The trip was not overlong, but it tired her. Lisa bought the bare necessities she would need to get through the next few days and Bas escorted her back to Whin Terrace where she spent the remainder of the day in bed. Her emotions were raw and her body was healing, and she was grateful for the quiet, comfortable space her host had provided while she tried to mend the damage done to both her physical and mental state.
On the second day she owled the auror assigned to her case to say she was recuperating in a safe place, not running from the law, or abducted, or insane, or dead, and she would come into the MLE in a few days when she was feeling stronger. It was the strangest note she’d ever penned, and probably the most frustrating for Auror Jones since Lisa did not share exactly where she’d decided was a safe place to recuperate. She didn’t know how many contacts her father had at the Ministry, and she wasn’t inclined to take chances.
Afterward, she sought Tristan. She didn’t want to make a pest of herself, and truthfully she was still too tired and sore to be a very animated companion, but after spending the better part of the day before by herself Lisa wanted to be near another person. Someone who didn’t fill her with fear every time they took a step in her direction. Trying to stay close, but not underfoot, she sat across the room and read while Tristan was busy in his workshop, and dozed in an oversized chair while he read in his study. They shared a meal, but conversation was minimal. Tristan did not press for information, for which she was grateful, nor did he offer much of his own beyond what she asked. When the time came that Lisa couldn’t ignore her body’s need for bed, she was sorry to leave him, though certainly her host would be glad to be left to his own devices.
Her disappointment was compounded the next day when work required Tristan to go out of town for the day. Rationally she knew his offer of a safe refuge did not mean he intended to babysit her for the length of her stay, but she wasn’t quite sure what to do with herself now that he’d left her on her own. At Dragonwood she had her greenhouse, where she’d retreated as often as possible during her marriage, but Whin Terrace had none. She tried reading, but the room’s emptiness stole her focus, the knowledge she was alone echoing in her mind. Restless and lonely, Lisa prowled the house until she couldn’t stand the confinement another moment.
The new coat she’d purchased with Tristan’s money was tugged on and the blonde fled out onto the grounds. She wandered without any clear aim, breathing the cold, clear air and pausing to rest as she needed to. When she came to a copse of pine trees, an idea came to mind. Collecting several young branches, she wound the fragrant boughs together.
It was soothing to work with plant life again, even if in this instance she wasn’t tending to it and helping it grow. Herbology had been her passion at Hogwarts; it was her refuge as an adult. The talent came naturally to her to grow things, to know their uses and be able to prepare teas, decoctions, elixirs, and tinctures, but Professor Sprout had taught her to use plants to make beautiful things, too. Her resources were limited, but Lisa liked the idea of making something to show her appreciation for all Tristan was doing for her.
Once the basic circle was formed, Lisa found pinecones and red berries - not holly berries, but close enough for her purposes - and affixed them to the circle of pine. The result was a rustic but attractive wreath, suitable for a bachelor’s home. Pleased with her efforts, she returned to the house and hung it on the front door.
The longer she looked at it, though, the more doubtful she became. Tristan was more than capable of getting a decoration for his door if he wanted one. Why would he want the makeshift work of an amateur? “Probably wouldn’t ever see it anyway,” she said to herself, moving to take the greenery down. “He’s a wizard. How often would he even use his front door? He can Apparate, for Merlin’s sake. He’d probably find it next summer, just a bunch of dry dismembered flora left by the silly witch he let hide here.”
Having arrived home from a tedious and, in main part, unnecessary, jaunt back to Portugal for much self-congratulatory back-slapping and similar nonsense from the broom club he'd recently outfitted, Tristan was disinclined to absorb Bas' ramble about his guest, and headed immediately to his own rooms to shower and change. Clean and having acquired a measure of peace from the brief solitude, he emerged some half-hour later to wonder if he was actually alone in the house.
Wandering through the common rooms and finding no sign of Lisa, he relented and summoned his wizened, cantankerous elf, requesting with a long-suffering air, "You were saying, that Mrs. Travers had been out today?"
With a twitch of his broad ears, Bas replied pointedly, "Master's guest is talking to the front door. She has been to the grounds today, yes, to gather branches."
His brow wrinkling at the odd pronouncement, though he did not doubt the veracity of the actual statements, Tristan turned and strode to the entryway, pulling open the door expectantly. As he'd been informed, there was Lisa, frowning at a wreath that had not been present the previous day.
"Good evening, Mrs. Travers," he greeted, bemused. "Is something amiss?"
The title made her stomach turn, and Lisa blanched at the sudden appearance of her temporary benefactor. “Please call me Lisa,” she said, embarrassed to be caught babbling to herself with her ill-conceived gift. “And everything is fine. I just got a bit stir crazy today so I did a bit of roaming, and I was just about to take down this ridiculous wreath I made. It was presumptuous of me to put it up. I’m sorry for overstepping after you’ve been so kind to me.”
It was a habit long ingrained in Lisa to apologize profusely for every infraction. That same long history had taught her that the apologies made little difference most of the time, and her pulse raced as she awaited a response.
"Lisa, then," Tristan corrected himself, making mental note to recall or research her maiden name, so as not to haunt her needlessly with the specter of her abusive husband. Turning to regard the outer surface of the door and its adornment, he shrugged. "Leave it, if you like. It is well-made, and while it is true that I've no inclination to decorate for the season, I've also no objection to your doing so, if it suits you."
Considering his own words, and his actual preferences, he amended, "You're to leave my personal quarters, my study, and the shop unimproved, thank you; you may do as you please with the rest of the house. Send Bas for whatever you might need; the exercise might sweeten his mood, though I doubt it."
“Thank you, I’ll keep that in mind.” Her lips curled slightly at his comment about the elf’s temperament. Bas had been as dutiful as one would expect of a house elf when she’d asked for anything, but he also tended to watch her warily with a hint of befuddlement. Lisa didn’t imagine being subject to her whims would do much to make the poor fellow less cranky.
It was a relief that Tristan wasn’t irritated with her, and having his blessing to do a bit of holiday decorating would at least give her an activity to focus on when he wasn’t able or inclined to keep company with her. The initial point of her handiwork was to do something nice for Tristan, though. If he didn’t enjoy the results, there was little purpose to her effort other than simply to keep busy. She’d spent years just existing, having no impact on anyone around her, and Lisa very much wanted to be useful, even if it was just a matter of making someone happy for a few minutes. She wanted to feel like a person with something to contribute.
“I know you’re very busy. Is there anything I can do while I’m here that might be helpful? The only thing I know of that gives you trouble is sleeping, and without access to my greenhouse I can’t even really make an attempt to help with that, but if you can think of any occupation for me that might be of value, I’d be pleased to do it,” she said as she stepped past him into the large house.
Momentarily at a loss for an appropriate answer to the unexpected request for a task, Tristan closed the door slowly, not bothering to suppress the faint trace of bewilderment that sprang naturally to his features. Pivoting with equal deliberation, he said at length, "When I offered you a place to stay, it was not with the intention that you do anything in return; I require nothing."
Seeing her expression falter, his history with his sister making the recognition twinge painfully, he admitted, "It has been quite some time since I have had need to consider anyone else's presence for more than a few hours; Bas cares for the house and the few errands I choose not to complete myself. I've nothing to recommend as a necessary task, other than that I would have you take care to heal, and to amuse yourself however you'd like."
“I realize you don’t really need anything from me, nor did you expect anything when you allowed me into your home.” Lisa paused, trying to find the words to express what she was feeling. She didn’t want her need for a purpose to make her more of a burden than she already was, but she wanted him to understand why she felt the need to do something. “We’d never met before, so it wasn’t as if you had any particular affection for me. It was just what you thought was the right thing to do, and your conscience wouldn’t allow for you to leave me there.” Forcing herself to look him in the eye, she continued, her tone slightly pleading, “My conscience can’t abide accepting your help without doing something to show my appreciation.”
Nodding, Tristan held out his hands for her coat, making up his mind to spend the evening being a better host than he'd managed thus far. "Come to the study and read to me?" he requested, consciously leaving her space to refuse. "It is something I enjoy, and reading aloud to myself rather defeats the purpose."
It was not a request she would have ever expected from him, and for a moment Lisa was too surprised to reply. Once she’d gotten past the initial shock, a warm feeling spread through her. It wasn’t a big thing. It wasn’t going to change anyone’s life, but this was the first personal thing that Tristan had shared with her, and he was allowing her to be part of it. That night she’d get to be with someone instead of just existing in the same vicinity. She’d get to do something for someone else that mattered, even if it was just something simple.
Slipping out of her coat, Lisa turned a grateful smile to her companion as he took it, hoping it conveyed just how much it meant to her that he’d understood what she was asking for and that he was willing to share this with her. “I would really like that,” she answered finally.
He placed her coat on the plain wooden hall tree with his own and gestured toward the corridor, falling into step slightly behind Lisa as she started toward the study. It wasn't outside of comprehension that she would be lonely; Travers had been callous enough to beat his timid wife, so her comfort had clearly not been something with which he concerned himself overly. Forcibly smoothing the tension in his jaw before they reached the fireside, Tristan waited next to his chair, surveying the shelves lining the walls.
"My library is not as expansive as I might once have offered, but I do keep volumes other than broom theory," he said lightly. "Have you a favorite author?"
“I don’t know that I could name a favorite,” Lisa replied slowly, her eyes scanning the books in the room. “I enjoyed Tolkien’s epic tales and some of Somerset Maugham’s short stories stayed with me long after I read them. Whatever you’d enjoy listening to is fine with me, though. I’m content just to have company.” She tended to avoid the romance stories that were popular with most women. Lisa had always known there were no Misters Darcy or Rochester in her future, and the stories were more torment than titillation. The likelihood that Tristan would be seeking those kinds of novels seemed slim, and she would read what he wanted her to regardless.
"I enjoy aerodynamics and the physics of braking charms, but they are very tedious reading to anyone outside my chosen field," he posited, wondering idly whether she would choose something, given no further input. It was a hypothesis for another time, though, owing to her rattled state, and Tristan directed his actual attention to the matter of selecting what he wished to hear.
Since the sole purpose of having someone read aloud was to let his mind drift without the rigidity of focus strong-armed upon him by his potion regimen, the true question came simply to cadence, and much as he often visited Shakespeare for his literary entertainment, the Bard did not serve his present needs. Strolling the perimeter of the room, cataloging its contents by memory rather than sight, he paused in a corner, reaching to a lower shelf to draw a slim edition from the end of a row.
Returning to Lisa's side, he presented his find. "My niece has been unappreciative of Lewis' work, but I find the allegory amusing."
Taking the book from his hand, Lisa grinned. The Magician’s Nephew. “I haven’t read the Narnia books since school,” she commented. “You’d think, being a witch, that there would be more than enough oddities in our world to satisfy me, but I remember wishing my wardrobe would take me somewhere new.” Settling into one of the available chairs, she nudged off her shoes and tucked her legs up underneath her. She waited for Tristan to sit before opening the narrow text, trying to calm her nerves so she could read in a pleasant, easy tone. When he looked at her expectantly, she began.
It was strange to hear her own voice and have it be the focus of attention. Not that she minded the task he’d requested of her, it was just new and unnatural-feeling after years of being all but invisible to those around her. Over time Lisa grew more comfortable. As she continued to read, her voice became steadier, clearer, and the knot of uncertainty in her stomach began to ease.
Sprawled comfortably in his own chair, his fingers laced across his stomach, eyes falling closed at the first hesitant sentence, Tristan attempted to be an unobtrusive audience. Lisa had an agreeable voice; soft even when she lost the lilt of anxiety, and he could hear the changes in her expression despite choosing to forgo his sight for the moment. He was exhausted; physically from lack of true sleep and mentally from the strain of dealing with the Portuguese all day, and the even rhythm her speech acquired as she relaxed was soothing. He could feel the muted disconnection from the analytical machine of his mind, and embraced the internal peace and quiet gratefully, savoring the ability to exist in that restful, empty place without the shadow of his schizophrenia jabbing at him to cling to iron control of his consciousness.
Though he heard the story, following as a dreamer would along the tale she recounted, it was the abrupt rasp of her throat being cleared that alerted him to the span of time he’d been granted, and Tristan roused himself reluctantly, glancing across the small table between them to read a note of fatigue in Lisa’s posture. “Here,” he implored, extending a hand for the book as she paused to turn a page, “rest your voice a while.”
Lisa passed the small volume to Tristan, both grateful that he paid sufficient attention to notice the slight strain that was beginning to pull at her and sorry that it was necessary for her to stop. She’d liked the story, and when she’d glanced at the man beside her it made her happy to see him relaxed and seeming to enjoy listening to her, which was really the point of the exercise. Had her body not betrayed her, Lisa would have happily continued on until he finally tired of her.
It did not escape her notice that there were marks of fatigue about him. Tristan had mentioned his difficulty sleeping, but up to this point her thoughts had been so inwardly turned she hadn’t really seen the wear on him. It was clear watching him recline as she read that his body needed something deeper than this brief respite. The image came to mind of her hands sifting lightly through his short hair, seeking to lull him past the wall that blocked him from the rest he needed, and Lisa blinked, startled and confused by the inappropriate thought. Willing the heat from her face, she asked, “Would you like me to leave you so you can try to get some sleep? You look positively knackered and I don’t mean to be a drain on your energy.”
Shaking his head, annoyed with himself that his fatigue was so obvious as to be plain to someone who hardly knew him, Tristan returned, "No, as you are not a drain, and being left to my own devices at present would only result in my being awake alone, and you being without company once again."
He could, he supposed, use one of the Waverly-approved potions that would not adversely affect what he was already taking, but the choice between simply not sleeping and wasting a day in a near-coma only to still not feel rested was one he only visited when his body literally could not tolerate any further hours awake. He could manage at least two more days before it became necessary to consider, and with no appointments to occupy his thoughts, he might yet achieve actual sleep without chemical measures. One could hope.
"Shall I take a turn, or would you prefer something else?" he queried, his eyes finding the mantle to check the time. "And I suppose you'll want supper eventually, and Bas will insist regardless."
Swelling having gone down sufficiently to allow a real smile to form, though the better part of the left side of her face was still a sickly yellow-purple color, Lisa’s mouth turned up at the corners and slowly spread into a full-fledged grin. The excessive happiness born of his mild pronouncement that she was not tiring to him was likely due to hormones and residual stress, but whatever the reason behind it, Lisa welcomed the joy she’d rarely felt in the past.
Since Tristan was amenable to spending the evening with her, she turned her thoughts to his question. She liked the story she’d been reading, but now that he mentioned supper, she realized she hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast. “Maybe we could eat now, and after I could read some more of the book?” Her cheeks tinted to a slightly more rosy hue. “If you were to take over the reading, I’m afraid I wouldn’t last very long. I still tire easily and you have a very soothing voice.”
Lips twisting wryly at her assessment, though the fact that she found him anything other than terrifying was certainly advantageous to their current arrangement, he admitted, "An acquired trait, I imagine; I have a very anxiety-prone younger sister." It occurred to him that as similar in nature as they were, Lisa and Regan might manage to be friends if given the chance, and he scribed a mental note to owl his sister.
He summoned Bas with a click of his fingers, turning to address the ancient creature when he appeared a beat later. "We should like to be fed, please," he requested. "The alcove would suffice, rather than setting places in the dining room."
"As master wishes," the elf acknowledged with a nod. "Supper is prepared, if he and his guest would move to the table."
"Nanny goat," Tristan muttered as Bas disappeared, looking to Lisa to gesture toward the door. "We've been anticipated, it seems. Or you have; he ought to know better than to attempt to predict me, by now."
“Well, I didn’t take lunch, so maybe he’s just held it over,” she joked as she rose and started toward the hall.
Tristan’s comment regarding his predictability, or lack thereof, brought to mind a question she’d wanted to ask him. As they made their way to the meal Bas had prepared, Lisa glanced up at the man beside her. “I have to go give my statement to the Auror who was assigned to investigate my husband’s death. If you aren’t already engaged with work, would you go with me?” It was yet another imposition she was pressing on him, but Lisa was nervous about going into the Ministry, enough so that she was willing to add to the debt she already owed him.
"Of course," Tristan answered readily. He was not particularly fond of the Ministry, but nor did he relish the idea of sending her alone, to discuss something obviously upsetting with an authority figure she didn't know well.
"Have you been told to whom you ought to speak?" he wanted to know, wondering whether Gwen's Auror handled this sort of case. Savage was not a thug, unlike some of his fellows; Lisa could do worse for a contact, if she had to go speak to someone.
Breathing a sigh of relief at his ready agreement, Lisa answered, “It was an Auror Jones who came to the hospital. I was still quite affected by pain potions, but I heard her speak to the healer. Yesterday I owled her to let her know I would be in soon; I didn’t want it to seem like I’d run from the law or met a bad end. I didn’t mention where I was, though, so I should probably get in to see her sooner rather than later.”
She summoned her courage, eyes darting up to Tristan’s face as she reached out to squeeze his hand before quickly releasing it again. “Thank you.”
Mildly surprised by the contact, not having expected her to initiate touch given her experiences and her lingering injuries, Tristan was quiet for a moment as they reached the small dining nook where Bas had set their supper. "You are quite welcome, and you may tell Auror Jones that you are here, though it may result in seeing her rather more than you otherwise might. It's been some time since she's been here to let her daughters teethe upon my person."
Catching the confusion in Lisa's expression as she moved to sit, he explained, "Romilda is a friend, and I think you'll find her quite understanding."
Lisa eyed him, bemused, for a long moment before shaking her head and laughing softly. Of all the things that could have happened to her when she fled St. Mungo’s, she’d managed to find someone who not only welcomed her into his home, but who was friends with the woman who’d make the determination whether Lisa would be charged with a crime. “I can’t claim to have had much luck in my life, but I had a surfeit of it the night I crossed your path, Tristan Bole.”
Summary: Lisa tries to keep herself busy and do something nice for Tristan. He decides to put a little more effort into being a good host.