Chapter 21 : Home for Christmas?
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I hope Onyx found you okay. I didn’t have your new address. (For good reason, Lily thought dryly to herself) My mum about chopped my head off yesterday when you didn’t arrive with me and Sirius at home yesterday. Sorry. But, she’s right. No one should have to be alone on Christmas, especially this being the first one without your parents. Remus and Peter will be here too this year and my parents always throw this huge ball on new year’s eve for their ministry friends, and lots of other people from Hogwarts will be there as well. Mum, Dad, Sirius, and I will be heading in to Diagon Alley this morning to do our Christmas shopping and we’ll be meeting Remus and Peter in the Leaky Cauldron around 10. Please come and meet us there. If you don’t want to lug all your stuff to Diagon Alley, mum said we could stop back by your flat when we get done shopping and floo it back with us. Please come, Lily. It would mean a lot to me my mum.
Lily sighed. This was not a good idea. In the week since her date with Aidan she had been happy. She felt warm feelings in the pit of her stomach when he shyly held her hand in the hallway. She couldn’t help but grin when he’d tuck a loose strand of hair behind her ear. She never ceased to be happily surprised when he was waiting for her outside the portrait hole every morning to walk with her to breakfast. She had even stopped thinking of James Potter when Aidan kissed her. She was able to be around James and Daphne now without getting upset, and she knew she was well on her way to being over James Potter. But all that would disappear if she was once again living under the same roof as James Potter, sleeping only a few doors down from him, returning to the place where she had first fallen in love with him. As much as she wanted to go she knew she couldn’t.
“Oh, Please! Don’t be an idiot,” the voice in her head snapped. “What are you going to do? Hide from James Potter for the rest of your life, just in case you might realize you still like him?!”
“No, but there’s a difference between not avoiding him and living with him,” Lily argued back with herself.
“Lily dear, we live with him all the time.”
“Ugh you are ridiculous”
“If I am, then so are you!”
“I am not having this conversation with you… I mean me!”
“If you avoid him now, the next time you see him it’s just going to make your feelings for him seem bigger and more important than they really are. If you let them rule your life, than it will only make them stronger!” Lily hated when the voice in her head was right.
“Well,” she reasoned, “it’s not like it will just be Potter. Black, Remus, and Peter will all be there too. And it’s not as if I’ve ever had any trouble hating Potter when he’s with his friends.” She knew it was a bad sign that she felt happy about talking herself in to this, but she didn’t care. She grabbed a quill and a piece of parchment and scratched back her reply. She had been tired but now she had plenty of energy. It was already 9, if she was going to meet them at 10, she had to get moving!
Lily laughed as she walked down the street with Potter, Black, Remus, and Peter. The Potters were off buying presents for James and their friends, and had left the teens to fend for themselves.
“Or maybe I can get her mirror that will shout rude things at her,” Sirius made another suggestion for a possible gift for his mother.
“Hmmm…I wonder if Petunia is expecting a Christmas/wedding gift from me,” Lily wondered aloud with a roll of her eyes.
“Now Petunia Evans and that oaf of a fiancé of hers could benefit from one of those mirrors,” James said with a rogue grin.
“Perhaps we can go in together on a set of them, Evans?” Sirius said with a laugh.
“The only problem is that I think any mirror would break the moment it saw Vernon,” Lily said with mock solemnity.
“That ought to get the message across pretty clearly,” Peter reasoned thoughtfully.
“Ah, yes our dear Wormy does have experiences with breaking mirrors,” Sirius said, laughing as Peter lunged after him.
“Are you feeling alright, Remus?” Lily questioned. “You don’t look as if you’re feeling very well.”
“Oh…um yeah I’m fine I was sick the last few days of term, I guess all the stress of exams and papers and such. I’m still just feeling a little exhausted.” Remus smiled hesitantly at Lily. She was intelligent, and intuitive; and that worried him. He knew that if anyone would figure out the mystery of his health, it would be Lily. Lily noticed his hesitation but she smiled at him nevertheless. She had always liked Remus and while she was curious about what his secret was, she respected his decision to keep it to himself.
“Death Eater alert!” Peter whispered quickly under his breath. Lily felt herself tense for a moment but subtly moved her hand so that she was grasping her wand in the pocket of her robes. It reassured her to know it was already in her hand, if she needed it. She noticed that all four boys had done the same. She was not sure if she was flattered or annoyed that as soon as Peter had sounded the warning that James had changed his position slightly so that every step she took he was still shielding her defensively. Hadn’t she proved already that she could hold her own in a fight against Death Eaters? Hadn’t she saved his sorry ass from Death Eaters when his own stupidity and ego had gotten him in to a mess before? Clearly, annoyance had won out in the battle between the two emotions, she noted smugly to herself. Coming here had been a good idea, the more she allowed James Potter to annoy her the less she liked him. She shook her head slightly to clear it, she had to focus; danger was a definite possibility
Her wand hand twitched, wanting badly to attack, as they came into view. Severus was there, she wished this would stop surprising her, Lucius Malfoy, Andromeda’s other sister, Narcissa, Bellatrix, Augustus Rookwood, and a young Slytherin she knew immediately must be Sirius’ brother, Regulus. The seven of them appeared to be standing guard outside Quality Quidditch Supplies, though considering past events that made no sense, and were sneering and making rude comments to all who passed by them. Lily shuddered slightly as she remembered the last time she had been inside the store. James must have been remembering the same instance because his jaw was clenched, his face pale with anger, and seemingly unconsciously he reached out and grabbed Lily’s hand. She knew this was not a romantic gesture, but one of both support and protection.
Severus did not see the distinction. He growled, staring menacingly at James, and drew his wand in a flash of motion. James was just as fast with his quidditch tested reflexes, he pushed Lily completely behind him and had his wand drawn all in the same second. Sirius, Remus, and Peter all drew their wands simultaneously. Lily noted that they too all seemed to be hovering around her. Damn them she was every bit as capable of defending herself as James, Remus, and Sirius! She was more capable than Peter! She pulled her wand out of her pocket and glared defiantly at James as she slid into the open, positioning herself between James and Remus. The other Death Eaters, with the exception of Lucius Malfoy, had all drawn their wands as Snape had done so. Though none of them understood his fixation with the mudblood, Lily Evans, they were all itching for a fight.
“Put your wands away,” Lucius sneered. “We have a job to do and I won’t be held responsible for you getting yourselves into a fight in the middle of the day. There will be plenty of time for fighting later.”
“I have unfinished business with the mudblood,” Bellatrix pouted. Lily raised her wand, a fraction of an inch higher, to emphasize her willingness to fight the evil cow.
“Put them down!” Lucius commanded. One by one the Death Eaters lowered their wands until only two remained. “Bella!” Lucius glowered. Bellatrix looked mutinously at Lucius for a full minute before slowly lowering her wand. “Rudolphus, lower your wand! It won’t look good for you if you get into a family spat, on your first real assignment.” Sirius emitted a low growl. He had suspected that his brother would become a Death Eater, but hearing the confirmation was somehow much worse than he imagined. Rudolphus stared angrily at Sirius for another moment before also lowering his wand. The two groups continued to stare each other down wordlessly for another tense few minutes before Richard Potter found them.
James Potter would never forget that Sunday morning. It was the second day of the holidays and he had slept late, along with Sirius, Remus, and Peter, because they had been up all night speculating on possible reasons why the Death Eaters were gathered outside of QQS.
By the time the four boys made it downstairs for breakfast, Richard Potter was already in the backyard putting up decorations, and Lily was helping Jillian Potter in the kitchen.
“Good morning darlings!” Jillian said happily as she waved her wand and a stack of pancakes made their way to the table. All four boys descended upon them.
“It’s almost as if I performed a vanishing spell.” Lily mused a moment later as she picked up the empty plate from the table and added it to the pile of dishes she was watching magically. She had finally gotten the hang of it, after having Mrs. Potter teach her quite a few housekeeping charms over the summer.
James had opened the window to allow an unknown owl to hop in with the large package he was carrying. “Mum, it’s addressed to you and dad. Maybe it’s a Christmas parcel?”
“Anyone who we exchange gifts with would just wait until the party on New Year’s like always.”
“Well, see for yourself then. It’s addressed to “Richard and Jillian Potter with tidings for a Happy Christmas!”
“Hmm…” Jillian Potter muttered as she examined the package carefully. “Well I suppose we’d better open it up.” All five teens had gathered closely around the package, anxious to see what it could hold within. None would have ever imagined anything so terrible.
Benjy Fenwick’s head. In a box.
Jillian swayed slightly, leading James to summon a chair for his mother to sit in. He worried she would faint or perhaps even die from a heart attack, his parents were by no means young. Lily cried silently into her hand. Remus stared at the head and kept shaking his head, as if trying to make sense of something that no sense could be made of. Sirius balled up his fist and a moment later punched the table, using several profanities to describe the Death Eaters and Voldemort. Peter looked almost as peaky as Mrs. Potter but stared resolutely ahead, willing himself to be brave.
James lost track of time. He wasn’t sure if they stood there for only a few seconds or minutes or hours before his dad came in from the backyard and tore them all from their silent reveries with his cry of shock. Richard Potter had always been good in a crisis, and while the shock of a decapitated head in a box on his kitchen table shocked him, he was able to pull back enough to see the bigger picture. In a matter of moments he was issuing instructions.
“Jillian and I have to go see Dumbledore immediately,” he said as he waved his wand in several intricate motions, “I’m enacting all the protective wards around the house, but I don’t want any of you to leave this house. And I mean it James, Sirius, no leaving the house!” He gently picked up the box carrying the head of Benjy Fenwick, after receiving the nod of assurance from all five teens that they would follow his instructions, and then he guided his wife to the fireplace, where they both disappeared in a flash of green flames.
Lily stared, unblinkingly at the spot where moments before Benjy Fenwick’s head had been. She heard Mr. and Mrs. Potter floo to Hogwarts. She saw James, Peter, Sirius and Remus exit the kitchen and make their way upstairs. She heard them, as they left, discussing the significance of the event in hushed tones. She replayed the events over and over in her head searching for something that would make this horrible event make sense, even though she knew realistically that nothing would ever make something this evil make sense. She heard James and Remus yell down the stairs to her, assumedly checking to make sure she had not gone into shock. She supposed she had answered them, as neither one of them had appeared in the kitchen to investigate further. Finally, after an infinite amount of time, she reached her decision. She knew of one sure way to get answers, to obtain the clarity she was searching for so desperately.
She made her way up the stairs to the second floor hallway where James’ bedroom, Sirius’ bedroom, the guestroom shared by Remus and Peter, as well as the room she herself was staying in, were all located. She heard them down the hall in James’ room. She tapped lightly on the door. She heard James call for her to come in and as she entered the room, all the memories of the time she had lived in this very room came flooding back to her.
“Can I speak with you, please?” She knew he would know she was talking to him. James rose instantly and followed her to the bedroom down the hall that she was currently residing in.
“What’s up?” he asked with a forced attempt at casualness. He knew Lily had questions, and he also knew he did not want to give the answers.
“Gee, I don’t know!” Lily said matching his tone with her false cheerfulness. “I mean it’s practically a boring, everyday, and mediocre event that a head arrives in a box in the mail!”
“Okay, so I admit it was a shock, but I don’t know why you think I would know anymore about it than you do.”
“Because you do.”
“I do not.”
“I’m not an idiot! Don’t think that I don’t realize there is some sort of connection between the attacks on the store last summer and Benjy Fenwick’s head arriving on your table this morning!”
“It doesn’t concern you,” James snapped waspishly.
“The hell it doesn’t! In case you’ve forgotten, it was me who was slashed open on the floor of that store! It was me who was left for dead! I was the one who nearly died, because I lost so much blood! I was…”
“I know! Don’t think for a minute I don’t remember every detail of that day with vivid accuracy. I remember the way you looked when I found you with absolute precision, I can assure you. It was the scariest fucking day of my life, so believe me I remember it well!”
“Then you have to understand why I deserve to know! I have spent the last few months thinking it was my fault! Believing that they attacked me because I’m a mudblood…”
“Don’t call yourself that,” James said quietly. Lily ignored him and continued.
“I thought they attacked Andromeda because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I thought they had come back to finish the job on me and just attacked her because she was there! That was the only thing that explained why she blamed me, why she hates me now! If there is any information that might say otherwise I deserve to know it!” She said as the tears that she had held back for those long months finally escaped and cascaded down her face. James pulled her into a tight embrace.
“It could never be your fault,” he whispered in her ear as he pulled her even closer to him. “It was not your fault. You are too spectacular, too good to ever be responsible for something like this.”
“Then why?” Lily asked in a whisper. She did not know why she was whispering, except it felt like the right thing to do, considering how close her and James were standing. James did not answer her right away. He continued to stroke her back and whisper words of comfort into her ear.
“Have you ever heard of the Order of the Phoenix?” He asked her as he pulled away from their embrace and motioned for her to sit on the bed. This had the potential to be a very long conversation. Lily thought for a moment but she could not recall ever having heard of such a thing before.
“No, I don’t think so,” she answered.
“Basically the Order is a group founded by Dumbledore to fight Voldemort. It’s comprised of a select few who Dumbledore recruited and trusts. They come from various backgrounds and because of that have a wide range of contacts. Until recently, there wasn’t much or any wand to wand combat between the Order and the Death Eaters. Most of the members of the Order are all older, long time friends and associates of Dumbledore. They fought him, not with their wands, but with their brains and their connections. They spread the word in their various different circles about Voldemort, starting before a lot of people had even heard of him, because Dumbledore believed that the more knowledge people had about Voldemort and his Death Eaters, the less susceptible they would be to his message and the more alert they would be to possible Imperious curses. As Voldemort has gained a wider following and has begun to move more and more into the open, the Order has begun leading an underground movement of resistance. Publishing in newsletters that print the news the Prophet is to afraid to report, placing protective charms over areas where muggles live close to wizards and therefore might be in danger of an attack, and setting up neighborhood watch type groups in areas where there is a high wizarding population in order to help monitor if someone may have fallen victim to various jinxes and curses, most notably the Imperious. Benjy Fenwick was a member of the Order of the Phoenix. Most people would never have suspected. Fenwick was never a model student at Hogwarts, he was always much more interested in playing quidditch then studying. They say he was hit in the head with a few too many bludgers, but I think it was more likely that he was never really that bright to begin with. But Fenwick was loyal, a Hufflepuff through and through, and he never forgot the help that Dumbledore gave him when he first opened his shop. As only a handful of people even knew about Dumbledore’s connection to Fenwick, and even those who did would never suspect that Dumbledore would trust Fenwick with any kind of important task, his shop was an ideal place to hide something. See, Fenwick didn’t have a obvious contribution to make to the Order. He was never much of a fighter because he had a bad leg from an old Quidditch injury that had had never had fixed properly, and he kind of kept to himself and the only real social contacts he had were with his family and his girlfriend that he had been dating for years, so it wasn’t like he could contribute in the area of social networking. That being said he was probably one of the most important members of the Order of the Phoenix. He played the role of bookkeeper. He was almost like what muggles call secretaries. He had a list in his shop that had the name of every member of the Order and what their Patronus took the shape of, because the Order uses Patronuses to communicate, and even if someone is being impersonated via Polyjuice Potion it’s not like they can steal someone else’s Patronus. So he kept a record of everyone’s true Patronus so that identities could always be verified if need be. He also acted as a quasi-messenger for Dumbledore. If documents needed to be transferred to other members of the Order, documents of a sensitive nature that could not be left to owls, Dumbledore need only deliver them to Fenwick and the Order member could pick them up in the store later that day, hidden inside various merchandise Fenwick had “on hold” for that person. It worked a lot better than having people traveling to Hogwarts all the time, for one thing that looks suspicious and its out of the way; whereas people are in Diagon Alley all the time, no one who may or may not have been tracking Order members would think anything of the occasional stop at QQS.”
“So what went wrong?” Lily asked quietly. She had sat in awe throughout his detailed explanation of the secret society founded by Dumbledore known as the Order of the Phoenix.
“There was a leak, I don’t know who, but someone must have informed Voldemort of the existence of a list and most likely that same person told him where to find it. That’s why he sent the Death Eaters to search the store. The rest of the attacks on Diagon Alley were meant as a diversion, to try and hide their real intent. They must have realized pretty quickly that you were a brand new employee and had no idea about the list. That’s why they left and Voldemort sent Bellatrix back on her own to get it, she tortured the location out of Andromeda.”
“So V-Voldemort,” she said with determination. She admired the way Potter and his friends said the name without fear. “He has the list?”
“Oh, yes, he’s had it sense the summer. Once they knew who to follow it became pretty obvious that Fenwick was a crucial part of the organization. The attack on his family was meant to ambush him, but who ever their informant was gave them the wrong information that time. Fenwick was never supposed to be home that night, he was away on business. His mother, father, and girlfriend were all at home and were killed. Of course the Prophet still lists them as missing persons, but the Order knew the truth from pretty early on. Fenwick went into hiding on Dumbledore’s orders; I don’t know how they managed to find him. Dumbledore was his secret keeper, but they say the idiot snuck out from time to time, so I guess it wouldn’t have been too hard to find him. I think it was probably Voldemort himself that killed him. Fenwick would have been an important death, and he usually saves those for himself. Sirius thinks the chopping up the parts and airmailing them was probably the work of his cousin, Bellatrix. He’s probably right, she’s sadistic enough to do it.” He looked up at Lily as he finished. She had only interrupted him twice to ask questions, and he wondered briefly she had been able to comprehend everything, after all it was an awful lot of information to take in during one sitting. He should have known that Lily Evans, genius extraordinaire would have no trouble understanding even the most complex of situations. She stared back at him for a long moment with her deep, almond shaped green eyes. He had the feeling she was searching through his soul as she her eyes never wavered from his.
“You’re parents are in the Order,” it was not a question, it was a statement.
“Yes,” he acknowledged quietly.
“And you want to join. That’s what Andromeda meant when she said you were excited to join the fight,” this too was not a question. She already knew the answer.
“Yes,” he acknowledged again.
“But Dumbledore won’t let you?”
“He’ll let me when I’m old enough. He says I have to wait until I’m 17. Of course my mother would rather I stayed on the sidelines, but I think she and my father have both come to terms with it, finally.”
“How do you join?” This was the question he had most feared. He knew deep down in his heart that Lily Evans would not be frightened by what he told her, she was, after all, as much a Gryffindor as he was. She would want to fight.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” he knew he sounded like a chauvinistic pig, but he would rather Lily be pissed at him now than be dead later. As predicted, Lily flared up at once.
“You’re the one who’s being ridiculous! I’m every bit as capable as you are! Don’t think I didn’t notice how yesterday in Diagon Alley you kept trying to shield me. I can take care of myself!”
“I know that! You forget I’ve been on the receiving end of your wand a time or too. It’s not that I don’t think you’re capable; it’s just that it’s too bloody dangerous. The Death Eaters outnumber the Order like 50-1. I don’t think Benjy Fenwick will be the last member of the Order to die, not by a long shot.”
“Then why are you joining?”
“Because sometimes a cause is worth dying for,” James answered immediately,
“Well, how do you know this cause isn’t worth it to me, too?” Lily demanded.
“Because it’s too risky for you, damn it! They are killing muggleborns! Just blasting them right out of the fucking way! How do you think I would feel if that were your head down in that box,” James shivered, that idea was to painful to even think about.
“I’d wager you’d feel a right bit better than I did. Besides, you’d get over it. It’s not like it’d be Daphne’s head.” She hated herself for letting that last bit slip out. She was supposed to have stopped talking at ‘did’. The rest was just for inside her head. Why had her mouth said it? He was looking at her very intensely. She was suddenly very aware of the fact that they were alone, in her bedroom, already sitting on the bed. She looked away from his warm hazel eyes, begging herself to keep her head.
“I would never get over losing you, especially like that,” he said quietly. She turned to face him, after all it was rude not to look at someone who was talking to you and was surprised to see how close he had moved. Their faces were mere centimeters apart. She could feel the desire building inside her, knew the kiss was coming, but she also knew that a pity kiss from James Potter would break her mending heart back into a thousand little pieces. She had succeeded in the one thing she least wanted, she had made James Potter pity her. He felt guilty, she knew, for loving Daphne and not her, and he was trying to pretend for her sake that that wasn’t the case, but she knew that it was. She saw him move in even closer, though she didn’t know how that was possible. She had only a second to act at the most. She did the only thing she could think of to do. She wrapped her arms around him and pulled him into a huge hug, the type of all consuming hug a girl gives her best friend.
He was surprised, and it took him a moment to recover. But after a few awkward seconds of trying to figure out how he had ended up hugging Lily instead of kissing her, he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her even deeper into a hug. He was ashamed of how willing he had been moments before to ditch Daphne and do nothing but kiss Lily Evans for the rest of his life. He knew, of course that was not possible. Lily had only been teasing with him, she had been faking sounding jealous moments ago. After all, how long had he lusted after her only to have her laugh in his face. She was with that Hufflepuff pisshead now, and obviously she had no feelings for James having just dodged his kiss and hugged him instead.
“Thanks for being so nice, Potter” Lily whispered after a moment.
“Anytime, Evans, anytime,” James responded.
The hug lasted longer than any normal hug would have lasted. Neither one, believing this was as close to their fantasies as they would ever get, wanted to release the other from their embrace. Both convinced themselves that this hug was a sort of final goodbye to the feelings they were both desperately trying to ignore. A form of closure. But in the words of that wise love philosopher, Sirius Black as he stated them every Halloween, “You can’t close the bag, until you’ve tasted all the delicious candied treats within.”
A/N: I realize that scene took up like 7 pages but it was, as I’m sure you might have guessed, a very important one for numerous story lines. I apologize for the delay. I finished this story almost 2 weeks ago but my computer (probably my fault) did not save it correctly. So, I have spent the last week trying desperately to piece it all back together. I also want to say a HUGE thank you to all my wonderful readers who read and comment!! I LOVE hearing from you! And a huge thank you for your patience which has been a big help to me this academic year as I can now say that I have completed my freshman year of college and made the President’s List and have a 3.8 GPA so I couldn’t have done it without your patience and support so you are much much appreciated!!!!
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