“Albus, I hope you know that I’m completely against this plan.”
“I pride myself on being an excellent reader of body language, Minerva. I am aware of your feelings, and you should know that I take as much pleasure from doing this as you do.”
The two elderly professors sat in silence in the Headmaster’s office, awaiting the arrival of the four summoned students. Minerva McGonagall’s eyebrows were knitted into a well-practiced frown; Professor Dumbledore tried his best to disregard the sensation of guilt that had taken root inside of him. It was easier said than done, but it was certainly necessary. Guilt was a small price to pay for protecting his student – his former student – from certain death. He did not agree with lying, but if a small sin helped to prevent a catastrophic one, Dumbledore would learn to live with his guilt. For the greater good.
McGonagall’s eyes were focused on the seat in front of the Headmaster’s desk, the seat that James Potter had just vacated minutes before.
“He’s just a boy,” McGonagall whispered sadly.
“He’s almost eighteen,” Dumbledore replied with the same answer James had given them just minutes before. “He’s a man now.”
“But surely he’s safer here than in London!” McGonagall had made this argument twice already.
“Nobody outside of the Order and his father can know he is alive,” Dumbledore gave the same reply as before. “It isn’t safe.”
“Voldemort can’t get him while he’s in the castle.”
“You and I both know that James Potter has a habit of wandering out of the grounds from time to time,” Dumbledore said quietly, his blue eyes twinkling. “I think tonight proved that.” The Headmaster’s expression darkened. “And Hogwarts may not be as safe as we once thought.”
“But to have him join the Order is lunacy! He’s seventeen!”
“I can think of nobody more up to the job than James Potter.” Dumbledore’s voice had a tone of finality, and McGonagall did not argue any further. She was simply wasting her energy. Still shaken from the night’s events, she conjured up a small glass of firewhiskey. Minerva McGonagall only drank on very rare occasions, but tonight it was practically a necessity.
A knock on the door of the office announced the arrival of the four students Dumbledore had sent for. The two professors exchanged regretful looks, neither particularly looking forward to the task they would have to undertake.
“Come in!” Dumbledore bellowed, and McGonagall whimpered slightly. The four students filed in, three boys and a girl, all seventh years. They looked worried, as if wondering what they could have possibly done wrong to be called to the Headmaster’s office after hours. Lily, the Head Girl, was used to meeting with the Deputy Headmistress for Head duties, but she knew that this meeting was nothing of the sort. The three boys, Sirius, Remus and Peter were used to being in the Headmaster’s office for other reasons, usually disciplinary.
McGonagall conjured up extra chairs, and Dumbledore asked the students to take their seats. It was a few moments before anyone spoke; Dumbledore, usually very articulate, was lost for words. How could he possibly tell these four Gryffindors that one of the most important people in their lives was dead? And more importantly, how could he make them believe him?
“C’mon sir, the suspense is killing us.” Sirius, effortlessly handsome, was in absolutely no way intimidated by the Headmaster; or, if he was, he didn’t show it. Truth be told, Sirius was far more frightened of the woman sitting beside Dumbledore; McGonagall had given him ninety-seven detentions (and counting) during his time at Hogwarts. Generally, Sirius wasn’t happy unless he was breaking the school rules in some way. Potter was just the same.
“It’s about Potter,” McGonagall blurted. She couldn’t stall any further; she needed to get it over with.
“Crap!” Sirius exclaimed to McGonagall’s surprise. She resisted the urge to scold him for using profanity. “Bloody idiot’s gone and got himself expelled!”
“Expelled?” Lily bit her thumbnail. Lily was an avid follower of the rules; how she and Potter ended up going out together, McGonagall would never know. Then again, there was a certain charm that both Potter and Sirius seemed to share, a charm that was not wasted on most of the female population of Hogwarts. Even McGonagall had a bit of a soft spot for them, when they weren’t disrupting her classes. “He’s not really expelled is he? I told him not to go! I knew he’d be caught!”
“We had nothing to do with this!” Peter put his hands up. “This was all James!”
“Professors, with all due respect, don’t you think expulsion is a bit far for going into Hogsmeade without permission?” Remus Lupin was always the voice of reason. Such a tragic life he lived, McGonagall always thought. He was probably her favourite of the four.
“He can’t be expelled!” Lily’s shock was quickly turning to anger, anger with her seemingly expelled boyfriend. “This close to graduating and everything! I’ve told him so many times he’d get caught, but would he listen! And you know, he’s done worse than this before and you never expelled him –”
Dumbledore held up a hand and the four fell silent. It was probably a good thing too, because Lily was digging a hole and didn’t quite know how to stop herself. “Yes, James made an unauthorised trip to Hogsmeade tonight. We believe he was securing some Honeydukes supplies for the Quidditch celebrations.” Sirius, Remus, and Peter looked guilty; they clearly were all in on James’s plan. “However, what James couldn’t have predicted was that there would be an attack on Hogsmeade during his visit.”
The students’ faces suddenly became far more serious. The notion of James’s expulsion suddenly became desirable.
“No!” Sirius snapped. He’d heard the start of this speech before. A boy in their year had died the year before in a Death Eater attack. “No, sir, please...”
Dumbledore had underestimated how hard it would be to break the news. He persevered. “James duelled with a Death Eater by the name of Theodore Raymond. They were both killed in battle.”
It was out. However softly he tried to deal the blow, it would hurt these four people just the same. He needed to get it done quickly.
Lily remained perfectly still, her face paler than ever before, her eyes now unfocused. Sirius buried his head in his knees, his hands resting on his head as he tried to catch his breath. Remus was still frowning, trying to logically process the news, not quite believing it. Peter’s eyes had begun to water; he covered them with one hand so that nobody would see him cry.
McGonagall let a single tear fall down her cheek.
“We understand how difficult this is –”
“His body,” Lily said blankly, cutting off the Headmaster as if she hadn’t heard him at all. “I need to see his body.”
It was a common reaction for the bereft to want to see the body of their loved one. It gave them closure. It gave them proof. This, Lily could not be given.
“I’m sorry, Lily,” Dumbledore said softly. The use of her first name cut through her like a dagger; he always called her ‘Miss Evans’. She missed the formality desperately. “James suffered substantial injuries. His body is not in fit condition to be viewed by anyone. It is better you keep the memories you have of James intact.”
“Where is he?” she asked.
“In the morgue at St Mungo’s. A Ministry official is informing his father of the news as we speak,” Dumbledore said gravely.
Lily stood up, as dignified as ever. “Thank you for letting us know, Professor.” There was still no reaction from her.
As she turned to leave, the three boys stood up to follow her; Peter was now openly crying, Remus was still visibly in shock and Sirius’s anger was becoming more and more apparent in the uncontrollable shaking in his entire body. Lily led them out of Dumbledore’s office and down the corridor. She walked slowly, calmly, all the while staring at an unfocused point ahead of her.
He was dead.
Two hours ago, he had held her hand and told her she was beautiful.
Now he was dead. She would never see him again.
The boys watched as Lily stopped in front of them, covered her mouth with both of her hands and crumpled onto the floor. She let out a heart-wrenching sob that echoed throughout the entire corridor.
Remus got to her first. She was closer to Remus than she was to any of the others. He knelt down beside her, put his arms around her and held her as she shook and sobbed. Sirius and Peter looked on helplessly; Lily’s pain was contagious and seeped right into them. It was almost as if they thought James couldn’t die, simply because the James they knew could never leave Lily. He loved her so much, it confused them. None of them had ever experienced anything quite like it.
“W-why?” Lily sobbed. “Why, James?”
Sirius closed his eyes and asked himself the same question. Why, James? Why were you so bloody stupid?
“...I don’t want to hear no noise past nine, and no parties neither. First sign of trouble, yer out on yer ear! I expect me rent cheque on the first of every month, that clear?”
Boris Ramsey handed the key to the flat upstairs to his new tenant and slammed the door in his face without another word.
James Potter stood still for a moment and realised that there was no way that this night could get any stranger. With a shrug, he turned, picked up his bag, and headed upstairs to his new home.
The stairs creaked under James’s feet as he climbed up to his new flat. He was not in the least bit surprised that it took some hard pushing for the door to open, nor was it a shock to him that his “flat” was in fact a dingy bedsit with one sink, acting for both kitchen and bathroom. The mildew on the windowsill, the dismantled floorboards and the moth-eaten carpets were all equally disturbing, but luckily (or perhaps unluckily), James was far too distracted by the night’s events to even notice these gigantic flaws in his new holding.
He threw his small backpack (his only piece of luggage) down onto his bed (which, he guessed, his feet would hang off the end of), took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes wearily. Here he was, dressed head to foot in Muggle attire, in a grimy Muggle bedsit in the middle of Muggle London. A pureblood wizard, James always found the Muggle world to be something of an intimidating mystery, and now wished dearly that he hadn’t laughed so hard at Lily for taking Muggle Studies for the OWLs.
It took James under a minute to unpack his belongings. Some spare clothes that the Hogwarts House Elves had fetched from laundry, the Invisibility Cloak, his mirror (which he was forbidden to use to contact Sirius) and an advanced Defence Against the Dark Arts textbook given to him by Dumbledore. There had been no time to go back to his dormitory to fetch his own. His wand was tucked away safely in his pocket, the watch he had received from his father was securely tied to his wrist – he could surely pack up his entire life into one measly bag at the drop of a hat, if necessary.
It was past midnight already and James was starving. However, with no food in the flat, and under Dumbledore’s strictest instructions to remain indoors until told otherwise, James stripped down into his boxer shorts and climbed into his bed. He cast a heating charm on the blankets, as the cold January air seeped in through the non-insulated windows, before tucking his wand under his pillow.
But James couldn’t sleep.
Every time James closed his eyes, he saw the face of the man he had killed hours before. Theodore Raymond: a Death Eater. And now, in order to stop Voldemort from seeking vengeance on behalf of his follower, James was dead too. Never again could he appear in public without a disguise. Never again could he go un-chaperoned by a member of the Order; at that very moment, an invisible Mad-Eye Moody was on watch outside the building, despite the fact that the tiny flat had been placed under the Fidelius Charm as soon as James had stepped inside.
He drifted off into an uneasy sleep. He was awoken by a loud bang on his door at six o’clock the next morning, and before he had time to even roll out of his bed, Moody had barged into the flat. James groaned; why was Mental Moody chosen as his Secret Keeper? Did Dumbledore really hate him that much?
“Up and at it, Potter,” Moody growled. James climbed out of his bed and pulled on his clothes. “Don’t ever sleep naked!”
“I wasn’t naked!” James argued.
“Always sleep in your clothes – you can’t fight intruders in the nip! You need to be ready to go at the drop of a hat, you hear me?”
“Fine,” James said grudgingly, and a little embarrassed that Moody had caught him in his underwear. Once James was dressed, he grabbed his wand from under his pillow and tucked it into his pocket.
“We’ll be Apparating straight to Headquarters,” Moody told him. “You’ll always Apparate from in here, understood? You don’t go outside. Not ever.”
James nodded. He was a prisoner now. Dead to everyone that mattered.
Moody handed him a piece of paper with the address of the Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix:
“That’s where we’re headed. Apparate right inside the front door, no further.”
It did not occur to James to disobey orders; Moody was by far the most intimidating person he’d ever met in his whole life. James and Moody Apparated at the same time, James concentrating hard on the destination that had just been revealed to him.
He landed steadily in the dark hallway of a house. There was a large portrait of a family on the wall ahead of him; a man with strawberry blonde hair was standing next to a woman with dark hair and a heart-shaped face, and their three children – two girls and a boy – were standing in front of them, all of them looking blissfully happy, as families tend to in portraits.
“Edgar Bones,” Moody informed James, having just appeared beside him, “and his family. This is their house. Mighty good of them to let Dumbledore use it for the Headquarters.”
James continued to stare at the attractive Bones family, wondering vaguely if he would ever be the father in a family portrait: was he forever doomed to living life as an outcast? Would he ever experience any sense of normality again? He shuddered to think what Moody would say if he could read his thoughts.
Moody led James down the hall and into the kitchen where the dark-haired woman from the portrait was cooking breakfast. She was young, probably in her late thirties, and very beautiful. Not as beautiful as Lily, of course, but nobody was. She smiled kindly at James and Moody.
“You’re here early!” she exclaimed, giving Moody a kiss on the cheek. James couldn’t help but admire her forwardness; if he were a woman, he would be absolutely terrified to attempt to show any bit of affection to Alastor Moody. The man had an eye that could see through stuff, for Merlin’s sake. Stuff like ladies’ clothing. James knew that if he had a mental eye like Moody’s, that’s how he’d put it to use. “You must be James. I’m Emily Bones, welcome!” She now kissed James’s cheek as if she knew him for years. He felt himself blush and saw Moody roll his good eye.
“Thanks, Mrs Bones.”
“Emily, please! None of this Mrs Bones nonsense, I haven’t drawn the pension just yet! Ed’s just showering,” Emily informed them, setting plates of bacon and eggs down in front of them at the table. They both sounded in thanks. “Frank said he’d be arriving around lunchtime, but the others should be here before that. They’re all dying to meet you, James!”
James didn’t know how to reply to this, so instead changed the conversation. “Are those your children?” He pointed to a picture of the two girls and boy that had appeared in the portrait out in the hall.
“Yes, that’s Katie, she’s nine, Anna’s seven, and little Edward is five,” Emily said fondly.
“They’re beautiful,” James said truthfully. Katie had her mother’s heart-shaped face and her father’s features and very long blonde hair, while Anna was the absolute image of Emily in every way. Edward had dark hair too, and a mischievous expression that spelled trouble in the most endearing way.
“You’re sweet, James,” Emily smiled. “They can be a handful!”
“Fabian and Gideon coming today?” Moody changed the subject back to business. Clearly discussing the beauty of the Bones children was not something he approved of.
“I expect so,” Emily told him, “You know those two; they tend to show up without warning. Emmeline has business at the Ministry and she’ll be here around ten or so...”
Moody and Emily continued discussing Order members. James could not keep up with all of the names. Even when they began arriving, James had trouble remembering everyone; Dedalus Diggle was small and excitable; Fabian and Gideon Prewett were twins in their early thirties or so; Emmeline Vance was an attractive woman, not much older than James, with a curiously seductive smile; Caradoc Dearborn was a man much taller than James (who stood tall at 6 foot) with a dark beard and a thick Welsh accent; Elphias Doge was a kind, elderly man with bad hearing; Benjy Fenwick was a handsome man in his twenties with a cracking sense of humour; Frank and Alice Longbottom were newlyweds. James remembered Frank and Alice from school. They were both two years ahead of him, both in Gryffindor and had been going out for as long as he could recall.
Edgar Bones had joined them in the kitchen too and straight away James could tell how much he doted on his wife. Emily was the only person who addressed him as ‘Ed’ or ‘Eddie’, and James could tell that she was the only person he would allow to address him so. Emily looked at him with such fondness and interest every time he spoke, which was quite a bit. James felt a sudden twinge of pain and guilt. That’s just how Lily used to look at him. He vaguely wondered if she had received the news of his death yet, and how she would take it.
After James had been introduced to the members of the Order, Moody stood up from the kitchen table for the first time since they’d arrived. “Emily, mind if we use the drawing room?”
“Of course not, go right ahead,” Emily smiled.
“Follow me, Potter,” Moody commanded.
James jumped up from the table to follow Moody. “Thanks so much for breakfast, Emily, it was delicious,” he called.
“You’re welcome, James.”
“Lick arse,” Benjy Fenwick muttered mockingly, following James into the drawing room.
The drawing room was long and virtually empty, except for one couch, which Benjy and Frank raced to sit down on before anyone else. It looked as if everything had been moved out of the room quite recently.
“Potter, think of this as the training room. This is where you’re going to learn advanced defence and offensive spells, real magic,” Moody barked. “And we’re all going to teach you.”
James looked around at the faces of his colleagues; they were all giving him encouraging looks. This was his future, his destiny. He wouldn’t be locked up forever; he would train, he would fight, and he would help to kill Voldemort – or die trying.
Disclaimer: The world of Harry Potter belongs to J.K. Rowling. The quote in the banner comes from the song 'Runaway' by The National. It's an amazing song, check it out!
A/N: Welcome to my new story! This has been in the works for over a year, I have quite a bit of it written. I'd love to know what you think of the idea, the characterisations etc... It's quite a bit different from what I'm used to writing! I hope you liked it :)