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Chapter 4 : Chapter 4
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Sirius drags me out through the portrait hole into the corridor. As soon as the portrait swings shut behind him, I wrench my arm from his grasp.
“I’m not going back to the hospital wing, Sirius,” I say angrily, crossing my arms over my chest as Sirius turns back towards me with a resigned look on his face.
“Lily, this isn’t normal,” Sirius says carefully. “What you’ve been seeing… thinking that it’s real? I know you’re upset about James dying, but if you’re hallucinating then we need to do something about it…”
“I’m not hallucinating,” I snap at him, marching past him down the hall.
“Where are you going?” Sirius asks as he jogs to keep up with my fast pace.
“To prove that he’s real and that I’m not going mad,” I mutter as I pushed the large front door open.
“Lily, come on. Stop,” Sirius grabs my arm and pulls me around to face him.
“No, Sirius,” I say forcefully. “I’m sick of everyone thinking I’m just stressed or upset. I know what I saw. I felt him. He’s still alive.”
I march across the lawn with Sirius in tow, still muttering that I am delusional.
I pull him after me into the forest, taking the same path James and I took just earlier that morning.
“Lily, please. Stop,” Sirius pants, clutching a stitch in his side and I turn around to face him.
“I won’t stop until you believe me,” I say firmly, watching as Sirius rolls his silver eyes in exasperation.
I turn on my heel, marching farther into the forest until I recognize where I am. If I remember correctly, James’s garden is just through that bush.
I push my way through the bramble into the opening, preparing to be met with the brilliant blue of the Forget-Me-Nots.
But all I see is the scrubby forest floor, littered only with sticks and leaves. There are no Forget-Me-Nots. There is no anything.
“It was here,” I mutter, looking wildly around myself for any trace of the garden. Had I taken the wrong trail? I could have sworn it was here…
“Lily…” Sirius groans, propping himself up against a tree. “Nothing’s here. You’ve got to stop this.”
“No,” I say stubbornly, turning away from him.
“Damnit, Lily!” Sirius bursts angrily and I spin around to face him, surprised by his outburst. “James isn’t here. He’s dead, alright? Dead. And he’s never coming back.”
“He’s not dead!” I insist, my voice breaking slightly.
Sirius closes his eyes, his jaw clenching in frustration. When he opens his eyes again, he forces a calm expression on his face, speaking slowly.
“Look,” Sirius says in a measured voice. “You’re upset; I get it. We all are. And you’re feeling guilty about what happened to James. But this isn’t healthy. You can’t dwell on this anymore… you have to move on, Lily. You need to let him go.”
“I can’t,” I choke out the words, tears blurring the edge of my vision. “I don’t want to let him go, Sirius.”
Sirius’s expressionless mask breaks as a wave of sympathy passes over his face. He takes a step towards me, placing a hand on my shoulder.
“James wouldn’t want you to be unhappy,” Sirius frowns, his voice tight with emotion. “He’d want you to move on.”
I take a deep breath as I let Sirius’s words sink in. He’s right, of course. James wouldn’t want me to be unhappy.
But would that mean I’d never see him again? I can’t just block him from my dreams… that’s impossible. And if James actually is still alive, I can’t just turn my back on him.
This is all so confusing.
“I’m afraid,” I whisper and Sirius’s hard eyes soften even more.
“What are you afraid of?” He asks in a soothing voice.
“I’m afraid of everything, Sirius,” I say, my voice growing stronger as I back away from him. I yank my hands through my hair in distress. “I’m afraid of moving on… of being happy without him. If I move on, I’m afraid I’m going to forget him.”
“Nobody’s going to forget James,” Sirius tries to reassure me, his voice still guarded, careful. “No one wants to forget James… We just want you back— the old Lily. The one who didn’t keep hallucinating about him.”
“You don’t get it, Sirius,” I say through clenched teeth, taking another step away from him. “I can’t stop seeing him. He’s everywhere I look, whether I’m dreaming or not. And it’s not a bad thing. I’m happy when I’m with him—in my dreams or in reality, whatever it is. But when I’m here—awake—without him, my mind plays tricks on me. I don’t even… I don’t even know what’s real anymore without him.”
“Merlin, Lily. That’s my point—” Sirius groans in frustration, but I cut him off.
“Look, for whatever reason, my subconscious wants me to think he’s still alive,” I say firmly. “I don’t care if you think I’m delusional or crazy. I still believe that he’s alive – come on, Sirius. How else would I have known about your mirror, really?”
“Like Remus said, he must have told you—“
“Oh, you bloody well know James wouldn’t have told me about that,” I said angrily and Sirius’s gray eyes widened at the passion in my voice. “He said only you four know about it. Why would he tell me if it was a secret between you?”
“I can’t talk about this anymore with you,” Sirius says in a tight voice, turning away from me.
“You know I’m right, Sirius,” I call after him as he disappears into the bushes.
“Shit,” I mutter to myself when the sound of his footsteps had died away completely. I sink down to the ground in defeat, leaning my back up against a tree trunk. “He thinks I’m crazier than ever now.”
“Don’t be so hard on yourself,” A familiar voice floats through the trees, making my blood run cold. “Sirius has always been stubborn like that.”
I look up just in time to see James appear from behind a group of trees, his smile lighting up the whole forest.
“You couldn’t have shown up a few minutes ago, could you?” I snap irritably. I know I’m not dreaming this time… when would I have fallen asleep? This is real… it has to be.
“Are you angry with me?” James frowns, dropping to the ground in front of me.
I sigh, trying to avoid looking in his concerned hazel eyes.
“No… not really,” I say quietly, my eyes dropping to my hands. “I’m just getting tired of being the only one who believes you’re alive.”
“You know I’m alive, Lily,” James says quietly, slipping his hand into mine. “Isn’t that all that matters?”
“Of course it matters,” I amend quickly, looking up at James. “I’m glad you’re here…”
“But you’re still upset about something,” James guesses.
“I just want this whole thing to end,” I mutter, shaking my head. “I feel like I’m trapped in some horrible nightmare…”
“So I’m a nightmare now, am I?” James grins cheekily at me but I can’t bring myself to smile.
“I just mean… I can’t tell the difference between dreams and reality anymore,” I sigh, resting my head back against the tree trunk.
“You know what you need to do then,” James says, pulling his hand out of mine.
“What?” I ask, watching as James leaned towards me. For a moment, I think he’s going to kiss me but he turns his head slightly so his lips are at my ear.
“You need to wake up, Lily,” James whispers and I close my eyes in defeat, preparing myself for this dream to end.
“Wake up, Lily,” James’s voice echoes around the clearing and when I open my eyes again, he is gone.
I am still in the clearing, but I’m alone now.
I let out a long sigh, not even surprised anymore. I’m slowly becoming used to the fact that I’ll never share a reality with James anymore… I wish desperately that I could, but it’s impossible. The only way I can be with him was in my dreams.
And I can’t sleep forever…can I?
I shake my head, instantly banishing that wishful thinking. When had I become some pathetic girl driven crazy with grief who would consider ending it all just to be with some boy?
So what if I have gone crazy? So what if I hallucinate? I’m stronger than this and I can get through it.
Maybe Sirius is right. Maybe my guilt over what happened to James is just manifesting in an unhealthy way. Maybe if I can accept that it wasn’t my fault, I can move on. I mean, that acromantula died too and I’m not seeing great hairy spiders everywhere I look.
Well, except that one.
And then I jump to my feet, because several feet in front of me is indeed a small acromantula. It stares at me with its five eyes and I stare back, hardly daring to move.
A quiet crunch of leaves to my left tells me that this spider is not alone and I take a ginger step backwards towards the path that leads back to the castle.
The second spider emerges from the brush and joins the first, followed closely by three more.
My heartbeat quickens. One small spider can easily be taken care of, but I’m no match for five of them. They wait, crouched low between the trees, twenty-five eyes trained on me, waiting for me to act first.
I inch my way towards the path, my shaking hand gripping my wand tightly, my mind racing over spells trying to remember which one is most effective against acromantula.
Something catches my eye above me and I slowly lift my eyes, still acutely aware of the acromantulas’ position in front of me.
I almost wish I hadn’t looked. A sick feeling creeps into my stomach and I feel faint as I watch dozens of spiders descending on slender silver threads from the treetops.
This has to be a dream. Acromantulas never come this close to Hogwarts. The one we found before had been a fluke, the exception not the rule.
My flight instinct finally kick in and before I can even think about what I am doing, I turn and sprint towards the castle as fast as I can. A sharp hiss sounds behind me and I know that my action has not gone ignored.
Trees whip past me and I catch glimpses of long hairy legs and beady red eyes glaring at me as I pass I can make out the edge of the grounds through the trees ahead of me and I push my legs to go faster, finally stumbling onto the edge of the grounds.
I slow my pace and turn around, foolishly believing that the spiders won’t dare leave the forest.
But sure enough they come scuttling out of the forest behind me with a speed that makes me feel sick.
It’s like being trapped in a nightmare; the kind where you are running and just can’t go fast enough. The kind where you feel drunk because your legs won’t work properly and you keep tripping, unable to see straight and paralyzed by fear. I have always been able to know when I’m having a nightmare. I am able to recognize the dream-like quality and shake myself from it before it gets to be too much for me.
This is different. I’m trapped. I can’t wake up from this. This is real.
The castle looms over me as I race towards the front doors, hoping the thick wood will be enough to keep the spiders out. I push the door closed behind me but don’t waste any time waiting to see if it is enough. I sprint down the corridor and up the staircase to the common room, wanting to put as much distance between the horrible creatures and myself.
I walk quickly through the common room and up to my dorm, ignoring the questioning looks from the Marauders as I pass. I guess that Sirius has filled them in on my latest psychotic breakdown and they’re discussing what to do with me next but I don’t even care.
Once in my dorm I hurry to the window next to my bed that looks down over the grounds. With trepidation I peer through the glass towards the forest, expecting to see it swarming with the black creatures.
But there is nothing.
Nothing but the green grass and the trees bending slightly in the breeze.
I stare down in disbelief. Where have they gone? Back to the forest? Are they inside the castle now?
Or – my insides constrict with horror – have I been subjected to yet another hallucination?
I back away from the window, sinking down onto my bed and cradling my head in my hands, terrified that I can’t tell which is the right answer.
This is all too much. Reality and non-reality are blending into each other too seamlessly now.
I stare at the wilting yellow asphodel plant on my bedside table, willing myself to come up with some answers. And as I stare at the dying plant, several things occur to me.
My thoughts before in the forest were wrong on two accounts.
My first error was in assuming that I can get through this. That I can go on living like this, gliding from dream to reality with no ill affects whatsoever. Now I’m sure that if this continues any longer I’ll be carted off to St. Mungo’s before the weekend.
My second error was discarding the idea that I can simply sleep forever, living eternally in the blissful world of dreams that doesn’t hurt nearly as much as reality.
Because I can sleep forever. There is a way.
And that little yellow asphodel plant I had collected for potions so many days ago is the key to it all.
The sudden clarity in my mind is rather alarming. Everything comes into sharp focus the second I had find the solution.
The Draught of Living Death.
It’s so simple it’s a wonder I didn’t think of it sooner. All this time the answer has been sitting in front me and I never realized…
I hop off my bed, snatching the yellow asphodel from where it lays on my bedside table. I tuck it gingerly into the pocket of my robes and walk purposefully down the stairs and through the common room.
The Marauders are still sitting by the fire deep in conversation and they all look up when I pass by. Their faces are almost identical masks of distress and the focus in my mind stutters at the change in their facade. Where has that come from?
I slow to a stop in front of them, confused by the change and momentarily distracted from my mission.
“Alright, boys?” I question them tentatively. Remus and Peter look simultaneously to Sirius whose expression has changed to one of pity mingled with determination.
“Listen, Lily,” Sirius says after a tense pause and more wordless exchanges between the boys. “We need to talk for a minute.”
“Actually, I’m rather in a hurry if you—“ I start but Sirius cuts me off.
“Look, we’ve been skirting around this since James d-died and enough is finally enough,” Sirius says quickly, as though if he didn’t speak right away he might never. “James is dead. He’s gone, Lily. You need to grasp that. We’ve been patient with you up until now because obviously it was traumatizing what happened but this has finally gone too far. I for one am not going to lie to you anymore. The fact of it is, James is dead because of you.”
It feel like Sirius has punched me in the stomach. My breath escapes me in a whoosh and my eyes widen in disbelief. Surely I’ve misheard him… because he can’t have just blamed me.
But Remus speaks up before I can really question this.
“Sirius is right,” he agrees harshly and the bitterness in his voice silences my feeble attempts to protest. “You need to accept what really happened. It was your fault. If it weren’t for you, James would still be here.”
It feels like everything inside me has turned to stone. This can’t be happening. What happened to Sirius assuring me that it wasn’t my fault? He had only done so earlier in the day, hadn’t he?
Had he? Had that been a hallucination too? Suddenly my concept of time becomes horribly warped and for the life of me, I can’t remember. It’s like my days and nights and dreams suddenly blur together, making it impossible to pick out specific incidents.
“I didn’t kill him,” I splutter feebly, finally finding my voice and uttering the only thing I’m able to hold on to.
“You might as well have,” Peter speaks up, eying me with contempt. “It was because of you.”
I take a step back from them as they continue to glare up at me.
“Look, we just think it’s best if we stop sugar-coating it,” Sirius says, pity and disdain dripping from his voice. “It’s your fault he’d dead. You need to accept it. And when you do, maybe you’ll stop deluding yourself into thinking he’s still here somehow.”
I swallow, unable to form any words. My throat has gone dry as I stare at them in horror and disbelief.
The one thing I am too terrified to think, that everyone else in the school is wondering about, that they themselves have assured me isn’t true has finally been thrust upon me. It feel like I will collapse from the immense weight of it.
I’m only barely holding onto my sanity at this point and I know that if I stay here for one more second I will finally lose it.
So without saying another word I turn and run from the room, their jeers and accusations following me through the portrait hole into the thankfully empty corridor.
James is dead because of you.
I jerk my hands through my hair, closing my eyes and trying to banish the words from my head. It isn’t true. It can’t be true.
I feel the small asphodel resting in my pocket and the need to complete my mission jumps to the forefront of my mind again, more urgently than ever.
It was your fault.
I start running.
It’s your fault he’s dead.
I have to escape this nightmare.
If it weren’t for you, James would still be here.
I’ll be free soon.
I throw open the door to the potions classroom. Professor Slughorn is nowhere to be seen and I barely have time to be thankful for this before I locate my half-finished potion on the shelves against the wall.
I empty the contents of the bottle into a cauldron, quickly lighting it to the proper temperature. Thank god Daught of Living Death had to sit for seven days before adding the last ingredient.
“Lily, what are you doing?” A voice echoes around the room, making me jump and I grip the table as the familiarity of that voice washes through me. I turn slowly, expecting to see James but there is no one.
“Lily,” the voice repeats and I jump a second time when I realize the voice is coming from my pocket. I hastily pull the small square two-way mirror Sirius has left with me and hold it up to the light.
James’s anxious face stares back at me, his eyebrows pushed together in concern.
“Lily,” he says again, urgency heavy in his voice. “What are you doing?”
“I-I’m going to sleep,” I say, pulling the asphodel from my pocket and hoping that it will still work even though it has dried out significantly since I picked it.
“Lily, stop,” James’s face suddenly becomes panicked in the mirror.
“No,” I breathe, feverish determination pulsing through me. It will be over soon.
“You can’t do this, Lily,” James pleads.
“I have to,” I say, pausing only momentarily to look at him. “It’s the only way.”
“It’s not,” James says desperately.
“Well, what am I supposed to do?” I beg of him, yanking my hands through my hair.
“Fight it!” James says fervently, his hazel eyes burning with intensity as if he were trying to will me to stop.
“I can’t,” I shake my head, hopelessness enveloping me. Something brushes across my hand and I jerk it off the table just in time to see a small spider skittering across the table.
I leap back from the cauldron, my eyes wide with panic. This can’t be happening. Not again. Not now.
I stare wildly around, a sinking sensation filling me as I see the slender silver threads descending from the ceiling and the hairy bodies of the acromantulas getting closer and closer. My eyes fly to the floor and if I wasn’t so terrified I might scream at the hundreds of snitch-sized spiders scurrying towards me.
I grab the nearest chair, hoisting myself onto it. My fingers tremble as I grab the asphodel and fling it into the potion which abruptly turns as clear as water. I don’t have time to be relieved as the spiders are still making their way towards me through the dungeon.
My heartbeat pounds in my chest as I grab a wooden spoon and dip it into the potion. I don’t have much time.
“Lily,” James’s voice interrupts me and I look down to where the mirror rests on the table. “Lily, I don’t even know if you can hear me, but there’s something I need to tell you.”
“James, I can hear you, I’m right here,” I pick up the mirror, momentarily forgetting the spiders surrounding me. The agony in his eyes sends a new kind of ache through my heart.
“Lily,” James’s voice broke, tears swimming in his hazel eyes and his reflection flickers like a candle going out. “Lily, I-I'm in love with you.”
“James?” I ask, tears prickling behind my own eyes. “I’m right here. Can’t you hear me?”
“Lily please, just wake up,” James begs, closing his eyes as a single tear slides down his cheek. His reflection trembles again.
“I am awake, James,” I shake my head, not understanding. “Just… don’t leave. Stay with me. Please.”
“Lily, please,” James begs quietly and before I can even open my mouth to answer the mirror goes completely dark and I am alone.
I stare at the dark mirror for a fraction of a second before I remember where I am. My eyes snap up, taking in the scene before me with an eerie calmness.
It will be over soon.
My hands don’t shake as I dip the spoon into the potion and without further hesitation I shove the spoon into my mouth, swallowing the burning liquid.
It’s like being thrown into a pool of water with no warning. Drowsiness engulfs me like a wave and I stagger off the chair onto the floor, the empty spoon and the blank mirror are clutched loosely in my hands. The room spins around me dizzyingly and I sway unsteadily. The spoon drops to the floor, but I keep the mirror, using my free hand to brace myself on the cold dungeon floor.
The spiders’ bodies twist and warp into grotesque shapes as I stared at them. Red eyes glare at me from every corner of the room. My eyelids feel like a lead weight and I sink to the floor.
Something touches my hand.
And then everything goes dark.
A/N: Hey everyone! Sorry for the long wait between chapters! I've had no internet at my house for a MONTH so I finally was able to sneak onto my laptop at work. And I will answer reviews as soon as I get it fixed at my house! Thank you all SO much for your feedback, I've loved every review and I really appreciate them!
So I hope you all liked this chapter! There's only one more to go and then everything will make sense :)
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