A bang like a shotgun went off and Lily lurched out of her dream and into a sitting position. What on earth? She yanked her maroon hangings apart and found herself facing the rather sheepish expressions of Jana and Corbin. On the carpet was something black that had twisted into an unrecognizable shape and was now sending a thick pinkish smoke into the air.
"Uh, sorry Lils," said Jana with a grimace as she attempted to cease the mystery object's proliferation of smoke. It merely sparked and flopped over half-heartedly. Lily re-shut her hangings; she was nowhere near being ready to awaken yet. It wasn't especially early, but she had been up very late last night… last night! Lily lurched into a sitting position as the momentous events of the previous evening came rushing back to her. A surge of happiness sent warmth flooding through her stomach. Any thoughts of going back to sleep were immediately abandoned and she hopped up and slid out of bed onto the floor.
She dressed in a daze, almost pulling on her robes before remembering it was the weekend. She ran down the staircase, wondering if James had already gone to breakfast or was still asleep. She considered waking him up if he was before deciding that would be strange and uncalled for. Lily's mind was so preoccupied that she tripped over the last stair and did an awkward but impressive front flip in the air before landing on her knees with a loud thunk. Lily gasped in pain as her kneecaps collided with the hardwood floor.
Sirius rushed over, utterly failing to contain his laughter. But then, appearing out of nowhere was James, and this time when he extended his hand she grasped it and allowed him to pull her to her feet.
He grinned broadly and pulled her to him, his arms slipping around her waist. For a moment she found her nose pleasantly smushed into the luxurious cashmere of his sweater and a changed but familiar scent filled her lungs. He tilted his head so that his lips brushed against her ear and whispered softly, "This should have been last time." Unbidden, James' thirteen-year-old face came before her eyes, masked in hurt and confusion as she refused his help that morning on the platform. She had wasted so much time.
Lily did not feel James slip away from her, but when she looked up he was back next to Sirius and they had been joined by Kelly, Remus, and Peter… and everyone but Remus was gaping at her in shock.
Kelly could do nothing but stutter. "So you…last night…you…I mean…what?"
Now it was Lily's turn to chortle. "Um, yes?" Lily replied, not entirely sure what question she was answering. She was enjoying this moment of torment, but it was probably wise that James chose that moment to step in; Kelly's cheeks had been getting progressively redder.
"We, uh, talked some things out last night." He ran a nervous hand through his unmanageable hair and glanced uncertainly at Lily.
"What sort of things?" questioned Kelly, shooting Lily a meaningful glance. Lily suddenly became alarmed. Telling the story last night had been trying enough, she did not think she could bear to relive that night again, certainly not a mere matter of hours later, perhaps not ever. James seemed to gather something of this from her expression of unadulterated panic, "It turns out there was a bit of a misunderstanding. We sorted it out, but I'm afraid the incident is solely between Lily and myself. Suffice to say, we are once again on the best of terms." Lily nodded, smiling in relief.
Sirius jumped forward and scooped Lily into a huge bear hug, lifting her several feet off the ground. He successfully broke the tension by crying out, "Hurray! Now we can all be one big happy family."
Once Lily had extricated herself from Sirius' grip, Peter insisted that they continue their celebrations downstairs, preferably within arm's reach of some breakfast. Sirius' stomach growled in agreement and with overdramatic enthusiasm, he grabbed Peter by the hood of his sweatshirt and tossed him out through the portrait hole. There was a low grunt followed by a high pitched shriek. The group hurried over to see what had happened, unsure whether to be concerned or amused. Lily arrived first and decided the situation fell into the latter category. She couldn't be certain, but it seemed as though someone had been about to crawl through the portrait hole when Peter had been so unceremoniously dumped on top of her. If Lily hadn't known better, she would have found the position she now found him in to be rather compromising.
The gold and lavender shape beneath him gave an unglamorous grunt and attempted to shove the boy's face away from its presently alarming proximity to her chest. But Peter was in far too deep a daze to move. Over his bulky shoulder Lily managed to make out one china-blue eye squinted into a death glare.
Just in time, James and Sirius seemed to decide they had allowed their friend to flounder long enough. With a sigh, they seized him by his armpits and lifted him away from whatever poor creature he had crushed. Lily looked down to see exactly who that poor creature had been. She decided she might have to revise her chosen adjective.
Claire Gold took another moment to glare venomously at her assailant before rising as gracefully as possible to her feet. For a moment she made a desperate attempt to smooth the spider web of wrinkles that spanned the length of her lavender blouse before abandoning the futile effort. She flipped her golden hair over her shoulder in a gesture that was clearly meant to be intimidating, and which clearly demonstrated her obliviousness to the amusing state of disarray the aforementioned locks were presently in. Lily choked back a giggle as the girl turned to face her. Lily gulped as Claire looked down her nose at the red-head. Where her silly gesture had failed, her five inch advantage was much more successful. Claire glared at Lily as if she were personally responsible for Peter's badly timed landing.
"Stupid, clumsy, perverted boy! Don't you dare touch me again." Peter seemed to shrink visibly under the verbal assault. He nodded feebly and moved imperceptibly so that he stood slightly behind Sirius. James chuckled at his lack of bravado.
Claire stood there for a moment, perhaps waiting for some further excuse for abuse, before whirling on her heels and sauntering over to the portrait hole and out of sight.
There was a moment of silence and then everyone let out their repressed laughter at once. James crinkled his nose in disgust, "What an unpleasant girl." This seemed to sum up the interaction so aptly that no further commentary was necessary, and they continued on their way to breakfast.
After dinner the newly reconciled group split off into twos and threes with different destinations and without quite realizing it, Remus found his feet walking the now-familiar hallways that led to the infirmary. When he realized where he was going he hesitated for a moment before continuing around the last few bends and through the doorway. It was strange to be here alone before curfew, without James' cloak. Pomfrey's face peered out at him through a window from her office and moment later she came bustling into the lobby.
"Oh dear, does my lunascope need to be recalibrated again? I could have sworn there was at least another week." Remus couldn't help but laugh.
"No, no. It's nothing like that. I had some free time and was wondering if I could visit with Miss Schwartz." He tried to make it casual, as if there was nothing odd about him coming alone. There was no reason that Pomfrey should know that he was not one of Sydney's closest friends… but he had always had a lurking suspicion that the tight-lipped matron saw a lot more than she let on.
She opened the door for him and pulled one the visitor's chairs over next to Sydney's bed. Then she turned back to Remus, who had followed her in at a distance. She looked like she was about to head back to her office, but on an impulse he stopped her,
"Wait. How…How's she doing?" Remus bit his lip nervously and nurse gave him a fleeting half smile. She walked over to the foot of the bed and pulled out a thick manila folder and began shuffling through the multitude of charts and forms.
"Well… her coma has been stabilized for the last few months. We can maintain her this way for several years, but of course the goal is to revive her as soon as possible. I've tried numerous potions to wake her up but to be honest I'm afraid to do anything too drastic until we pinpoint the cause more precisely." She paused then, as if she had said too much. Remus replayed her last few words,
"But then does that mean you do vaguely know what the cause is?" he asked, trying to keep the panic that had suddenly welled up in his chest out of his voice. He couldn't be sure how well he had succeeded.
There was a strangely loud exhalation of breath from the matron and it occurred to Remus that he might have just witnessed Pomfrey swearing. He looked up and her eyes gazed penetratingly into his own. Then she sighed.
"I'm not really supposed to tell any of the students. Don't want to start a panic. But you're used to keeping secrets; you're on my side of the wall in that regard. I suppose if there's anyone I could tell, it would be you. But this doesn't leave this room, you hear? No James. No Lily. And for the love all that is holy, no Sirius." Remus nodded gravely,
"Right." Then he looked up expectantly and waited to hear what she would say.
"Alright. So you are aware that there are several wizarding ailments that do not affect those with non-magical blood? Many are not serious and easily cured, but others are quite rare and more dangerous. Your friend had one of the later variety. As long as she took her potions regularly, she wasn't in any danger. But then she collapsed and I have no idea why. That is not a known aspect of the disease she did have. So I don't know if this is a new form of that disease or something else altogether. I've contacted an associate of mine at St. Mungo's and he is now collaborating on this project with me. He has some interesting ideas. But… we're in uncharted territory and as such the future is most unpredicatable. There now, I've said far too much. Have a nice visit with your friend. I'll be in my office." Remus' breathing had gotten dangerously shallow and he struggled for moment to normalize it. The nurse was almost to the doorway before he got it under control.
"Wait!" he called out, still breathless and now the panic in his voice unmistakable. "Please wait," he said, much softer this time, but just as desperate. Startled, the nurse turned to face him, one eyebrow raised in a silent question. But Remus did not know how to verbalize the emotion that had seized hold of his heart, the burning panic that raced through his veins. "I just…I…you have to," he broke off when he realized his stuttering was entirely incoherent. He took a very deep breath. Then another one. Then he tried again. His voice was barely above a whisper, "You have to save her. Please."
Madam Pomfrey took a few faltering steps towards the boy, looking very alarmed. And then, quite suddenly, his knees gave way and he landed ungraciously in the chair behind him.
"Oh dear, Lupin. I should have known this would be… difficult to hear. But we're really doing all we can." Remus stared mutely at the floor tiles.
"Lupin?" she asked, hesitantly. His eyes snapped up to meet hers.
"You have to save her," he repeated. "You have to because…because I'm in love with her." Both their eyes widened with shock, for neither had known until he had spoken the words aloud. The nurse put a hand on his shoulder,
"I'll try, Remus, I'll try." And then she was gone and he was alone. Alone with her.
He turned the chair so that he was facing her bed and very slowly he reached one of his hands out to tough the fragile skin of her wrist. It was so much paler than he had ever seen her skin before. And her arms were stick thin, all the muscles built up from years of throwing quaffles faded away until there was nothing left but bone and skin. Absentmindedly he traced one of the blue veins that could be clearly seen through the translucent, milky skin. But even though her round face was all angles now, it was still her and he stared in wonder. He had wasted so much time.
And with that thought in mind he leaned over, folding his arms on the pillow and resting his chin on top of them. He began whispering to her, his lips mere inches from her right ear,
"Sydney, can you hear me? It's Remus. I know you're lost in there somewhere, but I need you to find your way out, okay? I don't know what's going on, or if you can hear me, or if you even remember who I am. But if you can understand me, please listen. I need you to come back. There's some important stuff you haven't done yet. There's some important stuff I haven't done yet. Stuff I should have done a long time ago. Sydney, you have to come back. You have to come back so I can tell you something, alright? I need to tell you that… that I love you. And you have to come back so I can do that. You have to."
Sydney walked through the trees at leisurely pace. She was utterly at peace and there was no reason to rush through this pleasant walk. The wildflowers were in bloom and they dotted the lush grass in a rainbow of shades, each one more vibrant than the last. Up ahead she saw a small pond. The sunlight shone brightly off its mirror-smooth surface and she wondered absently if there were fish inside. As she approached the pond, a handful of purple butterflies fluttered past and settled on a nearby flowering bush.
She looked up towards the sky and smiled broadly. It was a bright, clear blue muffled only by a scattering of perfect, puffy-white clouds. She felt sure that if she could touch one it would be soft and springy, like cotton. The sun beat down on her face, warming it without being overbearing. The grass was wild and tall, brushing her fingertips as she strode through it.
She was at the shore of the pond now; it was larger than it had appeared from further back. The dirt bank was smooth and untouched, interrupted only by a smallish boulder. She walked up next to it and stood as close as she could get to the water's edge without wetting her toes.
Then she heard a voice, "Sydney?" It was whispered very quietly, but there was no mistaking it. Startled, she whirled around. It had seemed to come from behind the boulder. She hurried over to check. But there was nothing there. Then it came again, louder this time and more distinct,
"Can you hear me?" it whispered. Now it seemed to be coming from within the boulder itself. Or perhaps from somewhere beneath the pond. She stumbled back over to the shore, slipping in the mud this time so that her feet slid into the water. But there was nothing there. There weren't even any fish. The surface was only troubled by the ripples her own feet had made when they had disturbed its glassy surface. But it spoke again, and every world came to her louder than the one before, "It's Remus."
"Remus?" she whispered back in awe. What was he doing here? And where was he hiding? And why he was he hiding from her, anyways? "I can hear you. I'm right here." But he didn't seem to have heard her.
"I know you're lost in there somewhere, but I need you to find your way out, okay?" This time the voice seemed to come from everywhere at once: the boulder, the lake, the trees, the sky, within her own mind. It echoed through the air as if the very earth had spoken to her. She felt a shiver of fear and slowly backed out of the pond. She looked towards the ground and sucked in a terrified gasp of air: her shoes and socks remained dry and clean. What was Remus talking about anyways, she wasn't lost? He was the one that was hiding. Then the voice came again,
"I don't know what's going on, or if you can hear me, or if you even remember who I am. But if you can understand me, please listen. I need you to come back. There's some important stuff you haven't done yet. There's some important stuff I haven't done yet. Stuff I should have done a long time ago."
All at once Sydney became aware that she was dreaming. The notion was instantaneous and she stumbled in surprise, falling backwards onto the grass. She pressed her ear against the moist earth, as if the voice might come to clearly this way.
"Sydney, you have to come back. You have to come back so I can tell you something, alright? I need to tell you that… that I love you. And you have to come back so I can do that. You have to."
She lurched upwards, and cried out, "Remus!" But the voice had begun fading partway through and she only just made out the last whispered plea. With that first realization came another, more terrifying one: she was trapped. Remus was telling her that, and begging her to escape, to fight, to break free and come back to him. What was she doing in this strange and beautiful place? And more disconcertingly, why had she never questioned her presence here before now? She felt certain that Remus was not a part of her dream, that somewhere out there in the real world he was speaking to her, wherever she was. Another terrifying thought: that her body should be somewhere else, that this wasn't her real body at all. She looked downwards automatically. She was wearing a white sundress with white mary-janes and white socks. She didn't even own a sundress.
Kelly had always told her that if you know you are dreaming you can control the course of your dreams and change them. Shouldn't she have woken up after becoming aware? Could she wake herself up now? She wasn't sure how to go about doing so. Wake up. I want to wake up now. I'm going to close my eyes, and when I open them up I'm going to be awake and I'm going to give Remus an enormous hug for saving me. Her eyes fluttered open. She was sitting on a grassy hill next to a pond. She sighed in disappointment. She stood up, brushed the dirt off her imaginary sundress, and raised her arms to the heavens,
"Wake up." Nothing happened. She sucked in a lungful of air, "WAKE UP!" she screamed as loud as she could. A tear of frustration slid down her cheek. She wiped it away angrily. She was utterly trapped. She ran her hands through the long blond hair that hung down her back.
Somewhere out there Remus was fighting for her. Trying to bring her back. And now that she realized she was gone, she desperately wanted to be back too. How long had she been in this dream world? Then she remembered…
Somewhere out there Remus was in love with her. In love with her! She had had no idea. And yet, perhaps it made sense. He was always so sweet to her, always wanting to help her, making her laugh. She wondered why she had never noticed before. She realized the Remus was always somewhere near the edges of things, never in the center of activity. He was an observer. A man of few words. Yet when he spoke it always seemed to have a purpose. Nothing was wasted.
And she was wasting time! She had to get out of there or it wouldn't matter if a hundred men were in love with her. If she didn't get out she wasn't ever going to see him again to find out what she felt in return. She shuddered at the thought and for a moment was filled with despair. And then determination.
That wasn't going to happen.
She was going to get out.
She was going to fight.
And for herself.
She clenched her hands into fists of determination.
Remus was lost in thought, his hand in hers, staring at her face but no longer seeing it. He wondered how long he had before Madam Pomfrey kicked him out. Then he felt the barest flicker of something, so brief and so gentle that he almost wasn't certain it had happened at all. No, it had happened. He couldn't have imagined that. He wouldn't have dared to allow himself to imagine that. Yet it had happened. Which had to mean…she had just squeezed his hand.
His jaw dropped in shock.
And that is the end of another chapter :) This bit of plot has been floating around for a while, but definitely was not in my original layout…which I have basically passed by anyways. I don't think I had anything past Lily's story really concretely planned out. But I haven't looked at my old notes in ages, so I could be wrong.
I should also apologize if there are many mistakes, I just finished this tonight and read through it once (though the first bit had already been proofed once or twice) so that I could put this up before I go to bed. That is probably the least amount of editing I have ever done on a chapter. I hope it doesn't show too badly.
That was a long one too! (seriously, it went onto the 8th page...I usually write 6-7) You guys definitely deserved it, though, after that long wait. So pretty much all my crazy school stuff is over by now (as well as my crazy personal stuff) so I hope I will be getting more chances to write in the near future. But I should tell you now that after this I owe my Twilight guys an update on Being Sane in Insane Places, so I'll be doing that chapter next. It's their turn, what can I say.
If you're really impatient you could always check that one out, you really don't need to know anything about the book to read it…it is basically the back story of one of the characters (are you guys noticing a pattern?) based on the very small amount of information given in the book and the premise set up by the book. All you really need to know is that there are some vampires involved. I really like it, but I might be biased (In fact I used to like it more than this story, but then I got back into this one and now I couldn't tell you)
So I would absolutely adore some reviews from my ever-loyal and ever-charming readers :D
(seriously guys, I appreciate all of you putting up with me being a crazy-slow updater)
Until we meet again…