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After We Fall by Arithmancy_Wiz
Chapter 5 : Chapter Five
 
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Chapter Five

After a long debate during which Lily repeatedly told her brother he was being thick and he, in turn, told her she was being a hypocrite, the pair agreed not to tell their parents about Al’s unfortunate mishap at Grimmauld Place.

“But I still don’t understand what the big deal is. It’s not like you’re going to get in trouble.”

The two had just arrived back home. Once Al had convinced Lily he was well enough to Apparate, the two made quick work of gathering up the day’s cleaning supplies, lining them up just inside the front door before locking up and heading out. Seconds later, they were stumbling out of the darkened tool shed tucked into the far corner of the garden – the one that had been designed to conceal the Potter family’s unusual method of coming and going from the prying eyes of their muggle neighbors.

“It’s not a big deal,” Al told her. “That’s the point. It was nothing, so why bother mentioning it?”

“But don’t you think they ought to know? It’s their house, after all. And what about Dad? Mum’s gonna to send him over there to take a look one of these days, and then what?”

They had already been through all of this before, but Lily couldn’t help herself. She just didn’t understand her brother’s sudden change in attitude. He was the one who had insisted that something odd was going on, but now he seemed content to pretend the whole thing never happened.

“Dad will be fine. He can take care of himself. Besides, nothing happened the first time we tried to open the door. Chances are nothing will happen the next time. It was probably just a fluke or something.”

They entered the house through the back door. It was dark and still inside. Despite having spent the entire afternoon cleaning, it seemed they’d still managed to return before either of their parents arrived home from work.

“Well, I still think –” Lily began again, but Al cut her off.

“What happened to not being a snitch, huh? I keep your secrets, you keep mine.”

Lily had no good reply for that. Albus had kept her visit with Scorpius a secret... at least so far. She supposed it was only fair that she did the same for him. Besides, it wasn’t likely that either of their parents would be dropping by Grimmauld Place again any time soon. These days, her father barely had enough time to eat dinner at home, let alone spend the day fixing up an old house no one was even using. Still, the whole thing left her ill at ease, not to mention more than a little curious. It was obvious that Al had ended up on the wrong side of a pretty powerful spell, but as to who cast it and why, she didn’t have a clue. Just what was hiding on the other side of that door?

In the end, Lily decided to let the matter drop, leaving Al to his own devices as she headed off to her room, anxious to change into some fresh clothes after a day of very dirty work. She hadn’t even managed to make it halfway through the door before she spotted it: the small white envelope resting on the edge of the bed, her name printed across the front in a very familiar shade of green ink.

Lily looked around, glancing from side to side like a naughty child expecting to be caught with her hand inside the cookie jar. But the room was empty, not a soul in sight. She crossed to the bed, picking up the letter and turning it over in her hand. After checking again to make sure she was alone, Lily sat down and tore open the envelope.

With a little luck, great things are possible. --Scorpius

Lily turned the piece of paper over, expecting to find more, but there was nothing. She flipped it back again. Still nothing. She looked inside the envelope, as if hoping there might be a second, longer letter she hadn’t spotted before. There wasn’t, of course, but there was...something.

A four-leaf clover, no bigger than a fifty pence piece, had been tucked in alongside the note, coming to rest in the corner of the envelope, stuck between two of the folds. Surprised, Lily reached in, carefully extracting the tiny object, holding it between her thumb and forefinger. It was small, delicate looking, the same vivid shade of green as the ink Scorpius used in his letter, with pale white markings that formed a diamond shape across the center of the leaves. She pressed the flower gently against her palm, stroking the smooth petals, thinking about Scorpius’ mysterious note.

With a little luck, great things are possible. With a little LUCK

Lily jumped.

The tiny clover, still resting in her hand, had begun to move. It was subtle at first, the leaves' gently vibrating against her skin. But then the shaking began to quicken, the petals bending back and forth as if waving in the wind, the whole thing seeming to dance across the surface of her palm. The longer she watched it, the more vigorous the trembling became. Faster and faster it moved, and before long the clover was shaking and spinning so violently it was little more than a blur of green light against the pale pink of her skin.

With a faint pop! the tiny clover vanished. What was left in its place was the smallest butterfly Lily had ever seen. There it sat, perfectly still, its spindly legs so thin Lily could hardly feel them as they rested against the palm of her hand.

Careful not to move too fast and risk scaring it off, she lifted her arm, bringing the creature up to eye-level. As she examined it with a mixture of surprise and delight, Lily realized the butterfly hadn’t just replaced the clover – it had been created from it. She could see now how the four leaves had folded and twisted until they formed a perfect set of miniature wings. The stem had been transformed too, shrinking and swelling as it became the creature’s body and head, complete with two bulbous black eyes – one on either side – that seemed to be staring straight up at Lily.

“Hello there,” she said, unable to stop herself from smiling. “That was a rather clever trick you just pulled.” The butterfly wiggled its antennae and Lily’s smile widened. “I don’t suppose you’d like to tell me how you managed that one?”

In lieu of a reply, the creature flapped its tiny wings, hovering a moment above her still outstretched hand before taking flight and heading straight for the door. After hesitating for only a second, Lily stood up and followed after it.

If anyone in her neighborhood thought there was anything odd about seeing a nearly grown woman marching down the sidewalk, playing a silent game of follow-the-leader with a butterfly, no one said as much to Lily. For the next half-hour, she pursued the creature, chasing it up and down the city streets, making her way past any number of houses and shops, many of which were already closed for the evening. Overhead, the sky was growing dark, the deep shades of purple marking the approach of the summer twilight. Yet the butterfly flew on, never pausing for more than a moment, and Lily – for reasons she dared not consider just then – felt compelled to follow. 

When the creature did stop, Lily found herself in a part of town she wasn’t all that familiar with. She was standing on the outskirts of a park, one reserved for the children who attended the nearby primary school, which had been boarded up for the summer holiday. There were two rusted football goals set up at either end of a long field, though the grass was too overgrown now for anyone to play a proper game of sport. Lily had a nagging suspicion she’d been to the spot before, only she couldn’t for the life of her remember when.

“It worked then, I take it?”

Lily let out a squeal of surprise, lifting her hand to her heart and spinning round on her heels.

“Scorpius!” she cried. Scorpius Malfoy was standing just feet from where she stood, hands tucked into his pockets, his face half-obscured by the branches of the overhanging trees. “You scared me half-to-death! You shouldn’t sneak up on people like that.”

“Sorry,” he said, stepping forward and out of the shadows. “I didn’t mean to frighten you.”

“It’s alright,” she said, though her heart was still thudding in her chest. “I just didn’t see you there, is all.”

He took several more steps towards her, and when they were only inches apart, he reached a hand out to her. For a moment, Lily thought he meant to brush his fingers against her cheek, but his hand kept going, aiming for a spot just above her shoulder. The butterfly that had been hovering there landed eagerly on his palm. As he drew back his arm, Lily saw him curl his fingers into a tight fist.

“Don’t!” she cried, thinking he meant to crush the poor creature with his bare hand.

Too late. His fingers were already opening again. With relief, Lily saw that the butterfly hadn’t been squashed. It had disappeared, and left in its place was the little green clover.

“Neat, huh?” Scorpius asked, wiggling his fingers in her direction. She could tell by the grin on his face that he was feeling rather pleased with himself. “Come on,” he said when Lily failed to look impressed. “You’re not even going to crack a smile? I came up with that one just for you, you know. Here, look again.”

For a second time, Lily watched as he squeezed his hand into a tight fist. When he opened it again, palm still facing upward, she saw that the butterfly had returned, looking just as it had before – not a wing or antenna out of place. When this still failed to elicit the response he was hoping for, Scorpius shrugged, closing his fingers for a third time. He kept them clenched for a long moment, and when he finally opened them again, she saw that his hand was empty, no butterfly or clover in sight. He looked at her then, staring out from beneath heavily lidded-eyes.

“You shouldn’t trick people. It’s rude.” Her words sounded childish, even to her, but she didn’t like the way he was looking at her, as if expecting her to be impressed by his silly little ruse.

“Trick?” Scorpius repeated. “Where’s that coming from? Who did I trick?”

“You tricked me. Tricked me into coming to meet with you. You had that – that thing – lead me straight here.”

Scorpius looked as if he were struggling to suppress another smile, which only served to infuriate her further. “Well, who did you think you were coming to meet then? I mean, you knew where that letter came from. You didn’t have to follow that thing if you didn’t want to.”

The fact that his answer made perfect sense only made Lily all the more indignant. “How was I to know I was meeting anyone? I’m not a mind reader.”

The look on her face must have warned Scorpius just how annoyed she was because she saw his smile begin to falter. “You’re not really mad about it, are you?” Lily said nothing, which he seemed to take as a bad sign. “Come on, don’t be like that. I only meant it as...” He paused, rubbing at the back of his neck. “I don’t know...as a peace offering, I guess. I felt bad, you know – for yelling at you. And I just wanted to say I was sorry about that. I thought you’d like it. I guess it was kind of...stupid.”

He was looking at her so earnestly then that Lily felt her irritation begin to ebb. She could tell he was trying hard to make amends. And although she would never admit it to him, a part of her had known exactly where that butterfly was leading her.

“It wasn’t stupid,” she said. “I suppose it was kind of cute - the magic, I mean. It’s some sort of transfiguration spell, obviously. But how did you get it to change like that? It’s something to do with the hand, right? But how did it know where to go?”

Scorpius gave her a half-hearted shrug. He still looked deflated, as if things weren’t going as well as he hoped. “It’s no big deal,” he mumbled. “I could show you it sometime...if you want.”

Scorpius was looking down at his feet now, and Lily followed his gaze, noticing for the first time that they were standing on a small patch of dirt that marked the end of a walking trail that wound around the edge of the park.

“Fancy a stroll?” she asked.

Scorpius perked up at the suggestion, perhaps just as glad as she was to have something better to do than stare awkwardly at one another. So they turned and headed off, their pace relaxed, unhurried. They said nothing as the went, with only the sound of their trainers crunching over gravel to fill the silence between them.

The path was all but deserted. The only other person they came across was a woman out walking her dog. She eyed them wearily as they drew close, as if worried that two teenagers out alone at that time of day could only mean trouble. But she said nothing to either of them; she just picked up her pace and hurried past, the little yellow mutt yipping at her heels.

By the time the woman was out of sight, Lily had worked up enough courage to ask Scorpius about what she was sure was already weighing on both of their minds. “Is there any more news...about your Granny?”

Scorpius shook of his head, loosening a few strands of blonde hair, which proceeded to fall across his forehead and into his eyes. “Nuh-uh,” he said. “If anything, Father and Grandfather are being more silent about it than ever. Actually, they’re being silent on just about everything. I bet Dad and I’ve not said more than five words to each other the whole weekend.”

“That can’t be true—”

“It is. I swear. And Grandfather’s no better. He’s hold up in his study from the time he gets up to the time he goes to bed. He hardly even comes out to eat. And when he does, he just nicks something quick from the kitchen and back in he goes.”

“I suppose he must really miss your grandmother. They must have been together for a long time.”

“Yeah, and I get that. Really, I do. And Gran was great. But that’s no reason to lock yourself up, right?”

“I don’t know. Isn’t it?”

“I can't figure it. Neither of them seem to want to leave the house. And they don’t want me going anywhere either. I only just managed to sneak out tonight. I don’t know what they think is going to happen. I mean, she’s already dead. What else could go wrong?”

Even as they talked, Lily felt her mind drifting back to the conversation she’d had with Albus, about his suspicions that Scorpius might be telling her tall tales, or at least exaggerating things to make the situation sound more mysterious than it was. But if Al was right and Scorpius was making it all up, her former friend was a better actor than Lily could have imagined. There was an undeniable ring of truth in what he was saying. His words were earnest and held no hint of self-pity. There was just confusion, and if Lily wasn’t mistaken, a hint of loneliness in his words.

“I’m sure they’ll come around,” she said. “Maybe they just don’t know what to say. I’d imagine it’s a pretty big shock, seeing someone like that. I guess these things take time, right?”

“Yeah, well, I hope they hurry up is all. It’s like they just want to forget it ever happened. It’s like if no one talks about it – about her – it’s like she was never there. Know what I mean?”

This time Lily said nothing, for in truth, she didn’t know what he meant. Not really. She’d never lost anyone close to her before. Well, there had been her Great-Auntie Muriel, who had died not long after Lily started at Hogwarts. But the woman had been ancient, one hundred and thirty-two years old, and she’d been in poor health for ages. And then there was Scorpius. He’d already suffered through losing his mother when he was only eleven. Now his grandmother was gone too. It just didn’t seem fair.

The stars were out now, twinkling in the night sky overhead and reminding Lily of tiny, far-off Christmas lights. The crickets had come out too, chirping in the tall grasses that grew along either side of the path.

“It’s getting late.” They spoke the words in unison, smiling at each other when they realized what they’d done.

“I could walk you home...if you like.”

Lily considered Scorpius’ offer, weighing the hazards of walking the darkened streets alone against what her parents might say if they caught sight of her late night escort. Deciding the danger she knew was better than the danger she didn’t, she agreed.

They said little as they went, walking side-by-side, stealing glances at one another before quickly turning away again. More than once, Lily felt Scorpius’ knuckles brush across her own. She knew it was only by accident, but she could still feel a rush of pink heat rise up in her cheeks, and she was, in that moment, thankful for the darkness

Lily was all too aware of how easy she was finding it to slip into an old familiar rhythm with Scorpius. The knowing looks, the long silences neither of them felt obligated to fill. There were moments when it felt like they were children again, heading off to play in their secret hideaway tucked among the trees behind Malfoy Manor. But they weren’t children anymore. And they weren’t friends. All that had ended long ago, and Lily hadn’t forgotten why.

By the time they reached her street, the old-fashioned gas lamps that lined either side of the road had sprung to life, small circles of yellow light shining down on the pavement below while the surrounding houses remained blanketed in shadow.

“This is my stop,” Lily said, pausing just out of view of her own front door.

Scorpius smiled, looking around. “It’s been a long time. Hasn’t changed much, has it?”

“It never does.” Then against her better judgment, she asked, “What will you do now?”

He shrugged. “Dunno. Wander around, I guess. Don’t feel much like going home at the moment.”

Lily could understand why, and for the briefest second, she was tempted to ask him if she could come along. They could go somewhere – anywhere. Just the two of them. Just like it used to be. But that was silly, and she scolded herself for even thinking such nonsense. She didn’t want to run off with Scorpius...

He was smiling down at her, and she wondered for a moment if he could read her thoughts.

“Did you mean it?” she asked, eager to change the subject. “When you said you would teach me that trick of yours?”

“What, with the butterfly? Sure, I can teach it to you. Like I said, it’s pretty easy, once you know what you’re doing.” When she continued to stare up at him, he added, “What, you mean like right now?”

“Unless you’ve got something better to do...”

Scorpius grabbed her hand, leading her over to a small gap nestled between two large hedges that ran along the edge of her neighbor’s property. It was dark back there – none of the streetlights able to penetrate the thick branches. It was hard to see, but the darkness also meant that is was well hidden from the road, out of view of any muggles who might just come wondering by. Once they were both tucked inside, Scorpius explained the principal of the trick to her, which was a lot more complicated than Lily would have thought. Next he showed her the necessary wand movements, going over them several times until she was sure she had it down.

“Here,” he said, plucking a leaf from one of the overhanging branches and passing it to her. “Give it a try.”

Lily pulled out her wand. With the leaf in one hand, her wand in the other, she whispered the incantation just as he had instructed. She flicked her wrist, mocking the intricate motions he had just demonstrated.

But nothing happened.

“That’s all right,” he said. “Just try it again.”

She concentrated harder this time, imagining the way the leaf had spun and twirled, the way it felt in her hand as it morphed into the tiny butterfly. Raising her wand for a second time, she repeated the spell and...

BANG!

There was a blinding flash of light. Lily was knocked off her feet and sent tumbling into one of the nearby bushes.

“Are you okay?” Scorpius was standing over her, looking down at her where she lay.

Lily blinked several times; bright white spots danced in front of her eyes. “I...I’m fine,” She tried to push herself up but her clothes and hair had gotten tangled up in the surrounding branches.

“Here.” Scorpius reached out a hand to her and she took it. With a gentle tug, he pulled her up and set her on her feet again. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

Lily nodded. “Yeah, I think so.” She looked down at her elbow, which had a few nasty scratches on it but didn’t seem to be bleeding.

“That was something else,” he said.

Lily looked over at him. Scorpius was on the verge of laughing, the corners of his mouth twitching as he struggled to contain himself.

“It’s your bloody spell,” she shot back, though she too found herself struggling not to laugh. “You could have at least warned me.”

“Hey, it works just fine for me. That one, I’m afraid, was all on you.”

Still smiling, he leaned forward, picking a leaf out of her hair. Lily became aware then that he was still holding her hand. They were close now. Very close. She could detect the faintest whiff of something spicy emanating from his clothes and skin. Of course, that only served to remind her that she was still dressed in the same clothes she’d been wearing while cleaning out Grimmauld Place. She knew she should step away, but she didn't want to. In that moment, she didn't want to be anywhere else in the world.

A disembodied voice called out from somewhere in the darkness. “Lily? Is that you?”

It was her mother, and she didn’t sound happy.

“Looks like we’ve been found out,” Scorpius said, letting go of her hand but still holding the leaf he’d pulled from her hair.

“Sounds like it," Lily said.

“I guess you better go...”

“I suppose so. Well...goodnight, Scorpius.”

Lily made to walk away, but he reached out a hand to stop her. “Lily?”

“Hmmm?” she asked, spinning back around.

“If I were to write you...I mean, proper like this time, no tricks. Do you...Do you think you might meet me again...sometime?”

“Lily?” It was her mother again, and she sounded closer this time.

“I have to go,” Lily said. He nodded, releasing his grip on her arm.

“Lily Potter, are you out here?”

Lily gave Scorpius one final wave goodbye for stepping out from between the bushes, calling, “Yes, Mum. I’m here. I’m coming!”

She’d only gone about two paces when she stopped. Without thinking it through, without giving herself a chance to change her mind, Lily whipped around, tucking her head back between the narrow opening in the branches.

Scorpius looked up in surprise.

“Yes!” she whispered. “Of couse I’ll meet with you again.”

And without another word, Lily turned back around and ran home.


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