Blood pumped feverously through his legs as James chased after the blur of red hair in front of him. He had almost fallen victim to her surprisingly sharp instincts until he had magically muffled the sound of his charging footsteps. He was almost annoyed that she could run so fast. Yet, as she ran, he ran faster. He had to know what she was up to. Determination swelled within him.
Lily then suddenly made a sharp turn down the fourth floor’s south hall. The flat heels of her shoes were echoing loudly throughout the castle, though she moved with grace and agility. Her robes were swiftly billowing behind her in a rush of black folds. The constraints of her pinned hair were swiftly starting to loosen. Every time James thought she might have hesitated to make a wrong turn, she instantly darted in a specific direction. James was so close that he could hear her rapid breathing.
Over and over he kept reassuring himself that he had heard his name. And if she thought that she could hide her secrets any longer, then she was sorely mistaken. James had enough of her games. He wanted to shake some sense into her when scenes of her fall flashed brightly in his mind. A dark mood came over him. Evans had always been the top witch at Hogwarts, but she was either too ambitious or too stubborn to realize that she wasn’t all powerful to where she would risk her own skin. James was led to believe that she was too stubborn, as she had always been.
Lily’s heart pounded with fear and apprehension. She ran as if her life depended on it. Every spare moment, between arduous breathing, she darted her sharp green eyes to the cautious sense of danger lurking around her. At every approaching step, the dark, eerie halls mystically illuminated its torches on her arrival. When the torches magically extinguished behind her, she felt the blackness of the empty castle shiver up her spine.
Before James could even realize, Lily had led him to the same courtyard as the other day. Extreme loathing for every Slytherin alive throbbed in his veins when he remembered what Malfoy had said. That day he could have lost his temper completely if, to James’ reluctance, it weren’t for Lily’s interference. James suddenly felt humiliated. He knew that if he were to act somewhat like a Head Student, then he should have done the same.
James was silently relieved when she had stopped running. He quickly caught his breath. James stood there patiently and watchfully as he waited for her next movement.
Lily however, immediately recovered from the run, and stood perfectly calm near the babbling, stone fountain. The sound of spilling water was all that filled their ears. James stared with a confused brow as he saw her look to her right. There was nothing there, but she began to listen intently. On her face, he could tell that she was taking mental notes on everything she saw; every stone, pillar, and gargoyle. She then slowly turned to her left. Her breathing was now returning to normal. She was staring blankly at the single, low branched tree that grew on the outermost edge of the courtyard. James knew she wasn’t looking, but instead she was trying to tune into her other senses. She was searching for something.
James, blind to everything but his curiosity and observance, strode towards her. The way that she let her instincts guide her was hypnotizing. He then dangerously stood within an arm’s length of her presence. A natural comfort filled him. Her sweet perfume was intoxicating.
Then in one lightning and sudden movement, Lily had her slim wand pointed directly at him. James sucked in a breath of surprise and his hazel eyes widened with shock. Although James twitched in surprise, he knew that she saw nothing. It was written clearly on her pretty face. She listened to everything. James almost thought that she could feel him there before her. The sensation pulsed through them both. Though, just in case, James stepped to the side of her protruding wand.
Before James could breathe, he knew he had made a mistake.
Lily had flinched at the feel of the silken texture against her skin and in that immediate moment, she had blindly reached out her hand. As soon as she grabbed the cloak, she pulled.
Her face went blank with what she saw. The scene seemed to slow before her. The now apparent cloak was falling to the ground in waves of rich velvet. Through the slow billows, James could only watch as the invisibility was ripped away from him. His breath was lost. They both were taken aback at seeing each other.
The scene then lurched back to reality when Lily swiftly lifted her outstretched palm. Fire burned in her emerald eyes as she came within inches of slapping him. James never flinched. Infuriated at his arrogance, Lily threatening held her wand at his throat instead.
James was so amused by the hatred on her face, that he lifted an eyebrow at her. In immediate response, Lily brought the tip of her wand to the flesh of his neck. Her glare began to pierce.
After what felt like ages, James glanced down at her wand, then at her face again with a slight smirk on his lips and said, “Planning on killing me, Evans?”
His words stung her more than what Lily had anticipated. However, she was unfailing in her frustration and jabbed none too lightly against his throat. James slightly choked. Lily then forced her steps toward him and he walked backwards at her silent command.
She lowered her voice and spoke abruptly as she made him slam his back against a stone pillar. “Killing you would be far too easy!”
“What a pity,” he teased her, taking a few glances at her wand then back to her face again. “I always thought that you placed your perfect record on a pedestal.”
The sting of her slap sent his entire face to one side. Lily fumed. He lifted his hand to his smacked cheek, stunned at how much force she carried with her. He flexed his jaws as he liberally considered her threatening stares.
Then before she could do it again, James masterfully caught grasp of her slim wrist. When their eyes met, Lily’s was wide with sudden surprise. She felt like a child compared to his tall demeanor. Lily struggled to rip herself away from him, but he was much stronger than she . . . and more determined.
“Let go of me!” she scolded.
Those deep, hazel eyes behind round glasses took hold of hers in silent demand. She unwilling complied, and stopped struggling, but James still didn’t let go. Instead he brought her closer. His body language was like a spell cast over her. She had no control, and it ate away at her.
His deep, baritone voice dictated seriousness when he next spoke. Lily was expecting some sarcastic remark or flare of charm, but instead he asked her, “What the hell are you doing, Evans?”
He was doing the same thing as he did on the wooden bridge. Yet, this time he would not let her go. She could see it in his eyes.
Both of their minds flew back to what happen on the day of the storm. With a gentler tone, James added, “You owe me at least that much.”
“Owe you?” she scoffed. She then managed to tear her wrist from his grasp. “I don’t owe you anything!”
He immediately ignored her words. Her pride was mildly infuriating his patience. The two of them lock glares before James began to walk away from her. The silence was stifling. When he turned around he had a serious expression on his face, until he chuckled ironically to himself, “You won’t budge will you, Evans?”
She was both desperate and tiresome. “I tried to apologize—!”
“Damn your apologizes, Evans! Tell me the truth!” he shot back.
The two Head Students were on the verge of attacking each other with their stinging stares. James was throwing her challenging raises of his brow as Lily let out an irritated breath and snapped her gaze away from him. She then forced herself to be patient and folded her arms across her abdomen. Though before the few quiet moments were over, James stopped observing her and shot his head towards the sound of running feet and heavy panting. Lily turned too.
Siofra Wallace, a fifth year prefect from Ravenclaw, was running at a dead-fast pace to reach the two of them in the courtyard. What worried James and Lily the most was that she had a bleeding cut on her cheek and her wand was clenched in her fist.
“James! Lily!” she wheezed at she practically tripped into the courtyard.
James brow furrowed in confusion. “What’s going on?” he demanded.
“Who did that to you?” Lily was more interested on the paled look in her eyes and the dripping blood from the gash on her face.
“Aur— . . . Aurors!” Siofra tried to spit out as she sucked in cold, night air. “I . . . came as fast . . . as I could!”
James could feel his muscles tense. He could almost predict what she was about to say next. Lily was confused and cautious at what dark possibilities lurked in her mind.
“A man was found at the main gate,” Siofra quickly explained, now finally regaining her footing. “He tried to attack Minister Procer and some other officials as they were leaving.”
“A Death Eater?” James interrogated.
“Death Eater?” Lily asked James, confused. She had heard that name before. “That’s just some cult name the Slytherins call themselves—“
“That’s what worrying the professors,” Siofra continued, not hearing Lily’s last comment, but instead focused on James’ question. “He wasn’t a wizard.”
The castle’s giant, main doors were standing open as dozens of aurors and professors piled onto the main foyer. The scene was chaos. A witch wearing the uniform blue cloak of the aurors was being levitated by her comrades with great care. With the velvet hood hanging from her neck, her deathly pale complexion was frightening, though she was still conscious. Madame Pomfrey, the usually kind-natured healer, was now ordering all those around her for supplies and assistance, looking very frail and worried.
Many others swarmed into the castle with anger and defeat etched horrifically on their windblown faces. The Ministry officials looked both furious and stunned.
When Siofra led James and Lily towards the commotion, Professor McGonagall was the first to see them. She was surrounded by the other prefects who had been on their nightly rounds. The variety of fifth, sixth, and seventh year students were shaken at the sight around them. Those who had been abruptly risen from their sleep looked exhausted and clueless.
“Mr. Potter! Miss Evans!” McGonagall exclaimed, relieved to see them.
“Professor, what’s happening?” Lily said in an unexpectedly level and calm voice.
“An intruder,” replied a foreign voice.
Before the Transfiguration teacher could reply, McGonagall’s voice went dry and humbly stepped aside. Behind her was a tall witch wearing very intricate, silver robes and a high pointed, black hat tilted to one side. Her features were not remarkable, but her expression was highly intimidating as she scrupulously looked over the young pair before her. Her eyes seemed to soften in acceptance.
“You must the Head Students, I presume?” she said smoothly.
James was about to reply but the witch cut him off like a blade. Instead she glance him over with more regard. She asked McGonagall, “Is this Eleanor’s son, Minerva?”
“Yes, Minister,” McGonagall beamed, despite the circumstances.
Lily was more cautious than ever. She had never met the Minister of Magic before. According to the Prophet, only a handful of people ever saw her. Minister Procer had an unbreakable reputation of being allusive.
“Incredible . . .” Procer murmured to herself. “He looks exactly like his father. I would consider that a complement, Mr. Potter.”
“Thank you, Minister,” James replied politely, obviously used to hearing such complements.
At his side, Lily was keeping her gaze to herself, remaining quiet. Though inside, Lily couldn’t believe how high in rank the Potter Family was. For years the Prophet retold their acts of heroism and wealth. Lily always found the wizarding world to be illustrious, but the Potters somehow seemed more than that.
“And you, dear girl?” spoke the calm voice. “You are?”
Lily respectfully gave the Minister her attention, but the reluctance to give her name was creeping all over her. She was not of the wizarding world as they all were, as the Potters. She didn’t belong entirely.
“Lily Evans, Minister.”
For a stiff moment, the Minister said nothing. She had a look of displeasure on her face. “Yes . . . yes I thought so . . .”
“Minister?” Lily said confused. She felt as if she was being accused.
“Professor—“ the Minister quickly said, ignoring any further questions and returning her attention to more important matters. When McGonagall turned to the Minister, Lily saw worry behind the glasses perched on her thin nose. Nonetheless, the Minister continued, “I see that you have all your prefects in attendance— my apologies for interrupting their sleep— but I am ordering all students to the Great Hall, immediately, and need their assistance.”
Herman Vostroy, a sixth year prefect from Hufflepuff in his plaid pajamas, spoke up before the Minister turned to leave. “Excuse me, Minister, but why the Great Hall? What’s going on?”
As allusive as ever, the Minister sidetracked the question as she looked again to James and Lily. “I require the both of your assistance in this. No exceptions. Afterwards you both are to report to the Headmaster’s office . . . am I clear?”
Lily sensed something more feeling in those pale eyes of the elder Minister. Outwardly, she stood with perfect posture and a respectful, washed expression on her face. Yet Lily knew that the Minister was hiding something.
As other officials rallied to the Minister’s side, Lily glanced upward at James, needing to know if he felt the same warnings as she did. He was looking out to see the Minister leave, studying every detail. Seeing only his defined profile high above hers, Lily almost thought herself foolish for even thinking of such comfort from him. She was about to turn away when he caught a glimpse of her seeking, emerald eyes upon him.
It was not his irritatingly handsome grin that she saw. Only a serious expression and his hazels eyes staring knowingly at her. Their thoughts were the same. And in that moment, Lily felt as though all she ever knew about James Potter . . . was all a misconception . . .
Lily looked away. To her surprise, James said nothing. He only commented in agreement when she began to dictate orders to the prefects.
“Whaaaat?” groaned Sirius as he sleepily turned in his sheets and slapped his pillow over his face.
James had routinely waved his wand at the candles sconces and they lit to a sharp brightness. The light was an uncomfortable contrast to the slumbering darkness that had once been. James looked to his empty four-poster bed and could feel the need to sleep teasing him. It must have been one in the morning already. He brought his hand to his eyes and tried to massage them awake, his knuckles nudging against his glasses.
“You’ve been awake all this time?” Remus managed to say as he yawned.
“What’s going on?” spoke Frank as he brought himself out of bed. He was not in the least surprised to see James still dressed in his robes. For his entire time at Hogwarts he had shared the same dormitory with the Marauders clan, and so was use to their trouble and stupid antics. The four other boys were always annoying and arrogant, but he was growing slightly tolerable of their mischievous behavior.
“Everyone has to go to the Great Hall,” James answered as he threw Sirius a shirt.
Sirius caught it with ease. “What are you talking about?”
“They think someone is trying to get into the castle.”
“Huh?” Peter yawned. The pudgy boy was trying to untangle himself from his sheets as soon as James had barged into their room. His dull yellow, patchy hair was an absolute mess. Having been spoiled by his aunt, Peter was not accustomed to having his sleep interrupted. “What? Who?”
Remus, still beaten and weak, was now fully awake and standing, supporting his weight on one of the posts of his bed. James was happy that he was getting better; still shaken, but better. However, Remus was still not ready to face the public, since he winced at every sudden movement. James precariously glanced from Frank to Remus, hoping that Frank wouldn’t suspect anything. James knew Sirius was thinking the same.
“You feeling alright, Lupin?” Frank asked. For years Frank always seemed to believe Remus’ immune system to be easily susceptible to sicknesses, but he still wore suspicion on his face. The Marauders always had to be careful around Longbottom.
“Fine,” Remus supplied. He then turned to James, eager to pry himself away from Frank’s questions. “Who tried to get in?”
“Muggle?” Sirius exclaimed. He crossed the room to where James stood. “How the hell did he get here?”
Peter trudged out of bed and was fumbling through his trunk to find his wand, something that he always misplaced. While rummaging, he mumbled offhandedly, “I’d bet Snape would know.”
They were all caught off guard by the remark. James looked to Sirius, but he was looking at Remus. Remus then spoke up. “Why would Snape know anything?”
“It’s not like knows much to begin with . . .” Sirius muttered cynically under his breath. Normally James would have snickered in agreement, but this time he was thinking of more serious matters.
Now realizing that all eyes were on him, Peter nervously turned to face his roommates.
“What’s Snape have to do with anything?” James demanded.
“He always knows something, doesn’t he?” Peter managed to spit out, still extremely nervous.
Remus rolled his eyes. “More specific, if you please . . .”
“Well . . . um . . .” Once Peter found the courage to speak, he fired his words rapidly. “Now, you must realize that he didn’t notice me at all—“
Sirius quickly scolded, “You stole the cl—“
Sirius stole a quick glance at Frank and stopped his words.
“What’d he steal?” he asked.
“I didn’t steal it!” Peter argued defensively, looking like a little boy compared to the other tall figures in the room. “I was just borrowing it, and I returned it, didn’t I? Anyway, I was only trying to get a snack from the kitchen—“
“You were out after hours?” Frank asked accusingly. His brow was raised with suspicion.
“Is it that so surprising, Longbottom?” Sirius teased.
“— when Mulciber and Snape were—“
“Mulciber?” asked Remus.
“Shhh .” said James. “Let him tell the story.”
On James’ cue, Peter reluctantly continued. “See . . . I saw Mulciber and Snape coming down the hall—arguing about something— and I heard Snape saying something about ‘it being easy to smuggle in’ and Mulciber said that his dad was making sure that the Minister would be here.”
James’ expression went dark with contemplation. He was formulating every possible meaning.
When the Marauders reached the Great Hall, all of the long tables had been magically slapped against the walls as to make room for the hundreds of purple sleeping bags. The arisen students of Hogwarts all swarmed into various social circles and groups, buzzing with fear and bafflement. However as soon as the four seventh years from Gryffindor were within eyesight, the noise dropped to murmurs and whispers.
“Seven years and we still make an entrance, eh Prongs?” Sirius whispered to James.
A group of small fourth years from various houses, sitting cross-legged on their claimed sleeping bags, stared most intently on the four. Admiring whispers behind hands were passed as they watched everyone clear a path for the Marauders.
Peter Pettigrew was no one’s particular favorite. He was a lump of a boy that always trailed after James and Sirius, always a tool to do the popular pair’s doing. Peter, looking pudgier than ever in his peach dressing robe, now trudged in James and Sirius’ wake.
Sirius Black was undoubtedly the most handsome of rebels with his long, unruly black hair and darkest of eyes. He was a head taller than most with a sharp, athletic stance and notoriously known for abusing the Hogwarts uniform. Many of the girls now smiled at his disheveled appearance, for Sirius paraded through the crowded Great Hall in nothing but hastily-put-on shoes, pajama pants, and a simple shirt.
Though, from Sirius to James, the room’s attention seemed to switch instantly. James Potter, the new Head Boy, had always been the talk of the castle ever since they heard his family name and seen his remarkable talent for quidditch. The handsome heartthrob of Hogwarts was much like his best friend, unruly black hair, though not as long as Sirius’, with royal features and his trademark glasses. Potter and Sirius were equally charming, but it was James who was more glorified. Walking through the hall, he was an authority figure in his black school robes and golden badge.
However, despite Sirius’ flirting glances or James’ demanding presence, it was Remus Lupin that was the subject of all their murmurs. The pale faced boy with messy brown hair and ghastly slashes across his cheeks and forehead.
“They say his dad’s killed fifty people!” they were saying.
“His been sent to you-know-where—“
“Do you think he’s behind the attack?!”
“Who knows if he can be trusted around here . . .”
“Idiots,” Sirius muttered as they made way through the gossiping crowds. Remus, however, lowered his head in anger and humiliation.
When James finally caught sight of Lily his face went blank with worry. As he approached her unnoticed, she was frantically questioning two fifth year prefects from Hufflepuff. She looked exhausted.
“What is it?” James interrupted.
Lily stopped in mid sentence to see the Marauders standing behind her. The first thing that she had expected was their teasing or rude remarks. Since their last year at Hogwarts began, she barely had spoken a word to any of them. Nonetheless, the memory of them starting yet another fight with the Slytherins was still burning inside her. They were all still hot-headed and immature.
Her eyes then caught sight of the bruises and scars on Remus’ tired face. She felt her chest strain with concern. Remus had always been a little more kind to her than the others. “Are you alright, Remus?”
“I picked a fight with the whomping willow,” he masterfully lied with a sorrowful grin, still hearing the crowds gossip about him and his father. Still, there was a joking glimmer in his eye. “Obviously I lost.”
Lily was still worried, but she quickly addressed the problem to James. “One of the girls from Hufflepuff saw the man that tried to get in the castle.”
“My point, Potter, is that she recognizes him.”
James was now intrigued. He cautiously guided her away from the crowds and up onto the raised platform where the professors usually sat. Everyone noticed the two and began to comment.
Lily was slightly embarrassed. “Everyone’s staring.”
“Does it matter?” he teased. “Now, what about the muggle?”
“The girl keeps saying that he’s the man that sells the London Times right outside of the entrance to the Ministry.” When James still didn’t understand, she pressed on. “My father buys his newspaper from him all the time. Sometimes I go with, and when I first met him he immediately recognized me to be a witch. He said his nephew is a wizard and works for the Ministry.”
“Then why would he be attacking the Minister if his own nephew works for the Ministry?” asked James.
“Who knows,” said Lily. “For all we know he could have been placed under the Imperious Curse by his nephew to reduce suspicion. They could be trying to kill the Minister.”
Unexpectedly, James began to grin.
“What?” demanded Lily.
“You’d be a great auror, you know that?”
“Could you concentrate for once!” she bitterly expelled under her breath. “Don’t you realize what’s going on? The—“
“The Dark Mark and now this . . . “ James thought aloud. He brooded over the details, trying to find an answer.
Lily didn’t appreciate being interrupted, but under the sudden circumstances, she was sensing the same dark presence about the halls of Hogwarts as he was. In silent agreement, they kept this to themselves and turned to leave the Great Hall side by side to the Headmaster’s tower. All were watching as they left, frightened of what was happening.
She didn’t know what to do with her hands. It had felt so natural to hold her wand as Lily stared blindly at it. The slender, polished wood had an intricate design on the handle, something that she had never really noticed.
Events were unfolding so rapidly that it took a second glance before she finally placed it inside her robes. James watched her from the slight corner of his eye. If she could, she would have avoided it.
Lily and James had been waiting outside the Headmaster’s door for well over an hour. Inside Lily could hear various witches and wizards shouting and arguing their opinions and advisement to a silent Dumbledore. His voice wasn’t heard even once. Lily imagined him to be sitting behind his large desk, never looking at the others in the eye, and deeply concentrated in his own thoughts, half listening.
Meanwhile, on the last stone landing of the high tower, Lily and James never spoke a word to each other. James stood at the arched window with his back slightly to her. He supported his casual stance on his shoulder blade against the rough, stone wall. His arms were folded as he stared out across the awakening landscape.
Lily sat on the opposite side of the landing, glad for the discrete distance between them. Her legs were aching from her duties around the castle. She rested her back against the curved wall. Lily was grateful for any kind of rest. Her eyes were beginning to drift to a much needed sleep. All her muscles yearned for a bed.
A sudden noise caused her to look to the window. The giant castle clock struck five times.
Lily let out a stiff groan. James turned, and Lily dropped her gaze far away from him.
“Tired?” he asked.
Lily said nothing. Instead she tried reading into what he meant. Oddly enough, she thought that he was actually looking after her. There was a pulsing silence between them, as if they were both going to say something. The door then suddenly opened.
Professor Slughorn had his plump hand on the doorknob and an exhausted expression on his face. The potions master was not nearly as tall as James, Lily noticed. He was a very old-fashioned wizard with a well molded hairstyle and walrus beard. He wore old Victorian robes and his protruding stomach was threatening to burst open the silver buttons of his shirt-vest.
Lily never really felt comfortable around Slughorn. His potion classes were never as educational as Lily wanted for the professor would always interrupt his lessons and pry into the lives of his most “famous” students. Many a times Lily had to avoid countless invitations to his “Slug Club”. From what she heard from Kingsley, Slughorn’s parties were unbearably dull and filled to the brink with cocky showoffs. No doubt Potter and his friends never failed to be in attendance. And why her? She was Head Girl, but she had been bombarded with Slughorn’s attention since her first year.
Now, Professor Slughorn had a hint of surprise and confusion in his eyes as if he weren’t expecting them. Lily quickly stood and James turned away from the window.
“Great Merlin!” exclaimed Slughorn. “Lily Evans? And James Potter? Have you been here this entire time?”
“We were told to meet the Minister here,” answered James.
“And you’ve been waiting?”
Lily nodded. “We didn’t want to interrupt.”
“I see . . .” Slughorn then stepped to the side of the doorway and showed the way in. He put on a friendly smile. “Ah, well come in, of course.”
Lily felt reluctant to face the members of the Ministry, but James held his arm out for her to go ahead of him. A shadow of second thought darkened her eyes when she noticed that, even in his subconscious movements, he was being chivalrous. Lily diverted her eyes as she stepped into the dull shadows of the Dumbledore’s office.
There were mumblings instantly following them as James and Lily walked into the center of the cold, circular room. They saw no faces. Every person that surrounded them was a dark figure or shadow, whispering their comments and seething their objections. Only the dying firelight lit the room. Everything else, countless bookcases and immobile inventions, were cloaked in black outlines.
Lily and James seemed to be alone against all their stares. Lily caught herself looking at James. He looked so defensive towards them all, not intimidated at all. James then looked to Lily. Lily said nothing as she turned away.
“I trust everything went well?” Dumbledore asked them.
He sat upon a high dais behind his giant mahogany, tired beyond all possibility but calm with wisdom gleaming through his eyes. Even his blue wizard’s cap had been pulled off and laid lifelessly on near his folded hands. Though as exhausted as he seemed, the old professor considered his students with a hint of an apologetic smile on his thin lips.
Lily could only nod. The room was getting stuffy. It was if they all staring at her, seeing through her. She only felt more pride swimming in her stomach. Her mind built walls against them. Lily only had to feel James’ presence to know that he was doing the same.
It was if Dumbledore was going to say more, but Professor McGonagall quickly interrupted.
“Albus, please,” she begged. “It’s much too late for this now.”
“Of course, Minerva,” Dumbledore said. Most sincerely did her notice the fatigue on James and Lily’s face. “Perhaps we should conclude this subject for another—“
An ancient looking wizard with a craned back and raised brow fumed with retort. “This cannot wait!”
“Zhere eez too much at hand!” a French wizard exclaimed passionately with a thick accent.
“The Death Eaters!”
An accusing finger was shot at James and Lily. “They know, Albus!”
The room then spun uncontrollably with their shouts and objections. Professor McGonagall tried to reason with them all, but it was Professor Dumbledore who shot up from his seat and shot sparks from his wand in a deafening roar.
“ENOUGH!” he commanded.
The arguing ceased. Lily shifted nervously as James darkened his gaze. The silence was deadly.
“Enough of this arguing, friends,” Dumbledore began as he sat in his seat once more, assured of their cooperation. “You are all rightly are concerned for the arrest of these criminals, but myself and the other members of this school’s staff are more concerned with the safety of it’s students. We achieve none of our goals by blasting in each other’s eardrums.”
They all reluctantly heeded his words. A few of them even sat down in the scattered lounge chairs. Even from the black shadows of the room’s corner, the Minister was compliant and willing to compromise. Her arms were folded in concentration. However she was not slow to move her sharp stare to James. He didn’t waiver from her studious eyes.
“Your friend is very ill, yes?” she challenged.
Confused of what she meant, Lily looked to James. He dropped his gaze. The muscles in his jaw flexed in dark thought, as if planning his next words. He then looked up to the Minister.
She continued as she glided towards the fireplace. The click of her heels was menacing.
“Mr. Aurelius Lupin is to be executed, as you may already know,” Minister Procer began offhandedly. When she caught sight of James’ involuntary clenching of his jaw, she added with a turn of her heel. “Or perhaps you didn’t . . .”
Lily wanted to slap the Minister so hard that her nails dug painfully into the palm of her hand. The cruelty in the voice of the magical Prime Minister made Lily’s heart turn with fury and loyalty for Remus. He had always been a friend to her.
Lily glanced once more to James. Was it hard for him as well? Lily couldn’t imagine how’d she feel if Alice or Frank were in Remus’ place.
Lily then looked to Dumbledore for hope, a sign of any kind, but he could only share the same worry. Hope seemed to be disintegrating. Lily felt a warm tear drip from her eye.
“I’m surprised your parents haven’t said anything to you,” said the Minister to James.
“Either way, Adrenna,” Dumbledore hastily added on. “I would like to speak to the Head Students in private. I will review the safety procedures you have suggested and send word. Professor McGonagall and Professor Slughorn will see you out.”
On cue, McGonagall and Slughorn began to herd the officials, aurors, and diplomats out the door. Some mumbled their objections, but they all heeded Dumbledore’s request.
The door then slammed to a close.
It was a long moment of tense and awkward silence. Lily felt lost. A tear still stained a trail on her pale cheek. She slowly wiped it away, feeling tired and useless.
The sound of birds awakening caught her ear. Out past a giant open window was a gray morning. The sun was beginning to rise from behind the highland mountains. Beautiful streaks of violet and red bled through the sky.
“You must both be tired,” Dumbledore softly began as he moved around his desk and stepped down from his dais. He was now at their level, looking at them over the tops of his half-moon spectacles. His face was weary and genuine. “I am sorry for all of this.”
The two of them said nothing.
James glanced to Lily. He saw her tear and immediately looked away. He never knew that she cared so much for Remus. Suddenly James felt confused and mistaken at the same time. He realized that he only knew half of what she was.
Meanwhile, Dumbledore fixated his eyes at the closed door.
“If anyone wanted to know why I never joined the Ministry of Magic,” Dumbledore said aloud, “there you have it. Also, you both are probably wondering as to why you are here . . .”
Dumbledore glanced back and forth between James and Lily, waiting for a reply.
“No? Well I shall make it easy for you then . . .” he then crossed to an ornate lounge chair by the large window. He casually slumped in the huge chair, sweepingly gazed out the window, positioned his elbows on the stuffed arms of the chair, and placed his folded hands under his nose in concentration. “You see— Mr.Potter and Miss Evans— that tower has been barricaded for precisely nine-hundred and eighty-three years . . . for a very important reason.”
Lily couldn’t breathe. The room felt like it was spinning uncontrollably. The very fact that Dumbledore spoke of the tower made anxiety and fear swell within her throat. Her green eyes were lost in her thoughts.
James felt her uneasiness and said nothing. He hardly knew anything of that day. He was speechless.
With one curious brow raised, Dumbledore continued. His usual calm, soothing voice now deepened to utter seriousness. “You have now both seen the Dark Mark, and I have no doubt that you are both beginning to understand how dangerous these times are.”
Lily’s eyes then met those of the headmaster. She wanted to turn away but he held her direct stare.
“The tower contains unyielding magic, Miss Evans . . .”
Dumbledore then switch his blue eyes to James and then back to Lily. Lily’s reeling thoughts felt naked to his stare. It was as though he knew everything.
“It is powerful magic,” Dumbledore told them, “but not necessarily true magic. The truth cannot be revealed so easily to those who are . . . fearful.”
The Killing curse’s evil green light shot across her eyes. She blinked away the memory, numb to the pain after so many nightmares. She only stared at the ground blankly.
“Professor?” James suddenly asked, feeling useless to even attempt to understand what Lily was thinking. “What about the Minister?”
“Yes,” Dumbledore muttered quietly. “Yes that is most disturbing . . .”
“And how did the muggle get in?” James interrogated.
“Ah, the muggle . . .” Dumbledore stood from his seat and began to pace the floor.
“The muggle was the relative of Edgar Eddleston, an official from the Department of Magical Transportation. Which makes perfect sense since the muggle seems to have suffered from splinching.”
Lily’s brow furrowed in confusion. “Side-long apparition?”
“And what do you mean 'was a relative’?” James asked.
“He died not but two hours ago,” answered Dumbledore. It was understandable that he was not about to keep the truth away from them. Years before, yes, he would have protected his students from the truth of the world, but not now. They must protect themselves, he thought sadly to himself.
Author's Note: Thank you all to my readers! I hope you've enjoyed this chapter. Please review! I'd love to hear your thoughts.
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