Chapter 25 : The Best Not-Christmas Ever
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And then he started asking me questions. What had Voldemort said to me? Where did he go when he wasn’t torturing me? Was I all right?
I didn’t have the answer to any of them except the first. And anyways, the atmosphere seemed awkward to me, a little distracting. It probably had something to do with the way that Sirius and James were sitting on one side, Sirius clasping my left hand in his two and consoling me whenever I stumbled or broke. And Apollo was sitting on my other side, doing the exact same thing. It was weird. Like they were being brought together, but were always separate anyways. Nothing could ever truly bring Slytherins and Gryffindors together. Not even me.
I did my best to answer Dumbledore’s questions, but frankly, I didn’t know what good my answers would do him. He probably already knew most of it anyways, being Dumbledore and all. After all,what didn’t Dumbledore know? The questioning seemed to go on forever, until finally Dumbledore stood to leave.
“Are you sure that you would not like to return to Hogwarts with me? It’s a more secure environment, and it may make you feel better.”
I shook my head and he smiled, almost as if in approval.
“Now, one last thing before I go. There’s the matter of your wand-”
I shot him a look of confusion, then realized what he meant.
I was, at the moment, wandless. I groaned, wondering how I could possibly have forgotten my wand. Apollo had paled considerably, probably wondering the same thing. Dumbledore continued as if he hadn’t noticed their grim looks.
“I know that you would prefer to have your wand, but returning to your home to get it would be very foolish. You’ll have to get a new one.” He paused for a moment to see if I would respond. So I did.
He nodded in approval, a small smile, as if he thought I was lying. Then he was gone.
After that, Sirius and James forced me to bed, arguing that I had been through a lot (which I had) and that I needed to get some rest (which I probably should). But as soon as I fell asleep, I was plagued with dreams about my dead parents, and about Voldemort using my wand for all his misdeeds. In one particular dream, a family blamed me for the death of their parents, as he’d used my wand (though of course Voldemort had his own wand and had no use for mine). The basic fact of the matter was that my wand was probably snapped in two.
But what if it wasn’t? Could I really just let the matter go without checking first? What if it was still at the house, just waiting for me to pop quickly back in and get it? What were the chances?
I didn’t get the rest that the guys had hoped for. Not that I admitted that to them, of course. They already looked so worried as James’ mother cooked breakfast and his father attempted to make pleasant conversation. It was getting so increasingly awkward as the morning wore on that I eventually couldn’t stand it. I threw my fork down angrily, and everyone turned to look at me in shock.
“You know, I’m not dead. I’m fine! I wish that everyone would stop tiptoeing around me! I don’t need everyone to feel sorry for me!” And then proceeded to feel guilty about it for the next half hour when James’ parents avoided me.
“It’s your own bloody fault,” Sirius chuckled at my frustrated expression. He took to my words quite quick himself, quickly going back to my same old Sirius. “Maybe if you weren’t such an ass all the time, people wouldn’t hate you.”
“Oh, shut up,” I retorted. Not my best comeback, but whatever.
The rest of the day went by in a very boring blur. Sirius and James bailed on me (assholes, who knew what they were up to), leaving me at the house with his parents and silence. The more I sat around, not knowing what to do with myself, the more I was forced to think about that had become of my wand. Where my brother was. What Voldemort was doing now (I’d gotten a bit of a reprieve from him the past few days, aside from my random bursts of anger. And who could tell whether those were more mine or his?). I supposed that my brother was doing something important. He wouldn’t have been away long unless he had things to take care of. Probably arranging the funerals that I could hardly consider possible at the moment. As to my wand, there was really nothing for it. As much as I hated to admit it, I was kind of afraid to go back and check. Afraid Voldemort would be there waiting. Afraid that I would find it in pieces. Afraid of making everything that had happened there into reality. And anyways, I’d told Dumbledore that I wouldn’t go. I’d just have to stop in at Ollivander’s before Christmas holiday ended for a new wand. There was probably enough in the family funds for it, assuming that they let me access it.
I was folded up on the couch, staring off in a daze, when I heard Sirius laugh and James say something. Blinking myself back to reality for what felt like the thousandth time that day, I was surprised to find Sirius’ face less than an inch from my own.
Purely out of shock, I shrieked and slapped him away harder than I meant to, and James burst out laughing as Sirius staggered backwards. I twitched and tried to catch my breath.
“Don’t scare me like that, you dumbass!” I yelled, pointing a shaky hand at him.
Sirius had recovered and knocked my hand aside. “We called you like ten times! You’re the one who was all zoned out!”
“That doesn’t give you permission to invade my personal space! You should know me well enough by now to know that that’s a bad idea!”
Sirius growled and glared at me. “Fine, whatever. What were you thinking about, then?” he changed the subject none to subtly and plopped down on the couch next to me. “And before you say ‘none of your business,” I think you owe me. I can’t feel my bloody cheek.”
“It’s your fault, you-”
“All right, all right, Dearie, whatever you say, Artemis. Then, as your boyfriend.” I scowled at him some more, tempted to tell him to fuck off. Instead I just sighed.
“Just... a lot of stuff.” Weight shifted on the couch as James joined us, looking as though he were trying desperately not to disturb us but still wanting to be included. I rolled my eyes and looked back at the fireplace, where a fire was burning merrily. “My wand, mostly.” I closed my eyes and leaned back, only to have Sirius’ arm pull me into him instead. I opened my eyes again to look at him; his left cheek was red (I really had hit him hard...) but his stormy eyes looked straight into my own and he was smiling softer than I ever seen him before.
“Try not to worry about it, Artemis. We’ll get you a new wand, better than the old one.” I snorted and he glared at me. “All right, fine. At least as good as. I know it’s not the same, Artemis. But we both know you can’t go back there. And anyways, it’s probably gone.”
“I know,” I sighed. “I told Dumbledore I wouldn’t go back anyways, but I just can’t help wondering what happened to it.” I noticed James and Sirius glance each other quickly, but then the focus was back on me.
“Come on,” Sirius said quietly, taking my hand and pulling me off the couch.
“Huh?” I asked, confused for obvious reasons.
“Just come on. It’s a surprise.”
I resisted the urge to punch him and complied as they handed me a coat (thankfully not bright pink) and Sirius pulled me outside. James left us at the door, waving with a huge grin. “What are we doing?” I asked after we’d gone about two hundred feet out the back door, heading for what looked like forest.
“Going for a short walk,” Sirius replied smartly. I sighed and decided he was too much of an ass to give me any sort of straight answer. We reached the tree line and I tried to admire the icicles hanging from the branches while also fretting about whatever Sirius’ “surprise” was out in the middle of a forest.
It was a few minutes before we came into a snowy clearing: in the center, a table sat laden with food, flowers (the same as our second date: primroses, tuberoses, and orange blossoms), and a bright flame that was clearly of magical origin. Warmth washed over me as we approached it. I covered my mouth to stop my gasp of surprise, hating the sentimentality of the tears that gathered in my eyes. I hated to admit it, but I was touched by the gesture.
Sirius just smiled proudly as he pulled out my chair. “We figured, since you didn’t get a Christmas, this was the least we could do,” he said quietly.
Okay, seriously? I was crying way too much these days to possibly be healthy. But I couldn’t help it. I grinned while I cried though, and Sirius laughed at me as he filled my plate up with food.
“Eat up! You’re even more twiggy than you were before, and that is nearly impossible.”
I stuck my tongue out at him, but ate up as ordered. While we ate, Sirius told me what he had been doing before I had arrived at James’. He’d had an all right Christmas, claiming that it was the best one he’d ever had. But I detected something underneath that; I got the feeling he was lying. But I let it slide; he was already talking about the days after Christmas with a touch more enthusiasm. They had snuck around and been up to no good, it seemed, though of course that was pretty expected of James and Sirius. James had been pining for Lily the whole time, though. But then, Sirius had been a little worried about me, so he’d really hardly noticed. It was then that I stumbled out of James’ chimney.
After a good amount of time, Sirius and I finished eating and started a slow walk back to the house. A few minutes of silence passed.
Then I asked, “How was your Christmas really?”
Sirius glared at me, so I stuck my tongue out at him. “I already told you: It was wonderful! Presents and dinner and games and such. Wonderful.”
I scowled at him. “Sirius, I know when you’re lying to me.” Usually, I added to myself. “I can tell it was wonderful as you would like me to believe.”
Sirius huffed and looked away, stuffing his right hand into his pocket (his left was too busy holding my right). Then his shoulders slumped and he sighed. “All right, fine. It wasn’t the best ever. But compared to yours-”
“Stop comparing to mine,” I ordered sharply, causing him to look at me in surprise. “We’ve already established that I had a horrible Christmas. I want to know about yours! What you got and what you didn’t and what you want. All right?” For a second, Sirius just stared at me.
Finally: “It was nice. And it was pretty good. The Potters are great people. They’ve accepted me where my own parents wouldn’t. But being with them on Christmas... it always just makes me... jealous, I guess. It’s just, I guess seeing their family Christmas and how happy they all are together. I guess I just wish I could have one like that.” Sirius was blushing now; I could tell even though he was avoiding looking at me.
I smiled and abandoned his hand to embrace his arm, laying my head on his shoulder. “I’m sure you will, someday. I mean, you plan to get married someday, right? And have a kid or two? And then you’ll have your own little family Christmas.”
Sirius looked at me in shock for the second time in five minutes, and now I could see just how red his face actually was. He was nearly scarlet. And as if he’d had some kind of cue:
He pushed me up against a tree, and then it was my turn to blush as he pressed his body close against mine.
“Well in that case, why don’t we just start trying now. We could have a family by next September. We can get a nice place and you can be a housewife and stay home with the kids. I’ll get a job making a ton of money, and I’ll spoil you and the kids rotten. And then, when I come home at night, you can spoil me rotten...” His hands dropped to my hips and I felt that Sirius scent wash over me.
I almost punched him in the face. “You know, Sirius, you are the master of ruining the moment.”
Sirius smirked and pushed himself away from me. “And you’ve been awfully sappy these past few days. I dunno if you noticed or not, but you’ve been crying at least once daily, if not more, since you got here. Maybe you’re already pregnant? You haven’t been cheating on me have you?” He punched my arm playfully, already knowing how I would respond.
“You’re such an ass!” I told him with a scowl, hitting his arm considerably harder. “I’m not even going to dignify that question with a response. That’s not even funny. And if you ever accuse me of either of those again, I swear I’ll dismember you and feed you to the wild animals in the Forbidden Forest.”
I glared at him again, then resumed my march towards the house. It was a second before he caught up to me, smirking a little. “I’ll keep that it mind.”
It was snowing by the time that we reached James’ house; both of us were shivering, relieved to find a warm fire built in the living room. Mrs. Potter (who had warmed up to me again after realizing that I was only suffering from a trauma) offered us warm biscuits and tea. As I picked some for myself, she turned to Sirius.
“Where has James got to? It’s getting a bit late, isn’t it?”
Sirius looked surprised. “He’s not back yet?” Mrs. Potter shook her head and went off, still looking worried that her son was, at the moment, missing. Sirius, however, looked even more worried.
“What’s wrong, Sirius? Where was James going?” I asked as Sirius took a single biscuit. Not at all usual Sirius.
“Well... he-he went to Lily’s...” he said slowly, looking at me like he was trying to decide between being worried and lying to me. Because it seemed he couldn’t do both. He was trying not to worry me, but while worrying himself, that wasn’t possible.
Which set me to thinking. Where would I worry if James and Lily were there? And where would they go anyways?
“Sirius,” I said softly, putting a hand on his arm gently. “Where did they go?”
“Don’t worry, Artemis, they’ll be-”
“Sirius.” He stopped short, looking at me with a small frown.
“They went to... They went to get your wand,” he said slowly. Then he sighed and looked down. “We didn’t expect... I mean, I sure that nothing’s wrong.”
I stared at him for a second, then to clarify (as if I needed clarification), I asked, “They went to my parents’ place?” Sirius nodded, still looking at the ground nervously. Dread filled me, and if felt like my whole body went numb. My legs started to give underneath me, but before Sirius could catch me I caught myself. I breathed in slowly through my teeth, and Sirius took my hand.
But before he could finish, I turned; there was the feeling of being sucked through a tube, and then we were standing in the dusk light in front of my old house. Sirius dropped his biscuit.
“Artemis!” he hissed, pulling me down behind the front hedges and blocking the view of the house. “You weren’t supposed to come back! You promised Dumbledore-”
“Well, that was before my dumb ass friends thought they’d be brave and come back without me,” I whispered, interrupting him with a glare. “Who knows what’s wrong in there. Maybe they just can’t find my wand, but maybe something bad it...” I let the sentence trail off, unable to voice those concerns for fear of them becoming reality. Sirius seemed to understand, because he nodded reluctantly and we made our way cautiously to the front door together.
It was silent as we entered the house. The only sign that anyone had been through since I’d left were the items strewn everywhere; of course that also may have been due to my parents’ battle. We stood still for a second, listening to the house and trying to hear Lily and James. Soft voices were coming from the kitchen, so Sirius and I quickly glanced at each other and hurried in that direction. Fear welled up in me as we neared, but it was with relief that I realized those voices were Lily’s and James’.
“I found it!” Lily’s muffled voice said. My heart beat quickly; had she found my wand? “But...”
I opened the door silently, intended to scare them as punishment for sneaking into this dangerous place when both of them should have known better. But I stopped at the sight of my wand. Broken in two, just like I’d figured. Irreparable, certainly. Useless now, and here they were putting their lives into possible danger for it.
“Great,” Sirius said, causing the two of them to jump about a foot in the air and whirl to look at him. “Now can we leave please?”
“Sirius, mate!” James exclaimed as Lily put her hand over her heart and gave us the Look. “You scared us half to death! You weren’t supposed to come, she wasn’t supposed-”
“Your mum was worried about you, and I realized you’d been gone a long time. We thought something might have...” he trailed off awkwardly. James nodded, and Lily turned her attention to me.
“Ar... I’m so sorry,” she whispered, offering my broken wand to me as if it were a dead pet. I took it from her just as solemnly. We all looked at it, the reason we had come back to this horrible place. The place where Voldemort had tortured me, had killed my mother. All the horrible memories, but the good too. And all to get my wand. I was overwhelmed with happiness.
To have friends who would risk their lives to get my wand back for me, so that I wouldn’t have to face this place again. I was so happy. So proud.
I nodded and grinned. “It’s okay. I pretty much expected it.” Putting the pieces in my pocket, I took Lily’s hand. “Now let’s get out of here. I don’t ever want to come here again.”
I turned to guide her back to the front door, but pushed her behind me instead as a rush of panic nearly blinded me.
Okay, in reality, maybe I wasn’t the perfect person to stand as a shield to my friends; I was pretty defenseless at the moment. But as we mentioned above: My wand was the reason we had all risked our lives to come here. But that didn’t mean that I was actually going to let them die for me.
I didn’t seem to have a choice in the matter, however. Within seconds, Sirius and James were in front of both of us, wands drawn. As if they possibly stood a chance in hell against Lord Voldemort and the two Death Eaters accompanying him.
For a second, it was silent: the four of us probably tried to think of a way out at that time, but I already knew Voldemort was blocking everything but the fireplace. And that trick probably wouldn’t work twice. As for the three of them: ugly smirks came onto the Death Eater’s faces, and a smug smile on Voldemort’s. They knew we were trapped.
And then he spoke.
“How kind of you, to bring my precious kin back to me. And I was so worried that I wouldn’t see you again.”
For a second I was back in that chair again. Tied up, helpless, seeing my friends horrified faces. And then I realized how horrified my friends faces actually were.
They weren’t. My stubborn friends: I could see the fear, but they, like me, hid it behind that fearless mask. I felt like I was the only one who was truly afraid.
“Come, Artemis,” Voldemort said softly, holding out his hand as if expecting me to take it and follow him anywhere. Come, come, come... come... come...
The word was filling my head. I could feel my body straining to obey, my mind fighting to keep control.
“Leave her alone!” Sirius yelled furiously, moving closer to me and breaking our eye contact. As if awaking from a trance, I regained control and Voldemort’s voice dimmed in my head. But I could feel his anger awaken. He had my same genetically shortened temper, and Sirius wasn’t about to get in the way.
“Stop!” I screamed frantically, trying and failing to push Sirius aside as Voldemort raised his wand. “I will!” As I said the words, my friends looked at me in shock. “I’ll come, just leave them all alone. Don’t hurt them.”
Voldemort laughed, and I grimaced at the shadows of pain that came with it. “Very well. Come, Artemis, and I will not raise my wand against your friends.”
I nodded slowly and took a step towards him, only to be shoved back viciously by Sirius, hard enough that I would have fallen flat on my ass if Lily hadn’t been next to me. I could tell by the look on his face that he was furious, and not completely at Lord Voldemort. I glared at him.
“Sirius! What are you doing? I have this under control!”
“What am I doing? I’m saving your sorry ass!” he yelled back, turning his back on me. “You don’t actually think that he’ll let us go, do you? He might not hurt us, but that’s why he’s got his Death Eaters: to do his dirty work.”
I grimaced and looked at the ground. Ashamed, shuffling my feet on the tile. He was right, of course. I wasn’t thinking straight. Blinded by fear. But Sirius and the other two could see what I was afraid to. We weren’t just going to bargain our way out of this.
Voldemort, of course, knew my decision had changed. “You won’t come then, Artemis?” In answer, I scowled at him. His smug smile didn’t fade. “I didn’t want it to come to this, Artemis; but you’ve left me no choice.” He made a small motion with his hands and turned to leave. “Kill them all.” He vanished, but the fear didn’t follow him.
Five wands were raised simultaneously, and I wished vehemently mine wasn’t broken in my pocket. Knowing that there was nothing I could add to the battle, I allowed my friends to push me further behind them.
Pathetic. I felt so... pathetic. There were sparks and flashes of light now, flying back and forth across the room, but I couldn’t do anything. Nothing but sit behind my friends and hope for the best. It seemed as though all at once everything was moving in slow motion, but also in fast forward. I couldn’t hardly tell what was going on as the lights seemed to slow around me; I could hardly hear anything. All I knew was that a spell was barreling towards Lils and I. Out of habit perhaps, even believing that it wouldn’t work, I threw myself into a spell: Portego! I thought will all my might, waving my arm as though brandishing my wand.
To my astonishment, the spell bounced away as it struck the invisible barrier. No one seemed to notice in all the fighting, assuming that one of the others had cast the spell. And maybe they had; maybe it was pure coincidence.
But if it wasn’t, I had just discovered that I had an advantage. And right now, we needed one. Voldemort seemed to have brought his two best pets. James, Sirius, and Lily together were having a hard time holding them off as it was. I had to help. We didn’t have to win. We just had to get away. We couldn’t Disapparate; though my parents were gone, the charms on the house remained. We had to get outside, but the Death Eaters had the only exit blocked. I had no idea where the Floo Powder had wound up, so that way out was also useless.
So maybe we just needed to make our own way out.
My resolve strengthened, I cast around the kitchen, trying figure out how to best do so. There was nothing for it. There was nothing but the kitchen walls and the fireplace behind us. I focused my energy and will so hard on the wall that everything faded. Reducto! I thought desperately, praying that the spell would work.
Somehow, miraculously, it did. The resulting explosion proved that my coincidence was certainly not. This seemed to draw my friends attention, along with the Death Eaters. I grinned, but my humor didn’t last long as the spells started flying again.
“Come on!” I yelled, taking Lily by the upper arm and pulling her towards the new exit I’d just made and hoping that James and Sirius would follow. The chill air made my eyes water as we darted outside, stumbling over rubble in our haste and dodging spells at the same time. A quick glance over my shoulder showed me that Sirius and James were indeed right behind us. And so were the Death Eaters.
Adrenaline pounded through me as we sprinted those last few steps to where I knew the boundaries of the charms were. A whoosh sounded by my left ear, a bright green light flashing past my face. And with that final parting vision, I turned on the spot, taking Lily with me as I Apparated back to James’ place.
It was a few minutes before I could breathe normally again as the relief of our escape from the Death Eaters filled me. James and Sirius appeared right behind us, more to be thankful for.
I seemed to be the only one relieved, however. The others were staring at me, all still breathing hard.
But there would be time for questions later, I decided, grinning at them. For now, I was just so glad to have us all safe and sound.
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