Disclaimer: Not JKR. Not making any money off this.
Chapter Warnings: Language, some gore/disturbingness
Lily woke up in a room full of weak sunlight. Her mouth was dry and her tongue thick, and her arm ached, dull and throbbing. She pushed herself up to sitting with her good arm, then slid off the bed. The room was sparse and clean, the walls painted pale blue, the floors polished wood. Thin blue curtains hung over the windows, and when Lily pushed them aside, she saw an empty garden, the plants dead and shriveled for winter.
"Ah, get back in bed, young lady!" A plump silver-haired witch bustled into the room. "I don't like that arm of yours and I'm not sure you need to be out and about yet."
"Where am I?" Lily sat down on the edge of the bed. The floor was cold beneath her bare feet.
"Donagham Manor in Codmoor County," the woman said. "Order healing house. I'm Filemina Wintringham, head healer. Get back under the covers dear, you're shivering!" Filemina pointed her wand at the fireplace and a red-yellow flames whooshed into existence. "That good-for-nothing Owen let the fire out again. Like he forgets we have patients, I swear -"
Lily crawled back under the bed's thick, worn quilt. Her arm was bandaged and strapped across her chest by a sling, and still it throbbed, throbbed, throbbed.
"Now, how are you feeling?" Filemina asked. "Are you hungry? I'm sure you're thirsty, dear, let me get a glass of water - there you go." She brought a glass and pitcher sailing across the room and set the pitcher to pouring.
"My arm hurts," Lily says. "And I feel - indistinct."
Filemina handed Lily the water glass and Lily gulped it down. "Well I imagine you would," Filemina said. "You've been asleep for two days."
Filemina patted Lily on the knee. "That was a nasty curse what hit you. James remembered the incantation but it wasn't nothing I'd heard of before, and all the usual fixes didn't do much good save to bring down your fever. Potions, spells, charms -" Filemina smiled. "If you weren't sitting here before me I'd say it was a killing curse. It's what it looks like, but -" she shrugged.
"It wasn't," Lily said. "It wasn't the Ava-" But the words stuck in her mouth, and for a moment the little blue room was filled with cruel green light.
"No, of course not, dear. I meant - well, I mean another killing curse. A different sort." And although Filemina's voice stayed cheery, her mouth straightened into a dark, hard line. Just for a second and it was gone. Lily's head spun.
"Another?" The thought was colder than the air in the room.
"Well, it obviously wasn't," Filemina said. "You pulled through fine."
Not exactly, Lily thought, pain burning deep into her shoulder. Although she did wonder why it hadn't hurt her when Sev cast it. He had cast it, right? He'd said the words, but when the curse struck her there had only been a warmth like the summer sun -
Lily's thoughts clouded and suddenly she was back in the Dog and Duck, and the old man was lying dead on the floor, and she was screaming.
"Avada Kadavra!" shouted Crispin the Death Eater. Light, pain, emptiness. Screaming.
The old man's eyes like two pale coins.
Screaming. Screaming. Screaming.
And then, from far away, scratchy and distant, a woman's kind voice, whispering the Sleeping spell, and then more darkness.
Then came the dreams.
The next time Lily awoke, the light in the room was grey and soft, and the curtains cast dim shadows that danced across the opposite walls. A figure was sleeping in a chair by the door - Lily could hear him snoring. When she cast Lumos a pale house elf jerked awake and jumped to his feet.
"Ms. Evans!" he stuttered. "Owen'll run and tell 'em you're awake - don't move - Mrs. Wintringham said you shouldn't move or get out of bed, you don't want the waking dreams to come back on again - wait here -"
And then he bounded out of the room, his footsteps echoing off into silence.
Lily set the lit wind on her bedside table and groped around for the water pitcher and glass. The pitcher was empty, and Aguamenti didn't work - but some half-fragment of a memory told her to pour, and she did, and water splashed into the glass, bright blue in the light of the wand.
She drank it down, refilled her glass, drank that down as well. Her thoughts didn't feel as strange as they had the last time she awoke, although the ache in her arm seemed even worse. And she'd had dreams, the most terrible dreams, dreams of death and darkness and Sev and wandlight and screaming -
Footsteps pattered out in the hallway, and then Filemina appeared with the elf in tow.
"Lily!" she cried. "Oh, you woke up sooner than I expected - I do hope that's a good sign. Hold still, child, I need to check some things -"
And she waved her wand slowly up and down the length of Lily's body, finally resting the point of her wand on Lily's temple.
"Do you remember your dreams?" Filemina asked.
"Um, sort of. Mostly that they were - that I was terrified - I don't -"
Filemina shushed her. "No use talking about them. Albus told me you'd never seen battle before, I should have taken precautions -"
"It wasn't because of the curse?"
Filemina shook her head, then waved her wand in front of herself. Letters scrolled out in the darkness. "No, dear, the waking dreams have happened to most all of us who fight - there's a potion to keep them in the nighttime."
"I don't want them, then, either," Lily said, remembering her dreams' flood of sick dread, the revulsion, the dead man's eyes.
"You'll have to take that up with Albus, I'm afraid." Filemina winked out the scroll of letters. "The good news is that it looks like we have them quarantined - your arm, though." She tsked. "Owen! Oh, where is that creature - there you are! Light the lamps! It's too dark to think in here."
Owen flung magic out from his fingertips, and the room suffused itself in a soft golden glow. Lily still hadn't gotten used to house-elves.
"Was anyone else hurt?" Lily asked.
"Hmmn?" Filemina sat down on the side of the bed and gently slid Lily's arm out of the sling. Pain shot through Lily's side. When she gasped Filemina stroked her hair. "This will only take a second, dear. You mean at the skirmish at the Dog and Duck? No, no, nothing major. Sirius got hit with a stinging hex, nothing I couldn't patch up in an hour. You got the brunt of it."
Lily laughed. Filemina looked up at her in alarm. "You find that funny, dear?" Lily could tell her from her tone that Filimina most certainly did not.
"I didn't even fight," Lily said. "I hid behind the bar. The curse rebounded off a mirror -"
"Oh, hush! Your role was the most dangerous - sending you in as a test like that -"
Filimina suddenly seemed very interested in removing the bandages from Lily's arm.
"A test? For who? For me? Some kind of initiation -"
"Don't be silly, sweetling! We don't work that way." Filemina dropped the bandages on the table and peered closely at Lily's arm. "Cobwebs and fiddlesticks! No change."
Lily tried to twist her shoulder to get a look at her arm, but the pain was too sharp, and she cried out and slumped against the cold metal bedframe.
"Don't strain yourself - it's nothing you need to be looking at anyw -"
"No!" said Lily. "I want to see. If I was brave enough to be a test I'm brave enough to see what's happened to my arm."
Filemina pulled back, her round face hard and stern. Lily matched her gaze. She could feel the fire burning behind her eyes. Don't fuck with me, she thought.
"Accio mirror," said Filemina.
The mirror that answered her call was small and slim and backed in carved ornate silver - it came winging through the doorway like a bat. Filemina caught it and handed it to Lily, who no longer felt as strong as she had a few seconds previous.
Lily looked into the reflection.
"Oh," she said.
The top half of her arm was bruised, a swirl of purple and black and dark yellow. In the place where the curse had struck her there was a starburst of bright angry red, and thin red lines trailed up to her shoulder and down to the crook of her elbow.
"Jesus," Lily said.
Filemina snatched the mirror away. "Told you it was nothing you need to see."
"My arm looks like it's about to fall off."
"Oh, I'm sure it won't come to that." But Lily still heard the hesitation in her voice. "Albus sent for Horatio Alesi - you've met him, I believe? He's a great skill in Potions, and we're hoping he'll be able to whip something up for you -"
Lily didn't say anything.
"Are you hungry, dear?" asked Filemina. "I can have Owen bring you something? Some broth and bread, maybe?"
"Yes, fine." Lily wasn't hungry at all. She tried to move her arm and the pain seared into her chest and down into the curve of her waist, and she cried out. Filemina sighed.
"We'll get you patched up," she said. "No need to worry."
Liar. And Lily, despite the pain and the shock of seeing her arm, had not forgotten what Filemina had said about her being a test. Albus. She would have to ask Albus - not that she was so convinced he would tell the truth either.
Filemina rebound Lily's arm, chattering and gossiping as she did so, but Lily didn't hear a word she said, and she forced herself to think of nothing.
Lily stayed in the healing house for three days. Her arm did not improve.
Albus came to see her the afternoon that she was preparing to travel back to her flat in Dorny. She'd been asking for him ever since she woke up and saw her arm for the first time, but Filemina had always waved her off, saying he was busy, that she was weak.
And then he came sliding out of the fireplace, clutching a bouquet of hothouse flowers.
"Lily!" he cried when he saw her. "My brave girl. I heard about your arm." He turned to Filemina. "Should she be going home so soon?"
"I want to," said Lily. She took the flowers and held them under nose out of habit, but they didn't smell like anything.
"Did Horatio ever come by?" Albus asked. "With the Potions?"
"They didn't work."
"Ah." Dumbledore gave Filemina a kindly smile. "Could you excuse us for a moment? I need to speak with Lily alone."
Lily narrowed her eyes. Filemina nodded and bustled out of the room, dragging Owen along with her.
Albus sat down on the bed and patted the mattress. "Come, sit," he said.
"I'd rather stand," Lily said. Then, as an afterthought - "I've been in that bed three days."
"Oh, of course, of course, silly me." He waved his wand and the walls turned silvery blue.
Dread pooled in Lily's stomach.
"I thought we were in a safe house," she said.
"We are," said Dumbledore. "But secrets still must be kept. You did very well, Lily. I'm quite sorry about your arm."
"Why was I a test?"
Dumbledore didn't move, didn't react at all.
"A test," Lily went on. "Filemina said I was a test - " She stopped and tossed the flowers on the bedside table. "It was for Sev, wasn't it? I thought she meant for me at first, but I had a lot of time to think, you know, lying in bed, trying not to fall asleep -"
"Are you referring to your nightmares?" said Dumbledore. "Filemina said you'd been asking after dream suppressant. My dear, you shouldn't take that. Those dreams will help you."
Lily stared at him.
"You must be brave, Lily."
Lily didn't want to talk about the dreams. If the Order wouldn't give her dream suppressant, she'd make her own. But Albus didn't need to know that.
"I spent a lot of time thinking," Lily went on. "And remembering what happened, even though - " She stopped, took a deep breath. "And the Death Eater said they'd gotten a picture. And they knew what I looked like - they recognized me. Sev wouldn't have given that to them; he didn't know I was going to be there. No one did." She took a deep breath. Be brave, Lily Evans. "Except for you."
Albus regarded her with his pale blue eyes.
"Why did you do that to me?"
The air in the room was still and heavy. Lily's arm throbbed. She could hear her heart beating.
"Well?" she asked.
Albus did not smile when he spoke.
"I wanted to see if Severus would protect you," he said. "In front of his fellow Death Eaters, and in a such a way that he would be obligated to lie to Voldemort. I was almost certain that he would, but - there was no other way to, ah, to test it -"
Lily trembled. Part of her still wanted to see Albus the way the others in the Order did - kind and good, incapable of deception. A beacon of light amongst the darkness. But she realized in that moment Albus was not a symbol after all, but a man, a general of an army. And he had a war to win.
"What if he hadn't protected me?" Lily said, careful to keep her voice calm and measured.
"Then you would be dead."
Lily took a step back, shaking - she stumbled over a gap in the floor and nearly fell, catching herself on the table at the last moment. She knocked the flowers to the floor.
"Oh," she said.
"I'm sorry that's not the answer you wanted to hear."
"You would have sacrificed me -"
"I sent in ten of our best fighters to bring you out of the pub after Severus proved what he was capable of. Ten. For one girl. Every single one of them would have sacrificed themselves."
"That's not the same!" Lily screamed. Albus jumped. "They knew what they were doing. You didn't tell me - you just -"
"I couldn't risk him looking into your thoughts."
Lily blinked back tears. Her face was hot with anger.
"You know how important this is, Lily."
"And what happens when those Death Eaters find out I'm not really dead?" she asked. "Then they'll kill Sev and none of this will matt -"
"I took precautions against that," Albus said, holding up one hand. "Severus is safe as long as he keeps your life a secret. Which he will."
"Until Voldemort digs deep enough into his memory and finds me!"
"In which case," Dumbledore said. "He would not have worked as a double agent."
"So you'd just let him die?"
"He's a Death Eater, Lily."
Lily screamed. She picked the flowers up off the ground and hurled them at Albus, who didn't even flinch when they hit him in the chest and exploded across the bed, a shower of color.
"Lily," Albus said. "Calm down."
"Please don't speak to me like that." Albus stood up, his robes rustling. The flowers scattered across the floor. He took hold of Lily's good hand, and she was too exhausted and in too much pain to try and jerk away. "Lily, look at me. Look at me."
"We will keep you safe. You are too important right now not to. If Severus is capable of deceiving Voldemort so deeply - I told you, you're the key. If we lose you, we lose Severus."
"So that's it?" said Lily. "That's all you want me for? To - what? Seduce Sev over to your side?"
Albus didn't answer.
"It is, isn't it? Like Mata Hari?" Lily laughed. "You won't even teach me to fight, but you'll send me off to - to - fuck for the cause. Charming."
Albus' expression softened. "We can teach you to fight."
"Really?" Lily looked at him. "Really teach me? Not just talk for half an hour about bravery?"
"Why Lily," said Albus. "That was almost condescending."
"Don't make jokes."
Albus' eyes twinkled. "Another request I'm afraid I can't fill. Unlike your request for battle training - you're right. DADA classes didn't quite prepare you as thoroughly as I might have hoped. I'll have Sirius and James-"
"Isn't there anyone else?"
"No. Sirius and James will work with you in learning some of the lesser Dim spells before you begin your work with Severus."
Lily frowned. She had never agreed to bring Severus over to the Order. And yet she wasn't going to protest. The War's as good as lost without him. Although Lily wasn't sure if her silent agreement was because of her belief in the cause or because of Albus and his web of words.
Maybe she could do it. Maybe she could pretend they had never left Hogwarts, that things were as they had been before he joined the Death Eaters. She had never acted on her feelings then. Sometimes, she still regretted it.
"You should also have Occlumency training. I'll speak to Portia."
Lily didn't say anything to that.
Albus smiled at her, his face full of warmth. "I'm glad you see why this is important, Lily."
"You should rest at home," he went on. "I'm contacting a colleague of mine in Morocco - I'm hoping he'll agree to look at your arm. Filemina tells me it doesn't seem to be spreading, which is a good sign."
Her arm. For a few minutes Lily had almost forgotten about it, but now the pain flared up again, sharper than before.
"Thank you," Lily said, feeling sullen.
"No, my dear," said Albus. "Thank you."
And then he withdrew the silencing spell and walked out of the room.