While the meeting with Sirius was the most emotional for Aly, it seemed a little understated compared to the greeting she received from Lily. James had run inside to fetch Lily which went unnoticed by Sirius and Aly. They were still just standing there, both crying silently, his hand on her face when a scream occurred that startled them both.
"OH MY GOD!" was all Aly heard before arms were flung around her. Lily continued talking but it was all lost on Aly as Lily's hair covered most of her face.
"Let her breathe, Lils," she heard Sirius say from behind her.
Lily relinquished her hold on Aly's shoulders, and, instead, she told hold of Aly's arms and started jumping up and down. She giggled in an almost scary way as Aly tried to keep from jumping too much on her still sore ankles. Aly turned to send Sirius a pleading glance, and he immediately stepped in.
"Lily," he gently pushed away from Aly, "She's still injured."
Lily's eyes went wide. "Oh, no. I'm so sorry."
Aly smiled amicably at her, "It's ok. Really."
Lily nodded in understanding, but still wore a look of worry. James appeared next to Lily, and said to her, "Why don't we give them a minute." Aly sent him a thankful glance, and reminded herself to remember this moment when he was being an ass again.
Lily looked at him and then agreed with a bob of her head. She didn't turn to leave though. Her eyes got really big and then she burst into tears. James looked frightened by the sudden burst of emotion. Aly held in a laugh as Lily came forward and took her gently by the shoulder. "I'm glad you're not dead."
Aly beamed, "Me too, Lils. Me too."
Lily nodded at her and then turned and led the three other boys inside, wiping her cheeks as she went.
Sirius stared in their direction as they disappeared. He then turned to Aly, looking very serious, and asked, "What on you is injured?"
Aly rolled her eyes and took his hand. "I'm serious," he stressed as they walked slowly towards the lake.
"I know you are," Aly said with a mocking grin.
"Alllsss," he whined, his playful tone not able to break the worry lines on his face. She just continued on.
They sat down by the lake and she put her toes in the water. They didn't say much. He just wrapped his arm around her and held her. They sat there all day. Aly was just happy to have the sun on her face, the water on her toes, and Sirius' arms wrapped around her. He seemed content to just hold her. They made their way inside as the sun began to get lower in sky.
As they entered the Great Hall for dinner, Aly felt her chest tighten. News of her return must've spread, and it felt as if every eye in the room was on her. Sirius took her hand and intertwined his finger with hers. "It's alright," he whispered.
She nodded, but held back tears that welled up behind the corners of her eyes. She saw Regulus at the Slytherin table. He was clearly refusing to meet her eyes. She couldn't help but wonder who else was at that table had been there. Sirius guided her into a seat next to Lily. She ate very little, but the others said nothing assuming she still wasn't feeling well. In reality, she was having an internal panic attack. Her chest was tight, and she spent most of dinner focusing on her breathing, trying to calm it. She had to walk around wondering who was there, who knew her secret, who might tell Sirius.
She knew people were whispering about her. Luckily, they seemed to wait until after she had finished at the table before pouncing on her. Most asked if she was ok, but a few tried to extract details of the event from her. Sirius barked at them as he pulled Aly in the opposite direction.
She settled into the common room and stared at the fire. Sirius had sat down next to her and wrapped his arm around her shoulders and held her close. Lily headed up the stairs to their bedroom and never reappeared. The other marauders took their normal seats. To any onlooker, the room would seem to be in order, with everything back in place. However, inside Aly, an internal war raged. She held her breath to control the shaking she knew would start. She felt tears well up in her eyes. She yelled at herself for letting herself act like this. She was stronger than this. She had survived and wouldn't allow herself to be taken captive again. She was Alyson Patricia Dumbledore. She took on the toughest obstacles and overcame them with ease. Still, she couldn't shake the lingering fear. Also, Sirius hadn't actually said anything about her disappearance other than that he could smell her. Despite her fear and anger over the whole incident, she couldn't shake the hurt feeling that he had had nothing else to say. Shouldn't he have declared his love for her again? Shouldn't he have spoken of how he fell to pieces with her gone? Sure, he had been clingy since she reappeared but she wanted, no, needed more than that. She let this resentment for his lack of feelings fester as well as all the other emotions she was feeling.
She was sure Sirius could tell something was wrong, but he let her sit and deal. All she wanted was for him to do something or to say something. She needed to hear something out of him. Anything.
Finally, when she could see the half moon almost disappear over the window, she stood and announced she was going to bed. She was more hurt than anything now. He should've had something to say to her even if it was a lie to make her feel better.
Sirius looked surprised by her sudden movement and started to stand as she brushed past him. "I'll see you tomorrow," she said coolly.
As she snuggled up into her blankets, she knew she should be happy to be back in her own bed. However, she knew it would be a rough night trying to find sleep with so much burning in her brain. She cursed Sirius for making it impossible for her to enjoy her much missed pillow as she closed her eyes and let out a huff.
It was dark, and she was cold again. She felt scared and alone. The door creaked open, and light steamed in. She knew what that meant. To her relief, it was Sirius in the doorway. She tried to call out his name, but, when she opened her mouth, nothing came out. She kept trying to yell. Suddenly, Sirius transformed into Regulus, and her stomach flipped. It had been a trap. He came charging towards her, pulling his mask down as he came. She felt his cold fingertips wrap around her wrist.
"Aly?" she heard him say. He sounded afraid. What did he have to be afraid of? He was the one attacking her. "Aly!" she heard the mask say harshly.
Aly sprung straight up in her bed. She was sweaty and dizzy. She was breathing like she had run a hundred miles. She swung out in fear, only to have her other wrist captured by a hand. When she saw the purple nail polish, she breathed a sigh of belief "Lily?"
"Yeah, it's me." She came closer, and Aly could make her out in the dark. "Are you okay?"
Aly nodded quickly. She could feel her heart beating like crazy. "Why did you scare me?" she asked.
"Sirius asked me to come up and get you, and you were tossing and turning when I got here. Then you swung at me," she added sounding like her feelings were a hurt.
"Sorry," Aly said, her breathing starting to go back to normal. "Bad dream."
"I bet," Lily said, releasing her wrists. "Do you need to talk?"
Aly ignored her friends question and asked instead, "Sirius sent you up? Why?"
"Dunno," Lily told her, "But it seemed urgent."
Aly nodded, not sure if Lily could see her. She threw her covers back and groaned as her joints protested the movement. They both headed down the stairs. There was a fire burning brightly in the common room. Sirius was leaning against the back of the couch, head pointed down, his hands shoved into his pajama pants pockets. His head shot up as Aly stumbled sleepily down the last stairs. He smiled at her. She tried and failed to return it, the nightmare still in the back of her mind.
Lily made her way to the couch in front of the fireplace. Her books and papers took up the entire coffee table. Aly realized now why Lily had gone straight to bed after dinner - she was studying at night for exams so no one would bother her.
"Hey," he said simply, his hands turning into fists in his pockets.
"What's going on? What's wrong?" Aly asked squinting in the light of the room. Sirius looked at her sheepishly but said nothing.
Aly began to feel agitated. "Why did you have Lily scare the crap out of me and then drag me down here?"
He turned angry eyes on Lily, "You weren't suppose to scare her!"
Lily looked up at him over her shoulder, frowned, and stated, "I didn't mean to." She then turned back to her book. His scowl deepened at her, but lifted as he turned back to Aly. "I…" he started and sent a quick, annoyed glance at Lily before taking a few large steps forward to take Aly's hands. "I've missed you."
Aly blinked quickly. Where was this a few hours ago when she needed to hear it? She felt aggravated as she stared at him.
"I was hoping, I mean, if you want, I think, see I haven't been able to sleep, and if," he stammered. Aly's nerves screeched together and it was her turn to scowl, but at him instead of Lily. "I need you to sleep next to me," he finally stated and then immediately looked down at the floor. His ears burned red.
Aly felt her agitation lift immediately and her heart melt. "That'd be alright."
He looked up, "Really?" She smiled at him, and he returned one. He took her hand and led her toward the boy's stairs.
"Night, Lily," Aly called as they went. Lily merely lifted a hand at them not taking her eyes off of her book.
Once nestled into Sirius' bed, the drapes pulled back, her head resting on his chest, Aly knew she'd finally be able to get some peaceful sleep. The soft rumble in Sirius' chest told her that he was finally going to get some too.
Aly had managed to make it through her exams even after all she had been through. Most of the teachers had been generous enough to offer her more time, but she insisted she take them with the rest of her classmates. Charms had been the only sore spot for her. Flitwick had winked at her as he handed her her grade much to Aly's dismay. She had gone to her father and insisted she be given the grade she deserved. So, it was a very confused Flitwick that conceded and lowered the grade.
The train was scheduled to leave the next day, and the sun shined down bright on the green ground. Aly found herself out by the lake with the Marauders. Sirius had been keeping extra close to her since her return, and the other boys seemed okay with Aly's constant presence, even James.
Aly stood and watched as the boys pulled off their shirts to jump into the lake. She had been contemplating a lot of things involving her and Sirius' connection with Voldemort. She played different scenarios over and over in her head. She had her father's opinion on the matter, but she needed another one - a more important one.
As Sirius pushed Remus into the water, she called out James's name. He looked confused as he came closer. "Can I talk to you for a minute? It's important," she stressed.
He nodded once and pulled his shirt back and followed Aly as she separated herself from the other boys. They made it to the edge of the forest when Aly turned to face him.
"What I am about to tell you," Aly shook her head, "It's vital that it stays between us. No one else can know."
James looked even more confused and said nothing.
"You have to promise. Not a word of this ever gets back to Sirius."
James asked, "Is this about what happened while you were missing? Did something between you and a deatheater? Like physically? Cause I can't not tell him that..."
Aly looked into his hazel eyes and saw them blaze in a way she had never seen. His loyalty to Sirius ran that deep. Aly knew Sirius had been worried about the exact thing James asked. He had made subtle hints towards it, but never seemed to accept the fact that when she said she was fine and nothing happened she really meant it.
"No," she told him. "It's not that, and tell Sirius to let it go. It's something else."
He looked relieved when she said no but still looked suspicious. "You have to swear never to tell Sirius what I'm about to tell you," she stated again. "It's life and death."
"Who's life?" he asked.
"Both his and mine," Aly told him. She was antsy. She needed to tell him. Why wouldn't he just promise?
After a long pause, James finally nodded.
Aly heaved a great sigh before going head first into the details of what had transpired. When she finished she told him, "My dad says that I shouldn't worry about it until it happens, that Voldemort might be gone by then. I just don't know what to do. My instinct says to protect Sirius, to stay away from him entirely. I just don't know. So, I need you to tell me what to do. You know Sirius even better than I do. So, what do I do?"
James seemed to absorb this. "Well, there's always a chance that you two won't even be together for any of this to be a problem." Aly bit her tongue. She figured he'd think this particular thought right away. "So, I don't see why you should tell him. He's already being protective enough of you. Why give him more to worry about?"
Aly blinked at him, not believing her ears. "Wait, you're telling me to stay with him? That you don't want me to break up with him?"
"Of course I don't want you to break up with him," James said with an eye roll. Aly's face scrunched up in disbelief so James elaborated, "Not that I like you two together, but he's happy. There's no reason to break his heart now for something that might happen later."
Aly felt a small amount of relief flood her as he said this. He was right. She would get to keep Sirius and the happiness he brought her for a while longer, maybe forever. She nodded at this and reminded him, "Not a word leaves this conversation."
"My lips are sealed," James said and looked over his shoulder. Water was flying from different parts of the lake.
"You can go," Aly told him, and he beamed in excitement before taking off in a run for the water. Aly watched as he pulled his shirt off and cannonballed near one of the boys. Aly smiled at the scene they all made. They all seemed so happy.
"Psst," someone whispered behind her. Aly jumped. She turned to see Hagrid peeking through the trees at her.
"Hagrid?!" Aly gasped, clutching her chest. "You scared me half to death."
"Sorry, Als. Shouldn't've snuck up behind ya," he whispered. "Can ya come with me?"
Aly nodded and followed him as he disappeared into the trees. She caught up with him and asked, "Did you hear anything I was talking about?"
He looked down at her and promised, "Didn' eavesdrop, Als. Saw you two talkin' and waited til I saw ya were done." They walked deeper into the woods, and Hagrid ventured cautiously, "What were ya two talkin' about?"
Aly smiled. She knew Hagrid loved gossip. She also knew how he always let things slip. "Nothing much, Hagrid. Just silly stuff."
He nodded, "Lily again?"
Aly nodded; thankful her best friend provided such a good excuse.
They reached a clearing deep in the woods. "Where are we?" Aly asked.
Hagrid held one of his giant fingers up to his lips to silence her.
Aly looked around in confusion. Suddenly, they appeared – the distinct half horse, half human bodies of the centaurs. "I've brought her," Hagrid announced very formally to the group. His big hand was on her back as he pushed her forward for them all to see. Aly felt stage fright take over as she stared blankly at the large crowd.
"Hi?" she said awkwardly with a small wave.
"She lives?" an elderly centaur said aloud.
"Maybe it was a lie," a female whispered loudly.
"She seems fine," another announced.
Aly felt her heart beat pick up. She spotted Bane standing not far away. It had been a long time since she had come to see him. It was hard to now that she was older. The group trusted her less and less. The whispers got louder as more of them joined in.
"Jus' ask her. That's why I brought her here," Hagrid said loudly.
They all hushed at once. The elder centaur stepped forward. "Is it true?"
"Is what true?" Aly asked out of confusion.
"You have faced he-who-must-not-be-named and lived to tell about it," he came very close to Aly. He seemed to be appraising her.
"Yes," Aly told him. It was easier to talk to him and try to ignore the crowd.
"You show no scars," he told her.
"Madam Pomfrey healed me." He stopped walking around her.
He stood up straight and asked, "Is it true what they say about him? Is he really a danger to all?"
Aly swallowed hard and nodded. The elder nodded back at her and lifted his arms over his head. The others all turned and began to leave. He looked at her again before turning to Hagrid and saying, "Thank you."
Hagrid made a rough noise and nodded. He looked down at Aly, "Sorry 'bout that. They heard rumors and wouldn' let me work in here til they saw ya for themselves. They seem jus as worried as us wizards about you-know-who."
Aly smiled, "It's okay, Hagrid."
"Do ya think you can find your own way outta here? I've got work I need ta do for Dumbledore." He puffed his chest out like he always did when he talked about her dad.
"I'm sure I can," she told him and started the opposite direction. She had almost made it out of the trees when she heard her name being called. As she got closer to the edge, she could tell that it was more frantic. She emerged and saw that it was Sirius yelling her name. He was searching the treeline.
Aly walked towards him, "Sirius?" What was wrong? She felt her pulse accelerate as she moved towards him. He caught sight of her and relief lifted the lines of concern from his face. He ran towards as fast as he could and nearly toppled her over with his bone crushing embrace.
"Thank god," he muttered into her hair.
"What's going on?" she asked as she tried to loosen his hold on her.
He grabbed her by the side of the face, "You cannot just disappear like that!" His relief seemed to be switching to anger. "You can't just go wandering off to wherever you want. You have to be more careful."
"There's no need to be so harsh about it," she told, "Plus, I didn't just wander off..."
He cut her off, "You disappeared, Aly. You can't just do what you want anymore. The last time that happened…" he struggled for words, "You can't just do that!" She leaned back as he yelled the last words at her.
"I was with Hagrid," she told him, stinging from his outburst. "And I can do what I want. I'm not going to stop living my life just because something could happen," she snapped at him.
"You should," he barked back.
"Should what?" Aly asked.
"You should do everything to prevent being hurt again," he told her. He began pacing. He ran his fingers through his hair as he tried to calm down.
He had no idea the weight his words carried for her. She looked at him, torn between telling him everything, and asked quietly, "What if it means being apart from you?"
He stopped and looked at her, "What do you mean?"
Aly quickly changed how she wanted to ask him the question, "What if you had to give up your life? What if you had to stay away from your friends? Stay away from me? Honestly."
She held her breath as she waited for his answer. He lowered his eyes to the ground as he said, "I wouldn't care. I wouldn't want to be apart from all of you if it was a matter of time anyways." He looked up. Aly's heart swelled and she had her final answer on the decision. She wouldn't tell him. She'd be happy with him. That decision was final.
"I'm sorry I scared you," she told him meekly.
"I'm sorry I freaked out," he returned.
They both stood apart for a few seconds and Aly asked, "Don't I get a hug?"
He smiled at her and wrapped his arms around her and held her.
"You know, you aren't going to be able to be with me 24/7 over the summer, right?" she asked against his chest.
"We'll see about that," he told her with an almost grim laugh.