: I struggled for a very long time on getting this chapter written. This has to be the hardest chapter I have yet to write. But, here it is. Enjoy.
(chapter image by Jeanie @ TDA)
Students spilled from the school as their final classes of the day let out. A warm breeze lifted the students spirits as they took to spreading out around the school yard. Elsa and her friends were of no exception, finding themselves a cozy spot by the lake to sit. Their book bags lay forgotten in a pile around a tree, while they enjoy the warmth of the late afternoon sun.
“Elsa!” someone called from a distance, pulling Elsa's attention away from her friends. Damon stood between his friends, waving at her. It seemed like it had been weeks since they had last had a chance to talk or spend time together. Though she had seen him in classes, it wasn't the same. Was she imagining that he was pulling away from her? Elsa had spent more time with Sirius and his friends than she did with her boyfriend. It seemed odd to her that Damon had chosen to withdraw from her. Their relationship was new, and while she wanted to spend as much time with him as she could manage, Damon didn't seem to want the same.
Damon crossed the school grounds and stood in front of Elsa, his hand outstretched to her. Contemplating a snarky remark, Elsa stared at his hand. What did he expect her to do, take it and forgive him for how he had been treating her? She had half a mind to tell him to bugger off and leave her alone. Ignoring her for weeks on end was not going to make their relationship easier. She had finally made her mind up and started dating him. She was giving him what he wanted, and yet, he was the one who wasn't even making an effort to spend time with her.
“Can we talk?” Damon asked hesitantly, eyes flitting from her to Sirius.
Elsa looked to her friends for an answer, uncertain if she should be giving Damon yet another chance to explain himself. It was Sirius who urged her to go; Sirius who didn't understand how much it had taken for Elsa to actually choose Damon over him. Elsa took Damon's hand and let him lead her away from her friends. With a glance over her shoulder, she saw Sirius smile at her. Whatever was going on, Elsa was positive Sirius knew already.
They walked around the lake for a while before finding a secluded area where they could talk. It seemed a lifetime ago when Elsa wouldn't have even bothered giving Damon the time of day to explain himself. A time when she would have turned her back on him with a snide comment and gone about her day without acknowledging his presence. Things had changed. Elsa had changed. Now, she longed for an answer as to why he was pulling away, leaving her to question what she had done to bring about this change in him. Didn't he understand that she loved him, or at least, thought she did? Didn't he understand what he was doing to her?
A shadow passed over the couple, as they stood in silence. Dark clouds seemed to have appeared out of nowhere, blocking out the sun and turning the air cold. Elsa turned her face skyward and sighed. It was going to rain. Though Elsa loved the rain, she was not in the mood for. Though, she suspected that she might be by the time Damon finished explaining himself.
“I'm sorry I haven't been spending much time with you,” Damon began, his voice quiet and sullen. It wasn't like him at all, Elsa noted. Something was wrong.
“What's going on, Damon?” Elsa questioned, not sure she wanted to know, but knew she had to find out all the same.
“Nothing.” It was a lie and they both knew it.
“Nothing or nothing you can talk about?”
“Do we have to do this?”
“Yes, we do. I want to know why you're avoiding me. I thought things were going to get better after I chose you.”
“They did get better.”
“For a while. Damon, what is going on? After The Egyptian showed up in Hogsmeade, you've been acting strange. You barely talk to me. You certainly don't want to spend time with me. What is it? What does he have you doing?”
“Nothing.” Again she knew he was lying, but Elsa wasn't sure how she was going to get him to talk to her.
Damon reached out to caress Elsa's cheek, but she took a step back. Elsa wanted to stay mad at him as long as possible. If he wasn't going to tell her what was going on, then she was going to make him understand how much he was hurting her by not trusting her. She shook her head and turned her back to him. If he wasn't going to tell her, then the conversation was over.
“Elsa, wait!” Damon grabbed her hand before she could walk away. “I can't tell you what you want to know. But I don't want to fight with you either. Can we please just spend the afternoon together?”
“Why? Why today? Why now?” Elsa yelled at him.
“Do we really have to do this?”
“Yes, we do. I want to know why you've been avoiding me. It can't be because of something someone asked you to do. There is more going on then you're telling me. You trust me, don't you?”
“Of course I do,” Damon answered, watching the way her hands balled into fists, and her eyes glistened with unshed tears. “But, I don't want it to ruin things any more than it already has. Please, I...”
Elsa took a step towards him, uncertain why she did. “Whatever it is, whatever secret your keeping, it can't be that bad. It won't make me think any differently of you.”
“I'm not worried about that, Elsa. I just want to spend time with my girlfriend without fighting with her.” He sighed. “I know I haven't been very attentive. I know I've pushed you away, and I'm trying to make up for that.”
“I'm not sure you really understand,” Elsa said. “I've spent the last few weeks wondering why you won't talk to me; why you won't spend time with me. And don't think I haven't noticed all the time you seem to be spending with Sirius. I know he knows, but he won't tell me anything. How come you can trust him, but you can't trust me?”
“Sirius already hates me, what I tell him won't make a difference.”
“What sort of trouble are you in, Damon?”
“The kind that will get you killed if you keep asking me about it. So please, don't. I'm trying to protect you here.”
“Damon.” Elsa's voice was soft and sad. Two single tears slipped down her cheeks as she stared up at him. “Will it get you killed?” She forced the words out, afraid of the answer that she needed to hear.
He turned away from her, giving her the answer she needed. Whatever it was that he had to do, it was more than likely going to kill him. Elsa's throat tightened as she tried not to cry. She knew there was a chance that You-Know-Who might recruit Damon. She knew there was always the chance that he might accept to keep her safe. What Elsa didn't know was why. Why would Damon think this was the only way to keep her alive? There were other ways.
Lightly, Elsa placed her hand on his arm and turned him to face her. A sad smile on her lips, she placed her hand on his cheek. Whatever happened, she wasn't going to let him go do whatever it was he had to without knowing she still loved him.
“I've done things I'm not particularly proud of, Elsa, but I've done them to keep you safe. There is only one thing I have left to do, and I'm not sure if I'll be coming back. But I need to spend time with you. I can't do what needs to be done knowing you are angry with me.”
Pushing herself up onto her toes, Elsa lightly kissed his lips. Her lips quivered against his as she fought not to cry. She had never wanted anything like this to happen to her before. Damon was willing to sacrifice himself for her, and that was not something she wanted. Her father had done the same and it still bothered her. Everyone's willingness to keep her safe only made her realize how dependant she was on other people's help.
Taking a step back from Damon, Elsa sighed. Obviously she couldn't stay angry with him considering he didn't know whether or not he'd be back again. Elsa held her hand out to him and tried to smile bravely at him. Whatever was going to happen when he completed his mission, she'd deal with it. All she wanted was for Damon to come back to her.
Elsa and Damon had spent the afternoon together outside lounging by the lake. As night fell around the school, and their stomachs grumbled for food, the couple left the school yard and made their way inside. Dinner had been served when they entered the Great Hall. The aroma of a hot meal filled the air.
With a light kiss, Elsa watched Damon head over to the Slytherin table and sit with his friends. While she was never happy about her boyfriend's choice in friends, there was nothing she could do about it. Damon hardly agreed with her choice in friends either. Though, Damon was far more tolerant of her friends than she was of his.
Joining Cordelia, Vera and Tabitha at the Ravenclaw table, Elsa tried to forget about what Damon had told her earlier that afternoon. It was difficult, but with her friends around her, she was soon lost in the gossip of the day. Elsa knew she could always count on her mates to cheer her up when she was feeling lost.
Cordelia leaned over and whispered in Elsa's ear, “what's going on?”
“Nothing,” Elsa lied and knew her friend would not take that as an answer. “Can I tell you later?”
When Cordelia nodded, Elsa knew she would have a few hours to herself before she had no choice but to tell her friend what was going on. But how was she supposed to explain to Cordelia that Damon was doing something for You-Know-Who that was more than likely going to get him killed? How was she supposed to explain why she didn't go to Dumbledore about it?
Abruptly, Elsa stood up and excused herself from the table. Her dinner left barely touched in front of her. With so much on her mind, the constant chatter of the Great Hall made it impossible to think clearly.
The library was completely empty when she arrived. Basking in the silence, Elsa found a table in the far corner and took a seat. She could see the Forbidden Forest stretching out across the school yard through the window next to her. Leaning her head against the cool glass, Elsa sighed.
So much had happened to her over the last few months. While she had thought she had dealt with it all, Elsa knew she hadn't. Instead, Elsa had buried the events of the last few months away until she could better handle it. Though, she wasn't sure she would ever be ready to handle any of it. Losing her father had been hard. Nearly dying, being trapped beneath the roof of The Three Broomsticks had been terrifying. Seeing the Egyptian in Hogsmeade a month ago had scared her. Now, knowing Damon was possibly going to die, left her feeling empty and alone.
Who could she trust that would understand what she was going through? Surely if she went to Dumbledore he would find a way to save Damon. But could she turn Damon in for joining You-Know-Who? When she thought about it, the answer was simple: no. Elsa wasn't sure what would happen to Damon if she did. Would he still love her knowing that what she had done was for his own good? Saving him was all that mattered to her. Which was exactly what Damon was thinking when he joined the Dark Lord.
A shadow passed over Elsa, drawing her attention away from the empty yard below. Looking up, Elsa found Sirius standing next to her. A faint smile spread across her lips as Sirius took a seat next to her. Of course he would follow her. Sirius always knew when something was bothering her.
“Why didn't you tell me?” Elsa questioned after Sirius got comfortable next to her.
“Tell you what?” Though he was playing dumb, Sirius knew exactly what she was talking about.
“You know exactly what I'm talking about, Sirius.” She wasn't in the mood for games. All Elsa wanted was answers and she was going to get them one way or another. “Do you know when Damon might not...” Her voice faultered.
“No, he won't tell me. I think he suspects that I'm trying to stop him.”
“You're what?” Elsa looked at him, her eyes wide with astonishment. “Why?”
“Because I know how much you care about him.”
“That still doesn't make any sense, Sirius. You hate him.”
“So, why would you try to save someone you hate? It doesn't make any sense.”
Sirius smiled that boyish, lopsided grin of his. A mischievous glint in his eye. “I love you, Elsa, that hasn't changed. I couldn't try to win you away from him knowing he was going to die. I couldn't just let it happen either. I don't want to win by default. “
His comment should have made her mad, but it didn't. Instead, Elsa rested her head on Sirius's shoulder and tried not to cry. It didn't surprise her that Sirius hadn't given up. She expected as much from him. But to know he was trying to keep Damon alive so that he could win her away from him, it seemed childish and petty, even though she expected that wasn't the full extent of his answer.
James burst into the Library followed closely by Remus and Peter. The three boys were panting as they came up to the table Elsa and Sirius were at.
“He got away,” Sirius said as if he wasn't surprised. “When?”
“Just. I doubt he got far. We should be able to catch up to him,” James answered, pulling out a piece of parchment and tapping his wand against it.
Sirius stood and inspected the parchment before moving to the window. Elsa followed his gaze to the lone figure walking across the school yard. She knew that gait. Damon was leaving. He was leaving and he wasn't even saying good bye to her. It was happening tonight. He might not come back and he couldn't even tell her he loved her.
Elsa turned away from the window and took off running. She left James, Sirius and the others to decide whether to follow her or not. Nothing matter so long as she was able to say goodbye to Damon. If he wasn't coming back, he needed to know she loved him. If he wasn't going to be coming back, Elsa needed him to know she would hunt down the men responsible for killing him. There was no way she was going to let him die alone, but she wasn't about to tell him that either.
Her shoes echoed loudly off the stone walls as she ran through the corridors. Casting a spell, she watched as the Entrance Hall does swung open, never breaking her stride. She had to catch up to him. Rain pelted her as she ran across the slick grass trying desperately not to fall. Mud splashed up around her ankles in chunks, turning her white socks brown.
Damon had paused before the Forbidden Forest, before drawing the hood of his cloak up around his head. He didn't bother to look back at the school. The thunder and the rain blocked out any noise of someone approaching, which gave Elsa the advantage over her boyfriend. She grabbed his hand and held on, even as he spun around his wand in his hand.
“What are you doing?” Damon snapped at Elsa. His wand pointed at her chest. “I could have killed you!”
Elsa threw her arms around his neck and pulled him towards her. There was no need for an answer; there was nothing worth saying. Her lips crushed his as tears forced their way through her eyelashes and down her cheek. Her fingers trembled as they pulled at the cloth up around his head. She pulled away from him, shivering in the cold rain.
“You can't leave me,” Elsa muttered softly, her fingers clutching his arm as if he were going to vanish into thin air. “You promised you wouldn't.”
Damon wiped away her tears. His eyes were filled with sorrow as he looked at her. The look was heartbreaking. Elsa's fingers tightened around his arm, her breath caught in her chest. He knew he wasn't coming back, and it was killing her.
“Please,” she begged. “Don't do this. We'll find another way.”
“There is no other way,” Damon said and turned away from her. “I have to.”
“Why?” Elsa tried to keep the strain out of her voice.
“You'll die if I don't.” He turned back towards her. His face had sobered. His eyes were cold and emotionless. “Go back to Hogwarts Elsa. Go back to Sirius. Forget about me. Forget you even loved me.”
“You don't mean that.” Elsa's voice was barely a whisper. The wind and rain ate up most of the sound, but he heard her. She knew he had.
Damon gave her a shove towards the school before turning away from her again. His long strides took him deep into the forest leaving her standing there. Elsa stood there staring into the forest, following the tip of Damon's wand until she couldn't see him any longer. She felt sick to her stomach. Bile rose up, burning the back of her throat. He was doing this to save her. She was tired of people dying to save her.
Determination spread across her face. With one last look back at Hogwarts, her decision made, Elsa stepped into the Forbidden Forest. She'd find him in there somewhere. She'd find Damon and she would save him.
“We'll go together,” Sirius's voice said from behind her. “The five of us.”
Elsa didn't even need to turn around to know who stood at her back. Sirius took her hand in his. He was a comfort in the darkness. They set off together, the five of them, into the Forest. Roots and trees grabbed at their clothing, yanking and tugging; slowing them down. Cold sweat trickled down her back and pooled on the palm of her hand clutched in Sirius's. Thin, silver beams of light pierced the night air as they walked.
Leaves and foliage were crushed beneath their feet as they stomped through the forest in search of some sign, some thin shred of hope, of where Damon might be. Something moved to the right, and the group froze. Waiting and watching the shadows for signs of danger. A twig snapped, and fallen leaves rustled. It sounded like someone was dragging a body across the wet ground. Something brushed against Elsa's leg. Jumping into Sirius's arms, she buried her head into his chest, not wanting to know what touched her.
James's laughter filled the night air as he picked up a small snake before tossing it further into the trees away from them. Cordelia shrieked and hid behind Remus before they set off again. The wind howled through the night air. Cold, methodical laughter filled the air. Elsa's eyes were wide with fear. Her fingers dug into Sirius's hand. She had though You-Know-Who had been behind Damon's belief he was going to die. She had been so very wrong.
Creeping forward, Elsa hid behind a large tree. The bark was rough against her hands, and cheek as she peered around it. Her eyes straining in the darkness to see the men. Three adults stood with their backs to her. Elsa didn't needs to see their faces to know who they were. He
was here again. The Egyptian. He was the one threatening Damon.
Cold anger swept through Elsa. Her fingers balled into fists. Her body shook as she fought to stay hidden behind the tree. There had to be something she could do. She and her friends outnumbered the men, and they had the element of surprise. There had to be something they could do. Something that would save Damon's life.
“Where is it?” the Egyptian's cool voice said smoothly.
“I wasn't able to obtain it. He wouldn't part with it. Stealing it wasn't an option. It is always in his possession.” Damon tried desperately to convince them of this lie.
“Liar. I know for a fact he gave it to you. You will tell me where it is, or I will kill your girlfriend.”
“Don't be daft. Dumbledore will never let you get near her. He's already protecting her from You-Know-Who.” This time, Damon wasn't lying. He and Dumbledore had spoken many times since Evander's death in regards to what they were going to do to keep Elsa safe.
“You can come out from behind that tree, Miss Yaxley,” The Egyptian said, glancing over his shoulder and looked straight at her. “We don't want you to miss all the fun.”
Elsa gulped down her fear. Why was it that every time she was in a forest watching someone do something they shouldn't, they knew she was there? She didn't bother to look at her friends, that would give them away. Stepping away from the tree, Elsa moved towards the men.
“How did you know I was there?” Elsa said, her voice strong and without fear.
“I know many things, Miss Yaxley. Including the fact that you did not come alone. We have been watching you since Mr. Avery attempted to send you back to the school. You should have listened.”
Five men appeared out of the shadows pushing her friends into the clearing. Now Elsa was afraid. What had she gotten her friends into? Someone stepped up behind her. A cold, pale hand gripped her around the shoulder, and pressed a knife against her throat. The blade bit into her skin, and she yelped.
“Leave her alone!” Damon yelled, and two men grabbed him from behind. “You promised you would leave her out of this!”
“I promised I would kill her if you did not do as you were told.” Elsa couldn't see the Eyptian's face, but she could imagine the look that was sure to be there. “You have disappointed me for a second time, Mr. Avery.”
Warm blood dripped down Elsa's neck as she fought to keep herself as still as possible. Her eyes met Damon's. His eyes were wide with fear but it faded quickly. Anger flashed across his face. Anger he turned towards the Egyptian. A cold smirk formed on Damon's face as his body relaxed.
“If you kill her, you'll never find it. It'll never be yours. It was never meant to be yours.”
“You've translated it?” The Egyptian was shocked.
“Part of it. Enough to know it would never give up the information you wanted. You aren't worthy of it. You'll never be worthy of the knowledge the scroll contains,” Damon said confidently. And then he laughed. “You spent all that time tracking it down and it will never be yours. I've made sure of that.”
“Where is it?” The Egyptian seethed. “Tell me or she dies?”
“If Elsa dies, if you so much as harm her or her friends, it will be lost to you forever. It will fade away and be forgotten. Elsa lives and I'll tell you what you want to know.” It was a lie. Elsa could see it in his face. Damon didn't plan on telling him anything.
“Don't,” Elsa's voice was strangled, the blade making it hard to talk.
“How sweet,” the Egyptian groaned. “Tell me what I want to know or they will all die. One by one.”
“Kill them, I don't care.” Damon's voice was cold and emotionless.
The knife was moved from around her throat. Elsa drew in a staggered breath and stared at Damon. What was he doing? She screamed as the knife cut across her arm just below her elbow. Thick warm blood weld up from the thin gash on her arm. Elsa bit her lower lip as the blade was dragged across her stomach slowly. Her legs collapsed as the pain became too much.
Damon and Sirius fought against the men holding them back. Neither wanted to see Elsa hurt further. Sirius elbowed his captor in the stomach and snatched his wand back from him. He managed to cast a stunning spell and hit the man torturing Elsa before three spells hit Sirius. He fell, unconscious, to the ground. Elsa screamed and scrambled across the ground on hands and knees until she was hovering over Sirius. His breathing was steady. He was alive.
James, Remus and Cordelia fought against the men holding them. One by one, Elsa watched her friends fall to the ground in crumpled heaps. There was no way she could get through the three adults to check on them. She had to hope they were alive. James's eyes opened and he winked at Elsa. With the adults turned back towards their boss, James was able to check on Remus and Cordelia. Elsa waited on bated breathe until James nodded towards her. They were both alive.
Turning her attention back to Damon and the Egyptian, Elsa took Sirius's wand in her hand. Forcing herself to her feet, she glared angrily at the man that had caused her so much pain. His back was to her, but that didn't matter. She knew what she had to do. She had to save Damon.
“Let him go,” Elsa said, trying to keep the fear and worry from her voice.
“Or you'll do what, Miss Yaxley?” The Egyptian didn't even bother to look at her.
“What I must to save the ones I love.” She had never considered using the illegal spells, but she was willing to use them now.
“Do you really think you can take on eight of my men? You are just one insignificant girl.”
“Do you really want to find out?” Elsa snarled. The men behind her had moved closer to her. She pointed Sirius's wand at them. “Don't move.”
“You aren't capable of murder, Elsa.” It was Damon talking to her. “Don't do something foolish. Don't destroy yourself to save me.”
Two of the men fell back while one continued to move towards her. He lifted his wand, and pointed it at her. Elsa didn't give him a chance to cast. She hit him with the first spell that popped into her head. The man dropped to the ground, writhing in pain. Elsa watched him. Watched him scream and beg for the spell to stop. But she didn't want it to stop. She wanted him to hurt the way they had made her hurt. He deserved to feel everything she had. The burning pain of each lashing that bit into her back. The feel of a knife as it cut through her skin.
The man's screams died. His body stopped twitching. He lay motionless on the ground, vacant eyes staring into the blackness of the forest. The other two men had disappeared into the forest. They had fled. Good.
Elsa turned back to look at the Egyptian and Damon. Most of the men had fled. Had they expected that she would just let them walk all over her? Damon gasped. He watched her, his face contorted with pain. The anger faded, and panic filled her eyes. What was the Egyptian doing to Damon?
“Stop it!” Elsa screamed. She threw herself at the Egyptian, breaking his concentration.
His two bodyguards grabbed her around the arms and held her back away from him. “You killed one of my men, Miss Yaxley. This is unacceptable. Damon was instructed to bring me what was stolen and he has failed. He must be punished and a message must be sent to those who stole what belongs to me.”
“What message is that?” Elsa squeaked.
“That there are consequences for stealing from me. No different than there are consequences for stealing from the Dark Lord. You must understand, it is a matter of image. If one person believes they can steal from me and get away with it, then others will as well. I cannot allow this to happen. I am sorry, but Damon must die.”
“NO!” Elsa screamed as the Egyptian raised his wand and cast the killing curse. She watched in horror as Damon's body fell to the ground. She kicked and screamed until the men released her. She threw herself at the Egyptian, clawing as his body. He ruined everything. He took away the one person who truly understood her. Damon had never tried to change her. He always accepted her for who she was.
The Egyptian threw her off of him and vanished into the forest. Elsa crawled over to Damon's body and cradle him against her chest. He couldn't be dead. He couldn't have left her. She screamed and sobbed, rocking gently back and forth.
“You promised,” she muttered into Damon's damp hair. “You can't be dead.” His body was already beginning to cool. “Wake up.” Elsa whispered. “Please, Damon, wake up.”
Elsa screamed into the night air. It felt like her body was being ripped into shreds. Was this how a Cruciatus Curse felt? Losing Damon was the worst torture yet. Gently, Elsa lay his body down on the ground and rested her head on his chest. Sobbing, she clutched desperately at his robes.
Her friends surrounded her. Sirius knelled beside her, taking her hand in his. His hand was warm to the touch. Warm and alive. Where Damon's was cold and dead.
“Why?” She questioned through the sobs.
There was nothing her friends could have said to make her feel better. There was nothing they could have done to bring Damon back. Remus and Cordelia returned with the teachers, who stood shocked at what they were seeing. One man was sprawled out on the wet ground, his mind broken. And a student lay dead.
Professor Dumbledore pressed his hand lightly on the middle of Elsa's back. “Let us take care of him now, Miss Yaxley. You have done all you can for him. It is our turn now.”
Elsa sobbed harder. She sat up and looked at Damon's face. He had known this was coming. He had known and he had accepted it all the same. She leaned over his fallen body, brushed his fallen hair from his eyes, and lightly kissed his cold lips. “I love you,” she whispered against his cheek, before allowing Sirius to help her stand and lead her away from the body of her fallen love.
Before she had walked too far, Elsa tugged the necklace from her neck, snapping the chain. Through the tears, she looked down at the beautiful amethyst before she let it slip from her fingers. She was never going to allow someone to use her again. She was not going to be someone's puppet. She had lost Damon because she wasn't strong enough to save him. That was never going to happen again. To hell with You-Know-Who and the Egyptian. They were going to pay for the lives they had taken from her.