Chapter 12 : Chapter 12
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A/N: A huge thanks to everyone who left a review on the last chapter. I'm a little nervous about opening a new section in this story, so please let me know how I do! (hint hint, review please :)
P.S. My apologies for my long absence. If you want excuses, I turned 15 and had school and sports and stuff. Yay.
The Hogwarts Express departed at eleven on Sunday morning from Hogsmeade Station. Having barely slept due to the need to wake up and pack mere hours after I had fallen in bed still fully clothed, I was exhausted. However, no amount of fatigue could numb the emotions coursing through my body- primarily happiness, mixed with the anticipation of the holidays and the anxiety of wondering how I will survive without being able to kiss, tease, and talk with my new boyfriend every moment of every day. Said boyfriend and his friends managed to snag a luxurious compartment for the Seventh Year Gryffindors, (sans Minna the Hooker, obviously. She was probably sucking Mulciber's tiny prick or something) and an hour into the journey found me lying across several seats. My head rested in James' lap, who was absorbed in November 12th's Quidditch Weekly and subconsciously running his fingers through my hair. I had removed my boots and was entertaining myself by shoving my stockinged feet into Sirius' ears. He was perusing the Daily Prophet, not reading, but drawing devil horns and obscene tattoos on all the photographs. The black-and-white occupants were squealing indignantly, much to Sirius' enjoyment. I rubbed my foot on his neck (gross, I know) and he swatted at my ankle. I giggled like a child and dropped my feet into his lap, leaning my head back and closing my eyes. The sleep deprivation caught up with me and I buried my face in James Potter's lovely abdominal muscles and dozed off.
"Don't tell her, Prongs."
"James, if you don't tell her, Mary and I will!"
"No, wait, Moony. What should I do?"
"He's not here."
"Where is Wormy?"
"Guys, please help me now and worry about Peter later. He's probably seducing the trolley lady or something."
"Bet he wouldn't mind feeling her Pumpkin Pasties." The laughing broke through my peaceful haze of semi-consciousness.
"Very funny, Sirius, grow up." I could hear a girl trying not to laugh.
A deep chuckle was accompanied by a reprimand of "shhhh, Padfoot, you'll wake her up. Do we tell her, then?"
"Mmph," I grumbled, finally coming around, opening my eyes and shoving hair out of my mouth. "Tell me what?"
There was a very pointed silence. I pushed myself into sitting position and fixed the three boys, and Kate and Mary, with what the girls call my "pissy mother stare". It is usually very effective, but the intimidation factor was diminished due to the seating arrangements, which forced me to keep craning my head this way and that to see all five of them.
James' right hand creeped slowly up to the back of his head and he gave his hair a nervous ruffling. Kate was chewing her lower lip and steadfastly staring at the murky brown carpeting of the compartment. Both Sirius and Mary were looking expectantly at James, who appeared more uneasy than ever. His eyes darted toward the opposite row of seats and I noticed a crumpled section of the Daily Prophet wedged in the cushions between Mary and Sirius. In a fluid movement, I lunged across and snatched it with a level of agility worthy of a Holyhead Harpies Seeker. Again, I should play Quidditch, yes?
No one moved. Heart beating in my throat, I smoothed it out and immediately located the article I knew I would be looking for. I read it through silently three times, trying to calm the panic rising inside me.
Three Muggles Found Dead in Home
At 4:35 am on 18 December, the Head of the Auror Office in the Ministry of Magic received a distress call from a widowed elderly witch in Surrey, an anonymous source told our reporters yesterday evening. According to said reliable source, the woman described a scene that took place in her primarily Muggle residential neighborhood in the early hours of yesterday.
She awoke to screams of terror echoing down the street, and then all was silent until a chilling chorus of laughter arose. The brave woman shuffled through the shadows to the house and arrived in time to hear a muffled incantation, the sound of breaking glass, and the popping noise characteristic of Disapparition. Within moments a hazy green structure had appeared in the sky above the home, assumed to be the Dark Mark, a trademark symbol of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named's followers.
This heroic woman sent an emergency Patronus message to the Auror Office, who immediately instructed her not to enter the building under any circumstances and remain silent and watchful. A team of several highly trained Aurors was dispatched and they attended to the shocked woman and recovered three bodies from the partially demolished home.
As of 8 o'clock this morning, 19 December, neither the victims nor their murderers have been identified. However, overwhelming and confidential evidence leads us to conclude that the murder of this Muggle family was, in fact, the work of the notorious group known as the Death Eaters. The wizarding community should be aware that this is not the first, nor will it most likely be the last, of these attacks. The Ministry of Magic assures us that they are doing their utmost to stop the merciless killers amongst us, but that begs the question, esteemed readers, is that going to be enough?
Certainly, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and his followers pose a serious threat to Wizard and Muggle society and we encourage everyone to exhibit caution and vigilance during these dangerous times. A reminder to all to report any suspicious activity to the Ministry of Magic via the new emergency hotline that will be put into effect later today. We at the Daily Prophet recognize that times are changing, and danger is upon us. On that note, we beg you to keep each other safe and be sure to read all publications, Ministry or otherwise, on any developments and safety measures to be put in place.
I was hardly breathing. At Hogwarts, I always felt safe but now, even next to James in a cozy compartment riding through the peaceful wintry countryside, there seemed to be an imminent threat hanging over us all. By changing a few minor details in the article, it could easily have been describing the murder of my parents and sister. It was a horrible, nauseating thought.
The tension in the compartment was tangible as I blinked slowly and took a deep, shattering breath. Wordlessly, James pulled me to his side and wrapped me in his arms. I didn't resist. Just like the last time I was on this train, I was on the verge of a breakdown.
This time, however, James didn't allow that. He held me close and whispered in my ear, and eventually my breathing slowed to normal and I was giggling at Sirius drawing crude images in the condensation on the window. Ever the entertainer, the shaggy teen took out his wand and prodded his drawings to prevent them from fading away and make them move. Soon Mary was adding her own artwork and we were all laughing and smiling, the murder of the Muggles not forgotten, but put aside for the time being. Remus was tickling Kate and I heard her real laugh for the first time in what felt like ages. I stopped moving as I watched my best friend transform from the troubled young adult she had been lately into the carefree girl I used to know. I was overcome with a bittersweet nostalgia thinking about all of our good times at Hogwarts and at her parents' home on the coast every summer holiday since we were twelve.
Before I was completely lost in memories James captured my attention with a sweet kiss to my temple. I turned to him and touched his rock-solid chest through his collared shirt. He looked down at me and winked, before grabbing my hand and dragging me through the door and all the way to the back of the train. He led me into a narrow, camouflaged passageway and a small door that opened to an open-sided, covered platform.
There was bird excrement on the wood paneled floor, which was filled with gaps that allowed me to see the train tracks beneath, and the waist-high fence that separated me from snowbanks zooming by was old and cracked in several places. It was freezing cold, but exhilarating. I held on tightly to James and leaned my head out the side, looking up the length of the scarlet train. A cloud of snow blew into my face and I sputtered, laughing despite the burn of tiny ice particles on my bare skin. I took a deep breath of the frigid air and felt the blood course through my body, rushing to all the moving parts, thanking some greater metaphysical force just to be alive. I couldn't understand my own emotions and how quickly they changed these days. I kissed my wonderful boyfriend, right there on the back of the train with snowflakes in my windblown hair, and decided never to let him go.
Platform 9 ¾ was more subdued than usual, I thought. Parents seemed more relieved than excited to see their children and the First and Second Years especially had vanished with their families within minutes of train doors opening. While the atmosphere was tangibly less social, once James and I stepped off the train, him magically commandeering our trunks (what a gentleman) with our hands intertwined, I forgot about other parents and focused on his, as mine were nowhere to be seen.
Mr. and Mrs. Potter were an attractive couple, even at an advanced age. His arm was wrapped around his shoulders, but both him and his son detached themselves from their women and stepped forward to embrace like old friends, beaming and patting backs enthusiastically. My boyfriend (I'd never tire of saying that) bent over to kiss and hug his mother, and she closed her eyes and rested a hand on his cheek softly. Now that he had been reunited with his parents, James saw fit to introduce me. I was very nervous.
"Mum, Dad, this is Lily, my girlfriend," he said. I smiled and exchanged 'nice to meet you's' and a handshake with his father. Mrs. Potter was a short, slender woman with long black hair, streaked with gray. When she heard my name, her face lit up and she unabashedly hugged me.
"Oh, James has told us so much about you, hasn't he dear?" She clasped my hand and her husband looked amused as he nodded in agreement. I gave a little smile and glanced around anxiously for my parents. They had never once been absent upon my return from Hogwarts in the past seven years. I didn't expect them to have started now.
A little cough from Mrs. Potter brought my eyes back to our group from the quickly vacating platform. James and his father were engaged in smiling conversation but paused when she said "Lily, dear, isn't someone coming to collect you?"
I chewed on my lip anxiously. "I don't know.. last I talked to my mum she said she'd be here, but I suppose she got held up at work or something," I mused quietly. "I can just get a cab, of course, but I don't have Muggle money with me and I would hate to telephone home and have Petunia answer..." I trailed off, thinking of my sister and the roadblock she created in my phoning home.
Mr. Potter bent his tall figure to converse at low volume with his wife. She nodded, looking slightly grim. "Lily, it would be a pleasure to have you at ours until we can contact your family," the aging man said. "But of course, if you would prefer, we could have some Muggle money brought with a house elf and put you right on a cab home."
I thought for a moment. "Thank you, but I would hate to be a bother," I replied, growing increasingly conscious of our nearly deserted surroundings.
James spoke up at last. "Lily, come to ours. I want you to see it anyway. Please." Those hazel eyes of his made my decision for me."
"Well, alright, but just for a short while, and thank you very much." I aimed my words at his parents but squeezed James' hand as well.
"We'd best be going then," said Mrs. Potter, also noticing the empty platform.
With that, James tugged on my hand and we exited swiftly through the metal archway and into the haze behind it.
His parents appeared just a few seconds behind us, and together we blended in with the oblivious crowd mingling around platforms 9 and 10 at King's Cross Station.
A/N: My boys at the San Francisco Giants just won the World Series!!Woot woot!!!
Also I own nothing.