Chapter 9 : Predictable
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It was weird- going back in. I was tired- up until five in the morning, rewriting the Charms homework and doing both the old Potions essay and the one she set for the next week and some Arithmancy charts I’d apparently missed and copying up the Potions notes and Ancient Runes translations that really were difficult. I’d smeared on a little cover up to hide the bruising blue around my eyes, but everyone was staring at me.
Clearly, they’d heard about everything. They all seemed to expect I’d either explode on or dry-hump the next person to talk to me. On the most part, I kept my head down and ignored the whispers and cat calls that followed me down the hallway.
“She’s the one who- you know- Aimee’s boyfriend.”
“I know, it’s completely-“
“Hey, Potter! Potter! Fancy a shag? I’ll give you ten Galleons!”
“Are you sure she charges that much?”
“I’m so good you’ll do it for free! I bet you!”
“How many guys has she...?”
“Well, Melanie told me she’d heard from Lucian it was five, plus she snogged some guy before Potions...”
“What a slut.”
“Be a good Head Girl and get on your knees, go on!”
The guy, probably in my year he was so tall, stood in my way.
“Come on, no one’s gonna know,” he winked, sidestepping to stop me passing.
There was a class of sixth years waiting to go into class. Staring at me.
“Can I go past you, please?”
“Let her go past, Jesus.”
The voice rang out in the quiet.
A sixth year took a step forward.
The guy rolled his eyes, still smirking at me. “And who the fuck are you?”
“My name’s Nathan. I’m on her Quidditch team,” he told him, fiercely, taking another step forward. “You know, the team that kicked your ass in October? How many times did you fumble the Quaffle and give us unnecessary points- nine?”
“What the fuck-“
“I’m the Keeper that didn’t let Quaffle in once that game,” he said, even louder. “And she’s the Chaser that scored fourteen of the seventeen goals that game. Get the hell out of her way.”
“Yeah, leave her alone.”
A girl- some girl, God, I didn’t even know who she was, I’d never seen her before in my life- took a step forward, hands on hip. She was so tiny she was practically my height.
“She’s cool,” said another boy, just as tall as the guy in front of me. “She’s the Quidditch Captain. You should probably bow in her presence or something,” he said, grinning.
“And her sex life is nothing to do with you,” Nathan added, “if you’re not in it. And she clearly doesn’t want you to be. So.”
“You’ve got yourself a little pity party,” he cooed, grabbing my chin and forcing me to look up at him.
“Don’t you dare-“ Nathan began angrily.
“No.” I didn’t move an inch, glaring up at him. “I’ve got friends- quite a lot unlike you, actually. Yours seem to have left.”
“Fuck you, you little bitch-“
“Don’t you just wish?” I grinned, shoving him away. “Fuck yourself, sweetheart, because no one else is interested. And for the record? I’ve only had sex with that one guy.”
“Don’t push me, you little-“
And then he yelped as he charged at me, and his back began to curve over rather awkwardly as he fought against it.
I realised that tall kid had his wand out.
He shrugged at me. “He should’ve just bowed when I suggested it. This is far more painful for him.”
I wasn’t quite sure what to do, so I settled for hugging Nathan, and the girl, and high fiving the boy.
“But you shouldn’t be doing spells in the corridor,” I sighed, glancing at his jumper. “I’m going to be forced to give Slytherin ten points.”
And I sped down the corridor, waving my wand when they’d filed in the classroom and releasing the guy, and disappeared around the corner before he even straightened up.
Their kindness is what convinced to have the courage I’d been lacking so long and find Aimee.
She turned around, and her friends instantly hissed at me and demanded that I leave, pushing her protectively behind them.
“Please, I just want to speak to her-“
“Bitch, she doesn’t want to talk to you-“
Aimee avoided looking at me.
“Can you give us a minute?”
When they finally filtered away, their filthy glares subsiding, she turned to me, taking a deep breath.
“I- I just- I’m sorry, okay? I shouldn’t have- I mean, I heard about your cousin and I didn’t know-“
“Thank you. It wouldn’t have worked out with him anyway... you weren’t the only girl he saw... but you are the only one to apologize. So thank you.”
“You’re not- going to hit me?”
She finally gave me eye contact. “It’s been hard, but you’re not the one who cheated on me. He’s the one that should’ve had to have said no, not you.”
“But I knew-“
“I don’t care what you knew. He’s the idiot who lost the best thing that ever happened to him.”
She was defiant.
“I can see why you’re a Gryffindor,” I told her after a few moments.
“Right back at you.”
“Okay, so you seem to have... gone off the rails a bit, no offence, in the last few days. But you’re still here, aren’t you? I know a lot of people that would have given up entirely.”
“I did give up.”
“I mean kill themselves, Lily. Or try to.”
“Listen... don’t give up, okay? Life’s too short.”
I nodded, and hugged her to hide the tears.
McFarland winked, grinned, and let his eyes wander up and down my body. He knew that he could ruin me.
More than he already had, I mean.
His mate made a joke, eyes also casting over me, and his whole little group began to laugh uproariously. I took an unsteady breath as I turned away, tracing the grooves on the well-worn desk in front of me.
The rest of the class were clearly trying to ignore his behaviour, to make it less humiliating for me, but it wasn’t helping. Their silence just emphasised the sharp laughter that reverberated around the stone walls. When the glass jar in Jack-Hartland’s hand suddenly snapped under his grip and smashed into pieces, everyone in the room all jumped together at the sharp, sound.
I glanced to Professor Gardner, who had cold fire in her eyes. It wasn’t something I’d ever seen in her before in her, but it was burning fiercely and unmistakably.
I stared at her. Jack did. McFarland did. The whole class did.
We all knew who had smashed the jar. It hadn’t been McFarland.
She stood and left her desk slowly, jaw tight. The classroom was deathly silent until she spoke again, but her words rang so clear it was as though she was alone nonetheless.
“If you do not cease,” she began softly, “now, your lewd and disgusting remarks concerning Miss Potter- whether you are in my presence or not- I will turn a blind eye to anything done against you.
“Should anything you say in this classroom escape outside and her family sees fit to attack you, I will not stop them,” she promised, still taking quiet steps to his desk. “Should Mr Hartland decide to engage in the muggle violence I know he has been considering for the past ten minutes with you, I will ensure any injuries you receive will have a perfectly reasonable explanation, whilst his will strangely vanish. Should that glass in Mr Hartland’s hand find itself imbedded firmly in your chest, I will have no recollection of how it should have come to be so.
“Do not test me, Mr McFarland,” she spat, at his desk and leaning over it, holding his gaze as violently as she could hold him in a chokehold. “Do not make the wrong choice.”
My hands were shaking. So were Jack’s.
Almost imperceptibly through his fear, McFarland tilted his head up and down quickly. Gardner relaxed, leaning away, and smiled.
“Good. Now, everyone, back to Dreamless Sleep Potions- page 177, if you please.”
She was back in her seat, waving her instructions to the board, and acting as thought nothing had happened.
“Page 177, Miss Potter,” she repeated.
When she caught my eye, her smile was calm, but fierce.
Truth be told, I didn’t quite know what to do or say.
Hartland and I worked silently side by side, fortunately asked to do individual potions that required a great amount of concentration, giving us very little time at all.
“Before you leave this class, you will finish this potion,” Professor Gardner said, sweeping over the desks and wrinkling her nose in disgust at a particularly yellow and pasty textured concoction, but passed without comment. I could hear random swearwords around me, but I slipped into something of a trance.
Potion making, really, is very methodical and simple. It’s easy and requires very little attention. That’s why I love it so much- I barely have to think at all.
I was crushing walnuts into a fine powder when I remembered my letter- Ellie had sent one to me in the morning, but Roxy had spent breakfast forcing me to eat toast and I hadn’t had the time to read it. I slipped it out of my pocket surreptitiously, and slipped it open with my finger, lazily stabbing at the walnuts.
I’ve noticed you haven’t written in the last few days. Now, it’s not that I mind- not at all, of course not- but I must admit, I am a little worried. Your silence is certainly new. Ginny has told me not to worry: that you’re finally concentrating fully on your studies and I shouldn’t fret, and do you want another pillow, sweetheart?
(I didn’t want the pillow, but your mother is a little difficult to say no to sometimes.)
I’m feeling good, in case you hadn’t noticed. In fact, I feel really well; whole, like I haven’t in a long time. It’s wonderful- I played Quidditch yesterday with Al and James! Not a real game, but we even let the Snitch loose for a while and I was exhausted afterwards, properly ready for sleep. James had to go back to South America this morning, and I do miss him, but he’s so happy with Chelsea, isn’t he? And they’re thinking of having the wedding in June next year, hopefully when James has finished writing that goddamn book. It seems like a million lifetimes since I managed to convince James to give her a second chance in fifth year- I guess it is, though.
Love you gorgeous,
I couldn’t understand.
I couldn’t believe it.
She... sounded so happy. She had two good days straight. Two good days. She made a joke. She remembered taking that letter of Chelsea’s the James. She played Quidditch.
She formed complex sentences, for fuck’s sake.
Not really aware I was doing anything, let alone the wrong thing, I scooped up the half-crushed walnuts and shoved the whole lot in my boiling lime froth without a second thought.
What you must understand about the Elixir to Induce Euphoria is that it a) is an extremely volatile potion before completion b) does not take kindly to having any ingredients dumped into it at a high heat and c) does not contain walnuts, in any shape or form.
Several things happened simultaneously.
The first was I realised what I’d done. (too late)
The second was I sort of yelled, really, at everyone to get-the-fuck-out-the-way. (some of the them did)
The third was that the potion went a foul grey colour. (and the whole cauldron began to rattle and shake on the table)
The fourth was that Professor Gardner shouted something, but I didn’t hear because
The fifth- everything went black.
“Lily? Lily, I need you to stay very still now. You’ve hurt yourself, and you need to stay still.”
I tried to moan, but I barely could move my lips. My ears were ringing, and my hands cold and sticky, and my stomach hurt, and my throat felt choked up with smoke.
“Do you need me to get anything, Professor?”
“Everyone that’s hurt to the hospital wing, everyone else out. Make sure the injured get to the hospital wing- help Miss Falkner, will you, she looks like she’s struggling.”
“She’ll be just fine. Go, please. Thank you.”
My eyes blinked open, after much fighting against doing so.
Professor Gardner was bent over me, an assortment of her own potions on the desk’s surface above me. I lazily noted the Essence of Dittany she dropped over my chest and arms before the sting truly hit.
I winced, and clenched my teeth together to stop the hiss escaping my lips as my skin reformed and stretched, the shiny surface covering all multitudes of sins, but the price paid was certainly my pain.
“Remind me,” I said through gritted teeth, “to teach you how to combine that with some Soothing Serum.”
“Does that work?” she asked, ever curious in her art even as she worked over me.
“Yes, actually. I mean, you need a small amount of spicebush berries’ oil, but yeah... makes this part-“ I flinched as she peeled aside a burnt piece of my shirt “-a lot less painful.”
“Am I going to live?”
“Within reason. I am, however, sending you to the Hospital Wing to make sure I’ve done everything right, and I’m pretty sure you banged your head. That’s why you blacked out for a few seconds. Anyway, if I didn’t and Madam Patil found out, she’d have my head. You know how she gets.”
I nodded slightly. “Quidditch.”
My hands were sticky, it turned out, from my own blood, but Gardner assured me the wounds were burns were luckily very shallow and she’d managed to stave off any scars. She wiped my hands clean efficiently. I sat up stiffly with a little help.
“I heard from Professor Lupin about your application to the Department of Mysteries. I know you really were looking forward to it.”
“Well. Apparently I’m not as active in the potioneer community as I should be.”
She frowned, but gently helped me stand to my feet without a word.
My shirt and tie was in tattered ruins, my bra a little too on show to be comfortable, but my new skin showed no mark of my injuries at all. Gardner thankfully said nothing, and passed a cardigan to me.
“Thank you, by the way,” I muttered as I slowly began to stretch my stomach, as I’d learnt you should do, kneading my knuckles over it firmly.
“You’re welcome, Lily.”
“About the McFarland thing.”
When I felt safe to, and walked gingerly away from the point of impact. I looked at the damage, and whistled.
“Wow. I did good,” I said, staring.
The desk was blackened, chairs blasted over and the cauldron a mangled mess on the floor. A bag- mine, I saw- was still smoking and everything had been abandoned, the door still open.
“I think you’ve learnt your lesson, haven’t you?”
“Yep. Pay attention.”
“Good girl. Now, can I trust you to get to the Hospital Wing, or will you faint halfway there?”
After assuring her I’d be fine, I buttoned the cardigan up slowly and picked up my letter, carefully pocketing it, and ambled the long distance to the Hospital Wing.
Madam Patil was ready for me when I arrived- someone had told her to expect me- and demanded that I stay in overnight. I agreed, if I could have a message sent to my team to have practice continue without me that night.
Reluctantly, she allowed me too (strain on my hand, would of course have direct impact on my mild head injury) and I settled into one of the beds. No one else had even got into bed: Patil had healed the burns and cuts in a second, but she wanted to ‘observe’ my situation should anything change.
I didn’t mind all that much, until Teddy charged into the ward and headed straight for me.
“Are you okay?” he demanded, charging up to my bed. I waved him away.
“I’m fine, you prat, she’s just overreacting,” I told him coolly, smoothing my sheets down around me, very grateful I’d chosen to sit up and look less like an invalid, as opposed to curled up in a messy little ball. “And don’t you have a class right now...?”
“I have a free,” he said impatiently. “If you’re so fine, why are you in bed?” Patil appeared. “Padma, what’s she being kept in for?”
Teddy calmed down after she’d talked him down a little, but insisted after a small conflict with me that he was Floo-ing mum and dad that minute so they could know. They’d want to know.
I argued that I’d had far worse Quidditch injuries over the years- I’m sorry, do we not remember Al’s last game in which I had dropped thirty feet as a dead weight, broke my arm and fractured my ankle and cracked my skull, and after dad heard I was okay jokingly Owled me and told me to suck it up, he’d swallowed a Snitch before now?
He didn’t care, and neither did mum, who leapt onto Professor Thomas for permission to visit the second she heard.
She did not rumble like an oncoming storm, however, as she entered. She was quiet, thoughtful, and pacing herself. She drew a chair up next to my bed, as Teddy kissed my forehead and left.
“Hello, sweetheart,” she said softly, putting her hand on mine.
“Hey,” I croaked.
“You know, when we asked you to look after yourself better, we didn’t expect you’d give up quite so quickly.”
“It was an accident, I swear, mum, I didn’t mean to-“
For a long time, we sat in silence, then I reached to the little cabinet by the bed and passed the letter to her.
“So Ellie sent me this.”
“...may I read it?”
I shrugged, and the silence continued as she did so, and she smiled sadly as she folded it up.
“Your ring, Lily.”
“Your ring. We took it off Ellie after the meeting in Dean’s office.”
I frowned. I’d asked her not to... why had she stooped that low?
“Your brother had a theory,” she said, taking a deep, long breath. “And thus far, it’s proving to be surprisingly accurate.”
She resettled in her chair, so I sat up a little straighter. “Back when you gave it to her, you charmed it, didn’t you?”
“Yes- some general protective spells against minor curses and it has healing properties.”
“When Ellie was tortured... we think something changed. Now, Lily, this is not your fault at all, it’s the way the ring reacted... your dad has had some tests done on the ring, you see, very quietly, in the Department of Experimental Charms. And... well...”
Dread was bubbling in my stomach like nausea.
“We think- they concluded- that the ring had protected her, Lily. Your ring is the reason she survived that attack because it absorbed some of the Dark magic Carrow cast at her.” She winced. “But... it absorbed it, Lily. It sucked it in and it stayed. Your dad put it on his little finger,” she told me, hand reaching out for mine, “just to see. He said it felt like a Horcrux, all over again.
“The Department, in the end, decided it was far too dangerous and it had to be destroyed.”
Fear clenched my muscles, and I had to force myself not to retch.
“We’ve been watching Ellie closely these last few days. We’ve barely left her side. She’s active, she’s healthy, she’s happy- Merlin, Lily, she’s so happy,” mum said, near tears herself, but she was smiling and clinging on to my hand tightly. “And she knows everything- she doesn’t wake up with bad days or good days any more, she just is. And, oh shit, Lily, you should’ve seen her yesterday- she did, she flew yesterday, and she was by no means the athlete she used to be, but she really went for it and enjoyed it and we thought she’d wake up and not remember it at all, but she came down for breakfast and asked if we could go again today.”
I stumbled over my words in my haste to get them out, but also out of my lack of comprehension. “So I- is she okay now- what have the doctors said- can I see her- what about- did I- what if we’d taken it off sooner, would she-?”
“No! Lily, this is not your fault. That ring saved her life, okay? No matter when you’d intervened, no matter what Ellie or James or Dom or Al had done to that bitch, Ellie would have either been died from the strain on her heart or become like Frank and Alice Longbottom. We have her back now, because of you, alright?”
“Was it a Horcrux?”
“No, it didn’t have anyone’s soul in it. I believe, but this is only speculation and a personal opinion of mine, but I believe that the Dark magic took control of the healing properties you’d put in it, and began to... unheal? Harm?... her, using your original spells as a carrier for their less than kind intentions.”
“If we’d taken it off?”
“Same results as now,” she said, smiling. “Getting better. Of course, it’s still early days, but I can feel it. I know she’s going to do her NEWTs or whatever she wants to do, and she’s going to live, Lily. She’s going to grow up and move out and probably marry Al because she kissed him yesterday, properly for the first time since- oh, Lily,” she said, suddenly standing and pulling me into her arms.
“It’s going to be so, so good.”
The tears subsided; after a very long time, we were still clinging to each other, still basking in each other in a way we hadn’t in such a long time.
Honesty. Mum had been honest with me.
Bravery. I need that too.
“...I don’t think I’m okay.”
“I know, love.”
Mum left a long time later. She had put Ellie in Al’s care, but she didn’t trust them in the house together anymore- mum winked- but she promised to write to me as often as I wanted.
‘Every day, please’, is what I asked of her.
Hartland tried to visit me twice, but I told Patil to tell him to piss off. I didn’t want to see him. Roxy came and went, and so did Teddy. It was his visit I looked forward to most- mum had told him about Ellie, and she was all I wanted to discuss, really.
“-and she’s playing Quidditch, did you hear about that? I can’t wait to see her- I’m going to get special permission as soon as I’m out this bed from Professor Thomas or something to see her because, God, I need to see her.”
“And I’m so excited, Teddy! It’s going to be fucking fantastic and I can’t wait to get some real proof, not just this letter and- are you not even a little bit excited?”
He was frowning slightly, but he schooled his features blank very quickly.
“So, I had class today, and Jack came and found me.”
I gritted my teeth. “Did you cursed his sorry ass back to 1932?”
“He gave me this.”
He pulled a slightly crumpled letter out of his pocket, and passed it to me. In familiar script, it was addressed to me, but the seal was broken.
“He pretty much begged me to pass it on and make you read it,” he explained softly. “I told him, of course, I wasn’t passing you shit from him after what he did, Lily after the way he broke you... so he told me to read it. I did.
“He said there’s nothing in there he wouldn’t have the whole world know if it meant getting you back.”
I tried to read Teddy’s expression. I saw only a little sadness, a little pity. I took the letter.
“You need to read it, okay? I... sort of understand it. He... isn’t bad.”
He walked away, so I slowly pried it open. My hands were shaking.
I owe you so much- but first, an explanation.
For the record, I met Ellie three times. The last time I did was in third year- she was going back to her dorm before curfew, and she found me crying on the stairs. She sat next to me, wrapped her arms around me and hugged me until a Prefect found us and gave us detention, but she shouted at the Prefect and told him I wouldn’t be going, because I was sad, and she wasn’t going to apologize for giving someone ‘a goddamn hug’. She walked me back to my dorm without another word. I don’t think she ever knew my name, and we didn’t speak again. I just knew that Gryffindor girl, with the bouncing blonde curls, was really great.
To be honest, I had a crush on her for the better part of a year, but I didn’t even know her name for a long time.
Going back, anyway, the reason I was crying was I’d had a letter from my dad. Do you remember I told you my mum died in a car crash when I was seven? I lied. It was easier to lie, and now I regret it. Please believe me, Lily. I regret it so much.
My mum was a muggle, and my dad is a wizard. You see, my mum was born with Huntington’s disease, and that’s why she died. Huntington’s disease is a genetic, progressive and incurable muggle disease that destroys you psychologically and then physically.
And I’ve mentioned my sister before? My sister Reagan. I knew I’ve mentioned her before because I’ve talked about her in front of you and then winced, thinking you’d pick up that I don’t live with my sister, but you never did. That surprised me.
That letter was my dad, telling me that my little sister, Reagan, who was at a normal high school because she was a muggle like my mum, had gone a little crazy, having hallucinations in the middle of her French class, attacked another student and then tripped and hit her head on the side of a desk.
They were doing tests, but she had Huntington’s too. Dad knew it- he’d gone through all the same symptoms with mum. I knew it because dad never told me she didn’t. He had me pulled out of Hogwarts the next day, and had the muggle doctors do the tests on me. As it turns out, wizards are immune to muggle genetic diseases- something about how it stifles the initial mutation that causes the disease, so I was in no danger, regardless of whether or not I had the gene. If Reagan had been a witch, she would have never had a problem.
Dad sent me back to school when I had the all-clear. He stayed with Reagan. She had an advanced juvenile case of it- symptoms my dad had been ignoring for too long. He didn’t want to accept there was anything wrong with her, but if he had, he could’ve bought her years more of life.
She was only a year younger than me. She was wonderful, Lily- you would’ve loved her. She was smart and feisty and funny and achingly kind. She told me once, a couple of months before she wasn’t herself anymore, that she was so happy she had the disease, not me, because she couldn’t have watched me go through the pain.
About three months before she died, she forgot everyone and everything. She didn’t know who I was, she couldn’t even get out of bed. She died last year. The funeral was big, because she was young and everyone expected it. My dad didn’t say a word. He didn’t cry. He didn’t help me. That’s how it’s always been, since then- I think he loved her more, and wished it was me in the coffin.
Believe me, that didn’t hurt as much as it should. I wished the same thing.
And you, Lily, you. You, with your wonderful fire, and your heartbreaking kindness, and your passion and intelligence- you’re her. You’re my sister, and I that’s why I wanted to talk to you. You reminded me so much of her, I just... I had to help you. You were so lost, but that was something I could change, I could help with. I couldn’t help Reagan, but maybe I could help you. So I tried.
But I didn’t think about Ellie. That reminded me of her too, far too much. When you wrote those letters, about her bad days, and waking up in a bad mood, and it just brought it all back. In the end, that’s how it was with Reagan too.
My muggle friends didn’t contact me in the holidays to play those fucking stupid games- I contacted them. They were my mates before Reagan died, and Tina was my girlfriend in the last months of Reagan’s life. I wanted to forget everything, Lily, for a while. I know you’ll, at least, understand that. I didn’t plan on anything, but when she kissed me I couldn’t pull away. But, if it helps any, I was writing to her to end it. I was so lost, and I didn’t want to admit how much it hurt.
Because it still hurts, Lily. It’s so fucking painful.
I’m so sorry. I didn’t want to cause any more suffering.
I could barely breathe as I hunched over the letter and sobbed.
A/N Professor Gardner is a lot like me when you hurt my friends. I get VERY, VERY protective. Don’t mess with the ginger.
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