Chapter 8 : No More Secrets
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He felt the thunder of power come alive under him as he turned the key. Power, that’s what he needed. More. He tried to shake the stinging pricks of anger from his body, but they continued to penetrate his flesh like razor sharp needles.
The handlebars pulled back farther as he lifted the wheels into the sky, cutting through the thick layer of night and breaking the peace that blanketed the world.
Lights, houses, trees, they all blended through the sweeps of hot rage that spread through him. How dare she! Pitiful, fucked up excuse of a woman. It had taken all of his self control to leave his wand in his pocket.
The front wheel touched back to the asphalt, but it wasn’t enough. He needed more. Like a gift sent to distract him, he looked over to see long waves of mahogany hair and the laughter of a white smile already drilling into him. His head tipped up on its own accord, accepting her challenge as she gave the muggle car a few quick pumps of acceleration. Red. Red. Red. Green.
They took off like bandits through the night. Her 1966 Cobra — 427 engine, he was sure — matched with the power of his motorbike. Sirius assumed Daddy’s money had to do with the car that was currently the fastest in England.
Red. His fingers gripped the brakes as they came to a stop. Her laughter rang through the open windows of her car.
Forget, forget, forget. It was a challenge.
Speed, power, challenge. A game. Then, it wasn’t.
It wasn’t a challenge. It wasn’t speed, power. It was Hell. Screaming and shattering, glass and blood. More screaming. Screaming had to have been born from the devil; it was all he was surrounded in.
“Come on mate, we need your help.” Sirius felt two large hands clasp around his shoulders, shaking him over and over. His brain started weaving away from the dream that had drenched him in sweat.
The shack. He was still in the shack.
“Wha-” he muttered through his sleep-washed state of mind.
“It’s Remus. We can’t get the bleeding to stop. He just finished his change, but before it was complete he started ripping into his own arm.”
James sounded calm, but James always sounded calm. It was the way that his voice shook slightly to maintain its composure that had Sirius’s heart hammering in his chest.
He jumped up from the makeshift bed. Just finished his change - it can’t yet be four o’clock then. He would have only been asleep for fifteen minutes, twenty at the most.
He followed James through the grimy room of the Shrieking Shack, the worn boards moaning under his steps. The torches that lined the walls of the room that Remus occupied were still lit. But the oil was slowly wearing away and the flame had barely enough life to show the shape of his friends. He muttered the incantation to light the tip of his wand, thankful he had thought to put it in his pocket after he changed from Padfoot.
The scene before him knocked the wind from every space of his lungs.
“What the fuck,” he said more to himself than the others as he bent down next to James. Remus was lying on his back, the thin camp bed splotched with dark shadows. He was changed over to his natural form, but the color of his skin was seeping into a sickly pale.
Peter had his hands wrapped tightly around Remus’s forearm with a blanket covering the majority of it. The once light blue piece of fabric was coated with red, slimy blood and was quickly becoming saturated.
“We’ve tried everything. The bleeding wasn’t as bad at first, then it just kept getting worse. He’s been like this for at least three minutes,” Peter stuttered while continuously adding different corners of the blanket to the wound, trying to trap in as much of the red as possible.
Sirius nodded at his friend then removed the blanket from Peter’s hands, exposing a mangled mess of flesh.
“Vulnera Sanentur, Vulnera Sanentur, Vulnera Sanentur,” he whispered with his wand nearly touching the gash. The blood began to take on a gloppy texture and thickened enough to slow, before finally stopping completely.
Sirius leaned back on his heels and wiped away the sweat caked hair from his forehead. James came up behind him and cast a few spells to help seal the flesh back together, followed by Peter with a small jet of water to get the majority of the caked blood from Remus’s arm and then soak up the moisture with another blanket.
“You’re okay, mate. You have a few hours until Pomfrey comes. Get some sleep.” Sirius sighed as he stood, stretching out the muscles of his back.
Remus grabbed the glass of water sitting on the night table and gulped down the rest of it. He nodding weakly then turned onto his side.
The three boys made their way out of the room and into the front of the shack.
“Are you sure we shouldn’t wake him back up and have him go to Pomfrey?” Peter asked as he rustled through the bag that they packed until he found a clean pair of tracksuit bottoms to replace the blood spattered ones.
“No, his pulse is still strong. He just needs to get some rest. Sirius, we tried that spell and couldn’t get it to do anything,” James said as he turned to Sirius and flopped onto the ground.
“Lycanthropy. Even though Remus is already infected, it’s still a disease born from dark magic. You have to do the spell three times when it deals with that,” he answered as he reached into the bag and pulled out a thick jumper.
He wasn’t sure if it was the memory of why he knew that spell's trick, or the early fall weather, but something had his chest prickling with chills. The remnants of the nightmare were still floating in the back of his brain, he would tell James — today.
“So,” Peter started as he joined the two of them on the floor, “any idea what we’ll tell the girls when we get back?”
Lily stood in front of the large bed, its gold duvet twisted and curled around the bodies of her two friends. Her thick red hair was already washed and placed into a tie. She had dressed in a pair of jeans and a grey jumper. Her teeth were currently being brushed — and they were still asleep.
She could jump on the bed after she finished brushing, give it a few solid shakes to wake them. Belle would be furious. She despised being woken up. Alice would be annoyed, but she’d pretend she wasn’t and it would only be minutes until she got over it.
Lily walked back into the shared bathroom of one of the Gryffindor girls’ dormitories and finished brushing. She quickly rinsed out her mouth and toothbrush before glancing at her reflection in the mirror; the skin under her eyes was nearly translucent. They had been up relatively late, and Lily had never been good at sleeping in. She reached into a drawer below the sink and pulled out Alice’s make up bag, then dipped her finger into a pot of concealer and dabbed a bit on the purple colour around her eyes.
Better, she thought as she rinsed off the remainder of the make-up from her fingertips and dried her hands. She turned from the well lit bathroom and walked into the circular shaped dormitory.
It felt good to be back there for the night, back in the room she had practically grown up in for six years. The deep red curtains allowed the morning flecks of sun to trickle through, reminding her that it was already past seven. She was more than ready for her first cup of tea.
She tip toed to the side of the bed where Belle was tangled up in the sheets, eyes still shut tightly.
Lily’s thoughts wandered to Belle and what she told them last night about the letter from her sister. Part of her couldn’t stand not knowing what had happened to drive this crack between Belle and her family, but she kept reminding herself that when Belle was ready, she’d tell them everything.
She walked back to the end of the bed and leaned against one of the sturdy, red alder posts framing the large mattress. Maybe she should just head down and let the other two sleep? She knew Belle could certainly use the rest.
She heard the rustle of blankets from a behind the thick curtains where Margaret slept. She held her breath, not wanting to wake up the other seventh year if she wasn't already....
“Lily!” Before Lily could finish that thought, or even continue trying to remain quiet, Margaret was flying from out of her covered bed and Lily's body was engulfed into a cloud of light brown hair and lean limbs.
“Margaret! You’re finally back, how was your sister’s party? I didn’t wake you, did I?” Lily asked as the girl unraveled herself from Lily’s body.
“It’s ‘er you’re worried about waking? You’ve practically been tossing cold water on me with zat stare of yours all morning,” Belle grumbled as she pulled the blanket over her head, leaving only a few traces of blonde hair peeking from the cocoon and resting on the pillow.
Margaret rolled her eyes and turned her attention back to Lily.
“No, no I’ve been awake for a few minutes. The party was actually pretty brill, as far as engagement parties go. Gideon and Fabian got really sloshed, Elodie wasn’t too pleased at Gideon for making a fool of himself at their party. Molly and her husband Arthur were there, too, but they didn’t stay long. They left their three boys with a friend, and one is barely a month so they wanted to get back.”
“Augusta met the new baby when Mrs. Weasley had him, she was volunteering a bit at St. Mungo’s and she wanted to stop in to the maternity ward. Something about knowing Arthur Weasley’s mother, paying family respects.” Alice’s sleepy voice floated through the dorm.
“Nosy woman just wanted to have an excuse to lecture Frank and myself about not making any babies. ‘Loudest place I’ve ever been! Stinky, too - I could smell their dirtied nappies from miles away. Not that there’s anything wrong with producing some fine, strong children. Alice has the hips for it. But I won’t be listening to any crying for sometime now. So, if you two can’t contain your urges, well, you just better use every bit of protection there is,’ is what she said to us.” Alice yawned as she finished up her half-asleep speech. The three girls, Belle now sitting up and looking much more alert, all stared at her with wide eyes.
Alice didn’t even like talking about her and Frank snogging with tongue, and here she was bringing up babies and protection! Lily was the first to break the silence with a quick snort of laughter that she tried to cover up. She was too late. Margaret’s composition had already cracked, light chuckles rolled from her lips. Alice’s face paled at she realized what she had been going on about, but even she couldn’t stay humiliated for long as she joined in on the laughter.
Somehow they all ended up on one bed, legs knotted with legs, elbows hitting ribs.
“I wonder if ze boys are down at breakfast?” Belle asked as she kicked her legs over the side of the bed. She leaned the front half of her body back to urge out the sleep still resting in her muscles.
“Maybe they slept in the Heads’ Quarters?” Margaret suggested as she walked over to her bed and pulled out a pair of stretchy black exercise trousers and a thin jumper from her trunk.
“No, it was stated very clearly in the letters that Dumbledore gave James and myself about our Heads positions that our rooms are for our sleeping purposes only. Which is actually a bit nice, because I’ve really missed being around the Tower lately,” Lily answered, undoing her messy hair before putting it back up in the tie.
“Ha, hang out in the common room for a few and you won’t. I swear, Violet is trying to make everyone miserable. Sometimes I don’t even know how Mary can be friends with her.” Margaret looked at Alice and Belle for confirmation of her words
“Mary MacDonald is friends with everyone, she’s too sweet not to be.” Lily tried to think of something relatively polite to say about Violet…. She was drawing a blank.
“Well, she walks around the common room, throwing herself all over every guy. I swear, that girl makes herself seem easier than getting a detention from Filch.”
“Margaret!” Alice scolded, covering her mouth to hide a smile.
Lily stood from the toasty bed and started shooing her friends into the bathroom to get bathed. It was nearly eight and she was ready to get her morning started.
“I’m going to go grab some breakfast, then head down to the pitch to warm up before tryouts,” Margaret said. She finished pulling on her clothes, then threw her hair into a messy bun.
Belle was the last to stumble through the portrait hole, trying to braid her cascade of blonde hair to the side as they walked down to the Great Hall.
The castle still felt a bit somnolent considering it was nearly eight. Lily supposed it could be because most of the students took Sunday as an opportunity to catch up on sleep. Lunch began at eleven, so missing breakfast wasn’t a big deal to those who could sleep until ten.
“What were you saying when Belle was showering? About N.E.W.Ts?” Alice asked as they turned the corner to the first staircase. The railings looked as if they had just been polished, their glossed marble gliding under Lily’s fingers.
“Oh, I was just saying that I’m going to talk to James about the idea of us coming up with scheduled revision for the test. We need to hold a Prefects meeting soon, next week sometime, so we can present it then. I’m just not sure how much is too much and what isn’t enough,” Lily answered. They reached the bottom of the stairs at the same moment that a group of first, or possibly second, years ran past them, until one noticed Lily and tugged on his friends’ sleeves.
“Sorry for running, Head Girl Evans,” he muttered as they continued forward.
Alice, Belle, and Lily managed to hold their laughter until the group was out of earshot. Lily made a mental note to tell James about it; he'd have loved to see that one.
The castle seemed to burst open as they stepped through the first floor corridor that twisted down to the ground level. The windows that sprinkled the walls of Hogwarts looked as if they were on fire with the shine of the sun capturing the colors of glass.
Lily was about to remark on what a perfect day it was for tryouts, but a hand grasping her elbow stopped her.
She turned around, surprised at the boy standing before her. “Hello,” she began, suspicion coating the word.
“Hi, Severus!” Alice greeted cheerfully, which was quite the contrast to Belle’s glare.
Severus simply nodded with his inky coloured eyes set on Lily.
“A moment?” he asked in a hushed voice, already turning around before Lily could answer.
"Severus." Belle's voice was nothing but ice. Possibly a colder tone than Severus had ever mustered, which could've been the reason he began turning around to match her freezing stare with his own.
"If she is not back in ze next ten minutes - when she does come back, if she looks even remotely upset, you'll answer to me." It was a threat that, if not heard directly, could have been humorous. What could a pixie sized blonde do to intimated Severus Snape, after all? But the look on Belle's porcelain face, the way the words slashed from her lips without apology, made it clear that she wasn't a force to be reckoned with.
Before Lily could say anything to diffuse the situation, Belle had turned around with Alice following her.
Severus's echoing steps resumed again and Lily followed down the corridor after him. He didn’t look back at her, but kept his paces even, his hands shoved in his robe pockets. She wondered if he was going to try and explain what she witnessed the other night, explain why he had been working with one of Voldemort's most terrifying followers?
If that was his plan, she really saw no reason for it. What did it matter? They had both chosen their paths. Severus had never been able to give up his obsession with the more twisted aspects of magic. Lily had never been strong enough to continue trying to force him from it. Their friendship had been weak long before he slipped on his own cruel words. And now, if he was going to try to excuse what she saw, or pester her for information — it would be nothing but a waste of time.
He finally stopped in the cove of the wall that opened up to allow room for a large, white, gargoyle statue. He stepped behind the statue into the space between that and the stone, and motioned for Lily to follow.
After a few moments of staring at one another in silence, he pulled a pale hand from his pocket with an item, a piece of paper, clutched between his fingers.
She took the paper and let her eyes drop to it while she unfolded the sides.
Her heart fell into her stomach.
Looking back at her were the four faces of her family. The photo was creased, the features a bit blurred. But the smile of her mother and father, both their hands on the shoulders of the daughters that stood in front of them, was evident. The way her mother’s eyes glinted, like she was holding onto a hilarious secret, and her father’s face was the cheesy one he always gave for pictures.
“It was one I took when we were playing with my father’s…” he paused, Lily was sure he was choking on the word muggle, “his camera. My mother found it in the attic and owled it over, thinking you may like to have it.”
Severus’s eyes had left Lily’s and simply drifted while he spoke. Lily couldn’t decide if it was her presence that cause his disdainful attitude, or the mention of his parents.
“Sev-” the childhood nickname slipped from her lips. She pretending not to notice the way it made his entire body tense just a fraction more. “I don’t know what to say. Thank you.” Lily looked up at him, the picture held carefully between her fingertips, her family.
For a moment, so much of her wanted to start spilling everything. To tell him that her first few tests had all been perfect scores, that she was getting quite good at flying, that Alice had made a joke about her and Frank’s sex life. All the things he would have already known if it were a few years ago when he was the closest thing she’d ever had to a brother.
But then she remembered the reason he had brought them to the concealed corner, the reason they passed one another in the hall without a word. Because he was Severus Snape, the Slytherin who mastered Dark Arts like it was as simple as breathing, and she was Lily Evans, the type of person that his kind sought to destroy.
“I am sorry,” he muttered. And through the stiffness of it, Lily could pick up traces of sincerity.
She couldn’t have said if it was her loss he was apologizing for, the conversation she had over heard, or yet another apology for his words in their fifth year. But before she could respond, he had already turned to leave, his pace taking him quickly down the hall with his black cloak billowing behind him.
“Welcome Gryffindors! I’m pleased to see such a large turn out. We’re getting started late, so the next month is going to take a lot of commitment to get caught up. Now, let me make myself clear before we begin — I’m building a team of players. If you don’t know how to work with a team, you might as well leave now.” Lily smiled as James looked around to see how his speech was being taken. She was happy that they decided to come down and watch the tryouts after they finished eating, seeing James in his element was rather fascinating.
“Now, a few of my friends are going to help me today. They’ll be getting you all started on your drills, leaving me free to watch. If you would hand your filled out forms to Belle,” he pointed toward the stands where Belle was sitting. “Then, I would like Beaters to line up behind Sirius, Seekers behind Lily, Chasers behind Remus, and Keepers behind Peter.”
Lily backed up a bit to create more room between her and the others.
“Now, I’ll be circling above to watch you all and Alice will be keeping score of your catches, fumbles, goals, and so on. Do exactly as the person you’ve been assigned tells you!” James glanced around to see if anyone looked confused, then gave a nod, signaling the okay to begin.
Lily looked over a list of drills that James suggest for the Seekers. She decided that she’d save the Snitch Searching for last, and start them with James’s Flight Control Challenge.
“Hi Lily,” the voice stung Lily’s ears, she was careful to keep her expression solid as she turned to the player on her right.
“Hello, Violet. Trying out for Seeker?” Violet didn’t answer, but kept the false smile planted on her face.
As the different groups started to take off and move from drill to drill, the sun crept higher into the sky. Lily could see everyone beginning to tire out. They continued to fly the players hard before James transitioned them into a scrimmage set up. After he had them in the air and playing, he flew down and motioned for his friends to do the same.
Lily stood, amused by him as he paced in a circle and bounced ideas off of them.
James finally held up his wand and sent a jet of blue sparks from it, then ordered the players to gather on the stands. He turned to face Lily, silently questioning if she was really okay with his decision.
Lily nodded, no more thrilled than him about what he was about to announce. But one thing was certain, Gryffindor was a winning House. If someone was clearly the best player, they deserved a spot on the team.
After a moment he held his wand to his throat, causing his voice to boom through the air.
“Quiet down! You all played great, and I really appreciate you guys being here. Now, if you make the team, you better get familiar with this pitch because you’ll be spending the next eight months out here. If anyone has a problem with that, I want to know now.”
James paused to glance over the faces that stared back at him, when it was clear no one was going to speak, he continued.
“Alright, I’m proud to introduce the Gryffindor Quidditch team! Our Beater positions will continue to be held by the incredible Margaret Blackbourne and Alexander Sheffield! Both returning players and seventh years,” he paused to allow a moment of applause. “Our new Keeper position goes to Caldwell Jasper, a first time try out and fifth year. Our Chasers to play alongside myself will be the returning Mary McDonald, sixth year, and a new edition — as well as the youngest player since, well me — Polly Turner, second year!” The steady whispers of Turner hummed through the stands.
“Yes, Turner - Bain Turner’s sister, to be exact. And talent does run strong in that family. Polly, we’re lucky to have you.
“Now, our final position is Seeker,” James allowed a moment of silence, trying to torment them, Lily was sure. “Seeker will be played by sixth year Violet Clarke!”
The look of shock slowly molded over Violet's face, it was clear she hadn’t expected to make the team. After the shock faded, a genuine smile replaced it as she nodded a thank you at James.
“Now, we have some familiar faces and some new ones. I want you all to meet in the Great Hall this evening at six, we’ll be eating our first dinner as a new team together.
“Your teammates are the ones who are going to watch your back, who are going to catch your brilliant passes, and your sloppy ones. The same people who will be trying to stop that black, iron ball from cracking into your bones. This team will be stronger than Slughorn’s B.O.” He stopped for a second to let the snickers die down.
“We’ll understand the signals and we’ll adjust the moves to those of our mates'. If anyone, and I mean anyone messes with my team, if any of you think you’re going to try to be the star, or you try to screw with your fellow teammates,” James’s eyes glared directly into Violet, “I will kick your arse off so fast that you won’t know what hit you. Are we clear?” A murmur of agreement went through the players in the stands.
“Great! Now, I will be making a decision regarding reserve players. But I still need to consider a few more things before deciding how many we need and who our reserves will be. I'll post an announcement in the common room in the next week that will inform you all of my choices. So, I think that's everything. Get out of here and I’ll see you all this evening!”
“So, Captain Potter, I’d say that went well.” Remus said as he walked over to James and clapped him on the back with Sirius and Peter right behind.
“You really sounded brilliant, James.” Alice stood on her tip toes to give James a tight hug. Lily knew she and Alice were thinking the same thing, James would make a wonderful leader.
“So, do you zink that girl will be able to ‘andle zis?” Belle asked with her arms crossed over her chest. Her dislike for Violet may have been strongest in the group. Lily knew her protectiveness over her friends was just too much to let her forgive and forget.
“She’ll do fine, and if not, she’ll regret ever trying out,” James said with a wink as he started to walk towards a stray Quaffle.
Lily glanced at Sirius to ask him if any of the Beaters had close to the kind of talent that Alexander or Margaret possessed; the look on his face made her stop. The smile that never seemed to stay away for long was set into something deeper than a frown. His grey eyes weren't look at any of them, or even look up, their pupils pointed directly at the ground.
“So, are you guys ready to tell us just what you were up to last night?” Alice asked. “Or do I need to wait until Frank gets home this evening to have him pry it out of you?”
“You know what zey say, friends should never keep secrets,” Belle pointed out with curiosity glinting in her blue eyes.
“Well, I don’t know about you guys, but the four of us don’t keep secrets,” James answered as he walked back to the group with the imitation Quaffle in hand, matching Belle’s playful banter.
Sirius’s expression darkened; Lily wanted more than anything to walk over and throw her arms around him. She knew their secret had been haunting him, and most of her feared that by telling him to keep it a secret she had hurt him more than protected him.
“James,” the quiet tone of Sirius's voice had James turning around. Lily struggled on her words, though they wanted desperately to slip out and come to some kind of rescue.
“Sirius?” Remus said, picking up on his obvious anxiety.
Lily shook her head just a fraction as his grey, desperate eyes met hers. She felt the weight of her heart increase and her blood turn into lead as it pumped through her veins.
Sirius nodded at her, and though she wanted to deny it, she knew that it was time.
“James,” his voice cracked as it caught in his throat. “There’s something I need to tell you. All of you.” Sirius’s eyes never left Lily’s.
“Okay, we’re here. Mate, if this is some sort of joke, I’m really not laughing,” James mumbled as the group gathered around the Heads’ Quarters, after a very silent walk from the pitch to the castle. Lily kept her gaze even with Sirius’s and sat next to him on the couch. The soft flickering of the room usually felt so warm, so loving. But right now, the way those flames breathed in and out, strong and weak, it felt like they were taunting Lily, throwing shadows that didn’t belong in the midst of their friendships.
James glanced from Lily to Sirius. Lily knew he could feel the trepidation slipping from her as easily as he could sense Sirius’s thumping heart. Remus and Peter settled on the other couch, with Alice in between them, Belle moved to the other side of Lily.
James paced the room, unable to still himself.
“So, can you tell me what the hell is going on? Did something happen with your brother?” Lily could hear James work to keep the impatience from his voice.
“Sit,” Lily whispered. James stopped and stared at her, then walked over to the large arm chair and sat on the very edge of it, his chest leaning out with his elbows on his knees, like he was prepared to jump up at any second.
“The night that Lily’s parents died, there was more to it,” Sirius began, grabbing Lily’s hand and squeezing it as his voice slowly filled the empty air of the room.
Sirius walked from his parents’ house, his hands shaking as he slipped them into his pockets to steady. Seventeen years he had been forced to know what kind of people had spawned him. Seventeen years of dealing with the looks of his twisted cousins. And until the last two, he had spent countless summers and holidays listening to his family’s fucked up ideals and their theories of what the wizarding world should be like.
And now, he was going to set out to stop people like his family. Nothing had ever felt so right before, nothing as clear as this decision. He would be an Auror, no matter what.
Alphard had been clear that he could do whatever he wanted with the small fortune he inherited, but of course Sirius's sorry excuse for a mother had found some way to tie the money of his dead uncle up in strings.
He thought he could talk some sense into her, tell her that as soon as she gave him his inheritance, they could be rid of one another for good. Then dear old mum had started dangling it in his face, bragging about how it’d be more use to the Dark Lord than him. But they both knew she couldn’t give it away, it was his. His. And then, he finally snapped.
He screamed at her, shouted and threw it in her face that his money was going to be used to stop people like Voldemort. He wasn’t even sure what else he may have said, only that his throat was raw and that he had to get as far away from 12 Grimmauld Place as possible.
He stomped to the bike that he’d parked around the corner and fiddled in his pockets to find his key. He knew setting a spell that could start it wouldn’t have been hard, but the feel of turning the little piece of metal and forcing the engine alive was too much to give up. Even if it was inconvenient to try to fish the tiny thing from his robes.
His head pounded with the leftover fury that he wished he could have taken out on those people. And now he was going to have to give up the idea of the tutoring program, the program that was legendary for producing some of the best Aurors. Now he was going to spend three years applying and not getting accepted, probably four.
Why hadn’t he tried harder for his marks? He knew that shit better than nearly anyone, the spells he could create with his willing wand were some of the best. James’s parents had spent hours tutoring them on magic, knowing that both boys were thirsty to learn faster than Hogwarts could teach. He could have aced each test, he should have.
Now, he was going to let them down. He was going to spend years trying to get into the Auror program all because that bitch of a woman wouldn’t give him his own money.
Sirius melted into the night sky, unsure of exactly what direction he was going. He tried to force himself to suppress his thoughts. He didn’t want to be like this when he got home; he didn’t want to have to face Mr. and Mrs. Potter with this kind of anger so close to his surface. Not that they wouldn’t understand. They’d seen him like this once or twice before, and they always understood. But this was different. He had done this to himself.
He should have studied more, tried to show off less and put actual effort into his essays. He should have held his temper and tried harder to talk his money out of that woman.
A large bird flew too close to Sirius and he dived to miss it. The gentle air around him wasn’t enough, he needed more.
He made a quick dive toward the ground and eased his brake in, slow enough to keep his weight balanced, landing it smoothly onto the asphalt.
These roads were ones he could have driven in his sleep. He made a few turns until he got to the long stretch of empty motorway. His thumb found the throttle and he took a deep breath, then pressed. The speed pulled down his stomach and brought an intensity inside him that he craved. Speed, speed, speed.
He let the feeling dull as he eased up on the gas and circled from the motorway back into the streets of Cokeworth.
He still felt the rage steaming barely below his flesh and considered another lap. He was just deciding on where to head from here when the sound of a strong engine drowned his. One of the dark windows of a Cobra was rolled down and in the glow of the traffic lights, he could make out the laughing eyes and an easy smile. He couldn’t help but nod his head at her as she ran a hand through her waves of mahogany hair.
He knew that the car held a V-8, one of the fastest engines on the market, and he was pleased when she gave the gas pedal a few pumps. The roar of the challenge sparked Sirius as he did the same, answering the speed of her daddy’s-money car with his motorbike.
His eyes moved to the red traffic light and stayed hooked to it. Red. Red. Red. Green!
They sped through the street, his bike pulling ahead of her car, but the Cobra’s power was close behind. Red!
The squeal of brakes crashed over the night.
Red. Red. Red. Green!
He gave her a few seconds this time, wanting to see the stamina of her car. She roared quickly ahead, leaving a trail of exhaust fumes behind. He squeezed his hand and turned the throttle, the back wheel of the bike lifted off the ground with the sudden surge of power.
He was reaching her front doors, so close to passing her — Red! Again they both pounded on the brakes. His heart was alive with excitement, with the taste of challenge. He looked over and her lips where turned into another smile, her eyes just as hungry to win as his.
Red. Red. Red. Green!
They both put all of their horsepower in, no hesitation, no doubts as they coerced their engines to work harder. Neck in neck, their vehicles thundered to push past one another. The red light was evident, but they still had enough time. She wasn’t slowing, he wasn’t slowing.
Neither was letting up and it became a game of guts; who would fold first? The red light came closer, it was nearly glaring in his eyes and still she wasn’t slowing. This would open into the motorway quickly after, ending the deserted streets of Cokeworth. But the power remained strong.
When they were so close to the light that Sirius could hear the sounds of other cars, he clutched in his brakes and the force of it threw his weight forward. He moved quickly, trying transfer enough to keep the back wheel from flipping the bike over. The instant came when he realized it was going down and he couldn't control it. He thought he heard a ghost of a laugh as the Cobra sped through the red light, until it happened.
His bike tipped and the weight turned onto Sirius, but through the foggy confusion he knew it wasn’t just him.
Metal hitting metal. Shattered glass. The smell of burning brakes.
A black mist consumed him.
“Chappie, chappie, can you hear me?” Sirius felt a someone shaking him, a quick pain surged through his stomach where one of the handlebars had nearly impaled him. He pulled apart his eyelids and saw the face of a man looking back at him.
“Well then, gave me quite a fright. Listen, it must’ve been the crash that startled you, but your bike seems to have fallen over on you. The bobbies are on their way and I suspect there’ll be ambulances soon, too. So you may want to get up off the road.”
Sirius’s heart slammed against his chest as he tried to concentrate.
“Could you…?” He started to push on his bike to demonstrate, the man quickly caught on and came around to help pull the bike off of him. Sirius stood and realized that he hadn’t acquired any real injures, just a head that felt like it was splitting open.
He nodded at the man and leaned on his bike for a moment of support before looking around him.
His blood froze.
The quick alert of sirens came from behind him.
“Hey there, you’re going to need to clear out.” Sirius turned and realized two police cars had pulled up near him and were now closing off the road with large, orange cones. He shook his head a few times, trying to shed the fog of confusion.
“I, I can’t. I was driving by her, is she...?”
“Listen, we need to get the ambulances through. If you’re not hurt please clear out,” the voice of the constable was sharp as he ordered Sirius to leave.
Sirius turned his bike and headed toward the other road. He drove it up onto the grassy area next to the side of the street then looked around to be sure everyone was distracted by the commotion of the accident. He pulled his wand out and cast a small charm over his bike to conceal it, then turned around to slip closer to the crash.
His hand stayed in his pocket to clutch his wand while he inched forward.
This can’t be real. This can’t be real.
Not even the screams of the ambulances could break through his delirium. Cars stopped behind the cones, but he couldn’t hear any of it. That silence was as terrifying as the glass covering the street.
When he moved closer he could see that the Cobra’s side had been hit, the entire right half of it crunched in like a metal can under a boot. He took another few steps forward, thankful to go unnoticed amidst the chaos, and was finally able to take a proper breath as he spotted the girl standing outside the car.
He walked behind the people surrounding her, close enough to catch bits of the conversation.
We still need to take you to the hospital.
You ran the red light, it’ll be up to the family.
Sirius could tell the words were simply bouncing off the girl, whose parents were on either side of her and cocooned her into them.
She’s okay. She’s okay.
He let his heart take in the news and slowly let his relax every so slightly.
It was then that words sliced through all the cries.
Not so much words, but a sound. A screech like an animal about to be attacked. But he knew the voice.
He felt the cold chill capture him as he turned to his side and saw the ghostly white face of Lily Evans.
He didn’t know if it was her cries or his, but somewhere in the fogged reality an officer had spotted him and pulled him away.
“Sirius!” Lily came running up to him and threw her body into his, tremors rushing through her so fierce that they nearly shook him.
“They’re still alive, they have to be.” She tightened her grip, and somewhere in the part of his brain that could still rationalize, he realized that she was slipping slowly into shock. Her breath came in shallow heaves. He could feel the sweat of her skin as his arms gripped around her.
“Breathe, breathe, breathe, breathe.”
He kept repeating the relaxing words, the way Mrs. Potter had for him when he was much younger and his mother still scared the life from him.
Lily’s breath slowly evened out, he could feel her chest constrict deeper as her lungs finally started releasing the carbon dioxide.
“How, how are you here?” she whispered as she continued to clutch to him.
He didn’t know why he said the words. She wasn’t even adjusting to the crash, but he couldn’t hold them in.
“It was me.”
Before Lily could say anything, a police officer was ushering her into the back of the ambulance with the muggle healers. Lily kept repeating that her car was there, that she watched the sirens speed by her house and she knew something was wrong, so she'd followed them in her car. She just kept telling the officers that she couldn't get in the ambulance because she would have to leave it... Like that car was the only thing she could think about just then.
After finally getting someone to tell him what hospital they were taking her too, Sirius closed his eyes and apparated away from the screams and cries of the night.
The walls of the muggle hospital were white, clean, sterile. He knew that people were all around, but he just couldn’t see them. He reached up to rub away the layer of tears that stuck to eyes. He needed to understand the faces. He struggled to make sense of their features: their noses, their eyes, their bone structures. He had to be able to tell which one was Lily when she came back out. Why had she been gone so long? Maybe, maybe... or was it too much to hope? But if she was still gone, it could be because they'd... survived.
The police officer had already forced Lily to talk to them while they waited for the muggle Healers. Sirius had watched from the edge of the waiting room as they explained her options to press charges for the girl’s reckless driving. Lily had no other family. It was up to her, to her sister.
The moment the girl's parents hugged Lily, he knew she'd declined. But had they noticed the blank stare in Lily's eyes? The fact that she probably had no idea what they were saying, no understanding of what was happening.
And now he was here.. waiting for her to be done talking to the muggle Healers. Parts of him weren’t even sure how he was here. They were just playing. A challenge. Only racing.
“Just stay!” Sirius's head snapped up as he recognized the voice. His eyes fought against the florescent lights until he was finally able to make out the shape of Lily chasing her dark haired sister through the lobby. The girl never looked back, and after a moment of trying, Lily stopped chasing her. Her feet seemed to move on their own accord as Sirius watched her make a small circle before taking a few steps in his direction.
The look on her face brought his hazy state to a shocking reality; everything about her seemed empty. The green eyes James always joked about loving to set fire into, the smile that could turn into a McGonagall rivaling scowl in seconds, all of it seemed to have vanished. She could have been one of the ghosts of Hogwarts moving towards him.
“Lily?” he whispered as she collapsed beside him.
“Dead on arrival.”
“It was my fault, Lily. I never, I never even thought-” His own voice was so far from his ears, detached from him. He did this.
"No. You didn't kill them." He could hear her struggling against the tears. But she didn't understand. She didn't want it to be his fault, because Lily never wanted to blame someone. He knew that. But she just didn't understand that he did this.
“She, the girl racing you, she didn’t kill them. I’ve already talked to her.” Sirius didn’t know if she was really talking to him, or trying to make herself believe it.
The distance in her voice, the separation her eyes, it was a million times more painful than every ounce of blood and wreckage he’d seen that night.
“They had a light, too. Theirs was yellow. They sped up to get through it, that’s what the man driving behind them said.” It didn’t help. Sirius’s mind still circled the what ifs. If he hadn’t raced the girl, then even running through the yellow light wouldn’t have mattered.
They would have cleared it.
“I can’t go to that house. I can’t face Petunia. I can’t do it.” A tone of desperation began to take over Lily’s emptiness. Sirius wasn’t sure which one terrified him more. He reached over and put his hands against her ice cold cheeks, moving her head up and towards the lights in the ceiling to make sure her pupils were focusing, thankful yet again for the amount he learned from Mr. and Mrs. Potter.
Her eyes hooked onto his, her lips were a soft pink and free of any blue tinge. Her pulse was as steady as one could expect. She wasn’t going back into shock.
“I’m going to take you to the Potters’ house, okay? We’ll —” tell them, he meant to say tell them.
How did he tell them that he killed Lily’s parents?
Lily seemed to feel his hesitance.
“We’ll tell them the truth. That there was an accident,” she mumbled as she leaned her head onto his shoulder. “That there was a crash, and that —” her mind seemed to be trying to get past some kind of blockage. “You picked me up at home,” she said with a small nod of her head as if to conform it with herself.
Sirius’s strength shattered, he felt the fragile wire he’d been walking on break, his heart shaking.
“No. I killed them.”
Her head fled from his shoulder as her eyes locked onto his, and before either of them realized what was about to happen, her hand collided with his cheek. The sting of the slap silenced the waiting room.
“Don’t ever say that. You didn’t kill them. You didn’t kill them.” He saw the hint of something ignite in her eyes.
She just had her world ripped from her and crushed into piece, but she was trying to make him believe it wasn’t his fault. The compassion rooted so deeply in her was too much for him, and all he could do was put his arms around her and let himself try to hold them together, every broken piece.
“You’ll tell them what I said. I won’t have you thinking that you— that it was your fault,” she whispered into his ear. "I won't think that. I can't handle thinking it. Please, don't try and make me."
"Lily." His heart couldn't handle the amount of care she was giving him. He needed to be the one helping her.
"Let me take you to the Potters," he finally said. She would break soon. Once their shock wore off, they would both break. And he needed to make sure that Lily was somewhere safe, somewhere loving, when that time finally came.
"They're gone. They're really gone?" The recognition began seeping past Lily's facade of bravery.
"Come with me." He placed one hand on her arm and the other on her back, cupping her in him as she began slipping into the fierce reality. He had to get her to the Potters.
The silence of the Heads’ Quarters was broken only by Alice’s muffled sobs. Sirius's hands shook as he held Lily’s and glanced up at her, probably expecting to see tears. Lily knew she surprised him with a small smile.
Their death had haunted her. The image of the two cars skidding into one another, the front of her parents' BMW crushed in, compressing them in their seats, had played in her mind millions of times. Despite all the agony and uncertainty that had plagued her, despite all the anger at them for leaving her, the rage at her selfishness for the times she blamed them, never had she faulted Sirius.
She glanced at James, surprised to see the way he was starting at his best friend.
“Sirius, mate, you couldn’t have known.” Remus's soft tone broke the silence.
“You’re the reason,” James’s whispered, his voice unsteady. “You’re the reason for this? You’re the reason that Lily spent weeks unable to get out of that bed. You saw her! You watched her cry herself to sleep night after night!” James stood from the edge of the chair and took a small step towards Sirius.
“James! No! That isn’t fair!” Lily snapped as she jumped from the couch.
“Lily, he’s right.” Sirius whispered, his head held down, resting in his hands.
“You watched her wake up over and over, nightmare after nightmare. You stood there at her parents’ funeral! You stood there and held her other hand, and it was because of you!” The quiet rage of the words sent shivers down Lily’s spine. She’d heard James yell before, but this, this nearly silent hiss, was worse.
“Back down, James.” Lily turned to Remus, surprised at the strength to his voice.
“You sat there with me while I talked about how much it hurt! You sat there and comforted me, comforted her! The entire time and it was you!”
“Back down James!” It was the closest Lily had ever heard Remus come to shouting. His face was absent of the usual gentleness that filled it, his eyes hard as they stared into James.
“No. Let him, I deserve it.” Sirius said without glancing up from his hands. He finally lifted his head to meet James, his eyes were too much for Lily to handle. He looked like a dog that had been kicked over and over, like a broken form of the man she knew.
“You have no right, James,” Lily whispered, sharp slices of anger pouring from her.
“Were you there that night? Did you watch Sirius pace that waiting room for hours? Did you see the way it killed him to look at me for days after that?” Lily’s whisper quickly raised, strengthening inch by inch.
“And the girl. Was it her fault too? Should I have pressed charges against her and ruined her future, put her in prison for manslaughter, James?” She stepped towards him as she spoke, her temper drilling red to the apples of her cheeks.
“If you need someone to blame, blame me. If you need to think that someone is at fault for their death, pin it on me. Did you know what my parents were doing that night? Did you know that they were coming home from the film that I bought them tickets to go see, telling them they needed to go on a date already? So why don’t you yell at me? Why don’t you tell me that it was my fault?” Lily knew the small shards of her own insecurities, of her own thoughts that maybe it was her fault, were slipping out.
James backed away from her and fell into the chair, his forehead pressed into his hands.
“Zings don’t always ‘ave to ‘ave a reason. Sometimes very terrible incidents ‘appen to ze best people. If we all needed someone to blame, we would spend out entire lives feeling angry.”
Belle’s words twisted around the room and slowly faded. No one dared to speak, the nerves were too suffocating.
“James,” Sirius began, looking at his best friend.
James started to speak when the sound of their door being opened shifted the groups attention.
“Professor?” Lily asked, stunned as Professor McGonagall became visible through the entrance, her usually tight expression contoured into something very different.
She glanced at the students, her rectangular spectacles hanging from a chain around her neck.
“Ms. Christopherson, Mr. Potter, Ms. Evans. You’re needed in the Headmaster’s office immediately.” There was a softness in her voice that caused Lily’s heart to constrict.
James was already on his feet. “Is everything okay, Professor?”
Minerva McGonagall was silent. She stared at James, her eyes unsure.
“No, Mr. Potter. Everything is not okay,” with that, she turned and stepped back through the portrait hole.
I have a new Beta reader for Before They Fall! Although he's been a constant part of these chapters, so he's not actually new. So thank you to the wonderful Dan(CambAngst) for not only being such a great friend, but also stepping in to take over as my beta reader. I'm sure many of you know he's the author of the wonderful story, Harry Potter and the Conspiracy of Blood. So you also know how lucky I am to have him a part of this project!
So - Sirius's secret is finally out. I'm curious as to what you all though about this chapter: James's reaction to Sirius; if Sirius was wrong to keep it a secret for so long; if Lily should have never suggested it they lie in the first place...
I've been really excited to get this one posted, though.
Exploring the points of when the friendships could have broken, but were fused back together stronger than ever, is by far my favorite parts of writing a Marauder's fic so far.
I hope you enjoyed this chapter, and I apologize for the lengthy AN.
Also! I want to point out that my head canon for Augusta never really existed until I read Alyssa's (Dirtydeedsdonedirtcheap) amazing stories.
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