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Before They Fall by Jchrissy
Chapter 33 : A Servant's Attack
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 16

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Insanely perfect CI by heartfelt.@TDA
Chapter 33 - A Servant's Attack

“Alrek.” Lily felt the color wash from her face as she kept her eyes locked with the Durmstrang transfer. “Did you need something?” she asked, refusing to allow her voice to shake. She felt her fingers tremble, an instinctual fear drizzling into her as she took in the sight of his detached expression.

“Yes, Lily,” he whispered, taunting her. “I do need something.”

Lily bit back the panic that flowed through her, her mind drawing forward the image of her wand left lying on her bedroom floor. She needed to get that first, then go from there. For all she knew, he’d come buy just to talk. But she wouldn’t be willing to bet on that, and didn’t want to finish her descent down the stairs until she was armed.

“Let me just go feed my cat,” she said, still forcing the false calmness into her tone. “Then I’ll be right back to help you with whatever you need.”

An icy chill froze her in place as Alrek lifted his wand. With one simple flick, her own willow wand came zooming down the staircase and into Alrek’s hand. Lily felt the humming panic turn into terror and stab through her. She concentrated on taking steady breaths as he tossed her wand to the side and took a step closer to the stairs.

“I’ve been vaiting so long for this,” he whispered, snarling at her as he stalked closer.

The immobilizing fear became drowned out by the survival instincts pounding through her, adrenaline instructing her blood to run hot and fast, urging her to get away. She was wandless. She needed to get out... to keep him calm and run when he least expected it.

“Let’s sit down...” she started, hoping to distract Alrek, but all it did was bring him closer.

He took a few steps toward her, slow, painful as they began destroying her small window of freedom. She couldn’t let it get that far. Without allowing herself to think twice, she propelled her body toward the door. Maybe if she caught him off guard, if he wasn’t prepared she could make it through and-

Her thoughts were muted as a searing pain broke open in her head, trickling down her spine as her long mane of hair was yanked back. The weight of her body was thrown too far off balance and she crashed down onto the stone floor.

“Not so fast, pretty Lily,” came his voice, followed by the shadow of him standing over her. “I’m not finished playing just yet.”

James paced the room again, then pulled out his pocket watch. Eleven minutes. Since when was Professor McGonagall ever even a minute late?

“She probably just had to check on something,” Violet said, obviously picking up on his impatience. “But come look at this new play I’ve been working on.”

James’s curiosity rose. Even if she was a thoughtless slag, Violet could still put together some brilliant plays. And Lily had said she wanted James to keep the girl on the team so they would have a chance at winning. He supposed just glancing at her play couldn’t hurt.

He made his way over, hands stuffed into his pockets as he sunk into a chair on the opposite side of the desk. His eyes gravitated toward the insanely low neckline of Violet’s top, which barely covered her chest. Not that he’d meant to, but it was hard not to get caught on something that was hanging half out. He glanced back up and saw a smirk on her face, which sent his annoyance skyrocketing back up.

“What are you playing at, Violet?” he asked, unable to stop himself.

Her lashes, all stuck together with some gunky looking stuff, batted at him. “What do you mean, James?”

“Oh drop the bloody act. Did you make up a lie or something to get McGonagall to leave the room and not come back for a bit? And why are you wearing...” His eyes traveled over her, not even knowing what to call the combination of tight, low shirt and the strip of fabric he supposed she was passing off as a skirt. Honestly, he was surprised her knickers weren’t hanging out the bottom. “That. Is this your new thing? To walk around the castle looking like you’re going to meet some bloke who’s about to pay you for the night?”

A genuine look of hurt passed quickly through her eyes and for a moment James felt guilty about his words. He hadn’t meant to sound so harsh, but what he said wasn’t untrue.

“Look,” he began, trying to calm himself. “I thought we understood each other. I picked you for the position of Seeker because you were the best. And we talked about what that meant.” He knew Lily would be angry at him, but he’d deal with it. He didn’t want to play the sixth year’s games, especially when it meant spending his rare free time stuck in a room with her. “So why are you trying to fuck that all up?”

“I’m not trying to fuck anything up! I’m just showing you a bloody Quidditch play!”

“No. You aren’t. You’re talking to anyone who will listen about how much you hate Lily and about how we should be together.” Her cheeks went red, but James didn’t care. “What, you really thought that wouldn’t get back to me, Violet? Or did you hope once it did I’d decide to break up with the best girl any bloke could ever ask for and go chasing after you?”

“I don’t even understand what you see in her!” Violet shouted, letting go of her quill, causing it to tumble to the ground. “She’s a know-it-all. She never does anything fun, and she’s as flat as a bloody-”

“Just shut up,” James said with a sigh. He was done hearing the girl’s drama. God, if a bloke wanted another bloke’s girl they’d at least be open about it. “I want Lily. Not you. I thought you understood that when we made our agreement at the start of the season, but obviously not. You’re off the team.”

Her face twisted and James could tell she was about to yell, but before she could he felt a small vibration coming from his robe pocket. His Snitch.

Lily felt her heartbeat pounding in her ears as she struggled to scramble from the place where he’d pulled her down. She barely managed to maneuver her body back up when she saw his hand raise out of the corner of her eyes; before she could duck out of the way, he made contact with her cheek, his knuckles assaulting the fragile bone.

His weight knocked her back a few feet, sending her tumbling on the stairs. Her body thankfully reacted and she caught herself with her hands before smashing into the steps.

She moved faster this time, nearly jumping as she got to her feet and backed farther away from him, anger dulling the pain on the left side of her face. “So it was you who told Bellatrix where we’d be at Christmas?” He’d let them - no, planned for them - to walk into death then smiled as casually as could be when they returned from the holiday. “Was it like seeing a ghost when you realized we were still alive?” she snarled, the reality of it all fueling a sort of rage like she’d never felt before.

“You think I vas not being aware that you lived until then?” A humorless smile danced over him. “I was aware the second you escaped, and I am being forced to pay for that in ways you’d never understand.” The blank sort of expression he’d held until then started mixing with excitement... maybe anger. Lily couldn’t tell.

“Or maybe you will be able to understand them yet. I’m going to make you feel what I vent through because of you, because you vere too stupid to let yourself die. It vould have been nearly painless, you know. Even if Bellatrix is known to torture her toys before killing them, it vould still have been much better than vhat you’ll go through now.”

He really could kill her. The realization shot through Lily like lightning striking the ground. His eyes. The way they stared into her. He hadn’t come here just to hurt her - he would kill her. He was capable of it.

“So how long have you been his servant? Working for someone who doesn’t give two shits about your life?” she spat, not surprised this time when his fist came at the other side of her face. Even being nearly prepared for it didn’t make it hurt less. The power behind it threatened to fog over her mind, but she managed to grip the stairwell and keep her body erect.

“Long enough to know how to humiliate and hurt you so badly that you’ll be begging for me to kill you in a few minutes time. But I von’t be letting you get away that easy. No, lovely Lily, you’re going to understand what it’s like to vant to die before it happens.”

He wanted to make it slow. Drawn out. That knowledge brought Lily a small sense of relief. If she could hold just long enough, McGonagall would be there. The note had said an hour. At least twenty minutes had to have gone by. If she could hang on for another forty more, then they would catch him in the act of it all and not only could she live, but Alrek would spend his life in Azkaban.

“Someone will come,” she finally said, hoping she could scare him into fleeing sooner.

A hollow sort of laugh filled the room. Not the kind that made it seem like he was losing his sanity even more, but the sort that made it clear he was amused by her words.

She watched his eyes search over her before he finally said, “No, they von’t.”

Lily tried to gauge him, to figure out who was calling whose bluff.

The realization was agonizingly slow, but it finally crashed over her.

“The letters. They weren’t from McGonagall. That’s why Destry Lovell acted so odd. You forced him into deliver them,” she said, still keeping her eyes on his and trying to inch her way further up the stairs. She needed a plan. She wasn’t going to die in this fucking castle at the hands of some lunatic with a God complex.

“Odd that you are being called the smartest vitch in generations. You were stupid enough to fall for every bit of my plan. Both you and Potter.”

Oh God, James. “Did you hurt James, Alrek?” The words shook as they slipped from her lips.

“Why vould I vaste my time on him vhen I have a pretty redhead waiting for me? The Dark Lord vill get the pleasure of dealing with Potter soon enough. But rest assured, my Lily, he von’t be interrupting us.”

He trailed his eyes up her body, forcing a shiver through her bones. The questions she’d been trying to block from her mind were slowly finding a way in; what would he do to her? What would he make her withstand before killing her? Before she could escape?

“What did you do to him, Alrek?” Lily demanded, trying to sound stronger than she felt.

“Always being the curious one, aren’t you? If it eases your vorry, I can assure you that someone is keeping him company for an undetermined amount of time. Hours, possibly. Hours for us to be alone together.” He moved closer to her, following her up the stairs. She couldn’t keep backing away. The second she got to the top he’d just rip her back down. Or use her room-

Her room! Hadn’t her letter said that boys were unable to enter it? But Remus had gotten in the time she had a flashback about her parents-

Oh God. Had she gone through all that for nothing? Gone through losing her parents just to die less than a year after them? What would Petunia say?

No, Lily thought, blinking back the worry pooling in her eyes. No. She wasn’t going to die. Remus had been able to get in her room because she needed him. What had Peter told them about the castle? That it could evolve? Its magic understood the students? It knew not to let James in, but it allowed Remus to enter when she’d needed someone. What would it do if Alrek tried? Would it keep him out for even a minute?

But then what would she do? She had no wand. No way to get her wand. Maybe she could grab something and hit him hard enough to run past him. If she was just able to tell someone where she was - the Snitch! James always had his Snitch. She could send him a message. The picture was on her night table... all the room had to do was keep Alrek out for a few seconds, long enough for her to get to the table and talk to the picture.

“Do you vant to know what it feels like to have the Dark Lord unhappy vith you, Lily?” Alrek asked, ripping apart Lily’s coherent thoughts. She felt her limbs grow heavy as his eyes drilled into hers.

His hand came darting toward her and she tried to yank her body away but wasn’t fast enough; his meaty fist grabbed the front of her jumper. “Do you vant to know what it feels like to have someone in complete control of you, the vay the Dark Lord does? And vhat happens when you upset your Master?”

His other hand clenched her upper arm and before she could fight him off her body was thrown into the wall, his eyes greedy as they focused on their prey. He released the hand clenching to the front of her robes just long enough to draw out his wand and point it at her. Lily prepared herself for the fire of the Cruciatus, the mind control of the Imperius, but neither came. Instead, he slashed the wand over the top half of her body, tearing the fabric of her jumper apart.

Whatever she held inside her that had kept her calm, kept her playing his game, snapped. The need to protect herself took over. Her limbs went wild, fighting the much larger boy in any way she could. Somewhere in her mind she heard her mother telling her and Petunia what to do if anyone ever wanted to hurt them, the silly self defense kind of advice that no one remembers or uses.

But Lily was doing both. She was driving her elbow toward his face, her mind blocking out the feeling of the pointy bone meeting his cheek. She used his second of distraction to free her other arm, her skin on fire as he struggled to hold on as tightly as he could. But the animal like instinct screaming at her to get away was stronger; her knee was already coming up, hitting him in the one place every girl was taught to utilize if they were ever in danger.

And for a split second, he froze.

It was just long enough. Lily sprinted up the stairs, jumper dangling around her and half falling off. Her breath came in gasps, her heart nearly stopping as she heard his feet echo behind her. Just inches from her door, her body was pulled to a halt as his hands clamped around her throat. For a second, she was sure that was it. She couldn’t handle the kind of pressure his fingers were applying to the delicate area, cutting off the flow of oxygen to her hazy brain. Panic took over and she tried to scream, to cry. She reached up and her fingers found his, her nails digging into the hands trying to choke the life from her.

He loosened his grip just enough and she darted from him, a warm, slimy liquid covering her fingers.

She threw her body into the room, slamming the door just as he tried to reach out and grab her again.

“There’s nowhere to go now, pretty Lily,” Alrek said with a merciless laugh. “And now all you’ve done is make me very angry.”

Lily didn’t wait to see what happened when he turned the door handle, wasn’t able to enjoy watching the small, golden lion-shaped-lock flick its tail and secure the door. Instead, she dove across her bed and gripped the small picture of James, her fingers shaking violently as the streaked the image with red.

“Get James. It’s Alrek. The whole time it’s been Alrek. He’s here. The Head’s Quarters. I don’t know how long I can hold him off.”

A fierce sob escaped with her words, but she bit it back and placed the picture on the table. Lily heard Alrek on the other side of the door, screaming spell after spell. It wouldn’t hold for long. Whatever the castle could do, it couldn’t keep her haven locked forever. She sucked back the terror that came with that thought, and instead prepared herself.

Pulling the tattered jumper off to reveal her camisole, she rushed to the fireplace and slid the long, metal poker from its holder. She gave herself barely a second to stop and breathe before rushing toward the door, clutching it in both hands. She shut her eyes, praying she was in the middle of a terrible nightmare, and leaned her body against the wood and plaster.

When he got through, she would be ready to fight.

James looked at the face of Lily in his picture as she said the last word, a clammy panic filling him.

Violet was staring at the photo as well, her eyes large and mouth open. He wanted to ask her if she knew, ask her if she’d walked his girlfriend into a fucking murder, but he was up too quickly and sprinting for the door. He would deal with her later. His hand clamped around the handle and pulled, but the door stayed sealed.

“James,” Violet said, her voice shaky as she came up behind him. “Don’t be angry... he just wants to speak with her.”

James’s temper, which got out of control very rarely, took hold of him and he whirled around. “Talk to her? He’s a fucking Death Eater, Violet! Open this goddamn door-”

He saw her face go pale, panic filling her eyes.

“No...” she stuttered, “no. He said he just wanted to ask her to give him a chance. He just...”

James balled his fists, wishing more than anything Violet was a goddamn bloke so he could sock her.

“He’s going to kill her, Violet.” His voice so low with anger even he could barely hear it. “He is going to kill her and you’re going to be the reason he had the chance. Tell me how to open this fucking door!

“I...I don’t know.” She broke into a sob, pulling her wand out and muttering a spell James had never heard of. “Alrek, he said that I should lock the door in case you got angry and tried to leave and wouldn’t talk to me. And it made sense at the time... and he gave me a spell to use to lock it but he never... he never told me how to unlock it.”

James felt his stomach churn, his insides twisting together. “That’s a lie. You’re lying,” he snarled, stepping closer to her as she shook her head frantically.

“It’s not, I’m not lying, James. I’m, I’m sorry-”

“Sorry?” he shouted, his skin growing hot with rage. “You helped plan a fucking murder and you’re sorry? I’ll kill you, Violet. If she isn’t okay, I’ll kill you.” He took a breath, knowing he wouldn’t help Lily if he didn’t get himself under control. “Where’s McGonagall? What did you tell her to get her to leave us alone for so long?”

He watched her face go white with panic before she backed away, then whispered, “She’s not coming, James. The notes... they were fake.”

Nothing he’d felt before was comparable to the fire now running through him. The hot flames of anger fueled with fear, eating at him and destroying any ability to rationalize, to plan. There was no way out... Lily was with the fucking Death Eater and he couldn’t get out of this bloody room! The fire bubbled up in his throat. He whirled around and gripped the wood and metal chair in his hands, then sent it flying across the room. The action helped bring some sense of stability back into him, and he paced in a few quick, short lines, kicking the desk as he walked by it.

The most important thing was to get help to Lily. He pulled his wand out and turned toward the back of the room, forcing his fingers to stay steady as he cast the charm. A small white wisp shot lamely from the tip of his wand, but nothing else. Fuck. Not now. He had to concentrate.

Lily. No. He couldn’t think about her right now.

Christmas. His mum’s face when he and Sirius gave her the homemade photo album filled with pictures they took at Hogwarts. Both their O.W.L results letters taped sloppily to the back. The album had been Lily’s idea... Watching Lily and his mum smile together... Watching the girl of his dreams sit there and laugh at his dad’s jokes like they were the funniest things in the damn world when everyone knew they were rubbish...

“Expecto Patronum!” The stag shot from the tip of his wand like a ball from a cannon, hooves stomping and antlers swaying as the creature threw back his head. James yelled the spell again, his shaking hand resting on the stag’s nose.

“Get this message to Sirius: Alrek has Lily in the Heads’ Quarters. He’s the one - I don’t know how long she has. Send word to Dumbledore and get to Lily.”

The creature nodded with understanding and James swore he could feel the animal’s own worry. He didn’t care if it was just a spell, just white mist formed from his own happiness.

He turned back to the door, knowing he would do whatever it took to blow the fucking thing to pieces. Before he raised his wand and started casting an array of curses, he let his head rest against the wall. His eyes burned with all that emotions that he forced back.

“Please, she has to be okay,” he whispered to no one but himself.

Then, pulling himself together, he took a step back and raised his wand.

He was going to get out and he was going to make it her in time. Whatever he had to do.

Lily stared at her bone white fingers still gripping the poker as the sound of wood breaking apart filled the air. She tried to breathe, in and out, in and out, tried not to flinch as splinters broke from the door and fell to the ground.

She knew her only option was to stab him hard enough that he’d be unable to get up. She couldn’t run, he’d hear her and curse her as she fled down the stairs. She had no way to get away from him... unless he was unable to stop her.

With one loud bang, the remaining wood disintegrated into ashes, smoke filling the room from whatever spell he’d cast. She watched him walk in, slowly, confidently. A whimper threatened to escape but she bit it back, tiptoeing behind him as he took a few more steps into the room.

“Lily,” he cooed, unaware of the girl standing just inches away. She steeled herself, knowing she wouldn’t last much longer if she didn’t do this... and with one final breath she aimed the poker at the center of his back and threw her weight behind plunging it into him.

But she was too late. His eyes had already found the mirror across from him, watched the girl raise her weapon. He stepped back just enough to avoid it then lifted his wand, causing the metal rod to zoom from her hands and crash against the wall.

“No no no, darling Lily,” he taunted, shaking his head. Without thinking twice she turned and tried to throw herself from the room, but his spell was faster. A curtain of flames roared into existence between her and the exit, cracking madly as they dared her to try and break through them. But she would rather suffer the burns than what Alrek would do to her. Anything to get away.

Before she could try and propel herself through fire, an invisible rope lashed out and twisted around her throat, snaking down and capturing her body so that all of her limbs were held tightly in place. She watched him yank his wand back, causing her body to come flying toward him and falling at his feet.

“Alrek,” she pleaded through the pain of the cord slicing into her skin, knowing how close she was to breaking, the desperation coursing through her. “You don’t have to do this.”

That brought a smile twisting with pleasure over his face. “I know I don’t have to do this. I want to, Lily. Do you know what they’re going to say to me when Master finds out I killed you? Something not even Bellatrix managed to do.”

In an instant, the restraints loosened just enough to stop from biting further into her flesh and Lily nearly breathed a sigh of relief, until she realized his torture was merely transferred. He brought his wand up, pointing it directly at her and causing something in her head to explode. A scream tore from her as a hot pressure grew behind her skull, more excruciating than anything she’d ever felt.

“And ve’re only getting started, Lily. How much do you think the human body can be handling?”

The concentration it took to maintain both spells was too great for Alrek, and when Lily trashed madly against binds she was able to free her legs. The pain in her head blurred her vision but she ran anyway, unsure of her direction.

His attack on her mind halted and she was able to blink away the tears, only to see she’d cornered herself into the wall and fireplace, farther from the door than before.

“You can struggle all you vant, Lily.” He raised his wand again, moving his arm slowly so Lily was forced to wait, terrified of what his next assault would be.

James had gotten her message. Someone would find her. She had to believe that, to keep herself alive. But the injuries covered her, the gashes that the rope had created, the shakiness of her weakened mental state... what would come next?

Her arms were yanked back as Alrek’s spell left his lips, becoming bound at the elbows. But the binding didn’t stop there and continued traveling upward, pulling her shoulders together. Lily bit down as she felt the muscles struggled to stretch, finally crying out when something tore deep in her shoulder. Pain stabbed through the area, radiating down as her arm went limp, the rotator cuff rendered useless. He was saying something, taunting her, but she could barely hear the words anymore. She felt the salty paths of tears streak her face as she imagined what James would say. Belle and Alice. What it would be like for them to find her here like this... or however she would look after Alrek was done with her?

“Vhat if we just take you apart? Muscle by muscle, joint by joint. Until even moving an inch is too painful.”

How long could she fight? How long could she handle it? The question taunted her as she struggled to breathe past the pain, her mind slowly detaching from it all.

Would he even leave her body for them to find?

No, said a small voice in the back of her mind. No. You can’t give up yet or you’re as good as letting him kill you.

“How are ve going to do this, Lily?” Alrek asked, stepping closer to her. “If you start begging now, maybe I vill have pity on you and make it less painful. You would be amazed at the things I am capable of doing to you.”

The breath in her lungs became hot, sharp is she tried to pass a scream through her throat. At first she thought it was raw from shouting, but as she struggled to take another gulp of air the feeling only heightened. It was like needles and fire were trying to work their way through her, the oxygen she needed too painful to take in.

“This one is a curse I had yet to learn until I began vorking for the Dark Lord. Every breath you take, it feels like someone is slicing you from the inside out, does it not?”

Scream. Do something! But she couldn’t risk the air -- couldn’t risk the pain.

“Vhat should I do to you before I kill you, Lily?” A black sort of blur edged into her and she forced herself to take another breath. The hot stabs moved through, excruciating as the air inched its way down. She didn’t know how many more breaths she could take.

“Look at me vhen I speak to you,” he ordered, and her head was forced back up, her watery vision barely able to make him out as he stared down at her. “Much better. Now that you’re behaving, I have something I vould like to be showing you.”

He bent down to her level, but she didn’t even have the energy to try and scramble away from him. His hand clenched his sleeve and pulled it up.

Lily’s eyes took in the Dark Mark, the only time she’d ever actually seen a branded arm, with a dull sort of acknowledgement. The lack of oxygen was numbing everything, and she knew it would only be second until she’d have to breathe again.

His hand jetted out, breaking the hold on her arms and grabbing the already damaged one, forcing her to cry out as he stretched the injured muscle in her shoulder. An act that only brought more torture as the razors slashed through her throat.

“You vill die with a burn the shape of the Mark on you, proof that it was one of His who took your worthless life away.”

The tip of his wand started traveling over Lily’s forearm, and for a moment it felt like he was running ice over her. That moment faded faster than a heartbeat and she realized it was heat, intense, blistering heat.

“Please,” she begged, trying in vain to pull her arm away as the burns sank into her skin.

A slam from downstairs sounded through the room, and Lily watched as Alrek jumped up and snapped his head toward the door.

It was less than a second. But it was all she needed to remind herself that she was still alive. Still fighting. Her mind escaped from its moment of lapsed control and she felt like she was somewhere else - sitting outside of the broken body as she watched her hand clutch to the side of the fireplace and pull herself up. She ignored the pain jetting through her shoulder and grabbed a steel and glass lantern off the wall.

The last thing she heard before her body finally gave way to the exhaustion was the sound of his shriek as her weapon broke over his head.

“Is he dead?” she heard a deep voice ask, one she would recognize anywhere. Sirius.

“No.” That voice wasn’t Sirius’s. Softer. Calmer. Older. “I’m nearly certain he’s just unconscious, Mr. Black. Though there is something rather odd. You didn’t arrive until just moments ago, correct?”

“Yes Sir.”

“Interesting. Well, it seems your hand has somehow become stained in blood, rather like the kind covering Mr. Rukin’s face. A severe broken nose, I suspect.”

She hadn’t broken her nose, had she?

“Yeah, well... couldn’t do much else when he’s already passed out,” Sirius mumbled and she heard Dumbledore make some sort of tutting, amused response.

“Headmaster,” came a breathless shout. Lily struggled to put a face to the voice. “I came as quickly as I could. You haven’t moved her?” Madam Pomfrey, Lily realized hazily as she conjured an image of the woman in her mind.

Lily didn’t hear Dumbledore’s response, but felt a light sort of warmth wrap around her. It was like someone was covering her with a cloud, gentle and soft as it lifted her body up. She tried to open her eyes, but the heaviness of them remained persistent.

Part of her struggled to understand what this meant. The sound of her friend’s voice, the Headmaster and Matron. She survived. She had to have survived, right? Unless he was still standing over here, using his wand to wield false hope into her mind before yanking it away again.

The thought terrified her and she took in a quick gulp of air, panic filling her.

“Shhh, stay calm, Miss Evans,” Madam Pomfrey coaxed, and Lily attempted to force away the idea that it could all be fake. “Here, this will help you sleep while I assess your injuries.” She felt her body land gently on the bed, then a soft, wrinkled hand cupped her face and eased her mouth open. The potion slid down her throat without any effort on her part, and Lily allowed the fog it created to take over.

“And she didn’t say if Mr. Rukin had any other accomplices in the school, Mr. Potter?” Lily nearly smiled as the sound of Professor McGonagall’s voice broke into her mind. Something about the clipped tone, though softer now than usual, brought an odd kind of comfort.

“No. If he does, I don’t think Violet knows. She didn’t seem willing to try and protect him or anything after I found out that they’d forged the notes, or aware that Alrek’s goal with Lily was much different than he told her.” James, Lily thought with a smile.

His always confident tone was much shakier than usual and she wished she could open her eyes, sit up and tell him that it was okay. She was okay. Wasn’t she?

“I see. We’ll of course speak with her regardless. Thank you, Mr. Potter.” Professor McGonagall’s voice became lower, hushed so that Lily had to strain her ears to hear the rest. “Be cautions when she wakes up. She may still be disoriented. If the injures Madam Pomfrey tended to were any indication, the struggle to keep herself alive was a brutal one.”

“And what’s going to happen to him?” James asked, a snarl accompanying his words.

“Professor Genov is escorting Mr. Rukin to the Ministry. He will be held there until someone from the Bulgarian Department of Magical Law can escort him into their country where he’ll go to trial.”

“If he isn’t convicted?” James asked, an obvious anger in his words.

“He will be. We’ll make sure of it.”

Silence followed, and after a few long seconds Professor McGonagall spoke again. “I’ll give you some privacy. Though I’m not certain your friends will be able to wait downstairs for much longer.”

“Thanks, Professor. Also, if I ever see Violet on the Quidditch Pitch again, you’ll be sending someone to untie her from the goal post.”

“Understandable, Mr. Potter.”

Lily heard the door slam and finally coaxed her eyes to open just a sliver, surprised to see she was still in her dormitory. The room was dark, apart from the flickers of light from the lanterns and the flame roaring in the fireplace. She didn’t allow herself to imagine what had happened there hours ago, and instead let her lashes fall together again, blocking the room out.

She’d survived.

“You’re so brave, Lily,” she heard James whisper, followed by the sound of a chair scraping the floor as he moved to sit next to her. “I never should have left you. I didn’t even think about checking the letters for authenticity. Stupid. Careless.” His hand reached up, gently brushing back her hair. “But it won’t happen anymore. He’s gone and he’s going to spend the rest of his life in prison. Even if we have to go to Bulgaria to testify... whatever it takes to make sure he doesn’t get away with this.”

Silence followed, the music of the flames as they crackled and devoured the logs being the only thing to fracture the quiet air. She felt a small movement at the end of her bed followed by four little paws dancing toward her, an orange ball curling up on the pillow beside her head.

“Be gentle, Butterscotch,” James coaxed as the cat flicked its tail. Lily felt his hand move from her face to the animal, giving it a few strokes before speaking again. “Everyone is downstairs. They really want to see you, but I needed a minute. To make sure you're actually okay, I guess. Just to see you. I was so worried when I got your message. The kind of worry I didn’t even realize someone could feel. I swear, loving you this much is going to kill me someday,” he said with a quiet laugh. Lily felt her lips curve into a smile, warmth filling her.

“I love you too,” she whispered, her voice raspy as it struggled against her damaged vocal cords.

“Lily,” he said, surprised as she peeled her eyes open. “I didn’t know you were awake.” She took in the sight of his face. Pale, black and purple circles around his eyes. His hair even messier than usual. Lily’s heart gave a heavy thud as she just stared, not able to understand how she could possibly feel so much for one human being.

She tried to talk, to make a joke about how she apparently had to fake being asleep to find out how he really felt about her. But the pain it caused her injured throat was too much and instead James bent down and silenced her with a soft kiss.

“I really do love you, though,” he said, nuzzling into her neck. “And I need you to stop almost getting killed. Because I’m not sure what I’d do without you.”

She laughed, but before she could try to say anything else, noise filled the staircase and flowed into the room, hushed whispers arguing about whether they should come in or not.

James looked at Lily and she nodded in agreement.

“Alright, come on you lot,” James instructed.

The overwhelming sense of joy filled Lily as all her friends came pouring in, Belle half shoving James out of his spot as her and Alice each went to one side of her. She moved forward, ignoring James’s protest as sat up in the bed, smiling at the group all molded around her.

Sirius leaned over and hugged her, giving her a kiss on the head, causing James to make some joke about not wanting to have to knock his best mate out for kissing his girl. Peter offered to write to Lily’s sister for her if she wanted, to let her know what had happened, but Lily shook her head. As sweet as the gesture was, she didn’t think the news would mean much to Petunia. But they all did agree that Mr. and Mrs. Potter, as well as Frank, needed to be owled and told what had happened.

She thanked Remus as he carried over a cup of tea from a table that had been set up by the fireplace, and grudgingly accepted the terrible potion he’d been instructed by Madam Pomfrey to make sure she took. Nothing that was the color of mud and smelled like eggs could be good.

As her friends continued to talk around her and to her, giving her worried glances every few seconds, she couldn’t help but laugh. This is why she’d fought so hard for her life. Why she would do it again if she had to. Because she had these people, the odd combination of personalities, sometimes blending sometimes clashing, to call a family. And it was the best family she could ever ask for.

Regulus sat in the room, the low flame flickering rhythmically across the wall. He let his eyes travel around, taking in the masked faces around him - the same masks that concealed his own. He knew his cousin was under one, Lucius, Rodolphus... but there were still more Death Eaters present than normal.

The Slytherin seventh years sat, looking half terrified and half amazed, in wooden chairs at the back of the room. Regulus hadn’t been around long enough to know what the Dark Lord’s typical trials for a Marking were. But until he’d been Marked he’d never met with more than two Death Eaters at once. By the whispers that were passing through the room, he gathered that it what was occurring was highly unconventional.

Severus Snape looked to be the most relaxed one. His face showed not a trace of emotion. Regulus felt a pang of jealousy; the seventh year had always seemed so aloof, so unaffected by anything around him. He wished he was able to hide emotions, or lack the feeling of them - whichever it was - the way Snape was able. Rosier, Mulciber, and Avery were sitting beside him. Regulus had been under the impression Abigail would be attempting to join the ranks. Had she changed her mind? For her sake, Regulus hoped not. No one changed their mind. Not when it was concerning the Dark Lord.

A quick flash of light filled the room. Regulus tensed up, knowing who that signaled.

The first five rose. Two of them going to the main doors and standing on either side. Regulus knew what this meant. Someone was going to be brought in.

The other three moved to the back of the room and took their wands out. Was the Dark Lord worried about his servants putting up a protest against something? Why else would three of the first five be preparing to duel? Regulus’s eyes moved to their Master as he became visible in the center of the room. His face was, as always, unreadable. His movements slow as he paced, looking them over.

“You are being granted a privilege many are not,” he began, his glance on the four possible Death Eaters. “To meet in my presence, being given pieces of my invaluable time. This is not something I award lightly. But this evening there has been an occurrence in which I find it necessary to gather us all together. Even those of you who simply wish to posses my Mark shall benefit from this lesson.”

Regulus felt a shiver run down his spine. A lesson taught by the Dark Lord was not something to be eager about. It was a demonstration. A reminder to them all -- but what would this reminder entail? Regulus’s nerves stood on edge; did he have any reason to be worried? Had he done anything of late that would upset his Lord?

“When my Mark is placed upon the arms of my servants,” he continued, now pacing the around the large circle they made through the room, “it is an honor not imaginable by many. It is a sign of trust, of loyalty. We are able to achieve things most can’t fathom. For I give you all strength, power, a place of your own among my followers. But when I am disobeyed-” He pointed his wand at the large double doors and they swung open. A masked Death Eater came forward, his wand pointed at a body tied up with a sack over their head. The two guarding the door took the prisoner from there. One of them walked the body to the Dark Lord, the other secured the doors of Malfoy Manor.

“I gave this servant an order,” Master continued, his voice commanding the attention of every soul in the room. “I trusted him with that order. Tonight, I was disobeyed. This worthless excuse of a servant was given the job of keeping a level of contact open with certain students inside Hogwarts Castle. Then, much to my displeasure, I received word that he was being held in at Ministry of Magic for attempting to murder one of these aforementioned students. Attempting. Not even able to use the skills I taught to complete the job! A Mudblood was able to survive an attack posed by one of my servants. One who I granted the honor of wearing my Mark.”

Regulus thought instantly of red hair. Lily Evans.

Just as he realized who was under the sack, Master lifted his wand and forced the cover off. Alrek’s snarling face started back at them.

“It was for you, My Lord!” he screamed, followed immediately by Master commanding silence and capturing Alrek’s ability to speak.

Regulus couldn’t help but wonder what the hell Alrek had been thinking. The Dark Lord wanted Alrek to be friends with the group... not try to kill Lily! He glanced quickly at Severus, but still the boy’s face showed no sign of emotion. He wondered what the seventh year would think when they went back to school after holidays and learned Lily had been attacked? Would it change his mind about joining the Dark Lord? For the sake of Severus’s life, Regulus could only hope it wouldn’t.

He averted his attention back to the center of the room, wondering if the stains of red covering Alrek’s robe had occurred before or after The Dark Lord had retrieved him.

“The time I’ve been forced to spare in order to retrieve this worthless life from the Ministry, to kill the woman who’d been in charge of guarding him, will not go to waste. This servant was given orders. He knowingly disobeyed my orders. Anyone who wishes to remain in my ranks will be loyal and obedient at all times. Is this perfectly clear?”

They all nodded.

“Karkaroff. Bellatrix, come forward,” Master instructed. Regulus felt a shudder run through him. Nothing anyone could do deserved the kind of punishment Bellatrix was capable of giving.

“Master,” Bellatrix said, nearly purring as she stepped closer.

“Remind your fellow Death Eaters the price they will pay if they disobey my orders. Leave him alive. Karkaroff-”

“Master,” Karkaroff said, an embarrassing quiver in his voice.

“You brought my attention to your nephew. Recommended him as a person who qualified to serve me. To achieve a mission I made clear was highly sensitive. You are the reason he is here today; once Bellatrix is through, you are to finish him.” Shock sunk into Regulus; Karkaroff and Alrek were related?

“Yes... yes My Lord,” Igor mumbled. The youngest Black forced his eyes to stay open. If he shut them or looked away, the Dark Lord would be displeased. He kept his gaze on the face that he’d spent a handful of hours with, unsure of what to feel. As much as it terrified him to even think, he didn’t want Lily dead. But he didn’t want to watch Alrek die either.

The room’s lanterns seemed to brighten, drawing more visibility to the scene as Bellatrix raised her wand with a cackle. Regulus saw the Dark Lord take his place in the tallest chair at the front of the room, apparently content to watch as his orders were carried out.

The next sound that filled Regulus was one he knew he’d spend years of his life trying to block out. A scream, so wild and ear splitting, reverberated off the walls. He didn’t let his eyes wander, not willing to bring the Dark Lords attention to him, but did everything in his power to force his mind not to see the scene in front of him.

Regulus tried to imagine that the boy writhing on the floor, twisting and turning in angles not natural for the human body, was a nameless, faceless creature. Though even that didn’t bring him any sort of comfort. No creature should be capable of making the cries of agony currently erupting from Alrek.

Minutes ticked on, the insane laughter of Bellatrix accompanied by scream after scream. Regulus felt his ability to ignore it slowly break away, the noises driving him half mad.

Finally, after what felt like a lifetime, Bellatrix stepped back. She smiled, more than pleased with her work, then nodded to Karkaroff. Regulus was certain the curse wasn’t necessary. Didn’t think any creature would be able to withstand what had just been done to Alrek.

But still, the Dark Lord had ordered it so it was necessary.

Avada Kedavra!”

This chapter ended up being insanely difficult to write. A huge thank you to my always awesome beta reader, CambAngst, for making me keep working at it until it until it really got to a place that I liked, even when I whined about it. Also thank you to Arithmancy_Wiz for double checking some of the scenes in this chapter!

Also, I want to mention something in case you guys are wonder; this isn't one of the three defies. Lily did survive a Death Eater attack, but it wasn't one instructed by Voldemort, obviously.

I hope you guys like this chapter! Oh, and to any of you that have been urging me to throw Alrek off various towers... this was a good alternative, yeah? :P

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