A/N: this is a teen fic that I just had an urge to write. This chapter is all about the sisters, but the next chapter will involve Lily and the Marauders. Just so you know, the sisters live in England, not San Francisco.
Paige stared at the portrait of the old man, tensely waiting. His eyes bore into her as she began to lose her confidence. Crossing her arms, she turned to her older sisters. "I know you don't believe me," she said, "but I know what I saw, and I saw him move." Her voice became quieter as she commented to herself, "I swear that he moved." She glanced back at the old man, hoping that she would catch a shift in his position. The man was still. Paige wanted to cry out in frustration, but that wouldn't help her. Instead she scowled at the portrait.
"Paige," Prue began, "you were probably tired. Your eyes played tricks on you."
Paige looked up at her eighteen-year-old sister. "You don't believe me. Just say it. You think I'm crazy, don't you?" Her eyes accused her two other sisters.
"We don't think you're crazy," Piper assured her. "But you haven't seen the picture move again, so it was probably just your imagination."
Phoebe snorted. "Speak for yourself, sis." She looked coldly at Paige. It was a well-known fact that Phoebe resented her eleven-year-old sister. She had been that way ever since the age of four, when Paige had been born. Phoebe always did everything that she could to ensure that Paige suffered.
Paige had to force herself to look away from Phoebe. A lump was beginning to form in her throat. She just didn't understand why Phoebe hated her so much. Prue and Piper had always treated her kindly, but Phoebe acted like Paige was an intruder instead of her sister.
"Phoebe, maybe you should leave," Prue said.
"Gladly," Phoebe said with a crooked smile. She could see that Paige was inches from tears, and that made her quite proud. "I have better things to do than listen to Paige's ramblings." She then turned and went down the attic stairs.
"You know, you were probably right," Paige managed to say. "I only got a quick glance, and it was pretty dark. Sorry I brought you up here for nothing." She wanted to be alone. She hated crying in front of her sisters, and she didn't think that she would be able to hold back her tears much longer.
Prue saw the real issue easily. "Don't let her get you down," she said softly and put her arm around Paige. "Phoebe is an angry, mixed up person. It's not about you at all."
"I know," Paige whispered, trying to hide the tears that had started to fall from her eyes. "I just want to be alone now."
"Okay, sweetie," Prue said. She and Piper left.
Paige slid down to the floor, crying silently. Why did Phoebe resent her so much? What had she done to deserve this? Paige often tried to discover the reasoning behind Phoebe's hatred of her, but she had never come up with a motive. She had tried to get Phoebe to like her, but it seemed that nothing could be done.
Once she had cried all the tears that she had, she looked at the three paintings that hung on the walls that encased the stairway landing. The landing was the only part of the attic that could be accessed. There was no door into the attic; it had been sealed off long ago. Paige often wondered if there was a door behind one of the three paintings, but she had never been able to take any of the paintings off the wall. The old man, the cloaked figure, and the ghostly form were stuck to the walls, though Paige couldn't tell how.
The paintings of the cloaked figure and the ghostly form had always rather frightened Paige. Not being able to see their faces was what really bothered her. She could tell that they were both women, but any other features were indistinguishable. The cloaked figure was in a darkened forest while the ghost was in an ethereal wasteland that was shrouded by fog. Those settings were quite disturbing, but there was another thing about the paintings that made Paige fear them.
Paige was an insomniac, like her grandmother. She was often up late at night while everyone else was asleep. She liked to wander the house, basking in the tranquility and silence. Usually she would return to her room after an hour of wandering. Her bedroom was located right next to the stairway to the attic, and as she was returning to her bedroom one night when she was seven, Paige had heard voices in the attic. Phoebe had often made fun of Paige because she wasn't the most daring of all people. In order to prove Phoebe wrong, Paige had gone up the attic stairs. She could clearly remember the conversation she had heard as she had climbed the stairs, her heart thumping and her breathing shallow.
"…the question is, will they enter the wizarding world?" a mature masculine voice had said.
"I don't see why not," a young feminine voice had replied. "They have every right."
"Obviously they won't," a second feminine voice had argued. "Piper's twelve, Phoebe is eleven, and Prudence is fourteen. They would have been accepted by now."
"Penny accidentally blocked more power than she should have," the man had said. "But that doesn't mean that they will be barred from our world once they reach their powers."
At this point, Paige had reached the top of the stairs. She had flicked on the lights to discover that no one was there. She had stood there, dumbfounded, before descending the stairs again.
Paige still sometimes heard three voices talking somewhere in the attic. At first, Paige had concluded that the attic was haunted. But after seeing the portrait of the old man move, she was beginning to think that the paintings could take on their own lives. Eyeing the paintings, she found that that wasn't a very comforting idea. She stood up and made to leave. Suddenly she turned around and said, "I know you three can move and talk, and I am going to catch you in the act." She put on a formidable look and started down the stairs. Halfway down, she heard a chuckle and a murmured word that she didn't quite catch. But she didn't look back.
"Paige is losing it," Phoebe announced as she entered the kitchen.
"Shut it, Pheebs," Prue said, entering behind her. "Paige is not losing it. I don't appreciate you talking about her like that. She's your sister."
"Half sister," Phoebe corrected. "And not by choice."
"Leave Paige alone," Piper said firmly as she too arrived in the kitchen.
Grams cleared her throat, attracting the sisters' attention. "Would you care to explain the situation with Paige?"
Phoebe motioned towards Prue. Prue glared at her sister. "Paige thought that she saw the painting move," Prue said. "Phoebe chose to make a big deal about it and made Paige cry again."
"Paige always cries," Phoebe said.
"You make a game out of crushing her feelings," Prue said angrily.
"Which painting?" Grams interrupted, trying to prevent any further bickering.
"The one of the old man," Piper said. "Why does it matter?"
"I was trying to get you back on the subject," Grams said. "I don't need any more fighting from you two. Prue, she's baiting you. You know that."
"Sorry, Grams," Prue said.
Phoebe stared bitterly at her grandmother. She was used to Grams talking as if she wasn't there. It was one of her tactics, as Phoebe well knew. "I wasn't baiting her. I was speaking the truth."
"It's your interpretation of the truth, Phoebe, and your interpretation has little to with reality," Grams said. "Now, just leave your sisters alone."
"I will if they do the same for me," Phoebe responded and left the room.
Grams sighed wearily and shook her head. "That girl will be the death of me."
"Not if I get to her first," Prue said. "Grams, Piper and I will finish making dinner. You're stressed out enough."
Grams smiled at Prue. "You're so much like your mother," she murmured. "I just wish that you didn't have to grow up so fast."
"Go relax," Prue commanded and shooed her out.
Grams climbed the stairs to the second floor and went up to Paige's door. She briefly considered going up to the attic, but decided against it as she thought of Paige. Paige was likely very distressed and confused. Grams had to make sure that she was fed the correct beliefs. Guilt tugged at her heart. She didn't want to lie to her granddaughter, but she really had no choice. Paige wasn't a witch yet, and she didn't need the burden of the truth. "Paige?" she said as she knocked. "May I come in?"
"Sure," Paige's voice replied.
Grams opened the door. Paige was sitting on her bed, a large photo album resting in her lap. Grams knew that Paige liked to look at the old pictures whenever she got upset.
"I suppose you came to talk about the painting," Paige said, fiddling with the album cover distractedly. "And I'm not going to take back what I said. I know that there's something weird about those paintings."
"I didn't come to talk about that," Grams assured her. She sat down on the bed. "I came to talk about Phoebe."
Paige hugged the photo album to her chest and bit her lip. "I don't really want to talk about her right now."
"Paige, Phoebe has been struggling with her anger for a while," Grams said, "and she doesn't know how to deal with herself or her feelings. She's taking her anger out on you, but you don't have to allow her to do that."
"I try to talk to her," Paige said. "I want to help her. I know she misses mom and Victor…"
"You can't handle Phoebe's emotions," Grams told her. "She doesn't want to feel any better. She wants to make someone suffer for what happened. It's not your duty to save her, Paige."
"She hates me."
"She doesn't hate you. She hates her own pain, but she can't deal with it. I'm trying to deal with her. Don't worry about saving her." She stroked Paige's hair. "Just worry about yourself."
"It seems that I have to worry a lot," Paige said. "I have no idea if I really did see the old man move."
"It's the way it was painted," Grams said, playing out the lie carefully. "It's meant to be illusionary and life-like. Sometimes I glance at the portrait quickly and think that he moved. I guess that's what the artist wanted."
"Oh," responded Paige. "I guess you think I'm pretty dumb, huh?"
"Not at all," Grams said with a small smile. "Illusions trick us all. Now come along. The spaghetti should be done by now."
"So, Paige, did you see any other things moving around?" Phoebe asked while they sat at the table.
"No…" Paige muttered, blushing. She gazed down at her plate, hoping that Phoebe wouldn't say anything more. She had been so stupid. Why had she brought Phoebe up to look at the painting? She had been so caught up in her baffled excitement that she hadn't even thought of what Phoebe would say. Paige was never going to live this down. Phoebe would hound her with this forever.
"Phoebe, let's not get into that," Grams said, unspoken warning mixed into her miffed tone. "We're going to have a nice family dinner. Is that clear?"
"Crystal," Phoebe said pleasantly.
Prue jumped in with talk about her college in order to maintain a relatively agreeable ambiance. Piper threw in a few comments here and there while Phoebe and Paige remained silent.
Phoebe watched her younger sister intently. Every time Paige dared to look up, she caught Phoebe's gaze, which made her even more uncomfortable. There was a pleading in Paige's eyes that almost got to Phoebe. Once or twice, her scowl faded as she watched Paige. But she quickly brought back her anger, reminding herself that Paige was the bane of her existence. Paige pretended to be an innocent child, but she was a manipulator. Her birth had led to the end of all family unity. Phoebe hated her with every fiber of her being.
However, she could not bear to look Paige any longer. Such great hatred was incredibly draining. Without saying a word, Phoebe left the table, ignoring Prue's call. She went up the stairs, feeling the beginnings of pain deep within her. She always numbed the pain with anger, but it didn't seem to be working this time. She blinked away her tears and reached for her door handle.
"You almost gave us away, Albus!" a feminine voice hissed from up in the attic. "I know that you get restless, but she almost caught you."
Phoebe gasped and turned towards the attic stairs.
"Melinda, Penny convinced her that she was only seeing an illusion," the one called Albus said. "I won't move a muscle the next time she comes here. Besides, you're the one who laughed as she was leaving."
Phoebe's eyes bulged as the conversation continued. Cautiously, she made her way over to the attic door.
"Oh, that doesn't matter," Melinda replied crossly. "She has already heard us before."
"As far as she's concerned, we're ghosts," a third voice said. "So that is what we have to be. We're ghosts, got that?"
"Hey!" Phoebe called as she threw open the door and turned on the lights. She charged up the stairs, but there was no one there. Pressing her ear against the wall, she listened intently. Not a sound was a heard.
"Got it," Albus whispered.
Phoebe backed away from the wall in surprise. Where had that voice come from? Suddenly, Phoebe stepped back onto thin air. She yelped as she plummeted down the stairs and crashed into the door. It swung completely open. Phoebe lay on the ground, in pain and dazed… not a very good combination.
"Phoebe!" Prue appeared above her.
"Fell," Phoebe mumbled. All the other members of her family circled around her. They pulled her up carefully. "I'll be fine." The ability to move returned to her and she rubbed her smarting head. A bump was forming.
Grams looked Phoebe over but found no cause for alarm. "What were you doing up in the attic?"
"I…" She thought. "I don't know." She couldn't remember why she had been up there. It seemed like the fall had jarred the memory out of her.
"Well, let's get some ice on that bump…"
Grams and Prue led Phoebe to her room as Piper went to get some ice. Paige stood at the bottom of the stairs, looking up the old man.
"You're just an illusion," she whispered as she turned off the light and shut the door. "You're not real." If only she could truly believe that.
Phoebe's eyes flicked over to Paige, who was standing in the doorway. "What?" she snapped impatiently. She was not in the mood to deal with Paige.
"I was just wondering if you wanted anything…" Paige said, face downward. She was being submissive again, but she could do nothing to change that. It was much easier to submit to Phoebe's will.
"No one is here, Paige. You don't have to put on your little act." She paused and switched gears. "I want you to leave, preferably forever, but I can't always get what I want," Phoebe said, a cruel smirk playing on her lips.
Paige looked up and stared deep into her sister's cold eyes. She balled her hands into fists as repressed fury began to creep up to the surface. She burned with rage that she could no longer deny. "You are the most horrible person I have ever met."
Phoebe let out a little laugh and rolled her eyes.
"You hate me because you need someone to blame for all your losses. You miss mom. You blame me for Victor leaving, but it's not my fault! I didn't choose to be born from an affair. I didn't choose this!" Paige yelled.
"You about finished now?" Phoebe asked, bored.
"Freebie!" The word escaped Paige's lips. Paige clasped her hand over her mouth too late, eyes wide with horror. She had actually said that… She could hardly believe it.
Phoebe's smirk turned sour as she leapt up and slapped Paige. Paige stumbled back, mouth opening and closing wordlessly.
"I'm sorry, Phoebe…" she whispered.
Phoebe shook her head, disgusted. She could have no respect for this girl. She had no strength. "Get out of my house," she said calmly. She suddenly realized that she had power over Paige. She could command her to do anything, and Paige would not disobey. She was spineless. Phoebe felt a slightly giddy sensation as Paige ran to her room. She liked having power over her. She liked it a lot.
Paige threw her things haphazardly into the backpack. She couldn't think. She barely even knew what she was doing. She only knew that she wanted to get away from all the hate. She touched her hot cheek. That was a pain that she deserved. Satisfied with what she had packed, she spun around and ran down to the front door. Where was she going? The question was logical, but she felt no need to provide an answer. Her feet continued to move her forward as she scampered down the road. She didn't look back at the house, but if she had, she would have seen Phoebe watching her. And she would have seen something that Phoebe wouldn't have wanted her to see.
She would have seen guilt.
Phoebe paced in her room. Night was falling; Grams, Prue, and Piper would be back soon. Paige still hadn't shown up. Phoebe had been sure that she would come back after an hour or so. It was just a game they played… But now it was clear that the game was over. Paige had really run away, and it was Phoebe's fault. She stopped pacing and ran her hand through her hair. "God, I didn't mean it. Why did she have to take it seriously? She's so spineless!" She was trying to pin this all on Paige, but she knew that it was largely her fault. What was she going to do? She was going to lie her ass off, that was what.
"Paige! Phoebe!" Grams called out.
Phoebe emerged from her room and descended the stairs, trying to not appear guilty. She was a bad girl, but she couldn't keep a secret. She just had to stop herself from giving away this particular secret. It wasn't going to be easy…
"Where's Paige?" Prue questioned.
"How should I know?" Phoebe responded, successfully maintaining her usual tone.
"You should know because we left her with you," Prue said. "In retrospect, that was probably a mistake. She's in this house, correct?"
Phoebe didn't answer. Piper climbed up the stairs to get to Paige's room.
"Correct?" Prue repeated.
"No. Not correct," Phoebe spoke.
Prue grasped her younger sister's shoulders firmly. "Phoebe, what happened to Paige?" she said, speaking slowly and carefully. Her nails bit into Phoebe's exposed skin.
"She's not upstairs," Piper said worriedly as she reappeared.
"She ran away." Phoebe winced at her self-betrayal.
"You didn't try to stop her?" Grams said.
For once, Phoebe remained silent.
"Did she say where she was going?" Grams demanded.
"No. Oddly, she didn't want me to follow."
"If anything happens to Paige, it's going to be on you, Phoebe," Prue said.
"Dear, how will I ever live with that?" Phoebe sighed. A defiant smirk appeared on her face.
"You won't," Prue said threateningly.
A bit of Phoebe's confidence died out and her smile faded.
"Should we call the police?" Piper asked Grams.
"I doubt that those muggles will be able to do anything, but that's probably what we should do," Grams said.
"Muggles?" Prue repeated.
"It's nothing, dear. But we'll also have to make an effort. We'll have to search for her on our own. She couldn't have gotten too far, so we'll just search the neighborhood." She paused as a thought crossed her mind. "Unless… unless she got on the bus."
"Oh my God. She could be anywhere," Piper said frantically as Prue called the police.
Grams turned back to Phoebe. "Did you see her get on the bus?"
"Yes," Phoebe found herself whispering. Paige really could be anywhere. This was all her fault. Waves of guilt washed over her, erasing all angry pretenses. She had never meant for this to happen. She didn't want Paige to be gone. If she was lost or hurt… A million scenarios flashed across her mind. It would be easy for anyone to take advantage of Paige. She was young and delicate. She could be killed… and she would die believing that Phoebe hated her. The situation was becoming very real to her. She swallowed hard and tried to control her breathing.
"Are you going to help us?" Grams questioned sharply.
Paige walked along the streets of London. She was starting to see that she had made the stupidest decision ever. She shouldn't have left home. She had had no good reason to run away. She had done it because Phoebe had told her to. Paige mentally kicked herself. She was all alone, and she had brought it on herself. She just wanted to go home, back where she could be safe. She could get onto the bus and this would be all over…
All of a sudden, she was grabbed. She started to scream, but the person who had her muttered something, and she found that she no longer had a voice. She tried to strike the person, but he was holding too tight. Paige was completely helpless. God, someone help me!
Everything went black.
A/N: review if you want more. If no one reviews, I won't bother with the story.
Preview: I have actually written a second chapter for this story. In the next chapter, Lily's whitelighter forces her to help James, Remus, and Sirius make a potion, though she'd much rather see them die. The search for Paige continues, and Paige discovers that she has been kidnapped, but she also finds that it isn't too bad. Interested?
"Language, Evans. I thought you were a lady," James said disapprovingly.
"And I thought I told you to shut up," Lily said. "I would do anything for some duct tape right now."
James's eyebrows shot up.
"Don't even say a word," Lily told him.