My head hurt, when I woke up, but not in the normal hung-over sort of way, but more like a stabbing pain that stopped just below my ears. I pressed my fingers against the points where it hurt, and found that my skin was unusual hot. My head spun a little. I sat up right.
For a second, the fact that I was in the common room completely threw me, and then I remembered – and suddenly none of the night made any sense. It all seemed so illogical and strange. With James... all the strange and weird intimate moments with James. I’d barely talked him since I’d broke down on him on the Hogwarts express, I’d been avoiding it for precisely that reason – yet I’d ran to him, hugged him, told him about the Amos Diggory incident.
I shook my head.
Sirius had cried. Snape had tried to torture me...
I swallowed. This was way too much for me to deal with this early in the morning, with my head spinning and that familiar queasy feeling that comes, as I remember now, with mixing red currant rum and firewhiskey. Big mistake. Should have thought of that last night.
And staying in the common room? As innocent of an idea as it had seemed, how much worse would the rumours be now? How many people were going to talk about this? The night Lily Evans completely lost her dignity.
I glanced downwards, James was there – half asleep, reaching for his glasses, as adorable as ever. He looked up at me and mouthed something. I tried to make out the words... something about sleep. He repeated it, still mouthing. I lifted a hand to my head in confusion, but still he didn’t say anything out loud.
Then I realised something. Even when words are mouthed, you can hear something, and yet... I couldn’t hear anything. Nothing at all. “What did you say?” I asked, and I realised with a jolt that I couldn’t hear my own voice. I couldn’t hear my own voice.
James spoke again, and I realised that’s what he was doing now – I just couldn’t hear him. I stared at him blankly. Brought a hand up to my ears, which were still burning hot.
“I can’t hear anything.” I said nervously, or more, I felt my words form the lips – but I couldn’t hear them. A hand went to my throat. “James, I can’t hear anything!” I said, louder this time – except in my head there was nothing but silence. I didn’t know how I hadn’t noticed it immediately, because it was so freaking loud. So blank and empty. I couldn’t even hear myself breath.
“I’m deaf!” I was nearly yelling now. James looked panicked. He reached out and grabbed my hands wrists, looking at me in the eye. He said something again, and I managed to read his lips that time – ‘Can you hear me?’ I stared at him, eyes wide.
“Why can’t I hear you?” My voice broke, I felt it in my throat, but I couldn’t hear it. The silence persisted. I was crying now. “I can’t hear!” I wailed, James winced away from my voice- I realised I must be speaking unnaturally loud.
Sirius was coming over now, and they were all talking – all of them awake and staring at me as if I was some kind of freak, my wrists encompassed by James Potters grasp. I could see their lips moving, words flitting back and forth between them, but they were words that I wasn’t privy too. James tightened his grip, in a good way. I was panicking.
James nudged with his arm and pointed, Remus had his wand out – spelling words through sparks in the air. ARE YOU IN PAIN?
“My ears,” I said, “Just here,” I said bringing James’s fingertips up to my burning skin. His fingers were so cold compare to my skin, and at first I flinched away from it, and then he brushed them over my skin and it seemed like it halved all the pain right away – and he was looking at that spot of my skin so intently it scared me, and suddenly I wanted to reach out and kiss him. I shuddered and closed my eyes. I hoped to God they all thought it was from pain.
ANYWHERE ELSE? The words were spelled in front of me, glittering gold and making my head hurt. James’s fingers were still hovering over my skin. It was ridiculously tempting to make something up, just so the feel of his fingertips wasn’t about to be wrenched away from me. I didn’t.
“No.” I looked back at James. He looked at me. There was a very long moment before he dropped his hands again.
WE THINK IT MUST HAVE BEEN’S SNAPES CURSE the next words read, and I blinked at them – their brightness making my head spin even more. Although I was almost completely sure that was the hangover. I closed my eyes. When I opened them again, James was saying something to Remus that he didn’t agree with. He shook his head. James narrowed his eyes and said something else. Then Peter was heading up that stairs, and I was so confused.
James squeezed my hand. I hadn’t even noticed he was holding it.
I blinked. Snape had done this. I was deaf.
Peter hadn’t James a piece of parchment and a quill, and then he was writing... and then it was handed to me.
We’re going to take you down to the hospital wing. Don’t worry, you’ll be fine. Snape wouldn’t do anything that would really hurt you.
I stood up, James at my side (and realised that my skirt had risen up an obscene amount during the night, I yanked it down again – hopefully before anyone had a glimpse of my underwear) and found myself shaky and a horrible idea came to me.
“But that spell wasn’t meant for me, it was for Sirius.” James looked worried now, as we walked out of the common room. I thrust the parchment back into his hands. He sighed, scribbled something else down before handing it back to me.
You’ll be okay, trust me.
“You can’t know that,” I said, “I could be deaf forever.” Then I was shaking. “You don’t have to hold me up, you know,” I added. “I’m deaf, not blind.” Sirius ruffled up my hair, and I could see him laugh. James did not let go of my arm.
I’m scared. I wrote on the piece of parchment, before shoving it into his hands when the others weren’t looking. He opened it and I watched his expression change. He took the pen off me too, and wrote two words that changed everything – That’s okay.
Then suddenly I was in the hospital wing, and my head was still spinning, and someone sat me down on one of the beds, and a potion was pressed into my hands. “Drink it,” James mouthed at me. And I did, it tasted like fire. I wanted to throw up. “Sleep,” He said, and I pulled the cover over me and let the fire take over my brain.
I dreamt of Mary. It must have been the potion, because it was more vivid and stranger than any dream I’d ever before. I usually don’t even remember dreams, but I remembered this one. I could hear in the dream, and Mary walked out of the clouds and sat next to me. I was in a floating bed, and she sat next to me. Smoothing my bedcovers with her hands.
“Hey,” She nodded, all nonchalant and Mary like. I’d missed her.
“Your hairs purple again,” I said, and she grinned.
“I thought about going black, I thought it would be ironic.”
“Because you’re dead?”
“No, because of Sirius.” She said with a grin. “Anyway, enough about me. You’ve been awful boring recently, Lily.” I stared at her. “You know, reclusive, quiet, out of the spotlight – you’re too alive to do that. I mean shit; I was more alive when I was dying. Go sleep with someone, get really drunk again – do something.”
“I can’t Mary, you don’t understand.”
“I’m not thick,” She said lying back down on the bed and kicking her feet at the sky. “I’m a little bit of genius, actually,”
“How do you work that out?” I muttered darkly, watching with this strange remorse as she smoothed my bedcovers and kicked her feet into the air and laughed at me.
“Because,” Mary said, rolling over on to her front and looking at me with that oh so familiar expression that I’d missed so much. “Because, Lily, I know what it’s like.”
“You know what what is like?”
“What it’s like to be scared,” She said, and suddenly she didn’t look so gleeful anymore – there was a tear rolling down her face, as I’d seen so many times, and she looked shockingly beautiful and sad that it broke my heart. “To be scared of living, to be scared of dying...”
“I’m not scared Mary.”
“Didn’t you listen to James? It’s okay. It’s okay to be scared sometimes.”
“I’m not scared!”
“Oh come on, don’t lie to me you little hypocrite.” She laughed at that, leaning on her elbows and letting some of purple hair fall over her ace. “You are terrrifffieed.” She said, dragging out and savouring the last word.
“No,” I countered. “I’m Lily Evans, I don’t do scared.”
“Correction, you are not Lily Evans.” I stared at her. “You’re right, Lily Evans doesn’t do scared – she does control and smiling and occasional burst of anger. You don’t do that, so I don’t know who the hell you are. You are self destructive, self isolating and very scared.” My eyes widened. “I don’t blame you,” She said, softer this time. She rolled back on to her back and looked up at the sky. “Things aren’t getting any better,”
“No,” I said weakly. “They’re getting worse, I’ve never seen the world like this Mary – it’s never been so... dark before.”
“Yeah,” Mary said lightly. “Guess I’m going to miss it all,”
“That’s a good thing, isn’t it?”
“Don’t you dare say that.” Mary snapped, suddenly sitting up and staring at me. “Don’t you dare. You make the best of what you’re given. Are you listening to me Lily? You make the best of it. It doesn’t matter how long you live, and there’s no point living at all if you’re just going to sit on your arse all day – so stop being a sap and start being Lily freaking Evans.” She was breathing heavily, and she suddenly looked ill again. “Get up, Lily,” She said, and I did, standing up – somehow being held up by a cloud – and standing at the foot of Mary’s bed.
She slipped under the covers and rested her head on the pillow, suddenly looking pale and slightly yellow. Then she was ill again, dying, and that sudden pressure to say the right thing – to say goodbye – was pressing on my chest again. I was crying. My hands smoothed over the bedcovers without meaning to do so, and I grabbed hold of her dying hand and knelt by her bedside. “Mary,” I whispered, grabbing hold of her and digging my nails into her hands – just to see if I could be strong enough to stop her slipping away this time.
She mumbled something incoherent and understandable. I squeezed her hand tighter. She made the same horrible strangling noise – like some invisible force had gripped hold of her throat and was squeezing it, squeezing it... squeezing the life out of her. Her hair faded to brown. Her eyes shut.
“No,” I whimpered, and hot salty tears were spilling down my cheeks. I could taste them on my lips. I buried my face in her covers. “Mary,” I said, “Mary, your right – I’m scared, I’m so scared, and I... I can’t lose you again.”
“You never had me.” Her voice croaked out, before she died all over again. The dream was too vivid, too real, and suddenly everything was so horribly quiet – silent. Pressing in on me and squeezing my brain tightly. Squeezing it, squeezing it... numbing and horrible. Then I was falling down through the clouds, and I was trying to scream, but I couldn’t hear it on my lips, and instead just felt it tearing through my throat and breaking through the air.
James shook me awake, and I grabbed hold of his shoulders and suddenly felt foolish for ever believing in the dream. My head spun. The silence remained.
“I’m going to throw up,” I told James, suddenly feeling the horrible queasy feeling in my stomach.
He called something, and the nurse woman – a new woman, I’d only caught a few glimpses of her before – came running out with a bucket. Then I was throwing up into the bucket, and became reacquainted with the taste of red currant rum. It smelt of alcohol too, and the potion I’d drank – and it all came tumbling out into the bucket. I cringed away from it, suddenly feeling much better.
James asked something. I shook my head – still couldn’t hear. He called out to the nurse. She nodded and came forward with another vile of potion. She gestured for me to drink it. I did, and it tasted just the same – fiery and vile.
I’d only just swallowed it when I had to grab the bucket and throw up all over again.
Then I was handed another potion. I shook my head and groaned, suddenly feeing impossibly hungry. She pushed it into my hands. I examined it and looked at James for support. He was scribbling something down on a piece of parchment but nodded at me when he felt my gaze.
I swallowed, and brought the vile to my lips, taking a deep gulp. This one was different, and tasted spicy and strange. It wasn’t bad though, and it was bearable to drink the rest of the flask without too much complaint.
A sudden roaring started up in my ears. I pressed my hands against them and buried my face in the covers. The now very creased piece of parchment was passed back to me...
This potion is going to fix your ears, she said it might hurt a bit and you’ll probably get a bit of a fever, but you’ll be out the hospital wing by tomorrow.
What did the last potion do then? I wrote back, pulling myself up again and resting against the headboard.
It made you throw up.
“I know that,” I said out loud, brushing my hair out of my face, “I was there.”
He smiled at that, and I smiled too, and watch him wrote his next sentence – To get rid of the alcohol in your system.
You told her I’d been drinking? I scribbled back furiously. James, I’m head girl!
I know that, James wrote back but alcohol would have had a negative effect on the potion, and I’d rather you lose the badge than get properly hurt. I sighed and rested my head against the headboard, suddenly feeling very hot.
That will be the fever, I supposed, and I shut my eyes and tried not to think about how much I was sweating. There was no doubt I looked utterly hideous: still wearing yesterday’s party clothes, with yesterday’s makeup still somewhere on my face (location currently unknown), slightly hung over, having just thrown up and sweating up a storm due to some stupid potion. I scrunched up my face and fanned myself with my hand. I was impossibly hungry. Impossibly hot.
It was impossibly quiet.
“James,” I whimpered, knowing full well that I sounded pathetic (despite not being able to hear it), but I hardly felt much stronger at that moment. I frowned and felt myself heating up even more, sweating and finding it difficult to breathe. My ears were roaring with this horrible hot and painful silence. “I don’t like it....” I complained, resting my head on his shoulder and not caring about the implications or anything like that. I was too ill.
The silence was pressing in on me, suffocating and harsh, and my skin was flaring up into heat.
James was writing something else down, then he stopped... paused, and scrunched the piece of paper up. I frowned even more and pulled it out from between his fingers, sending him a reproachful look which I hope he took to mean I didn’t appreciate his actions. He drew back his hand at first but then let me ease it from out of his hand and straighten it back down.
Sirius was going to stay too, but he said the room reminded him too much of – and then it stopped, suddenly, when James had evidently decided I didn’t need to be reminded that Mary had died in this very room. I kept my face impassive, not wanting James to feel guilty about pointing this thought out. It would have occurred to me soon enough.
Mary’s bed had been two to the right of the one I was in, and I swallowed back the painful lump in my throat and sat up. There was no way I’d be able to sleep when I was this hot and sticky, I simply had to sweat the fever out... and then sleep.
I turned over the piece of paper and wrote you can go if you want.
James took it, and returned it to me almost immediately.
Why are you writing stuff down?
I thought about this for a second. Of course he was right. There was nothing wrong with my voice, after all, and this whole business of writing things down really slowed down the conversation –not that I was capable of much more at this point – but there it was. “It’s awkward,” I said, pulling my head up off his shoulder and leaning back on the headboard. I arched my back in a vain attempt to get more cool air on my face. “I can’t hear myself talk,” I continued. “And it’s horrible, and... it makes the conversation feel uneven,” James nodded. I threw the covers off me - no longer caring that my skirt had risen up and wiped some of the sweat off my forehead.
James was probably having extreme difficulty controlling himself when presented with my current appearance. I mean. Wow. I was pretty sure that hung-over sweating girls were his thing.
Sod it. I thought when the sweating increased up a further notch. My whole body had just become an extended and unwanted sauna. “I hope you don’t mind,” I said, pulling my top off my head and leaning back against the headboard in just my bra. The wood felt cool against my back and that tiny layer of clothing seemed to make all the difference. My skin was still hot, but it was bearable now. So I gave James one last smile before collapsing back onto the covers and falling into a dreamless sleep.
I was a better temperature when I woke, and someone had thought to cover me with the thinnest blanket whilst I slept. Sirius was here now, along with Alice and Rachel – I weakly smiled at all of them. James was not there. I didn’t like how much that bothered me. The nurse walked into the hospital wing and spoke – looking at me directly – I stared at her blankly. I still couldn’t hear.
The potion hadn’t worked. I buried my face in the covers and resisted the urge to bawl my eyes out all over again. What if I was deaf forever? What if I could never hear again?
Another piece of paper was pushed into my hands, I was fed up of them – I didn’t want to read what people had to say. I wanted to hear it. I was being childish, I knew, but I still pushed it away from me and curled myself into a ball. Another piece of paper was presented to me. I screwed it up in my hand and closed my eyes. The potion hadn’t worked.
I could imagine Sirius making some loud comment about how childish I was being in an attempt to coax me into reacting, before remembering that I couldn’t hear a word he said in the first place. Alice would try the ‘I understand you’ technique and Rachel would probably just sit there waiting for me to grow up. Mary might have slapped me round the face.
Was seventeen years old too old to act so childish?
Except I was much older than seventeen now. I’d seen far too much death.
I pulled myself up into the sitting position and found that my predictions were incorrect. Sirius wasn’t even looking at me. He was looking at the bed.... the bed that used to be Mary’s and it suddenly hit me that I’d watched my best friend die in this room.
I suddenly hated Snape with every fibre of my being for sending me back here – every single cell of my body was just itching to cause him permanent and lasting harm – and the Slytherins too, who thought they were better than me, and all those who went along with all these ridiculous prejudices.
Who cared if I was mudblood? Who gave a shit? It had barely mattered for my first four years at Hogwarts and it shouldn’t matter now. I wasn’t going to let myself be pushed into acting cautiously, out of fear. I was Lily freaking Evans. It was about time I remembered that.
I was going to fight it. I was going to walk down the corridors laughing. Beat the Slytherin’s in every test. Do whatever the damn hell I wanted with whomever I flaming wanted to.
Who had the right to stop me?
I’d forgotten my old mantra and how I’d consoled myself in those dark weeks after Mary’s death. I’ll live because Mary can’t – that’s what I’d thought. I’ll live because she can’t. I’ll do anything, knowing anything, be anything. I didn’t feel scared anymore, I felt different – invincible and powerful. Like there was amazing... stuff inside me – filling up my chest and my head, this inspiration and power, just waiting to burst out. I was going to be somebody. Like I was meant for something.
Rachel was speaking to Sirius. He nodded. They both stood up and left. Sirius sent me an apologetic look as they exited. “It’s okay,” I said. I didn’t blame him. If I could leave, I would. I closed my eyes and balled up my fists. I was angry, passionate and full of life. It was strange... I hadn’t expected my emotions to return with such sudden severity. It was physically painful not to stand up and do something.
The nurse appeared out of her office. She handed me a neatly written piece of parchment. I turned it over in my hands and read. Don’t worry, your hearing will return in two-three hours. You need to tell me who cursed you.
“I don’t know,” I said quickly, looking up at her. This wasn’t a battle to be fought by going to the teachers. This was different. Bigger. We had to sort it out ourselves. James had to teach me how to duel properly.
The nurse sent me a reproachful look and then walked off with an exasperated expression plastered over her features. Sirius’s note was still in my hand. I opened that too feeling very idiotic about my stubborn refusal to cooperate. It had been stupid really.
James will be back soon, he’s just gone to have a shower.
I frowned at that. It was true, perhaps, that I’d been relying on James a little bit more than I should have been... but did they really feel they had to inform me of the reasons behind his absence? That it would matter so much to me that I’d need it written down? No, that was stupid. We were friends, after all, or maybe not friends... something more complicated than that.
Some sort of indefinable in-the-middle-relationship. In the middle of what though?
So many questions I’d hardly even considered.
“Alice,” I said watching as she smiled at her ring absently. “How did Frank propose?”
Another question that seemed to have slipped my mind.
You do not appreciate how loud everything is until you have been forcibly immersed in the silence of your own head. Your thoughts become so much more complex and noisy when there is nothing else to fill up the space in your mind, so my mine felt blissfully at ease again when I woke to find that I could hear. A window was open, and an autumn wind was rushing through the trees outside – the kind of background noise that you wouldn’t even think about, and then... The nurse in some corner of the hospital wing, moving around glass... and James’s breathing.
I didn’t exactly remember him coming back because I’d had another dose of the potion and had been too feverish to really register his presence, but it was extraordinarily obvious now. It made me feel better. I hated that a little bit – but only a little.
He was sat on my bed, I might have told him to – in the midst of my fever – or he might have taken that liberty himself. I wouldn’t put it past either of us. Still... he was there, one arm leaning across the headboard as I rested amongst the pillows. My head must have been resting against his leg whilst I was asleep because I had to turn to face him. I pulled myself up a little and looked at him.
“You look better,” James said. “Sorry,” He added. “You probably still can’t hear,” I frowned at him slightly, feeling too at peace to talk. I just wanted to be still. To relax. I could hear. Everything was fine. I smiled at him. He smiled too, a lovely smile that made me feel warm and glad to be alive. “You look so... beautiful,” James said thoughtfully. “Especially when you smile, I suppose there are a few good things you not being able to here. I mean,” He said really looking at me, “If I wanted, I could just tell you how much I want to kiss you right now.”
My eyes widened slightly.
There was a long moment when James stared at me for a second, and then seemed to realise that I could hear him, and what he’d just said... “Oh.” James said softly.
Neither of us said anything for a long few seconds – not awkward seconds, just long seconds... and then my head started to fill up with lots of thoughts again.
Did I want to kiss James?
I didn’t not want to. I wasn’t exactly resistant to the idea which, I suppose, in reverse – meant I did want to kiss him. A strange kind of in-the-middle-relationship. In the middle of what though? And too which side were we leaning, or.... a better question – why exactly was I leaning forwards?
Blame it on impulse, I decided, and then my hand was on the back of James Potter’s neck. I’d shifted so that I was sitting up a little bit more – all painstakingly slow, and James... James was meeting me halfway this time and then...
We were kissing.
Not snogging, really. Only slightly more than a peck on the lips. A goodnight kiss. Or a hello kiss. Not a snog. Better than that.
We broke away again, looked at each other carefully, assessing the situation maybe. Cautious. Like we were scared to touch each other. Definitely not how it had been before.
One of his hands moved so that it was resting on my hip. Mine was still touching his neck, brushing over the tiny hairs at the bottom of his ridiculous hair – and the other was moving of its own accord – touching his other arm. We shifted a little closer together.
His other hand moved to my face. I closed my eyes. The whole thing was awkward and strange... but nice all the same, definitely nice. I opened my eyes again, staring at him. A small part of me was terrified of what he was about to do next. I needn’t have been because after looking right at me for what felt like forever, he dropped the hand on my face and simply smiled at me.
I leant back against the headboard and, in doing so, James’s arm.
“I can hear,” I beamed, relaxing into James’s arm and beginning to feel practically joyous. I could hear – my own voice, James’s voice – our breathing, in rhythm because I was leaning against him, and I was infinitely comfortable.
I wondered if James was aware he was running a lock of my hair through his fingers.
I wondered why exactly I was permitting it. I frowned and thought about it for a long time, even after the nurse had returned and given James such a dirty look that he’d suggested he should probably go get some dinner, or something, and when the woman was insisting that I stayed in the hospital wing overnight – which was ridiculous, I could hear now after all, I was thinking about this new tangled and complicated relationship with James. Except, it didn’t feel complicated when he was there. Not anymore. It was just when I tried to define it... tried to have control of it... that was when it made my head hurt.
When I’d finally convinced the nurse that I should be allowed out of the hospital wing I’d come to a conclusion – James and I were going somewhere, I didn’t know where, I didn’t know why – but it seemed to have happening. It seemed inevitable that something was going to happen. I just didn’t know what.
But I was just going to let it take it’s natural course, whatever that may be.
And with that thought I met the rest of the world with a smile on my face, a new found confidence and a reunited appetite for life.
With more than just my ears fully functioning again.
A/N - Hellllllloooo all! You know what's really helpful when you're on study leave? Having a brain-numbing cold that won't go away and randomly passing out for no reason. Wish me luck ;)
Check out my new story (although, I say new - it does already have four chapters) which I'm writing for a challenge, I really love it! I think I've managed to put my bad-feelings related to this story aside for the time being too - so all in all this authors note is much more positive than the last. Thanks to all of you still reading and reviewing! Please continue to do so :)