The halls of St. Mungo’s were full of memories for Lily, and none of them were happy ones.
She remembered coming here when she was four or five, because her dad had been on the wrong end of a curse. She remembered coming here just before she turned eight, because her uncle Ron had inadvertently touched a cursed amulet. And when she was eleven, because Teddy had bumped into trouble in the catacombs, and thirteen, because Victoire had been attacked by something (what was highly classified Ministry information)…
And since then, it had just been nonstop. Her father, her uncles, her aunts, Victoire, Dominique, Louis, James, Rose…
Today it was James.
Lily wrapped her arms around herself and tried to concentrate on breathing rather than crying. James had barely been out of Hogwarts for two years, and he’d landed himself in St. Mungo’s for an extended stay twice – three times, counting this one. He’d probably be in St. Mungo’s for weeks while the Healers sorted him out.
She had no idea how many times he’d been in for what he jokingly called “quick patch-ups.”
A loud and very familiar laugh suddenly rang out from his room, and Lily winced. She didn’t know what Albus found so funny, and she suspected that she didn’t want to know.
It had been like a punch in the stomach when her father had come home from work earlier that week and told them that James and Rose were in St. Mungo’s, but what had really killed her was Albus’s reaction to the news.
He’d been home visiting for the afternoon, and they’d been having a really nice time talking about Quidditch and her classes and his Auror training. It was the best time she’d had with her brother in a long time – once he’d left Hogwarts, they’d just grown apart.
He hadn’t looked horrified. He hadn’t looked overly tense. Once her father had said that James and Rose were okay, Albus had actually started to get enthusiastic about it. He’d even cracked a joke about how Scorpius was probably regretting going into Healing right about now.
And in that moment, Lily had felt as though the brother she thought she knew had completely vanished. She didn’t know him at all anymore.
“Hey,” a voice said, and she jerked her head up. Scorpius Malfoy was standing in front of her, clad in the light green robes that marked him as a trainee healer. His head was cocked to one side, and he was studying her thoughtfully.
She forced a smile onto her face as he sat down next to her. “Hey.”
“Couldn’t deal with the rest of your family?”
Lily shook her head. She didn’t trust herself to speak. Thankfully, with Scorpius, she didn’t really have to. He’d been one of Albus’s best friends since they’d started Hogwarts, and despite being two years older than her, he’d always treated her like a friend. He’d even stuck up for her when Rose told her to stop being a baby the last time James ended up in St. Mungo’s, and Lily knew that he hated arguing with Rose.
The nice thing about Scorpius was that he understood why she was so unhappy and frustrated with the state of her family. He wasn’t especially happy about the Weasley clan’s tendency toward reckless, wild careers, either. She knew that he was still uncomfortable with Rose’s joining James and Victoire at the Dangerous Creatures Bureau, and she suspected that he rather wished Albus would wake up one day and decide that he didn’t want to be an Auror after all.
Lily glanced up at the doorway that led to James’s room to make sure it was empty. “We get in, and he immediately starts talking about how great his job is, how brilliant Rose was—” Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Scorpius twitch. “Sorry,” she said quickly, looking up.
He pushed his hair back from his face and shook his head ruefully. “No, it’s fine. Believe me, I’m not likely to forget my boss telling me that my girlfriend is downstairs receiving treatment because her squad bumped into some mountain trolls anytime soon.”
Rose and James had both been there for the confrontation with the trolls. Rose, however, had made it out in much better shape. She hadn’t even needed to stay overnight.
“It’s just…” Lily struggled to find words. “Albus was just so enthusiastic. He couldn’t wait to hear more.” She hesitated for minute. “He was jealous, because the Auror trainees don’t really get practical lessons until halfway through their second year.”
Scorpius did not look surprised. The idea that Scorpius knew Albus that much better than she did made her feel a little uncomfortable. They’d been best friends for eight years, but even so… she was his sister.
“I just…” she trailed off. “I didn’t expect that of him,” she finished after a moment. “He’s so level-headed, usually.”
Scorpius didn’t speak for a moment. “Al… he is and he isn’t,” he said slowly, glancing toward the empty doorway. “I mean, in a lot of ways, he is level-headed. He’s a lot less rash and reckless than Rose or James.” He shrugged. “But you know, in his own, more subdued way, he likes adventure and excitement just as much as either of them do.”
She felt the tears welling up in her eyes again. “I just don’t understand when that even happened.”
That was really the crux of it. She couldn’t quite get a handle on when her brothers had gone from just being her big brothers to seeking out danger for a living.
Scorpius sighed. “I don’t think it really happened. I think he’s always been like that. He’s just more quiet about it, and especially next to Rose and James, people just didn’t notice.” He hesitated for a second, and then asked, “Lily, you realize that they are doing important things, right?”
That was too much. The tears began to spill out of her eyes. “Yes,” she snapped. “That doesn’t mean I can’t be bothered by the fact that I’m probably going to be called home at least twice during my N.E.W.T. year because some family member has ended up in St. Mungo’s.”
He sighed, slid over to her and put his arm around her. That was too much. She buried her head in his shoulder and started to sob.
The trouble for Lily was that she did know that her family were all doing important things. She knew how important Aurors like her father and her uncle were, and on some level, she could understand why becoming an Auror appealed to Albus so much.
He wanted to do something with his life. Something that would make a difference.
As an Auror, he would.
James was the same way; in a decision that had initially surprised Lily, he’d decided to join their cousin Victoire at the Dangerous Creatures Bureau after he finished up at Hogwarts.
Then she’d gotten a sense of how problematic magical creatures were becoming these days, and suddenly James’s skipping the paperwork and procedure of the Auror office for them made perfect sense. If nothing else, James liked an adventure.
As did Rose, and Victoire, and Louis, and…
Being what sometimes felt like the only sane person in the family was starting to get old, and in the year since Albus and Rose had finished Hogwarts, it had only gotten worse.
Lily knew, logically, that people in her family cared about her and how she was feeling. However, it didn’t always feel like that, and anyway, them caring didn’t mean that they could make her feel any better.
So in the end, she just ended up feeling inconvenient. She felt like she couldn’t even be herself anymore when she was with her family – she was too busy hiding how she felt about the danger they were all exposing themselves to on a daily basis – because the very last thing she needed was another lecture about it being their choice.
She knew that. She just didn’t like it.
It was over a week after that conversation with Scorpius in St. Mungo’s when she crept down the old, creaky stairs to the ground floor of her house one evening. The house was still; her parents and Albus had left for dinner with Teddy and Victoire almost an hour ago, and James wouldn’t be leaving St. Mungo’s until September. The silence felt almost eerie; she’d been in the house alone before, but the gravity of what she was planning was weighing on her and made her feel like the empty portraits and mirrors all had eyes.
But this was something she needed to do.
Lily softly laid a piece of paper on the side table next to the front door. She glanced around the entrance hall one last time, taking in the dark shadows hugging the walls, before hoisting her bag onto her back, stepping out the front door, and heading for the metro.
When she got out on the other side of London, the sky had darkened considerably, and the streetlights had been turned on and were all emitting a yellow glow.
She turned down a familiar street, ignoring the sticky heat of the August day that had lingered after the sun had begun its descent. Her family barely knew this neighborhood even existed, which fit her purposes perfectly.
Ignoring the children kicking a football back and forth in front of a brownstone building, she climbed the stairs leading up to it and stepped through the open door.
There was a rather narrow staircase to the right, and she made her way up it to the second floor and rapped on one of the doors.
After a minute, it opened.
“Hello, Edwin,” she said. “Have you got a room for your favorite cousin?”
Her cousin Edwin Dursley stared at her for a minute before shaking himself out of his confusion and stepping back to let her in.
“Hi,” he said when closed the door behind her. “Um… not that I’m not happy to see you, but what are you doing here?”
James and Albus had always hated going to see their father’s cousin and his children, but Lily had never much minded it. The trouble with her brothers was that they always seemed to have somewhere else they wanted to be.
“I kind of ran away from home,” Lily said, looking around Edwin’s flat. It hadn’t changed much from the last time she’d been there; his couch was looking a bit more beat up, and there was a chunk missing out of the table sitting in from of it that she didn’t remember being there, but otherwise, it was as she remembered it.
Right down to the flashing “Game over” on the tv.
His eyebrows shot up. “You did what?” She looked around for a place to put her bag, and he shook himself. “Sit down,” he said, gesturing at the couch and chairs that were arrayed around the television set.
She chose the armchair that seemed like it was in the best shape and curled up in it. “I ran away from home,” she repeated.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought you said.” He sat back down on the couch and flicked the television off with the remote. A frown had appeared on his face. “Why?” he asked, tossing it aside.
Lily sighed. “James is in St. Mungo’s again.”
Edwin’s frown deepened. “That’s your hospital, right?” She nodded. “Is he okay?”
“He’ll be fine,” she said. “But I need to get away from it all.”
He started to say something, and then stopped himself. After a moment, he crossed his arms and sat back. “Why don’t you start at the beginning?”
So she did. When she’d finished talking, his frown had faded to a kind of bemusement.
“I didn’t realize that everyone in your family was so…” he trailed off, unable to find the word. She could relate. “Jesus. No wonder you want to get away from all of it.”
Lily breathed a sigh of relief. She’d been fairly sure that Edwin would help her, but you never knew.
“How old are you?” he asked after a moment.
“I’m of age,” Lily said quickly.
He rolled his eyes. “Yes, but how old are you? Isn’t it different for your lot?”
Now that he mentioned it, Lily did recall something about it being different for muggles. “Seventeen,” she said.
“Thought so.” Edwin hesitated for a minute. “If I help you – if,” he emphasized, and she could feel herself slumping a little, “remember to tell people that you’re eighteen.”
“Does that mean you won’t?” she asked, staring at the chunk that had been taken out of the table. “You know, I’m a very good houseguest. I—”
He felt up his hand. “If I help you, am I going to get arrested or something by the wizard police?”
Lily felt a smile spreading across her face. “No,” she said. “I’m of age.”
“Why do you think that your parents won’t think to check here?” he asked. She could see the wheels in his head turning, and felt a sudden surge of affection toward him. All he was doing was figuring it all out, putting the pieces together. He wasn’t going to turn her away.
“They might,” she admitted. “But I don’t think they’d do more than call and ask if you’ve seen me.”
He considered her for a minute before nodding. “All right, Lily.” She could feel her face light up, and he added, “Though I really don’t have much space.”
She beamed at him. “Ed, I’ll take a closet.”
After a moment of staring at her, looking perplexed, he rose. “Is that all you brought with you?” he asked her, glancing at her bag.
“It holds more than you think.”
Edwin made a face. “Of course it does.”
He led her past the empty doorway that led to the kitchen, pointed out the bathroom (which, unlike the kitchen, thankfully did have a door), and finally stopped in front of an odd, rather narrow door. Its upper left corner sat at least 4 or 5 centimetres higher than its right, and the bottom seemed significantly wider than the top. He glanced at her before turning the knob and pulled the door toward them.
The closet was a mess. There were piles of boxes, spiderwebs covering the ceiling, and a rather pathetic looking light bulb flickering from its place on the ceiling.
Without the boxes labeled things like “winter clothes” and “old video games” and “books,” it would probably – just barely – fit a bed. When Lily glanced up at him, he looked a little worried.
“It’s perfect,” she said.
He wrinkled his nose. “If you say so.” He surveyed the scene unhappily. “It’s going to take all night to get this stuff out.”
Lily opened the bag, rummaged around inside, and pulled her wand out. “Not necessarily,” she said sneakily.
His eyebrows shot up again. “Oh.” He backed away slowly, his hands held out as though he was trying to appease an angry dog.
She had forgotten how uncomfortable he was around magic. Well, he was sure to come around once he realized how much easier it made everything.
She gave it a quick flick, and the boxes sped out of the closet and stopped in front of him.
Maybe she was imagining it, but Lily thought that he looked rather impressed. She gave her wand another flick, and the dust and cobwebs vanished.
Lily darted a glance back at Edwin. He still looked a little wary, but at this point he was also looking rather interested. She waved it again. The closet expanded by a several metres in each direction.
She scrutinized it. “I don’t much like the color of those walls,” she said. They had probably once been white, but they had so many scuff marks that they looked more grey than anything.
“So we’ll get some paint tomorrow,” Edwin said, kneeling down to open one of the boxes. “Where the hell am I going to put these?”
“No need,” Lily said brightly. “I can make them red.”
She waved her wand for a fourth time.
The walls did change color. However, rather than turning red, they turned a pale, Easter-egg kind of pink. Lily stamped her foot in irritation and waved her wand again. The pink deepened slightly, but did not turn into anything remotely resembling red.
After another attempt turned the walls practically neon, she lowered her wand and smiled at Edwin. “Er… so let’s get some paint, shall we?”
He snorted. “Guess being a witch can’t solve all your problems, huh?” He looked back at the box.
Lily glared at him, took several steps to her left, yanked open the door to the bathroom, and pointed her wand inside.
“Hey!” he exclaimed, jumping up. “Don’t—”
She turned around and smirked. “What were you saying?”
Edwin darted toward her and stuck his head into the bathroom. The tiles were so clean they were practically glistening, and the toilet looked like it had never been used. “All right,” he admitted, stepping inside of it. “That was a cool—Lily!”
“What?” she followed him into the bathroom. It looked fine until she followed his gaze to the wall that ran parallel to the doorway. “Oops.”
The wall was bright red.
He was staring at it in dismay. “But…”
Lily crossed her arms. “Oh, I dunno. I think it looks kind of cool.”
Edwin actually whimpered. “It’s red.”
She raised her wand. “I can put it back,” she offered.
“No!” She stopped mid-wave and stared at him. “No,” he repeated, in a slightly calmer voice. “You’ll just turn it some other color. We’ll… paint over it tomorrow.” He sighed. “If it even can be painted over.”
Lily was not actually sure that it was, but she decided not to say so right then.
As it transpired, it could not be painted over. Lily promised to have someone come over and undo the damage - she was fairly sure Scorpius could manage it, and she had told him where she’d be going, just in case something really awful happened and someone died or something – but by the time they made that discovery, Edwin had calmed down and decided that in some ways, it looked kind of cool.
“It needs to be taken off eventually,” he warned. “Or at least changed so that it can be painted over. I’m not going to live here forever.”
Lily had again assured him that when she left, she would have someone take the enchantments off the bathroom wall and the closet – which also stubbornly refused all attempts to paint it.
The disturbingly bright pink of her walls aside, however, she felt that the entire thing had actually been surprisingly successful, all things considered. Edwin had produced a creaky but still fully-functional dresser from his bedroom closet that his great-aunt had given him and he’d felt too bad to throw away. It looked like some animal – probably a dog – had gnawed on one of the legs, but it was otherwise in decent condition.
Lily had been ready to be absolutely terrified by the state of her savings after buying a bed, but Edwin surprised her again. She had been suddenly awoken from a peaceful nap on the couch by a loud crash right outside the flat door. After a moment, the door had opened, and Edwin had entered carrying what looked like a bedframe before it was put together, and two boys she had never seen before came in right behind him with a mattress.
“What…” Lily started, and Edwin grinned.
“I remembered my old bed,” he said. “I outgrew it when I was about sixteen, but you’re short, so it’ll probably work fine for you. Told my parents Anthony’s sister needed it.”
The two boys put the mattress down, and the one closer to her held out his hand. “I’m Anthony,” he said, smiling at her.
She took it and smiled back. “Lily.”
“I’m Jack,” the other boy called from across the room. “I’d shake, but right now I think I’m too tired to move.”
“So you’re Edwin’s mystery cousin,” Anthony said, perching on the back of the couch. “You know, I really wondered for awhile whether you existed or were just some imaginary friend.”
Lily’s heartbeat had begun to return to normal after the shock from the large crash. “I definitely exist,” she said cheerfully.
Jack groaned. “Come on. We can talk later. Let’s get the goddamn bed put together.”
“Oh, I can do it myself!” Lily said, jumping up. “Don’t worry—”
“No,” Edwin said firmly. “You can’t.” He gave her a look, and she could tell that he was remembering the bathroom wall.
She sighed. In all fairness, he probably had a point. “Well, I can help, can’t I?” She circled around the couch to the mattress and grabbed one end. Jack picked up the other, looking perplexed, and together they hauled it over to the closet.
Anthony and Edwin, who had grabbed the bedframe, were looking inside. “Jesus,” Anthony said in a stunned voice. “It’s amazing how much bigger this looks when it’s not full of boxes.”
Lily and Jack leaned the mattress against the wall and joined them.
Jack let out a low whistle. “Ed, you’ve had a whole second room here, and you never even knew!”
Edwin smiled. “I know. It’s wild, isn’t it?” When Anthony and Jack turned back to look inside the closet, Lily stuck her tongue out at him, and he rolled his eyes.
After over an hour of getting confused about how to fit the bedframe together, several consultations with something called an online search engine, and several pinched fingers, the four of them managed to get the bed in working order.
“You know what this calls for?” Anthony asked, tossing the hammer on the bare mattress.
Lily brushed her sweaty hair out of her eyes. “What?”
“Let’s go get Indian food!”
Edwin laughed at Lily’s confusion. “Anthony’s parents own a restaurant. The food is awesome.”
Lily could count on one hand the number of times she’d had Indian food in her life, but she’d always enjoyed the experience. “Sounds good.”
As they left the flat, Jack snapped his fingers at her. “So, have you found a job yet?”
She shook her head. She hadn’t even thought about a job yet. “I don’t really have many skills,” she said after a moment. She was an excellent flier, but somehow, she didn’t think there were many muggle professions where riding a broom would be required.
“I was thinking of taking her over to the Rickety Walrus,” Edwin said, locking the door behind him. “Annie was just talking about needing some more help.”
Anthony grinned. “Yeah, Annie’s great. You’ll like her,” he told Lily, walking backwards down the stairs. He misjudged where the step ended toward the bottom, and almost fell down the stairs. “Damnit!”
“Nice one,” Jack said, nudging him playfully. “Maybe if you put your eyes back in your head, you won’t fall all over yourself.”
“Don’t count on it,” Anthony said cheerfully.
Lily felt a smile spreading across her face of its own volition. This was definitely exactly what she needed.
A/N: I know, I know. Really, Beeezie? Another WIP? I just have so many thoughts and ideas, and I have to write them! Unfortunately, I usually write quicker than the queue, so there's a backlog.
Hopefully you enjoyed this chapter - I'd love to hear your thoughts. :) There is a one-shot prequel that I already had posted called "Handprint," if you're interested in reading that.