DECEMBER 24TH 1993
Georjaina had not had a full size tree in her home since her Aunt Gina had passed. She didn't really want to even put one up this year but Barbara and a few of the other ladies came round one day with boxes full of Christmas decorations, insistent that the holidays would help cheer her up. She had half expected to feel better than she had in years now that she knew he was alive and okay but dark thoughts still plagued her, especially at night. What if he was hurt and she wasn't there to help? What if he disappeared again? What if she stopped jumping suddenly?
Several times over the months she had sat on the edge of her bed, a jumper in her hand, readying herself to go banging down the door of the Shrieking Shack and forcing her assistance on him, whatever that may mean, but there was always a sharp warning that reminded her of when he asked too much when he was younger. She was afraid of interfering too much and pushing him away, or else distracting him to the point that he got hurt because of it.
Whatever it was he was doing seemed extremely important to him and she knew deep down that she didn't have the right to force him to do anything. So she attempted to go about her life. She made sandwiches regularly and kept them in a much smaller bag on her shoulder. She even found an excellent charm that cooled the inside of the bag and allowed her to keep the sandwiches and other small items of food fresh for days longer. Even still, it got to the point of ridiculous and she decided that the next time she jumped she was going to tell him, no matter what he said, that she was going to leave food for him in the woods outside the Shack.
Georjaina sat at the kitchen table alone on Christmas Eve, watching the small tree she had decorated hover and spin slowly a few inches from the table top. She had turned all the other house lights off so that she could appreciate the fairy lights hidden amongst the pine needles as they winked and blinked at her in passing. A soft knock on the front door roused her and she frowned, thinking that it couldn't be Barbara, who always used the kitchen door.
'It's us,' she heard a male voice call as she approached the door and she sighed in relief, pulling it open for Paul and Allison. They were heavily bundled up, their arms full of different packages and bags.
'We're never taking the train again!' Allison exclaimed as she came in and she went straight to the kitchen.
'She begged me to get off at almost every station and just Apparate,' Paul told Georjaina as he bent down to kiss her cheek. 'Sorry we're unannounced.'
'I don't mind,' Georjaina replied with a small smile. She hadn't expected them but found their presence was most welcome. She shut the door again as Paul followed his girlfriend into the next room and when she joined them she found Allison had already made herself at home. The lights were back on, she had shed her winter clothing onto one of the chairs, and she was unwrapping several dishes of food.
'I just ate,' Georjaina said as she came to the other girl's side.
Allison gave her a look. 'You look like you could eat some more.'
Paul tried to hold his grin back as he removed his own coat. They hadn't been to the house in months and she could see he was subtly taking everything in around him. Georjaina silently went into her bedroom and returned several moments later with two wrapped packages.
'I was going to bring these to you later,' she said, handing them to Paul.
'Under the tree!' Allison snapped when she saw he was about to open them. She grabbed one of the bags she had brought in and pulled out a few more packages, sliding them onto the table.
Georjaina sighed but she was smiling as she went to sit at the table again. If Allison was in the kitchen there was no point in attempting to do anything to help.
An hour later they were all sitting together in the living room, Georjaina and Allison on the couch, and Paul seated on the floor between them. She had opened up a few bottles of wine and they were snacking on some of the crackers and cheese Allison had brought. The lights were off again but the fire burning in the grate across the way lit the room well.
'Have you heard from your families recently?' Georjaina asked, her cheeks warm from the wine.
Allison shook her head. 'We told them not to expect us home for two years, even on holidays.'
'She likes planes as much as she likes trains,' Paul said as explanation, sharing a look with Georjaina.
'If I could Apparate across the ocean I would,' Allison replied, popping a square of cheese into her mouth.
'Do you have any family?' Paul asked Georjaina and she hesitated. She had told them about her Aunt Gina and had mentioned her parents in passing, but she knew he wasn't referring to them.
'Not really, no.' She saw Paul exchange a look with Allison and she looked between the two of them questionably. 'What is it?'
'We're your friends, remember,' Allison started, distracting herself as she swirled her wine around in her glass. 'So you can't think we didn't notice what you were upset about that day in August, when we saw the paper about that prisoner that escaped.'
Georjaina hesitated again, taken aback. She had thought that if they were going to bring that up they would have done so months ago. Judging by their behavior they had spoken about it amongst themselves, probably on several occasions. She looked down at her wine glass suspiciously, wondering if this entire thing had been a ploy to loosen her up.
'I know him, alright?' she snapped a little, figuring there was no use denying it. 'It was just a really big surprise, that's all.'
'Are you related to him?' Paul asked.
'No. But I've known him…most of his life.'
Allison frowned at her. 'That was a really weird thing to say.'
Georjaina stared back at her but didn't reply. If she told them more she would have to tell them everything.
'But you're okay, right?' Paul asked after a little bit and she looked back to him instead. He wasn't usually very tactful but he always seemed to be more perceptive of her feelings when Allison started to get pushy.
Georjaina sighed. 'I'm fine,' she replied, taking a long drink from her glass. It made her head feel light.
'What was that?' Allison gasped and Georjaina frowned over at her. 'Your hand!'
This time she felt the spark and she dropped her glass; it bounced off the couch and onto the floor, the rest of her wine splashing across the rug. Georjaina stood quickly and backed away from them.
'I, uh…I'll be back,' she said quickly. 'I don't know when but don't worry.' She felt her stomach give a nasty lurch as the floor began to tilt. She glanced up, looking from one to the other of their worried faces, and she tried to smile as she fell back…
She hit the floor hard, her head spinning, but she thankfully didn't feel sick. She knew where she was before she even looked around. The entire Shack smelled of dust and old, moldy fabric. She coughed several times, attempting to catch her breath as the dust swirled up around her, and then she sat up.
At first she thought she was alone but as she stood, her eyes beginning to adjust to the darkness, she noticed a large bump in the middle of the bed across the room. Smiling slightly she approached it and found Sirius was fast asleep, only part of his face visible from beneath one of the blankets she had brought him. This reminded her forcefully of the last time she had jumped three years ago but she didn't feel the same inclination to slip in beside him. So many things had changed, they were both so different now, and she wondered vaguely if he was capable of such affection anymore.
She looked around the room wearily, wondering if she should just leave but that felt like a waste. It was much colder in here than the last time she had come and she grabbed the second blanket she had brought him, which was laying folded at the end of the bed, and she moved to pull it up over him as well. But as she did so he mumbled something that sounded like her name.
'What?' she whispered, leaning toward him. 'Sirius, are you awake?'
She saw his leg kick out from the corner of her eye but he didn't open his eyes and she put a gentle hand on his shoulder.
He gasped awake with a shout, his arms flailing about. She tried to back away but wasn't fast enough and she heard him growl out a curse as the back of his hand made contact with the side of her face and she toppled over onto the floor.
'Get away from me!' he shouted, sounding half mad as he slid off the other side of the bed and crouched down behind it.
Georjaina stayed down where she had fallen, feeling her chest grip in fear as she held the side of her aching face. She could hear his fast breathing and his legs shifting on the floor as he looked around the room.
'Who's there?' he growled, his voice rough. She heard him slide something off the side table and panic seared through her as she realized it was probably the knife. 'I will find you!'
She thought fast, her mind racing with emotions and panic. He had seemed so sensible the last two times she had visited him but what if he really had become unhinged in that awful place and he was only putting on a face before. She attempted to sit up but gasped in pain as her head throbbed from the movement.
He must have heard her because there was more scuffling from his side of the bed and then came the sound of his footsteps, meaning that he had stood. She backed into the wall when she heard his approach and it was several moments after he stopped before she looked up again. Sirius was standing over her, the knife still in his hand and a strange, hard look on his face.
'You're real,' he said and it wasn't really a question. He kept staring down at her as he repeated the words a few times and then he took a step forward and she scrambled back from him. He stopped short again, realization flashing across his face, and then he tossed the knife onto the bed. 'Jaina?'
She was still holding her head, her knees pulled up to her chest as she looked up at him. He was frowning as he hesitated and then knelt down in front of her.
'Did I hurt you?' he asked quietly. She could feel herself shaking and she still didn't really want him close but as she looked into his face and she saw the guilt and sorrow there, she slowly lowered her hand.
'I'm okay,' she replied.
Sirius bowed his head, shaking it. 'I thought…I still think all the time that I'm still there. I dream about it every night.' He looked up at her again, his eyes dark. 'Sometimes when I saw you there you said…horrible things to me. That you hated me, that you didn't want to see me again, that you wished you had let me drown…'
Georjaina closed her eyes for a moment, willing herself not to cry. The way he spoke about it….it wasn't like he dreamt of her or imagined her there, he actually thought she had been there. She had actually been his imaginary friend.
'I would never say those things,' she replied, sitting up a little more. 'You know that.'
He nodded and looked down again. 'I'm sorry. I'm sorry that I hurt you and I'm sorry that I cut you before.'
She didn't reply. Instead she concentrated on taking long, slow breaths to calm herself, looking around. 'When is this?'
'I think the end of January. They started to take down the Christmas lights in the village,' he replied, looking grateful that she had changed the subject.
She nodded. 'It's my Christmas Eve. Our time lapse is getting shorter.'
He looked a little surprised as he realized this as well and then she saw he was looking around her for something.
'I didn't bring the bag,' she explained. 'There wasn't time, I'm sorry.'
'That's alright. I've been managing.'
He didn't look like it, not to her anyway, but she didn't comment. She didn't feel so determined to tell him she would bring him food anymore.
'How are…things going?' she asked hesitantly.
He looked up at her for a long time. 'I've managed to get into the castle twice.'
'What? I didn't…' She stopped herself, trying not to push it too far. He hadn't told her much about what he was actually going to do and she assumed that was for a reason.
'Couldn't you…try to talk to Harry about it? Approach him outside the school?'
Sirius shook his head. 'I'm a convicted murderer; all those kids know what my face looks like. And I've already scared him showing up as the dog.'
She frowned at him. She suddenly felt the impulse to demand that he let her help him but knew it would just result in another fight. She reminded herself that their time was precious, now more so than ever.
'This just…it seems ridiculously careless and unnecessary,' she said and he frowned at her. 'I mean it. I'm sorry but I can't tell you that what you're doing is a smart thing.'
'That doesn't mean it's unnecessary,' he grumbled.
'Can you promise that no one is going to get hurt?'
'No. But I can't promise they won't if I don't do anything either,' he replied, scrubbing his face with his hand. 'I'm the only person in the world that knows about Peter. What am I supposed to do if he tries to hurt Harry or one of his friends? What if he does something to the family of that boy he's been staying with? All of it would be my fault.'
She watched his silently, thinking, and he could tell she was loosening her defensives.
'Alright. I get it, you have to do this.' She sighed and closed her eyes, running a hand through her hair. She looked at him again when she heard him slide closer to her. He hesitated, watching her face for a reaction as he reached out for her chin. She let him, feeling his rough fingers against her skin as he turned her head a little and then he reached up to push the hair away from her temple. Even in the dim light the skin there was still angry and red.
'It's alright,' she said. She had been watching his face as he cringed and she reached up to take his hand, pulling it away from her face. 'I'll survive.'
'I never wanted to hurt you,' he whispered.
'I know. But we can't help it, can we?'
They stared at each other for a long time in silence and then she felt her left hand prick.
'See you soon,' she whispered and he nodded, and then she fell back away from him.
The first thing she heard when she landed on the floor was Allison's shout of surprise, followed by the sound of Paul's heavy footsteps coming from the kitchen.
'Where did you go?' Allison demanded of her as Paul helped Georjaina to stand.
She gave him a tight smile of thanks and she sighed as she brushed some of the dust from her sleeves.
'Did you hit your head?' Paul asked, noticing the dark spot near her temple.
'That wasn't Apparation!' Allison snapped, annoyed that she was ignoring her original question. 'And what was happening with your hands?'
Georjaina looked between the two of them and felt the urge to laugh. They were both staring at her with matching expressions of surprise and shock on their faces.
'She must have hit her head,' Allison said to Paul, suddenly looking worried as Georjaina chuckled and then began to laugh outright. Her head was swimming a little as she felt Paul take her shoulder and steer her to the couch. They sat on either side of her, still looking at her expectantly, and when she was finally able to calm down again she happily told them everything.
Things are changing a lot in the way the story is happening and being written so I welcome any feedback at all. As always, thank you for reading!