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When Saints Die, The World Stops Spinning by forsakenphoenix
Chapter 1: When Saints Die, The World Stops Spinning
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Author's Notes: This is a companion piece to Unveiled Secrets. It was written for Lauren (Noblevyne) whom I thank for putting up with my constant complaints and for telling me to write this. Also thanks to Lauren (Acappella) and Linda (timeturner) who allowed me to bounce some ideas off of them and also had to put up with my complaints, I appreciate it. The italicised section headings are lyrics from Something Corporate's North album.
2/25/12: The beautiful banner is made by Violet Gryfindor.
4. Living in a world, created to destroy
Lily wraps her cloak tighter around her slim frame and quickens her pace. She glances toward the Forbidden Forest, ignoring the rustling of leaves and the creeping shadows, and continues toward the Quidditch Pitch. When she arrives, she looks up surprised when she hears the swishing of robes in the air and sees Peter Pettigrew flying unsteadily around the Pitch. Without a word, she climbs up the stairs and finds a seat in one of Gryffindor’s spectator boxes. She watches him, as clumsy on a broom as he is on his feet, and frowns. She wonders if he’s doing this because of Sirius, who taunted him the other day for not being able to fly. Or if it’s because of James: the captain of their Gryffindor Quidditch team and a star in Peter’s bleary sky.
Peter gasps as he veers too close to the box, finally noticing that Lily is watching him, and tumbles from his broom. Lily fumbles for her wand in the pocket of her robe. Her heart is jumping up her throat as she finally manages to grab her wand and shout a spell to slow Peter’s descent to the ground. She hears a thud as he hits the soft dirt and she rushes down the stairs.
‘Peter! Are you okay?’ she asks, kneeling down beside him.
He sits up and groans. Lily looks him over and doesn’t notice any bones jutting out at odd angles, or any blood. She sighs in relief.
‘Nothing broken, then?’
‘N-no, I don’t think so,’ he stutters. ‘You gave me a fright, Lily. I-I didn’t know anyone was watching.’
‘I’m sorry, Peter. I didn’t know you were out here. And when I saw you…’ She shrugs and gives him a faint smile. ‘Just thought I’d watch…why were you flying anyway? I thought you hate flying.’
‘I don’t hate flying. I’m just not very good at it,’ he admits, brushing the dirt off his robes and standing up. ‘And I don’t know—I guess I feel left out. James, Sirius, and even Remus know how to fly a broom better than me and Sirius is always yelling at me when I fall off my broom. So, I figured if I learned, they’d let me fly with them.’
Lily sighs and brushes the rest of the dirt off of his robes. ‘Peter…there are so many other things you’re good at. You don’t have to be good at flying to have fun with Sirius, James, and Remus.’
‘I know,’ he mutters, quickening his pace to match hers as she walks back towards the castle. ‘It’s just…flying is something they all have in common. You might not know it, but there isn’t a lot that we all have in common. We’re not as similar as everyone thinks we are…’
‘I know you aren’t. Well, Sirius and James could pass as brothers, everyone knows that. But, I think, each one of you brings a distinct personality to the Marauders as a whole. I’m not sure you would all get along if you did have a lot in common.’
‘I don’t think I bring anything special to the Marauders. I don’t even know why they’re friends with me.’
Lily stops suddenly and turns to face Peter. ‘Don’t ever say that. There are plenty of reasons why they’re friends with you,’ she says.
‘What are some reasons then?’ he questions, not angrily, but desperately. ‘Everyone says it. Why is it then, Lily?’
Peter is blinking furiously and Lily is sure that he’s going to cry. But he doesn’t. Instead, he inhales deeply, exhaling slowly and Lily marvels at his ability to control his emotions. She silently contemplates what to say next while Peter looks up at the darkened sky and gazes at the waning moon.
‘You’re loyal,’ she finally points out, breaking the carefully constructed silence.
‘Aren’t we all loyal to someone? It isn’t that hard to pledge your loyalty,’ Peter says with a sigh. ‘You just say you are and they’ll believe you.’
‘That’s not true. What about Voldemort?’ Peter flinches at his name. ‘You can’t just pledge your loyalty to him and think that you’ll get away without having to prove it to him.’
‘But we’re not talking about him. We’re talking about James and Sirius and Remus.’
‘Aren’t you loyal to them?’ she asks, carefully trying to pry away his defences.
One thing she’s learned about the Marauders is that they all hide behind smoke screens, appearing to glitter in shattered light. However, when she has them alone, they aren’t glorious, graceful men but stumbling, awkward boys.
There is a heavy silence before Peter responds. ‘Did you see? I managed to stay on my broom longer than before. A few more nights practising and maybe James will let me fly with them around the Pitch instead of sitting in the stands just watching.’
Lily smiles warmly at him and understands that, in his way, Peter is trying to tell her that he is loyal. ‘Oh yeah, you’ve definitely improved, Peter. I’m sure James will be impressed,’ she says, glancing at the distant castle and wondering if anyone has noticed that they are gone.
‘We should get back,’ Peter says, following her gaze. ‘It’s getting late and Sirius probably thinks I got lost or eaten by a giant flobberworm.’
Lily nods her head in agreement. Together, they walk back to the castle, the shadow of darkness between them fractured by the moonlight.
3. A constellation of frustration
Sirius Black is the king of all kings. He is refined and graceful. Even now, he never forgets his proper upbringing; he is polite to ladies and respectful to professors. The girls adore his casual elegance and easy laugh (they don’t see him bury his grief) and they kneel before him as he is raised up on his pedestal. He is a saint to behold, with his golden crown, dark hair and eyes like ash.
Lily is not afraid to tell him the secrets she keeps hidden beneath layers of lies, but she’s not quite sure he would understand. Sirius understands her silence more than anyone else. Her words, her secrets, are precious and fragile. In the wrong hands, they will break. No matter how gentle he is, Sirius is rough around the edges. He is not as smooth as Remus, or as careful as James. Lily knows that her secrets will break in Sirius’ hands.
Bathed in golden light, he is a shooting star. But he falls too far and too fast for them to catch him. Lily is all too familiar with long nights of firewhiskey and cigarettes, and shared kisses under veiled stars. The kisses aren’t romantic, they never are; their hearts always belong to someone else but sometimes, they like to pretend that it means something more.
His crown of gold reflects the light of his star (the brightest star in the sky) so that he always outshines everyone, even James. At times, Lily isn’t sure he likes to burn so brilliantly.
‘People expect too much of us,’ he mutters, leaning against a tree by the lake, slightly drunk.
Lily knows that sometimes Sirius falls too short of these expectations, leaving people to wonder why their bright star has burnt out. Sirius flickers and fades nowadays, tired of a broken life and a broken family, but still, he shines in fragmented light.
‘They think that we’re perfect,’ he says, ‘but we’re far from perfect, Lily. The scars on our hearts map our faults.’
She smiles and motions for him to sit beside her. When he crawls over to her and rests his head on her knees, she smoothes his hair away from his forehead. From this angle, the sun is shining just right so it appears as though Sirius is wearing a halo of sunlight.
‘Oh, glorious King,’ she says teasingly, ‘would you ever trade your golden halo for the broken sword of a soldier?’
‘When we leave Hogwarts, we will all become soldiers,’ Sirius says, looking at her gravely. ‘We will be pawns in this traditional war of good versus evil. Do you think people ever get tired of hearing about saints and martyrs and heroes? They tell us glory-tainted fragments of this war, but it is never like that. What about the ordinary people who die for this cause?’
She traces his jaw with her fingers and he turns his head to catch her fingers with his lips. ‘What would you know about ordinary people, Sirius?’
He doesn’t answer but reaches for her hand which is now resting gently over his heart and twines his fingers with hers.
When Sirius wearies of burning bright (because sunlight means unwanted exposure), he becomes as dark as a starless winter’s night. It is these moments when he needs her the most. But it is these moments when Lily finds Sirius the most frightening. He becomes unpredictable, rash, and reckless; a ticking bomb, waiting to explode.
‘C’mon Sirius, let’s get you back to the dormitory,’ she says gently, trying to pry the firewhiskey bottle from his fingers.
‘Go be a mother somewhere else, Lily,’ Sirius snarls. ‘Leave me alone tonight.’
‘Someone has to be a mother to you!’ she cries in frustration.
Sirius growls and throws the empty firewhiskey bottle at the wall of the Astronomy Tower. ‘Damn it, Lily. You…you of all people…’ he stumbles over his words but Lily can see the hurt and betrayal in his eyes.
She sits down and wraps her arms around him. ‘I’m sorry, Sirius,’ she murmurs into his hair, smelling of smoke curled around too many dark secrets. ‘I didn’t mean it that way. You know I didn’t. I wouldn’t—’
Sirius pushes her away and stands up, unsteady on his feet. He falters before leaning against the wall for support. ‘Don’t Lily—’ he says as she moves to stand up. ‘Just…don’t.’
‘Sirius,’ she whispers, ‘you know I didn’t mean it that way.’
He sighs and rubs his eyes with the heels of his hands. Lily looks up to him from the floor and thinks of how majestic he looks, standing solitarily in the moonlight.
‘My dark king,’ she says quietly.
He is still a king, she thinks, even after his golden crown fades into shadows, leaving a crown of thorns in its wake. He is a star-struck boy whom the Gods have fated to become immortalised among the living.
‘People will remember your name for a very long time, Sirius. You won’t be so easily forgotten.’
‘I’m sure my mother would be thrilled to hear that,’ he says bitterly. ‘The Black family legacy must live on.’
‘I know you must hate her, Sirius. But being angry about it isn’t going to make you feel any better. Come sit beside me,’ she says, looking up at him with imploring eyes.
He nods before sitting down beside her, looking hopeless, seeming helpless. Lily knows that he never appears so vulnerable around James, or Remus, or Peter. She gives him silent comfort, and that is all he asks for.
He buries his head in the curve of her neck and sighs deeply. ‘’M sorry for snapping at you,’ he mumbles. ‘I need you right now, more than ever.’
‘I know, Sirius. I know,’ she replies.
She forgives him again, like she has so many times before, and smoothes the worry-wrinkles on his forehead with kisses. She pretends that by doing so, she is smoothing the wrinkles in their friendship. And at times like these, she almost thinks she can.
2. The layered sadness and the madness
Remus has always been a source of comfort. Lily finds warmth and home and love in the smell of his autumn sweater. He knows her better than anyone else, though James and Sirius come close. She finds it slightly hysterical that her fiancé’s best mate knows her better than he does. And she chuckles, on the verge of tears, clutching tighter to his sweater.
Remus sits her down on the sofa in his flat and presses a cup of hot tea, thickened with honey, into her hands. It isn’t the first time Lily has shown up at Remus’ flat at one in the morning, but Lily is certain that Remus can’t possibly understand why she’s here this morning, especially when she’s getting married in ten hours.
Lily sips her tea, though the tea burns her throat going down, and her hands are shaking. Remus pulls the cup away from her and clasps her hands in his.
‘I hope I didn’t wake you,’ she says, feeling guilty.
‘Not at all,’ he replies, waving towards his cramped desk, overflowing with books and pieces of parchment. ‘I was just doing some work.’
Lily nods her head jerkily, looking around nervously. ‘Remus—’
‘Lily? What’s wrong?’
‘I’m getting married tomorrow, Remus,’ she says, toying with her engagement ring.
Remus chuckles. ‘Is that what’s wrong? You’re nervous?’
Lily shakes her head and buries her face in her hands. Remus grows sober and wraps an arm around her shoulder.
‘Hey Lily, what’s really bothering you?’
‘I’m nineteen years old, Remus. I’m too young to be getting married. I’m too young to start a family and to start a life on my own. I—I don’t think James and I are ready for such a commitment—’ She’s shaking and wiping her eyes with the back of her hand.
‘Don’t get me wrong,’ she says. ‘I love James more than anything in this world. But he can’t even take care of himself half the time, nonetheless care for a family.’
Remus kisses the top of her head. ‘You’re just getting married, Lily. You shouldn’t worry about starting a family. You’ll know when you’re ready.’
Lily sobs and is glad when Remus hands her his handkerchief without a word. Lily knows that Remus knows now; he wouldn’t be Remus if he hadn’t been able to figure out what was bothering her.
‘Is that why you’re getting married?’
Lily nods. ‘But, I’m too young to start a family, Remus. I don’t think I can do it,’ she says, her face buried in his sweater. He smells of rain and autumn leaves.
‘You’ll lead a good life, Lily, and be the perfect mother to your child,’ he whispers in her hair. ‘When the time arises, you and James will be ready. I know you will be. I have faith in you.’
Lily sits up and kisses Remus’ nose. She has always had faith in him.
‘Can I steal your beautiful wife, Prongs?’ Remus asks, approaching the newlywed’s table. James kisses her before allowing her to be swept away onto the dance floor.
‘Are you having fun, Remus?’ she asks. She laughs happily now, unlike the scared girl she was last night.
‘Of course. You look beautiful, Lils.’
He smiles at her and she thinks he looks so much younger when he smiles. She wishes that he would smile more often because he seems to be getting too old too fast. But we all are, she reminds herself. And she wonders if happiness is ever found during such a dark and trying time because she can’t remember the last time she’s seen an actual smile since she left Hogwarts.
‘A sickle for your thoughts?’ he asks.
‘Just thinking about where we’re going to be after this war is over. Do you think it’ll be over soon?’
‘Don’t worry about that now. You have your wedding to celebrate.’
Lily gives him a half-hearted smile and kisses his cheekbone, tracing a scar along his cheek, a history of pain and sadness…madness when the moon rises. And she remembers when she was younger, thinking Remus was fragile and easily heartbroken. But how could he be when he’s suffered through so much and still survived with a heart full of love and compassion?
‘This is why you’re so much courageous than I am,’ she says, kissing the scar she had been tracing. She can’t possibly fathom the pain a person goes through when transforming into a werewolf. And she doesn’t understand how scared and lost one feels when they lose complete control of their mind. But she knows that Remus Lupin is the bravest person she has ever met because he understands and still has faith and hope.
Remus shakes his head. ‘I wish I could prove to you…you’re such a brave girl, Lily, bringing a child into this world.’
‘And for marrying someone like James,’ she says, trying to lighten the mood.
Remus kisses her freckled nose and twirls her around, slowly, and Lily feels as though she’s living in slow motion, waiting for the moment when the world will speed up again and leave her behind in its ashes.
‘Be brave, Lils, and do your best. No one will love you any less, I promise.’
1. You are my reason for breathing
Any doubts Lily had the previous night vanish as she walks down the aisle. She smiles brightly (almost outshining Sirius today) as she approaches the alter. Lily never imagined marrying James Potter. In her fifth year, she would have told you that the odds of her even being friends with James were slim. But when she’s standing beside him, vows tumbling from her lips, she knows that she wouldn’t want to marry anyone else.
Lily rests her head on James’ shoulder as the reception nears an end. Her feet hurt and she’s too tired to dance, so she is barefoot, standing on scuffed shoes while James slowly dances her in circles.
‘I love you,’ James says, pulling her closer to his body.
‘I know,’ she replies. She stands on tiptoes, borrowing height, and presses a short and sweet kiss to his lips.
And it’s this memory of slowing time and sweet kisses that Lily remembers most about her wedding.
When Harry is born, James becomes the father he is meant to be. When Harry is born, a prophecy is told. ‘He could be the downfall of Voldemort,’ Dumbledore says. Our son, a hero, Lily thinks, but at what cost to us? And she thinks of Sirius with his tales of saints and martyrs and wonders if the world stops spinning when saints die.
Lily hates hiding. She does not want to appear weak or frightened. James, Sirius, Remus, and even Dumbledore tell her that it’s for her safety, for Harry’s safety. Hiding from Voldemort does not measure her courage, they say. But Lily can’t help but wonder how her life has come down to long days of watching Harry (already a year old), cleaning the house, and even longer nights waiting to see if Voldemort will make a move. They aren’t allowed to go to work anymore and the only people allowed to see them are select members of the Order. Lily feels trapped, caged in her own house. Lily hates feeling helpless.
‘I know you hate it, Lils,’ James says, pressing a comforting kiss to her temple. ‘I don’t like it any better than you. I wish that we could go out for walks with Harry, show him off to the world because he’s ours…’
‘And he’s a beautiful baby,’ she replies, thinking of jet black hair, messy like his father’s, and green eyes.
‘He has your eyes,’ was the first thing James had said when he saw their son. ‘I’m glad he has your eyes. He really looks like he’s ours.’
‘Peter should be your Secret Keeper.’ Sirius is pleading with them now, desperate to save them somehow. ‘I’m the most obvious choice. Voldemort will never suspect Peter. You know he won’t, James.’ Sirius turns to James, his last hope, because Sirius knows Lily won’t listen (too stubborn, pretty girl, brave mother).
‘Sirius, you know that I trust you with my life…’ James starts.
‘And you know that I’d never say a word. But—but if they find me and they somehow find out where you are…I couldn’t live with myself…’ Sirius looks scared.
Peter is there too and he’s nodding. ‘It’s the perfect plan, James. Voldemort will never suspect me. Sirius is your best mate. Voldemort will automatically assume that you will choose him.’
James seems to think about this for a long time. Please don’t, James, Lily prays.
‘Lily,’ James is trying to reason with her, ‘it makes perfect sense. Sirius and Peter are right. We need to keep Harry safe. You want to protect him, don’t you?’
Oh, Lily breathes heavily, this guilt seemingly too familiar. I’ve been here before. Don’t you dare do this to me, James. Don’t you dare make me choose.
‘James, please…I couldn’t bear it.’ Sirius is nearly hysterical and he’s reaching for Lily, wants to hold her, comfort her. I promise it’ll be okay, he wants to reassure her.
James makes the final decision and they decide to perform the Fidelius Charm the next night with Peter as their Secret Keeper. Sirius and Peter wave goodbye to them and Lily thinks that, standing there on their porch, Peter’s colour fades in the presence of Sirius’ brilliant light. Lily buries her head in James’ chest, wishing he smelled like the autumn, like Remus and comfort.
James is yelling at her (he’s never raised his voice to her before), ‘Get Harry and go!’
Lily knows that Peter’s betrayed them, betrayed her. He’s broken her heart.
‘That’s not true. What about Voldemort?’ Peter flinches at his name. ‘You can’t just pledge your loyalty to him and think that you’ll get away without having to prove it to him.’
Is this how you’re going to prove your loyalty, you bastard? she wonders as she runs up the stairs to Harry. Harry looks at her with wide green eyes and Lily kisses his head.
‘The world seems to be slowing, Harry,’ she whispers.
And she waits beside his cradle, waits for the world to stop spinning.