Chapter 5 : Escape
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I was sleeping. Or maybe I was half-awake. Well, I was peaceful. I’d had a nightmare, but I was used to that. Waking up sweating wasn’t strange. I was in my bed. I was in my old bedroom.
“NO! LILY! NO- SHE CAN’T BE-“
“Ellie, Ellie it’s okay, Ellie love- Lily’s fine, it’s okay, I promise-“
Oh. It was one of those days.
That, right there. That was pain. It dragged through her voice and cut deep into my head. I knew what that felt like- pulsing through your veins, the dread and the agony of it- fear rushing to you because you know deep down, that you’re already too late, because you’re always too late.
“Ellie- I’m fine, I promise,” I yelled back, stumbling as I rolled out of bed in a rush.
“Lily,” I heard my mum beg.
When I finally juddered into the doorframe of her room, I saw mum wrapped around her, holding her arms to her side but trying not to hurt her- she was so, so easily broken- but tears were streaming down her face and she was shaking under mum’s arms.
“I’m here, I’m here,” I called to her, hesitating when I saw the mess on the floor. She’d clearly flung her breakfast to ground- knocked it out of mum’s grip- and broken shards of china lay everywhere.
“Lily?” Ellie whispered. She was hysterical.
“I’m here, I’m right here,” I told her, edging around it in bare feet, hoping not to misjudge anything and slice my feet open.
“You’re hurt,” she said, grabbing my wrists as mum relaxed her hold on Ellie and flicked her wand. The crockery vanished.
“No, I’m not,” I said, stroking her forearms gently. “I’m not injured. Look at me- I’m fine.”
Her grip was so gentle. I could feel vibrations radiating through her hands as her adrenaline high was rendered unnecessary.
“Oh. Yes. You’re right,” she nodded, biting her lip. Her eyes were bloodshot, and her cheeks were red and puffy. She seemed to be raking in every detail of me, to make sure I was okay. “You’re not hurt. It’s fine.”
I nodded, slowly leading her back to bed and tucking her in. Mum straightened up everything that had been flung about in the struggle, trying to put it back to its uniformed little order, and flicked the lights off.
We slowly closed the door behind her. It seemed secure, and mum sighed slowly as she leant against the wall, breathing deeply with her eyes closed. “Thank you,” she whispered. “I hate days like this. I hate having to sedate her, but when you’re not here, she won’t calm down...”
“I know,” I nodded. I always knew.
“I think she’ll sleep again anyway. She usually does after exertion like that,” she said, standing slightly. “We’ll have to prepare for a bad mood. It usually gets worse before it gets better.”
“Why’d you use real china? You know china’s a bad idea,” I asked, a little angry. “It’s dangerous, she could really hurt herself-“
“You think I don’t know that, Lily? After yesterday... she was so good yesterday, at the station. She was peaceful, and right before you came to us she was so happy and excited. I don’t know what happened. After a day like that, she’s usually out of it- groggy, always on the brink of sleep but just about awake- or really loud and chatty. I don’t... Merlin. I didn’t even think it’d be like this today.”
“Well. It is.”
“I’ll go get her some breakfast,” mum said, finally straightening up. “Do you want any?”
“I’ll get it myself.”
“Make sure you get some,” she said through narrowed eyes. She knew I hated having breakfast. “Your dad and Al went to work, so it’s just us three.”
“Cool. I’m gonna go... write stuff. Won’t be long.”
I hope it’s okay to write to you. I just wanted to hear from you. Ellie wasn’t great this morning.
Fuck it. I miss you, alright? Are you happy now? Arsehole.
Anyway, yeah. Bad morning. How are you? How’s your dad? Are you avoiding him?
Write back, please.
I gave to Amata. I think she knew who it was for before I sent it, but I gave her explicit instructions regardless, because the last person I’d sent an owl to was mum, and that was not a conversation I wanted to have.
‘Who is he? Do you like him? Is he cute?’
I’ll stick to any ‘boy’ gossip with Roxy.
Her profile bobbed out of the window, and the little speck in the distance faded into nothing but I turned back to my room. I made my bed. Apparently, I’d pulled my duvet off the bed in my haste before.
I went downstairs. I passed mum, who was going up.
“There’s some new plum jam, if you want it,” she told me. “Luna sent it over- she said the Dirigibles were looking particularly juicy, and her path saw good fortune if she did nice things for others... or, something. She’s put some spices in, though. Not like last time, with the peppermint and Shrivelfig. I swear my hands were smaller for weeks; anyway, I think it might be ginger and nutmeg. It’s amazing.”
“Thanks,” I said loosely, my Ingredient Encyclopaedia balanced between my hands. “I’m going to have something like cereals, though. I’m not that hungry.”
I kept walking.
Ear-deep in my book, I didn’t even notice when mum came back down. I was sat the table. I hadn’t eaten anything.
“Does she want to talk?” I asked, bringing my attention away from the extract of Hellebore syrup.
“No. I don’t think so. All that screaming- it must have tired her out.”
She’s not the athlete she used to be. She used to be small, strong- like dad, the perfect Seeker. Now she’s barely able to walk long distances.
“Call me if you need me,” I said, and buried my nose back in my book.
Silently, she handed me a glass of orange juice. “So. How are classes?”
“Don’t need them.”
“Lily, you need friends-“
“Last time I had one of those, she was tortured into insanity. Thanks, but no thanks.”
It should’ve shocked her into silence (it usually did), but it seemed I’d used that line too much.
“Ellie had different circumstances and you know it. Her mum’s actions set their fates up a long time ago- not every person has a psychopathic stalker following them everywhere they go. You need a friend. A nice, normal person you can talk to.”
“Urgh. Why does it bother you so much? I like being alone. Having people sucks. Getting hurt sucks. Besides, no one cares about making new friends anymore. We’re all leaving soon, and I have Roxanne.”
Bullshit. It was all absolute bullshit.
Jack was such an exception. He seemed like he’d always been the exception.
“Getting hurt is part of life, Lily! You can’t expect to waltz through everything, getting exactly what you want and not hurting- if it doesn’t hurt, you’ve not cared, and if you’ve not cared, then your life has been pointless.” She yanked the book out of my hands, throwing it aside. Her eyes blazed with anger, so I defiantly jutted my chin out and glared back at her. “Don’t you care at all?”
“I care every damn day, mum. That’s all I seem to do, is care. So don’t lecture me with your oh-so-wonderful war-induced knowledge, because it can’t tell me shit about me and my life,” I shot back, standing up and grabbing my book.
“I know pain, Lily! I face it every time I see my parent’s faces, or my brothers’, or Harry’s, or Ellie, or you or James or Al- there isn’t a human on this planet that doesn’t endure pain. Caring despite that pain? That’s bravery, Lily. That’s what living is about. That’s what Harry does all the time. When he watched Teddy get married from where Remus should have been standing, when Al learns a new way from saving himself from death, when James sends us a letter from far-flung places telling us about his adventures with his fiancée- it’s all in his eyes. His pain, his ghosts. He died for us, Lily. He died for everyone- you think he wouldn’t if he didn’t love people? Caring is the bravest thing you could do.”
“Caring isn’t sensible!”
“Nor is being a ghost because you’re terrified of living!”
“Ghosts are created through fear of death, not fear of life!” I snarled.
“You seem to be a bloody good example of the contrary!” she near screamed, her usual composure vanished.
I wrinkled my nose in disgust, and shoved the glass of orange back at her.
“I’m going to write.”
“Who are you even going to write to, Lily?” she asked scathingly. “You don’t have friends, you’ve admitted it yourself.”
“I didn’t say write letters.”
I flew back upstairs without another word. Amata was waiting for me, response in her talons.
I ripped it open.
Hellooo Lily. Wondered when I’d hear from you.
So. Ellie. I know- believe me, I know- it’s one of the worst things, to wake up badly. But focus on the good- you’re a day closer to a better day. You always are. She’s going to be happy, Lily. One way or another, she’s going to get better.
...miss you too.
Shouldn’t be so awesome if you don’t want people to miss you.
And hot. Your butt is nice.
Anywho, I’m good. Dad is downstairs, in his study, away from me, so I’m good. Of course I’m avoiding him- what kind of question is that? I’m going out with some muggle mates of mine soon. I don’t even like them- I just want rid of him.
He needs to take a shower. He’s stinky.
Joking! (but seriously, he permanently stinks of Old Man and Regret)
WRITE TO ME MORE OFTEN. I HAVE NO FRIENDS. OR AT LEAST THEY DON’T LOVE ME. WRITE TO ME ALL THE TIME.
I smiled, and I found his power - despite his not being in the same room as me- over me strange and unexpected, but as the force of it subsided, I didn’t reject it. It was curious and new, and I liked it.
Pulling out my quill, I began a reply.
My faded jeans and dark red t-shirt was the maximum amount of style I could drag from my brain when I had finally finished the perfect balance of teasing (well, his arse wasn’t so bad either, after all) and tormenting (hoping his friends would bore him to death with their muggle video games talk) in my letter. Amata seemed more than pleased at the chance to do another mission (I swear that bird thinks she lives in a freaking adventure/spy novel where the pigeons are out to steal the letter for their evil overlord, The Fwooper), so she burst out of the window in a flurry of feathers fairly quickly, and I settled on my desk.
McGonagall’s essay was probably going to take a couple of days to get right, so I decided to get it done while Ellie slept, and early on, so I didn’t have to worry about it.
She would’ve set us an essay only just as we handed one in- Teddy had made us all write down ‘HAVE FUN AND EAT CAKE’ for our homework.
I didn’t plan on either, but that’s because when I plan for them it never happens anyway. Life sucks, I guess.
My books were spread across my desk, my quills neatly slotted into an old Butterbeer tankard, and my notes stacked up high when mum poked her nose around the door.
“Do you want a hot chocolate while you work?”
“That’d be nice.”
“Not really. Tedious, though.”
“I remember,” she said softly, smiling. “Well, call me if you need anything else.”
It was her peace offering, I think. She was trying to make up the argument to me because she knew I needed her, and always would- she was showing she’d always help me, no matter what.
I didn’t notice at the time.
Ellie woke up better. Not screaming counts as ‘better’, believe me.
“I don’t understand,” she said, frowning. “I can’t... but you...”
I nodded, holding her hand. “I know, sweetie- it’s a lot to take in. You can tell me what you remember, okay, when you’ve eaten something.”
“Alright. It’s... blurry...”
“It will be. What do you want to eat?”
“Pasta? I fancy pasta.”
“That’s fine. I’ll tell mum now. Stay here, ‘kay?”
I conveyed the message quickly and went back up. She was lying exactly as she had been.
“And I’ve... been here? A long time?”
“And there’s nothing at all?”
“You remember, don’t you? That’s important.”
“I can’t remember the good things. I remember the last two years... I remember living with mum and dad, and here... for a couple of years... I don’t really remember fourth or fifth year at all, though...”
“There were a lot of good things. Like... when we went out in the snow, in fifth year. We took pictures- a lot of them.”
I went and got them, and while she ate we talked through each one. We were bright eyed, pink-nosed, hair flyway- grinning in every picture. I couldn’t help but smile over them too, laughing with Ellie as she remembered them and some of the silly details, like I hadn’t already done this a thousand times for her.
The crackle of the fireplace had announced him, but it was soon confirmed when he stumbled out of it and all but yanked me up in his arms to swing me around. He dug his charming grin into the nape of my neck and bounced a little on his heels, clearly over-happy with being back.
“How are you, my gorgeous, lovely sister?” he asked excitedly, his breath uncomfortably hot on my skin.
“I’m fine. How’re you?” I asked.
I think after a while, manners become reflexes. They can prove to be very useful in an array of situations, and for once I was glad I’d had to play the sweet daughter of Harry Potter for so long. It made situations like this easy. He drew away as he began to answer, his hands gesturing wildly at everything he said.
“I’m great! Chelsea’s gone to say hello to her folks, but she really wants to show you all the ring,” he said, biting his lip to try and contain his smile.
“Jeez, she’s going to be my sister in law.”
“I know- isn’t it so cool?! Anyway, yeah, we haven’t decided on a date yet, but we don’t want to. There’s too much to do and see before we settle down- MUM! Chelsea’s gonna be my wife!”
He launched himself at her, despite her stunned expression, and hugged her as tightly as he had hugged me. She pulled away, a hand on his cheek and grinning at him through her shock.
“James- you’re not meant to be here for another three days!”
She grabbed him into a hug again.
“Where is Chelsea? I want to know everything-“
“She should be here soon-“
“Have you even talked to her parents? Shouldn’t you be there-?”
“I took a day trip home just to ask for Brian’s permission,” he assured her, his gentleman’s upbringing also clearly not forgotten. “He was great about it- so I wrote to him when she said yes.”
He hadn’t written to me.
“Anyway, is dad in? The idiot younger brother? Ellie? Ooh, can I see Ellie? In fact, I’ll go see her now and everyone else can wait-“
“She’s sleeping,” I told him firmly. “Go see everyone else. She’ll still be here when you get back.”
His eyebrows quirked a little and eyes skated over me, as though questioning my very being there, before a soft voice called out from the top of the stairs.
“James? Is that you?”
“Stay where you are, Ellie!”
He leapt out of the room.
Mum’s eyes were sparkling fondly, and she quickly settled on her knees by the dying green flames in the fireplace.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m sure your dad can pull a few strings to get Al out early,” she said, so I wandered out as she tried to get in touch with him (which is oddly difficult, considering how they’re married and everything).
I looked to the source of talking and giggling as I stepped into the corridor.
At the top of the stairs, Ellie was curled up into James’ arms, who was telling her stories about all the people they’d met and cultures they’d encountered, and even one particularly exciting tale of how they’d met a seemingly kind-hearted tribe until all-too-soon Chelsea was considered disrespectful for being a woman and carrying a wand, so he’d had to step up to defend her but in the end, she’d saved his honourable arse and got them out of there.
She was enraptured, eyes wide and begging to hear more. I stood to the side, and was cast in darkness.
His tales got a little farfetched, but I believed it all, because James never lies. Ellie was caught up in it: until I noticed her left hand playing with her right in her lap.
After a while, James saw her distraction too- she was twisting the ring on her finger anxiously, so he asked her what was wrong. “Did you miss me, James?”
“I always miss you,” he said, smiling softly as he tucked hair out of her eyes.
“Of course. I wish I could take you- all of you- with me, but that’d be unfair. Instead, I have a really good time when I am here, because I know everyone’s okay, and that’s good, right?”
“How’s today, then?”
“I remember everything. Well, recently. I think. It’s very sad.”
“It’s not, Ellie.”
“Why’s it not?”
“Because now you can be happy. You have the knowledge of the past, and a concept of the future. And that’s great, Ellie, because there’s so much to look forward to. You have a good day today- so be happy.”
Appraisingly, she studied him.
“How do you know today’s a good day?”
“Because you listened to my stories without checking the circumstances of Lily’s health first, or during. Today’s a good day.”
I wish I could honestly say I disagreed with him.
Dad swept James up in a tight hug the moment he saw him, unlike most fathers. But he isn’t most fathers; he’s mine. His hands- so much older than I remembered them- were securing James in place to stop any escape attempt from his arms, and I could see his faint, crinkled smile, the one he only has with us.
“Are you okay?” he demanded, pushing James back slightly to check him over.
“Perfectly healthy, you daft old man,” James said, rolling his eyes. “Is Al pissing you off enough to fire him yet?”
“James!” mum scolded, tapping the back of his head with a newspaper. Ellie was watching interestedly from the door frame.
“Sorry, uh- annoying you enough?”
“Not yet. In fact, I ordered him to go home, so he should be on his way to tell you...”
“Tell me what? Wait, dad, no, that’s not fair- tell me what? DAD!”
Mum smirked at James. “If you won’t tell us everything without Chelsea, we’re certainly not giving anything away. Oh, and your aunt requests that once you’ve finished the book that you send it to her- she wants to read it.”
James’ nose wrinkled in disgust. “Audrey? She’s perfectly lovely, but her letter analysis will be as long as the damn book...”
“Aunt Hermione, dear.”
“Oh! Cool! In that case, I’ll drop by and give her it then.”
I cocked my head. “You’ve finished it?”
“Done two drafts. It’s gonna be great.”
“What’s going to be great?”
Chelsea stepped off the grate of the fireplace carefully, dusting herself off lightly with that overzealous, love struck glow that only a newly engaged girl can have.
Mum wanted to rush to hug her, I could tell, but James got to her first, sweeping up her hand to kiss softly before turning to us, his happiness as clear as Chelsea’s.
“Mum, dad. I’d like you to meet my fiancée.”
The restraints disappeared and my mum gushed over how great it was that Chelsea would really be a part of the family now, and that the ring was beautiful and he was so very, very lucky and was she changing her name or was he?
“I want to be a Potter,” she said without hesitation. “It’d be the greatest honour.”
Dad looked a little uncomfortable. James grinned.
“Don’t flatter yourself, dad. She wants to be a Potter because of me, not you.”
Chelsea suddenly searched him out.
“...I don’t mind not, Harry. I really-“
“Don’t be daft,” mum told her, but I knew she had only beaten dad’s interruption by seconds. “The name’s the only reason I married him. Now, let’s go get everyone settled with a cup of tea, and hopefully Al will have joined us by then.”
There was a little parade of cups as everyone specified different teas, coffees and hot chocolate. It’s strange how parents seem to be right most of the time, but as I understand it experience can do that to anyone: Al strode in and grabbed James, still in his standard Ministry of Magic robes.
“BRO!” James yelled excitedly, returning the ‘man hug’ enthusiastically. “How is life?!”
“Life is awesome- but how did you manage to get someone so out of your league?” Al quipped, winking at Chelsea.
“I believe I had something to do with that, didn’t I?”
Chelsea absentmindedly touched Ellie’s knee, and beamed at her. “We wouldn’t be together without you. Yes, you did.”
I raised my hand, objecting. “Yeah, but if I hadn’t wanted to steal the Invisibility Cloak in the first place, you wouldn’t have known there was anything to fix. Actually.”
“Ooh, Miss Prissy Pants is taking credit for this, is she?” James mocked.
“Duh. Without me, you wouldn’t know what fabulous looks like.”
Chelsea narrowed her eyes. “Is that a compliment?”
“Yup. And a veiled insult to him. Two birds, one stone, y’know?”
Everyone laughed, James included, and just for a while, I could be normal.
They went to Chelsea’s parent’s house after they’d eaten. They wanted to say goodbye.
“Portkeys to South America are few and far between,” James had told me. “But it’s where all the original laws of Elemental Transfiguration were found, Lilster, and it’s where Gamp left some vital research.”
“I thought you’d written the book.”
“I have. That doesn’t mean it’s finished.”
Chelsea gathered me in her familiar flowery embrace when he moved to mum, who was crying again. She cried every time he left.
“I promise I’ll bring him back to you sooner,” she whispered in my ear. “It won’t be four months again, I swear.”
I nodded. “Thank you.”
A/N PHEW. This blighter of a chapter took a while!
Also, I actually do have a Butterbeer tankard filled with pens sitting on my desk.
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