a/n: for the So You Think You Can Write? challenge on HPFC. Audition piece.
prompt: inner demons.
warning: very strong language, drinking, smoking, sex references.
take me screaming
oh, wow, but… fuck you. – Cassie Ainsworth, Skins
Albus finds her horizontal on his doorstep at five thirty in the morning. The sun is already beginning to peek over the sill of the dirty window at the end of the hall and it catches at strands of her hair so that it looks a little bit like the floor is on fire.
"Lily," he says, and his voice is louder than he'd like in the silence of the hall, "What the fuck?"
She raises her head off the ground and cracks one eye open a sliver to give him a bloodshot glare, giving him the finger at a wonky angle, "Piss off, Al. Trying to sleep here."
Al takes a minute to digest this situation. Here is his little sister, asleep like a tramp on the doorstep of his flat, her long hair pooling against the dirty floor, more of her body on show than he imagines in his worst nightmares, reeking of alcohol and cigarettes and a stranger's aftershave.
"Fuck," he says abruptly, to nobody in particular, and then he bends down and levers Lily up into his arms and kicks his front door open viciously, tossing her down rather untenderly onto his sofa and pushing his black fringe irritably out of his eyes as he gazes down at her. She hasn't even woken, just rolled over to display a smooth expanse of white back, criss-crossed like scars by the designer rips in her top.
He bends over and digs around in the pockets of her mini-skirt until he finds her lighter and cigarettes, and feels slightly better once he has stalked across the room and tossed them unceremoniously out of the window. She will probably beat him up when she wakes up and finds them gone, but he thinks it's worth it.
Shooting one more despairing look at the unconscious girl on the sofa, Al toes the bin to stand underneath her face on the floor, just in case, and then with an exasperated air readjusts his golden snitch pyjamas and returns to bed.
By the time he wakes up again his apartment is empty. It's not hard to surmise the chain of events, however, from the vomit-filled bin leaning against the wall to the four mugs with lipsticks stain on the rims and dregs of black coffee in the bottom. Al ignores the bin for now and takes an experimental sip of the remainder of one of the mugs, wincing at the bitterness and strength of the coffee therein. Lily's coffee always gives him the caffeine shakes later in the day, he's discovered, after even just one cup. He thinks it probably says something about her that she can consume five or six cups of the stuff and not even get a bit jittery; but the thing it says is probably not anything good so he doesn't like to think about it.
Once he's cleared up the mugs and the mess she made getting herself some cornflakes he gathers the courage to tackle the bin and swills it out hastily, holding his nose the whole while. Once he's done he suddenly feels the need to scrub the floor by the sofa and put his cushion-covers in the wash, just in case, and so it's one o' clock by the time he collapses onto his uncovered sofa, pulls out his Muggle telephone and rings his dad.
"Hello?" his father's voice comes over the line, a little crackly, "This is Harry Potter."
"Dad, it's me," Al says, thanking Merlin he'd got straight through to his father in the office and not had to waste time sweet-talking the secretary, "It's about Lily."
"What about Lily?" Harry replies cautiously, and Al hears a rustle of paper and a slight bump as Harry puts something down on his desk, maybe a cup of tea, "Did she –"
"Five thirty this morning," Al confirms without any beating around the bush, "Stank of booze and fags, wearing less than those models James goes out with. She passed out on my sofa then left before I got up."
There is a long silence from his father's end, and Al is beginning to wonder whether Harry has dropped the phone or something when he hears a heavy sigh. He can picture his father in his mind's eye, black hair untidy and streaked with grey as he runs a weary hand through it, surrounded by piles of paperwork he just can't focus on because of his recalcitrant daughter.
"I'll talk to Susan," his father says suddenly, voice filled with new purpose, "I know she said this was Lily's last chance but – I don't think… if she gets expelled she'll get even worse. She needs Hogwarts. And there's only another couple of months, right? She just has to –"
"Persuade Professor Bones, not me," Al interrupts, stifling a yawn – his disturbed night has left him tired and a little cranky, "She's the one you have to sweet-talk."
"She owes me one," Harry says decisively, "And remember she's Susan Macmillan now, you have to stop calling her Bones, it annoys Ernie."
"Yeah, yeah, preach to someone who cares, Dad," Al replies with a broad grin, amusement seeping into his tone as he switches his kettle on to boil. "I've gotta go, anyway, meeting Rose for lunch."
They exchange goodbyes and Al hangs up, leaving his father to attempt to talk the Hogwarts headmistress into not expelling his daughter.
When Lily is summoned to Professor Macmillan's office three days after her little nighttime escapade, she does not acquit herself brilliantly. She saunters up from the Slytherin common room with her top two shirt buttons undone, her tie hanging loose around her neck, no shoes and her skirt hitched up to succulent mid-thigh. She is sucking on an extra-strong mint but has not otherwise attempted to rid herself of the scent of cigarette smoke, and further ruins matters when she slumps into the headmistress' office and trips over the doormat, recovering her balance with less rapidity than you would expect from someone sober.
"Lily Luna Potter," a voice thunders from the corner of the office, and Lily glances up and grins wickedly at the sight of her parents, who look thoroughly dumbstruck, "What have you done to your hair?"
"Dyed it, Mum, what do you think?" Lily retorts insolently, one navy-painted fingernail twining in the newly-black locks of her hair, flowing long and loose and unbrushed over shoulders, "Don't you like it?"
"Like it," Ginny repeats in a kind of stunned horror, but Professor Macmillan is firmly ushering them all into seats before a full-scale argument can flare up, taking her own place in an upright, tall-backed chair as Harry and Ginny seat themselves gingerly in armchairs and Lily sprawls insolently onto the sofa, kicking her dusty bare feet up onto the purple cushions.
"Miss Potter," Professor Macmillan begins, frowning sternly down at her most wayward pupil, "I have organised this meeting to give you one final chance to stay at Hogwarts. Were you anybody else, you would have been out of here a long time ago."
Lily's expression stays carefully detached through all of this, but a spike of ire rages through her eyes before she can control it. Professor Macmillan notices it and finds herself wondering about it, but doesn't let up her stern façade, looking between her old friends Harry and Ginny and their youngest child.
"This is the eighth time this month that you have been caught sneaking off the grounds," Professor Macmillan informs her, folding her hands into her lap, "And it's only the twelfth. Your attitude is unacceptable. I have had reports from teachers in all your subjects that you either skip class or turn up late and disrupt the lesson; Mr Filch has just threatened retirement for the one hundred and forty second time because you turned his cat green again; your school uniform is never worn correctly; and you both smoke and consume alcohol on school premises."
"I've never been caught doing that," Lily says hastily, lifting a finger as if to stem the headmistress' flow single-handedly, "I mean, you can't use it against me until I confess to it or you catch me in the act, right? And you haven't caught me and I'm not confessing, so."
Harry and Ginny share a pained look, and Professor Macmillan's brows draw slightly, expression beginning to be irritated as she surveys the arrogant curve of Lily's slim body against her sofa.
"We know you do it," she says abruptly, dispensing with formalities, "And besides –"
"Yeah but you still couldn't expel me for that," Lily cuts in instantly, ignoring the hissed "shut up, Lily," from her parents, "It'd be like expelling Rookwood because you know she was sleeping with that Charms teacher last year even though you never caught her at it."
"We can expel you based on testimony from other pupils," Professor Macmillan tells Lily firmly, any friendliness vanished from the edges of her expression, "It's naïve of you to suspect otherwise."
Lily knots the fingers of her left hand into her hair and mouths "naïve" as if to test the way her mouth feels when it's saying the word. It's not a word anybody's used to describe her in a long while, that's for sure. She's considering this still as the headmistress begins to rant about public images and responsibilities, and then she's distracted by motes of dust glittering in the stray patches of sunlight falling through the windows and in the end she doesn't listen to a word of her lecture at all.
"I'll try harder," she says boredly once the silence has stretched out for long enough to make it clear she's supposed to answer, "Cross my heart."
Professor Macmillan watches this girl with the empty eyes and the feral air and without saying a word she thinks, 'I don't believe you have a heart to cross these days'. But she doesn't voice this opinion because she's the headmistress, it's not her place, and it doesn't matter that her fear for Lily Potter keeps her up at night. This is Lily's battle, her demons to defeat, and nobody can help her chase away the darkness in the corners of her soul.
"Just try, Lily," she says finally, and her tone is awfully weary, "Please. It's two months. Just be good, for two months. Then you can do you what you like."
Lily is already on her feet, tights noiseless against the stone floor, but she pauses and turns that hazelly-green gaze on Professor Macmillan and just looks at her. It's just eyes meeting eyes, a simple moment of connection – but it's that moment more than any other that has Professor Macmillan's breath coming faster and her heart thumping painfully and leaves her feeling physically weakened by the pressure of it all. Then Lily snaps the connection and leaves the office on soundless steps, lighting a cigarette the moment she's down the stairs and blowing smoke rings the whole way back to the dungeons.
Her best friend finds her sprawled on her back in the middle of the Slytherin common room floor, blowing cigarette smoke at the ceiling, her grey cat curled up on her stomach with its yellow eyes narrowed into slits to avoid the smoke.
"Expelled yet?" Chloe inquires, dropping her books into an armchair with no regard for the fact that there's already a first year occupying the chair.
"Nah," Lily replies lazily, tilting her head upwards to regard her friend, "On my final warning, yadda yadda, my dad's Harry Potter so I get extra chances, blah blah, just finish your schooling and try and be good, etcetera."
"You going to try?" Chloe asks, flopping to sit cross-legged by Lily's indolent body, accepting the cigarette to take a drag when her friend offers it up. She blows the smoke towards a disapproving-looking third year and grins before returning the fag to its owner.
"Prolly not," Lily replies after a bit of thought, taking the cigarette back with a nod of thanks, navy nail varnish chipped on the fingers she holds it between. She takes a couple of puffs and pushes her fringe out of thoughtful eyes before she speaks again, offering, "Didn't tell her you were pregnant, by the way."
Chloe grins and swivels to lie down alongside Lily, head by feet, putting out a hand covered in biro scrawls to stroke her friend's cat, "Cheers. My parents are going to flip a shit when they find out. Figure I can keep it on the DL for a bit longer yet."
"Gonna have to tell them eventually," Lily points out, sticking two fingers up to a nerdy sixth year prefect who's glaring at the two seventh years for blocking the middle of the room, "I know they're self-absorbed but even they're going to notice when your stomach is coming round corners half an hour before the rest of you."
"Eh," Chloe replies half-heartedly, putting out a hand to dig around in the pockets of Lily's schoolbag to find her cigarettes, "I might just abort it, I dunno yet."
Lily considers making a joke about the sanctity of life and coming over all preacher-ish, but she frankly doesn't have the energy and besides it wouldn't wind Chloe up the way it would some people, so there's not much point to it.
"So where did you end up last night?" Chloe inquires, having lit her cigarette, the background chatter of the other Slytherins in the room providing a relaxing soundtrack, "Saw you sneaking out at midnight. Wearing my top, by the way."
"It looks better on me," Lily tells her with a slight smile, flicking her finished fag towards the fireplace and getting it in first try, taking out another without pausing for breath, "And I don't really remember. Somewhere Muggle. Must have been near Kensington 'cause I woke up at Al's place this morning."
"Shit, really?" Chloe says with a slightly anxious air, "I thought we weren't depending on him after that whole deal with him ratting us out to your dad."
Lily doesn't respond to this, and Chloe props herself up on one elbow to find her friend staring up at the ceiling, expression private as she gently rubs her cat's ears. Chloe sometimes thinks that even though she's been best friends with Lily since first year, she doesn't know her at all. She knows her better than anybody else, certainly, knows what triggers certain moods and what causes those slow, wicked, foreboding smiles – but sometimes she looks at Lily and it's like she's looking at a total stranger.
She watches Lily's blank face for a little while, and then with a 'humph' flops back down again and together they lie in silence and stare up at the low stone ceiling and ignore the whispered gossiping from around them.
Lily manages to finish school without getting expelled. She bombs all her NEWTs and celebrates by getting pissed as a real newt and then streaking naked through the Great Hall at breakfast one morning right before the end of school. She spends the first day of her new freedom going with Chloe to get an abortion at the nearest Muggle hospital and then the pair go to Magaluf to hook up with the rich Muggle private school boys and behave as badly as ever.
It's Teddy Lupin who finds her on August 4th, sitting on the doorstep of her parents' house, staring blankly at the street with an unlit cigarette rolling idly between her fingers.
"Lily?" he asks in astonishment, half unable and half unwilling to believe that this is the little girl he used to know so well, "You – what happened to you?"
Lily casts an absent-minded glance down at the rips in her top and muddy shorts and then, with a wave of her hand, appears to brush the matter off, "Fell down a hill last night. Fucking outdoor parties."
"You fell down –" Teddy begins, but then Lily is shooting him a vaguely amused gaze and shaking her head fondly and interrupting him, "Chillax, Teddy. I'm overage."
Teddy doesn't know quite what to say to that. It's easy to see that Lily is not the girl she was when he knew her so well before she went off to Hogwarts. He's seen her in the holidays and stuff but that's not enough to track the progression from sunny-eyed, innocent child to icy-hearted, self-destructive young woman with hard eyes and a body she'll give to any boy she fancies for the night.
Tight-lipped, disapproving, Teddy drops to sit down next to her and doesn't look at her as she lights up her cigarette and begins to puff at it.
"Nice picture of me in Accio! this morning," Lily volunteers after a long and incredibly awkward silence, referencing the wizarding world's most popular gossip magazine, "I dunno who the guy in it with me is but he's super hot."
And that, Teddy reckons, is the problem. All these magazines who were always just waiting for her to get old enough for them to tear to pieces. Even before she'd got her first bra they were circulating rumours about her and various boys and the older she grew the worse it got.
"Why d'you do this sort of thing if you know they'll get pictures of you?" Teddy inquires after another long silence, leaning his head back against the red-painted wood of the Potters' front door, glancing down at the vulnerable pale curve of Lily's neck as she twines her long dyed hair over her other shoulder.
She frowns slightly, looking surprisingly serene there in the late morning sunshine, and then she shrugs and flicks her unlit cigarette into the flowerbed.
"They'd say I was doing this sort of thing even if I didn't," she says idly, like she couldn't really care less, "So I figured might as well give them truths to sell."
Teddy wants to shout at her suddenly, to take her by the slim shoulders and shake her until she stops with this indifference, to hit her or to kiss her or to just something to make her care. Because this, what she's doing – this isn't just rebellion or insolence or individuality. This is selfishness and self-indulgence and Teddy wants to drum into her that what she's doing isn't cool – it's hurtful and it's shallow and it's actually just kind of pathetic.
He can't look at her for a while, but when he finally does she's gazing right at him with cool hazel eyes and a smile tugging at the sides of her red-painted lips. He knows that smile – he's been seeing that smile since she was five years old and her mother was trying to stop her winding up her brothers. Nothing that you say to me matters, that smile says, and when Teddy stops to think about it later he realises that Lily conveys an awful lot for a girl who doesn't say much at all.
"You should stop," he tells her suddenly, and he doesn't know why this comes from a dry throat and with a nervous swallow to precede it. Lily's smile widens, mascara-ed lashes blink slowly, and she couldn't look more superior if she wanted to.
"I tried that once," she tells him, rising to her feet and brushing her shorts down, "It was absolutely no fun at all."
"You're not the only teenager who has to deal with too much attention," Teddy argues because he's got a bit of a death-wish like that, "You don't see Al or James doing this, do you? They don't make excuses or destroy themselves, they just –"
"You think Al and James aren't destroying themselves?" she says incredulously, turning back towards him and gazing at him from the path, shading her eyes with her hand to stop the bright sunlight blinding her. Teddy just stares at her and doesn't say anything, floored by the bitterness contained in her tone. Lily's lips twist sideways and her eyes roll and then without another word she walks away.
Left alone with his thoughts on the doorstep, Teddy finds his mind wandering to Albus and James and thinking that maybe just because they don't show their fights with their inner demons like Lily does, don't wear their struggles on their skin and make a show of them in their every move, doesn't mean they don't have to deal with them.
Not everybody's brave enough to flaunt their inability to cope the way Lily does.