Chapter 5 : Chapter Five
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“Reports of further attacks are getting much more frequent.” Aberforth was saying, the dining room full of soft murmurs. “We lost Himble and Wadsworth just last week, and there is still no sign of Dearborn. I say this not to discourage you, but to urge. We need to continue in our efforts, to be diligent and to look out for one another.” The group murmured in agreement, though they looked discouraged. Some even looked angry. “We have a--”
“We aren't making any progress!” A flustered, dark haired wizard slapped a hand down on the marred wood of the table around which they were all seated. “We can't continue like this!” An older, red haired witch beside him nodded, looking pointedly at Albus and Aberforth for a solution.
“There's no greater force than love.” Albus responded after a moment, putting a hand on his brother's shoulder. “We will prevail. The Dark Lord knows nothing of the strength that can be derived from compassion. He has suffered a life of no love, no sympathy, and no altruism. It doesn't do us any good to be angry or to allow ourselves to be overcome by his actions; it would only do us harm if we allowed him to divide us. Instead, we need to come together and continue in our fight, to show him what power can come from love. He will only win this if we don't work together.”
The room quieted slightly, though the angry wizard still looked like he wanted to pick a fight.
“We wouldn't be honoring those that we've lost if we fight each other, instead of our enemy.” Sirius spoke up, his face pale but determined. Lily felt a swell of pride; she had never heard him speak at an Order meeting. He held the gaze of the man for a moment, his expression fiery. “We've lost too much to give up on each other now.”
“Indeed, Sirius.” Albus nodded at him, the slightest of smiles on his lips. “Not only that, but giving up now would cost the lives of countless Muggle-borns. Would you want to raise your children in such a world? A world of intolerance?”
The dark haired man sat back in his chair, his arms folded.
“I don't fault you for tiring of all this fighting.” said Aberforth, wiping his brow. “I'm sure that I can speak for everyone when I say that it has been terrible, losing our friends and loved ones. But Mr. Black is right, we would be doing them a great disservice by giving up.”
There was a murmur from around the room as many of the Order members nodded wearily.
Albus gave everyone a moment before he continued. “We do, however, have good news to bring some light to this oppressive darkness. Alastor is whole and healthy, and has joined us this evening. For that we will be celebrating this evening --”
There was an abrupt interruption of clapping and hooting as Alastor Moody, who had been seated beside Albus, stood arduously. Lily was immediately taken aback by his appearance. He had dark grey, shoulder-length hair that framed his round, scarred face. A structured, olive coloured cloak draped over his shoulders, his right arm was cradled in a sling and his left hand resting on the top of a walking staff. She was struck by the myriad of thin, red cuts that spanned across his face and neck, stitched closed skillfully by Healers. Perhaps the most astounding feature, however, was his left eye. It differed from his right, which was a deep, dark brown and looked typical. His left eye was an icy, galvanizing blue and it seemed to stray from the other eye, moving independently. Lily had to force herself not to stare.
“Your service is remarkable, Alastor. There aren't words that could ever properly express our thanks.” Albus said, raising his glass and looking at Moody with a smile. Everyone raised their glasses with a murmur of agreement. Moody's expression was stoic, though Lily saw a hint of a smile on his lips. He nodded his head at Albus in thanks.
Suddenly, there was a loud pop from the floor above, the chandelier shaking, and the lights went out. Plunged into pressing darkness, Lily was frozen. A hand clutched hers, a hand that she immediately recognized to be Meredith's. None of the people in the room were speaking, but she could make out faint whispers and rustling as someone from the opposite end of the room carefully stood, trying not to make any noise. It felt like an eternity as Lily waited, unsure of what to do. Her eyes strained in the darkness, trying to make out shadows and shapes. Meredith's hand was hot in hers, quivering slightly.
The thud of a pair of large boots could be heard coming down the spiral staircase to their right. Another loud pop sounded and a flash of red light briefly lit the room, just long enough to see a figure collapse to the floor. There was a thud near the head of the room, and a sudden rush of sound as a group of people jumped to their feet, a flurry of lights illuminating the room. It was instant chaos, and Lily grabbed her wand with her left hand, Meredith's hand firmly secured in her other.
The overhead lights abruptly returned, disorienting her, and a few people cried out. She barely made out a pair of dark figures flitting out of the room and into the corridor outside and up the spiral staircase. The room was pure bedlam. A handful of cloaked figures had rushed into the room, immediately taking down the Order members closest to the entryway. Almost instinctively, Order members paired up with the Death Eaters, lobbing spells at each other as if they were fencing.
A firm hand fell on Lily's shoulder and she spun around, her wand drawn and a jinx on her lips. James' hands went up in surrender, his eyes wild. Without giving her time to process, he grabbed her hand and dragged her into the kitchen, Meredith clinging onto Lily's other hand like a life preserver. Pots and pans were falling as they sped through the room, a stray spell ricocheting off the wall and barely missing a blonde, short-haired woman. She flicked her wand at the man attacking her, a bright red spell speeding across the room and hitting him squarely in the chest. The Death Eater stiffened like a board and fell to the ground with a resounding thud, his wand clattering to the ground. The witch gestured for James and the girls to keep running as another Death Eater came bursting into the room. With little time to react, the witch elbowed him straight in the nose and he tumbled to the floor, clutching his face noiselessly.
Lily suddenly heard a bellowing yell. She knew the voice instantly. It was Sirius. There was a loud thud from above and the sound of shattering glass. Without saying a word, James shoved Lily and Meredith up the back stairwell, following closely behind.
“That was –” Lily panted, trying to look back at James as she ran. James didn't say anything, his face pale.
They came to the top of the steps; the corridor had grown suddenly quiet, though they could still hear shouts and fighting downstairs. James put a finger to his lips, positioning himself in front of Lily. His wand drawn, he peeked around the corner and into what appeared to be a sitting room.
It was dimly lit, a massive leather sofa angled in front of another stone fireplace. There were three hooded Death Eaters laying motionlessly around the room, one having fallen onto the sofa, his head lolling over the side. Whether they were stunned or dead, Lily wasn't sure. She tried not to think about it. Remus was on his knees beside a figure that Lily assumed to be Sirius, who was silently slouched into a sitting position against the wall.
“Prongs,” Remus said urgently, looking over his shoulder. “Here.”
James rushed forward and dropped to his knees beside Remus. Above them, the frame of a shattered mirror was hanging lopsidedly, the glass scattered in large shards on the moss-green carpet below. Lily joined them, her clammy hand still clutching Meredith's.
Sirius was sitting with his back against the wall, clutching his right shoulder and panting. He didn't speak, his eyes closed like he was concentrating. There was a long, black handle protruding from right beneath his collarbone and his left hand was grasping it shakily, blood trailing down his wrist. The blade's hilt was etched with golden writing that Lily couldn't read, and it seemed to hum where it touched his skin. The sound reverberated quietly through the room, a rib-shakingly deep rumble of a tone that filled Lily's chest and made her feel uneasy. Sirius's shirt was dark with blood as it seeped slowly downward. As Lily got down on her knees beside him, she noticed a long, deep cut that appeared to start on the apex of his shoulder and ended where the handle of the blade was jutting from.
“He needs a healer.” Meredith said nervously. There was a cracking sound from downstairs amid tumult and then sudden silence. For a few moments, Lily thought that she heard quiet voices; her heart was in her throat, threatening to strangle her. She drew her wand as James stepped in front of her, his wand at the ready.
The faint sounds grew louder and she started hearing familiar voices. After a few painfully long moments, she heard fast, light footsteps scaling the stairs and Albus appeared, his wand aloft. A group of Order members were behind him, immediately starting to search the rest of the house for any remaining threat.
“Mr. Black,” he said, a look of concern on his face. “What's happened here?”
"Are they--" Meredith began, but Remus interrupted her.
“We need to move him, quickly.” Remus insisted. Pocketing his wand, he stood quickly and grasped Sirius's left arm to help him to his feet.
“Slow down, it's alright. The last of the attackers have been taken care of, we believe. The immediate threat is gone, for now.” Albus said, coming to stand beside Sirius and helping him stand. Sirius groaned, biting down on his bottom lip to keep himself from yelling. Albus took a moment to study the hilt of the blade that Sirius's hand had slipped off of. It continued to hum, almost pulsing in the dim light. Nodding to himself, Albus said, “Let's get him to the dining room. Minerva can help.”
As they descended back into the dining room, Lily could see bodies littering the floor. They passed a stunned Death Eater, who's mask was skewed. She could see that his bright blue eyes were wide open, as if in shock, but he was unable to move.
They carefully maneuvered over the fallen bodies, some of which were being covered by cloaks. Lily felt sick to her stomach as she stepped around a covered figure, knowing in her heart that the person was dead. The blonde, short-haired witch that they had seen earlier was kneeling beside another woman, speaking quietly to her and helping to heal her cuts and bruises with magic.
Albus led them into the dining room and sat Sirius down in a chair near the fireplace, where an older man was holding a dusty bucket full of Floo Powder up and helping injured people clamor into the fireplace. Taking a handful of the greenish ashes, a younger man stumbled into the fireplace. His head was bleeding and he was cradling his left arm; he carefully enunciated through gritted teeth, “St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries.” He was swallowed up by warm, bright green flames and was gone, leaving a small patch of embers where his feet had been. The older wizard ushered another battered man into the fireplace, holding up the bucket of Floo Powder for him.
Lily sat beside Sirius, who was panting and sweating. He had closed his eyes again, his breath coming shallowly. She wanted to help him, to somehow ease his pain, but she felt helpless as Albus brought over Minerva McGonagall, a tall, thin witch that Lily had had as a professor at Hogwarts. Her hair was pulled back tightly, astonishingly neat considering the brief, yet intense brawl they had all just endured. Her expression was distressed yet kind, her glasses perfectly perched on the bridge of her nose. Albus spoke briefly with her, gesturing to the blade still protruding from Sirius's collarbone. Minerva nodded at him and he put a hand on her shoulder in thanks before leaving to assist others that were injured.
“Excuse me, Miss Evans.” she murmured, taking a seat beside Sirius. Lily scooted slightly to the side and Minerva rolled up the sleeves of her deep maroon sweater.
“I would appreciate some help over here,” Albus was saying as he helped a young woman to her feet. Remus and James quickly joined him, though Meredith was less eager, her expression pained as she reluctantly joined them across the room.
Lily went to stand as well, but Minerva cleared her throat. “I could use another set of hands, if you wouldn't mind.” Lily remained seated; her hands were still shaking and she folded them in her lap, squeezing her fingers to stop the trembling. The humming of the blade that was lodged in Sirius's shoulder was starting to irk her. She felt queasy as the buzzing, thrumming sound droned on.
Minerva pulled out her wand and pointed it into her palm, muttering a spell that Lily couldn't hear. An aqua coloured vapor emerged from the tip of her wand, flowing over both of her hands like a protective barrier and sinking into her palms, leaving a faint shimmer on her skin.
When Lily gave her a strange look, smelling a vague yet sharply antiseptic odor, Minerva explained, “They're like medical gloves, completely sterile.” She then busied herself with a small satchel that she had conjured. It had multiple instruments, tins, and bandages neatly organized within.
“Why not use healing magic?” Lily asked quietly, watching Minerva carefully unfold a swath of gauze.
“That dagger is cursed. Albus believes it to be an old family heirloom of some sort, though I'm not sure to whom it belonged; a family crest is etched on the end, just there.” Pointing to the spine of the hilt, she continued, “One of the Death Eaters must have used it during the fight. Whatever the blade touches is unable to be mended with magic. The etching indicates that. Unfortunately, we have seen curses like this before.”
Unsure of what to say, Lily just nodded, trying to tune out the humming of the blade. Her ears were ringing.
Minerva placed a large, hooked needle carefully on the gauze that she had laid out and threaded the needle with ease, her long fingers steady and meticulous. Lily silently wondered how many times she had stitched up other Order members after combat. It was obvious that she knew what she was doing.
“Mr. Black,” said Minerva softly, leaning forward to look him fully in the face. Sirius didn't respond, only continuing to pant. “Mr. Black, this will be painful but it's imperative that you stay still.” She slid her fingertips underneath the ragged edge of the fabric that had torn around the blade as it entered his skin and pulled it, ripping the garment open enough that they could easily see the wound. It was a smooth, even cut, but the blood made it hard to determine how far the wound extended. Minerva grabbed her wand and muttered, “Tergeo.” The blood shot up the tip of her wand, disappearing with a quiet rushing noise. His wound continued to ooze blood, but it was much easier to assess. “I have to remove this dagger, Mr. Black.” She addressed Sirius, but handed Lily a piece of rolled up fabric from the healing kit. “Put that in his mouth. To bite down on.” she murmured quietly to Lily.
Lily hesitated. Taking the roll of fabric, she gingerly placed a hand on Sirius's shoulder. “Here. Bite on this.” she said gently. His lips parted silently, his eyes still closed and his brow furrowed. His breath huffed out around the fabric as she placed it carefully between his teeth.
“I'll remove it on the count of three.” Minerva said. She placed one hand on his left shoulder to give herself some leverage, grasping the handle of the dagger with her other hand. Lily positioned herself closer to him in case he jolted out of the chair. “One... Two... Three.”
In a swift, fluid motion, she extracted the blade and quickly placed her other hand on the wound to staunch the bleeding, pressing down. Sirius barked out in pain, his voice muffled by the fabric. His eyes shot open wildly and he panted harder, his whole body tensing against her hand as she put pressure on his shoulder.
“The worst is over.” Minerva offered, her expression empathetic, and she placed the dagger on the table. His blood was bright on the gleaming silver, double-edged blade. The humming had stopped almost instantaneously and the writing on the handle was no longer gold, instead fading to a dull copper colour.
Sirius let the cloth fall from his mouth and it fell to the floor in front of them. He let out a groan, his whole body rigid as he let his head tilt backward over the back of the chair.
The bleeding wasn't terrible, so Minerva was able to remove her hand from his shoulder. Tearing the fabric of his shirt open more, she considered the wound closely. “I don't believe that it's deep enough to cause any long-term muscular damage. It's nice and clean, and it appears that no major arteries have been perforated. This won't be difficult to close up, but it will leave a scar. That's unavoidable, regrettably.”
Lily half expected Sirius to say something sarcastic, as he often quipped during serious situations, but he didn't speak. His hands were balled into fists in his lap. She wanted to touch him, to take the pain from him. Uncertain of what to do, she placed her hands over his lightly. When their skin touched, his hands reflexively grasped hers, his skin hot and damp with sweat. She felt her heart jump in her chest, but quietly maintained her composure as Minerva busied herself with stitching up the wound, her hands skillful and quick.
Low, rumbling growls escaped Sirius's throat with the first few stitches. Lily kept her gaze downcast, unable to bear the sight of the needle entering his flesh. Instead she kept her eyes downward. Her gaze rested on their entangled hands. His hands were encompassing her much smaller ones, tightly flexing with pain. His long fingers were thick and well-worn, his nails short and round. She had never noticed how rough his skin was, how worn and calloused his fingertips were. It suited him, though. The back of his hands were smooth, the corded muscles of his forearms flexing as he held onto her hands tightly.
The job was finished quickly. Minerva waved her wand over her hands, the shimmering barrier and the blood from Sirius's wound disappearing swiftly.
“I'm sure that Mr. Black would appreciate some rest.” she said as she stood. Her mind seemed to be suddenly occupied elsewhere. “If you'll excuse me, I'd like to speak with Aberforth and Albus about all of this.”
“Thank you, Professor.” Sirius managed, his voice gravelly.
She smiled wearily at Sirius, though her expression still held a note of concern, and she left the room, quickly joining a small group of Order members that had gathered in the kitchen.
Meredith trotted over with James and Remus behind her. “How's he doing?” she asked quietly, eyeing Sirius's bandaged shoulder.
“Professor McGonagall said that he'll be fine.” Lily looked at Sirius, who slowly ran his left hand through his hair and let out a breath, wincing.
“Let's get you upstairs.” Remus said, gingerly helping Sirius to his feet.
Author's note: Things are coming along more smoothly for me now. I was stuck in a writing rut for a bit there, having just started a new job, but I feel the words flowing again. Expect more chapters very soon.
Don't forget to leave a review. Your input, positive or negative, is valued. Thanks for reading!
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