Chapter 8 : Promise Me
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I turned down the lights and pushed the chairs in towards the table, making them neat and tidy, unlike the muddled chaos within my mind. Three hours ago we had all sat around this very table, drinking and laughing as friends should. Now there was silence and a sickening, empty sensation in the pit of my stomach. Working in a hypnotic daze, I gathered the glasses and food from the table and piled it all onto the kitchen worktop. Coming to my own glass, I reached over to the whisky decanter and poured myself a double, raising the glass skywards. I stared at the contents, swirling the brown liquid, which glistened in the light, and looked to it for some divine intervention; some answer hidden away in the bottom of a whisky glass. But it never came. I knocked back the whisky in a single, exaggerated gulp, enjoying the brief, warm sensation as it hit the back of my dry throat. I was numb.
Clutching my tormented head with one hand, I stepped and turned towards the fireplace, waving my wand to increase the flames to warm my shivering body. My frustration was overwhelming as I thought of Arella, and I threw the glass into the fire, watching as it hit the stone surround and shattered into a thousand diamond-like pieces, glittering across the smouldering hearth. Now it was broken, like my heart. I watched as the flames licked the glass, mesmerised by the merry dance. The armchair next to the fire seemed to call out to me, and I sat down with a thud, losing myself in its soft fabric, attempting to relax my weary body. Leaning forwards, holding my head in my hands, a single tear escaped from my welling eyes. My forehead throbbed at the intensity of the pressure of my repressed feelings. The rest of that evening I had had to smile sweetly and join in my best friends celebration of life long happiness while inside I knew my own happiness was so cruelly snatched away.
I looked towards the flames again and watched them, but they reminded me of her. Everything reminded me of her. Was my mind so cruel to play these tricks? The warmth reminded me of holding her in my arms, her head rested against my chest; the rug in front of me was one she had chosen; the sofa beside me was where I had first tasted the pleasures of her flesh and felt her bare skin against mine. I closed my eyes to the memories but I could hold on to my feelings no longer. I wept openly, sobs taking over my breathing in uncontrollable gasps. In my state of weakness, I could hear two clear voices arguing in the depths of my tormented mind, trying to make sense of my emotions. One was the soothing, calming, diplomatic tones of my dear friend Remus. The other the sharp, agitated tones of James, my best friend. The voices called out to me, vying for my attention.
“She still cares for you Sirius, you must remember. She has to do her duty. Ask her how she feels. You owe her that.”
“You owe her nothing, my friend, except your anger. She has played you for a fool. She has a choice here, and she has not chosen you.”
“You do not know that for sure, Sirius. Perhaps she has no choice.”
“Pah! She has a choice! She has chosen Snape, as we all knew she would.”
“How did we know? She has never proclaimed herself to be in love with him.”
“Not recently, no. But think back to all those years she was with him. How she chose him then and she will do the same now. She made her choice years ago. And you know that Sirius. Look into your heart and see the truth.”
“Look and see that she cares for you both, Sirius. She cares for you both.”
“She has used you, my friend. She has bided her time and waited until a better offer came along. She has fulfilled the beginning of Lily’s vision. Remember that, Sirius?”
Lily. The mention of her name pulled me back to reality with a jolt. What a fool was I to believe it could be so? Lily was right. She had warned me as much and I had laughed. Well, I did not laugh now, and I wished, oh how I wished I had listened. Snape had always been there, from the moments our lips had touched, to the kiss as she had left tonight. He was always at the back of her mind, and he always would be. However much I tried to deny myself the truth, he would always be between us. And I hated him. I hated him for being in her mind at all; I hated him for being her first. Hated him for being the one she thought of as I made love to her, for surely she did. I had seen how she had kissed him back at the Manor, and, however hard I had tried, she never kissed me in the same way. I thought back to every kiss, every touch. Had she ever declared her love for me? Had she ever told me she loved me, and meant it?
The bitterness inside was shocked into silence by the sounds of her return. Sinking lower into the chair as I heard her footsteps, I sat silent and still as her boots tapped against the wooden floor like imaginary nails piercing my heart. I shut my eyes to this torture. I had my back to her as I sat there in silence, but I sensed her as she crept up behind me and, as she went to place her hands over my eyes in a game of surprise, it was I who shocked her. Grabbing both her wrists tight, she squealed in shock, and pain.
“Ouch! Sirius! You scared the life out of me then.”
Not turning, not daring to see her face, I let go quickly and muttered in a cold tone of voice, “Sneaking around behind my back, Arella?”
“No! Oh Sirius! What have you boys been doing? There’s glass all over the place here.”
I watched her as she began to pick up the shards of glass gingerly, but I couldn’t bear to watch her carry on the charade of normality that she insisted on still playing in front of my eyes.
“It won’t take a minute. I’ll use a charm to clean up if you like.”
Standing, my patience at breaking point, I shouted at her for the first time in my life.
“I said leave it, Arella!”
She stopped in her tracks, and looked into my darkened eyes, full of fury and disbelief. She was angry at me for shouting and I knew she would retaliate, but I wanted her to. I wanted her to know my fury.
“How dare you yell at me, Sirius Black? Bloody well go and sober up before you go to bed.”
“I prefer to drink tonight, Arella. I had rather disturbing bad news.”
She frowned and stepped towards me, her eyes softening, full of concern.
“What is it? What happened? Is it Remus? James? Is he alright?”
I nodded, and turned away from her, walking around a little as I prepared my speech . “They are both well. I had an interesting chat tonight with the one of the others.”
She shrugged, but looked a little apprehensive. “Oh?”
“Yes. Quite interesting it was too. Especially when I spoke to Frank.”
I looked directly into her eyes, but she was an expert in this. She did not flinch, and part of me admired her bravado and skill. Part of me thought she would make an excellent spy. Yes, his spy. His own personal spy. “What did he have to say for himself?”
I glared at her through the lengths of hair that had ventured onto my face. “Can you not guess our topic of conversation? Can you not guess who we talked about?” My anger was boiling inside of me, and I raised my voice to her again as she still refused to acknowledge what she must surely know. “You, Arella! We talked about you…and him.” I stepped in a little closer to her and watched as her face began to belie her thoughts. I stepped in again so she could feel my breath upon her skin. “Oh yes, Arella. Frank told me everything. About your little chat with Fudge. About how you cried your heart out to him and Alice. About how it’s your duty now to prostitute yourself for the good of the Ministry. How very noble of you. Will that be all of the Death Eaters? Will my brother be next? Perhaps we should compare notes. Or is it just for him? All for Severus? Then what the hell was I? What kind of a fool was I to believe you really cared for me?”
She closed her eyes and blinked back the tears that had formed as I had given my speech. Not daring to look at my face, she inhaled and exhaled deeply, her bottom lip trembling as she spoke. “Please do not think that I do not care for you. Because I do. But…..”
I raised my voice again. “But what? I’m not good enough? I’m not part of the plan? I’m not him? Is that it? Did you want to join them for real? Is that it? Bored with being on the good side, Arella? Want to be with the bad boys now?”
She turned in a wave of fury and spat her words at me. “How dare you? My god, Sirius! Do you have any idea how much you sound like him at the moment? You bloody arrogant fool!”
“Oh yes, aren’t I the fool? And if I sound like him perhaps we should be off to bed right away so you can make love to me, and I will whisper words of love in your ears so I sound like him too. Is that what you want? I mean, perhaps that was the attraction all along. I never saw it myself, but maybe I remind you of him. Merlin! I never thought there would be a time I would ever stoop so low as to want to be Snape. What would you like me to do? Perform an Unforgiveable on you? Would that make you stay with me? Well, would it? Because right now I just can’t see why the bloody hell you’d leave me for him. So tell me! What is it ? Just why would you do this to me?”
She fought back the tears and wiped away the ones that had fallen with the back of her hand. Clearing her throat a little, she began to answer me. “Because he needs me, and you don’t. Because if I go to him, I may be able to stop him becoming the man he detests and fears. Because I may just be able to persuade him to help us and win this damn war If I can just get one decent piece of information then it surely has to be worth it. He needs me, Sirius.”
I filtered through what she had said and responded in anger. “That’s two different answers! Do you do this for duty or love? And as for saying I don’t need you, you lie! You still dare to lie to me! I do need you. More than I ever realised. For Merlin’s sake, Arella, I’ve fallen in love with you!”
She shook her head violently, sobs coming from her lips as she spoke. She raised a hand up to my face and slowly caressed my cheeks with her hand.
“No! You think you do, but you don’t . We are too alike, Sirius. It would end in tears, whichever way we took it. I do this for duty. I do this for the cause. But, yes, I also do this for love. I cannot deny it, Sirius. I have tried so hard to deny I love him. I have tried to forget about him, and pretend he doesn’t exist, but I can’t. I can’t go on pretending any more.”
I pushed away her hand and turned away from her glare, biting my lip to prevent
the welling sobs in my chest from reaching my mouth. She had said it. Finally, she had admitted to what I had always known.
She loved him, and not me.
“Were we just a stop gap? Was I just someone that was there at the right time for you?”
She came up behind me and grasped my shoulders as she turned me around to face her, and she shook me, staring into my eyes all the time she had a hold of me.
“No! You must listen to me and believe me when I say that I do love you Sirius. I really do and I wish with all my heart that things could be different. I adore you. I always have. You have always been there for me when I needed you and these last few weeks have been some of the happiest of my entire life.”
I cupped her face, pushing away the wisps of hair falling to her cheeks.
“Then stay with me. I have money now. We could run away and never come back. We could go tonight, you and me on the bike to who knows where. Somewhere warm and tropical where we could stay out at night and make love outdoors underneath the starlight. We could get married. You could marry me!”
“Don’t be silly, Sirius!”
“We could! I’m not sure about the kids thing, but we could marry and ….”
“Live happily ever after? It doesn’t work like that, Sirius. Not for us.”
“Why not? I t could, I tell you! Where’s your sense of adventure, Rellie? Come with me and love me, not him. I’ll do anything. I beg of you, please!”
“No, Sirius. We can’t just leave everyone behind and start again. What of James and Lily? They need you! What of Frank and Alice? Dumbledore, Remus? There is too much at stake for us all.”
“But you will leave with him! Tell me, how do you plan to meet with him? What will you say? ‘Hello Severus, remember me? How about we discuss Voldemort while you take me to your bed?’ That easy is it?”
“No!” She took her eyes away from my intense gaze and as she spoke in hushed tones my hopes shattered. “He has already told me he wants to see me again. At his place.”
“Already….? You have seen him already? Of course you have. I forgot what a hard worker you are, my dear! Well, congratulations. A mere couple of days and already he has been hooked and reeled in. I must say you are skilled at this. Were you ever going to tell me? Leave me a note perhaps?” My bitterness was now so hard to control, I bit my lip, drawing blood, swallowing the salty liquid as I fought back the sobs that threatened to escape my lips. Arella frowned at my pained expression and her look was one of pity.
“I have thought of nothing else since Thursday, Sirius. Do you think I’m enjoying this? Do you think I wanted to do this? To break your heart? Or mine?”
Finally the resentment made me lose my control and my vitriolic answer was sharp on my tongue and blunt in the air.
“Do not flatter yourself that you break my heart, darling. Many have tried but none have succeeded. I’ll just add another notch to the bedpost when you leave.”
She rubbed her temple, screwing up her eyes as if in pain. “Piss off, Sirius. Why don’t you run back to James and crawl into bed with him. I’m sure he’ll be delighted. This is what he’s wanted all along.”
“Yes. I shall visit James tomorrow and inform him that they were right about you. Him and Lily!”
I took sadistic pleasure in her expression as her face began to crumple at the sound and shock of Lily’s name.
“Lily? What does she say about me? I thought she was my friend.”
I had no emotion left in me for dramatics. The tone of my voice was cold and uncaring, but inside I wanted to plead with her still. “She reads you like a book. She said you would go back to him, and be a Death Eater’s wife like the whore you are. She will be proved right.”
She stared at me for a moment, as the silence surrounded us, and we stood as we had only weeks ago, full of emotion and trepidation. Except it was not for love, but for sorrow and false hatred. I tried to hate her, but I couldn’t. She hesitated for a while, tears streaming down her reddened cheeks. We said nothing, and saw nothing for there was nothing else to say. I watched as, eventually, she silently walked away from me and turned to make her way to the stairs, knowing the next time I saw her it would be as she left me. As she left my line of vision, I sat back down in the chair, as I feared I would collapse without support. The flames still tormented me, but the anger had left me and sorrow had taken its place. I had known we were never meant to be, but just for a few enthralling weeks I was able to pretend with her. It was like the old days, when we used to tease one another, only it had been grown up and sensual. We had played our games and now playtime was over. She was never mine to keep, though I was always hers to love.
But then why did my heart feel so empty? Why did it feel like the end of the world was at my doorstep? Had it really been just a game to us both? I was not convinced. How could I feel the way I felt and not be in love with her? I must have loved her. I knew I did. The clock on top of the mantlepiece ticked away as I sat numbed and silent. I was waiting for the inevitable and, an hour later, the inevitable came. I couldn’t turn around. I couldn’t bear to see her standing before me with a suitcase and a false smile but she made me. I stood up and walked towards the figure before me who’s every word I lived for, and every laugh I loved. I searched her face for some hope, but there was none to be found, and I knew I had lost her forever. My lips began to tremble in unison with hers, and she held out her arms to bring me to her. I could not resist. And there we stood, holding one another in each other’s arms in a warm, loving embrace, though this time it meant goodbye. I breathed in the scent of jasmine in her hair, and then formed the memory of the feel of it against my face. I placed my hand upon the back of her neck to hold her in place, never wanting her to go, never wanting to lose her. Speaking into her hair, I muttered, “Where will you go?”
“Back home, at first.”
“Of course. And then?”
“Don’t ask what you don’t want to hear, Sirius.”
“Yes, eventually. If all goes to plan.”
“I don’t want to lose you.”
But lose her I must, and she began to raise her head, pressing her forehead against mine, her eyes closed. Bringing my hands around to her face, I held her still and looked at her now, scanning every inch of her. She smiled a weak glimmer of a smile and I returned the gesture, though it pained me to do so. I felt the warmth of her breath and prayed she would not leave me, that she would change her mind. But one look into her eyes made me realise I was fighting a losing battle. She was not mine to keep. She cupped my face, and for one last time I kissed her longingly, wishing and hoping, and dreaming of our past. She broke away, and looked at me with pitying eyes.
“I love you, Sirius.”
“I love you too.”
“I wish I had learned to love you years ago.”
“I wish you had never met him. I wish a thousand curses upon his soul. He does not deserve you.”
She placed a solitary finger up to hush my lips and I did as she bid. Looking towards my hairline, she brushed away the strands of hair that blocked her view of my eyes, and kissed my nose. “And I do not deserve you.”
She stepped away from me and, though I held on to her hand as long as I possibly could, she finally broke away from my grasp, and lifted the suitcase from the floor. The final walk to the door was one of the most painful in our lives, and all the time I searched her for something that wasn’t there. She turned the door handle and I winced at the sound. This was final. This was goodbye. I could not let her go without saying goodbye.
“Arella. Promise me one thing.”
“Promise me that if he ever hurts you, if at any time it all becomes too much, that you’ll come back to me. I will always be here for you, if you need me.”
“Oh Sirius. Of course I will. I promise you I will.”
She ran back to my arms and held me tight, her tears running against my skin as she wept. But I held her back, and smiled at her. I could not bear this pain any longer. I opened the door further, and felt the cold chill of the breeze against my warm face. It brought the reality back to me. She had to leave.
“Go. I hope you find what it is you are looking for.”
I don’t know if she ever found it, but she never came back to me, until the night I was brought here, to Azkaban. I didn’t hear if they married, for we lived through secretive and restless times, but I know for sure she did not join Voldemort. She was too good for that. There are so many unanswered questions running around in my head. So many untold answers and no way of knowing the truth. I am languishing here, alone in my confinement in hell with no one for company but the voices in my head.
For they are all I have now. A memory of a lost youth. A distant echo of a past which should, or could have been, if not for them. If not for Pettigrew, James and Lily would still be alive, and I would not be here. If not for Snape, Arella and I could still have been, and lived happily in each other’s company. If not for Voldemort, things could have been so very different for me. For all of us.
So I sit, and I wait, hoping and praying that she is free to help me, like she had said she would. Free from the chains of that detestable man, free to roam wherever her heart takes her, unlike me. I would give anything to be able to be free. I can only dream of how it would be if I could be set free from the powers that keep me here, and their cold empty hearts, if they have a heart at all. I would find her, and search for him, Pettigrew, to bring back some justice to this unfair world of mine. For he is not worthy of freedom. He should be incarcerated for all eternity in hell. He should be here, in my place. In my hell. I will not rest until he is.
And she will come for me. I have to believe that she will. I have to believe that her endeavours will bring about the justice I warrant, that I truly deserve. It is my only hope of sanity as I remain among the poor, insane creatures that surround me. I hear their screams: I can never escape the screams. Or the voices in my head. Justice, and revenge. Revenge and justice. I will not be at peace until I avenge their deaths. I must act, but I am helpless. She must do the work for me, out there somewhere in the world. For she said she would, and despite all that happened, I trust her. I believe in her. I love her, even now. She is my hope, my future, my world, my everything.
There! So ends the story of Arella and Sirius. I hope, sometime soon, to start the other story floating around in my head linked to this story and Veil, which is the story of Arella and Snape, which will follow on directly from this. Until then, I have just released a new story called All you leave behind, which is a new OC and a link to Severus Snape and the Marauders, but not linked to my other stories. If you like Snape and Remus Lupin then I hope you will join me there. Thank you, as ever, for all the support and praise.
UPDATE 01/04/05 - I HAVE JUST LOADED A FOLLOW UP STORY TO THIS CALLED CAUGHT IN THE CROSSFIRE WHICH IS THE SNAPE AND ARELLA STORY. IF YOU ENJOYED THIS THEN FEEL FREE TO JOIN ME THERE TOO!!!
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