Two months went by. Or rather, they drifted by, like clouds. Since they had all of eternity on their hands, Lily and James took up hobbies. Lily took up painting and sketching, remembering how Remus Lupin had often secretly sketched her, among everything else he’d sketched: and her pictures were the only ones he’d ever color in. When she discovered all those drawings he’d been doing of her, without her knowledge, she knew that he still loved her, even though he’d called it off because he thought that after a while, when she got to know him more intimately, she’d be disgusted somehow with his lycanthropy. In the end however, she managed to fall out of love with him. He had been right about one thing: he and she were too much alike, and if she hadn’t been chased away by the true nature of his lycanthropy, at the very least, they would have broken up just because they were too much alike. Besides, she soon realized that James was someone she could really love…and never stop loving….
“Is that me?” he asked, peering over her shoulder as she painted outside the garden of their glade cottage in the heavenly light of the afternoon.
“Of course it is,” said Lily with a seductive smile. “I know your handsome face by heart, so I can paint it from memory.” She turned and kissed him full on the lips, let her paintbrush fall in the grass as she reached up and ran her hands through his untidy, jet-black hair.
James was so glad he wasn’t wearing glasses anymore; otherwise they would’ve been knocked askew. His eyes closed as they deepened the kiss, he felt for her shoulders and held them firmly in his hands, letting his fingers dip underneath her collar, glorying in the feel of her skin. When they took a brief respite to get some air, he asked her if she was going to put his glasses on, like he wore when he was alive, or leave the glasses, like he was now, without them, dead.
Lily replied that she wasn’t sure yet, and they plunged into another kiss. This time they fell over onto the ground, the stool that Lily had been perched upon coming with them, and they lay making out in the fresh, sweet green grass.
As far as hobbies were concerned, while Lily took up painting and sketching, James took up the Muggle sport of fencing, with Lily’s own father, Harry Evans, as his instructor. James found he enjoyed the art of it, and he figured he was getting in some good bonding time with the father-in-law he never really got a chance to know in life. He was a quick learner, and Harry Evans was impressed.
“Comes from my skill as a Quidditch player, I s’pose,” said James with a modest shrug at one lesson during which Harry Evans had disclosed his admiration of how quickly James was mastering the skill of fencing.
“Quidditch?” Lily’s father drew his eyebrows together. “Oh…right. I remember Lily telling me! Fascinating! Well, shall we continue then?”
James grinned. “I don’t see why not, sir.”
Harry Evans raised his sword and took the proper starting stance. “En garde, then.”
So James became a fencing master as good as Harry Evans, and Lily’s paintings decorated the walls of the cottage in beautiful frames. And if they ever needed more wall space, they just dreamed it up and there it was. There were paintings of James, paintings of Harry, and then Lily painted Sirius, and then…she painted Remus. It was ironic, really. He’d sketched and colored all those pictures without her knowing about it, and now she was painting him without him knowing about it. She could never feel the same way she did before she realized she loved James, but all the same, when the paint dried, she traced the lines of his pale, scarred face with a nostalgic ache inside of her.
And as if that wasn’t enough, she went so far as to paint a picture of Severus as well. However, the moment she finished it she took it off the easel and tossed it aside in the grass. She dreamed up a flame upon the canvas, and a flame appeared there, delighting in the oils of the paint. She felt James come stand beside her.
“What are you—?” he began. “Is that…Snape?”
Lily nodded. She half-expected her husband to mutter something like, “Why’d you paint him?” or, “Good riddance to bad rubbish.” Instead however, he said nothing. He simply sighed and placed his hands on her shoulders, squeezing them gently. Reassuringly. He’s certainly come along way, Lily thought with a secret smile, which was saddened as she watched Severus’ face become engulfed in hot flames and smoke.
James and Lily both sprang up in bed, gasping for air, drenched in cold sweat.
Lily grabbed her husband by the shoulders. “Harry! He was—There was a giant snake!”
James wrapped his fingers around her wrists, and rubbed his hands up and down hers. “Yes! Yes…and a phoenix—!”
“And a boy—Tom Riddle—”
“He was Voldemort—”
“And a girl with red hair—”
“She looked dead—”
“And Harry!” the exclaimed together.
Lily gasped. “Do you remember…?”
James shook his head. “He fought the snake…it was a basilisk, I think, actually…the phoenix helped him…I’ll bet it was Fawkes….”
“He—He killed it…with a sword…but I saw a fang in his arm!” Lily pulled her hands away from James and covered her mouth with them.
James gulped. “That fang injects deadly venom….”
“Yes….” But there was more, Lily remembered as she lowered her hands. “But…Fawkes…I saw him…cry…over the wound….”
James’ insides leapt with hope. “Of course! Phoenix tears have healing powers!”
“But Tom Riddle—or Voldemort—whoever—he’s still there—”
“No…the diary…. Harry stabbed it, with the basilisk fang that had gone into his arm—”
“And Voldemort screamed—”
“And went away—”
“And that’s when I woke up,” they said together. Their eyes locked, and then they both laughed, half of it out of joyous relief.
James pulled Lily into his arms and kissed her hair. “I really hope Harry doesn’t make a habit of cheating death,” he said to her.
Lily chuckled and closed her eyes. “Too bad that we have no say in that matter, which is quite unfortunate because we’re his parents.”
They had told Aurelia about the first dream they’d had of Harry of facing Voldemort. Now, the very next morning, they told of this new dream they’d had of Harry facing Tom Riddle a.k.a. Voldemort a.k.a. the Heir of Slytherin, and his pet basilisk. Aurelia wasn’t quite sure how to explain when Harry had been in trouble with Voldemort, they had been able to witness it happening through their dreams. She hadn’t been able to before, and she still wasn’t able to.
“You see why the Department of Mysteries studies Death?” said Lily. “There really is so much more to death than just passing through it.”
“Well that may be,” said James, “but it’s so unfair that even when you’re dead you can’t uncover the mysteries of death. To be honest, I feel cheated out of a really good secret.”
Lily punched him on the arm, and then with a smile over her shoulder she went to join Aurelia in picking some more wildflowers.
For the next couple of months that drifted by, they sought for their answers in the great Library of the World of the Dead, which was a library even bigger than Hogwarts castle. It was for every dead person in all of time, and so it had to be an astronomically huge library. In fact, the whole library was almost a whole other world in and of itself. That’s how huge it was.
Though their efforts were becoming fruitless, they didn’t give up hope of finding something just yet. One afternoon however, while sitting at a table with Lily, Aurelia, and Ariana, (Regulus had accompanied them as well, but he was off at the moment, wandering through the aisles of shelves of books upon books upon books.) pouring through a book on ancient burial rituals in the ancient Muggle world, James felt a sudden jerk behind his navel. He gasped. Lily, Aurelia, and Ariana looked up concernedly at him, but before James could say anything, he felt himself being uprooted from his seat and whirling into a tunnel of darkness and light. And he heard three sounds echoing around him: the squeak of a rat, the bark of a dog, and the howl of a wolf.... No. A werewolf.
Wormtail…Padfoot…Moony…. That leaves me: Prongs, the stag, of course!
Then the voice of a boy bellowed: “EXPECTO PATRONUM!”
As soon as this happened, James involuntarily sprang forward, and felt his ectoplasmic essence transform into the shape of a stag. He was surrounded at once by the smells of sweet grass and summer air…he was in the world of the living! But how…?
And what was more, he hadn’t transformed into a normal stag, like he’d always done when he’d been alive: he was this glowing, dazzling, white-silver stag made of white-silver mist. In fact…he looked like a…like a…patronus.
Up ahead, he felt them before he saw them: a whole hoard of dementors, across the lake, swooping down on a boy, a man, and a girl. Without thinking, he dashed across the lake, lowered his head, and charged at the swarming dementors…and then he galloped around and around the victims lying comatose on the ground, and the dementors fell back and scattered to retreat into the darkness of the Forbidden Forest.
He was at Hogwarts? What the hell was going on?
As the last of the dementors slipped out of sight, he looked down at the three figures unconscious on the ground. The girl with bushy brown hair was someone he didn’t know, and looked to be about thirteen. The boy he recognized at once as his son, Harry, who looked to have aged a bit from when James had dreamed about him fighting the basilisk. As for the man, James didn’t know him at all at first. His waxy skin was stretched over his gaunt, skull-like face. He was emaciated, with long, filthy, matted black hair, and he wore torn robes over Azkaban prison clothes. And then his sunken eyes flew open, and he lay gasping for a moment, before his head lolled and his eyes fell shut and he was out of it once more. But in the fraction of a second that he’d had his eyes open, James perceived the ghosts of a handsome youth whom he’d met at the age of eleven on his very first train ride to Hogwarts. His non-beating heart swelled.
And then…somehow…he knew everything that had happened that night…. The truth about Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew had been revealed to the two people who had needed it the most: his son, Harry, of course, as well as his other old best friend, Remus Lupin, whom he had never once for a moment believed had been the spy any more than Sirius had been the spy. And while Peter Pettigrew had escaped…well, what would come would come, he supposed. It was good at least that now Harry and Remus knew the truth of what had happened, knew Peter for what he had really been.
He turned and looked across the lake, to see who had casted him as a patronus. It was a boy. But James knew in an instant that it was also Harry: he knew all that had happened tonight, so he knew about the Time-Turner too. Thus he was not confused as to how his son could be in two places at once.
James cantered towards his son across the dark, glassy surface of the lake. He must be shining as brightly as the full moon above, and in the distance, he heard the sound of Remus’ werewolf howl, sparking a sense of nostalgia inside him.
Out on the grounds…just like old times…making mischief….
When he reached the bank and stopped before Harry, his patronus hooves made no mark in the soft earth beneath him. He gazed up at his son with his silvery patronus eyes, and to show how proud he was of him, he lowered his antlered head.
Harry stared down at him in wonderment. “Prongs…” he whispered. He stretched out trembling fingers towards him.
James had just enough time to drink in the sight of his son, of green eyes (so like his mother’s) before the world of the living dissolved around him into blackness.
And then everything was warm and stuffy. James opened his eyes to find himself back in his chair at the Library of the World of the Dead, with Lily, Aurelia, and Ariana staring open-mouthed at him.
James smiled. “Let me explain…” he began. When he had finished his story, Lily smiled, and seemed somewhat relieved.
“It’s good Harry and Remus know the truth now,” she said. “That’s as it should be.”
Aurelia was smiling too. She’d been glad to hear about Sirius’ escape from wizard prison, though there was tense concern in her golden eyes as well that appeared when James described Sirius’ physical state when he’d seen him. “But…at least he’s free…” she said softly, perhaps more to herself than to anyone else.
Later, as they were leaving the library, she said to James that what happened to him probably wouldn’t happen to him again, no matter how many times Harry conjured another patronus. “That may have been his very first full-body patronus, and you yourself got to become it this one time because you have a spiritual connection to it. It was a stag, which happens to be your Animagus form.”
“Ah well,” said James, shrugging. “It was cool all the same. I mean come on: I was a patronus. How many wizards or witches can say that? Living or dead?”
A few days later, James, Lily, Aurelia, and Ariana decided to have a picnic in the field together. Regulus joined them as well, admitting that he was bored and not only that but…felt a little lonely as well. He stayed close to Aurelia, feeling most comfortable with her, but occasionally he spoke a bit to the others, just so long as they stuck to light topics of discussion.
As they were tucking in to some cold chicken and elderflower wine, sitting there with their picnic basket, their picnic blanket spread out on the grass, a gust of wind nearby kicked up and swirled around and around. In the swirling wind, James and Lily thought they saw the ghost of a fluttering veil, but then it vanished, and in its place, a plump young woman in a frumpy set of robes tumbled to the ground onto her back.
James and Lily felt bad for her already. When you died, the one thing you couldn’t change no matter how hard you dreamed up stuff, was the clothes in which you died in. Oh, you could take them off (otherwise James and Lily wouldn’t have been able to have all those shags, now would they?) but you couldn’t put on different ones. You were only permitted to wear the clothes in which you died. So now this woman here was stuck with this frumpy set of robes for all of eternity.
“Looks like a new arrival,” said Aurelia delightedly.
The plump woman’s eyes fluttered open, and then she sat up with a gasp. “I’m dead!” she exclaimed. “He’s killed me! He’s killed me! I have been murdered!”
“Hey, I remember you,” said James, recalling a time when a plump, sixteen-year old girl had caught him stealing the Quidditch Snitch once from the equipment shed at school. “You’re Bertha Jorkins!”
“Who?” Lily asked.
“Don’t you remember old Bertha Jorkins?”
“I’m Bertha Jorkins,” said the plump woman, who was indeed Bertha Jorkins. “Who are you?” she added to James.
“It’s me, Bertha: James Potter. You caught me nicking the Snitch out of the equipment shed once. Remember?”
Bertha smiled. “Oh, yes, I did, didn’t I?”
“Oh, right, now I remember you,” said Lily. “Erm…won’t you have some chicken and wine and tell us who killed you?”
“Oh, that sounds lovely,” said Bertha pleasantly, standing up and then seating her plump self onto the picnic blanket between James and Aurelia. She grabbed a leg of chicken and began eating it ravenously. “I can’ b’lieve I’m dead an’ ea’ing chi’en!” she exclaimed through a mouthful of meat.
“So, who killed you?” Lily asked again.
Bertha stared up at her from the leg she was devouring. “Wha’?”
“You said someone killed you,” said Aurelia. “Murdered you, actually.”
Bertha stopped consuming her chicken and gulped the large bite she’d been masticating. She stared around at them all, her eyes bugging out. “Yes, I—I was…murdered…. Where’s that wine you were telling me about?” Without waiting for an answer she set down her demolished chicken leg and poured herself a glass of elderflower wine. She took a huge swig of it, swallowed, wiped her mouth off with a cloth napkin, and then said, “I don’t remember much of it. You see…I think…I had a Memory Charm performed on me…or something…. But…I remember…so much pain…and a man’s squeaky voice…and another one…high and cold….” She shuddered. “And then…the last thing I remembered hearing…the high, cold voice said…it said….” She furrowed her brow in concentration. “It said…‘Thank you, Miss Jorkins, you have been…a great help to….’” Her voice tailed away, and then her eyes grew to the size of Snitches. “It was You-Know-Who!” she wailed. “You-Know-Who! That awful, high, cold voice was You-Know-Who! And he killed me! He kiiiiiiiilled meeeeeeeeeeee!” She grabbed her head with both hands and began sobbing.
Aurelia, sitting beside her, rubbed her back consolingly.
James and Lily glanced at each other, and then around at Ariana, Aurelia, and Regulus. Ariana seemed thoughtfully curious. She knew nothing of Voldemort, for she had died long before he was probably even born. Aurelia on the other hand, was on the same page as James and Lily: biting her lip, and feeling apprehensive, wondering. As for Regulus, he had a strange expression on his face. James remembered that when he and Lily had informed them of Voldemort’s downfall, Regulus had gotten that same strange look, and then he’d never expressed it again. Until now. Perhaps it was only strange because all they normally saw was Regulus’ rat face scowl at them. This strange expression he had now was no scowl. It was one of anxiety. Maybe even…concern.
He was the first one to speak since Bertha had begun wailing. When she had quieted down some, he said, “The Dark Lord…has killed again….” He heaved a deep, shaky breath. “I knew he couldn’t be gone for good. Your son has faced him again?” he asked James and Lily.
“Two times again, actually,” said Lily. “The first of those two he was eleven, and it was actually Voldemort. The other time he was facing a past form of Voldemort.”
Regulus did not object to the mention of his old master’s name. Somehow, it did not bother him now that he was dead, though he still did not utter it himself, and referred to him as “the Dark Lord”, probably just out of habit. Now he drew his brows together, thoughtfully. “His…past form?”
“A ghost of his teenage self, I guess,” said James. “But…Lily and I…after having these dreams…seeing that Voldemort was still out there…. This was only to be expected.”
“What?” asked Aurelia tensely, still rubbing the weeping Bertha Jorkins’ back. “What was only to be expected?”
James and Lily looked at Regulus, and Regulus looked back at them both, and a sort of understanding began to pass between them. And then Regulus said, turning to Aurelia, “It was only to be expected that the Dark Lord would attempt to get back up on the broomstick, as it were. I’m sure that this isn’t the first time he’s tried to do it since his downfall, but…this time, I think he will succeed.”
Aurelia covered her mouth with her free hand. “What makes you say that?”
“He’s got help now. That other voice: the squeaking one. I have an idea as to who that is.”
“A Death Eater by the name of Peter Pettigrew.”
“Alias Wormtail,” James added through gritted teeth. “Damn the bastard!”
“Well, I certainly hope you’re wrong,” said Ariana serenely. “This Voldemort person sounds like a really bad wizard.”
“Ariana, you don’t how bad,” Aurelia said gravely.
Bertha Jorkins regained her composure once more, and then went off on her own, to see her own dead relatives and make her own discoveries about the world of death. So the others waved goodbye as they watched her set off.
Barely an hour or so after she’d gone, just as James, Lily, Aurelia, Ariana, and Regulus were clearing up the picnic things, there was another great swirl of wind, another illusion of a veil fluttering in it, and then out toppled an old man with a walking stick, dressed in Muggle clothes. He sat up, his chest heaving, utterly bewildered. He grabbed his head with one hand and said, “What the—? What’s happened? Where am I?” He whipped around and saw James, Lily, Aurelia, Ariana, and Regulus all staring at him. “Who in the bloody hell are all of you? And why are you all dressed in them funny togs?”
“I’m afraid you’re dead,” said Aurelia, taking a step forward, “Mister, er…?”
“Bryce. Frank Bryce. And you’d be?”
“Aurelia Vega, my dear Muggle friend,” said Aurelia, pleasantly, giving Frank Bryce a little curtsy. “And these are my friends: James Potter, his wife Lily, Ariana Dumbledore, and Regulus Black.”
James, Lily, Ariana, and Regulus all inclined their heads in greeting.
“Muggle….” Frank’s eyes widened, tightening his grip on his walking stick. “’Ey! That—That thing—It said that word! Muggle!”
James, Lily, Ariana, Aurelia, and Regulus exchanged confused glances. “What…er…thing?” asked Lily, coming over to Frank’s side and helping him to his feet.
“Thank you,” he muttered. “Erm…I dunno. I mean…it spoke. But it was mighty frightening to see, let me tell you.” He leaned on his walking stick as he searched his memory. “It had this high, cold voice. Made the hairs on the back of me neck prick up like nothing else, you know! And there was this squat man with him…had a squeaky voice. Seemed frightened of that thing too.”
The others caught each other’s eyes. The squat man had been Peter Pettigrew. Without a doubt, then, the “thing” that Frank was talking about had to be—
“Why don’t we have a seat, here?” James suggested to them all. “I think…I think there’s a lot of explaining that needs to be done here.”
So Frank learned all about wizards and such, and that his murderer, Lord Voldemort, hadn’t actually been talking in code, but actually was a wizard. At the same time, he relayed to them all that he had overheard Voldemort and Wormtail discussing. James quickly got over his disappointment at missing this year’s Quidditch World Cup because he was dead. More importantly, there was going to be a Triwizard Tournament held at Hogwarts this year—he, Lily, Aurelia, and Regulus had all been amazed to hear this, since that event hadn’t been held in ages. (Ariana had remained blissfully curious, having no idea what a Triwizard Tournament was, and the others quickly explained it.) Anyway, concerning Voldemort and the Tournament, it sounded as though, from what Frank told them, that Voldemort was going to use the Tournament to get to—Harry.
So Harry was under threat of enduring the wrath of Voldemort—again.
“I’m scared, James,” Lily whispered so that only her husband could hear her.
James put his arm around her. “I know, love. I am too.”
Frank Bryce left them after he’d shared his story and learned about the wizarding world, to go and dream up a nice quiet peaceful house beside a pond, and spend his eternity there, fishing, whittling, and napping. Then for the next few weeks, they stayed in the field. James wanted to spend every minute there, sleeping and awake, because he knew that between day and night here in the world of death, approximately a whole week went by in the world of the living, and who knows what possible-arriving victim of Lord Voldemort, or one of his gathering followers, could have died within that amount of time. Ariana’s parents, Kendra and Percival Dumbledore, of course, had given Ariana a curfew, so she wasn’t expected to keep such a diligent vigil. But Lily, Aurelia, and Regulus remained with him in the field. And the nice thing about being able to dream up anything into existence meant that they could always dream up something to do when they grew restless. (Even adults have limits on their attention spans, they just don’t complain when they’re bored the way children and adolescents do.)
The weeks bled into a couple of months, and still they kept watch in the field. It was only a matter of time, they knew, before a new victim arrived. If Voldemort was rising, Frank Bryce the Muggle would certainly not be his very last victim.
One evening, about an hour or so after Ariana had bid them all good night and gone home to her mother and father, the four of them were all curled up on the ground near each other, sleeping. Then James awoke to a draft of wind blowing up the back of his neck, through his untidy, jet-black hair.
He sat up quickly, looking around, peering through the darkness.
Lily, beside him, had awoken at his sudden movement, and she sat up too. “What’s going on?” she yawned.
There was a large amount of wind blowing near them, and James and Lily could feel it swirling round and round.
Aurelia bolted upright, her entire body tense and poised, like a dog that had just scented prey nearby.
Regulus woke up too, sluggishly, rubbing his eyes and face.
The swirling wind settled, and a dark, indistinct shape flopped to the ground, moaning.
James stood and dreamed up a lit lantern. The lantern appeared in midair and James plucked it by the handle. He carried it over with him to the dark shape crumpled on the ground, holding it aloft so he could make out who it was who had just died. He gasped and nearly dropped the lantern.
Lily leapt to her feet and rushed over to join him. “What? Who is—?” She stopped however, when her eyes caught sight of an illuminated, wide-eyed face. “Bartemius Crouch…!” she breathed.
She was amazed she could recognize him, as was James, for while he looked like him, he certainly didn’t seem like the Barty Crouch they remembered. He had an air of traveling on foot for days on end, and when they first saw his face lit by the lantern’s eerie light, they saw that it was all scratched up for some reason, not to mention the fact that he was unshaven and gray with exhaustion. Meanwhile, the knees of his robes were torn and bloody, and his hair and mustache looked in need of a wash and a trim. He appeared utterly bewildered to be there.
“Crouch?” growled Regulus, as he and Aurelia hurried over to James and Lily’s side. “That old stickler? Bloody hell, it is him….”
“Who—Who are you all?” Bartemius demanded from his huddled crouch upon the ground, staring up at James, Lily, Regulus, and Aurelia. “Where—Where am I? What’s going on?”
James knelt down on the ground, so that he was on a level with Crouch. Lily, Regulus, and Aurelia copied him.
“I’m afraid you’re dead, Mister Crouch,” said Aurelia grimly as James set the lantern down on the ground between them and Bartemius.
“Dead….” Bartemius hugged his knees, the blood on which was now disappearing, vanishing. “I thought so…but…I didn’t think…it was like…I was there…and then…I was falling…through a veil…and now I’m—I’m here.” He looked up at them. “Where is here?”
“Where you go when you die,” said Aurelia. “So long as you make the grade, if you know what I mean. No truly wicked people are allowed here.”
“Ariana Dumbledore, sir,” replied Ariana, kneeling down in the grass beside Regulus.
“Dumbledore…” breathed Bartemius.
James extinguished the light in the lantern. “She was Albus Dumbledore’s kid sister,” he explained to Bartemius. “She died at the age of fourteen.”
Bartemius stared at Ariana. “I—I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Don’t be,” said Ariana, still smiling her cheerily tranquil smile.
“He was just trying to explain to us what he meant by being cured in death,” James explained.
“Cured?” Ariana regarded Bartemius inquisitively.
“Yes…” Bartemius said slowly. “I was….” He closed his eyes again. “I don’t…remember.... It’s just…now I’m in my right mind again, and since I didn’t feel that way until after I became dead, well…I think…death put me back in my right mind. Is that—Is that possible?”
Ariana’s face lit up. “Oh! Oh, of course it is, Mister Crouch! I wasn’t in my right mind either when I died, and then once I died, everything was right again in my head. So, you weren’t right in your head either right before you died? Is that it?”
“No, I wasn’t in my right mind,” said Bartemius bleakly. He closed his eyes once more. “I was…under a spell…the Imperius Curse…I was—I was fighting it…. Half the time I thought I was in two different time periods at the same time, but neither of them were where I actually was.... I thought…sometimes…I was talking to my assistant, Weatherby…but…at the same time…I talked to him about going to a concert with Cornelius and his wife, and that…my wife and son would be coming soon to join us….” He looked quickly up at Ariana. “Your brother—Albus Dumbledore is your brother, right?”
“Yes, he is,” said Ariana.
“I—I was trying to get to him, when I died,” Bartemius explained. “I was fighting the Imperius Curse that I was under, and I had to confess—to warn him….”
“About what?” Lily asked.
“My son,” Bartemius replied in a strained voice. Hastily, he told them of how his son, Bartemius Crouch, Jr., had been convicted as a Death Eater, and had been caught helping other Death Eaters trying to find Voldemort shortly after Voldemort’s downfall at the Potter’s house in Godric Hollow. He explained how his wife, who had been terminally ill, had begged him to smuggle his son out of prison, and then he told them how they had used Polyjuice Potion and switched his wife with his son. And then he explained about everything that had happened since: staging his wife’s funeral, keeping Barty Jr. hidden at home, always beneath an invisibility cloak, Bertha Jorkins finding out he was there and forcing him to place a Memory Charm on her so powerful that it damaged her memory permanently, and then what had happened at that year’s Quidditch World Cup, and then how one night, when he was at home with his son, he had answered the door, and then everything had gone blank and fuzzy after that.
“After a while though, I began…to fight it…I remember…getting glimpses of reality…of regaining my mind…but it cost me so much effort to stay in control…. I was being imprisoned in my house…with a man with a squeaky voice…and there was this other voice that I heard all the time while I was under…high and cold…and the owner of that voice was there too….” Bartemius swallowed hard. “It was…You-Know-Who…this—this thing—I remember…it was horrible….” He shuddered. “Luckily, the squeaky-voiced man was lazy, inept, and was unable to keep a constant eye on me. Once I saw my chance…I seized it…and escaped…and made straight for Hogwarts…I traveled there…the whole way…on foot…and that’s where I was…when I died…I was…at the edge of the Forbidden Forest…and I remember…along the way…I’d lapse into one of those hallucinations…where I thought I was with Weatherby…only it was years and years in the past…probably before Weatherby had even started school….” He chuckled weakly before he continued. “And…I remember…as I stumbled out…I came upon two boys…I can’t…recall…the other…but one I remember…it was dark, but…he had black, messy hair, and round glasses…and his eyes…they were green….” His voice tailed away, and he swallowed.
James and Lily, who had been staring, shocked, at Bartemius, just as Aurelia and Regulus were doing, found their voices at the description of the one boy that Bartemius had been able to recall the sight of.
“That boy was our son,” said Lily. “Harry….”
Bartemius raised his eyes, and looking into Lily’s, he seemed to see the resemblance of her eyes to Harry’s. “Harry…Potter…. That was him?” For the first time, a note of optimism lit up his dismal features. “Oh…then there is hope yet! I remember…I kept telling him I needed to see Dumbledore…that I needed to warn him…only….”His face fell. “I never got to give him the whole message…. He ran…to get Dumbledore…I think…leaving me with the other…. And then…the other fell at the sound of a…a Stunner…and…then I heard….” His eyes went wide. “I heard his voice…it was…it looked like Alastor Moody but…it wasn’t because…his voice…it wasn’t his…. He’d been pretending…it wasn’t—it was…he said…in his real voice…‘Hello, Father,’…and then…a flash of green…then I was falling through some sort of veil…and—and that’s it….” He looked around at his audience of five.
Then Ariana asked, very quietly, her face very serious now: “This was the man that killed you? The one pretending to be this Alastor Moody?”
Bartemius nodded. “My son…he killed me…. My own son….” He gulped and went silent.
“Thank you,” said James quietly after a moment. “For telling us these things, Mister Crouch.”
“Being dead, we don’t get much news from the world of the living,” Aurelia commented dryly.
Bartemius gazed at them all with expectant apprehension and said, “If—If it’s alright—If you don’t need anything more from me…I’d like to—Does anyone here know of a Ramona Crouch?”
Nobody needed to ask who that could be.
Unfortunately, James and Lily never met a Ramona while they were here in the world of the dead, and neither it seemed did Aurelia or Regulus, for they both shook their heads, just as James and Lily did.
However, the smile returned to Ariana’s face. “I know a Ramona Crouch! She’s our neighbor. I’m with my parents in the valley, and we’re good friends with Missis Ramona. She lives in a cottage down the road from us, and she comes to visit quite often. And sometimes I go and visit her and help her feed her goats. It makes me think of when I’d help my brother Aberforth do that when I was alive.”
“Are—Are you serious?” Bartemius asked. His previously crestfallen face now glimmered with hope.
“Oh yes, I’m quite serious,” said Ariana, getting to her feet. She held out a hand to help Bartemius up as well. “Come along with me, I’ll take you to her! Now that you mention her, I recognize your name! I thought I’d heard it from someone, and it was from her!”
“She speaks of me?”
“Yes, quite a bit, really. But she’s all smiles, so I think she’ll be glad to see you again, sir!”
Bartemius took Ariana’s proffered hand and she helped him to his feet. “So…she has been…happy here?” His voice cracked when he spoke.
“Well, she misses you and your son a lot…though the way you talk about him, I don’t think he’s going to come here when he dies…but that’s beside the point. Yes, she has been rather happy here. It’s good that she has me and my mama and papa for neighborly company, after all.” She began to lead a slightly stumbling Bartemius away from the rest of the group.
When they reached the crest of a shallow slope, they both stopped, looked over their shoulders, and waved back at James, Lily, Aurelia, and Regulus. Ariana was smiling serenely, naturally, but even Bartemius was now managing a quavering smile, as he undoubtedly thought about how he’d be reunited with his beloved wife in just a few moments.
And like vapor, they both dissolved and vanished from sight.
James, Lily, Aurelia, Regulus, and Ariana kept their vigil in the field. Though now they began to wonder what they were waiting for. They realized that actually they weren’t just waiting for more Voldemort-victims to turn up so that they could ask them about how they died and figure out what was going on in the world of the living, whether Voldemort had succeeded on his march to return to power. They began to get the feeling that they were waiting for something much bigger than that….
From what they’d heard from Ariana, his reunion with his wife, Ramona, had been a joyously tearful one. Regulus had grumbled a little during the telling, but he made no comment. Aurelia got that sad look in her eyes again, no doubt pining more than ever for a day when maybe Sirius would appear from a whirling gust of wind and a fluttering veil. She couldn’t even know for sure if he’d managed to avoid getting chucked back into Azkaban since she’d heard of his notorious escape.
The five of them had been keeping their vigil in the field for an entire week since Bartemius’ arrival to the world of the dead, when the sunny day suddenly darkened, the sky gradually smoke-screening over with thick, grey clouds.
The field shook with the low rumble of thunder.
“Is someone making it rain for a change?” Regulus inquired hopefully as he lay out on is back in the grass, his hands folded behind his head.
“Well if you wanted it to rain so much, you could have dreamed it up yourself,” Aurelia pointed out, not looking at Regulus as she paced up and down with her hands clasped behind her back, agitated by an odd tension that had seized the air.
Regulus shrugged, his gaze, likewise, fixed not on Aurelia, but on the moving, rolling clouds in the sky. “Didn’t feel like doing it myself.”
Aurelia rolled her eyes. “You’re impossible.”
And then James and Lily saw Regulus do something they’d never seen him do before: he smiled, and there was a warmth to it that they were even more surprised to perceive.
The gentle breezes blowing across the field became harsh winds without warning, and a part of them began twirling and whirling through the air, sending up dirt and grasses and other tiny, microscopic bits of debris. There was the illusionary flutter of a veil inside the funnel of wind, and then the wind slowed again—though not to the same gentleness it had been moving at before, it was still moving across the field rather quickly. Meanwhile, a youth in black, Hogwarts robes that were a little torn and frayed tumbled out of nothing onto the ground, grunting, “Oomph!” as he landed flat on his back. While he lay there, breathless and wide-eyed, James, Lily, and Ariana, who’d been sitting and picking at grass, jumped to their feet. Regulus did as well, and he and Aurelia joined James, Lily, and Ariana in approaching the boy.
The boy’s breathing (well, actually it’d be anti-breathing, because they’re all dead and therefore no longer “breathe”, well not in the living world anyway) slowed up a bit as they stood around him and knelt down beside him. He was very handsome, with alluring gray eyes, and he looked as though he had a few scrapes with something. There were scratches and bruises all about him, but even then he was undeniably handsome.
“I—Who are—I’m dead…aren’t I?”
James, Lily, Aurelia, Regulus, and Ariana all nodded solemnly.
“Argh…my head…” the boy muttered, putting his hand to his temple. “I was….” His eyes grew very round, and he moved his hand away from his head. “I was murdered….”
“By whom?” asked Lily. “It’s alright, we’re all dead here. I’m Lily Potter by the way, this is my husband, James, and these are our friends: Aurelia Vega, Regulus Black, and Ariana Dumbledore.”
“What’s your name?” Ariana inquired with a grin.
The boy, bewildered, shook his head, blinking. “Er…Cedric Diggory.” He chuckled weakly. “Well, I wasn’t quite expecting death to be like this. What is this? Some sort of dream or something? Hey wait a minute…did you say you were Lily and James Potter?” he added, looking at James and Lily.
“Yes, we are,” said James. “Why?”
“Harry!” Cedric exclaimed. “You look just like Harry! Harry Potter! You’re his parents, aren’t you?”
James and Lily looked at each other, and then James said, “Yes, we are.”
“Do you know Harry?” Lily asked.
“He was with me when…it killed me.”
“When what killed you?” Regulus asked in an oddly hushed voice.
“This…ugly, infant thing this squat bloke—”
“Wormtail…” James muttered under his breath.
“—was carrying in his arms,” Cedric continued, “—in this graveyard…the Triwizard Cup was a Portkey…Harry and me both touched it—Harry, he somehow got his name in the Goblet of Fire and was made a fourth champion in the Triwizard Tournament, even though this time there was an age limit of seventeen and he was only fourteen and technically not allowed to compete, he had to because the Goblet of Fire picked him—anyway, it was the third task, just down to me and Harry, and we both decided to touch the cup because…well….”He chuckled again. “We were both being a bit noble. Not hard to be, as I’m a Hufflepuff and he’s a Gryffindor—”
James and Lily smiled a little when they heard the name of the house that their son had been sorted into, confirming what James had originally guessed.
“Anyway,” Cedric went on, “we got to this graveyard, and then the bloke with the baby thing came out, and then Harry yelled and grabbed the scar on his forehead, and then this, awful, high cold voice—it—it came from the baby thing—it said, ‘Kill the spare,’ and then I heard, ‘Avada Kedavra’, but I barely realized what they were before there was this flash of green light that hit me, surrounded me…and then I was falling…and now…here I am….” He stared around at the others, and then he said, “That—That baby thing—it was…You-Know-Who…wasn’t it?”
Knowing that it was from what they’d learned so far from Bertha Jorkins, Frank Bryce, and Bartemius Crouch, they knew that Cedric Diggory’s deduction was correct.
The entire sky shook with thunder, and flashed with lightning, but no rain fell.
And then another sound emerged. It was one of the most haunting beauty that any of them had ever heard. And when Lily realized what it was, she felt her whole being crackle with some sort of electric charge.
“Phoenix song…” she whispered.
The six of them stood up, slowly, as the whole universe seemed to tremble and pitch.
“Hey! What’s going on?” shouted two voices from afar.
They turned to see Bertha Jorkins and Frank Bryce had come out of nowhere, and were approaching them across the grass. As they joined them in their circle, Frank Bryce, leaning on his walking stick, repeated his and Bertha’s question. “What’s going on then, eh?”
“We were minding our own business, when all of a sudden we just—got here!” Bertha said, gesticulating enthusiastically.
The phoenix song grew louder and increased in its power as it surrounded them.
“What’s that noise I’m hearing?” Frank wondered aloud. “It’s beautiful….”
The moment he said this, Cedric Diggory suddenly gasped , and then vanished.
“Where’d he go?” Aurelia asked, looking around anxiously.
No sooner had she asked that, than the very same thing that had happened to Cedric just then now happened to Frank Bryce.
“What is going—?!” Bertha Jorkins yelled, but then she stopped in mid-speech, and this odd sort of wave of understanding came over her eyes, and then she too gave a gasp, and vanished without trace.
And then Lily heard the phoenix song flow inside of her, call to her, then she felt a jerk, gasped, and felt herself being uprooted from where she stood beside James. She traveled at the speed of light through swirling light and darkness, following the sounds of echoing voices of Cedric, Frank, and Bertha, and they were all speaking to Harry, offering words of encouragement to him…for he was in trouble, and Lily knew everything now of what was happening. Harry was facing Voldemort again, and this time they were locked in a duel, and Voldemort’s spells were being spit back out in reverse from his wand…and James would be following her any moment….
At the end of the tunnel there was a small point of light. Lily flew towards it, started going through it, head-first. Though it was a bit of a squeeze, she managed it all the same. She emerged into the world of the living—drank in the sight of the graveyard, the Death Eaters, Cedric Diggory’s body lying spread-eagled a few feet away from them, the strange web of golden light surrounding none other than the ghostly forms of Cedric Diggory, Frank Bryce, and Bertha Jorkins, all of them circling around the two duelers inside who were none other than Voldemort—fully returned to power, in a body that was horrifically snakelike, worse than she remembered him the night she died—and Harry—bleeding, clutching the handle of his wand with both hands, and holding on with all of his might, his arms shaking, his skin white, sweaty, scratched, and smudged, his Hogwarts robes ripped and torn. Lily only had eyes for her son. Gracefully, she dropped to the ground and straightened, and she locked gazes with those bright green eyes she had given him, filled with but seemingly strengthened by the sight of her.
Drawing nearer to him, she told him to hold on his father, that he would be coming and everything was going to be alright. And not a moment too soon, James emerged like an opening blossom from the tip of Voldemort’s wand, (his dark round spectacles for some reason having returned to his face) dropped to the ground and straightened as she had done, and joined her in standing at Harry’s side.
After taking in the situation, James knew exactly what needed to be done. He looked around, and caught his wife’s eyes with his own and communicated to her what they were going to do. Lily nodded, understanding. Then she and James caught the eyes of the other three—of Cedric, Frank, and Bertha, who were currently at the other end of the dome, in the midst of making their rounds, hissing words to Voldemort that only Voldemort could hear—and to them they communicated the same plan. Like Lily had, they too nodded, understanding.
And then James looked down into the frightened yet determined face of his son, who had apparently been watching James ever since he’d emerged from the wand tip. Speaking in a voice that echoed, yet was quiet enough that only Harry could hear, James told him that when the connection was broken, they would linger for only moments, just long enough to give him some time to get to the Portkey, which would return him safely to Hogwarts. "Do you understand, Harry?” he asked.
"Yes!" Harry gasped, his face set as he struggled to hold onto the handle of his wand.
The other three had reached them as they came round the circle to stand with Harry as well. And Cedric asked Harry in little more than a whisper to bring his body back to his parents.
Harry promised him he would, screwing up his face, his voice straining from his effort.
“Do it now,” James whispered to his son.
Harry yelled, his voice ringing with the power of a lion’s roar. With great ferocity he wrenched his wand upward and broke the connection: the beam, the cage of light, and the phoenix song, all died away.
James, Lily, Cedric, Frank, and Bertha rushed at Voldemort and closed in around him.
Voldemort’s wicked, flat and slit-nosed, red snake-eyed, reptilian face contorted with rage and he yelled for his Death Eaters to stun Harry, to catch him quick. Meanwhile he himself shot spells at James, Lily, Cedric, Frank, and Bertha, but they all simply absorbed the spells and closed in more tightly around him.
“You’re not getting him,” Lily said to him, her voice soft and dangerous.
“You’ll never get him,” James added in a steely, biting tone.
They peered over at Harry, who had the wrist of Cedric’s body in one hand, while he summoned the Triwizard Cup with his wand. The Cup flew to him, and the moment he caught it, he and Cedric’s body vanished.
“ENOUGH!” bellowed Voldemort.
Lily, James, and the others suddenly found themselves plunged into the tunnel of swirling darkness and light, and they all landed hard back into the field in the world of the dead, where Ariana, Aurelia, and Regulus were waiting, wondering.
“What happened?” Aurelia asked, bewildered, coming to help them up.
Ariana and Regulus did the same.
“Voldemort’s back,” said Lily, her green eyes wide.
“Dear God…” Regulus gasped hoarsely.
“He’s back,” James whispered. He stared down at his hands, then at his wife, and then back down at his hands. “Voldemort’s back.”
“He’s got Sirius,” James said quietly. “And no doubt that Dumbledore knows the truth as well about his innocence.”
“He’s probably already recalled what’s left of the Order,” said Lily, lying beside him in bed that evening.
“Yeah…so I’ll bet Remus’ll be there too. Harry’s got both of them.”
“Are you trying to say he’ll be alright then? Just because Sirius and Remus and Dumbledore and the others are there?”
James thought a moment. And then he said, with weight in his voice, “I wish that having them there for him really did mean he’ll be okay.”
“Nothing can be certain now,” said Lily, snuggling closer to him as he tightened his arms around her. “Just like last time.”
One thing was definitely certain though: there would be a lot more new arrivals very soon.
Write a Review He Will Understand: Darkness and Light