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Before They Fall by Jchrissy
Chapter 16 : A Day for Madness
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 13

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Chapter image by the amazing heartfelt.@TDA
Chapter 16 - A Day for Madness

“So, my boys, is winning on the agenda for today?” William Potter asked, laughing as he clasped both Sirius and James on the shoulders.

“I don’t know,” Sirius answered with a false tone of gravity. “I suppose there’s a good chance of it. James has been having a nice stretch of luck this week, hasn’t he, Lily?”

Lily felt a blush of embarrassment creep into her cheeks. She resisted the urge to let her foot come down hard on Sirius’s toe. Of course he would find a way to tease her about the kiss, in front of James’s parents no less. It was hard for Lily to stay annoyed for more than a few seconds, though. Excitement was alive in the air as hundreds of students made their way to the stands surrounding the Quidditch pitch, laughing and chatting under the brilliant November sun.

Lily knew that they already missed their chance to get the best seats, but when James had asked them all to walk with him and Professor McGonagall to meet the seventh year parents, there wasn’t a chance they were going to say no. He’d been much too excited about the prospect of Olivia and William being greeted by all eight of them.

“James,” came a yell from the open flap of the changing tent. “You thinking of playing Quidditch anytime today?”

“I guess today seems like a good day for it,” James joked, stepping from his parents and craning his head into the tent. “Be right there. You lot just worry about getting your robes on the right way.”

“I should get going. I need to be in the tower for the match to kick off,” Frank said with a sigh, holding his hand out in front of him and shaking Mr. Potter’s. “It was nice seeing you guys. I may not get a chance to say goodbye before you have to leave, but I expect I’ll be seeing you next month?”

Olivia pulled Frank into a tight hug, kissing him hard on the cheek before patting the other with one of her slender, knobby hands. “Good luck, and of course we’ll see you and Augusta over Christmas.” Frank’s ears turned bright read, and Lily had to bite the corner of her lip to force away the giggle building in her throat. It was no secret that Frank’s own mother, Augusta, wasn’t the most tender woman in the world. She did seem very nice, just not as nurturing as some. So watching Frank’s awkward uncertainty at how to handle this kind of warmth really was more amusing than it should have been.

“Frank.” Lily put on her best ‘Head Girl’ attitude as she turned towards the boy. “You try to keep the comments clean and fair sided, yeah?”

“Ah, Lily. What’s the point in me being the commentator if I can’t favor Gryffindor?” Frank said with a wink before turning around and taking off up the path.

“Alice,” William interrupted, releasing his hold on Sirius and moving his giant hand to Alice’s much smaller shoulder. “Are you and Frank enjoying your lessons with Mr. Moody?”

“Um, well,” Alice glanced around, and Lily could tell that she was uncomfortable talking about it. Not because she didn’t enjoy it, but because it singled her out.

“She’s doing amazing,” Lily interrupted, wanting to make sure her friend got the credit she deserved.

“And ze teacher told ‘er zat she and Frank are at ze level of most of ‘is second year trainees,” Belle added proudly, grinning at the slender brunette.

“Vat are you training for?” Lily turned around to see the Bulgarian transfer making his way over to the group. “Sorry I am arriving late. It found myself losing the track of time in the library.”

“Don’t worry.” Lily gave Alrek an encouraging smile before stepping over to make room for him. “Mr. and Mrs. Potter, this is Alrek Rukin, he just came to Hogwarts this year from Durmstrang. Alrek, these are James’s parents.”

Alrek held out his hand, shaking both of theirs. “It is a pleasure at being aquatinted vith you both. So,” he continued, facing Alice, “vhat are you and Frank having to do extra of? Is it Potions? Because I seem to be needed a bit of extra training in that, myself.”

“Not exactly, though I probably could use a bit of tutoring in Potions as well,” Alice said with a sympathetic smile. “But this training is for after Hogwarts.”

“It’s nothing really,” William cut in, his eyes serious for the first time that afternoon. “They’re both just interested in Ministry positions that they’re being trained a bit about. Boring stuff, really.”

Lily watched Mr. and Mrs. Potter exchange a look, and for some reason she was relieved that James’s dad hadn’t told Alrek the truth. It was a pretty incredible thing, being trained early as Aurors, and as long as their NEWTs panned out they’d be years ahead of anyone else. But it wasn’t the kind of information you shared with just anybody, Lily supposed. Especially considering Alice and Frank both mentioned that Moody wasn’t entirely sure if it was ‘Ministry approved.’

“Well then,” Olivia said, clapping her hands together and easing away the bit of tension that had crept through them. “I think it’s time we go get ourselves seated. Peter, you’ll be a dear and escort me up the stairs?” Olivia asked, holding her arm out so Peter could thread his through it.

“Don’t let her go for a second, Peter. She’ll take off and start encouraging all the students to bet on the game. The woman is a sucker for a quick Sickle.” William winked and gave the sandy blonde boy a pat on the back before turning back to James. “Good luck, son,” he said, pulling him into a tight hug. “You know that no matter the outcome of the game, just watching you play is the best thing of all. But we wouldn’t mind seeing you win, either.”

“You’ll do great,” Lily added, smiling as James stepped toward her. She was about to move aside so the rest of the group could wish him luck, but James clearly had other ideas. His arms laced around her shoulders and he pulled her into a tight hug. She laughed as she hugged him back, and let the scent of his cologne overtake her for just a second. When she felt his weight release, she unhooked her own arms and started to turn away. But before she could, he took her chin in his fingers and placed a light kiss over her lips.

She was too surprised to say anything. And by the time the fog filling her mind cleared, he was already slipping into the tent and out of sight. She stayed where she was, not wanting to meet the eyes of anyone, and was thankful when Olivia ushered the boys forward, leaving her alone with just Alice and Belle.

“So,” Alice started as the rest of the group got a few yards ahead. “I know you guys decided you weren’t just friends, but does this mean...?” She let her words trail off as the three girls took slow steps up the path toward the stands.

“I have no idea. We haven’t really said much more about it since the Monday kiss,” Lily answered, still trying to shake the tingle from her lips.

“Well, ‘ave you wanted to kiss ‘im since zen?”

“I... I suppose. We’ve been alone a few times but neither of us did anything, so I thought… I don’t know what I thought.”

“Maybe he was backing off a bit to see how you acted?” Alice reasoned. “I’m sure he wants to be careful not to move to quickly in case you have one of your freak outs.”

“I do not have freak outs,” Lily argued. “I just, I’m not any good at this. Doesn’t it seem like we’re moving awfully fast?”

“So you zink it’s moving too quickly, zen?”

Lily stayed silent for a moment as they continued up the stairs. Did she think it was moving too quickly? Well… they had kissed twice, no, three times, since Monday. But that wasn’t that many.

“I’m not really sure,” she finally answered. “I just don’t want things between us to change. I don’t want him to change.”

Alice slowed down as they got closer to the isle that the group was sitting in. “Well, have they changed so far?”

Lily shook her head, her teeth pressing into her bottom lip. Why did everything have to be so confusing?

“This can’t last though, the not knowing.” she finally reasoned. “I mean, we did decide we’re not just friends, but we never said we were going to be…you know.”

“But do you wish you guys would have said that you’re…you know?

“I really don’t know,” Lily said, glancing at Alice. “How am I supposed to know if I want us to be dating? I’ve never dated him, so I don’t know what it’s like. I do enjoy spending time with him, but I enjoy spending time with all my friends. I did like kissing, though. And not just in a way that I didn’t hate it, I mean,” Lily felt her cheeks getting hotter and knew they were probably bright red. “I really, really , liked it.”

“It looks like zat’s your answer, zen,” Belle said, a huge smile filling her angular face.

“But what if-”

“Nope” Alice interrupted as they began down the isle. “No more arguing. This is exactly what you want, Lily. And we know it might be scary. You’ve always dated boys that you know are better off as friends, that you won’t get attached to. But with James, the idea of not having him around is frighting because you care so much about him. Of course that makes getting into a relationship harder, because there’s more to risk. But you deserve to be with someone who you know it would hurt to lose, right?”

Lily stayed silent, not sure how to answer Alice. It was true that with the few boys she’d dated before she’d ended up deciding they were better as friends. She’d never had a messy break up, a dramatic fight. Was that because she’d never been afraid to lose any of them?

Well, not the way she was afraid of losing James, that she was certain about.

“I really care about him,” Lily finally whispered, not knowing what else to say.

“We know you do, sweetie,” Alice answered, rubbing Lily’s arm. “And that’s what makes the risk of getting hurt worth it. Isn’t that right, Belle?”

Lily laughed as they scooted into their seats. Leave it to Alice to get two lectures into one sentence.

“Yes, yes, I know.” Belle rolled her eyes and took the seat directly behind Sirius, before leaning closer and whispering, “I’ll tell ‘im, soon. ‘Is birthday is Tuesday, and I promised I’d do it before zen, didn’t I?”

Lily was about to answer, but their conversation was forced to a close when Alrek moved from the row up ahead to the seat next to Lily.

“Is it okay if I sit in this row, that vay if I’m having a question I’ll be able to ask you.” Lily smiled at him and nodded. She had offered to teach him how the game worked, after all.

Alice leaned over Lily to Alrek. “Are you excited for the Holiday next month?”

“I am both being excited and not so excited,” he started, moving forward a few inches so he wouldn’t have to yell. “I had thought I’d be relaxing vith my family, but ve just learned that a cousin is being married. My family’s house has a lot of empty room, so most of the guests vill be staying with us.”

“My sister’s getting married over break, as well,” Lily said, trying to ignore the part of her that wished she had a large house full of family to share it with. “I don’t know any of her fiancé's family, but I’m excited to see her get married.”

“I vish I had siblings. It vould be so much better to endure my crazy relatives if I had someone to make fun of them vith,” Alrek joked, an easy smile playing over his usually serious face. Lily found herself surprised, not for the first time, that he hadn’t dated anyone. He really wasn’t bad to look at. Eleanor had been complaining about being lonely ever since her break up with a seventh year Hufflepuff, maybe she should try to set the two of them up.

“It was fun having a sister when we were younger,” Lily said, the truth of that sentence surprising her. She really had always loved having Petunia when she was younger. Before Lily started doing weird things with her magic, before Severus told her the secret about what that magic meant, before Petunia hated her more often than she loved her…

“Are your parents being excited about your sister’s wedding?” Alrek asked.

Lily felt the blood drain from her face. “I…” she stammered as the feeling of tears pricked behind the surface of her eyes.

“Lily’s parents passed away earlier this year,” Alice said gently, squeezing Lily’s hand. She blinked away the largest of the tears trying to break their way through, and noticed for the first time that the boys and James’s parents were turned around in their row facing her, all probably trying to decide what to do.

“Oh, Lily. I vas having no idea,” Alrek began, stumbling across his own words. “I never vould have asked if…”

She ignored the feeling of her heart racing in her chest, and tried to make her words come out sounding much more put together than she felt. “No, don’t worry. You couldn’t have known. I’m sure they’d be excited about the wedding if they were still…” she couldn’t say alive and hoped that he understood.

“Well,” Olivia intervened swiftly. “I know James is really thrilled to be going with you, Lily.” She grabbed Lily’s hand in her soft, wrinkled one. For a moment Lily remembered what James said about his parents nearing eighty, and found it hard to believe as she looked at the dark haired woman in front of her.

William cleared his throat, drawing Lily’s attention to him. “We had a Hogwarts owl show up at our window Tuesday morning and thought without a doubt that Sirius and James had got themselves in trouble. Probably dragging Remus and Peter into it with them. We were almost certain before we opened the letter that it was telling us the whole lot of them had been chucked out of Hogwarts,” William’s deep laugh boomed through, the sound of it enough to calm Lily’s quivering heart.

“I have to say,” he continued, “we certainly were pleased when it was a letter from James telling us that you two were going to the wedding. It’ll be quite the experience for the boy to learn more about the Muggle culture. But you, young lady, have to promise to tell us right away if he isn’t on his best behavior.” He gave Lily a stern look that didn’t do anything but make her, and the rest of the group, laugh.

“Are your friends being of attendance to the wedding as well?” Alrek asked, glancing at Lily. She wondered if he was feeling shy, because he spoke in a much quieter voice so only she could here.

“No,” she answered, her tone a few octaves louder. “It's just going to be James and I.”

Alice smiled at Belle before leaning closer to Lily and whispering, “Just you and James for two whole days and one night.” Lily’s cheeks flushed bright red, but before she could tease her friend back, Frank’s voice boomed through the stands.

“Good afternoon students! Welcome to the first match of the year! Without further ado, let’s welcome our players! First we have Gryffindor-” Frank paused while all seven of the players, James in the lead, zipped into the air and circled the pitch. Roars and applause filled the stands. A sea of red and gold all got to their feet along with the majority of the Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs.

Lily shook her head and smiled as James let go of his broom and raised both his hands over his head, shaking his fists as the applause continued. Show off, she thought, though even in her mind her words sounded rather affectionate. She stopped cheering only for a second to tighten the gold scarf around her neck, shivers going up her spine as a chilly wind blew through.

“Let’s start with our, always modest, captain and Chaser James Potter!” The already insanely excited cheers grew even louder as James flew to the center and took a deep bow on his broom. “Followed by the lovely Chaser, Mary MacDonald, and the youngest Chaser Hogwarts has seen in years, Polly Turner, second year! And yes, folks, that’s Turner, as in Bain the Beater Turner!” They both waved as they lined up on either side of James, Polly looking both pleased and embarrassed at the cheers her brother’s name received. Lily couldn’t imagine that it was easy being the younger sister to such a legend, but the determined second year seemed to handle it well.

“And now, our own Beater legends, and some of the best that this pitch has ever seen, Margaret Blackbourne and Alexander Sheffield!” Frank cheered along with the crowed before continued. “Then of course, the brick wall himself, the reason Slytherin can’t score a goal on the pitch any better than they can score off the pitch,”-

“Frank Longbottom!”
Came the angry hiss of Professor McGonagall’s voice.

“Oops, sorry about that, professor. Just trying to welcome Caldwell Jasper to the pitch!” Lily couldn’t help herself, and laughed along with the rest of the crowd as Caldwell did a quick circle before lining up beside the Beaters.

“And last, but absolutely not least, a new addition to Gryffindor and the Snitch’s worst nightmare -- Violet Clarke!”

“Are all the introductions usually being this… extreme?” Alrek asked, whispering in Lily’s ear over the sounds of dying applause.

“Well, since Frank is the commentator and he’s a Gryffindor...” she began, and Alrek nodded with a laugh, seeming to understand.

“And now I suppose we should welcome to the pitch the Slytherin team! Let the losing begin!”

The audience erupted into another round of laughter as Professor McGonagall’s hissed through the stands.

“Sorry about that Professor. Don’t know who said that, really.”

Lily remained standing and clapped as Frank called each player on the Slytherin team, although she was one of the very few Gryffindors who did so. The other ones being prefects, who must’ve held the same sense of obligation as her to be an example for good sportsmanship.

“And now, Madam Hooch!” The flight instructor and referee soared to the middle of the pitch.

“Let’s make sure the first match of the season is a clean one!” she said, holding her wand to her throat. She waited for both team captains to shake hands, then flew back down to the grass and landed next to the rough looking chest that held the equipment. She tapped the chest once with her wand, causing the lid to fling open. Two Bludgers and the Golden Snitch came tearing out. The audience held their breath as the referee lifted the Quaffle and held it above her head. As she chucked it into the air all the students broke into a wild applause.

“Let the game begin!”

The fierce clicking of heels, one after another, was lost in the evening air. A woman adorned in only black slipped through the alleys deep in the heart of Edinburgh. Her mind was so preoccupied with it’s own musing that the cold gusts of wind coming in from the North Sea didn’t send a single shiver down her spine.

Soon she would be face to face with Him. That was the only thing worth thinking of. Not the disgusting Muggle filth living in the buildings that she walked past, not the annoyance of having to travel to Scotland. None of that mattered when it was all for such a precious chance to share His company.

She halted as she came to a set of black steps that seemed to lead straight into a concrete wall. But she was one of the very few that knew differently. One of the trusted few. That knowledge forced a shudder down her body, her lips curving up into a sneer. She stepped to the second stair, and with a glance to her left and right, she drew her wand from her pocket and hissed a flawless incantation.

Her body seemed to turn into fog, nothing but a few dark wisps. And then, before even a whisper of time could pass, the fog was gone and a woman had reappeared on the other side of the wall.

“Welcome, Madam Lestrange,” came the irritating squeak of a house-elf’s voice “Aggie’s Master has been telling Aggie that you’ll be arriving soon. Can Aggie take Madam’s cloak?”

Bellatrix dropped her thick, fur cloak on top of the creature, before stepping over it and making her way through the narrow corridor. The number of torches lining the wall, casting hot waves of light, surprised her. Her Master usually darkened his surroundings before holding a meeting, preferring the intimacy of it. At least, that’s what Bellatrix liked to believe.

She reached her boney knuckles up and rapped on the thick wooden door in front of her, but stopped when it began opening.

You may enter.”

The same tremble passed through her, but she didn’t allow her face to show the intense thrill that hearing his voice brought to her.

She could see little more than shadows as she stepped into the darker room, only a single oil lamp afire. But as she neared the desk, she was able to make out the form of another Death Eater.

Bellatrix waited a beat, then decided it was safe to speak. “My Lord. Karkaroff.” She nodded at them both, though her tone changed considerably between the two names.

“Bellatrix,” Karkaroff greeted stiffly. “I trust the journey was bearable.”

And suddenly Bellatrix realized why the other man was sitting in a chair across from her Lord. Why the light in the halls didn’t seem to reflect her Master. It was often that the Dark Lord chose one of his servant’s homes to temporarily dwell in, and she supposed that must be the case on this night. But when He sent word of how she could enter his current residence, and made it clear that she was to tell no one from the inner circle, she believed that she was being invited to somewhere more exclusive, somewhere none of the other Death Eaters had the chance to venture to. His own, personal quarters.

She tried to shake the sting of disappointment away and forced herself not to focus on why her Lord had chosen Karkaroff’s home instead of the Lestrange Mansion.

“Bellatrix, my faithful servant, you come with information, I trust?” The silk of his voice, the quiet tone drenched in control, bled into Bellatrix and caused her pulse to quicken.

“Yes, my Lord,” she answered, still frozen in place, waiting for him to command her to do otherwise.

“Karkaroff and I were just discussing the importance of information, weren’t we?” The Dark Lord’s icy gaze slipped over to the man in the chair. Now that Bellatrix’s eyes had adjusted to the lack of light, she was able to make the Death Eater out a bit more clearly. His overly pale skin, the clammy drops of sweat covering him…

Bellatrix’s lips twitched as they begged to curve into a smile. It was obvious that the Dark Lord was not in his home as a reward. The severe lack of color in the man’s cheeks, the way his flesh seemed paper thin and showed every bone of his face… Those were a few of the tell-tale signs left behind by the Cruciatus Curse. Her Master was not dwelling in this home as a reward, but as a convenience while he administered some sort of punishment. She didn’t know what Karkaroff’s current mission was, but he was obviously failing.

That knowledge brought a savage pleasure to her, and she found it extremely difficult not to let out a high pitched giggle.

“Yes,” Karkaroff croaked, meeting the eyes of neither servant nor Lord. “We were just discussing that.”

“You are dismissed,” the Dark Lord ordered. “Don’t let our lesson this evening go to waste. Bellatrix, sit.” He waved his wand at a chair next to the one that Karkaroff had just vacated.

“Bellatrix,” the Dark Lord began once the door clicked shut. “Your message sounded very promising.”

“Yes, My Lord,” and for the first time she finally let herself smile. Her lips, as red as the blood that she craved to spill for her Cause, twisted into pleasure. “I have a letter that’s just arrived from Alrek Rukin regarding the orders I have him under. It’s written in code,” she added. But of course the code would be easily broken by her Lord, there was nothing he didn’t know.

She pulled out the folded up parchment, her fingers careful as they touched it. The last thing she wanted to do was damage the precious information that she’d received barely an hour ago. Her deadly hands smoothed out the creases before placing it on the desk in front of the Master.

He pulled out his wand and set the tip of it on fire, holding the flame close enough to the ink to light the words.

Hello, my dear friend. I wished to write to you and tell you of the mundane happenings of my school and it’s inhabits.

The extra project I’ve been working on for Herbology seemed to be at a stand still, but I believe I’ve now figured out how to get it back on track.

You see, the plant I was working with didn’t appear to want to cooperate. But then, it seemed my luck was being changed. I learned that this plant needs to be worked with slowly, and that it prefers colder temperatures. So as soon as the year reaches a close, I’ll be placing it outside to enjoy the December frost.

I thought that was the only thing I’d be able to give for my plant, to do for it, but recently, just hours ago, actually -- I learned that I can do one more thing for this delicate project.

If I place another plant, cut from the same garden, beside it during that frost, they will feed off of one another. It can only be two plants though, that’s a very important part. If I add any more, it will be harmful. At least according to my book. Interesting, isn’t it?

The plant must also be set far enough away from any building so that its air isn’t contaminated. So not only will I be putting these two outside in the frost, but I’ll be moving them somewhere secluded on the grounds. And then, the most important part of the process, is that it can only last two days. Barely that. Closer to twenty-four hours.

I’ll write soon, once the start of my project draws closer. I think that I’ll try and check the temperature the first of December. It’s a Saturday, I believe, so I’ll have a few hours to myself to work on this side project of mine.

I hope to hear from you soon.

Best wishes.

Your loyal and always dedicated friend.

Bellatrix waited, nearly shaking, as her Lord finished reading the words.

“Go through the steps that have led us to this letter, Bellatrix.” The Dark Lord demanded.

“Of course, my Lord. You are aware of the Tracing Spell I ordered Alrek Rukin to place upon Potter’s owl. He was able to do so exactly a week ago, and it proved worthy. The compass I bewitched to work along side the spell began glowing, and led me to the direction of the creature. I was about to intercept the letter from the Mudblood’s sister, but I had difficulty catching the creature. I'm not sure it lived, but I cleaned him of any traces of the spell and modified his memory just in case.”

She waited for a moment as her Lord held up a hand, his eyes seeming to probe into her.

“Continue,” he commanded.

“Yes, my Lord. After I memorized the letter from the filthy Muggle and delivered the message to you, I wrote again to Rukin and told him we needed to gain specific information about the wedding, who would be in attendance, if Potter and the Mudblood were going, and so on. This letter,” she pointed a shaky finger to the parchment, “is the reply to my orders. It’s in the code we use often.”

She stopped again as he held up the same hand. An intense thrill hummed through her as his eyes latched back onto her.


“The code, the project is of course the Potter mission. I believe he wrote, the extra project to signal that he was speaking of the Mudblood. The section that tells of the two plants - he’s informing me that we will be able to get to him through her. And that it’s over the Holiday, which is why he talks of waiting for the frost. In the letter that I intercepted from the Mudblood’s sister, she spoke of the wedding being in Wales. I believe Alrek is informing me that both her and Potter, and only her and Potter, will be attending and staying at least a day for it. Which is why he mentions that there can’t be more than two plants outside. His last sentence, when he writes the date he will check for frost, is the date of their next Hogsmeade visit. I’ve made it clear that I want another face to face meeting before the end of term, so I can be assured that he and Black have made no mistakes in the information they’ve passed along. I believe, my Lord, that we will have a twenty-four hour block to execute an attack and bring Potter to you.”

“And the Mudblood,” He ordered. “I want her, as well. And I want them both alive.”

“Yes, my Lord,” she said, and lowered her head the moment he broke their gaze.

“You know, Bellatrix, There are times when I question my choice in servants.” The words slashed through Bellatrix, a raw sensation of fear immersing itself in her body. Had she been wrong about the message? Was she wasting His precious time? The line of burnt flesh on her arm, an everlasting reminder of her first strike, seemed to throb as The Dark Lord stood up and looked down at her.

“Yes,” The Dark Lord continued, moving from the side of the desk. He inched closer to his servant, and she knew that he could sense her terror. The fear that she may have disappointed Him filled the room, so thick that it it seemed to be suffocating her breath by breath.

“There are those few times when I come to think that I may not have chosen the best, the finest, to walk behind me and fight for the purity of our world. But then there are those times, my servant, when I think just the opposite.” He knelt down beside her, his white skin nearly glowing as his sharp finger ran down her arm. “You have done well, Bellatrix. I am pleased with you in a way that I do not often feel.” She shivered at his compliments, unable to contain the tremors that raced through her.

“I would like to reward you for your loyalty and the valuable information you’ve delivered,” he hissed, his nearly black eyes still drilling into hers.

He stood and pulled up the thin fabric of his sleeve, his back to her as he whispered something. Seconds later, a muffled knock came at the door.

It opened, making no sound, and revealed Karkaroff’s face on the other side.

“You called, my Lord?” he said. Though he attempted to cover his nerves, Bellatrix could still pick up on the hints of them.

The Dark Lord ordered the man to step in, and once the door was closed he turned back to Bellatrix. “I have been discussing with another of my servants,” he gestured toward Karkaroff, “the lack of progress on a vital mission he is charged with. I’ve given him ample warnings, when not even one should be necessary. Over the past several hours, I’ve reminded him of the importance of following my orders. But you, my servant, have given me a something that has pleased me greatly. As a reward, I would like to pass to you the duty of reminding a fellow servant how necessary progress is, how vital being given correct information is.”

Bellatrix’s face twisted into a sneer, her blood pounding with anticipation at what the next few minutes would bring her.

“I have other things to attend to before the evening draws to a close. I am pleased with your progress, Bellatrix. I will return shortly, at which time I would like you to be gone and this poor excuse for a servant to be properly educated in the significance of following my orders. Do you feel that you can handle this task?”

Bellatrix’s fingers twitched with pleasure as she clutched her wand. Her mind was already racing over the different options, trying to decide which curse would bring her Master the most satisfaction. “Of course, my Lord,” she answered, standing and bowing to him.

Seconds later, the Dark Lord walked from the room and shut the door behind him. But the click of the lock was never heard, for it was too drowned out by the sounds of fresh screams splitting open the silent air.

“James!” He thought he heard someone calling his name, but for some reason he couldn’t make out who it was.

“James,” it came again, a little less murky this time. But it still wasn’t enough to convince his mind to wake up, too satisfied with the relaxed state it was currently in.

“Potter!” That did the trick.

“Evans,” he mumbled, peeling his eyes open just enough to make out a halo of red. “Evans, you aren’t supposed to be in my dormitory.” But he still tried to scoot over in his bed a few inches, just in case she wanted to crawl in.

He expected her to yell, or to push him out of bed and tell him he was running late. Instead, the sound of her laughter was what filled is ears. He decided to test his eyes again, and let the right one try to open first. Once there was a sliver of light coming through, he forced the left one to do the same.

“Morning, beautiful,” he said with a smile as the outline of Lily’s face came into view. He thought maybe it felt so murky because he was dreaming. What else would she be doing here, leaning over his bed with those lips of hers looking like they just needed to be kissed?

“Good evening, Mr. Potter.” The sharp tone of Minerva McGonagall forced all the fogginess to drop away, and his eyes flew wide open.

Bloody hell. He was in the hospital wing. He should have known. No wonder his body felt like it’d been trampled over by a heard of hippogriffs.

“Erm, hi Professor McGonagall.”

“Is that James? He’s awake?” Sirius came bounding over to his side, and James instantly felt the need to shield his face, expecting Padfoot to start licking him or something. “James, you bleeding tosser. Always have to be the center of attention, don’t you?”

The confusion must’ve shown on James's face, because Lily pushed his best mate back a few inches

“James, do you remember what happened?” she asked in the sing song voice she sometimes used to talk to Butterscotch.

James felt his lip twitch up, and knew this probably wasn’t the time for joking, but he couldn’t help himself. “A giant black dog attacked me, I think.”

The eruption of laughter from his friends was worth the glares both Lily and Professor McGonagall gave him.

“I can see it’s safe to assume that he’s fit enough to be left in Madam Pomfrey’s capable hands. I’ll go speak with the rest of the team; I’m certain they’re all very worried about you, Mr. Potter.” the Gryffindor Head of House turned to Pomfrey and whispered something, then walked briskly out of the room.

“James,” Lily started. “You flipped to avoid a Bludger and fell off your broom. You weren’t very high up, and Madam Hooch was able to soften the fall, which is the only reason you didn’t break every bone in your body. But you hit your head really hard.”

James tried to go through his memories… he knew they’d been playing Quidditch. Slytherin’s team was a lot better then they’d been prepared for and it was neck and neck. He remembered Frank announcing that they were just going into sixth hour, the game lasting over three times longer than an average match.

“Are my parents here?” he asked, trying to sit up.

“They had to leave three hours into the game. Hogsmeade seals its wards at a certain time,” Sirius answered as he came to stand on James’s other side. Something about having them looking down at him gave James the creeps, and he tried to slide his back up.

“Here,” Lily murmured and grabbed hold of one of his arms to help scoot him up. He could have told her he didn’t need the help, but that would mean not getting the feeling of her slender hand on him.

“We already wrote to your mum and dad and told them that Gryffindor won,” Peter added. “But we didn’t tell them about the fall. We thought we’d wait and see if you wanted to.”

James rubbed his eyes, happy that he was coming around a bit more. He reached into his robe pocket for his watch, only to realize he was still in his Quidditch gear. “What time is it?”

“Just after eight,” Remus said. “The game ended after six. You got hurt right before Violet caught the Snitch, so you haven’t been out for more than two hours.”

“Mr. Potter.” He tilted his head to the side to see the school’s matron walking toward him with a glass of something bubbly and dark green. No way in hell was he going to drink that.

“Madam Pomfrey. Looking lovely as always,” he greeted, hoping if he started sucking up now she wouldn’t force the thick liquid down his throat.

He turned to ask Lily, hoping that she could somehow save him from the terrible smelling stuff, only to realize she wasn’t there. Instead, she, Belle and Alice were huddled together talking in those fast whisper-hisses that only other girls can understand.

“Sorry Mr. Potter, no amount of flattery is going to help you. You’re incredibly luck to even be awake right now without a single bone broken. But we need to be sure that your brain-”

“Really, haven’t we already ruled out the possibility of James having a brain?” Frank interrupted, earning approving laughs from his other mates. James really needed to find himself more sensitive friends. Gits.

“As I was saying, this is going to protect your brain from swelling. Now, drink all this up, and if you remain awake and cognizant for half of an hour, I’ll send for a house-elf to prepare you a late meal in the Great Hall.” James’s arguments against drinking the potion immediately vanished. He hated being stuck up in the Hospital wing, and would drink anything the woman handed him if it meant he’d be free sooner.

“There we are,” she said as he took the glass. He was fairly used to the drill by now. He complained about how it tasted. She said that it only tasted so bad because it was potent enough to do what was necessary. He argued that she made it taste bad just to torture him, and then-

“Done,” he mumbled, setting the empty glass on her tray. “So, what did I miss?”

Sirius was the first to start, grabbing James’s glass of water and chugging it first. “Durmstrang had to leave about two hours into it. Said he had a something wrong with his stomach, and he went and ralphed at the bottom of the stands.”

“Excuse me,” Madam Pomfrey began, taking James’s empty water glass from out of Sirius’s hands. “Now that we can see Mr. Potter is awake and in once piece, I would like a few of you to get out. My hospital wing isn’t equipped to handle the rowdy happenings of a bunch of teenagers.”

“Madam Pomfrey,” Sirius began, using that smooth voice that James knew he saved for specific occasions like these.

“You know,” Alice interrupted, still huddled next to Belle and Lily. “Let’s let James relax a bit and get out of Madam Pomfrey’s way.” James knew he didn’t understand much about girls, but he did definitely see a look pass between the three of them. “You wanted to talk to Sirius anyway, didn’t you, Belle?”

James wanted to chuckle at Belle’s face… It looked like she’d just eaten a boogie flavored bean or something. He knew that she wouldn’t appreciate being told that, though, and kept his mouth shut.

“Yes,” Belle finally agreed. “If you don’t mind?” Sirius nodded, but James could tell by his face that he had no idea what it was about.

“Now,” Alice started again once those two were gone. “Let’s all go down to the Great Hall and we’ll see James there. Except for you,” she added, pointing a finger to Lily. James decided right then that Alice was his favorite out of the bunch.

“So...” Lily muttered after the rest of their friends cleared out. James glanced around the room, trying to see if Madam Pomfrey was anywhere in sight. When he didn’t see her, he leaned up further in bed and moved over, then motioned for Lily to sit beside him.

“I’m not going to fit there,” Lily laughed, looking at the corner of room he made.

“You’re tiny, you could fit in my pocket,” James said, happy to see her smiling. “Thanks, by the way, for staying.”

“Of course,” she whispered, taking him up on his offer and wedging herself into the small corner between the wall and the bed. “James…”

“I'm sorry,” he began, knowing where her tone of voice was heading. “I should have figured that kissing you in front of everyone would be too much.”

He knew it was a risk, and he tried not to look disappointed as he said the words. But he’d really hoped that after Monday night they’d gotten to the point where they could stop worrying about things and just let it all happen.

“James!” The loud voice of Alexander came booming into the hospital wing, along with the rest of the Quidditch team right behind him. “Sirius told us you were alive, but we wanted to come check for ourselves.”

He wanted to shoo them all back out and lock the door, his conversation with Lily not even halfway through.

“We got you these,” Polly said, thrusting a handful of chocolate frogs into his hands. James smiled at the second year. He still had a hard time believing that this shy girl could be such a killer on the pitch.

“Are we, um, interrupting something?” Margaret asked, and James realized that Lily was still nestled into the corner of his bed.

“Not at all,” Lily said quickly. “I’m just going to let you guys visit and head down the the Great Hall.”

James felt a sense of panic bubble up in him. He’d finally gotten her back on the subject of ‘them’ and now she was running off.

He glanced over at her and concentrated on making his voice come out right. “You can stay. We can finish what we were talking about in a bit,” he said, hoping that she found the pleading look he was giving her endearing instead of pathetic.

“No, no it’s okay.” She smiled at him, but not the nervous smile she usually did when she was trying to avoid something, but a more devious one. “I think I’ve already made up my mind, anyway.” He felt his heart drop and knew that this must mean they’d taken another hundred steps backwards. He’d have to wait a few more months before even so much as trying to hold her hand, and even that may be to soon…

“I’ll see you soon, James,” she whispered, and for once James was the one to be completely speechless. Because, instead of rushing out through the door like he assumed, Lily leaned in towards him and pressed her lips against his. “See,” she said, stepping back from him as the entire Quidditch team remained silent. “I told you I made up my mind.”

And with a quick flash of white teeth and red hair, she was gone, an echo of catcalls from his team trailing behind her.

Happy Saturday! I want to say a huge thank you to my outstanding beta/friend/idea bouncer-offer, CambAngst. If you're looking for a story, I suggest strolling over to his Author Page. He has quite the variety of awesome pieces.

And now, I wanted to give this chapter a bit of a dedication. To both MissMdsty and FredWeasleyIsMyKing. You are both so awesome to have as readers. I get so excited to see what you guys think of every new chapter, and I hope you both know how much your reviews mean to me ♥

And of course, a huge thank you to anyone still reading! I'd love to know any thoughts you had about this chapter!

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