Chapter 47: More Malfoy
James, Sirus, Remus, and Lily met up with Cassie inside of the Leaky Cauldron early the next week to do their supply shopping as they had planned. Predictably, they had also written to Peter to inform him of their plans, but as had been happening of late, he didn't answer. Still, the other five went ahead with their trip, knowing that the other boy would have an explanation for them later when they met him at Hogwarts.
After spending the morning stocking up on Potion supplies, parchment, quills, and other smaller necessities, the five stopped for a bite of lunch, eating outside to get a chance to bask in the warm sunlight. As they ate, they talked and watched the varied wizards and witches hurry by, sometimes seeing their classmates and then exchanging a few casual words or letting them pass by without another glance, as occasion called. At least one dark cloak whipped out of sight into a side street, but nothing attracted special notice.
"My parents were considering not sending me back to Hogwarts this year," Cassie informed the group once Remus had filled her in on the details of his parents' deaths – trying to leave out some of the more trivial ones that pointed to his own conditions.
"That's crazy!" Sirus blurted out. "The safest place to be is where Dumbledore is, and that place is Hogwarts!"
"I know," Cassie tried to pacify. "That's what I told them, and after singing his praises for so many years – he taught them both Transfiguration – they had to agree. I'm coming back, but they're not happy about it."
"How long has this been going on?"
"All summer, pretty much. The magnitude of death hasn't helped at all, and somehow they found out about Lily getting attacked in Hogsmeade. As you can imagine, that did not rest in my favor. But honestly, I'd rather have something happen to me at Hogwarts than anywhere else. I trust our professors and Madam Pomfrey; I'm not sure about the rest of the world."
The group sat in silence for a few minutes finishing up their lunches and digesting what Cassie had just said along with their food. Cassie was the first one to speak again.
"Remus," she began slowly, "I'm sorry, I don't want to bring it up again, but…–" She hesitated. "– where were you when your parents were attacked? And everything about Greyback…it seems like he's after your family. Have you met him before?"
"My father upset him a while ago," Remus replied after a moment, mostly evading her questions, "and Greyback's been after him ever since. He…he…" Remus was struggling for words, debating internally how much he wanted to tell Cassie, how much he thought she could handle – or perhaps how much he trusted her. Finally, he settled on the whole truth. "I'm a werewolf." He didn't look up to gauge her reaction. She didn't respond. "He attacked on a full moon so I had already transformed. I think I tried to save them, but either way, they were mangled and killed. It was Greyback who first bit me. He positions himself on full moons so that he can attack as many as possible."
Remus finished then, waiting for her reaction. Cassie was the first person he had actually told that he was a werewolf; the Marauders – Lily, actually – had figured it out on their own then confronted him. He had never volunteered the information. All of the sudden, he felt vulnerable.
"I don't care, Remus," Cassie said finally, and the whole table let out the breath they hadn't realized they were holding. "I can see you're worried about my reaction, but it doesn't change my opinion of you. You didn't just admit to murder; you simply told me something that you can't control. It's no different than having an anger problem. It's not your fault."
Cassie clearly had more to say, but a light sound to her left made her stop and turn her head. Lily was trying to stifle laughter next to her. The young Gryffindor looked up as four heads suddenly focused their attention on her.
"What?" she asked innocently. "Cassie's statement about 'anger problems' just reminded me of how we always say it's your 'furry little problem'."
"Yeah, people always think I have a misbehaving rabbit or the like," Remus muttered.
"Oh, lighten up, Rem," Lily said blithely, the hint of laughter still in her voice. "You told Cassie, and she's fine with it. Let's get back to have a wonderful day away from the castle."
"I thought you liked it there?"
"I do, James, don't misunderstand me. We're just not going to get out of there until the end of the year. Except Hogsmeade visits – if they even let us go by the time the first one rolls around. I'm getting my fill of the outside world now."
"You never seemed unhappy staying before you went to Luke's."
"The alternate was my parents' house; any cage is better than that one."
The tone in her voice suggested, demanded even, that the topic was closed to conversation. Cassie glanced at the three boys, and only Sirus shook his head as to say that he would tell her later, when they were alone. Instead, they changed the direction of conversation and debated about where their next shopping stop would be. After a minute or two of discussion, they paid the bill and decided to head to Flourish and Blotts to finally face the nightmare from last year.
"You have to understand why we're not going to leave you this year, Flower," James was saying as he followed Lily who was perusing the store, per usual. "And I don't want to hear that you can take care of yourself. Your luck, Malfoy's lurking outside of the shop right now, waiting for us to make the same mistake a third time. Well that's not going to happen, I assure you."
"I know, James," she replied softly, turning away from the shelves and stacks of books to meet his eyes. "And if our situations were reversed, I would do the exact same thing. I don't want to lose you anymore than you want to lose me. But were you in my place and I in yours, you would want to have some freedom, too."
"I don't want to lose you, Flower," he said softly while glancing quickly around them, "and I am going to make sure that I am wherever you are forever."
Positive that Sirus wasn't in the area, James leaned down and kissed Lily softly on the lips. He wasn't hesitant as he had always been but sure of himself now, and of her. When they broke apart, he didn't apologize, instead took her free hand, which wasn't holding an armful of books, in his own.
"I wish we could be together, Lily. Truly together. Even just to be able to hold your hand down the streets or dance with you without anyone caring."
"James, you know it, I know it: I don't want anyone else. I never have; I never will. We know it will happen eventually, we just have to play this game for Sirus a little longer. You and I both know he can't prevent it. He knows that, too, but if it makes him happier to believe that he has some control in a world that is otherwise spinning out of his grasp…will you deny him that? He's your brother in every way but birth, he'll want you happy too, and he'll accept it.
"Come on, let's find the others. I'm ready to go."
James kissed her once more, enjoying the solitude the shelves provided, enjoying the fact that she was enjoying it, too. It was amazing, all things considering, to see how much had changed after the years, especially between the two of them. He had loved her for so long; there could be no denying that she had always loved him as well, but it had finally evolved from a brotherly love into a love that would transcend life and death. A love that bound them closer than they would ever be bound to anyone else.
"Alright, let's find the others," he finally replied, and Lily was happy to see a real smile spread across his face, the first one since his parents had died. If she could cause that, she knew they'd be all right in the end.
Minutes later, when the five students had purchased their books, they decided to tempt fate once more and journey next to Quality Quidditch Supplies. They walked out of Flourish and Blotts into the same side alley that Lily had entered last year in an unconscious defensive position. James was standing in the middle, slightly in front of the other four, flanked on either side by Sirus and Remus. In between James, at the point, and Sirus stood Cassie, and Lily was sandwiched between James and Remus.
Four of the group were laughing and joking, all traces of the morning's tension gone, but Lily kept quiet huddled in between James and Remus, her eyes constantly darting around, her head whipping in any direction in which she sensed motion. The movement did not go unnoticed by neither James nor Remus, and they cast uneasy glances at one another over her head.
A sudden swish of cloak made them all rivet their attention to the same place, and a figure in front of them made them stop in their tracks. Appearing before them in less than a blink of an eye was Lucius Malfoy. The boys immediately pushed the girls behind them and reached for their wands.
"I wouldn't do that," he warned directly, already twirling his wand between his fingers before pointing it lazily at each of the three boys in turn. His eyes, however, never left Lily. "I see you have your guard this time. So they're learning."
"What do you want, Malfoy?" James demanded, taking a dangerous step forward.
"Didn't the deaths of your parents teach you anything?" Malfoy sneered aiming a spell at James' feet but still never letting his eyes leave Lily. "You don't have to die."
"Why me?" Lily asked while James and Remus tried again to block her from the Death Eater.
"Because," he replied simply, danger emanating from every pore, "you're a mudblood."
In that instant, Lily collapsed from a spell shot between the arms of James and Remus, but before any of the other four could as so much as draw their wands, Lucius Malfoy turned on his heel and disapperated. No one bothered to watch for his return. They immediately dropped down next to the fallen girl. Even as they reached her level, she was already beginning to stir.
"Don't move," Remus instructed as Lily tried to sit up. "What did he do?"
"I'm fine," she insisted. "It just felt like he turned all of my muscles and bones to mush."
"Anything else?" Remus questioned frantically, quickly scanning her exposed skin to check for any bleeding or even just bruises. "Do you feel faint or dizzy?"
"No. Can I get up now?"
Remus and the others lifted her gently into a sitting position, and then, after once more checking her over fully, helped her to her feet. They watched her get her bearings for a few seconds and take a few hesitant steps, all the while watching and waiting to catch her if she should make any indication of stumbling. Once she seemed sure of herself (regardless of how sure of her the others were), she turned back to the remaining four.
"Shall we continue?" she asked trying desperately to keep her voice steady instead of betraying how shaken up she actually was.
"Are you sure?" James asked, watching her carefully, looking for any sign of instability. "We have everything we came fore. It won't be a problem for us to just go back. I'm sure Dumbledore would even let Cassie visit for a while if you wanted – if that's what's keeping you here."
"I'm fine, James," Lily insisted, "just a little unsettled because he keeps finding me." But he didn't do anything to me. Besides, we wouldn't want our Qudditch team to lose the Cup this year because our two stars aren't properly equipped."
"Don't be brave, Lily," James commanded as a shudder ran down the length of her body. "What was that?"
"I'm fine, James," Lily said again, trying to be persuasive. Instead of waiting for him to answer, she turned away and began to walk out of the alley. James reached out a hand to stop her, but she brushed him off, leaving the other four with no choice but to follow her.
There were a couple of times that they saw her almost stumble, but something in her posture kept them from reaching out to steady her. At this point, it didn't seem too much for her, and they knew that forcing her to show weakness would just force her to try to be even more self-reliant. So they let her be.
However, someone always had their eyes on her, from the alley next to Flourish and Blotts through the entire time they were in Quality Quidditch Supplies. In fact, multiple pairs of eyes were often on her. She tried to ignore their protective gazes, but their stares only emphasized the fact that she was still feeling light-headed and was exerting all of her focus and energy trying not to collapse every five steps.
Sirus was the one who finally put his foot down.
"I think we're going to take her back to the castle," he said quietly, watching as another shudder ran down the length of her body.
Cassie nodded quickly. "She can't stay here. She needs to rest. Are you going to take her to Pomfrey?"
"She'll insist that she's fine, but we all know she needs the help. When it gets too much, we'll take her to whoever's in the castle at the moment. I only hope it's Dumbledore or Pomfrey or someone else who knows what they're doing."
Cassie nodded again. "Let's go then."
Quickly agreeing, Sirus led Cassie over to where Lily was standing with Remus just in time to see Remus catch her as she nearly toppled into the display in front of her. She didn't even seem to have the strength to push him off once she was back on her own feet. It was alarming to see her allow him to continue to support her as long as he was – a clear indication of her deteriorating condition.
"We're leaving, Lily-Flower," Sirus told her. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw James striding purposely over to their little gathering. "Don't argue," he added without a second thought before realizing that she didn't seem in any state to dispute what he was saying.
James didn't ask questions as they headed for the entrance, Sirus leading the way without any word of explanation. Lily continued to lean heavily on Remus the whole way back to the Leaky Cauldron, something of which no one made any mention. It took everything they had not to quicken their pace, but they were held in check by not wanting to attract attention or solicit help and by the fact that Lily probably couldn't make a faster pace.
"Do you want to come back to the castle with us?" Sirus asked Cassie as they were getting ready to floo out of Diagon Alley.
"I'd really better get home," she answered sadly with a regretful shake of her head. "My mum's probably going crazy as it is, and," she added in a lower voice, "you probably need to take her to see someone. She's not getting any better."
With that, Cassie bid everyone farewell, threw a handful of the green powder into the flames and disappeared. The three boys quickly sent Lily back to Hogwarts next and then James followed her only seconds later. Sirus and Remus were just about to follow when they were spotted by Molly Prewett and Arthur Weasley who had recently gotten engaged. Of course, they had heard of the deaths of the Potters and the Lupins and wanted to express their deepest sympathies. They would have stayed longer to catch up, but Mrs. Prewett had sent them out with a very strict time limit.
The two former Gryffindors bid good day to the two current ones, finally allowing Sirus and Remus to floo back to the castle. They both saw almost exactly the same scene upon their arrival: only a couple of steps away from the Gryffindor Common Room fireplace, James was crouching over a fallen Lily. She was curled tightly in a ball while James frantically tried to sooth her, but Sirus and Remus could tell it wasn't helping. Although he didn't acknowledge them consciously, they shift in his body posture, as if giving the other two room to join him, let Sirus and Remus know that James had noticed their entrance.
They rushed over and knelt down, too.
"What happened, James?"
James barely took his attention away from Lily to answer Sirus' question.
"I don't know!" he exclaimed frantically. "I got here just in time to see her collapse on the floor. She just went down, so suddenly."
"Is McGonagall still here?" Sirus asked. "Take her. Someone should know about today anyway."
All attention was riveted back to Lily. It was the first anyone had heard her speak since they had come back to Hogwarts, even if it came out as a weak moan. At once, they were calling her name, seeing if she could give them any clues as to what was happening.
"Find her," James commanded.
The moan escaped Lily's lips once more. She made an attempt to stretch and rise, but a fresh ripple of pain cascaded down her body causing her to curl up again. James nodded once at Sirus and turned back to Lily before the other boy had even dashed out of the Common Room.
Neither James nor Remus said much while waiting for Sirus to return. Mostly, they watched as Lily went through the same motions she had just experienced. The pain would lessen, and she would begin to move until the onset of a fresh wave, causing her to curl back up in a ball. It was frightening for the two boys to watch, especially frightening because they were utterly helpless to improve her condition.
"He should have taken the Map," Remus said at one point.
"He did," James replied, and they lapsed back into silence.
Almost thirty minutes later, Sirus came clamoring back through the Portrait Hole. James and Remus looked up, for the first time, startled by something outside their sphere of Lily.
"I couldn't find McGonagall," he panted, coming to sit down beside Lily once more. "I don't think she's in the castle. But I ran into Dumbledore. He's on his way up. I told him what happened so we won't have to waste time now with stories."
Seconds later, it seemed, the Headmaster climbed through the Portrait Hole into the Gryffindor Tower. His pace suggested no worry or strain, but something in his manner said that he had dropped everything in his haste to be here. Professor Dumbledore walked over to Lily and crouched down in the space where the boys had made room for him next to her. They didn't speak as he waved his wand over her silently, only his mouth forming the worlds that he wasn't saying. After a few moments, he rose suddenly, only to levitate Lily onto a nearby table and continued to work over her.
It seemed, to the three students, to take ages, but eventually, Lily began to stir. Professor Dumbledore pushed down her efforts to rise, and by and by, she began to stop struggling. In the next minute, she blinked her eyes open a few times and looked around as the surroundings came into focus.
"Headmaster…?" she asked dubiously.
"Yes, Lily," he replied. "Can you tell me how you feel? Don't get up," he added, seeing her try to rise.
She stayed lying obediently.
"Better." She thought for a moment. "Like every muscle in my body has disappeared – or turned to mush – but the pain's gone."
"Were you in terrible pain?"
Lily only nodded. "I only felt weak when he first hit me with the spell. It knocked me down at first, but I was shocked not hurt. The pain only came later, in waves."
"That's what I thought." The Headmaster nodded. His lack of questions made her extremely aware of how little she was saying.
"They told you what happened, sir?"
"Yes, Lily. I found Mr. Black looking for – Professor McGonagall, I believe. She will be here in a few days, but I am quite glad we ran into one another. This is a very old spell and so few have such great knowledge of it. Its initial intent is not to harm the victim but to lure him into a false state of security, from which it will later incapacitate him – or her. I had not seen its use for many years – probably more years than any of you have been alive. Lord Voldemort's supporters are being to come out into the open. I was afraid of this."
Although the Headmaster had begun his words directed at Lily, he ended up speaking to himself. The four in front of him felt themselves drawn back into focus as he once more remembered he was not alone.
"I'm sorry to have to tell you," he continued, once more directing his words toward Lily, "but I have only taken away the pain temporarily. It will come back, with a vengeance perhaps, but much less frequently than before. Tonight, I can only ask you to bear the pain, but by tomorrow morning, Madam Pomfrey may be able to be in the castle. She will know better than I the proper doses of the potions I wish to administer."
He then turned to the boys. "Watch out for her. It may be more than she can bear, but she has to bear it only until tomorrow morning."
"Thank you, Professor," one of them replied, probably Remus. In situations such as these, James and Sirus were more likely to resent the figure of authority instead of keeping the proper demeanor. It was extremely difficult hearing, without any softening, that Lily was going to be in immense pain for at least the next twelve hours.
"At least he told us the truth this time," Remus said later that night after the Headmaster had left, replying to Sirus' outburst on Professor Dumbledore's blunt honesty.
They had been talking ever since Professor Dumbledore had left the Common Room, trying to keep Lily's attention. Their topics varied greatly – from the amusing to the horrific – anything to keep her mind off of her own body. They didn't direct specifics at her but left room in between their words in case she was up to filling in their gaps. At first, James didn't join in, only wanting to support Lily with his presence, but one covert glance from Remus made him change his stance on the matter. He jumped into the conversation with a renewed vigor.
Sometimes, Lily thought she was able to hide the pain. She pressed her lips together and stared over Sirus' head as small shudders wreaked havoc on her nerves. The three boys noticed every time but chose not to comment; they knew it was a small triumph for her if she could make herself believe she was besting the pain.
The more intense pain was harder to hide. Her body tensed in response, in order to combat curling into a tight ball. She knew that a fetal position did nothing to lessen the agony, and thus she fought it. These were the times that James' arms wrapped even more securely around her, although she could not feel them in those moments. That was when the three would talk louder, trying all the harder to capture and keep her attention. They did not know that she couldn't hear them at those times, and it was probably better that they never had to find out.
As the Headmaster had promised, Madam Pomfrey was at Hogwarts early the next morning. She hadn't even dropped anything off in her office before coming straight to the Gryffindor Tower, and for once, not even Lily was regretting her presence.
Lily had had a very bad night. The events of the day had completely exhausted her, but she was unable to sleep. Every time she had begun to drift off, Malfoy's curse would once more flare, making it impossible for her to reach unconsciousness. Within seconds of seeing her, Madam Pomfrey had gauged this and administered a sleeping potion to her.
As if on cue, Professor Dumbledore walked into the Common Room and began to discuss Lily's condition with the nurse. James, Sirus, and Remus stood to one side, letting the two adults discuss the finally unconscious Lily. However, they shortly began to administer various doses of assorted potions, leaving detailed instructions for the boys – and Lily, when she awoke.
It was at least two hours later when the two adults finally left the Tower and left its residents alone again. Surprisingly, they did not insist that Lily be taken to the Hospital Wing for her recovery, and they even explained, in detail, their reasoning for allowing her to remain. They were all grateful, especially Lily who, from past experiences, was trying to hardest to stay out of the Hospital Wing.
Luckily, the last few weeks before tern began flew by, as did Lily's recovery. The doses Madam Pomfrey prescribed worked like magic – as they were supposed to – and almost all traces of the pain were gone before the students were scheduled to arrive back at Hogwarts – and before the next full moon.