Once again, another chappie. Aren't y'all proud of me? :D I made myself VERY happy by writing this...finally, some real L/J action! Enjoy!

Chapter 15: Healing

Mid-morning sun poured into the Hospital Wing as James Potter rolled over and buried his head in his pillow.

Morning, sunshine. a sardonic voice rang in his mind. Sleep well?

/Oh, shut up./ he thought back grumpily. /I hurt. All over./

Not as hurt as you could be. it replied. James lifted his head from beneath the pillow and stared, bemused, at his intact arm.

/I thought...no way...I.../ he stammered mentally, turning his arm from side to side and poking it experimentally. /Wow./

That matron of yours is real good, lad. That arm of yours wasn't a pretty picture before. the voice said.

/No kidding. It doesn't even hurt!/ James was astonished. He had been convinced that he would never be able to use a wand again.

Quick, boy, turn over. the voice suddenly snapped.


Turn! And shut your eyes! James complied.

"But miss Evans, if you would only..." the matron said, following someone into the wing.

"No thank you, Madam Pomfrey." said a cool female voice. James smiled, realizing he would probably recognize that voice until the day he died. "Bruises are a good reminder of stupid mistakes." Lily finished.

James made to turn around, but the voice growled warningly at him. "But miss Evans, bruises that serious are extremely painful, not to mention ugly. It would only be a moment..." the matron continued, bustling in behind Lily.

"No thank you." she replied again. "Now, if I may put on a shirt?"

James choked into his pillow. He couldn't stop himself from visualizing a shirtless Lily, long red hair flowing down in graceful waves, tanned lithe body...

Ahem. the voice said stuffily, interrupting his reverie. I can see your thoughts too, you know. James blushed so hard he feared he might ignite the pillow.

"Fine, miss Evans. But if you change your mind..." Madam Pomfrey trailed off.

"I'll know where to find you. Thank you very much." Lily replied, walking around until she was at the bed next to James'.

"Anytime." the matron replied softly, and left the room.

James heard cloth sliding over skin, but kept his face firmly buried in his pillow.

/Snape in the shower, Snape in the shower, Snape in...oh lord./ James repeated frantically, as his treacherous body reacted to his previous thoughts. /Dammit!/ He could have sworn he heard a giggle from somewhere.

"Potter, I know you're awake." Lily had walked to the side of the bed while he had been preoccupied. "And while I thank you for not watching, I am fully decent now so I expect you can look."

James turned around, screwing up his eyes against the glare of the sunlight.

"Lily?" His voice came out a croak. "What happened?"

She looked at him stonily, and sat down on the chair beside the bed. "I think you know perfectly well what happened.Why don't you tell me."

"Er...I was walking and I tripped. I smashed my arm on a tree root, and that's when you found me!" he tried, smiling charmingly.

"Try again." Her tone had turned threatening. "I did not wake up, fly a broomstick, get beaten up by a monster, somehow recover and kill the monster to hear some crock of shit."

"Oh right. That." He sighed. /How am I gonna get out of this one?/ he thought worriedly, looking for an excuse.

How about the truth? She did save your ass, you know.

"Well, it's a bit of a long story..." he began nervously, figuring that she did deserve to know.

"We have all morning." she pointed out. "Or rather, you do."

"I suppose. But you have to swear-" he looked around cautiously before lowering his voice. "-not to tell anyone. Including Dumbledore"

"I'm not promising anything." she said flatly.

"You don't swear, I don't tell." James said firmly, settling back on the pillows. Lily growled softly but nodded. "Yes?" he prodded.

"I swear. Now talk." she said bluntly, settling herself down and crossing her legs.

"Well, it all began in third year. Me, Sirius, Remus and Peter had just had McGonagall's Animagus lesson and we thought it would be fun to...well, do it."

That's not quite right. the voice said grumpily.

/She doesn't need to know everything./ James replied. /I do have limits./

"You wanted to become Animagus?" Lily sounded incredulous. "Why?"

"Think of the possibilities in the Forest! We could explore without getting caught!" James replied, his eyes turning dreamy with fond memories. "We had such good times...there was the night that Siri pretended he was a stray...nicked all this food...Peter found this wicked tree...the night we saw the fairy swarm..." He turned serious once more. "Not just pranks and stuff, Lily. We saw some amazing things."

"It was still colossally stupid." Lily was fuming. James shrugged.

"Livin' on the edge, darlin'." he smirked. She glared right back.

"Keep going."

"Well, we finally managed in fifth year. Each got our forms...you already know what mine is..." he smiled ruefully.

"A stag."

"Yeah. Sirius became a dog, Remus a wolf and Peter...Peter was a rat."

Lily snorted. "Figures."

"He wasn't too pleased." James shrugged. "But those were our shapes. We were stuck with em'. Anyways, we've been exploring since then. Mapped pretty much the whole Forest."

"That's it?" She seemed sceptical.

"That's it." He smiled ruefully. "I must say, getting attacked by a Quintaped was a first, though."

"Better be the last. I really hate playing avenging savior." Lily said drily. James chuckled.

"Never again." He looked at Lily for a moment, who stared right back, looking puzzled.

"Potter...your eyes..."

"Are lovely?" he joked. "Why, thank you."

She sighed. "They're blue again. When you're a stag, they're brown. Right after I found you, they were still brown."

He shrugged. "Aftereffects. Peter's eyes used to be smaller than normal for three, four days."

"It was your eyes that made me get swatted by that Quintaped." Lily said quietly, looking down. She started fiddling with the fringe on the chair. "I couldn't stop staring."

Jamest too lowered his gaze. "Sorry. I wasn't trying to do anything. I just couldn't see who you were."

Liar. the voice hissed. You knew who she was. You just stared right back.

/Ssh./ he thought back, trying to keep his expression calm.

"It's okay. I'll just be a bit stiff for the next couple days, that's all." she looked up, a rueful smile on her face. "I'm one massive bruise from neck down."

He winced. "Ouch. Why don't you let..."

"It's a useful reminder." she interrupted. "Not to turn my back on an enemy. Ever."

"Oo-kay." James said sceptically. "At least my arm is back to normal. It was pretty mangled."

"No kidding." she said, standing up and looking at her watch. "Anyways, it's time for Transfig and I have to run. I take it you won't be at Dueling Club this evening."

"And you are?" he said, surprised.

Lily smiled ruefully. "I teach it, remember? Maybe I'll just watch..."
"You love beating us up too much to just watch." he teased, and to his surprise, she laughed.

"You got it." She said, and turned to leave.

"Lily..." he said, feeling unfinished.

"Yes?" she said, turning back around.

James swallowed. "Thanks. If you hadn't come, we'd all probably be... erm, dead."

She smiled gently. "You're welcome. I suppose your enforced flying lessons did come in handy, after all. Thanks."

He grinned, relieved. "I told you so."

"Have a nice nap, Potter. See you this evening." she said, and left the room.

After a grueling day of classes and an even more difficult Dueling Club meeting, a very stiff Lily Evans trudged wearily to her Common Room, muscles screaming with every step.

/Oooh. Ow. Ouch. Owie./ she chanted mentally as she climbed the last flight of stairs. /I am collapsing into a nice, hot bath and never moving again. Ever./

The voice chuckled. I told you to let Madam Pomfrey heal it.

/And I already explained.../ she began.

Yes, yes, a reminder. Don't you think you remember by now? the voice said pleadingly.

/No./ Lily said stubbornly, and sighed with relief as she reached the statue. It ground aside quickly, and she walked painfully into her common room, smiling a little at Potter, fast asleep on one of the couches.

/You don't think he remembers he has a bed, hmm?/ she thought playfully.

As I recall, a certain redhead slept here only last night... the voice teased.

/Who? Me?/ Lily replied innocently as she walked straight into the bathroom. She locked the door, turned on the water, and stripped down, wincing a little at the cloth pressed on her bruises.

/Pretty nasty looking./ she mused, poking experimentally at one of many deep purple spots on her heavily-mottled back. /Must have been a branch./

Or an extra-knobbly tree trunk. the voice interjected.

/Whatever./ she thought back, easing into the hot water with a groan. Relaxing once she was almost fully immersed, she stared blankly at the far wall, too tired even to muse.

/You know, when did talking to you become a regular occurrence?/ Lily asked as the thought suddenly struck her.

About time too. the voice replied. I was getting pretty sick of you insisting on your insanity.

/I'm not crazy? I thought I was talking to my other personality or something./ she replied, puzzled.

You know, that's an insult. the voice said huffily. I am quite happy with my own identity, thank you very much.

/Sorry. So can you tell me what you are?/ Lily asked.


/Still no answer? I'd have thought we were on good enough terms to get past that./ she thought, slightly annoyed.

Look, it has nothing to do with whether we get along or not. I'm not allowed to tell you. the voice said, sounding defensive. All I can say is that I'm a presence who sometimes...well, prods you in the right direction.

/Wait a minute. You're telling me what to do?/ Lily asked, still not satisfied.

Just the occasional little hint to make things go as they should. After all, look at last night. James dying would have been very, very bad. the voice said appeasingly.

/But why me? Couldn't you have told Dumbledore or something?/

Sorry. I'm stuck with you. Can't really talk to anyone else. And telling you to get Dumbledore would have taken too long. the voice said apologetically.

/I suppose./ Lily replied, sighing. She sat there, soaking, until her water had gone stone cold. Wincing at her again-stiff muscles as she got out, she put on her bathrobe and stepped out of the bathroom.

"Hey Lily." said the now-awake James, scribbling on some parchment. "Nice bath?"

"You mean without you interrupting again?" she replied, walking towards the staircase. James chuckled.

"Well, I tried, but..." he said, looking down at his parchment again. Lily turned mock-angrily to face him, bumping hard into the bookcase. The sudden impact caused her back to explode in agony.

"GOD DAMN IT!" she shrieked, crumpling against the wall. "That fucking hurts!"

"Lily? Are you okay?" James asked. She heard him get up.

"Do I look okay?" she hissed through clenched teeth. "I hit my damn back."

James winced sympathetically. "Here." she heard him say dimly. "Is the couch okay?"

"What?" she said, momentarily confused. He answered her by picking her up gently, and carrying her over to the aforementioned couch.

Lily was too stunned to really register what was happening. She winced as James laid her down. "Thanks." she managed, fingers finding and clenching a cushion.

"Any time." he replied. "Is your back really that bad?" He sat down carefully on the couch.

"Like I said, bruised from neck to knee."

"I thought you were exaggerating!" he said, shocked. "Lily, that's really serious."

"No...I'm fine." she insisted. She tried to get up, but her muscles protested too vehemently.

"Uh-huh." James said sceptically. "That's why you can't move."

"I think I need another bath." Lily moaned, managing to turn over. "I'm all tense again."

"Here." he said, and began to gently massage her back. Lily stiffened momentarily, but then relaxed as her back nearly cried with relief.

"Aaah." she sighed, giving in and feeling the tension leave her muscles. "I think...this is better...than a bath."

He chuckled. "You're welcome. Amazing, the talents one picks up when one gets hurt a lot."

Lily opened her mouth to fire off a snappy reply, but found she could not as James began to rub in small circles.

"You're definitely hired." she murmured, hearing him chuckle once more.

Not so bad, isn't he. the voice said quietly.

/You're interrupting. Go away./ she thought flatly, and nearly melted into the cushions as James began gently kneading her back with his knuckles.

"Better?" he asked, after a few minutes.

"Much." she replied simply. "I feel like a human being again, not a lump of pounded meat."

"Good." he said absently, running his fingers lightly up and down her spine. It made her shiver.

"Thanks." Lily said, not liking how his hands made her tremble. Summoning her strength, she sat up and smiled at him. "Of course, now I don't feel like moving."

"And I was even going to suggest dancing tonight." James teased. Lily groaned.

"No way in hell." she said, leaning her head back and closing her eyes. "I am seriously considering sleeping on the couch tonight."

"Whatever you want." James said, standing up and heading back over to his abandoned parchment. "Be warned, though- it gives you a huge crick in your neck."

"Crap." Lily muttered. The two sat in silence for a little while, Lily busy summoning up her strength to venture upstairs.

"Lily?" James asked suddenly.

"Mmm?" she replied, shakily getting to her feet.

"Er...what did we do in Dueling Club tonight?" he asked quickly.

"A lot, actually. Got into some of the more specific throws, kicks and punches. Learned a couple new spells. Started on the wooden practice swords." She tottered carefully over to the banister and looked up, wincing, at the staircase.

"Damn." he muttered. "I'm so far behind now. It's just so hard, all this stuff."

"I could help you, if you want." she offered before she really knew what she was saying. /Huh? What?/ she thought as James' face lit up.

"Really? You don't mind? That's great!" he said happily.

/Well, why not./ she thought bracingly to herself as she replied. "Well, you are teaching me how to dance. And giving me excellent massages."

He shrugged. "Not a big deal. Just helping out."

"Same for you." she pointed out. "Though I'm probably pretty bad at massaging."

James grinned. "It's all in the hands."

"I do other things with my hands." Lily heard herself saying. She blushed furiously as she realized what she had said.

"Uh..." James said, a blush rising in his cheeks as well.

"Well, er, goodnight." she said, turning and slowly making her way up the stairs.

"'Night." she heard him say softly, and she smiled.

/He really isn't so bad./ she realized, closing her door behind her. Leaning her forehead against the wall, she remembered how she had felt in his arms, how his hands had made her skin tingle. Unknowingly, she blushed slightly.

Now, what have I been telling you all this time? the voice said patronisingly, completely ruining her daydreaming.

/I'll probably regret it in the morning./ Lily replied acidly, but somehow, she couldn't stop smiling.

Lord Voldemort sat, staring obsessively at the attack plan of Hogwarts on the wall.

"Soon, Nagini. Soon, now." he crooned absently, stroking the snake. He turned as one of his faithful Death Eaters entered.

"What news?" he hissed, eyes widening with anticipation.

"M-m-my lord, we, er, have a problem." the man said quickly, stuttering in his fear. "The Quintapeds have, erm, broken the alliance."

"I beg your pardon?" Lord Voldemort said, his tone changing effortlessly from pleased to dangerous. His eyes narrowed as he snatched the man by the throat, bringing him in closer.

"Say...they saw...a demon, Lord...won't...go back...already...gone..." the man choked. Voldemort's face twisted in an ugly sneer.

"This is a disaster! They were a huge part of our offensive!" he hissed, spraying the man with spit. "You worthless piece of scum!" He flung the man across the room.

"P-p-please forgive me, L-l-lord." the man coughed, crawling back and kissing the hem of Voldemort's robes. "I c-c-could not do anything."

"Call all the troops back." the Dark Lord ordered, turning and striding back to the map on the wall. "We must rethink our strategy." Face twisted in anger, he ripped the map from the wall, scattering flashing counters like rain.

"Of course, Lord." the man breathed, getting to his feet.

"Remember, Malfoy." Voldemort turned, voice cold. "The Dark Lord does not forget." He levelled his wand at the man, who began to gibber in terror.

"P-p-p-please, Lord...I b-b-beg you, Lord..."

"CRUCIO!" Voldemort yelled, and the screams of Malfoy Senior echoed hauntingly among the hills.