She was anxious enough, understandably, without the added stress of his mood, and he carefully strangled each little point of worry as it arose, casting the quieted thoughts aside to be addressed later. There was the matter of warning his guest of his sister's Christmas visit, but that would keep until after her appointment.
Lisa dressed in the nicest outfit out of the few she’d purchased with Bas, creamy white denims and a beige cowlneck jumper, and tried to coax her blonde waves into some semblance of order. At least she could look as though she was pulled together and competent, even if she was feeling anything but on the inside. Casting a quick glance to the clock in the bedroom, she ceased her fidgeting and went to meet Tristan in the study.
Despite her statement that it would be better to go as soon as possible, she’d delayed an extra day, saying she was not feeling up to the trip just yet. It was true enough, though the primary difficulty was not physical. Her injuries were healing fairly well, but anxiety filled her every time she thought of going to the Ministry. What if they arrested her? What if her father was there, too? What if they believed him when he said she was unstable?
These were the fears running rampant in her mind, but Lisa knew she had to go and get it over with. She couldn’t hide away at Whin Terrace forever. Tristan had not adopted her like a stray cat; he only meant to help her through her troubles, and then send her home. It would be wrong to take advantage of his generosity for longer than she truly needed to.
“Have I kept you waiting long?” she asked quietly, tugging nervously at her sleeve as she entered the study.
Pausing in his circuit to face Lisa as she spoke, Tristan shook his head. "Hardly a moment, and that only because I came down early to escape Bas' singing," he assured her, offering the trace of a smile. The persistent insinuation that she saw herself as a burden upon him rankled, and he'd consciously done all he could to dispel the idea whenever she raised it, drawing upon the stone-like measure of his patience to soothe her thin-trodden spirit.
It was pointless to ask whether she was ready; she could not be, and clearly was worried about the trip, so he held out his hand, suggesting, "Shall we? I realize the prospect is unwelcome, but the sooner we leave, the sooner we may return."
She really didn’t want to go, but it was unavoidable, and Tristan was right. The sooner she went and spoke with Auror Jones, the sooner the whole thing would be behind her. Assuming she wasn’t tossed in Azkaban, or sent to the Dai Llewellyn ward at St. Mungo’s.
Lisa eyed the hand he’d extended toward her, the offer unfamiliar, but so inviting given she was so nervous her own hands were actually beginning to shake. Hesitancy gave way to the need for reassurance, and she crossed to her host, curling her hand in his much larger one. Tristan’s presence was steadying and she gave in to the temptation to lean lightly against his side. “Alright,” she said, trying without success to cease the tremor that was slowly taking over her body, “I’m ready.”
Arching an eyebrow at the statement, given the fine vibration being communicated through her grip on his hand and along the length of his arm as she huddled beside him, Tristan was torn between allowing Lisa her pride and the desire to not have her fall to pieces as soon as they entered the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. He swallowed a sigh and drew her slowly into his space, wrapping his arm about her thin shoulders and stilling himself, else.
"Breathe," he insisted, alert to the tension spiky in her demeanor, her entire being poised to flee. "If you go into your interview shaking like a leaf, you've borrowed as much trouble as you had to begin with."
She tried to do as he said, but her heart was racing, Tristan’s nearness pulling at her in opposite directions. Her life experience made her wary of such attention, waiting for the inevitable shift from affection to aggression, but in the few days she’d known the master of Whin Terrace he’d given her no cause to fear him. In fact, his calm and steadiness had led her to seek his company at every opportunity. There was little choice but to trust in it now; his words were true and she needed his strength to find her own.
Closing her eyes, Lisa burrowed against him, forcing her breaths to be deep and slow. After a few minutes, she felt calm enough to lift her head. “They might not let me come back with you,” she whispered, voicing the greatest of her fears.
"I very much doubt that you will be taken into custody; Auror Jones is an eminently sensible woman, and knows that I would not hide you from the authorities," Tristan said evenly. Romilda knew, in fact, that such erratic behavior would likely land him back in Waverly, which would need very dire circumstances indeed to impel him to take that sort of risk. He fully believed that Lisa had defended herself against an abusive man, as she'd said, and unless significant evidence was provided to the contrary, he would ensure that she was able to return to the safe place he'd provided.
Straightening, he shifted Lisa gently, tucking her hand into the crook of his arm and establishing a small margin of space between them, assuring, "I make a very large shield. I will keep you from the people you fear, regardless of the outcome of your interview."
Lisa’s eyes turned up to his face, studying the stranger who’d done more to protect her than anyone she’d ever called family or friend. Even now she could not account for his choice, but she believed what he said, and she would accept his shield gratefully, with more than a little awe. There was peace in turning over responsibility for her well-being to someone else, believing they took the task to heart. Feeling far more settled, Lisa nodded and a moment later felt magic engulf her as they Disapparated.
They arrived in the Ministry Atrium and Lisa’s hand slipped into Tristan’s almost without thought. He led her through to the lifts, selecting the floor that housed the MLE. Their wands were checked and Lisa surveyed the bustling office, paranoia making her certain her father would be waiting for her with a head healer in tow.
Romy was concerned when Lisa Travers disappeared from St. Mungo’s. The woman had been in bad shape when she’d seen her, still unconscious, lying in the hospital bed. It seemed unlikely she would have been able to leave under her own power, but there was no indication she was taken under duress. The first note she received from Lisa did not really reassure her. The missive was vague at best, with no information as to why Lisa had fled or where she was.
It wasn’t until she’d received the second owl, saying that Mrs. Travers was at Whin Terrace and would be in today for an interview that Romy really believed she was safe and as well as could be expected. While she hadn’t the foggiest idea how Tristan had gotten mixed up in the Travers case - and the part of her that was simply Tristan’s friend was terribly curious about that - she knew he wouldn’t be involved in any sort of shady dealings. If Lisa was with him, she was being well cared for.
She caught sight of the two as soon as they entered the department and caught Tristan’s attention. As they crossed the room to her office, Romy watched, studying them. Her friend looked as he always did among people, stoic and aloof, but for the hand being clutched by the small woman with him. Lisa Travers’ appearance was significantly improved from the last time Romy had seen her, though her injuries still showed clearly on her face. She kept a half-step behind Tristan, tension in her bearing as her eyes darted around the MLE.
“Tristan. Mrs. Travers,” she greeted as they stepped into her small office, shutting the door behind them.
"Romilda," Tristan returned, nodding to the petite Auror. "You've been well, I trust? And your family?"
He'd been remiss in visiting, as was the case with so many of the people that formed the odd family Regan had claimed for herself, and between her duties at the MLE and holiday obligations to her own family, she'd evidently had less time to pepper him with owls until he consented to a meeting. Her daughters were as sweet and lovely as her husband was obnoxious, but each encounter carried the aura of their little private bubble, the family unit, and the memory of what had almost been his was difficult to weather over and over.
“We’re all well, thank you.” Were this a social visit, Romy would probably tell him about the toddler dramatics they’d endured that morning when Lyra discovered that having a cold meant she stayed home with Lulu instead of going to the reserve with her papa, but this was an official meeting, so she gestured to the guest chairs and took a seat behind her desk.
Shifting her attention to Lisa, she waited for the other woman to sit, watching as she hesitantly relinquished Tristan’s hand only to clasp her own in her lap. Once Tristan had settled too, she addressed the frail blonde. “You look much better than the last time I saw you, Mrs. Travers. I’m glad to see you’re recovering so well. Facial fractures, broken ribs, trauma to the trachea - this was a particularly brutal attack. Can you tell me what happened leading up to it?”
Lisa nodded, but was silent for several moments as she thought back to the day she’d killed her husband. It had only been a few days, but she’d tried so hard not to think about it that it felt like much longer. Haltingly, she recounted running into Jared as she left St. Mungo’s after an appointment. They’d only chatted a few minutes before she’d gone on her way, but her husband had had her followed, and word that she’d been with her former fiance reached her home before she did. “He was angry,” she said simply. “He’d forbidden me from seeing Jared years ago.”
‘Angry’ seemed like quite an understatement. From the conversations Romy’d had with the healers at St. Mungo’s, it wouldn’t have taken much more effort for Lisa Travers to be the one no longer breathing and her husband the one seated in her office. “Was it usual for your husband to become violent when he was angry? Had this happened before?”
“Not this badly,” Lisa said quickly. “Most of the time it was just bruises. Once he burst my eardrum.”
The Auror kept her face neutral, but her stomach turned in disgust at the actions Lisa described. A slight twitch and the clench of his jaw told her that Tristan was rather beyond angry himself, and once again she wondered how he fit into all this. “I know it’s difficult, but can you describe for me the sequence of events from the time you arrived home to find your husband angry with you until his death?”
She wanted to say ‘no’. The last thing she wanted to do was talk about those minutes of her life, but Lisa knew it was not really a request. Eyes cast down to her hands, she told of him striking her without a word, knocking her to the ground. She told of his ranting as he kicked her while she lay on the floor. It was not until she spoke of Xavier on top of her, his hands around her neck, that tears began to streak down her face. “I couldn’t breathe, and I was thrashing about. I found a piece of pottery broken in the scuffle and swung it at his neck. There was blood, and that’s all I knew until I woke up in the hospital.” When she’d finished speaking, Lisa buried her face in her hands, rocking in her chair.
It was not his nature to place a great deal of faith in anyone, but as he could neither ignore Lisa's agony nor comfort her while blood boiled behind his eyes, Tristan let his fury flash through his expression, trusting Romilda to know his purpose enough to ignore the slip of his mask. Clenching his teeth briefly, he extinguished everything but the carefully neutral, presenting an even demeanor a breath later as he laid a hand lightly at Lisa's shoulder, reminding her of both his presence and the promise he'd made.
It was fortunate Lisa was not paying attention to the things going on around her because Romy was not able to keep the whole of her shock from her face at the immense depth of rage that had burned briefly on her friend’s. She’d known Tristan had a vast amount of self control, and it wasn’t unthinkable that he had the capability to do very bad things if he had a mind to do them. This was the first time she’d ever seen any indication he had the desire, and she knew right then that Xavier Travers was lucky he was already dead.
The warmth of Tristan’s touch and the knowledge that nothing was going to happen to her while he was there helped Lisa get herself back under control. Her breathing slowed back to normal and she turned a tiny smile to him, thankful for his calming presence.
Since Lisa seemed to have settled, Romy moved the interview forward. “There’s something I don’t understand. Your father told me that you and Mr. Travers had been trying to have a child for quite a while. Did your husband suspect you were having an affair with your ex-fiance? It seems odd that a man so keen on having a child would kick his pregnant wife in the stomach.”
The blood drained from her face at the mention of her father and the child she would have borne were it not for Xavier’s well-placed kicks. For some reason, Lisa hadn’t anticipated that her pregnancy would come up. It was something she’d actively avoided thinking about. Most women would be devastated to lose a child, but all Lisa felt was relief, and shame that she didn’t feel more. “I hadn’t told him yet. That’s why I was at the hospital that day, to have the pregnancy confirmed. I’d suspected for a little while, but it was better to make sure than to get Xavier’s hopes up just to give him bad news later.”
Watching mutely as Lisa's face blanched further under the sickly shades of her bruises, Tristan absorbed the news and her flat reaction to its disclosure. The forced miscarriage itself seemed to bother her less than the circumstances of its occurrence, and though the idea that she hadn't been able to feel happy at knowing she would be a mother was disheartening, he could find no fault in it, nor in her apparent lack of grief for the loss. If she had even wanted children for herself, he could not see her finding joy in the man who would have had more say in their upbringing than she would.
He squeezed her shoulder gently, silent reinforcement of his support, and waited for her to continue, or Romilda to produce another question to dig open her emotional wounds.
Satisfied with the answer, as the healer had told her the pregnancy was in very early stages and it was perfectly logical for a battered woman to avoid inviting trouble, Romy changed tack. “The first owl you sent me stated that you were recovering somewhere safe. With your husband gone, what did you think you had to be afraid of by staying in the hospital? Your injuries were far from healed, you had only the clothes you’d been wearing when you were admitted. I’ll admit that my first thought was that you’d been taken from the hospital by force because I couldn’t imagine you were in any state to leave on your own.”
Lisa explained that she’d faded in and out of consciousness, hearing bits and pieces of conversations going on around her. She told Romy about what she’d heard her father saying, that he wanted to have her mental health questioned so he would be put in control of the fortune she’d inherit from the death of her husband. “I knew I wasn’t strong enough to stop him on my own. The only thing I could think of to do was run. It was hardly a well thought out plan, but I was fortunate enough to run into Tristan.” Blue eyes lifted to the man seated beside her with open adoration. He’d been her savior. “He took me in. Probably saved my life.”
“You were heavily medicated and traumatized. Are you certain you were in a fit state of mind to recall what you heard?” Romy asked. Seeing the look on the blonde’s face - pure hero worship - she wondered if Tristan might have taken on more than he’d intended when he took in this particular stray.
Attention shifting swiftly back to her questioner, the slightest hint of pique edged into her tone. “You tell me. Has my father made any comments to you that would suggest my ability to reason might be compromised?” When Romy didn’t respond, Lisa’s shoulders slumped. There was a part of her that would’ve been glad to wrong. “I know what he’s capable of, and I know what’s real from what’s fantasy.”
Romy nodded and gestured to the door. “Thank you, Mrs. Travers. Would you mind stepping out for a moment while I speak to Tristan?”
Concern tinted her features, but Lisa’s questioning look at her escort was met with a nod. Rising from her seat, she excused herself, venturing no further than the hallway just outside Auror Jones’ office.
When the door closed behind Lisa, Romy looked at her friend with a half smile. “I’m going to stick to the official inquiry, I think. Irritating you with my tendency toward nosy questions and cheeky comments seems like a bad idea just now.”
Brow flickering with agitation rather than ire, Tristan's eyes darted to the closed door, well aware that Lisa was edgy and likely fidgeting just outside. "Ask, if it will help anything, but quickly," he prompted. "She's survived this much; it's cruel to give her more than a few minutes to fend off her imagination."
At the knowing curl of her smile, plain to him as equal parts curiosity and amusement, he flung out, "She, with no coat and having very obviously just been beaten, couldn't hear me follow her through Victoria Park at three in morning. What else do you imagine would have befallen her if I could have forced myself to leave?"
She was no less intrigued than when she’d started, but Tristan was clearly concerned for his charge, so Romy put aside the things she wanted to know simply to satisfy her own curiosity. “You had not known her before that night?” Her investigation had included speaking with a number of Xavier Travers’ associates, as well as Lisa’s parents. None had mentioned Tristan’s name in any way, and while Romy didn’t pretend to know all of the people her friend interacted with, she couldn’t recall him ever talking about Lisa.
Tristan shook his head, then corrected, "We were at Hogwarts for a number of the same years, I realized once I could recall her maiden name, but I'd not seen her since, nor been more than a name even then. Her husband attended at least one function at Ivy's Run, but an age ago; my father was still alive at the time."
Making a note in her case file, Romy nodded. Once she’d finished, she met his gaze seriously. “If you’re acting as her keeper, you might see about getting her to see a head healer. Even if Jack Turpin’s claims about his daughter are nonsense, she has been through a tremendous ordeal.” She cleared her throat and forged ahead, “And I need to ask if you’ve noticed anything that would indicate Mrs. Travers is having more severe troubles that would necessitate those kinds of services. I can’t make a recommendation against further inquiry if there’s any concern she’s a danger to herself or others.”
Watching the door as though he could see through it to the person waiting just beyond, Tristan was silent for several moments together before his eyes returned to Romilda's. "She's traumatized, by more than just what happened the other night, as I gather that most of her life has been horrifyingly similar. She should have access to a competent mind healer, and I will ensure that she does, as soon as the idea of leaving the house does not make her physically ill."
He made sure that the Auror in Romy was intent on him as he spoke to her last statement, knowing his judgement would mean something to her. "Lisa has made no attempts at self-harm, does not seem unduly depressed, and has made every effort to care for herself and be pleasant and friendly. In truth, she's done better than ought to be expected of her, in coping with her abuse. I met Travers. He'd have killed her, and only been annoyed at the inconvenience to himself."
“Okay. Thank you.” Romy knew that, of all people, Tristan understood the importance of intervening in mental health concerns as quickly as possible. He would not hide a problem if one existed, no matter the delicate nature of the individual suffering. “I won’t keep you any longer. It will take a day or two to wrap things up, but I should be able to have access to her home and vault restored before the holiday.”
With a nod, Tristan acknowledged, “I’ll let her know. Thank you for your brevity, as well; I think in all this was far less terrible than she’d feared.”
Satisfied that their business was concluded for the present, he rose and waited for Romilda to do the same, moving the few steps to her desk to offer his hand and the wry twist of a smile. “Better circumstances next time, I shall hope. Bring the girls to visit after the new year, once all the holiday fanfare has worn a bit and Lyra’s run out of peppermints and chocolate. Feel free to leave your husband at home.”
“‘Less terrible’ is what I strive for,” Romy said, though she knew what he meant, as she accepted the proffered hand. “You know we have to investigate every non-natural death, even when it’s pretty clear the bastard had it coming.”
Her demeanor lightened a little as she addressed the rest of his comments. “I will bring them by, once Lyra’s gotten the sugar out of her system. And you know I never bring Joscelin, though you two have more in common than you’d like to admit. You may recall several years ago he took in a mistreated stray himself,” she reminded him, a slight twinkle to her eyes. “Worked out pretty well for all involved, in the end.”
"Don't go getting any ideas," Tristan warned, regarding Romilda archly. It wouldn't do for her, or anyone else, to start making silly sentimental impressions of his aiding someone who needed it. "Happy Christmas, though, and I'll look for your owl."
He returned a shade of her smile before opening the office door to collect his nervous charge, accepting Lisa's need to invade his personal space in this panic-inducing environment. With her firmly attached to his person once more, he nodded to Romilda and turned to go, quite ready to be away from the needless bustle of the Ministry.
“Happy Christmas, Tristan, and to you, Mrs. Travers,” Romy returned as they started on their way, then retreated back into her office to finalize her investigation and free Lisa Travers from the last hold her late husband had on her.
Holding tightly to Tristan’s hand, Lisa glanced back at the dark-haired Auror, relief flooding her as she realized they really weren’t going to lock her away somewhere. They paused to retrieve their wands and tracked back the way they’d come, not bothering with conversation as they left the busy and oppressive government building behind.
It was only a few minutes before they were back in Tristan’s study. The barest flicker of hope shined in her eyes as they turned up to him. “Is it over?”
Genuinely pleased to be able to share good news, Tristan nodded, his lips turning up at the corners. "Romilda should be able to return access to your vault and estate by Christmas. She's satisfied with what you've told her, and is not recommending further enquiry. It is over."
A soft squeak of excitement escaped her as she threw her arms around Tristan. Without him, Lisa was sure she would never have been free of her father’s influence. It was a future she’d never even dared to imagine. She didn’t have to answer to anyone. There was no one to answer to.
The thought made her still. In all her life, Lisa had never truly been responsible for herself. Cruel or not, she’d always had a keeper, and now there would be no one. Just her and a few elves in the vast mansion that was Dragonwood, alone, because once her property was returned to her and the investigation into Xavier’s death closed, there was no reason to continue trespassing on Tristan’s hospitality. It made her lonely just thinking of leaving him.
Pulling away, she smiled shyly, embarrassed by her uninvited clinging. Tristan had been exceptionally kind to her, but he was surely looking forward to having his home and his life back to himself. “Sorry. I’m just relieved.”
"If I minded, I would have moved you," Tristan responded, quite accustomed to a similar reaction from his sister after all the years he'd cared for Regan. "I couldn't say whether celebration is appropriate to the occasion, but if there is something you think would suit, name it and I shall endeavor to make it so."
The offer left Lisa speechless, mostly because was yet another unexpected kindness from her host, but also because it was nearly impossible to name an appropriate celebration for killing one’s husband without repercussion. After a moment’s thought, she shrugged. “Honestly, I think I’ve had my fill of being out in public for one day, and I still look... well, rather like I’ve been punched in the face not too long ago. If I’m going to be leaving Whin Terrace in a few days, I think I’d most like to spend the rest of the day quietly with you, if that’s alright.”
Having planned the day around Lisa's interview, with the latter half unscheduled in case pursuit of legal action became necessary, Tristan was free of obligation and nodded his assent. "I've neither need nor desire to do else, so your suggestion is as apt as any, and is yours to have."
She'd seemed content to 'spend the day quietly’, as she put it, the majority of the time she'd been in residence, and managed to not be bothersome even in his shop, on the handful of occasions she had followed him there. Unused to a sentient shadow as he'd grown in recent years, he was in surprisingly little hurry for her affairs to be resolved, though he was certain it would be a relief to her to have access to her own things and not be bound to rely upon his hospitality.
He shed his coat and tie, handing both off to Bas with a request for tea and coffee, then situated himself at one corner of the sofa, rather than in his own chair, summoning the second volume of the Lewis series to his hand. "I believe I owe you a turn, no?"
Lisa followed suit, removing her coat and giving it to the wizened elf with a smile of thanks. She hesitated just a moment before joining Tristan on the sofa. Trusting that he would, in fact, ‘move her’ if he didn’t want her so close, she settled beside him and laid her head on his shoulder. Though it was scarcely half over, the day had been stressful and soon she wouldn’t have Tristan’s steadiness available to her every day. She’d gladly soak up as much of the calming reassurance he provided as possible until she had to leave.
“I believe you do,” she replied, offering a soft smile before letting her eyes fall closed.
Summary: Tristan accompanies Lisa to the Ministry, so Romy can take her statement.