The building was in ruins, as Dumbledore had said it would be. Old, crumbling stone cascaded down the hill like a frozen waterfall, down toward the quaint Muggle village at its base. Lily led the way up to the clearly abandoned orphanage.
“Should we just set the whole thing on fire?” Sirius asked hopefully.
“How would we know if we’d actually gotten any Horcruxes, then?” Severus snapped.
“Yeah, we’ll have to go through and look for any,” Lily called over her shoulder as she jogged up the hillside, picking her way around the scattered stone, and the occasional patch of snow. She was the first to reach the orphanage and slipped inside through the eroded walls. Light filtered in through the cracks in the ceiling and each beam was thick with specks of floating dust. The air was cold and stagnant. Lily shivered involuntarily. They were almost less prepared for winter than for the rest of the Horcrux hunt. She cupped her ears tenderly; they were beginning to ache.
Soon, Sirius and Severus had climbed in through the gaping hole in the wall—maybe it had been a door at some point, or a large window—and joined her.
“Who’s ready to find some Horcruxes?” Sirius’s voice echoed in the hollow space.
The three began scouring the area for anything that wasn’t part of the building’s structure. There wasn’t much. They worked their way through, room to room, peering in cracks and behind bricks. Underneath the collapsed stairs, Lily spotted something. She couldn’t place what it was right away, but it was pale with large eyes… An eerie sense of foreboding came over her. Suddenly, there was movement and sound from behind her and the pale thing burst apart violently, shard of it flying through the air as Lily leapt back. Her heart was pounding in her chest, and she didn’t know why.
“Why did you do that?” Severus’s voice. Bitter, accusatory.
“Wanted to see if it was a Horcrux.” Sirius’s answer. Nonchalant, dismissive.
“Yes,” Severus scoffed, “because the Dark Lord would make an old porcelain doll’s head into a Horcrux.”
“It was worth a shot,” Sirius argued. “No harm done. And can you please stop calling him ‘the Dark Lord’ like some filthy Death Eater? Seriously! It’s Voldemort.”
“Sirius, it doesn’t matter,” Lily said weakly, not wanting to hear another one of their lengthy arguments. One of the painted blue eyes was lying at her feet, staring up at her. She was so transfixed she hardly noticed Sirius’s lecture on how it did, in fact, matter. Carefully, she stepped on the shard of porcelain, feeling it crunch beneath her toes. The doll’s head was the only thing they’d found so far besides loose bricks, shattered light fixtures and scraps of furniture. They had to have been searching for hours at this point. And all in vain.
Lily was thoroughly chilled, her teeth beginning to chatter. She looked around at Severus and Sirius. Their breath came out in puffs of fog. She was surprised they hadn’t started complaining about the cold yet, though both were vigorously rubbing their hands together.
“Let’s call it a day,” Lily said finally. “We can look more tomorrow.”
They hurriedly set up the tent on the spot, inside the ruins of the orphanage. Miraculously, Sirius and Severus worked together in their mutual desperation to get out of the cold. The three of them huddled inside at long last. Lily conjured a small, bright and easily controllable flame. It was soon warm enough to lose their heavy coats.
Unsurprisingly, Sirius was the first one asleep. He still slept like a teenager—sprawled out, dead to world, for usually twelve hours at a time. The soft warmth and mesmerizing quality of the flame was lulling Lily to sleep as well. She was nearly there when she heard Severus addressing her.
“Do you think there’s anything here?”
It took her a minute to decipher the meaning of his vague question. “Dumbledore said there might be,” she mumbled. “It’s the only lead we have, anyway. I’m thinking it might be buried under the orphanage or something…”
Although her eyes were closed, Lily could sense that he was still awake, not even lying down or trying to fall asleep. “Sev?”
“Yeah?” His response came quickly, as if he was expecting it.
“Go to sleep.”
She didn’t hear any rustles to hint that he was settling in for the night. She opened her eyes a crack, and, sure enough, he was still sitting up.
“Shouldn’t someone stay up?” he asked. “To stand guard?”
Lily rubbed her eyes, slightly startled. “Why? No one knows what we’re doing… right?”
“Of course not,” he said. “But just in case…?”
She smiled tiredly. “You can stay up if you want, but I’m not taking a shift, and I doubt Sirius would sacrifice any of his beauty sleep.”
Severus let out a loud bark of laughter and Sirius stirred and rolled over. They muffled their snickers and both nestled into a sleeping bag, drifting off at last.
The next morning, a fluffy layer of snow had coated the ground, and weighed down on the top of the tent. The sun was blindingly bright, but didn’t radiate the slightest amount of heat. Indeed, the temperature was so forbidding, and the tent so comfortable, that they spent the entire morning and much of the afternoon inside. Needless to say, Sirius slept through most of this time, none the wiser to the wasted time that was so bothering Lily.
The lightest part of the day passed, and long shadows fell.
“We won’t be able to do much with all this snow,” Lily said yet again, trying to convince herself that it wasn’t a criminal loss of time.
Severus nodded. “Exactly. All the snow will have blown in the orphanage. Everything will be covered up by it.”
“But it’s not the snow is going to melt,” she said fretfully. “This big of a snowfall is going to stick around until… until spring! It’s already late December. It’s just going to keep snowing at this point.”
“Lily, don’t worry about it,” Severus said absently.
“Don’t worry about it?” she repeated through clenched teeth. “That’s your advice?”
“Listen, there might not be anything here.”
She narrowed her eyes at his tone of voice. “You sound like you don’t even care.”
“I do, but…” Severus looked guilty. “We already got two Horcruxes. And that’s better than I ever thought we’d do.”
“So you’re saying we should just give up? Call it quits?”
He hesitated, apparently not noticing or caring that he was treading dangerous waters. Lily was like a boiler these days. And currently her pressure gauge was off the charts.
“Not necessarily. But we’re not going to be able to get much done in the winter. We can take this slow. Gather up all the information first, then find the Horcrux. Go one by one.”
She didn’t appreciate his rationalism. “By the time we’ve done that Voldemort will have taken over the world!”
Severus frowned. A crease appeared in his forehead. “Okay, okay,” he sighed. “Do you want to start now?”
“Yes, if you don’t mind.” Lily tossed a pillow in the general direction of Sirius’s head and it woke him immediately. He scowled at her.
“Get up. We’re looking for Horcruxes,” Severus said briskly.
Lily couldn’t help but notice that Severus was more interested in the hunt when it was sure to annoy Sirius.
“Again?” Sirius muttered. Then he seemed to realize what he’d said and looked up at Lily with wide eyes.
“What is it with you two?” she cried.
“Me?” Severus sputtered. “I’m the one who—”
“Oh, don’t give me that,” she snapped. “You were ready to pack your bags and head home two minutes ago.”
“My point is,” she said, cutting across him once again, “do either of you really want to kill Voldemort?”
“Of course!” Severus said indignantly.
“Obviously.” Sirius rolled his eyes. “But not in the snow.”
Lily drew in a deep breath. “Fine, then. I’ll do it by myself.”
Sirius groaned. “Lily, you know I want to do this just as much as you do, but honestly. It would do us all good to have a vacation. Somewhere warm.”
Lily snorted. “What, you want to go on a Caribbean cruise, or something?”
“Okay, not what I meant. We need a break. Like just one day. We’re going to get frostbite! I don’t even have gloves.”
“It’s just a little below freezing,” Lily said thoughtfully. “I might have an extra pair.”
She did not, in fact, have an extra pair of gloves, but was able to convince Sirius to venture outside anyway. Lily led the trek through the orphanage, through which snow had drifted in the night, making it a tedious journey. Several times one of three, in dragging their feet through the light snow, stubbed their toe on a buried brick. Exactly that happened to Sirius, just after he had mocked Severus for being in the same situation.
Sirius swore loudly and fell back in the snow-bank, clutching his foot.
Severus was laughing to the point of nearly falling over himself. “It’s called karma, Black.”
“So are we just going on a fun winter wonderland hike or are we actually going to start looking for Horcruxes?” Sirius asked, glaring up at Lily.
“We are looking,” she insisted. “Now stop complaining, get up and let’s go.”
Sirius muttered something under his breath that Lily chose to ignore. They continued trudging through the snow at even slower pace than before, Sirius lagging behind and following in Severus’s footprints.
They searched until darkness fell. They destroyed many things, most of them abandoned, broken toys—none of them Horcruxes. By the light of their wands, they returned to the tent late that night, frozen stiff and demoralized. Lily hid under her sleeping bag, shivering and waiting for her body heat to fill up the small space. It took a long time, and even longer for her to fall asleep.
A few more days like that and they were going through the same rooms of the orphanage over and over. More snow fell, and the temperature plummeted. They hardly spoke to one another. That meant no big fights had occurred. But Lily knew that could only last for so long. And she was right. They had just come in from another long day. The air was warmer, above freezing in fact, but that was not necessarily a good thing. They were soaked to the skin from melting snow and Lily felt rather hypothermic. At least it had always seemed like a painless, passive death, hypothermia… Lily shook her head. She couldn’t think like that.
On top of it all, they were extremely low on food and had been on a ration system for the past three days. Everyone was rather irritable, to say the least.
“Hey,” Severus said suddenly, making Lily jump. She didn’t think anyone had spoken yet all day. “You know what I just realized?” He held up the calendar that they occasionally referenced, until it got too depressing. “It’s Christmas Eve.”
“Oh,” Lily said. “Well, happy Christmas.”
“I say we postpone it,” Sirius said. “After all, we haven’t much of a feast.” He gestured to the can of soup being heated over a magically conjured flame.
“Or cancel it altogether,” Lily added. “I don’t feel like celebrating.”
“Well, yeah,” Severus said. “I wasn’t suggesting we throw a party or anything, just saying that it’s Christmas.”
“What would we have to celebrate anyway?” Sirius said. Apparently a nerve had been struck. “This has been the worst year on record. I guess we should be happy that it’s almost over, but next year could be even worse, I suppose…”
“How could it possibly be worse than this year?” Lily snapped.
“Well,” Sirius began, seeming to put some thought into it, “let’s say Voldemort finds out that we’re hunting Horcruxes and kills all three of us, but allows my lovely cousin Bella to have some fun first. That would be pretty bad.”
“Not worse than my own son getting killed in front of me,” Lily said quietly, but in a voice laced with venom.
Sirius sighed heavily. “Okay, I understand that you have this weird thing about not valuing your own life or whatever, but some of us don’t want to risk it all so we can go primitive camping in January.”
A nerve of her own having been struck with vicious accuracy, she leapt to her feet. “You always said you were James’s best friend, and he made you Harry’s godfather, but do you not even care that they’re dead? Are you gonna let Voldemort get away with killing them?”
Sirius was also on his feet, and Severus had backed up in the far corner of the tent, his head swiveling back and forth between them as if watching a fast-paced tennis match.
“Of course I care! You have no idea how it affected me when they died, Lily. No idea. But unlike you, I know a bad lead when I see one. There are no Horcruxes here!”
Lily furrowed her brow. So that was what this was about. She should’ve known. That’s what it was always about. “But Dumbledore said that—”
“I know what Dumbledore said! I was there. But he’s not always right, you know. I understand that it’s the only hope you have, and you’re clinging to that; I get it, okay? But we’re just wasting time out here. Whether you like it or not, we’re wasting time. We could be trying to figure out what one of the Horcruxes is, or where they are, but instead we’re back where we were a week ago: Nowhere. And we can’t go crawling back to Dumbledore every time we need help. I doubt he knows much more than we do at this point. We’re on our own now.”
Lily could only stare as she tried to formulate a response. With each passing second, Sirius’s eyebrows raised higher and higher, in smug anticipation of her answer.
“Exactly,” he said shortly, turning away. “Let’s pack up now. Might as well.”
“We’re not packing up,” Lily said slowly, over-enunciating each word.
“Why?” Sirius asked, bewildered. “Didn’t you hear what I just said?”
“Yeah, I did. Loud and clear.”
“So… what’s wrong?”
“What’s wrong is that you don’t have any better ideas as to where to go. We’re just going to end up doing this exact same thing in a new location, right?”
“Maybe, but, you know, indoors with plumbing…”
“So we’re going to sacrifice the mission so you can be comfortable?”
“Sacrifice?” Sirius echoed, looking to Severus for backup. “And since when is it ‘the mission’?”
“Voldemort grew up here,” Lily said. “There may not be any Horcruxes in the orphanage, but there’s a good chance there’ll be something around here. This is the only lead we have, and you want to abandon it so you can have a hot shower and sleep in a real bed?”
Sirius, for some reason, smiled. “Lily, I know. This is the only hope you have, and you’re—”
“Stop saying that!” she shrieked. “I’m not ‘clinging’ to it! Since when are you a bloody psychologist?”
He looked taken aback. “Lily, I think you may be in denial.”
She shook her head slowly back and forth. She forced her voice to remain calm, but her hands were trembling. “I advise you get out of here.”
Sirius blinked. “What?”
“Right now. Before I remember the incantation for that curse that makes you drown in your own blood.”
“I don’t think there’s a curse for that…”
“Really? I remember reading about it somewhere…” Lily was bluffing, but Sirius looked rather nervous.
“Okay, I’m sorry. Is that what you want to hear?”
“No,” she said. “What I want is for you to get out. Go to your five-star hotel. Maybe Voldemort hid a Horcrux in your room. Far more likely than the town he grew up in, don’t you think?”
Sirius drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly, his eyes sliding shut for a moment. Then, wordlessly, he began gathering up his things from around the tent.
Lily was startled. “Sirius… what—?”
“I’m leaving,” he said. “Like you wanted me to.”
She bit her lip. “But—”
“Oh, so you didn’t really want me to leave? Sounded like you did. And you know what, now I kind of want to leave myself. Besides, that five-star hotel sounds really nice… Good luck with your hunt; I’m starting mine.”
Sirius didn’t even bother to leave the tent, but Disapparated on the spot. Lily’s ears were still ringing from the loud noise as she turned to Severus.
“Sorry,” she mumbled, plopping down on her sleeping bag.
“You think I’m sad to see him go?” Severus said with a faint smile. “Good riddance.”
Lily shrugged and buried her face in her hands.
“Plus, it’s probably smart to split up. Good offensive strategy,” he added coyly.
Lily smiled despite herself. “Thanks for putting up with me.”
Severus grinned. “The pleasure is mine, I assure you.”
Lily thought for a moment that he sounded too sincere… but she shrugged it off and took the can of soup off the heat. “More for us.”
A/N: I love writing arguments and fight scenes. They’re literally my favorite :) So you can expect to see a lot more of them! Who's side do you take on this one? Kindly rate and review—each one makes me smile! Next chapter will be some Lily POV and some Snape. –Jenni
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