Breathe. Just… breathe. A soft intake of breath, and she placed her foot on the marble staircase, her slipper patting softly on the expensive flooring. Her house-coat pulled tightly around her, though it did little good to keep the chills as a minimum—‘twas silk. ‘Twas beautiful, yes, but ‘twas flimsy. Barely able to be used. It shouldn’t have been used. No—she would’ve rather had one of his sweatshirts—one of his tee-shirts, even—anything that she could snuggle up in, close her eyes, and be reassured—to smell the second-hand smoke, that patchy existence of bars and singing, of sweat and lust, of alcohol and romance. But, that was not available. Instead, she woke to find herself in an empty bed, in a gorgeous bedroom, with two children down the hall that seemed to be hers—that had to be hers… for one had her hair—the other, her eyes. And oh, God, how beautiful they were—snuggled in their beds, their hair brushed to angel-soft perfection—button noses wrinkling with the slightest touch of her finger. And their hands, so small, so peaceful, gripping the sheets and comforters, pulling them far up to their chins, snuggling down into the cushions and pillows in an attempt to keep warm in such a drafty mansion. And how could she leave that room without leaning down and pressing a gentle kiss to each of their foreheads? It wasn’t her fault. It wasn’t her fault that she’d fallen in love already—so quickly—so innocently—with the children she’d never had. She’d left with a swish of silk, a brush of her own long, golden curls, and the flutter of the ribbons from her lace corset. A dash down the hall, and she’d found herself where she was now—half way down the grand staircase, her hand gripping the railing, her eyes looking down into the main hallway, her brows pulled together, and her knees as weak as a newborn kitten’s. Her breath caught in her chest, and she felt the lace pull taught over her chest—just…
A step was taken, and she’d recovered—she’d pulled herself out of that glitch in her system—that sour key—that soft sharp. She’d managed to keep herself calm—and she’d raced down the length of the stairway, her hand trailing along the banister, eyes set at the end of the hall, the doorway. She needed to leave—she needed to escape. She wanted to go home—she wanted to go back—she needed to go back… If she were here—in this upside down universe, what was to become of Heath? She’d told him she loved him—she’d told him she’d be there for him—she’d made a promise for him, that she’d come back. That was all he’d wanted—that was all he’d requested—and she wasn’t holding to it. She was breaking a promise—breaking his faith more—breaking her own heart, as she felt the silence pull in around her, swirl up around her ankles. The soft memories of the house creaking and shifting as the one who’d lived there so long, yet knew nothing of it, raced through it’s main hall. Passed the pictures that hung on the wall—the oiled paintings of she and a dark-haired man. Then, another one of her and the two children that were asleep upstairs—all three laughing and giggling, waving at her as she slowed to a walk, her eyes looking above the grand front entrance. There, hanging on the wall, was the biggest painting of them all—a family portrait she was sure. A mirror image of her—save for her clothing—was sitting in the middle of two children, who each were waving down at her, between moment of childhood glory of poking the other—and on her shoulders, were hands—her eyes followed the length of the arms, and she bit her bottom lip. The hair was cut different. He looked more fatherly, yes… But the eyes. She’d recognize the eyes anywhere. Breathe.
So dark—intoxicatingly so—the leftover ash from a volcano. The pure shade of liquid mercury, and just as deadly. The shade of the English sky right after a storm had blown past… A circle of tempest, luster, and hue—all thrown together to look down that perfect nose, through lashes of brushed coal, framed by the buffed gold of his infamous olive complexion—that Mediterranean tone that made him resemble a Greek god, or a Roman myth—adding to that stature of power, the veil of mystery that only those old heroes from the Anglo-Saxon tomes seemed to have. That glory in death—the heavenly glow that seemed to frame their silhouette as they stood from the destruction to lead their clan to an unimaginable victory. She would know him anywhere. She wasn’t supposed to—oh, no—she was supposed to memorize Heath. She was supposed to know Heath anywhere—she was supposed to feel his arms around her, to feel his breath against her neck, his hand sliding down her back to hold her straight when she wanted to fall over and cry—but, Sirius… He was unforgettable. If he walked past you once… You’d look for him everywhere. It was as if he were the wind, the water, the hot pounding of her heart as she slowly realized what had happened—the cold feeling she was experiencing as she felt her blood go frigid as she finally paid attention to the portraits that hung in the main hall. Green eyes, wide with worry, looked up at the walls, and she felt her knees give way. So many memories that weren’t hers. So many dreams she’d had coming true—so many wants, needs, praises fulfilled, yet she couldn’t remember any of them. They weren’t hers to remember… Things such as paintings of family members that she knew were deceased—relatives that died when she was a child, yet painted onto the same canvas as her teenaged self. Her with her mother and father—Sirius by her side… and another one that made her hand leave her side to cover her mouth with a silent gasp—a portrait of a wedding she’d never had. Just breathe.
She was surrounded in a pool of white silk and ribbons—an oval that covered her body in the perfection that only gold could buy—the soft, butter-like fabric that glazed against her own soft skin. Hair fell over her shoulders in that same conditioned perfection that her children had—a pause. Her children?—the two little figures that slept so soundly in the play room, little angels… The child she’d never had—the one she’d murdered because she was a coward—because she couldn’t tell Heath. The one that she’d taken a potion to be rid of… the bottle of frozen death that had released every fear she’d ever had when she uncorked it to swallow in the bathroom of that studio. And, though she sat on carpeting—the oriental grandeur of her newfound home—she still felt the chipped tile under her legs, the shagged wallpaper against her back. Her eyes stared up at the family portrait, though her hands clasped over her mouth, stifling sobs that rolled her shoulders as everything seemed to dawn. As everything seemed to sweep up around her, rushing against her ears so loud that she swore she’d gone deaf—blocking her nose and her mouth so her intakes of breath were halted and her exhales simply didn’t exist. She felt her eyes burn—tears pooling at the corners as she finally allowed her breath to race out of her nose—breathe… just breathe.
The depth of the household, the darkness of the manor—the mansion—the place where she sat, shrouded her like death. The cold clasp of her memories, the pain of her past, the want for everything to be better, to be more—it all seemed to rush around her. A cyclone of redemption—the flicker of a ray from heaven that seemed to beam down at her… when in fact, both could be so easily explained, but at the time, to her, seemed so unnatural. The creaking of the house, the whisper of the old foundation settling deeper into the ground, wiggling its way into the musky, black, English earth, like a nervous child trying to comfort itself by huddling under the blankets at the foot of its parents’ bed—it caused a soft draft that brushed against her cheek, trailing over her skin like Heath’s hands never did. The soft touch, the perfect touch, the silken caress of a hand which belonged to a man who had never seen hard labor. And it soothed her—it brushed back her golden curls—taking the soft strands of the rebellious locks and brushed them out of her face, so that no one could see the torment that twisted her features, making her look even more beautiful in a fallen angel sort of way. The kind of beauty that graced those medieval paintings of the Final Judgment. She was the scarlet woman, the young lady who didn’t deserve a second chance at life, but was being granted it—she, in her silly little silken corset, and her silly little curls, and her silly little mistakes. Those flakey areas of her past, which she clasped so close to her heart, those shards of glass that cut into her skin, that had opened her up for him to slink into—to work his way under her skin, to twist her thoughts around him, so that she’d turned so different around him… So she would want to impress him. So that she’d never forget him. The touch of his hands against her face, trailing down her neck—and how he did nothing when she left… rather, he walked away—turned away from her once again. He’d left her. Forsaken her so that Sirius had to come to her rescue, again—kneeling down beside her, and taking her into his arms, pressing her against his chest, muttering into her hair that everything would be just fine, if only she would simply breathe.
Breathe. It was so complicated. How did she ever do it before?—the intake. The exhale. The knowing how long to hold the air within her chest—when to let the carbon dioxide leave through her nose in a shudder. So difficult when she was counting every second she laid on the Oriental rug. So difficult when she was sprawled out on the floor, her legs bent so she was curled up in the middle of the main hall, her arms folded under her head, propping her cheek against the makeshift, human pillow, her eyes closed as she allowed tears to streak over her cheeks, across the brim of her nose, falling with soft pats onto the carpeting. Her fingers digging into the fibers of the carpeting, twisting them around, running her nails in circles as she gripped the floor—as she looked up at the portraits that smiled down at her, waving. Refusing to extend a hand to the fallen human counterpart of their colleague. Taunting her—laughing, with their silent smirks that hinted at the corners of their lips, for they knew what Sirius and her children did not. That she was not the same woman stationed in that picture. She was not that prim and proper little angel that had her hand on her husband’s… her brows arched. A glint on the painting’s wrist flashed in the pinpoint light that was the focus of the picture. But she recognized that stroke—that grey streak of paint was meant to resemble something that she had twisted around her wrist so many days ago. That slinky little piece of metal that matched Sirius’ eyes, yet was not supposed to remind her of him at all. The silver chain she was not supposed to have, yet she did. She pushed herself up, and she bent her arm towards her, drawing her slender wrist under her line of vision. A soft pause before she pushed the silken sleeves up to her elbow—breathe.
It was such a hue that it seemed to blend with her skin—it was so slender, that she hadn’t felt it—so light was the bracelet. So soft was it against her skin, that she didn’t remember she had it. Pure, flexible, it was apart of her. So much that it hadn’t been lost through the void—that rush of pure black that had sent her reeling into this universe where everything seemed so perfect it was hell. This place where she had everything she’d ever wanted, yet she’d managed to walk away with nothing. A place where, as it would seem, she was nothing more than an angelic housewife, taking care of two chits whilst her husband ran around with a briefcase, and fostered false hopes and dreams of some greater purpose within her mind, so that it branched out, and ensnared her with thoughts of perfection and bounty. Yet, there, the flaw in this twisted ploy of Fate. The one thing that the Hag of Time hadn’t counted on—the little chain that was so dainty, it was missed by an ancient force that had come to been so respected that, even Salazar Slytherin hadn’t toyed with. And as she looked at it, her sobs stopped, her breathing solidified into this stream of steady intakes and exhales… the tears on her face dried, leaving the streaks of salt that she didn’t dare touch—those itchy tracts that she wanted to remain… for some reason, she wanted to keep them there. It had always seemed that, when they’d haunted her appearance, he’d reached down to her, and brushed his fingers against them, brushing them from her skin with his rough fingertips—kissing them away with soft brushes of his lips—a subconscious plea for him to come and take her up, to wake her up from this nightmare which was so bluntly that—a bad dream. A dream where she was given a choice. Everything. Or a man. A man, who was angry with her, because she had tripped just before the finish line. An angry coach that refused to yell, that refused to scream… a man who did nothing about it, save breathe through his nose with huffs and slouches that lingered in her eyes—those times where he leaned over, she wanted to reach out, and push him straight—but he’d jerk away. And as he’d walk away—the man she wanted to help, the man she’d fallen in love with—she’d sit down, bury her hands in her face and breathe.
Hate was an emotion. Anger was an act. Lust was a fear of commitment. Love was a state of being. And she’d managed to become all of these things at once, sitting on the floor in the hall, her hair falling over her shoulders as she stared at the bracelet. It was a war within her head—it was a battle within every fiber of her being—and she felt it all. She felt the stabs of guilt, those rips of anger as it coursed through her blood—the way hate seemed to boil the salt on her cheeks—the love that seemed to shred through her thoughts—the lust that made her earn for this perfection which had been offered to her on a silver platter. She had a choice to make… a decision… everything she’d ever had taken from her… or the soft, lightless, dainty caress of that silver bracelet. The thing that, even though she rarely noticed it—the thing that was so light, so soft, she’d never felt it, unless she was looking at it—the one thing that held her wrist loose enough to give her freedom, yet at the same time, not enough to fall off. And she looked up at her portrait, her eyes following the stroked lines of her children—the two that she’d fallen so deeply in love with, and she hadn’t even learned their names—and those almond-shaped eyes that belonged to her heroic husband. The man that, as she looked up, flashed his smile down at her, his perfect teeth—his perfect hair glinting in the painted limelight… She stood, her gown falling back into place around her person—floating almost heavenly around her feet, so it pooled on the carpeting, dragging behind her a few inches as she started to walk away from the front entrance. That heavy wooden door that had beckoned to her at first—that slab she wanted to push open so she wouldn’t reside in what she thought to be a tomb. And her arm, the one with the bracelet fell down to her side—the silken sleeve falling back around her hands in milky waves, hiding the glinting silver out of sight. Out of sight out of mind… yet, she felt a shutter when she exhaled.
Back up the staircase—each step taking her father away from the front door… her fingers trailing along the banister, nails brushing against the polished wood so she felt the grooves in the cherry like they were tracks for a train. The soft curves, moving her fingers in the bumps as she crossed over them. What had they done?—what had they created?—it didn’t cross her mind. She didn’t worry about it—just breathe. She didn’t cry—no more sobs in old bathrooms. No more fights in uptown apartments. No more peanut butter and spoons—no more comforting hugs while they watched television late into the musky Sunday afternoons… No more deep rooted, comforting smells of smoke, and alcohol, and musk to lure her into that daydream state where she’d just lounge against him, playing with his hair—attempting to annoy him, just so that she could feel his arms wrap around her as he pressed a kiss to her forehead to get her to stop. She’d exchanged his stoic sense of reality—those occasional moments where it was just he and her, and he actually showed her cared—she’d traded his chain-smoking, alcoholic persona—she’d given up on his newfound sense of romance. That streak of love that she’d somehow managed to teach him—she’d given up on her difficult student—that she, alone, could cherish, and cling to the memory of his brief accomplishments before he’d brush a loving comment away with a smirk and a ‘don’t you dare think it was anything more’ look of his eyes… Yet, for what it was worth, as she made her way to the top of the staircase, that little bracelet became twisted in her fingers. For, though she didn’t know it, nor feel it, it had become habit for her to rely so heavily on something that she thought never existed in the first place.