‘I set out for your parent’s house straight away, and when I saw their house, destroyed, and their bodies... I knew what I had done...’
- J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
James groaned heavily; he ached all over. He lay there for a moment, twitching each of his limbs in turn just to see if he still had control over them all. He did. At the back of his groggy mind, he dimly wondered what had happened to him. Why was he on the floor?
He took a deep breath in, preparing to lift himself off the ground where he lay, face pressed into the carpet. The smell was revolting, a disgusting musty and mouldy smell of disuse. That was strange, he thought to himself, the house didn’t usually smell like that.
Painfully, he heaved himself onto all fours and opened his eyes. Everything was blurry; he must have lost his glasses. Even without them, he could tell that it was dark. He briefly wondered why that was, the lights had been on, and he specifically remembered not closing the curtains; he liked to look out at the night sky. It almost felt like he was back out there, rather than being cooped up inside the house. It felt like he had been unconscious for a long time, so surely daylight should be streaming through the windows next to the front door.
As he groped around for his glasses, James felt that the rough carpet was strewn with something that had a texture James couldn’t quite place. What had happened? Everything seemed so foggy, it was like grasping at smoke...
Of course, that was it! He had been playing with Harry, when Lily had come into the room to take him off to bed, and then –
James’s stomach plummeted. He had arrived. He and Lily had been betrayed. Peter. His thoughts turned to anger as he remembered his so-called friend. But he couldn’t worry about that now. He shoved those thought aside; he had more pressing things to worry about. Where was Lily? And Harry? What had happened to them? What was all this stuff? James threw another strange stringy, plant-like thing aside and as he did so, his hand brushed against something cold and metallic. His glasses.
He saw with a shock that the dirty windows were covered with some form of thick plant life,
Hastily, he shoved them on, but the sight he was greeted by was gruesome. Something had happened to the house. Something odd, James couldn’t work it out. There was an immensely thick coating of dust over everything, and the stringy things James had been rooting around in were in fact trails of ivy. The reason for the darkness was explained, the windows were filthy with dirt, and some form of thick plant life, probably ivy, was covering them from the outside. He saw with a shock that instead of a front door, there was a great gaping hole surrounded by crumbling bricks. Covering it was a thick curtain of ivy, it was like looking from behind a dark green waterfall.
Confused, James looked around him. The house looked like it had been deserted for years; the wallpaper had peeled away from the walls in many places to reveal dark decaying patches of grey damp. The wicker chair that he and Lily had been given as a wedding present from her parents was mouldering away in the corner, and through the door to the sitting room, James could see the rotten remains of Harry’s toy broomstick.
As he stared round, he could see no sign of either Lily or Harry, and a great wave of nausea hit him.
Too sick with worry for Lily and Harry to fret about the state or even the cause for the state of his house, he hauled himself to his feet. He winced with pain; his limbs felt as stiff as if he had been sleeping for a long time, and there was a deep throbbing ache in his chest. He shrugged this off and slowly climbed rickety stairs, being careful of the rotting wood that creaked ominously under his feet. Already, several places in the banister had rotted away completely leaving breaks in what should have been a straight and ordinary piece of wood. Something in the back of his mind told him that this was odd, strange, unnatural, but he pushed it out of his mind. He was more concerned about the fate of his wife and child. He kept climbing the stairs, sure that this was where Lily would have gone with Harry. He had told her to run, and from where they had been standing, this was the only way to run. The back door had been locked by Dumbledore for their protection long before the Fidelius Charm had been preformed. There would have been no means of escape that way; the stairs would have been her only way.
He hoped with all of his being that she and Harry were alright, that they were unhurt. That they weren’t -. He couldn’t bring himself to even think the word.
‘Lily?’ he called along the dark landing. The plant life covered these windows too, though he barely wondered at it as he saw that the door to Harry’s room, the door at the top of the stairs, stood ajar. He cautiously tried to push the rotting wooden door that led to the bedroom open, but it jammed on something on the other side. He gave it a harder push, and was astonished to hear the sound of bricks scraping against each other. With one final shove, he forced the door open. He gasped in horror and disbelief at the sight that greeted him.
The two outside walls had been completely blown away, and the roof had collapsed in a heap of rubble; bright daylight illuminated the gruesome scene. The floor was invisible due to the bricks and tiles from the roof, mixed with tangles of ivy that had spilled inside. Only Harry’s broken cot stood out from among the mess, like the ghostly form of a destroyed castle.
James let out a strangled cry, he hardly doubted that this was where they had been, why else would the room be in such a ruined state? He threw himself onto the piles of crumbling bricks and began to manually shift decaying, spider web covered rubble, searching for his wife and child.
He was almost in tears as he frantically threw debris aside, and finally he thought he caught a glimpse of pale skin as he heaved a large piece of stone away from the pile it was perched on. With added haste, he began to haul away more pieces, unearthing his wife little by little, until he had freed her.
‘Lily!’ James said, his voice and hands trembling as he searched for a pulse.
There! She had one! He was almost sobbing in relief, and he pulled her arms free, and turned her to try and sit her up.
‘Lily!’ he whispered. ‘Lily, can you hear me? Wake up! Wake up!’
As he cleared the hair out of her eyes, she gave a faint groan.
‘Lily!’ he cried ecstatically, as she opened her eyes.
‘James,’ she whispered hoarsely. ‘James, what happened? Where am I?’
‘It’s ok,’ he soothed smiling broadly in joy, his heart was nearly bursting with relief, but Lily didn’t look so happy.
‘James, where’s Harry?’ she asked, a tear beginning to form in her eye.
James’s smile was wiped off his face quicker than a bolt of lightning streaking across the sky, and a fresh wave of nausea coursed over him.
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