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Before They Fall by Jchrissy
Chapter 22 : Holding On To You
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 13

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Incredible CI by heartfelt. @TDA
Chapter 22 - Holding On To You

Lily took the glass bottle from Sirius and tipped the opening into her mouth, letting a large gulp of wine slip down her throat.

“And zen,” Belle continued, “we left. Zey didn’t even speak as we walked out, just stood zere.”

“You should have seen her,” Sirius said, smiling as he glanced at the blonde to his right. Lily knew that they probably looked silly, a group of fully grown witches and wizards all sitting cross-legged in a circle on the bed, but she didn’t care. In fact, she was too full of the delicious liquid to care about much of anything.

“Well, you weren’t ‘alf bad yourself, I suppose,” Belle joked. The look that passed between them was as subtle as fireworks. Even if Belle wouldn’t have already told Lily that they’d kissed, she’d have figured it out just by the way their eyes simmered over each other.

“So,” Sirius started, “now it’s your turn. You guys fill us in.”

She glanced at James. His hazel eyes seemed to have the same gloss over them as hers. Something about the way they focused on her brought a scarlet blush over her cheeks, and she found herself struggling to remember Sirius’s question.

“Our night?” James supplied, smiling at her patiently. Oh good, at least someone remembered what they were supposed to be talking about.

“Um,” Lily began as she shook her head to clear the fuzzy feeling away. Sirius passed the bottle over to her, and she took another deep drink. “Well,” she started again, “despite saying probably five words to the oaf my sister is marrying, and both of them seeing the Patronus, and James telling off Vernon the oaf...we’re still invited to the wedding tomorrow. Which means it could have gone worse, I suppose.” Lily was barely able to get the last few words out before she fell into a similar fit of giggles that Belle had been stuck with all evening. Of course, none of this had seemed funny earlier. But now that she thought back on it, it really was quite humorous.

“James is going to face your sister and ‘er oaf of a fiancé again tomorrow?” Belle asked, her clear blue eyes opened wide in surprise. “Wow, ‘e must really love you.”

Lily hadn’t expected the end of her friend’s sentence. If she had something in her mouth to spit out, she probably would have. Her words froze up inside her chest, and she couldn’t get any of them to come out. Even if she could, she’d have no idea what ones to use.

She glanced at James out of the corners of her eyes, half expecting him to have the same petrified expression that masked her own face. Instead, his easy smile that never seemed to falter was resting comfortably on his lips. Well, what did that mean? Why wasn’t he denying it? What would she do if he denied what Belle said?

“So,” Sirius interrupted, and Lily felt herself let out a sigh of relief. Whatever James was feeling, right now probably wasn’t the best time to know about it. Or maybe now was exactly the right time. Or maybe she just needed to shut her thoughts up and take another drink of the wine. Yes, she thought, that was the best thing to do in this case. “We were thinking about just leaving with you guys tomorrow. We can check out the town for the day, then race the train back to England.”

“And I’m going to drive ze motorcycle, yes?”

You’re going to drive it?” Sirius asked, giving Belle the same look that Lily had gotten from James when she suggested leaving his broom at Hogwarts over Christmas.

“Of course. I’ll be excellent, don’t worry,” the blonde said, nodded her head with a confident smile.

Speaking of smiles, Lily couldn’t figure out when her own had gotten so big. But as she glanced between her friends, she realized her cheeks were sore. She tried to relax her face, pressing against it.

“Hey,” she started, pushing a finger harder into her skin. “My cheeks aren’t working! They’re stuck like this!” She glanced around, and Belle seemed like the only one who understood the serious predicament she was in.

“Lily, love,” James said, leaning over and pulling her hands from her face. His smile was even larger than hers... his cheeks must’ve gotten stuck too! “If you want your cheeks to go down, you have to stop smiling.” She tried to take his advice, and after a second she realized that her lips were back down to their normal position. She couldn’t resist lifting her finger again, and was happy to discover that her cheeks were, in fact, back in their proper place.

“I think I liked your cheeks better when zey were stuck smiling,” Belle concluded, petting Lily’s caramel colored kitten who had made himself comfortable in the center of their circle.

“Hey, Lily,” Sirius said, and she turned her attention to him. However, almost as soon as it was there, it bounced from what he was saying to the wisps of hair falling over his ears. He had very dark hair. Him and James both. And his eyes weren’t normal... but not in a bad way. Belle’s eyes weren’t normal either; they were too blue. As she glanced back and forth between her two friends, she realized, not for the first time, that they were incredibly pretty. Their features were so different, but they still looked brilliant together. They’d have pretty babies, too. Maybe Lily should tell them that...

“Lily?” Sirius said again, and she focused back on his words. “Pace yourself, why don’t you.” He raised his eyebrow at her, and she’d realized she’d been hogging the bottle. Well, her and Belle both.

“You should probably multiply what’s left, and we’ll chug that to keep up with them,” James suggested. Lily wasn’t sure if his words had slurred together, or if it was her ears combining them too quickly.

“You know,” Belle said, sitting up straighter on the bed. “I don’t zink I’ve drank even a sip of wine in at least a year. I used to ‘ave ze occasional glass or so at dinner with mother and father...”

“The first and only time I drank before this was during James’s captain party. When he made out with Violet.” Lily drug the name on, just to demonstrate that she hadn’t forgotten. Well, that, and because her lips liked to make the V sound.

“Excuse me,” James interjected, his voice sounding hurt. He was just faking the hurt, though. At least, Lily hoped he was. “I believe Peter proved my innocence on that matter.”

“Zat was ze same day we spied on zem,” Belle whispered to Sirius, though Lily could hear the whisper perfectly well. Maybe she had super hearing. Did alcohol give people those kinds of powers? Maybe if you were a wizard or witch drinking Muggle alcohol it did...

“And those gits sprayed us down with water,” Sirius added. The memory was one of Lily’s favorites, and she felt the light air of laughter bubble in her chest.

James leaned towards her, his lips just a few inches from her ear and whispered, “That day was almost our first kiss, too.”

The laughter inside of her seemed to vanish as the heat of his breath was left clinging to her flesh. By the time she turned her head, he was already back in his place. She glanced over at Belle and Sirius; they both seemed preoccupied, still laughing about that day. She looked back to James, his eyes resting on her. She felt her body gravitate toward him, a content sort of warmth spreading through her when he tucked her into him.

“Okay,” Sirius said, pointing his wand at the nearly empty bottle. He mumbled the spell a few times, multiplying what the bottle already held, then smiled proudly at them all. “And we’re filled back up. Although, you two are nearly cut off.”

Belle grabbed the bottle from Sirius, tilting it into her mouth and gulping it down for much longer than necessary. Lily realized that her friend was making a point − that they were adult witches and could do what they wanted − and she took the bottle from Belle as soon as the blonde was done, then repeated her friend’s process. Once the taste became too heavy, churning at her stomach, she pulled it back and looked up at James, finding an amused expression on his face.

They continued joking about the day that she and James almost kissed, and Lily had to constantly remind herself to take part in the conversation. Every few seconds her mind would travel back to that magical moment when it had been just the two of them near the equipment shed. That small blip in time when his lips had been so close to grazing hers.. and when that memory took over, she’d find herself unconsciously nuzzling deeper into his relaxed body.

As the conversation moved from school work, to Christmas dinner, to all of them wanting to take a trip with the rest of the group after graduation, Lily’s eyelids got steadily heavier. She was reaching for the gold and glass bottle less often, and resting her eyes every few minutes.

One of the boys finally declared that it well past bedtime, and Lily and Belle stumbled to the bathroom to get changed and clean their teeth. She offered to sleep with Belle if her friend didn’t feel comfortable sharing a bed with Sirius, and was happy when Belle refused her offer. For some reason, the desire to fall asleep wrapped in James’s arms became so strong that it was almost painful.

The girls giggled their way into their pajamas. Both falling numerous times as they struggled to get their legs through the soft, cotton trousers.

When they emerged from the bathroom, James and Sirius had already changed and turned out all the lights but one. Lily snuggled deep under the covers, wishing both her friends a good night, and was already half asleep when James turned the last light off and cuddled in beside her.

It seemed that sleep only captured part of her brain, though. Because in less than an hour, she was awake again. She heard the sound of steady breathing, and knew that either Belle or Sirius, or both, were fast asleep. James’s arm was still nestled around her, and she couldn’t resist bringing his hand up to her lips and placing a soft kiss on the back of it.

“What was that for?” She nearly jumped at his voice.

“I didn’t know you were awake,” she whispered, turning around so that she was facing him. The fuzzy mist of the wine was still filling her head, but not as severely as it’d been earlier.

“I didn’t know you were awake,” James retorted, leaning forward and pressing a kiss to the tip of her nose. She glanced up, and could just make out his face. A shudder ran through her, and she found herself unwilling to ignore her body as it urged her towards him.

She raised herself a few inches off of the bed, and let her lips linger over his. Somehow one of his hands ended up wound through her red strands, and the other wrapped around her, pulling her on top of him. Everything else around them was forgotten as the feeling of the kiss took over. Her body seemed to move of its own accord; her skin felt almost feverish wherever he touched her.

She felt another kind of fuzziness take over as James’s hands danced under her shirt and glided from the small of her back up her ribcage, his soft touch amplified by the calluses on his palms. She arched her own body into him, her mind begging for his hands to keep toughing her, to keep exploring. Her breath was turning ragged and she felt unable to catch it, but she didn’t care. She moved herself over him, and his fingers clamped to her hip bones. She wanted to feel more of him on her, to slip off her pajamas and feel his skin on hers. Her hands shifted from their place on the bed and reached for the hem of his shirt.

“No, Lily,” he whispered, his voice husky in her ear as he turned his body and eased her off of him, back to her position on the bed.

“Did I do something wrong?” she asked in a shaky tone.

“Lily,” he whispered, cuddling her into him. “Of course you didn’t do anything wrong. You’re plastered, though.”

“You are too.”

“No, not in the way you are.” He scooted down so that their eyes were level with one another, his hand still brushing through her hair.

“You know, just because I’ve... been with someone, doesn’t mean I... expect anything.”

“But didn’t you want...” she trailed off, not know how to say it. Was something wrong with her?

“Of course I wanted to,” he whispered, cupping her face in his hands. “That has nothing to do with it.”

“You’ve already... been with another girl, though,” she argued, still not understanding why he’d have wanted to sleep with someone else and not her. “Was it a girl in our year?” she asked, unable to stop herself.

“No. It was a girl that I met the summer before sixth year, when my parents took Sirius and me for that vacation to Norway.”

“Did you care about her?” Lily whispered, wishing she had more control over her words.

“We liked each other all summer, and I thought I was finally starting to get over you. Then we tried to keep talking, but about a month into sixth year, things just fizzled out. Yeah, I suppose I cared about her. But I think were both more curious than anything else.”

Lily realized that she remembered what girl he was talking about. Well, sort of. She just remembered overhearing him talk with the boys about her.

“But just because I’ve done that, doesn’t mean I expect you to do anything. I really care about you, Lily. I don’t want to mess anything up,” he said softly, and the sincerity in his words nearly overwhelmed her.

“So it’s not because there’s something wrong with me?”

“Of course not, you crazy girl.”

“James?” She waited until she could feel his eyes on her, then reached up and melted her lips into his. “I really care about you, too.”

James cuddled her back into him and gradually drifted off to sleep. As she felt the rhythmic rise and fall of his chest even out, a heavy realization sunk into her mind. Maybe it was the enhanced freedom of her feelings because of the alcohol, but for whatever the reason, she was certain that she was falling in love with James Potter.

The light of the moon slipping in through the window irritated her, and she resisted the urge to use her wand and blast something. 

“Bellatrix, come sit. We have hours yet.” She glanced over at her husband and felt her fingers clench into her palms. He’d been so much more intelligent when they married. With each passing day, he became more like the Dark Lord’s other followers: worthless and pathetic.

She knew he was still her best partner for this mission, though. He’d spent enough time with her that he knew her moves, her curses.

“We don’t know how much time we have,” she hissed back. They’d gone over the plan too many times, and she refused to tell him again. They’d wait. They’d wait until after the wedding so the targets’ presence wasn’t missed. They didn’t need any reason for someone to come looking for the blood traitor and his Mudblood girlfriend.

“Why don’t we at least go and take care of the Dumbledore’s followers, then?” Rodolphus suggested, and this time Bellatrix’s control wasn’t able to hold her back and she slammed her fist onto the wooden desk. She hated this room. Everything about it reeked of Muggle.

“What happens when Dumbledore doesn’t hear a report back? Hmm? He’ll come here himself, and then we’ll have a lot more to deal with than two barely of-age wizards. Fool,” she sneered over at him, disgusted with his stupidity. The only thing he’d done that was even remotely helpful was notice the man and woman following their targets. Though she would have shortly noticed them herself. She was sure of it.

“Just thought it’d be best to get anything out of the way we can,” he answered with a shrug before laying back on the bed.

“You’ll go to their room when I go to the targets. Don’t kill them, just capture them. The Dark Lord may be able to get information from them. Then you’ll meet me, and we’ll handle Potter and the girl.”

She felt like she was talking to an incompetent child, and wanted to reach her hand out and claw him down the face just for being as pathetic as he was. But no. No. Control.

It wouldn’t be long now... and her Lord only really needed Potter alive. It didn’t matter what happened to the Mudblood. If she agreed willingly, if she begged enough, maybe Bellatrix would permit her to stay alive. But if not... the alternative brought a shiver of pleasure through her.

She’d bring Potter to her Master, and possibly the Mudblood, and he would reward her beyond any other servant. Then, if the boy refused his Mark, she’d get to dispose of him.

It wouldn’t be long now. Not long at all.

“That was terrible. Absolutely terrible,” Lily said, shaking her head. James nodded his agreement, not having the words to describe how bad it really was.

He’d been to too many weddings to count. His parents seemed to know everyone on the face of the earth; he’d seen more, “I do’s” than most preachers. But the Evans Dursley wedding was easily one of the worst. Boring. Stuffy. And boring.

“At least Vernon didn’t call you an amateur magician,” James pointed out, still regretting not showing the git how amateur his magic really was. When the dull bloke was walking on cow hooves for feet, then they’d see who had the last word.

“So, you’re an amateur magician. At least you aren’t Petunia’s unfortunate little sister who isn’t ready to leave her special school in Scotland yet,” Lily grumbled, her breath circling around them as she spoke.

James slowed his pace as they made their way along the path and smiled down at her. Sure, the ceremony had been so boring that he’d struggled not to fall asleep, and the reception felt more like a charity event than a party... but as he gazed down at Lily, he knew seeing her all dressed up was more than worth it. He didn’t know what she’d done to the dress she was wearing, but it wasn’t blue and it wasn’t black. It was sort of both, but all blended together. Every time his eyes landed on her, he felt like his mouth was going to water. The fabric was just tight enough to remind him of her shape, of the way her body felt pressed into his last night...

“You know,” he started, trying to get the thoughts from his mind. “You bounced back pretty well this morning.”

“I think spending an hour in the shower may have helped. I don’t feel nearly as bad as I did the night after your captain party.”

“Really? I was under the impression the morning after that you were as good as new. Remember, you told me you didn’t feel a bit hungover?” James glanced at her, her cheeks blushing.

“About that...” she mumbled, and he let his head fall back and laughed into the chilly air. He’d suspected that Lily had been lying when she refused to eat anything for dinner that night, but catching her in it was even more fun.

“Thanks for breakfast, by the way,” she added, giving him one of those smiles that he could never see enough of. He and Sirius had done a pretty good job at ordering and paying for a breakfast at the Muggle cafe. Well, no, they’d done a horrible job, but the lady took pity on them and helped them count out the money. She asked if they were foreigners, and they quickly agreed, earning them a bit of sympathy.

He stayed silent as they continued along the rocks, going deeper into the trees that surrounded the events center where the reception was held. They still had an hour before they met Sirius and Belle back at the hotel, and three hours before they needed to be at the train station. It was probably too cold to be outside walking, but the late afternoon sun and the clear blue sky were few and far between this time of year, too rare to waste sitting inside an overly crowded room.

“Do you think anyone realizes we’ve left?” Lily asked, pausing to readjust the long coat that was covering her.

“I doubt it. Good thing we found the kitchens, or we’d never have gotten out without someone spotting us. Although I’m sure your sister would be just as happy to have us leave.”

“Of course, but then she’d spend the entire rest of the afternoon telling anyone who’d listen how rude I am for leaving before they cut the cake. No, it was much better that we snuck out without anyone being able to see us.”

James nodded, and sat himself on a large, flat rock. He wasn’t sure just how far from the building they were... but he was certain it was far enough that no one would stumble over them. He grabbed Lily’s hand, tugging her down onto is lap.

“You’re shivering,” he said, pulling her tighter into him and kissing the top of her head. A smile covered his face as his memory drifted back to the night before.

“James?” she said, interrupting his thoughts. “Even with this being the most boring wedding known to mankind, I still had a lot of fun these past few days.”

“I did too. And...” he thought about what he was about to say, and wondered if he really should, or just wanted to because it was already on his mind. After a second, he decided that they probably did need to talk about it. Nothing had felt awkward between them his morning, but that didn’t mean they weren’t both still thinking about it. However, before he could bring up the subject, she was already speaking.

“I’m sorry if last night I was a bit... much,” she muttered. He glanced down at her, amused by the blush filling her cheeks. He’d always loved the way her skin was so light that it showed everything she was feeling.

“You should be. You nearly killed me,” he said, raising an eyebrow at her confused expression. “What, you think it was actually easy not letting things go farther?”

“I don’t know... it didn’t seem too hard for you,” she retorted, turning her body so that she was completely facing him.

“Well it was. But now aren’t you happy that at least one of us wasn’t completely saturated in wine?”

She half shrugged, but didn’t meet his eyes. “Lily?” He moved his body, trying to get her to look at him. “You know that what didn’t happen last night has nothing to do with how much I care for you, right?”

“Yeah,” she answered after a moment, still avoiding his gaze. “I just... I’m still trying to figure out how to be a good kisser. But last night I felt like I could’ve been good at everything. And now I don’t feel like that anymore.”

James wanted so badly to laugh, but he knew it was far from the right time. What had he done to deserve this girl?

“You are a good kisser. And you felt like that because you were sloshed. Would you really have wanted that to be how your first time happened, though? In a hotel room with Sirius and Belle two feet away, after drinking too many bottles of wine for your little body to handle?”

“I never told you that I hadn’t slept with anyone before. I mean, I haven’t, but I never told you that,” Lily mumbled, glancing around. At that, he did laugh, earning himself something between a glare and a smirk from the redhead. But at least she was finally meeting his gaze again.

He didn’t say it out loud, and knew that when he mentioned it to his friends they’d make fun of him, but the fact that Lily was thinking about that between them, and making him her first, meant more to him that he’d realized it would.

She was so different than the girl he’d fallen for in Norway. That girl had been confident and forward, neither of them thinking twice when Sirius covered for them and they snuck around for those few weeks. Neither he nor Linnea had even talked about their pasts, though he was certain she was a bit more experienced than him. And what he’d told Lily last night was true; they’d tried to keep something going. They wrote to each other a few times, but it didn’t take long until both of them realized that what had been between them was just physical.

He wouldn’t have thought twice about being with that girl after they’d downed a bottle of wine back then. Maybe the fact that he’d grown up in the last year played into the fact that he’d thought so seriously about it last night, but he also knew that it had a lot to do with how much he cared about Lily and what kind of girl she was.

“You’re pretty amazing, you know that?” he said after a moment, knowing his smile probably looked goofy and ridiculous. “And I know you didn’t wait this long to be with someone just so it could happen like that.”

She nodded, and he could see some of the anxiety leaving her vivid green eyes.

“James? I really don’t want to go back to the reception.” He laughed at her confession, his thoughts mirroring her own. “Not even for a piece of cake. We’re far enough away from any Muggles. Let’s just Apparate back into the hotel room and I’ll send Petunia a letter about the fish making me sick or something.”

James nodded, agreeing whole-heartedly. She slipped from his lap, and he realized that his butt was numb from the freezing rock he’d been sitting on. He held out his arm for Lily to thread hers through. He couldn’t resist leaning down for one long kiss before popping them away from the spot.

The world became a spinning mixture of colors, then faded completely to black. In a matter of seconds, the compression squeezing his lungs had disappeared and he felt his feet land on solid ground. Lily’s arm slipped out of his, and he tried to blink the black edges away before realizing that it was their hotel room that was dark, and not his vision.

“Lily, are you near the light flicker thing?” he asked, taking a step forward in the direction he thought she was. When her reply didn’t come, he felt his heart give a heavy thud.

“Lily?” he said again as he tried to ignore the thought that he’d somehow splinched her. Maybe she’d slipped out of his arm before they Disapparated... she was probably still standing at the rock. He quickly fumbled with the leg of his trouser, pulling his wand out of his sock and whispering the spell to light the tip.

He felt a sharp stab of terror enter into him as Lily’s face became visible, her head pulled back and mouth covered by Bellatrix Lestrange.

“Let’s try this again,” came the silky voice. James struggled against the invisible binds holding his body to the chair, but all it did was further seal him in place. He kept his eyes on the woman in front of him, thankful that at least she was focusing on him and not Lily.

“In a very, very short amount of time,” the deranged woman continued, the black of her eyes drilling into James, “you will be face to face with the greatest wizard to ever walk this earth. You will be given a choice, Potter. If you choose wrong, you’ll watch that Mudblood get tortured to death, then we will kill you.”

So much of James wanted to believe she was lying, to believe that no human would ever walk someone into their death, but he knew that wasn’t the case. He just needed to make sure they didn’t leave this hotel room. If he could figure out how to distract her, maybe the hold on Lily’s bonds would break and she could run.

“I don’t see any reason that you need her,” James said, refusing to let even an ounce of the fear he was feeling show through in his voice. “She’s worthless to him. Just let her go and you can take me. I won’t even fight.”

He glanced at Lily and saw her mouth open and close like she was trying to scream. But whatever Bellatrix had done to restrain her was forcing her to stay silent.

“That’s not the way it works, precious Potter,” she started again, stepping closer to him and running her nail along his cheek. The feeling made him want to shudder, but he ignored the reaction and remained still. “You aren’t in any position to bargain. The chance I’m offering you is one that many would kill for.” The way she cradled the word kill, like she wanted nothing more than to do just that, burned itself into his mind.

He had to figure out how to keep them there. She obviously didn’t know they were expecting Sirius and Belle, and having the two of them show up would be enough of a distraction for James to get to his wand and knock the maniac out. He just had to stall until then.

“Why does he want me?” James asked. Maybe if he played into the idea, if she thought she was convincing him... “And why didn’t he just come here to talk to me himself?”

She threw back her head and let out a cackle that rang through the silent room. It was the most chilling thing he’d ever heard. He risked another glance at Lily, and felt a hand squeeze over his heart. He needed to get her safe.

“The Dark Lord... set foot into a filthy Muggle establishment? You have so much to learn. So much I can teach you. Take his Mark, Potter, and you’ll watch every door life could ever offer open up to you. You’ll have the chance to serve the most powerful wizard there ever was, to be a part of a Cause more important than life itself.” As her words slipped through the room, James realized that she wasn’t just here on some mission. She wanted to be here. She enjoyed every second of it. But why didn’t she just take them straight to the man himself? Maybe she was supposed to convince them before-hand. That had to be the only reason she was sitting here doing this instead of just killing them and being done with it.

“And if I agree to join him, what happens to Lily?” He didn’t even glance towards her this time, but kept his gaze locked onto the dark eyes in front of him.

“That’s up to the Dark Lord. Whether he thinks she’s too dirty to be allowed to live, or he graces her with the chance serve him... Or maybe, if you deny us, we’ll take turns torturing the filthy blood from her. You can watch as she screams for you to try and help her...” The woman lifted her wand and flicked it at Lily. James watched in horror as her back arched against the chair that was holding her prisoner, her face twisting and contouring with pain. For a split second, Bellatrix released whatever was forcing Lily silent and a soul shattering scream tore through the room.

“STOP!” James shouted, his heart beat ringing in his ears. “Stop. Leave her the fuck alone and I’ll do whatever you want!” He watched her small body fall back into its chained position, once again silent, and tried to blink against the salty sting of tears.

“That’s much better,” she hissed. As she took a step closer to him, he could see a some sort of sick pleasure shining in her eyes. “But listening to her scream... it was fun, wasn’t it? That’s always the best part.”

She lifted her wand, but this time it was directed at him instead of Lily. She flicked her wrist, and something began filling James’s throat. It was like cement was being poured down it, silencing him, his breath barely able to escape.

“And you, filthy little Mudblood,” James kept his eyes on Lily as the woman advanced towards her. He knew she was going to play the same games, to get Lily to mold to whatever she wanted. They just had to keep stalling.

“Tell me,” she continued, flicking her wand, “why I shouldn’t drain you of every bit of life you have?” The woman’s voice was harsher, colder, as she spoke to Lily. A new thought crept into James’s mind; what if she really only wanted him alive? What if all her stuff about You-Know-Who getting to decide had been said just to torment him?

As the woman bent closer to Lily and laid a finger on her cheek, James closed his eyes and tried to concentrate. He needed to figure out how to break free, how to slip away from her magic... to destroy the bonds holding him...Of course! He kept his eyes glued shut and began to picture his Animagus form. He had to be Prongs. He had−

Lily’s scream broke through the room and his eyes shot open. Her skin was a ghastly pale, and James became terrified that Bellatrix really was draining the life from her, taking her blood... Goddamnit! he had to get free! Prongs. Prongs. Everything he hated about this life, hearing Lily scream, hearing the sounds of her cries as−

“Why would you ever deserve to stand in his presence?” Bellatrix’s voice shrieked, followed be another gut wrenching cry. He felt the cells inside him struggle to shift, the breaks that he’d created so long ago trying to reform and put him back together as Prongs...

Fuck! Whatever she’d done to them, whatever magic she was using to hold him was counteracting his.

“You’re barely alive and you’re still fighting, stupid girl,” came another taunt. James ignored the hot tears slipping down his cheeks, trying not to see how lifeless Lily looked. He couldn’t... he wouldn’t let it happen...

“Barely alive,” she said again, and James felt his throat constrict against the gag in an attempt to cry out. No. No. Not Lily!

The monster circled Lily like a vulture, and her green eyes began fluttering closed.

“That’s right, you filthy thing. Stop fighting me. You know you don’t deserve life, deserve magic.” No! He had to be stronger than the binds, stronger than the twisted, fucked-up puppet of Voldemort’s. Whatever she was doing to Lily... he could... he had to stop it.

“Expelliarmus!” came a scream that didn’t belong to the crazed woman. He snapped his head toward the door where Belle and Sirius stood.

The bonds on his wrists and ankles broke away as Bellatrix's distraction wavered, and he raced to Lily’s side.

“You stupid girl,” came a hiss from Bellatrix as she stalked towards the other two, but James kept his focus on Lily. He tried to pull her from the chair, but she was still trapped tightly against it. Her skin felt cold, places of it raw from the invisible chains. Whatever was used on her was different...

“Don’t move, Bellatrix,” Sirius growled, and James glanced up to see both friends pointing their wands at her.

“Oh, what’s ickle Sirius going to do about it?” she laughed, a sense of hysteria filling her voice. But her eyes were still on Belle, and part of James felt like screaming at his friend to run. “The Mudblood is going to die first, and then I’m going to watch as all of you follow in her path. And you,” her red finger nail was pointed directly at Belle’s face, “your death is going to be the most painful. You dare disarm me, you worthless creature!”

Before any of them could react she had already spun to face Lily, a familiar wand gripped in her fingers. A sickening realization tore into James; she was going to kill Lily with his own wand.

She started screaming an unfamiliar spell just as Belle and Sirius shouted their own. James watched a white jet shoot from the tip of the wand and threw his body in front of Lily’s.

The last thing he felt before crumpling to the ground was a blinding flash of pain.

I know I know... I'm sorry! I really didn't plan such a big cliff hanger!

As always, thank you so much to my wonderful CambAngst. I'm so lucky to have him as my beta. If you guys haven't read anything of his, you should really check out his AP!

Okay. This chapter caused me some serious grief. I ended up deleting the entire thing on Thursday and rewriting it, but it was worth it. I really like how it turned out, and I hope you guys do too!!

Thank you so much for reading, and I'd love it if you'd share your opinions with me!

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