Chapter 13 : If Only, If Only...
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“What are you playing at?” she whispered, choking back a sob. The man tilted his head to the side in confusion as she turned fully to face him. Her face was not one of relief, but of sheer hurt. She took two great strides toward him and grabbed him by his jacket, shoving him into the wall roughly.
“You tell me right now,” she seethed threateningly, though her eyes still watered, “that this is not a joke.” His face softened dramatically at this. He tried to reach out to her, only prompting her to slam him into the wall again. Lily’s bottom lip trembled.
“You tell me that I’m not hallucinating, that I haven’t completely lost it,” she gasped, bursting into tears, and letting her grip on him go, as though she had been burned. She backed against the bed behind her and covered her face with shaking hands. Two larger ones pulled them away, so that she was staring into hazel eyes.
“It’s not and you haven’t. This is so very real.” If her muscles would’ve allowed it, she almost could have smiled.
One hour earlier....
“Look I’ll come back in the morning I promise, I just need to get out of this bed.” The Healer threw her hands in the air in frustration and rushed away. The raven-haired man sat on his bed, having just returned from a shower, and glanced at his friend, still sitting in the chair beside him, a shaky hand over his eyes. “Mate, you look a right state. Was it really that bad?” Sirius chuckled sourly.
“James we thought you were done for,” he said honestly, shaking his head. “You’ve been out of it for almost a month… I mean… even Lily was starting to give up… bleeding lost her mind she has.” Sirius winced noticeably at the scar across his friend’s chest, but James took no notice and only furrowed his brow.
“Is she okay?” he asked hesitantly, realizing suddenly that he had blacked out at the Riddle House, while she had still been there. Almost sensing his confusion, Sirius shook his head quickly.
“I got her out of there like I promised mate,” he assured him quickly. “Didn’t do much good though, she apparated back before I could even get her to sit down. I have never seen an angrier woman… quite scary really.” James gaped slightly at his pause.
“And?... What happened?” he asked impatiently. Sirius sighed deeply.
“Well, in short, she killed Voldemort, physically beat the life out of Snape for cursing you, and has been sitting at your bedside since that evening.” It felt like a reel of film suddenly played in fast forward through his head. He could hear her. Every minute she was there. Crying. Trying to laugh. Begging him to wake up. Gripping his hand for dear life. Telling him…
“She loves me?” he asked suddenly. Sirius snorted.
“Well yeah mate, where have you been?” he said with a laugh, though paled slightly at his last comment. “Sorry.” James waved it off.
“She’s been miserable hasn’t she?” he asked quietly, looking down at his hands. Sirius’ hesitation unnerved him.
“Honestly Prongs, she’s been a mess,” he said with a heavy sigh. “A real mess. I’ve never seen anyone cry that much. She’s been just.. so sad…” It seemed to even hurt him to talk about it, making it seem all the more serious to James.
“Where is she?” James asked, sitting up straight suddenly. Sirius smacked his forehead.
“SHIT!” he groaned. “We got that letter and she was so sure you were… well you know… She’s probably a right mess.” James took this as a brilliant opportunity to stand up and throw on some of the clothes that Lily had brought at some time or another during his coma, just in case.
“She knows me too well,” he mumbled with a chuckle, pulling out a plain black long sleeve, his favorite one, and a pair of jeans. Sirius gave him an odd look.
“Mate, you should probably stick around here,” Sirius said hesitantly. “I’ll bring Lily here—” He stopped as James had already begun moving towards the door.
“No way Padfoot,” James said with a cheeky smile. “It’s been long enough, I’m not going to keep her waiting anymore.” He pulled the door open as he shrugged on his coat. “Shall we?” Sirius laughed loudly and moved towards his sorely missed friend, patting a heavy hand on his shoulder. He figured he would say exactly that anyways.
“Prongsie it’s great to have you back,” Sirius said genuinely. “Seems like we were all pretty lost without you…”
“What have you been doing for the past month anyways mate?” he asked with interest, though the image of a red-headed woman clouded his mind. He vaguely listened as Sirius told him how he immediately joined the Auror department after the Riddle house incident, mainly to keep himself busy. How he had begun staying with Maggie, they were practically living together at this point. James nodded when he supposed he should, but his mind was elsewhere. The two disapparated from the hospital corridor, and directly onto an unfamiliar marble staircase. James looked around in confusion.
“Where the bloody hell are we?” James asked, climbing the stairs hesitantly. He chuckled uncomfortably as the entire room seemed to freeze at the sight of him. Sirius appeared at his side, nudging him.
“You know,” Sirius whispered, “it’s like they’ve seen a ghost or something.” James caught on to his tone immediately.
“I think I may be a tad underdressed,” he replied cheekily. Two figures appeared from the crowd, rushing towards them.
“James!” Remus bellowed loudly, gripping James into a tight hug, causing a cheerful outburst throughout the room. Maggie approached Sirius more hesitantly.
“Everything’s alright then?” she whispered in his ear. Sirius shook his head with a small smile.
“Almost,” he said simply, noticing James’ wandering eyes.
“Mary where is she?” James asked quietly, though just loud enough for Sirius to hear. Mary jerked her head towards the balcony doors, leaving James to gaze longingly at it, for just a moment. Then he moved towards her, not able to see her through the frost-covered glass, but he knew she was there all the same. He reached for the door’s handle, seeing a shadow move on the other side of the paned glass. He took one deep breath and pushed open the door, only to exhale as she disappeared in a swirl of snow.
He took every careful step down his very familiar hallway, taking care to avoid each and every squeaky floorboard. He stopped in front of her doorway, watching as she packed her suitcase with a calmness that unnerved him. She was so unfamiliar. So cold and empty and lost.
“Lily… Please don’t leave.” She froze, her hands gripping the shirt in her hands so tightly that her knuckles were white within moments. She barely eyed him over her shoulder. She wouldn’t look at him. What have I done to her?
“What are you playing at?” she whispered, choking back a sob. James tilted his head in confusion. What did she mean? She turned to face him, a glare set in her emerald eyes. Her face was not one of relief, but of sheer hurt. She took two great strides toward him and grabbed him by his jacket, shoving him into the wall roughly.
“You tell me right now,” she seethed threateningly, though her eyes still watered, “that this is not a joke.” Where did she go? He tried to reach out to her, only prompting her to slam him into the wall. Lily’s bottom lip trembled.
“You tell me that I’m not hallucinating, that I haven’t completely lost it,” she gasped, bursting into tears, and letting her grip on him go, as though she had been burned. She backed against the bed behind her and covered her face with shaking hands. James stood for a moment, simply gazing at what little was left of the woman he loved. She was so broken, so empty of life. He stepped towards her tentatively, kneeling before her and gently prying her hands away from her tear-stained face.
“It’s not and you haven’t. This is so very real.” She sighed, as though the heaviest weight had just been lifted from her lungs. James wiped her cheeks lightly with his thumbs, just before Lily lunged into his arms, gripping him for dear life.
“I’m so sorry,” she whispered, almost inaudible. James gave her the most incredulous look.
“What could you possibly need to apologize for love?” Lily chuckled, though it sounded more like choking back a sob.
“I just slammed you into the wall repeatedly,” she said miserably. “In your own apartment.” James laughed quite loudly and shook his head. Lily could help but let his joy fill her. It had been so long since she had heard that laugh.
“You’re a silly woman you know that?” James said in disbelief, pulling away from her slightly. He wanted to see her beautiful face. Lily smiled widely. Ah, there she was.
“And I love you, you know that?” she said quietly, briefly breaking his gaze, looking down self-consciously for a moment. James had to bite back an even wider smile that threatened to spread across his lips. He took her chin gently between two fingers, lifting her face slightly to meet his gaze. Her eyes showed relief as she spotted the smile on his face. What did she think? I would forget? He chuckled and leaned his forehead against her.
“I do know that,” he said simply. And then he kissed her, just as he was meant to.
Lily and James ended up back at the wedding that night, both dressed to perfection. They were happy. We were all happy. Or… well we could have been. If only.
If only, if only, if only things had turned out differently. I think I owe you an explanation. Perhaps I should start from the beginning. I should explain to you my lies.
The truth is, from the very beginning, I have lied to you. From the moment I walked into that bookshop, bantered with Lily, and walked right up the stairs.
“Arrived just a bit before you did. I’m waiting on Margaret and Minerva,” she said quickly as she snapped her book shut and shuffled around some papers on her desk.
“Ah yes, Maggie does have a way of being late for nearly everything. How she is even related to Minerva, I will never quite understand…”
If only Maggie McGonagall had walked through those doors.
The truth is, Maggie never did show up that day. Minerva appeared, distraught and battered. They were ambushed on their way to the meeting. Maggie died to save her aunt. Her and Sirius never had the time they so deserved. She was stolen from him far too soon.
If only Dorcas Meadowes had survived.
“I’ll fight okay? I promise,” she whispered, so quietly it was hardly audible. “I won’t tell them anything. I won’t let them break me….”
What I know of Dorcas’ fate, and the relationship she shared with Rookwood, I learned from the fragmented memories she had managed to stash in her holding cell.
“I don’t want to die,” she whispered, her voice flat from the realization of it all. Rookwood put one hand on the back of her head comfortingly.
“I know,” he said quietly. “I know.”
The Death Eater holding onto the prisoner for dear life. He was as much a prisoner as she was.
Dorcas never escaped Voldemort, and it was at his hand that she was killed. She never did break… She fought like hell.
As for Rookwood, he did love her, much more than I ever could have understood. He is on his way back to his Azkaban cell, but he did not fight it. I saw it in his eyes when our gaze met briefly tonight. He would give anything to have her back. She would be so very disappointed in him. For you see… every reaction between them that I wrote, were their dreams of their lives together one day. He wanted these things, but without her, they were nothing.
If only Alice and Frank Longbottom had been able to have their first child.
“We’re having a baby girl,” he said in happy disbelief. He kissed her again and again. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” Alice giggled loudly.
“Frank, what on earth has gotten into you?” she asked shaking her head, unable to stop grinning. Frank responded simply by looping one of his arms under her knees and lifting her small frame to his chest.
“Fatherhood my lovely wife,” he said kissing her again, before disapparating on the spot, the couple laughing blissfully.
Battle wounds took that child from them. So they tried again, having Neville Longbottom within a day of Harry. And then they suffered a fate far worse than death.
If only Hermione Granger had stayed long enough to change the outcome of the war.
“Merlin, who are you?” he asked in disbelief. The woman turned to him, and held out a hand. A delicate silver bracelet hung around her wrist, with a single tiny charm.
“My name is Hermione Granger,” she said simply. “I am a member of the Order of the Phoenix, and I’m here to save your sorry arses.”
She left only a few days later, too soon to have explained herself, or warned me at all. I did go on to teach, and she did turn up in my class two years ago. She is really a brilliant girl. And it makes me wonder what could have been… all those years ago.
If only Marlene McKinnon had returned from that fateful mission.
He moved across the large room so quickly it seemed like he had flown, and pulled her into his arms, holding her like she were his lifeline.
“Tell me this is real,” Benjy whispered hoarsely.
Marlene was held hostage for an unknown amount of time. We only know that she did die, and never returned to the embrace of her dearest friend.
If only Benjy Fenwick had contained his revenge.
“I’m so sorry Ben,” Ted said quietly, holding out a folded hand. He opened it, revealing a small charm bracelet. A phoenix charm bracelet. And here he was now, walking to his biggest fear. His loss.
He felt nothing. He was empty of every moral, every reasonable thought. The only thing he could see in his future, was revenge. And no one would be stopping him.
Benjy got his revenge only two weeks after the wedding… that was the last time I had seen him. He went into that mission hoping for death. It was his suicide mission. He waltzed right into the Malfoy Manor, his wand left behind, and a muggle contraption in his hand that with the pull of a pin could generate an explosion strong enough to take out a few block. He took out almost a dozen Death Eaters and a wing of the Manor… but we only ever found bits of him.
If only Mary MacDonald hadn’t been killed three days after her wedding.
Mary and Gid strode lightly onto the floor for the fourth or fifth time that evening. It was clear that Gid was just a tad buzzed, but neither of the newlyweds seemed to care. He wrapped his arms around Mary’s waist tightly as they swayed to the music. She giggled lightly at the sweet nothings he always seemed to be whispering in her ear.
Mary had been killed in broad daylight, in the middle of Diagon Alley. It was a fluke. Death Eaters had blown up several stores. She had just been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
If only Gideon and Fabian Prewett hadn’t gone after the men that killed her.
“Why are you so wonderful?” she asked her soon-to-be husband. Fabian made a retching noise as the two kissed quickly, earning him a glare from both of them.
“Sorry, sorry,” Fabian said sarcastically, closing his eyes and raising his hands in surrender. “Note to self: get used to constant PDA from twin and future sister-in-law.”
Gid and Fabian tracked them down in the middle of the night. Reinforcements got there too late, but from what we heard from the captured Death Eaters, they had fought like hell. Fought like heroes.
If only Regulus Black had turned to Albus in his time of rebellion.
“Sir, I have something for you.” Albus frowned slightly and took several steps forward, noticing the Dark Mark etched black in the boy’s skin. In his hand, he held a locket, or what used to be one. It was now a scorched piece of silver metal and chain. Albus looked back to the boy.
“There is much to tell you sir…”
Then Voldemort would have died that day…
“For Dorcas, and Caradoc, and Marlene. This is for James. Go to hell,” she whispered, before slashing her wand through the air in one swift motion, muttering only two words. “Avada Kedavra.” And Voldemort slumped into his throne dead. It was that simple.
If only one of us had made the connection. The discovery that could have ended it all. The discovery that could have prevented our friends from being torn apart. If only Lily had recognized him.
Peter laughed loudly at this, but Lily was no longer smiling. Her eyes glazed over quite suddenly, her bright emerald eyes shone for just a second, fear...
He’s their friend. James. Remus. Sirius. Me. But he wants us all dead. He’s giving us up. He’s betraying us. He’s the spy…
“He knows where we live,” she whispered fearfully. “He knows our schedules. He knows everything.” Lily began to breathe heavily, more tears continued to stream down her face. “He can hand us over to Voldemort at any second.” James looked at her blankly, still shaking his head.
If James had believed her.
“It’s not true,” he said in a monotone, standing slowly. “It can’t be.”
If Sirius had gotten him.
“Aw Mate, you decided to join us?” Sirius said in a falsely cheery voice , reaching out a firm hand and grabbing his wrist tightly. They disappeared on the spot.
If only everything had turned out differently. Then we would all still be together.
“MUNDUNGUS FLETCHER WHAT THE BLOODY HELL DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?”
“Why Maggie you are looking positively ravishing today!”
“Do you think their proud of us? That we’re fighting instead of hiding? That we’re risking our lives for the greater good?”
“I got one,” Lily said with a devious smile.
“Come on love. Let’s show them Death Eaters what we’re made of.”
“You didn’t do anything.”
“You can’t be serious.”
“You’re right, because you’re Sirius.”
“When,” she restated. “When I get out of here.”
“Are you insane? Actually that’s a ridiculous question. You are insane. You just defied Lord Voldemort in the most wicked way, not to mention attempted to kill me.”
“And so what if someone sees me? Oooo the great Dorcas Meadowes has returned from the dead. Big deal.”
There was no hugging, no tears, no goodbyes. Just two hands clung together in hope, slowly pulled apart by fate.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” James repeated frantically. He put the hand, that wasn’t covering his eyes still, up in the air, groping for the door. “I saw nothing I swear.” To his absolute shock, Lily burst out laughing.
“I’d put up with you forever Evans.”
“Glad to hear it Potter.”
“I would never leave you. Don’t you forget that.”
“It relieves, though does not cure, symptoms of lycanthropy. All you have to do is take it just before the full moon, and instead of turning into a full-fledged werewolf, you will simply turn into a normal wolf, with complete control over your actions. In theory atleast.”
“Lily, that’s brilliant!”
“Blimey Sirius, you look like shit.”
“Thanks Maggie. Merlin I love you. Have I mentioned that lately?” Maggie rolled her eyes.
“Only every day Sirius,”
“Honestly. It’s as if you all forget that you’re witches and wizards.”
“Hold on, Lily Evans, likes Monty Python humor?”
“Are you joking? It’s practically un-British to not like Monty Python.”
“Well I have an interesting thought… Sirius and Maggie…”
“Oh I know, I know. It’s soo obvious right?”
“You’re looking a lot better Dor.”
“Yes well you’ve looked better.”
“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
“That’s beautiful. So tell me Mister Rookwood, how courageous are you exactly?”
“How could I possibly hate such a ravishing woman?”
“We’re doing this for the ones we love. If we don’t do this, there is no life left for them to live.”
“Lily, I think you’re spectacular.”
“I would tell you I love you every day, and I would spend every second of my pathetic life proving it to you. And whether I’m still here tomorrow or not, not a single bit of that will change.”
“You think that you’re so powerful. Why is that? Because a bunch of cowards worship the ground you walk on? Well guess what? You don’t scare me Tom Riddle. You’re the biggest coward of them all.”
“Don’t you understand? This means that the war is over. We’re free.”
“But, at what cost?”
“Did you know that all 700 fouls were committed in the 1473 Quidditch World Cup?”
“Did you know my mum invented the Bat-Bogey hex?”
“Frank, what on earth has gotten into you?”
“Fatherhood my lovely wife.”
“You are ridiculous Sirius.”
“But you love me.”
“No idea why.”
The two previously estranged sisters bonded, remembering finally, why they had been so close so many years ago.
“Augustus Rookwood, are you trying to say that you love me?”
“SShhhhots all around!!”
“I wanted you to know that I love you, and should have told you every day for the past year. I should’ve told you the day this happened, but I didn’t. And I will spend every day of the rest of my pathetic life telling you so, proving it to you, making it up to you. I just needed you to know, in case something happens, that I really do love you. And I would’ve married you yesterday if I’d had the chance.”
“So when we get married, you should probably wear that,” he said simply, still slightly in a daze. The two met each others’ gaze for a few moments, before simultaneously bursting into a fit of laughter.
“I’ll keep that in mind Benjy.”
“Tell me this is real.”
There is this feeling you get, like the calm before the storm, when something has affected you so greatly, that you know you will never be the same after that moment.
“And I love you, you know that?”
“I do know that.”
It was the war that defined us all. The one that took each of my dearest friends away one by one. We all fought for a cause that truly was ours. But I could not give you the truth. I could not write out their deaths in ink, for I lived through them. As they have been laid to rest, I still survive them all. I felt it was my duty to give them the endings I wish they had been given. The endings that they had deserved.
R. J. Lupin, June 18th, 1996
We are not selfish. We are not every man for himself. We stay behind. We go back for our friends. For the people we care about. That, is the difference between us and them.