Chapter 6 : Trouble In Paradise
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“Don’t lie to me, Potter.” Moody’s wooden leg clunked against the ground as he stomped over to James. “You’re the one who warned those bloody Death Eaters!”
James was entirely shocked. “What are you talking about?”
Moody’s face was only an inch away from James’. “Are you trying to wiggle out of this, boy?” He let out a low cackle and his magical eye practically bore into James. “I’ve seen the likes of you. You all appear to be innocent, but I know what you’re thinking.”
Lily watched with bated breath as James shook his head, his eyes wide and confused. His grip on his broom tightened considerably. “Mad-Eye, I really don’t know what you’re referring to. I didn’t release information to anyone.”
Sirius couldn’t seem to hold his tongue anymore. He stepped around Moody and clasped a hand on James’ shoulder. “Mad-Eye, you’ve seriously got the wrong guy. James would never…”
“You don’t know what Potter is capable of, Black,” Moody snarled. He grabbed Sirius’ shirt and forcefully yanked him away from James. “And I suggest you stay away from him until we’ve got everything figured out.”
James had just opened his mouth to protest when Moody roughly grabbed his shoulder and shoved him towards the center of the room. James, unsuspecting of the move, stumbled but managed to regain his footing a moment later. He looked positively agitated.
“Will someone tell me what the hell is going on here? Why are you all acting as if I’m the culprit?”
“Not all of us,” Sirius reminded. His voice lowered to a grumble. “Just the madman over there.”
If Moody heard Sirius’ last comment, he didn’t say anything. Instead, he focused his whole attention on James. “Confess, Potter,” he growled. “What benefits did they give you? Why would you do something like this?”
James was growing more and more exasperated. He crossed his arms and set his face in a glower. “I don’t know where you’re getting your information, Mad-Eye, but as far as I see it, you’re making accusations out of thin air. Just because it looks like there’s a traitor doesn’t mean there is one.” Moody opened his mouth, but James continued, ignoring the Auror’s attempt to speak. “And just because there might be a traitor doesn’t mean I’m the one.”
“You were the only one who appeared at the safe house last,” Moody snapped. He looked around the room and his eyes settled on Maxim. “Caden, was Potter there when you arrived?”
Maxim didn’t look all too pleased at being singled out. “No, he wasn’t,” he muttered.
Tris blinked and scratched her ear with a sheepish smile. “I didn’t see James at first, but it was way too messy to see anyone clearly. He helped me get back to the safe house later on though!”
Moody growled and punched his cane into the ground. “Do not try to cover for him.”
James threw his hands into the air. “Mad-Eye, come on. You’re just being paranoid.”
It was the wrong thing to say. Moody’s wand was at his throat in the blink of an eye and Lily barely choked back a protest. Sirius was fuming and even Remus looked a tad angry.
“What were you doing, Potter?” he hissed.
“Getting my broom,” James said through gritted teeth. “I thought it would come in handy.”
Moody let out a loud huff of rough laughter and pressed his wand into James’ windpipe even further. “Pathetic excuse, boy.”
“It wasn’t an excuse.” James looked positively murderous. “Why won’t you just believe me when I tell you I’m not the traitor?”
“Because that’s what they all say.”
Lily’s mouth suddenly worked. “Veritaserum!” When Moody’s magical eye whirled towards her, she cleared her throat. “You can use Veritaserum to see if James is lying or not.”
Moody’s mouth twitched. “Trying to save your boyfriend, Evans?” At Lily’s confused look, he scoffed. “Veritaserum can only be issued by the Ministry.”
Alice rested a reassuring hand on Lily’s arm. “So you’re going to accuse James just like that? Without further proof or anything?”
“I’m not going to accuse him yet. He’s just going to be under close watch.” Moody grabbed James’ arm, and without warning, apparated away with a loud pop. Sirius cursed under his breath hurriedly apparated and Remus nodded towards the others in the group before he followed.
Everyone stared at the empty spot that had been occupied by three people just a few seconds ago.
Lily turned to look at Aileen, who appeared rather pale. She frowned. Perhaps the girl was sick? “Why don’t you follow them to make sure they don’t do anything rash? I’ll stay behind and help clean up.”
Aileen nodded rather eagerly and apparated as well.
Alice was now back at Frank’s side, where the Healer was still working rather fastidiously. From the Healer’s occasional mutters, it seemed as if Frank was still in rather critical condition.
Tris blew out a loud sigh and slumped to the ground. “Why does it seem like things are getting more and more complicated?”
Marlene had already started on the clean-up work. She was busy repairing the windows on the east wall. “Do you really think there’s a traitor among us?”
“Oh definitely,” Tris drawled. “Will the traitor please raise his hand and say ‘aye’?”
Maxim scowled at her. “Why are you using ‘his’? What if the traitor is a woman?”
“I was just trying to generalize. We substitute the word ‘man’ for human a lot anyway.”
“That still implies that you’re accusing the male gender of treachery.”
Dorcas rolled her eyes and shot a glare at Marlene. “Look what your question started. Those two will go at it for hours.”
Lily laughed at Marlene’s insulted look and replaced a few boards that had been torn up from the hardwood ground. She saw Dorcas move over to the tattered furniture and assess one of them through shrewd eyes. If it were up to Dorcas, she probably would’ve thrown everything away and then buy everything anew.
Tris and Maxim were still arguing in the background, and since Alice was still looking over Frank like a hawk, it was up to the three of them to work on the entire safe house. Lily blew out a sigh. They probably wouldn’t be home until it was well after dark.
Lily nearly stumbled when she apparated outside the ward that protected their safe house. Dorcas and Marlene popped up on either side of her, and then Alice appeared with an unconscious Frank. Tris and Maxim were the last ones to arrive.
They had spent at least five hours cleaning up the safe house, repairing everything and setting up the wards and protection that the house originally had. Tris and Maxim had stopped their arguing halfway through and concentrated on helping and Alice joined in at the last minute when the Healer had assured her that while Frank was still in poor condition, he was no longer critical. Even so, Lily knew that the house would remain empty for a period of time, since that division of Aurors was pretty much wiped out.
Dorcas sent her Patronus past the wards and to the door of the house, where someone disabled the wards briefly for them to enter.
Sirius greeted them at the entrance, looking extremely huffy.
Lily was the last to enter and closed the door behind her. The safe house was alarmingly quiet. “Is everything okay?”
“No,” he said sulkily. “Moody locked Prongs on the third floor and interrogated him for at least an hour. And then when he finally came out, he forbade us from seeing Prongs.”
She winced. “So Moody is serious about James being the traitor?”
“He’s not even providing a truly valid reason! Just because Prongs met up with us late doesn’t mean he’s a bloody traitor. He would never betray his friends.”
Lily smiled sympathetically. “I know. I don’t believe James would do anything like that either.” She looked over his shoulder to see the rest of their group gathered around in the nearby room. “Come on, let’s go join the others.”
Everyone was lounged on the couches and armchairs that surrounded the fireplace. Tris had taken up an entire couch so Marlene could only sit on an armrest. Remus was in an armchair and Maxim and Dorcas shared the second couch. There were two empty spots on the remaining loveseat.
Lily seated herself in one while Sirius practically threw himself beside her. There was a period of silence as everyone played the day’s events in their minds.
Dorcas was the first to speak up. “How’s James doing? And where’s Aileen?”
“James is locked in a room on the third floor,” Remus said. Lily was surprised that he managed to sound so calm, but then again, he had always been the most mature out of the Marauders. “Aileen is in the kitchen preparing food. She knows you guys are hungry after a day’s work.”
Tris shifted and blew out a happy sigh. Her blue hair was incredibly tousled. “You have to love that girl. She’s going to make someone a wonderful wife someday.”
Marlene laughed. “I’m glad you can think about other things at a time like this.”
At that, Tris groaned and pressed her face into the couch. Marlene patted her head and looked at Remus. “So what’s Moody’s verdict on James? Is he going to take him to the Ministry?”
Sirius interrupted before Remus could say anything. “Nothing!” he spat, practically foaming at the mouth. Lily eyed him worriedly. It was rare to see Sirius react so strongly about something, but James had always been special. “Not a bloody word. He just told us to stay away.”
Dorcas lifted an eyebrow. “Really? That bad?”
“Yes.” Remus sighed and rubbed his temples. “The room is supposed to be constantly monitored so the only way we can see James is if Moody agrees. But it’ll take a miracle for that to happen.”
There was a loud thump from upstairs and then Alice appeared at the foot of the steps, looking rather hassled and furious. She conjured a seat and threw herself into it. “Bloody hell, Mad-Eye is making me so angry!”
Lily frowned. “What happened?”
“I was finding a room to situate Frank in and I accidentally tried to open the door that Mad-Eye had apparently locked James in.” She threw her hands into the air exasperatedly. “It’s not as if I knew he had put James in there. Sheesh.”
Maxim tapped his chin thoughtfully. “Moody’s really serious about this.”
Alice huffed. “You think?”
Tris lifted her head and eyed everyone in the room. “Do you really think James would do something like that? Honestly. He’s so…” She gestured with her hand in an attempt to come up with a fitting word. She ended up with “good.”
Lily wanted to smile. “Good?”
“Not as in angelic or anything,” Tris said. “I just mean he’s as Auror-ish as an Auror can be. It’s impossible for him to betray us.”
“Exactly,” Sirius snapped.
Maxim shifted in his seat. “But Moody did have a point back there. Why was James late?”
“He said he had to get his broom,” Marlene reminded.
He grimaced. “You have to admit that the excuse was pretty weak. I don’t think it’d serve as a very good reason if he were on trial.”
Lily felt herself growing angrier. She had managed to tame her temper back in Frank’s safe house since she knew it wouldn’t have done James any good if she had blown up. But now even Maxim was openly criticizing James, and it made her wonder just how many of them truly thought James was the traitor.
“So you’re siding with Moody?” Her question came out a lot harsher than she had intended.
He looked at her carefully. “No, but we can’t really rule out the possibility. Moody doesn’t accuse without reason. Maybe…”
She had heard enough. Without waiting for him to finish, she got out of her seat and ignored the scattered calls questioning where she was going. She had to see James and Moody. She couldn’t let Moody make false assumptions and while she didn’t admit it, she knew instinctively that there was more to James’ lateness than he had openly stated.
Lily passed Aileen, who had just come out of the kitchen, bearing a platter full of newly made sandwiches and butterbeer.
Aileen visibly brightened when she saw Lily, and Lily noted that the paleness had faded from her cheeks. “I just prepared a late night snack for you guys.” She gestured towards the tray. “Do you want some?”
Lily shook her head. “No, it’s all right. Thanks anyway.” She was about to head up the stairs when Aileen called her name again. She turned around. “Yeah?”
“Are you going up to see James?”
She nodded. “I want to. But apparently, we have to get Moody’s permission, right?”
Aileen winced at that. “Yeah.” She sighed. “He’s been barring us from James’ room ever since he was locked in there. I wish you luck.”
Lily nodded grimly and continued on her way. The second landing was quiet and she saw no signs of Moody anywhere, which meant he was probably on the third floor. She tread lightly on the stairs, but it was no use. Moody was scribbling hurriedly on a parchment in the study and he stopped writing when he sensed her presence.
“Sorry, no visitors allowed.”
She walked into the study and stopped right in front of the desk that he was working on. “Do you really think locking him in a room and preventing him from seeing other people is going to make him testify to something that he didn’t even do?”
He chuckled and leaned back in his seat, his magical eye swirling in every which way. “I know Potter’s personality, Evans. He’s going to spit it out sooner or later.”
Now Lily was truly exasperated. “Spit what out?” she cried. “Is there something specific that you want to hear from him?”
“And what if there was?”
“You probably won’t hear it then,” she said resolutely. “You could threaten to kill James but he would never admit to something he’s never done. You should know this, Moody.”
He looked at her seriously for a moment before he sighed and leaned forward on his desk. “Look here, Evans. Whether Potter is innocent or not depends entirely on him. Once he’s willing to tell me the real reason he was late to the rescue, I’ll give him back his freedom. It’s as simple as that.”
Her grip tightened on the chair that she had clutched onto. “What makes you think he wasn’t telling the truth?”
Moody smiled then. “I believe you know the answer to that one yourself, Evans,” he said quietly.
Lily sucked in a deep breath. Moody was no fool. He had detected the lie the minute James had said it, just like she had known that James was hiding something. But what was so important that James would keep it a secret even in a situation like this?
“Let me talk to him.”
Moody shook his head. “Sorry, Evans. That’s not possible.”
“I can convince him to tell me,” she said. “Moody, James listens to me. He’ll be willing to talk to me.”
“That’s what everyone else has said so far.”
Lily slammed her palms onto the desk and leaned forward. Her green eyes were sharp. “You and I both know that James is hiding something,” she whispered. “And I have a much bigger chance of figuring it out than you do.”
Instead of being outraged by her behavior, Moody seemed amused. He eyed her with a certain gleam in his eyes. “You do know that everything that is said and done in that room is monitored.”
“Do you think Potter will be willing to talk to you under that circumstance?”
“I’m sure that he’ll be more willing with me than he will ever be with you.”
He smirked at her bluntness. “All right, Evans. You’ve convinced me. Go in and have your little chat with him, but remember that I hear and see everything that goes on in that room.”
“Thank you, Moody.”
Lily headed down the hallway and stopped at the third door from the end. There was no noise emitting from the room. She sucked in a deep breath and muttered, “Alohomora.”
The door swung open.
James was seated on the couch, his elbows resting on his knees and his hair fisted in his hands. He didn’t even look up when she entered.
“What the hell do you want now?” he asked tiredly.
Lily closed the door quietly behind her. She slowly approached him, her heart thumping erratically. It pained her to see him so upset and aggravated and she knew that she was willing to do anything to make him feel the least bit better.
She knelt in front of him. “James?”
His entire body froze. There was a moment as he tried to place her voice and then he slowly looked up. His hazel eyes were wide behind his glasses. “Lily?” he whispered.
Tears were filling her eyes and she rubbed them away furiously. Now was not the time to cry, she scolded herself. James needed her more than anything at the moment, and from the look in his eyes, she wondered just how much he had gone through in the past few hours.
“James,” she murmured, grasping his hands. They were cold. “Oh James.”
And before she knew it, he had pulled her up and was hugging her as if his life depended on it. She rubbed his back soothingly, noting just how tense he was. She worked on giving him a massage as he held onto her, kneading his muscles to loosen them.
She had no idea just how long they were in that position. It could’ve been seconds, minutes, hours…she had lost track of time. Eventually, however, James pulled away from her. His smile was shaky.
“Thanks, Lily,” he murmured. “I really needed it.”
She touched his cheekbone. “Are you all right?”
He closed his eyes and sighed. “Yeah. I’m fine.”
Lily shook her head. “No, you’re not.” Her denial made him open his eyes and she offered a faint smile and pushed him gently so that he was sitting on the couch again. She took the spot beside him and turned around to face him fully. “Moody must’ve really hammered you for information.”
James’ laugh was bitter. “Of course. The man’s set on the idea that I’ve betrayed everyone.”
“But have you?”
His reaction was sudden. He pulled away from her, his eyes wide and hurt. “Lily…you think I’m the traitor too?”
She shook her head hurriedly. “No, no, of course not.” She grasped his hand tightly, wondering how she was going to word the next sentence. “It’s just…I think…I get the feeling that you weren’t telling the whole truth back in the safe house.”
James was shocked. “Why…why would you think that way?”
“It’s hard to explain.” Lily gnawed at her lower lip. “Well, at the risk of making you mad, the reason you gave really was kind of hard to believe.”
He jumped up from the couch. Her eyes widened when he narrowed his eyes at her. He looked absolutely furious. “So you’re siding with Moody, is that it? You believe what he says more than you believe me?”
She stood up as well. “James, listen. This really has nothing to do with who I believe.” At his flabbergasted look, she sighed. “If it were a choice between you and Moody, of course I’d be on your side. But…” She approached him and grabbed his arms. “But your reaction earlier basically confirmed that you had lied back in the safe house. I’m not here to accuse you. I just want to know the truth.”
James looked away from her. “I didn’t lie.” Lily heard the unspoken words: but I didn’t tell the whole truth either.
She looked at him earnestly, her gaze imploring. “Tell me, James. Please?”
He sighed and shook his head. “I can’t, Lily.”
Her gaze dropped to the ground and she let her hands fall from his arms. “I see.” She forced herself to stay calm. It seemed as if James had never willingly told her anything. Back at Hogwarts, she had forced him to tell her about what happened to Aileen, and now he was keeping something from her again. Only this time, he was more adamant than before. Was she just that untrustworthy?
She sucked in a deep breath. “All right then. I think Moody’s going to kick me out if I stay in here much longer.” She spared a glance at him and saw that he was staring at the opposite wall, his jaw tight. “Good luck, James.”
Lily turned to go. She had only made it a few steps when she felt his arms wrap around her waist, pulling her to a halt.
His voice was ragged. “Lily, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry…but I can’t tell you. It’s just not my place to say anything. I made a promise to a friend.”
And that was James’ best feature, Lily realized, but also his biggest problem. He had an impossibly strong sense of loyalty towards all his friends and he was willing to go to the end of the Earth for them. It had been the case with Remus’ werewolf secret and now it was the same situation all over again. But the problem was, he was often so stubborn about protecting his friends that he forgot about protecting himself at the same time.
She turned around and read the apology in his eyes. “James…you’re willing to jeopardize everything for this friend?”
He nodded slowly. “I…I owe it to her.”
“I see.” Lily smiled faintly and pressed a light kiss to his cheek. “I accept that.”
“Lily, please don’t be mad. I don’t think I could stand it if you…”
She reassured him with a firm shake of her head. “Of course I’m not mad at you, James. How could I be when you’re being such a good friend?” She gave his hand a warm squeeze. “I’m going to see if I can talk some sense into Moody.”
“Thank you.” He brought the back of her hand to his lips. “I love you, Lily.”
Her heart jumped and she smiled brightly. “Good night, James.”
Moody was waiting for Lily in the study. She slid down into one of the two chairs in front of his desk and rubbed her eyes.
“I’m assuming you heard our conversation?” she asked wearily.
He nodded. “I did.”
“Then you should know that James isn’t the traitor, if there even is one in the first place.”
“I don’t know that.” At Lily’s shocked expression, Moody shrugged. “I only know that Potter did indeed lie to us when he told us that he went to get his broomstick.”
She couldn’t help but protest on his behalf. “He told a half-truth for a friend, Moody. Didn’t you hear that part?” She deflated then. She felt rather emotionally drained after the conversation with James and she didn’t feel up to another argument with Moody. “James is just so…he’s so loyal and I…”
Moody sighed and absently fiddled with a quill lying on the desk. “Evans, I have to admit that Potter may value loyalty much more than I had thought.” He paused and looked Lily straight in the eye. “But remember that loyalty is both a good thing and a bad thing. When you’re loyal to the wrong side…”
“But James isn’t!” she cried.
“He may or may not be. In any case, you have to make him understand that what he’s hiding, whatever he’s hiding, is hurting him. And if his friend knows this, he or she should step out.”
Lily sighed and rubbed her temples. James made friends faster than she could finish a book. He had so many…which one was he protecting now? “So you aren’t going to let him go until you have solid proof that he isn’t the traitor?”
“Exactly, Evans. Either give me solid proof or bring me the one who is the traitor. I know for a fact that someone gave the Death Eaters an advanced warning, and I won’t stop until I find the damn culprit.”
“All right, Moody. I’ll work on it.”
She got up and was about to leave when Moody spoke up again. “Evans, try to convince Potter to think more for himself and less for others. His loyalty to his friends may just get him killed one day.”
Lily bade him a good night and started down the stairs. Why had things gotten so complicated? There was a traitor in their group and Moody was so adamantly certain that it was James.
She suddenly stopped walking. Had Moody ever affirmed that he knew it was James? He had been rather vehement back in Frank’s safe house, but wouldn’t he have taken more action than simply locking James in a room if he knew that James was the traitor? Something in her mind clicked. Ever since she had talked to Moody, he had never outright accused James, which meant that he…that he knew James wasn’t the traitor.
But how was that possible? And why would he keep James locked in the room if he knew?
Lily shook her head. Everything was just too tangled for her to figure out right at that moment. There were too many points of suspicion that needed to be covered and she needed at least another head to help her sort things out.
She had already reached the first floor by then. The room that everyone had been congregated in earlier was empty except for Sirius and Remus, who seemed to be talking rather seriously next to the fireplace. They looked up when they heard her footsteps and Remus gave her a smile while Sirius merely looked curious. Had they known that she had gone upstairs to talk to James?
She was about to head over to them when Aileen suddenly appeared from kitchen. She was in the middle of rolling her sleeves down, which meant that she had probably been cleaning up.
She smiled when she noticed Lily. “How did it go? Did Moody let you speak with James?”
Aileen’s eyes widened and suddenly she didn’t seem so calm anymore. “Really? He let you?” She rushed forward and grabbed Lily’s hands. “Is James all right? Did he say anything?”
Lily was barely processing anything that the blonde was saying. Her mind had gone back to the conversation she had with James earlier.
“Lily, I’m sorry…I’m so sorry but I can’t tell you.”
“I made a promise to a friend.”
“I…I owe it to her.”
James owed it to her. He owed her. And suddenly, one thing became alarmingly clear.
“Aileen, I need to talk to you.”
Author's Note: All right, so I think I'll give everyone a hopefully good explanation. Phew. So I've been receiving quite a few reviews asking if I was going to finish this story or if I got my inspiration back. And then New Years came around. I finally decided to sit down one day and map out the entire outline for this story, and now that I have, I believe I'll be able to finish it.
So that's my reason for returning this to a WIP instead of the previously Abandoned status. I'm sorry for taking so long to get my inspiration back and I hope that this chapter and the upcoming chapters don't disappoint. Thanks for bearing with me and my uncertainties for so long.
And wow...this is quite a long A/N. Hopefully they'll be shorter in the future :) Please enjoy and please review!!! Thank you!!!
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