World Enough and Time – Chapter Twelve
Time is what we want most, but what we use worst. – William Penn
Lily opened her eyes to find herself alone in the Gryffindor Common Room.
It was late – the fire in the grate had simmered down to embers and the sky outside the windows was a deep, unyielding black. Lily blinked a few times, disoriented, before glancing down at her lap, which was laden with textbooks and a half-written essay. As she rubbed her eyes and tried to focus she noticed that they felt puffy, as if she'd been crying, but she attributed this to yet another late night doing homework.
Lily sat up from her slouched position in the chair and winced as her stiff muscles protested the movement. She yawned and stretched, and tried to remember what she had been working on before she fell asleep or how late it was or even what day of the week it was but her drowsy mind complied with none of these requests.
As she tried to focus on the essay in her lap something else nagged at her, some vague thought or memory that was just out of reach. It prickled in the back of her mind and Lily was overcome with the feeling that she was forgetting something very important. It was like a dream rapidly disappearing after waking up.
But the more Lily tried to remember what she had been dreaming about – for surely it was just a troubling dream lingering in her subconscious – the more it slipped away. After a few minutes of strained concentration Lily gave it up as a bad job, shook her head as if to clear it, and re-read the last paragraph on her essay to reassemble her thoughts.
Half an hour later Lily had finished her essay and closed up her textbooks. Setting aside her parchment and quill she stretched, stiff from sitting so long in one place, and then sank back into the plushy red fabric of her chair.
With OWLs coming up so soon the Fifth Years had more work than ever and this was not the first time she had dozed off mid-assignment. However, despite the late hour, Lily felt no urge to head up to her dormitory and go to sleep. She felt oddly restless as she sat by the dying fire. Something very like adrenaline seemed to be lingering in her system and there was something unsettling about the unerring quiet in the room, like sudden silence after a very loud noise. Again Lily turned her thoughts to what must have been a very unsettling dream for it to stay with her like this. For some reason she thought it had something to do with her family – her parents. And Albus Dumbledore. And the Hospital Wing...
Lily's hand went absently to the side of her abdomen and she was surprised when there was no pain there, no sign of a wound. Then, confused, she could not think why there would be. She sighed heavily and tried to get comfortable in the heavily-cushioned chair but it was impossible. As Lily tried to figure out why she felt so tired and alert at the same time, why her stomach was churning unpleasantly, she leaned forward and put her face in her hands.
Lily found, as her thoughts ambled back to her family, that she felt homesick.
In fact, as realization formed in her mind, Lily was fairly certain she had never felt more homesick in her entire life. In five years at Hogwarts Lily had never so ached to see her family, her home, and the end of the term suddenly seemed an eternity away.
More restless than ever Lily decided to take a walk to clear her head. She tucked her essay safely away in her bag, tucked her wand in her pocket, and pulled on her shoes before making her way through the portrait hole and into the corridor beyond.
Luckily, the Fat Lady was asleep in her frame and Lily avoided a rebuke at her obvious breach of curfew. In any case, even had the Fat Lady been awake, it was no strange thing for Lily to wander the castle corridors after hours and rarely was she scolded for such behavior. Lily supposed, as she stuck her hands in her pockets and strolled slowly down the corridor that the Fat Lady had something of a blind eye to the misdeeds of the Potter children – it had been the same with James.
As expected for such a late hour the corridors were vacant, lit only by the moonlight shining through tall windows and the occasional low-burning torch. Lily doubted that any professors would be out patrolling this late but even so she would have felt better with the Marauder's Map in hand. Most likely it was stowed away in the dingy office of Argus Filch, who did not know what the Map was but who had confiscated it on principle when he had caught Albus out after curfew.
Keen for something to keep her mind occupied, and feeling a little rebellious, Lily abruptly changed her course, spinning to head the opposite way down the nearest flight of stairs in the direction of Filch's office.
Filch won't even notice it missing, Lily thought as she moved more quickly through the halls.
A few short minutes later Lily arrived at the caretaker's office without even the whisper of someone else in the corridors. She stared for a moment at the simple wooden door, drew her wand, whispered, "Alohamora," and the door swung open with an ominous creak.
"Lumos," Lily breathed and the small, cramped space was suddenly lit with the bright light from her wand. Despite its small size the office clearly reflected Filch's distaste of anything dirty or out of place. Filing cabinets neatly lined the walls and the desk was covered in neat stacks of parchment.
Lily browsed the labeled cabinets until she found the drawer labeled Confiscated and Highly Dangerous. She grinned and pulled it open. Something in the drawer began growling and Lily hesitated but caught sight of an ancient looking Fanged Frisbee in the back and rolled her eyes. After very little searching she found the Marauder's Map shoved into one of the front corners looking rumpled and a little worse for wear but definitely intact. Indeed, to Lily, parchment nearly forty years old had never looked so good.
Lily pocketed the Map in her robes, hid the Fanged Frisbee on the seat of Filch's chair on a whim, and left the office.
On her way back to the Common Room Lily took the Map out from her pocket and thought about how relieved Albus would be that it was no longer in the hands of Argus Filch. Smiling, Lily pointed her wand to the parchment and quietly recited, "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good."
Ink immediately began to spiral and swirl to the edges of the Map revealing, as always, the layout of Hogwarts and the location of everyone inside of it. As Lily strolled down the hall she noted without surprise that most of the black dots were bundled in the house dormitories with a lone dot here or there for the professors. She found herself on the fourth floor and then another moving dot caught her eye.
Lily stopped abruptly and thought that perhaps one of the professors was still out patrolling the castle. When she read the name Pansy Parkinson her brow furrowed.
It was probably one of the younger students in one of the other houses. There were not all that many students at Hogwarts but Lily certainly did not know all of them and it was quite possible that Pansy was a student she had never met. As Lily continued to stare at the Map she watched as Pansy Parkinson moved quickly through the corridors towards the Great Hall, almost directly beneath where Lily was currently standing.
Her curiosity was peaked and, already out after hours anyway, it did not take Lily long to decide to head towards the Great Hall and investigate. She turned abruptly and made for the stairs behind her, quietly and deftly descending without tripping up on any of the trick stairs. When she reached the bottom she took one more glance at the Map before wiping it clean. Pansy Parkinson was just around the corner of the stairs and she peered around the stone wall cautiously.
She could not stop a gasp from escaping when she saw that Pansy Parkinson was not, as she had previously assumed, a student but rather a middle-aged woman. Lily clapped a hand to her mouth but it was too late. In the silence of the castle Pansy had heard her gasp and turned before Lily could hide herself.
Her legs felt frozen as she watched a sickly smile spread over the mysterious woman's face but her arms at least were still functioning properly. She flung her hands behind her back, one clutching the blank Map, the other her wand.
"Come out, darling, it's quite all right," Pansy Parkinson called in a honeyed voice. Lily did not even consider believing her. This strange woman was lurking in Hogwarts in the middle of the night and Lily could see her eyes glinting strangely in the torchlight. It made her look deranged.
"What are you doing out this time of night?" Parkinson said, still in her sweetened tone. "It's very late and you should be in bed."
Lily said nothing and backed away but this only succeeded in bringing her straight into view. Pansy took a step towards her and Lily took another step back.
"What's your name, dear?"
Still Lily said nothing. She was keenly aware of the wand gripped tightly in her fist but no spell was coming to mind nor was she entirely confident that she should attack at all. She was most certainly out of her element. The next time Pansy spoke her voice was harsher and there was no smile on her face.
"What exactly are you doing wandering the castle at this time of night?"
Still backing away, Lily finally found her voice. "I left some homework in the library," she said weakly, holding up the Marauder's Map and hoping that in the dim light Pansy would not see that it was blank. "I'm leaving – going back to my Common Room now."
"Well I don't think you are," Pansy answered. Lily's back hit the stone wall behind her. Her grip on her wand tightened convulsively but she was at a loss of what to do with it.
Pansy smiled again but it was even more disturbing than before. "I'm afraid I can't have anyone knowing I was here," she said lightly. "Just in case. And that includes you."
Pansy raised her own wand and Lily's eyes widened.
"Oblivi – "
In sudden desperation and acting entirely on instinct Lily threw her arms out to shove the woman away. Pansy Parkinson let out a surprised grunt before she could finish the spell as Lily's hands pushed hard at her shoulders. Frantically trying to shove the woman away one of Lily's flailing hands closed around a chain that hung around Pansy's neck. It pulled apart as the woman jerked away.
Lily fell hard on the floor, her hand still clasped around her wand and the chain she had torn from Parkinson's neck.
"You little brat," Pansy whispered shrilly and raised her wand again before she froze, her eyes wide and locked on the Lily's hand.
Lily flinched and then turned towards her hand as well. Dangling from the chain was a small, shimmering hourglass. A time turner.
The sand tipped back and forth as the tiny object swung on its chain.
Lily began to scoot awkwardly away from Pansy without drastically disturbing the time turner but Pansy lunged after her and Lily screamed. With the woman practically on top of her and the corridor lit only by a few torches Lily could not make sense of anything she was seeing. She felt long fingernails scratching at her, trying to pry open her grip and she pushed with her legs to shove Pansy off of her. She dropped the Map and tried to push herself up one-handed, but did not dare let go of her wand or the tiny hourglass.
Pansy's hands suddenly gripped at her neck and pushed her back onto the floor. Lily screamed again but from the pressure on her windpipe it sounded hoarse and strangled.
Trying to aim her wand, Lily's arm flailed against the woman strangling her and one swing flung the time turner and her wand from her grip. The tiny hourglass rose into the air above them and Pansy shouted, "NO!"
Parkinson leapt off of Lily to try and catch the time turner but it was too dark in the corridor and she flung her arms out in vain. The hourglass shimmered in the torchlight and the two of them watched as it began to fall to the ground as if in slow motion. Lily never saw Pansy Parkinson's wand directed straight at her head.
"Okay, stop," Teddy whispered and placed his hand gently on Al's to still it. Albus grasped the time turner tightly and held it still. He had expected to feel dizzy or disoriented but in fact it felt as though he and Teddy had not moved at all, much less traveled back in time. The corridor looked exactly as it had a few weeks in the future except that James was nowhere to be seen.
In fact there was no sign of anyone in dark Entrance Hall. Are we too early? Al wondered, a twinge of fear gripping his chest. Are we too late? He did not know exactly where they had found the clues of Lily's disappearance but he had assumed it would be obvious once they came back.
"What if we counted wrong," he asked Teddy quietly, still clutching the time turner firmly. "How are we supposed to know?"
Teddy looked as uncertain as Al felt and this only heightened his nerves. There was no way of knowing whether or not they had come to the right place. This was their one chance to save Lily and if something went wrong…. Albus did not want to even think about what sort of consequences that would bring about.
He had of course considered that the plan was flawed but for the first time real doubts entered Al's mind and he shuddered.
"We got it right," Teddy said firmly, but not quite as confidently as Albus would have liked. "James did the calculations, he checked and double-checked them. This has to be it. We might just be a little early, that's all. We'll just have to wait."
"Why don't we have a look around?" Al offered, not at all eager to sit and wait and contemplate the countless ways in which they were currently breaking the law.
Teddy nodded and Al shrugged off the Invisibility Cloak. For a moment it looked as though he were alone but then Teddy emerged and bundled the Cloak into his jacket.
"Wands out?" Al suggested with a sidelong glance at Teddy, who nodded and drew his own.
"I'll head this way, you take that corridor," Teddy said, nodding to indicate which direction they would each be going. "If you see anything shout, and I'll come running. Same if you hear me." Al nodded. Teddy put a hand on Albus's shoulder and whispered, "Lily's here somewhere, Al. She's here. Let's go make sure it stays that way."
With the thought of Lily actually in the castle with them, Al's confidence in what they were doing returned full-force. He was positively brimming now with determination to save his little sister from whatever had happened to her, and he would do whatever it took.
"Well what are we waiting for," he said brusquely, clapped Teddy on the shoulder, and started towards the corridor he would be inspecting first. After a moment his own footsteps were the only ones he heard and he focused himself entirely on looking for any clues that Lily might be out and about somewhere close.
Slow minutes passed as Al searched the familiar halls for anything out of place. He did not cover much ground as he did not want to wander too far from the Great Hall and he froze at any sound, straining his ears to listen. Once or twice he could have sworn he heard footsteps but he was never able to tell from which direction they were coming. For all he knew, they belonged to Teddy. He was just turning to retrace his steps back to the Great Hall when he really did hear something.
Albus recognized the piercing yell as his sister's immediately and it was as though something very cold were squeezing his heart. His hand gripped his wand convulsively and he broke into a run, sprinting in the direction of the scream. His feet pounded on the stone floor of the corridor and his breathing hitched in his throat as he forced himself to go as fast as possible. Al darted around the corner and then he saw them.
His legs slowed of their own accord at the sight of his sister, his first sight of her in weeks. She was struggling under the weight of the woman attacking her. As he sped up again, aiming his wand, Lily screamed again, this time sounding like there was pressure against her throat.
As Al prepared to stun Lily's attacker (Pansy Parkinson, some part of his brain registered), a bright glimmer of glass caught his eye and Pansy's shout of, "NO!" distracted him. He saw it, the time turner, hurtling into the air and falling again, falling towards Lily, and in an instant Al imagined his sister disappearing before his very eyes while he stood there and did nothing. Pansy flung her arms wildly before turning her wand on Lily. "Obliv – " she started and it was this that spurred Albus into action.
His shout seemed to stop everything. Everything froze for a moment in Al's mind. He felt cool glass slip into his waiting hand and he stood, shocked, unable to even breathe a sigh of relief as he stared at what was now the second time turner in his possession.
Pansy Parkinson no longer had her wand pointed at Lily. It was now directed at Albus from across the corridor and she was staring at him with a crazed expression. Lily too was staring at Al, wide-eyed and clearly frightened and Albus had never in his whole life been happier to see her.
There was little time for relief though, as Pansy had recovered quickly and was now stalking towards Albus, still aiming her wand at his chest. Her blond hair was extremely disheveled, his robes were torn, and she looked deranged. Albus stood frozen, time turner in hand, one in his pocket, and stood silently as he watched Parkinson's manic expression. He had saved Lily, but was at a complete loss as to what to do next. They had not planned this far ahead.
"Give me the time turner," Parkinson ordered him. Albus made no move to do so. "GIVE IT TO ME!" she shoutled and Al flinched. He took a step away from her and she moved her wand to aim straight between his eyes.
"Another Potter," she spat, eyeing him up and down. "You look just like your father." Her tone clearly indicated that this was in no way a positive thing. Still, Al could think of nothing to do that would not put the time turner or Lily in danger. With a glance over Pansy's shoulder he saw Lily frantically searching on the ground and realized that she must have dropped her wand, probably in her scuffle with Parkinson. He turned his attention back to the blond woman and sought around for some way to keep her distracted until Lily found her wand.
"You wouldn't dare risk hitting this," he said, with a jerk of the time turner. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest as he watched her, wand aimed between his eyes. But he kept talking. "Soon, they'll notice what's happened. How you attacked Terry Boot in the Department of Mysteries, modified his memory, and stole this time turner. And you'll never get your hands on another one."
Pansy froze. Her eyes were wide and her mouth was slightly agape. "You can't possibly know any of that," she whispered. "Who else knows that?"
Al swallowed hard. "My dad," he said, and really that was enough. "Now you've been found you're going to be arrested," he went on as confidently as possible.
But this was perhaps the wrong thing to say. Because Pansy Parkinson was now a woman whose plans had gone horribly awry and now had nothing to lose. She took a step towards Albus and he knew he had to keep her talking. Lily still had not found her wand. And where was Teddy?
"What were you trying to do, anyway?" Albus asked her, and he genuinely wanted to know. But a moment later he wished he had not asked.
"I'm setting things right!" Pansy said shrilly. "I'm making sure you will never have existed and your pathetic father dies at the hands of the greatest wizard who ever lived."
"Albus Dumbledore was the greatest wizard who ever lived," Al retorted.
Pansy laughed and the sound of it grated on his ears. "Just like your father," she sneered. "But not for long."
Al thought he heard footsteps heading towards them and he relaxed ever so slightly. Teddy must have heard, he thought. But before his thought could bring him very much relief Pansy swung her wand down in an arc and his abdomen exploded in pain.
Lily was almost in tears as she searched desperately for her wand. She crawled on her hands and knees across the stone floor, her fingers sweeping the ground as if she were lost in the dark. She did not know where Al had come from but he had certainly arrived just in time. And now he was staring down the end of Pansy Parkinson's wand and she could not do anything to help and where was her damn wand?
Albus screamed and Lily's head flew up in time to see him falling backwards to the floor. Without thinking she darted forward and ran towards Parkinson, frantic to stop her. With no wand, Lily did the only thing she could think of and threw her weight as Pansy, grabbing her in a running tackle and the two of the them fell to the ground beside Al. Lily threw her hands out to brace herself from the fall and the slid in the blood that was pouring from her brother's side.
Lily did not register the pain in her knees or wrists from the fall. She was staring at the red now staining her hands and all she could hear was Albus's pained groan beside her. Pansy was already on her feet again and before Lily knew what was happening she felt herself fly across the corridor into the wall, her head colliding with the stone. She tried to yell but the impact had knocked the wind from her. She stared, blurry-eyed and unable to move, at her brother's bloodied form while Pansy Parkinson approached him. She felt tears on her cheeks and tried again to cry out but only a strangled sob escaped as she watched Parkinson take aim with her wand.
And then, miraculously, someone was running down the corridor towards them and a moment later Lily recognized Teddy. She neither knew nor cared how or why he was there. It was impossible, but so much of this did not make sense that Lily did not question Teddy's presence. She could only watch as a streak of red hit Pansy and ripped the wand from her grasp. Teddy caught the disarmed wand deftly. Pansy let out a shriek and made to move towards Teddy but he had his wand still trained on her and she froze. She was now defenseless and trapped and there was a wild expression on her face that made her look like a rabid animal.
There was silence for a moment and then Albus groaned again, his hands clutching his wand and the time turner and the gaping, bloody wound in his abdomen. Lily pushed herself onto all fours and, her arms shaking and her head throbbing, she pulled herself towards her brother.
Teddy approached as well, though his gaze stayed on Parkinson. He looked more furious that Lily had ever seen him. She nearly collapsed, nauseous and dizzy, when she finally reached Albus. She looked down at his pale and sweaty face and, when he saw her, he smiled.
"You're back," he said, and then closed his eyes as he winced in pain. Lily grabbed one of his hands and looked up at Teddy.
"What do we do?" she asked, tears still leaking from her eyes. "Teddy, what do we do?"
Teddy took his gaze from Parkinson for the first time to give Lily a reassuring smile. He didn't say anything, but approached Pansy, pulled back his fist, and slugged her under the chin. Pansy let out a surprised grunt as she fell to the floor beside Lily and a moment later Teddy stunned her and she fell unconscious.
"Teddy, we have to take Al to the Hospital Wing," Lily said in a wavering voice. "He's bleeding so much…."
"There's one more thing we have to do," Teddy told her, and he bent down to the floor on Al's other side. Gently, Teddy pried the now bloody hourglass from Albus's hand and the three of them stared at it for a moment. Then, with a complicated wave of his wand, Teddy vanished the time turner.
Lily's head throbbed painfully and she looked back down at Al's face. He was smiling again and looking back at her and tears blurred her vision. But when she wiped at her eyes, everything looked blurry. It occurred to Lily dimly that she must have hit her head pretty hard on the wall because Al and Teddy were starting to fade from her vision. She watched as Teddy's hand reached out to her, a concerned expression on his face, but when Lily tried to grab it she went through him. It was like passing through a ghost. A moment later, Teddy and Al were nowhere to be seen and there was just a pool of blood on the floor and Lily fainted.
Lily woke slowly, unconsciously pulling the heavily layered linen covers closer to her body to hold in the warmth that surrounded her. She kept her eyes shut, her drowsy mind slowly taking stock of her physical surroundings – the firm but lumpy pillow beneath her head, the starched, scratching feel of the sheets against her legs. She could not remember what she had been dreaming about but a vague sense of unease settled over her as she continued to wake up. While her thoughts continued to sluggishly creep to the surface Lily registered a light tick tick tick near her right ear.
For a moment Lily could not place the sound but she soon identified it as the soft tick of the second hand on her wrist watch. Although Lily never went to sleep with her watch still on there was no denying that she was now waking with it still firmly clasped on her wrist. A gift from her mother, Lily had always taken special care of delicate time piece, removing it each evening and placing it on her nightstand. So why was she wearing it now? Had she fallen asleep in the common room?
No. Lily was quite certain she was in bed. She opened her eyes to further inspect her surroundings but immediately shut them again due to a bright white glare that flashed at her eyes. For a moment they stung and watered and Lily let out a small, sleepy groan. She had never been particularly fond of mornings.
Taking more care to shield her eyes from the light, she rolled onto her back and lifted an arm over her face causing the muscles in her shoulder to protest painfully. Lily slowly peeked through her eyelids and her surroundings came into focus. The sun was shining brightly through a window right across from her and reflecting off the surprisingly white room. Pale stone walls, lines of white beds, white tables, white walls of curtains here and there along the room – the Hospital Wing.
The Hospital Wing?
Lily sat up and rubbed at her eyes. She tried to remember what had happened the day before, anything that could give her a clue as to why she would be waking up, sore and groggy, in the Hospital Wing. Her hair was loose and ruffled from sleep and it now fell into her eyes and to the sides of her face, the tousled red curtains contrasting sharply with the start white ward she occupied. She felt sore all over but after a quick mental inventory found that there were no obvious cuts or bruises.
As Lily sat there contemplating her sore muscles, Madame Pomfrey bustled into the room from her office and made her way swiftly to Lily's bedside.
"Up at last I see, Potter. I thought you were going to sleep the whole day away," she said in a business-like tone. At once she was waving her wand and muttering and shaking her head as Lily grimaced through the not-unfamiliar ordeal. While the matron conducted her cursory examination Lily could not help but inquire as to why she was in the Hospital Wing at all.
"We were hoping you could tell us," was all Madame Pomfrey said. "I'll just go inform the Headmistress that you're awake. She's been quite eager to speak with you."
Lily's brow furrowed as she watched the witch stroll purposefully from the ward. She thought back to the night before and had the sinking feeling that something terrible had happened. And then, in a rush, she remembered.
Pansy Parkinson. Time turner. Albus. Blood. Teddy.
Lily's hands flew to her mouth as the night before came flooding back to her. She had been out after hours and encountered Pansy Parkinson, a blond, pug-faced woman with a sickening smile. She had tried to erase Lily's memory. Albus had shown up and saved her. And Teddy, Teddy had been there. And Al had been hurt. There had been so much blood…
Lily swung her legs over the side of the bed, her bare feet dangling, and leaned forward to rest her head on her knees. Her cheeks hurt and she felt sick to her stomach and dizzy. After a moment she looked up and her eyes searched the Infirmary but there was no sign of her brother – all the other beds were vacant. But there had been so much blood, she knew that. Perhaps they had taken him to St. Mungos?
"Ms. Potter, I'm glad to see you're awake."
Headmistress McGonagall strode into the ward with Madame Pomfrey at her side. The matron returned to her office while McGonagall took a seat next to Lily's bed.
"How are you feeling?"
Terrible. "Fine. A little sore. Where's Al?"
McGonagall's eyes narrowed slightly. "I would hope he is in his lesson," she said. "Although Madame Pomfrey tells me he has already been to visit you once this morning, after breakfast."
Lily bit her lip, confused. "He's all right then?"
"Is there any reason he wouldn't be?"
Lily felt something constrict in her chest. She remembered the blood on her hands, the sound of his pained groan, she remembered watching Albus fall to the ground –
– a body falling in a graceful arc, plummeting to the earth bathed in an eerie green light –
Lily blinked and shuddered. McGonagall was watching her with obvious concern.
"Are you feeling quite all right, Potter?"
Lily ran a shaking hand through her thoroughly disheveled hair. She shook her head. "He was hurt, there was blood everywhere and I kept telling Teddy we had to get him to the Hospital... Wing…," but she trailed off at the expression on the older witch's face.
"Teddy Lupin?" she asked. Lily nodded hesitantly, feeling as though she was missing something very important.
"What else do you remember about last night, Ms. Potter?"
Lily thought back, trying to dredge up as many details as possible. "I was out after hours," she started, not meeting the Headmistress's eyes. "And I ran into a woman, near the Great Hall." She was careful to leave out the name and the Map. But McGonagall already knew who she was talking about.
"Yes, Pansy Parkinson. She has been handed into Auror custody."
Lily nodded and continued. "She had a time turner with her." McGonagall's eyebrows rose. This, apparently, was news to her. "And she tried to erase my memory. And then Al showed up and – and he got hurt. And then Teddy was there and he, well he vanished the time turner and then – "
Lily recalled the strange sensation of her hand passing through Teddy's. "And then I think I fainted," she finished somewhat lamely.
Professor McGonagall's expression was one of slightly unflattering disbelief and as Lily went over the story in her mind she supposed it did sound a little far-fetched. The two of them sat in silence for a moment and Lily found it hard to meet the Headmistress's eyes. She was so sure that was what had happened but… that was impossible.
Just as McGonagall straightened up and started to speak the doors of the Hospital Wing banged open and Albus rushed in, his hair a mess and his green and silver tie slung over his shoulder. He looked healthy, cheerful, not at all as though he had suffered any sort of severe blood loss the night before.
"Lily!" he exclaimed with a broad grin. "You're awake!"
And you're… fine. But she could still see it, so clearly, the image of her brother bleeding on the floor of the stone corridor. Lily could not muster a smile and Albus reached her and clapped her on the shoulder. Her body was still sore and her head ached.
"Mr. Potter, I'm glad you could join us," McGonagall said as Al pulled up a chair beside Lily's bed. "Your sister has been quite concerned about you."
Lily was still staring at her brother, half expecting him to fall over at any moment. "You're all right?" she asked, despite all signs that he was absolutely fine.
Al nodded and glanced curiously at the Headmistress. "Why wouldn't I be?"
"Because Pansy Parkinson attacked you last night! Right after you saved me! You were on the ground, bleeding everywhere and –"
"Ms. Potter, that's enough," McGonagall cut in. Al had gone pale, his dark eyebrows pinched together in obvious confusion. "Lily," he began in a placating tone, "Lily, I didn't leave my dorm last night. They told me this morning that you were in the Infirmary. I don't know what…," he trailed off uncertainly.
"But you were there, I remember," Lily whispered. "You and Teddy both." She put her face into her hands and tried to ignore the uncomfortable twisting in her stomach. Something about this was all wrong.
"Teddy? Lily, Teddy's still out of the country. I wasn't there, I promise."
Over the next half an hour Professor McGonagall and Madame Pomfrey concluded that Lily's head injury – she remembered colliding with the stone wall of the corridor – had jumbled her memory of the night and with no other logical explanation Lily was forced to agree with them. No one could explain why she should come up with such an elaborate version of events but, as Madame Pomfrey said, there was quite a bit about the mind that even magic did not understand.
Eventually, when it was determined that Lily could recount nothing further from the previous night, the Headmistress left and Madame Pomfrey returned to her office. Albus, who had free periods for the rest of the afternoon, stayed but they did not talk any more about what had happened. Lily found an unusual amount of comfort in Al's presence. For some reason it felt as though she had not seen him for a very long time.
About an hour later her parents arrived, along with James, and even Teddy who had come back into the country after hearing the news of Lily's attack, even though he had been informed that she was fine. She was extraordinarily glad to see all of them. For hours all of them sat about in the Hospital Wing chatting and laughing and – in the case of her parents – reminiscing about their own days at Hogwarts.
"I didn't spend that much time in the Infirmary," Lily's dad was insisting but her mother merely rolled her eyes.
"Harry, if you weren't lying in one of the beds you were putting someone else in one," she said wryly.
And then, a voice.
MURDER! MURDER IN THE BATHROOM!
Lily felt all the breath leave her lungs in an instant. For a moment she could not hear anything. And then Teddy's laughter broke through and Lily's surroundings returned to her. No one seemed to have noticed anything was wrong and Lily, who was not sure what had just happened, decided to pretend that it was nothing.
"Come on, you can't deny it," her mother was grinning and poking her husband in the ribs. "Always gallantly saving someone or other, weren't you?"
Flames, streaks of spells, men in masks and a face - Harry -
Lily shook her head and rubbed at her temples. It's just a side-effect. You hit your head, you're not thinking clearly. And she almost convinced herself. Because there was no other explanation, was there?
It was not until much later, when her family was preparing to leave for the evening, that the subject of Pansy Parkinson came up again. Lily was beginning to believe that the blow to her head truly had addled her memory and, while not a comforting thought, it was better than imagining her brother attacked and bleeding out on the floor. She grimaced at the thought and her dad put a comforting hand on her shoulder.
"Don't worry, Lily," he said. "Pansy Parkinson is going to prison for a long time. It was lucky you were there."
"And that you have such a mean right hook," James added with a laugh. Lily raised an eyebrow at him. He grinned. "I saw her when they brought her in," he explained. "She had a nasty bruise on her jaw."
Lily just sat there, confused. Teddy laughed.
Because of her head injury Madame Pomfrey insisted that Lily stay for one more night in the Hospital Wing, at which Lily shared a grimace with her dad. He rolled his eyes but sobered quickly when the matron turned on him with a fierce expression. Lily grinned at him from behind the witch's back.
Eventually her parents left with hugs and kisses and Teddy and her brothers with claps on the shoulder and – in James's case ruffling her already disorderly hair. Lily was sad to see them go but reminded herself that term would be over soon and she would be home for the summer. She had never been more eager for the end of the school year.
Lily drifted quickly into sleep, dreaming about greasy-haired professors, long-bearded wizards, hooded masked figures, and her parent's faces. And when she woke the next morning she almost believed that it had all been nothing more than a dream.