Title: Love In a Hopeless Place (1/5)
Warnings: Dark themes, some sexual aspects (later).
Disclaimer: The title is derived from Rhianna's song 'We Found Love'; even though I'm not the biggest Rihanna fan, I felt this song captured the essence of the fic. There's also hints of Beauty and the Beast in this too. Additionally, the method of the potion described below is made up, but I did try to follow a similar pattern of those on Pottermore. The warming charm is also made up.
Original prompt: [Magical AU where Voldemort won the First War, preferably James and Lily don't know one another] Given her Muggle-born status, Lily is forced to work as an (escort/call girl/prostitute) in order to support herself in the wizarding world. The night she (meets/is hired by) pure-blood heir James Potter changes her life.
Summary: Having been hiding out in the middle of nowhere to escape Voldemort's tyranny, Lily is captured by patrollers and subsequently offered as a prize to Voldemort's followers. James claims her as his own, in the process altering the course of his life – and hers too.
Author's Note: Written for the Lily/James holiday fest over on livejournal for museme87 . A few things: the prompt has been altered (with museme87's consent). In this fic, Lily is meant to be more of a slave/plaything of James, rather than an escort or prostitute. Obviously this fic is AU but with some similarities to canon. Just to make it clear, Snape was Lily's friend before Hogwarts, they tried to stick together in First Year, but Voldemort's increasing presence eventually drove them apart. Lily, Remus and James were in Gryffindor but for reasons that are later explained, Lily and Remus didn't know James well. Sirius ended up being sorted into Slytherin, thus changing the destinies of the Marauders. James may seem OOC, but he's portrayed as I would expect him to, had his fate changed drastically. Also, given that this was written for a fest and written in a very tight time period it may come off as a little hurried or under-developed in places, for which I apologise.
Many thanks to hmsharmony and _autumncolours over on lj for being such swift, thorough, brilliant betas, whom I threw a fifty-page document at and then they got through it likes pros. All the Galaxy Cookie Crumbles and cute kittens to them both.
This story will be posted in five parts over the next few days. I hope people enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. Also, for those waiting for my other L/J fic to be updated, the latest chapter is almost done and will hopefully be posted soon.
It was a difficult potion to brew in the first place, but for her it seemed virtually impossible. With trembling hands, she held the potions book she had stolen from a boy she once knew and read through the directions for the hundredth time.
Lily had already made the first half of the potion a few days ago but the second part was infinitely harder. Still, she was determined to complete it. Anything to keep him alive.
Salamander blood, griffin claw, standard ingredient, infusion of wormwood and valerian sprigs.
She counted out the sparse ingredients before her, knowing that she didn't quite have enough, but it was all the old lady she met could spare. Lily was grateful to the giver; very few people were sympathetic to people like her anymore.
She studied the turquoise mixture in her tatty cauldron and reached out for the griffin claw.
Strengthening potion. Step One: crush in mortar, the book read and Lily followed suit. Step two: add two measures of standard ingredient to the mortar. Crush into a fine powder. Step three: add three measures of this mixture into the cauldron.
Lily carefully measured out the mixture and placed it in the cauldron. Just as she did so, a low moaning noise came from the bed across the room. Lily lifted her head and looked at the boy lying there.
"Not long to go now, Remus," she reassured him. But he didn't hear her.
Sighing, she added salamander blood to her cauldron and anxiously heated it up to the required temperature. She stirred it a few times and added the valerian sprigs and waited with bated breath for it to turn the right colour. When it did, she gave a relieved cry.
Leave the potion to brew for a quarter of an hour.
Lily stood up and walked over to the bed where her unconscious friend slept. His fever had taken hold of him and he was paler than usual, if that was even possible. There were lacerations all over his body from when he had recently transformed and injured himself, and his transformation had weakened his already vulnerable state.
She stroked his forehead in comfort, wishing his torment would come to an end. But it never did, not for either of them.
Lily walked back to the cauldron, turned the heat off and carefully added infusion of wormwood - one drop too many and the potion would explode; one drop too little and it would coalesce.
The potion turned clear and Lily smiled. Finally, something had gone right. She waited for the potion to cool before pouring it into a goblet and walking back over to Remus. Lily dipped her fingers into the potion and dabbed her wet fingers over Remus' lips. And then she waited.
A few minutes later, Remus stirred; after half an hour, his eyes fluttered open.
His gaze focused on Lily, who was apprehensively watching over him.
"Lily?" he croaked.
Overcome with emotion, tears sprung in Lily's eyes. "Hi," she greeted her old friend.
Remus blinked a few times. "What happened?"
Lily reached out and touched his cheek. "You've been very ill," she explained. "You caught something a few weeks ago and then you transformed and it made it worse. You've been in and out of consciousness for days on end."
"Oh Lily," he rasped, his brown eyes growing solemn. "I'm sorry."
Finally letting go of her pent up emotions, the tears began running down her face. "Not your fault at all," she said, shaking her head. "But I have been worried. I had to sneak into the nearby town and see if I could scavenge ingredients to make a potion for you. I'm just glad you're okay." She swallowed and studied him. "Can you sit up?" she asked.
Uncertainly, Remus tried to sit up and Lily immediately assisted him. "Here," she said. "Drink the rest of this potion. It will help."
He obliged and Lily watched the instant effects of the potion take hold. His skin began to lose its pallor, his breathing started to lose its raspiness, but he still had a long way to go before he was truly better.
His eyes met hers and he smiled sadly. "I always hold you back, don't I?"
"No," she denied.
But Remus shook his head. "I'm always ill, Lil. You could be long gone. You could be safe and in a different country. But instead, you're stuck in an abandoned cottage in the middle of nowhere."
She grabbed his hands and held them to her chest. "Remus, you listen to me. We've been through so much together and you're the only thing I have in this world right now. I would rather stay out here with you with barely any provisions than risk it on my own. I'm not leaving you, you hear? Besides, you would never leave me if our positions were reversed."
Remus' gaze danced all over Lily's face. She saw gratitude in his eyes, but the frustration at feeling weak was evident too.
Lily brought one of his hands up to her lips and pressed a firm kiss there. "I'm glad you're awake; it's been lonely without you."
The hand he had by her lips reached out to brush a stray hair of hers out of her face. His arm limped and even that small gesture took a lot of effort, but he persisted. When his fingers touched her temple, she closed her eyes.
"You're exhausted," Remus noted.
"I haven't slept properly in days," she confessed.
"Get some sleep," he informed her. "I'll be fine now."
If she had the strength, she would argue, but she didn't. Instead, she made her way to the armchair in the corner of the room and collapsed in a tired heap. Her gaze was transfixed on him for a few moments, before she succumbed to sleep.
When the sound of her gentle snoring reached his ears, Remus laid back down on his bed, worry consuming his thoughts.
And then he began to pray.
When Remus woke up the next day, he discovered two things: the first was that he had regained some strength and didn't feel so lethargic; the second was that Lily was gone from the armchair. It seemed that even when she was utterly exhausted, she wouldn't permit herself to fully rest.
Tentatively, Remus swung his legs over the side of the bed and stood up. Having spent days in bed, the sensation was weird and he stumbled but caught himself before he fell. Slowly, he made his way out of the bedroom and joined Lily in the adjoining room.
The cottage was tiny. It consisted of only a bedroom, a small bathroom and a combined kitchen and living room, and it was there Remus found Lily darting around.
"Remus!" she greeted in surprise when she saw him. "You're up."
"I couldn't stay in that bed any longer," he told her, and then watched as she knelt on the kitchen counter and started opening the cupboards. "What are you doing?"
"Looking for food. There is none - I guess I used up our remaining stash." Lily let out a sigh and turned to face him. "I'm going to have to go out."
"No," he protested. "It's dangerous."
"But you need to eat! You need to keep your strength up and quite frankly, so do I. It's been a while since I've had something decent to eat. Anyway, it's always dangerous."
Guilt kicked in. "Let me go," Remus urged.
Lily jumped off the counter."Absolutely not. You're in no fit condition to. I won't be long, I promise."
Remus still wasn't certain. "Do you have that wand?"
Lily nodded and lifted up her jumper; it was tucked into her trousers.
"But will you be able to use it if you encounter anyone?"
"I hope so."
Lily picked up a fabric carrier bag from the counter, stuffed it into her pocket and began to head over to the door.
"Be careful, Lily," Remus said.
"Of course. Always. Remus, if I don't come back-,"
"You will come back," he cut in.
"But if I don't, don't come looking for me. Stay here and hide. You're more vulnerable than I am."
Remus didn't say anything in case Lily misconstrued it as a promise; she was out of the door before she even realised.
The air was chilly and she found herself shivering. The jumper she was wearing was worn thin and had holes in it. Lily desperately wished she knew the spell to make her jumper thicker, bigger, warmer.
The dilapidated-looking cottage was surrounded by fields and woodland. She and Remus were lucky to have found somewhere so remote where, so far, patrollers, Snatchers and blood-proud wizards hadn't encroached upon. But it was only a matter of time. They weren't safe here; they weren't safe anywhere.
Lily wondered if she could risk sneaking into the nearby town and scavenge proper food, or whether it would be safer to stick to the woods and try to snare a rabbit and collect mushrooms. She decided on the latter, so she wouldn't be too far from Remus.
As she entered the woods, her guard went up further than usual: her ears were pricked for unusual sounds – sounds that could be human-, she inhaled deeply in order to detect emissions from a wand and she placed her hand instinctively over the wand in her trouser waistband – just in case.
The wand wasn't hers – she hadn't had her own wand in years. Instead, she'd stolen it off an unsuspecting wizard she'd walked by a month or so ago. Lily had to change wands frequently in case she was detected, but it was harder to steal wands nowadays – people were less careless with where they placed them. She shared the wand with Remus, though the two of them barely used it lest they were somehow traced. It wasn't as though they had a menagerie of spells to fall back on anyway – they'd been forced out of Hogwarts before they could learn any true survival spells – but they knew the basics and even they were enough to get by.
It was the right time of year for mushrooms to grow and Lily had long learnt to distinguish between the safe and unsafe ones. They were hardly appetizing but they were nutritious, which was all that mattered to her.
She spent about half an hour foraging for mushrooms when all of a sudden birds in a not-too-distant tree let out a collective squawk and flew away. The sound reverberated throughout the woodland and stopped Lily in her tracks, looking in the direction of the fleeing birds.
Something must have startled them, she immediately thought, her heckles rising. Something that shouldn't be in the woods.
And then Lily began to panic. Whatever had startled them had been in the direction of the cottage. In couldn't be an animal, it had to be something bigger. Something unwelcome. Something human.
Lily was running before she knew what she was doing. She had charmed the cottage with a simple glamour charm (something that McGonagall had taught them in the safe house) to show a derelict house, but it would be easy to remove, especially if someone was looking for a disguised place. Remus didn't have a wand and he wasn't strong enough to fight off intruders.
She ran closer, then stopped and listened. She could hear footsteps and it sounded like they were from two people, maybe three. And they were heading away, in the direction of the cottage.
Her heart was beat frantically as she struggled to think what to do.
Distract them! Her mind screamed.
Panicking, she grabbed the wand from her waistband and mentally ran through the short medley of spells she knew. Seconds later, she thrust her wand upwards and a flare shot into the air. Then she stood her ground and waited.
It was a futile gesture, she knew. Sure, the wizards or Snatchers – or whoever they were – would be distracted by the flare and would come and investigate. Then they'd see her and attack her and she'd have only the simplest of spells to use to distract them; they'd kill (or worse, capture) her and maybe, maybe they'd still end up finding Remus.
As she waited those long, agonising moments, she ran through defence spells in mind, trying her best to feel brave when all she felt was stupid.
There came the sound of rushing footsteps...
Her heart raced even more...
Her hands trembled as she held out the wand...
Then three Snatchers appeared, their eyes widening at the sight of a mere girl holding out her wand at them.
Determined to catch them by surprise, she uttered the first spell that came to her mind. "Expelliarmus!" she cried.
Quick as lightning, one of them countered, "Stupefy!"
And just like that, Lily Evans was captured.