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The Art of Surviving. by AC_rules
Chapter 7 : Descent.
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 22


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Mudblood,” a freaking third year hissed, making a point to ram his bony little shoulder into my stomach.

I made a point of patting him on the head patronisingly. He jerked away from my hand and stared at me in shock. He took an awkward step back and tripped over his robes, landing firmly on his arse. “Bitch!” he said indignantly.

I didn’t even look and just walked past; leaving the poor kid sat on the floor. I felt a little bad. I nearly offered him a hand up. I’d never meant for him to fall over.

“Nice, Evans,” Sirius muttered falling into step beside me with a grin. “What a Head Girl,” He grinned.

“Hmm,” I muttered, folding my arms and glancing up at him through my hair.

“What’s up?” Sirius asked, raising an eyebrow at my troubled expression. I’d been feeling so much better since my brief period of deafness and thus hadn’t seen half as much of the Marauders. At first I thought they’d been attempting to give me space and then I’d thought...

“Nothing.” I returned, fixing my gaze resolutely ahead. Sirius remained silent for a few moments waiting for me. I hated that he knew me well enough that he knew I’d eventually crack. When had that happened?  Probably about the same time it became acceptable that James and I had a sort of... thing going on. Except not really anymore. I looked down agitatedly before looking back at Sirius. He was still waiting. Then, when I couldn’t physically hold onto my question for any longer...“Why is James avoiding me?”

“Ah.” Sirius said with a distinct eyebrow raise.

“So he is avoiding me? I thought it might just be in my head.” I sighed, wrapping my arms around myself and finding myself feeling utterly miserable. What had I done?  Why would James, of all the people in the world, decide to avoid me for pete’s sake? I grimaced at the floor.

I didn’t even know why it was bothering me so much.

“Sirius?” I questioned, elbowing him. “Why?”

“Awh, Evans,” Sirius muttered. “Don’t get all whiny on me. I don’t know what you’ve done. Ask James.”

“But I can’t, because he’s avoiding me!”

“If I remember rightly you sit by him in what... three, four subjects? Just poke him mid transfiguration where he can’t escape,”

“But he’s started listening Sirius, I don’t want get in the way of his education.”

Sirius look at me for a second before letting out one of those now rare barks of laughter. “Oh, Merlin Evans, never change.” Then he laughed for another few minutes (in which I looked at him with my best affronted expression, although actually I was slightly pleased with this comment – but I wasn’t going to say that). “Anyway, no, James wasn’t listening and I’ve got sixteen inches of notes that he passed me to prove it. You were just so determinedly not looking at him that you didn’t notice.”

“Oh.”

“I don’t want to talk about that anyway, it’ll sort itself out in its own time. I just wanted to see if you were okay.” He said, turning his eyes on me seriously. If Sirius Black had said something like that to me at some point a year ago I probably would have laughed him out the room, but things were different now and Sirius was fully permitted to ask these questions. It was part of our strange sort of truce.

“I no longer feel like a walking target,” I said, folding my arms in around me and smiling up at him slightly. It was true that I’d already come such a long way since the summer, or even from the beginning of the year. It seemed as though things were beginning to look up. “I feel like a target that’s going to fight back,”

Sirius smiled at that, his eyes picking up some of their old sparkle for a moment. I frowned, wishing I could do a little bit more to help him. But what was there to be done? I couldn’t bring back Mary for him. “Speaking of which,” I continued. “I’ve been thinking...”

“That sounds ominous,”

“No,” I countered. “You’ll like this. It’s very Marauderesque.”

“I’m listening.”

“So... you know how the Slytherins have obviously been practicing duelling,”

“I’m listening intently,”

“Well... I know you and James are good, I mean really good, but it couldn’t hurt to be a bit better, could it? And, well... I just really think we should learn to defend ourselves properly. Of course we have Defence but that would be nothing against really dark spells... if we... if we taught ourselves then...” Sirius nodded. “James was going to teach me anyway,” I added hurriedly, suddenly feeling nervous that he’d laugh my idea away. “But, if we all did it...”

“I’ll talk to James,” Sirius nodded, sending me a rather forced smile of encouragement. “I’d give it till next week though, Evans,” He added, suddenly taking a sharp left turn and walking away from me. Probably towards some secret passage. “Quidditch game on Saturday,” He continued before disappearing completely into a crowd of first year girls.

Quidditch? What an entirely bizarre thought. That something as mundane and ridiculous inconsequential as Quidditch could still be taking up space in peoples mind at a time when a war was beginning.

 

 

“James,” I muttered angrily, throwing myself into the seat next to him and looking at him fiercely. He looked slightly alarmed by my dramatic entrance and the irritated expression that had found its place on my face for the past two hours. “You better bloody win on Saturday.”

Remus, behind me, laughed out loud.

“What happened?” James asked, the corners of his mouth twisting up in poorly concealed amusement. The expression was so adorable that I found my own anger weakening slightly, but only slightly. It was probably for the best anyway. I’d been so tempted to start hexing random first years that walked into me on the way here. Loosing some of that anger could only be beneficial.

“Some bloody slytherin -” I began, and that was all it took for the amused looks on all of their faces to evaporate. “– Stuck a sign saying ‘Gryffindor Mascot’ on the back of my robes.”I pulled my books out my bag and slammed them on the desk. “Which was fine, I could deal with that, but then... I went the loo after potions – the one in the dungeons. And the stuff they’ve bloody written about me...”

“What?” James asked quickly.

“All sorts of crap. Mudblood whore was written a couple of times. Head bitch – very witty that one. Hilarious. Stuff about Diggory,” I said, internally cringing about even verbally admitting there had been ‘stuff with diggory’  “Stuff about you,” I said nodding to James. “And you,” I nodded to Sirius. “All of it graphic. There were diagrams. Then, at the top, someone wrote ‘Dumbledore’s advertisement for mudblood filth.’” I paused for a long few seconds to take a breath. “Is that true?” I demanded. “Am I Head Girl because I’m a mudblood and he wanted to make a point?”

“Don’t be ridiculous.” James said. “And don’t call yourself a mudblood.”

“Oh why not?” I said loudly. “I’m a mudblood though and through!” Several Slytherins turned round to glare in my direction, and a ripple of anger seemed to travel across the classroom. I shook it off and turned back to the others defiantly. “Am I Dumbledore’s advertisement for the fact that blood status doesn’t matter?”

“No, Dumbledore wouldn’t do that.” James said, a hand going up to his head and running through his mess of hair. He obviously wasn’t as sure as he sounded.

“Wouldn’t he?” Sirius asked warily. “I mean...” He trailed off. “If I was Headmaster, I’d have given it to someone who would have attracted less attention. It puts you in the spotlight. If you think about it, it’s not really fair,”

“Precisely,” I said. “I’m the biggest target in the school.” No one had anything to say to that, not even James, and it was another twenty minutes into the lesson when the topic was approached again.

“That’s not the only thing that upset you is it?” James asked in a quiet voice, leaning forward so it looked like he was just looking at my notes (I felt a strange sort of thrill that he cared enough to ask me, and revelled in fact that he was no longer ignoring me. Then I chastised myself for being such a fool).

“Not exactly,” I admitted, brushing my hair out my face and looking up at him through my eyelashes. “They’d... written some other stuff too. Stuff about Mary,” One of my hands clenched itself into a fist.

“That could have been old?” James suggested warily, glancing back to make sure Sirius hadn’t heard.

“It was fresh. I accidently smudged it. There was a drawing of a... a gravestone too. Then an arrow from the bit about me to the gravestone saying... erm... the mudbloods will be reunited soon.”

James faced remained impassive for a long second as he looked at me, considering this. He didn’t seem as angry as I thought he would have been. In fact, I’d had expected him to be hexing their arses by now... but there hadn’t even been a single swearword.

Maybe he just didn’t care anymore.

Or maybe he’d grown up.

“We’ll kick their scrawny pureblood arses,” James grinned before returning to his notes with a newfound fervour.

Maybe not...

 

 

 

It wasn’t just about Quidditch, even I saw that now, it was a way of scoring points. The other Gryffindors had started wondering around with the team members for their protection, and I even heard one stupid girl lamenting how she was going to take a curse for Sirius now that he was ‘back in the market.’ There had been curses though. Not just the hexes and jinxes that had been commonplace before any Quidditch match, where people ended up with oversized ears and eyebrows that were so long the player could no longer see; no, these were dangerous curses that were flying round the corridors of Hogwarts.  Our seeker was hit with the same deafness curse that I had been – although Madame Pomfrey fixed her in about a minute this time (she hadn’t been drunk, which had apparently helped...).

A fifth year prefect had been hit with a strange curse that had made him bleed from everywhere after he tried to give the Slytherin beater a detention, and had been in the hospital wing for three days now. There were rumours that he’d have to go to St Mungos, but I had been reassured that was completely fiction.

It hadn’t helped that the day before the match there was more bad news printed in the prophet. Charlotte and her family had disappeared – their house was found to be completely deserted by ministry official. “It’s says here it looks like they’ve been gone for awhile,” Peter said warily, skimming through the article in the prophet which detailed more about the disappearance.

I exchanged a glance with Alice. Rachel was supposed to be playing today and I wasn’t altogether sure that she was up to it. “She should have stayed at Hogwarts,” Peter said. “She would have been safer,”

“She was scared, and rightly so it seems.” I said hotly. I couldn’t believe it either. Charlotte, blunt and straightforward, disappeared...

“You don’t think they’ve done this to mess Rachel up for the game, do you?” Peter asked.

“No,” Frank said dismissively. “This isn’t about Quidditch.”

“What if it is?” Remus asked, looking exhausted. “Think about it, we have the better team... and winning would really increase moral. Another advertisement that blood status doesn’t matter.”

“They’ve been missing for ages,” Alice countered. “Unless someone leaked to the ministry, but... It couldn’t be about Quidditch.” She shook her head, her eyes tearing up dangerously. “How many more people can Gryffindor lose?”

“Everyone,” A voice snarled, and the five of us turned our heads sharply. Knott, Quidditch captain. I narrowed my eyes in his direction and glared at him. “You’re next, Evans,” He spat, his lips twisting into a horrible grin.

“What are you doing here?” Remus asked. “Piss off.”

“I was coming to wish you good luck in the game,” He sneered. “But it looks like your team aren’t going to show up.”

“They’re right there.” I spat back, sitting up and glaring at him definitely. When he broke it to look over, I looked too – watching as the team walked into the room, already in their Quidditch ropes.

“Are you cheerleading for the game, Evans?” Knott sneered. I ignored him, and watched as James entered the room, his arm wrapped around Rachel who seemed to be crying. She’d been essentially crying non-stop since the news about Charlotte had reached her. James frowned when he saw Knott, gave the crying Rachel to Sirius (who looked as if he felt extremely awkward) and then hurried over. “Ah,” Knott continued. “Your guard dog.”

“Haven’t you got a team to attend to?” I asked lightly, turning around and facing him clearly. “Team is a loose term but...”

Knott stood up straight again and seemed to decide it was best if he’d left by the time James got there. “How are your parents, Longbottom?” He asked with a sneer.

“They’re fine.”

“You sure?” He asked with a grin. “If I were you... I’d be getting my best black robes washed.” Then he turned and disappeared back over to the Slytherin table, just as James arrived.

“Frank?” Alice asked quickly. “I’m sure he’s just...” Frank shook his head and stood up, disappearing out the Great Hall in an almost-run.

“Go,” James nodded, “We have enough supporters, I’d want to check too.” Alice nodded and followed him out quickly.

“What was that about?” Sirius demanded, an awkward arm still holding Rachel upright.

“Are you sure you want to play, Rachel?” I asked gently. “You don’t have to, no one would mind.”

“It wouldn’t be much of a game,” The fifth year beater said, and I shot him a reproachful look.

“I want to play,” She said, finally standing up straight and taking a deep breath. “I have to. They can’t think that they’ve won.” And thus all the emotions surrounding the war were being projected into a game of Quidditch. Gryffindor verses Slytherin.

 

 

 

“Foul!” I yelled furiously as James wobbled dangerously on his broom. He righted himself quickly enough and dived so quickly that it looked like he’d fallen out of the air; he straightened up soon though – flying upwards to escape the Slytherin that was tailing him. “I can’t watch this,” I said, leaning over as far as I could in the stands.

“Don’t,” Remus said, pulling me back slightly and staring with the same horror stuck expression that was no doubt all over my face. “He’ll be okay,” He said gripping hold of my arm tightly.

“But...” I trailed off, staring in dismay at the five red figures that were left. Rachel had only let in three goals so far, unlike the Slytherin keeper who’d carelessly let in seven – mainly because he was concentrating his energy on pulling his wand out when the referee wasn’t looking, and causing people to have to duck, spin and drop out of the air to avoid whatever he was sending at them.

The teachers had been forced to sit in the hufflepuff stands to be diplomatic (any favouritism at the minute would not be healthy for the environment), and they must have worked out the angles so that his actions were invisible to anyone but the Gryffindors. My blood was boiling. Dumbledore would have noticed... but he’d disappeared after the first ten minutes of the game.

There was a sudden scream as a bludger came hurtling in the direction of the Gryffindor stands, in the midst of the spectators. Several people in the rows below had to hurriedly scrabble out of the way, there was a sharp cry of pain, then Sirius practically skidded into the fray and sent the bludger back into the centre of the field. It was only when he was that close that you could see how much his nose was bleeding.

“This isn’t fair!” I exclaimed, finding tears of anger filling up in my eyes. “This...” I trailed off, distracted as James seized the Quaffle once more. My heart was thudding wildly in my chest. I was willing him to pass it... at least then he wasn’t a direct target, at least then he wasn’t in quite as much danger...  “No!” I yelled as a bludger collided with the back of his broom and sent him spinning, he threw the bludger to the forth year chaser and then...

Then the chaser was hurtling towards the floor, his broom falling too, and I had no idea what was happening.

It was only twenty feet, and a spell caught him before he hit the floor, but...

“How can we play with four players?” I demanded. “We have one chaser and one beater!”

“The snitch!” Remus yelled, pointing out at the field. “Look, he’s seen it,” I whirled back around to see our seeker speeding across the pitch. Sirius was desperately trying to stop Knott from sending Bludgers in the direction of the spectators, rather than the players (the little piece of shit). So he didn’t see the other bludger, the one that was haphazardly flying in the direction of our seeker... James had though.

What he thought he was doing... with no bat and no weapon, but then... “No,” Remus said, shaking his head and leaning forwards. “No James...” The he took a sharp left turn, blocking its path and...

In doing so being hit in the stomach by a bludger at full speed.

I was flying down the stairs before James had hit the floor, pushing past the other Gryffindors who had just stared to cheer... I nearly fell in my hurry, but somehow managed to tumble onto the pitch in a rush of limbs and worry. “James!” I yelled, throwing myself in the direction of the floor so that I could bend over him. That nurse woman, MadamePomfrey,  was there now, bending over him and muttering about dangerous sports, but I ignored her presence completely. “James,” I repeated, putting one of my hands on his face and looking at him seriously. He was covered in sweat and blood and mud.

“Told you we’d win,” James muttered weakly. I grabbed hold of his hand and shook the tears out of my eyes in relief.

“Oh my god,” I breathed, squeezing his hand so tightly it was physically painful. “Oh my god,” James closed his eyes for a brief second and took a sharp breath. “Are you hurt?” I demanded, reaching for his top and pulling it up over his stomach so I could see. Already it was turning a nasty shade of purple.

“Sorry, mate,” Sirius said somewhere in the background. “I didn’t see... sorry, I just...”

“Is he all right?”

“Never seen you move so fast, Lily,” Remus said, a poor attempt at humour that I blocked out completely.

“Don’t sit up,” I told him, putting my hand on his shoulder to prevent him. “It’ll hurt like a bitch,”

“It already does,” James said roughly, ignoring my request and sitting up anyway. He took in another sharp breath and clenched his fists. “How is everyone, are they all..?”

“I don’t know,” I admitted, “Don’t care,”

“That’s almost sweet,” James said through gritted teeth, he squeezed my hand back tightly and took in another deep breath. “I think... I think I might need to go to the hospital wing,” I laughed, tears still bubbling up from my eyes unexplainably. “You won’t leave, will you?”

I shook my head.

 

 

 

“It doesn’t feel much like a victory, does it?” Sirius asked grimly, standing up and pacing around the hospital wing with that edgy expression that always seemed to be displayed on his face when he felt obliged to be in here. Half of me wanted to tell him that he could leave if he wanted, but I knew he would refuse anyway – so I stayed silent.

“No,” Remus agreed from his seat on one of the few beds free. Most were filled with the other members of the Quidditch players or the unfortunate few who’d been hit by bludgers in the stands.

“They’ve showed real team unity,” Rachel commented, glancing at the single Slytherin that was in the hospital, a scrawny second year boy.

“They do that,” James commented weakly. I tightened my grip on his hand.

“Hey, at least it’s a victory for Prongsie here,” Sirius commented, beginning another lap around the hospital wing. He was beginning to make me dizzy.

“What are you talking about?” I asked dryly. From my position (i.e. at his beside) it was looking like he’d come off considerable worse than when he’d started. I didn’t count that as a victory.

“The number of times James has taken a bludger to the stomach,” Sirius said with an amused expression. “One time he fractured a rib and still didn’t come to the hospital wing for a week.” I blinked at him in confusion. “Lily, the only reasons he’s here is because everyone one saw him fall, and the only reason he’s playing it up is so that you’ll nurse him better.”

I turned to glare at him.

“You’re so good at it?” James suggested lightly, pulling himself up in bed and smiling. “I guess the games up. Thanks Pads.”

I dropped his hand and shook my head in bemusement.

“You should have seen how fast you ran,” Remus said in an amused voice.

“I... well, I need someone to do Head duties with.”

“Right,” Remus added. “Head duties.”

“Where are the others, anyway?” I asked pointedly. “Shouldn’t Alice and Frank be back by now? Unless -” I stopped suddenly and swallowed. What if something had happened?

“Where the hell is Peter?”

“He disappeared before the game,” Remus said, suddenly looking thoughtful. “Something about failing Charms.”

“Failing charms?” Sirius asked, with a slightly surprised and confused expression on his face. “He’d tell us if he was failing charms.”

“Maybe he’s embarrassed?” I suggested.

“No, not Peter,” Sirius shook his head. “When he was failing transfiguration he wouldn’t stop going on about it. He talked about it twenty four seven, trying to get us to help him... no, we’d know if he was failing charms. Anyway, I sit next to him in charms and -”

“Why didn’t you just help him?”

“We did.” Sirius grinned, exchanging a glance with James. “We taught him some really advanced transfiguration. Threw him in at the deep end, got two birds with one stone – hasn’t had a problem since.”

“Ah,” I said. Animagi. Illegal animagi. “Well, good.” Then...

“Alice!” Remus exclaimed, standing up and walking across the hospital wing to greet her. She was deathly pale and alone. “Where’s Frank.” She looked strangely strong, with her shoulders squared and a strange indefinable expression on her face that I almost recognised.

“St Mungos.”

“What happened?” Sirius demanded, finally sitting down and looking at her with such intensity that it was almost painful. All playful talk about Quidditch was gone. This had suddenly, if we could have considered it possible, got a lot more serious.

“He’s not... he’s not hurt.” Alice said. “It was Voldemort. Knott screwed up – he warned us.” The impact of her words was huge and shocking on all of us. James took hold of my hand again, and I let him – only thinking about the slight comfort of his fingertips pressed against knuckles softly, and not the consequence of such an action. “McGonagall told Dumbledore that we’d gone to check... Dumbledore was worried and he followed us. That’s the only reason why...” For the first time her voice seemed to waver. “Why we’re alive.”

“Did he...? Torture you?”

“Voldemort?” She asked. “He cursed Mr Longbottom, something horrible – there was a lot of blood – and he was trying to persuade Mrs Longbottom to join him, I think... he didn’t expect us to turn up.”

“Voldemort. You’ve... you’ve seen Voldemort?” Rachel asked, her own voice shaking with awe-filled terror.

Alice nodded. “Frank distracted him, sent a stunner... then I think, I think he would have killed us right then and there but Dumbledore showed up and...”

“Shit.” Sirius said eloquently. None of us could have expected this. We were kids – teenagers. We weren’t adept at dealing with this... with curses and Voldemort and poor poor Alice. Poor Frank. Imagine what could have happened if they’d assumed Knott’s comment was frivolous and unimportant? What if Dumbledore hadn’t thought to go after them?

Charlotte... charlotte and Frank’s parents. All I’d signed up for today was a Quidditch match and that had been brutal enough. I wasn’t altogether sure how Alice was still managing to stand there. I wasn’t sure how someone had burst into tears and started dramatically sobbing – apparently we’d all grown up now. Or maybe none of it had sunk in yet.

“Frank’s with his Dad now,” Alice said, finally sitting down and beginning to look exhausted – the manic glint that was in her eye dissipating into fear and the familiar trace of someone who had seen far too much. “They don’t think he’s going to make it.”

“That’s it then, isn’t it?” James asked over the quasi-silence. “We’ve got to learn how to fight. Lily thought we should set up our own defence group. This just goes to show...” James trailed off. Sirius had wrapped his arm consolingly around Alice (who was slowly looking less and less strong, and more like any second she was going to start crying hysterically). Remus looked at his hands and seemed to be very uneasy, not that I blamed him.

“I want in,” James said. “You’re in, right Lily?” I nodded.

“Me too,” Sirius said, his eyes empty and hollow looking.

“I was there,” Alice said, her voice now beginning to shake with anxiety, “and I didn’t know what to do, I couldn’t do anything... I just stood there and watched as he tortured Frank’s Dad body and... I never want to be so powerless again. I’ll do anything.” She acclaimed. “I’m in,”

Rachel shook her head and looked at her hands. “You’re all so brave,” Her voice was weak. “I’m not brave enough,” Her voice was shaking again.  Remus stood up and put an arm around her; she sniffed and rested her head on his shoulder. “How can anyone stand this?” She blinked. “This war, it’s horrible!”

“It’s so big.” I said, and although I knew how empty and pathetic sounding words may seem... the others seemed to understand.

“No victory party this time,” James said firmly. I dropped his hand – suddenly becoming aware of it, and vaguely aware that he’d been avoiding me for some unknown reason that was no doubt both stupid and unimportant. Everything seemed frivolous compared to this weighty war that was suddenly settling upon our lives, shadowing everything with its unwelcome darkness. “It wouldn’t be right.”

“So Knott’s definitely a Death Eater.” Sirius said, looking thoughtful – still holding Alice up. She didn’t fit in his arms properly, it didn’t look right... with Alice’s blonde hair it just... it made me long for that flash of purple or red, or brown hair. There was a fierce jolt in the pit of my stomach as I tried to work out what Mary would say in a situation like that, but I couldn’t place her here anymore... things had moved on, changed and...

I suddenly wanted to cry.

“Looks like it,” James said, silently taking my hand again. He was so acutely aware of my actions it was ridiculous; still... it was nice to have someone who seemed to understand me so readily. Merlin knows how he managed to read me so easily, but he did – and that was what was important.

“Snape too. He has the mark.” I said. Sirius raised an eyebrow but didn’t question it. Rachel looked like she was about to burst into tears. Maybe this conversation was better placed away from her earshot.

“Rachel, do you want me to take you back to the common room?” Remus asked, obviously thinking the same thing. She nodded.

“Try and find Peter too, will you?” Sirius called after them as they headed for the door. We all seemed to move in closer. James edged over to one side of his bed and I perched myself on the end. Alice pulled up her chair and sat silently, looking at the crevices in her hands dispassionately and in doing so excluding herself from the conversation. We let her. If I were her I’d have disappeared up to my dorm to weep right now and I was amazed by her pure inner strength.  

“I expect most of them are,” James said in a half whisper – like we’d all suddenly realised that we were in a relatively crowded hospital wing which actually had a slytherin in. “Sixth and seventh years.”

“The girls too?” Sirius asked.

“Hard to say.” James considered. “We’ll have to keep a look out. I don’t know if he’s using women.”

“My charming cousin?”

“Definitely. But she always was in a league of her own,”

“Bellatrix?” I questioned. Despite having years of getting used to the idea I still found it difficult to visualise Bellatrix, who’d left Hogwarts several years ago thank goodness, having anything to do with Sirius. Occasionally you could glimpse that darker more menacing side to him, but...

“Bellatrix.” Sirius nodded his face grim and stony – like it always was when the subject of his family came up. “Narcissa is merely a wife, as far as I can gather. Malfoy is definitely in the inner circle, however.”

“How do you know this?” I asked quietly. Sirius’s expression froze for a second and he glanced downwards.

“I’m just guessing.”

“No you’re not. It’s like the Marlene thing all over again.”

Lily,” Sirius said sharply. I shut my mouth quickly.

“You know where Marlene McKinnon is?” Alice asked.

“Evans, what did I tell you?” Sirius demanded angrily.

“If you weren’t lying then -”

“Where is she?” James asked, gripping my fingers.

“In hiding.” Sirius said stiffly.

Why?” James asked.

“Because,” Sirius hissed. “She was having it off with my brother,” His voice dropped even lower so that I was surprised even James and Alice could hear. James eyes widened slightly. Sirius looked very irritable. A lot of this irritation seemed to be directed at me. At least this time I deserved it.

“So she’s hiding because?”

“Pregnant.” I finished.

“Why didn’t she have an abortion?” James asked in the same quite serious voice.

“Because she’s an idiot.” Sirius said. “They’ll all be killed. And keep you’re god damn mouths shut or their bloods on your hands. I’m not joking around Evans.”

“I know.” I said. “I didn’t mean to... I just...” I stopped lamely.

“God I hate being in here,” Sirius said, glancing around the hospital wing and grimacing. “It’s like reliving it.”

“You don’t have to stay by my account.” James said, knowing full well that he’d be much too stubborn to move. He shrugged and glanced around the hospital wing thoughtfully – his eyes resting on what used to be Mary’s bed for a long moment before he jerked himself back into his reality of suppressed emotions and surliness.

“I can’t wait any longer.” Alice said suddenly. “I’m going to Dumbledore’s office. I need to know what’s happening.”

“Do you want me to...?” I suggested. She shook her head, stuffed her hands into the depths of her pocket and left the hospital wing in a hurried walk.

“And then there were three.” Sirius said darkly.

“Seriously, you can go mate.” James said.

“You’re just trying to get Evans on your own.” Sirius said with an attempt at a grin which left a lot of emotion to be desired.

“What are we going to learn in these... lessons?” I asked, feeling my face flush slightly at Sirius comment (was it conceivably true? Yes. Probably). “We’ve done basic duelling stuff in lessons, but... I was thinking... Throwing off the imperious curse and-”

“Throwing off the imperious curse?” Sirius questioned. “Are you, Lily Evans – Head Girl – really suggesting we practice an unforgivable spell on each other?”

“Yes.” I said defiantly.

“Excellent,” Sirius said with a real grin this time. “Because I think that is a brilliant idea. Very illegal, but...”

“How about we start with something a little more basic?” James suggested. “I’m not sure Lily’s quite up to throwing off imperious curses.”

“Scared are you?” I asked. Sirius grinned. The mood had become light hearted again. I was more than thankful. The seriousness was suffocating. I knew that it was necessary and that at any moment it could sneak back and recapture the atmosphere with all its gloom but... there was nothing like a bit of humour to lighten things up. Even when things were becoming darker by the minute.

There were footsteps. We all looked up. Remus had returned with Peter in tow – who seemed to have some sort of plant sprouting out of his ears. Remus was obviously struggling not to laugh. “You told him to go spy on the Slytherin’s before the match,”

“Oh yeah,” James said casually. I sent him an exasperated look and dropped his hand again. He grinned and winked at me. Jerk.

“And they jinxed it,” Remus said nodding towards the plant-thing – which was still growing at an alarming speed – out of Peter’s ears. “He’s been sat in the dorm trying to prune his ears with a pair of nail clippers since before the match started.”

And that was the humour we’d all been searching for.
 


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