Chapter 22 : Closure
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“Are you about to start snapping again?” Sirius asked, glancing up from where he was playing Chess against Peter on the floor of the boy’s dorms. Remus looked up from his book and sent a glance in our direction, before returning to the text looking unmoved.
“Probably,” James said, rolling his eyes and flicking through his textbook without reading it, “largely because -”
“- not getting involved,” Sirius said, “come on, Wormtail, Moony, last time I was involved I ended up being slapped round the face -”
“- oh, sod off Sirius.”
“- she’s getting angry already. Abandon ship, folks.”
I rested my head on James’s shoulder as Remus picked up his book, Peter forlornly abandoned the game of chess and the three of them headed out – I expected the only reason Sirius had bothered being an arse was because he was losing the chess match, but that didn’t make the situation any less awkward.
Apparently one sure fire way to creation tension in a relationship is your ex-best friend having the same patrnous as you, for bizarre reasons unknown, just after it’s been concluded that you and your boyfriend are soul mates. Add in the fact that Sirius was still determined not to turn up to Mary’s memorial dinner, and I was heartily agreeing with him, and our weekend of harmony had well and truly been flushed down the pan.
“We could just not argue,” James suggested, kissing my forehead distractedly, “there is that option.”
“Sure,” James said, “just live with it and move on.”
“James,” I said, sitting up and crossing my legs, “all I want to do is ask Snape what the deal is.”
“And you think he’ll have an answer for you?”
“Yes,” I said, “he has to, because you forbid me from asking him.”
“I can’t forbid you to do anything, as you have proven,” James said, still looking at his textbook, “I just asked you not to.”
“You’ve made it into this really big deal.”
“No,” James said, “you’re making it into a big deal by fixating on it.”
“James,” I said, frowning, “I just want to know…”
“But you don’t, Lily. You’ll dig around and you’ll find out why and you’ll have a complete break down and it will ruin things. Lily,” James said, looking strained, “after the Quidditch match, you promised me the end of Lily does what Lily wants.”
“But – ”
“What James wants is for you to forget about Snape and for Lily to want what James wants.” James interrupted.
“I do want what you want,” I said, frowning, because I did. It was just I wasn’t sure how I could possibly ignore something like Severus Snape having the same patronus as me without researching or thinking about it or at least asking Snape about it.
“You said it Lily, I can’t conceivably continue to date you if you keep completely disregarding my feelings so completely.” I bit my lip. “The fact that you’re even considering it clearly shows that you just don’t care – ”
“ – James, can I stay here tonight?”
“What?” James asked, his forehead creasing into a frown.
“I don’t mean like that,” I said, “not that we could really do anything with Moony, Padfoot, Wormtail and Frank as next door neighbours, but I mean, you snuck into my room the other night and then after the party when you too drunk to let me go…”
“Yes,” I said, “that.”
“So we’re not… arguing?” James said, sitting up slightly with a smile beginning to play across his lips.
“No,” I said, “because Sirius is being an idiot and, right now, will be warning anyone against coming up the stairs because we’re having a raging argument.”
“So,” I said, reaching forwards to kiss James properly, “we have time which could be better spent not arguing.” James looked extra nice today because, in frustration, he’d been running his fingers almost continually through his hair to the point where his hair was adorably frizzy and ridiculous, and because he was never capable of being properly angry at me, but was doing his best to be unhappy. I suppose it didn’t harm matters that I most definitely hadn’t been filling up my James quota; in between various arguments and still being as busy as ever, time wasted flirting and kissing and talking wasn’t as readily available as I would have liked (and as readily available as I would have liked was a level that I wasn’t going to admit to another individual, either, because I hadn’t anticipated James withdrawal being so distracting).
“But Snape?” James said, wrapping his fingers around mine and letting me pull him into a proper kiss.
“Don’t want to think about him. Particularly when I’m trying to kiss you till you’re incoherent.”
James grinned and curled his hand around my waist.
“But you’re not thinking about asking him about it anymore?”
“Lily does what James wants,” I said sardonically, “now, would you prefer to continue rehashing a dead argument or would you like to, perhaps, make use of the first ten minutes alone we’ve had for ages?”
“Hmm,” James said into my lips, textbook discarded and arms around my waist, “I think,” James kissed me again, “I’m going to vote for,” and again, “the latter.”
Not exactly an original or surprising decision, but definitely a welcome one.
James was just as aware as I was that the reason I had suggested a sleepover was due to the significance of the oncoming date: it struck suddenly, coming out of nowhere and then hitting all with the full force of its power. The ninth of March.
And I woke up on the ninth of March, a year after the day we watched Mary slip away, with one of James’s arms wrapped around my torso and our feet twisted around each other. We were much closer than we had been on previous occasions I’d frequented James’s bed for the whole night, and I suspected that was something to do with the fact that neither of us had slept well so had just spent the night feeling for each other in the dark – squeezes of hands, arms, brief whispered conversations and hugs.
At some point I had properly fallen asleep though; coaxed into dreaming whilst pressed up against his chest, his breathing filling up my mind with that steady, reassuring rhythm.
“Lily,” James muttered, quietly, “I’ve got to go.”
“Where?” I asked, reaching out and running a hand across the curve of his shoulder, still half a sleep and blinking up at bespectacled James feeling like I’d never been this comfortable or felt this at home.
“Sirius,” James said, reaching forward and kissing my forehead, “I’ve got to take the invisibility cloak, so if you want I can take you back to your dorm now or – ”
“- couldn’t care less if anyone sees me exiting your dorm,” I countered, watching as James shrugged on his robes – still watching me – and smiling vaguely. “Everyone thinks we’re shagging in random parts of the castle,” I pointed out, twisting my fingers through James’s hand, “thanks for that, Sirius.”
“Pleasure.” Sirius’s rough voice interjected. I closed my eyes slightly feeling privately amused.
“The fact is, I’d rather stay in your bed than leave.”
“All right,” James said, “sorry for waking you up, then.”
“It’s okay,” I said, smiling at him.
“You’re cute when you’ve just woken up,” James said, leaning over the bed and talking quietly enough that Sirius probably couldn’t hear, “and I’ll see you later.”
“Look after him,” I said, sitting up enough to kiss him goodbye.
“I’m going to look after both of you,” James said, grinning, “Mary’s orders.”
Then the curtain was pulled back and I curled back into a ball in James’s bed, the weight of barely sleeping all night catching up with me. James’s bed was still warm from the both of us sleeping there, and had that wavering scent of James around the pillow and under the curtain. I thought back to exactly a year ago, when I woke up knowing that my best friend was going to die. I’d never have thought that I’d be able to fee so content again – could never have predicted how lovely it would feel, just to be able to curl up in James’s bed and block out the rest of the world for a few more hours before I had to deal with it.
I didn’t much feel like James was looking after me after four lessons without either James or Sirius. Thanks to the feast that was being organised in her honour, the population of Hogwarts seemed to be filled with an uncomfortable sort of static that was focused on me – people seemed unsure about how I would be or should be reacting which, admittedly, was a feeling I was entirely sympathetic with, but with sorting out how I actually felt about the year anniversary of my best friend’s death I didn’t want to have to deal with the furtive looks too.
Sirius used to sit with Mary during transfiguration and now neither of them were here, James was supposed to sit next to me and now he was absent, and the big gaps in the room just made the unpleasant people who were there even more obvious – Snape, for one, and Mulciber – and the whole lesson seemed to drag out and take a disproportionate amount of time to be over and done with.
The bell rang.
I dawdling putting my books and belongings back in my bag to ensure that no one waited around long enough to talk to me, and maybe give me a chance to walk to my next class without being ogled at for being that dead girl’s best friend.
Better than for being a mudblood, maybe.
“Lily,” James said, grabbing my hand as I stepped out the classroom and pulling me towards him. From walking out into the corridor I was suddenly pressed up against his chest, with one of his hands wrapped around my waist, pulling me into one of those sorts of almost-going-somewhere kisses which definitely weren’t appropriate in the middle of the corridor. After a few seconds of being well and truly snogged, I was released for a second.
Professor McGonagall, who had apparently been exiting her classroom just after me, has stopped on the spot, lips thin, eyes wide as she stared at us.
“Hullo, Professor McGonagall,” James said, before threading his fingers through mine again and pulling me off down the corridor.
“What the hell was that?” I asked, following after him and trying to get my head around what had just happened. There was an edge of embarrassment that was beginning to creep up my stomach, so I assumed that the fact Minerva McGonagall had just seen us making out in a public corridor was beginning to sink in. Oh god.
Hazard of dating a Marauder, I suspected, but it certainly wasn’t something that I was pleased to be able to add to my repertoire.
“Missed you,” James said, squeezing my hand.
“Where’ve you been?”
“London, mostly,” James said, turning around and offering me a grin, “I need to go back and work on my speech, but Sirius is waiting for you outside.”
“Outside?” I asked, frowning as we started down a flight of stairs. “James, what -”
“You’ll see,” James said, “Lily,” James grinned, “you look very nice today.”
“If you’re trying to get in my good books after abandoning me all day,” I said, folding my arm over my chest and glancing at him over my shoulder, “try cooking, not compliments.”
“Are you mad?”
“No,” I admitted, sighing, “but I wished you’d given me some warning.”
“Okay,” James said, “Sirius and I are going to disappear all morning, then you’ll be skipping the final lessons of the day to go off on a jaunt with Sirius. I’d have suggested you take the full day off, but as the Head Girl I assumed you’d want to retain some reputation, therefore the official line is I kidnapped you and Sirius took you hostage.”
“So what McGonagall just witnessed was a kidnapping, was it?”
“Cohesion,” James grinned, pausing to wrap his arms around my waist again, “I know it hasn’t been the best year,” James said, “but…”
“I’m happy,” I said, glancing up into James’s hazel eyes and realising how true it was with a jerk in the stomach. “I’m really happy.”
“Good,” James said, his breath hot against my skin, “that’s really very good.”
“Isn’t Sirius waiting?” I asked pointedly.
“Hmm,” James said, stepping away and starting back down the steps, “I guess so. Bit annoying that my best friend gets to spend the day with you, whilst I have to – ”
“- deliver a speech about your girlfriend and your best friend’s singular common denominator?” I suggested, sighing again. It was strange. In some respects, the date was just a date… but a year felt like such a long time, and it seemed to be a marker of a date where we should have some form of definite closure. A whole year since Mary had died.
James didn’t answer that one and we walked in almost silence until we reached the front doors.
“Are we going to get into trouble about this?”
“I highly doubt it,” James said with a slightly grimace, “given the date, I should think you could do whatever the hell you wanted and no one would tell you off.”
“Well,” I said, thinking of Mary and her purple hair and her frankly terrible attitude problem, “There’s always that.”
“Sirius said he was going to park behind Hagrid’s hut,” James said, stepping out across the grounds with his shoulders squared slightly against the onslaught of the horrific day.
So much had changed in a year that I could barely recognise the Lily Evans that blinked down at dying Mary, who didn’t think it was possible to give James Potter any more chances (and, more remarkably, didn’t think he deserved any), who hadn’t yet lost her father or realised the scope of which she failed her family. A Lily Evans before the war began to diffuse into our lives and taint everything with fear and prejudice. Lily, before James was my best friend and Sirius was my brother in pain.
And what the hell was Sirius parking?!
“James,” I said, turning to face him with my eyes flashing slightly, “is this going to be dangerous?”
“Sure,” Sirius said, sidestepping Hagrid’s hut to face me with a grin plastered across his face, “but so’s throwing yourself so a crowd of bitter Slytherins to get some first-hand experience of being tortured, so we didn’t think you’d mind.” I blinked at him. “Or is it not self-destructive enough for you?” Sirius asked, chucking me a helmet with another grin.
I felt like I was staring at a Sirius before Mary, or during maybe, with his boyish grin and the sudden bark of laughter at my expression.
“I’d forgotten about this.” I muttered, taking the helmet in my hand and taking a step forward. “It was so bloody ridiculous that I blocked it out my memory.”
“But Evans,” Sirius said, taping the bodywork of that bloody bike looking so pleased with himself that it was difficult to argue, “it flies.”
“I know,” I said, stepping over towards the bike feeling more than a little nervous, “I remember.”
“She only rode it once,” Sirius said, throwing his leg over the machine and grinning at me.
“You’re not wearing a helmet.”
“No,” Sirius said, “but I’m not going to fall off.”
“And I am?” I asked.
“Well,” James said, “given how you two bicker, I’m not entirely sure I trust him not to push you off.”
“No promises,” Sirius grinned, “well, Evans, are you coming?”
“Sod it,” I said, throwing my leg over the back of the bike fighting the mad idea to start laughing.
“Evans,” Sirius grinned, looking over his shoulder to grin at me, “I know we don’t really like each other, but you are going to have to hold on.”
“I’m blaming you for this,” I told James, edging forwards and grabbing hold of Sirius. I sucked in a deep breath as he revved the engine unnecessarily. I swore. Both James and Sirius laughed at me. I held on tighter.
“Don’t kill each other,” James said, offering Sirius a half-hearted salute and a raise of an eyebrows and one of his cutest smiles for me before turning around and heading back to the castle. It felt strange to watch James walk away from us, but given he was leaving me with Sirius and a motorcycle that was definitive proof that James did trust us. And, apparently, didn’t really care if everyone thought we were having it off behind his back, so that was nice.
“Ground rules,” Sirius said, revving the engine again, “we’re going to talk about Mary. I’m talking full on emotional chat territory, Evans. And you can ask about what you like and say what you like, and I sure as hell will. And then, Evans, we’re going to draw a line under the whole thing and walk back up to the castle.”
“A line under what?”
“Mourning,” Sirius said, “we’ve had a year, now we need to get the fuck on with living.”
“You’re allowed to still miss her,” I said.
“I’m counting on that,” Sirius said, as he kicked the kick start and the bike jittered forwards, ever so slowly, “but, Mary’s had her time. Now she can stop being such a selfish – ” the bike engine made a very loud, unhealthy sound that worried me quite a bit, “- dead bitch,” Sirius finished, tensing his arms on the handle bars, “and let me think about other things.”
The bike shot forwards and suddenly we were moving: the wind rushing past, half of Sirius’s words being lost by the wind, and the edge of the forest rushing past us.
“It is time, Lily, to move on.” Sirius said. Hearing his mouth form my first name felt strange, but oddly welcome, because I had this sneaking suspicion that Sirius was right. Over a year ago, Mary had fallen down the stairs and we hadn’t known what to do. We were just kids trying to make sense of something that made no sense, so we drank alcohol and tried to fly brooms to distract ourselves and we’d been making up our own rules to grief and mourning ever since, but we were much older now. Much more put together.
And life kept going and coming at us, and we were the survivors who had no choice but to carry on and deal with what we were given.
“Okay,” I agreed, tightening my grip around Sirius.
And then we took off. Flight.
March was warmer this year.
I was sure that, back then, frost had still been creeping around the windows and snow might have fallen, a few weeks before, but this year was unnaturally warm and spring had kick started a little sooner.
“So,” I asked, looking up at the sky under the tree, “what did happen with Joanna?”
“You just want me to tell you that you were right,” Sirius said, rolling his eyes, “which isn’t what happened.”
“But…” I prompted.
“But,” Sirius conceded, turning to glance at me, “the ninth of March was coming up soon, and I wanted to think about Mary for a bit. Get my head sorted.”
“God, I don’t know,” Sirius said, “feels sorted, right now.”
“That’s good,” I said quietly, sitting up and glancing at the castle. From here, you could see the window to the hospital wing. I remembered Sirius holding Mary up to an open window, and Mary’s almost rapture and feeling fresh air; in those last few weeks, she’d been really suffering. “I’m happy, Sirius. I didn’t think that was possible and… I thought I’d feel guilty, but I don’t.”
“Life is shitty,” Sirius said, “might as well make the most of the occasional good thing.”
“Sirius,” I said, wringing my hands self-consciously, “I think we should go,” I said, glancing up at him. I ran my hands through the grass whilst I waited for him to answer.
“To the feast?” Sirius asked, sending a doubtful look in my direction before turning back to the motorcycle with a mixture of strange affection, “why?”
“Because,” I said, “we’re not the only people in the world to have lost someone.”
“Because we’re Gryffindors. Because we lost Mary and I lost my dad, and you were chucked out by your family and your brother’s probably a death eater and my old best friend is probably a death eater. My Mum is somewhere drinking herself to death and yours hates your guts, and your homeless and my sister’s a bitch, and one of our best friends is a werewolf and is going to have a shit time… and because there’s a war coming and we’re probably going to die, Sirius, and you’re no doubt distraught about the recent termination of your ridiculous relationship with that… Joanne was it?”
“Sod off,” Sirius grinned.
“And everyone hates me and they’re definitely going to want you dead, you blood traitor,” I grinned, pulling up the grass with my fingers, “but it takes more than that to break a Marauder and a Gryffindor mudblood poster girl.”
“Right,” Sirius said, “what does it take then, Evans?”
“That’s the thing,” I said, standing up, “I don’t think we’re ever going to find out.”
“You want to crash the feast? Late? To make a point?”
“She loved the dramatic,” I said, hand on hip as I looked down at him, “you can’t say she wouldn’t have loved it.”
“Guess not,” Sirius said. I offered him my hand and he took it, straightening up and letting off a bark of laugher, “you’re completely nutty, Evans.”
“Thank you,” I said, turning towards him and grinning. “To the end of time.” I said.
“And the end of our miserable lives,” Sirius agreed, “let’s interrupt James’s speech to make your point about girl power, or whatever you’re trying to achieve.”
“Gryffindor Power,” I corrected, linking my arm through Sirius as we walked back towards the castle together. “Thanks for today, Sirius.”
“I’m drawing a line under the emotional right now.” Sirius grinned, nudging me with his shoulder as he hid the bike behind a tree and locked it with his wand.
“Wait,” I said, “give me five more minutes, all right? I have a couple more things that I want to say.”
“You have until we get to the Hall,” Sirius said, falling into step with me.
“Okay,” I said, “when she was dying, Mary told me to take care of myself.”
“And you did a pretty shitty job of that,” Sirius said, “what? You got yourself tortured, Evans.”
“She dared me to fall in love,” I said, weighing up the words in my head as imagined her there, challenging me.
“How’s that working out?”
“I know you’re ready to move on,” I said, “and I’m really, really pleased, Sirius. But I’m not sure if I’m there yet,” I said, “I think I’ll be ready then.”
“When I’m sure,” I said, as we walked back into Hogwarts, “when I’ve fulfilled her last instructions.”
“Evans, I’m no guru on romance,” Sirius said, an expression of thinly veiled disgust curling his lips into a frown, “but I know I really fucked stuff up with Mary, and a lot of that was down to being a bit too… tight lipped in terms of what I felt. And James isn’t about to die, but –”
“I think I’m there,” I said, glancing up at Sirius, “but I want to be sure. Then I’ll tell him and I’ll tell Mary that I’ve done what she said, and then I’ll let her go.”
“Sounds like over sentimental crap to me,” Sirius said as we reached the doors to the Great Hall, “but, good luck. Ready?”
“Always,” I said, squeezing Sirius’s arm for a second before he pushed open the door.
“I’m not about to turn Mary into something she wasn’t,” James was saying at the front of the Great Hall. He faltered for a second as he glanced towards the door, then smiled at the pair of us, “Mary McDonald wasn’t a martyr or a saint. She isn’t a symbol of anything more than what she was – a teenage girl who got sick and died before anyone wanted her to.”
James wasn’t eloquent, but death wasn’t either. Death was brutal and sudden and incomprehensible. It wasn’t something that happened to a person, either, but it was something that happened to those who were left behind. There was no rhyme or reason to it, it came out of nowhere and infected your life and your worst fears until there was no moving past it. And grief didn’t follow a pattern, and you made up the rules yourself and you dealt with it the best that you could, then one day you’d decided that you didn’t want to hold onto that weight anymore.
It wasn’t like you stopped missing a person, but you stopped feeling like you should miss them every day. You never forgot, you just didn’t remember with every second that you lived without them. Mary McDonald marked the end of my childhood and a loss of innocence, but life went onwards.
I just had to deal with it.
“She was bitter,” James said, staring right at me, “sarcastic, had an unfortunate like of stupid hair colours and a disposition that didn’t lend itself to truth telling.”
Alice was crying silently into Frank’s shoulder. Peter stared at the blank wood of the table. Remus folded and unfolded his hands. Rachel wiped her eyes. Johnny McDonald sat further down the Gryffindor table, sitting straight up and proud of his sister. Sirius was almost entirely still, gaze fixed on James or the teacher’s table.
“She changed our lives.”
Yes, she’d certainly done that. Filled it with drama and instances of blackmail and Sirius’s emotional repression… and Sirius begging for her forgiveness… and yelling at the top of the stairs, and Mary stepping backwards and teetering over the edge.
A whole year without Mary.
“As does every individual we meet,” James said, his shoulders squared as he turned his gaze to the Slytherins, “every life is precious. Every person is loved. It doesn’t matter whether a person dyed her hair purple, or colour skin, or sexual orientation, or who their parents were,” James was staring straight at Snape, and Mary had gone right from my mind. My heart was thumping erratically in my chest, “or whether they have the ability to perform magic, or whether they’re hideously and unforgivably ugly and anyone who thinks otherwise is a bigoted, prejudiced and can barely claim that they’re human.”
The whole Hall had gone silent.
James had turned Mary’s memorial speech political.
Oh my god.
“To Mary McDonald,” James said, grinning despite the toxic atmosphere in the hall, “who was irritated by everyone indiscriminately and who we will most definitely never forget.”
“I’m going to kill him,” I hissed to Sirius, my hands tensing on the table. But there was a part of me that was so stupidly proud that I couldn’t help smiling at him when he caught my eye.
Mary would have hated it. Mary hadn’t wanted us to fight. But then, Mary McDonald wasn’t here anymore and… had she been alive, we certainly wouldn’t have been so worried about carrying out our lives according to her wishes. And he’d certainly made a point. Mary couldn’t argue about that.
Johnny McDonald had stood up to clap. Sirius rose to, grinning as he pulled at my arm so that I was standing too.
“I wouldn’t worry about murder,” Sirius grinned, clapping as loudly as he could, “I think McGonagall will cover that.”
“Dunno about that,” Remus said, standing up to join us, “she looks a bit proud.”
“I hope he checked with Johnny first,” I sighed, as several more Gryffindors rose to clap with us. There were a few older students standing up on the Ravenclaw table. A loan group of Hufflepuff’s had stood up.
“He’s going to start a riot.” Frank grinned, holding hands with Alice.
“Hope so,” Sirius grinned, “up you get, Peter. We have to show solidarity with these things.”
James was walking back to the table, grinning and waving like the arrogant prat that he was. They Slytherins seemed unable to react at their table.
“Lily,” James grinned, “am I in the dog house again?”
“No,” I said, reaching forward and kissing his cheek, “most definitely not. But this cancels out the torturing thing.”
“Oh, come on,” I said, “you’ve just advertised the fact that you’re a blood traitor. You are now a walking target. You might as well have stood up at the front and yelled down with Voldemort.”
“Great idea,” Sirius, said, cupping a hand round his mouth as if to start yelling at him. Remus elbowed him in the gut. “Oi, stop repressing my passion, Moony.”
“Lily,” James grinned into my ear, just as Dumbledore stood up to announce the beginning of the feast, only to be drowned out by the sheer levels of noise, “I’m very glad that you came.”
“Let’s eat!” Sirius half yelled, before falling back into his seat and helping himself to potatoes. “To Mary McDonald and power to the muggles.”
“You’ve unleashed a monster,” I told James, grinning as I reached for a plate of roast parsnips.
Nearly time to move on then, because life was certainly doing so.
Merry Christmas all! Hope you enjoyed the chapter, because I had heeepps of fun writing it. Let me know what you thought! :)
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