Chapter 1 : One
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Not to be confused wtth On The Brink… I probably should have lead with this but I have no idea what this story is. I know how it will end, but that was sort of a foregone conclusion. I guess what I mean is that I have no idea what this story will become. When I wrote anything else I’ve ever posted I had a goal in mind – a point. With this story, it just sort of is. Which is good, since it is also:
- utterly unedited
- free from silly things like “fact checking”
- not even loosely re-read before posting which means it will be,
- not heavy on the continuity
This all means it’s probably:
I’m not trying to be glib (well, okay, I’m always trying to be glib) and it’s not that I don’t care – it’s just that fanfiction isn’t what I was trying to do when this started – the fanfiction just sort of…happened. Because of that, I’m considering this more an exercise than a story. I guess what I’m saying is – I apologize in advance for everything I’m probably going to do to anyone who reads this over the next six months, but at least you won’t be able to say you weren’t warned. :)
She was lounging peacefully on the hearth rug – propped up on her elbows, a book open in front of her, stocking feet kicking lazily – when you arrived, you watched her for more than a few moments as they dying firelight flickered across her face. “How can you read with the fire spurting like that?” you asked, smirking as you spoke. She elicited an almost satisfactory scream in response and leapt to her feet, tugging at her nightgown.
“Sirius, what are you doing here?” she scolded, snatching up her book and throwing it in your direction. “You weren’t due back for a week and how dare you let yourself in like that! What happened to the security charms and wipe that grin off of your face – this isn’t funny, you know.”
It occurred to you to mention that her angry grimace had faded into a wide smile and, customarily, you wouldn’t have passed it up, but a shimmer of crimson foil glinted in the firelight a sthe book went sailing narrowly by your head. Leaning down to pick it up, you caught a glimpse of something of an entirely different nature but elected not to mention that either. Lily surveyed you, annoyed and somewhat blushing, from the hearth but didn’t move as you se the book, spine down, on the table and let the pages fall away.
“I’ve missed him over the last few weeks. It’s been impossible in this house without them all – but him most particularly. They’ll all be back in London in a few days time – I suppose I should just keep reminding myself that and hope for the best in the interim. I don’t think I can stand another day in St. Mungo’s,” you read aloud, putting on your best sing-song voice as you paced the room.
“Tell me, Lily – which of us were you referring to? The him that has your stomach all in knots.” Your tone surprised you, more cruel than you’d intended but Lily didn’t seem wounded.
“Don’t,” she moved forward to snatch the journal from your hand but you caught her writs before she reached it. “Sirius” she argued, trying to tug away from you. “Come on, stop it.” The not so gentile thwap of her hand against your chest signaled the anger that was about to spill over and you released your grip.
A few paces back, the book closed and held tightly to her chest, she smiled sadly.
“Lils,” you started, taking a deep breath. Of the many things you’d come for, this somehow didn’t make the cut. “We’re going to have to talk about this eventually.”
“No, actually, we don’t. I’ll deal with him in my own time.”
“You should deal with him now,” you re-used her words, firing them back at her without thinking about it. “Do you think it’s going to get any easier?”
“I…Sirius, no, but this isn’t something I can just do. It’s not that easy…”
“Ow, damn it! Take it easy.” A searing pinprick in your side suddenly erupted, recalling your senses.
“Je suis desole...Vous -“
“Ouch. Merlin’s beard. Go help someone else, would you?” you winced, swatting the girls hands away.
“Adelaide, ne pas probleme.”
“Oh irony, thine ways are wicked,” you muttered, trying to smile. From the edges of your fuzzy vision, Lily’s face appeared. Behind her, the little French nurse whose clumsy, torturous hands you were under made her escape, letting in a cloud of snowflakes before she closed the flap.
“Do you have to be so mean?” she scolded, pushing you back against the pillow with her palm.”
“Do you have to be so aggressive? Your appeal really lies in your subtlety.” The words came out in fits and sputters, sneaking in between coughing. The cloth she held to your face was spattered red. She shushed you, her cheeks rushing with her own crimson. “Okay, I take it back,” you managed. “I’m not doing so well.”
“Don’t pull that line with me,” she teased. “You’re playing this up for attention.” She was smiling lightly, but the rest of her expression was racked with concern as she ran her eyes along the bed – stopping a moment too long on the bloody mess that had once been your right leg.
“Shhh,” she cut you off, placing a hand behind your head to help lift it. “Drink this….”
It was light out when you woke up, the pain considerably less than you remembered it, but you still tested your muscles warily, hunching up gently first, then pushing yourself into a sitting position, your leg dragging uselessly. As the room resolved around you, you realized you were no longer in the cold tent in the middle of the Forbidden Forest. The room that held you now was white and sterile with the unmistakable stench of a hospital. In the hallway, two urgent voices whispered indistinctly. You struggled to recognize them but even your attune hearing wasn’t enough. Next to the bed, a glass sat on a tray beside a pitcher of water. It tasted stale when it crossed your lips and did little to quench your thirst. Gently, you massaged your fingertips across your ribs, feeling each bone separately, waiting for the pain to resume.
Halfway through the inspection, the door creaked open a few centimeters and the voices came more readily. “Lily, you’ll be of no use to anyone if you get yourself killed, I promise you,” Dumbledore was unmistakable now, his steady reassuring words remained supportive, but somehow an admonition. “You’ll do us all so much more good here, where your most valuable talents are so desperately needed.” She asked him something in a voice too soft to hear, or maybe she said nothing at all. Either way, Dumbledore patted her hand gently and took his leave.
When she pushed the door open a few moments later, there were tears in her eyes. You watched as she crossed the room, her face buried in a chart – presumably yours. The way she looked – the obvious pain in her expression wrenched at the welds in your psyche and you found yourself wondering why she was crying. Had something happened to James and her worries were over him – and if that was the case, why were you more sad to lose her than concerned for him? The seconds ticked by slowly as you contemplated these things and you lost yourself in them, unaware when she noticed you until the gentle touch called your attention back to the present. The touch was not that of fingertips against your pulse, a comforting stroke against your hand or a cautious movement to check for healing, rather it was her lips, damp with tears, gingerly pressed to yours. The saline intertwined with the sugary sweet smell of her skin. Your hand snaked from beneath the light blankets to wrap around her waist, pulling her nearer as the swell of jealous fear subsided. For a few seconds, she abided your request, her movements eager and feverish but far too quickly she pulled away. Aware of herself again, she looked nervously over her shoulder. When she turned toward you, she no longer looked carried away, pressing the back of her hand to your forehead. It was deliciously cool and soft against your skin. “No fever. That’s good. It means there’s no residual infection.”
Smiling, you wrapped your fingers in the hem of her shirt and dragged her closer. She pulled away. You whined. “I promise, that was the best medicine. I swear, all mended.”
She grinned but persisted in her clinical examination. “No fever means no infection, it doesn’t mean you’re fine. You must have fallen at least fifty feet. You punctured a lung, broke six ribs and suffered major internal bleeding – and none of that mentions how badly your leg was ripped open.”
“See, all of those things are in the past tense. Certainly nothing that would warrant the cessation of affections now,” you argued, grabbing her wrist again. In the hallway, a group of nurses flitted by, giggling and gossiping.
“No, but that is,” she answered sternly, jotting something down on her paperwork and taking two large steps backward, moving outside of your reach. “Remus and Peter will probably be up in a few minutes. Dumbledore said they’ve cleaned up the mess from last night, so they’re all coming in to get a look over and then they’ll want to visit.” In any other conversation, the fact that she hadn’t mentioned James might not have been conspicuous but here, as she stood so conspicuously out of your reach the omission was glaring.
“And James?” you asked, eyebrows raised.
“He’s fine,” she answered, her voice terse. “I’m sure he’ll be up as well.”
You hoisted yourself up further and a sudden searing pain shot through your leg. Your arms gave out beneath you and you collapsed back against the mattress. Lily started to move towards you but stopped herself, turning on heel and rushing into another patient’s room. A few seconds later, there was laughter in the hall.
“Well, someone looks like hell,” James said brightly as he pushed your door open.
“Damn,” you answered, trying to force the uneasy expression from your face. “And I was going for rugged and handsome.” Lupin grinned, pulling one of the chairs up from the wall and taking a seat next to the bed to examine your wounds.
“I’m sorry,” Peter said, still hovering near the door, stiff and uncomfortable… Looking at him for the first time, his stance wasn’t all together unlike the way Lily had been fixed to that spot mere moments ago. You pushed the thought from your mind as he carried on. “I didn’t mean to leave you exposed like that. I go pinned down and she came out of no where. I couldn’t get to you…”
You waived him off, mid-sip of the stale water Lupin had handed you. They both worried too much. “It happens.” Peter looked guiltily in your direction. “Besides,” you added, “Bella has it in for me.”
“Which I’ve been explaining to him all day,” Lupin interjected. Peter grimaced but, after a few more awkward shifts of his weight he sat down. The four of you joked for an hour or so before the door opened again. You looked up hopefully but it was the useless French girl again. Triage. She changed your dressing with surprisingly few unpleasant jabs to the exposed flesh of your shin and smiled guardedly at everyone.
“Ready?” Lupin asked when she left. James shot Peter a glance and shrugged his shoulders.
You sat up a little straighter and nodded in Lupin’s direction, eager to see them go. “Thanks for coming by,” you added as an after thought.
“Coming by?” James asked, grinning. “Dumbledore’s orders, you’re coming to the house until you’re all stitched up. You’re coming with us.”
If the look on Lupin’s face as you limped down the sidewalk toward the underground was any indication, your expression upon hearing those words betrayed more than you intended. He watched you warily as James and Peter helped you into the house, guiding you around the coffee table and toward a temporary bed in the center of the living room, presumably trying to ascertain what it was that he’d seen.
“Where’s Lily?” Peter asked once they had you all settled in. You struggled to look disinterested. He wasn’t the only one who’d noticed her absence but Remus’s watchful gaze made you nervous. If any of them were to suspect, it would be him first.
James fussed in the fireplace, “She said she’s stopping at the market on the way home, so she’ll probably be here in a half-hour or so,” he answered, dusting his hands off and flopping into the arm chair. “Speaking of which…” He started speaking again and you tensed, unable to meet anyone’s eyes. “We should probably get our story straight before she gets here. I’m not sure I want her knowing you fell off of a roof…”
Lupin chuckled easily, “Though it might be fun to tell her how he bounced off of a sign and landed in a pile of trash. I’m just saying.”
While elements of the previous evening might have been fuzzy, there were certainly things you were crystal clear on – not the least of which was the reason you’d fallen from the roof or the ensuing collision with the ground. Your cousin Bellatrix was just as wicked as the rest of the family and her disdain for you had been previously well recorded, but it wasn’t until He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named asserted his control over your world that her feelings became quite so pronounced. Not wanting to expose your own homes, the Order had taken to meeting in places that belonged to no one in particular. Houses and shops, abandoned by their owners – muggle or otherwise – as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’s grip tightened on a community. This building, in the middle of a formerly bustling Hogsmeade street, had been unoccupied for months as disappearances and deaths – inexplicable murders – chased most of the town’s inhabitants away. The Secret Keeper hadn’t betrayed it but somehow they knew you were there because the moment Arthur stepped outside, they were upon him. It was more bad luck that Molly was a few paces behind him, carrying her twins. The three of you – James, Lupin and yourself – were on the roof when it happened – when the street below erupted in flashes of light and screams. You watched, trying to protect her from curses as best as you could from your vantage point as Molly turned to run back into the house…
“Does that work for you Sirius?” James furrowed his brow, scrutinizing you. You shook your head to clear your thoughts. “Sirius.”
“What? I’m sure that’s fine.”
“You’re out of it… Are you all right?” Peter asked, leaning forward a bit.
“I think he just needs some sleep. Come on, we should get out of here.” Remus said the words slowly, looking pointedly in your direction as he picked his coat up off of the couch.