. They were mesmerizing.
"Say, uh, do you want to get some breakfast?" I was too lost in her eyes to be able to answer. She cleared her throat, smiled, and waited for an answer.
"Breakfast? Oh! Breakfast. Yeah, I think I'd like that. Breakfast." I didn't care that I wasn‘t making much sense because I was suddenly aware that I was with the most gorgeous girl in the history of gorgeous girls.
"Let's get some breakfast then," she said, pulling at my sleeve.
"Mind if I ask you a question?" I wondered, walking alongside her down the hall. It felt natural to be beside her. Now that I was no longer looking into her eyes, I felt stronger and more capable of holding down a conversation.
"If you feel you must," she said.
"Your eyes,” I stated simply. “They’re-”
“Purple?” She forced a laugh and sighed dramatically. "As if I hadn't heard that one before," she said. "It's from a potion I took long ago. My mother forgot to lock the potions cupboard one night and…"
I raised my eyebrow.
“I’m a very curious girl.” She pushed blond bits of her hair behind her ear. I opened my mouth to question her more, but she beat me to the punch. “Let me as you a question.”
“Okay,” I said. “Anything.”
“Why aren‘t you at home?”
“It’s Christmas holiday,” she shrugged. “I really thought I was going to be the only one here.”
I laughed and shook my head. “No, I don’t leave for Holiday. I prefer being in the castle.”
“You don’t want to be with your family?” She stopped walking and looked up at me with curious eyes, and I melted once again in the purple haze.
“I- I-” I took in a deep breath. Concentrate! “I’m not a family person,” I managed to say.
“Oh?” I simply nodded my head and started forward again, urging her to follow. “Do you mind if I ask why?”
“It’s complicated,” I said after a moment of thought. In truth, I didn’t know what to say. My family wasn’t exactly a hot topic in my life. In all honesty, I did everything I could to not think of them. Annabel seemed to understand my turmoil and frowned.
“It wasn’t my place to ask,” she said softly.
“No!” I said quickly. Had I offended her? “No, it’s just a really hard question to answer. I actually don’t even live with them right now.”
“Where do you live?” she asked, pulling at a string on her jacket. I had been too immersed in her eyes to notice she was wearing such plain clothing. Simple and comfortable, yet it seemed to fit to her perfectly. I gulped, trying to slow down my mind.
“With a friend,” I finally pushed out. “James Potter.” She nodded to show she had heard, but remained quiet. It stayed silent until we reached the Great Hall. For the Holidays only one table was present for students, and one more table was set up for Professors.
She settled in and I took a spot next to her, careful not to sit too close. I felt I had an obligation to be as much of a gentleman as possible. It was a new scene for me, but it was one I was willing to take on for a girl such as this.
It was quiet as we ate. Once in a while she’d say something about the food or the weather, but each conversation died slowly and painfully. She seemed far too distracted in her own thoughts, like she was putting together a puzzle that was missing its pieces.
Before I knew it, and much to my dismay, we were soon bombarded by my friends. They looked on with curious eyes, but were too polite to question me in front of her. Remus had a look of shock on his face, and James and Peter divulged themselves too far into their meal to be able to do more than chew. If they had looked surprised, it would have been impossible to tell.
“Well,” Annabel said, standing from the table. “Do you mind walking with me, Sirius?” She paid no attention to my friends as they peered at her, instead her eyes appeared to get a bit sharper as she looked into my eyes. “I would really appreciate it.” Her voice was soft and inviting.
I nodded quickly and stood up. “Sure.”
And so she lead me from the Hall. I didn’t even take the time to say goodbye to my friends.
She had such a pull over me. Who was this girl?
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