Chapter 9 : ix.
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“What were you thinking?” James roared as Lily approached the house, but then he noticed the wolf in her arms, and he gaped. He ran out, shouting for Peter, and he took Iris from Lily’s arms, running off toward the house as Peter passed him to collect Lily and make sure she made it inside alright. When they entered the house, James just shook his head. “How did you do this?” he demanded.
“She was just there. Right at the front of the forest. She let me approach her.”
“And what if she hadn’t been? Were you just going to traipse around until you found her? Lily, you—” he broke off as she showed him the map.
“I took it while you were sleeping last night. I’m sorry, but I had to. The boys haven’t returned yet, right?”
“No, not yet,” Peter answered as he closed the door, “They should be home by nightfall, though. Ian said he was hoping to not travel by the stars with guests around. I guess he does it all the time, but he doesn’t worry about his safety, usually. Apparently, there are all sorts of creatures in these mountains.”
“Well, we’ll be meeting one of them tomorrow,” James said with a sigh, “Now, what are we going to do with her?” He pointed at the stiff wolf, whose eyes were still closed.
“We’re going to turn her into a human,” Lily answered nonchalantly, shrugging.
“I just can’t believe how much like regular wolves they seem,” Remus said for the third time as they clunked the snow from their boots and shook off their many jackets.
“They’ve sunk very much into themselves, though they’re still very human in their minds,” Ian said with a shrug, smiling.
“Thank you for letting us coming along,” Sirius said, clapping him on the back, “It was definitely an eye-opener.”
“No problem at all. I—” Ian stopped suddenly, and the two boys watched as he pulled out his wand in a flash, pointing it toward the kitchen doorway.
Sirius and Remus looked carefully, and Sirius almost fell over.
“Hey,” Iris said very softly, looking only at him.
“How—what?” Sirius managed, shaking his head and taking a stumbling step forward. “Iris,” he finally gasped, and Ian’s eyes went wide as he stared at the blonde girl.
“This is Iris?” he asked of Remus, who nodded disbelievingly. “I thought she was a wolf.”
“So did we.”
“Lily, she—uh—she came and got me,” Iris said, wrapping her arms around herself, “She took some of the potion with her, and then she found me in the forest and stunned me, pretty much. Brought me here. She, James, and Peter only just managed to get me warm enough a half hour ago. They’ve been catching me up since then, but I was going out here for a breather.”
“Iris,” Sirius repeated, and he crossed the room suddenly in large strides. He grasped her face when they were close enough, and Remus broke out in a large beam as Sirius crushed their mouths together.
“He’s been waiting to do that for some time,” Ian laughed.
Tears leaked out of Iris’ eyes as she wound her fingers around Sirius’ arms, gripping him tightly. Sirius deepened their kiss, pulling them closer and closer until they were meshed together, Sirius and Iris. When they finally parted, Iris gasped and Sirius leaned their foreheads together.
“I love you,” he whispered, to which she let out an airy laugh and shook her head.
“And I love you,” she murmured. “I’m so glad I’m here, in your arms, where I belong.”
“As am I. Iris, we’re going to save you. I promise. Because I want to spend the rest of my life with you.” She laughed again before embracing him, tears still streaming down her face.
“I will go in first!” Ian yelled over the wind, and Lily nodded to show her confirmation. It had been a long, brutal two-day journey to Ariel’s keep, but they were finally here, shivering and frozen. As he trudged through the snow and into the mouth of the cave, Sirius kicked his way over to Lily and wrapped her in his arms.
“You’re no good to me a popsicle,” he grumbled, as if to convince her, but she didn’t refuse him regardless. She huddled in close to him, shaking and eternally grateful for his warmth. Peter came over after a few moments, and they stayed like that, wrapped together. At the last moment, they’d decided James should stay back, no matter how much he tried to refuse, but, what with Iris’ sudden arrival, they were afraid to leave her alone in just the company of Remus. They felt frightened and exposed, like anything could happen.
Ian spent the better part of a half hour inside the warmth of the keep before he finally returned. When he did, the three detached themselves, Lily sighing as Ian waved them over. “She’s inside and waiting to speak with you! I’ll stay out here with Peter!” He waved Peter over, and the two took a seat in the mouth of the cave as Lily and Sirius entered.
It took them near ten minutes of traveling through well-lit tunnels before they finally arrived in a great room kept warm by hundreds of torches and small fires. The golden light of the flames flickered around them, casting the chamber in a beautiful glow. And there, curled around a rock nearly twice her size was Ariel, a gorgeous and gigantic silver dragon.
She took up nearly the entire back wall, and that was only her body. Her tail wrapped around the large stone, spotted with dangerous-looking spikes. It remained motionless as did her large grey eyes, which watched them carefully. Her great head sat atop one of her four feet, her shimmering ivory talons dancing in the light of the fires.
“A dog and a doe,” she said suddenly in a great rumbling voice, a voice that filled their minds and echoed around the chambers, though her jaws did not move, and no sound came from her mouth. “What brings such small prey to my humble abode? You do not fool me, Animagus. Show me your true form.”
Sirius looked to Lily a moment, and she nodded just the slightest. He transfigured, and Lily smiled. She laid a hand on his head, petting him slowly and fondly. “The doe loves the stag, I see,” Ariel continued, “But you are no animal, doe. Show me your true form.”
Lily looked startled, but then Sirius nuzzled her side, and she understood just by the flick of his grey eyes. “We have come to you in hopes that you may help us.”
“You are quick, doe. That will take you far. The wolf needs my lilies and my breath.”
“Only one lily, dragon.”
“My name is Ariel, doe.”
“And mine is Lily.”
A deep rumble filled the chamber, and Sirius tensed, stepping in front of Lily protectively. “You are clever, doe. I like you. Will you visit me after I have aided you?”
“If you promise not to eat or burn me,” Lily said with a smile, and the same rumble came again. Lily suddenly recognized it as laughter, and she held a tuft of Sirius’ fur before stepping around him. “Ariel, I beg of you, just one lily.”
“I wish also to give you my breath, as a gift for your kindness, and because you promised to visit me. A golden lily for a beautiful Lily. Come, they are behind my perch.”
Lily carefully walked around the large rock until she stopped with a gasp. An entire garden of golden lilies lay before her. Their petals were smooth and silky, devoid of any spots or blemishes. She knelt and touched one of the petals delicately, her heart racing. One of Ariel’s eyes suddenly came into her view, and the great dragon blinked her confirmation. Lily plucked one of the lilies after taking a container from her purse. She sealed it inside, whole, with a small smattering of soil. They did not need it to sustain, but the flower would need it to remain entirely healthy until they returned to the potion.
Next, Lily removed a small flask from her purse, and, with trembling hands, she held it out, pinched between her fingers. Ariel blinked at her again before opening her massive mouth and lowering her tongue inside the flask. As she drew it back, flames licked down into the flask until it was nearly full, and Lily quickly capped it, gaping at it.
“Thank you,” she said aloud, and Ariel responded with another rumble and by settling her head back down.
“May peace and happiness follow you, dog and doe. Give my well wishes to the wolf and stag. You may leave now.”
Lily quickly hurried out with Sirius trotting behind her, though they stopped in the tunnels so he could transform and dress quickly. “That was incredible,” she gasped when Sirius tapped her on the shoulder to turn, “Wasn’t it?”
“I think Iris will be happy,” Sirius said with a smile, and Lily couldn’t help but reciprocate it.
“I’m glad you two have finally worked things out,” she admitted, touching him on the arm before they both headed back through the winding tunnels and to where Peter and Ian were hunched.
“That quick, then?” Ian said, getting to his feet, “Seems she took a liking to you. Alright, well, we better head off, then, seeing as we’ve still got quite a bit of day left. We’ll camp tonight, and then hopefully we’ll make it back by dusk tomorrow. Sound good? Alright, let’s go.”
And so they headed out into the whipping wind and freezing snow.
“I saw the way you were with James the other day,” Sirius said into the dead of the night from his sleeping bag. Lily opened her eyes. She hadn’t been able to sleep, and she knew he was awake, as well. His grey eyes shone in the darkness as she stared at him.
“You did not,” she finally responded, and he smiled, his white teeth showing.
“From how much detail I got, I might as well have kissed you myself. You don’t even know how happy you’ve made him. Thank you for giving him a shot, Lily.”
“He’s lucky to have such a great friend.”
“As is Iris. I really hope this works. I don’t know what I’ll do if we lose her.”
“We won’t, Sirius. We’re going to fix her, I promise. We’re going to make her human and healthy again.” Sirius just stared at her a moment longer before letting his eyes close and willing himself to sleep.
It was well past midday and practically dusk when the house finally came into sight. Their spirits seemed to heighten quite a bit, and their pace quickened, though, as they came closer and closer, they slowed to nearly a stop. James was standing far from the house, screaming with his hands cupped over his mouth. Even from this distance, they could hear him over the howling wind. He’d used the Sonorus Charm, and his voice was magnified over the mountains, echoing loudly. He said one thing. Iris.
Remus suddenly came jogging around the house, dashing toward James. He grabbed his arm, and James turned, his face the picture of despair and worry. Remus shook his head, and James’ shoulders sunk, his eyes closing. He looked suddenly aged, older even than his father.
Lily was the first to move, holding her wand to her throat. “Boys!” she called, and they immediately turned at her voice. She lowered her wand as they started over, and James took her in his arms and buried his face in her hair.
“She’s gone,” he whispered, tightening his hold as Lily tried to push away from him.
Sirius’ screams echoed around the mountains as Remus touched his shoulder and shook his head.
Disclaimer: Everything recognizable belongs to J.K. Rowling. Everything otherwise recognizable belongs to Maggie Stiefvater.
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