The Love Potion
The professors and students put in extra hours the week leading up to Thursday so everyone could have Valentine's Day off.
The Gryffindors took advantage of the break and slept in. Aluria Vane, Cheresse Podmore, and Florence Tyler had taken it upon themselves to decorate the common room before everyone woke up.
They grinned when Harry came slowly downstairs, blinking against the bright colors. "You guys really outdid yourselves," he said, frowning.
"Thanks, Jacob," said Cheresse, the blonde-haired, brown-eyed girl to Aluria's right. She seemed to like Harry the most, while Aluria preferred James, and Florence fancied Sirius.
"Uh, no problem." Harry was planning on waiting for everyone else to wake up before going to the Great Hall, but the hearts and the lace and the pink made him feel claustrophobic. "I'll see you guys later, then."
They giggled and waved.
"Jacob, wait up!" Remus stumbled on his way through the portrait hole.
Harry surveyed the boy's nervous features. "Are you okay? You're really pale."
"Huh? No, no, I'm good." Remus ran his hand through his hair to smooth it, then ran through it again to mess it up.
"Okay…so, are you planning on asking anyone out today?"
Remus winced. "Nope. Yes. Well, kind of. Ask out? No, that's not what it is. Enough about me…what are you doing? I mean, are you asking anyone?" Harry had to pull Remus aside to prevent him from falling through a vanishing step in the staircase.
"Er, no, I'm not really interested in anyone."
"Oh, yeah, I understand."
Harry cleared his throat and prepared his best nonchalant act. "Say you were actually going to ask someone, or someone asks you. My advice is to just take it slow. And if you were, hypothetically, friends with this person, you don't have to act different because it's a date. Just act like you always do." A few years ago, Harry would've received a "Troll" if The Interpretation and Handling of Girls was a subject on the O.W.L.s.
"Right, right, that makes sense. Hang on—what if, hypothetically, I asked someone on a date 'as friends,' when actually I meant as more than friends?"
"So they wouldn't say no, and I would be relaxed, because she wouldn't think it was an actual date, but it could be exactly like one! Hypothetically."
"Hypothetically," Harry agreed.
The Great Hall decor was modest compared to the Gryffindor common room. A rich red fabric was draped on the walls, and light music was playing from enchanted string instruments beside the staff table.
Severus joined them, more annoyed than usual at the holiday. He wasn't nervous with anticipation to express his feelings to Lily; that seemed to be the last thing on his mind. He jabbed at his food as he scowled around the Hall. "This holiday is just an excuse for cowards to confess their 'love.' It's the last day anyone should do something so ridiculous."
"That's not the Valentine's Day spirit, Snivellus. Today's the perfect day to do ridiculous things." James nudged Sirius and, laughing, they sat down.
Severus ignored him. Remus greeted his friends absentmindedly, concentrating on something in the distance. His lips moved a little, as though reciting something.
"Hey, Remus?" Raven studied him, eyebrow raised.
"Yeah?" The trail of words in Remus' mind vanished, which made him even more nervous.
"Do you want to go to the Three Broomsticks with me later on? As friends, I mean."
"You're asking me?"
Raven smiled a little. "I'm pretty sure I'm asking you."
"Right, yeah, that sounds good." Remus finally relaxed, but only momentarily, as someone else's arrival caught his attention.
"Sev!" Lily came running down the aisle toward them.
Severus, on instinct, stood up. "What's wrong?"
Lily didn't say anything at first, she just gazed up at him, chest rising and falling as she caught her breath. She smiled, approached him, then pushed a lock of hair out of his face.
"Will you be my Valentine?" Lily asked, fingers now fixing Severus' collar.
Severus tensed, watching her hands. With a jolt of understanding, his eyes moved back up and he nudged her hands away. "Lily, they did something…" he began, but she put a finger to his lips.
"Shh…" Lily leaned by his ear and whispered, "I've been thinking about you." She leaned back to face him, oblivious of the snickers from James, Sirius, and Peter. Harry didn't know what to do. He glanced at Raven and Remus and saw they shared the same expression: a mixture of horror, jealousy, concern, and mesmerization.
"I dream about your beautiful, dark eyes, how they stare at my eyes, and at, well, other places." This brought on a wave of guffaws that turned a few heads.
Severus averted his eyes, face pained. Lily turned his face back toward her with a gentle placement of her right hand. "Do you think about me?"
"I…" Severus swallowed, eyes darting, and seemed torn between wanting to enjoy her affection and convincing himself that she didn't really feel this way.
Lily moved her left hand to his chest. She traced him with her fingers until her hand reached his neck.
A memory struck Harry. Maybe it was just how the adult Severus generally felt about everything love-related, but Harry vaguely remembered how he reacted (sourly) to Professor Lockhart's suggestion that students ask him how to brew a Love Potion. Had this happened in the other time?
"Lily, you're a—a good friend," Severus managed, as if he was trying to convince her as well as himself.
"You are, too." Lily smiled easily when he studied at her again. She stood on her toes and kissed his neck. Severus' eyes closed, momentarily unable to resist before he snapped back to reality and pushed her lightly back. The laughter had faded somewhat.
Lily pouted. "I'm sorry, Sev. I got a little carried away. But don't you…" Lily dropped her voice. "…wonder about it? What it would be like?" She moved her hand from his cheek to the spot she had kissed. "I know I do."
She moved her right hand back to his cheek. "I think about your lips…how they must be so soft…" Lily angled her head and was about to kiss him when—
"OI!" Remus, Raven, and Harry all stood up at once, causing Lily to start and face them. Raven and Remus were immediately embarrassed, but Harry turned to James. "If you don't get Slughorn right now—"
"What makes you think Severus didn't do this?"
"Right. It makes so much sense that Severus would give her a Love Potion right before breakfast for every bloody person to see!"
"I didn't say he was smart. If you wanted to say he was an ass, however, I'd agree."
"Do it now," Harry warned, teeth clenched. He realized that amateurs would've given Severus the Love Potion instead of Lily, which would seem to make sense. Unfortunately for Severus, the Marauders were not amateurs. They must've realized that Severus would have the perfect excuse to move on Lily if he was under the influence and not in control of his actions. So, by slipping the potion to Lily, Severus wouldn't be able to do anything without upsetting her later. He would want to give in with every fiber in his body, but he'd risk his friendship.
James held Harry's glare before giving in. "Fine. Slughorn will definitely be surprised that Severus can't fight his own battles."
"I'll do it myself," Severus said, pulling away from Lily, who made a small sound of protest.
James smiled briefly, triumphantly. "Bravo."
"I'm going with you, Severus," Harry said. If the two went alone, Severus may be tempted.
He was right to take the precaution; there was a flash of disappointment across Severus' face, which he quickly hid.
"We're gonna have to break into his office, I'm assuming?" Harry lengthened his stride to keep up with Severus, while Lily, who was holding his hand, had no trouble at all.
"No, I have an antidote prepared."
"Yeah, and one for about half a dozen other things. I knew James and them'd try something. I thought it'd be on me, though. Guess they realized that would be too difficult." Severus scoffed. "Stupid pricks. She's gonna hate them even more after this."
"I think they expected you to go along with it." Harry knew there was more to it, but Severus didn't know Harry knew about his feelings for Lily.
"Well, I didn't."
"And Lily will appreciate that."
"It's not much of an accomplishment." They reached the portrait hole. "Okay, Lily, can you stay here with Jacob?"
"I'm not leaving your side." She regarded him seriously and squeezed his hand. Severus let out a long sigh and climbed through before Harry.
Up in the dorm, Severus poured some potion into a glass for Lily. "You're so careful when you work with potions," she observed from the edge of his bed. "You're like a painter. Gentle and precise." She placed her hand just above his knee.
Severus shivered, then blushed and offered the antidote. "Can you drink this?" Lily didn't respond, so he added, "For me?"
Lily grinned mischievously. "If you kiss me."
Severus glanced at Harry, who shook his head.
"No, but, er, you can hug me. Or just…" He had trouble handling the thought and the word—"…kiss me somewhere not on the mouth."
"Mm, compromise is wonderful." Lily stood up. "I'll settle for both. Then I'll drink it. Because I love you." Severus flinched at "love."
Lily wrapped her arms around him, placing her hands on his upper back. Severus' hands wavered in the air, unsure of what to do. They decided to settle around her middle and brought her tighter to him. After several moments, she pulled out of the hug. Lily then took his face in both hands and kissed him on the forehead.
She gazed at his confused face before taking the glass and downing the liquid. Severus had seemed certain of everything about the incident from the very beginning; what was different now?
Lily's face fell as the antidote entered her system. "Oh." Her eyes welled up with tears and she turned away.
"Lily, I…" Severus didn't touch her. Harry gestured for Severus to come over to the other side of the room.
"Why did you look confused?" Harry kept his voice low.
"It's nothing." Severus' face became masked.
"It's not nothing."
Severus shook his head. "I was wrong. She's obviously horrified that she…did all that."
"No more of your questions for a week after this, deal?"
Severus sighed. "The symptoms are usually obsession, not actual love, right?"
"Yeah, so? She seemed obsessed to me."
"But she mentioned pretty specific things. The Love Potion works like the Hate Potion: if you know the person you're supposed to react to well, then how you act will be based off how you feel, at least a little." The end of his thought was punctuated by a sob from Lily, putting out Severus' flicker of hope. "But I already told you it was nothing."
They both considered her. She was kneeling at Severus' bedside, face pressed facedown on the sheets, arms folded in front of her head.
"I'll talk to her," Harry offered. He knelt down next to Lily and put a hand on her shoulder. "Lily, I'm sorry for what happened. But it's not too late to decide how today's gonna go. And the one thing you can do to get James back is to not feel the same way about him. You could hex him, if you want, but it'll be enough that he upset you."
Lily lifted her head off the bed and looked at Harry. She quickly blinked away her tears, as if to catch a thought or image before it faded. "Sorry, you looked different for a moment. Anyway, I—I think you're right. I can't let it ruin my day. Oh—" Lily noticed the spot on the bed where her face had been and turned to Severus. "I got makeup on your bed. I don't usually…I wanted to look nice today." She took a shuddering breath. "Sev, I'm sorry. They aimed this at you." She added, more to herself, "I don't know why they thought it would affect you much."
Severus swallowed, and any remaining evidence of pain disappeared. "No, it's okay. I'm sorry they got you involved."
Lily shook her head and stood. "I'm going to get cleaned up. I'll meet you in the common room in five minutes."
When she was ready, the three went to Hogsmeade. Harry hoped to find an excuse to leave so the two could be alone.
When he spotted Cheresse, Aluria, and Florence, he had an idea. "Oh, I forgot; Cheresse asked me to go to the Three Broomsticks with her."
"Do you know her very well?" Lily peered across the snowy path.
"No, not really. But I didn't want to be rude. I'll see you guys around." Harry jogged over to the trio.
"Hey, Cheresse, do you want to go to the Three Broomsticks with me?"
Cheresse's face lit up and she nodded. "Totally." She turned to Aluria and Florence. "Bye, guys." As the group split into pairs, Cheresse shot a gloating smile in the girls' direction.
Harry shut out her chattering on the walk there, replying with nods, "mhm"s, and "yeah"s. They reached the Three Broomsticks just as the door closed behind Severus and Lily.
"Let's sit here," Harry suggested, after finding the median between Remus and Raven, who were in the back, and Severus and Lily, who were at the counter. "I'll get us some drinks." He ordered two butterbeers from Madam Rosmerta, who appeared to be about his real age, then brought them back to the table.
"Oh, thank you, Jacob."
Cheresse smiled at him for an uncomfortable amount of time. Harry glanced to his left and saw the Marauders come in through the door, bringing in a gust of cold air. Aluria and Florence followed closely behind them, laughing.
Cheresse waved at the girls as they moved to a table nearby. James sat down where he could face the counter where Lily and Severus sat. His figure was relaxed but his eyes kept gravitating toward the two.
Harry was replying to Cheresse's third question about Quidditch when James and Sirius got up. James held a huge bouquet of roses behind his back and Sirius argued with a dwarf over payment for a song.
"Miss Evans?" James' voice sounded significantly more sophisticated than usual.
Lily turned, annoyed. She was just about to tell him off when Sirius plopped the dwarf on the counter between Lily and Severus. The dwarf, oddly polished and toned pink, burped before opening its mouth and singing:
On this beautiful day in Hogsmeade,
She is the one person I need.
Her eyes are as bright
As stars on a winter night.
Her voice is as sweet
As Fizzing Whizbees,
On this beautiful day in Hogsmeade.
She's all alone…
Oh, what a shame…
If only there was some way
That could change.
I propose, and oh, it shows
She'd make a perfect date…
On this beautiful day in Hogsmeade."
Severus tried to trip the dwarf, but in a sweep of passion, as it realized the size of its audience, it stepped on Severus' fingers.
"So Miss Evans…
Will you be my Valentine?"
It was at this time that James produced the roses and offered them to Lily. The dwarf bowed, jumped down, and waddled off. After the applause faded, the cheery conversations throughout the bar resumed.
Lily gawked at James for a moment before speaking. "You're joking."
James' smile faltered. "No, I…it was the dwarf, wasn't it? That was Sirius' idea, he thought it'd be—"
"James, what did you expect? Can't you tell that I'm not interested?"
Severus' smile grew as James' shrank.
"You keep embarrassing me and my friends. You never leave me alone. You respect no one except yourself. Also—"
"Okay, I get it." James scowled, but didn't meet her eyes. "Do whatever you want with the flowers." James set down the bouquet and slumped off to the back.
Sirius stayed by the counter, scanning the back for something, or someone. "Hey, Lily, you gonna use those?" He gestured toward the bouquet.
Lily scowled at him and rested her head on her hand.
"Thanks." He caught sight of Madam Rosmerta, who came out from the back of the pub carrying a few empty mugs. "Rosmerta? I got you these roses as a sign of my affection. I'm Sirius Black, in case you forgot."
Rosmerta smiled and reached across to ruffle his hair. "Thanks, kiddo, they're lovely." As she went to serve another customer, she added, smirking, "You have a few years to go before you can even dream about it, Sirius."
Harry waited until Sirius left before saying to Cheresse, "I'll be back in a tic, I just have to talk to Lily."
As soon as Harry reached the counter, Severus started to fume. "You saw him, right? That was ridiculous. Everyone was watching, the song was terrible, and he was out of line. He thinks he can make up for embarrassing us with just that…" Severus lost track of what he was saying when he realized Lily hadn't given her input. "Don't you agree?"
Lily sighed, staring through her butterbeer. "I agree that he has a swelled head. I just don't really care anymore. It wasn't the worst thing he could try to do to make up for earlier."
Severus looked as though he'd been slapped. "What?"
Lily lifted her head from her hand and flicked away a rose petal. Catching Severus' expression, she continued, "I don't like him, Sev. I can't imagine ever liking him. It's just that he isn't evil, y'know? He's cruel to certain people, just like yo—" She paused for a heartbeat. "…your Slytherin friends. But he's nice to some people, too."
Both of them raised their eyebrows at Harry with a back-me-up-here expression.
"Let's just forget about it," Harry suggested. "I have to get back to Cheresse, but I'll see you later. Zonko's, at four?"
Severus and Lily nodded. Harry went to Cheresse. "Hey, listen, do you wanna join Aluria and them? I…have something I have to do."
Cheresse frowned. "Alright. I'll see you later, then?"
"Yeah. See you." Harry glanced toward the back of the pub before leaving. In reality, he didn't have anything he had to do. He wandered aimlessly around Hogsmeade until four, when he went to Zonko's.
Harry spotted Lily and Severus browsing the shelves in the joke shop. Both of them seemed miserable. Lily was staring at the Marauders, who were testing the section of Zonko's with a sign overhead reading, "Dangerous Equipment for Highly Skilled Marauders." For a moment, James considered the sign, a thoughtful expression lighting his face. Severus noticed what had caught Lily's attention, which soured his features even further.
"Hey," said Harry, just before a roar of laughter erupted from Sirius and James. Peter's hair was in flames and he ran around before they recovered enough to douse him with water from their wands.
Harry turned back to speak and saw Lily's smile just before she covered it with her hand.
"Oh, hello." Raven came up to them, but mostly looked at Severus. "Having fun?"
"Loads." Harry frowned. "Maybe we should just go back to the school."
That evening, many of the Gryffindors retired to the dorms and the common room. Lily, Severus, Raven, Remus, and Harry claimed the back table. They talked quietly as sleep claimed more and more of the other students. Just before they left for the dorms, James jumped from his spot by the fireplace and hurried over to Lily. "Can I talk to you?"
Lily glanced at Harry, who didn't notice, as he was checking Severus' reaction. "Fine." She stayed in place and crossed her arms.
"Er, in private."
"Why can't you say it here?"
James studied her for a long moment. "Fair enough. I just wanted to say…" He lowered his voice. "I'm sorry for this morning. I know I upset you, so for that—I'm sorry."
Lily almost uncrossed her arms, but at a mutter from Severus—"Oh, come on"—she stood firm. "You don't really mean that. You'd do it over again, wouldn't you?"
"Not now, since I know you'd act like this!"
Lily scoffed. "That's my point." She turned and led Raven upstairs.
Severus smirked at James before following Harry to the dormitory.
On their way to dinner on March 7th, Raven fell into pace with Harry. "Remus asked me to help out with his transformation tonight. Apparently James and them have to work on a project. He wouldn't tell me what it was."
"Okay." Harry angled his body to make room for a group of Ravenclaws.
"Oh—right, I brought it up because I want you to come as well. But, use some sort of spell to conceal yourself. If something happened, and I couldn't help him…"
"Why don't you want him to know I'm there?"
Raven was at once uncomfortable. "He asked me expressly. Also, I don't want him to think I'm avoiding him or anything."
"No, of course." Was it because, despite trying to convince Harry she believed otherwise, Raven thought Remus liked her?
Raven met Remus in the Shack after dinner; he had skipped the meal to help James, Sirius, and Peter with the project they needed to work on.
Harry followed close behind the two, then retreated upstairs. He sat down by the hole in the floorboards and peered down.
Remus crossed to one side of the room. "I have to, you know, make sure none of my clothes rip or anything, so, do you mind…?"
"Oh! Sure, yeah." Blushing, Raven turned around. Harry leaned back so his view was obscured. He could still see Raven transform through the gap. A minute later, Remus walked toward her, form hunched, body gray and thin. Raven, in wolf form, stood her ground and waited for him to recognize her. When he did, he ran in a little excited circle and scampered to the other side of the room. Raven hesitated, paw raised, then trotted after him.
Harry watched them for a moment, then got up, created a space to write and sleep, and settled down for the night.
Harry awoke at her name, spoken by Remus downstairs, and put on his glasses. He pulled on the Invisibility Cloak, walked to the hole, and peered down. Remus was dressed, mostly; he held his shirt in his hands, one arm reaching through a gaping rip in the fabric.
Raven stirred, then transformed back into her human form. "G'morning." She tucked a spiral of hair behind her ear, stood, then noticed his situation. "Oh, right, you picked your shirt up and sort of tore at it, accidentally. Sorry, I couldn't do much to…"
"It's fine." Remus crossed the room to her. "Do you know any spell that could fix it?"
"Maybe. I have a lot of free time over the summer so I've learned a few things, but I wasn't able to practice…" Raven drifted off, uncomfortable under his gaze and by the fact that he was half-naked. She used getting out her wand as an excuse to step backward.
Remus held up the shirt, which was now sealed along the tear. "Thanks." He shot her a sheepish little half-smile before pulling it over his head.
Harry cast a Muffling spell to silence his footsteps and moved downstairs. When he reached the doorway on the main floor, he stopped in surprise.
Remus' hand touched Raven's cheek as he kissed her. She was tilted back in shock and had placed a hand on his chest, as though she'd intended to keep him from coming closer. After a moment, Remus pulled back, face hot with embarrassment.
"I'm—I'm sorry," Remus said, eyes wide, searching her face.
Raven hugged him, and when she let go, she kept one hand on his shoulder. "You don't have to…don't apologize. Please."
Remus nodded, his lips pressed together.
Raven dropped her hand to her side. "I really care about you, Remus, it's just—I don't want—I just want to be friends."
Remus nodded, eyes locked on the floor. "Okay. I didn't mean to, you know, do that, it just…happened. It wasn't bad, was it? Is that why you…?"
"No! No, not at all, it was nice." Her compliment hung in the air for too long, considering how close they still were to each other. "We should probably go. We both could use a shower." She gave him a light smile. He tried to return the expression, but his mouth wouldn't move properly.
By Easter, the weather had turned from a winter gray to the the black-and-white of spring. Harry, Raven, Lily, and Severus traveled with their things by Floo Powder from the school to Violetta's home.
"Welcome, welcome!" Violetta's mother immediately shook their hands and took their things. "It's so nice to have you all. Now, you're the only ones who were able to come, which means more room! We invited Alice and Frank—possibly you know them—but with the rising number of battles and secret missions nowadays, they hardly have any time to spare. Though, you may be a little young to know about all that. Third year, Vi told me. Would you like a cuppa?" She said this all very fast. Like mother like daughter.
"You must be Jacob. Vi told me a lot about you." She put everything she was carrying by the stairs and continued talking from the kitchen. "She wants you to do Quidditch for a summer league after fourth year." Mrs. Rosquit gestured for the four to sit down. "Now, what are all of your names?"
After chatting (rather one-sidedly) for about an hour, they showered and went to bed. The boys got the guest room, the girls got Violetta's room.
Harry lay awake that night, staring at the ceiling. He was putting off his decision of whether or not to stay another year. Severus was silent, which probably meant he was thinking, too.
In the morning, at a more reasonable hour than the World Cup with the Weasleys, the group got up, got ready, and traveled to their site. The tent, once set up, was twice as large as the one the Weasleys borrowed. There was one bathroom, a kitchen, a dining room and living room area, one bedroom, and three bunk beds off to the side.
"This is incredible," Lily said, setting her rucksack on a bottom bunk. Severus and Raven took the top bunks, Harry took the one under Severus.
"I'm glad you like it. It's a little cramped, but it'll do." Mrs. Rosquit smiled at her husband and the two went off to fix up the place.
"Why don't we learn about this kind of magic in school?" Raven sat down next to Harry.
Harry was about to respond when he heard a familiar voice from outside. "Here's our spot!"
Severus swore. Harry got up and looked through the front entrance. Sure enough, James had passed by, helping his dad carry a large trunk. Behind them were Sirius, Remus, and Peter. Harry went back inside and told the others, "It's James, Remus, Sirius, and Peter."
The others (even Raven, who had reddened at Remus' name) turned toward Lily. "What?" Lily said, raising an eyebrow. "He won't find out we're here. And I'm not the only one doesn't like him. Why is he here, anyway? Isn't this area just for the players' families?"
"And rich people. That's what Violetta said in her letter."
"Oh." Lily paused, then changed the subject from James, and everyone relaxed.
They stayed inside until after lunch, when most would not yet be filling the stadium. The Rosquits and, as it appeared, everyone else on the reserved site had a large luxury suite in the middle level of the stadium. Some stretches of the suite were sealed with glass, others were open. One half was decorated in the Wigtown Wanderers' symbol of a cleaver along with their colors, blood red and silver. The other half was in the Ballycastle Bats' colors, black and scarlet, along with their mascot, Barny the Fruitbat.
There were still three hours before the game started, but most people in the suite appeared to be present—including James. He seemed just about to spot the four when cheering made him turn round.
The Wigtown Wanderers were all visiting the suite. Families received them with hugs and quick conversations. There was also a handful of kids waiting with posters, chatting excitedly.
Violetta, at the front end of the group, crouched down, ruffled several heads of hair, and signed posters. She was tanner, more muscular, and stood straighter than she had the year before.
Violetta rose and approached Harry, ponytail bobbing, eyes bright. "Jacob! Nice to see you." She hugged him, then held him out at arms' length. "You're still short." Her attention shifted to the others. She shook their hands as they introduced themselves. "Thank you all for coming. Well, I have to get ready, but I'll see you in the morning, alright?" Violetta clapped him on the back, smiled, and made her way back through the crowd.
"Good luck!" Raven, Lily, and Harry called. Violetta threw a smile over her shoulder before disappearing.
"I thought I saw you!" James said from beside them, sidling closer to Lily. His face was painted red and silver, and he had a gag meat cleaver lodged in his head.
"Did you know that we were going to this game?" Lily demanded, backing away.
James only skipped a beat before replying. "No, of course not; it was my birthday present."
"We got the tickets for Christmas. Your birthday's in March."
James grinned. "So you memorized my birthday. I'm flattered."
Lily flushed. "Right. Of course memorizing your birthday had nothing to do with you shoving it down my throat. It's not like you have ever asked for a birthday snog, or said something about your birthday suit, or—"
"Okay! Okay. You are a laugh, Evans. So, moving on…I bought you all Omnioculars for the game." He handed Lily four, and she immediately passed them on to Harry.
"How did you know to buy these if you didn't know we were here till just now?"
James ignored her question and continued smiling. "Gotta run, it's been great seeing you."
At the scowl on Lily's face, Harry decided it wasn't a good time to tell her he was the one who told Remus about the game.
"Well, it'd be a waste to not use these," Raven said.
"Maybe we could sell them," Severus suggested as Harry passed them out.
Lily peered at him through the Omnioculars. "Who would buy them? They don't even work."
"Here, turn this." Harry twisted one of dials, and Lily stifled a gasp by clearing her throat. "Er, they're okay. Wait, what does this do—oh! It replays it. This makes it go in slow motion, or sped up…" Raven joined her in fiddling with the Omnioculars.
"What a waste of money," Severus said.
Harry sighed. "Lighten up. It could've been worse."
Severus snorted and stayed mostly silent for the rest of the time leading up to the game. As the sun set, everyone in the suite headed to the balcony.
Billboards lit up with advertisements, and as the sky darkened, the golden light from the heart of the stadium grew stronger. The signs changed, and neat writing appeared: Get ready for the team mascots!
"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Spring Holiday match, brought to you by the Nimbus; the fastest, sleekest, best broom in the world." The announcer paused to let the crowd cheer, then continued. "First, it is a great honor to introduce…the Wigtown Wanderers team mascot!"
The center of the stadium, which had been kept dark, became illuminated. In the light, there was a silver ring, which contained a large creature. Harry, along with the others, pressed his Omnioculars to his face. After adjusting the view, he saw that it was a Chimaera.
"Aren't Chimaeras Greek, not Scottish?" Raven whispered. A fan next to her, dressed in all silver, glared in their direction.
The Chimaera roared, sending a line of fire that, when passed through the silver ring, turned the same color.
A line of dancers filed onto the field, forming a circle a safe distance around the beast. They began a dance that was so hypnotic, most of the people fell silent.
"How do you think they trained it?" Raven said, adjusting her lens. "Look around its…feet, or whatever you'd call them. You can kind of make out that it was hurt through the red paint…I wonder how they get it to not fight, or fly away. Its wings seem like they're weighed down."
No one said anything about Raven's commentary, but they kept observing the beast. After a few minutes, the dancers cleared and the lights on the field went out.
"Now presenting the Ballycastle Bats team mascots!"
Out of the darkness rose a thousand glowing, flying bats. The bats flew in a long stream around the stadium, whizzing along the suite. They collected in the center of the stadium, hovering in the silhouette of a bat as fireworks boomed overhead.
Someone tapped Lily's arm. She started and spun around. "Potter, I told you—oh, hello, Remus."
"Did you come with a message from James? Does he want his Omnioculars back?"
"Er, no, I'm here 'cause I wanted to say hi…Did something happen?"
"No, not really," Harry replied as Lily said, "He's a toerag."
Remus tried to exchange a smirk with Raven, who was deliberately staring at the floor. When she glanced up to return it, he'd already moved on.
"Speaking of James, did you tell him we got tickets to this game for Christmas?" Lily crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow.
"No. Why would you think I did?" After a few moments he caved. "Okay, yes, but I didn't think it was a secret."
"Apparently not." Lily glanced sideways at Harry.
"I know he's…a bit forward, but you could at least acknowledge him."
"Just because he fancies me doesn't mean I owe him anything."
Remus searched for a response. "You're right. Sorry for going off like that." He turned to go, but Harry pulled him aside.
"If you want to join us again, you can. Lily'll get over it, just don't mention James."
Remus nodded, his expression reluctant, heavy, before walking away.
"And now, please welcome the Ballycastle Bats and the Wigtown Wanderers!" The two teams flew out, shooting past the crowd. Harry couldn't hear himself cheer over everyone else.
As the players got into their positions, Harry adjusted his Omnioculars. He studied Violetta, who was glaring at the other end of the field, jaw set. He then turned his lens back to the center of the field.
A whistle pierced the air, and the players he'd been able to see a moment before shot into position. There were two wizards and five witches on the Wigtown Wanderers, each with an expression ten times more aggressive than the other team. It was no wonder their uniform featured a meat cleaver.
Harry noted a sign over each teams' area below the action. "Here in spirit," said each, followed by a short list of people he'd never heard of.
The Wanderers scored, and there was a bout of shouts from the Marauders, who were close by. That would be the last goal scored between both teams for an hour. The mood in the Wanderers half of the suite changed from celebratory to tense.
The Marauders, within that hour, had slowly drifted closer to the point where the two groups were merged.
"C'MON! WHAT KIND OF FUCKING CALL WAS THAT?" James roared, after Violetta was nearly knocked off her broom by the other teams' Chaser. The referee did nothing.
Before the game could resume, there was a huge boom of thunder that sent vibrations through the pitch. Only…it wasn't thunder. Clouds gathered overhead, barely visible in the night sky. Out of the mass a dozen cloaked figures dropped down, all riding brooms. There was an eerie pause as hundreds of Omnioculars zoomed in on the faces of the people.
The figures were Death Eaters.
Screams rose and bursts of light hit some of the Death Eaters before they could react. The announcer was saying something over the din, perhaps to cease fire, wait for the Ministry to act. The Death Eaters who were met by spells dropped to the ground below. The ones quicker to react drew their wands to block spells but were quickly knocked to the ground. Mediwizards ran across the field, guarded by a few wizards, who aimed their wands at the bodies. Wasting no time in removing masks, the mediwizards set to work at keeping them alive. One, who had landed before being attacked, took off her mask and raised her hands up, struggling to speak.
Something was wrong.
A few players from the Quidditch team rushed the field. A few spotted the female Death Eater, who was crying, and stopped.
Harry tore his eyes away from the scene and considered Severus, whose face was frozen in an emotion, perhaps fear.
"Everyone, please calm down, and cease fire. The situation is under control. Everyone—quiet! QUIET!" When the announcer's voice stopped echoing, a stillness captured the air. The spectators were so quiet that a wail could be heard from the field. Was someone dead?
"The Quidditch players who were captured by the Death Eaters have returned. All are in stable condition."
Fear, which had led the crowd to attack, now became a bitter combination of guilt and relief. For the respective players' families in the suite, it brought tears. A tall, gray-haired man beside them had, apparently, shot at his own son.
Harry, Lily, and Raven looked at each other, confused. None of them had heard anything about Quidditch players disappearing. Severus didn't say anything, nor did he break his concentration from the people on the field.
A voice once again filled the stadium, but it wasn't the announcer.
"You now see what happens when you are fearful; you assume. You think you are safe. You think you are strong. You think you can win. By injuring your own people, it shows you can be killed. You have been weak. And you will lose." This was followed by a cold, high-pitched laugh that sent shock through Harry's body. There was no pain in his scar, but it itched with the expectation.
Severus did not seem pleased to hear his Dark Lord; sweat formed on his brow, and his hands tightened around the banister of the balcony. He didn't notice that Lily had grabbed Remus' arm instead of his. However, Raven did.
No wizard came after the voice, but the effects of Voldemort's announcement sent waves of reactions through the spectators, who were no longer spectators; instead, they were witnesses of a landmark demonstration.
"After a word from the Ministry, we will continue this Quidditch game. We cannot be swayed by empty words. Our spirits cannot be broken," a man other than the announcer boomed. Finally, some order was regained as cheers rose up in the stadium.
James, however, burned with rage as he turned to them. "How dare they ruin this game? Snivellus, you had to know this was going to happen. I bet there are Death Eaters in this stadium, in this suite, even! I can't believe their protection spells didn't—What are you doing, mate?"
Remus glanced at Lily, who realized she was still gripping his arm and let go of him. "Sorry, James," he said quickly, rubbing place where her hand had been.
James paused, eyes narrowed, then his attention was caught by the field. "They're coming back on."
The mood lifted. Harry and James both seemed to think, Finally, there might be some Quidditch.
The winners of the game, the Wigtown Wanderers, went to the winners' tent after visiting the players that had been returned. James invited Lily and the other three to hang out, but they were too tired to come up with a retort other than that they wanted to sleep.
Somehow, the weariness wasn't strong enough to put them to sleep. They lay in their bunks, thinking, and eventually talking. None of the others had come so close to Voldemort, unless Severus was lying.
Harry dreamed. In his dreams, he believed the events were real, which caused panic to build inside him. When he awoke and sat up, his breathing was erratic. Explosions and screams echoed in his memory so vividly he though the sounds were coming from outside.
He realized, as he came out of the tent, that there was no attack and that he had dreamt of the Death Eaters' attack at the World Cup.
Harry started a fire in the pit in front of the tent, hoping the lull of the flames would calm him.
"James?" Violetta's voice came from beyond the light cast by the fire. She paused when she reached Harry, studying his frozen face. "You're not James." The last remnants of alcohol glowed in her cheeks.
"No," Harry agreed. He looked at his hands, which were larger than normal. Somehow, the charms must've worn off while he was dreaming.
"Okay. Why are you sitting here?"
He angled his face away from her. "I had a nightmare, and I needed some fresh air."
"Oh." Violetta sat down, eyes on him. "I know your voice. Hey, say something. I know you."
Harry had a way out of this, he knew he did, but confessing was much easier. "Yeah, you do."
Violetta laughed and nudged him. "Hey! It's Jacob! See, I'm not that drunk."
"I didn't say you—"
"Actually, I feel fine. Guess what? We won! We won! The Wigtown Wanderers! We won! Oops, people are sleeping." She laughed a little, then studied at him again. "Why do you look different?"
"This is how I actually look."
Violetta didn't notice the 'actually'. "No, no, no, no. You have blond hair, and you're thirteen." Saying this helped her mind register this. "Yeah, I'm right."
"Quiet, Violetta, sh…" Harry put a finger to his lips, she mimicked the movement. "You are right. If I tell you why, you have to promise not to tell anyone." What am I doing? Harry thought. Why am I going to tell her? C'mon, just lie. Stop, stop. You've made it almost three years without telling anyone. Fight the temptation.
"Sure. Not a soul. Cross my heart."
So he told her. At first she listened silently, and he wondered if she thought he was just telling a fairytale, an invention of his. But as Violetta sobered, she asked questions, and an hour later, when he was done, she sat in a stunned silence.
"I know you aren't lying. Not—not just because you showed me the Time-Turner gadget, but because of how you are." She wiped her eyes.
"How I am?"
"Yeah. You're much more mature than everyone else, you're quiet, I wondered why on earth you'd be friends with that Severus kid…And you're excellent at Quidditch."
Harry added some flares to the fire. "I don't know what to do now."
"You've done enough. You fucking killed He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. The very wizard who terrorized the game tonight. About that, do you know the full story? No? Well, over about two months' time, and this started in January, the Quidditch players vanished. Some when they were on missions, some after games, but always just the players."
"How didn't I hear about it?"
"We were told to not breathe a word because if everyone knew, it would've created the exact effect he wanted. To make people afraid."
"Didn't anyone notice they were gone?"
"The fans were told the players had injuries, or a delay, or something. Did you see those banners in the pitch? The Ministry announced what had happened today, because there was a mission—I think Dumbledore was involved—to rescue them or to make a deal; a few of their prisoners in Azkaban for our players. One of the players said He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named made a deal that was way to good for our side. With this, though, he made up for it."
"Am I supposed to stay here and help the cause, then? I could leave Hogwarts, join the Order…"
"I dunno, I still think you've helped them enough already. And you have people you miss, like Jenny."
"Ginny," Harry corrected listlessly. He felt worse than he had when he had woken up.
"Look, your life sucked. But it was also really, really incredible. Is it too hard to forget the evils that happened and focus on the good?"
"That's not how I feel anymore. I want to remember the good, and I can here—well, I could."
"But you have so much peace back home."
Harry felt the need to argue his case, but his points were seeming more and more childish and trivial. "It's going to be just as hard. Everyone expects so much of me. There's always going to be someone to fight. To kill."
Violetta nudged him with her shoulder. "Why don't you live that life and find out? You may be wrong."
"Yeah." He rested his head on her shoulder. Next month, I'll be 19 and a half. I've spent so much time here."
"It hasn't been all bad, right? Quidditch was fun."
"It was. You were."
"I was going to ask if you were interested in playing Quidditch for a summer league next summer. Now that I now you're a time traveler, that's probably out of the question."
"You're right, but thanks for thinking of me."
"How could I not? You're a great Quidditch player." Harry could hear the smile in her voice. "Is it tiring to constantly be with people much younger than you?"
"Listen, you may be a little angsty, and whiny—"
"…but, Harry, you are brilliant."
Harry lifted his head and they studied each other. Their legs touched.
Violetta averted her eyes. "I really shouldn't. You have Ginny."
"I know, I do. And I love her. It—it hurts, actually. Now more than ever because, well, because you remind me of her." His eyes were distant.
"Yeah." Harry gazed into the fire, then faced her. "Do you mind if I—" He leaned in, then paused. "This is purely to thank you. I needed to talk to someone, and you helped me tremendously."
"It was my pleasure," Violetta said, moving her hand to his cheek as their lips touched.
Harry was, at first, surprised by her force, but he recovered and pressed her closer to him. When the fire was reduced to embers, they drew back. Violetta got up to put out the fire, then illuminated her wand.
"Oh. You're Jacob again."
"I suppose that's good." Harry followed her to the tent. Before they went inside, she briefly squeezed his hand.
That night, he thought he could hear her sobs despite her efforts to muffle them.
In the morning, people who hadn't left already hurried off the sites rushed to leave. Violetta's parents insisted Harry, Raven, Lily, and Severus go back to Hogwarts for Easter, since the school was the safest place to be.
Over the next week, the game was the sole topic of conversation. James was happy to treat anyone who would listen to his thrilling account of the events. By the last retelling, he was claiming to have seen Voldemort.
Representatives from the Order held another meeting in the Gryffindor Tower to recruit students. This time, however, only fourth years and older were allowed to attend. When the Marauders didn't show up to the dorm, Harry knew they'd be in the common room under the cloak.
"Did you know?" Harry asked, staring at the ceiling.
"Did I know what?" Severus continued reading.
"Did you know Vol—You-Know-Who—was going to be at the game?"
"Why do you care? Anyway, he wasn't at the game, it was just his voice."
Harry sighed. It took a lot less now for him to give up when talking to Severus. "Good night." He rolled over and closed his eyes.
After a long pause, Severus said, "I didn't know for very long."
"But you did know." To this, there was no reply, and eventually Harry fell asleep.