Chapter 6 : Freedom
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Warning: there aren’t any insults or anything, and I tried to do it impartially, but there are some discussions of religion and faith, and the characters are obviously biased one way or the other and have their mistaken assumptions about religion so there are some inaccuracies, so if you’re really delicate about Christianity, don’t read.
I was finally finishing the notes on the effects of the Babbling Beverage in my notebook when Jack sent me a new letter, handwriting scrawled. He’d abruptly stopped answering the day before, and I assumed it was something to do with his dad- but apparently his muggle ‘friends’ had forced him into a night of muggle games.
If, of course, if your definition of ‘game’ is stealing autocars* and senselessly murdering innocent girls. Jack said he didn’t enjoy it at all, but sometimes it was necessary to pretend to keep their friendship.
I simply told him they should keep their violence, misogyny and violent misogyny up their arse and moved on; I didn’t want to know any more about it.
Fortunately, his letter did as I wanted and didn’t mention them again. Instead, he rephrased all the words of comfort he had said over the previous week, trying his best to help me without being there.
‘-only one more day -‘
‘-you’ve done it before so you can do it again-‘
‘-I know it’s not easy, but I promise it’s ending-‘
It struck me, as I was reading it, how very much he sounded like he was coaxing a jumper away from the ledge.
A day until I was back to my mundane reality: just a day more of Ellie, before months without her. I hated my time at home, but I loved my time with her.
When there was a light rap of knuckles on the door, I stuffed my letter into my desk draw and slammed it shut, like I was hiding a dirty secret. Dad eased the door open and peeked around it.
“Nope, it’s cool. What’s up?”
I tried to relax a little in my seat, so I plodded my feet up on my bed and leant back in my chair whilst dad cautiously entered the room, glancing around.
It had changed quite a lot over the years- childish wallpaper covered with posters, posters torn down in favour of cork boards stuffed full of memories and ideas; shelves of toys replaced with shelves of makeup, to be again replaced with thick textbooks; organisation via alphabet and importance favoured over shoving everything carelessly away in the hopes it would sort itself out.
“Wanted to check up on you. Got all your work done?”
“Yep. Finished the last task yesterday.”
“Well done. How’s the team?”
“Doing well. Like I told mum- we won against Ravenclaw, and we don’t have another game now until Hufflepuff. We’re training a lot, though- the Beaters’ core strength is still lacking, and the Chasers really need to learn how to... well, be me, Al and James.”
He smiled. “That’s an unfair expectation- you three practically read each other’s minds.”
“That’s an exaggeration,” I told him, rolling my eyes and relaxing a little more into my seat. “We just communicated with our eyes, and it bloody well worked. So, that’s what I expect from my team for a flawless finish.”
He cocked his head, bright green eyes shining as it caught the daylight. “Well, anyway, do you want a cup of tea?”
“I’m good, thanks. Is Ellie still sleeping?”
“Yeah. I think it’s going to be a while. Do you want to go out?”
“Where?” I asked rhetorically, a little bitterly, but I shook my head. “No, I’m fine. I’ll write some notes on a potion I’m working on, I guess. Nothing special.”
“It’s the last day of your holiday, Lily. Are you sure you don’t want to go somewhere or do something? We could play a round of Quidditch, two a side.”
“I’m fine, thanks, dad. I’m glad for some time to do nothing- I don’t get much of it with eight NEWTs.”
“Right. Call if you change your mind, okay?”
I was seeing Jack the next day.
Y’know, same Jack that snogged me.
Hot Ravenclaw Jack who was amazingly kind, clever and funny.
The same Hot Ravenclaw Jack who I wasn’t actually sure was genetically possible, due to perfection.
(The perfection thing was hard for me to grasp.)
I mean, he was so fantastic. He called me out on my bullshit. He made me laugh, even if I didn’t want to. He liked me. He made me feel safe. He gave me this weird, bubbling feeling in my stomach. He had this way about him that was both wise and completely free. He helped me.
Was there anything he couldn’t do?
(Because the kiss was spectacular, I’d just like to point out.)
With him dancing through my mind (and carrying a large flag that said ‘PAY ATTENTION TO ME’), I reread his latest letter, smiling slightly and wondering what it would be like to see him.
We hadn’t explicitly talked about it, but he had alluded to it a few times and he hadn’t been at all awkward. So, really...
What I’m trying to say is that I really hoped to get a date out of it.
After a while of fiddling with the edges of the paper, I tossed into my desk drawer and stood, stretching before straightening my faded grey t-shirt.
She had the door open. Biting her lip, she looked a little unsteady on her feet, which usually meant she was confused. That day, it meant something different.
“I’m sorry about yesterday. I mean, I think it was yesterday. Sometimes I’m sort of... muddled, and I don’t know what to do about it. I woke you up, didn’t I? I’m sorry, I just...”
“Shh,” I said softly, reaching my arms out to her as I stood, and she fell quickly into them.
“I love you,” she mumbled into my shoulder. “Thank you so much for everything. I can’t believe you write to me so often.”
I smiled a little. “Sometimes I’m all you remember... I have to. You’d do it for me.”
She pulled away, and rested her finger on the corner of my lips. “Don’t smile like that.”
“Sadly? Like it’s not really true. Be happy for you, Lily. Don’t lie to me like that. I can see through it.”
I nodded, smile dropping. “Okay.”
She watched me for a moment, her own face a picture of mourning. “God, I’m sorry. I didn’t want anyone to get hurt... that’s why I gave myself up to Carrow. I just made everything worse.”
“You can’t change what you did.”
She smiled bitterly. “Time Turner.”
I inhaled sharply, but decided to forego telling her about the day after Ellie’s attack. The selfsame idea had struck me, and I attacked dad trying to get into the Department of Mysteries. He easily overpowered me. I was driven by anger, by fear, by grief. He had his daughter’s life in his hands- of course he stopped me.
It was stupid, but briefly gave me hope.
“You said ‘God’. What is that?”
“He’s a deity.” She settled on my beds, so I curled on my seat again. “You know we did about religion once in Muggle Studies?”
“Well, that was a pretty useless lesson, to be honest. We didn’t really learn about anything- for example, there are loads of different religions, and those religions have different concepts of what God is. But within the religions there are different denominations, or groups, as well, that put emphasis on different aspects of that God and their beliefs revolve around that. Are you with me so far?”
I smiled slightly, and nodded again.
“Each denomination has different practices that involve God, but in Christianity, which is a religion, there is a pretty unanimous agreement that prayer is a way of communicating with their God. Mum was a Christian,” she told me. “When I was seven I walked in on her praying. Praying is sort of just talking, but to God. Sometimes you kneel to show your respect, and mum was kneeling. I was asking what she was doing, and she told me. She was praying for me and dad. She asked me if I wanted to join her, so I did. I never did again, because I didn’t hear Him, but saying ‘God’ is sort of like a prayer,” she told me. “It’s a cry for help. It’s the muggle equivalent of saying ‘Merlin’. It’s a plea, because you think only someone more powerful than you can help, and God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-seeing.
“So, I said it because I... need help. Understanding how this could have happened.”
I tried to wipe away my tears before she saw, but she did. She always did. She held me tightly while tried not to sob.
Kneeling by my bed, hands clasped together like the book said. I’d dug it out from the local library.
“Hi. I need your help.”
“My friend is ill. Ellie Wood? She’s really kind. I bet you’d like that. She needs your help. I’m doing what I can, I promise, but I’m so- alone. I’m alone.
“I need you to just make her better, okay? I need my best friend back. And sometimes she’s here, like today- today was great- but I need her all the time. Even though it’s too late to do my NEWT’s with her, I just want my friend to be healthy again. So I need to get into the Department of Mysteries, so I can make her better. You don't even need to make her better- I don’t think it’s too much to ask for. I don’t think it’s unfair.
“...please. Think about it. I’ll do anything.”
I peeked back at the book.
“So, erm... ah-men, I guess.”
One last time, I clutched Ellie in my arms, and she held tightly back. I touched her right hand, and her ring.
“Keep it on, yeah?” I asked her, and she smiled back.
“Always, I promise. I won’t let you go.”
I hugged mum. “Make sure, right? It’s the only way I feel connected to her sometimes.”
The train’s steam blew, blasting mum’s answer away, giving me no time to watch her expression jump from sad to puzzled.
“Bye!” I yelled, hopping up onto the train and waving at them, bag swinging on my back happily as many dragged trunks up with only seconds to spare. I laughed, helping a fifth year drag their case somewhere less precarious, and moving on to find a compartment to sit in.
I stumbled across Roxy first, and she waved me in excitedly.
“How was your holiday?” she asked the second the door slid open. All her friends were sat nearer the window and ignored me.
“It was okay. A bit boring. You?”
“It was... interesting,” she said, a slight frown on her face.
“Ooh, do tell,” I said, sitting opposite her and waiting for the offered gossip.
As is turns out, Roxy was having boy trouble. One of her friends had fancied a boy for a long time, and she’d fancied for him for about a month. Roxy had agreed with the girl (Shauna?) to not make a move on him, and had also promised the girl she’d feel happy for her if they started dating each other (although the girl made no such promise). And, as it usually does, the boy had asked Roxy out and now the girl was insanely jealous and threatening to end the friendship if she accepted the date.
“This friend,” I began slowly, “is she... a good friend? Not as in close, as in treats you well when you are together and you trust her?”
Roxy paused. “...no, not really. I don’t really like her that much. She’s friends with my friends, so that’s why I hang out with her.”
“And this boy... what’s he like? Do you trust him?”
She bit her lip, but I could see the smile tugging forcefully at her. “He’s wonderful. He’s been my best mate for a year.”
“Take the date,” I advised, “and ditch the girl, regardless of what she’s said. She’d no good for you anyway.”
“What about our mutual friends?”
“Well, they can make a decision, can’t they? If they’re really immature enough to take sides, and take hers, they never were your friends. If they’re immature enough to take sides and choose you, well, great, they like you but they’re immature. And if they’re smart, they’ll figure out not to take sides, and wait for you or the friend to make them choose sides.”
“Why would that be smart?”
“Because the smarter people will always choose the side that didn’t make them choose in the first place.”
She nodded slowly, clearly taking it all in. “That’s really clever.”
She smirked at me, then kicked my shin.
“OWW- ROXANNE WEASLEY, YOU BITCH!”
After being herded gently into the Great Hall, I sat with Roxy and her friends. I don’t think she minded at all, but Veronica caught my eye from the Ravenclaw table. Shyly, I wave over to her, who grinned and waved back. She gestured to an empty seat to her, frowning and shrugging. I shrugged too- I had no idea where Jack was- and she frowned more honestly, quickly asking the friends next to her something. She perked up, smiled, and gave me the thumbs-up, pointing to the door.
I didn’t really understand, but nodded anyway. They knew where he was.
Speeches were made, food was consumed by the vast expanse of hungry teenagers, and beds were met with open arms and a sleepy head.
The next day was weird- I was greeted by Jenna (?) Waters outside Transfiguration, who insisted that I sit with her. I did so, but Jack stumbled into the lesson five minutes later (five minutes late) and I wanted to sit with him. He, however just smiled at me from across the room- I guess he thought I’d made a new friend or whatever. Probably part of his Grand Master ‘Make-Lily-A-Nice-Human-Being’ Plan.
“-and I marked your essays over the holidays. I felt that some were... lacking, and others exceptional,” Professor McGonagall said, her eyes lingering tightly on some of the more poker-faced members of the class.
With a gentle wave of her wand, the essay settled on the desk in front of me.
The vivid green ink claimed only one thing- ‘Outstanding’.
I bit my lip and tried not to look too happy.
“Urgh, I’ve given up,” Jenna (?) sighed, throwing her ‘Acceptable’ back onto the desk. “If I try, my grades just get shitter. How did you do?”
I flashed her sheet without really showing her, but she caught it. A smile suddenly lifted her sullen expression. “Oh my goodness! That’s great! Congrats, Lily, you did awesome!”
“Thanks,” I murmured. I glanced to McGonagall, who pursed her lips and addressed the class again.
After a few moments, Jenna (?) began to tug at the papers from under my elbow.
“Can I make a copy of it and see if I can see where I’ve gone wrong?” she asked in a whisper, under McGonagall’s commanding voice.
I tapped it twice with my wand, and handed the copy to her. She smiled gratefully, piling them on top of her own, before settling down to listen about whatever it was McGonagall had started the lesson on.
I was a little late for Potions, and practically running.
(I say practically, and I mean I was. Although I was doing my absolute best to avoid knocking over any first years, because, well, I do sometimes have a conscience.)
“GET OUT OF THE WAY!” I bellowed, as my bag nearly toppled a midget over. It seemed to me as though the corridor had suddenly become an obstacle course of illegal spells in the corridor, which I should be stopping but I’m already five minutes late for class and crap bollocks fuck, and annoyingly arrogant small people who think it’s acceptable to step out in front of me.
Nuh uh not happening get out.
“IF YOU DON’T GET OUT OF MY WAY-“ shoves arsehole fourth year boy, who was laughing until his nosebleed on the windowsill, “-I WILL GIVE YOU ALL DETENTION UNTIL CHRISTMAS!”
“You can’t do that!” yelled some idiot a million miles behind me.
“I’M THE FUCKING HEAD GIRL, I CAN SET A BOGGART ON YOU IF I WANT TO,” I hollered under my arm.
And... I was on my final sprint to the steps before the dungeons when I splatted into another person with such force that they were knocked onto their arses with a hefty thump.
“Shit, sorry!” I gasped, grabbing her arm and yanking her to her feet. “Really not looking, gotta get to class, sorry, I-“
“It’s fine,” she smiled, all cheery and grinning and fine.
I turned on my heel and began clicking down the steps.
“Don’t tell me you’re sorry,” I spat, stopping but not looking back. “You’ve told me a million times and guess what? I don’t care. She’s still suffering, no matter what you say or do.”
There was a pause, in which she tried to get her breath back.
“But I am,” she said quietly. “And I’m going to keep saying it until you believe it.”
I snapped then, and glared at her. “Why? I believe you, I just don’t care.”
“You don’t, though. I need you to believe it. I need you to-“
I stared at her. I believed her tears.
“Because she- Ellie- can’t.”
In many ways, I pitied her.
In other ways, I didn’t.
But I walked away regardless, because her guilt could never soothe my pain.
“Miss Potter, you are ten minutes late for my class. Why on earth should I let you in?”
Scary Gardner was in full force.
“Because... my holiday essay is nine inches longer than it needs to be and I’ve never-not had an Outstanding in this class?”
Her eyes narrowed as my hand proffered the essay, but she took it and allowed me to pass and sit at my desk, alone. Jack was missing, and it genuinely was becoming a concern for me.
I thought that he was... maybe avoiding me.
But he’d been flirting, right?
He had. Through letter, hell, in even in person sometimes. And we got on well and I liked him and I was pretty sure he liked me and shit. Had I made it all up in my head?
Oh fuck, what if-
“Who is making that scratching noise?” Miss Gardner demanded, and I blinked back into reality.
The whole class stilled, staring around blankly at each other and hoping not to get blamed.
We all jumped slightly when it resumed, loudly, and even those at the back of the class were turning around.
“I think it’s coming from the door,” one of them called out.
Gardner frowned, then swooped to it and whipped it open. Before she could say anything to the seemingly empty corridor, a bird swooped under her arm and landed on my desk.
A tawny owl, to be precise.
“Hello, beautiful,” I mumbled. It dropped a little at my hand, ruffled its feathers, and swooped out of the open door without so much as a hoot.
Everyone was staring at me.
“...I wasn’t expecting any mail?” I said hesitantly, picking it up.
It had the Ministry of Magic seal.
Oh crap oh crap oh crap.
It was a response from the Department of Mysteries. They’d already decided.
That was either really good or really bad.
“Can I open this outside?” I asked her, already getting up and not really bothered about the answer.
She nodded after a glance over the letter.
“You are excused from this lesson, but do be sure to catch up with the work,” she said briskly, handing me my bag.
“Are you sure-“
“Either way, Miss Potter, you are going to be in no state to concentrate.”
I nodded, and she saw me to the door.
“For what it’s worth,” she said, smiling gently, “I really hope you get it. You deserve it.”
“Professor Lupin talks about you a lot.”
Then she shut the door, and I was left staring at this letter.
It was kind of the letter I’d needed to see since the beginning- since Ellie, because they were doing research that could make Ellie better, but they were being too slow.
They needed me, and hell, I needed them.
With shaking hands, I peeled open the seal, and eased out the letter.
After a few deep breaths, I forced myself to open it.
Dear Miss L. Potter,
We appreciate your interest in the apprenticeships in the Department of Mysteries. However, we regret to inform you that whilst your academics and extracurricular activities are numerous and impressive, your field work does not match the standard set by your peers. We feel it would be unwise to offer you anything whilst you have not fully explored your options, and suggest you apply yourself in the next year to research if you wish to apply again next year.
Thank you for your application, and I hope to see another in a year.
Head of Recruitment
My breathing was unsteady and my palms sweaty and I couldn’t hold the letter and I dropped it and my bag was suddenly really fucking heavy and I wanted it to go away and holy hell, why couldn’t I just get one thing?
Why can’t one thing go right? Why can’t I just get something?
Does the world hate me? Does everyone think I’m a bad person?
I know I’m a bad person; I’ve just never given a shit about it before.
I kicked the wall. Agony shot up my leg.
“I HATE YOU!” I screamed, suddenly kicking it again and again and again and the door opened again and Gardner was stopping me kicking the wall and fuck I think I just kicked a teacher and shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit
I can’t I can’t I can’t
I need Ellie I need Jack I need help
failed her twice
out of her arms
don’t know how
of the dungeons
the pain hurts
so much screaming
please it hurts
ellie ellie ellie oh God please
Teddy’s holding me
we’re in his class, but they’re leaving
and he’s holding me
oh God oh God oh God
God, please help me
A/N *Bless her heart, she mixed up ‘automobile’ and ‘motorcar’. Apologies for the lateness of the chapter!
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