Chapter 4 : A Night of Surprises
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Lily was wand deep in potions assignments. She desperately wanted to complete the paper that was due the following week so she could work on the extra credit project Professor Slughorn had optioned to them. She also needed to catch up on the Defence Against the Dark Arts homework; she had almost lost a duel to Abigail. Thankfully Abigail wasn't nearly as good with shielding charms as Lily, and after exhausting her opponent Lily had been able to disarm her. Part of her almost felt bad, of course the second she walked by them and they jeered ‘mudblood’ that empathy disappeared and she was left wishing Salazar Slytherin had never created a stupid house to begin with.
She twisted the quill in her fingers, letting the soft feather brush her chin as her eyes focused on the first two paragraphs of The Benefits of Potentially Deadly Potions. Of course she had chosen one of the most difficult topics to write her essay on. She knew the benefits of dangerous potions, some of the most deadly were also the most necessary. However, it wasn’t as easy to put into words as she had assumed when she chose her topic.
She stilled her tapping fingers and reached for the book that was spread open on the table, flipping through pages until she finally reached the ending section regarding Draught of Blood and Wolfsbane. The context touched over how both were seldom used.
Typically, a Healer could help the body recreate enough blood to make up for any loss, but there were those rare cases that it wouldn’t be enough and the draught would be given. It worked by immediately matching the patient’s blood type and would begin multiplying rapidly, however the potion was frighteningly fickle. There was no guaranteed way to test its contents, and it would show no signs of contamination during the brewing process, but even something as small as an extra stir could cause it to mutate.
If a person was given a batch that had been compromised, the results were deadly. It would continue to multiply their red blood cells, thickening the life that pumped through their veins until it became a slush like texture. It would be unable to move through the fragile capillaries, forcing it to clot and killing the patient within minutes. This reaction occurred less than three percent of the time, and when death was already calling, the potion’s risks didn’t seem as frightening. Thankfully, it had to be used very rarely.
Most wizards and witches were able to get to St. Mungo’s long before the amount of blood loss was severe enough for the draught to be necessary.
Then there was her second potion, Wolfsbane. Draught of Blood was much easier for her to identify with. If she was bleeding to death and that was her only chance of survival, she would take it happily and cross her fingers that her batch was a healthy one.
Wolfsbane, now that was tricky. It was a new creation, invented by Damocles during her third year of Hogwarts. She remembered his picture being plastered all over the Daily Prophet for being the first person to create something that was able to help a werewolf contain his human sanity during a transformation. Although it wasn't yet approved by the Ministry's Potion Regulators, which she assumed had to do with the lack of werewolves available to test it out.
How was she supposed to identify with the pros and cons of Wolfsbane when she couldn't begin to imagine what it would be like to be infected with Lycanthropy?
To a werewolf, it would be a haven, right? It wasn’t as fickle as Draught of Blood, but if the aconite used to create it had become rotten, or if any other kind of ingredient found its way into the potion, the consequences were unfathomable. There were reports of the potion causing the disease to hold its mutation, and the transformation back to human form couldn’t take place after a corrupted brew of Wolfsbane was ingested. That was only if the aconite was horribly rotten, though. And the plant gave off a dreadful smell at the slightest bit of aging, so it would be easy to notice if it was far too bad to be used.
Yes, the Wolfsbane was an incredible creation, but were werewolves even common enough to require such an invention? The only one she had ever heard stories about was Greyback, and he may have been the only one on this continent, for all she knew. He was famous for attacking innocent people, and not because he was transformed, but because he enjoyed it. So, it was obvious he wouldn’t be someone to take the potion. What they had learned about werewolves did make it clear that many never admitted to their disease, so she supposed it was possible that there was a higher number of them than she realized. Regardless of whether there were one in a hundred or one in a million, she still had to come up with a way to describe how the benefits outweighed the negatives.
She let her fingers move over the lines of the book, reading them over and over, trying to understand more about this potion. Her brain was finally moving in what she believed was a positive direction, a solid answer was almost close enough to touch, yes, she nearly had it-
“Hey, Evans. I need to-” James's voice filled their common area as he entered through the portrait. He sounded like quills on a chalkboard to Lily’s annoyed ears. She barely suppressed a growl as the answer that had taken her at least twenty minutes to come up with began dissolving from her train of thought.
“James, do you know how long I’ve been —”
“Working on that paper, yes yes I know. And every other assignment you can find. I swear Lily, you really can just relax sometimes. It’s permitted.”
“So you do know how long I’ve been working on this?” Lily asked sarcastically as she stood up and moved from the floor in front of the table to the couch.
“Yes I know! But I really need to talk to you.”
Lily glanced back at the half finished essay before sighing. “Alright, let's have it.”
He sat beside her. His face looked so much younger than seventeen with his obvious excitement humming just barely below the surface.
“McGonagall came into the library when I was working on revising for our Defence test and she asked me to come into her office—”
“James what did you do to already get called into her office?” Lily sat up straighter on the couch, crossing her arms as she spoke.
“No, that’s what I thought at first, too!” The way James threaded his fingers through his hair made Lily smile, it was such a familiar gesture, something she barely noticed now.
“But I wasn’t in trouble. You know how we were talking the other day about Quidditch? I was trying so hard not to just start asking people who the bloody Captain is, because it’s already a month into school and no one has scheduled anything?”
“Yeah, I remember. So did you find out?” Lily watched his smile grow even brighter. She started to piece together the clues, but forced her mind to stop turning in case she was wrong.
“Well, you know how Dumbledore waited to tell us about our Heads positions to see if we were ready?”
“Are you saying McGonagall…” She put her hand up to her mouth to stop the words from coming out, wanting him to be the one to spill his news if it was what she was thinking.
“Yes! And she just wanted to make sure that I could handle it, that everything that happened this summer…” Lily felt his hesitation.
“Don’t worry, I get it. So it’s really you, though? You’re really the captain?”
James stood from the couch, nodding his head and unable to remain still.
“She even nearly smiled when she told me! But there’s something else. When I told Sirius and the guys, well we had an idea.” He sat back down, glancing at Lily out of the corner of his eyes.
“It’s just that, well, it’s our seventh year and I’m captain. I’m captain! So we thought we should celebrate, and that maybe if you talked to McGonagall…”
Lily rolled her eyes, though more out of habit than annoyance. How often had she chastised the four of them — well, mainly Sirius and James — for throwing parties after the winning games? She’d been just a prefect then, but she’d still took it seriously. And now she was a Head Girl. She was supposed to be one of the most responsible people in this school, but part of her wanted that party. She was supposed to remind people of the rules and enforce them, though if it was just a celebration...that wasn't against the rules.
But, she knew a party meant sneaking things in that didn’t belong. It meant sneaking in Firewhiskey and trying to figure out how to get students from different houses in. It meant being up way past curfew and giving Filch too much excitement for one night. Still, if Professor McGonagall did agree to it, which she may if they had adequate supervision. She was one of the most enthusiastic people about Quidditch that Lily knew, after all. So maybe she could just ask…
“Alright, I’ll talk to her. But if she doesn’t permit the celebration, that’s it. No party.” The wind was nearly knocked out of her when James launched forward and squeezed her into his arms, hugging all the oxygen from her.
“You’re the best, Lily.” She smiled as the tug that was become all too familiar pulled against her heart.
The late afternoon sun was gently dipping below the Heavens, casting a soft, warm glow into the sparkling windows of Hogwarts. The last few rays fell upon the faces that filled the corridors. And, if one were to listen close enough to the voices passing through those corridors, they would most likely hear the name James Potter being mentioned in the groups of girls and boys alike. As of the last two days, that name became one that was being thrown about like a Quaffle. James had done the impossible, and gotten even more popular. The news of him being made captain spread like wildfire, and nearly everyone was pleased for him.
He was enjoying the attention, happy to bask in the limelight. Everyone wanted to know exactly what his plans were. When are tryouts? Is Sirius going to play on the team, now that you’re captain? Are you going to buy the team new brooms? And those were only a few of the inquires floating around!
He was relieved to have slipped from a classroom without being assaulted by questions this particular Friday afternoon, with Sirius by his side.
“So, how was it?” Peter’s voice rang through the emptying corridor the second Sirius and James emerged from the classroom where Auror Tutoring had taken place. “Will they have class every Friday afternoon? Or was this just for today?” Sirius ignored his questions for a moment as they began their walk from the seventh floor down to the Great Hall for dinner. He looked over his shoulder to make sure there wasn’t anyone from his class before he spoke.
“It was awesome, mate,” he spoke in an animated voice. “This guy that teaches it, he's one of the best. He really knows his stuff, and I mean he knows it. He isn’t just one of those people telling you things he got from a book, he’s really been there! Anyway, he split us up in groups. There’s only five of us, which is still a fairly decent size, I think.” Sirius held out a hand with five fingers up to illustrate his point. “Two of them are those rich prat twins in our house, they’ll never have the stuff to be an Auror so their mummy and daddy are trying this,” he lowered two of his fingers.
“Then there’s a bloke from Hufflepuff who is really into it. He wants to get into the program right after Hogwarts and not risk getting declined and having to reapply, so that’s why he’s taking it.” One more finger was brought back into the fist. “Then the last, besides me, is a Ravenclaw girl. Her whole family are Aurors, and she isn’t great at defense spells, so I think she’s hoping this will help,” he took down the last two fingers before continuing. “Anyway, the Hufflepuff, his name is Derrick, and myself are going to be taught by the same Auror we had today! He split us into groups based on our skill level and assigned an Auror to both groups, he said that we show the most potential, so he’s dealing with us personally! It’s going to be four hours one Saturday a month, which doesn’t sound like a lot-”
“So why did James get to go, and not me?” Peter interrupted, trying to keep his tone light.
“My parents are close with the bloke teaching it,” James replied. “In the owl they sent last week it said that they talked to him and he was more than happy to have me join in on some classes, since I want to become an Auror too, and all.” He felt a quick flash of guilt. His mate had been put through hell trying to pay for his class, and all it took was a small conversation for him to be part of it.
Everything had worked out, at least. Sirius finally agreed to let his parents handle it, promising to pay them back after he graduated and was able to use his uncle’s money. After over a year of living with them, you’d think Sirius would have realized that the last thing his parents needed was more money.
“Where have you lot been off to?”
“Oh, just finding Sirius here a new dress for the party,” James joked. Sirius was much too high spirited to let his friend's teasing daunt him.
Before Remus could respond, a chain of three girls all linked arm in arm approached them.
“Hey, all!” Lily shouted as they walked past, sending a quick wave with her free left hand.
“Where are they off to?” James wondered aloud.
“Probably going to get ready for the party. You better stick with us, mate. I don’t think your dorm area is going to be too safe about now.” Sirius said with a laugh as they entered through the giant doors of the Great Hall. The smell of spiced, steaming hot gravy atop a platter of juicy pork chops had his taste buds tingling in delight.
“You’re probably right. Anything that is going to take them two hours can’t be safe. Well, mates, we survived our first month of our seventh year. What do you say to treating ourselves to a few of Sirius's butterbeers out of the stash after dinner?”
The three friends nodded at James in agreement as they sat down, ready to dig into the feast that was placed before them.
Lily, Alice, and Belle were all perched on different surfaces of Lily’s bathroom. The white, gleaming stone was nearly hidden under mountains of beauty products. The large mirrors that adorned the walls were each taken up with a different face. Something about sitting two inches from a mirror when applying cosmetics really helped with the process.
“You have to take that lipstick off, Belle.” Alice said, hiding a giggle as she started at the overly red color painted across her friends mouth. “Seriously, you’re far too pretty, adding that sort of just…” she trailed off, glancing at Lily.
“It sort of screams little girl playing dress up, or desperate adult woman,” Lily added helpfully and laughed as Belle huffed and grabbed a tissue to scrub away the color.
“Zat’s lovely,” Belle said as she rolled her eyes.
“Well,” Alice began as she applied a much glossier product to her own lips. “It does. Besides, you’re French. You’re perfect. You don’t need half the makeup you wear anyway.”
“Zat may be true…” Belle wasn’t one for false modesty. She knew she was lovely. “But I ztill like to apply it.” Her beauty wasn’t something that could be faked from a bottle. Breeding could go a long way, and she and her sister Adeline were both blessed with the perfect bone structure that seemed to run in some old French families. Adeline had even married the eldest brother of a French Duke.
“Speaking of liking things,” Alice shot her friend a smile. “You have something I’d very much like to borrow for the evening. That silk blouse you brought over, the green one on the bed.”
“I could be ‘alked into letting you borrow my silk blouse for the evening… if you can ‘elp me figure out ‘ow to get my potions essay to stop screaming at me.” Belle negotiated with a teasing smile, knowing she would let her friend borrow the shirt regardless.
“Slughorn said something about a plagiarism charm being placed on the parchment. Did you reword the things you found in the books, or just copy them?” Lily asked from her place near the sink as Alice dashed to change into the blouse.
Belle’s annoyed expression was answer enough.
“Belle, we talked about this. There are no easy ways out when it comes to homework!”
“I don’t want an easy way out! I just picked ze worst topic to write on, and ‘ave no way of even rewording what ze books say! If I would ‘ave known ‘ow boring my topic of potions used during a birthing was, I would never ‘ave chosen it! I know a few muggle mothers, and the way they were rid of the pain during childbirth was much more gruesome!”
“You’ll figure out a way to make it work, I’m sure of it.” Lily said, relieved she wasn’t the one having to write about that topic. “By the way, have you written your mum yet? I know you stayed with your sister over the summer, at least when you weren’t at James’s. Does that mean she’s not as angry about you transferring to Hogwarts anymore?” Lily asked, turning to Belle as she spoke.
“My sister does not ‘ave a right to be angry at my decision. My reasons to transfer at the end of last year were necessary ones. And no, I ‘ave not and will not speak to either of my parents.” Her answer was said in a quiet tone, though the warning to drop the subject was crystal clear. She will tell us when she’s ready, Lily thought.
The breathtaking, pixie sized blonde had blown into the end of last semester like a hurricane, setting nearly the entire male population on high alert. Alice and Lily had been happy to welcome her into Gryffindor, and had spent a very exciting three weeks at the end of last year’s term teaching her all they could about Hogwarts.
Their friendship was easy, comfortable even, as if they had both known Belle for years. Despite the quick closeness of their relationships, Belle still refused to open up to them about more of her life, or what she called her previous life, in France.
Lily was jarred from her thoughts when a large bang echoed through the bathroom.
“Oh, that was the bedroom door, hold on!” She stumbled over the different obstacles of clothing to reach the front of her bedroom, quickly pulling off a bra that had been hung on the door-handle during their ordeal of deciding on outfits.
“Looking stunning as usual, Lily,” Sirius said with a mocking bow. “I always knew James had good taste in ladies.”
“James and I are just friends,” Lily shot back with a laugh.
“Keep thinking that, Evans.” Before Lily could respond, Alice and Belle were making their way over to them through the same treacherous clothing hazards.
“Hey Sirius, is Frank downstairs?” Alice asked.
“That goofy looking bloke prowling about? He is. However,” Sirius glanced her over playfully, “You don’t need him when I happen to be right here.”
Alice, whose sweet nature had never been great with quick banter, simply swatted a hand at him as she pushed through the doorway and passed him to get to the staircase.
“James sent me up here to ask you if the enormous list of rules accompanying the party had grown, or if the note you left downstairs covered everything?” Sirius raised a brow as he leaned on the frame of the door. “Can I come in or will this thing blast me to hell?” he asked as an afterthought, glancing meaningfully at empty doorway.
“Oh, you’re fine to come in. You can’t open a closed door to come in, but just like the main dormitories, if I invite you there’s not much the castle has to say about it,” Lily answered.
“Odd zat zere aren’t more fool proof restrictions to allowing the opposite zex to share ze room.”
“I thought that too,” Lily said. “But, the castle is huge. If someone wants to get away with something, there are plenty of empty rooms to do so. Having shared dorms probably helps stop most of the issues of someone wanting to do, er, specific things, with someone else.”
“Except for those of you that have your own private bedrooms,” Sirius added.
“Oh please. If Dumbledore can trust two students enough to place them in charge of so much, he should certainly be able to trust them not to sneak into each other’s rooms and snog at every turn!”
“Too bad for James. Anyway,” Sirius said before Lily could react. “We’re to end the gathering no later than 12:00, and as it’s only Gryffindor students and the ‘gathering’ is being held in the Common Room, that shouldn’t be an issue with anyone being out past curfew. No alcohol, no stupidity, and no leaving the common room. Did I cover it all?”
“Nearly,” Lily said with a prim nod of her head. It had been quite a surprise to her when she’d approached their Head of House about James’s idea, and Professor McGonagall had given her consent to the party. And she’d given Lily permission with fairly loose restrictions. She’d simply demanded it be called a gathering and told Lily to use her head to determine the guidelines.
“Good, then. The others are waiting downstairs. Belle, can I have the undying satisfaction of escorting you downstairs and to the party, where I will be the envy of every bloke in there?”
Lily felt the line of tension as if it were a tangible thing spearing from Belle. She’d slid seamlessly into most their lives last year, but the friendship didn’t seem as natural between Sirius and her as it was for the rest of them.
On top of that, they’d spent a great deal of time in each other’s company over the last few weeks of summer. Lily hadn’t just shattered her own world with her inability to handle the loss of her parents, she’d also brought her friends into it by unknowingly forcing them to spend so much time at Mr. and Mrs. Potter’s, all trying to help tip her to the side of sanity when it seemed uncertain if she would make it through.
And she’d learned from Alice that those days of taking turns talking with her, checking on her, and so on, had taken their toll on Sirius and Belle. Sirius had seemed morose, impossible to be around… Obviously Lily knew the reason for that, not that she would tell the others. And Belle’s temper had lashed out at him, her frustration of being unable to help Lily combined with Sirius’s own moods had turned that not so comfortable friendship into more of a volatile one. Yet, neither of them had made any moves to fix the situation.
Belle didn’t posses a vast array of emotions. She was one of the most passionate people Lily had ever met, but that passion was typically either burning hot, or freezing cold. No middle ground. Lily couldn’t help wonder if Sirius was just a bit addicted to the uncertainty of it. As if it had become somewhat of game to him, trying to bring out the different extremes of her.
Resigned to having no control of the matter, Sirius waited patiently to discover which Belle would receive him this evening.
“‘I appreciate ze offer, Sirius.” Belle paused in front of him, her blue eyes drilling into the grey mist of his. Lily tried to hold back a laugh as she watched the two collide, both refusing to break the stare.
Finally, Belle let her gaze drop and replaced the ice that filled them with something hot and playful, as if the ice had melted into a deep blue summer’s lake. She flashed an easy smile, the happiness of it fell on Sirius and had his face lighting up. Lily tried not to roll her eyes, amused and annoyed at the constant ups and downs of her friends.
“Let’s go, shall we?” Belle said, holding her arm out for him to place his inside.
“M’lady,” Sirius said, bowing again with a laugh before turning back to Lily. “Remus is downstairs. He wanted to talk to you, so he will just hang out until you're ready to go.” She nodded, her previous annoyance spilling straight into amusement at the beautiful picture her friends made: soft, brilliant beauty, against dark and viciously handsome.
As they headed down the staircase, Lily started rushing around her room picking up the hurricane of clothes and throwing them into the wardrobe.
“Okay, do your thing,” she mumbled to it, shutting the espresso coloured doors firmly. She slipped on a silky cream cardigan that had been her mum's; the smell of Adrianna Evans perfume filled Lily. Sweet vanilla with subtle hints of birch-wood, beautiful and loving, just like the woman that had adorned the scent as far back as Lily could remember. She felt her eyes growing wet, her heart closed around the pain, unable to fight off the memories that the scent forced into her. God, how long ago had it been when Lily had played with that perfume?
“Mummy! Do I look pretty? Pretty like you, Mummy?” She could hear herself, hear five year old Lily dancing around in a much too long nightgown. “I want to sleep in silky things like you! Can I sleep in silky, pretty things too, mummy?" Maybe it wasn’t wise, but Lily let the memory take over her.
“Nothing is as pretty as you, my girl. Now, let Mummy get ready for bed and maybe we will have a late night tea and biscuit party, what do you think?” Adrianna asked, taking in the sight of her baby girl, while dabbing her cotton ball once more into a clear liquid. After it was thoroughly soaked, she proceeded to rub the days wear from her face.
Her mass of thick, red hair was tied up in a bun, a few strands breaking free and curling around her ivory skin. The small child twirling at her feet was a near replica of Adrianna, something she was told often, but never got sick of hearing.
“Can I wear your nightgown for it, please? Please!” The full lips of the little girl fell into a comical pout.
“On one condition, darling, you have to make an invitation for Petunia to our tea party. It has to have loads of colours on it, and some of the letters that we have been practicing,” she replied, mocking a stern look.
“Okay! I can do that! I will make one for daddy, too! Just in case he gets home soon from business working in Illendran!”
“That’s Ireland, love. Daddy will be home tomorrow night, and the next day we will all be home together. Maybe then we can take a trip to the shops, you and Petunia can help mummy pick out more lovely clothes! I bet daddy will even take us for dinner at your favourite restaurant!” The child squealed in delight at her mother's words, then dashed quickly from the room.
Adrianna heard a sudden halt of footsteps, a few whispers, and the sound of running feet racing towards her.
“Mummy! Lily said we are having a tea party! Can I put on one of your nightdresses?” Petunia’s smile matched her younger sister's. Though they barely resembled one another, the second they smiled it was like they were twins. Both faces lit up in the kind of joy only a child could really understand.
“Of course, darling! Two lovely nightdresses for my favourite girls!” She bent down and scooped each of her daughters up, thankful that Petunia was a small seven year old and could still easily fit in her arms.
Lily felt the hard wood of the wardrobe against her back as she slid to the floor, her legs unable to hold her as violent tremors of emotion ran through her body. She pulled her knees into her chest and let the sobs take over her. “Mummy, do I look pretty like you, Mummy?”
God, Adrianna had been so beautiful. Not just to look at, but to be around. Lily couldn’t imagine having someone more loving for a mother.
Do I look pretty like you, Mummy?
Lily clung tighter to the cardigan that had brought the memories back in a suffocating wave, her body shuddering with every sob. That smell. How long did she have until it faded? How many other blouses or sweaters did she have that would smell just like the mother that didn't deserve to die? How many times would she picture the man that she’d been so blessed to call a father, come home with a huge smile ready to tell them tales of his travels? Tears soaked her face and hair; oxygen came in heaves, trying to force its way into her flooded heart.
She felt arms around her and curled tighter within herself as someone picked her up and laid her on the soft cloud of her mattress.
“I want them back,” was all Lily could say as she let her body melt into the blanket. “I want them back so badly.”
“You’ll never stop missing them.” Remus’s soft, strong voice contrasted against her weak, desperate tone. “I wish I could say you’ll forget, but you won’t. It won’t always hurt this much, though. It won’t always feel like your heart is being ripped from you when you think of them.” His words helped calm her. She tried to focus on one breath, then another.
“Just keep breathing,” he said when the next one caught in her throat and came out as a sob. “One after another. Just keep breathing.” It was the voice that would be used to calm a fragile, terrified child or sooth a frantic animal. She felt like both.
As seconds ticked by and turned to minutes, she managed to gain control of the sobs.
“Have you ever lost someone? I know your mum and dad are both still here, but you sound like you know how it feels.” Lily asked, her words barely a whisper.
“Lost someone to death? No.” He took a deep breath before continuing. “But when I was younger, I was really close to this little boy, he was a great kid. His mum and dad didn’t have a lot, but they always made sure he was safe and happy. Then as a form of revenge, a monster that had once fought with this boy's father went after him.”
Without realizing it, Lily gravitated from her fetal position on the bed and sat up, moving closer to Remus as he continued.
"He didn’t kill the little boy, but he left scars in such a way that they could never be healed. The type that don’t just stop at marking the skin, but go deep inside and ruin many of the best things that made life worth living. This monster meant to leave the boy alive, so he would spend the rest of his years suffering. Watching the little boy go through this really took its toll on me, it was harder than anything else I have been through.”
“What happened to the little boy?” Lily asked, engrossed in the story. Remus smiled in such a sad way that, for once in the last month and a half, the heartbreak Lily felt wasn’t for herself.
“He found a way to continue a life, a really decent life, in fact. There are so many kind people in this world that will give anyone a chance to prove that they aren’t what they seem,” he answered, a ghost a smile quivering over his lips before it faded. “He found people that could still love him, even being so greatly maimed as he was, they continued to love him.”
Lily smiled as the last words fell from Remus. She could tell that this boy wasn’t completely better, but he had still found happiness. She would never forget her parents, never rid herself of the feeling of abandonment, but she could grow strong enough that the memories of them didn’t have to break her so completely.
“Remus, I don’t know how to thank you for finding me and-- wait, how did you know I was crying? How did you get in?” She said as an afterthought, knowing the rules placed upon girls' dormitories. Remus chuckled, then pointed to the still wide open door that had remained that way after Sirius and Belle had exited.
“I could hear you crying from downstairs. Everyone had just left when you started… you know. It really is a terribly sad sound, now I know what James meant when he said that being in-” he cut himself off abruptly.
“Being in what, Remus?”
He evaded the question, and put a gentle hand on hers. “Do you still want to go, Lily? If not I can go down to the kitchens and get you some treats, hot cocoa always does the trick to cheer one up.”
Lily knew her question would go unanswered. Remus would never give away something that James wasn’t okay with. The group in its entirety might be an annoying, over boastful, and trouble making bunch, but they were also fiercely loyal to one another.
“I’m okay with going. It will just bring up all sorts of awkward questions if I don't.” And she was so sick of her friends worrying about her, she didn’t want to tell them she couldn’t be there to congratulate James because she was lost in a world of self pity.
“Let me just go into the bathroom for a moment and…” she gestured to her swollen eyes, her pale cheeks. “Do something about all this.”
As she started to leave the room, Lily noticed Remus’s eyes shift to the window. A look so full of melancholy filled his face, that she was sure when she followed his stare there would be something out there. But, there was nothing. Just the ordinary view from the window as a nearly full moon danced light over the shadows.
Lily and Remus moved through the corridors of Hogwarts, shadows dancing along the walls as lanterns threw flames into the darkness. They weren’t too far behind their friends, a half hour or so. Lily had done what she could to collect herself, and then as if to prove she was getting stronger, she refused to take off the cardigan that had started the flood of emotions.
“If we work on our Potions tomorrow, we may be finished fairly early and have the entire weekend free of homework,” Lily said, her mind dwelling on the a paper she still hadn’t perfected.
To her surprise, Remus simply made a noncommittal noise. He was usually quick to take her up on that sort of offer, needing to find some sort of respite considering the two of them were the only ones who tried to get things done ahead of time. Even Alice liked pushing it to the last minute now and then.
The silence fell over them, and Lily wondered if Remus was worrying his paper as well. She turned her focus to their surroundings and made sure to glance into alcoves as they walked; they were taking the long way around to Gryffindor Tower so Lily could do a quick check through the castle and be sure all was in order.
When they were about to turn and move toward a staircase that would get them on track towards the Common Room, Remus froze. Their eyes locked and he gave a small tilt of his head, beckoning Lily to follow, then slipped behind the shadow of a large statue. He reached into his robe pocket and pulled out a silvery, water like cloak, and tossed it over Lily.
“You're under James’s invisibility cloak. I need you to be very quiet, understand?” His voice was soft but left no room for discussion. “I hear Regulus. That means there is a group of Prospects, and from Regulus’s tone they don’t want whatever they’re saying to be overheard.”
“Prospects? And how on earth can you hear anything?” Lily interjected.
"That's the name we gave to the students who are clearly aiming to be Death Eaters. I can’t give up this chance to get a listen in. You wait right here and I’ll come get you, okay?”
“Absolutely not. If I’m actually invisible—we’ll discuss that part later— it would make more sense for me to go and you wait here.”
“That’s not going to happen. We’ll both go. But if I tell you to leave, youleave.” Remus demanded, the whisper barely audible. He waited a beat, but was met with silence. “Lily? Did you hear me?”
“Yes, of course! I nodded!” she hissed.
“You're under an invisibility cloak!”
“Right! Erm, yeah…I’ll leave if you say so, probably. ” She made certain to say the last word quietly enough that it would go undetected. Remus motioned her forward.
Invisible. Was she truly invisible? She wanted to poke her head out and glance at part of her body to see… but Remus wouldn’t have said it if it wasn’t true. And It certainly explained a lot about how James managed things that he shouldn’t be able to manage…she would absolutely need to talk about this with him. But in the meantime, the idea of moving around the castle, as transparent as air, brought a giggle to her lips.
Remus turned around and sent a warning look straight into her eyes, which was rather eerie, considering they couldn’t be seen.
After easing down the corridor inch by inch, taking each step painfully slow and stopping often for Remus to listen, Lily finally heard the whispers that he had somehow detected from their original spot.
“Move over,” he whispered. Lily crept half of the cloak off of her and let him under it. They prowled closer until they were within a few feet of their prey. Lily had to hold back a groan as she saw Severus among the ranks of the others.
“She thinks he’s weak, susceptible, easily manipulated.” The first voice, deep and sharp with anger, belonged to Sirius’s brother.
“She’s wrong.” She felt sick as Severus’s voice filled the silent corridor.
Regulus paced back and forth, Severus and Avery both so still that it seemed they were built from stone themselves.
“Severus! Keep quiet,” Regulus Black hissed.
“You’re that terrified she’ll hear you all the way from the forest?” Severus countered with a sneer. “Bellatrix is wrong. And I can’t fathom why you’re pretending otherwise. You know just as well as I do that it won’t matter what she or the Dark Lord himself promises, he won’t be turned. Get word to her that she’ll need to consider other options. A civil discussion about the merits of serving in the rank of the Dark Lord is going to be far from adequate.”
Avery whirled toward Severus, impatience and maybe even something like fear humming around him. “Obviously we won’t be able to get word to Bellatrix for days. She risked too much coming this close to Hogwarts. And if we would have been caught sneaking into the forest to meet with her…” he let out a shudder. “We’ll just need to find a weakness that Bellatrix can prey upon. Something she can use to convince the arrogant prat to listen to what the Master can offer.”
Silence filled the space, but Lily’s mind was filled with a terrible buzzing as it struggled to piece together the conversation. What could it mean? They were obviously trying to recruit someone… Oh God, was Severus wasn’t actually as involved with You Know Who as it seemed? So many questions spinning through her that she barely noticed when the group of three moved in unison, straight toward Remus and Lily.. She didn’t have the chance to react. Remus was trying to pull her backwards but she was frozen. He drew his wand and shot a quick spell across the wall, forcing a painting to crash to the ground.
The diversion gave Lily and Remus the few seconds they needed to back away and slip farther down the corridor, their steps timed perfectly with each others as the cloak fluttered against their feet. When they’d gotten a reasonable distance away, Remus stopped and pulled the cloak from them.
“Well, doesn’t that just start our night off brilliantly,” he said with a shaky laugh as he stuffed the cloak back into his pocket. “Professor McGonagall will be in the Common Room supervising, I’d like to get to her immediately to tell her that there was a Death Eater in the Forbidden Forest. You should go back, go to bed.”
“No, no it’s fine. I have too much energy now. Bellatrix. I’ve read of her in the Daily Prophet. They say she’s done terrible things… cruel beyond belief… a Death Eater, so close to Hogwarts? Should we go straight to the Headmaster?”
“Yes, Bellatrix Lestrange. Cruel doesn’t begin to describe the things she’s done, the things she will do…she is one of Voldemort’s most loyal and sadistic supporters. She’ll be long gone from the forest by now, I suspect. I think it would be quicker to go to McGonagall and let her decide the next step.”
Lily just nodded as they continued their walk in a hurried silence, wands at the ready. Severus. How was it possible that after everything that had happened, she could still be surprised in the path he was choosing? He’d always shown too much interest in those terrible boys, awful creatures who got pleasure from hating other students simply for their blood status.
She felt her eyes stinging as the memory of their friendship dissolving filled her. She could hear his words still, see him in her mind as he lashed out at her and called her a filthy Mudblood. She’d told him then, told him time and time again when he tried to apologize, that the words didn’t matter. No, it was the sentiment behind them. The idea that he could find nothing better to insult her with than the blood that ran through her. And maybe they would have gotten through it if he promised her he had no intention to join the Death Eaters… but even then, even as fifth year Hogwarts students, he’d already begun falling for the seductive promises Voldemort painted.
She tried to shake the memory from her. She could mourn the loss of a childhood friendship, she could feel sorrow for the man that a former friend had turned into, but she wouldn’t regret making Severus choose. Her, or the Death Eaters. She may have been the one that ultimately refused to accept his friendship back, but he was the one that burned the bridges between them when he made it clear that he intended to join the Death Eaters. A person that can believe someone deserved to die simply because of their birth was nothing but a coward.
“Hey, come here,” Remus said, pulling Lily into him with one arm. The feelings swirling through her must’ve been reflecting in her face. “I know that wasn’t easy to see. Here,” he rummaged through his pocket, producing a small piece of chocolate wrapped in foil. “Eat this.”
“Thanks.” She concentrated on the sweet warmth of the chocolate dissolving in her mouth, and on the feeling of Remus’s arm around her. The strength of his friendship was something that she would never stop being grateful for.
“I’m okay,” she said with a long sigh. “Really, I am. It just… I guess it just hits me sometimes, how real what’s going on around us is. I can’t understand it. I can’t understand how someone like Severus—“ she paused, pulling together her emotions. “How someone like Severus who spent years being best friends with a Muggle-born can decide that their lives, our lives, are worth less because of that.”
Remus was silent for a moment, the last corridor to the common room nearly upon them. When he spoke, it was with the voice of someone who had already endured more than they should have to. “I think, Lily, we aren’t meant to understand it. We aren’t meant to understand how a person could commit such terrible cruelties, because there are no rationalizations for it. A hate and fear so strong, so powerful, are the only things that can drive someone to harm an innocent person. You can’t understand it because you don’t have that in you.”
As he finished, they turned the corner to Gryffindor Tower and stepped directly in front of the Fat Lady. She sat in her pink dress, curled up with a book that looked like it could be older than Hogwarts.
Remus’s words both comforted Lily and brought her a sadness she couldn’t explain. Shaking the emotions off, she glanced to the portrait. “Excuse me,” she began politely.
“Well, how nice to see you. I assume because you have been made Head Girl, and have your own portrait, you don’t find the need to stop by and visit your dear old friend?” The Fat Lady began in a dramatic voice; Remus coughed uncomfortably.
“Oh, hello, dear. Well, I suppose I have you and your friends to thank for the music keeping me up all hours? How you conned Mistress McGonagall into this, I'll never know! It’ll take me weeks to recover the sleep I’m losing, and now I’ll have to-”
“The password is Rumple Dumpel. Now will you kindly let us in?”
The portrait swing open with a huff. The dim lighting of the common room caused Lily to stumble a bit over Remus as she walked through, who was deaf to her apology over the loud, intoxicating music. A small house elf scurried up to them, shouting her squeaky voice over the song.
“Good evening sir and lady! Leeny is here to help! Leeny can bring you pumpkin juice, if sir and lady wish!” They shook their heads no, and began walking through the tangled mess of dancing bodies to search for Professor McGonagall. Remus spotted her first and they made quick work of the crowed.
“Professor, we need to talk to you,” Lily said breathlessly when they finally reached her.
Remus cut her off with a glare, and Lily quickly realized her mistake. It wouldn’t do for students to overhear and panic.
“Can I step outside and talk to you about something Lily and I overheard, professor?”
“If you feel it’s that important, certainly. Miss Evans, please remain in here to act as additional supervision.” Before Lily could argue, they were both making their way toward the exit and stepping from the room.
Well then, Lily thought with a huff, feeling relatively deflated and semi relieved to have it out of her hands. Still, she had a frantic energy humming through her, and decided it was a good night for music and friends.
She started glancing around the common room to find the faces of her friends, and noticed for the first time just how impressive it was. There were twinkling objects that looked remarkably similar to fireflies near the ceiling, thousands of them casting a soft glow on the entire room. That had to be a bit of Sirius's work, she thought. He had always excelled at transfiguration.
In the middle of the room was a massive gold banner, fluttering in the breeze that didn’t exist. The words ‘James Potter. O Captain, My Captain’ were illuminated in a fierce red against the sparkling gold background. Now that was definitely Sirius, Lily decided with a laugh as she matched the words to a famous Muggle poem. She wasn’t sure if Sirius had originally started liking Muggle literature and magazines just to spite his parents, or out of pure curiously, but either way his love of it had rooted itself deep into him. On the banner she could make out a small figure that did look quite a lot like James flying around the banner, throwing the Quaffle in odd directions and always circling back around to catch it.
“What took so long?” Alice shouted, and Lily looked behind her to see her friend making her way over.
Lily simply shook her head. She’d tell them everything in the morning. It had all been too much for one evening. The break down, overheating the conversation… she didn’t know if she wanted to weep, or laugh. Discovering James had a secret cloak… God, how much more could happen in one night? For now, she just wanted to relax. Belle spotted them, and grabbed Sirius by the arm, yanking him over with her only to be caught by a group of fourth years who were probably peppering them with all sorts of James related questions.
Lily felt the happiness of the room start seeping into her. She grabbed Alice and gave her a quick, hard hug before letting her go.
“Let’s dance for a bit,” Lily suggested. “Then I’ll make a circle through the room to be sure there are no illicit activities going on.” Even as she said it, Lily knew that, despite her appreciation for following rules, there were quite a few she wouldn’t feel the need to enforce tonight. If someone was having a little too much fun, enjoying the company of their fellow classmates a bit too much… well, there were worse things in the world. And for tonight, Lily felt like everyone deserved to just soak up the happiness, especially tonight when there was too much darkness surrounding them.
She wanted to get to Sirius and Belle, wanted Remus to come back and to find James, Peter and Frank so they could all just be together.
Almost the exact second that thought swept through her, she saw a familiar face in the crowd. It was James. It was James, with a girl pressed so tightly against him that that not even a breath of air could pass. Not only that, but the girl’s face was tucked into the curve of James’s neck. She seemed to be trying to suck the flesh off. James had her by the shoulders, maybe trying to push her off of him, as his expression was more of shock than anything.
He clearly isn’t trying too hard, Lily thought. The jealousy that was coursing through her veins was such a foreign feeling that it surprised even her. Impatience, annoyance, laughter… those were all emotions she came to expect when dealing with James Potter, but jealousy?
Lily stared into him… If looks could kill. James must’ve felt the assault of piercing green eyes, because he raised his to meet hers. The way his face fell as he held his hands up in a ‘can’t you see that I’m trying to stop it’ gesture, just brought more anger into Lily’s already raised temper.
She gave him one last look before turning and moving toward the crowed that had gathered around Sirius. Alice latched onto her arm, but it didn’t slow Lily down. She was done. It was too much. The energy still coursing through her, the rawness of the emotions she’d poured out only an hour or so earlier… for once, she didn’t think about what was right and what was wrong. All she thought about was what she needed, and right now she needed an escape.
“Hey there, Evans!” Sirius shouted, not noticing the overly bright glint in her eyes. She didn’t answer, just reached into his hands and grabbed the flask he was holding labeled Pumpkin Juice. Who does he think he's fooling? He watched in awe as she untwisted the top and poured every ounce of the liquid down her throat. She leaned over in a fit of coughing, the burn of it like fire to her raw throat.
“Er. Sorry Sirius…” she mumbled as the cough subsided, handing the flask back to her gaping friend.
“Evans! Are you mad? McGonagall has been circling around the room all night, there's no way you can hold your bloody alcohol and if you get caught I'm sure-” Sirius cut his sentence off as James approached them. Even in the dim light, the red swell of a love bite was visible on his skin.
“Fuck…” Sirius mumbled. “Well, mate, nice going. Lily just finished off my entire bottle of Firewhiskey,” he said, shaking the flask to prove his point. "Let's get her out of here before McGonagall tries to talk to her and she's sloshed off her arse."
“Lily-” She was already turning away from James even as he spoke, the heat of the alcohol drumming through her.
She didn't want to leave. Those two did whatever they wanted and got away with it. They ran around the castle like wild animals, sneaking here and there, nicking things left and right from the kitchens. Well, she wanted to get away with something for once.
She moved towards a crowded group, hoping to lose James between the people. Feeling a hand on her shoulder she turned around, irritated that he had caught up so quickly.
“Don’t talk to me!” She snapped, and then quickly covered her mouth, realizing it wasn’t Potter.
“Vell, then, are all new transfers treated so... interestingly?” Spoke the blonde man that stood in front of her.
“No, I'm sorry, my friend- well right now he’s not exactly my friend, but he was following…then you. I’m Lily,” she said, realizing her explanation was going nowhere. “A new transfer? I don’t remember seeing you around.”
“No, you vouldn’t have, I have just been arriving last night and my course load is much lighter than most. I attended Durmstrang, but my mother is rather... skittish and did not vant me to be partaking in the seventh years Dark Arts curriculum. She spoke to Headmaster Dumbledore and he has permitted me to finish my schooling at Hogwarts,” answered the blonde. Lily was a bit taken back by how charming his smile was.
“What is it about Durmstrang’s curriculum that your mum is unhappy about? We’re very excited to have you in Gryffindor!” She said in an attempt to maintain polite conversation.
“I vould not be sorted. I informed Headmaster that I do not like having no choice in the matter. He allowed me to choose my house, and because I was rather ahead of the rest at Durmstrang, I chose Ravenclaw. My mother did not vont me to return because it is Durmstrang’s belief that Dark Arts should be learned, not just taught to defend against.
"A rather realistic theory, you see. For if ve need to be defending against curses, ve need to be able use those curses as vell, yes?” Lily bit her tongue to refrain from comments, she was feeling much too light to get into a such a serious discussion. When she didn’t respond, the boy continued.
“I don’t know, maybe I am simply missing my old friends and home already. I am sure Hogwarts is a very fine school, it is just difficult to be taken away from everyone you vot you vold be graduating with.” Lily felt a sigh of sympathy; being alone was never fun.
“That would be very hard, I suspect. But, er, this is the Gryffindor common room. I’m not entirely sure how you ended up here. You see, students are highly discouraged from going into the common rooms of another house. Ravenclaw is great,” she added quickly, not wanting to appear too rude. “But, this, er, isn’t Ravenclaw.”
“Oh no, my apologies. I vas talking with a few new students I met and just followed them in. It vas not my realizing that I vas not intended to be here.” The sheepish look on his face had her feeling rather sorry for him. Still, she was surprised the Fat Lady allowed him to enter… but maybe with the buzz of the party she’d been a bit distracted?
And how had McGonagall not noticed? It was true that typically every Gryffindor from first year to seventh didn't gather together in the common room, so maybe just the sheer number of people grouped up had masked him?
“I vould be apologizing for my lack of manners, Lily. For I have neglected to introduce myself. I am Alrek, and feel very lucky to have found some’vne so nice to talk to.” He stuck his hand out and Lily grasped it, surprised at the rough texture. They reminded her of James’s, and she wondered idly if he played Quidditch like James, also.
“You will find loads of nice people here. And I hate to sound like anything but welcoming, as I promise I don’t intend to be. But, um, I’m Head Girl and responsible for enforcing our rules-“ she didn’t have to mention that she’d just broken one of those rules by chugging down fire whiskey. A decision that was currently causing a warm rush to flow up her body and into her cheeks. “And, um, we can’t allow students from other houses in here.”
“Oh, I vill be taking my leave very shortly, then. I vouldn’t want to cause you trouble. But I vos hoping, since you are Head Girl, you vould vant to join me on a valk around grounds tomorrow morning? It vould be nice to be getting familiar with my new home, and I vould love to spend more time vith you.”
“Sorry there mate, she’s tied up with me tomorrow. Now if you'll excuse us, you’re going to need to leave.” After much shoving through classmates, James finally made his way up to Lily just in time to hear this new git ask her out.
“James,” Lily said with a bite. “Alrek is new and didn’t realize that he wasn’t supposed to be here.” Maybe it was the alcohol blurring her decision making skills, and maybe it was James rushing over here to treat her like a child after what he’d been up to, but she sent Alrek a bright, slightly frightening, smile.
“Alrek, I would love to. Meet me at the entrance of the castle around nine?” she said. Besides, he was new and deserved someone to show him around.
“That is perfect! I look forward to meeting you, Lily. I vill be going now, it seems that my night couldn’t get any better,” he replied, taking Lily’s hand and drawing it to his lips. James scowled after Alrek, then back at Lily. His quick movement caused her eyes to blur a bit, her head to spin every so slightly.
“What the hell was that? You know nothing about him! Now you've agreed to spend a morning with him?” James would have continued his scolding if he hadn’t noticed that Lily’s eyes seemed to be losing focus.
“Oh blimey. This is going to be a long night,” James muttered, then quickly scooped Lily up and rushed her out of the room, staying behind crowded groups to keep them out of sight. He barely made it into the hallway before she started puking up the contents of her stomach. Luckily for them, Sirius and Peter had seen him shoving through the crowed and joined them outside where they were met with the sight of Remus pacing the halls.
“Thank God," James said as his mates crowded around. "Sirius, you go inside and keep an eye out to make sure McGonagall doesn’t come—“
“She’s not here,” Remus interrupted. “She had to go talk to the Headmaster. It’s a long story, I’ll fill you in later.”
“Alright, then. Peter, Remus, you guys go inside and take over supervising? As I believe Lily is supposed to be in charge of that and she’s evidently not fit to fulfill those obligations.”
“What happened?” Remus ran his eyes over Lily, taking in her sallow complexion and watering eyes.
“She, er, had a bit too much to drink,” Sirius answered. Remus followed his gaze to James, and saw the hickey planted proudly on his mate’s neck.
“Bloody hell, James,” Remus hissed. “Do you have any idea of the night she’s had? You couldn’t have picked a worse time to act like a prat.”
“Come off it, you think I was really necking some girl in a corner? It isn’t…” he was about to say it wasn’t how it looked, but it was how it looked. “It was Violet, I can’t explain. She just latched herself to me and kissed my neck, and right where she kissed started burning the second she touched it. And what do you mean the night she’s had? What happened?”
Remus ignored his question. “Just make sure you get her back to the Heads’ quarters unseen, you git. I still have your cloak.” He pulled the fabric from his pocket. “When she’s finished, take her back and we’ll handle the clean up and supervise the rest of the party.”
“Good idea. I swear…” James began, wanting to again assert his innocence despite how it looked. But he knew now wasn’t the right time. Instead, he turned his attention to the portrait protecting the entrance to the common room. “You,” he shot a look to the wide-eyed Fat Lady, “You tell anyone about this and I’ll make sure to mention that the portrait you sneak off to is—“
“Hush, boy! I see nothing!” And with that, she closed her eyes and pretended to snore.
Bloody fucking hell, James thought as Lily finished another bout of retching. The last thing he ever thought he would see was Lily Evans doubled over in the corridors of Hogwarts, puking up a flask of Firewhiskey.
AN: Rewritten as of June 2017. Thank you so much to Dan (cambangst) for his amazing beta work!
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