To Laura, who was an amazing help in bringing the story down from 2.200 to 1.500 words! And to my lovely beta reader Arianrhod, who pointed out plotholes, corrected mistakes and cheered the R/S moment. :-)
She wakes with a start. Listening closely into space, she only detects her own breathing in the silence. She squints her eyes at the clock. Quarter to two. Her parents surely wouldn’t come home this early?
Suddenly, she hears soft noises from downstairs. She grabs for her wand on the nightstand when another noise, wood rasping against wooden floor, turns her stomach to ice.
She crawls out from under the blankets, oblivious to the cold air against her sleep-warm skin. Grasping her wand tightly, she creeps to the door. It moans, but she continues, walking on tiptoes like a little girl. Her heart is beating so rapidly in her chest now, she is surprised that whoever is downstairs doesn't hear it.
Finally, she steps on the tiles at the bottom of the stairs, icy cold against her naked feet, and peers around the corner. Light is coming from the living room. She steps closer, the rustling of her pajamas uncomfortably loud to her own ears.
She only has to stretch out her arm to reach around the doorframe. She doesn't. Coward, she thinks angrily. At twenty-one, she should be able to deal with an intruder in her parents' living room, especially with wand in hand. That reminder, and the smooth wood against her palm both help to ease the tension.
She flinches with fright when she hears the sounds of shattering glass, followed by a softly spoken "Ouch!"
Now or never, she thinks, stepping into the doorway.
"Expelliarmus:" she shouts, swiftly catching the wand that comes flying. Seeing whom she just disarmed, however, she nearly drops it.
Standing in the middle of the room, bent over a pile of fragments, is Albus Dumbledore, looking at her in surprise.
"Oh," she says weakly. "Your wand," she offers as an afterthought, hands it to him and adds, "I'm sorry."
"There is no reason to apologise, Becky," Dumbledore says. His smile looks forced. "Congratulations on your excellent handling of the disarming spell."
"Thank you." Becky feels like she is back at school, offering an armchair to him. "Can I help you?" Politely put, considering Dumbledore gave her quite a fright. Their gazes connect and the knot in her stomach returns.
Lily and James, she thinks, a wave of fear rushing through her. Lily being Becky's cousin is the only reason Dumbledore would come here.
But that makes no sense. Sirius would never break his promise. She knows Sirius, not so close, but well enough. She has met him occasionally and went out with him once, although that evening was a disaster and he ended up kissing Remus. Sirius loves Remus and Lily, James and Harry. He would never betray them. Still, Becky's nails dig into the armrests of the chair with strain.
Dumbledore's voice sounds tired when he asks: "Your parents are not home?"
"No," she says quickly. "They are at a party. Should I call them?"
Dumbledore agrees: "That would be kind of you."
Becky walks into the kitchen and picks up the phone. The phone number glows eerily in the display as she dials her parents' hosts. She waits for the call to go through, nervously pacing. After a soft crack, a woman's voice asks with whom she was speaking.
"Rebecca here, hello, Deborah." She manages to keep the tremor in her voice under control. Deborah sounds cheerful.
"Rebecca! I should go and fetch Amy or Robert, I suppose?"
"That would be kind of you," Becky repeats what Dumbledore has just said.
"Just wait for a second!" Deborah disappears from the other end of the wire and Becky can hear the distant music and laughter. She suddenly wishes she were there with those people, simply celebrating Halloween. Trick or Treat.
The next moment her mother picks up the phone, sounding breathless. "Darling? Did something happen?"
"Dumbledore is here," Becky says softly. "He asked me to call you."
A pause. "Why?"
"I haven't asked him yet. I think he wants to wait until you are here."
"We'll be over in a minute," she promises.
The sight of Dumbledore when Becky returns to him, shoulders hunched and looking so much the weary old man that he is, frightens her. They sit together in silence until a key turns in the lock and the door opens. Amy walks in, her heels clicking on the floor.
"Albus," she greets their visitor diffidently. Dumbledore rises to his feet and bows his head slightly.
"Amy." He sees her husband walking up behind her and adds: "Robert."
Robert and Amy return the nod, then Amy sits down on the armrest of Becky's chair.
"What brings you here?" she asks anxiously. "And how did you come in? Becky seems to have turned the bell off."
Dumbledore smiles crookedly. "I was able to Apparate."
Amy and Robert, both Muggles, look surprised. Although their daughter and one of her nieces both are witches, some aspects of the wizarding world never cease to amaze them.
Dumbledore continues, taking a deep breath: "Unfortunately, I bring bad news."
Robert's face looks like it has been set in stone, while Amy’s eyes widen. Becky isn't sure about her own expression. The only thing she is sure of is the cold lump in her stomach, growing bigger with every passing second. She looks up at Dumbledore and he holds her gaze until finally saying: "I am sorry, but Lily and James are dead."
Becky closes her eyes for a moment, then opens them again. Nothing has changed. It's still the same living room, it's still Dumbledore standing there, tall, dignified and sad.
She should be in despair, she realizes. Cry like her mother. Feel anything resembling grief. The pain is there, lurking at the edge of her conscience, raw and overwhelming. But it's not yet breaking through. Right now, she is angry.
No, she is more than angry. She is shaking with rage, images of Lily, James and Harry racing through her head. Harry. She is dimly aware that Dumbledore didn't include his name when he spoke of his parents being dead, but it's too early for her to care about that.
Another picture now fills her mind, very vividly. Sirius standing there, holding James' and Lily's hands. He is looking pale but determined and his voice is steady. "I swear to protect your secret with my life."
Rage flashes through her, almost physically painful, and something white explodes in front of her eyes. There is an ear-splitting bang and a shattering of glass. Then silence.
Becky looks up to find everyone staring at her. She swallows, noticing her breath is coming in ragged pants. Cool air touches her skin and she looks at the window - or rather, what's still left of it. Glass is scattered all over the floor and charred remnants of the window-frame cling to a hole in the house's wall.
Becky catches Dumbledore's gaze. She winces when she suddenly hears his voice in her head. //I know what you are going to ask. Yes, that was you.//
She tries to answer in the same way, knowing it has worked, as Dumbledore's lips curve in a subdued but honest smile.
**But how? Everyone can do that kind of magic without a wand, but this was so much - stronger!**
//This strength is a gift that was given to your family long ago. Since then it has been passed on and on, with the death of the former heir.//
**Then it - came from Lily?**
Dumbledore nods solemnly. //She passed it on to you.//
**I don't want it!** Becky has to concentrate hard as to not shout it out loud. **It is what killed Lily in the end, isn't it?**
She both sees and feels the sigh. //In a way, yes. Voldemort killed her because she possessed a power so great it meant danger to him.//
**I don't want it. Take it back!** She sounds like a child but she can't help it. Everything inside her revolts against her 'gift'.
//It's too late for that. It's your destiny.//
**What? To die like Lily?** Suddenly she can't take it any longer and runs out of the room. Leaning against the wall outside, she tries to ban Dumbledore's voice from her head, but isn't successful.
//Lily died because the gift came to her in a time it meant danger to the one who possessed it. She used her power on Harry and kept him alive.// It is obvious Dumbledore expects a response to that, but Becky wills her mind to be silent. She feels Dumbledore give another sigh. //You are right, this is not the time for it. Just remember: it came from Lily. She wanted you to have it.// Then, he is gone from her head.
Becky gives in to the confusion and weakness she feels and slides down to the floor, Dumbledore's words repating over and over in her head. //came from Lily...wanted you to have it...from Lily//
Lily, she thinks and finally starts to cry.