Gryffindor sixth were furious. As long as there had been Quidditch matches at Hogwarts, the lead-up to them had been filled with incidents. This was a fact that no-one could deny, but one that would be very happily ignored, so long as that the damage was not too serious, and with the knowledge that in due time, the rival house would be the recipient of a very similar type of injury. Lily, however, had never been a part of the Gryffindor team, and so seeing her lying on the hospital bed, face pale and bleeding, leg broken, was something no one was willing to take lying down.
The expletive had been just sufficient enough to express the sentiments running through their minds as they stared down at their friend. Madam Ferriby had explained that there would be no scarring – at which point they began to breath easier – but that the event could not be overlooked. Amelie was somewhat surprised by this show of concern from a woman she had thought so very cruel and unyielding, but far too absorbed in the day’s events to let it show.
Something had immediately struck her as odd. The more she sat on the stool by the occupied bed, the more she was convinced of her guess. The crisp linen sheets and blinding white walls, the faint tinge of antiseptic; she stared at them all and felt as if she was being mentally examined instead of simply sifting through her own thoughts.
She couldn’t help but feel some guilt for the occasion. Lily, the girl who was asleep on the hospital wing, was supposedly one of her best friends. They used to be thick as thieves, harder to separate than Siamese twins, the Last Resistance against the ‘evils’ that were Black and Potter. What had happened, that had created such a gulf between the two of them? When did this divide become so huge, that something of this magnitude could have happened and she had been utterly clueless to the possibility of its even occurring? What had happened to the Amelie Avery who would stop at nothing to protect her friends from the evils that they should never have to endure?
A few hours ago, they had all been congregated around the bed, disappointed that Lily wouldn’t wake up, and furious at this breach of privacy. It was almost animal, this base desire to protect one’s own. Lily was a Gryffindor - a lioness - and a skilled one at that. The thought that a mere crow would pick her apart to such devastating effect was almost laughable, and yet, now that it had happened, no one found it funny. It was an offence that none of them would ever forgive. Though still, something still seemed to ring untrue. Amelie only wanted to know what.
Though they hadn’t spoken, a glance between her and Sirius told her that he felt the same. She was glad of this; explaining and requesting weren’t her forte, and after the pre-Christmas muck-up, she had no desire to make the same mistake again. When she saw him again, everything would start moving. There would be an aim, an objective, something to do avenge her mate and regain her place as the protectress of her nearest and dearest. Now, however, she wanted to sit with her friend, even if Lily didn’t realise that she was still there. Amelie felt like an emotional sap, but she didn’t care; she had missed Lily, and if that meant that she would sit for hours on a wooden stool in a room smelling of antiseptic charm, then so be it.
“James, you’ll do yourself in if you keep at this,” sighed Remus, rubbing his weary eyes.
It was barely past six, but the day had been a long one, what with the enquiries into the attack on Lily. After hours of questioning without yielding any more clues, the staff put the blame on the Quidditch rivalries, made a few speeches as to the irresponsibility of actively harming other students, and made a show about assuring the student populace that if anything of the sort ever occurred again, those involved would be excluded.
Sure, because they were so likely to be caught in the act.
The sly method of attack reeked of Slytherin. James could smell the stench from all the way in his Gryffindor-induced haze and did not welcome it in the least. Whoever else would go to such lengths to attack a muggle-born, covering up their footprints as they went along? Hufflepuffs were too respectful of others, Ravenclaws too above the rest to even care, and Gryffindors would rather die than harm their own. The instinct consumed every bone in his body; he ached for a release of pure anger.
Of course, it was not the first time James had felt like this. He could count on one hand (two if he pushed hard enough) the other instances where he’d been in a similar state of mind. If he was the reflecting type, he would have realised that nothing good ever came of any of those instances, and left it at that. But he wasn’t, and so he sought for some activity to liberate him of his seething mind.
Unfortunately, he realised that wizards were rather inept at finding movement-induced methods of release. Apart from sex and Quidditch, the latter of which he deemed as not nearly enough hard work, he could think of nothing taxing enough. Perhaps this was the reason why they had mad psychopaths running loose at the moment, killing each other left right and centre.
James stopped his pacing a moment. He shuddered to think anything at all about Voldemort’s sex life – or even lack thereof.
“Praise the Lord! He hath stopped!”
“And floors around the world give thanks to the Almighty Creator.”
His friend were far too sarcastic for their own good, and right now, it was grating on his ever-sensitive nerves. How dare they insinuate that he was pacing a hole into the floor! That was entirely Moony’s territory. Nevertheless, he couldn’t deny himself a good retaliating quip.
“The floors should be thanking the heavens for the pleasure of having such an amazing creature walk on them.”
“Yeah, and maybe we should start wearing pink bunny ears on Halloween,”
Perhaps he wasn’t as witty as he thought. Somehow, this notion deflated him, swiftly ridding him of any semblance of anger he had been feeling, leaving him instead feeling lethargic and useless. If only he had done something whilst he felt capable enough.
He fell onto the floor with an exaggerated huff.
The dog, rat and wolf shared a look. Given that they had been, for the most part, blessed with an extraordinarily high level of intelligence, they didn’t need to ask why James was in such a huff – why indeed he was experiencing more drastic mood swings than a pregnant woman. They were already far too accustomed to his erratic behaviour when Lily was concerned. Lesser friends would have pitied him for his lack of self-control, but as friendship was their sole bond, they did not. Instead, they saw, accepted and helped when things were too much to bear.
Thus far, in the saga, in that epic chronicle which they were sure they could write of the tale between their best friend and the ginger ninja (for they were sure she was a black belt at the very least), they had seen, and they had accepted. Rejection seemed the norm, and they were sure that their friend was man enough to get over the ordeal, within a few years at least. It was only now, after he had come so close, been crushed but hours later, been forced to ignore it still and then some time later be made to see her in a less-than-stable condition, that they saw that their assistance was in dire need.
“Prongs, old boy, stop acting like a first-year girl with pigtails,”
James glared at Sirius for what he wanted to take to be a careless attitude, and hating that he couldn’t do it properly because he knew it wasn’t. Mad and delinquent juvenile as his best friend undoubtedly was, uncaring he was not.
“But they’re so pretty,” he spat.
“Padfoot’s right, you know,” said Remus, undoing his tie with a fatigued hand and letting it drop to the floor in a crumpled heap. “Sulking won’t help. You need to do something.”
Like he hadn’t been thinking of what to do for the past hour; James seethed. Anger bubbled up again.
“Okay then Mr. Fucking Know-It-All, why don’t you tell me what I’m meant to do? Because I can only think of one thing right now, and we all know that no-one in this fucking castle would ever guess that I was the one who beat a Slytherin to pulp after Lily was found in the hospital wing for Quidditch injuries just five hours earlier!”
“All that sarcasm can’t be good for you,”
“Shut up, Worm!”
A laugh stole into the room, pitched slightly higher than that which the walls were used to hearing. The boys’ all stopped and stared at the doorway, shocked (though not perhaps as much as they should have been) to find Amelie standing there.
“Well, I’ve had warmer welcomes, but that will have to do, I guess.” Shrugging her shoulders, she walked in.
It wasn’t the first time she had been in the boys dormitories, but never before had she paid much attention to detail. She had been inattentive, and so had never caught on to the subtle differences in the colour of the walls, or the variation in the warmth of the materials that surrounded the four-poster beds of the girls and boys dormitories. The little oak tables beside each bed were larger in the girls’ dormitory, making the room slightly more compact and cosy. Here, she supposed, the lack of tables was to make space to fit the giants the boys grew into over the years of their stay.
Her glance drifted over to said giant creatures, taking in their wide eyes and slightly apprehensive features. She was slightly irked to see them still treating her this way (surely she wasn’t so horrific), but was appeased by the sight of Sirius’ eyes, bright and trained totally on her. Her body hummed. She coughed.
“Nice to see you in our neck of the woods for a change, Amy,” Remus smiled benignly. “Perhaps you’ll be able to knock some sense into James.”
She paused, thought, frowned; why would they ask her to help James when they were so much better equipped for the job?
“I’m not sure I can handle all his shit in one sitting,” she joked in an effort to dodge James’ issues and sort out her own. “Maybe if we do it in one-hour sessions…”
“I don’t need anyone to help me handle my shit.”
James’ sullen attitude ground on Amelie’s nerves. Who was he to reject the hand of friendship? “Sure sounded like it.”
“Very witty. Ingenious, even,”
“Listen, I don’t know why you’re here, and I don’t really give a fuck either, but either get on with it or get the fuck out of my business ‘cos I really don’t feel like dealing with you, or anyone else, right now,”
Amelie’s eyes widened, blinked and looked down. She bit her lip and was hesitant. Usually, she and James were an easy-going pair, laughing and bantering with each other like she imagined (despite their erm, past) brothers and sisters would. Apparently, she wasn’t above feeling slightly stung by his words – she bit down on her tongue hard to control herself before speaking.
“Right, fine,” she turned towards Sirius, shoulders taut and movements sharp. “Can we talk?”
“Sure, talk,” James muttered snidely, causing Amelie to flinch.
Sirius, apparently, had not missed this. His voice was firm. “James,”
Hazel eyes met deepest grey, and stood still. These eyes had met before, many a time, to share jokes, to laugh, to console, to advise and to warn. Through thick and thin they’d journeyed and still endured. Once, only once, the grey eyes had been too full of shame to bear to look up at his brother. Now, the hazel knew what it felt to feel the same. James looked down.
“Let’s go, Millie,”
She was too fidgety to feel like kissing him. Not that his allure had disappeared overnight, but more like a blanket of agitation had smothered her senses and rendered her immune to the touch of his hand on her the bare skin of her forearm. It didn’t burn her with need or desire, but only deepened the yearning she had for an embrace, one that she could bury herself in and cower under, only to forget the guilt that was eating at her insides.
“It’s my fault, Sirius,” she whispered. “We were meant to be best friends and I’ve ignored her and look at what’s happened now.”
He could feel her slight body tremble as he held her, unsure as to whether it was more due to the cold or her rattled nerves. There was a need to keep her close and to keep her talking; she was hiding something in her words and with enough patience, he knew she would speak.
“I knew she was in danger. We both did, and so did James. I know why he’s mad. We’ve all been so stupid – we should’ve been more careful after the scare with Kyle. Oh, we’re so fucking lucky it wasn’t worse! How could we ignore that she’s muggleborn?”
And there it was, clear as day. That was where the crux of the whole situation lay. It may have been blamed on Quidditch rivalries, but no one was blind as to where the real threat to Lily lay. Sirius was not so very surprised to Amelie, the protectress of all that was Gryffindor, shake to see her authority thus defeated. Her own best friend had gone down, and she had been completely clueless. She would be an idiot to not feel any fear.
“Stop it, Millie!” his voice cut through her own rant, and she looked up with eyes wide, almost as if, despite the cover and protection he had bestowed her with, she had forgotten his presence. “Just stop it. Yeah, we’ve been thick. Yeah, we’ve been stupid, and a bit reckless with their lives. Yeah, we should have known something was coming… that something was going to happen sooner or later. We’ve got the experience, we know things from the inside, and we know that everyone back home is probably cheering at how careless we’ve been. But forget about all that right now, okay, Millie? So, we’ve taken a bit of a knock, a bit of a shake, but you know what you’re up against now. I know you won’t let it happen again. We won’t let it happen again, will we? Because we’re better than that, and we know that what they think and believe is just plain wrong. There’s no way then can win, Millie. And as long as there are people like Lily, like Kyle, still living, still hanging in there, they won’t.”
Amelie chuckled, lifted pressure lifted slightly by this new outlook. She breathed in deeply, inhaling his musky sent and let it wash over her, fill her up and then drift away as she exhaled. It must have cost him, she realised, must have pained him, to make something like that up so quickly and so well, when he shared just as much apprehension and guilt over the same thing.
“You’re amazing, you know that?”
Sirius gave a gentle smile. “I do like to think so every now and again,”
Impulsively, Amelie stood up on her tiptoes and gave Sirius a tender, lingering kiss. Her eyes were soft as she took in his face, her fingers still cold as they stroked the coarse stubble that was beginning to grow on his chin.
“You don’t need to do all this. You don’t need to pretend that you don’t feel just as guilty as me. Once, just once, I wish you would maybe break down a bit, just to show me that you’re human.”
His smile stayed put as she walked away.
Her breath quickened, her were shut tight, and her fingers pressed into her ears like a vice as she crouched in the corner of the owlery, rocking back and forth. She’d wanted to block out the shrieking hoots of the owls and the mocking sound of laughter that was all too clear, all too close, but instead the weight of her fingers enhanced the rushing sound of her blood as it coursed through her body, the shut eyes only improved the sight of her mind’s eye. She clawed at her hair with shaking hands, using her arms to shield her eyes from what she had no desire to see.
“No, no,” she muttered, shaking her head from side to side. “No, it’s not real. There’s no blood on my hands. Nothing, nothing…”
The silence wasn’t working, she realised, so she began to hum. Maybe humming would get rid of the laughter. It was her Mum laughing, she knew. Shivers wracked her body more intensely than before; no-one else’s laugh was as musical, as warm and enticing as hers. No-one else’s laugh could match hers in its insincerity.
“You haven’t done it. I know you haven’t. You’re just playing with my head aren’t you? It’s all a game, just a silly, silly game…”
And she hummed, but then the humming became louder and louder, and then her mouth opened, her unstable voice mutated the low whine into a shrill shriek, full of pain and anguish, like that of a wounded dog. Her eyes were still shut. She couldn’t open them, because it was still there, right by her feet. Maybe she’d kicked it a bit closer to her, or further from her… not that it was really there, because it hadn’t happened. No, it hadn’t.
Amelie opened her eyes, and screamed.
By her feet, scrunched up and torn in places no doubt by her shoe as she had writhed and cried, lay a piece of parchment that had, up until a few hours ago, looked pristine and rather official-looking. She’d been innocently curious, as she’d picked it up then, wondering who had owled her this time – surely not her mother. But the combination of innocence and curiosity was deadly; one could be tainted and the other could never be satisfied. Unfortunately, Amelie had only realised the true value of the one after it had been completely obliterated by the other.
Curiosity had niggled at her soul, and she used her chipped fingernails to pick open at the crisp sheet of parchment, and with her hands smoothed out the sheet until it was staring at her in the face, until it was too late; until she had the mutilated face of her father, her true father, looking up at her, his eyes glazed over and mouth slack. Promptly, she had hurled out her innards, and shut her eyes, crouching and wailing in that same position, the words scrawled with the elegant hand of her step-father burning and churning her insides.
Murder is pretty when you do it.
Don’t you think?
I’m very sorry to have killed Mathius Turner off before they could have had the whole father/daughter sentimental reuniting session that I’m sure many of you were so looking forward to, but sadly, I had to - because such amazing Dad’s just aren’t meant to live on and carry good messages in stories like this one. Please don’t hate me.
But please do review! I’d love to hear your views on the developments.
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