Chapter 3 : Anyone's Ghost
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Life at Hogwarts had returned to normal by the end of January for most. While James Potter was not completely forgotten, he had been replaced as Head Boy by Remus Lupin, a choice made by Professor McGonagall the week after his death was announced. Most of the seventh years could be seen laughing and joking again, however, all Quidditch matches for the remainder of the school year had been cancelled, as had all future trips to Hogsmeade. While the other houses complained about the cancellation of Quidditch, the Gryffindors did not protest – without their captain and Chaser, they had no chance of winning the cup anyway.
Lily hadn’t laughed once since James died, or even smiled. She felt like there was no laughter left inside her, like she forgot how to do it, or like there was a Dementor following her around everywhere she went. On top of that, she got annoyed when she saw other people laughing. It was as if they stopped caring. It was so strange to her how her life could have completely collapsed, changed forever, and everyone else just wanted to complain about homework and the NEWTs, as if they mattered more than James did.
As promised, Sirius, Remus and Peter took care of her, to a point where she wanted to jinx the lot of them. They sat with her at dinner, went to the library with her in the evenings (something that made the librarian very nervous) and kept her company in the common room at night. Sirius was still extremely cold to her, while Remus and Peter tried their best to be understanding, although none of them could really imagine what she was going through. She knew they loved James, but they had each other to fall back on. She never felt for anyone how she felt about James. She knew it was selfish to consider her own pain more prominent than theirs, and she never voiced these opinions, but she knew they couldn’t understand her. It just wasn’t possible.
On a Friday night in early February, Lily decided to try to lose herself in a book and forget about her grief for a little while. She sat on the couch by the fire in the common room and none of the other students bothered her. Peter had gone to bed early and Remus had decided to take over patrolling for the night, even though that was technically Lily’s job too.
It had been a month since he died.
Though she was staring at the pages of her book, Lily was thinking. More specifically, she was remembering. She found herself doing this a lot since James died, remembering her time with him; the first time the met, the first time she had a proper conversation with him, their first kiss and the haunting memory of their last. If she closed her eyes and really concentrated, sometimes she could still smell him. He smelled like men’s shower gel or shaving foam or aftershave, mixed with smoke from the sneaky cigarettes he never knew she knew about. If he’d just been training or playing a Quidditch match, his scent was both sweet and sweaty.
She thought about what it might have been like to introduce James to her parents. It was something she had thought about quite a bit before he died too. She imagined how her sister Petunia would have reacted to him, and how he would have reacted to her. He’d be funny, she thought. He was a funny guy; he just had a quick wit that she couldn’t quite keep up with, so now she couldn’t even think of what exactly he would say to Petunia, if he’d met her. But she knew he’d be funny, and a bit offensive. The thought made her almost smile.
“What’s it about?”
Sirius sat down beside her on the opposite end of the couch without her even noticing his arrival in the common room. He was looking at the book she was holding.
“I have no idea,” she replied, surprised that Sirius’s tone was slightly warmer than usual. He was staring straight ahead of him into the fire with his arms folded, and slouched down. Although they rarely brought him up, James was always there behind every word they said to each other, every look they gave; he was the reason they spoke at all.
“I keep having dreams he’s still alive,” Sirius told her.
“Me too,” she said, not really knowing why he was telling her this. She knew the dreams all too well; normal scenarios of eating dinner with James, or sitting beside him in Transfiguration, or saying goodnight to him before bed. And then she’d wake up and be hit by the reality that he was gone, and all of those normal scenarios would turn into her heart’s deepest desires.
“I’m sorry I’ve been such a prat to you.”
The apology came as a shock to Lily. Sirius did not strike her as the type of person who apologised, ever. Whenever he and James had falling outs, neither would apologise; they would simply forget about it and move on. She had a feeling that maybe Remus had put him up to apologising.
“I’m sorry I’ve been so selfish,” Lily told him. “I think I’m very close to drowning in a pool of self-pity.”
Sirius smiled to himself, still not looking at her. It was more of a grimace than a smile, really. “Y’know, I bet he’s looking at us right now pissing himself laughing.”
“The two most stubborn people he knows actually apologising,” Lily nodded, also smiling. It was nice to remember him aloud, to think of him looking down at them, to refer to him in the present tense, to think of him as actually being somewhere instead of nowhere at all. Lily wasn’t a particularly religious person, but she believed in Heaven and the afterlife, and it made her relish the thought that maybe someday she would see James again.
“Can you believe it’s been a month?” Sirius shook his head in disbelief as he said it.
“It feels longer.”
Sirius nodded. They sat in silence for a while.
“You’ve been so strong,” Lily observed. “You’ve held it together so well.”
Sirius frowned. “I just keep thinking I’m going to see him again. It hasn’t hit me yet. Not really.”
“It won’t stop hitting me,” Lily sighed.
He looked at her for the first time. “Look, Lily, I know I’ve been really awful to you and everything but...you can talk to me. I mean, I don’t know if I’ll be able to say anything to make you feel in any way better but...yeah...” he trailed off uncomfortably. He wasn’t great with words, or with expressing feelings. “I mean...I think he’d want us to talk...”
Lily took rested her hand on his arm. “Thanks, Sirius. And you can talk to me.”
They stayed up talking until after midnight, reminiscing and, on Lily’s part, crying. When she retired to bed that night, she fell asleep much faster than she had in the last month. And for the first time in a month, Lily didn’t feel completely alone. She knew there was somebody else out there feeling exactly like she was.
“Alright James, just take a few minutes to recall your best memory. Close your eyes; let yourself feel all the same things you felt at the time.”
Edgar had offered to teach James how to produce a Patronus charm when Moody was called into the Ministry. He was proving a much more patient and kind teacher than Moody. He smiled encouragingly at James, who closed his eyes and tried to pick out another happy memory. The last few hadn’t worked for him.
The first thought that came to his mind was the day he received his Hogwarts letter, then the first time he met Sirius and Lily, then when he was made Chaser on the Quidditch team, then when he first successfully transfigured into a stag, then the first time Lily had kissed him...
It was the beginning of October when it happened. He had finally convinced her to meet him in Hogsmeade after months – well, years – of persistence. He’d gone into the village with his friends and she’d gone with hers, but they had planned to meet up at The Three Broomsticks and take it from there. Their friends had come along as back-ups – if the date went completely disastrous they could politely look at their watches and insist that their friends were expecting them back. Sirius, Peter and Remus were in James’s corner, as always; two girls named Yvonne and Beth were in Lily’s.
As it turned out, the date was as disastrous as expected. Although they had known each other for seven years, Lily and James were incredibly nervous around each other and found they had absolutely nothing to talk about except for school. She had sat across from him in the pub with one hand on her knee and the other nursing her glass of Butterbeer. James had no opportunity to subtly take her hand, which was really his only move. It had never failed him before, but then again, he’d never been out with anyone like Lily before. She had walked beside him with her arms folded the whole way up to the castle, and James’s heart had sunk. They had been on a date, they had tried the romance thing and it just didn’t work. Lily, the girl he had always imagined he’d end up with, was not the girl for him after all. He’d just have to put this down as yet another failed date and move on to the next girl, if it were only that simple.
That night he lay awake in bed in his dormitory, having been comforted by his friends who had then fallen asleep. He was mentally kicking himself for some of the stupid things he’d said to her:
“Being a Head is such a pain in the arse, isn’t it? No bloody time for anything...”
“I like being Head Girl.”
“Oh, erm, me too! I love being Head Girl...er, I mean, Boy.”
She’d rolled her eyes at him. She was clearly so unimpressed by everything he had said, despite the fact that he was for once trying to be himself. And although he had been convinced she was the girl for him, he knew he’d have to move on from her. He couldn’t change everything he was for her – if she didn’t like him, that was that. End of story. End of fantasy of future involving marriage and red haired children.
What happened next, he never saw coming. In fact, the world’s greatest Seer probably couldn’t have seen it coming, because James got the distinct impression that Lily hadn’t exactly planned it. She had probably put the date down as a gigantic failure just as he had.
There came a gentle knock on the dormitory door that night, so gentle that he barely even heard it. But he sensed there was someone on the other side, waiting for him outside his dormitory, so he quickly got out of bed and went to answer.
She was dressed in her pink pyjamas, and he then realised that he was wearing an old t-shirt and boxer shorts – how he wished (even as he stood in the Bones’s drawing room, remembering) that he had looked a bit more decent. She had smirked slightly at the sight of his boxers (they had pictures of dragons on them, he remembered with a cringe), but she never said anything.
“Hello,” James had greeted her with confusion. “You do realise it’s nearly two in the morning?”
She didn’t say anything. She looked almost angry, but not angry with him; maybe angry with herself? Either way, she had kissed him before he even fully processed the fact that she was there, outside his dormitory at two in the morning. He had absolutely no idea how long they stayed kissing for. It wasn’t long enough, because she had broken away, smiled and said “’Night James!” and ran away back to her dormitory, while he was still standing there, waiting for her to offer some explanation.
She never did. They were just boyfriend and girlfriend after that. When people asked him how it happened, he usually gave the very honest answer: I haven’t a clue.
It worked this time; a large silver stag erupted from the end of his wand. He was shocked by the sight of it, and Edgar clapped and cheered happily.
“Well done, James!” Edgar cried. “A full Patronus!”
James had to admit that Edgar’s cheerful spirit was definitely a huge help; if Moody had been there shouting bloody murder at him the whole day, there would be no way James could have achieved a full Patronus. Maybe Moody knew that and that’s why he left it to Edgar.
Feeling rather chuffed with himself, James joined Edgar and the rest of the Bones family and a couple of Order members – Benjy and Gideon – for dinner. The happy memory he had just recalled was still very much on his mind; it also reminded him of another late-night kiss he’d experienced the previous week with Emmeline, and couldn’t help but find quite a few similarities between the two encounters. The thought of the kiss with Emmeline made him feel guilty and uncomfortable, even though he hadn’t initiated it in the slightest, as far as he knew. Maybe he was sending out sexy signals to girls without even knowing it ... he had suggested that thought to Sirius before who laughed it off for twenty minutes.
“So they reckon it was Bellatrix Lestrange who was behind those Muggle murders in Liverpool last week,” Gideon announced as soon as they tucked into their Shepherd’s Pie. “And they think she was leading the Death Eaters who tried to bust into the Ministry yesterday.”
“Death Eaters tried to break into the Ministry?” James asked, snapping out of his Lily-related daydream and noticing the warning look Edgar and Benjy had given to Gideon.
“Can we not discuss this in front of the children?” Emily shot them all a look that told them she wasn’t asking. Katie, Anna, and Edward showed no indication that they had been listening to the talk of Death Eaters and murders; they were chattering among themselves, used to ignoring the adults since the Order had infested their home.
James did not mention any more about the attempted break-in until after Emily took the children upstairs to bed.
“Right, why didn’t you tell me there was a break-in? Is that where you all disappeared to yesterday?”
Edgar, Benjy and Gideon all looked calm, as if they expected James to start. They didn’t look guilty or uncomfortable at all; this annoyed James. Didn’t he have a right to know, to fight alongside them? Wasn’t he an Order member too?
“You’re not ready, James,” Edgar told him firmly.
“That’s bullshit!” James exploded. “I’ve been working my arse of for weeks, I conjured a full Patronus today, I know every defensive spell there is!”
“We’re not saying you’re not good, mate,” Benjy told him sympathetically.
“Well then why wasn’t I told? What’s the point in training if I don’t get to fight?”
“You’re not ready to fight,” Edgar told him again, this time more firmly. “And more importantly, you’re not ready to be seen.”
James frowned at him. “I can’t hide forever.”
“You’ve only been hiding six weeks. Once Voldemort finds out you’re alive, he’ll stop at nothing to get to you; you’ll put all of us in danger!” Edgar looked as if he was trying not to get angry himself. He always maintained a very diplomatic manner. “James, you killed a Death Eater –”
“It was self defence! I didn’t mean to kill him!”
“I know,” Edgar insisted. “But do you really think Voldemort will care? He’ll see you as a direct threat – not many seventeen year olds could take down a Death Eater. He’s killed people for far less.”
James felt guilty and uncomfortable at his outburst; they were trying to protect him. He had underestimated just how much trouble he was actually in. If Voldemort found him, he was as good as dead, as were the people who tried to hide him.
“I’m sorry,” he mumbled, embarrassed.
“It’s fine,” said Edgar. “Don’t worry, you won’t be hiding forever. You’ll fight, and I have no doubt you’ll be brilliant. No doubt in the slightest.”
James smiled at Edgar as an idea formed in his head: he was ready to fight, but he wasn’t ready to be seen.
So he would fight, but he wouldn’t be seen. And he knew exactly how he would do it.
A/N: Thanks for all of the support and reviews so far! Let me know what you think :)
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