Chapter 9 : Method in the Madness
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Never before had Lily Evans felt this way.
She’d bordered on it of course…who hasn’t? That moment where your stomach drops or the rush of burning in your cheeks. It was all entirely new.
But for the feeling to be so intense and consuming…it was as though nothing would ever be the same again.
Her life had been completely changed, turned upside down and shaken uncontrollably by what had happened in the past hour alone.
After all, Lily Evans had never quite experienced the feeling of failure before.
Especially when it came to Potions.
Lily was too busy wrestling with her cauldron to acknowledge Professor Slughorn. Her frazzled demeanour was clear through her frizzed ginger hair, the bright red spots on her cheeks and the burnt holes in the sleeves of her Gryffindor cardigan. Her hands worked quickly and with purpose between the bubbling potion and her overloaded bench of messy ingredients.
Perhaps it was Professor Slughorn’s patience…or his understanding that a potion master was at work…that he had let her continue in this rather-unlike-Lily-Evans manner throughout the lesson.
But after Lily had blown up three cauldrons trying to concoct…whatever it was she was trying to brew…Professor Slughorn felt it might be a good time to say something.
“Miss Evans, I must insist-”
Lily looked up at him with exasperation and a sort of helplessness in dull, tired green eyes.
“Professor Slughorn I don’t understand…”
Slughorn gave out a lovely belly laugh that Lily just found downright irritating. That sort of jolly happiness should be illegal, she thought to herself. Flicking her hair back, Lily crossed her arms and stared at the Professor. Waiting. Not so patiently.
“Let us have a look then.”
Lily gave a little huff. Chuckling away happily to himself, Professor Slughorn leant over and looked deep into her cauldron. Rather like he were smelling a glass of fine wine, he began to wave the fumes of the unfinished and disastrous potion towards himself, closing his eyes as he took in its scent.
Finally opening his eyes, he gave her a sort of mischievous knowing look.
“Ah, Lux Perpetua. How interesting Miss Evans. Yes. Quite interesting.”
Lily now leant forward with him looking into the cauldron as they both examined the brew. The liquid was a sickly dark green colour that honestly just looked like gloop. A great big sea green bubble formed on top of the liquid then popped in Lily’s face.
This wouldn’t be such a problem if it weren’t for the fact that according to her textbook, the potion was supposed to be silver.
As Lily examined the potion, she realised it looked exactly how she was currently feeling. Like sludge. Horrid, awful sludge.
“Sorry Professor,” Lily said quizzically, “But what’s interesting?”
“Not to worry dear,” he said with a smile. And with that he walked away from her table.
Lily was horrified. Rushing around the bench to follow after him, she trotted behind Slughorn like an affectionate puppy dog.
Slughorn looked back at her in surprise.
“I said not to worry Miss Evans.”
“But can’t you tell me how to fix it? Professor! Please!”
Slughorn kept walking until he was sitting behind his desk at the front of class. Lily had foregone all inhibitions in front of her classmates. She was desperate. This was a potion that would be on her NEWTS, and she couldn’t even get it right in class. With no pressure at all on her. What was the world coming to when Lily Evans couldn’t get a potion right?
Nothing seemed to be going right ever since…well, if she was honest with herself, since…
“It is unfortunate that Miss Evans I cannot tell you how to fix this potion. You must work it out for yourself.”
Lily groaned and rubbed her forehead impatiently.
“Please Professor, NEWTS will be here soon…”
“Yes Miss Evans, they will be.”
“And I can’t even do a simple potion…”
“Miss Evans I do believe…”
“And then I’ll fail and I won’t become anything…”
Lily shut her lips tightly trying to stop the strange flow of words tumbling from her mouth with the onslaught of emotions. She felt close to tears, a little jitter running through her body that she didn’t quite understand.
Slughorn sighed as he drummed his fingers on his desk.
“I cannot tell you how to fix it Miss Evans because there is nothing wrong with the potion itself. Do you see?”
Lily, still keeping her mouth shut and clasping her hands together, shook her head slightly.
“Humph,” Professor Slughorn said, his cocky smile slumping on his face. He placed his hands flat against each other and leaned his elbows on the desk, thinking intently. His eyes once again looked up at her as an idea formed in his mind.
“What do you know about this potion Miss Evans?” he finally asked.
Lily’s shoulders heaved a little and she looked skyward as she recalled everything she’d learnt about the potion.
“It’s meant to bring eternal light to the brewer…it’s a simple potion…but most potion-makers have trouble with it because it’s linked to your emotional state…”
Lily paused for a moment as she tried to recall anything else. Professor Slughorn quite suddenly interrupted her thought.
“What do you remember about how the potion gives eternal light?”
“How, sir?” Lily repeated idiotically.
“How, Miss Evans.” Slughorn smiled a little.
Lily’s mind went completely blank and the breath from her chest dissipated quickly.
“The eternal light comes from within you,” she said, a realisation just beyond her mind’s grasp, although she couldn’t quite get to it yet.
“Indeed it does. That is what makes this potion so tricky for beginners as they do not yet realise that the light within them is what truly allows the potion to work.”
“But what do you mean by that Sir?” Lily asked trying to make head and tail of what exactly was still wrong with her potion, “My magic isn’t up to scratch?”
Although this was an innocent question, there was a sudden moment where Slughorn’s eyes darkened and his expression grew mysteriously threatening. Lily had only ever seen Slughorn like this once before and it was in that moment where she realised why exactly he was Head of Slytherin House.
“I had a young student once,” Slughorn began staring darkly at his clasped hands, “He was an excellent student, a wondrous boy and many teachers adored him, just like you Miss Evans. Anything I set him he excelled at. Until he encountered the Lux Perpetua.”
Lily sat down slowly at Slughorn’s desk, wrapped intently in his almost strange tone as he recounted this particular student. The very manner in which Slughorn spoke about this boy from the past seemed to make her hair stand on end.
As he looked up at Lily, he seemed…not so sinister but more…haunted.
“This young boy was not able to brew the Lux Perpetua. The potion refused to work for him. I never understood it and neither did he and so we would work on other more complex and far more challenging potions to rid ourselves of the confusion this failure seemed to represent. I know for a fact he was asked to brew it during his NEWTs. Somehow he persuaded the examiner…well I’m not quite sure what happened in that examination but let us say he passed at the top of his class.”
Lily’s hand almost instinctively reached out towards Slughorn.
“You must understand Miss Evans,” he said very quickly, “That this young boy could not brew the Lux Perpetua because he was the very opposite of you within. If I had known then what I know now…there was such cruelty and greed and evil that grew in that boy, a hunger for power that would go unsatisfied…that is why the potion would never work for him. You Miss Evans have a pure heart, have a kind, honest and loving spirit. The simplest way I can explain it is that we each have the ability to love within our souls…but when we are restricting that in some way, the Lux Perpetua will not shine for us. You must find what it is that is holding that all back. You must fix this.”
Lily nodded at him and touched Professor Slughorn’s hands lightly in comfort.
“I will Sir. I’m sorry. I didn’t realise that…”
“Not to worry, not to worry,” Slughorn said, giving a little shake of his head attempting to regain his normal happy self, “Remember Miss Evans why the potion has always worked so well for you. Remember that always and never let it go.”
Slughorn looked over at a small blue vase on his desktop that held a minute amount of golden flowers. Slowly he reached over, plucked one from the vase and held a daffodil out to Lily Evans, waiting until she had taken it up.
Lily was strangely attracted to the sight of the blooming flower in her hand for just a moment. It seemed to bloom and pulse magically. She returned to her cauldron mumbling about light and a strange student, all whilst staring at the daffodil in her hand.
“You sound like a babbling buffoon right now,” Remington said from beside her, mindlessly tipping an ingredient into her potion and stirring it slowly. It turned a beautiful bright mother-of-pearl sheen and a subtle smell of fresh rain began to waft in Lily’s direction.
“Amortentia. Again?” Lily rolled her eyes and smiled at Remington, who laughed at her friend’s disapproving but knowing look.
“I’ve never used it and never will, you know that Miss Evans,” she replied laughingly, “But I just love the smells I get from it. Despite my many…flings…I always get the same thing. I find that intriguing.”
“Mmm, like that smell of rain,” Lily mumbled.
Remington’s eyes snapped up, looking intently at an oblivious Lily Evans.
“It’s the smell of rain for you?” she said slowly and with purpose.
“Yes, the other smells sort of changed…but…well that one’s always the same.”
Lily was now stirring the sludge in her cauldron as best she could, thinking about Slughorn’s words. Unfortunately for her the potion was quickly hardening into a cement-like substance.
But Remington’s cauldron stood bubbling uncontrollably and completely forgotten.
“I wonder what that means…” Remington continued.
Lily shrugged and let go of her wooden spoon. It stayed stuck upright in her potion.
“The first time I went to Diagon Alley it had just rained,” Lily answered decisively, finally looking at Remington, “So I’ve always assumed it was that.”
“Yes. Of course it’s that. Silly me.”
Lily vanished the contents in her cauldron and sat down, completely giving up and awaiting the end of the longest Potions lesson she’d ever had. All she could think was thank goodness it was the end of the day.
“You know…” Remington finally said, also vanishing her own potion without even a glance at it, “Muggles call daffodils ‘lent lilies’ during a certain season.”
“Yes my mother is always going on about that,” Lily replied still completely unaware of Remington’s direction, “Guess I should be thankful that she didn’t name me daffodil.”
“And I don’t usually put much store by this but…daffodils are the flowers of March. Maybe…”
Remington glanced at Lily who was now picking up her bag to leave.
“Please Remington,” Lily answered sarcastically, “I don’t believe in those sorts of things.”
Remington watched Lily Evans walk out of the classroom and began calculating silently to herself.
Evangeline Ford sat in her Hospital Wing bed waiting.
Waiting for the five friends in front of her to stop staring at her dumbstruck. Remus looked like a fish out of water, his gaping mouth opening and closing.
“What do you think then?” she finally said after quite a few moments of silence.
“Are you kidding me?” Sirius burst out.
“Are you out of your flipping mind, Evangeline?” Margie squealed.
As Remus turned to Sirius to try and calm him down and Ana turned to Margie to try and calm her down, the noise in the Hospital Wing rose very quickly. The four of them began trying to shout over the top of one another. Apparently the more right they thought they were, the louder each of them got.
And Peter sort of just stood there. Waiting just like Evie was.
“WE CAN’T DO THIS NOW!” Was Sirius’s booming voice.
“IS SHE CRAZY?! Did she hit her head against a bloody brick wall? Repeatedly?” That was Margie.
“I think it’s a really good idea,” said Pete quietly compared to the others.
Everyone suddenly stopped. And stared. At Peter.
“Me too!” Evie said with a smile, “Good. Four against two. I win.”
“Evangeline Ford now you listen to me…” Sirius began pointing his finger at her as if he were her father.
Evie began to get up out of the bed and they all began protesting loudly.
“Will you DESIST?!” Finally came Madame Pomfrey’s loud command. She was a fierce sight to behold, her face reddening and her plump little hands on her hips.
So much so that when she took a step towards them all three boys took a step back simultaneously.
“You are bothering my patients. Stay and be quiet. Or get out and do whatever it is you do until you all inevitably end up back in here!”
Evie swung her legs over the side and stood up, picking up the necessities she’d brought with her.
“Thankyou so much for all your help Madame Pomfrey. I would never be able to walk out of this Hospital Wing if it weren’t for you,” Evie said. Sirius could have sworn she batted her eyelashes.
Madame Pomfrey even turned to her, her expression changing immediately from anger to a soft, caring motherly thing.
“Oh not at all dear,” she said waving her hand slightly and blushing a little, “Off you go now.” She pushed Evie gently towards the door of the Hospital Wing.
The other five, still standing at the bed, began to walk before Madame Pomfrey set her glare on them again.
Her glare followed them all out of the Hospital Wing and almost down the corridor.
Sirius gave a little dramatic shiver and the rest of them laughed nervously and the tension in the air eased slightly.
“I don’t see what the problem is. Honestly. We had a slight hiccup in Stage Two of Operation Happy Ending and now I want to continue with it,” Evie explained innocently as they all walked towards Gryffindor Tower.
“A slight hiccup? That’s what you call the attack?” Remus said rubbing his temples in frustration, “Evie you’re still recovering…”
“I’m as fine as I will ever be.”
‘You need a lot more rest. Frankly I’m surprised Madame Pomfrey let you out after such a short time…” Margie continued.
Evie suddenly stopped and turned on them all. Pete tumbled slightly into the back of the suddenly stopped group.
“She let me out because I insisted,” Evie said, “And I insisted because if you hadn’t realised the next full moon – my first full moon – is in exactly one week. And I would like something to keep my mind off what is about to happen to me. Savvy?”
Margie bit her lip in embarrassment.
“Evie I’m so sorry love. I didn’t even…”
“Realise, yes I gathered that. It’s alright it’s not for you to be concerned about. But that is the way it is. For me. ”
And with that Evie gave a little shrug of her shoulders as if she were throwing off such thoughts.
“So if you don’t mind,” she began, a new glint in her eyes, “I think we can resume. Anyone have any ideas?”
Ana smiled, narrowing her eyes mischievously.
James Potter waited until the clocks around him struck midnight.
Tiptoeing from the Gryffindor Common Room, he opened the portrait, wincing as it creaked slightly as things only do in the dead of night when everyone is fast asleep. There was only a slight interruption in the Fat Lady’s snoring, before it resumed loud and clear.
Under the cover of the Invisibility Cloak it wasn’t long before James reached the entrance to the tunnel that would take him into Hogsmeade and give him his escape route back home.
He’d almost sent word to his parents, knowing they were now back at home. Almost. James knew how quickly his mother could send owls to McGonagall.
James should have realised that his thought of McGonagall was the first sign. The second sign should have been the Fat Lady’s snoring. It had been too loud. Had he turned around he may have seen her right eye open watching him closely as he scuttled away.
Alas, James Potter had never been incredibly observant with the Cloak on his back. A trait McGonagall always knew she could count on.
The hair on the back of James’s neck stood on end, keenly sensing someone…or something…watching him.
Spinning around he came face to face…with a cat.
James breathed out with relief then smirked, before turning back to the tunnel entrance, opening it swiftly with a tap of his wand.
He couldn’t help but notice the cat following him as he walked through the tunnel towards Honeydukes. But that slight niggling feeling wasn’t really enough to overcome what was truly on his mind.
In fact, the thoughts running through his head were in such overdrive that it took him a while to realise that the cat was no longer trotting beside him.
It was now Professor McGonagall.
James almost jumped out of his skin, slamming his back against the cold rough wall of the tunnel.
“PROFESSOR!” he shouted in shock, his voice echoing off the stone around them.
McGonagall just stood there gazing at him with a slight inquiring expression.
“My apologies Potter. I hope I did not frighten you.”
James laughed in disbelief, rubbing a hand over his chest to make sure his heart didn’t beat its way out of his chest.
“Uh, no. Frighten would be an understatement.”
“Subtlety has never been your strong point Potter,” she said, raising one eyebrow.
Having made sure his heart was going to stay where he’d like it to, James finally stood up straight, clearing his throat before looking at her.
“I uh…don’t know what you mean Professor.”
James was trying to remember what Sirius had told him about a thing called a poker face. No don’t touch your ear Potter. Did you seriously just blink three times in one second?…Geez just try to be normal for once!
Professor McGonagall on the other hand had a flipping brilliant poker face.
“As odd as I find you sometimes Mr Potter, a tunnel is not a comfortable place to sleep, eat nor play Quidditch. Considering those things seem to be the favourite pastimes of young men such as yourself, there is only one explanation for you to be in this tunnel. Either you are on your way to Honeydukes cellar, which I should inform you is not a very healthy diet for a Quidditch player and will catch up with you sooner rather than later…”
“A moment on the lips, forever on the hips right Professor?” James smiled cheekily.
“…Or you are attempting to flee the school for some reason that eludes me.”
James felt his neck burn bright red, a feeling that was unusual. Maybe having Sirius with him made James a far more confident deviant.
He took a gulp, trying to stare at her the way she was staring at him. That’s when James knew he wasn’t going to win this one.
“It was Remington wasn’t it?” he asked, “She told you.”
“Others?” James exclaimed, “I hadn’t told anyone else that I was going home!”
“Miss Ford knows you too well it seems.”
James’s breathing suddenly got heavier and more laboured. It felt as though someone had poured concrete onto his lungs.
“Wait…what?” was all he could manage.
“Miss Ford knows about her family Mr Potter. Or rather she guessed at what was happening after her letters home went unreturned and finally when her owl disappeared. She came to me almost at the beginning of term. It was then that the Headmaster made enquiries about her family and discovered that their whereabouts were unknown.”
James’s hand were shaking so hard that he had to dig his fingernails into his palms to stop. Professor McGonagall conjured a chair, gently guiding him to sit down on it.
“She never said anything.”
“Miss Ford had accepted that whoever had taken her family were obviously dangerous. And though it pained her to do so…terribly I may add…she remained here where she was safest,” McGonagall explained sitting down on her own chair, fitted with a red silk cushion with gold tassels.
“But she must have felt so terrified for them…”
A little crack seemed to issue from James’s voice. The very thought of dealing with that much pain was excruciating. He couldn’t even imagine what it would have been like for Evie these past couple of months…
“I believe I told her special projects were always a good way to distract oneself from pain. Perhaps you underestimate Miss Ford’s inventiveness and inner strength. She is a Gryffindor after all. As are you.”
Something clicked for James…Evie’s plan to matchmake James and Lily corresponding with when she’d probably found out...
“You mean Operation Happy Ending was a way for Evie to get through her own pain?” James almost whispered, tumultuous feelings stirring inside him. He wasn’t quite sure how he felt about that. Nor was he sure that Evie would have been so selfish.
But maybe…just maybe…
Professor McGonagall blinked three times with a blank expression.
“I have no idea what you are talking about Mr Potter,” she said.
“Professor, if I may, I would like to head back to my dorm room now,” James said very quietly, his brow furrowed under the weight of the thoughts on his mind.
Before she could answer him James began walking back towards Hogwarts, a little skip in the beats of his heart.
The plan was, decidedly, that Lily Evans and James Potter wouldn’t know what had hit them.
The entire afternoon, they spent planning, minus Remington, James and Lily herself. As soon as Ana had spilled her idea for the latest plan, the group had been whipped into a frenzy. There was nothing quite like a little matchmaking to take Evie’s mind off the dreaded day.
She couldn’t escape it at night though. The nightmares of what was going to happen. There was no getting away from those terrible images of ripping pain.
And so that night she spent planning thoroughly. She stayed sitting up in her bed, curtains drawn closely together so that the other girls would not see the light from her wand.
And as morning grew close and the sun eventually began to peek through her window, Evie finally ventured out.
Only to notice that Remington’s bed was empty. And perfectly made as though no-one had slept in it the night before.
“Evie?” came the groggy voice of Lily Evans, “Evie is that you?”
“Morning,” she replied as Lily staggered over to her, “You slept in late.”
“When did you get out? You didn’t tell me…”
“Oh it’s alright, it sort of just…happened.”
Lily smiled sleepily as she wrapped her arms around Evie, gently placing her hands on Evie’s back. She could feel the raised scars through Evie’s shirt.
“Breakfast!” Lily finally said, turning away to pull her pyjamas off and throw warmer clothes on. Evie did the same.
“You know…I was thinking,” Lily began again, “The strangest thing happened in Potions yesterday…”
“Muggle strange or Hogwarts strange?”
“Ooh fascinating! Go on.”
“I couldn’t brew the Lux Perpetua.”
Evie pulled her head through her shirt, a frown emerging on the other side.
“What? You’ve always been able to brew that one. You were the first in the year!”
“I know. And then I tried to talk to Slughorn about it and he just kept avoiding what was actually wrong with the Potion.”
“What’s wrong with the Potion?”
“I don’t know, that’s the point! He went on a rant about the light inside of me and how it was love and it was somehow being hindered…And then we were at his desk and he went on and on about this other student and then when he finally stopped he gave me a daffodil from the vase on his desk…I don’t know, none of it made sense.”
Evie’s foot slipped and thudded heavily on the floor. Lily turned to see what had made the noise only to find Evie staring at her.
“Why are you looking at me like that?”
“You couldn’t brew the Lux Perpetua.”
“Thanks for driving it in Evangeline.”
“And he gave you a daffodil.”
“Gosh Evangeline, you’re such a good listener.”
“Daffodils are the flowers of March.”
“Oh not you too! Seriously? As if that means anything.”
“Was Remington brewing her Amortentia again?”
Lily frowned and looked at Evie strangely who happened to still have one foot in her jeans and one foot out and was yet to move.
“How…how did you know that?”
“She was!?” Evie squealed.
Lily pulled an unconcerned face and shrugged, “Yeah she was. The smells were actually really distracting while I was trying to brew my potion.”
Evie suddenly stood up straight and laughed at the top of her voice.
“What is it?” asked Lily.
But Evie just kept laughing, as though she couldn’t quite believe what she had just heard. She slapped her hands on her knees, doubled over with laughter. Shaking her head, she finally managed to pull the rest of her clothes on.
“You, Lily Evans are in for quite a week,” Evie said cryptically, before heading to the door.
“What the hell Evangeline, what was all that about?” Lily said pulling her back.
“You’ve got to tell me!”
“Is there something you know that I don’t know?”
“You betcha. And I love knowing what you don’t know!”
“How can you know what I don’t know, but know that I don’t know it already?”
“Oh come on. I know that you definitely don’t know. That’s how I know you don’t know what I know!”
Lily stopped for a minute, her finger pointing slightly in the air as she worked out what Evie had just said. Then she narrowed her eyes.
“Does it have to do with James Potter?”
Evie shrugged and smiled.
And Lily Evans opened the door just in time to see James pull Remington into the fireplace with him and disappear.
Oh Remington. In the way again. And Evie…so close…
In other news, I AM SO SORRY THIS CHAPTER HAS TAKEN SO LONG! I could give a million excuses. Instead I shall tell you that Chapter Ten is so close behind it’s painful.
Let me know what you think!
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