There are situations I had heard about on the Wizarding Wireless, situations that are horrifying and depressing, ones that I could never imagine happening to me. This was one of those situations.
My mom was an only child and her parents had died when I was born, so we had no extension of the family on her side. My other grandparents had died as well, and my only uncle was now...gone. The mere thought tore my heart apart. Throw my missing aunt and cousin into the mix, and I felt as though I couldn’t breathe.
Not even an hour ago, I had thought the hardest thing I’d ever experienced was Lily’s rejection. I realized how non-important that was in the wake of recent events.
I loved my baby cousin, Abigail, with all my heart. She was like my little sister. Auntie Caroline had always been so kind and gentle; she put her heart and soul into everything, and was a very giving woman. Uncle Will, well, he was the best. I had learned how to pull off some of my best pranks with his help. He was another father figure in my life, and a damn good one. It was memories like these, ones that I knew were gone forever, that brought on a fresh wave of tears. I didn’t bother trying to stop them because I knew many more would follow.
I had been told that my aunt and Abigail may have gotten away before the Death Eaters could find them, escaping once the turmoil had obviously begun. I wished with all my heart that it was true, but a part of me didn’t believe that Auntie Caroline would leave her husband, whether he was dead or alive. She loved him too much for that.
It felt like my whole family was gone. My parents were still alive, but they appeared to be shells of their former selves. I had never seen my father cry before today, and that was all he seemed to be doing now. My mother looked just as bad. Between fits of tears, she was always by my father or my own side. Of the few words I’d uttered upon coming home, I had insisted that she stay with dad, mostly because he was a wreck over the loss of his brother and because I thought I needed time alone. Sitting out on my backyard porch, I realized that I needed company now more than ever. I curled up on the bench swing, pulling my knees up to my chin and resting my forehead on my arms.
The door from the backyard to our kitchen opened with a click. “James?” I heard my mother call softly. I didn’t look up at her. “James, please come inside. It’s cool out here.”
I didn’t want to answer, so I just shook my head, which was still on my arms.
“Alright,” I heard her say thickly. I listened to her footsteps as she approached me and heard a soft thump as she set something down on the bench. She gently touched my shoulder for a moment before returning back inside. I turned my head sideways to see what she brought; a blanket. Always thinking of others, my mother was.
I heard the door open again and since my head was turned, I could see that my mom had returned.
“There are people here to see you, honey,” she said softly, before stepping outside to let my surprise guests exit the house. I wasn’t shocked to see Sirius practically jog towards me, but he was followed by Remus and Peter, who I hadn’t really expected. Sirius sat down beside me, immediately pulling me into a huge hug. I soon felt the hands of my other two friends patting my shoulders or comforting me in some other way, and my body trembled with the effort it took to resist crying.
The sound of a chair scraping the wooden porch got my attention and a warm hand rested on top of my cold one. I unwound myself from my friends to see someone sitting across from me, someone I had never thought would be at my house of their own accord.
“Lily...?” I whispered, hardly believing my eyes.
Her thumb ran soothingly across my hand. “Hi,” she whispered back.
All the guilt from Halloween and the previous night rushed back to me and coupled with grief, it seemed completely enhanced.
“I’m so sorry, Lily, so, so sorry.”
“Hey,” she said softly, taking both of my hands now. “Don't worry about that.”
“James,” she said, “don’t stress yourself out about this right now. I’m not mad at you. One problem at a time.” She gave me a tiny, sad smile.
I honestly thought I had imagined up her words, but no, she was still staring at me with her round, sympathetic eyes.
“How did you guys get here?” I asked, my voice sounding hoarse from all the crying.
“Portkey and brooms,” Remus explained.
“Brooms?” I repeated, looking at Lily. “You came on broom here? For me?” The last part was barely audible even to my own ears.
Lily nodded, surprising me. She was afraid of heights, but still braved it to come see me. I felt a small sense of warmth glow in my heart, lighting me up for the first time today. I took in each of my friend’s faces, realizing how they had simply dropped everything to be here.
Unfortunately, that just reminded me of the reason why they had come in the first place and my grief, which I had been momentarily sidetracked from, came flooding back. My eyes burned as I resisted oncoming tears and I dropped my head low to hide it, although it fooled no one. Sirius, who still had me underneath his arm, tightened his hold on me.
“I’m so sorry James,” Lily said sincerely, squeezing my hands. I felt a lump rise in my throat at the care in her voice.
I had always hated crying in front of others; I projected myself as confident and cocky, and to be perfectly honest, I was a little ashamed to cry. It just wasn’t...me. But as much as I didn’t enjoy crying, my pain was overwhelming and I knew that the people with me now wouldn’t judge me. Tears pooled in my eyes but I squeezed them shut anyways; I guess you can’t kick old habits that easily. I knew holding back was unreasonable in this situation, but I couldn’t help it.
Sitting there surrounded by my friends, I found that my previous need for company had been more desperate than I had realized. We sat in silence for a while, as I succeeded in keeping the tears from spilling over my eyes.
“How are you holding up?” Remus asked.
Just then, a Ministry official rushed outside, followed closely by my parents, who were still crying.
“Is everyone alright?” she asked.
“Yes,” Sirius answered, looking confused. “Why wouldn’t we be?”
He didn’t receive a reply, as we were all ushered inside. The door was magically locked behind us as we stood in my kitchen.
“The Death Eaters have staged another attack about ten minutes from here,” the official explained. “We need everyone to stay together and most importantly, stay in the house, until the Aurors can get the situation under control.”
“And...” she added uncertainly. I glanced at my mom, who was now silently sobbing in my father’s arms. No words needed to be said to explain what happened; we all caught on immediately.
“I’m terribly sorry,” the official said sincerely. “We found the two of them farther down their street. It appears that they tried to run away, but...”
I didn’t hear out the rest of what she was saying; pain crashed into me with the force of a tidal wave, knocking the breath out of me, and I did the only thing I could think of that was logical; I ran out of the room, up the stairs and locked myself in my room.
I raked my fingers excessively through my hair, stress and anger beginning to take over me. I could hear my friends knocking on the door and calling my name, but I left it closed.
I hated these Death Eaters for doing this, for tearing away the only extended family I had left. They deserved to pay for what they had done...revenge burned through me like fire, pushing rational thoughts out of my mind. Vengeance yelled different things at me and I found myself considering going out, finding them myself, and doing to them what they had done to us. Before I knew it, my hand was on the windowsill.
I could do it...go out and find the Death Eaters. They would regret what they had done to my family when I was through with them. I was resolutely yanking open the window when her voice reached me through the wood of my door.
“James, please, don't be drastic, let us in!”
Drastic? I froze, my hands on the window which was only half opened. What did she mean? And why did she sound so panicked?
“Don't be like them. Please, don't sink to their level. You’re better than that James!”
My other friends had ceased their calls, now listening to Lily just like I was. It occurred to me that she understood how I had taken the news, and was trying to prevent me from doing exactly what I planned to.
She understood me.
And somehow that reached me through my anger.
I slowly dropped my hands from the window, and just like that, my vengeful desires were gone, disappearing as my mind cleared up. I hadn’t realized how numb I felt, but as I was drawn out of the fog of emotions, I realized how much it hurt. My lungs must have been failing, because suddenly I couldn’t breathe. I slid to the floor just as a horrible choking sob came from my throat, racking through my whole body. Lily must have used a spell to open my door because my friends were at my side almost instantaneously. I felt their arms around me and I just let go; any earlier attempts at holding back tears were long forgotten.
“A-Abigail...” I stuttered out through my tears and I let my head fall into my hands. My room was silent apart from my own sobs and ragged breathing; my friends didn’t have anything to say, but their presence and comforting gestures kept me from completely going over the edge. Although I was on the verge of possible hysterics, I was anchored to sanity by their arms.
I was conscious of the fact that at some point or another when I raised my head, most or all of my friends were teary-eyed too. I wanted to say something to them but my voice would catch, bringing on more tears, and I was rendered speechless once again.
I don't know how long we sat on the floor of my room, what time we started off there or what time my friends finally helped me off of the floor. I can’t say exactly who it was that handed me tissues, or wrapped a blanket around my shoulders, or consolingly patted my back. I only knew that I had just experienced one of the hardest nights of my life, and without Peter, Remus, Sirius and Lily, it would have been ten times worse.