Disclaimer and author's note: Harry Potter is the property of JK Rowling. Title from Snow Patrol's 'The Lightning Strike'. This was written for Rosa Clearwater's Staying Up All Night competition at the HPFC forum.
Lee had come to St Mungo's at one in the morning mostly because the owl his mother had sent had pecked at his head until he'd got out of bed. The message said that Maggie – his older sister – had finally had her baby after practically a day of labour and he should come to the hospital to see her. Immediately. He'd been about to write back to his mother that he'd come in the morning, but when he muttered it out loud as he was writing the owl jabbed at his hand until he yelled at it that he'd be along as soon as he was dressed.
Maggie was asleep when he got to St Mungo's, as was her husband David; the baby was off in the newborn ward, and Lee and his mother stood out in the corridor talking until he insisted that his presence really wasn't required. "I'll come back and see the baby tomorrow, Mum. Seriously," he said, backing away before she could invite him to the tea room.
He'd never paid much attention to the chapel on the ground floor before. He wouldn't have done this time either, except as he walked past, a bowed head caught his eye and he stopped and backed up.
Katie Bell was kneeling on the floor, her head down and her hands clasped in front of her. Lee took a step into the doorway of the chapel and watched her, wondering if he should say something, before realising that a woman praying in a hospital at two in the morning probably wasn't in the mood to chat. His eyes swept the room once – its three rows of wooden chairs and simple pulpit at the front and its single stained-glass window, and Katie looking small and with a desperate angle to her shoulders – before he turned to go. But then she turned, maybe sensing him standing there, and met his eyes.
"Hey," he said awkwardly. "Sorry, I didn't mean to…" But he wasn't sure what he hadn't meant to, and anyway she was wiping a hand across her eyes to clear away tears, and he couldn't stop himself from stepping inside and asking, "Katie? What's wrong?"
He knew how massive of an intrusion it was as soon as the words left his mouth. She was in a hospital crying – whatever was wrong wasn't any of his business. But she gave him a weak smile and asked, "What are you doing here?"
Lee hesitated just inside the doorway before making his way to her side, kneeling on the floor next to her because it seemed odd to sit above her in a chair. "My sister just had a baby."
"Oh—congratulations, Lee, that's great."
"Yeah." He couldn't help noticing the tear tracks down her face. "Are you okay?"
She swallowed hard and glanced away from him. "Not really," she murmured.
There was a long silence in the chapel. Katie's knuckles were raised to her mouth like she was holding back something. Lee cleared his throat. "D'you want me to…er…go?" Only this looked like a private moment; an intensely private moment that Katie probably didn't want to share with him – he wasn't any good at this sort of thing; whatever made a woman cry and pray in the St Mungo's chapel. He hadn't been any good with George after Fred had been killed, though he'd tried his best and everyone insisted he'd been a great help. Katie included.
Katie looked at him, her eyes red and the skin around them swollen. "I—if you've got to go—I mean it's late—"
He didn't move. That'd sounded like a 'no' to him.
There was another silence. A group of Healers walked by outside, hushing their voices as they passed the door. Katie's head was bowed again. "My mum's dying," she said quietly.
Lee felt his heart give a painful pound. "Katie…"
"I mean, we've known for a long time. She's been ill for years but—" She paused to swallow. "—it was too difficult for her, Martin disappearing."
Martin – Katie's older brother; he'd been a Hufflepuff three years above Lee in school, and he'd disappeared during the War. As far as Lee knew, his body'd never been found. Katie shut her eyes tightly. "She just…I mean, it's been awful not knowing. But my mum's health, she just…"
She broke off and covered her eyes with one hand, sucking in several deep breaths. Lee reached out and took her other hand, holding it tightly, and she parted her fingers slightly to peer through them at him. A tiny smile flickered onto her face. "I've not prayed for—years. Even during the War. I didn't pray. I didn't—I mean, how could God let Voldemort do those things? But now…" She removed the hand from her face and gestured vaguely at the room. "I dunno. My dad's with her now; they say she's probably got till tomorrow sometime, and this was the only thing I could think to do."
For a minute, Lee didn't speak. The stained glass window glowed softly, St Mungo's beatific smile shining down on them. "We used to go to Church when I was a kid. I'd…help—pray, I mean, if I wasn't so out of practice—" The words felt funny coming out of his mouth. Lee Jordan could give people hope where there was some to be had – in the four years since the Second Wizarding War people'd come up to him and told him that they'd listened to Potterwatch every time it'd aired; that his programme had been an integral part of their hanging onto their own shreds of hope. This was…different.
Katie looked surprised. Her eyes filled with tears. "Lee…" she began.
He felt that painful pound in his heart again. "No—sorry, I didn't mean to—"
But she was shaking her head so he stopped. Her fingers tightened round his. "You—it doesn't matter what it's like, I don't think. Praying, I mean. I hope not because I'm rubbish at it," she added with a weak, watery laugh.
Light from the magically glowing window fell on her face and all Lee could think to do in that moment was to wrap his arms around her. She buried her face in his chest and clung to him and they stayed that way, kneeling on the chapel floor, for a long time.
Finally, she sniffled and said, her voice muffled by his shirt, "Lee, you're being amazing, but don't feel like you've got to stay; I mean you're so sweet but there's no need…"
The way she was holding onto him made him think otherwise but she was a Gryffindor, wasn't she, and maybe sometimes they'd trouble admitting that it was too hard being brave alone. Katie didn't need him, but she needed someone, and he was there, and going home to go to bed didn't seem so important anymore. He rested his cheek on the top of her head, her hair soft against his face.
"That's okay," he said, his arms still wrapped around her. "If it's all right with you, I'll stay."