Chapter 12- Mending Burned Bridges
A/N: hey there, does anyone remember me! haha, I know, it's been far too long since I've updated, and as always I have excuses-none of which are very good...you know, working 50+ hour weeks and being to tired to think and the like...anyways, here is chapter 12! I really like how this one turned out, so hopefully you guys do too!
DISCLAIMER: c'mon, really? Me own Harry Potter-I wish!
I wanna know if I could be
Someone to turn to that could never hurt you
But I know what you think of me
Yeah, you had a breakthrough
And now I'm just bad news for you
I wish I could be somebody else
Wish I could see you in myself
Wish there was something inside me
To keep you beside me
Say what you really feel
You know I need something that's real
I wish there was something inside me to keep you beside me
Two days later I was standing in front of the mirror, examining my reflection. Admittedly, I looked better than I had in a long time. I was gaining weight, starting to look healthy, and the bruises all over my body had mostly faded. But the scars stood out prominently on my pale skin. I sighed and pulled a long sleeve shirt over my head. The cut on my face was still healing, but it was mostly just a scar now, and the last of my worst bruises were nothing more than shadows on my cheeks. I almost looked normal again.
I grabbed my purse and slipped out of the house. It was the first time I had left in over a month. The sunlight was bright and I squinted, waiting for my eyes to adjust. I made my way to the village, glancing at my house in the distance. I wondered, briefly, how Mack was and how he entertained himself now that I wasn't there to beat up. I pushed him from my mind and continued on my way.
A short while later I was standing in front of The Witch's Crooked Hat. This was the other thing I needed to do if I wanted to keep getting better. I needed to talk to Ziggy and explain about what happened. I owed him that much, after everything he had done for me. I squared my shoulders and went inside.
It was fairly empty, the lunch rush done with. There were a couple of witches in the corner, gossiping, and a wizard at the bar, nursing a glass of firewhiskey. I made my way through the tables, looking for Ziggy. The door to the kitchen opened and Derek came out, carrying a rack of glasses. He stopped when he saw me, as if he couldn't believe his eyes.
"Rian?" he asked.
"Yeah, it's me."
He set the rack of glasses down and walked over to me. He didn't say anything, just pulled me into a hug that I hadn't been expecting. I hugged him back, realizing how much I had missed him. Derek had been more of a brother to me than Mack had ever been. And I was grateful for that. After a long minute, Derek finally let go and took a step back to take a look at me.
"You are a sight for sore eyes," he said, fingers brushing over the scar above my eyebrow. "And a sore sight, at that."
"I'm okay," I said, honestly. "Really."
"Merlin, wait until Ziggy sees you!" He stuck his head through the kitchen door. "Hey, Ziggy, there's someone here for you!" He turned back to me and said, "He's been really down since you left, knew that something bad must have happened to you."
Ziggy came through the door and his eyes found me. His face lit up inexplicably and he started towards me. Much like Derek, he wrapped me in a hug, one that I returned. "I can't tell you how good it is to see you! I thought I might have seen the last of you at the hospital."
"I thought so, too," I said as he let go of me. "But here I am."
"Not a problem anymore," I said. I looked at the two of them curiously. "I'm surprised the Prewetts didn't say anything to you about what happened."
Derek shuffled his feet and Ziggy looked at him, suspiciously. "They told you something, didn't they? You've been very hush hush around me lately when they're here."
"They simply told me about Rian not living at home anymore. They didn't give me the details or anything."
"Well, my dear, I am happy that you are no longer living with that monster," Ziggy said, turning back to me. "Merlin, did that boy have a temper!"
"Yes, he did." I looked down at the floor for a moment before I asked, "Is there some place we can talk privately?"
He nodded and led me through to his office. I sat down and told him about Mack. Told him about why I had quit and why I had needed the job in the first place. Told him everything about the last six years, explaining about the mysterious injuries he had sometimes queried about. He listened to me, never interrupting, waiting for me to finish. And once I had, he surveyed me for a minute before speaking.
"I'm sorry you had to go through that, Rian. If I had known or had even guessed I would have done something," he said. "Although, after your brother showed up I had my suspicions and I tried to see you. Nobody ever answered though, when I went to your house."
"I didn't know how to ask for help when I needed it," I told him. "And, in all honesty, there was a part of me that thought I deserved it."
"I know better," I said and he smiled.
"Well, I'm glad."
We sat there for a second, a comfortable silence filling the air. Then Ziggy asked, "Rian, would you be willing to take your job back? Next summer, when you're finished with school? Not permanently, but until you find something?"
"I would love to come back and work for you," I said, smiling. "Frankly, I'll need all the money I can get."
"Well, it should help that I put the money you left me back in your back account," he said and I frowned at him. "Oh, come now, don't look at me like that. You didn't really expect me to take that money from you? I would never have done that."
"I suppose not."
We spent the better part of the afternoon talking. He told me stories about my dad, from when he would come to the pub. He made me laugh, with the impressions he did of the things my father said. It was nice, to hear good things about my family, and it was just what I had needed. Stories from a better time to remind me that my life had not been all bad. Ziggy was a medicine of his own kind and for that I was eternally grateful.
After I finished talking to Ziggy, I talked to Derek. By the time I had answered all his questions, I was beginning to feel like a broken record. But I felt like I owed it to these people. They deserved to know the truth because they had stood by me, cared about me. I needed to make things right in my own way before I could even begin to forgive myself.
I was sitting behind the bar, helping Derek wipe out glasses, when the door burst open. In ran Sirius, James, and the Prewett twins. They were all panting, as though they had been running a marathon, and they looked wildly around the pub. I exchanged a bewildered look with Derek, wondering what in Merlin's name was going on.
"Hey, guys, can I help you?" Derek asked, but Sirius' eyes had locked with mine and the relief that overcame his face alarmed me.
"Thank bloody Merlin!" he exclaimed and they all rushed over to the bar.
"Are you okay?" Fabian asked worriedly.
My brow furrowed as I looked at the four boys. "I'm fine. Why wouldn't I be?"
"You disappeared! We couldn't find you anywhere and, well, we thought…" Sirius trailed off and a confused look passed over his face. "Sweet Merlin, we thought the worst."
"I've been here all afternoon. I came to see Ziggy and Derek," I said, raising my eyebrows. "What exactly did you think had happened?"
The four boys exchanged rather sheepish looks and didn't answer. Derek let out a half-amused laugh and shook his head. "You thought that Mack had gotten a hold of her again, didn't you?"
"Yeah, something like that," Gideon said, nodding.
"How would he have taken me? He hasn't shown up in the past month," I pointed out. "If he hasn't tried to come after me by now, I highly doubt that he will."
Sirius and James glanced at each other before glancing back at me. "We thought that you might have gone back to your house."
"Why in the bloody hell would I have done that?" I asked, incredulously. "I'm depressed and self-deprecating, not insane and suicidal."
"Look, we just didn't know what to think. You haven't left my house in a month," James said. Fabian and Gideon sank down onto bar stools and Derek placed glasses of firewhiskey in front of them.
I was still failing to see what the big deal was. I looked at Derek, who just shook his head. "I don't understand why my leaving the house made you four run frantically around the village trying to locate me. I thought you would be happy that I wanted to get out. It means that I'm getting better. Or at least that's what I assume it means."
"No, it is a good thing. It's just, well, you didn't tell us you were leaving," Sirius said, taking a sip from his own glass of firewhiskey.
"Are you my mother?" I asked and they all looked slightly offended. "What? I'm sorry, I just don't understand."
"Excuse us for caring about whether or not you getting the shit beat out of you by your deranged brother!" James said indignantly and it was my turn to be offended.
"James, cool down," Fabian said. "What he means is that after everything that's happened, we just like to keep an eye on you."
"They're just worried about you, Rian," Derek said, putting a hand on my shoulder. "They have good reason to be."
"I can manage myself," I said, looking at all of them. "I'm not as fragile as you think."
None of them said anything to that. I felt a slight sinking in my stomach, which confirmed what I had suspected all along. Everyone thought I was weak and that I couldn't take care of myself. Granted, I hadn't done much to prove them wrong, but everything was different now. I could stand up to Mack, if the need should ever arise. I could start fresh, a new life, and I didn't have to worry about anybody following me. I felt like a completely new person. Couldn't they see it?
"Rian, the thing is, you let yourself be abused by a psychopath for six years," Fabian said, carefully. "That doesn't exactly inspire a lot of faith."
"And the situation was different then," I said, shrugging. "I don't have to worry about Mack anymore."
"You've been through a lot. And you haven't even begun to address what happened that night, you know, when Gary—"
"Don't. This is neither the time nor the place," I said, stopping Sirius from going any further. "Look, as much as I appreciate it, I don't need you guys to be watching over my shoulder ever second of every day. You were the ones who told me I needed to start getting out and face the world again."
"But you're trying too much, too fast," Sirius insisted. "It's great that you've started to deal with what's happened to you, but that's only the beginning."
I shook my head, wondering how I could make them understand. I was okay, really okay. I didn't need to be coddled, in fact I much rather preferred being left to my own devices. And then I realized why I didn't understand what the big deal was about. I was still trying to do things the way I had always done them—alone. I was so use to being accountable only to myself and I had forgotten that I wasn't alone anymore. But still, how could they expect me to let them shadow me everywhere? Tell them every little thing that I was doing? That was a ridiculous notion, not to mention one I would not be humoring.
"Listen, I'm sorry I didn't tell you that I was leaving. But I know how I feel and I know that I'm okay. I'm not going to break down into pieces again." I stood up and looked at them. "I'm going back to the house. That is, if it's okay with you all."
I knew that last bit was kind of harsh, but I was peeved. How did they expect to me grow and heal if they wanted to keep me in a bubble? As I walked back to the Potter's I tried to fathom why they thought I needed to be so sheltered. And Sirius, of all people, should have understood. He had gone through this, or something similar to it. He knew what it was like, to have to deal with deranged people. But then, that was all I really knew about it. That he had gone through the same kind of abuse I had. I had no idea how he had handled it after getting out. Maybe that was why he and James had freaked out. Maybe he had taken longer to get to the place where I was and that was why they had hard time believing that I was okay.
When I got back to the Potter's, I found Mrs. Potter in the kitchen. I sat down at the counter and watched her cook for a minute before I spoke. "Can I ask you something?"
She looked up at me, surprised. "Of course."
"It's about Sirius."
"How did he handle getting away from his family?" I asked and she looked at me, a frown forming on her face. "I mean, how did he handle the healing process?"
"Sirius was in a right state when he showed up out of the fireplace. Almost as bad as you," she said and I nodded. "That was last July. He wouldn't talk about it for a long time. James tried everything from leaving him alone to berating him about it. Nothing worked on that boy."
"So what did he do?"
"He seemed content to just not talk about it. You know, pretend like it never happened. But I knew that he wasn't sleeping and that it bothered him." She paused and smiled at me. "He just needed time, like you did. Eventually, I think Sirius figured out that if he didn't talk about it he would never get better. But he never had anyone who could understand what he had been through, not fully."
"So why did he and James freak out when I left today?" I asked, needing to get a straight answer out of someone. "I just went to the village to visit Ziggy and Derek."
"Sirius is very attached to you, my dear. He may not admit it, but I think it's because he's found a connection with you that he has never found with anyone else," she said. "I think he's afraid that you don't want him because of your shared pasts. And I think when they couldn't find you today he just got pushed past his limit."
"I still don't understand."
"Rian, Sirius has known about Mack since last summer. I've always suspected something was wrong, but Sirius knew. And he kept insisting that something wasn't right ever since the summer holidays started." She paused, collecting her thoughts. "With Sirius, it's always the worst case scenario. He tends to jump to conclusions."
"They don't give me enough credit," I said. "I mean, I know that I haven't given much reason for faith, but do they honestly think I'd be as stupid as to go back?"
Mrs. Potter looked at me for second before smiling kindly. "They're just concerned about you, Rian. What they don't realize is that you are used to fending for yourself. And you are much stronger than anyone knows."
"Sirius says that I'm trying too much, too fast," I told her.
"What do you think?"
"I think I'm okay. And that I can handle it."
"I'd have to say that I thought that all along."
She smiled and patted my hand, then left the kitchen. Now that I didn't have to constantly worry about people finding out my big, bad secret I was finding that I had a whole array of other problems. The biggest of those problems was getting four over protective boys to lay off. But I wasn't sure how to show them that I was okay.
I thought about what had made me want to start to heal. And I knew it was because of Sirius and his midnight visit. He had shown me the connection we shared and I had begun to rebuild all of my bridges except for the one with him. And that made me wonder. Why hadn't I tried to fix our relationship yet? If there was one person, out of all of them, who deserved a genuine and heartfelt apology from me, it was Sirius. He had been the person to really get me through because I wasn't sure if I would have been so ready to accept the healing if he hadn't shown me the marks of his abuse. And that was really what had done it. He had given up a part of himself for me, in a way that could make or break a person. And I hadn't thanked him yet.
So maybe I had been going about this all wrong. I had thought that I needed to start by apologizing to everyone and that had helped, but I still felt like I was missing something. Maybe it was because I needed to apologize to one person more than the others.
I felt self conscious and awkward sneaking through the Potter's house well after midnight. But I didn't know how else to corner Sirius without letting everyone know what I was up to. This was between the two of us, something that didn't concern the rest of them. I paused outside his door, wondering if this was really the right thing to do. It certainly couldn't hurt.
The doorknob twisted easily at my hand and the door swung open silently. I closed it softly behind me and moved silently into the room. I could make out Sirius on the bed, a dark lump underneath the covers. He was breathing heavily and tossing about, as though he was having a bad dream. I pulled a chair over to his bedside and watched him as he mumbled in his sleep. He was agitated about something and I wondered what was going on in his head. Before I knew what I was doing, I had reached out and grabbed his hand, trying to soothe him.
And the strangest thing was, he calmed down. He stopped thrashing around and his breathing evened out. I wasn't sure if it was a coincidence or not and I didn't really care. He slept on for a while longer and I was content to just watch him. When I tried to pull my hand out of his, he tightened his grasp. He looked very much at peace and I wondered how long it had been since he had slept without the nightmares.
Eventually, he woke up. No doubt from the fact that I was watching him. "Hey, is everything okay?" he asked groggily, when he realized that it was me sitting there. He let go of my hand and I pulled it back, consciously aware of the awkward air between us.
"Yeah, everything's fine."
"What are you doing here?" He sat up, rubbed his eyes, and looked at me.
"I never thanked you for saving me," I said and he frowned. "I mean, what you did for me…I don't think I could ever find an adequate way to repay you."
"Look, you don't have to thank me or apologize or anything," he said. There was a sort of pained guilt in his voice that took me aback.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that I should have done more," he said, looking away from me. "I knew what was happening and I shouldn't have let you push me away. I was almost too late."
"Sirius, I don't blame you, in the slightest," I said, but he just shook his head. "Listen to me. You saved me, you are the reason that I'm not at the mercy of my brother anymore. The abuse and everything else, that's on me."
"You don't understand. I should have made you listen, made you leave, made you do something. Instead I just stood around like some dumb kid." He wouldn't look at me, just stared sullenly at the blanket.
I moved from the chair to the bed and turned his face towards mine. "You have done more than enough for me. How can I make you see that?"
He put his hands over mine. "You were almost raped because I couldn't muster up the courage to force you to see what you were putting yourself through," he said quietly and my breath caught in my chest for a second at the mention of that night. "What kind of Gryffindor does that make me?"
I sighed and said, "I was almost raped, and worse, because I was too prideful and stupid to ask for help. What kind of Gryffindor does that make me?" I asked and he smiled, albeit reluctantly.
"I'm sorry for freaking out today. I just don't want to lose you again," he said, his voice barely louder than a whisper. I could hear the pain and desperation in his voice and I knew that I had caused it. And I knew that I didn't deserve another chance, but that he was offering it.
"You won't," I said, just as softly. "I promise."
"You can't promise something like that," he said, a small smile gracing his lips.
"I'll do my best."
We sat there, our faces so close they were almost touching. I don't know who moved first, me or him, or if we moved in at the same time. I dunno if we had both been thinking the same thing. All I know is that in the next moment we were kissing, softly. The kiss deepened and Sirius brought his hand up to cup the back of my head. I held onto his shoulders, pulled him closer to me, and all I wanted was to drown in him. Just as I shifted to press even closer to him, he broke the kiss and pulled back from me.
"What's wrong?" I asked, worried that I had done something wrong. Worried that this kiss was only a spur of the moment sort of thing.
"I don't want to pressure you into something that you don't want," he said.
I looked away from him. I knew what he really meant. "You don't want this."
I stood up and turned away from him. My head was still reeling from the kiss and I was still processing what had just happened. Maybe this was the sign that I wasn't meant to be with Sirius. I had screwed things up, maybe too much for there to be any hope. The more I thought this, the less likely it seemed that we could have something again. And why would he want to be with me? There didn't seem to be a logical answer in my mind.
But I wasn't more than three steps away when Sirius said, "Rian, please, don't go."
I stopped, frozen to the spot. "Why not?"
I heard some rustling and then he was turning me around, gently, to face him. "I want this, but only if you do too." He stared down at me.
I couldn't meet his eyes. "How could you want to be with me, after all that happened?"
"Rian, you have to get over this ridiculous notion that you don't deserve to be happy," he said, tilting my chin up to look at him. "Your brother is a deranged psycho who doesn't know what he's talking about. You deserve to be happy, just like everyone else."
"Then how come it doesn't feel like it?" I asked. "How come every time I think about it I feel like I will never be happy? Like James or the Prewetts or everyone else?"
"Nobody is completely happy," he said. "And it feels like you won't be because life hasn't taught you otherwise. But give it some time, eventually you'll start to feel like anything's possible."
"How can you be so sure?"
"I never thought I'd find anyone who would understand what I've gone through," he said, smiling at me. "And yet, here you are. You get it. And that means more than I can tell you."
"And none of it bothers you?" I asked, skeptically. "Not the abuse or trust issues, none of it?"
"No," he said. "Not as long as I know there's someone who understands."
But I couldn't believe that. And then I did something so completely out of character that it shocked the both of us. Before my brain caught up to my body, I had pulled my shirt off, exposing my battered body. I should have been mortified that I was standing, practically topless, in front of Sirius. But I was too determined to prove him wrong to care.
"This doesn't bother you?" I asked harshly, spreading my arms and turning round so that he got the full view. "This doesn't disgust you and make you want to turn away? You don't think that they're ugly? Because I know they are and you can't ignore that."
He stared at me for a long moment, eyes raking over my scars, taking in the gruesome sight that I was. Then he responded in a way that I hadn't expected. He pulled his own shirt off and stood there, show casing his own abuse for me. "Do my scars make you want to turn away in disgust, Rian?" he asked, but he wasn't mocking me, as I half-expected him to. He was merely asking. "Do they make you want to run away from me? Do they make me ugly?"
I had no answer for him. His scars didn't bother me the way mine did. The way I assumed mine bothered other people. His scars were a part of him, a part of who he was. They didn't make him ugly—not much could make Sirius ugly—and I wasn't disgusted by them. I understood his point well enough, but that didn't mean I was going to accept it. And he seemed to know this because he continued on.
"Listen, I know what it feels like, feeling like you'll be unwanted as soon as someone sees the imperfections. I'll tell you that I've broken up with girls because they wanted a little under the clothes action." He took a step closer to me, my eyes unable to look away from him. "I was afraid that once they knew they wouldn't want me anymore. And let's face it, most girls only dated me for my reputation."
"Why are you telling me this?" I asked.
"Because you're the first girl I've wanted to show my scars to," he said. "A few of them found out. Hands slipped beneath shirts, intense moments when I wasn't fully in control of myself…I always brushed off their questions and almost always broke up with them shortly thereafter."
I wanted so badly to trust him, to give in and follow him blindly. But it wasn't jumping off the cliff that scared me, it was falling and not knowing if someone would be there to catch me. Though, I suppose Sirius had already caught me a few times when I was least expecting to be rescued. So maybe I should have given him the benefit of the doubt.
"I don't want you to blame yourself," I said.
"I don't want you to blame yourself," he replied and a ghost of a smile flitted across my lips.
"Fair enough," I said.
We stood there, facing each other, for a moment longer. Then Sirius opened his arms and I found myself stepping into his embrace. His arms wrapped protectively around me and I never wanted him to let go.
A/N: so there you are! please review and let me know what you think! actually, the reviews are what reminds me that I haven't updated, so there's a little more incentive...I think :/