Chapter 68 : So Little Time
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So Little Time
For days the boys followed the Daily Prophet obsessively, looking for anything - even the tiniest hint - that could tell them the fate of Mr. Pettigrew. They anxiously awaited the letters from Peter’s mother every day, hoping she had some good news to share with them. They even asked Remus’s father if he knew about any stories that would be printed in the paper concerning it. Unfortunately they received no news and were only left to wonder about Mr. Pettigrew’s fate. Peter had gone into a stony silence about it, never wanting to talk about it. His friends didn’t force him to, but let him know that if he ever did want to talk, they would be listening. They knew it wasn’t helpful to let certain things stew inside for too long.
For the rest of the seventh years, this half of the year only meant the NEWT examinations were looming ever closer, and the professors saw this as well. They made sure to remind their students daily to study their hardest because the end was near. It was now almost March and the NEWTs were rapidly approaching. There was no denying it now. The seventh years couldn’t slack off now. They were almost done. Their careers at Hogwarts were steadily coming to an end. The seventh years were taking their Professors’ words to heart and were working their hardest; even the students who hardly ever cracked a book could now be seen poring over their notes.
This half of the year also brought about some important life decisions for the seventh years. Before Christmas, they could ignore decisions like career goals and living arrangements, pretending that all of this was ages away. Now it was far more difficult to do so. James had enough gold that had been set aside at his birth to buy himself a nice apartment in London. Living in London was a priority for him; he needed a short travelling distance between his home and St. Mungo’s. Peter’s arrangements were not as solidified, at least to the knowledge of his friends. He had privately made the choice to go back to his mother’s if his father never came home. He didn’t want her living by herself.
Sirius, of course, had his flat already. It would be waiting for him when he graduated. The layout of the place was too big for one person, but big enough for two or three people. He had attempted convincing James and Peter to consider moving in with him, but neither of them would. James thought it would be brilliant, but he had other plans as far as living went. Sirius had a vague idea about what those plans might contain, though he said nothing to James. He knew the plans wouldn’t be immediate, but they were in the future. When Sirius approached Remus about sharing his flat, Remus almost at once said no, yet Sirius could see that wasn’t the answer he really wanted to give. After some pushing, Sirius managed to get him to agree. He knew the only reason Remus would say no in the first place was because he didn’t want to depend on his friend, but Sirius managed to make him forget that.
Even with the anger of Mr. Pettigrew’s disappearance and the stress of the end of Hogwarts, there were still some enjoyable moments to be had. After Lily’s eighteenth birthday, when James took it upon himself to throw her a small party by the lake, it became official that they were dating. James, as happy as he was, couldn’t deny that he was shocked, though pleasantly so. But after the party when Lily pulled him aside and thanked him for remembering her birthday – her first birthday where her parents weren’t able to send her their well wishes – she couldn’t refute that James Potter was no longer the arrogant git she had thought he was.
James, of course, was thrilled by this revelation of hers. He had been pleased just by the fact that she seemed to want to be his friend. As much as he would have liked it, he wasn’t going for anything more than that unless she made the first advance. With his luck with the girl, she would have been repulsed if he had tried to hint that he liked her as any more than a friend. He wasn’t about to be sent back to square one and not even be her friend. If he couldn’t have her as anything more, he just wanted to be her friend. Much to his amazement, it was Lily who openly admitted that she may have liked him just a bit more than she should.
Regardless of whether or not it was Lily who made the first advance, James was keeping himself in check. He wasn’t about to ruin a good thing.
“That’s it!” Sirius shouted furiously, slamming his Charms textbook down on the table with such a loud thud that a few first year girls sitting by the window squeaked in fright.
James let out an exasperated sigh and shook his head solemnly at his friend. “Sirius, what have I told you about scaring first years?”
Sirius rolled his eyes. “Only do it if they’re Slytherins.”
Lily, who was sitting on James’s right, rounded on him with narrowed eyes. “Did you really tell him that?”
“I think that it’s good advice,” James muttered, flipping a page of his Transfiguration textbook over. When Lily said nothing, he looked up dubiously at her. “Come on, Lily, you’re a Gryffindor. Do you seriously not have a bone of dislike for the snakes we have to cohabitate with?”
Lily considered this for a moment before sheepishly saying, “Well… maybe I do.”
“Finally she admits it. It only took you seven years.”
“Yes, well, I had reason to not despise them, unlike you two.”
James grumbled incoherently at the allusion to Severus Snape. He had to put up with the sneers coming from the Slytherin ever since he started going out with Lily. But what he had to go through was nothing compared to what Lily had to. Snape had taken it upon himself to try and scare her away from James and also make mention that she was a hypocrite. Normally, this wouldn’t bother Lily, but he was insistent, never giving her a moment of peace when he could catch her alone, which wasn’t very often anymore. James, Sirius, Remus or Peter was usually around and when they weren’t, Lily had made it a point to avoid all of Snape’s favourite haunts in the castle, which basically meant avoiding the dungeons.
“Well, now you have a few good reasons,” Sirius said reasonably as he stabbed unreasonably at the piece of parchment that was supposed to be his Charms homework. Moaning in frustration when he saw that he poked a large hole straight through it, he sifted through his bag, looking for some more parchment.
“Why are you murdering your homework, Padfoot?” James inquired, looking up from his own work.
“Because all it does it mock me because there’s so much of it! It just laughs and laughs because it knows I’ll never be able to finish all of it. I’m smart, but I don’t work that fast! We’re graduating, I understand that, but does that mean the professors want us to forever remember the horror that is their homework assignments?”
“I believe it does.”
“Stuff it, James.”
The portrait hole entrance to the common room swung open, revealing Remus, who was struggling under the weight of several heavy looking books. Seeing this, James got up to relieve Remus of some of the weight. “What did we tell you about too much studying?” he asked sternly, leading his friend to the table they were sitting at. He wasn’t likely to forget what happened at the beginning of the year.
“This isn’t my fault,” Remus said at once, heaving three large books onto the table, James doing the same.
James gestured towards the books with wide eyes. “Then where did all these books come from?”
Sirius looked up in horror, his mouth falling open. “Tell me we’re not going to have to do all of this?” He sounded as if he might have a nervous breakdown if those six books Remus had lugged in consisted of the rest of their coursework.
Remus shook his head. “No, you guys don’t need to know anything about what’s in these books.”
“Then why do you have them?” Lily asked him, picking up the top book and leafing through it.
“I made the mistake of telling Flitwick that Charms is one of the subject I may consider teaching. So he started piling up all these books for me, saying they’d be helpful.” Remus laughed hollowly. “Like I’d be hired anyway.”
“Dumbledore would hire you,” Lily told him encouragingly as she closed the book she had been perusing and replacing it on the pile.
“Dumbledore’s already done too much for me.” Truthfully, he had only come up with the idea of being a teacher to appease Professor McGonagall, who would not for an instant listen to him when he said that he shouldn’t even bother looking for a career. Who would want to hire a werewolf? That was two years ago now and he had started liking the idea of teaching, but when he brought himself back to reality, he knew it was impossible. He shouldn’t have said anything to Professor Flitwick.
James knew better than to press the subject any further right now. He would just have to wait until Remus forgot about it and bring it up again. Remus’s self-deprecation would get him nowhere. Dumbledore would hire him if he just asked. The Headmaster wouldn’t think his student was asking too much from him. Instead, he asked, “Have you seen Peter today?”
Remus nodded as he stared at the massive books. “Earlier, he was out by the lake. He didn’t seem like he wanted to talk, so I went inside.” The truth was that he had gone over to Peter and sat down, but Peter had ignored him completely until Remus started talking. Then Peter asked him to leave. Peter’s behaviour was understandable, given what he was going through, but Remus would have thought he would have wanted to talk to a friend. After all, who was better help in getting through a terrible situation than a friend?
“That’s horrible, I hope they find his dad soon,” Lily said sadly, looking towards the common room entrance as if Peter might come walking through it, gleeful with the news that his father had finally been found.
“I’m sure they’ve got people on it,” Sirius claimed confidently. Then, a little less confidently, he added, “Have any of you seen the paper this week? People are disappearing left, right and centre. If they can’t find one, how can they find ten?”
“Has it really gone up to ten people?” Remus asked, utterly disgusted, yet reluctantly amazed, by this news. There had been people disappearing left and right for years, but never so many at once.
“It’s about there. I just wish people would do something.”
“I’m sure people are,” James inserted, thinking of their parents who must have been fighting something. He also thought about the others they had heard about – Mad Eye, Gideon, and Fabian – whoever they were, they were doing something. “This is mental,” he spat out suddenly, unintentionally slamming his fist on the table and drawing the attention of several third years. James sent them a pointed look and they pretended they hadn’t seen anything.
“Yeah, it is,” Sirius agreed, nodding fervently. “But it makes you think…”
“Think about what?” Remus asked, curiously looking up from one of the books Flitwick had forced upon him.
Sirius shrugged. “I dunno… It makes me think that you’ve only got so much time to do things you’d normally take the time to think through. You never know what’s going to happen, so you might as well live for the present.”
Remus considered this. Sirius had a point. In the world they were living in, no one knew if they were going to wake up the next morning, so they might as well live life to the fullest. Who knew when their lives would end? “True,” he said. Then, raising a dubious eyebrow at his friend, he inquired, “You’re not planning on doing anything stupid, are you?” The last thing they needed was for Sirius to go and do something dangerous because he was afraid he would never get to do it.
“Of course not, Remus.”
James had been listening to Sirius’s words very carefully. They were all at an age where they would normally have the whole world within their grasp. They could do whatever they wanted, be whatever they wanted as long as they tried. But Sirius was right. They didn’t have the forever they should have had. Their time was limited by this war. At the rate this war was going, who was to say they wouldn’t be the next ones to be taken unknowingly on their way home from work? The walls of Hogwarts could only protect them for so long. Come June, they would be sent out into the real world and there was no going back.
He glanced sideways at Lily, who was now saying something to Sirius and Remus that James didn’t understand, mostly because he wasn’t trying to. He was trapped in his own thoughts right now. He had waited for so long to be where he was – sitting beside Lily Evans and having her like him more than the friend he had just been trying to be. He had forced himself to be patient ever since the disaster during the OWLs when Lily proclaimed she would rather go out with the Giant Squid than with him.
He was tired of being patient.
When his three friends finished talking, James turned to Lily. “C-could you come with me for a moment?”
Looking fairly perplexed, Lily nodded and followed James as he led her through the common room and out into the seventh floor corridor. The stairwell was deserted and the Fat Lady was far too occupied drinking with her friend Violet to give the Head Boy and Girl much notice. James was rubbing his chin, pacing back and forth, his eyebrows knitted together and his eyes deep in thought behind his glasses.
Lily watched him concernedly. “Are you alright, James?” She had never seem James behave so… so nervously, she supposed. He usually managed to keep his composure quite well, something she admired about him.
James paused and laughed a little before facing her. “It’s funny when Sirius says something that gets you thinking.”
“What d’you mean?”
“He comes out with some interesting points sometimes, like that bit about not having all the time in the world anymore. You have to admit that he had a point.”
Lily still appeared confused. She had no idea where James was heading with this. “He did have a point… I suppose. James, what are you-”
“I’m just thinking that if we don’t have as much time as we think we do, we should probably have the chance to do things we would normally take time to think through, you know. Who knows what’s going to happen tomorrow? You don’t want to die regretting that you never got to experience life experiences.”
Lily’s voice was cautious. “What kinds of things?”
“I like you, Lily.”
“I know… I like you too, James, you know that.” What was this all about? Why did Sirius have to bring this up and force James to evaluate his life right now? She didn’t know what life experiences he was talking about.
“So, if we’re both agreed that we like each other, I would be able to do this without making you upset?” James was tired of being cautious. He made it clear to Lily what he was doing so she had the chance to back away if she wanted, but she didn’t. She allowed James to close the gap between them and she wasn’t upset about it at all.
“James, we need to talk to you.”
“This came while we were in the Great Hall.”
It was well past dinnertime and Remus and Sirius had been searching the castle for over an hour trying to find James. They hadn’t seen him since he disappeared with Lily and Lily had reappeared shortly after the two had left. They had asked Lily where James went, but she didn’t know. At the time, Remus and Sirius didn’t have a pressing need to see their friend, so they let Lily fantasize about whatever it was she and James had done and went about completing their homework. They didn’t really want to know.
It was only when they had been eating their dinner and Peter’s owl arrived - anticipating seeing his owner - that they needed to worry. Peter hadn’t come to dinner and so the owl settled for dropping the letter onto Remus’s silverware and sticking his beak into Sirius’s goblet of pumpkin juice before taking off once more. The letter was from Peter’s mother. They set off at once to find James. After thoroughly consulting the Marauder’s Map, they came to the conclusion that James must be in the Room of Requirement, as he wasn’t visible at all on the map. They severely doubted that he would have gone into Hogsmeade without inviting them along.
James was, indeed, in the Room of Requirement. Remus and Sirius had walked stubbornly back and forth in front of the tapestry on the seventh floor, asking it to reveal James Potter. It had taken a few tries, but once it obliged they were able to find their friend. The Room of Requirement had turned itself into a replica of the Gryffindor common room. They spotted James lounging in one of the squashy armchairs, reading one of his textbooks. He seemed perfectly content with himself, almost obnoxiously so, and he was surprised to see the frazzled looks on his friends’ faces. “What’s the matter with you two?” he said as he took the extended letter.
“That’s from Peter’s mother,” Remus said, jerking his hand towards the parchment envelope. Sirius had been tempted to open it and discover its contents, but Remus had snatched it away before he could. They shouldn’t be reading Peter’s mail without his permission. Besides, he was sure the contents of the letter were not good.
“You two read Peter’s mail?” James turned the letter open, searching for any signs that it had been opened before it reached the appropriate recipient. But the seal remained unbroken.
“Her name’s on the envelope, James,” Sirius said bluntly, rolling his eyes. “But look at her handwriting.”
Raising an eyebrow, James shrugged and turned the letter over, staring at the return address. Mrs. Pettigrew’s handwriting was usually very neat and elegant; she used small, curvy letters when she wrote. They had seen her handwriting several times when they were staying at the Pettigrews’ over the summer. The handwriting on this letter was the complete opposite; it was a bloody mess. They wouldn’t have even known it was from her if her name hadn’t been on it. This didn’t sit well with them. They needed to find Peter and learn the contents of this letter.
James gazed worriedly at his friends. “You guys aren’t thinking…?”
“We’re hoping we’re wrong,” Remus said quietly, his eyes fixed on the letter as if he stared at it long enough, he would find out what was written in it. “I don’t want to think of what it’ll do to Peter if we’re right about what’s in that letter.”
James stood up, crossing to Sirius’s side. He pulled the Marauder’s Map out of Sirius’s front pocket and tapped it with his wand, uttering the credo: I solemnly swear that I am up to no good. He waited, rather impatiently, for the map to take form, the dark ink snaking into the different rooms of the castle. Once it did, there were six eyes roving it, praying to see a tiny figure with the name Peter Pettigrew scrawled above it. They saw that Peter was no longer sitting by the lake. Instead, they saw a dot making its way towards the very room they were in. Clearing the map and shoving it in his own pocket, James led the way out of the Room of Requirement and into the corridor, where the three boys almost barreled over Peter.
“What’s wrong with you three?” Peter asked, taking several steps backwards so he didn’t get knocked over.
“This came for you,” Sirius said urgently, ripping the letter out of James’s hand and giving it to Peter.
Visibly confused, Peter turned the envelope over so he could see who it was from. Almost instantly they saw his face become a few shades whiter. “W-why’s my mum writing to me?” He frantically ripped the envelope open and pulled the letter out. His eyes grew wide as he took in the splotches that clearly came from his mother’s tears. Hands shaking, Peter began to read the letter in his trembling hands.
The Aurors… they found your dad. There wasn’t anything they could do to save him. I’m so sorry, Peter. Please come home, I need you here right now.
Peter’s mouth was hanging open in disbelief. For weeks now he had been preparing himself for this moment, when he would learn of his father’s inevitable death, but obviously he hadn’t prepared himself enough. He felt as though he had been punched several times in the gut. He was completely winded. The Aurors had found his father; they said there was nothing they could do to save him. His father was dead… No, this was impossible. His father couldn’t be dead. He was too full of life to have it taken away from him before his time was due. This was a joke, it had to be.
But no one, especially a mother, would joke about such a thing.
Remus spoke up quietly, “Peter?”
Peter was broken out of his thoughts and stared at Remus with unfixed eyes. “What?”
“W-what does the letter say?” He knew what the letter said, of course. They all knew just by looking at Peter’s face, but they needed to hear him say it. Hearing it from Peter would make it official.
“The Aurors found my dad; there wasn’t anything they could do.”
James planted his forehead in his hand, while Sirius bit his bottom lip uneasily and Remus shook his head slowly. They didn’t know what to say. Saying that they were sorry seemed so insignificant. Mr. Pettigrew was too good of a man to have had his life ended for him so quickly and, they imagined, in such a brutal way. They were expecting it. James, Sirius and Remus knew this was the end they were going to hear, but it didn’t mean they wanted it to happen. Peter didn’t deserve this to happen. He was only seventeen! He still needed his father.
“I need to go see Dumbledore,” Peter said suddenly, abruptly hurrying towards the staircase. His mum wanted him home; he needed to arrange it with the Headmaster. Running a hand down his wet face, he almost missed the next question posed at him.
“Would you like one of us to go with you?” Remus asked. James had come with him when his grandparents died and it had made the situation so much easier to handle. This would hit Peter harder; a father seemed so much more to lose.
Peter didn’t look back. He merely shook his head and kept walking. “No thanks. I need to do this on my own.”
Excerpt from Chapter Sixty Nine: No Next Year
“Padfoot, shut it before we get caught!” Remus hissed furiously, stumbling to the side as Sirius fell sideways into him, tripping over his own feet. With great effort, Remus pushed his friend so he was standing upright.
“Moony… you’re hilarious,” Sirius laughed, his voice a higher octave than it should have been.
“I’m not trying to be funny! Shut up. Filch is dying to catch us at something! I’m not getting detention days before we graduate!”
“Ouch! Sirius that was my foot!” Peter snapped loudly, elbowing Sirius so he toppled sideways into Remus again.
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