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Before They Fall by Jchrissy
Chapter 34 : Accepting and Understanding
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 18

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Amazing CI by heartfelt @ TDA
Chapter 34 - Accepting and Understanding

Sirius kept himself within an arms distance of Belle as they all waited, scattered around the Headmaster’s study. James and Lily were sitting up front on one side of a desk, the chair on the other still vacant. He knew why they were there; they all knew. The article in the daily prophet said Alrek Rukin was found dead on the steps of the Ministry, foul play due to drug trafficking suspected. What a load of bollocks. Well, that’s why they were there, Sirius hoped. To get the truth.

The message had only requested Lily and James, and Sirius smirked to himself as he looked around the room; all eight of them were spread about. That’s the way they were, though. You didn’t get just one of them. It was an all or nothing deal. And it would save Lily and James the hassle of repeating whatever the Headmaster was about to tell them.

Sirius glanced at Belle, holding his gaze until she looked over and met his eyes with hers. He used to think they were an icy blue, but the more he got to know her, the more that changed. Not so much ice, but fire. She was a flame all wrapped together, with those blue eyes smoldering like steel that had been heated beyond all reason.

He smiled and shook his head as he looked away, tugging her a bit closer. There was no chance she was going to be more than a foot from him. If Dumbledore told them something bad, like Alrek’s death was a fake and the bastard was long gone by now, Sirius couldn’t guess how Belle would react. It’d taken everything he had to convince her to wait in the common room when he’d gone to find Lily after receiving James’s Patronus, and if Remus and Alice hadn’t been there he was certain that even his attempts would have proved useless.

Though, if Alrek had gotten away, Sirius wasn’t sure really how he’d react, either. James would get that terrifying sort of calm anger, where he seems like the most rational bloke on earth but you knew he could snap your neck in seconds. Lily would ask questions, needing to dissect every bit of information, to keep her mind away from her feelings. Sirius knew she’d break later... when it was just them, or just her and James. The same way she’d acted when her parents died. Calm in the hospital, asking questions, answering them, keeping herself thinking. Then when they’d gotten to the Potters’ she’d finally fallen apart, shattering like glass. And just like the other night. She’d come around so smoothly, waking up in her bed after Madam Pomfrey had put her back together.

Sirius felt his stomach give a sickening lurch at the thought of how she’d looked when he’d first entered. The amount of blood covering her was the scariest fucking thing he’d ever seen, the way it stood out on her pale skin. If the Headmaster hadn’t shown up only seconds after him, Sirius was sure he wouldn’t have just punched Alrek’s limp body, but chucked it out Lily’s window and listened, satisfied when he heard it break on the ground.

He shook the image away, knowing he couldn’t handle that anger again. Not just yet. Everything had felt so surreal once James finally let them all come up and see her. Lily. Their Lily, lying in that bed after being attacked in her own bloody school, her own room. But she’d seemed so... okay. Then once they’d all departed and shut the door, leaving just her and James with the promise of bringing food back from the Great Hall, the terrible sound of a sob breaking away from her had followed them down the staircase.

That was Lily. Keeping herself together for as long as possible before reality finally set in.

And Alice and Remus... Sirius knew they’d probably all have killed each other dozens of times if it wasn’t for them. They were soothers. If Dumbledore walked through those doors and said the fucker that attempted to murder Lily was walking free on the streets, those two would find a way to get them all calmed down and thinking straight. Though Alice would also be the first to start them plotting how they were going to capture and kill Rukin.

Sirius glanced over at Peter next. He wasn’t sure how he’d gotten on this little journey of planning his friends’ reactions before they happened, but at least it was keeping his mind off everything else. Peter was their puzzle master, Sirius thought with a chuckle. The boy could find a million different unrelated things and then figure out how they all tied in. Sirius supposed that’s why Peter was so good at history. It was like he was being given all these pieces of their world’s past, able to fit them into one neat timeline.

And last, Frank. His grey eyes traveled to the boy who’d just arrived the previous night after getting their owl. Frank was rather unpredictable... sometimes he’d take things in stride and you’d wonder if he even cared, then other times he’d get nearly as fired up as Sirius himself. Well, not nearly. Belle was the only one who could get close to matching his hot headed nature.

They were an odd group, Sirius thought as his eyes left the last of his friends. Even odder, the way that their groups worked within the group. It was like they were a handful of little units, all of them having different levels of closeness to one another, that made up a whole.

Good Lord, Black, Sirius thought, shaking his head. You’re worse than a girl with all that rubbish going on inside your head.

The sound of a door creaking open grabbed his attention and they all glanced toward the entrance of the Headmaster’s study.

Professor Dumbledore walked in first, followed by McGonagall.

“What did I tell you,” the woman said, her Scottish accent thick. “You invite one or two of them, and they’re all sure to follow.”

Dumbledore chuckled, his face nothing but amused. He reached into his robe pocket - this set being an odd combination of silver and maroon that made Sirius think of those sparkly Christmas candles Mrs. Potter lit - and pulled out his wand. Pointing the stick at a table, he flicked it and they watched as the cups began multiplying, then a pot set to work pouring its contents into each mug.

James was the first to speak, his dark eyes fixed on Dumbledore as he and McGonagall walked over, the Headmaster taking his seat behind the intricately carved desk. “Can you tell us what happened?” he asked, his voice rough.

“Not that we expect you to, or anything,” Lily said, combating James’s flat tone with her politeness.

“Yes,” Sirius interrupted, raising an eyebrow at her when she turned around and looked back at him. “We do expect you to, professor. You were nearly killed, Lily.” He shot a look at her when it was clear she meant to protest his statement. “And you deserve to know what the hell is going on.”

“I agree with you entirely, Mr. Black,” Dumbledore began softly, surprising Sirius a bit. “But before we are able to delve into what I believe occurred, I must beg your patience. Miss Evans, there are a few questions I feel it necessary to ask.” Lily nodded, and Sirius noticed James sit a bit straighter, raising the hackles that he didn’t currently have. That’s my boy, Sirius though.

“Yes, of course, Professor.”

The bearded wizard exchanged a somber look with Gryffindor’s Head of House, as if they were silently evaluating the best way to approach whatever it was he wanted to ask.

“This is a very sensitive subject,” McGonagall began, “and if you wish to discuss it with a bit more privacy, I’m certain your friends will understand.”

Sirius nearly snorted, wanting to answer that question himself, but Lily beat him to it. “Of course not. I appreciate the concern, but it’s not necessary.”

“I thought as much,” McGonagall mumbled, then took a slow breath. “Miss Evans, can you tell us anything Mr. Rukin may have said to you that you can remember? I know it was all an extremely chaotic and frightening ordeal, and we’ll understand if you’re uncertain of the majority of events-”

“No,” Lily interrupted, a hardness in her voice. “No. It’s fine. I remember everything.” The way her last word drug on sent a chill down Sirius’s spine. For fuck’s sake. She shouldn’t have to remember all of it, not even any of it.

“When Alrek first came in I thought he just meant to scare me. He was angry about James and I escaping from Bellatrix...” Sirius’s fingers laced with Belle’s. He wasn’t sure which of them was keeping the other calm.

“And he kept talking about how once I was dead, You-Know-...Voldemort would reward him. He also mentioned things like, I had no idea what kind of pain he suffered, and the sort of humiliation James and I living had caused him.”

“Did he ever say anything that would make you suspect he was there directly on Voldemort’s orders?” Dumbledore asked, voice much more serious than before.

“Who else would want ‘er dead?” Belle snapped.

“Watch your tongue, Miss Leclair,” McGonagall lectured, her eyes sharp. Sirius tried to give her hand a reassuring squeeze, but in all honesty, if she wouldn’t have said it he probably would have.

“No, no it’s quite all right. I understand, Miss Leclair. I know this can’t be easy for any of you.” His eyes focused directly on Lily, then shifted over to James. “And the bravery you’ve all shown is something that truly astounds me. At my age, one might assume that there’s little I haven’t seen. But being awarded glimpses into the friendship you all share, the bond so many lack the ability to understand, is something I am humbled by. The reason I ask these questions is because the fate Mr. Rukin suffered is an odd one.”

“So he is dead, then?” James asked. Sirius realized just then how much his best mate was working to keep himself under control. He could hear the clenching of James’s jaw, the way he forced his tone to stay even.

“Yes, Mr. Potter. Alrek Rukin is dead.” The room breathed a sigh of relief. “But as you might have expected, the particulars of his demise do not conform to the narrative offered by the Ministry. Miss Evans, I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you again. Did he say anything that made it seem as if his attack was an order given directly by Voldemort.”

Lily was silent and Sirius could nearly hear the clicking of her brain as she thought back to Saturday night.

“No...” she finally said. “No, actually, if anything it seemed more as if Alrek meant for my death to be a surprise. He said something about what they would all say about him when Voldemort - Alrek called him Master, not Voldemort - found out Alrek killed me.”

Dumbledore nodded, Lily’s answer apparently resolving something in his mind, although none of them had any idea what.

“For reasons we can only guess, it was made evident that Lord Voldemort wished to recruit you over Christmas, Mr. Potter. It’s safe to assume now that Mr. Rukin was the one who played the part in passing your information, giving us a clear understanding of his initial attempt to befriend you all. But even after your lives were saved and tucked nicely back into Hogwarts, Alrek Rukin was still careful to continue his charade. Correct?” They nodded. “That leads me to the most logical explanation; Voldemort did not want the cover of his spy broken. I believe it’s safe to suspect Mr. Rukin was ordered to continue the false friendship, and it was his own instability that lead him to attacking you, Miss Evans.”

“Professor,” Remus began, his tone thoughtful as always. “If you’re getting at what I think you are... would they really do that? Why would he even want Lily alive?”

Sirius tried to piece together what he was talking about. Would who really do what? Who cares if the fucking psycho had lost it and finally went after Lily on his own and not on Voldemort’s orders. He still went after her, and Sirius wanted to know just how he died. Who had gotten to do the honor of completing a task he and James would have gladly carried out?

“Wait,” Lily said in a quick breath. “You think that Alrek was killed by Voldemort? For trying to kill me? But Professor, Bellatrix was going to kill me anyway over Christmas. I’m certain of it. It seems hard to believe that Voldemort has decided Muggle-borns are worthy of saving.”

“No, but if he ordered Rukin to keep up the act as our friend...” as James began to speak, the parts clicked together for Sirius. Even if Voldemort didn’t care whether Lily was alive or dead, Sirius was damn certain he’d care about one of his lackeys disobeying him.

It was Dumbledore who spoke next, picking up the conversation. “Precisely, Mr. Potter. Mr. Rukin’s body was left, already dead a day or so, at the steps of the Ministry where it would of course be found. It is our assumption, and though I can’t be positive I will say my assumptions usually get rather close to being accurate, that Lord Voldemort used Mr. Rukin to teach a lesson to his followers. Power must have control, order, if the one who harnesses it wishes to remain the sole leader.”

“That’s barbaric,” Alice finally said, shaking her head slowly.

“That it is, Miss Christopherson,” McGonagall remarked, the same expression on her face that Alice wore. “And that’s the price paid for slipping into a world where morality and humanity are long forgotten.”

“So he’s dead? Absolutely?” Lily asked, and Sirius could hear a slight tremor in her voice. “How did they even get him out of the Ministry?”

McGonagall and Dumbledore exchange a glance before the latter began to speak. “It’s no secret how the Ministry is currently being run with departments invaded at every turn. It’s a struggle just to understand who’s on which side. The most logical explanation is that someone working for Voldemort, currently employed at the Ministry, was able to slip Mr. Rukin out and transfer him to Voldemort.”

“And Professor Genov?” Lily pressed. “Wasn’t she guarding him?”

Silence fell over the room and Sirius lowered his eyes, knowing what would come next.

“Professor Genov was killed,” McGonagall finally answered.

“Shit,” James mumbled under his breath, just loud enough for the room to hear.

“Couldn’t they have just knocked her out or something?” Peter asked, speaking for the first time. “Or immobilized her? No reason to kill her.”

Dumbledore let out a sigh as he lifted his wand and caused the cups and saucers to dispense themselves around the room. He took a slow sip before finally speaking. “I wish I was able to answer that, but there is no answer for their senseless murder, their crimes. We have the ability to feel empathy, to let our hearts ache for the misfortune of another human being. The people responsible for the killings, for the attacks on our world, do not. Their need for power, protection, greed... whatever brought them to serve under Voldemort, has proved stronger than any sort of compassion they may have possessed. This is exactly why we’re in a state so terrifying and why our ability to fight against them is of the greatest importance. Alone, we’re simply inconveniences in their greater plan to either be disposed of or used. Together, we create a force unlike anything they can understand. One built on the need to help each other, constructed with friendship and love.”

The passion in their headmaster’s voice was clear, and Sirius felt like raising his fist and saying, “Hear, hear!” But he managed to resist the urge. Instead, he let a swig of minty tea swish in his mouth, focusing on the feeling of it nearly burning his throat on the way down.

“I believe we’ve taken enough of your time,” Professor McGonagall said, speaking to them but keeping her eyes on Albus.

“Yes, yes of course,” the headmaster agreed, almost reluctantly. Sirius wondered if there was more he wished to talk about, something else he wanted to say.

“Thanks,” Lily said softly, “for telling us and all.”

They all muttered their appreciation, an odd kind if disbelief filling them. The entire group had been nearly certain that Alrek wasn’t really dead. Not that this wasn’t a pleasant surprise, it was, but Sirius just thought it felt almost anticlimactic. At least Lily will never have to see him again, Sirius thought, glancing at her as they all left the the tower housing Dumbledore’s study.

“Well,” Sirius started, shrugging as they ventured through the corridors. “I don’t think the weather is total rubbish today, anyone up for a game of Quidditch?”

Rain wasn’t pouring from the heavens, and Sirius was even certain he saw flecks of sun breaking through the clouds. In Scotland, what was enough to be considered good weather.

“I’ll meet you lot out there,” Lily began, and Sirius could see her struggling to hold onto a false smile. “I just need... I’m going to go see Madam Pomfrey. Still getting fairly bad headaches.”

She was lying. Sirius was certain of it. Maybe the part about her headaches were true, but it wasn’t the reason she was trying to slip away from them.

“Do you want me to come with you?” James asked.

“No, no I’ll just run up by myself. Really, I’ll be outside in no time and we can play as much Quidditch as you all want.” Her lips curved again, though the smile was even less convincing than before and left Sirius wishing she’d flash a real one. It wasn’t as if he expected her to, especially after what she’d gone through. But ever since they’d read the article that morning she’d been far from herself, seeming to retreat even further into her own mind.

It seemed like everyone was holding their breath until James finally shrugged and said, “Okay.”

Just like that, she was gone. Walking much quicker than necessary, her shoes making a muffled pitter patter as they hit the ground.

“Why did you let her go alone?” Sirius spat, turning on James. Hadn’t they just learned the dangers of venturing out separately?

As soon as the sharp words left his lips, a pang of guilt crept into him. James leaned against the wall of the corridor and lifted his hands, rubbing them over his face. “I’m just supposed to make her stick with me every hour of the day?” he snapped back.

His tone brought Sirius’s anger boiling back up, quickly forgetting about the guilt that had just infected him. “Yes! That’s bloody well what you’re supposed to do! Am I the only one that saw her half fucking dead on Saturday?”

Sirius watched the fire spark to life in his friend’s eyes, wasn’t surprised when James took a step closer to him. “Don’t, Sirius,” he began, a clear warning in his tone. “Don’t act like it was any worse for you to find her first than it was for me to be stuck in that goddamn room!”

“Come on, guys,” Frank said, stepping between the boys. Sirius lifted his arm and shoved him to the side.

“Then why the hell would you let her just take off like that? You have no idea what other bleeding Death Eaters are in this castle!”

“She has to be able to make her own decisions, Sirius! I can’t just order her around then put her away like she’s a fucking racing broom or something!”

“Well at least no one tried to snap your racing broom in half-”

“Sirius,” Remus half said, half growled.

“I can’t keep her tucked away, making sure she’s never in danger again,” James said lamely, his eyes reaching Sirius’s, looking at him like he was begging for understanding. Well Sirius didn’t know if he was ready to give it just yet. Why the hell couldn’t he keep her tucked away? At least they’d know she was safe.

“I want to. Of course I want to be with her ever bloody second,” his best mate continued. “But then what? She gets so sick of me hovering over her that she pushes me away and is in even more danger? I thought she’d feel better about hearing he’s dead... the entire way to Dumbledore’s study I just kept hoping it was true so Lily could start feeling better... but if anything she seemed worse.”

James turned as he spoke, no longer wanting to meet any of their eyes. Sirius understood that. He had plenty of times where something he was feeling made it hard for him to even look at anyone. But whatever was wrong with Lily, letting her be alone where she could get attacked again wasn’t going to make it better.

“You lot go,” Remus said gently, placing a hand on James’s shoulder. “Just go blow off some steam. I have something I want to talk to Lily about. I’ll make sure she knows you didn’t ask me to follower her.

“I zink it would be better if we were ze ones to talk to ‘er,” Belle said, her hands on her hips.

Usually Sirius would agree. Girls knew other girls best and all that junk. But he also understood that no one had the ability to reason with people quite like Remus.

“Come on, Belle,” Sirius said, taking her hand as he glanced at Alice, silently asking for reinforcements.

“Well talk to her later, okay?” Alice assured the blonde, who retorted with some sort of huff, but one that sounded rather like an agreement.

“Use the map to find her,” James suggested, pulling the folded up piece of parchment from his jeans and handing it to Moony.

“Oi,” Sirius called as Remus got a few feet away, still keeping Belle’s hand firmly laced with his “if she hexes you, don’t come crying to us.”

Lily was careful to stay in open areas of the castle. She knew Alrek was gone, but that didn’t mean she would make the mistake of letting herself walk into a trap. Less than a year ago she’d felt like she wasn’t in any more danger than anyone else, just a student in a school full of other students. Idiot, she thought bitterly. Of course she was in more danger. She was a Mudblood who had to make sure the entire damn school knew her name... always bringing attention to herself when she answered questions, when she was made prefect and head girl...

She tried to shake the thoughts away as she traveled toward the Hospital Wing. They’d known her excuse had been fabricated, but she didn’t care. Besides, maybe Madam Pomfrey wanted her help with something and she could keep her mind busy.

It wasn’t even the attack putting this bitter taste in her mouth. Of course, if she let it, it could terrify her. She didn’t want to imagine what last night would be like if it wasn’t for James’s sweet dreams blanket. Barely a day and a half had passed, but it felt like she’d been living with the memory for a lifetime.

But at the same time, she knew she could almost shrug it all off... at least before this, before finding out his fate. She hadn’t necessarily wanted to go to Bulgaria and sit in the same room as Alrek to testify if it came to that... but at least then she’d have been part of it. She’d have known he was going to spend the rest of his life paying for what he tried to do, but now... he was just gone.

And what kind of terrible person was she? A professor was dead. Alrek was dead. And it wasn’t enough for her. What did that say about her? That she wanted someone to suffer just to make herself feel better?

“Hey there,” came a soft voice from behind. She bit back the urge to roll her eyes, and instead smiled as she turned around.

“Hey, Remus,” she greeted. It wasn’t his fault if she was in this kind of mood... one she didn’t even understand herself. “Did James send you to check on me?” she asked with a small smile.

“No, he thought if you needed a minute alone then you should get it.” That surprised Lily, and she felt a wave of guilt wash over her for treating him so poorly the last day. None of her friends had done anything but be there for her, yet she’d acted so detached from them.

“Mind if we talk?” the tall, lanky boy asked. They were a floor away from the Hospital Wing, but with the school mostly deserted Lily knew there was little chance someone would pass by them.

“Sure,” she said, and lowered her body to the cold ground. A ray of sun was creeping in through a window too high for Lily to see out of. It landed on her face, warming the ivory skin.

“Does it feel odd to know he’s dead?” Remus asked. Getting straight to the point, Lily supposed. She glanced over at him as he got comfortable next to her. It was a little eerie how accurately he described what she was thinking.

“Everything just happened so fast; I feel like I’m reeling from it,” she said, answering with half the truth. It did happen fast, and it was exhausting. But at the same time, she could manage all of that. It was the idea that someone’s death wasn’t enough for her that was really forcing a brick of lead into her stomach

“I’ve never known you to reel from anything, really. Maybe it isn’t so much that, as you questioning it.”

“I’m certain Dumbledore wouldn’t have told us he was dead if he wasn’t,” Lily countered, scrunching her eyebrows at him.

“Not questioning that he’s dead. Questioning if he should be or not.”

He turned his head and his dark eyes met Lily’s bright green. How was she supposed to try and lie with him looking at her like he could read every one of her thoughts?

“I guess it’s not my place to say who should and shouldn’t die,” she finally answered, bending her knees into her body and resting her chin on them.

“Sometimes it’s not enough to just wish someone were dead. Or even have them dead. Because you never know if they really understand what they did to you.”

Lily glanced over at him, surprised by the deep tone his voice had taken. His words described what she felt better than even she’d have been able to articulate. But why did he know so much about that? She searched his face, noticing the dark circles under his eyes that the whole group had. All because of her - because they’d kept themselves constantly worried about how she was doing.

“I don’t want to feel like this, though,” she finally whispered, glancing at her fingers as they twisted together, holding her knees into her body. “And it shouldn’t matter if he does or doesn’t understand what he did... he’s dead.”

“And that’s exactly it! He died. It’s over, and you’ll never have the chance to see if he was able to feel remorse or regret for attacking an innocent person. But Lily, some people just aren’t capable of that.” He gave her a sad smile. “It took me a long time understand that. To stop imagining what it would be like to hunt somebody down and make them pay, make them understand what they did to me, what they took from me.”

Lily’s head lifted and she had to stop from taking in a sharp gasp. How hadn’t she realized what he was talking about before? She resisted the urge to hug him, knowing pity was far from what he wanted.

“Did you ever find him?” she asked in a whisper, hoping she hadn’t pushed too far.

His eyes clouded over; it was as if he was far away, no longer part of their current conversation and imagining something Lily was almost sure he didn’t want to be. “Yes and no. I know who it was, but I was never able to hunt him down, take some sort of revenge. And years later I realized it wasn’t what I wanted. I could take his life, but I still wouldn’t have recovered those lost parts of me. I’d just have a murder on my conscience. But that didn’t stop me from spending years imagining what if.”

“How old were you?” she asked, feeling the water swell up in her eyes.

“A few days after I turned four.”

“But he must feel terrible, right?”

A humorless chuckle slipped from Remus. “It’s incredible that you can still believe the best of people, even after what’s happened to you.” He reached over and grabbed her hand while they spoke, squeezing it lightly. “But no, I don’t reckon he feels anything about it. It was no accident. He planned it, made sure he would be within minutes of my home when the time was right. And maybe that’s what I have the hardest time accepting, that he was able to destroy my life in so many ways and not even give it a second’s thought or a single ounce of regret.”

“But Remus, you were just a child! Barely even that! Why on earth would he have wanted to hurt you?”

The place on her back that the hard stone was pushing against was slowly falling asleep, a numb sort of tingly feeling spreading over it. But she didn’t care.

“I’m sorry.” He glanced over, eyes wide with apology. “I just don’t think now’s the right time to talk about day, just not now. But I didn’t come here to make you feel sad for me, Lily.”

“I know,” she said quickly, wiping a tear from her cheek. “But, well, it is sad. Even if you don’t want it to be.”

That made him smile, though it was barely a ghost of one. “You’re right. It is. But I wanted you to know that I do understand. I know what it’s like to hate someone so much you want to kill them, then bring them back to life just so you can kill them again, all the while hoping there’s enough of a human in there to feel terrible for what they did to you.”

“I think I’d rather if Voldemort would have ordered him to attack me,” Lily blurted out, wondering if that made any sense. “Then I could let some small part of me think he was just doing it to save his own life.”

It was her turn drift away, her mind half in their conversation, half conjuring memories of Saturday night. “But he just didn’t care what was happening to me. No, that’s not true. He cared, and he enjoyed it. And now I feel like I want to do the same. To enjoy watching him sit in prison for the rest of his life...for him to be in there so long that he’d eventually become human enough to regret hurting me, probably hurting countless others.”

“Lily, people like him don’t learn remorse. They don’t learn to feel for another person, for what they did to someone. And you’ll just drive yourself crazy wishing you’d have had the chance to see that happen. You remember how after Bellatrix attacked you and James he was moping about, blaming himself for days because he thought he should have been able to do something? To make it so that never happened?”

She nodded, a large chunk of guilt falling into her stomach. She knew he was feeling the same way now, only trying desperately to hide it so he could cheer her up.

“Just like he couldn’t change what happened then, you can’t change what happened now. And at least Alrek will never be able to hurt anyone else. There’s nothing wrong with feeling relieved that he’s dead, Lily. But you can’t let yourself dwell on the fact that he didn’t actually get justice.”

“You’re too smart for your own good, Lupin,” Lily joked, a smile that she didn’t have to force flickering over her face. “Is James upset? I know I’ve been awful to him, to everyone, the last day.”

“No one is upset.” He paused, standing up and reaching an arm out to help her. “God, Lily. Look what you just went through. You have every right to not be quite yourself just yet. Besides, you haven’t been any moodier today than Belle and Sirius are on any given day.”

Lily laughed, falling into step with Remus a few yards down the corridor. “I’ve been that bad? Now I feel even worse.” She felt feathers of warmth creep into her, the easy feeling of friendship helping ward off the heavy gloom that had been hanging inside her heart.

“Do you want to play Quidditch still?” she asked Remus, happy when he nodded. She was ready to enjoy the rest of Easter holiday, to find James and throw her arms around him just to see his face light up. And, she thought as she looked at Remus, maybe she could slip away in a few days and go visit Slughorn. There were at least a dozen potions she could think of that would help ease a few of his transformation symptoms... she’d love to take a crack at brewing them.

Thank you as always to my awesome beta reader, CambAngst!

So a bit slower of a chapter compared to last one, but I still had a blast writing it! What did you guys think? Also, I won't have an update next Saturday. Dan is on holiday with his family, so I've decided to let him off the hook for beta reading this week ;). The following Saturday will be back to normal though! And we only have five chapters (maybe four) left to go!

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