“Did you really light your teacher’s hair on fire when you were only thirteen?”
“I was a troubled soul,” I say, shrugging.
“Yeah, it says that here, too. Man, they must have really hated you!” Sirius laughs. I scowl.
“Gimme that!” I snatch it out of his hands, reading over the file myself.
It’s been and hour, and still we’ve found nothing that could be useful in helping solve the mystery of my parents’ death. Half the stuff in this school file I don’t even remember doing—it’s like reading information (very amusing information) on someone else’s life.
We’re sprawled out in James’s room, Sirius and I on the bed (don’t get any ideas), James in front of me on the floor, and Remus in a comfy-looking chair. We’ve each been assigned tasks by Remus, who is apparently used to this sort of research procedure. Sirius and I are going through Ben’s and my school records, James is skimming through the medical files, and Remus has a massive stack of research books that he’s using to do his own investigation.
I feel sort of bad that Ben isn’t here, but somehow I don’t think he’d approve of my methods of acquiring these files, so for now he’s out of the loop.
“Hey! I think I found something strange!” James says, holding up a paper excitedly.
“What?” I slide down next to him and take a look at the paper, which looks like some sort of legal document. The others also gather round.
“Well, it says here, that, ‘Due to concerns regarding the sterility of the instruments used upon the late Mr. DeVough and his deceased wife, practitioner Arnold Holsbeam has hereby been prohibited from practicing medicine at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Washington State for the remainder of his previously designated term.’”
“Do you think it means anything?” Sirius asks, wrinkling his nose.
“I think it means that this disease might have happened because some crackpot doctor didn’t remember to wash his fucking needles,” I say, my voice low.
“Now, don’t jump to conclusions…I’m not sure if it’s even possible to spread dark magic through needles like that,” Remus says, placing a calming hand over mine. “Let me look it up.”
So we wait, while Remus opens book after book to try and find the answer.
Fifteen minutes later, he clears his throat, and begins to read aloud.
“There have been numerous cases where dark magic has been passed from one wizard, witch, or even muggle, to another. This can be done through the contamination of shared razors, needles, or longterm exposure to an infected person’s blood.”
I stare in shock. “But…why didn’t Ben get it, then? He got all the same shots I did!”
“Well, it goes on to say that, ‘Dark magic does not affect every witch or wizard. It affects only those who are already suffering from some other immune-system-depleting illness.’ And…that’s all it says, really.”
We sit in silence for a full five minutes, the air heavy.
“We had colds,” I say then, my voice weak. “Mom, dad and I had colds, because we’d been at a muggle picnic and it had rained, and none of us had coats or umbrellas. Ben couldn’t go, because he was at a friend’s house.” I let this information sink in.
My parents died because of a fucking cold.
I’m going to die because for ten minutes, I was out in the rain without an umbrella.
Why is life so unfair?
“I want to kill him,” James says, his voice shaking. “I want to kill that bastard Holsbeam.”
I put a hand on James’s shoulder to try and calm him. “We have to tell Ben,” I say quietly. “Now.” James nods, and with a flick of his wand produces a patronus shaped like a stag. It rushes off, leaving the rest of us here, still silent.
A few minutes later there’s a crack, and Ben joins us.
“What’s up?” he asks, looking around at all of our somber faces.
“I know why mom and dad died. I know why we got sick.”
“What? How did you—“
“We went to Washington,” I say quickly. “Did some digging. Anyway, well…here.” I find that it’s too difficult to speak the words aloud, so I just hand him the paper and the book Remus had read out of.
It only takes him three minutes to read everything.
“Impossible,” he says, throwing the book down once he’s done. “It doesn’t make any sense.”
“It does, Ben. Mom, dad, and I all had colds that time we went to get our shots before going on that trip out of the country. You didn’t have a cold.”
“But…you got your…your lung thing later than mom and dad! If it was an infection, you all would have gotten sick at once!”
“Look, Ben, I don’t know why it didn’t happen like that! Maybe my body was fighting it harder than theirs’ could! I don’t know, okay? I just…I feel that this is what happened. I know it.”
“I still don’t buy it,” he says stubbornly. “I can’t believe it, because that would mean that this was preventable. That it happened because of one idiotic man. That is was an…accident. And now you’re dying.” He reaches out to me and I fall into his arms, clinging to him with all my strength.
“I love you, Ben. And… even though it’s unfair, I’m glad it happened this way. Because now I know that you won’t get sick.”
“I’d die a million times over if it meant giving you your life back,” Ben says thickly, hands trembling.
“I know. I know.”
And we stand there, hugging each other, and it’s like we’re the only two people in the room; in the world.
We tell Jackson about our discoveries, of course we do. I mean, he is my best friend. He doesn’t take it well at all. In fact, at one point I wonder whether or not I need to restrain him.
“Holsbeam! I know him! I’M GONNA KILL HIM!”
“And what exactly would that solve?” I ask angrily, grabbing Jackson’s arm. “Would it bring my parents back to life? Would it mean that I wouldn’t die anymore? If killing him would mean those things…then go ahead. But you and I both know it won’t really solve anything. And…the last thing I want is for you to end up in prison because of me. So just…calm down!”
He’s breathing heavily, his eyes still full of a rage unparalleled.
“How exactly did it happen? Why was there dark magic on those needles in the first place?” He asks through clenched teeth.
“We don’t know for sure. I guess he was treating a…a bad patient. A Death Eater maybe? I don’t know!”
“Why would a Death Eater be in America?” Jackson asks, looking confused. “It doesn’t add up…something here isn’t right…”
“Sheesh, you and Ben! I just wanted closure, okay? I wanted closure, and I got it. I just needed to know why I’m dying. And…now I do. If it’s not the whole story, then oh well. I honestly don’t give a flying fuck any more.”
“Okay. Okay. Come here,” he says, and I let him hug me for a while, enjoying his comfort and warmth.
“Max?” James asks, sounding tired. “Should we tell my mum?”
“Yeah, we should,” I say, sighing and pulling away from my best friend’s embrace. “But…do you mind doing it? I need…I need some time to think. Alone,” I add, when he looks like he might argue. Instead, he just shrugs.
“Sure. I’ll be back in a bit, then. Later, Max. Jackson.”
“You should go, too,” I say to Jackson. “Don’t do anything stupid.”
“I won’t if you don’t want me to,” he says, face calm. I frown; his expression is hiding something.
“I’m serious, Jackson…do not go looking for trouble with Holsbeam, or…well, just don’t do it.”
“I said I won’t! Jesus Christ, woman, calm down!”
“Hey! There will be no language like that in my house!” Mrs. Potter’s voice comes from behind us. So much for quiet time to think.
“Sorry,” Jackson mutter, bowing his head. “I guess I’ll go now.”
“Yes, I think that would be best,” Mrs. Potter says, not unkindly. “Oh, and Jackson dear, remember that tomorrow evening you’re coming here for a holiday dinner!”
“Yes, you are!” She says firmly. “Now shoo, Max needs her rest!”
“Bye, Jack!” I call after him as he leaves. He just nods, and then he is gone.
“Thanks,” I say to Mrs. Potter, sighing in relief. “I am pretty tired, actually…do you mind if I rest?”
“Of course not, dear. I know you’ll be getting more and more tired now, before you…well. Just let me know if you need anything!”
And so, with no further distractions, I crawl into bed, close my eyes, and fall fast asleep.
And boy does it feel good.
I end up sleeping straight through supper and the night, meaning that when I wake up the next morning I’m both starving and extremely well rested. This (the well rested bit) turns out to be a good thing, because Mrs. Potter is on a warpath to prepare the house for the “holiday dinner” we’re having tonight.
“JAMES! DID YOU HANG UP THE GARLANDS YET?” It turns out that Mrs. Potter is a real stickler when it comes to preparing for social events.
“But mum, we just got out of school for holiday break! Can’t I have a rest?” James yells back.
“Works me like a fucking house elf,” he mutters, scowling darkly.
“Do you have house elves?” I ask curiously. “I’ve never seen them here before…”
“Well, we have two free house elves who we hire over holidays, but other than that my mum believes in doing things herself. Of making me do them for her, anyway.”
“Here, I’ll help,” I offer, and together we hang the garlands of mistletoe, holly, and any other plants or wreaths that look festive-y. With magic it only takes us a half hour or so, and soon we move on to helping with the Christmas tree and various other decorations.
By the time we’re finished the house is barely recognizable.
“Wow,” I say, looking around. “It looks amazing!”
“Just wait until the night of the ball comes ‘round…it’ll look even better,” James says, a hint of pride in his voice.
For dinner the Potters invite a bunch of people. Sirius, who apparently has his own apartment now in the city (although he used to live here with the Potters), Peter, Remus and his parents, Jimmy, Eira, Jackson, Hattie (by my request), Dick (because he’s staying with Hattie for the holidays), and of course Lily, as well as the rest of her family.
The dining room is exquisite, and everyone is dressed up so nicely. My own outfit is comprised of a velvety cream-colored top, a flowy navy skirt, and shoes so high than I’m almost as tall as Ben when I wear them, and quite a bit taller than James. Eira’s is probably the most interesting outfit: she has on a bright red romper, that, despite it’s somewhat scandalous length still manages to look classy. This paired with bright red lipstick and black shoes just as tall as mine means that, besides being the most eccentric, she is also the most noticeable. My eyes, of course, are also drawn to Jimmy.
He pulls me aside before the meal starts, and we hug awkwardly.
“I’ve missed you,” I say softly. “You look…really nice.” I swallow and try not to breath, because he smells freaking amazing, and I am NOT going there again.
“You look beautiful, as always,” he grins slyly at me. “Do you mind if I…kiss you on the cheek?”
I shake my head and he leans in. His lips are still as soft as I remember them being. I’m blushing when he pulls away.
“I still think you made a mistake by not choosing me,” he says softly, his voice low, before walking back to Eira, who’s involved in a rather intense conversation with James about some rock band or another.
I take a deep breath, and am about to join the rest of the group when none other than Lily decides to speak to me.
“Hi,” she says shyly, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. “Um, Max, I’d like you to meet my family. “This is my mother, Sophia Evans, and my father, Tom Evans. My sister wasn’t able to come, I’m afraid.”
I shake their hands; they really are terribly nice people. And to think that Lily used to be such a bitch…
“Max! It’s so good to see you again!” Hattie, who’d been waiting for an opening apparently, throws her arms around me.
“Yeah, long time no see,” Dick says. “Which is a shame really…you know how much I like to see pretty girls!” He laughs at his own joke, while Hattie just rolls her eyes. When Dick wanders off, she pulls closer to me.
“He’s driving crazy,” she says through gritted teeth. “I mean, I really like him as a friend and all, but I think I’m going to break up with him after the holidays.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” I say sincerely. “Well, good luck!” I glance over at Dick, who is now flirting with a blushing Mrs. Evans. Hattie growls and stomps off towards Dick. Ahhhh, young love.
Dinner is delicious, of course, and conversation is actually interesting. It’s the perfect thing to take my mind off of earlier today, and I’m grateful to see all of my friends again.
Halfway through dessert, an owl starts tapping on the window.
“Whose owl is that?” James asks, looking confused.
“Not mine,” a few people say. I just look at it. James stands and lets it in. It flies and lands directly before me, holding out a leg. I really have no idea what to expect. Could I be in trouble for stealing those files? What if they caught me on tape somehow? I open the letter carefully after the owl flies away again (only after stealing a piece of pie from my plate), and immediately look to the bottom of the letter to see whom it’s from.
“Ian!” I say, standing up suddenly.
“Ian?” Mrs. Potter asks, frowning.
“Uhh…never mind.” I tuck the letter into my pocket to save for later, and eat the rest of the meal in a hurry, anxious to sneak away so I can see what Ian wrote.
FINALLY, about an hour later I’m able to hurry away to my room. I flop down on my bed and pull out the letter eagerly.
You’ll never know how much your gift has helped me. It’s only been a little while since I saw you last, but already the money you leant me has completely changed my life. I have my own apartment in London that I’m living in with my mum. I even got a job selling motorbikes! I will pay you back as soon as I can.
I was actually wondering if you could come visit my mum and me in our apartment sometime; she would love to meet you, and I’d really like to see you again and thank you in person.
You’re an angel, Max, of the highest degree. Even if you can be a bitch sometimes.
Below he has his address written. I take a quill and some ink to reply.
My dear Ian,
It’s so good to hear from you! I’m beyond thrilled that you’re doing well, and I would LOVE to come and see you again! How does tomorrow sound?
Literally a second after Mindy is flying out the window with my response, there’s a knock on my door.
In steps Remus, a small smile on his lips. He goes and sits down on my bed, knees folded Indian style, and waits expectantly for me to join him. Once I do, he starts to speak.
“I just wanted to make sure you were all right after everything that happened earlier,” he says softly. “I can’t imagine what you must be feeling right now.”
“I…I really don’t want to talk about it, actually,” I say, looking down. “But thanks. Hey, um, Remus?” I ask, looking up at him suddenly.
“Do you want to go to London with me tomorrow? Just you and me? I have this friend who I’m going to see, and I would really like it if someone could go with me. I’d ask James or Jackson, but they can be kinda…insensitive, sometimes. And this friend…he’s been through a lot. So…could you?”
“Sure!” he says, smiling. “It’ll be nice to spend some time with just you. So, what, if you don’t mind me asking, has this friend of your been through, exactly?”
“His dad is a werewolf,” I say. Remus’s face goes bright red, then pale. “He used to beat up Ian and his mom…they’ve got scars all over them!” I say sadly. “I met him at St. Mungo’s…he’d tried to kill himself. I actually ended up loaning him some money. I just couldn’t stand imagining him having to stay with his horrible father! I had to do something!”
At this point, Remus hugs me to him, and I can’t help but feel as though there’s something more to this hug. Like he’s grateful, truly grateful, for how I helped Ian. I hug him back. Remus really is a great hugger.
“It might be…hard for me,” he warns. “Because I…I’m closer to the situation than you would think. But of course, I’ll go with you.”
“Thank you,” I whisper into his shirt. “You’re a good friend. And…I love you, Remus Lupin.”
“I love you, too, Max,” He says, and I can feel his smile against my hair. “We all do, and don’t you ever forget it.”
Soooo, how was that for a quick update? I'm actually leaving for my vacation in a bit, but I wanted to get this out before I go...I might even be able to sneak in another chapter or two before I leave in a couple of weeks.
I liked this chapter better than the last one actually...what are your thoughts? I CAN'T WAIT until I get to write the next chapter, because I absolutely adore Remus, and he and Max will finally get some pre-mortem(ish) bonding time! Yay!
Oh, and I tried to make it as clear as possible when I was explaining why Max/her parents are dead/dying, but if you have any further questions, or if there's something that I missed, please let me know in a review!!
Please, please review! Let me know if you like updates this close together or further apart! Let me know if you liked/disliked the chapter! And most of all, let me know what you favorite kind of cheese is (because cheese if probably the best thing ever)!!
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