Chapter 55 : The Letter
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That night, Hogwarts held another dance in the Great Hall, much like the Valentine’s the year before. This time, Lily was there to see it, and met James by the door to go in. She was wearing a flowing white dress that complimented her form, her curled hair pinned back from her face. She still looked a bit sad, and James kissed her softly, wrapping one arm around her waist to draw her to him.
Lily shook her head, watching as students filed into the hall, which music was starting to stream out of. James, knowing there wasn’t much he could do, simply nodded and helped her observe the students. Throughout the night, he did his Head Boy duties, and frequently danced with Lily and his friends. Even as they danced around, though, he could tell that she was sad underneath her fixed smile. It just didn’t reach her brilliant eyes, and that was how he knew she was busy thinking. By midnight, James was ready to go back to his room, and was glad to have to herd the students out and patrol the halls for a few minutes. Giving the portrait the password, he went inside and saw the main room fire going, but no Lily. She had been doing patrol down by Ravenclaw and Slytherin, and probably wouldn’t be back up for a few more minutes. Vaguely he was nervous for her safety, as he always was when she patrolled down near the dungeons, but waved it off.
James sank into a chair and messed with his hair out of habit. Then he stood, going up to his room and grabbing a tattered journal from in-between his mattress. James flopped onto his bed, reading over his most recent entry, which was pock-marked with uncertainty and caution, emotions he didn’t normally feel. Picking up a spare quill and grabbing an ink well, he dipped in the tip and slowly started writing a new entry. The room was silent other than the scratching noises puncturing the air, and for a while all he did was write, trying to think less about it.
It’s so odd to not know what to say, and how to say it... he re-read the last few lines. It’s like my usual presence of mind has been a bit stolen from me, or something, and I’m left trying to figure out my actions without really knowing myself. I’m rambling about nothing, now. How hard could it possibly be to make one decision?
He heard the portrait open downstairs, and quickly tucked away the journal, again. Shrugging off his tie and kicking off his shoes, James went downstairs to see what Lily was up to. She was sitting in her usual armchair, heels kicked off in front of it and feet curled under her white dress. Her green eyes were a little blank, as if she were looking into the distance. James leaned behind her on the armchair and kissed her red curls.
"You should get some sleep," he said softly. "It’s been quite a day."
James came round and sat on the arm. "I know you’re feeling sad... you know you can talk to me, right?"
Lily slowly nodded, her voice a whisper. "I just... you don’t understand."
James sighed, remembering her saying that, last year. "I’m trying, Lily."
"But you still don’t. Your parents haven’t died, you haven’t lost everyone except the one person that hates you."
"You still have me," James said a little angrily. "You’re focusing on all the bad, there’s still so many people here that love you. I love you."
Lily sighed. "I know, but you aren’t my parents, James. You just... you’ll never be able to understand."
"Don’t push me away like this, Lily!" James said hotly. "I hate it when you do this!"
"But it’s true, James!" she spat, her eyes brimming.
"Lily! Stop it!" James shook his head, trying not to feel hopeless. "You keep doing this to yourself, you keep- it’s not your fault!"
"How would you know?!" Lily screamed, tears running. "How would you be able to make that call?! I’m the only witch in my family- if it weren’t for me, they never would have been killed by Voldemort!"
"It was a random attack! They just happened to be there-"
"You can’t prove that, James!" she sobbed, jumping to her feet. Her arms gestured wildly. "You can’t prove that he didn’t plan it. You can’t prove that he didn’t do this to get at me!"
"But you can’t prove that he did," James hissed. "You have to stop blaming yourself, it’s not going to change anything."
A tapping came at the window, but they both ignored it.
"Then where can I put this anger at, James?" Lily whispered. "Where can I point the finger? No one dies for no reason. No one is murdered for no reason."
"They were murdered because they are Muggles," James said softly. "Nothing more and nothing less. They would still be alive if they were wizards, and that’s all there is to it. You can’t blame Voldemort or yourself for what kind of blood they have."
"Had," Lily said bitterly.
The tapping came again, louder. James glanced at it.
She shook her head, backing away. "You don’t understand, James. There’s no possible way for you to understand!"
She sank in her chair, the rapping now louder. James, getting annoyed by it, turned and went to it, opening it against the frigid outside air. An official owl flew in and rested on the sill, it’s tail still sticking out into the snow. It’s sharp eyes took in James for a moment, before it lifted it’s leg to him. He took the letter without looking to see if it was for him or not, and the owl hooted softly, then took off. Closing the window, James stared at Lily, now silent again, staring at the fire. The letter in his hands was composed of a parchment envelope addressed to him, sealed with the Ministry of Magic seal in blue wax. He broke it open thinking it was probably another notice for improper use or something from his father’s office.
Dear Mr. James Potter,
It is my deepest regret to inform you of the untimely events that have led to the deaths of your parents and one Michelle Potter. Following the recent attack on the Ministry of Magic by an unknown group of radicals, the Potters were discovered among other victims in the Auror Department. The Ministry of Magic offers its condolences to you, and extends its offer if you are in need of anything. Appropriate arrangements will be made for the ceremonies, compliments of the Ministry.
Ministry of Magic
Something in his chest completely closed. The crackle of the fire seemed deafening, now, and his heart wouldn’t beat right, his lungs wouldn’t breathe right. His hands started shaking, and without realizing it he clutched the letter so tightly that the paper crumpled in his hands. James heard himself gasping for air as if he were hearing someone else, and he sounded detached as he heard himself speak.
"Well.. I guess I understand now... Don’t I, Lily?"
Crying was the worst thing Lily had ever had to watch James do. She knew she couldn’t make it any better, the same way that James had not been able to, a year before. His hand was limp in hers as she held it, and his other hand was clutched around a tissue. For a moment, she almost thought that it was funny how she was practically never in church except for funerals. Now, though, a week had passed since Valentine’s, and she hated that holiday with a passion, now. James had been excused from classes, and elected not to go. The funeral had been horrible; Reporters and people from the Ministry everywhere. Unlike Lily’s parents, James’ had been very well known just about everywhere, and therefore everyone came. The three-way funeral had been hard on James. Michelle’s parents had died a while ago, and he had to watch his last three remaining blood relatives being set in the ground together. He, too, was now alone, but in an even worse way than Lily.
Now, they were sitting in the head’s common room together, Lily ignoring her homework and James simply staring out the window, face gaunt and blank. Sirius was devastated as James, and also permitted an absence of lessons. Peter and Remus were grieving in their own ways. Peter was rarely seen, and Remus looked lost wherever he went. The school had, of course, heard of the attacks that very night, as the school had been contacted to notify various students of the deaths or injuries of family members. It seemed that a great amount of students had lost family members or friends who had worked in the Auror Department.
"James..." Lily whispered. "James?"
He ignored her, still staring out the window. She knew he wouldn’t speak. She considered it a success if he spoke more than two words a day. The long silences between them strained Lily’s emotions almost as much as it had to watch James cry. Now, though, she just hoped that he would talk to her again. She adjusted her hand as it held his, trying not to see the deep bags under his eyes. It was getting late, now, and both of them had yet to eat anything. Lily stood, letting go of his hand and kissing his forehead. She went downstairs quickly and called for the House Elves to bring up some dinner for them. James hadn’t been downstairs in days, and Lily wasn’t about to run down to the Hall and leave him alone. Then she went back upstairs to his room.
He was sitting exactly where she had left him, but there were a few tears on his cheeks. She kissed his forehead, and felt him blink. Another silence elapsed, and after a long time she heard the faint crack of a House-Elf downstairs. Standing again, Lily went down and brought up the tray of soup and cheese, levitating the pitcher of pumpkin juice. Back in the room, she cheerily set down the tray.
"James, would you like some soup?" she asked with false happiness. He didn’t respond. Still smiling determinedly, Lily nodded, setting the tray over his knees. "Alright, love, there you are..."
Holding her soup bowl in hand, she ate it in silence, watching James. Her hands were shaking with the effort to control herself from screaming at him. Surely she hadn’t been this idiotic when her parents died? But still, she knew she couldn’t be mad at him.
The night passed slowly, until finally she took the cold, untouched soup back downstairs and set it on the table. Going back up, Lily saw James was now lying down on the bed, back to the door. Lily walked to him and lay next to him, wrapping her arms over him and breathing in the scent of his hair. He was shaking, slightly. After a while she felt one of his hands reach and cover hers, and then she fell asleep.
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