“She eats all her meals up here; I haven’t seen her in the Great Hall in a while.”
“She doesn’t leave the dorm unless it’s for class.”
“She was doing so well! What’s changed?”
“Maybe it’s hitting her all over again.”
Lily could hear her roommates’ whispered voices in the bed across from hers. Beth and Yvonne were talking about her again, completely oblivious to the fact Lily could hear every single word. She knew they were just concerned for her, but it was beginning to irritate her that they had nothing else to talk about. Beth and Yvonne were friends of hers, but she was not as close to them as she was to the boys. She distanced herself from her dorm mates in her first five years at Hogwarts because of her close friendship with Severus, and once that ended, she was unable to form a real bond with the girls.
“Do you think she’s asleep?”
“She has to be. She’s been in bed for hours.”
She had been in bed for hours, but she couldn’t sleep. The combination of guilt and embarrassment was making her stomach churn; she couldn’t face Sirius. She avoided looking his direction in class and made sure not to hang around the common room. She was first to all meals so she could bring her food to the dormitory, although she was still eating very little. And she planned on doing this for the remainder of the school year to avoid the awkwardness of facing Sirius Black.
Of course, this turned out to be quite impossible.
Almost two weeks after the kiss had taken place, Lily was cornered coming out of Transfiguration by Remus, who must have left the class a few minutes early without McGonagall noticing. How he did it, Lily would never know. Was he even in the class at all? She had forgotten to observe his attendance; she always observed his attendance at this time of the month. She had figured out his secret a year ago, but she still liked confirmation every full moon.
“Lily,” a dishevelled looking Remus took her gently by the arm. “Can I have a word?”
“Um, alright, I suppose.”
She allowed him to direct her down the corridor away from eavesdroppers. If she had looked behind her, she might have seen Sirius watching her walk away with Remus, and she might have seen him follow them too. However, she kept her eyes focused on the floor as she walked, and only stopped when Remus did. She didn’t particularly care where they ended up.
Remus led her to a bench, where he asked her to sit with him.
“So are you going to tell me why you’ve been avoiding us the last couple of weeks?” Remus began.
“No I haven’t,” she lied.
Remus raised his eyebrows at her. His eyes looked very worn today, and Lily noticed some fresh cuts on his already scarred face. She knew what they were from, but she couldn’t let on that she did. “I wasn’t born yesterday.” He paused for a moment before speaking again. “Have you spoken to him yet?”
It was Lily’s first instinct to pretend she had no idea what Remus was talking about.
“Spoken to who-”
“Lily,” Remus said flatly. “Come on.”
“I can’t believe he told you,” Lily hissed, flushing with embarrassment.
“He tells me most things,” Remus told her simply. “Whereas you don’t seem to be telling anything to anyone.” Lily looked at him inquisitively. “I’ve been talking to Yvonne and Beth.”
“I don’t know those girls that well,” Lily said. “I don’t feel comfortable talking to them.”
“Who do you feel comfortable talking to?”
Lily thought to herself for a moment. When she was a little girl, she told everything to Petunia. The thought of sharing anything with Petunia now was enough to make her laugh out loud. Once she started at Hogwarts, Severus was her number one confidant, but again, talking to him now was completely out of the question. In the short time she’d spent with James, she felt there was practically nothing she couldn’t say to him – but he was dead now, she remembered sickly.
And then there was Sirius.
“I don’t know,” she mumbled.
“You and Sirius seemed like pretty good friends before the incident,” Remus chose his words carefully.
“I suppose so.”
“It would be silly to throw that away over one minor indiscretion. I can tell he misses talking to you too. Since James died,” a lump rose in Remus’s throat, which he quickly suppressed, “Sirius hasn’t really opened up to any of us. Not even me. But you...you two understand each other.”
It baffled Lily how mature and wise Remus was, for a seventeen year old. Even before James died, Remus was always the one to keep out of their childish pranks.
“Do...do you like him?” Remus asked her carefully.
“No!” Lily exclaimed immediately. “I don’t know why I did it, Remus. I was stupid.”
“You were upset,” Remus said gently. “He feels terrible. He thinks he took advantage of you.”
“I kissed him,” Lily shook her head, blushing. “I initiated everything. I’m the one who should feel terrible. And I do. I can’t believe I did this to...”
She trailed off. To James. She did it to James. She kissed his best friend. She’d wiped away James’s last kiss from her lips with a kiss from Sirius Black. She could just imagine the look on his face if he was still alive and found out. It would finish him.
“He’s gone, Lily,” Remus told her sadly. She felt winded at his words, even though she’d said them in her head a million times. “And I know it’s hard to accept. I can’t accept it either. And people do silly things when they’re upset. Maybe it’s time you and Sirius forgot this whole thing? It’s been two weeks.”
“I don’t know Remus...”
“You two were doing so well when you were friends,” Remus pointed out again. “I think he really needs your friendship. I think you need his too.”
She couldn’t argue with Remus on that issue. She missed chatting late into the night with Sirius. He was the one person in the world who really understood her pain. He was the only person who could make her laugh like James could, because he and James were just so similar in personality.
“I miss him,” she admitted. Remus wasn’t quite sure which ‘him’ she was referring to.
“Come on, we have to meet with McGonagall about Head duties in a few minutes,” Remus stood up and extended his hand to help her up. She took it, and he pulled her up gently. She then linked her arm through his and together they walked towards Professor McGonagall’s office.
By the time they had finished meeting with McGonagall it was time for dinner. Remus convinced Lily to join them at dinner, which she reluctantly agreed to. However, she was surprised to see that Sirius was not there and this distracted her from the many prying eyes that were on her and the whispers that had broken out at her arrival in the Great Hall. Peter told her that Sirius had decided to study through dinner time.
Lily recognised this instantly as a lie, and was very surprised that Peter hadn’t too. And he called himself a Marauder? Sirius Black did not study. Out of the four – well, now three – Marauders, Sirius was the very last one of them who ever studied. Even James had studied more than him. Lily almost laughed at the ridiculous excuse. Even Remus raised his eyebrows.
Lily excused herself after a few bites of dinner and headed for the library, just in case pigs had in fact learned to fly and Sirius was studying. They hadn’t; he wasn’t. She checked the common room next and even the boys’ dormitory. Sirius wasn’t there.
She wandered around the castle searching for him, unsure of what she’d actually say if she found him. Her guilt was becoming replaced by embarrassment. Aside from the fact of who he was and what circumstance they were in, she had never been the one to initiate a kiss before. What on earth had possessed her?
When her search was unsuccessful inside, she wandered out into the grounds. It was dark now, and as it was the end of March, it was rather cold. She headed for the Quidditch stadium; if Sirius was anything like James was, he would fly to clear his head. Sirius had been on the Gryffindor team with James. He was keeper and together they were the most popular pair in the whole school. Lily knew plenty of girls were eyeing up her boyfriend and his best friend, but it never particularly bothered her. James only ever really had eyes for her, she remembered with a pang. Sirius, on the other hand, barely even noticed the attention he got.
She couldn’t ever remember him really liking someone. He’d had a few girlfriends. But he’d never really liked them.
She walked through the changing rooms and out onto the Quidditch pitch. A lone figure was zooming around the stadium, throwing a quaffle through the goal posts and catching it the other side. He was a fantastic player. From where she stood, the figure could have been James. The dark hair, the slim build. Only for Sirius’s hair was longer than James’s, and he wasn’t quite as tall.
Lily stood and watched Sirius for ten minutes before he noticed her. He dropped the quaffle in surprise and it rolled over to her feet. She picked up the large red ball while Sirius landed, looking very windswept. His cheeks were flushed and his hair was sticking up at the back. It reminded her of James’s messy head of hair.
“Hi,” Lily greeted Sirius timidly.
She handed him the quaffle and then pulled her coat around her tightly. Sirius was sweating.
“What are you doing here?” he asked her.
“Looking for you,” she replied. He looked mildly surprised at this. “Sirius, I’m so sorry about what happened. Kissing you. It was so inappropriate. I’m sorry I put you in that situation.”
“Oh,” he replied.
This was not the reaction she had been expecting. She thought he might apologise too, so she waited a moment. He said nothing.
“I miss you,” she told him. His expression softened. “I wish we were still friends.”
“Lily,” he breathed, “We are friends.”
“We haven’t spoken in two weeks.” Her voice shook as she spoke.
“Yeah, well...we’re talking now, aren’t we?”
“I suppose,” she nodded. Things had changed between them. How could he deny it? Did he not feel how awkward it was between the two of them now? “I’m sorry,” she said again.
“Stop,” Sirius said. “You don’t need to apologise. Let’s just forget it, yeah?”
She smiled and felt relief. He smiled too, though his looked rather forced.
“Thank you, Sirius,” she said. She then wrapped her arms around him and he awkwardly hugged her back, holding his broom in one hand and the quaffle in the other. He coughed uncomfortably and she pulled away, blushing.
“I’ll just throw these back in the broom shed,” Sirius told her. “And we’ll head back up to the castle.”
“Sure,” she said quietly. When he had put his broom and the quaffle away, they walked back to the castle and up to the Gryffindor tower. While they did not stay up late talking in the common room like they used to, Sirius promised they would catch up the following night. They were friends again.
By the beginning of April, James was staying with the Bones family full time. His tiny London flat was still under the Fidelius charm, but it existed merely as a backup. There was no point in him returning to it every evening, running the risk of being caught on the swift journey between the two places. It was official: he was a prisoner in the Order’s headquarters.
It wasn’t that he didn’t like the Bones family, of course. Emily could not have been kinder to him and the children provided him with a few laughs. Emily often left the children with James while she went to do the shopping. Eventually, he felt like a glorified babysitter.
Being cooped up in the house all day gave James too much time to think. More often than not his thoughts were of Lily, of her safety and of how she was doing. He wondered did she think of him much anymore. It had been months now and he always had the distinct impression that she meant more to him than he had to her. He had written her letters, letters he knew he wasn’t allowed to send, but it comforted him to pretend he was communicating with her.
In early April, Dumbledore visited the headquarters for the first time since James had been there. He arrived during dinner and requested to speak to James by himself. Finally, James thought, he wasn’t being ignored. He was ready to fight. Dumbledore was here to give him permission to leave.
They retired to the Bones drawing room to talk.
“James,” Dumbledore greeted him warmly.
“Sir, I need to know what’s happening at Hogwarts,” James burst out immediately. “Is everyone safe? What about Sirius and Remus and Peter? And Lily, how is she? The Prophet is telling me nothing!”
Dumbledore held up his hand and James instantly shut up. “I understand your frustration, James. Thankfully, everyone at Hogwarts is safe for now. It’s those outside of Hogwarts who are in real danger. Edgar tells me you want to leave this house.”
“I just want to fight,” James said. “I didn’t sign up to sit around this house all day minding kids and practicing a few spells. I’m able to fight, Sir.”
“I know you are. I do not doubt you for one second. And you will fight, soon. But that is not what I am here to speak to you about.”
James felt instantly annoyed by this revelation. He knew better than to argue with Dumbledore.
“I want to recruit more members for the Order,” Dumbledore explained. “And I would value your opinion on who you think would be suitable.”
This surprised James. “My opinion?”
“Certainly,” Dumbledore smiled. “Our Head Girl and Boy were my first thoughts; Lily Evans and Remus Lupin. Two students I know you were very close with.”
“Remus is Head Boy?” James didn’t know why he was surprised to hear this. It had been supremely shocking that Remus hadn’t been made Head Boy in the first place. Sirius laughed for two days straight when James was given the badge. Nobody could quite understand Dumbledore’s decision.
“We appointed him shortly after we broke the news of your death.”
James flinched. He was dead to them. Of course.
“So do you think Lily and Remus would be reliable additions?”
“Yes!” James cried immediately. “And Sirius too!”
“Sirius Black? Do you believe him to be trustworthy?”
“I’d trust Sirius Black with my life,” James said fiercely. “Sirius, Remus and Peter are the most trustworthy people I know. And Lily too. She’s the best student in the year.”
James didn’t want to get too over-indulgent when it came to Lily. He didn’t want to seem biased. Even if Lily hadn’t been his girlfriend, he couldn’t have denied how gifted a witch she was, and how loyal to her friends she was. Her friendship with Severus Snape proved that.
“Peter Pettigrew,” Dumbledore said. James nodded. True, Peter was shy and not as academically brilliant as Sirius or Remus, but he was trustworthy and he would try hard for the Order. “Thank you, James. I won’t be putting the idea to them for a while yet, not until they are finishing up at Hogwarts. If they agree, they’ll be joining the Order in the summer.”
Like that, James’s spirits were lifted dramatically. It had occurred to him when he left Hogwarts that he may never see his friends and Lily again, at least not until this war was finished. If he wasn’t allowed to contact them or be seen, how else would they know he was alive? They’d never come looking for him. Now he had something to look forward to, something to live for. His restlessness eased and he suddenly felt far more agreeable to staying in the Bones house at all times.
This had been Dumbledore’s plan all along, he figured. It had always been Dumbledore’s plan that he, James, would join the Order. Circumstance had just required him to join earlier than planned.
“James, may I have a word?” Edgar asked, seconds after Dumbledore had left. He produced a large silver flask. “Polyjuice Potion. D’you know what it does?”
“Yeah, ‘course,” James responded.
“Dumbledore left it here for emergencies. He thinks you’re ready to fight, but only if it’s absolutely essential that you do. If you need to come with us to fight, you’re to take some of this stuff first. We have some random Muggle hairs at the ready.”
“Really?” James cried, excited.
“Only if it is absolutely essential!” Edgar repeated. “You cannot be seen to be alive, James, you understand that?”
“Of course I do,” he nodded, his head still buzzing with all of the joyous news Dumbledore had brought today. “This is brilliant!”
“Don’t get too excited, Potter. Time to practice more extreme shield charms. Get your wand.”
Today, James couldn’t even feel bitter about having to practice. Today, he was working towards something. Soon he would fight.