Chapter 13 : Guilt.
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“We have a problem.”
Sirius awoke with a start, his eyes slowly focusing on the panicked expression of a too-close-for-comfort Remus Lupin. The boy, his forehead wrinkled, leant worriedly over Sirius’ bed, his hands on the latter’s shoulders in an attempt to shake his friend from sleep.
“We’re about to,” Sirius deadpanned, his eyes darting between Remus’ face and his hands. The Prefect severed the contact and took a step back, but his expression did not falter. Sirius, never a morning person, made to fall back to sleep when he noticed Peter sitting anxiously at the end of his bed. “Wormy’s awake?” he queried, adjusting to the light in the room and noting that it could not have been more than an hour or two passed sunrise. While this hour of the morning was more than acceptable for Remus, Peter was not known to emerge from his bed curtains until the sun was well in the sky. “We have a problem,” Peter repeated lowly.
Groaning, Sirius forced himself into a sitting position and dragged his palms along his tired face. The sensation did little to wake him.
Remus, looking as though he hadn’t slept, sat awkwardly on the edge of Sirius’ bed and let out a deep breath. “The necklace...” he began uncertainly, and Sirius could only raise his eyebrows impatiently, “Something’s gone wrong.”
His brow disappearing beneath his hairline, Sirius shook his head, “Moony, I haven’t the foggiest idea what you’re on about.”
“The dreamcatcher!” Remus was shaken.
Sirius’ face fell into comprehension and concern. “Gone wrong? As in...”
Remus let out a low groan, not unlike his breathing during the full moon, and raked his fingers along his scalp. Peter looked equally uncomfortable. When neither boy spoke up, Sirius raised his arms in an anticipatory gesture, his eyes widening.
“He’s over thinking it,” Peter supplied, and one look at Remus’ panicked expression told him this was so.
“Over thinking what, exactly?”
“Don’t ask me,” the smaller boy shrugged, “I know about as much as you.”
Sirius blinked. “Then why do you look so concerned?”
Peter nodded in Remus’ direction, “He has that look again. Like the time you and James kidnapped Mrs. Norris and – ”
“ – We were only borrowing her – ”
“ – Filch found out it was you and – ”
“ – It was a welcoming prank! – ”
“ – Remus was so panicked he almost disowned the lot of us.”
Sirius remembered the incident fondly, yet found little time to rejoice as his eyes settled on Remus. He did, in fact, look as – if not more – distressed than the time in question and Sirius let out a weary breath. “Remus...” and when he did not reply, “Pete, what do you know?”
“He managed to get out something about Lily’s necklace being broken and us being horrible people before it all just became one big, messy rant... He calmed down long enough to wake you and now he’s like this again.” Once more, Peter shrugged, “I’m guessing he didn’t sleep, but spent the night thinking up worst possible scenarios...”
“Key word being possible,” Remus interjected.
Sirius sighed. Remus had always been the sort to both over think and overcomplicate things, and was known to work himself into panics such as this one. Usually these were about insignificant matters such as school work; he had been incommunicable, for example, leading up to their OWLs at the end of fifth year. This, however, seemed of much more concern.
Sitting straighter, Sirius threw his legs over the edge of his bed so that he now sat alongside Remus, whose posture was slackening with each passing moment. “Mate?” he enquired of his friend, but when Remus did nothing more than burrow his face further into his hands, Peter contributed with a small, “We can’t fix it if we don’t know what’s going on.”
“What if it can’t be fixed?” the Prefect mumbled into his palms.
“We should at least try, don’t you think?” was Sirius’ reply.
It took some minutes, but with a deep, calming breath, Remus eventually emerged from his hands. He forced himself upright, placed his palms purposefully on the edge of the mattress and looked to Sirius with a forcibly blank expression. He did not speak immediately, so Sirius watched on impatiently as Remus’ eyes hinted at his internal monologue. Only once the inner turmoil had died down did he speak.
“We may have made a mistake.”
“With the necklace?” Sirius prompted.
When Remus did not continue: “How so?”
The boy was again silent.
“I promised I wouldn’t tell – ”
“Promised who?” Peter piped up.
“Lily, of course!”
Sirius let out a light groan. “Is it important that we know?”
“I think so, yes,” Remus replied hesitantly.
“Then tell us.”
Peter moved around the edge of the bed so that he sat at Remus’ right and the two 7th years now looked to their friend expectantly from either side. Pained and hesitant, the boy eventually nodded – seemingly deciding in favour of Lily’s wellbeing rather than her trust. He took a deep breath and raked his fingers through his hair once more before beginning.
“I think something has gone wrong with the dreamcatcher,” he started, and Sirius resisted the expected retort (“I gathered as much”), remaining silent instead, “ – with the enchantment, at least. I thought I understood the magic perfectly...”
“We spent weeks on it,” Sirius affirmed.
“You barely slept,” added Peter.
Remus shook his head, “Somehow I misunderstood, miscalculated...”
While the idea of Remus misunderstanding anything seemed quite out of the question to Sirius, he looked sympathetically to his friend anyhow. Soon, however, something much more troublesome occurred to him: “And Lily knows?”
“No no, not yet,” Remus answered, and Sirius felt both himself and Peter breathe a sigh of relief, “We’re safe – in that respect, at least.”
“Then...” Peter urged
“Yesterday,” began Remus unsteadily, “while you were with James – ” he nodded to Sirius, then to Peter, “ – and you sick – ” (“The blood thing?” “Yeah”) “ – Lily told me about the dreams. That she’d been having them, at least, and at first I was proud because I thought we’d accomplished some brilliant magic – better than the map or your transformations, really. We’d harnessed the subconscious, manipulated it to our will...” Presently, Remus paused, closing his eyes disappointedly. It was the same expression he wore upon failing a particular piece of spell work, though magnified considerably.
“So what’s wrong exactly?” asked Peter after a moment. Sirius nodded encouragingly.
“Remember how we overheard Lily in the Infirmary yesterday morning?” Remus sighed, and his friends nodded, “She has a bruise. Well, bruising. Around her ribs – it’s quite nasty, actually. That’s what she was discussing with Poppy, what she was upset about.”
Sirius’ brows pulled together in thought, “You don’t think...”
“She told me it was from the dream,” he nodded, “and she’s adamant.”
Sirius felt himself deflate. If this was so, then they were in over their heads. It was not only irresponsible, but downright dangerous – and for once that prospect did not excite him.
“Maybe she’s wrong...” he began desperately.
Remus looked to him with subtle incredulity. “In all the years you’ve known Lily Evans, how often has she been wrong?” he questioned, and Sirius could only look away.
The three sat in an uncomfortable silence, guilt creeping in upon them like a cool change. They had been so excited, so sure of themselves; now, their confidence faded into a solemn regret. Admittedly, it was not the bruising that concerned Sirius – Lily was tough, she would live – but the potential for their magic to cause harm. If she could be injured in these dreams, then it was more than likely that she could... His eyes widened. They had only an idea of what James dreamt, though were he to slip into nightmares during Lily’s visits, the results could be fatal. Unconsciously, Sirius gripped the edge of his bed. No wonder Remus hadn’t slept.
“How?” Peter eventually cut through the silence, “How did she get the bruise?”
“Apparently James did it.”
Now that was inconceivable to Sirius.
“Not intentionally, of course,” Remus continued, “She says that he hugged her – tight, painfully tight – around the ribs and uh, she woke with the bruising. At first I tried to reason that, even then, the injury doesn’t make much sense – it seems too much. But then again, dreams are far from logical and if it happened during...”
Sirius frowned. “But it’s a dream – no matter what we did!” he began defensively, “How is it affecting her in real life? We didn’t...”
Remus could only shake his head.
“Can you fix it?” Peter asked in a small voice, “If we get the necklace back? Can we... backtrack or start over? Find out what went wrong?”
The addressee shrugged, “I can’t imagine how this happened in the first place. We had... I thought we had everything correct.” His face fell again into his hands, “I really put my all into it. I – I don’t know, I don’t think I can make it work like we’d hoped.”
“But it’s you!” began Peter encouragingly, “You always get it right...”
Remus did not respond.
“Maybe it’s us,” Sirius contributed after a moment, “Maybe we’re not strong enough – our magic – together. Just the three of us, I mean. The Map took all four, after all.”
“Well we obviously couldn’t tell James,” said Peter unnecessarily, and then they were silent again. The worst the three of them had expected was that the enchantment would not work; not once had they considered the possibility that their scheme could harm anyone. And if Lily had been hurt, what of James? Could he, also?
“I had been so sure...” Remus muttered, raising his head once more. He seemed to consider something, before shaking his head and, with a deep breath, proclaiming, “Maybe you’re right, Sirius. I think our only option is to take the necklace back.”
It was obvious why his voice dropped with this final sentence; no dreamcatcher, no dreams. Thus, their plans would be ruined – along with their hopes for James’ happiness.
They sighed in unison.
After a painful pause, Peter was the first to speak. “Do you think Prongs’ll be ready for collection yet?” he asked, mercifully changing the subject.
Sirius inquired as to the time and, when Remus replied with a matter-of-fact “not long after six” he heard himself groan obnoxiously. “You’re telling me,” he began in a low sigh, “Classes don’t start for almost three hours, and I’m awake?”
“Looks that way,” Remus grinned, getting to his feet.
Displeased, Sirius fell back upon his bed, dragging his palms along his tired face once more. He exhaled heavily, inwardly admitting that his mind was now much too awake to allow him a return to slumber, and so grudgingly stood alongside Remus. Peter joined them, and the three boys – having come to an unspoken and unanimous decision as to their plan of action – silently dressed in their uniforms for the day.
They exited their dormitory as a unit and the common room in a line, wordlessly making their way through the deserted corridors. Sirius did not think he had ever seen the castle so stagnant – no ghosts, no prefects, even the paintings were asleep – and surmised that it might be advantageous for him to switch his pranking hour from dusk to dawn. This, of course, would not interfere with James’ patrols and so seemed ideal; nodding quietly, Sirius made the decision to discuss this change with the Head Boy in the not too distant future. Briefly, he wondered if James’ new position would dissuade him from their expected pastime, but quickly banished that unhappy thought from his mind.
“Infirmary then?” asked Peter, though he already knew the answer (Sirius assumed he asked only to fill the silence). The three of them of course felt the distinct lack in their presence, and aimed to rectify this immediately.
“Infirmary,” chorused Remus and Sirius, and that was all.
It took little more than five minutes to reach the Hospital Wing, and in that time the three 7th years encountered not a soul. Surprisingly, despite their having free reign of the halls, an uncharacteristic silence had fallen upon them. Sirius caught himself imagining the worst: what if Lily had not been there, and James had hit the ground with full force? How would he react? How would he cope? Sirius felt his lips twitch sadly. He wouldn’t. Admittedly, his sleep had been interrupted by images of James falling, over and over and over again, and only once did Sirius not witness him hit the ground – when Remus had woken him. The impact and aftermath of that fall had burned itself into his retinas and breathing was becoming more difficult by the moment. Without James, Sirius didn’t make sense.
Presently, his thoughts slid to the information Remus had divulged that morning and Sirius felt himself stiffen. What dangers had they exposed Lily (and potentially James) to? Despite their good intentions, what had they unleashed, inflicted upon the Head Boy and Girl? Sirius did not imagine he would be sleeping well for some time.
The Infirmary loomed, and Sirius swallowed his guilt. He stifled his imagination, swimming with what ifs, and most of all, silenced the persistent voice in his head that reminded him over and again: “You did nothing. You just stood there. You did nothing. You did nothing.”
Sirius had some time ago come to terms with the fact that one day, Lily Evans would replace him. It was inevitable and, of course, he had more than encouraged it. Still, the Gryffindor was not entirely prepared for the onset of this development and so became painfully aware of the unhappy and repetitious thud in his chest.
He closed his eyes a moment, and continued.
Remus pushed through the Infirmary door eagerly, Peter close behind him. Before entering himself, however, Sirius took a few seconds to ensure he had himself under control. It would not do to collapse into a fit of guilt the moment he caught sight of his best friend, and he would prefer James not have an insight into the current workings of his mind. If he was smart about it, it was possible (though not likely) that he might hide this internal discomfort from James altogether – in regard to both fall and dreamcatcher. That would be best.
Taking a deep breath, Sirius nodded to himself and entered the Infirmary, only to collide into the back of a stationary Peter. “Oi – !” he began. Peter, however, barely registered the collision. Remus, mouth agape, stood equally still.
Sirius observed the two bemusedly before following their line of sight to a nearby bed. He started at the familiar redhead within and, noticing that she was fast asleep, looked soon to her also slumbering companions, positioned uncomfortably in bedside chairs.
“What...” he began, but found no other words.
Beside the bed head, her neck cocked strangely to the left, sat (or slept) Emmeline Vance; lips gently parted and lashes tickling the delicate hollow beneath her eye. Even then, she looked perfect. To her left, sat (or slouched) an awkwardly positioned Kael Walsh; 7th year and Ravenclaw Keeper. Sirius could not account for the presence of either, though Walsh made no sense whatsoever. He looked to Remus for clarification, but the Prefect seemed equally as lost, and a glance in Peter’s direction indicated that the third was also.
“What is...” the aforementioned began in a squeak of sorts, but was silenced as Lily shifted in her sleep. The sudden intake of breath from the three of them was deafening. There was no mistaking the dark red and deep purple imprints that littered Lily’s throat, and Sirius felt his stomach drop almost to his knees. He did not need to look to his friends to know they had reached the same conclusion: James had done this. No, they had done this.
As though roused by their mental hysterics, Emmeline began to fidget in her sleep. It was not long before her eyes fluttered open and slowly came to focus on the three horrified boys by the Infirmary door. She offered a sleepy smile before recognition dawned, and her gaze flitted suddenly and sympathetically to Lily.
Remus, Sirius and Peter made to approach (and interrogate) her at once, but were interrupted by the abrupt arrival of Madam Pomfrey. The matron moved swiftly towards them, hands busily flattening the creases in her robes (it was evident that she had not long been awake), and lips pulled into a frown. She stopped a metre or so in front of them and, quieter than usual, informed them briskly: “He’s not yet up.”
“Hmm?” asked Remus, eyes still fixated on Lily’s bruising.
“Mister Potter,” supplied the nurse, “He was restless for most of the night so I gave him a sleeping draught. He won’t be up for an hour or two yet.”
Sirius, remembering that they had in fact come to collect James, only nodded. The three were so concerned by the consequences of their actions that they did not notice the impatient tapping of Madam Pomfrey’s foot upon the tiles. Had they been in their right mind, they might have recognised this as the warning it was.
“Boys!” the healer began, increasing in both pitch and volume, “It is before seven on a Monday morning and I have patients that need their rest. I will send Mister Potter to you when he wakes, but for now, I must ask you to leave.”
They looked to her pleadingly, but Poppy, clueless as to their current concern and thinking them there only for James’ sake, would not budge. She ushered them from the Hospital Wing impatiently before returning herself. Not a one of them moved.
“Did you see – ” began Peter.
“Of course,” interrupted Remus, “Did – ”
“Did James do that?”
Sirius sighed. “No,” he answered guiltily, “We did.”
The others did not respond. It was not until they had subconsciously begun walking in the direction of the Great Hall that the conversation resumed.
“I don’t understand,” remarked Remus finally, “Why would James...”
“He wouldn’t,” Sirius affirmed stubbornly.
“I don’t know,” added Peter, “Maybe he would. We don’t know what James dreams of. I mean, we were going on faith alone when we decided to send Lily in....”
The trouble with Peter was that he was so easily swayed; effortlessly won over by fear.
“We don’t know what goes on in his head.”
I do, thought Sirius.
“No – no, that’s ridiculous,” said Remus after a moment, “James would never, could never hurt Lily. Something must have happened – his subconscious playing tricks on him, perhaps. Poppy did say that he was restless, maybe the impact of his collision shook him up some. Messed with his head a little. Or – ” he added presently, “The potion. The sleeping draught. It’s possible it had side effects. I’ve had some odd dreams under it myself.”
Sirius was thankful for the many possible explanations, but not yet comforted.
Silence ensued until they reached the Great Hall. It seemed routine to make towards it, thus their feet had carried them there without much deliberation, but upon arrival Sirius realised that it was barely six thirty and breakfast was not served until seven. His stomach, of course, acknowledged this with an unhappy grumbling. Peter seemed equally perturbed, but Remus, who thrived at this hour, seemed familiar with the currently deserted hall.
Grudgingly, the former two followed their friend to Gryffindor table.
Sirius’ relief was instantaneous. The very moment he seated himself alongside Peter, an array of breakfast foods appeared before him. To his left, crispy bacon and still spitting ham steaks, surrounded on all sides by eggs: fried; scrambled; boiled (hard and soft); poached. Nearby, juice (from just about every fruit) along with milk, cream, syrups and spreads. To his right, a multitude of cereals, and directly before him sat a stack of toast (medium brown, just the way he liked it) accompanied by roasted tomatoes, a variety of cheeses and countless fruits. Remus offered a smug smile from opposite him, idly chewing on a piece of toast he had collected from the tower.
“The elves are quite fond of us, you know,” he supplied after a moment and, with that, Sirius and Peter all but dived into the meal. The food calmed their nerves – as it always did – yet Sirius still found digestion slightly difficult. He managed only two bowls of Cheeri-Owls, an apple and three bacon, egg and maple syrup sandwiches before the knot in his stomach made it impossible to continue. Afterwards, Sirius laid his head upon the table and focused on the groaning within his abdomen rather than the screaming in his head.
“How are we going to get the necklace back?” Remus voiced their concerns once the meal was all but exhausted. “She seems to like it a lot – I mean, she wears it every day.”
“Congratulations,” said Sirius glumly, “You’re an exemplary gift giver.”
The Prefect rolled his eyes.
“Can’t you just... ask for it back?” suggested Peter, and Sirius lifted his head from the table to throw the boy a look which clearly reflected the idiocy of the idea.
“You don’t think that’d be suspicious?” he asked.
“I guess,” shrugged Peter, deflated.
Remus shook his head. “Sorry Pete, it’s too obvious. She’d want to know why, and I’m really not interested in arousing her curiosity on the matter. She’d figure it out before dinner.” He bit at the inside of his cheek, “Besides that, she’d be offended. Which would most likely lead to anger and...”
“But we’re trying to protect her,” interrupted Peter.
“She doesn’t know that.”
“Do you want to deal with the wrath of Lily Evans?” Sirius asked seriously.
Peter paled some.
“We’ll need to take it without her knowing,” Remus continued after a moment, “She’ll soon realise, but if we’re long gone, she shouldn’t suspect...”
“She always suspects us,” corrected Sirius.
Remus sighed. “Yes, she’ll probably suspect us, but she’ll have no proof. The important thing is that we get it away from her. Only... how?”
The three thought on this for several moments.
“She’d have to take it off when she showers.”
“Of course Peter suggests sneaking into the girl’s bathroom,” Sirius deadpanned.
Peter looked affronted and went to respond, but Remus shooshed the both of them.
It was evident that Sirius was not in the highest of spirits. Guilt, confusion and devastation rampaged within him and it was all he could do not to give in. The guilt was familiar now; he had been slowly digesting it since the moment Lily raised her wand in James’ defence the afternoon before, and had swallowed more that morning at Remus’ explanation of their failed magic. His confusion, as to the Head Girl’s injuries and James’ part in them, layered Sirius’ mind with a thick fog which, thankfully, numbed the guilt somewhat. The devastation, however, was sharp and unrelenting. They had been so sure, so excited, so eager for their plan to play out. His ego had not allowed for this outcome, and Sirius felt misery seep into his bones. Lily needed convincing, but would never listen to them. James had been “an arrogant, bullying toerag” in Lily’s eyes for so many years that she was incapable of seeing him for who he was now. Without the gentle revelations given to her each night, would she ever?
Just as the Marauders would fall apart without James, Sirius imagined that, without Lily, James would one day fall apart as well.
He huffed and returned his head to the table.
“Even though... you know, even if we take back the dreamcatcher...” began Peter after some time, his voice unsteady, “She will come around, won’t she?”
“Who’ll come around?”
Sirius looked up at once, his eyes focusing on an approaching Emmeline Vance. She seated herself alongside Remus and offered a weary smile to the three, picking up a nearby stem of grapes and popping one, two, three into her mouth. When none of them responded, she added: “You two are up early.” Remus was, of course, excluded from this sentiment.
“Emmeline!” the aforementioned started, “What are you... What happened...”
“Lily – Is she – ” continued Peter.
“Okay? What happened to her?” Sirius finished.
Emmeline gave a curious sort of nod, her eyes sliding a moment between the three. “Since when are you lot so concerned with Lily Evans?”
“Maybe when your fourth is around.” Emmeline paused a moment, observing them, “You know, you look quite odd as a trio.”
“We’re aware,” Sirius replied.
She popped another grape into her mouth.
“Emmeline!” insisted Remus, “Is Lily alright?”
The girl nodded, and Sirius felt significantly lighter. “She’s fine, just a little bruised. Nothing serious or long term. I tell you what, though, it’s a good thing Kael found her when he did...”
“What?” asked Peter, “In... In her bed?”
Emmeline looked to him, bemused. “What?” she began, wrinkling her brow quizzically, “Of course not. In one of the halls. Why would he be in her dormitory?”
“Why would she be sleeping in the halls?” countered Peter.
“Sleeping?” Emmeline narrowed her eyes, “What are you on about?”
Sensing the discrepancy between Emmeline’s knowledge of the situation and their assumption of it, Sirius spoke up. “What exactly happened, Emmeline?”
“She was attacked,” the 6th year replied simply, “By Mulciber and Avery. Snape too, actually.”
The conflicting emotions Sirius felt at that moment were inexplicable. His relief that this had not been James’ doing was outdone only by his disgust and loathing for the Slytherins.
“What?!” Remus looked sickly, “Attacked? How? Why!”
Emmeline’s delicate face fell into a frown, “I don’t know too much. I found them after, and helped Lily to the infirmary while Kael fetched Professor McGonagall. Of course, by the time they returned, Madam Pomfrey had already given Lily something to help her sleep.” She shrugged, “Kael explained his part in the whole thing; he’d found Lily at wand point, almost unconscious. Apparently Avery was already down but he took care of the other two. McGonagall couldn’t do much while Lily was asleep but insisted somebody watch over her until she returned in the morning. Kael and I offered because Madam Pomfrey looked so tired already... I doubt she would have let us stay otherwise.”
Remus looked horrified, Peter frightened and Sirius enraged.
“And you don’t know why they attacked her?” Remus asked in a small voice.
Emmeline shook her head, but it was Sirius who replied. “Come on Moony,” he sighed, his expression barren, “You know the answer to that.”
“Because she’s muggleborn,” Remus breathed and no more was said.
Eventually, Emmeline politely excused herself for the purposes of showering and preparing for class, leaving Sirius, Remus and Peter alone with their thoughts. Seven o’clock came and passed, followed quickly by seven thirty and soon the Great Hall was alive with the morning chatter of Hogwarts’ student population. Presently, not a one of them could stand it.
Sirius stood first, followed by Remus and Peter, but while the latter two made towards Gryffindor Tower, Sirius assured them he would meet them in class and began in the opposite direction. His fingers curled and uncurled subconsciously.
Having been raised in the sort of environment that tolerated and even encouraged pure blood supremacy, this sort of behaviour always sent a particular chill down his spine. Despite it not involving him personally, his blood insisted on boiling beneath his flesh. All in all, the uncomfortable contrast between his frozen bones and burning veins made him furious enough to require solitude. He couldn’t quite explain it, but this sort of thing just got to him.
Sirius felt unstable enough at the moment without being reminded of the world he came from.
Momentarily, he leant against a nearby wall. Sirius felt responsible for James’ fall – it had been his idea to have him fly again, after all – and worse for having frozen when his best friend most needed him. He blamed himself for the danger Lily was in as a result of the dreamcatcher and of her birth. It was nonsensical, but Sirius felt guilty because of his association with pure blood bigotry. These were the people who had birthed him, raised him, and it made him feel sick to think he would forever be associated with them.
Sirius was overcome with the sudden desire to apologise.
He began quite suddenly in the direction of the Hospital Wing, ignoring all passersby. Conveniently, the first floor was relatively empty and so Sirius continued unperturbed for the majority of the brief journey. It was only when his destination was in sight that the knot in his stomach began to tighten and his walk slowed some.
Soon, however, his path was blocked. Kael Walsh exited the infirmary uncomfortably, rubbing at the back of his neck, and Sirius acknowledged unhappily that he had grown some over the Summer. When the two met, Kael now stood a good two inches taller than him.
“Walsh,” he greeted with a nod, which the Ravenclaw returned.
“You here for James?” Kael asked after a moment.
An uncomfortable silence ensued.
Sirius could not help but observe how odd Kael seemed. The boy had always been a quiet type; out-of-the-way, unassuming and sometimes strange, but never particularly nervous. Presently, his eyes fixated unblinkingly on a point in the distance and his fingers dug persistently into the back of his neck. “You alright?” Sirius was forced to ask.
“Just thinking,” was his reply.
Sirius wrinkled his brow.
“Listen, Walsh...” he began after a moment, “Can you tell me what happened?”
Kael soon looked to him, his warm brown eyes coming into focus. The Keeper nodded thoughtfully for a good minute before finally answering, “I thought she was being attacked.”
Two things occurred to Sirius simultaneously: first, that he had never before held a proper conversation with Kael Walsh, and; second, that this was probably due to the fact that the Ravenclaw was not particularly good at them.
Without another word, Kael offered the Gryffindor a small but curious smile before stepping off down the nearest corridor.
Only once the footsteps had receded entirely did Sirius turn on his heel and, shaking this odd encounter from his thoughts, push through the infirmary door. His arrival went unnoticed by the two women hovering over Lily’s bed, along with the Heal Girl herself, who reclined uncomfortably in her cot. Madam Pomfrey busied herself with Lily’s throat, applying a thick, purple salve which seemed to seep instantaneously into her pale flesh. Judging by the look on the redhead’s face, it was not the most pleasant concoction.
The second woman stood straight – as she always did – at the foot of the bed, her features, while strict, somewhat bewildered. Sirius had never before seen Minerva McGonagall so out of sorts; she stared unblinkingly at Lily with a similar expression to that Kael Walsh had worn just moments before. Lily returned her gaze determinedly.
“Miss Evans,” the professor began, enunciating rigidly, “I must admit, I in no way understand your motives. Hogwarts is very strict on matters such as these, and would no doubt support you. If you are afraid of repercussions or retaliation – ”
“I am not afraid,” Lily interrupted, her voice steady.
McGonagall rounded to Lily’s side, watching her student’s expression carefully. “Lily,” she continued, her tone softer this time, “You are safe here. Professor Dumbledore, myself and the staff will do all in our power to make sure this never happens again, to you or any other student.” She broke off, sighing, “But there is nothing we can do about those involved unless you tell us what happened. Lily, if you were attacked, you must – ”
“I told you already,” again, the Head Girl cut her Head of House off, “I wasn’t attacked. I was practicing my charms and must have mispronounced something. It was my own fault.”
Sirius cocked his head to the left. “What?”
All three women turned to him at once, and Sirius instantly regretted making himself known. Professor McGonagall’s face fell into habit, her features sharpening instantly. Madam Pomfrey reddened, eyeing Sirius in the manner she so often had upon him making a nuisance of himself in her infirmary. It was Lily, however, that – while not particularly changed – frightened him the most. Her eyes burned in such a manner that had Sirius convinced it was more than a reflection of the nearby torches.
“Mister Black,” the matron began in a shrill voice, “Did I not tell you that I would send Mister Potter to you when he wakes? As it stands, he is still resting. Now – !”
“I came for Lily,” Sirius corrected quickly.
Both Madam Pomfrey and McGonagall’s expressions reflected their confusion, but the firelight in Lily’s eyes barely flickered.
“Miss Evans and I are in the middle of a conversation,” the Deputy Headmistress tried to explain, but Lily cleared her throat.
“I’ve explained everything, Professor,” she said in that steady voice, her eyes finally and thankfully leaving Sirius’, “Honestly – I don’t know what Kael thinks he saw, but why would I make this up? Believe me, I’m not happy about it, but this was my own magic. I...” her voice cracked, and Sirius almost believed her, “I messed up.”
Very little was said after that. Clearly displeased, McGonagall straightened impossibly before exiting the room with nothing more than a nod and a small, “Very well, Miss Evans.” Madam Pomfrey soon concluded her examination and treatment of Lily’s throat and quietly gave her the all clear before taking her leave also. They were alone, then. Lily didn’t speak at all as she stepped from the bed and slipped into her shoes. Neither did Sirius.
Carefully, Lily crossed the tiled floor and passed him, silently conjuring a scarf before exiting the infirmary. He paused only a moment before following her and had to quicken his step to keep up with the determined Gryffindor. Lily quietly concealed her throat beneath the scarf.
Silence ensued. When he realised they weren’t heading in any particular direction, Sirius finally spoke. “Why did you lie?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
He laughed bitterly. “You don’t honestly expect me to believe that?”
“Why not?” Her expression did not falter.
Sirius observed the girl curiously. As she walked, Lily’s red hair whipped about behind her in an entrancing and intimidating matter. She held her lips in a firm line, yet her cheeks were soft. Her nostrils flared with the lightest of breaths and, every so often, Lily’s eyelids closed gently in spite of the blaze beneath. She was exceedingly contradictory and, more so, frightening. Still, he persisted.
“You’re Lily Evans,” Sirius explained simply, “You don’t mess up.”
“Yeah, well, I did.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“Good for you.”
“Is it because of Snape?”
She rounded on him in an instant, her composure lost.
“What do you want, Black?!”
They were stationary now, somewhere on the third floor, and despite the base human instinct telling him to run from that look in Lily’s eyes (or, if he were more inclined to follow Padfoot’s instincts, fight) he neither turned nor bared his teeth.
Lily looked taken aback. She blinked a few times, shoulders shrinking as she observed him. Now it was Sirius’ turn to remain resolute.
“I want to apologise,” he explained calmly, trying his best to divert his thoughts from his lineage. The attempt was, of course, entirely unsuccessful.
“For what?” She eyed him suspiciously.
Sirius took a breath before beginning. “For... my family. People like them, like... me. Pure bloods.” Her eyes widened, and Sirius continued solemnly. “You don’t deserve it, nobody does. The prejudices and the lies and the way they treat you, look at you, it’s not right.”
He looked away a moment.
“No, Lily, I’m not...” he sighed, “They’re not better than you. They think they are, but they’re not. And I’m sorry. I’ve been there, seen it, experienced it, lived it – their lives – and they’re... They pretend to be superior because of these ridiculous notions about blood purity, but they bleed just the same as you. It’s not right, and at the end of the day... they’re the ones with dirty blood. I – I just wanted to say I’m sorry, for them.”
She didn’t respond immediately. In fact, for some time, they did nothing more than observe each other in silence; these two, who had come from unfathomably different worlds. And here they stood; the same; equal.
When Lily spoke, it was all but a whisper. “You’re not like them, Sirius.”
They continued walking after that, their pace slowed some but still in no particular direction. Lily watched the halls ahead, Sirius watched Lily, and neither felt the need to speak for some time. It occurred to Sirius that there was something valuable about Lily Evans; something in her character which was, for lack of a better word, special. She was just the right amount of independent and headstrong, yet equally calm and pensive. Temperamental, yes, but passionate. Lily Evans was the perfect balance; she equalled, rivalled and matched his best friend in every conceivable way and was, of course, ideal for the entirely off-balance James Potter.
They just made sense.
After some time, Lily adjusted the scarf about her throat awkwardly, prompting Sirius to ask: “Does it hurt?
She shrugged lightly in response, “Some. Madam Pomfrey took care of a lot of the pain, but it’s still a little uncomfortable at times.”
He nodded slowly and they continued in silence.
Curiously, as they walked, Lily’s face seemed to redden some. Sirius observed in silence as her fingers began to twitch strangely at her side and she bit her lip in a strangled attempt to silence herself. Of course, Lily was not one to be silenced.
“It’s not because of Snape,” she eventually blurted, her shoulders tightening, “Well, not entirely. I’d be lying if I said he wasn’t a factor, but it’s not him, not really.”
Sirius only nodded.
Lily continued hurriedly. “There’s a – a small part of me that wants to protect him. That’s still... his friend. And I thought that, if he were punished or expelled or... it might push him over the edge, you know? He might, he might really become... one of them.” She took a small breath, “But that’s not, that’s not why I lied. It’s something else.”
Sirius’ brow creased as he watched her. Her cheeks soon paralleled her hair and, titling his head to the left, he remembered how furious she had seemed in the Hospital Wing; the way her eyes had bore into him, enraged by his presence. Only remnants of that fire lingered.
Lily lowered her head. “I’m Head Girl!” she spoke to the stone floor, “Dumbledore chose me to represent and uphold everything that Hogwarts stands for and I... How am I supposed to protect others when I can’t even protect myself?” Her breath shook, and Sirius realised he had never before seen Lily so vulnerable. They had stopped walking and so, instinctively, he rested a comforting hand on her shoulder. “I don’t want it getting around the school that the Head Girl is – is weak,” she continued, “Please just, don’t tell anyone.”
Sirius nodded, but his eyes read with incredulity.
“You’re not weak Lily.”
And they continued.
Nothing more was said after that. Eventually, with a small nod, they parted ways; Lily in the direction of Gryffindor Tower and Sirius, finding nothing better to do, towards his first class of the day. The Transfiguration classroom was empty upon arrival – it was curious, he had never before been early – so he took a seat in his usual spot and laid his head gently upon the desk before him. It had been an odd morning, he reflected, though Sirius was under the distinct impression that something very important had transpired. Before parting ways, a strange sort of comfort had fallen upon Lily and himself; the very same sort that had fallen upon himself and James during their very first train ride to Hogwarts. It was the sort of comfort that preceded friendship, and Sirius felt his lips twitch contentedly.
Time passed, and students began to file into the classroom. Half the desks had filled by the time Remus and Peter appeared, taking up the seats beside him; left and left again. He offered them a small nod of greeting and they soon fell into conversation. Marlene McKinnon, Mary MacDonald and Dorcas Meadowes took the desks directly before them and began a conversation of their own (about which Sirius was delighted, for eavesdropping on school gossip was a favourite pastime of his) and before long, the classroom was alive with chatter.
The three before him (mainly Marlene and Dorcas) spent a considerable amount of time (and energy, it seemed to Sirius) fixating on the transformation of Kael Walsh. Being that their first class of the morning was with Ravenclaw, the boy in question sat only a few rows to their right and, of course, both girls sat oddly in their desks so as to face him. Their conversation was fairly uninteresting to Sirius (and oftentimes confusing) so he listened half-heartedly until a particular name peaked his interest.
“Did you hear about Lily?” Marlene began in a squawk of sorts. She had addressed Mary, but never having been the gossiping type, the brunette merely raised an eyebrow and turned back to the parchment before her. Dorcas stepped in immediately.
“The poor thing!” she cooed just as Lily entered the classroom. She seemed more collected than when Sirius had seen her last; showered, dressed in her uniform and hair pulled back into a high ponytail, but continued to hide her neck diligently. Both girls watched her take up a desk at the opposite side of the room interestedly, before Dorcas continued, “And that it was Snape, as well. She must be devastated. I don’t know how she even came to class.”
“Oh please, Lily Evans – miss class?” Marlene replied with a giggle.
His lips pulled into a heavy frown. Leaning forward, Sirius tapped Marlene on the shoulder and she turned to him, a small, inquisitive smile playing at her lips.
“How do you know what happened to Lily?” he asked in a whisper.
“Emmeline,” Marlene and Dorcas chorused.
Sirius nodded slowly, “Of course.”
He returned to his seat uncomfortably; if Marlene knew, the school would know. While a good person when it came down to it (and tolerable conversation, at times) Marlene’s downfall had always been her crippling interest in the affairs of others. In third year, he had surmised this to be a defense against her own uninteresting life, but the girl had had too many scandals since for that theory to hold. He threw a worrisome glance in Lily’s direction, biting at the inside of his cheek a moment, before returning his attention to his friends.
“Where is McGonagall?” Remus questioned after a moment, and it occurred to Sirius that class should have begun a good ten minutes earlier. “She’s never late.”
“Where is James?” added Peter.
At this, Marlene turned in her seat.
“Oh – we ran into him out the front,” she began, and Sirius’ brows pulled together, “He was on his way here, but we spoke for a while and then he rushed off in the other direction. Odd, he was a bit out of sorts this morning.” It was apparent that Marlene had reached a few (most likely false) conclusions which she was just dying to share, but being that the Marauders seemed entirely put off by this information, she merely shrugged and turned back to Dorcas.
That may very well have been the most self restraint Marlene McKinnon had ever exercised.
Before too long, McGonagall entered the classroom in a hurry. She seemed frazzled, and her hair no longer behaved in its usual manner. A few stray strands fell about her face in a disorderly fashion, having escaped their confines, and stuck to a light dusting of sweat upon her forehead. Still, her features were as sharp as ever.
“I apologise for the delay,” she spoke briskly, but provided no further explanation. “This morning, we will be continuing our work on untransfiguration...”
And the class passed uneventfully.
Upon being dismissed, Sirius stood wearily and swung his book bag over his shoulder. Admittedly, he had spent the majority of the class lost in thought (in his defense, Sirius was already particularly advanced in Transfiguration) as to the whereabouts of his best friend. At first, it seemed likely that James had merely had to return to Gryffindor Tower to collect something: his textbooks, perhaps. But as time passed, and the Head Boy did not appear, Sirius began to regret Marlene’s earlier restraint. Where could he have gone?
Waiting for Remus to collect and sort his notes took some time, so the boy wandered leisurely towards the front of the classroom, observing McGonagall at her desk. The Professor scribbled furiously upon a piece of parchment, before collecting another and completing what seemed to be a copy of the first. Then another; curious.
Smacking his lips together lazily, Sirius looked over his shoulder as Remus and Peter approached. He nodded, and began for the door.
“Uh, Professor?” came Remus’ voice, and Sirius paused, looking back towards the Prefect. You can ask about the lecture later, he thought impatiently, anticipating a long winded explanation of what Remus had taken from the lesson and whether or not this was correct and/or adequate. “You wouldn’t know where James is, would you?”
Sirius titled his head to the left. This, he was interested in.
Professor McGonagall pursed her lips together, eyeing the three boys for an extended moment. “You can find Mister Potter,” she began, her voice in every way reflecting the disciplinarian they knew and loved, “in detention.”
THAT TOOK OVER A MONTH. I'm so sorry. If it's any excuse, I'm doing postgrad and working 4-5 days a week. But - if it's any consolation, I finished this instead of working on a very important assignnment due soon. So... there's that. I'm not keen on the title of this chapter, but I couldn't think of anything else which really encompassed it. Suggestions? Also, I'm aware that James isn't in this chapter at all but fear not! The next chapter is all James. How did we feel about this one, though? There's certainly a lot of information about the dreamcatcher. Am I living up to your expectations? Any guesses as to what has gone wrong and why? And what has James done now? Also - this chapter was the beginning of something very important, can anyone guess what it is? I can't thank you enough for all of your feedback so far. You're just lovely. I hope you enjoyed this chapter!