Chapter 35 : Chapter 35 - Times Get Worse
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James lifted his glasses, placing them on top of his head as he rubbed his tired hazel eyes before slipping them carelessly back onto his nose. He had been sitting in the Potter library with Sirius for the last four hours studying way too damn much. Tons of defensive strategies and spells, more than he ever cared to remember, were clouding his mind. Before all of this hell, they had grabbed a brief lunch just after they had spent all morning sparring and whatnot in the training room downstairs. As a result, he was extremely tired and more than a little cranky. He finally just threw the book he had been looking at roughly onto the floor. Sirius glanced up at him at the sound, but didn’t comment about the aggression. He looked equally miserable.
James simply grumbled to himself before reluctantly grabbing a second book and opening it to the relevant chapter on certain dark curses they would be tested on tomorrow, although he barely focused on it. Well, there was that test, the test on defensive spell work, and the one where they would be sparring with a Senior Auror. Did he need to mention that this was all on top of going in early and completing a full work-out and listening through another three hours of lecture on new material they would need to learn? James really had no idea how they could cram so much into one day. After they took these tests, they would get to start doing fieldwork half-time on real assignments. He wasn’t even sure where the time to fit that sort of thing in would be. Sirius finally addressed him, “Don’t you know those spells already, Jim?”
James shot him a dark look. Sirius always called him that when it was just the two of them or when he was stressed just to piss him off. “Don’t call me that, Siri. And so what if I do? I’m sick of studying. I want to relax on my weekends, not have them full of work. I know Voldemort isn’t resting so we shouldn’t be, but everyone needs some type of a break.”
Sirius shot him a glare at the hated nickname from his crappy family, but sighed over their situation. He clearly looked just as temperamental as James was as he flipped aggressively through his own reading. James knew that he hated to study, especially when it was forced. Sirius’ gaze was hard as he seemed to bore a hole into his reading. “I know, and technically, I’m sure we’ll both be fine, but we can never be too careful. Alastor has a tendency to throw the two of us a curveball on purpose because he knows we’re good.”
James merely grunted in response and reluctantly started looking over the chapter he had opened up to. He hated being an over-achiever, although he supposed it was a good thing they were working so hard now because they would likely be full Aurors by the end of summer at the pace they were going. He wasn’t sure if that was a good or bad thing though. There was an increasing desperation within the Ministry for fully qualified Auror-trained individuals, mostly because they were slowly being picked off by Voldemort and his followers.
With Voldemort and his stupid Death Eaters out causing havoc over the last month, everyone had been put on edge. Voldemort himself had only been spotted a few times throughout the turmoil, but his Death Eaters seemed to be everywhere. There had been acts of vandalism, torture, and death all over the magical and muggle communities alike. Each seemed to be suffering through their own unexplainable disasters. If people had been scared before, it was nothing compared to how scared people were now.
Besides the attacks from just over a month prior, there were wizards and witches being hung in the middle of the villages for all the world to see, shops were burglarized and tons of items were actively being pilfered, Gringotts had tightened their security so much that people were avoiding the bank now too, there were threatening messages written in blood on the ground and all over the shops, and dark marks seemed to be appearing everywhere. The muggle community kept writing things off as merely isolated natural or criminal disasters, but the magical community had decided to print detailed reports about what was being done in such a way that when reading between the lines of the reports, only one message could be found: don’t leave your homes for fear of death. Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade had become ghost towns as a result. Hogsmeade visits at Hogwarts had also been cancelled.
James sighed mostly to himself before his gaze strayed around the library once again. He caught his great-grandfather’s eye briefly, but the portrait just pointed purposefully down at the books James was supposed to be focusing on. How unfair— even his family portraits were against him. He desperately needed to get out of there. His concentration had reached its limit. Maybe he could go for a fly or something to clear his head. That always helped relax him tremendously. Sirius interrupted his musings again, only this time he seemed clearly irritated at James’ growing disinterest, “Prongs, stop staring off into space and continue studying already. If I have to do it, so do you. You’re thinking about Lily, aren’t you?”
James gave him a wicked grin. “I wasn’t, but now I am.”
Sirius just shook his head as he resumed flipping through some of the pages of the book in front of him, obviously deeming James a lost cause now. James smiled to himself as he thought about Lily. He hadn’t seen her all day since he and Sirius had been so busy with Auror stuff. He knew that she had decided to hang out with Christina for the day somewhere in the manor, but that was about it. It had taken her a full week to recover from her strenuous magic use in the alley near the Ministry. Whatever spell she had used had basically drained her magical core in such a way that it needed to be built back up slowly rather than like when one used simple, everyday magic. Christina had been hurt that day too, and it had been a horrible dark curse— one that knocked you unconscious and slowly started creating strong seizures. However, because she had gotten immediate treatment, the problem had been quickly remedied.
James frowned as he thought about that day. He had no idea what kind of magic Lily had been working with because his stubborn wife refused to give any information on the matter to anyone. He doubted even Sturgis had gotten anything out of her, and he worked in the DOM! He supposed he was happy that she seemed to at least be back to her normal self once again. Everyone had been more than a little put off by the attacks, but despite the continued efforts by the Death Eaters, they and the rest of the Order seemed to be coming to terms with everything and were focusing on how they could counter their advances or avoid them altogether. There had been constant planning and evaluating over the last month in determining the best course of action to respond to Voldemort and his followers (the numbers of which seemed to be growing by the minute). It was enough to drive most sane people mad, but Lily’s presence seemed to make him feel better just as he was sure he made her feel more at ease; well, there was that and the fact that he knew they were doing the right thing by countering their ridiculous and prejudiced efforts.
He continued daydreaming about his gorgeous wife until he felt Sirius kick him in his shin. He shot his best mate a glare as he rubbed his now throbbing shin for a moment. He reluctantly returned his attention to the list of dark curses they were supposed to be familiar with. Alastor was so cruel. He tried to avoid the urge to just say ‘fuck it,’ and mentally started going through them in his head, but that ended quickly when his wife’s sweet voice tore his attention away a few minutes later, “Awww…my boys are actually studying. I’m so proud.”
James felt his mouth drop slightly at the sight of her, and he tried to ignore the whistle and catcalls his best mate sent at her. Sure, he hadn’t seen her since that morning, but she was now all dolled up in a pretty floral skirt and a dark purple blouse, her red hair curled slightly and pulled back some with a barrette. She even was wearing a bit of make-up. “Lils, you look…wow.”
She blushed slightly over their reactions and waved them off, coming up just behind James to run a hand over the back of his head soothingly in greeting. “Christina looks way better, but thanks nonetheless... She was called away about an hour ago for a short stint to correct some apparition accident, but she should be back anytime now though. We were bored and decided to dress ourselves up for fun, especially since we can’t exactly go out very much right now...” She trailed off, probably thinking about all of the danger growing around them. She sighed wearily before continuing, “I just came to tell you I made dinner and that you both should come and take a break. You’ve both been at this all day.”
James leaned his head back so he could look up and see Lily better, furrowing his brow. “I thought we told the house elves to go elsewhere for awhile since they were hounding us a bit?”
She rolled her eyes playfully down at him, giving him a wry smile. “I said I made dinner, not I had dinner made, silly.”
Sirius eyed the two of them staring at each other for a moment, a sneaky smile slowly stretching across his face. He then proceeded to ruin their moment by jumping up quickly and pulling Lily into his arms unexpectedly. “You can cook!?!?! And you look like this!?!?! Run away with me, gorgeous…”
Lily blushed furiously at the surprising attention and tried to shrug Sirius away, but he wouldn’t budge so she just ended up standing there awkwardly in his arms, obviously disgruntled over being manhandled. “Get over yourself, Black. Besides, you have Christina.”
James just chuckled at the two of them as he started piling up some of their books, not really worried in the least by Sirius, of all people, trying to take advantage of his wife. Sirius smiled teasingly at Lily, his grey eyes all mischievous. “You know that Chrissy can’t cook to save her life. I swear, I left her alone in my kitchen for five minutes, and she burnt water. I have to cook everything. Hmmm…imagine the ‘cooking’ you and I could do together…”
Lily’s blush seemed to deepen over Sirius’ insinuations, although she giggled slightly at his comments about Christina. She tried another valiant effort to move away from Sirius only to be denied. She finally just replied, “I already know about Christina’s poor cooking skills… I told her she couldn’t touch anything when she was with me in the kitchen.”
Sirius turned his attention back to James, who had stood up stretching a bit as he continued to silently watch the two of them in amusement. Sirius purposefully planted a slow kiss on Lily’s cheek, staring at his best mate the entire time. “Scared your girl will like me better, Prongs?”
James just raised an eyebrow. “Not really. As I’ve mentioned to Christina before, Lily would kill you in two minutes flat. In fact, I would suggest running away soon before she pulls out her wand.”
Sirius sighed before pouting at Lily with his best puppy-dog eyes. He did do them rather well, being a dog animagus and all. “You love me, don’t you, Red? Forget the messy-haired man.”
Lily’s pretty green eyes seemed to sparkle as she suddenly shifted from looking a tad uncomfortable to smiling sweetly at him. She leaned in a bit closer before saying innocently and a bit seductively, “I don’t think you could satisfy me, Black.”
Sirius looked at her shocked by her feistiness, but that wasn’t all— he felt a stinging sensation run through his arms so he instantly let go of her, yelping in pain. He heard James snickering at his unfortunate predicament of now having Lily eyeing him with her wand out. Sirius just grinned back at his best mate’s girl, pretending to be nonchalant and like nothing had even happened. “So what did you make?”
Lily just shook her head at him, putting her wand away as Sirius seemed to have returned to normal. “You are nothing but stomach. Pasta and homemade sauce, an old recipe of my mother’s.”
Sirius pumped a fist in the air before running crazily from the library shouting, “YES!! GARLIC BREAD!!”
Lily simply shook her head and moved to follow him, but she only made it a few steps out into the hallway before she felt James take a hold of her wrist only to twist her around to face him. “And where do you think you’re going, sexy?”
She loved when he looked at her like he couldn’t get enough of her, and this was definitely one of those times. His hazel eyes seemed to be staring right through her. She cocked her head, emulating as much innocence as she could despite her heart beating more rapidly at his presence. “Dinner?”
He closed the space between them, his hands cupping her face gently. “In a minute.”
Her eyes fluttered closed as his mouth connected with hers. He coaxed her lips open with his own, kissing her in a way that made her forget just about everything. She felt he was still too far away so her hands slid down his chest and around his back to bring his hard body completely up against hers. Then one of James’ hands buried into her hair, and she was positive there wasn’t anything better than when it was just the two of them completely lost in each other.
She eventually pulled away, but only when the need to breathe suddenly became important. That’s when she realized she had been pushed up against the wall a bit, but she couldn’t help feeling utterly content anyway. He rested his hands on the wall on either side of her head as he gazed down at her with that charming grin she had fallen madly in love with. He kissed her cheek before saying softly, “You look beautiful, you know. Not that you don’t always look beautiful…”
She smiled up at him, her arms still around him so he couldn’t move away from her just yet. “You’re sweet.” Her expression became concerned though when she could tell that he was tired. She ran a hand over the side of his face before saying decisively, “You need a break. I’m sure both you and Sirius know more than enough for tomorrow. You’ve both been at it since early this morning. When I sleep in later than you, there’s a problem, James.”
He chuckled. “A break would be heaven. Well, it would only be heaven if you’re with me.”
She shook her head at him with a sigh. “Still full of charm... Come on, you’re probably just as hungry as Sirius so we should get in there before he eats everything.”
He let her push the two of them away from the wall and thoroughly enjoyed the view of watching her walk in front of him as they headed toward the dining room. He felt like the luckiest man alive for having her in his life. She made everything better, particularly when she looked like that at the moment. He was so enamored by the sway of her hips in that skirt of hers that he almost ran into her when she stopped short in the doorway. “Black!”
James looked up to see what she was so concerned with and started snickering. Sirius had not waited for either of them and had dug into the meal she had made, which wasn’t exactly a problem, but the fact that he was a complete mess with sauce all around his face while he continued to shovel pasta in his mouth barbarically was definitely not the nicest sight to look at. Sirius just looked up as if nothing was wrong, swallowing his latest bite of pasta. “This is fantastic, Red!” He paused to eat more food before continuing with his mouth full, “Iloveyou…willyoumarryme?”
James continued to snicker at the look of complete awe and disgrace on Lily’s face as she watched his best mate simultaneously eat and propose to her. She responded indignantly, “Thank you, but no. And do you have to eat like that? It’s gross. I’m surprised Judy hasn’t said anything to you about it.”
James’ mother’s portrait merely sighed. “I did try, Lily. I can’t say it helped much.”
Lily shook her head, still amazed at the amount of food Sirius was putting away. It was a good thing she had made tons. She sat in the chair James had pulled out for her and began fixing plates for the two of them. Sirius decided to look up then, wiping his face off with a napkin finally before giving them both his roguish grin. He wiggled his eyebrows suggestively at them both. “And just what took you two so long?”
James didn’t miss a beat and just replied with his usual charm, “Nothing that required an audience, Padfoot.”
He ignored the barking laughter from his best mate and turned instead to watch Lily blush furiously at his comment; he loved making her blush. His father’s portrait had started chuckling too, but it was his mother’s portrait that responded in clear reprimand, “James Harry Potter!”
James shot his mother his innocent smile. “What?”
The portrait just sighed and shook her head. Lily took that moment to hit her husband lightly on the arm. She was about to add her own comment or two, but they all were distracted by a loud crack coming from the living room. Sirius jumped up like a shot and ran from the dining room with energy only a small child should possess. James and Lily shared looks when they both heard a familiar yelp from the living room and then silence. Lily merely turned back toward her plate before saying dryly, “Sounds like whatever they’re doing doesn’t require an audience either.”
James immediately started laughing, and he could hear his parents’ portraits chuckling once again as well. Lily had the sort of humor where it always caught you off guard. He ran a hand through Lily’s hair and kissed her forehead. “I love you.”
She looked over at him, her pretty green eyes sparkling. “I love you too.”
They both recommenced eating with James soon echoing Sirius’ sentiments about the amazing food. It took a few minutes, but Sirius and Christina eventually made their way into the dining room. With only a little bit of teasing about their delayed entry, they soon were hearing about Christina’s hour or so away. Christina’s brow knitted worriedly as she started to tell them about it, “Well, it had sounded just like any other apparition accident, but then, I got there with Hailey, my partner, and well…” She shook her head before looking out at them all in deep concern. “It was Edgar.”
All of their eyebrows rose at this. James spoke first, “Edgar? What happened?”
Christina sighed, still somewhat upset. “He couldn’t really tell me with Hailey there, but he was spooked. I could tell. I think something happened, and when he tried to get away fast, he splinched himself. The only reason I know this is because he said, ‘I have to get things in order so I can make the meeting tonight.’ Trivial, I know, but he did emphasize those words enough for me to get the point. His wife is four months pregnant too; she’s due at the end of June. He seemed really worried about her, especially if someone’s keeping an eye on him or his family now. I understand why he was so distressed, particularly with leaving his wife pregnant and alone if something was to happen to him. He was lucky this time, but whatever he’s been doing for Dumbledore must’ve been discovered. I’m sure we’ll hear more tonight.”
Lily frowned. “This just adds fuel to the theory that some of us are being targeted. This is not good.”
James shook his head, looking a bit weary. “It could just be isolated. Let’s not jump to conclusions. We have the meeting in another couple of hours, and we’re going to be discussing some of this then.”
Sirius nodded, agreeing with James. “That’s true. I’m sure we’ll all be hearing about it tonight.”
They gradually finished their meal, with all of them turning their discussion to lighter topics. They had later tonight for the sour ones. It wasn’t long before Sirius and Christina decided to have a couple of hours to themselves before the meeting tonight, leaving James and Lily pulling all of the dishes into the kitchen. Lily flicked her wand around a few times and got all the dishes to start cleaning themselves before turning back to James, who she noticed was staring at her with that sneaky smile of his, like he was up to something. She eyed him warily. “What?”
He just chuckled. “Nothing. Let’s go outside for a bit.”
She could clearly see the mischief in his hazel eyes, but she couldn’t quite figure out why he wanted to go outside. “James, it’s still cold out. It’s February. Why in the world do you want to go outside?”
A casual flick of his wand caused her to jump. She looked down and noticed her skirt had become a pair of her jeans. He was still grinning at her, now looking a bit smug. “Excuses, excuses. Now you won’t be so cold, although I’m disappointed by the lack of skirt… I’ll just change it back when we get back inside. We’re also magical and can cast warming charms. Plus, if all else fails, I’ll keep you warm, silly. It’s my job.”
She merely gave him a look, but she couldn’t really be mad at him when he looked and acted so sweet. It also was his break from working, and she knew he wanted to spend it with her. That was why she didn’t protest when he grabbed her hand and pulled her toward where they kept their cloaks. As soon as they were all bundled up and outside, she hugged his arm to her as they walked out into their vast back yard, which was covered in snow. “So, Mr. ‘I Want to Go Outside,’ what exactly did you want to do out here?”
His hazel eyes lit up over whatever mischief he was planning. His smile was hard to not smile back at though. “Oh, nothing. Just combining the two best things in my life… Accio.”
Lily remained incredibly puzzled until she saw a broom zooming toward them, stopping in front of James for him to mount it. Lily began pulling away from him, horrified at the very idea of flying, but she didn’t get very far with James still holding onto her. “No, no, no, no… Uh-uh. No way. I refuse.”
James laughed and wrapped his arms around her from behind tightly so she wouldn’t run away like she had just tried to. “Awww, it’s not that bad. In fact, it’s amazing and one of the best things about being magical.”
She shook her head, frightened beyond belief. “James, no. The last time I was on a broom was in first year when they made us learn. It was awkward as hell then, and it still is. I hate flying. I like to keep my feet securely on the ground, thank you.”
James refused to give in, holding her tighter as he chuckled. “Then, it’s my job to teach you to love it.”
Lily was just as stubborn as he was. “I’m afraid of heights.”
He grinned into her neck. “Well, they say to overcome your fears is to face them head on, so how about it, Gryffindor?”
She pouted at his teasing, but still adamantly shook her head at the prospect of flying. “No. I’ve already tried it, and I don’t like it.”
He could tell she was more than a little uncomfortable at the idea so he tried to ease her fears. He spoke softly near her ear, “When you tried it by yourself, you didn’t get a good experience because you weren’t comfortable with it. Now, I’ll let you sit in front so there’s no way you could possibly fall off unless something were to happen to me, which, of course, is not going to happen. I was the best flyer at Hogwarts. I’ll be doing all of the steering and the flying. You’ll just be along for the ride, Lils. I promise not to let anything happen to you. Please?”
His pleading was so unfair, and he knew it. However, she also knew that he would do anything for her so she supposed she could suffer through a broom ride for him. James would never let anything happen to her. She finally just replied back wearily, “You had to let your ego escape, didn’t you?”
He laughed at that, but he could tell her resolve had crumbled. He kissed the side of her head. “Come on, love.”
She watched him mount the broom easily before he pulled her towards him and helped her sit in front of him. Lily still felt horrendously awkward and unsure about the whole thing, but if James noticed, he didn’t say anything. He wrapped his left arm tightly around her waist and reached out with his right hand to cover her two hands which were clinging to the broom handle as if her life depended on it. He rested his chin on her shoulder before saying, “Ok, now, you have to lean down a little more so your forearms are parallel to the broom. It’ll help me so I can steer more easily.” As soon as she had done that, he then asked, “Ready?”
She shook her head at the question, and he laughed. She could practically see his wicked grin on his face. “You’ll have fun, Lily love. You’ll see.”
And with that, he sent them off, causing Lily to shriek and tense up at the sudden burst of speed. His laughter ringing in her ears, however, did help her to relax some as he flew them both higher into the sky. Lily had her eyes tightly closed in fright, but could feel the wind as it hit her face and could determine that they were likely flying extremely high into the sky. She soon felt them level out and slow somewhat, but she knew they were nowhere near the ground. She then heard James’ teasing voice in her ear, “Your eyes are closed, aren’t they?”
If she could have hit him for teasing her, she would have, but her hands were never leaving the broom. She chose to nod resignedly instead. He kissed the side of her head before replying, “Sweetie, you have to look. It’s the best part. Just don’t look down.”
Lily shook her head and bit back a shriek when he shifted them suddenly while slowing them to a stop in mid-air. He leaned away from her some, and she literally freaked. Her words were terrified, “What are you doing?”
He chuckled and reached for her hands, tugging them off of the broom and pulling her so she was sitting up in front of him, his arms securely holding her up. He could feel her body trembling a bit so he immediately tried to soothe her, “Lily, relax… I’ve got you, and you’re perfectly safe. Now, open those pretty green eyes of yours and look at the beautiful view you’ll never see from anywhere but in the sky.”
She knew deep down she was being silly, particularly because James’ strong arms were securely around her, so she reluctantly opened her eyes a crack and was surprised by what she saw. The view was spectacular. She could see out for miles and miles. The starry night sky seemed endless as she gazed along the amazing mountainous landscape all covered in snowfall. She knew the Potter grounds were lovely, but seeing them and beyond from up here was breathtaking. Lily was surprised that something like this was something James must’ve seen all of the time. No wonder he loved it up here. “Wow.”
He could tell she was finally a bit more comfortable up there with him, which made him smile. “Worth coming up here with me, right?”
Lily nodded, biting her lip as she continued to look out at their amazing view, still trying not to think about the fact that they were hundreds of feet in the air. “I suppose so, even if you did trick me into it.”
He immediately replied, “Well, not really…”
Her head turned so she could meet his hazel eyes, which looked more than a little devious. He was not going to get away with his ‘evading the truth’ game with her. Her knowing look prompted him to continue, “Well, ok, maybe just a little…”
She couldn’t help giggling at him when he caved under her gaze. He smiled at her for a moment before he kissed her lips briefly. When he pulled back, he wiggled his eyebrows at her in a playful manner. “So are you ready for some real flying now, Lils?”
Her green eyes widened at the suggestion and she was about to protest, but he had already leaned them both forward, causing the broom to shoot through the sky at high speeds. Lily couldn’t help it when she let loose a few shrieks as they zigzagged all over the sky, but at least this time, it was hard for either of them to tell if they were shrieks of fright or delight. Her eyes were also wide open finally.
Sirius’ head immediately turned when he saw his best mate and his wife walk into the top floor of the abandoned warehouse the Order chose to meet at. He couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow at the two of them. They looked just a little too happy, they must’ve recently showered (and for James, this would have been his second of the day), and they had clearly changed clothes. He simply could not let such a rare moment to tease them both mercilessly pass up. He was sure his trademark Cheshire grin was firmly in place as he stated loudly for all persons present to hear, “Well, look at you two lovebirds… I’d say you two had some fun during the last couple of hours.”
There were obvious chuckles at his insinuations among the Order members who had already arrived. Only Christina gave him a look for his commentary. She alone knew he was being a bit hypocritical, considering what the two of them had gotten up to back at his place. Lily blushed some, but James didn’t even look fazed. His eyes were gleaming with excitement as he spoke, “We went FLYING.”
Christina looked over at Lily, utterly shocked. “You, of all people, got on a broom? Willingly?”
Lily shook her head and rolled her eyes, scoffing. “Right… Like I’d ever do that willingly…” Her green eyes shimmered mischievously though as she continued, “But you can bet I got him back when we finally landed. I got him with so much snow you couldn’t even tell who he was!”
James just chuckled, running a hand over Lily’s back as he led her into the room. “Yeah, yeah, but I won the snowball fight in the end, naturally, and then we—“
Lily clamped a hand over his mouth. She instantly interrupted him in a rushed tone, “Yeah, I think that’s enough.”
James was still laughing softly as she led them into a pair of chairs where their group usually sat, both of them ignoring the amused looks they were getting from everyone. Sirius sized James up. “So, Lily on a broom, huh?”
James pushed him in his shoulder, but smiled, considering he was just as impressed with himself. “It took some convincing initially, but I think she might even do it again with me one time.”
Lily gave him a look, but even Sirius knew she didn’t mean it and she was merely toying with James. “In your dreams, Potter. I suppose it…” She drifted off as she looked beyond the both of them, her eyes darkening obviously in anger. It was a look both boys remembered all too well. However, she didn’t turn on either of them, thankfully. “REMUS JOHN LUPIN! Just what have you done to yourself?”
James and Sirius both flinched for Remus, who must’ve snuck in quietly when all of the attention had been on James and Lily. Lily’s voice had gotten higher, and she was not happy so James turned around to get a good look at him. He looked more sickly than he had in a very long time, which unnerved James too. He quickly looked around and noticed that more of the Order was very interested in why Lily was suddenly yelling at Remus as if his life were at stake. None of them were really aware of Remus’ condition. He hoped Lily would remember that in her angry state. Remus tried to fend her off, but he was definitely not at 100%. He might not have even been at 60%. “Lily, I thought—“
Lily interrupted him, looking even more angry and concerned as she got up in his face to look him over more closely, “No. You didn’t think. What did I tell you about this batch of potion, Remus? You don’t get it, do you? You could DIE. You had to take every dose at exact intervals. You clearly missed one. When? When did you miss one? I need to know.”
Remus sighed, sagging into his chair and no longer trying to fight her as she placed a hand on his forehead and took his pulse with the other. She was a force to be reckoned with when he was at full strength, and he was far from that. “Two days ago. I took it late, and then I took the next one at the right time. I didn’t think it was that big of a deal.”
Lily’s face paled as she backed away from him. “Right. Next time, maybe you’ll listen to me, won’t you? I’ll be right back.”
She instantly apparated away, leaving everyone highly confused. Remus closed his eyes, and when he reopened them, James, who was now right in front of him, could see the amber in his pale blue eyes much more clearly than he ought to. The full moon wasn’t for two more days. That normally didn’t happen until the night before. Remus sighed up at James. “I should’ve listened to her.” He seemed to be looking faraway in his sickly state. “So this is what it feels like to be poisoned…”
The Order members began making comments about whatever was going on so Sirius jumped up and tried to keep everyone away from Remus, circumventing their questions with ease due to the Marauders’ experience with making up whatever bullshit stories they could come up with about Remus and his ‘furry little problem’ while they had been at school. James sat down next to Remus, intending to make sure he remained conscious. “You’re going to be fine. Lily obviously went to go make a remedy. You best stay awake.”
Remus nodded, his eyes closed. “I know.”
Dumbledore soon arrived and got things underway, despite hearing about Remus. James couldn’t help but think that this was a good idea though. It was better to keep the focus off of Remus and his condition. The Order discussed the whole apparition accident that had happened with Edgar, but Dumbledore didn’t think that the incident was related to the Order per se. He actually thought it was more to do with Edgar being a vocal ‘light’ pure-blood family member. Unlike his older siblings, Amelia and Robert, Edgar made sure his voice was heard in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, and as such, he was not favored by Voldemort and his followers. That made everyone start to think about other vocal members of that department as well as in other departments.
Sturgis also brought up the fact that Augustus Rockwood, a member of the DOM, seemed to be watching Lily again. James had frowned considerably at that. That had started shortly after the attack near the Ministry. Christina had been meeting her directly after work everyday, but particularly whenever he and Sirius couldn’t so she was never alone when she left. Lily never left any of her work available to the naked eye anyway, even while she was at work. The only way to ever know what Lily did would be to look through her mind, but thanks to Occlumency, that would be next to impossible to do. Lily was rather proficient alone with that branch of magic, but with her necklace, she could rival James or Dumbledore.
They were in the middle of planning a possible raid of a known Death Eater hang out when Lily finally apparated back. She was holding a goblet and walked straight towards Remus. Her interruption caused all conversation to falter because most were extremely curious about whatever was going on. Lily looked extremely worried as she handed the goblet over to Remus. “Here, drink all of this. It’s probably nasty, but it will alleviate all of the ingredients from the other potion. And yes, that means you will be stuck with nothing this time… Unfortunately, that’s the only way for me to get rid of the inaccurate amount of…ummm, stuff floating through your system due to taking the potions too close to one another.”
Hestia spoke up hesitantly, considering she worked with the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad with Christina and knew a few things about healing as a result, “No offense, Lily, but you aren’t a Healer or anything. Maybe he should go to a Healer before he drinks whatever you made?”
Alastor was the first to speak, despite the Marauders wanting to, “Nah, lass. Lily is the only one who can help him at the moment.”
The Marauders all looked over at Alastor curiously, but they weren’t exactly surprised that he may have figured it out. Dumbledore interjected lightly, “Yes, that is right. Hestia, I’m afraid Lily will be the only one who can take care of the problem. I’m sure whatever she has made will do the trick.”
Remus hadn’t even paid any attention to the others and had taken the goblet from Lily while Dumbledore had been talking, downing it entirely. Everyone watched as Remus gagged a bit at the concoction and started breathing heavier as the potion flew through his system. James watched him closely and noted in relief that the amber in his eyes began to recede. Remus leaned back in the chair, still looking pale. He smiled up at his friends weakly to reassure them that he was fine before turning back to Lily. “Thanks.”
Lily was also watching him closely. She grabbed his hand and checked his pulse again. After a few moments, she let go and sat down next to him wearily. “Don’t you ever do that to me again, Remus. And I really am sorry about this month.”
James jutted in, “Don’t worry about it, Lils.”
Sirius and Peter nodded in agreement with James’ assertion, implying that they all would help Remus out this time if he was going to have a regular transformation. Dumbledore smiled at them all before he drew everyone back into the discussion. He was rather good at moving past awkward situations or avoiding information that needed to be kept quiet. They continued discussing their possible raid and mentioned a few other things before Dumbledore became a bit more serious than before. “I also have heard from Alastor some rather disturbing news from the Ministry. Barty Crouch is pushing for allowing the use of Unforgivables by Magical Law Enforcement personnel. Although he has not permanently been made Head of Magical Law Enforcement, he is the acting Head and is likely to be voted in. The missing Melody Tripnor was supposed to be taking that position, but alas, we are left with a poorer choice as a result. Now, take heed, he has a lot of support on this. However, allowing such magic to be used by our side would only be lowering us all to Voldemort’s level. There is no benefit in killing the Death Eaters, and there are much better ways to handle an attack than by using the remaining Unforgivables. Besides, the magic required to execute one of those curses is not light magic. You would all do much better using curses and tactics you already know if this goes through.”
James frowned at that admission. He had noticed Dumbledore’s emphasis about Melody Tripnor, who had died over a year ago now. How the Ministry still labeled her as merely missing was ridiculous. He surveyed Dumbledore as he continued telling them all to be careful and mindful of all things around them. Dumbledore seemed to be looking directly at him when he was saying all of that. James instantly became a bit moody as a result, considering Dumbledore had finally told him why Voldemort was so interested in the line of Peverell last week. Apparently, Voldemort was the remaining descendent of Slytherin. It sure explained a lot. It was a good thing Dumbledore was merely aware of the Potter connection to Peverell and nothing more. Dumbledore, of course, was not a Potter and so was unaware of the whole story. If Dumbledore, let alone Voldemort, knew that the Potters were also descendents of Gryffindor, suddenly things would be a lot worse for him and Lily. Dumbledore would probably send them into hiding right away regardless, and Voldemort would be after their heads.
He felt Lily squeeze his hand gently, likely because she had noticed his brooding. He turned his attention to her instead, smiling slightly at her in return. Her pretty green eyes seemed to already know what was on his mind, but she just patted the back of the hand holding hers in an effort to get him to relax. Dumbledore soon appeared to have finished up, but Dorcas and Marlene urged everyone to stay for a photo. Everyone seemed to chuckle over the idea, but James and Lily soon made their way over, with James grabbing Peter on the way. “Pete, come on. It’s just a photo. We haven’t seen you much lately.”
Peter responded somewhat bitterly, although no one seemed the wiser as to his tone, “Oh, you remember me now?”
Sirius, who was holding Christina’s hand as he walked over to them, laughed at Peter’s supposed joke, “Wormy, we wouldn’t be able to forget you.” He lowered his voice so he was just talking to their group, “You guys ready for a reunion in two days?”
Peter shrugged a bit indifferently, but James and Sirius didn’t notice because they were looking at Remus. Remus smiled at them all weakly. He obviously was still feeling listless, but at least according to Lily, it was merely how he would normally feel in anticipation of the upcoming transformation. “Thanks in advance for that guys. I don’t want to wake up and have chewed my leg off.”
James punched him in his arm lightly before smirking at his friend. “Nah, we’ll make sure it’s your arm.”
Their group started to snicker over that, although Peter didn’t seem to have his heart completely in it. Marlene interrupted them all, her brown curls bouncing around her as she looked them all over in playful reprimand, “Will you all come and sit? The camera has already been charmed.”
They all immediately started sitting down in response to Marlene’s gesturing, and Lily pulled Peter to sit in between her and James. They all smiled up at the camera before it flashed, but no one expected that that would be the last time they all would be together in such a light-hearted manner.
Marlene McKinnon and her family were all dead. It had only taken two weeks. Her and her family were not the only ones either. Other well-known ‘light’ pure-blood families along with outspoken muggleborn and half-blood families had also begun to be picked off right within their homes. The idea of being targeted seemed to reverberate throughout the magical community. No one wanted to go home if there was a chance the Dark Mark was hanging over their home. If a family wasn’t even safe in their own home, where would they be safe?
Dorcas had been devastated by her best mate’s demise. Her family had died in the muggleborn attack almost a year before so Marlene had been all that she had left. After a host of tears, she had gone to Dumbledore with a newfound resolve. She had declared that she wanted to do anything and everything, no matter what the danger, to make some progress for the Order. Dumbledore had reluctantly given her a few assignments that clearly hadn’t been worked out fully. Dorcas merely took them without even flinching at the possible danger if she was ever discovered. Alastor had also made sure to give her as many pointers as he could before she went off on her own in an effort to keep her as safe as possible.
As much as the Order tried to face the dangers head on, the disasters just kept on coming. Edgar Bones, and his pregnant wife, Janet, had been the next to fall about three weeks after Marlene. Their home had been ransacked sometime in the early morning by a number of Death Eaters. Edgar must’ve suffered greatly, considering his body had been strung up on the wall facing his wife and future child’s mangled bodies. The Death Eaters oftentimes got sick pleasure out of making their victim’s watch as they tortured their loved ones.
His sister, Amelia, had been in hysterics when she had found out. She and Edgar had been really close. After his death and her initial shock had worn off, she seemed to become more sullen and threw herself into her work at the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. This time though, she was more quiet about her work. She remained fair, but she never spoke loudly or strongly about any issue that came up before the Wizengamot. Their other brother, Robert, had been equally horrified by his brother and sister-in-law’s demise. Robert’s wife, Maureen, had also discovered she was pregnant just two weeks before, and both she and Janet had been cooing over being pregnant together and having their children be so close in age. Robert and Maureen had tearfully told people at the funeral that because Janet and Edgar had been having a baby girl they were going to name Susan, if Maureen had a baby girl, that was what they intended to name her.
Times had gotten considerably dark. James had found out that someone with the last name of Lametz had been killed violently in the North of France so he had stopped acting as Pierre in Knockturn Alley. Sirius also had stopped going, particularly because the only reason he had ever gone in the first place had been to make sure James hadn’t been alone. That left Peter as their only way into Knockturn Alley. He had smirked at his friends, saying that he had it covered. His reports though seemed to not be that great. Peter claimed he couldn’t really get close enough to hear their conversations despite being transformed. The other reason it was a good thing that James and Sirius had stopped going was because the werewolves and vampires that had once been scarce within the area had increased tremendously. It wouldn’t have been long for either Marauder to be sniffed out as being in disguise, especially if they kept going as often as they had been. Peter was so small and could hide easily from them, but James and Sirius could not.
It was now almost two months since the last time the Order had had a reason to smile. James sighed to himself as he finished tying a package and a letter to Matty for Lauren. Her birthday was the next day so he had tried to come up with a few different pranks to lighten the day for her. That, and both he and Lily (well, mostly Lily) had gotten her a new black cloak. James had placed a few different protective spells on it too, but even they weren’t impenetrable. He frowned when he thought about the danger surrounding them all. Tomorrow he would be going on an Auror mission to stake out yet another possible Death Eater hide out. All of the half-time Aurors in training did most of the stake-out operations while the full-time Aurors were the ones to go inside. He didn’t really mind because he had learned a lot about Death Eater habits and could now tell by voice particular Death Eaters, although he never spoke about why he had such great hearing. He watched Matty fly away for a moment until he heard, “There you are! I was looking for you.”
He turned around with a smile at his wife. She must’ve just gotten back from work because she was still in her robes. She was holding Misty in her arms as she came inside the room in the East Wing. That cat followed her everywhere. He came up and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek before scratching the cat behind its ears. “I just sent off that package for Lauren. She should get it either tonight or in the morning.”
Lily’s eyes lit up. “Good. Maybe she will actually have a good birthday instead of one where you and Sirius drive her crazy with a bunch of pranks.”
James ran a hand through his hair sheepishly. “Well…”
Lily smacked him in his chest lightly. “I knew you’d prank her if you sent it off. I should’ve done it myself last night.”
James just chuckled briefly before saying, “She’ll need to laugh a little tomorrow otherwise she won’t all day.”
Lily’s brow furrowed. “You don’t have to say, but…what really happened? It was obviously horrible.”
James sighed and led her out of the room so he could drag her into the kitchen. He was hungry. His words were grave as he let the story out, “Well, like I’ve said before, she had just turned seven when it happened. Her parents had taken her out to some muggle restaurant for kids. Since she had been going to a muggle primary school, she was supposedly meeting up with some of her muggle friends and their families to celebrate. It was a busy day at whatever location the restaurant was at and so they ended up parking way in the back. The memory was extracted from Lauren when she was found the next day hiding in an alleyway a few blocks away. I never watched it, being almost eight at the time, but the gist is that her parents got hit up for money and were shot to death in the back parking lot. She saw it all from underneath their car. Her mother had pushed her there. I’m pretty sure that the muggles who did it had no idea she was even there.”
Lily sunk back into the kitchen counter as she watched James start making sandwiches for the two of them. “How horrible. You hear about that sort of thing in the muggle world, but you don’t expect it to happen to someone magical.”
James nodded. “I know, but if you think about it, my uncle probably denied the muggle guy thinking nothing of it, but then it likely looked dangerous so my aunt probably was too busy trying to push Lauren out of the way to worry about her wand. By the time Lauren was safe, my uncle was probably already shot and my aunt was next because she was a witness. I don’t think either of them expected something like that to happen. Maybe just a hassle for money, but not a muggle gun.”
Lily nodded. “I guess. It probably took Lauren a long time to get over it.”
James shrugged. “Yes and no. I mean, she was so young when it happened. I was a crazy child and didn’t understand what had happened so I dragged her out to play all of the time. I mean, don’t get me wrong— she had plenty of nightmares, and her birthdays have never been happy for her, always awkward. Sirius found out everything in second year when she was in first. That’s when we began pranking her. It made her smile even if she always got upset over it.”
Lily smiled at him. “I’m glad you guys were able to do that for her.”
He winked at her as he handed her one of the sandwiches he had made. “Why, thank you, love. I never thought you would ever say it was a good thing to prank someone.”
She laughed. “Well, I also married you so hell must’ve frozen over somewhere.”
James nodded solemnly. “Or someone made pigs fly.”
They continued to laugh quietly with the other as they finished their sandwiches and discussed their days at work. Lily was now resting with her back against James as they sat together on their couch, both of their robes thrown aside. James was toying with her hair as they rested together in relative silence. That all changed when they got a patronus from Alice, “James, and Lily if you’re there, Death Eaters came out of Knockturn Alley and are headed for the bank. We need some extra hands.”
Both of them flew up off the couch, looking ready to apparate, but James grabbed Lily’s arm to stop her. “Wait. Maybe you shouldn’t go. Voldemort would love to get his hands on you, Lils. This could just be some ploy of theirs to get the two of us to come out willingly.”
Lily rolled her eyes at him and pulled her arm out of his grip. “I’m going, James. Frank and Alice obviously need more people there if they contacted us. Now, quit trying to protect me, and let’s go.”
James’ brow furrowed as he argued with himself. He really didn’t want to let her go, but knew she would argue with him until they were both blue in the face. Frank and Alice needed them so they should both go now instead of twenty minutes from now. “Fine, but I’m not letting you out of my sight.”
Lily sighed, knowing he had a good point about the whole thing. However, Frank and Alice needed them. Although she knew that she was an excellent witch in her own right, James, Frank, and Alice were the Aurors and had more knowledge about this sort of thing. “Fine.”
James nodded at her before grabbing her arm once more and apparating the two of them in the brush near Gringotts. They both spotted spell fire out in front of the bank coming from a number of Death Eaters and Order members. Frank and Alice obviously had notified others as well. “Right, let’s go.”
Both of them immediately stunned the nearest Death Eaters, drawing enough attention to get drawn into duels of their own. The number of Death Eaters present seemed minimal, only about twenty or so, which made James furrow his brow. If they were heading for the bank, there should be a lot more than just twenty Death Eaters if they thought they were going to have any chance at getting inside. The goblins alone could handle that number by themselves, maybe even more than that. Whichever Death Eater he was dueling with kept all of his spells to James’ right, constantly pushing him left when he dodged them. When he heard Lily’s voice suddenly say his name questioningly and a bit frightened, he realized why he was being pushed that way. Lily now had two Death Eaters to fight, and there was one she had not seen coming up behind her. James quickly shouted, “Stupefy, stupefy, stupefy!”
His opponent fell to the second stunner after he dodged the first, and James quickly made his way over to Lily, petrifying one of the Death Eaters in front of her. Before he could do anything about the other, he heard her shout out his name. A Death Eater had grabbed her from behind and was dragging her away from all of the fighting. His hazel eyes widened at the prospect of him apparating away with her, and he quickly made his way over to where they were standing casting a shield spell around himself and dodging a few spells as he went. Lily was struggling profusely with the guy as he maintained a strong hold on her despite messing with his robes, trying to uncover his left arm. As soon as he had revealed a dark mark on his forearm and touched it with his wand, James had managed to grab onto his opposite shoulder roughly.
There were cries of triumph by the remaining Death Eaters as both James and Lily disappeared with the Death Eater. The Order members watched in horror as all of the remaining Death Eaters simultaneously disappeared cackling madly over their victory, leaving them all wondering what sort of hell James and Lily had just fallen into.
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