Chapter 53 : Facing Demons
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Lily felt as if it had been the longest day of her entire life. It seemed impossible that just this morning she had woken up excited about her first real Hogsmede date with James and now Regal was dead, the lives of Jackson and Dorcas hung in the balance, and no one who had been in Hogsmede today would ever be the same.
Equally as shocking to Lily was the fact that she, James, Alice, and Frank were all still alive, sitting in the Gryffindor Common Room, surrounded by their friends. Voldemort had killed countless other better trained, older, and wiser wizards and witches, but yet the four of them had escaped. She felt sure that it was something none of them would ever forget, and she was even more certain that Voldemort would not soon forget it either. She wasn’t really sure how she felt about that. Surely, she should be terrified that Voldemort now had a reason to know who she was, who James, Alice, and Frank were. He had a reason to want them dead. But right now, all she felt was numb. She knew the other emotions—terror, anger, sorrow, confusion, grief—would all come, but at this moment there was nothing.
“I just want this day to be over,” Hestia said to no one in particular. “I keep telling myself in the morning things always look better, but I don’t see how sleeping on this is going to make it hurt any less that she’s gone.”
“I keep thinking the opposite,” Peter said after a moment. “I’m afraid to go to sleep because going to sleep means this day is over. And this is the last day that I ever saw her alive, each day after this is just a day I won’t see her. I don’t think I’m ready to start those yet.”
Remus, who was sitting next to Peter, placed what he hoped was a comforting hand on his friend’s shoulder, and wished he knew of something, anything to say that could help his friend.
“Regal would be so pissed right now,” Daphne said after a moment. “I can hear her right now, bitching about how we can’t expect anything to change, so why are we just sitting here. She’d say we should be doing something, always taking steps forward, even if it was just a small one.”
“She used to always say the reason she loved brooms was because you couldn’t fly in place, you could float there, bob in the air, but if you really wanted to fly by definition you had to move. No such thing as just staying still,” Dirk said with a smile.
“I guess you’re right,” Peter said, “but that doesn’t make it any easier.”
“No, it doesn’t,” Sirius agreed, from where he was sitting on the couch.
Lily watched Hestia and Daphne. Hestia seemed to be afraid to let go of Daphne, and Daphne seemed to be holding herself together purely from the need to comfort Hestia. She didn’t want them to have to be separated when the numbness wore off and the nightmares unfailingly set in.
“Hestia, if you want you can sleep in my bed tonight in the dormitory, so you can stay with Daphne.”
“Really?” Hestia said, a small relieved smile spreading across her face for a moment. “You don’t mind?”
“Not at all,” Lily answered.
“Thank you, Lily! I’m just going to go get my things, and then try and go on to bed.”
“I’ll come up in just a minute,” Daphne said.
Hestia bid everyone goodnight, and then made her way up to her dormitory. Daphne rose to her feet as well and walked over to wear Lily was sitting. She stood for a moment as if unsure herself of what she wanted to say, and then hugged Lily tightly for a moment before following Hestia up the stairs.
“I should go with them,” Mary said. “Goodnight, everyone.”
“I guess I’ll go too,” Peter said a few minutes later. “Rip the bandage off, so to speak.”
“Do you want us to come with you?” Sirius asked concernedly.
“I’ll be alright,” Peter said with a shake of his head.
Sirius, Remus, and Frank all shared a glance. All three of them knew they would wait before going up to bed, give Peter time to gather his thoughts, grieve privately for Regal, and pretend to be asleep if he wanted too.
Lily and James made their way, hands intertwined, back to their common room in silence. They had not been separated since the attack, and found their eyes continuously trained on the other, as if they were constantly having to remind themselves that they were both okay.
“Can I stay with you tonight?” Lily asked as they found themselves at the foot of their separate dormitory stairs. “I don’t want to be alone.”
“Of course,” James said, giving Lily a small, sad smile. He gave her a gentle peck on the forehead.
They separated briefly to each get their showers and prepare for bed.
Professor Dumbledore approached the solitary figure sitting motionless at the end of the path that led from the mountains into the village of Hogsmede. He sat down beside the man on the grass, something given his considerable height and the overabundance of his robes was not something he did very often.
“Have you been here all evening, Caradoc?” Professor Dumbledore asked his Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher.
“I was right here, Professor,” Dearborn answered. “I was yards away from them and I couldn’t help them. All I could do was watch. I saw Dorcas get tortured. I saw the medics taking away Regal’s body. I failed them. I was supposed to protect them, and I failed.”
“You did no such thing,” Professor Dumbledore said. “The safety of the students of this school falls to me. And as for what you saw today, I would suggest a different perspective. Today the students of Hogwarts were blindsided. They did battle with Death Eaters and Lord Voldemort, all vastly more experienced than our students. But the students of Hogwarts did not flinch. Led by the efforts of Miss Evans, Mr. Potter, Ms. Fortescue, Mr. Longbottom, Mr. Black, Mr. Lupin, Mr. MacMillan, Miss Meadowes, Mr. Fletchley, Miss Finch, and so many others, most notably the brave Miss Shacklebolt, your students matched their attackers. Lily, James, Alice, and Frank held out for almost an hour against Voldemort himself. Something wizards twice their age and experience have rarely attempted and even fewer have accomplished. So never doubt your protection of them my dear man. You may have not been able to reach them today, but the knowledge you gave them was key to their survival.”
“How do you do it, Professor? I’ve seen people get killed or tortured before. I mean I was an auror for years, and it was never easy but it was something you expected. But today, with my students, I couldn’t bear it.”
“With all my considerable wealth of knowledge, even I have yet to answer that question.”
Severus Snape took a deep breath as he walked down the dungeon corridor to Professor Slughorn’s office. It would take every ounce of his prodigious skill at reading people, as well as his well established good relationship with Slughorn, in order to pull this off. But it was crucial that he pull this off, and so he would not permit himself to consider failure.
Snape knocked on the door. Professor Slughorn had spoken to his House an hour or so before, just as all the other Heads of Household had done. He had said they were welcome to come speak with him if they needed someone to talk to. Well, Snape was here, and he hoped very much that Slughorn was in a talking mood.
“Severus,” Professor Slughorn said as he opened his door. Slughorn was stunned. Dumbledore had made it clear, in no uncertain terms which students of Professor Slughorn’s he suspected in helping to plan today’s attack and Severus Snape was at the top of that list. Slughorn found it hard to believe, I mean yes it was true that Snape was friendly with Lucius and Bellatrix, but no one had concretely proven that they were Death Eaters. But still, Dumbledore had warned him to be careful in his associations with those students, and he, Slughorn, would be a fool to ignore that warning after what had occurred today.
“Can we talk, Professor?” Severus asked quietly.
“Of course, come in dear boy,” Slughorn said wearily.
“Thank you, Professor.”
“Can I get you something? Tea perhaps?” Slughorn asked, busying himself preparing some of his own.
“No thank you, sir.” Severus said taking a seat.
“I must admit I’m a bit surprised to see you, Severus,” Slughorn said tentatively. “After all, you were with me today, not in Hogsmede. Something that has been noted by some of the other professors, McGonagall in particular seems interested in how few of my students were in the village today.”
“They think we knew about it ahead of time?” Snape asked, seemingly shocked by the suggestion.
“Did you know about it?” Professor Slughorn prodded.
“Sir, I can’t speak for anyone else, but Lily was in Hogsmede today. If I had had any inkling of an attack I would have used any means necessary to keep her out of harm’s way. That’s why I’m here. I just can’t stop thinking about how close I came to losing her today.”
Professor Slughorn hung his head ashamed. He should have known that Severus would never have put Lily in jeopardy. “I’m sorry I asked, dear boy, please forgive me. I know you would never do anything to hurt her. And really the accusations by the other professors are quite ludicrous. How would a student put themselves into detention? I mean clearly they had no control over that! And as to Lily, have you seen her since the attack?”
“No,” Snape said shaking his head. “I saw her from a distance leaving the hospital wing, but she was with Potter, and I’m sure he would never let her talk to me. Was she hurt, Professor?
“They were all four very luck considering what they were facing. Lily, as I understand it, had some deep cuts and abrasions on her arms from where she managed to shield her face. It took a while for them to get all the glass shards out, but she’ll be fine. Miss Fortescue was hurt the worst of the four with a mild concussion, but even she was just given a potion by Madam Pompfrey and instructions to report back tomorrow morning. I suppose things are so chaotic they couldn’t just keep someone for observation.”
“No, I suppose not. They were lucky that you teachers were able to get there when you did. Thank Merlin they were able to get word back to Hogwarts. Things could have been so much worse for all the students.”
“Yes, they were very lucky that Miss Baddock was able to get back and alert Professor Dumbledore. We in Slytherin should be very proud of her.”
“Yes, of course. Gentry deserves a proper reward for her heroism.” Snape said with a small smile. He had what he had come for. He now knew who was responsible for alerting Dumbledore about the Dark Lord’s attack.
Sirius, Remus, and Frank made their way up to their dormitory. Sirius and Remus looked hopefully in the direction of Peter’s bed, but the curtains were drawn and they heard the exaggerated sound of fake-snoring as Peter pretended to be asleep. They both wished he would talk to them, but understood their friend needed time to process what had happened. They wouldn’t push and prod him if he wasn’t ready.
“What about you?” Remus asked sitting down on the bed next to Peter’s that had once been James’, appraising Sirius who was sitting on his own neighboring bed.
“What about me?” Sirius asked.
“You’re worried about Peter closing himself off,” Remus said nodding his head to the bed behind him, “but you were close to Regal too. You shouldn’t close yourself off either.”
Sirius appraised his friend for a long moment before nodding his head in agreement.
“I feel like this whole thing is my fault,” Sirius said, barely above a whisper.
“How is any of this your fault?”
“Because,” Sirius said, and now he had to use every ounce of self-control to keep from shouting, “these things keep happening to people I love! Andromeda was tortured, Regal was killed, who’s is going to be next? Andromeda said I was dangerous, that I was reckless and that I courted danger, and maybe she was right. Maybe all these people keep getting hurt because of me.”
He was breathing hard, tears streaming down his face, devastated by his belief that what he had said was true.
Remus moved to sit by his friend’s side, wrapping him in a hug for a moment before speaking.
“Padfoot, none of this is your fault. The people doing these things, it’s all about power and fear—they want us to feel this way. But it’s not because of you.”
“What if it was Bellatrix? What if it was my own cousin who killed her?”
“Who Bellatrix is, is not a reflection of who you are.”
“I feel like everyone is just waiting for me to snap, to become like them. They expect me to be like Bellatrix, like Regulus.”
“Anyone who can’t see that you have a good heart is an idiot. Bellatrix never had your heart, maybe Regulus did once but if he’s joined them he’s lost touch with it now. You are nothing like them and this is not your fault.”
“I just feel like everyone expects me to be evil, to become a monster.”
“You’re not a monster, Sirius. Trust me, I’m kind of an expert.”
“Moony, you’re the least monstrous of all of us. That’s why you’re here, talking with me, trying to make me feel better.”
“And apparently, failing miserably,” Remus said with a smile.
“No, you’re not,” Sirius said. “I just need time. I can’t believe she’s really gone.”
Peter listened to his friends’ conversation and more than once wished he could join them. But he felt like he was a thousand miles away, that a chasm had opened up all around him the moment he had seen Regal’s body, and that he had to fight through this pain on his own.
There was a quiet knock on the door to the dormitory. Sirius, whose bed was closest, rose to answer it. Standing in the doorway was Alice, looking small and more than a little weary. Normally, Sirius would have taken this moment to make a comment about late night booty calls, or something else of the sort, but given everything they had all been through today, he merely nodded to Alice in greeting and opened the door further to allow her to enter. She gave both him and Remus a small smile, her eyes lingered for a moment sadly on the closed-off curtains of Peter’s bed, and then her eyes settled on Frank who rose from his own bed upon seeing her and opened his arms to her. They embraced for a moment before settling into his bed for the night where they would both try and find security in the other’s presence.
Lilly sat down on her bed for a moment. Looking around her room she felt the full impact of what had happened today. In the mirror she examined her reflection. The girl looking back at her was different than the one she had seen in the mirror that morning. There were the obvious physical differences. The long gash down her face, the even deeper wounds on her arms from where she had shielded her face from the glass shards, but even more glaring to Lily were the more subtle differences between the woman she was now, and the girl she had been hours before.
This morning she had stood in front of that mirror primping for her date with James, excited about the possibilities of a real date with James Potter. Now, that seemed foolishly vapid and dangerously naïve to her. This morning the worst thing she could have foreseen happening today would have been a fight with James, but for an hour today it had seemed certain that either she or James, or both, would die. This morning she had had mixed feelings about her and James meeting up with Regal and Peter later in the afternoon in Hogsmede, not because she didn’t like Regal or Peter, but because she had been greedy of every second alone with James. But before the afternoon arrived, Regal was dead, and that possibility forever removed with her.
But perhaps most striking to Lily was the fact that today she had faced death more surely than she ever had before, but she was still alive. Something she knew didn’t happen often with those who went face to face with Voldemort. She doubted that it had escaped his notice that it had happened four times with four teenagers today.
James let go as the water cascaded down around him. He cried, really cried, for the first time since he was a little boy. Regal was dead. He had failed to protect her. He had almost lost Lily. He had failed to protect her. And he had never felt so empty.
Lily smiled as she walked through the door to James’ dormitory. He had magically enlarged the bed before getting in the shower. She sat down on the edge of the bed and waited for him. A moment later he emerged from the bathroom, his hair still damp, with only his boxers on. If they hadn’t both been through hell today, Lily thought she might have had a difficult time keeping from throwing herself at the boy in front of her.
He climbed into bed beside her and pulled her into his arms. They lay there for a long time just taking in the sight of each other, absorbing the reality of what they almost lost, and how lucky they were to still have each other. Their eyes roamed over each other’s faces, their lips met repeatedly in gentle kisses that left them both breathless. There was no thought of going further; it was enough at this moment to just be together.
Finally, after they had both somewhat satisfied their need to be reassured of the other’s safety, Lily spoke up.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“I feel empty,” James said, his voice which sounded completely hollow underlined his point. “I was her captain, her friend, her Head Boy, and I feel like I failed her in each of those roles. I should have kept her safe, and I didn’t.”
“You didn’t fail her,” Lily said softly. She softly caressed his face with her hand as she spoke.
“I sent her and Jackson in to fight Death Eaters. Maybe the fifth years weren’t ready; maybe we should have had them do something else.”
“Like what? Should they have evacuated with the others? Maybe, but there wouldn’t have been enough older prefects to get to the students even younger than them, and who’s to say that the sixth year are any better prepared. No school kid should have to be ready to fight to the death at any age, but we didn’t make the decision to allow fifth years to be prefects, the founders of Hogwarts did.”
“I know I just feel like I’m responsible for her being dead.”
“You didn’t cast that spell,” Lily said earnestly.
“But I put her in the path of it,” James said bitterly.
“Is that what you think?” Lily said. “James, Regal put herself there. No listen,” she said, placing a finger to his lips as he showed every sign of interrupting. “I’m not saying that she caused her death, that’s not what I’m saying at all, just listen. Regal would have been in that street helping to rescue students whether you had told her to be there or not. That’s who she was. She would never have left other kids out there to fight their own way to safety if she could have been there to help them. Just like you and I wouldn’t have let anyone else take on Voldemort or Sirius and Remus wouldn’t have stayed behind while other people fought Death Eaters, Regal wouldn’t have let her friends be in jeopardy without doing her best to save them. And there’s absolutely no way she would have left Hogsmede without knowing that Hestia was safely ahead of her on the way back to Hogwarts.
“You said you failed her, well I say just the opposite. She fought her heart out to get those third years to safety. Each one of those kids owes their life to Regal and Jackson. And you did save her, and Jackson for that matter, through Hestia. I know that it had to be you and Sirius who taught Hestia, and I would imagine Regal as well, that curse. Jackson and Regal both would have been killed if Hestia hadn’t been there. Regal chose to stay behind, to ensure that Jackson and Hestia could get to safety, but she wouldn’t have been alive to make that choice if it hadn’t been for Hestia. Hestia might have been killed as well. So don’t you dare think you didn’t make a difference, you and Sirius made all the difference to those two girls. Regal died a hero, she died knowing that she had done everything in her power to fight against evil, and I know it’s how she would have wanted it. Because at heart she was just like the three people she admired most: you, Sirius, and her brother.”
“I just wish she was okay,” James said, tears spilling out of his eyes once more.
“I know,” Lily said, wrapping him in her arms once more. She held him for a long time, until his tears subsided. Pulling back, she looked at him for a long time before speaking again.
“I kept thinking today, while we were fighting, that if you or I died I would have one regret,” Lily said quietly.
“What’s that?” James asked, twirling a piece of her hair gently in his hand.
“That I never told you that I loved you, because I do. I love you, Potter. I have for a while now,” she said with a shy smile. His lips were on hers once again a moment later as he kissed her fervently.
“I love you too, Evans,” James said as he pulled back slightly. “I always have and I always will.”
Gentry Baddock sat in the Slytherin Common Room, her eyes roving around the room, her mood downcast. She had always felt at home in this room, always felt like she belonged. Her whole family had been in Slytherin for as long as anyone could remember. But right now she felt ashamed of her house for the first time.
She wondered what was happening in the other Common Rooms. The Gryffindor’s were understandably devastated, having already lost one student, and most likely going to lose another soon. The Hufflepuffs were similarly downcast, with the life of Dorcas Meadowes hanging in the balance. And the Ravenclaws had also faced loss today. But for the most part, her house had been largely absent from Hogsmede today.
Of course, there were exceptions. Many third and fourth years had been in Hogsmede today. Many of them owed their lives to the prefects of Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, and Ravenclaw who had risked everything to evacuate students to safety. Some of them had even been in the group evacuated by Regal Shacklebolt and Jackson Peakes. Those students were understandably shell-shocked, reeling from the reality that one, possibly two people had died to save their lives. And of course, Gentry and several of her fifth year girl friends had been in Hogsmede. But many more of the older Slytherin students found themselves ill or in detention or making up tests. The only seventh years she saw in Hogsmede were Augustus Rookwood and his girlfriend, but everyone knew Rookwood had distanced himself from the Death Eater crowd years ago so that was unsurprising.
But what she really wanted to know was where had the other Slytherin Prefects been? Why had she been the only one there? She knew that Snape and Black and the others were probably already Death Eaters, but it infuriated her to know that they had stood by and allowed their fellow Hogwarts students to be put in jeopardy.
And she knew something else too. If they were willing to have Hogwarts students killed, they would be willing to kill people who stood in their way. It was no longer safe for her at Hogwarts.
Lily and James walked hand in hand to Professor Dumbledore’s office the following morning. They weren’t sure what awaited them in the Headmaster’s Study—news of more death or further attacks at other places were chief among their concerns. But whatever happened they would face it, as they had the attack, together. They seemed to simultaneously each take a deep breath, before James knocked and they heard Dumbledore’s voice from within instructing them to enter.
“Mr. Potter, Miss Evans, please be seated,” Dumbledore said motioning to the seats in front of his desk. He surveyed them for a long moment over the top of his half-moon spectacles, his head resting atop his folded hands.
“You both showed exemplary courage and bravery yesterday. Because of you many lives were saved, and for that and much more I must first say thank you.”
“Is there any word on any of the people taken to St. Mungo’s?” Lily asked.
“Jackson’s condition has not changed. He is still in a precarious situation, but the fact that he remains alive is reason for hope. Dorcas is still being kept under sedation while the damage to her body heals. Healer Longbottom will not be able to ascertain if any mental of psychological damage was done until that process is completed. Harper, however, is doing better and I am told that her burns are responding well to treatment.”
Both Lily and James nodded, still holding out hope for Jackson and Dorcas, and relieved that at least some good news could be relayed to the residents of Gryffindor Tower who were waiting on tenterhooks.
“I also want to offer my condolences to both of you. I know you were both friends with Miss Shacklebolt. Her parents and brother will arrive at Hogwarts tomorrow and would like to meet with the Quidditch Team, as well as Mr. Pettigrew privately, before spending time with all of Gryffindor.”
Lily and James again nodded in response.
“As I’m sure you both no doubt expected, given the attack yesterday several new security measures will be put into place. First and foremost, Hogsmede weekends will be suspended until further notice. The Ministry of Magic will also be stationing Aurors in Hogsmede for the sole purpose of protecting the school. I will need you to relay this information to the Prefects in a meeting this morning.”
“What about the Slytherin Prefects?” James asked quietly. He and Lily had discussed their own suspicions last night regarding the absence of the Slytherins from Hogsmede.
“Ah—you speak, I’m sure, of their mysterious absence from Hogsmede?” James and Lily nodded once more. “Yes, I am aware that they were missing in action, as it were. For now, you are to treat them no differently. It is my hope that we can lure them in to a false sense of security. If they feel they got away without any additional scrutiny being placed on them, hopefully they will begin to get careless and allow us better insight into Lord Voldemort’s plans. But rest assured I will be monitoring them carefully.”
Lily and James did as Dumbledore had asked of them and met with their Prefects shortly after leaving his office. And they did nothing to show any hint of suspicion to the Slytherins, even though both at times felt the urge to pull out their wands and take matters into their own hands. Judging by the faces of several other of the Prefects—namely Remus, Aidan, Dirk, and Terris and Marlowe who were both still walking gingerly on their mended ankles—they were not the only ones fighting to control such desires.
But more than anything else, there thoughts were focused on the Prefects who were not with them. Regal, of course, Jackson, Dorcas, and Harper, as well as Eavan who was still in the Hospital Wing, and although Lily, James, Remus, and Aidan were still unsure of how he sustained the injuries, Barty Crouch Jr. was also still in the Hospital Wing recovering.
Lily and James concluded the meeting quickly, certain that all their Prefects were probably suffering from as much sleep deprivation due to yesterday’s events as they were. But they noted, for the second time this year that once they had concluded a meeting, Gentry Baddock made a concerted effort to remain slowly behind.
“Lily, James may I speak with you for a moment?” She finally asked, after she was sure everyone else was gone.
“Of course,” James said.
“Thank you, for yesterday,” Lily said. “You saved a lot of lives by getting to Dumbledore, including ours,” she said motioning to herself and James.
“It was nothing,” Gentry said shaking her head. “You two are the ones who saved lives; you fought him off, not me.”
“Evans is right,” James said. “We wouldn’t have been able to hold him off forever, we needed Dumbledore.”
Gentry offered them a small smile but said nothing more. She seemed at a loss for words, unsure of how to continue.
“You said you wanted to talk to us?” Lily helped.
“Yes,” Gentry said looking relieved, “I wanted to thank you, actually. You didn’t have to trust me. I wouldn’t have blamed you if you’d left me and the other Slytherins to fend for ourselves. You had no way of knowing that I wouldn’t lead Death Eaters into Hogwarts once I got Peter to show me where the passageway was. But you let me help.
“I’ve always been proud of being a Slytherin. My whole family has been in Slytherin and I wore this uniform,” she said motioning to the crest on her robes, “as a badge of honor. I was proud to be a pure blood. But that doesn’t mean that I think it’s okay to kill people. You both gave me the chance to show that just because you’re a Slytherin doesn’t mean you have to support what he’s doing, what they’re all doing. So thank you.”
Lily and James both stood for a moment, unsure of exactly what to say, before both nodded and murmured “you’re welcome.”
“I also just wanted to say goodbye,” Gentry said.
“Goodbye?” Lily questioned.
“I’m leaving Hogwarts right now actually,” Gentry said. “I spoke with Professor Dumbledore this morning and arranged it.”
“But why?” James asked.
“Right now only a few people within Hogwarts know about the role I played yesterday, but I’m worried that if some of the other Slytherins find out they could make life especially difficult for me. I’m to continue my studies at home with my family. Professor Dumbledore has arranged it with the teachers.”
Lily and James felt, once more, at a loss for words. But after a moment Lily seemed to recover herself.
“Well good luck and if you ever need anything don’t hesitate to ask,” Lily said.
“Good luck,” James said as well, “and thank you again, for our lives.”
“Thank you,” Regal said nodding to each of them. She made her way to the door but paused for a moment in the threshold, looking back over her shoulder at them.
“For the record,” she said, “I’m sorry about calling you a mudblood and a blood traitor.”
A/N: Sorry about the delay! I got a new job so I’ve been busy with that. The next chapter is already in the works and should be up in a week or week in a half at most. Reviews are always appreciated and always help to motivate me! xoxo
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