She would be glad to work in her greenhouse again. Calla and Remy were competent elves, and Lisa was sure they’d tended the plants well in her absence, but the little glass building had been her primary source of joy for the last several years. Plants were what she knew and loved, and she was anxious to surround herself with them again. And in truth, Dragonwood was a beautiful estate. Parts of it were tainted by the past, but it was a good home. Hopefully time and a bit of redecorating to make it her own would overcome the bad memories.
What Dragonwood did not have, of course, was Tristan. She’s become accustomed to seeing him each day, basking in the warm feeling of safety and surety he carried. He was not at all chatty, though he conversed readily enough when she’d engaged him or he was moved to speak, and he didn’t seem to mind that she often simply wanted to be in the same room with him. Being with Tristan had been restorative, both physically and mentally, and Lisa was loathe to leave the bubble in which she’d existed since he took her in.
With a sigh, she roused herself from her thoughts and set about finding the man himself so she could share the news. A quick circuit of his usual haunts inside the house was without reward, so she made her way to Tristan’s workshop. Even before she could see or hear him, she felt his presence. The feeling was confirmed as she stepped inside and watched intently as he spelled a freshly made broomstick, not wanting to interrupt his concentration. Once he’d finished, Lisa continued toward him, her expression thoughtful as she puzzled over the charms he’d used.
“I understand what allows forward movement, and I understand the bit which allows for stopping, but I cannot seem to work out how control over the transition is imparted,” she said, frustrated at her inability to pick the magical workings apart. “I feel like it must be tied to the counterclockwise movement you made following the leftward flick, but I’ve no mental reference to confirm that.”
Glancing up as his hearing warned him of company, Tristan nodded as Lisa spoke, motioning her over to the bench and hunting across its scarred surface with his eyes for the bits of twine he'd discarded hours earlier. "You aren't wrong," he acceded with a faint smile. "It's the joining of the disparate spell somatics that makes the following of it difficult, if you're unfamiliar with the mechanic."
Holding up the twine he'd recovered, he knotted each short piece neatly into a loop and laid one across each palm, gesturing in turn as he explained, "There's flight, and there's braking. You know from studying any sort of charm why I've made circles," he prompted, waiting for her nod of acknowledgment, "any spell has to be a closed loop to function. Spells that rely on one another for input, such as needing the flying to stop at the same rate the braking is applied..." he slipped an edge of the left loop under the near edge of the right loop, and over the far edge, drawing them together until a knot formed and the remainder of the circles left and turned back toward the center, "..have to be interwoven appropriately," he finished, handing his twine-example to Lisa and picking up the recently-finished model to set it with several others in a rack along the wall.
"The spells can, of course, be applied totally independent of one another, and the results are quite comical, but not what one might call either safe or efficient," Tristan remarked, cleaning the debris of his project from the work surface and righting his tools to their correct places. "Did you need me? I can be finished here, if you like. I'd thought perhaps you were tired of me and wanted a bit of quiet today."
Lisa fingered the circles of twine in her hand as she absorbed the explanation she’d been given, a nod, almost to herself, indicating that she understood. Turning her attention to Tristan’s question, her lips curling at his last statement. “I can’t say it’s ever crossed my mind that you might be too loud a companion,” she teased. “And I imagine the danger of being ‘tired’ of company falls more to you than to me, as it’s not my home or my time being infringed upon.”
Returning to the reason she’d sought him out, she held out the note she’d received. “There’s nothing urgent, if you’re busy. I just wanted to tell you that I’d heard from Auror Jones. My funds and my house have been returned to my custody. My absence this morning was only because I needed some time to digest the news, silly as it sounds.”
Accepting the folded parchment, Tristan scanned its succinct contents, nodded, and looked up to find Lisa's expression still caught between emotions. "Good news, then, but quite a change," he ventured, watching the play of thought as it ran across her features.
Wary both of leaving too much unsaid and of fencing her in with too many words, uncertainty plain in whatever else warred with her state of mind, he reminded gently, "There was no end date on your invitation here. Think to your comfort; no one else's."
Grateful that he understood the difficulty of such a large transition in her life, Lisa had to restrain herself from hugging him and fidgeted with her sleeve to distract from the impulse. Since discovering that Tristan would allow her to seek physical affection and reassurance, she’d had to remind herself it wasn’t appropriate all the time. “I appreciate that. I’ll confess I was hoping you wouldn’t mind if I stayed a little longer. Not too long, I know it’s time I learned to take care of myself, but there are a few things I’d like to take care of before I move back home.”
“I do need to pick up some clothes though,” she continued, forcing her restless hands to be still, “and check on my plants. If you haven’t anything else pressing, would you like to come see Dragonwood?”
Dusting himself of the wood shavings that pervaded everything in his shop, Tristan shrugged a neutral acceptance. "One of the many benefits of working for myself is that few enough things are truly pressing. I've accepted no contracts during the holiday, and I will accompany you home if you'd like for me to do so."
Regardless of his next destination, he'd have to quit the shop for a time; the cold was less forgiving of his mistreatment of himself, and despite the fire that he'd built higher than he enjoyed, his hands were stiff and uncooperative after his morning's work. Reaching for Lisa's own slimmer paws, he quieted the suppressed flicker of their nervous motion, chafing her skin lightly between his broader palms. "You do not offend me by asking, so you've no cause to fret, and I will confess some curiosity about your beloved greenhouse."
His hands were large enough that they completely enveloped hers, only the attached wrists and arms giving away their existence. Like everything else about Tristan, it was safe and calming, and the gentle friction of his hands left her own pleasantly warmed. He’d mistaken the reason for her agitation though, and a soft heat infused her cheeks even as the mention of her favorite hideaway brought a smile to her face.
“I’m happy you’re coming with me and that I’ll get to show it to you. Asking you if you wanted to go didn’t make me nervous, though. At least, not very, and more as to the answer you’d give than that you’d be upset with me for inviting you.” Her smile turned sheepish. “You let me be close when I need to, and I don’t worry you’re going to hurt me. Makes it a challenge sometimes not to seek it just because it’s nice.”
Partially releasing his grasp of her, Tristan curled a finger beneath Lisa's chin, raising the shy demurring of her gaze until she met his eyes. A hint of indulgence tinged his smile as he murmured, "I know. You are far more like the younger sister I raised than I imagine even either of you would realize, and it would make me a foolish man indeed to have learned nothing in all those years."
The fact that Regan could have found herself in an equally painful and powerless situation as the one Lisa had escaped was not lost on him, and he said a silent thanks for Gwen's continued presence and her willingness to be a mother to the broken little girl he'd left behind. Biting back the wash of his guilt, he let his hand return to the knot he'd begun. "I did promise you safety," he said softly. "Comfort is no unprecedented stretch."
Completely disinclined to separate herself from Tristan’s grasp, and not feeling guilty about it as it was a touch he’d initiated, Lisa remained where she was as she replied, “Perhaps not unprecedented, but a stretch just the same, and one that matters.”
She let the subject drop, satisfied that he knew how much the care he took meant to her, and turned her attention to the other thing he’d said which caught her attention. “Will you get to see your sister tomorrow?” she asked. He’d mentioned Regan several times while she’d been staying at Whin Terrace and it was clear Tristan adored his sister.
Pleased that Lisa seemed cognizant of her own needs, as well as the caveat granted by his oath to shelter her, Tristan pressed her hands briefly, retaining the one as he straightened and tugging her along as he moved to close the shop for the day. Accommodating her preference for being in contact with him whenever she thought he'd permit such was a disused habit, but not one readily forgotten, and he locked the door and activated the building's wards before setting them on the footpath to the house.
"I will," he returned, wondering at Regan's likely reaction to Lisa's presence at Whin Terrace. "She'll spend the morning with Gwen's family, I imagine, and then come here." He glanced aside to his companion as he added, "She will likely insist on meeting you. Would you be willing to endure tea with company?"
“Of course.” Lisa agreed immediately, flattered to even be asked. “I’d be pleased to make your sister’s acquaintance. Christmas is a time for family though, so don’t let me intrude on your time with her. I don’t mind keeping myself busy if you decide you’d prefer to introduce us some other time.”
She hadn’t thought too much on the holiday up until now. Christmas had never been much different than any other day for her, only a few extra society parties where she was expected to look nice and be silent to herald the season. Tristan had family he loved, though, and she didn’t want to take his time away from Regan.
"I do mind dealing with her needling questions and mind-boggling petulance if I were to attempt to keep a secret, so if you aren't bothered by the prospect, I'll entertain her for as long as she'll submit to patience, and we can all take a late tea before she goes home." He had little doubt that Regan would notice Lisa's hand in the decorations, if something else did not alert her first, and though she knew he did not tolerate her pestering to a very great extent, she would try regardless.
"Am I to suppose that your elves will not be offended by my current attire, or shall I go and change?" Tristan questioned, indicating the plain work trousers and heavy jumper he wore.
Nodding her agreement to his plan, Lisa laughed quietly. “You know, the suggestion that Regan and I are quite a lot alike becomes slightly less flattering when you mention things like mind-boggling petulance,” she said, the grin on her face belying the cheek of her comment.
Her eyes followed his hand, taking in the casual outfit he wore. Like everything else she’d seen Tristan wear, the clothes were flattering for all that they were better suited to his profession than what he chose on the days he didn’t need to spend time in his workshop. “You’re dressed fine for a trip to my greenhouse, and the elves will be distracted enough by the fact someone is with me at all that I expect your sartorial choices will make little impression on them. Do you need to do anything else before we’re off?”
"No, if you're ready," Tristan answered, oddly grateful to not have business to occupy his every moment. "And as I do see your point, allow me to clarify that the behavior is mind-boggling because of its utter lack until quite recently; she was terribly obedient all the years she was with me. I can only assume the influence of the Gryffindor child she lives with."
Regan had always made her few instances of displeasure well known to him, but quietly, and whether Tess or her increased independence had caused the shift, there had been one. As absolutely as he'd ever been able to read her, the alterations in the person he'd lost and the one he'd found threw him, still years later.
Lisa wondered briefly if the Gryffindor child was the same as the Gwen he’d mentioned a few minutes prior, and who that was to Tristan’s sister if she was spending time with them on Christmas. It was a question for another time though, and keeping hold of the hand she held, Lisa reached the other one across to lay atop Tristan’s forearm as she gave him the coordinates for her estate.
Not a moment later they were in front of the fireplace in the informal living room. It took a second to figure out that what was different was that the rug that had previously been in the room was missing, and another second to realize it was likely removed because it had been stained with her husband’s blood. The knowledge was accepted and filed away, along with the feelings stirred by it, to be dealt with later. For now, there were a few items to be taken care of before she could do what she most looked forward to - slip outside to the greenhouse.
Twin pops alerted her to the arrival of the two house elves that keep Dragonwood in order, and Lisa smiled at the sight of Calla and Remy, both of whom were eying Tristan curiously. “This is Mr. Bole,” she explained, drawing the small creatures’ attention back to her. “He’s to be made welcome whenever he is inclined to visit. Now, Calla, please pack a bag for me. I’ll need about a week’s worth of clothes. Remy, while I’m gone, move my things into one of the spare bedrooms and put the master suite furniture into the attic.”
Turning to Tristan, she queried, “Would you like coffee brought out to the greenhouse? I’ll probably be mucking with my plants for a bit.”
“If you want something; I’ve had plenty of coffee today.” The elves appeared cooperative and accustomed to taking direction from Lisa; a good sign since she intended to return, though striking given the type of man her husband had been. “Feel free to ‘muck’ to your heart’s content. Goodness knows you’ve spent enough time amusing yourself while I’ve been in the shop. I believe there might be some saying appropriate to the situation, even.”
“Just tea service, then,” the blonde said, addressing the elves again. “Away from the door, please. Vlad is likely in need of pruning and you know how he gets. Bring a chair as well.”
The elves were off after a chorus of “Yes, mistress” and Lisa turned to Tristan with an excited grin. “I’m not sure what saying you’re referring to, but I like to watch you in your shop. I can’t promise my flora and I will be as enjoyable for you, but I’m glad you’re here.”
Gripping his hand, Lisa led the way to the door and outside, around the corner of the house to where her little glass building stood. If it was possible, her smile grew as the greenhouse came into view. She hadn’t realized just how much she’d missed tending to the vast array of plants she kept until now. Stopping their progress just before they reached their destination, she cautioned, “Careful on your way in. My venomous tentacula gets ornery sometimes. It’s just inside on the right.”
Chuckling quietly just at the mention of the plant, recalling a midnight of gardening with Pansy, Tristan paused at the door of the building to clarify, "You keep a venomous tentacula at the door of your greenhouse, and not only does it have a name, but you've named it 'Vlad'? As in Tepes, or more notably, 'The Impaler'? I'll have to share that with Pansy next I see her, though I'm not sure now whether our original joke gains or loses amusement value in light of the fact that Bletchley is presently courting my sister."
Still smirking to himself, he opened the door and held it, gesturing for Lisa to precede him. "Lead the way, then. I assume the thing likes you."
She wasn’t sure she’d heard laughter of any sort come from her companion in their short acquaintance. The rich baritone of his voice made for a lovely rumbling chuckle, and a smile spread across her face at the sound. Stepping just inside, she spread her arms and let the vines of her plant wind around her in greeting. “He is tolerably fond, yes,” Lisa agreed, intercepting a stealthy vine aiming for Tristan as he passed behind her. “No molesting the guest please, Vlad.” Once Tristan was safely out of range, she extracted herself with care.
“He was a school leaving gift from Professor Sprout. Venomous tentacula seeds are non-tradeable by law, but there’s a bit of a loophole regarding the plants once they’ve sprouted. I named him for the literary figure moreso than The Impaler himself. At eighteen, I thought ‘Count Tentacula’ was terribly clever, but it’s quite a mouthful, so it wasn’t long before it shifted to ‘Vlad’.” A slight wickedness crept into her eyes as she continued, “And his position might have had the benefit of keeping unwanted visitors from my sanctuary. He’d never have admitted it, but Xavier was quite fearful of being bitten.”
Turning over the rest of what he’d said in her mind, though she had no knowledge of the joke to which he referred, she asked, “Am I right to assume you mean Pansy Parkinson? She was a yearmate at Hogwarts, though we were in different Houses, as you might expect. I don’t recall anyone by the name of Bletchley. I hope the insinuation of the joke was not that your sister’s suitor is similar in nature to Vlad here.”
“Ravenclaws; slightly more devious than I’d yet to consider... duly noted,” Tristan commented wryly. She’d obviously spent a great deal of time caring for her plants, if the tentacula was well enough known to her to let the thing embrace her, and the careful respect he held for the resilient woman he’d taken in grew a small measure as he watched her gracefully escape the vine’s clutches. “And yes, Parkinson. She raises several varieties of roses, all bloodthirsty, and while she’s grown to accept the unfortunate name her parents chose, we did have quite a good time some months ago imagining her barrister copying out ‘Venomous Tentacula Parkinson” in triplicate.”
Many months ago, in fact; she’d pointed as much out to him the last they’d spoken, and the thought dampened his smile to something more level. “Miles Bletchley would have been two years ahead of you, in Slytherin, and he’d better not be comparable to your overly-friendly plant, or I foresee something of a disagreement occurring in the near future.”
Stifling a laugh at the quite apt change of moniker for Pansy Parkinson, for the little she knew of the other woman did indicate she was something of a kindred spirit to the dangerous plant, Lisa focused instead on the protective words toward his sister. Though not at all surprising given the way he’d looked after her, to whom he had no responsibility at all, it was always charming to see Tristan’s affection for Regan and she looked forward to meeting his beloved sister. “I’m sure your sister is grateful to have such a vigilant elder brother. All young ladies should be so lucky.”
As she moved about the room, looking over the jungle of greenery and taking note of what care was needed, she recalled an idea that she’d had early in her stay at Whin Terrace. Lisa studied the plants at her disposal, cataloguing their various uses in her mind before focusing on her guest and making note of the well-concealed, but still present signs of his exhaustion.
“Would you permit me to make something for you? I know you struggle with sleeping, and I’d like to prepare a tea which might help with some relief,” she asked, the hesitancy of her request fading as she slipped into her area of expertise. “It wouldn’t be as potent as a draught, of course, but herbal remedies also don’t leave you with that hazy, lethargic feeling potions often do. Maybe skullcap, which calms and relieves stress. Valerian, obviously, which encourages sleep and improves the quality of it, particularly if you have trouble quieting your thoughts at night. Lemon balm is a mild sedative and raises spirit, or maybe maypops which is tranquilizing and eases irritability...” Catching Tristan’s raised brow, Lisa paused and offered a shy smile. “I get a little carried away sometimes, but I really am very good at this sort of thing.”
Amused by the enthusiasm Lisa obviously had for her chosen craft, even having been relegated to dabbling by her husband’s influence, Tristan listened patiently as she traveled through her options, having ended his own Potions schooling at OWL level since his interest lay primarily in flight and physics. All of the things she mentioned sounded potentially useful, and her hopefulness made him regret that it was unlikely he’d be able to take anything she might make. Despite, and with a measured gaze given what he would have to reveal of himself, he requested, “If you could write down anything you think of, your ingredients and the intent of any such tea or concoction, I will pass it along to the apothecary in charge of preventing conflicts with the potions I am already taking. I do appreciate the offer, but there are very few things permissible to combine, and the adverse effects intensely undesirable.”
He’d decided when he realized that Romilda was the Auror in charge of Lisa’s case that disclosure was not the worst of his options; Romy knew, minus a few details, what it was that afflicted him and the havoc it had caused in his life. If she had not raised so much as an eyebrow at his intention to shelter a battered woman, he supposed his stability was no longer so in question that his temporary ward ought not to know.
“Of course,” she agreed immediately, disappointed she might not be able to provide any assistance with his insomnia, though she certainly didn’t want to interfere with other treatments he was taking. “I’ll work up a few variations and write them down for you. If you get approval for any of them, just let me know.”
Lisa moved to where Tristan stood, not wanting to pry into business that was not her own, but mildly worried that he was in need of a regular potions regimen. He was a young man, seemingly quite healthy, and she didn’t like to think there might be a serious threat to that. Reaching for his hand, she said quietly, “I hope there’s nothing of dire concern.”
"Oh, it won't kill me," Tristan responded, his expression wry though his words lacked mirth. He let Lisa twine her fingers with his, murmuring, "Not without my choosing such, at least."
The instantaneous flare of horror in the trusting face turned up to his prompted a true explanation, and he sighed quietly, voicing, "I am a schizophrenic. The catatonic variety, in specific, and therefore only prone to violence with a substantial application of alcohol, which is why I no longer drink, for any reason." Watching Lisa absorb what he'd said, Tristan continued after a moment, "The potions are essentially antipsychotic drugs, and while they make it difficult to induce sleep in any of the ways available to most, I've dealt with insomnia since I was a child; finding an imperfect solution is not worth further time in the Waverly Institute."
Lisa listened carefully to what he told her. She knew very little of the condition he described, but it was something known within their community that purebloods tended toward mental illness more often than those individuals with muggle blood intermixed in their lineage. The revelation did not make her uneasy; in her time at Whin, she’d seen nothing to indicate her host was anything other than the steady rock he presented to the world. It did illuminate his need to be careful of medication that had not been prescribed by his usual healers, and Lisa would never expect him to be careless when his own ability to control his mind was at stake.
In truth, it was not the fact of his illness that most occupied Lisa’s thoughts. It was the vast dichotomy between Tristan and the men she’d most often been surrounded by during her life. Her father, her husband, and the men they associated with were almost uniformly vicious, with regard only for their own desires and improvement of their status. They had no qualms about being violent, or blaming others for any misfortune that came their way. In contrast, Tristan had a cross to bear that he could have used to excuse all sorts of poor behavior, but he didn’t. There was no self-indulgent wallowing, bemoaning the lot he’d been cast, just acceptance and adjustment so that he could be the man he wanted to be.
Blue eyes meeting his green, she said, “I wish you did not have the burden of it, but I can imagine no one better able to carry its weight. The strength of your character...” Lisa shook her head and the corners of her mouth curled fractionally. “I did not know such men existed until I met you.”
Brow arching at the reverence in her tone, Tristan shook his head. "I am but a man, Lisa. I attempt to be a good one, and I suppose that I have rather more patience than most. That you have been accustomed only to the vile and hateful examples of my gender is deplorable, but it does not make me more than I am."
The dragging weight of his own regrets and misdeeds was his own to bear, and he felt no need to share it, though it might serve to illuminate the flaws in her belief of his superhumanity. He'd proven to himself, at least, that he was indeed capable of great failure, and held the concept in mind whenever Lisa seemed caught up in awe. He would do for her what he was able, but held no illusion that he could erase her past.
“I’m sure you have your share of flaws, Tristan,” Lisa hastened to say, though she could not think of one, except possibly that he did not laugh as often as someone capable of such a lovely sound ought, “and perhaps once I venture out into the world more I’ll find that white knights are more common than my experience has led me to believe.”
Retrieving her clippers from a small cabinet, she started back toward the front of the greenhouse. Vlad would need a shorter than usual trim of his vines if she was going to remain largely absent for the near future. “Until that time, I’m afraid you’ll have to bear the additional burden of my high esteem.”
"I imagine there are worse fates to which I might be subjected," Tristan conceded, situating himself in what seemed to be a suitable corner, unoccupied by animate flora. "Nothing of you could be terribly weighty to endure, in the first place. I believe I shall come through relatively unscathed."
Summary: Lisa's property is returned to her, and she takes Tristan to meet Vlad.