Chapter 5 : The austerity of war
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- G.K. Chesterston
Sweat dripped down Sirius’ brow, dampening his silky black hair. He felt the rush of adrenaline as he shot off spell after spell at the oncoming death eaters. They were greatly outnumbered, but with James at his back he felt like he could take on the world.
The Order had received information that Rebastan Lestrange would be in Knockturn Alley that day on a special mission for Voldemort. Dumbledore had sent them, along with fellow auror Benjy Fenwick, to intercept whatever it was that Lestrange was after. Unfortunately, as they reached Knockturn Alley they had been met by over a dozen death eaters.
Despite the odds, Sirius and James were putting up a fierce battle. They fought back-to-back, their wands blurs, as they waited for reinforcements. The protective charms that Lily had made for them warded off most of the spells they were hit with. Sirius was further encouraged by the sight of several death eaters lying motionless on the ground before them.
A sense of victory swept through Sirius as the remaining death eaters began disapparating. “Did you get Lestrange?” he asked James, still eying his surroundings warily.
“No. I don’t think the git showed!” replied James, still struggling to catch his breath. “Where the bloody hell is Fenwick?” he added irately.
“Dunno. I lost track of him. You reckon he went after some of them?” asked Sirius.
“Maybe. He was fighting your dear cousin the last I saw him.” replied James.
“Knowing Bellatrix, she probably ducked into one of the shops at the first sign of trouble. She prefers devious backstabbing to head on confrontations.” Sirius said sourly.
“Borgen and Burkes?” suggested James.
“Nah. Too obvious. She’s probably joined up with her little boyfriend by now anyway.”
Feeling satisfied that they were safe for the moment, Sirius turned to face James. Blood was dripping down the side of his face onto his robes. Had it been years ago, Sirius would have been sick with concern, but these days the injuries were so common that he almost felt numb.
“Is it bad?” he asked, his voice still hoarse despite his numbness.
“Just a scratch. Why? Does it look bad?” asked James, suddenly feeling his cheek with his hand.
“You’re bleeding all over yourself.” Sirius handed him his handkerchief.
James seemed surprised at the redness of his hand as he reached for it. He began dabbing the large gash on his cheek. Sirius approached one of the death eaters that lay on the ground before them and kicked him violently.
“Fucking Dumbledore!” said Sirius furiously. “I’m gonna have a thing or two to say to him about his so-called inside sources!”
“Yeah,” James agreed as he conjured invisible bonds around the fallen death eaters “this was definitely a diversion. Why else would they have given up so easily?”
Easily? Sirius thought to himself. It was only then that he realized that, being as outnumbered as they were, the death eaters would have killed them eventually. The protective charms that Lily had made for them wore out after a certain amount of spells. A sick feeling rose in his gut, but he said nothing. After all, it wasn’t the first time that something like this had happened. James didn’t need to be reminded.
Both raised their wands warily as they heard the familiar sound of apparition. Mad-Eye Moody appeared at the far end of the alley, followed by Frank Longbottom and several other Order members. Their reinforcements had arrived.
“’Bout time!” said Sirius accusingly, his grey eyes blazing.
“We got held up ourselves.” retorted Frank defensively. He had a black eye and several gashes of his own.
Frank’s eyes widened as they fell on the six bound death eaters on the pavement in front of them. “Fuck! How the hell do you guys do it?”
Sirius grinned arrogantly and gave James a knowing look. It was always like this. They always fought better together than apart.
“Where’s Fenwick?” Moody asked after surveying the scene for intruders.
James brushed his hand through his messy black hair as his eyes darted to the ground. “We lost track of him.” he said quietly.
“How could you lose track of him?” Moody asked angrily “You were supposed to be working as a team!”
“We were bloody surrounded!” Sirius defended heatedly, pointing to the bound death eaters on the pavement.
“All the more reason why you should have been fighting alongside him!” said Moody.
“We were!” James broke in “We just got separated!”
Moody rolled his eyes at them.
“Oy! Over here!” yelled one of the aurors who had been securing the perimeter.
“Stay here and guard the prisoners.” Moody ordered Frank. “You two, come with me. Wands out!”
James and Sirius followed without another word. They reached the other auror in a side-alley beside the Creatures shop. Sirius froze when he saw a pool of blood on the ground. James rushed forward and picked up the bloodstained silver charm than Fenwick had been wearing. “Fuck...”
“Behind there” said the auror who had called them over with a shaky voice. He pointed to a space behind the garbage bins.
Sirius immediately closed him eyes after seeing it, but it was too late. The image of random body parts, bloody and gruesome, would forever be imprinted in his mind. His gut twisted in revulsion.
Lily was Headquarters, tinkering with one of the protective charms she was improving on. Although she had made some progress, she threw it back on the table irritably. She couldn’t concentrate.
It was always like this. The waiting, the worrying, not knowing whether Sirius and James would come back alive or not. The recent death of Marlene McKinnon and her family made Lily especially anxious. Marlene had been killed in broad daylight while shopping for Hogwarts supplies with her children in Diagon Alley. No less than a dozen other Order members had been similarly killed this past year. The death eaters outnumbered them at least twenty to one and they were killing off Order members one by one. No one in the Order was safe anymore.
Living at headquarters made everything particularly difficult for Lily. Although they had the entire second floor to themselves, Order members often stayed on the ground floor, particularly after an attack. It was very hard for Lily not to get attached. Caring about people came naturally for her, and it was hard not to get close to people who practically lived with you.
Lily felt her heart tear with loss every time one of them died, and it had become so frequent that the pain was just too much to bear at times. She wished she could be more like Sirius and numb it out somehow.
Realizing that she wasn’t going to get any work done, she left her research on the table and went to sit by Harry. He was playing happily on his blanket with a toy motorcycle Sirius had brought home for him.
Harry grinned at her and continued in his attempts to make motorcycle noises. Lily smiled back at him; lovingly pushing back the wisps of soft black hair that stuck out at all ends. His innocence was always soothing. At only a year old, any understanding of what was going on in the world around him was a long way off.
Living at Headquarters, Harry had become somewhat of a mascot for the Order. Even Moody would occasionally take the time to come up and see him. Harry was a very happy baby and loved to entertain. Although no one else knew about the prophecy, Harry was a source of hope for many of them.
Still desperate to distract herself from her worrying over Sirius and James, Lily took Harry into her arms and hugged him tightly. He gurgled in response and began running the motorcycle along her shoulders, sound effects and all.
Lily giggled and gave him a quick kiss on the forehead. “Alright. I know you want to play.” She put him back down on his blanket. “You are too much like your father.”
“Da!” replied Harry. He attempted to stand, but fell back onto his backside.
“He’ll be home soon sweetheart.” said Lily soothingly.
“I’m already home.” came James voice from behind her.
Relief spread through her as she spun around and threw her arms around him. “James...Oh James I was so worried.”
“You should know better than to worry about us” Sirius piped in arrogantly.
“Prat!” said Lily as she released James and hugged Sirius fiercely.
As she stepped back from Sirius, Lily noticed the large gash on James’ face. “James, what happened?” James eyes darkened as he looked down at the ground.
Sirius looked from James to Lily. “I’ll let you fix up James” he said to Lily “I think I’ll take my godson outside to play in the yard.” He smiled at them and left with Harry, pausing by the door to pick up the diaper bag.
Lily took James by the hand and led him to their bedroom. “Sit down.” she ordered and he promptly sat on the bed.
She went to her dresser to get a small jar of cleansing salve. The injuries had become so frequent that she always had some around.
She dabbed a cloth in the salve and skillfully began cleaning his cheek. She took a deep breath and tried to prepare herself for what she was about to find out. She then asked “What happened James?”
“Another ambush” he replied with a sigh.
James watched her dip the white cloth into the salve. “We lost Fenwick.” he added.
Lily’s previous sense of hopelessness returned with full force. She accidentally dropped the jar of salve onto the carpet. Her eyes were already watering.
James immediately stood to hug her. “Shh...Everything will turn out alright Lils.” he said soothingly. “We’ll win this war in the end.” he added. Lily just cried harder. It was too much. Why did this always have to happen? Why couldn’t they just live normal lives where their friends don’t keep dying around them?
She suddenly pushed James away from him, her face suddenly reddening with fury. “This will not ‘turn out alright’ James! Our friends keep dying! You could have died!”
“Not with Sirius beside me” he replied calmly.
“He could have died too!” Lily roughly wiped her face with her hand and turned away from him.
James came up behind her and gently put his hand on her shoulder. “Lils, we can’t go through this again.” he said pleadingly. “We agreed that working for the Order is too important to pass up; that we would stay and fight off the bastard that’s caused all this...”
Lily was still crying as she as she nodded unconvincingly. “But the thought of losing you...” she protested.
“I know.” James hushed her. “I love you too.” His brown eyes stared deeply into her green ones. “We’ll be o.k. Lils. I know it’s getting harder...” his voice broke off for a moment as he thought of what had happened to Fenwick. “But we have to keep believing we will win this war. For Harry.”
Lily closed her eyes and took a deep breath. James was right. She had to pull herself together. There were some things that were worth dying for and she had to accept it. The thought of Harry always helped her with that part.
“I’m sorry James.” she whispered.
He hushed her gently and pulled her into his arms. “Don’t apologize.” he said tenderly as he stroked her hair.
Lily gave a small laugh through her tears. “That’s a first!” James never passed up an apology given that he was usually the one doing the apologizing.
He smiled at her and wiped her tear-streaked face with his sleeve. “Now are you going to heal my face or am I just going to bleed all over the place?” he asked cheekily.
“Alright. Sit.” she ordered as she pushed him back onto the bed.
Once healed, James gave her a small kiss. “Thank you.” She smiled back at him.
He took off his tattered black boots. “I’m exhausted!” he pronounced and lay back onto the bed. “I’m going to sleep for awhile.”
James stared at her intensely for a few moments before raising his eyebrows suggestively. “Care to join me?”
Lily gave another laugh. “I thought you were exhausted!”
“There are some things I’ll always have the energy for.” said James through a smile.
Lily smiled back. “I’ll come join you in a bit. I just want to go check on Sirius. You know how he is.”
James nodded. Sirius had a galling tendency of hiding his injuries, often making them worse than they already were. It infuriated her when he did it, but she doubted it would ever change. Sirius was just like that. He didn’t like to admit when he needed help. She supposed his family had a lot to do with it.
Lily also really needed to see Sirius for a different reason entirely. She had to know exactly what had killed Fenwick and Sirius knew more about the dark arts that almost everyone in the Order. He’s usually the one who helped her figure out the spells the death eaters were using against them. She needed to know the exact spells so she could make protective charms to counter them.
When Lily reached the yard, she stifled a laugh. Under the oak tree, a big black dog was running around a crawling Harry, his tail wagging excitedly. The toddler giggled happily and grabbed at Sirius’s ears.
Lily loved watching Sirius play with Harry. Her son loved dogs, and Lily knew he would be safe with Sirius. They would sometimes roll around for hours, both having the same boundless energy.
When she walked onto the grass, Sirius gave her a small bark of acknowledgement. He then bolted right for her.
Lily suddenly found herself with her back to the ground and a big black dog on her chest. He licked her cheek, his tail still wagging excitedly. “Ewww! Sirius get off!” said Lily, unable to suppress a laugh. Harry giggled in approval and crawled over to join them.
Sirius gave another bark before getting off of her and transforming back into his human form. “Sorry Lily. ‘Got carried away.”
Lily rolled her eyes. “I take it you’re alright then?” she asked seriously.
“Always.” He smiled arrogantly.
Lily gave him a severe look. “Sirius.” she said warningly.
“I swear it Lily! I’m fine. Not a scratch.” said Sirius earnestly.
Lily nodded in acceptance.
Sirius stared at her searchingly. “Was there anything else Lils?”
Lily bit her lip nervously and her eyes darted to the ground.
“You want to know what happened to Fenwick, don’t you?” asked Sirius.
Lily nodded hesitantly, taking in the haunted look that appeared in his fathomless eyes.
Sirius nodded in understanding. He had known she would come to ask him about it. “We lost track of him in the battle. I didn’t hear what they hit him with.”
“But what happened to him? Was it the Avada Kedavra or something else?” asked Lily.
“Lily, I don’t think there’s anything that could have protected him against that spell. Not this time.” said Sirius solemnly.
“But I can try. Sirius, this is what I do. I need to know what he was hit with. Tell me what happened.” She took his hand and squeezed it gently, looking at him pleadingly.
Sirius sighed. “There wasn’t much left of him. Only a few small pieces and a lot of blood.”
Lily’s face fell as the horror of it struck her. What kind of person would use that kind of spell on another living being? The same kind of person that would murder a child, she answered herself; a death eater.
“Sirius, I know you hate talking about this, but I have to ask.” Lily hesitated for a moment, gauging his reaction.
Sirius sighed and pushed his dark hair back. “You want to know if I’ve heard of this spell before, if I’ve seen anyone in my family use it, or if I at least know where you could start looking.”
There was a bitterness in his voice that made Lily almost regret asking him. She knew that he hated knowing so much about the dark arts. She also knew that he felt a tremendous amount of guilt for his family’s position in the war. But she still had to know.
Sirius looked down at the grass and thought for a moment. “I’m going to need more time to think about it.” he said dismally, forcing a smile. “We’ll talk about it tomorrow.” Lily nodded understandingly.
“I think my godson needs a nap.” said Sirius, looking down at a Harry. He was sitting up on the grass but his eyes were drooping. Sirius picked him up and walked back to the house with Lily.
James stood by the back door; his brown eyes were alert and clearly troubled. “Dumbledore just called an emergency Order meeting.”
“About Fenwick?” asked Sirius.
“No. Something else.” replied James.
“I’ll just go put Harry to bed then.” said Sirius.
“No.” said James sadly. “It’s not safe anymore. Dumbledore said to bring him to the meeting.”
A/N: I just wanted to thank my reviewers for all their support. There will be one final chapter, probably out by the end of next week.
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