Harry & Ginny
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Barb LP - The Lost Generation
Chapter 5 - Wolf's Howl
Title: The Lost Generation (1975-1982) (05/20)
Author name: Barb
Author email: psychic_
Sub Category: Romance
Keywords: MWPP Lily Snape Bill Weasley
Spoilers: SS/PS, CoS, PoA, GoF, FB, QTTA, Harry Potter and the Psychic Serpent, Harry Potter and the Time of Good Intentions
Summary: Bill Weasley begins his education at Hogwarts in 1975, in the middle of Voldemort's reign of terror. He never suspects that the Gryffindor prefects he looks up to, Lily Evans and James Potter, will eventually have a son who saves the wizarding world, nor that the Weasley family will eventually play an important role in the Dark Lord's fall. All he knows is that in a very scary wizarding world, Hogwarts is a safe haven where he has always longed to be-until, that is, there are whispers of vampires and werewolves, of Death Eaters and traitors, and a Seeress pronounces a Prophecy which will shake the wizarding world to its very foundations...
DISCLAIMER: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Author notes: The Lost Generation is the prequel to the Psychic Serpent Trilogy, which begins with Harry Potter and the Psychic Serpent. There are events and characters mentioned which appear in other books in the trilogy (such as two Weasley sisters who were born between Charlie and Percy). While it is not absolutely necessary to read the trilogy first (the third book is in progress) it may be helpful in some respects. A FAQ file concerning the entire story arc is also available on the Psychic_Serpent Yahoo Group website.
The Lost Generation
Friday, 11 December, 1976
Lily shifted uncomfortably in the hospital bed; she was going to get bedsores at this rate. She couldn't do much but lie on her back and wait for the boneset under the bandages to work its miracles. She never had a broken bone in her life, and while she was very glad to be able to avail herself of wizarding medicine-something her mother couldn't do-she still remembered the pain of breaking the bone with a freshness she was afraid wouldn't go away for some time.
She tried to think of something more pleasant than breaking her leg. She thought of Severus. That made a slow smile spread across her face. Almost as though he had read her mind, the door to the infirmary opened and he entered, and the expression he wore on his face made her catch her breath. The intensity of feeling she saw there was humbling. Do I deserve that? she wondered. She tried not to think, Do I feel the same way? How could she not? How could she not return his feelings, when he had expressed them at such cost, and he treated her like a queen, and adored her beyond all reason?
He was swiftly at her bedside, with his long strides, and he sat, never taking his eyes from her, reaching for her slim, pale hand, holding it firmly. She gazed back at him; they were both silent for several minutes.
"What are you thinking?" she finally asked him softly.
He held her hand even more firmly, as though it was the most precious thing to him. "That day...under the oaks..."
She gave him a small smile. "I was, too."
It had without a doubt been a time to remember, the day when the Eutharsos Potion had worn off and he had met her under the oaks that led to the greenhouses...
The huge overarching trees were every shade of scarlet and ochre; acorns and fallen leaves carpeted the sheltered path between the oaks. She started down the path nervously, feeling a chill run through her bones from a cool autumn breeze and the fact that no sun infiltrated this passage, since too many leaves still clung to the branches.
She had challenged Severus, in the Potions Dungeon. Then if you want to tell me you love me and kiss me-well, we'll see! Would he do it? What would she do if he did? She remembered what it was like to kiss him, to feel like she was treasured for herself, not just someone who could satisfy a physical craving, someone who happened to be the nearest warm body. Realizing that he might not have proclaimed his love or kissed her were it not for the potion had been crushing.
She saw from the far end of the leafy tunnel that Severus was waiting for her, idly tearing leaves apart as he waited. He sat on the ground, leaning against the trunk of an enormous tree near the end of the arboreal passage, closest to the greenhouses; his dark robes puddled around him and his skin was very pale. There wasn't a ray of sun touching him. Don't think about the vampire thing, she told herself as she drew nearer. A split second later, she thought, Drat. Too late.
Severus Snape watched her approach, his stomach in knots. He was quite certain that the Eutharsos Potion had worn off. His heart was pounding in his chest too insistently for it to still be in effect. Underneath the spreading branches he could see Lily drawing nearer, her robes billowing behind her. He couldn't take his eyes off her. She's actually coming to meet me, he thought, incredulous. She's not being threatened, or coerced...
An attack of nerves struck him forcibly and he struggled to calm himself again before she was close enough to see how shaky he was. When she was a couple of yards away, he began to stand, but before he was on his feet, she was starting to sit, and he awkwardly fell to the ground again, feeling incredibly stupid and ungainly. She was having trouble adjusting her robes, yanking at them with an irritated frown, to prevent them from pulling down in the back and strangling her. He smiled, watching her; she seemed she might put a curse on the robes any second, her face appeared so cross. Then he tried to sober, in case she thought he was laughing at her. That was the last thing he wanted her to think. One reason he loved her was that, in spite of her brilliance and beauty, she was also incredibly human. He remembered holding her in his arms, and the way she had responded to his kiss, opening her mouth under his...
He wished he had dared to make more of the potion. He was afraid she would see that his hands were shaking.
She did see them, but pretended she didn't. She looked at him squarely, and with no preamble, said, "Well, Severus?"
He tried to imagine that he was under the influence of the potion, and the placebo effect started to help him; he moved his eyes down to her hands in her lap, and picked up one of them, twined his long fingers in between hers, raised his eyes to hers again. "Lily," he began, his voice catching. He cleared his throat, then tried beginning again. "Lily," he finally managed to say, "I meant what I said in the Potions Dungeon."
She frowned and shook her head. "Try again." But she liked the feeling of holding his hand and did not separate her fingers from his.
He cleared his throat yet again. "Lily," he said louder and firmer, deciding to get it over with. "I love you." He leaned over and kissed her lightly on the lips, pulling back after the quick contact, waiting for the verdict. His heart was a thunderstorm in his ears.
Lily smiled this time, glancing down at their linked hands, then back up at his face. "There, now, was that so hard? I mean, without potion?" Severus shook his head, a slight smile pulling at his mouth. "But that kiss," she went on, "wasn't much like the one from the other day, was it?" she said in a lower voice, hoping he understood her meaning. Where's the rabid Slytherin, dying to get unsuspecting Gryffindor girls alone to have his way with them? she wondered, thinking about a typical Slytherin stereotype. He can really be quite sweet when he's not trying to be a typical Slytherin...
She was feeling daring as leaned in toward him, opening her mouth a little, seeing for a split second that he was shocked. A moment later, his shock had given way to desire and pleasure, as he enfolded her in his arms and deepened the kiss, holding her head up to his, snaking his hand under her hair, stroking her neck with his long fingers in order to hear her sigh against his mouth, feel her shudder slightly with the sensation. They both broke the kiss slowly at the same time, pulling back tentatively, lips tingling. She loved the way his dark eyes shone with happiness, thinking, I did that.
But then his eyes became hooded once more, familiar to her from accompanying him to the hospital wing. She saw pain there, but unlike the physical pain she had sometimes seen him withstand, this seemed more like an emotional pain. Severus looked at her soberly. He had vacillated on whether to tell her, but somehow he knew that he had to be honest with her from the start or it would be no good. She knew what others said about him, and although she hadn't seemed to believe, and had just been kissing him deeply, he wanted to be certain she knew the truth. He wanted to be completely open with her and avoid complications later. If she didn't want to be with him after hearing what he had to say, he would just have to accept that, he thought, his breath catching. But hopefully...hopefully it wouldn't matter to her and she wouldn't leave him...
"There's something else I want to tell you, Lily. Something no one else knows. Well, no other students. I want you to know everything about me." He tried to keep his voice from going up in pitch, but it wasn't easy. He'd never in his life told anyone outside his family about this. The headmaster and matron knew, but his parents had told them, when he'd started school. Before they had been killed by over-enthusiastic Aurors who would never be brought to justice...He shook his head, trying to concentrate and simultaneously gauge whether she was likely to take it well.
Lily appeared to be a little apprehensive, but didn't say anything. She gazed at him expectantly, silently, but with an air of judging that he found difficult to ignore. To be fair, he wasn't sure how someone should look who had just kissed someone and then heard, I want you to know everything about me. She was bound to be apprehensive.
Severus went on. "I want you to know the truth, about why I avoid the sunlight, and eating garlic, and that potion I have to get from Madam Pomfrey..."
Lily felt bile rise in her throat, as she thought about kissing him; she backed up from him a little, pointing at him with a shaking hand, feeling like her heart had stopped. Sirius was right! She said it aloud now: "Sirius was right!" She was breathing quickly and looking like she might bolt any second.
"What?" He frowned, utterly confused; then his eyes widened as understanding dawned on him. But she was barreling on.
"Well, avoiding sunlight, and garlic, and going to Madam Pomfrey for potion regularly-Sirius saw it, but I didn't want to!" The night of the goblet-of-blood prank, he'd been ranting about this in the Gryffindor common room. James had rolled his eyes and argued with him, stating all of the reasons why it couldn't be. "James thought he was crazy, but-you're a vampire! Oh, my god, I let you kiss me..." She touched her lips, then withdrew her hand hastily, as though her mouth had been soiled.
His jaw dropped. She actually believed that rot. "Is that what-" He appeared to be both angry and sad. "No, Lily. I am not a bloody vampire. Pardon the pun. I have porphyria."
"Porphyria?" She was perplexed.
"It's a liver disease. I take Porphyry Potion for it, made largely of spleenwort, with love-lies-bleeding as well. There's also a topical salve I can put on, to increase the time I can spend in the sun. Porphyria is a little like hepatitis, but it's hereditary. It's not usually found in wizard bloodlines, but I had a Muggle great-great-grandfather or something like that, and he had it." He explained to her then about the photophobia, or sun-sensitivity, and his sensitivity to the alium bulb and all related bulbs, which meant he had to avoid onions and garlic. She correctly surmised that since it was a liver disease, it affects his blood.
"Yes. So, at one time, it was thought that people with porphyria needed other people's blood. Hence the whole idea that those suffering from it were vampires."
She was confused again. "But-there are real vampires, aren't there?"
"Oh, yes, and they can't go out in the sun either. And I do have a reflection-not that I care much for it..." She smiled at his modesty; she liked his appearance just fine. "But they really do drink blood. People with porphyria don't, although it was assumed that they did-that we did-for centuries. And vampires are only repelled by garlic; I have a bad reaction to anything related to alium-" He explained that he had bad reactions especially to elephant garlic and shallots, and that the sun made him appear jaundiced and gave him blisters, since he couldn't process its nutrients, like most fair-skinned people. "It's a chronic, incurable disease, both in the wizarding world and the Muggle world. It can be treated, managed, but there's no cure, and if I have children, there's an excellent chance they'll inherit it."
Lily looked at him silently, pityingly. Severus saw this and tried not to let his anger overwhelm him. Keeping his voice very even, he said, "Don't look at me that way, Lily. Don't pity me. That's not why I told you. I just thought you should know." He wished she would stop looking at him that way, with that sad, pitying expression...
"Oh, Severus," she said at last, linking her arm through his, putting her head on his shoulder. He smiled down at her; not a huge smile, but an unsure pulling at the corners of his mouth. He wasn't completely convinced that she wasn't still feeling sorry for him. But then she lifted her head and brushed her lips against his, and he parted his lips and tentatively flicked his tongue against her teeth, forgetting everything else as he drew her face to his for another kiss. This kiss wasn't as deep as the earlier one, but it had an element of honesty to it that the earlier one had lacked. She knew. She knew all about him and she hadn't turned and fled. Then Lily curled up next to him, her head on his chest, while he felt her warm weight against him and stroked her hair and wondered how he had gotten this lucky...
"What are you smiling about?" he asked her, smiling a little himself as he held her hand and marveled at the beautiful juxtaposition of her deep red hair on the crisp white hospital linen. She squeezed his hand and her eyes twinkled mischievously.
"I was thinking how I'd like to kiss you right now," she said boldly. He tensed up, as he usually did when she said anything similar. He was not very verbal about this sort of thing, she had found. However-she was trying to have their physical relationship go more slowly than it had between her and Remus, and all they had done thus far was some snogging. Even groping had been kept to a minimum. She dreaded him finding out how she had broken her leg...
The door to the infirmary opened again and James and Bonnie entered. Severus abruptly withdrew his hand from hers and stood up awkwardly, knocking his chair over, then fumbling to right it.
"Um, so, those are the chapters you are expected to read for Potions. I promised the Potions Master I would tell you and I have," he said to her, his voice's crisp businesslike air only marred by a brief quaver.
He turned and practically walked right into James Potter and Bonita Manetti. He didn't acknowledge them at all. They might have been merely pieces of furniture he was trying to avoid walking into. Both James and Bonnie frowned after him as he slammed the door of the infirmary on his way out. When they turned back to Lily, she forced herself to smile, wishing she could have had more time with Severus. On the other hand, it was also nerve-wracking to be with him, since they were in an early awkward phase of their relationship, and were not telling people that they were seeing each other. It had been his idea; he was afraid her Gryffindor friends would make trouble. She'd insisted that she wasn't ashamed of him, but he hadn't budged. Severus, she had quickly discovered, could be very stubborn. Visiting with Bonnie and James, her friends, would be a bit more relaxing, all told.
They soon had her laughing about Herbology mishaps and other things; James didn't actually talk much, but let the girls chatter. He found himself glancing furtively back and forth between the two of them.
James knew how Lily had broken her leg.
The thought of it made his mouth go dry. Seeing her now, lying in the bed wearing the hospital smock...He tried to focus on Bonnie, instead, pretty Bonnie, with her wide smile and sparkling eyes, her perfect small nose and heart-shaped face, which had endearing dimples when she smiled...but somehow his eyes kept going back to Lily...
He knew that she was sleeping with Remus. He couldn't understand why they weren't a public couple, why it just seemed to be-shagging. And now-now was she interested in Snape? Sirius insisted this was true; James wasn't so sure. If they were indeed a couple, they behaved very oddly together. But ever since he'd found out about Lily and Remus, he'd had a very difficult time thinking of her in the same way, in a sisterly way. He remembered how she had given herself over to passion, when he had found her and Remus in the common room almost a year earlier. She had seemed like a different person. A person who crept into his dreams far too often these days, instead of the person who belonged there, his girlfriend, Bonnie...
"Don't you think so, James?" Bonnie looked at him expectantly.
"Huh? What?" he sputtered. "Oh, um, of course. Whatever you say, Bonnie."
Both girls looked at each other, their eyes merry, before bursting into hysterical laughter. "You haven't any idea what Bonnie said, do you James?" Lily said, almost breathless.
He reddened and shook his head. "Sorry. I'm knackered." It wasn't a complete lie; it was just far in advance. The full moon would be rising when the sun set, and he and the others would be accompanying Remus. In the morning he would be completely exhausted. "I think I might go have a lie-down before dinner. I-I hope you'll excuse me Lily. I really did want to visit with you-"
She smiled indulgently; he was so flustered. It was quite endearing, really, Lily thought. James had never quite lost the air of a lost eleven-year-old, despite the fact that he could also exert a surprising authority at times, now that he was in his second year as a prefect. When he was caught daydreaming, he turned bright red. Lily suspected he'd been thinking of Bonnie. They make such a nice couple, she thought. Then she sighed inwardly. No one will ever think that about me and Severus.
Bonnie took his hand as he stood. "Don't worry. I'll keep Lily company. You go rest," she told him, as he leaned down to give her a peck on the cheek. He thought for a moment of kissing her on the lips, but he had a feeling that she didn't want to be that demonstrative in front of someone else. He left the infirmary and stood in the corridor, leaning heavily against the door, hearing the murmur of the girls' voices again. Bonnie is my girlfriend, he reminded himself. Sirius already tried to make an incompetent pass at Lily, and Peter is always fawning over her, and she's actually sleeping with Remus. Don't get any stupid ideas about a girl who thinks of you as a brother.
He strode through the corridors, trying to get his mind off Lily, but it was difficult, since he was soon going to be wandering the Forbidden Forest with her lover. James frowned, trying to figure out how he felt about Remus. Deep down, although he envied him a bit, he didn't begrudge him a little happiness. He just wished-he didn't know what he wished. He wished that he and Bonnie hadn't finally slept together on Halloween, that was something he knew he wished. It had been an unmitigated disaster. Awkwardness personified. He hadn't even finished, but lied about it, and when he tried to do more for her (she seemed to be incredibly disappointed, but denied it) she had been appalled, asking him, What on earth are you doing? and scuttling away from his hands and mouth. When he'd tried to tell her (badly, as he'd never done it, only heard about it), she was aghast, and he knew then that he would not be seeing her in the throes of passion that night.
They had attempted to have sex again a few weeks later, with a little more success (on James' part) but she still wouldn't let him help her to completion. She insisted it was fine, she was fine, and said something vague about it being all for him, anyway. He hated her feeling that way, as though it were some obligation on her part, something she'd decided to do because she thought he expected it. He hoped he'd never given her that impression. Perhaps some other girls had. On the whole, neither time had been very emotionally satisfying. After each encounter, they'd cuddled and whispered endearments to each other, but it all felt rather empty, somehow. The second time especially, feeling sated and knowing she wasn't, he couldn't help thinking that Lily wouldn't be like that, Lily had a passion and a fire in her that-
He shook himself as he walked. He was doing it again. Remus and Lily. Don't think about Remus and Lily. Oh, bugger, I'm thinking about Remus and Lily. It also didn't help that Sirius frequently returned to Gryffindor Tower in the middle of the night after romantic liaisons, wanting to regale the other boys with every detail of his latest conquest. Sirius couldn't be said to have a girlfriend, strictly speaking, but he certainly didn't lack for girls queuing up to compete for the privilege. James had let him think his relationship with Bonnie had gone further than it had before they'd actually slept together the first time (or attempted to sleep together), in order to stop Sirius from ribbing him mercilessly. He hadn't felt ready yet. A bloke's allowed to take these things slowly if he wants to, he had thought. Now he wished he'd taken it even slower.
In the infirmary, Bonnie bade Lily goodbye and left. When the other girl was gone, Lily let her face relax; it almost hurt from smiling so much. She peeked under the sheet to peek at her leg. She wished she hadn't given in and gone down to the common room the night before...but she hadn't met him the week after kissing Severus under the oaks, and she hadn't met him the month after that, either, feeling very bad for him when she saw the outward signs of his suffering. The first time, he had asked her the next day whether she was feeling well, and she said she'd been exceptionally tired the night before. He nodded, but did not speak of it again. The following month, two days afterward, he asked her whether she was angry with him. She denied it, and didn't mention the way in which she'd been providing him with "friendly" help. He didn't mention it either.
And then, the previous day, all day, his face had been grey and dripping with sweat, his eyes had been wide and pained, with that red glint in them, and she started to feel incredibly guilty. She knew she could give him relief, but she still loved him, and being with him when she couldn't tell him how she felt was excruciating. She knew he would give her as much physical pleasure as she gave him, but she wanted to accompany that with a proclamation of her feelings. She was afraid that if they went on this way she couldn't help but blurt it out eventually, which would be incredibly awkward, as the didn't return her feelings. And yet-she positively ached from not being able to tell him. And she also felt guilty for meeting with Severus, for kissing him when she wasn't completely certain her feelings for him were as strong as they were for Remus. She did have feelings for Severus, but-
The door to the infirmary opened once more and she looked up, surprised. It was Remus. His face was ashen. He walked over to her nervously; she was blushing deeply, from seeing him right after thinking about him, but he interpreted this as anger. As far as he could tell, he was probably the last person she wanted to see. She didn't exactly have a welcoming expression on her face, he thought. When he stood beside her bed, he twisted his robes in his fingers nervously.
"I know I'm the last person you want to see right now, Lily," he said, his voice shaking. Her eyes were very round.
No, she thought. Unfortunately, that's only partially true...
"Don't be silly, Remus," she answered, her voice also shaking. "You didn't mean to hurt me."
"But I broke your leg!"
"Sssh!" she said quickly, hushing him, glancing toward Madam Pomfrey's office, lest she hear him. "I told Madam Pomfrey I fell down the stairs, remember?"
"But-but-" Remus said, sinking into a chair by her bedside and then bending over, his face buried in the sheets and blankets on her bed. She tentatively touched his head, then laced her fingers through his hair soothingly, her heart turning over.
"Don't, Remus," she whispered as his shoulders hunched and he cried silently. "I'll be fine, really," she murmured.
She wondered now whether the fact that she hadn't met him since September had meant there was a kind of dammed up river of passion which had burst when she'd come into the common room the night before. He'd been about to put on the Invisibility Cloak and leave, but stood near the portrait hole, still holding its silvery folds, and the moment he saw her enter the room his eyes had dilated and she had felt like he was a hunter and she the prey. Yet, it was a delicious feeling; she'd almost forgotten what this was like, being with Remus. She'd tried to tell herself that she was moving on, with Severus, that Remus had never thought of her as anything more than a helpful friend. She knew she needed to get over him, to stop thinking he would ever proclaim his love, and sleeping with him was certainly not going to help. She had quite purposefully not met him when she'd seen his symptoms flare up during the previous two months, she reminded herself. She had promised herself that she was not going to get caught up in him again, not when he didn't love her...
All of that went flying out the window the moment he strode across the room and took her in his arms. She immediately responded, pulling him to her, and they didn't even remember to cover themselves with the Invisibility Cloak until they were both completely unclothed. None of their other encounters had been quite so fervent, even when he'd bitten her. Then, near the end, when he was very close, he'd pulled her legs around his waist more thoroughly, but the way he'd pulled her left leg had made her cry out, and then he realized, in his hazy lust-filled stupor, that there had been a report like a gunshot, and that her leg was no longer behaving as it should. Her eyes were black with pain and she bit her lip, moaning in her throat not with passion, but with agony.
"I think," she had finally whispered with a rasp in her voice, tears running down into her hair, "m-my leg is b-broken..."
He had separated from her, his stomach clenching, his brain crying, No! I've hurt her again! He stared at her for what seemed an eternity, before coming to his senses and taking action. He pulled his wand from the pile of clothes and waved it over her leg, saying shakily, "Ferula." A splint and bandages now wrapped her leg, so that it wasn't flopping awkwardly about. She still needed to see Madam Pomfrey though, he thought. Stupid! So stupid! he berated himself silently.
He pulled on his boxers and helped Lily pull her nightdress over her head so she was covered. They were no longer under the cloak. Remus reached for it when he heard footsteps on the stairs from the boys' dorms, but too late; James was entering the room, his wand out, his hair standing on end and his glasses hooked over only one ear. He hadn't pulled his dressing gown on over his too-short pajamas and he was very pale. When he saw them, Lily blushed deeply, wishing she could flee up the stairs to the girls' dorm, like the other time James had found them together. He walked toward them, frowning.
"I-I heard a noise-"
He looked back and forth between Remus and Lily, the evidence of what they'd been doing quite plain. Remus was still wearing only his underwear, and Lily only wore her nightdress. She hadn't tried to pull her knickers on over the splint; they lay on the floor nearby, next to her dressing gown, which she also wished she was wearing, as her nightdress was rather thin and James seemed to be looking at it very intently, making her blush persist.
"Lily-Lily broke her leg," Remus said, pulling on his trousers clumsily, as though the break had occurred spontaneously and had nothing to do with the sexual activity in which they'd obviously been engaged.
James' eyes widened. "What?" he whispered. He immediately went on his knees next to her. She didn't know whether to feel grateful for his concern or incredibly embarrassed that he knew they'd been shagging. It didn't help that her knickers were right next to his knee.
He sat her up and gently helped her put her arms into her dressing gown sleeves, carefully rolling her side to side in order to wrap it around her and tie the belt. He noticed the knickers then, his mouth working soundlessly, unsure what to do about this. She grimaced and reached out for them, hurriedly stuffing them into her dressing gown pocket, her face feeling very hot. He put his hand on her brow; it felt icy against her skin.
"You're burning up," he said. "You rest while I talk to Remus about the best way to get you to the hospital wing, all right?"
She nodded, her eyes very wide still; she felt oddly bereft when he left her side to go speak to Remus, who had been pacing the floor about ten feet away, wringing his hands, looking dreadful.
"Finish getting dressed," James said sharply, using what Remus thought of as his prefect's voice. His friend quickly donned the rest of his clothes again. "All right. We need to get her to the hospital wing," he said, switching to a whisper now so Lily wouldn't think him rude for speaking about her in the third person. "Can you carry her alone, do you think?" James knew that Remus was preternaturally strong because of his lycanthropy, but he was shaking and perspiring, there was a yellow cast to his skin and the red glint in his eyes was constant instead of appearing as an occasional flash. Remus shook his head vigorously. James nodded. "I could do it if you like. If I stun her, there's a spell I can use to transport an unconscious person-except I'd rather not put her through that right now if we can do it some other way. She's already had one shock to her system. A stunner wouldn't be the best idea. If she actually blacks out from the pain, then I can use the spell-"
"I-I can't carry her alone," Remus said croakily; James had to strain to hear him. "Not-not the way I am right now. Not enough control. What with it being the eve of the full moon...But I might be able to do it with you." James was already nodding in understanding.
"Right. We could make a kind of chair for her, with our arms, and go that way," he said quietly, trying to be clearheaded, trying to be the strong one. "And we have to have our story straight, too, before we leave, both for Pomfrey and in case we run into Filch or any professors."
"What d-do you mean?" Remus seemed to be having trouble speaking now, and James hoped he wasn't going to collapse. They were standing very close together, and Remus seemed to be smelling him, breathing in his essence. James stepped back a few inches and cleared his throat.
"I mean-the professors know you're a werewolf, but they can't know that you had anything to do with the injury. It wouldn't look good for you. Even though you didn't bite someone...Understand? We'll say-we'll say Lily thought she heard someone in the common room and she was drowsy and stumbled when she was coming down. She broke her leg falling down the stairs. Agreed? We need to make sure none of us say the word 'werewolf.'"
"Ssssh!" Remus said suddenly, even though James' voice hadn't risen above a whisper, to avoid disturbing Lily, who was lying on the floor still, waiting. James frowned at him.
"Why are you-? Oh, no. Surely she-oh, god, Remus, don't tell me-" But he saw the expression in his friend's eyes and knew immediately. "She doesn't know?" he hissed. He suddenly felt like throttling Remus, but he restrained himself, as he knew his friend was already berating himself for breaking Lily's leg.
"H-hullo?" Lily's strained voice floated to them from the corner where she was waiting. "Are-are we going soon?"
James glaring at Remus, they returned to Lily and slid their arms under her, locking their hands together, then lifting her at the same time, while her warm weight tested their bond. James found that his face was in her hair as they walked toward the portrait hole and he could see the freckles across her nose very clearly. She turned her head suddenly and tried to kiss him on the cheek, but missed and came very close to the left corner of his mouth.
"Thank you, James," she said simply. He reddened and hastened to get her out into the corridor and to the hospital wing. It seemed to take forever. They discussed the falling-down-the-stairs story on the way there, quietly, should they be overheard by Filch or anyone else. However, they met no one on the way and Lily was soon being clucked over by Madam Pomfrey, who praised Remus' splint and started bustling about, getting Lily a boneset and some bandages. The two boys stayed while she worked, and then Madam Pomfrey took one look at their weary faces, the bags under their eyes, and offered some of the empty beds in the infirmary to them, so they wouldn't need to go all the way back to Gryffindor Tower to get some sleep.
James climbed gratefully into a bed near Lily's, but Remus nervously backed up from them. "No," he'd rasped. "I-I can't bear it-" And he bolted from the infirmary while the three who remained exchanged puzzled glances. Lily thought his guilt might be overwhelming him, and later, as they talked to each other before falling asleep, James said as much.
She lifted Remus' face to her now. "I'm fine, Remus. Please stop this. Just-sit with me for a while. Talk to me. We don't talk enough any more. I'd-I'd rather not think about last night. Distract me. Talk to me about other things."
What she most wanted to do was to hear him say he loved her, and tell him the same thing, but instead she listened to his halting words, prompting him occasionally, and eventually, they were conversing naturally again, in a way she missed. She watched his face as he spoke, the grey lock of hair bobbing above his brow, that dimple he had only in the left cheek when he smiled or laughed...
She hadn't noticed how dark it was getting; now that the solstice was nearing, there was very little daylight at all between sunrise and sunset; the sun went down when classes were barely over for the day, and before the evening meal. Suddenly, the infirmary door flew open. Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew stood there, panting as though they'd been running.
"There you are!" Sirius cried, striding into the room, while Peter straggled behind. "You missed class!" Remus turned, surprised, then stared out of the infirmary windows, his eyes widening.
"Bloody hell," Remus breathed when he saw how low in the sky the sun was. Lily frowned.
"Yeah, there will be bloody hell to pay if you don't come with us right now," Sirius said threateningly. Lily crossed her arms.
"Sirius Black! How dare you speak to him that way! We were talking! You're being very rude!" She glared at him.
Sirius drew his lips into a line. "Better for me to be rude than for you to wind up-"
"So!" Peter cried suddenly, stepping in front of Sirius and coming forward to drag on Remus' arm. "We'll have to come visit you tomorrow morning, Lily. So sorry we didn't come today. Aren't we, Sirius?"
Remus let himself be dragged away from the bed by Peter Pettigrew, of all people. Lily watched them, perplexed. "But-what on earth-?" she began.
"Dinner!" Peter said suddenly, his eyes very round. "Can't have Remus being late for dinner! Got to run! It's getting late!" He glared pointedly at Remus. "Very, very, very late!"
Remus nodded vigorously. "Yes, Lily. Quite. I-I have to go. Thanks for coming to get me, mates," he said in a voice that had become strangely throaty. Lily was still frowning.
"Remus didn't say anything about being hungry. And it isn't time for dinner yet. You could have let him stay for a few more-"
Sirius started to say, "Oh, you don't want to see him once he realizes how hungry he really is-"
Peter hit Sirius in the ribs with the back of his hand, making a rather loud sound, so Lily knew it had been painful. She was completely shocked; Peter hitting Sirius? And yet-Sirius didn't retaliate, but seemed to think he'd been justifiably chastised. Lily's head was swimming. The boys were behaving very strangely. As they hurried toward the infirmary door, it suddenly swung open, causing all three of them to cry out, "Aaaaah!" in surprise and stumble into the newcomer.
Standing in the doorway was Severus Snape. He was holding a tray of food-but not for long. The three Gryffindors barreled into him and in seconds the tray was flying through the air and food and dishes and other tableware were airborne as well. Much of the food-what didn't wind up on the floor-eventually landed on Snape.
Lily had never heard swearing quite like what came out of Severus' mouth now. He called the Gryffindors every vile, profane name he could think of. He damned their great-great-great-grandchildren to hell. He insulted their ancestors for five generations back. They were, according to him, worse than all of the Squibs and Muggles put together. He called into question the existence or effectiveness of their brains, their penises, and their testicles (not in that order). He suggested that much of what he had been carrying on the tray would fit very nicely in their various bodily orifices (one in particular), and that the items would, in fact, soon be taking up residence there.
Sirius, Peter and Remus heard none of it.
The moment they had collided with Severus Snape, they were bolting out of the infirmary, and Lily could hear their footsteps receding along the corridor. Severus continued to rant angrily, shaking his fist after them. Breathing heavily, anger still roiling through him, he met Lily's gaze, finding her staring at him with wide eyes.
"Er," he said uncertainly, painfully aware of the awkwardness of losing his temper to such an extreme in front of the girl with whom he was in love and whose affections he daily doubted he deserved. Surely she would think him a monster now, for treating her friends in such a manner. However, he saw after his initial panic that her eyes were actually shining with amusement and a slight smile was pulling at her mouth. She reached into the drawer of the table next to her bed for her wand; waving it at the mess, she said calmly, "Ordo ex chaos," and before he knew what was happening, the tray had leapt into his hands again, and the food and dishes, including a pitcher of pumpkin juice, had returned to their original places. He looked at her, unable to help smiling; was it any wonder he was in love with her? She could sit there and listen to him condemn her friends (while covered in pumpkin juice and mashed potatoes, no less, which was hardly dignified) and still smile at him, then recite a simple spell (the perfect spell) to rectify the situation.
He walked to her bed slowly, afraid now that he would do something stupid like trip over his own feet and spill it all again. "I thought you might like your tea early, Lily. I asked Professor McGonagall permission to get you some food from the kitchens before the rest of the school went down for their meal. She-she seemed to think it odd, but she took me to the kitchens herself. Perhaps she thought I was going to get up to some mischief, add a potion to the food going to the Gryffindor table or something." He tried not to grin, but it was very difficult. He sobered again and continued, "So, here you are. And-and I can stay to keep you company, if you like. There's enough for two of us. I-I've seen what you like to eat, so I thought you might like some shepherd's pie. That's what I brought." Then he realized that that sounded like he'd been spying on her. Now she'll order me out of her sight, he thought gloomily, wishing he'd said that Professor McGonagall had suggested the shepherd's pie. But she sat up straighter in the bed and smiled at him.
"That's lovely, Severus. I adore the Hogwarts shepherd's pie. That's so considerate of you. Do sit." He released his breath, relief flooding him, as he rested the tray on the bed and sat in the chair vacated by Remus Lupin. "I used to hate shepherd's pie before Hogwarts. My mum's was terrible, but my dad and sister and I never dared tell her that we didn't like it..." Her eyes were sad then, and he remembered her mother's situation. He nodded.
"Right. I had a row with my dad the day before he and my mum were killed, and I still wish that we could have-" Then he stopped. Oh, could we try to be more tactless, Severus? he scolded himself, realizing what he'd said. "Oh, I'm sorry Lily. I didn't mean that your mum-"
She sniffled and wiped her eyes quickly. "No, that's all right, Severus. I know just what you mean. That's-that's why we never said anything, you know? We never know when we-we might be forced to say goodbye to her. But at least-at least we know that's a danger," she said softly, impatiently pushing her hair behind her ears, clearly trying to master her emotions again. "You had no warning. Nor James. So sudden...It's just not fair." She put one hand over his and squeezed. He turned his palm upward under her grasp and squeezed back.
"Why-why don't we eat, Lily?" he said quietly, trying to forget what had occurred when he'd entered the infirmary. She nodded and soon they were unable to converse for their full mouths. At length, though, Lily swallowed a mouthful of mashed potatoes and said, "You did rather lose it there, you know. Not that I blame you. And I thought I had a temper."
Severus was surprised. He choked down his mouthful of food. "Well-that's another symptom of porphyria. It-it makes one rather tetchy at times. I wonder sometimes how different my personality would be if I didn't have this ruddy disease."
She grinned. Holding her goblet, about to take a sip, she said merrily, "You certainly wouldn't be the Severus Snape we all know and love!" Right afterward, she put the goblet to her lips, but she almost spit out her pumpkin juice when she saw the expression on Severus' face. I said love. She managed to swallow the liquid without choking, but only just. I didn't say that I loved him, she thought. But it came close. She still wasn't truly certain of her feelings for him, and hadn't returned his proclamation of love. He either hadn't noticed, reckoning that her actions spoke louder than her words (two months of occasional furtive snogging had to count for something), or he was giving her time to work up to saying the same words he had.
"Er," she said uncertainly, trying to salvage the situation. Severus looked like he could have been knocked over with a feather. "I certainly don't think Sirius would recognize you. Or the other lads in Gryffindor. You wouldn't want to put them into shock, now would you?" She hoped he couldn't tell that her smile was forced now.
His eyes narrowed as he turned to glance back at the door, and his expression didn't change when he turned to Lily. "Why were they bolting out of here?" he asked, although it almost sounded like a rhetorical question.
Even though he may not have been expecting an answer, Lily replied, "Dinner, they said, even though that's not for a couple of hours. Sirius and Peter seemed very concerned that Remus might be hungry. Couldn't wait another moment to drag him out of here."
Then she realized that she shouldn't have said that; now it was obvious that Remus had been visiting her alone and Sirius and Peter had arrived suddenly just to retrieve him from the infirmary. But oddly, Severus didn't seem to notice this small detail. He stared into space, his eyes narrowed still.
"What are they really up to, do you think?" he said in a musing voice, again almost as though he didn't expect an answer.
Lily sighed. "Wouldn't I like to know! Sometimes-" Her eyes moved toward Madam Pomfrey's office. "Sometimes," she whispered, "they're out of the dorm all night. James, too. Perhaps that's what they're doing tonight. But-but I don't want to get them into trouble. You won't report this, will you Severus?" She took his hand in hers and raised her eyebrows.
He gazed at her, unable to deny her anything.
"Of course not, Lily. Of course not."
The Gryffindor common room was a boisterous place just after the last class of the day; students were tired of the drudgery of school work and welcomed a respite in the form of Exploding Snap, chess, gobstones, or just plain pointless chatter. Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew stood in the open portrait hole; Remus Lupin leaned against the side of the hole, looking unwell. Sirius and Peter waved their arms, trying to get James Potter's attention. James was near the fireplace, immersed in a conversation with another member of the Gryffindor Quidditch team, oblivious to his friends' panic.
Suddenly, the boy to whom he was speaking noticed Sirius' waving arms. "I think they're trying to get your attention," he said, gesturing with his head toward the portrait hole. James' turned his head, finally seeing Sirius, Peter and Remus. Swallowing, he said abruptly, "Thank you. I-I need to go now." He tried not to run to the doorway, walking instead in a loping, ungainly gait which was clearly trying not to be a run.
None of them noticed the interest that the second-year boys took in the departure of the sixth year boys. They were sitting at a table near the windows, supposed to be doing revision, but actually playing Exploding Snap. Alex Wood raised his eyebrows at Bill Weasley, sitting across from him, and nudged Orville Simpson with his elbow. Perry Booth was to Bill's right, and Rembert Leonard was to Booth's right. They noticed Wood's interest in the older boys and when Alex leaned toward Bill and whispered, "What do you suppose that was about?" it was Booth who answered.
"I think they're going down to the Forbidden Forest," he said urgently, also whispering. "I heard Sirius Black talking about it yesterday. Sometimes they sneak out and spend all night in the forest."
Orville scowled. "Don't be stupid. No one could spend all night in the forest and live to tell about it. Especially not tonight. There're werewolves in there, and there's a full moon tonight. Plus there're other things in there. Not as bad as werewolves, but still...They'd have to be mad."
Leonard's eyes widened at the mention of werewolves. "Maybe they're werewolf hunters! Maybe they're going to kill the werewolves!"
"Or die trying," Booth added ominously.
"Sssh!" Bill said suddenly; Leonard and Booth had become far too noisy. "Let's take this conversation elsewhere," he said to the other boys, rising in what he thought was a nonchalant manner. He sauntered to the portrait hole, occasionally checking to see whether any older students, especially prefects, were still busy or noticing that the second-year boys were all leaving together.
Once in the corridor, they saw flickering shadows some distance ahead of them, round a corner, and hung back for a moment, worried that the older boys might realize they were being followed. When the shadows were no longer visible, they moved, occasionally stopping if they drew too close to the other group.
James took in Remus' appearance, concerned, and very upset with himself for forgetting the time. Remus was loping along, unable to walk with a completely human gait now, and James worried that he might transform too soon. They had to at least get him out of the castle so that the three of them could transfigure themselves without anyone seeing. They could transfigure within the castle if they had to, especially if it came down to a choice between letting Remus hurt someone and risking having it known that they were illegal Animagi. But they would rather not have it come to that.
James grabbed Remus' arm when he paused for a moment and sniffed the air.
"Come on! Don't stop!" James said impatiently, even though they were running late because they'd had to hunt him down.
"Someone's following us," Remus said quietly. "Someone who smells like the Gryffindor common room. More than one."
"So someone from Gryffindor is going down to the library or something. So what?" Sirius said impatiently. "We have to get you outside now."
Remus let them hustle him down the stairs, down down down, until they were finally in the entrance hall. And then they were out on the grounds and bolting for the safe haven of the Whomping Willow. Remus was practically running on all fours now, and he was becoming hairier and hairier. He felt positively feral, although he was still technically in his human form. Every inch of his skin seemed to bristle with animal instinct, instincts which would allow him to hunt down his prey, to outsmart it and corner it, even to toy with it before killing...He was acutely aware of the scents his friends were giving off, scents of poorly-masked fear, scents which made his mouth water as he thought of sinking his teeth into human flesh-
No. I am still a man. I am not a beast-yet.
He tore for the Whomping Willow as though his life-and the lives of his friends-depended on it.
Outside, in the night air, there were numerous smells that might mask the scent of five twelve-year-old boys also exiting the castle, their breaths appearing as small grey clouds as they shivered without cloaks in the December evening.
They saw the older boys running toward the infamous willow tree, and furtively hurried after them, crouching behind shrubbery and tree trunks on the way, should the other boys look back. There was still a very faint light in the western sky and no moon yet to illumine their way. Only the evening star shone in the sky so far, and the silhouettes of the sixth-year boys were difficult to make out in the blue shadows of twilight.
When they were about twenty feet away, the wild, flailing branches of the tree were hard to distinguish from the gesticulations of the sixth-years. When they had come to within twelve feet, hidden in the shrubbery, they suddenly saw the branches freeze. Bill grasped Alex's arm painfully; Alex froze and turned to Bill, but Bill couldn't see his expression in the dark. In the short time they'd been out of the castle, the sun had set completely and the blue velvet sky was almost completely unrelieved by any light, save for the pinprick of bright light that was Venus, plus a few smaller, lesser stars whose names Bill might know were he ever to remain conscious in Astronomy class.
Cautiously, they began moving again, trying not to step on any twigs or make any kind of sound. Bill had never seen the Whomping Willow still like this. Had one of the sixth-years done that? If so, how?
He looked up and gasped. The sixth-years were gone. "Where'd they go?" he asked Alex urgently. Alex shrugged.
"Were you watching?" Bill asked Orville, who shook his head.
"I was," Booth said, sounding smug. "It looked like they went into the tree. Into the roots, actually. Like going into a tunnel."
They all stood with their own roots firmly attached to the soil, all of them loath to move closer. It started to become brighter as the moon rose, full and round, and then, from the direction of the Whomping Willow, they heard an unearthly cry. Someone was in an enormous amount of pain. It-it didn't sound quite human. Then they heard similar cries coming from the forest. There were two or three all told. Bill's heart was hammering painfully in his chest.
And then-then they heard it.
A wolf's cry emanated from the willow, reverberating through its trunk and carrying on the chill night air. An answering cry went up from the forest, one, two, three of them, and, realizing what this meant, Bill said to the other boys, "I think we should get inside now!"
He didn't need to tell them twice; in seconds, all five boys were running flat-out back to the castle, struggling to get enough air from the freezing stuff that was filling their lungs. When they had opened the heavy front doors and were safely back in the entrance hall, leaning against the closed door and trying to catch their breaths, they all looked at each other with wild eyes, not saying anything, but clearly all thinking the same thing.
They went into the Great Hall to wait for the meal, still mute, not one of them willing to voice their fears.
Are we living with a werewolf? Bill wondered, examining the other boys' faces, unsure whether they'd think him mad for even suggesting this. Then he remembered that the other sixth-year boys had all gone into the willow together. Are we living with four werewolves? was his next thought, which made his heart practically skip a beat.
When the evening meal finally began, he looked up at the head table, at the headmaster. Would the headmaster let a werewolf into the school? He thought about what he knew concerning Albus Dumbledore. He couldn't imagine him keeping anyone out. If one of the sixth-years was a werewolf-or all of them-they were at least making an effort to be away from humans during the full moon. Bill ate his meal with his head down, listening carefully for snippets of conversation from others, but no one at the Gryffindor table was discussing the sixth-years, or even wondering why they weren't in the Great Hall. The one person who might take notice-Lily Evans-also was not present, but he knew it was because she was in the hospital wing with a broken leg.
As he prepared for bed that night, Bill went to the dormitory window and looked out over the grounds. The moon floated over the forest, silvering the treetops. Opening the leaded window and letting a blast of night air into the round tower room, he heard, carried clearly on the wind, something he had heard before but never really thought about: the sound of wolves howling. The wolves walked tonight in the forest, where a human would either become food or another werewolf. Bill closed the window again, shivering, but not from the cold. He climbed into his four-poster and closed the hangings.
But as he lay there, failing to sleep for hours on end, he was certain that, even with the window closed, he could still hear the lonely sound of a wolf's howl.
And each time, the howl was answered three-fold.
Saturday, 12 December, 1976
As the sun was rising, Sirius, James, Peter and Remus dragged themselves to the front door of the castle and opened it, staggering into the entrance hall. They threw themselves onto the marble stairs, breathing heavily. It had been an exhausting night; they had remained in the Shrieking Shack instead of wandering the grounds or the forest. Sirius had been trying to talk the others into running free (which is what Bill had overheard), but their hasty exit from the castle had meant that none of them had cloaks with them-they'd forgotten. The three Animagi were equipped for staying out in the cold, in their animal forms, but once he turned into a human again, Remus would be shivering and cold, unprotected by fur.
James looked at Remus, who was quite torn up, despite the fact that the wounds were already starting to heal. Still, he would need some additional help from Madam Pomfrey in order not to look like he'd been through a war-which was exactly what he had h been though. He had been strangely predatory the previous evening, more than usual, struggling, in his wolf form, to get out of the tunnel almost as soon as they were under the willow. It was highly unlikely that he would be able to get through the flailing tree branches, but just in case, James had gouged him with his antlers, little Peter, as a rat, had bitten his wolf's tail, and Sirius had landed a vicious bite on his flank which had finally made Remus turn and retaliate against his friends, chasing them down the tunnel to the Shrieking Shack and away from the tree roots. In his stag form, James had a bad feeling that Remus was particularly agitated because he'd been right about someone following them. He feared that there were humans wandering the grounds, and Remus could smell them. In his stag form, he had a kind of sixth sense when humans were around, and it was going off like mad before they all fled and ran for the shack. It was of utmost importance that Remus not escape the tunnel; the three of them had never actually had to stop Remus from attacking a human in human form. While they assumed, in theory, that they would be able to do this as Animagi, they also hoped that this theory would never be put to the test.
As if in retaliation for costing him a meal, Remus spent hours on end attacking the three of them, and then biting and scratching himself when he grew tired of that, before beginning another onslaught on his friends. They were all a bit bloodied, although Peter less so than the other boys (as a rat, he made a much smaller target for Remus than James and Sirius). He stood first and made to go up the stairs, not speaking, just groaning with every move he made. Sirius also rose creakily, saying simply, "I could use a shower." He trudged up the stairs after Peter.
When they were gone, James finally felt like he could move. He looked at Remus and said, "Do you want help getting up to the hospital wing?" The werewolf raised haunted eyes and nodded mutely, and soon the two boys were climbing the stairs, Remus' arm over James' shoulder. At the door to the infirmary, James said, "I think I'll go have a shower, too. I shouldn't go in with you probably. Pomfrey-she'll think we were out together."
"We were," Remus whispered, glad that the first night of the full moon was over; he thought he'd go mad from being so close to James when they were helping Lily. He was especially afraid that he'd attack his friend when he came stumbling into the common room after his and Lily's love-making had been interruped by his breaking Lily's leg. He was still very keyed up, hadn't obtained his release, and when James was standing so close to him-
But that was then. Why was it so difficult for him to stand close to James now? He had learned, over the years, not to comment on the way other people smelled in the morning; they couldn't help it, not before showering, and they had no idea how very acute their smell was. Even his friends didn't realize the extent of this ability because the vast majority of the time he kept his opinions of their odors to himself. But now-now James also had an underlying odor of want, of desire, and Remus felt confused; he'd experienced this strange feeling of being attracted to boys before, but it had always been (he thought) the day before the full moon. He was frightened, standing with James before the infirmary door, frightened that any moment he would reach out for his friend and alienate him forever. Maybe this gets worse as I get older. he thought. Oh, that's bloody brilliant, he also thought, sarcastically. Just what I need.
"Pomfrey knows I am what I am," he said quietly, trying to forget about his desire for James. "But she doesn't know any students know, or that you lot spent the night with me. Go. You're a prefect; you don't want to get into trouble."
James nodded and watched Remus turn the knob and enter the infirmary. Remus closed the door behind him and leaned on it for a moment, trying to work out how he could desire both James and Lily. But then he reminded himself, You're a monster. Monsters do vile things...
"Who's there?" came a sharp voice. Madam Pomfrey emerged from her office, having been up rather early. When she saw who her visitor was, she nodded grimly. "Right. Let's get you sorted out." Remus grimaced; she was never exactly gentle with him. Remus had the distinct impression that she thought it was a dreadful idea to have a werewolf at the school.
When his wounds were cleaned and dressed, she dismissed him, retreating to her office once more. Remus was about to go, when his eyes fell on Lily, still asleep, her eyes moving slightly beneath her eyelids. He walked to her bed and sat in the visitor's chair, just watching her sleep. Finally, he couldn't help himself; tears running down his face, he said to her, "Oh, Lily. You have no idea how sorry I am I hurt you. I never wanted that to happen. I love you so much. I never told you because I didn't want you to feel awkward; I know you don't love me, you're just helping me as a friend. And that just makes me love you more." He put his head down on the bed, his tears wetting the sheets. After a while, he rose and leaned over to kiss her on the forehead. "That's right, sleep well, love." Gazing lovingly at her, he turned to leave, not at all surprised to see James standing in the doorway of the infirmary (he had both heard and smelt him). He wiped the remaining tears from his face and nodded at his friend, but didn't say anything before leaving.
James watched the door close, then went to sit by Lily, where Remus had been. He also watched her sleep, wondering how she felt about Remus. Was she really just "helping" him as "a friend?" Or was she also hiding her feelings? He could swear he'd seen her gazing at Remus with looks that spoke of far more than friendship. He felt a pang of jealousy again, and tried to push it down. I love Bonnie, he reminded himself. Yet he continued to watch Lily Evans sleep as if fascinated; he watched her chest rise and fall, he watched her frown or smile as her dreams warranted.
Lily's dream had started as a lovely summer outing. She and Remus were in an open field, with a picnic spread on the grass. They were sitting close together, feeding each other strawberries, inevitably following up each mouthful with a kiss. But then one of the strawberries was no longer a strawberry; it was a piece of bleeding flesh. Lily recoiled from it, but Remus casually took it in his mouth, blood running down his chin as he chewed the raw meat as casually as if it really were a piece of fruit. Then she saw that all of the picnic foods spread on the blanket were grisly pieces of dead animals, or, in the case of the main course, a whole goat that had been ripped open, its viscera on display. Lily held her hand to her mouth, feeling her gorge rising, but when she turned back to Remus, he was once again eating strawberries. A glance at the picnic blanket revealed the food she'd seen before, cold (cooked) chicken, a pie, some salad. No dead animals in sight (other than the chicken).
And now Remus was holding her in his arms and kissing her, saying, "Oh, Lily. You have no idea how sorry I am I hurt you. I never wanted that to happen. I love you so much. I never told you because I didn't want you to feel awkward; I know you don't love me, you're just helping me as a friend. And that just makes me love you more." She thought her heart would break from happiness; he seemed so real. She could hear his voice. And she even thought she felt a kiss on her forehead...
But when she swam up to consciousness from the depths of her dream and managed to open her eyes, she found James Potter sitting by her bedside, his head on the sheets as though he'd grown tired of waiting for her to wake. She shook his shoulder gently. "James? Wake up, James. How long have you been here?"
He yawned and stretched. "I don't know. I-I came to check on you around dawn. I couldn't sleep anyway."
She peered into his haggard face. "You don't look as though you've slept a wink all night. Were you just tossing and turning?"
"Erm-yes. Terrible insomnia. I don't know how I'm going to get through the day..."
"Perhaps Madam Pomfrey can give you something to-"
"Oh, no, Lily. I'll be all right. It's Saturday, anyway. I can sleep when I like. Well, except for Quidditch practice later...I'm sure I'll be fine."
He sounded like he was protesting too much, but she relented, despite the nagging feeling that there was something he wasn't telling her. She thought of how real Remus' voice had sounded in her dream. Yet it was James, not Remus, who was sitting by her bedside. They had very different voices, different accents. And yet-what if it had been James speaking to her while she was asleep, and in her dream she simply mistook the voice for Remus'?
"James," she said suddenly. "When I was asleep-you didn't-you didn't talk to me at all, did you?"
"No, Lily. Why?"
She smiled ruefully and shook her head. "No reason." She examined James carefully. It couldn't have been him, could it? Had she just imagined it was Remus' voice? Had it really been James? No, that was ridiculous. He was in love with Bonnie...She and James were just friends.
That was a pleasant thought. James was her friend. A friend, a nice uncomplicated friend.
"So," she asked him, "what are you and Sirius going to do during the hols?"
He looked startled. "Oh, um, actually, we've been invited down to Cardiff after Boxing Day, to visit my Great Aunt Othalie. My dad's side of the family."
"What's Cardiff like? My parents' families are from Wales, but so long ago I've never actually been there..."
As they talked, James began to appear more alert, and soon they had each forgotten about Remus and their other concerns. They were just two friends talking and laughing, enjoying each other's company.
At least-that's what Severus Snape hoped, as he watched them from the doorway of the infirmary, carrying a tray with breakfast for him and for Lily. He quietly closed the door again and departed, suddenly no longer hungry for the food he was carrying. His presence had gone completely unnoticed by either James Potter or Lily Evans.* * * * *Join the Yahoo discussion group for this fic! Click on the above link to my author page to find the url.
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