Author's Notes: Written for the "3H" option of Lady Phoenix Fire Rose's One Hour Challenge on the HPFC forum.
5 000 words, pairing, three prompts.
Pairing: Lily Luna/Dominique
Prompts: Red, Joyful, and Sweet Smile.
Warnings: Contains cousincest, suicide attempts, foul language, animal cruelty and spiders. Lots and lots of spiders.
Lily had thought that Dominique, of all people, would understand. Her cousin – one year older than her, infinitely prettier, and the only other Weasley who had had the good luck to escape Gryffindor and be put into Slytherin – was the one person who Lily had thought would understand the green streaks.
"What in God's name have you done to your hair?" Dominique all but screamed when Lily stepped into the Slytherin common room.
Lily went beet red. She had been in the prefect's bathroom with Rose, letting her colour the tips of her hair with green dye, as a show of Slytherin pride, and she had most certainly not wanted or expected Dominique to call attention to it. Not yet at any rate.
"It's just hair dye," Lily muttered. "Muggles use it."
"I think it's quite sexy," Scorpius Malfoy put in from across the room. Lily shot him a grateful look – that was the proper reaction.
Dominique stood up, moving towards her cousin as though she was in a trance. She threaded her fingers slowly through Lily's ragged, strawberry blonde locks, staring mournfully at the green dye that stained the ends. "I don't see why you had to do this to your hair," she sighed, running one thumb over an emerald curl. "It was so gorgeous before! You're so lucky to have red hair."
"Everyone in the whole bloody family has red hair, except for you and Victoire and Roxanne. If you want red hair, you can look at Rose."
"But why… there are girls who'd kill for pretty red hair like yours…"
"I don't like it," Lily said simply. "It's so…" Her lip curled scornfully. "Gryffindor."
Dominique's lips twitched. For a moment she tried to look serious, but then she finally broke down and laughed. "That it is – very Gryffindor indeed."
"I thought Slytherin could do with representation in our hair colours," Lily said with all the dignity she could muster. Dominique's laughter had only served to put her in a defensive mood. "And will you stop dabbing at me?" she added, jerking her head away from her cousin. "I'm not changing it back, no matter how much time you spend fondling it."
"I wish you'd stop acting like you're such a martyr," Dominique said quietly, lowering her hand. "It isn't as though you're the only Slytherin from a Gryffindor family around here."
"Aunt Fleur wasn't a Gryffindor," Lily pointed out.
"But she could have been, if she had been in Hogwarts." Dominique shrugged. "And everyone else in the family's in Gryffindor. Victoire's in Gryffindor," she said with a tinge of bitterness, "and you know that it's always Dominique versus Victoire, so that's the standard I'm being measured against. Believe me, I know how hard it is not being a Gryffindor just as well as you do."
"Well, you know it's always Lily versus Albus," Lily shot back bitterly. "And he's in Gryffindor. And Dad favours him much more than your parents favour Victoire."
"I don't mean to downplay the tragedy of your life." A haughty little sneer crossed Dominique's lips, very much reminiscent of the one her mother wore when she looked at the Slytherin banner in Lily's room or saw Rose with her girlfriend Alice, or anything that Aunt Fleur deemed beneath her. "Obviously, you have all the bad luck."
"Shut up, Dominique," Lily snapped. She stood up, then turned and stormed out of the Slytherin common room with all the dignity that she could muster.
She didn't bother trying to stay quiet or keep hidden while she stamped through the corridors, towards the entrance hall. If she was caught out of bed after hours, she knew perfectly well what would happen – she'd get called into the Headmaster's office, get a firm talking to about how she was besmirching her father's name, and then be sent back to the common room without punishment, because they knew that the press would leap on them if they ever dared to punish a Potter.
Though James took advantage of their stupid bias and fear, Albus was far too wishy-washy to ever break a rule, and Lily was the one who exploited her ability to do whatever she pleased without any real consequence. She was the one who would go out for long walks in the middle of the night – sometimes straying into the Forbidden Forest, just to see how close she could get to the acromantula's nests before the ground became so sticky with their webs that she could not move her feet without gripping onto the trees for leverage – or until she was almost caught by one. Whichever came first.
When she did see them, she would turn and run, leaping over fallen logs and through thickets of briar, and not look back, even though she could feel their pincers grasping at strands of her long hair that flew behind her. She would go all the way back up to the school, then stand upon the shore of the lake and inspect herself for bite marks.
So far there had been none, but she hoped that someday, someday before she had to leave the school, she would get bitten.
That was a hope she kept closeted in the darkest corners of her mind, and it was one that left her entirely most nights, when she did see a set of eight glittering eyes. Her instinct to run took over any clinical wonderings about what would happen if she were to die, and she had to turn and scamper away at the highest speeds she could manage, and it was only when she was out of danger that she was able to wonder why exactly she had run when she so often wished to be dead.
Oh god, it sounded stupid when she put it like that.
Lily did not have a death wish. Her life was not not worth living. She was not depressed, though people often seemed to presume she was, judging her by the dark glares she sent their way or – even more often – by the bright streaks in her hair that just seemed to scream that she must have been part of some Muggle counterculture that loved death. Her lip curled at the very thought.
No, she didn't exactly want to die… what she wanted to do was to find out what would happen if she did. She wanted to find out, when she was dead, who would cry the hardest, who would go to her funeral, whether they would decorate her coffin with red and gold instead of green and silver…
They probably would, damn them.
Lily leaned against the wall, pausing just as the entrance hall came into view. Still shielded in the shadows of the dungeons, she reached into the pocket of her school skirt and pulled out a small bottle. She had taken the bottle from Molly last summer, and it had apparently not yet been missed – or else Molly dared not confront her about it.
It had a small, fading label with an unfamiliar name stamped upon it – presumably the name of the person to whom it had originally belonged – and a long chemical formula.
Lily didn't know what it was. She only knew that two pills could bring her into a joyful state that lasted for hours and that another two could make the whole world disappear into a bright swirl, and that once those two were down her throat, Lily was able to forget about Albus and her father.
But she didn't want that now. She wanted just enough of the pill to make her brave.
She tipped just one out of the bottle, into her palm, and stared at it for a moment before putting it in her mouth and swallowing, then she tucked the bottle back into her pocket and started for the doors again.
The night was warm – a cool breeze ruffled her long red-and-green hair, but the air was just pleasant enough to feel summery. Spring was Lily's favourite season by far – it was warm enough that she need not fear frostbite when she went out alone, but cool enough to ensure that she was alone, not being followed by a few dozen fools who thought that the Hogwarts grounds were a good place to bring their boyfriends and girlfriends for a steamy snogging session.
Lily pushed the doors open, letting them bang closed behind her without any thought to the noise that they were making – she half hoped someone would hear and follow her so that when she was in the forest and the acromantulas set upon her, there would be somebody there to pull the remains of her corpse away, so that they could be brought before her parents…
She crossed the grounds, her jaw set in determination, not looking behind her as she marched towards the edge of the forest. The quiet sound of the damp ground squelching beneath her shoes was the only thing she could hear…
Perhaps someone had seen her and hadn't bothered to follow. Perhaps they thought that she would be all right, that she wasn't planning on going into the forest, or that she was and would come running out, sweaty and ecstatic, some half an hour later.
Or maybe they just didn't care if she died.
Her feet slowed a little – that was something she hadn't considered. What if no one ever found her, or found out what happened? What if she was left all alone in the forest forever – or, her skeleton was – and people just forgot about her? What if they never, ever knew that she was going to die or why…
Perhaps she should leave a suicide note.
Damnit, she didn't have a quill or ink… or parchment. She didn't even have her wand to conjure any of those things.
Perhaps she could go back inside to get them…
No, she would go in and lose her nerve. And she would look bloody foolish going back into the common room and coming back out with a quill and parchment – she would be sure to attract attention. Probably from Dominique.
Oh, that was all she needed.
Lily stopped on the shore of the black lake, staring doubtfully at the trees. Maybe she could write something in the dirt, something that people would see in the morning. Or etch something into the trunk of a tree. Or she could set a fire and wait until someone came rushing out to go into the forest.
That idea did appeal to her – there was a certain dramatic flair in it – but the fire would frighten away the acromantulas and she would just get stuck in their webs, and probably be found before she had been bitten. Or die of thirst or starvation, all tangled up in the sticky material like a fly caught in an ordinary spider's web.
What a dreadfully undignified death that would be.
Not at all the suicide that Lily was looking for.
Best just to etch something in the dirt.
She moved towards one of the trees on the outskirts of the forest, eyeing them to look for the most suitable writing utensil. At last, she spotted and grabbed a hefty stick from it, then bent and began to scratch what she intended to be her few final words, the words that the world would be left to remember her by, into the dirt. If she had had more time and patience, she would have written something flowery and dramatic that would make her family ache with guilt, but she didn't have that time, so she just wrote,
Don't forget me when I'm dead the way that you did when I was alive.
Signed, Lily Luna Potter
There, that should do. A sadistic smile crept across her lips as she imagined her father staring down at that – oh, it would hurt him badly. It would bloody tear him apart to see that his daughter had been driven to such lengths as to write that before she marched into the forest to meet her death. He liked to think that he treated all his children equally and fairly, but everyone could see how he favoured and spoiled Albus. Maybe Mum would cry a little too – she preferred her sons to Lily; that was clear enough to anyone who bothered to look. But she would cry because… well… because it would be expected. Even James might shed a tear or too, because despite everything, Lily knew her big brother loved her. Even though he laughed and tugged her hair and told her not to bother trying out for Quidditch – not that she had really wanted to, she'd just wanted to be able to do something that Albus couldn't – he was still the one who'd tell Albus off if he got too smug, and he was the one, when Lorcan Scamander had broken up with Lily, who'd beaten him up.
She might almost miss James.
Well, no, actually, she wouldn't. She'd be dead.
Her aunts and grandparents would say good riddance, Lily had no doubt. Except for Aunt Hermione, perhaps. She might rage at Lily's parents for not seeing what was wrong with their daughter – telling them that they just didn't pay attention. But Aunt Fleur would shed only the proper amount of tears to make it seem like she cared, while telling herself that now that the rebellious daughter was gone, she just needed to get rid of the lesbian one and things would be all right.
And her grandmother – Molly – well, she would be just thrilled to get rid of Lily. Granddad might be upset, but he would get past it. He always did get past bad things. Quickly too, usually.
And what about her cousins? What would they think when they saw that Lily had taken her own life? Rose would cry into Alice's shoulder and lament all the things she'd done wrong. Victoire would hardly notice – too busy making sure her hair and dress were nice for the funeral. She would turn up not knowing who it was who had died, and not caring, so long as she got the attention of every man at the event. God forbid she be faithful to Teddy. Hugo would throw a fit and demand that she come back because he was just too damn young and stupid to understand that death was forever, and Dominique…
Dominique. That was harder.
Lily loved Dominique. Completely, wholeheartedly, unconditionally loved her. And Dominique was the one person who Lily knew loved her – completely, wholeheartedly and unconditionally – back. Dominique, her cousin, her closest friend, her fellow Slytherin understood Lily in a way that no one else did. She knew what it was like to be the overshadowed little sister. She knew what it was like to have what they joked to each other by calling the "Slytherin stigma" on her. She knew how damn much it hurt to feel like there was no one in the world who cared. Would Dominique feel that way once Lily was gone?
Guilt, guilt, guilt.
Lily considered scratching the message out and going back inside. Doing this would be abandoning Dominique, and she couldn't do that…
No, actually, she could.
She could, because even though Dominique loved her more than anyone else did, she still didn't love her half as much as Lily wanted her to – as Lily needed her to. She didn't love her the way Lily needed her to.
And besides, she reasoned to herself, Dominique had other people who cared about her. She was gorgeous – part fucking Veela, for God's sake – and nice and smart… she'd have no difficulty finding someone new who could take Lily's place as "best friend".
She'd probably forget Lily just as quickly as everyone else.
Lily put down the stick and left the message as it was.
The forest was dark, much darker than the night outside. A branch cracked loudly beneath Lily's foot almost as soon as she had passed the outermost ring of trees, and she froze, fearing that she had alerted every creature in the forest to her presence. Again, she almost considered turning back, but…
Well, if she was planning on dying in her in any case…
Perhaps the best thing to do would be to make as much noise as she could. She could really draw attention to herself, make sure every creature in the whole damn forest knew that she was there. Perhaps that would be the quickest way to bring the acromantulas down upon her. She wanted this to be quick, after all – death was one thing, but pain was another altogether. Pain was something that Lily didn't like at all, and she didn't want to go out screaming in the most undignified way possible.
She wanted to go out like Father said that her Grandfather James had – standing up and facing the danger like a man.
Well, like a woman, rather.
She'd die like a proper woman, fearless and defiant, not even caring about death.
Lily grabbed onto a branch and shook it hard, creating a great rustling. Birds flew out of their nests, chirping and squawking loudly. That was sure to draw attention, if not of the acromantulas, then of some other creature just as willing to kill her. The centaurs, maybe. She had heard a story that, when her parents had been at school, Aunt Hermione had brought a teacher into the forest and let her get carried off and raped by the centaurs. Maybe that would happen to Lily.
That would certainly be exciting.
And you know what they say, she said with a smirk, walking deeper into the forest, the pills bringing out her bravery – almost making her reckless. You can't rape the willing.
Maybe you couldn't murder the willing either, she mused. Was it murder if she wanted to die?
Acromantulas would still be her first choice, though, she decided. The centaurs might not even kill her, and just leave her Venom would be a quicker way to go – if her potions book and all its endless and tedious warnings about being careful with the venom was to be believed, at least.
"Hello?" she shouted into the depths of the forest. Her voice echoed back, and it sounded thinner and weaker than she had meant for it to. She cleared her throat and called again, forcing herself to sound brave and strong…
Forcing herself to sound like a brave, strong girl who the acromantulas would consider a threat.
A brave, strong girl who was enough of a threat to them to kill.
A spider scampered across her path – not a large one by any means, not compared to those she was looking for, its body was scarcely any bigger than her thumbnail, but it was a spider nonetheless. So she must have been getting closer, then.
She quickened her steps, then, getting an idea, swiftly, brought her foot down upon it. Its exoskeleton cracked beneath her shoe, and she could have sworn that she heard it scream – a tiny, high-pitched squeal before it went silent.
She ground it into the dirt vindictively, laughing a little at the wet noise of its innards being dragged over the rocks beneath the sole of her loafer. She had destroyed it – just the way that its larger cousins would do to her.
Maybe they could hear how she had killed it, she thought. Maybe they had heard it, and were now aware that there was a girl in the forest who hated spiders enough to stamp on one who meant her no harm. Perhaps the death of one of their little relatives would make them angry – angry enough to kill the person who had done it and taken such pleasure in it. Perhaps this would draw them to her even faster.
She felt like she was flying with every step, the pills that she had taken lending her a spring and energy that there was no other way to get. She actually twirled on the path, not caring if she looked stupid – what did it matter? She was going to die soon anyway.
If she was going to be stupid, she might as well do everything…
Raising her voice, Lily began to sing, loudly and clearly, though off-key, the most insulting song she could think of to sing as she walked into an acromantulas' nest.
"The itsy-bitsy spider climbed up the water spout!" she sang, a stupid little nursery rhyme that she had heard Aunt Hermione reciting to Hugo. If there was any song more bloody patronizing – both to spiders and to the child who was being sung to – Lily didn't know it. "Down came the rain and washed the spider out…!"
She did jump a little – the pills starting to affect her nerves, she thought – when another spider scampered before her. It was much bigger than the first one she had seen, perhaps as wide in diameter as her baby finger was long – and she leapt down upon it, crunching it loudly beneath her feet. A bit of liquid oozed across the dirt from under her shoes.
"Out came the sun and dried up all the rain!" she almost screamed, jumping off of it and continuing down the narrow path, going much faster now. She could see white film hanging in tatters from the trees – cobwebs, marking the outsides of the giants spiders' territory. "And the itsy-bitsy spider climbed up the spout a–"
Lily leapt. Her heart beat quickly, and she looked around for the source of the noise. All was still, and Lily closed her eyes, gathering up her courage once more.
I'm going to die. I want to die.
"The itsy-bitsy spider," she began again, though her voice was much quieter this time, "climbed up the water spout…"
Was that movement she heard? She whipped around and thought she saw something pale far in the distance, darting between trees along the path that she had come. A centaur maybe? No, too quick and too small… but then she turned back, and saw something that made her forget all about the pale creature that had been behind her.
Eight glittering black eyes. They shone in the darkness, reflecting the stars and moonlight that filtered through the trees in their watery surface, and, though of course it was very hard to tell, Lily was quite positive that they were fixed on her.
The reality of her situation struck her. Up until this moment, she could have run away. But the spider was advancing on her, slowly – but not as though it thought she was a threat, more as though it was moving at its leisure and did not expect her to try to make an escape.
Lily was transfixed by the way it moved. One leg slowly before the other, crossing the clearing that she was standing at the edge of, a clearing draped in thick, sticky spiders webs. Its hairy legs were as wide around as Lily's own thighs, and they moved with a light grace that made her heart stop.
Venom glittered upon its pincers.
Lily breathed deeply. I will not faint. I will not faint. She swallowed the scream that was building in her lungs, looked up, straight into those eight shining black eyes, and spread her arms wide, as though to say here. Take me. I have no defences.
She heard a rustling behind her – another spider, no doubt, but she was watching the one at her front, watching as it reared up, preparing to come down upon her with those shining pincers that dripped venom the way icicles in spring dripped water, and then–
Lily's jaw actually dropped in shock. A jet of light caught the giant spider upon its sensitive underbelly and it was sent hurtling backwards, across the clearing, just as Lily felt a hand wrap around her wrist.
She was being dragged backwards, mouth still open and unable to tear her eyes from the acromantula. Her feet moved without her direction, stepping back, managing to stay upright as she was being dragged. It was all she could do to stay on her feet, and though she twisted around, trying to see who was pulling her, doing so only made her stumble.
It was only when they – Lily and whoever it was that had, for lack of a better word, saved her – reached the edge of the forest that Lily was able to catch her balance and turn to look.
She was met immediately with a smack across her face.
"I'm going to kill you!"
The slap had sent stars popping before Lily's eyes and she had to gulp for air, before, at last, the person in front of her came into focus.
Lily had never seen her cousin looking so angry. Truth be told, that was a more frightening sight than the acromantula had been.
"Are you out of your bloody fucking mind?" Dominique screamed. "What the hell do you think you were doing? Actually, no, don't even bother answering that! I saw that little self-important note you wrote in the ground!"
"How stupid are you?" she raged. "Did you really think – did you really, for one single second, fucking dare to think that this is the way to get back at your parents and Albus? You're so bloody naïve!"
"Don't you dare! Don't you dare even try to defend what you just did!" Dominique screamed. You have no idea – no fucking idea – what you were just doing? Do you think that this is something you can go back on? You do know death is permanent, don't you, Lily?"
"Yes," she managed meekly.
"Well then why? You know your life isn't so bad that you need to die! Are you fucking high?"
Yes, Lily thought. She could feel the weight of her bottle of pills in her pocket, but didn't say anything. Dominique might actually kill her if she knew that she was on drugs – whatever kind of drugs they were.
Dominique took a deep breath, and Lily watched warily as she let it out. There was a long, tense silence.
"All right," Dominique said at last. "All right. I'm not angry anymore. Just… please, just tell me why you did it."
"Because." Lily's face crumpled and her voice rose several notes. She sounded like a child. "Because no one would care anyway."
"You're so– I would care, Lily!"
"No!" Lily stamped her foot angrily, no longer caring for what dignity she had left. "You wouldn't! Not the way I want…"
"What are you on about now?"
Lily's lip trembled. All the fight went out of her, leaving her feeling weak and deflated.
"You don't love me," she whispered.
"Are you mad, Lily?" Dominique asked. "You know that I do."
"Not like… not…" Lily looked up desperately. She didn't want to say it, she didn't want to have to reveal the secret that she had hidden more closely than any other she had ever had. "You only love me like a cousin… not like…"
"Not like?" prompted Dominique, almost gently.
"Not like… you know… like…" Lily's hands clenched into fists and she dug her nails into her palms. "You don't love me like… like Rose loves Alice," she managed at last.
Dominique stared, perplexed at first, then with growing comprehension in her eyes.
"Don't even…" Lily muttered. "Let's go inside, forget this ever happened…"
"So that you can come out here some other night and get yourself nearly killed again?" demanded Dominique. "I think not."
"I don't want to talk about it!"
"Don't be stupid, Lily – if you didn't want to talk, you wouldn't have said it."
Lily said nothing to that. What could she say? Her secret was out now, and if Dominique wanted to talk about it, who was she to stop her? She waited in silence for her cousin to say something.
Finally, Dominique spoke.
"Lily," she said very quietly. "If I told you… if I told you that I did love you the way that Rose loves Alice… if I told you that I love you as a lot more than a cousin, would you promise never ever to do anything like this again?"
Lily began to cry. She didn't want to; she wanted to be strong and show her cousin that she didn't care, but she couldn't help it. Tears poured down her cheeks. Oh God, yes, she wanted Dominique to say she loved her. If she thought Dominique loved her – was in love with her – then she would never ever even think about hurting herself again. She heaved with sobs, staring up at her cousin and trying to gulp back sobs, and managed a tiny nod.
"I thought so," said Dominique. She leaned in, her pale eyes inches away from Lily's bright, teary ones. "So listen, Lily Luna Potter. I love you. I love you a lot more than cousins are supposed to love each other, which is why I never told you. All right?"
"Yes," Lily whispered.
"Good," said Dominique. She straightened up, then held out her hand for Lily's. "Now come on. Come on up back to the school."
"Wait!" Lily gripped her cousin's wrist, holding it tight, then her hands moved and knotted in Dominique's long blonde hair, and her mouth smashed down upon hers, and they were kissing, Lily was kissing her cousin, and she had never felt so ashamed or so bloody fucking turned on…
"Mm… wait, stop…" Dominique pulled back, struggling to detach Lily's lips from her own.
"Why?" demanded Lily. Her voice was high and shaky. She was lying. She doesn't love me like this, she doesn't want me like this…
Dominique laughed quietly. "Oh, don't get that look, Lily…" Her lips curved up, into the sweetest smile that Lily had ever seen. "I only meant that we ought to go inside… and up to bed… before we start kissing."