Chapter 2 : The Dilemma.
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The Civil Wars
Lily Evans looked about her surroundings. It was dark, and the night was cloudy, greatly damaging the distance she could see clearly. It was hazy, and a layer of fog was covering the damp ground. She was alone, as she was supposed to be, other than Narcissa Black lying on the ground before her. She looked to the direction from which Narcissa had come. The forest? Was that it? What was she doing there?
Lily felt a small wave of panic wash over her. She was supposed to be alone; completely and utterly alone. Now Narcissa was here and potentially jeopardizing her entire mission. She had been scanning the area for any one of Lord Voldemort's hideouts. Death Eater activity in the area had sky-rocketed recently, and she had been sent in to check the area and report back. As far as she was concerned, they were smack in the middle of nowhere. There was nothing of importance here, so why was Narcissa there?
Unless Voldemort truly did have a hide-out in the area. As much as she wanted to do her duty to the Order and contribute, it scared her to believe that she had actually been assigned the grid in which she would find Death Eater activity. Lily knew she was a brave woman, but anyone to not fear Voldemort would simply be foolish.
But she would have to worry about that later. She couldn't give anything away to Narcissa; she couldn't give the woman a reason to question why she was so on edge. So she sucked in a deep breath and worried only about the woman's well-being, for her tattered clothing, soot covered face, the glass in her shoulder, and scratches covering her skin suggested she had faced a rough night.
She kneeled down next to the woman, pulling a twig from her blonde hair. "Are you okay? What happened to you?"
"I- I..." Narcissa blanched. What was she to say? She couldn't give away Lord Voldemort's plan, could she? Or endanger her sister by sharing she had been initiated? What if the Dark Lord and his followers found out of her betrayal if she did so? She would surely face the same fate as that muggle.
What was she to say? Lily Evans was a good woman. She had been a Gryffindor; she stood up for herself when she needed to, and had been good friends with those who were already rallying against Voldemort. Had Lily Evans joined the ranks against Voldemort in their time since leaving Hogwarts?
Maybe now was her chance. She had spent years following in her sister's footsteps, dwelling in her shadow. She had never asserted herself, had never joined Voldemort's ranks, and yet she had never made the first move to defy him either. She had been the middleman for years now; the time was soon coming when she would have to choose a side. Was this her chance? Did she agree with what Voldemort was doing? No, she didn't. She simply remained in the background because she feared him and what he could to her or her family.
If Lily knew the right people, Narcissa could make her choice now and they could give her safety. They could protect her, couldn't they?
Narcissa pulled herself up from the ground, the twigs and grass twisting about her skirts. She wiped the soot off her cheeks with the back of her hand, and she reached out for Lily's cloak. Lily stumbled back in surprise as Narcissa tried to grab hold of her. "Lily," she said desperately. "Lily, you can help me, can't you?"
"I-I don't know, Narcissa. Tell me what happened...and then I can tell you if I can help," said Lily apprehensively.
"H-He...Bellatrix! She..." Narcissa's ramblings faltered as she found herself unable to form the right words. She was at loss for them, and she instead looked around desperately as if her sister or mother would come to her rescue. Were they really not looking for her? Had they even noticed? If they had, did they even care?
She was then persuaded even further to share her dark secrets with the woman she hardly knew. It felt right; it felt like this was finally her time. She had to start making decisions with her life; she had to start taking control. And now was the time; if it wasn’t now, then she never would. She would live as a coward forever.
Lily grew still at the sight of Narcissa, and her fear of Narcissa's association with Voldemort began to grow. Narcissa could be blowing her entire cover; she had to get out of that field. And quickly.
"Tell me," Lily pressed.
Swallowing her fear, Narcissa closed her eyes against everything that had kept her rooted in her belief to follow in the shadows. Nodding, she began to speak. "My sister. She's been initiated. She's one of them. We were at a house...Far in the forest, and she...The poor muggle! The Dark Lord! He made my sister kill that innocent muggle!"
Lily's eyes grew wide at her words, and panic quickly greeted her. If Narcissa, Death Eaters, and even Voldemort himself had been within that forest, were they there now? Was Lily in danger, or worse, was Narcissa luring Lily into them? So many possibilities rushed through her mind, and instinct took over. She shoved Narcissa's soot covered hands off of her cloak, whipped out her wand for protection, and took two steps back from the woman.
"Stay back," she ordered.
"N-No, Lily!" she quickly begged. "It's not like that. I'm alone. They're not with me! I'm - "
"How can I be sure you're telling me the truth?" Lily demanded to know. "You said there were more of you. How do I know that they are gone for sure? Or worse, this could all be part of their plan! For you to lure me in!"
"I mean no harm by talking to you," she cried out, tears reaching her eyes. She felt a sinking pit reach her stomach as she felt as if she would never find the place where she belonged. She would never find that one place where she was meant to be and people would trust her. She should have known Lily Evans would react like this, for she knew she had never given Lily any reason to trust her. "Please! You have to believe me! I was trapped in the house when Bella set it on fire! They didn't even notice I was gone, and I could hear their laughter...That cruel noise. They were happy they were killing that man! I tried to save him...You have to believe me; I don't want to be one of them, Lily. I don't."
Lily shook her head. She had to act quickly. "I can't trust you," she said. "I'm sorry. I would like to believe you're telling the truth, but I can't. I want to, but I just can't make that leap of faith. If you want my help, though, you'll have to do exactly as I say. Starting now."
"Fine!" blurted Narcissa. She realized she would do anything to keep herself safe and away from the Dark Lord. "I promise!"
"Very well," muttered Lily, looking uneasy as her wand lowered from the threat it had posed. "Bear with me. Conjunctivitus. Immobulus. Muffliato."
Narcissa pursed her lips and let Lily Evans place the enchantments upon her. She didn't know why she was placing her trust in the woman, but something inside her told her to do so. She didn't feel as if she was in harm’s way, but rather she felt as if she were being guided home. Something told her to just relax and let it come.
So she remained silent as her vision blurred, rendering her to only seeing shadows, and she endured the buzzing that filled her ears. Standing before Lily, she felt her body freeze up as she could no longer move. She tried to remain calm.
Everything would be okay. Maybe Lily was taking her to a safe place. Maybe to someone who could help her. Wherever it was, Narcissa's fate was in the hands of Lily Evans now.
"She should be back by now!" hissed James Potter as he paced about the small quarters at Mad-Eye Moody's rundown home used as the Order of the Phoenix headquarters. "All she had to do was apparate there and say a few enchantments to see if her grid was empty. That's it! Simple as that!"
Sirius Black bit his lip, following in his friend's wake, debating whether or not to reach out and comfort him. "I'm sure she's fine, mate. Really, I wouldn't worry about it."
"If only she would have let me do that grid tonight!" barked James.
"You know she wouldn't have let you do her grid. You had your own grid, and you know she hates it when you try to do her share of things," Sirius kindly reminded him.
James nodded. Lily did hate that; James never wanted her working more than she had to, partly because it terrified him to know she was out there in areas where Voldemort could very well be as well, and he hated that. So he would offer to do her share of watches and land scans before she could even accept her shifts.
"You're very right," replied James with a slight chuckle. He tried to mask his fear with his laugh. While Sirius wasn't always the most realistic, he tried to convince himself that Sirius was right about this.
James resulted to just pacing once, but when he heard the recognizable crack of apparation, it was the most joyous sound he had ever heard. He whipped around, and relief graciously met him when he saw his fiancée. However, all of his stress and anxiety did not leave in that moment. The woman Lily had in tow with her made him uneasy.
The room froze up, silence taking over them. Sirius and James became motionless as Lily looked around, Narcissa Black remaining quiet with her head hung low by Lily’s side. The others in the room looked onto her with surprise. Finally, James was the first to speak. "What the hell are you doing?! You found her and you brought her here?!"
"Let me expla - "
"You could have - "
"What the bloody hell is all this shouting about?" Alastor Moody entered the room, limping in and quickly scanning the room with his magical eye. He grew still too when he spotted the newcomer. "Is that who I think it is?"
"Narcissa Black," said Lily sternly. She nodded for emphasis, standing tall and holding her ground. She knew it wouldn't be an easy task bringing Narcissa Black directly into the Order of the Phoenix headquarters. She had anticipated this reaction from everyone, and she would have to fight for Narcissa's safety. It was times like this when she cursed her desire to help those around her. She didn't know why she had felt so compelled to help the woman out there in the field. She had no obligation to; she should have just apparated away while she had the chance. But her heart told her differently, as it always did. She wanted to believe Narcissa, and Narcissa deserved that chance from her. Lily was willing to give it as long as she could get the rest of the Order to cooperate.
"And you thought it was a good idea to bring her here? Merlin, Evans. Where is your head today?! What's my number one rule?" growled Moody, but he didn't give Lily the time to answer. He quickly shouted, "Constant vigilance!"
"I know it seems irrational, but you have to hear me out," said Lily. Through watching Narcissa remain quiet and immobile, everyone seemed to relax - if only slightly. "She can't hear, she can't see, and she can't move. Trust me; I thought a little bit about this before bringing her here. I wouldn't have jeopardized everyone like that! Give me a little credit!"
"Very well, Evans. Please explain yourself," sighed Moody. He plopped down at the wooden table in the center of the room and uncorked a bottle of fire whiskey. He looked over his shoulder to where Marlene Mickinnon, Alice and Frank, and Remus Lupin were standing. "One of you notify Dumbledore immediately."
Remus Lupin gave a curt nod and left the room.
"I found her while scanning my grid, so by the way, clearly this grid is active and we can focus our attention on it. But look at her; she's faced a rough night. She told me herself she was with Voldemort at an initiation. Bellatrix Black. She's one of them now. Narcissa said she was trapped in the house that her sister set fire to with the intention of killing a muggle. She was almost killed tonight; she's not one of them. Her arm is bare. She's looking for shelter..."
"And you think a woman associated with Lord Voldemort and his mutts will find shelter here?" scoffed Moody. He had tried to give Lily the benefit of the doubt, but as she progressed, that was beginning to seem more and more unlikely.
"She can if stubborn people like you can put aside your assumption that she's just like one of them!" snapped Lily.
James walked over to her from beside his best mate and rubbed her shoulders from behind. "Easy," he breathed into her hair.
Moody wrinkled his nose and fell back into his chair. "We will see what Dumbledore has to say on the matter."
Lily nodded and turned away from the room, facing Narcissa. She would take matters into her own hands. Now that they were safely inside headquarters, there was no harm in removing the enchantments placed upon Narcissa. She couldn't run away; if she tried, they would catch her. She didn't know where they were either.
She raised her wand to Narcissa before those in the room with her could protest. "Finite Incantatem."
When the charm gently washed over Narcissa, she raised her head with the ability to move once more, blinking as her vision returned to her and the buzzing left her ears. She took in a heavy breath as she looked around the dingy room with nothing but a few chairs along the walls and a particularly large table in the middle of the room. Black, dusty curtains covered the windows. She recognized everyone in the room with her, but by the expressions on their face, she could tell they were not pleased to see her.
She wanted to apologize to the lot of them, for they must have blamed her for endangering them in any way - if she had. But before she could apologize, Lily spoke to her.
"Don't worry about them. For now you're safe. You must have been uncomfortable, so for now you can move and you can see. But unfortunately, soon I'll be taking your hearing away again."
Narcissa nodded. "I understand. Lily, thank you."
Lily smiled in return. She hoped those in the room with her could feel Narcissa's genuine fear and sincerity just as Lily felt it. How could they choose to refuse the safety of a woman who so desperately needed it?
Narcissa raised her head to those around her. She made eye contact with a man whom she knew to be an Auror; the rumors of how he got the name of Mad-Eye Moody quickly returned to her. She continued to scan the room; she spotted two other women who had attended Hogwarts a few years below her, and on the other side of the room were James Potter and one of Narcissa's cousins, Sirius Black.
She immediately grew jealous of Sirius Black. Sirius had done the very thing she had never been capable of doing. Sirius had stood up to his family for what he believed. He had lost everything, and yet she was still jealous of him. At least after having his face blasted off the family tapestry, he still had one thing; he had a family, even if that family didn’t go by the name of Black. She could tell that the people before her were his family now. Why couldn't Narcissa do the same?
"Please," Narcissa whispered to them, "I don't mean to put any of you in danger. If you had seen what I saw...I'm not one of them, and I don't intend to be. I'd like to join you, if you'd let me..."
No one could answer before the door to the room opened, and in walked Remus Lupin with Albus Dumbledore following swiftly behind him. Albus Dumbledore appeared calm and collected, even tranquil, while everyone else seemed to be so on-edge, as if Narcissa's appearance at the headquarters was unprecedented.
Narcissa swallowed down any more desperate pleas and entered silence as the room watched Albus Dumbledore with anticipation. Albus approached Narcissa with a kind smile, his half-moon glasses sitting on his long, rigid nose. He looked to her over the silver rims, and a gentle smile spread across his face.
"Narcissa," Albus said kindly.
"Hi, Professor..." she replied.
"I hear you have faced many troubles this evening," he suggested, and she nodded in return. "I am deeply sorry for that. I am also sorry for the behavior of those you see in here, other than Miss Evans. She was right to bring you here. Won't you sit down?"
Albus Dumbledore stepped away from her and motioned to a chair, to which Narcissa gratefully accepted the offer. Lily went to pour her a glass of water as Albus sat down next to her. "Please tell me what it is we can do for you, Miss Black," Albus encouraged.
"Professor," Narcissa began slowly, uncertainly, "I'm not really sure what it is I'm asking of you. I don't know if you can give it to me, and I don't want to ask for too much. But my whole life, I've followed in the footsteps of my sister. I never felt right, and tonight I just felt as if I truly in the wrong place. I don't belong with them. With people who will kill for fun because they can. I've gone my whole life not making a stand or choosing the side I believe in because I've been too afraid. But now...Now I know what I need to do. I want to help."
"Ah," nodded Professor Dumbledore. "I see. Well, Miss Black, I would like to offer you what security I can. Unfortunately, this is not my sole decision to make. Those you see around you - and many more you do not - have a say as well. If you truly want our help, then you will understand when I say that you will have to give us some time."
"Yes, Professor. I do understand," nodded Narcissa.
Professor Dumbledore nodded and then whispered to Moody to call an urgent meeting. Disgruntled, Mad-Eye rose to do so in another room, and Albus turned back to Narcissa. He let her finish her glass of water but then had Lily escort her to a nearby sitting room where she immobilized and tampered with Narcissa’s hearing once again. Lily returned alone, and they slowly waited for the rest of the Order to filter into meeting room of their headquarters. When all had arrived, they placed a silencing charm over the meeting room just as an extra precaution.
The newcomers seemed tentative, curious as to why a meeting had been called at such an hour. But they sat patiently and waited for Albus to address them. Finally he did so.
"Thank you, everyone, for coming on such short notice. We have a rather unusual situation to discuss. This evening Lily was doing her grid scan, and she came across a woman many of you may know. Narcissa Black. Lily found her, frightened, traumatized, and hurt from her events this evening. Tonight Narcissa witnessed her sister's initiation into Lord Voldemort's ranks. She was nearly killed in the fire herself and claims she has had an awakening and wishes to help us and desires our protection. The matter we have at hand now is: do we offer Miss Black our protection? Please, discuss."
"Let her join us? No, sir!" growled Mad-Eye from half way down the table. He scanned those around him with his magical eye, wildly whizzing about in its socket. "The girl clearly stated she was with Lord Voldemort himself this night. Not to mention all of his followers. We have a simple coincidence encounter, and we offer her shelter? Isn't it clear this could be a set-up?! We are only convening this meeting because the woman found was Narcissa Black - a weak woman who has never stood up for herself! It would have been a given that she would be pitied by us; if Evans had encountered Fenrir Greyback, we wouldn't have been so welcoming. A way to into our society; that's what this is. Only rumors have spread of our Order to rise against him, but never have they been confirmed. Now they have been confirmed to a woman we know to have been in the presence of Lord Voldemort - and most likely will be in his presence again, for all we know!"
"How do we know it is a setup, Alastor?" Lily sternly asked, beginning her argument. "That may be, but there are ways to quickly rule that out. We can give her some Veritaserum, or Legilimens. Severus is a great Legilimens and could get the truth from her. We can easily know if this has been a set-up or not."
“True," Alice muttered quietly. "It's easy to find out the truth. And what if she really does want to join us?"
"Then great. It's another hand to fight against You-Know-Who, but what are the chances that her family will find out?" Frank Longbottom pondered, looking about the table.
"Narcissa is weak. She would not be able to resist the persistent questions from her family if they were to suspect something," answered Sirius. He remembered their childhood, the holidays with his cousin: how she always followed in Bella's footsteps, how she never stood up for herself, how she always bent and molded to fit everyone's needs.
"Then the only way we could assure the secrecy of her being one of us is to keep her completely away from her family," commented James with a roll of his shoulders. He looked to everyone's faces to see if they agreed with him. The pursing of the lips and slight nods of the head suggested they agreed as well.
“But that would require an additional matter of the Blacks searching for their daughter,” commented Alice.
Lily rolled her shoulders. In the grand scheme of things, this simply seemed like collateral damage to Lily. If Narcissa was willing to join them and cooperate, she would have to be willing to pay the price. "She would have to be willing to leave her family," said Lily.
"A hefty price," sighed Albus.
"But one she will be willing to give if she truly wants our protection," Remus interjected.
"What is this? You are all talking as if we've already agreed to induct her into the Order! Does no one see the possible demolition of the Order if this were to happen? Nothing good can come of it!" shouted Moody. "This is not the way we should be acting. Constant vigilance is the way!"
"And do what?!" Lily asked, pained. "We obliviate her and dump her in the same place I found her?!"
"It’s not me being obliviated and left for dead. It doesn't affect me," Moody rolled his shoulders.
"That's terrible, Alastor!" scolded Molly Weasley. “Inhumane!"
"Maybe we shouldn't just consider the amount of protection we would be offering her," Sirius mused aloud, grabbing everyone's attention as he was struck with an epiphany. "If she becomes one of us - with her full loyalty - think of what we could learn..."
"Oh, you're right with that," muttered James, turning to him as he met the same wavelength as Sirius. "The things we could learn - endless!"
"Yes. If we could begin to trust her, and if she’s willing to help us completely, we could have someone on the inside to relay the info back to us. Think of the amount of intell!”
Moody’s eye whizzed in its socket with excitement. He looked around the room, folding his hands together and leaning against the table with new interest. "Now that is something I could get on board with."