Chapter 28: Power Struggle

When Lily woke up that Saturday morning at 7:45 the dormroom was quiet.

Too quiet.

She got out of bed and looked around the sunlit room for her roommates, trying to see if they were still in bed.

But they were not there.

Thinking that they were already in the Great Hall enjoying their early morning meal, Lily decided to wash up and change. She still had some aching and stiff muscles from her practice round with James Potter, but was satisfied with the result of beating him after the hour was up.

After she finished Lily made her way down the stairs and to the common room, only to be greated by the sound of clapping and cheering from all of Gryffindor House.

The common room was decorated with streamers, balloons, red and gold confetti, posters shouting out the supporting emblems "GO GRYFFINDOR!" and "STOMP SLYTHERIN!", and there was some covered dishes on the table, with a throne-like chair at the head.

The Gryffindors themselves were dressed up in red and gold. The Quidditch team had on their robes, and the rest of the guys and the girls were dressed up in red and gold versions of their school uniforms, the girls carrying red and gold pompoms. On their heads were red wigs that were the same length and color as her own hair, and their faces were painted to look like lions to match their new "manes".

Before Lily could completely grasp the situation Sirius and Potter came at her sides and lifted her off her feet, locking their arms together under her legs and behind her back to make a moving chair. Then they placed her gently on the throne in front of the covered dishes.

Sirius answered her questioning look by saying, "We've decided to give you the royal treatment today before the duel, and so..."

With a flick of his wand the covers came off the dishes to reveal an assorted breakfast buffet. It consisted of cinnamon oatmeal, raspberry and chocolate scones, bacon, sausages, fried and scrambled eggs, toast, jam, and glasses of pumpkin and orange juice.

Stunned Lily stammered, "B-b-but guys! I can't possibly eat all of this here! I have to be in the Great Hall with the rest of you so no one can guess who the Champion is!"

"No need to worry about that Ms. Evans," a voice stated from the portrait hole.

Professor McGonagall walked over to the table and explained, "It is the tradition of the final House Champions to eat in their common room so they can give themselves time to prepare for the upcoming bout, and, to keep your identity hidden, all of the students are required to wear these wigs."

"Lucky for you that they match your hair color Evans," Potter joked as a few people snickered.

Clapping her hands to bring everybody back to attention McGonagall concluded, "Everybody else to the Great Hall. Pip pip. Ms. Evans, enjoy your breakfast, and I will send Mr. Lupin back up here to collect you as everyone else is leaving the Great Hall."

While everyone filed out of the hole, carrying their signs and pompoms, McGonagall stepped closer to Lily.

"Consider this as an award for your hard work. You've really been practicing, Ms. Evans," McGonagall commented. Then she added said sadly, "Again, Lily, I deeply apologize for what Professor Slughorn and I have done."

"No need for apologies Professor," Lily said, though she thought otherwise, "and don't worry. Gryffindor will win the tournament!"

Then Professor McGonagall reached into her robes and brought out the amulet.

"When you are finished, take some time to practice with this," the teacher said, handing it to her. "Before you leave with Mr. Lupin for the Quidditch Pitch tap the pendant twice with your wand to make the armor disappear, and tap it once to make it reappear."

"I will Professor, and thank you," Lily said as she stared at the medallion in her hand.

When the professor had gone Lily placed the amulet carefully on her lap, and began eating her breakfast with great satisfaction.

Next she sent her rose necklace back to her room, where it locked itself in the case Severus presented it in, and placed the new necklace on her porceilin skin.

The effect was immediate, and this time she was able to fully sample the engery that came from both of the crests. She could feel every cell, every fiber, every muscle in her body responding to the rush of magic as it flowed through every hidden part of her system, allowing it to take effect on her.

"This is a much better reward than a momentary meal," Lily thought as she basked in the glory of her new power.

She then conjured a full-length mirror to see her armor, and once she saw her reflection she gasped.

Staring back at her was the Gryffindor Lion, except the details were more defined and almost lifelike. The ruby mane was highlighted with ebony to separate each "strand", and it sparkled with a golden light. The muzzle, claws, tail and crests were outlined in ebony, and the overall body shimmered with deeper shades of gold as Lily moved around in it, making it look like she was almost wearing an actual lion's skin.

When she placed her wand inside the scabbard and then pulled it out it was decorated as a thin, golden dagger, with an ebony tip and the ebony was interwined with the red at the handle.

To test the wands increased magic Lily pointed it at the mirror and thought, "Dura Cerea Leo".

The mirror began to twist and turn, warping its shape as the magic made it bulk and enlarge. A second later an earthy, crystal-covered lion made its way to its creator, making purring sounds as it rubbed against her legs. Lily returned its affection by patting it gently on the surprisingly soft head before Vanishing it.

"See you on the Pitch," Lily mumbled as she tapped her crest twice with her wand.

The armor may have disappeared, but she could still feel its power as it pulsed inside its compact shell, ready to be let loose again.

Hearing the door open, Lily turned around and saw her fellow Prefect motion for her to join the others at the Pitch. She tucked the necklace inside her robes and followed him out of the Tower.

A few minutes later, inside the hidden room of the stadium, Bellatrix was peeking out the door, fingering her own pendant nervously as Professor Slughorn gave her, what he thought would be, a cheerful pep talk.

"Ms. Black, I cannot express how proud I am of you for making it this far," Slughorn said. "True the way you won the Preliminary Duel was quite unexpected, and even though the fact you had a close call about being disqualified in the previous match was almost upsetting, you still managed to be placed in the Finals. You will not only keep up our House's winning streak, but you will also be known as the first witch to ever win this competition! It is a great honor and previlage!"

"Yes Professor," the jittery girl sighed.

After a brief pause he continued, "Also, as I am sure you have heard, your friend Lily Evans's future House placement for the remainder of your school years depends on this duel between you and the Gryffindor Champion..."

"Not to mention my future career as a Death Eater, but no pressure," Bellatrix thought, biting her lip.

"However, I do not wish for you to worry on this account. Just go out there and do your very best!"

With that he left the room, just in time for Bellatrix to gasp at the special box in the middle of the staduim.

There in the guest box were her parents, Narcissia, Lucius Malfoy, Claude Lestrange, and another man with dark gray glasses. The man was sitting in the very middle of the box, looking over the field with a reminising air, and Bellatrix could have sworn he just looked at her.

"Welcome ladies and gentlemen, once again to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry's Quidditch Stadium!" Alan Jordin exclaimed to the excited crowd. "This is the moment we have all been waiting for... the Interhouse Dueling Championship Finals!"

At that everybody became more excited as they proclaimed the colors of their supported House. Three fourths of the stadium were cover in red and gold, whereas the last part was covered in green and silver, with the red and gold supporters shouting the loudest.

"Without furtherado, let's welcome our two remaining Finalists!" Jordin shouted, indicating the entrance near the green and silver side.

Taping the crest once Bellatrix was covered in the modified Slytherin Armor as Jordin announced, "Let us welcome our winner from last week's bout, the Slytherin Champion!"

Bellatrix slinked her way out of the entrance and onto the field, her armor shimmering fluidly like a jeweled snake's skin. The saphire blue gems added more of a tint to the silver scales, and the bronze added more of a shine to the outlines of the overall body.

"Now let us welcome our winner from the first Semi-Final match, the Gryffindor Champion!"

Lily came out of her own entrance just as the sun was shining overhead. It illuminated her armor, making it look like she was covered in the sun's golden beams instead of golden metal.

Many people had to shield their eyes due to the brightness of the armored suits before Professor Dumbledore cast a Shield Charm over the green field, which toned down the sun's brightness for the audience. Others were clamoring closer to get a better look at the jeweled animal warriors. The dark shaded man kept his calm demeanor, but his eyes widened slightly at the sight of the crests the Champions were wearing.

"This is the final duel! Whoever wins this shall be crowned the Interhouse Dueling Champion, and will receive an additional two hundred points for their House!" Jordin concluded as Professor Dumbledore took the megaphone.

"Champions, shake hands and, on the count of three, come out dueling," the Headmaster instructed.

Lily and Bellatrix clasped gauntlets for a brief moment, but that was enough for the lioness to detect the nervous energy that was mingling with the armor's magic. That energy wanted to get the bout over with as soon as possible, yet it was also excited at the prospect of showing off its strength.

Then they took ten steps back to their respective sides, waiting for the countdown to start.

There was much anticipation in the stands as the students waited for the duel to begin. Some of the Slytherins, such as Mulciber and Avery, were taking bets to see who would win.

"One hundred Galleons on Trixie actually winning," Mulciber whispered to Avery.

"You make the worst bets, but I accept anyway," Avery whispered back.

The Gryffindors, on the other hand, were contemplated on whether or not they should hold a party for their Champion, regardless of the outcome.

"How can you think about partying at a time like this?" Potter hissed at his friends as they were voicing this idea.

Remus soothed him by saying, "Trust me, Lily will win this James. Besides, it won't hurt to have a congradulatory party afterwards."

"Or a consulation party should she lose," Dippet said when he overheard.

"If you feel that strongly about it then don't come," Sirius growled at the eavesdropper, pleased that the guy moved down a few seats at the sight of the other's wand.

"Duelists ready?" Dumbledore asked the poised figures below.

When they nodded their heads Dumbledore began counting, "One...Two...Three!"

And the duel started...

Bellatrix attacked first, "Expelliarmus!"

Lily deflected the spell with a Shield Charm, and countered with a Full-Body Bind Hex, then sent a silent Disarming Charm.

The snake deflected the charm but her wand was removed when she tried to send another spell at her lion opponent.

"First blow against Slytherin!" Jordin cheered along with the other Gryffindors as the Slytherins moaned.

"Now for some fun," Bellatrix thought when she recovered her wand.

She then sent out a Fire Whip curse at the lion, who barely dodged the tip and retailiated with an Earth Splitting Hex. The spell sent a crack between Bellatrix's legs and tried to make her lose her balance.

But the duelist held firm and lashed out with the Whip again, this time making contact and sending the lion against the wall of the stadium. The impact caused Lily's wand to be retched from her hand.

"First blow against Gryffindor!" Jordin groaned along with the tables turned.

Recovering her wits and wand Lily rushed to Bellatrix as the witch, once again, struck out with the Fire Whip.

This time though, when the Whip came at her, Lily let it wrap around her free arm and grasped it in her hand. This would have seared the armor, magic or not, but she had used a Freezing Charm on her gaunlet. So it was covered with a thick film of ice to counter the flames. Then Lily summoned the ice covering her glove to cover the Fire Whip, where it shattered from the wand's tip, and sent a steady stream of water at the snake from her own wand. It knocked her opponent on the ground and free of its wand.

"Second blow against Slyterin!"

"C'mon Trixie, concentrate!" Severus hissed, hands clentched on the banister.

"C'mon Lily, you can do this!" Potter whispered, hands clapsed in prayer.

As if hearing Severus's voice Bellatrix reclaimed her wand and sent several, random spells at her opponent.

Lily dodged, deflected and rebounded each one in turn. But every time she did Bellatrix sent back her Earth Splitting Hex, along with more random spells, and she eventually lost her balance and her wand.

"Second blow against Gryffindor!" Jordin cried out, anticipation and worry in his voice. "One more blow and it could be over for both of them."

"How right you are!" both duelists thought as Lily recovered her wand.

That is when things really became intense...

Just like the first time Bellatrix attacked first, and her spell was deflected by her rival, who conjured a fiery shield to go on her wandless arm and sent another spell to reciprocate.

The snake dodged the spell, bringing back her Fire Whip and trying to ensnare the lion in it. But the Fire Shield absorbed the Whip and sent it back ten fold in the form of a fireball.

Dodging the spell once more Bellatrix shouted, "Levicorpus!"

As Lily was being lifted in the air by the ankle she silently cast the countercurse, "Libracorpus!", and flung her Shield at Bellatrix as she made a mid-air turn, landing on her feet, just as her opponent slid to the side and used the Earth Splitting Hex again.

The earth split between her legs as one part of the field went up, but Lily lept on top of the new half mountain and could see the snake looking up at her.

"This has to stop before she destroys the entire stadium!" Lily thought as she fired another Body Bind Hex at Bellatrix and lept down.

When she did, however, she used a Tunneling Charm and buried herself in the cracks of the earth just as Bellatrix sent another curse at her.

Bellatrix scanned the area, trying to anticipate where and when the lion would show up.

A sound from behind her greeted her ears. She smirked at her opponent's apparent foolishness, and whipped around to see the Champion emerge from the soil, wand raised.

"Time for the curse I learned the other day," she thought as she cast the spell.

Suddenly the Lion Champion was being encircled by thick, purple flames that tied around its ankles and made its way up.

When it raised its wand to defuse the flames Bellatrix triumphantly cried out, "Expelli-"

Find out the results in Dark Desires Part III