I received your confirmation letter that you still lived in the mountains. As I said, I was given your address by a professor at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He said you’d be willing to help us. Horace. I am writing this two days before we’re due to arrive. There will be five of us, and we should be just a few miles from your house. Thank you.
- the Marauders
“Okay, my parents are gone for the next three days. We’ll have those days free of any witches or wizards looking for us. I’ve left them a note, but, knowing them, they’ll still send someone out after us. They should have no idea where we are,” James whispered early that morning. They were all packed and dressed for travel, though they wished to be back home before Christmas.
“Let’s check everything over again before Remus and Peter arrive,” Lily said, touching her pocket where her wand was. They ran through a checklist they’d created, and they were just finishing when Remus came in. They waited for Peter before running through it once more with them.
“Are we all ready?” James asked the group as they nodded.
“Alright, remember, Sirius has where we’re going,” Lily picked up, tapping her head, “Don’t touch him until we’re absolutely sure we’re ready to leave. Does anyone need to use the loo before we go?” They laughed at her, but shook their heads nonetheless. “Excellent. Okay.”
They linked their fingers before Lily looked to Sirius, who nodded once, and then she reached forward and grasped his hand, shutting her eyes as her feet left the ground. This terrified her, using apparition, especially since they’d only had a few lessons, but it was the only way they could travel quickly. Regardless, they’d practiced the entire week before in James’ backyard, so she knew they would be okay.
And they were. The moment she felt the wind, Lily knew they were. She opened her eyes, and her breath came out in a white gasp. The Marauders looked around at the snow-covered mountains surrounding them in awe. Lily smiled as she reached for her wand and then pointed it at her small bag. “Accio camera,” she whispered, and the small wizard device shot into her palm.
“I can take it for you!” a voice called over to them, and they turned to see a man walked toward them, wrapped in thick layers like they were. He had curly black hair that hung around his face, though it was much shorter than Sirius’. “You must be the Marauders,” he said as he got closer.
Lily nodded. “You got my letter, then? My name is Lily. I’m sorry we were so vague.”
“Quite alright. Name’s Ian Jaard,” he introduced, shaking each of their hands, “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” He took the camera from Lily’s hands before they all bunched together, smiling and waving. When they’d finished, Ian led them through the whipping wind and snow. It was only when they’d reached his house did the explaining begin.
“Professor Slughorn said he wrote you, yes?” Lily asked as they shed their jackets and cloaks.
“He did,” Ian replied, going over to the fire, “At least three weeks ago, long before I received your first letter, Lily. He explained to me the circumstances, and I agreed to help. I’ve met a few like Iris before, ones that have sought refuge in the caves of the mountains because they do not wish lives as inhuman humans any longer. They’ve formed packs, and they live not far from here. They’ll never be anything but wolves again. Your friend, though, it sounds as if she is still different from them. Different because she is dying,” he confirmed, and they nodded. “Sit, I’ll get you something warm to drink.” They took seats up on his two couches, and he returned before long. “I won’t be living here much longer. The wolves don’t need me anymore. The relationship between them and Ariel is completely solid now.”
“Ariel is the dragon, right?”
“Aye, she is. I’ve spoken with her a few times about the lilies, and she seems a little reluctant, though I’m sure, with some persuasion, she could be convinced. She wants to speak to the five of you. I can take you up there in four days time, but not before then. I’m leaving tomorrow morning for a small run with the wolves. I’ve got to set up the enchantments for when I leave, and the journey is long and hard. You cannot travel there by magic, just as you cannot travel to Ariel by magic. When we visit her, we will be on foot,” Ian said, much to their dismay, “I’m sorry I could not tell you all this in a letter, but things are not safe. There are powers that are rising, ones that I dare not meddle with. Ah, you think I don’t see what goes on in our world just because I live in the mountains. I do. I know what darkness threatens the wizarding world.”
The five grew silent for a moment before James spoke, “Do you mind if we have a moment alone?”
“Not at all. I’ll go upstairs and make sure everything is ready for you.”
As Ian left, they turned to one another. “You’re sure he can be trusted?” Remus asked skeptically.
“Slughorn said he taught him, and that he’s known him all his life. He still keeps in contact with him, and he is certain he isn’t a dark wizard. You heard him,” Lily said. “Look, guys, I know this is strange, and I know you’re still kind of angry with me for not saying anything until just a few days ago, but I wanted to make sure we actually had somewhere to go before I gave you any hope.”
“I just can’t believe how lucky we are,” Sirius laughed, “Trust us to go on some dangerous quest only to have a house to stay in, all warm and cozy. And a dragon that talks and can be persuaded. For Christ’s sake, this is going to be easy.”
James snorted. “So says you. I don’t think all of us should go to see Ariel. We don’t really know what we’re up against, and I don’t want all of our things snatched up the second we leave that house. Ian says we can’t travel by magic, but who knows if he’s telling the truth? I’m sorry, Lily, but I’m finding it a little difficult to believe him.”
“No, I understand. It seems weird to me, too. I almost wish we could see the wolves, know for sure that he is actually telling the truth about that.”
“Maybe we can,” Remus butt in, “What if Sirius and I go with him? I can say I’m interested in seeing other wolves that are like Iris because I’m different from them, and I’m curious, and Sirius can use it as an excuse for research?”
“Except both of those reasons are valid,” Sirius said with a grin, “I would like to see them. It would help Lily and I understand Iris a little more. And, that way, James, Lily, and Peter can watch over the house and see if anything goes weird. What about with Ariel, though?”
“You need to go,” James said, looking at Lily, “She probably already knows about you. And Sirius,” he added, “But someone else should be there, just in case.”
“I’ll go,” Peter offered, “He won’t expect anything, and I can escape easily. Rats are tiny.”
“I’ll come with, as well,” James said, “But we’ll only guard. I don’t think more than two should go in. Not counting Ian, of course. Is that okay, Remus?”
“That’s perfect. That way, someone is at the house and someone is watching over Sirius and Lily. For right now, though, we need to rest up and ask Ian about tomorrow.”
And so they set off to do just that.
James looked down at Lily, smiling as she leaned up on her tiptoes to wave goodbye to the retreating backs of Sirius, Remus, and Ian. He wound his fingers with hers, and she just squeezed his hand. And when she looked back up at him, her eyes were shining.
“They’re going to be okay,” he promised, wrapping his arms around her and hugging her close to him. She clung to him tightly, sighing.
“James, I’m afraid we’re never going to find Iris.”
“We will. I promise.”
They stood like that for some time until Lily finally pulled back, though only a little, and she turned her eyes up to him, looking hopeful. And they stared, for almost a minute, until James lifted one hand and threaded it in her hair, his heart thudding quickly. He bent down, and the last thing he saw before his lips touched Lily’s were her eyes closing. She sighed into him, and he kissed her lovingly, adoringly, conveying all that he wanted with her. And she gave him every last bit of her, kissing him back with all of her.
Peter interrupted them by choking on his cereal and dropping his bowl with a crash. They instantly separated, Lily blushing furiously and James smirking. “You okay there, Wormtail?” he laughed, going over to push him into the kitchen and clean up his mess. He sent a warm smile over at Lily, and she returned it wholeheartedly until he was gone, and she gasped, eyes closing, heart pounding.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered to the air and was gone.
Lily ran frantically toward the gates at the end of the long road to Hogwarts, her breath coming in short bursts and heart threatening to jump out of her. This was something she had not thought through all the way, though it seemed fate was smiling upon her. Because when she tried to pass through the gates, she was allowed, and she only paused a second to marvel before she was off again. She ran straight through the entrance hall and down the hallways leading toward the dungeons. She knew she had very limited time to do this before the sun was down and it was too cold and too dark for her to travel any longer.
And so she took a large glass container from her charmed purse and scooped the cooled dark yellow potion into it before sealing it shut with magic. She cast countless charms over the container so that it would stay, though she needn’t worry about the potion changing. It had been sitting for almost two weeks now, as she and Sirius had discussed. They’d decided it had to be drunk cold and stilled for the true effects to take place.
And so, when she’d finished and stuffed the container in her purse, she took off again, sneaking past the staff and back out onto the lawn. She made a beeline for the Forbidden Forest where she pulled the Marauders’ Map out of her back pocket and touched it with her wand.
“I solemnly swear I am up to no good,” she whispered, casting a glance around her before looking back down. She was immediately startled as she found Iris’ name almost instantly, and she looked up, jumping a little as she saw two eyes, one blue and one green, staring intently at her from beyond the trees. It was almost as if Iris knew Lily was there for her.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” she said very softly, folding up the map after she’d wiped it. She slowly put it back in her pocket as she continued to step forward, Iris’ unblinking eyes holding still. “I want to help you. I don’t know if you can understand me, but it’s Lily. Sirius loves you, Iris.” The names seemed to trigger something in the wolf because her snout appeared, sniffing the air. Lily tried to remain calm, tried to give off no sense of fear.
It worked, for Iris stepped out of the shadows of the trees, though she approached no farther than that. It was only when Lily reached out a hand that she reacted again, leaning into her touch. It was so human, the way she submitted to Lily’s touch and closed her eyes.
Lily bit her lip as she knelt, holding back her tears. She sunk to her knees quickly, almost scaring Iris, but she just continued to thread her fingers through the wolf’s fur as she gripped her wand in her other hand. “I’m sorry,” she whispered, bending her head so that it rested against Iris’, “I’m so sorry. Petrificus Totalus
.” And Iris was frozen in place, stiff and staring.
Lily just hurriedly wiped her eyes before grasping the wolf around the middle, closing her eyes, and apparating.
Disclaimer: Everything recognizable belongs to J.K. Rowling. Everything otherwise recognizable belongs to Maggie Stiefvater.