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Before They Fall by Jchrissy
Chapter 32 : Alrek's Plans
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 14

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Amazing CI by heartfelt. @ TDA
Chapter 32 - Alrek's Plans

Rays of sunlight drenched the ground of Hogwarts, bringing the colors to life in a way so vivid it nearly hurt the eyes. Windows sparkled as they caught the light, and behind one of these glittering panes of glass stood a tall body with a well sculpted face, looking out toward all the students who were piling into carriages.

The position of the sun created a shadow that was just right for the boy to stand in, no risk of being noticed if someone were to glance his way. Though it was unlikely they’d even be able to see into the window, the tower he currently watched from being one of the tallest.

Alrek’s lips flicked up and curved as his mind played through the events that would soon unfold. The majority of the school would be empty, far fewer prying eyes. He’d explained the plan to Violet numerous times and was fairly confident she’d follow through. If not, he had other ideas.

He hadn’t been able to gain the assistance of his fellow servant, not knowing if Regulus would keep Alrek’s agenda to himself. And Alrek had to be sure no soul besides his own knew what would occur this evening. He would surprise the Lord with Lily Evans’s death, and finally he would be brought to his original position of respect. The searing pain, though it came less frequently now, would halt altogether and he could be rid of the constant feeling of fire scorching through his forearm.

The Mudblood would be dead by tomorrow morning and his Master would honor him for it, finally treat him with the respect he deserved. Alrek’s thoughts dwelled on the humiliation he’d received after the Christmas attack had been unsuccessful, and he felt a twitch take over his fist, urging it to plow into the window and break the glass into shards. He didn’t deserve that kind of treatment. He’d been the one brought from Bulgaria to this damned country, brought by the Dark Lord himself to act as spy in the castle. He deserved gratitude for the information he’d provided, not punishment for the failings of other, less worthy servants.

Alrek took a breath to calm his nerves. Getting worked up would do no good. He needed to play his part more convincingly today than ever before. Violet must continue to suspect him as a pathetic, lovesick imbecile. And if all went well, he’d have Lily trapped and begging for death by the time the sun set. He’d make sure she felt every bit of humiliation that he’d undergone when the Dark Lord’s anger had turned on him.

Alrek would get her alone and use the privacy of her own quarters to steal every ounce of life from her. He’d been watching for months on end, making sure he’d have no difficulty entering the room. And he was more confident than ever in his ability to not only gain access, but to get the revenge he deserved.

There had been one detail that had proved slightly tricky, though. Thanks to multiple attempts, it’d become quite apparent that he was unable to enter the Heads’ Quarters unless one of them was present. But that was of no matter - it would all fall into place. He had made sure of that.

And after it all, after he finally got the revenge he deserved, he’d use the cover of the dark to escape through a window on his broom. He’d fly far enough away from the castle until he was able to Disapparate. Straight to the Malfoy Manor, to the place his Lord could be summoned, and wait patiently for his Master - for his reward.

Yes, Alrek thought as he watched the last of the students trickle onto the train, he had it all planned out step by step. He’d imagined what he’d do to the Mudblood so often that the images came like visions. Tonight, the visions would become reality.

“Frank wants to move in together after graduation.”

Lily looked up from her chess pieces, trying to figure out if she’d heard Alice correctly. But the brunette simply sat flipping through her book like she hadn’t just made a huge announcement. The last of the rays were peeking through one of the windows in the Gryffindor common room as the sun set, catching on Alice’s dark hair and bringing a red sort of hue to its surface.

“You two still aren’t sick of each other?” James asked, laughing at his own question.

“Did ‘e tell you zis?” Alice shook her head in response to Belle's question, but her large eyes looked like she had a dozen secrets roaming around in them.

Lily turned back to the chess board and took a quick inventory of the destroyed pieces, then once she was confident she’d notice if James were to mess with anything, she hopped from the chair and over to the sofa, perching herself beside Alice. Her fingers were swift as they grabbed the book her friend was reading, dog-earing the page before laying it down.

“How do you know, then?” Lily asked, and noticed the guys of the group start paying a touch more attention. They might act like they couldn’t care less about girl talk, but that didn’t stop them from being nosey little things.

“I’ve known something was up for a few days... since he told me he’s going with Augusta to Switzerland. Then yesterday he asked me to help him gather a few things to pack, and I was organizing his parchments and found a letter from Augusta that mentioned a house that she wanted Frank to look at. It said something along the lines of, Now that you and that girl have worked things out, and if you still insist on starting a life with her, you can at least consider a house closer to your mother’s. Not that I really want to be neighbors with Frank’s mum, but she does live in a very nice part of London.”

Lily looked around, wondering if she was the only one who felt like she’d just been hit with a brick. Not only was Alice admitting to snooping on Frank, but she was telling them that they were getting a house! Did people really buy houses this young?

“If I went zrough Sirius’s zings you’d lecture me.”

“You’re not fooling anyone, princess. I’m sure the second I turn around you dig through my rucksack looking for a love letter or something.”

“If zere is any’zing close to a love letter in your rucksack,” Belle began, a clear warning in her voice, “it had better be for me or else zere is going to be ‘ell to pay.”

“A love letter, from Sirius?” James asked, laughing. “Didn’t the bloke tell you he’s about as good at writing letters as a the giant squid is at doing the tango?”

Sirius shrugged, but before he could defend himself Peter was already talking. “It’s true, you know. I read a letter he wrote to Mrs. Potter before - it was rubbish.”

“Like you lot are any better at them!” Sirius argued.

Remus spoke up for the first time from his spot on the large chair. “Actually, I’m quite good at writing letters.

“We don’t care ‘ow poor or talented you all are at writing letters,” Belle cut in. “All I want to ‘ear is Alice talking more about zis Frank business.”

Alice laughed, her light complexion filling with color. Lily couldn’t deny being pleased that Belle had gotten them back to the subject, wanting to know just as badly as Belle what Alice was thinking about all this.

“Well, first off,” the brunette said, sitting up a bit straighter, “I wasn’t exactly snooping. Frank knew the letter was in there; he never leaves anything lying about without knowing where it is. And he asked me to gather and sort that specific pile of parchment. Which means he wanted me to see the letter so I would know that he’s thinking of asking me to move in with him. That way if I thought it’s a poor idea, I could bring it up and save him the trouble. But if I agreed with the idea I could pretend I never saw it and let him continue on with it being a surprise.”

They were silent for a moment, Sirius being the first to break it. “That’s sneaky. That’s very, very sneaky.”

“And a bit genius,” Remus added.

“Brilliant, really,” came the sound James’s voice.

“And you didn’t tell him it’s a bad idea?” Peter asked, forcing Lily to stifle a giggle. For people who insisted they didn’t want to hear all the girl talk, the boys seemed to be enjoying it well enough.

“Of course not,” Alice said, a huge smile forming over her face. “I was actually getting worried that I might have to be the one to tell him we’re living together after Hogwarts. So I was rather surprised that he seemed to be taking the initiative. But now I’m curious if he made up the entire story about Switzerland and went home just to look at the house, or if he’s doing both.”

Lily felt a rush of excitement shiver through her at the idea of Frank and Alice making such a serious commitment, but a hint of sadness managed to edge its way in. She’d had some sort of vision of the three of them - her, Belle and Alice- all living together after Hogwarts. Of course most of her had realized those two would end up getting a place together. A house just seemed so... grown up, though. But that’s what they were, wasn’t it? Adults. Fully legal witches and wizards getting ready to step into the world. Lily felt the ribbons of anxiety lace around her as she realized that in less than three short months, they’d all be out of the castle and on their own.

“Well, if we’re on the topic...” James began, and Lily’s nerves stood on edge. She’d thought a few times about the possibility of her and James living together, but so much inside of her screamed that it was too soon. They had no idea what they were doing next, how they were going to make any money... it wasn’t the right time to start a life with someone else. Alice and Frank had careers... though she supposed she and James had the possibilities of ones. That is, if she was offered a place in the Healing Academy of Magical Medicine, and if James accepted the position with the Bats... but that didn’t mean they were ready to live together just now.

“I spoke with my mum and dad about this over Christmas,” James continued, breaking Lily from her thoughts, “then again when we wrote a few weeks ago about staying at the castle for Easter. You lot know how they are, always wanting to spoil everyone. And they know we’ll have a hard time getting started with whatever we end up doing after Hogwarts. They wanted to do something to help us out.”

James pulled his rucksack up on his lap, then began digging through the mess of parchment. “Here it is,” he mumbled, pulling out a letter and passing it to Sirius. “They found a flat in a small magical complex in Central London. It has three bedrooms and Mum said that the man who owns it is an old friend, and that he’d be happy to rent it out to us at a very reasonable price. And she said her and dad want to cover the first year of rent as Sirius and my graduation present. The four of us could live there,” he said, glancing around at his mates, “though two of us would have to share a room. And then you two,” he gestured toward Lily and Belle, “could maybe find one nearby? Lily, my mum and dad said they want to help you rent one out and- ”

“No,” Lily said, cutting him off. Touched as she was, she couldn’t let them do that. “I have what my parents left me. And Professor McGonagall said that if I do get accepted into the Healing Academy, there’s no reason I wouldn’t get full tuition cost covered because of my blood status.” For once, Lily thought it would be nice to use her status for a positive result instead of it always being a disadvantage. Though as she said the words her brain began mentally calculating the sum she had left from her mum and dad. It wasn’t a lot... it would get her by for a few months at most. Even if she got into the Academy, she’d need to figure something out so she didn’t end up starving on a street corner.

“Lily,” Belle began, “we could ‘ave our very own flat! And I ‘ave tons of gold in ze vault my parents started when I was younger. It was meant as a wedding gift for my future ‘usband, but it was signed into my name at ze bank when I turned seventeen. I checked a few months after running away, and zere’s nothing zey can do to touch it, so I know zey ‘aven’t taken any’zing out.” Lily smiled at her friend, knowing that even if Belle hadn’t said the exact words, she was making it clear that she could help Lily with rent as well. But Lily wouldn’t take her best friend’s charity. She would stand on her own two feet. With the way things were going in their world, finding a job would be far from easy for a Muggle-born. But she wouldn’t think about it now.

“Peter and I could share the room,” Remus suggested. “Then between the two of us I’m sure we could come up with a third of the rent, that way your parents wouldn’t have to pay for the whole thing.”

“And Walburga has to give me my inheritance at graduation, so I could pay another third of rent.”

“And we’ll just be a pop away from Alice and Frank,” Remus added. Lily glanced over, afraid Alice would seem like she felt left out. She was relieved to see a genuine smile covering the girl’s face.

“I was worried we wouldn’t all be able to see each other as much after we graduated,” she began, “but if you guys all get flats, and Frank and I have a house, we can be at one another’s all the time!”

“Do you think the girls will have trouble finding one nearby for a reasonable price?” Remus asked, giving Lily a small smile. She wondered if the stress was written plain as day across her face.

James tapped his fingers against the table, one of the very few tell-tale signs that he was thinking. “I’ll write to mum and dad and maybe they can ask around to see if anything else close by is available? They know everyone in the bloody world, I’m sure they’ll find something.”

Lily felt a swarm of butterflies invade her stomach, excitement starting to sink in. If James’s parents were able to find something, maybe they could know where they’d live even before they graduated. Lily and Belle could always sleep over at the boys’ flat for a few nights after graduation until they found something, but it would be so much better knowing they had a place lined up. Either way, the girls would figure something out. They would find a way to make it work, and she’d get to live with one of her best friends. Even if it wasn’t extremely close to James’s flat, she could always Apparate over.

“Yes, zat would be lovely if you could write to zem! If zey don’t know of any’zing we can ask Professor McGonagall of ze best way to find a flat.”

“If my mum and dad don’t know of anything, then she’s the best option left,” James agreed. “I’ll write to them though and then we’ll know in a few days probably.”

They agreed, and Lily struggled to banish the stress of how this was actually supposed to happen, how she was supposed to afford her share, from her mind and let the excitement of moving in with her best friend take over. Alice began chatting about plans to help each other decorate their new places, and after a few minutes of the conversation Lily was becoming just as excited as the other two, not allowing the doubts to creep into her mind.

“There’s another thing,” James began, though the lightness of his tone seemed to fade away. He stood from his chair and began pacing around. Lily glanced at Sirius, who didn’t seem to know what his best mate was about to say. Peter and Remus looked just as clueless.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about this,” James continued. “And, even though he hasn’t told us exactly what, we know Dumbledore has some kind of group dedicated to stopping Voldemort.” They all nodded. That’d been made clear enough through their conversation at St. Mungo’s. “I think after graduation I’m going to talk to Dumbledore about being part of it. Maybe I can figure out a way to play Quidditch later on. Or hell, maybe I can even come back here and teach in a few years. But right now I think I want to be involved.”

The group was silent, the heaviness of the topic hanging over them.

“We all want this to end,” Remus said. “But before we make any final decisions, let’s just get through graduation.”

“Who knows, maybe zere is a chance we’ll get lucky and ze war will be over by zen. I want to ‘elp too, and I’ll do any’zing I can. But I also want to start my life. I’ve also been zinking about something for a while...” Belle met Sirius’s glance, and Lily couldn’t help but wonder why it seemed like the two of them had a secret. “And I know zis is going to sound insane, but I want to open a bookstore after we graduate. It’s been an idea of mine for awhile now. Since Christmas, actually. And I zink it’s ze right zing for me.”

Lily imagined her blonde friend tucked into a small store, warm colors filling the walls, shelves of books lined up in a haphazard but perfect way. She could see without any difficulty how well it all fit together. It would be the solitude that Belle sometimes craved combined with the social atmosphere she thrived in.

“I think that sounds perfect,” Lily said, leaning over and hugging her. “And if I don’t get into the Healer’s Academy, I’ll just spend all day there pretending to be an employee.” Though that certainly wouldn’t pay her half of the rent, Lily thought.

“I’ll make sure I’m there everyday that I’m not training or working,” Alice added, and Lily could tell by the look in her eyes that she liked the idea just as much.

“I guess if we’re all talking about news, I sort of have some too...” Peter started, blushing as they all glanced at him.

“Did Ellie decide to stop being angry with you?” Sirius asked, patting his back.

“She’s not angry with me! I’ve just been.... avoiding her.” Peter’s face twisted up a bit, making it clear he wasn’t over their terrible Hogsmeade date. “But it’s just something small. You lot know how I’m interested in learning more about the history of magic? Well, erm, McGonagall was in contact with someone who works at the Ministry in a department devoted to studying and researching our history, and the lady sent me a letter. I was going to say something to you all, but I just got it yesterday and I figured it wasn’t really worth getting excited over...”

“Course it is, mate!” Remus said, clamping his shoulder. “That’s brilliant!”

Lily watched her friend’s face as he congratulated Peter, genuine enthusiasm covering it. But she couldn’t help feeling like there was a shadow lurking in his eyes. Was he thinking of his own plans for the future? If Lily’s theory was correct - which she knew it was - Remus would have a much more difficult time than any of them gaining employment. She felt frustration bubble in her chest. The fact that a boy as intelligent and caring as Remus would struggle to earn anything close to a livable wage, simply because of a disease he couldn’t control, disgusted her.

“What did the letter say?” James asked, distracting Lily.

“That I had solid recommendations from Binns and McGonagall, and she’d like to meet with me the week after graduation. But, erm,” his ears grew pink at the tips, “it wouldn’t be anything huge. Just twenty or so hours a week, not a lot of pay or anything...”

“Peter, it’s really great,” Alice said, her warm voice filling the room.

It really was, Lily thought. A sense of relief washed through her at the knowledge that they all wanted to do something... they wanted to help with the war anyway they could, but they wanted to have their lives, too. Lily would never be able to explain how good that realization felt. She was sure they could find a way to do both, or maybe it would never even come to that.

A quick knock came at the portrait and the group fell silent. The sound was followed by the Fat Lady’s angry shouts, apparently telling the person off for striking her.

“It can’t be a Prospect,” Lily whispered, scrunching her brows together. “They all went home for holiday.” She glanced at James, who nodded then retrieved his wand from the table they’d been playing chess at. The rest of the group followed, all of them pointing their wands at the door as they collectively inched forward. Lily had to bite back a giggle at the image of how ridiculous they probably looked.

After glancing around at all of them to be sure they were ready, James flung open the portrait. The face of Destry Lovell, a fifth year Hufflepuff Prefect, was glancing nervously at them.

“Erm...” he stuttered, then brought a shaky hand forward and handed James a note. Before they could even apologize for frightening him, he was already rushing off down the corridor.

“That was odd,” Lily mumbled. “I’m sure we startled him, but he didn’t have to take off so fast...”

“Hufflepuffs,” Sirius said shaking his head, “no spine, that lot. What’s the note say, anyway?”

Lily watched as James took it back over to his chair and unfolded it, causing another piece of parchment to tumble out. He glanced at the front, then looked up at Lily and handed it over to her.

She saw the green curvy M, McGonagall’s seal, at the top of parchment and smoothed it out before reading.

Miss Evans, I would like to use this first evening of Holiday as an opportunity to discuss a few matters. It’s imperative that the Heads of House begin thinking of possible candidates for Head Boy and Girl as soon as possible and wish to further consult you on a decision. I would like to meet with you and Mr. Potter at your Heads’ Quarters in an hour’s time.

Professor McGonagall

“What do they say?” Sirius asked, going back and forth between peering over both Lily and James’s shoulders.

“She has an idea for Quidditch,” James started, scanning over his letter again. “She said that with the cup getting closer we may want to keep things, discussions about plays and all that, more private and that she found an available classroom. She wants me to meet here there to check it out, then go to the Heads’ Quarters to talk with her and Lily about next year stuff.”

“But zis is school related nonsense!” Belle whined. “You’re supposed to be on holiday!”

“It’s better to get it out of the way now, though,” Lily reasoned. “She said she doesn’t need to meet with me for an hour, but I need to feed Butterscotch dinner anyway so I’ll just leave with you, James.”

Lily placed her note on the table beside James’s, then grabbed her rucksack and slung it over her shoulder, trying to fight back the slight annoyance she felt about getting their relaxing evening disturbed.

“Come back when you guys are through, yeah?” Remus asked. They both agreed and said a quick goodbye before following one another through the portrait and down the corridor.

“Your mum and dad’s offer is really sweet,” Lily said, linking fingers with James as their footsteps echoed through the corridor. She felt his pace slow and raised an eyebrow when he stopped completely, only a few yards away from the Gryffindor common room.

“You’re excited about it, right? You want to move in with Belle and everything?”

“Of course! I hope finding a place isn’t too difficult, though. I’m sure between your parents and the professors we can find some sort of suggestions.”

He looked away before speaking, his hands fiddling nervously with hers. “I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to... if we were supposed to... but i figured this way if we wanted to later on we could just shuffle roommates around a bit.”

Lily had to pause for a moment, struggling to put his sentences together. “You mean move in together?” she asked, not surprised when he nodded.

“Yeah, I thought it was probably too soon to ask you. But now if we do want to down the road, we can figure something else out between both of our flats.”

Even though Lily had been relieved that he hadn’t asked her to move in yet, the idea that it crossed his mind and he was thinking of heading that way eventually brought a new kind of warmth through her. Knowing that he thought of their future, of a life that involved both of them ending up together, gave her a strong sense of comfort.

She reached stood up on her tiptoes and touched her lips gently to his, not surprised when he moved to deepen the kiss.

“Rubbish excuse of a Head Boy, you are,” she said, smiling as she pulled away. “Snogging girls in the corridor.”

“I believe the Head Girl started it,” James countered, laughing when she feigned innocence.

“Head Boy and Head Girl ending up together. We're terribly cliche, you know.”

James just smiled the half smirk/half lopsided one that Lily loved so much. They reached the corridor that James had to continue down much too quickly, and Lily sent a wave as they parted ways. When she reached the portrait to her quarters, her smile grew to laughter as she watched the painted versions of her and James bicker on the grass.

“Lily Evans,” she said, then paused to think of her secret. According to Professor Dumbledore, if it wasn’t absolutely true then the portrait wouldn’t open. Maybe she could test something out... just out of curiosity. She said the password quietly under her breath, then glanced into the green eyes of the Lily in the painting and said, “I’m in love with James Potter.”

A rush of excitement washed through her when the portrait allowed her access.

Now if she could only build up the courage to tell him.

James looked at the letters and numbers engraved to the doors, relieved when he finally found the one he was searching for. Why on earth the professor wanted to use a room set so far apart from the main areas was lost on him, but at least it would be private, he supposed.

Something about this part of the castle felt more aged than the rest. Maybe because the caretaker wasn’t constantly going over the floors with a mop. Dust gathered just a bit thicker, the stone smelling more natural and less like cleaning products. It wasn’t a bad thing, though. In fact, it felt more like how he imagined Hogwarts had been when the Founders created it so many years ago.

He reached for the brass handle and pushed opened the door. The oil lamps had been set aflame, giving the room a soft glow as the last of the sun started dipping away. He was surprised that McGonagall wasn’t there yet. Maybe she’d assumed he would take longer than he had. He shrugged off his rucksack and began going around the room, trying to figure out why she’d suggest this one. It was rather small, much smaller than the ones they had lessons in. The team wasn’t big though, so that wasn’t an issue. But the corridor that held the Transfiguration classroom had tons of unused rooms. McGonagall had said so herself before, so why couldn’t they just use a more convenient one of those?

The sound of the door opening caused him to turn. He felt a hot rush of anger when he saw Violet Clarke step through the heavy wooden barrier, wearing something that showed more skin than the pictures in Witches Gone Wild, and close it behind her.

She must’ve sensed his reaction, because she quickly held up a note that was identical to his own.

“McGonagall sent for me,” she explained. But James didn’t care. He wasn’t able to rid himself of the bitter feelings he had toward the girl who was purposefully trying to hurt Lily, but still he forced himself to remain placid. Lily made it clear she didn’t want Violet knowing that she’d been upset, or to have the Seeker thrown off the team. So James would just ignore her while they waited for the Gryffindor Head of House.

Lily filled the small bowl in her room up with crunchy little bits of cat food, petting her kitten - well, cat now, but Butterscotch would always be a kitten to her - on the head while he sank his teeth into the kibble. She pulled her wand from her jumper pocket and pointed it at a second bowl, causing a jet of water to shoot into it.

“There you go, sweet kitten,” she said, placing her wand on the ground next to her as she bent down and sat against the side of her bed. She’d just written to the Magical Menagerie in Diagon Alley asking them to pick out whatever toys they recommended for the amount of coins she sent. She hoped the owl was able to deliver them by the end of next week. That way, when holiday was over and N.E.W.T.s revision became life consuming, Scotch - Butterscotch - would have something new toy to play with.

She heard the slam of the portrait downstairs, and smiled to herself at the thought of James being back so early.

Maybe if she’d been thinking clearly she would have realized that it wasn’t possible for James to be back already, even if he left the classroom immediately after arriving. Then maybe, if that thought would have crossed her mind, she’d have been prepared. Her wand wouldn’t have been left lying on the floor beside Butterscotch’s bowls.

And she wouldn’t have walked down the stairs to see the face of Alrek, eyes half-crazed, staring up at her.

“Hello, lovely Lily.”

And there's that Witches Gone Wild popping up again! The title is a play on the Muggle magazine, Girls Gone Wild, founded and property of Joe Francis.

I'M SORRY for the cliff hanger! In my defense, it wasn't there before. But this ended up being nearly eleven thousand words. And that is just a little bit ridiculous. I still hope you like the chapter, anyway!

Thank you so much to my awesome Beta, CambAngst, for always being so very helpful!

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