Chapter 52 : Utter Melee
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A stream of red shot towards Lily. She knew she should duck, or dodge, but she was still in too much shock to move. A quick jerk on her arm, however, brought her to her knees and dragged her under a nearby table. From her crouched position, Lily swiveled on her heels to face James, who had pulled her down with him. "Lily, come on! This isn't the time to go daft!"
Lily's senses returned to her at once. "Right. We need to find the others, James."
His hazel eyes pierced into hers, and he seemed to judge that she was in her right mind again. "The last I saw them, Sirius and Remus were gorging themselves at the banquet table. Stay close, all right?"
Lily nodded, then gripped her wand tightly as first James, then herself, sprang up from their hiding place. The dance floor they had just begun to be infiltrated by mask-bearing wizards, and the fighting was fierce. Lily saw Professor McGonagall in the middle of the fray, leading the defenses on the side. She was battling three Death Eaters at a time, while Flitwick was darting around other duelers, catching the dark-robed fighters by surprise. Lily was also surprised to see their old Defense Professor Milles driving back the attackers from the fireplace, giving the less skilled duelers a chance to escape.
James pushed his way through the melee. Lily tried to follow, but soon was blocked by a tall Death Eater. Lily stumbled a little as she stepped backwards, and the man raised his wand. "Expulso," he bellowed.
Lily felt her body respond reflexively. "Protego," she yelled, and the spell rebounded back onto her Death Eater. He dodged, but the spell struck one of his compatriots in the back and blew him off his feet.
Not waiting to be attacked again, Lily called out, "Petrificus Totalus," as the man began a complicated swished movement with his wand. The man's arms and legs snapped together. As she rushed past him, Lily reached out to tip him over onto the ground with grim satisfaction.
James skidded to a stop beside Sirius, who was helping a bruised and slightly green Peter off the ground. “What happened, mate?” James asked as he assisted him.
Sirius spoke with suppressed anger. “One of them snuck up behind us and attacked Peter. Remus and I stopped him before he could do anything permanent, but Peter’s a little banged up. Wish I had gotten whoever it was before they ran away. I think it was one of my relatives.”
Remus wiped away some blood that was running down his arm. “We need to get out of here. We’re not experienced enough to contribute much. Let’s grab the girls and go.”
James whipped around, and cursed. Lily was nowhere to be seen. “Lily was following me; she must have gotten lost in the crowd. Remus and I’ll go back for her. Sirius, can you and Peter go find Alex? Keep an eye out for Frank and Alice as well. I’m pretty sure they were with some of the Aurors before this started, so they should be safe. If neither of us finds them before meeting up at the fireplace, then we’ll start looking upstairs.”
“And don’t try to be a hero, Sirius. Help if you can, but remember, these aren’t like the villains from fairytales. They probably won’t hesitate to kill you.” Remus also stared at James as he spoke, then started fighting his way back onto the floor with James following.
Sirius and Peter gripped their wands, and then headed in the opposite direction. Luckily, Sirius had seen Alex disappear into a nearby sitting room right before the attacks started, and he was fairly certain she was still there. As he turned into the room, he was livid to see her facing off several Death Eaters at once. At least Frank and Alice were by her side, and fiercely holding their own. It seemed as though the three were reluctant to dodge, but Sirius soon saw why. They were standing in front of a huddled bunch of younger children, most of whom looked like they weren’t even old enough to have their own wands. Peter and Sirius shuffled to their side. One of the Death Eaters saw them approach and attempted to hex them, but Alice used his momentary lack of concentration to Stun him.
Spells were flying everywhere, and Peter was quickly caught up in casting Shield spells to cover for his friends, who were more focused on returning fire. Sirius soon saw that they were greatly hindered by their inability to dodge. “We have to get these kids out of here!” he yelled to Alex as he shot a Leg-Locker curse at the nearest attacker. “You and Peter take them to the Floo and take them to the Potter’s. We’ll follow you after we get rid of these blokes.”
Alex glared at him, about to argue, but changed her mind as she saw a little girl tearfully raise her head to look at her with hope. She got Peter’s attention. “Keep them between us and the wall. I’ll take the front, you take the back. Whatever you do, don’t duck! The curse will hit them instead.” Peter nodded, and then shot one last curse at the Death Eaters. Slowly, Alex inched behind Alice and Frank until she was at the front of the group.
“All right you lot, listen up. You’re going to stand up and follow me. Keep close to the wall and to each other. Don’t wander away. We’re going to get you out of here.”
The children, seven in all, looked at her with wide eyes. “Move!” Peter yelled, and they scrambled to their feet. Alex led them towards the fireplaces, blocking any wayward spells that came their way. Luckily, the Death Eaters they were dueling didn’t seem much interested in their escape, choosing instead to go after the remaining teens. Alex looked back and swiftly looked Sirius in the eyes, then turned and urged her charges along.
James quickly caught up to Remus as they worked their way through the crowd. “Do you see her yet?”
Remus shook his head. “Not yet.” James lifted his head up to scan the crowd, and then quickly ducked as a curse sped his way.
“Let’s head over—Merlin, that hurts!”
Remus spun around to see James clutching his side. Blood seeped through his robes where a nasty curse had hit him. “Impedimenta!” he shouted as the Death Eater that attacked James raised his wand again. He spun out of the way, however, and blasted Remus aside with a quick Stunning spell.
There was no time to aid his friend. James gritted his teeth against the pain as he began to duel his assailant. The curses were rapid fire, and James found himself calling on most of the curses he’d used against Snape throughout the years. The Death Eater was quick, though, and as such rarely even used a Shield charm. James was driven back, step by step, until he found himself pressed against a wall with his opponent still approaching. Exhausted, he raised his wand again, but it was pulled from his grasp with a brisk “Expelliarmus.”
Grinning maliciously, the Death Eater pointed his own wand at the injured boy. “Avada—“
Abruptly, his attacker’s body turned limp and he slumped to the floor. Behind him was a witch glaring with her wand pointed at the body. James grinned as he closed his eyes and leaned against the wall. He’d recognize that mane of curly red hair anywhere. “Lily. I was looking for you.”
“Yeah, well, you found me.” Lily walked up to him and put her arm under his. “Come on James, we’ve got to go.”
“Wait, Remus—he was hit with a Stunner. He should be over there.” Motioning to the side of the room, James let Lily support him as they picked their way across the floor. She fired off Stunners whenever she had a clear shot at one of the invading Death Eaters. Spotting Remus sprawled facedown, Lily squatted and quickly revived him. Remus blinked his eyes slowly, and then jumped up.
“What did I miss?” he asked.
James shrugged. “Not much.”
Lily once again took her position on James’s side. “I need your help to get him over to the fireplaces, Remus. He’s too weak to stand.”
James frowned, about to make a wisecrack, but then changed his mind as Lily cursed a nearby Death Eater. She didn’t seem to be in the best of moods at the moment, and James knew from experience that it would probably be best to let this one slide. Plus, he was starting to feel a little dizzy, so maybe she had a point.
Peter inched his way through the crowd. He had lost Alex and the children when he had been shoved from behind and lost his footing. He spotted the elder Potters holding their own against five Death Eaters between them on the far side of the room, but they were too far to go to for help.
He had just spotted the back of Alex’s head when he tripped over something soft and hit the floor with a loud thud. He groaned as he pushed himself up to his knees, then turned and saw that it was a girl he had hit. She was young, and as Peter inspected her closely, he recognized her as being in Hufflepuff, a year younger than himself. Her name started with an E… Elisabeth? No—Emily. Emily Jule.
He poked his wand in her direction. “Ennervate,” he whispered. She slowly shook her head as her eyes opened.
“What… what happened?” she slurred. Peter helped her to her feet.
“I don’t know; I just got here.” Emily nodded, still a little disoriented. Peter grasped her arm. “Come on, I know how to get out.” The pair quickly made their way over to the fireplaces.
Alex anxiously stood at the fireplaces. She had already sent the children through to the Potter Manor with strict instructions to not wander about. Only Peter and some new girl—Emily, she thought it was—had made it back so far. Her two best friends, as well as her boyfriend, were still missing. Another five minutes and she was going back to find them.
Peter, who was scanning the room as well, suddenly pointed over to his left. “There’s James and Remus! And Lily, too.” Indeed, the trio was only a few steps away from them now.
She turned around again and saw the rest of their friends approach. Frank was supporting Sirius, who was having some trouble walking. “What happened?” Alex demanded as Sirius let go of Frank and put his arm around her shoulders in a half-embrace, half-stagger.
“He was hit by a Confounding Charm, but it’s starting to wear off. Luckily some Aurors showed soon afterwards—I don’t think we could have lasted much longer without him.” Alice ran her eyes over the group, then nodded, satisfied that everyone was there. “Alright, let’s go. Where to?”
“The Potter Manor,” James said, still clutching his side.
Alex grabbed some Floo Powder and threw it on the fire, then shoved Sirius into the green flames. “Potter Manor,” she supplied for him, and he was whisked away. One at a time, the remaining teens stepped into the fire and away from the battle.
Twenty minutes later, everyone was still in the front parlor. Alice and Frank were talking with the seven children and figuring out the best way to let their parents know they were safe. Sirius was lying on the couch with a headache, and Alex was helping Remus wrap up his arm. Peter and Emily were poking at the food the House Elves brought, to lost in their own thoughts to keep up a conversation. James was on the other couch, turning a shade of grey that Lily didn’t like. She put pressure on the gash on his stomach, which seemed to help, but she was no Healer.
The flames in the fireplace turned green, and instantly all eyes were turned towards it. Mrs. Potter appeared, looking tired but not seriously injured. She pursed her lips tightly as she took in her son’s injury, then stalked over and took Lily’s place as she began to heal it. Once finished with that, she offered her assistance to Remus, who gladly accepted.
Once again the fireplace glowed green, and this time it was Mr. Potter who stepped out. He had a number of shallow cuts on his face. He took a seat in an armchair and allowed his wife to grimly patch up his injuries.
The tension in the room was high, until Sirius finally burst. “Well? What happened?”
Mr. Potter sighed. “The Vivirs had a variety of wards set up on their house— Anti-Apparation, Anti-Portkey, and invitation-only Floo connections. Unfortunately, the wards that were put up to stop someone from simply walking onto the property weren’t strong enough and fell after only a few well-placed spells.”
“Were there any... did anyone…”
“Yes, Alex, there were some casualties. I’m not sure how many exactly, but the Ministry is sorting things out now. I only saw a few names before I left. I’m sorry, but your old Professor Milles was on that list.”
Alice cried out as Frank gathered her into his arms. The teens stared at Mr. Potter in shock. “But… why?” Lily asked. “Why were they there? I thought it was a party of mostly purebloods.”
“It was,” Mrs. Potter answered. “But the Vivirs are a strong supporter of Muggleborn rights, as well as most of their guests.”
“What happened, though?” James wanted to know. “After we left.”
“The Ministry arrived, but by then most of the Death Eaters had retreated past the wards and Apparated away. I don’t think they were expecting much of a fight, since it was just a party. A few were captured, however, but they aren’t talking. At least, not yet.” Mr. Potter rose from the chair. “I spoke with your parents,” he said, nodding at the teens. “They think it’s best if you stay here until the morning. As for you, children, it’s safe to Floo back now. I’ll go with you—I’m needed anyway.” He gave Mrs. Potter a swift kiss on the forehead and then followed the children through the fireplace.
Later that night, when they were all in their rooms, James heard a soft knock on the door between his and Lily’s room. He reached into his closet and pulled out a shirt, then jammed his glasses on. “Come in,” he said.
The door opened, and Lily shyly stepped in. She walked over and joined James in sitting on the bed. There were a few moments of silence before he spoke. “Is something wrong, Lily?”
She shook her head. “No nothing’s wrong. I guess I just… well, this year has been crazy. It hadn’t really hit me until today. We’re only in sixth year! We shouldn’t be in the middle of all these fights. It’s wrong. And… it’s scary.” Lily started to quiver, and James put an arm around her waist. She leaned into him, whispering now. “I’m scared, James. The world is going to hell, and we’re trapped right in the middle of it. I guess I just need someone to tell me that in the end, it will all be okay. That maybe, somehow, the world will make sense again.”
James was silent for a moment, then his grip on her tightened. “I can’t promise that we’re always going to be safe, Lily. I wish I could, but I can’t. Do you know why? It’s because people like you and me and the rest of us aren’t going to just sit by and let our world go down in flames. We have to stand up for what is right; what is good. And as long as we do that, there is going to be danger. There is going to be pain. But in the end? When good finally wins? It will all be worth it. You just have to believe that. In the end, we’ll be able to look back and be proud that we didn’t abandon everything we believe in. So yeah, in the end, it will be alright. We just have to hold on until that day comes.”
Lily wrapped her arms around James. “Thank you,” she whispered.
The pair stayed like seated until the stress of the day overwhelmed them and they fell back onto the bed, lost in dreams of a better world.
So when I started to write again, I told myself that I’d write three more chapters. And if it didn’t seem like there was much interest anymore, I’d bow out. At least I could say I’d tried. So I’m giving it another two weeks, and if there isn’t any interest, I’ll take the hint and turn my creative energies elsewhere. So this is a “Speak now or forever hold your peace” kind of decision. I have a lot more planned, but it’s up to you guys, as the readers.
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