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Checkmate by babewithbrains
Chapter 9 : Facta Non Verba
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 4


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“Why does it always happen to me?” Lily complained as she, James, Remus, Mary, Sirius and Peter left the hospital wing.

“What d’you mean?” said Mary.

“That’s the second time I've been with someone and they end up dead shortly afterwards and—”

“—it’s not even Christmas yet,” James finished for her, gravely. All six of them had serious expressions on their faces after the events of that afternoon. The rest of the Hogwarts students had been evacuated from Hogsmeade and Dumbledore had made it clear that all future Hogsmeade visits would be cancelled until the culprit was found and caught. Of course this was unlikely, because the suspect was not necessarily limited to Hogwarts itself; now, it was unclear as to whether or not the perpetrator was a student or member of staff at Hogwarts, or a shopkeeper in Hogsmeade, or, merely, a shopper there.

Kian’s body had been removed and was now residing in St. Mungo’s Mortuary, awaiting an examination to decipher the cause of his death. To make matters worse, Lily and James were unable to identify why or how Kian could’ve died just minutes after they had seen him looking perfectly healthy, so they were forced to rely on the autopsy results to find out how Kian died.

Lily was particularly shaken by this turn of events; she was scared that Kian’s killer was also William’s killer, and she was even more frightened of the fact that she seemed to always be at the scene of the death, which just made things worse — what if the killer knew Lily, and did this on purpose when they knew that Lily was around?

However, Lily did not have time to dwell on the thought as someone said the words which chilled her blood.

“What’re they going to do with his...body?” Mary whispered, a frightened look on her face.

Luckily for Lily, James answered Mary’s question.

“He’s in St. Mungo’s Morgue,” he said quietly.

“And they're going to do a full examination, aren’t they?”

“Yes, Miss MacDonald, that is correct,” Dumbledore said, appearing suddenly from behind a tapestry. He strode towards the group, surveying them politely with his piercing blue eyes. There was no trace of a smile on his lined face; on the contrary, Lily thought that he looked angry.

“Now, Mr Potter, Miss Evans, if you'd both come along with me, please?”

“Oh...OK,” said Lily, weary but not altogether surprised at the headmaster’s request. James nodded solemnly, and together, he and Lily waved at their friends gloomily and followed Dumbledore to his office.

Once they were inside, Dumbledore checked the windows and door cautiously before speaking, ensuring the curtains were shut.

“Sit down, please.” James and Lily obeyed, seating themselves on the two chairs in front of the desk. Dumbledore sat down too, resting his chin above his interlocked fingers as he regarded both of them.

“It so happens that the Ministry have decided that — in the interests of furthering this investigation — you two are now regarded as suspects.”

“What?” James and Lily burst out at the same time.

Dumbledore sighed. “I know, I know. I have advised the Aurors of my acquaintance against it, I have appealed directly to the Head of the Auror Department and even to the Minister for Magic, not that that would do much good,” he finished, grimacing. “The fact remains, however, that you will both now be watched. Miss Evans in particular — you happened to be with both victims just before they died and you were also first at the scene of both crimes. You were known throughout the school to be close to one victim and romantically involved with both.”

“Sir—” Lily started, but Dumbledore held up a hand.

“I am not saying any of these rumours are true, Miss Evans. I am merely relaying what is being said about you at the present time. As for you, Mr Potter, well, almost the same is said about you, to a slightly lesser extent of course — as you were not romantically involved with either victim, although you were close to Mr McCann.

“Let me be very clear on this point: I do not believe either of you to be guilty in the slightest; in fact, I am extremely insulted by the Ministry of Magic’s accusations at the Head Boy and Head Girl of my school, and I will do everything in my power to persuade the Aurors to drop their case on you — which, at the moment, is merely circumstantial and comprises of rumours. All I ask of you is one favour: please be aware about what it is you are doing. Stay out of trouble — yes, Mr Potter, I am talking to you especially — any kind of trouble, because the punishment will be far worse than a detention.

“You have been in the wrong place at the wrong time twice now and, because of this, the Ministry suspects you, so I trust you both not to do this again. Otherwise, I may be given no choice as to their final decision, should this happen again.”

Dumbledore’s tone was almost stern as he concluded, his eyes flickering between James and Lily as he finished speaking.

“Sir, are they going to question us again?” Lily asked.

He nodded sadly. “Yes, I am afraid that you will be questioned sometime tomorrow, along with Mr Potter, Mr Black, Mr Pettigrew, Mr Clearwater and everyone else who was in The Three Broomsticks at the time.”

“Professor?” said James suddenly, as something clicked in his brain.

“Yes, Mr Potter?” Dumbledore replied.

“I — I think I know what happened. Kian’s...Kian’s cause of death.”

“Go on, Mr Potter,” the headmaster told him with slightly raised eyebrows.

“When we were in The Three Broomsticks—”

“You and Miss Evans, I presume?”

“Yes. When we were there, Nick Clearwater was in there too, and he was serving us, you know, because he was a waiter — he wanted to earn a bit of extra dosh while he was in Hogsmeade — and Kian came in at some point, and he asked Nick for a Butterbeer, and he gave it, and — and — good Godric!” James exclaimed unexpectedly, as the pieces started to fit together in his head.

“What is it?” Dumbledore enquired calmly, seemingly oblivious to James’ sudden exclamation.

“Lily,” James said, turning around to face her, “Lily, was Kian choking or anything, when he died?”

She took a great gulp of air as the recollections of the afternoon swam back to her. “I — yeah. Yeah, he was — kind of. It was hard to tell, with the wind and all, but I suppose he was. I thought he was just breathing heavily or something, or maybe that was how he died? I'm not sure.”

“Why do you ask, Mr Potter?” Dumbledore said, and James jumped as he remembered he was still there.

“Because — because I think I know what caused Kian’s death! Nick — Nick, oh, God, Nick must’ve poisoned him!”

“By giving him the drink?”

“Yeah!” James replied quickly. “Kian took one sip of it and then he left!”

Lily frowned — there were still quite a few holes in the theory. “But...Nick can’t have done it,” she said slowly.

“Why not?” asked Dumbledore and James at the same time.

“Because...because he’s Nick! Nick Clearwater! And what proof do you have of that anyway? Why would he want to poison Kian?”

“Because—” James started, but Dumbledore stopped him.

“Miss Evans is right,” he said quietly to James. “You have no proof, Mr Potter, as much as you would want to believe this theory. Remember, Mr Potter, I am merely headmaster of this school. I have no power over situations as serious as this. And I will certainly not be able to convince the head of the Auror office to question one of my students who one of the suspects think — I mean you, Mr Potter — killed Mr Robinson. This is especially because, as we speak, they are performing the post mortem. So, Mr Potter, until they ascertain the cause of Mr Robinson’s death, I urge you to keep your suspicions to yourself, particularly given your now notorious status as both a suspect and a witness.”

Dumbledore turned back to Lily.

“Thank you very much your time, both of you,” he said, and he looked at James again. “And I hope that we do not have to discuss this matter — or, indeed, related matters — again.”

With a courteous nod, Dumbledore wordlessly indicated that they were free to go.




“Wait,” Sirius interrupted James’ explanation rather loudly, frowning as he, Remus, Mary, Lily, James and Peter sat in a corner of the common room, lounging on a couple of sofas, Mary perched on Remus’ armchair. “Nick—

“Shh!” Lily hissed. She didn’t like it when Sirius drew attention to himself like that. She didn’t like Sirius very much, full stop.

“Let me get this straight,” Sirius whispered now, so that Lily was forced to lean in to be able to hear him. “You're telling me that Nick Clearwater is Kian Robinson’s killer?”

“That’s just what James thinks,” Lily put in, slightly mulishly. “It certainly doesn’t mean that it’s true. If anything ...”

“OK, let’s say for the sake of the argument that James is right,” Remus interjected, “then wouldn’t it be logical to say that Nick probably won’t get caught?”

“Why’s that?” Mary asked Remus.

“Dumbledore’s already told James and Lily that there’s not much he can do even if we do know who the killer is, especially because they haven’t finished the autopsy and everything — not that they would tell us anyway.”

“It doesn’t help that the Ministry would do anything to hush things up,” Peter piped up. “People are getting more and more scared, you know.”

Sirius stood up. “Come on, guys, let’s go to the kitchens,” he said, stretching. “I'm bloody starving — I could eat a house-elf.”

“You're disgusting,” Remus told him.

“It’s an expression,” Sirius retorted. “I'm not really going to eat a house-elf ...”

Rolling his eyes, Remus, along with Mary and Peter, followed Sirius. “Aren't you coming?” asked Peter and Mary together, stopping in their tracks as they noticed that both James and Lily remained in their seats.

James shook his head. “I'm not hungry.”

“Yeah...I think I've lost my appetite,” Lily agreed. “We’ll probably just go to bed — I mean,” she spluttered, realising what she’d just said, “not like that, just ...”

Lily, her cheeks now tinged with pink (despite the fact that Sirius, Remus and Peter didn’t seem to be paying much attention) flashed Mary a desperate look, and Mary winked at Lily before saying quickly, “Let’s get going, Remus, Sirius, Peter ...”

With that, the foursome climbed out of the portrait hole one by one. The common room was completely empty; the fire was slowly starting to die out, the flames flickering as the dying embers turned into ash, yet still, the fire’s crimson glow illuminated the entire room. It fell on the comfy, worn out furniture, filling the air and hanging over James and Lily as they sat on opposite sofas, both staring at the fire as if lost in its depths of reds and oranges.

“I hate this,” Lily said suddenly. James looked up, as if he just realised that Lily was there.

“Me too,” he replied softly. He knew exactly what she was talking about. “We’re going to get them,” James said after a long pause.

“How?” she asked, putting her head into her hands.

“I — I don't know. Not yet. But we will. Why, don't you want to?”

Lily looked up, frowning. “Won’t you be putting yourself in danger?”

“Well, yeah,” James said as if stating the obvious. “So what?”

“Doesn’t that bother you in the slightest — not being safe?”

He shook his head. “This is war, Lily. There’s no such thing as being safe — or nice, for that matter. We’re not safe. We can’t afford to be nice either. The Ministry is more corrupt than ever and the worst thing is that we can’t even do anything about it.” Lily noticed, for the first time ever, a hard tone in James’ voice. The embarrassed smile he had worn at Lily’s slip of the tongue had vanished and there was toughness in his hazel eyes which belied his seventeen years. She found herself suddenly next to him, and wondered when she had moved.

“Corruption and war...the two things I hate the most,” she admitted. “It’s a win-win situation for the murderer. The Ministry won’t care about catching whoever did that to Kian and neither will anyone else, so they’ve basically got free reign to murder again and again...”

“...which means it’s down to us to find them and stop them,” James finished. “Otherwise, Kian and Will and everyone else would’ve died in vain.”

Could’ve been the story of my life, Lily mused. Or, rather, the story of my death.

She closed her eyes, thinking of what could’ve happened if James hadn’t arrived that night. It seemed so long ago...

Suddenly, Lily felt a large, warm hand on the back of her neck, gently pushing her face closer to James’ as his lips touched hers lightly. She was so surprised that she didn't even respond; instead, she pulled away, standing up almost immediately.

“Lily ...” James got no further.

“James, I don't know if I can—”

“Why not?”

“I don't ...”

“What are we, Lily? And this time answer me honestly.”

She took a deep breath. “We’re friends,” she told him resolutely.

“But what about—”

“What happened in Hogsmeade,” Lily interrupted, “was a mistake. I wasn’t thinking straight and I had had a lot to drink, OK? We’re friends,” she repeated. “Nothing more than friends. I'm not interested in you — not like that.”




The mood in the castle the next day was similar to when Will McCann’s corpse was found on the Hogwarts Express: a mixture of fear and darkness, with each student worrying about who would be the next victim.

Lily had stopped talking to James; now, she was either with Mary or she was alone. James was as bewildered by Lily’s sudden cold-shouldering as was everyone else.

“I just don't know what you're supposed to have done, mate,” said Sirius during Transfiguration, eyeing Lily with bemusement. “I mean, one minute she was all matey and datey with you and now she can’t even look you in the face! Are you sure you didn't say anything?”

“No!” James snapped, frustrated. “I never said anything. I don't know what I'm supposed to have done, and every time I try to talk to her about it she ignores me!”

James didn't want to tell his friends about what happened between him and Lily in the common room that night; he was far too humiliated and, in any case, it was not going to help the situation at all.

He didn't understand why Lily wasn’t talking to him; after all, wasn’t it her who told him that they were friends? What on earth did she mean by that? All this crap about having too much to drink...she didn’t even finish her second Butterbeer, for God’s sake!

And, damn it, he had been so close.

Too close, James thought irritably.




“Password?”

Facta non verba,” Lily said quickly.

“Precisely.” The Fat Lady smiled at her and her portrait swung open to admit Lily into the common room.

A group of fourth-years who were sitting near the fire sprang up as Lily entered, as did James; fortunately, the fourth-year girls reached Lily first.

“Can I help you?” she asked them politely, not even bothering to look at James. However, out of the corner of her eye, Lily did see James turn away, his shoulders slumped in defeat, and she felt guilty for a moment — before, of course, she turned back to the matter at hand. Lily knew them, but vaguely; she didn’t know any of their names, at any rate.

“Er...yeah, actually,” said one girl, slightly timidly. “We...we were wondering if we could...erm...”

“We wanted to have a pantomime,” one of the louder girls interrupted.

“A pantomime?” Lily repeated, surprised. She was rather taken aback, not by the request, but by the fact that the fourth-years could think so optimistically while the mood in the castle was so dismal.

“Yeah,” said a curly-haired blonde girl bravely, the one who hadn’t said anything before then. “Can we?”

Lily considered. She hadn’t been to a pantomime since she was ten, while she was still in primary school. “Hmm...I suppose...I guess we do need something to cheer us up, to look forward to, especially now ...” she muttered to herself, unaware of the girls, who were clearly waiting for an answer.

“So? Can we?” asked the blonde girl again.

“All right, then,” said Lily slowly. “I'll have to confirm it with Professor McGonagall first, of course. But I'm sure she’ll say yes — God knows, we could definitely do with a bit of laughter in our lives ...”

“Great!” With that, the fourth-years sauntered happily back to their spot near the fire, where they began eagerly discussing what fairy tale they would use, swapping Muggle tales with the Wizarding tales excitedly.

Despite Lily’s words, McGonagall proved harder to persuade than she thought. It took a lot of wheedling and, of all people, Sirius Black, to finally win their Head of House over after their first Transfiguration lesson of December.

“A pantomime? Miss Evans, have you forgotten about what happened in Hogsmeade?”

Lily glanced around; James, Sirius and Remus were about to leave, but they seemed to be dawdling a bit at the doorway, eavesdropping on the conversation. When James caught Lily’s eye for the first time in days, he frowned and muttered something to his friends before walking off with Remus. Sirius remained where he was, to Lily’s surprise.

“Well, Miss Evans?”

She jumped, having been so distracted by her and James’ non-verbal exchange that she had forgotten that McGonagall was there. She wasn’t sure what to say — she had already spent the last five minutes telling her about how they needed cheering up and all of that — and the worst thing was that it sounded far more stupid when Lily said it out loud than when she was rehearsing it in her head. “Erm...well, Professor...no, I haven’t forgotten about what happened in Hogsmeade, not at all. In fact, on the contrary...I think the pantomime could be done in Kian’s honour ...”

“A pantomime? Really?” Sirius interrupted, no longer bothering to disguise his eavesdropping. Strangely, he had never been to a pantomime before. His parents had always considered that sort of entertainment as beneath them.

“I'm serious, Black, this really isn’t the time—” Lily started.

“I want to be in it!” Sirius continued animatedly, as if Lily hadn’t spoken. “Please, Professor, I promise, if I'm in it, I'll be on my best behaviour.”

“And what, pray tell, is that supposed to mean, Mr Black?” asked McGonagall, her eyebrows knitting together, her expression a rare one of both amusement and interest.

“It means, Professor, that I'll toe the line, Professor. If we can have a panto. Come on, Professor, we’ve worked really hard this year, and we deserve a bit of a treat. Please?”

There was a long pause, during which Lily glared at Sirius. He had either won her over completely or he hadn’t. At last, McGonagall delivered her verdict.




“OK, OK, it’s decided,” Lily announced to the chattering fourth-years in the common room a few nights later. “It’ll have to be Cinderella.”

“Did the girl have some kind of disease or something? Like salmonella?” said the curly-haired girl, Amanda Abbott. The other girls giggled.

“No, Mandy, that’s the name of the girl — Cinderella,” her friend told her laughingly.




“So what is Cinderella about?” someone shouted out from the crowd milling near the stage (which had been set up by Professor Dumbledore) in the Great Hall.

Lily had had enough trying to make them be quiet so that they could listen to her. “Sonorus,” she muttered, pointing her wand to her throat.

“OK, everyone, that’s enough,” she said, using her wand as a microphone. The students quietened instantly. “So, as we all know, you lot are here today to audition for Hogwarts’ first ever pantomime!”

There were cheers at her words — everyone certainly seemed to be in a better mood than usual, especially with the Christmas decorations recently being put up.

“Before we start, though, there are some ground rules. The first one is that you must be in fourth year or above to be part of the play. That doesn’t mean that first-, second- and third-years can’t help with the sets and stuff though — we’ll need all the help we can get,” she reassured them kindly. “And there's no stopping the teachers from being part of the panto, either!” At this point, she smiled at McGonagall, Flitwick, Slughorn and Dumbledore, who were sitting in chairs, watching. “Now, I think we can start, as long as there aren’t any questions ...”

“I've got one,” someone said loudly. Lily noticed it was the same person who had shouted out before. “What is Cinderella?”

“It’s a Muggle fairy tale,” Lily replied, her voice echoing around the Great Hall. She had got their attention at last, so she felt it safe to perform the counter-charm. “Quietus.

“Go on, then. Tell us the story,” Sirius said interestedly. He and Remus were in the crowd, but Lily noticed that James was not, and neither was Peter.

Dismissing this from her mind, Lily took a deep breath and began recounting her favourite fairy tale.

“It’s about this girl called Cinderella whose mum dies, so her dad marries another woman, who’s the Evil Stepmother — one of the main characters in the story. The stepmother has two daughters who are the Ugly Stepsisters, and Cinderella hates them. And she has good reason to; the stepmother and stepsisters treat Cinderella like dirt — they treat her like a servant, if you like. They're all really vain and they make Cinderella do all the housework, and when she’s done, she sits by the cinders. Hence the name Cinderella. But Cinderella doesn’t complain to her dad, because if she did, he would’ve told her off and not believed her — the stepmother really controlled her dad. Then one day they get invited to this ball which is held by Prince Charming. Cinderella’s not allowed to go, but the stepmother and stepsisters go. She still has to help them get ready and she did dream of going to the ball, but then they told her that a servant wouldn’t be able to go.

“On the night of the ball, once the stepmother and stepsisters leave, Cinderella’s left by herself, and that’s when the Fairy Godmother comes in. She makes it possible for Cinderella to go to the ball, turning a pumpkin into a coach, mice into horses, a rat into a coachman and lizards into footmen. She even gave Cinderella a beautiful dress and glass slippers. But she told her that she had to be back before midnight — the spell would’ve broken by then.

“She was so beautiful that everyone was entranced by her, including Prince Charming. Even her own stepsisters didn't recognise her. She danced with the prince but she nearly overstayed her welcome, and in her haste to leave, she left one of her slippers behind. The prince picked it up and vowed that he and his men would search the country for the person whose foot fitted the slipper.”

“Aw!” squealed a couple of fifth-year girls, at the exact same moment that Remus and Sirius said, “How stupid!”

Lily rolled her eyes and finished telling the story. “So the prince got all the women in the kingdom to try on the slipper, but none of their feet fit. Eventually, he reached Cinderella’s house. Both stepsisters tried it on and then Cinderella asked if she could. Obviously, the stepmother and stepsisters taunted her and told her that she was unworthy and all that, but they were shocked when the shoe actually fitted Cinderella! Cinderella took the other slipper out, which she had kept, and put that one on. The stepsisters asked her to forgive them, which Cinderella did. Prince Charming married Cinderella and they all lived happily ever after.”

“What a soppy story,” Sirius commented. “As if real life is like that!”

I wish real life was like that, Lily felt like saying.

“You're only saying that because you couldn’t do anything as charming as that, Sirius,” said Michelle Clearwater loftily.

“Oh, yes I can!” Sirius insisted. Everyone laughed — he was already getting into the mood of the pantomime. Sirius didn't get the joke, though. Ignoring this, he continued, “I’ll prove it! Cast me as Prince Charming and I’ll show you just how wrong you are, Michelle.”

Lily glanced at Michelle, who shrugged. “You might as well,” Michelle said.

“We’re having proper auditions today, actually,” said Lily, surprised nevertheless at Sirius’ enthusiasm. “The judges will be Amanda Abbott, Imarnie Roshan and Ella Turpin. They’ll make the final decision.” Not me, thankfully, as I would have to say no to you, Black, Lily thought.

“Why aren’t you judging, Lily?” asked Mary.

Lily smiled embarrassedly. “I...er...I’ll be auditioning too, and it’s not really fair or impartial or anything for me to be judging as well.”

“I wouldn’t have thought that such a thing was possible,” Remus said with a grin. “Lily Evans — acting? Wow.”

Chapter End Notes:

Lily’s behaviour to James will be explained, I promise, in the next chapter! Facta non verba means “Deeds, not words”, by the way, if you were wondering. Hidden subliminal messages, people! (Kidding!)

As always I am begging for you to please please please review. It makes my day and is the only payment I receive!


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