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After We Fall by Arithmancy_Wiz
Chapter 9 : Chapter Nine
 
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Chapter Nine

In that moment, Lily knew she had found the answer to Scorpius’ problem.

Of all the places in the world to hide, Severus Snape had chosen a spot little more than a stone’s throw away from where the Scamanders were spending their summer holiday. It was so perfect Lily could have laughed out loud had she not been so concerned about waking up her parents.

How silly it all seemed then – looking for dangerous curses and spells in the pages of her schoolbooks. What she now had at her fingertips was the location of a man who very likely knew more about the Dark Arts than any other wizard alive today. Added to that, Snape had known the Malfoys. Been to their home. Her father had told her as much. Surely Snape knew what kind of people they really were – what they were capable of. Perhaps even what type of dark magic they might favor. If Lily was lucky, it might only take Snape a few hours – maybe less – to figure out what had happened to Narcissa that night in the Manor. And while it might not be enough to set Scorpius free, it was her best hope yet for helping him clear his name.

Lily was more than tempted to sneak out of the house that very instant and start making her way up north. It already seemed like ages ago since she first read about Scorpius’ arrest – even longer since he’d appeared outside her window. But she knew she had to remain calm, to think things through. She couldn’t exactly walk all the way to Scotland. And what if, just maybe, she was wrong? What if she got all the way up there only to find out the watch wasn’t what it appeared? She was sure to be found out by her parents – sure to be in even more trouble than she was now. And if she was going to be punished for sneaking off, she was first going to make damn sure it wasn’t all for naught.

So Lily came up with a plan.

She spent the next two hours writing and rewriting a letter to Lorcan. She'd debated including both twins in on her plan, but in the end decided to place her trust in Lorcan alone. Though he was young, he was also brave and adventurous, and just a bit more likely than his brother to keep the whole thing a secret. Lysander, after all, had beenawfully eager to tell her all about the boys’ scheme to borrow a dragon for an afternoon.

The final draft of her letter was brief. In it, she told Lorcan how he would need to sneak away from his parents for a few hours – an easy enough task for someone as precocious as he was. After that, it was only a matter of following a few simple directions, having a quick look around, and then heading back to the reserve before anyone had a chance to notice he was gone.

Just see his face, Lily wrote. Just see his face, make sure it’s him, and then run home as fast you can. And remember, stay well out of sight!

In exchange for his help, Lily promised Lorcan half the money she’d been paid for cleaning out Grimmauld Place. She thought that was more than fair considering the whole thing shouldn’t take him more than few hours.

Thanks to a quickly performed Gemino charm, Lily managed to produce a fairly accurate replica of the map, which she tucked into the envelope beside the letter, having already circled the spot where she was almost certain Snape was hiding. Along with the map and the note, Lily also added the newspaper clipping – the one with Snape’s picture on it. She'd torn away everything but the image itself, removing all traces of the man’s name and the ominous warning that had been scribbled beneath it.

With the package now complete, there was only the small matter of figuring out how to send it. Lily didn’t have an owl of her own. Normally she’d ask Albus to help her, but he’d already left on his trip with Uncle Charlie. And it would be far too risky to ask one of her parents to send it. How then was she going to get it to Lorcan?

Unable to come up with an answer, Lily set the package aside for the moment and stretched out across her bed. Despite her excitement over finally having a real plan for helping Scorpius, the recent string of late nights were starting to catch up with her. The moment her head hit the pillow, Lily fell off to sleep just as the sun began to rise.

Lily woke with a start several hours later, her mother’s voice calling out to her from the other side of the bedroom door. “You better hurry up or you’re going to be late. Don’t tell me you’re still asleep in there. It’s your Apparition test today...”

Lily bolted upright, nearly tumbling out of bed. In all the madness of the past few weeks, she'd completely forgotten about her Apparition test. The whole thing had been scheduled months ago. Most sixth-years were able to take the exam while still at school, but she’d been forced to wait until the summer, until after her birthday. She’d made her parents promise to take her as early as possible, finding the first day the test was being offered after she came of age. That day, it seemed, had finally arrived.

It took Lily less than ten minutes to get washed and dressed and make her way downstairs.

“Aren’t you going to eat anything?” her father asked her. He was seated at the breakfast table, finishing his coffee, watching as Lily paced around the kitchen. As he wasn’t scheduled to go into work until later that afternoon, it was decided that he would take her down to the Ministry, where all the Apparition tests were administered during the summer holiday.

Lily pulled a face. She couldn’t bear the thought of Apparating on a full stomach.

“You aren’t nervous, are you?” he asked.

Lily gave him a half-hearted shrug. As much as she hated to admit it, she was petrified. She hadn’t Apparated on her own in months – not since she and all her fellow sixth-years had been gathered in the Great Hall and forced to spend an afternoon working their way in and out of giant golden hoops. What if she couldn’t do it? What if she forgot everything she’d learned? Or worst of all, what if she splinched herself?

“Don’t worry,” he father said, giving her a reassuring smile. “You’ll do great. Strong Apparition skills run in the family.” Lily must not have looked convinced because after a quick glance at his watch, he added, “Tell you what. We’ve still got an hour before you’ve got to be there. What do you say we go sneak in a few practice rounds? Just you and me.”

That sounded like the best idea Lily had heard all week, and within minutes, the pair were making their way out to the back garden.

“Let’s start small,” her father said, picking up two large sticks and setting them back down in the wet grass about three meters apart. “You stand over there.” He pointed at the stick off to Lily’s left. “Whenever you’re ready, you Apparate over to the next one. Sound good?”

Lily nodded, taking a few hesitant steps forward, stopping when her toes were resting level with the first stick.

“Whenever you’re ready...” her father said again.

Lily let out a deep breath, thinking back on all the things she had learned that day in the Great Hall. Be determined. Move without haste, but with focus and deliberation.* She thought back too on all the times she had side-along Apparated. The twisting of the feet, the tug behind the navel, the feeling of suffocation as all the air was pressed from her lungs, invisible weights crushing down from all sides.

Afraid she would scare herself straight out of doing it if she thought about it much longer, Lily held out her wand with a trembling hand, raised herself up on her tiptoes, squeezed her eyes shut, and spun. There were two small pops! and the next thing Lily knew, her father was calling out to her.

“Excellent!” he was shouting, clapping his hands. “Really well done.”

Lily opened one eye, looking down at her feet. They had come to rest less than an inch away from the second stick. She let out an audible sigh of relief. She had done it. And more than that – she touched her hand to her face, feeling to make sure everything was still in its place – she’d done without spliching so much as an eyebrow.

“Ready to try again?” her father asked.

She flashed him a wide grin. “Absolutely.”

In the end, Lily managed four nearly perfect Apparitions. Each time her father would move the sticks farther apart, and each time she would manage to disappear beside one and reappear again beside the other. Lily would have been content to keep on practicing but her father insisted that they really ought to get going, especially since they would need time to register her wand before the exam. Reluctantly, she agreed, and with more confidence than she would have thought possible only an hour before, Lily took her father’s hand and the two vanished from sight.

The test, it turned out, was rather easy, especially in the wake of her early morning practice session. By eleven o’clock, Lily was back at her father’s side, her Ministry-issued Apparition License clutched in her hand.

“Did you pass your exam on the first try?” Lily asked her father as they exited the Testing Centre and headed towards the lift that would take them back up to the Atrium.

“I never sat for it, to tell the truth.”

Lily's mouth fell open. “You...what?

“You knew that,” her father said, but Lily shook her head. “Really? I never mentioned it? Well, I was a bit busy, wasn’t I? Being on the run does tend to put a damper on one’s plans.”

Of course. Her father had been exactly her age when he’d left Hogwarts. She’d known that, obviously. She'd even heard him speak about it on a few very rare occasions. But it wasn’t until that moment that she realized all her father had accomplished when he was only just as old as she was now. The letter to Lorcan - the one she’d tucked into her pocket earlier that morning – seemed to burn white-hot against her skin.

“I say this calls for a celebration,” her father announced as the gates on the lift slid shut and they began their ascent. “What do you say you and I go to the Leaky Cauldron for lunch? We haven’t been there together in ages.”

“Really?” Now that the test was behind her, Lily’s appetite had returned and she was suddenly starving. “But I’m still grounded, aren’t I?”

“True...” he said. “But you’ve still got to eat, don’t you? And you only pass your Apparition test once. Though,” he added after a pause, “maybe it’s best we don’t mention it to your mother.”

Lily beamed up at her father and he returned the gesture. It was nice to see her father looking so relaxed. It wasn’t something she saw much of these days. And although she hated to spoil their afternoon, Lily knew his good mood wouldn’t last forever. Now might be her best chance for getting her letter off to Lorcan.

“Would it be alright if we stopped by the Owelry first?” she asked, trying her best to keep her tone casual. The two had just arrived back in the Atrium and were in the process of making their way out of the lift. Lily had to raise her voice to be heard over the sudden throng of people as they filed into large corridor that served as the main portal for visitors and employees making their way in and out of the Ministry. “It’s just that I promised I’d send this to Lorcan.” She pulled the envelope out from the pocket of her jeans, holding it up so he could see the name printed on the front. “It’s just some information about dragons Uncle Charlie gave me awhile back. Only the twins will be waiting for it. And I did promise...”

Lily wasn’t proud about lying to her father, especially after the way he'd helped her prepare for her exam, but she couldn’t see a way around it. If she wanted to help Scorpius, she was going to have to break a few rules.

The lie, at least, seemed to work worked, and after a quick detour to the Owelry, the pair were once again back in the Atrium, awaiting their turn to step into one of the oversized fireplaces that would take them directly to the Leaky Cauldron. They were just nearing the front of the queue when a small piece of folded parchment appeared out of nowhere and began pecking her father about the head. He grabbed at the note, missing once before snatching it up and hastily unfolding it. Lily watched her father as he read through the message, his expression one of surprise, then annoyance, and finally alarm.

“Not bad news, I hope...” she said.

Her father sighed, folding up the note and tucking it into his robes. “Not bad, exactly. Just...urgent.”

They had reached the front of the queue. When neither of them stepped forward to take their turn in the hearth, the man behind them let out a loud cough.

“Come on,” her father said, grabbing her hand and pulling her to the side. “It looks like I’ll need to take a rain check on that lunch.”

After promising to make it up to her another day, her father Apparated Lily home before turning around and heading back to the Ministry. For the first time in a week, Lily found herself completely on her own. No older brother lording over her. No parents watching her every move. No parade of relatives with flimsy excuses dropping by to make sure she was staying out of trouble.

For one brief moment, her newly-minted license still clutched in her hand, Lily considered throwing all caution to the wind and Apparating directly up north. She’d find Lorcan, tell him to ignore her letter – that she would investigate things on her own. But she quickly dismissed the idea. She may have passed her exam but she still hadn’t Apparated more than a dozen meters at any one time. What if she got lost? No one would have a clue where to start looking for her. No, she decided. It was best just to stick with the plan and wait for word from Lorcan.

And word wasn’t long in coming. Two days later, Lily woke to the sound of tapping just outside her bedroom window. She threw off the covers and leapt out of bed, nearly squealing in delight at the sight of the Scamanders' owl sitting on her windowsill. Lily snatched up the letter that had fallen from its beak and tore open the envelope.

The note was short, printed in a child’s hand, ink smudges visible in the corners. It read:

It’s him. I saw him. And he is a terrible monster. Stay away, Lily. STAY AWAY!

Before Lily even had time to process what the words meant, her mother’s voice rang up from somewhere below.

“Lily Luna Potter! Get your butt down here. NOW!”

                                                                 *   *   *

“What were you thinking getting a boy that age mixed up in something like this? How could you, Lily? I thought you had more sense than that."

Mrs. Potter was yelling again. She seemed to be doing that a lot these days – and most of it directed straight at Lily. For her part, Lily was trying her best to look like she hadn’t a clue what her mother was on about – all the while trying not to think about the letter she’d just gotten from Lorcan, which was now tucked into the pocket of her dressing robe.

“And don’t bother denying it,” her mother was saying, staring down at Lily, who was seated at the kitchen table, hands folded in her lap. “Luna’s already written and told me you sent something to the boy. She’s in a complete state – doesn’t know what to do. One minute Lorcan gets a letter from you, and the next thing she knows, he’s up and run off. Doesn’t bother to tell anyone where he’s gone or what he’s up to. He just disappears without a word. They’re frantic, looking everywhere for him. They don’t know what to think. And then just as quick as he’s gone, he’s back again, only now he’s soaked to the bone, covered from head to toe in mud – not to mention scared out of his mind, convinced he’s being chased by a monster.”

Monster. There was that word again. Lily felt a shiver run down her spine.

“And now,” her mother went on, “he won’t sleep. He’s too scared to close his eyes. Refuses to so much as leave his room. Luna’s beside herself.”

Lily felt her insides squirm, a feeling altogether worse than Apparating. Worse than drinking Skele-Gro even. Lily, it seemed, had made a big mistake and now Scorpius wasn’t the only one in trouble.

“Well?” her mother said, throwing up her hands in exasperation. “Do you have anything to say for yourself?”

“I...” Lily stammered, but she didn’t even know where to begin.

If she confessed everything now, the whole plan would come to an end right then and there. She'd be grounded until she was thirty and would very likely never see Scorpius again. And that was assuming anyone would even believe her. No one had taken her seriously when she told them Scorpius was in danger. They weren’t any more likely to believe her when she told them she’d sent Lorcan off to find a man that supposedly died more than twenty-five years ago. But if she said nothing, kept her mouth shut, she might be putting Lorcan in even greater danger. Could something terrible really have happened to him?

“Was...was it a spell?” Lily asked, her voice wavering ever so slightly.

“Excuse me?”

“Lorcan. Was he hit by a spell or a curse or something?” Lily was grasping at straws, looking for any reason not to tell her mother the truth. Anything to force down the guilt that was rising up in her throat like bile.

Her mother just shook her head in disbelief. “Lily, it’s got nothing to do with magic! He’s been scared out his skin and I want to know why. I want to know what you sent him that made him run off like that.”

So Lorcan hadn’t been attacked, at least not with magic. Lily supposed that was something. At least she hadn’t put Lorcan in any physical danger. But that still left her with a serious dilemma. As best as she could figure, she had only two choices: tell the truth and hope that somehow helped Lorcan, or keep her mouth shut and try to find a way to salvage her plan to save Scorpius. She knew, at least, that Lorcan had a family to see him through his troubles. As for Scorpius – his family was his trouble.

And so Lily made her choice. “I don’t know, Mum. I really don’t. I just sent him some stuff about dragons. Maybe he went off to find one and got a little too close. Honestly, I don’t know what could have scared him so badly...”

Lily stared at her mother, who stared right back at her, their brown eyes locked on one another. Lily half expected her to start yelling again, to tell Lily she knew she was lying and that she wasn’t leaving that kitchen until she came clean about what was going on. But her mother didn’t yell. In fact, she didn’t even look angry anymore. She looked almost...fearful.

“Lily,” her mother said, her voice calm now but firm. “I’m only going to ask this once. Is there anything – anything at all – that you want to tell me about what’s going on with you? With...Scorpius?”

Lily returned her mother’s gaze, not daring to blink. Without missing a beat, she said, “No, Mum. There’s nothing going on at all...”

With no real proof that she’d been involved in Lorcan’s brief but mysterious disappearance, Mrs. Potter was unable to think up a reasonable excuse for prolonging Lily’s punishment, and her grounding officially ended the next day. But in truth, being grounded didn’t matter to Lily all that much anymore. In light of everything that had happened, being in trouble with her parents no longer seemed important. She was way past worrying about such things anymore. She had bigger problems now.

The business with Lorcan was only part of it, though it had served to make two things clear: One, that whatever she was getting into was dangerous and she’d do best to keep the rest of her friends and family out of it. And two, that she had been right. Severus Snape was alive and she now knew without a doubt exactly where he was hiding.

And if all that wasn’t enough to convince her it was time to take matters into her own hands, the small story tucked at the bottom of page three of that day’s Daily Prophet made it all but crystal clear that there was no time left to waste.

Suspect Linked to String of Ministry Break-Ins

New developments have emerged in the ongoing investigation of the break-in at the Ministry of Magic first reported here last week. Suspect Scorpius H. Malfoy, 18, originally apprehended after breaking into the offices of two high-ranking members of the Department of Magical Law enforcement, is now facing new charges stemming from an earlier attempted break-in at the Ministry back in May of this year. The first break-in was unsuccessful and no suspects in the case were ever named. Now, it appears, officials believe Malfoy was the culprit behind both incidents. Details linking the two investigations have not yet been made public and no trial date for either case has been set. Malfoy remains in custody following his arrest last week, though where he is being held is still unknown at this time...

It was rubbish, all of it. Lily was sure of that. There was no way Scorpius could have been involved in a break-in attempt in May. He, just like all the other seventh-years, had been at Hogwarts until the first of June, sitting for his N.E.W.T.s. He couldn’t have been anywhere near London at the time. He might be of age, but students weren’t allowed to just leave the castle any old time they pleased. It was absurd to even suggest that he somehow managed to sneak past all those teachers – not to mention the protection spells – that kept intruders from breaking into Hogwarts and students from breaking out.

This, of course, meant only one thing: Scorpius was being framed, and Lily had a strong suspicion who was behind it. What better way to distract people from their own crimes than by making the rest of the wizarding world think Scorpius was the real criminal in the family? How long would it be until Draco and Lucius Malfoy tried to pin a murder on their own flesh and blood?

It seemed to Lily that it was only a matter of time now. If she wanted to save Scorpius, she was going to have to prove that the elder Malfoys were behind the death of Narcissa. And to do that, she needed to see Severus Snape. To beg him to help her.

Whatever he may have done to scare Lorcan, whatever Monster he may have become, Lily had to take the risk. She had to go see the man.

She had to go see him tonight.

 

A/N: I don’t expect anyone to still be interested in reading this after eight months of no updates, but I had this chapter half-finished and sitting on my computer for so long, I felt compelled to at least try and get it posted. I have been working very hard on another story (Over the Edge), if anyone is so inclined to check it out. It’s another next-gen story, but with Rose as the main character. It’s on my author’s page.

*Imperfect quotation pieced together from several lines in Chapter 18 of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.


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