Chapter 25 : Good Day?
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Even when I woke all curled up in James’s bed (which was a bad habit I was going to stop just as soon as I stopped having nightmares about my family dying), it could take as little as two minutes before we wound up bickering. James would want to stay in bed even though classes started in ten minutes, or he’d wake me up to go to early morning Quidditch practice, or James would try to kiss me even though it was too hot… and we’d wind up having a whispered argument until Sirius threw something at us.
It was good, though.
We’d fall into the pattern of a relationship properly now and it only seemed natural to keep on arguing.
“James,” I hissed, “let go of me.”
“Never,” James returned, all sleepy and gorgeous and buried in my shoulder, “if I let go you might leave.”
“That’s the idea,” I said, trying to untangle his hands from my waist, “girl day with Alice, remember?”
“No,” James said, “I don’t listen to a word you say, Evans, you know that.”
“Quit with the surname, thing.”
“You know, if you married me I’d have to quit with the surname thing.”
“James,” I sighed, finally pulling myself free, “that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.”
“You’re the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.”
“I’m leaving,” I said, making to sit up. I James’ hands snuck round my waist again, giving me about enough leeway to grab my dressing gown off the floor… but that was it.
“You can’t leave,” James said, opening his eyes. He buried one hand in the material of my t-shirt as he grappled around for his glasses with the other. I put them on his face for him with a shake of my head.
“I’m meeting you for lunch at the Three Broomsticks,” I said, “if you guys manage to make it out of bed by then.”
“I resent that,” James said. “Do you have to have a girl day?”
“If I don’t let the others have you for the afternoon they’ll probably kidnap you, anyway,” I said, “you and Sirius can get in a stupid fight and throw things at each other. You could prank someone or hex Snape and I might even pretend not to be mad about it.”
“Sacrilege! I never hex Snape.”
“Maybe you don’t cast the actual spell,” I said, “but you certainly watch whilst Sirius does it.”
“Lily, you know I would never –”
“ – oh shut up,” I laughed, eventually detaching myself and pulling the curtains back. “Do whatever you like, as long as no one gets hurt and you get to the Three Broomsticks on time.”
“Half one, yes?”
“That’s so early,” James complained, “can’t we do half one?”
“We agreed twelve.”
“Well, I wasn’t listening.”
“I know,” I sighed, “because Sirius cast a shrinking spell on Marissa Brown’s shirt, which was sexist and immature and exactly the sort of thing I’d expect from Sirius…which is why I said twelve, to punish you.”
“Urgh,” Sirius muttered from the bed next door, “can you both go be whipped elsewhere? I’m trying to sleep.”
“Half twelve?” James suggested. “I did stop Sirius shrinking your shirt.”
“Thanks so much.”
“He speaks the truth,” Sirius said, “and much too loudly for this early on a Saturday.”
“Exactly,” Sirius said, “no Quidditch means no consciousness before midday.”
“Padfoot, we have to be at the Three Broomsticks for half twelve.”
Sirius groaned. The hangings round his four poster bed opened and a pillow came flying out, hitting me in the face. James sat up and threw his back… and I’d been in this situation enough times to know that a full frontal clothing fight usually ensued. I’d wound up with a mouthful of dirty sock far too many times to want to stick around any longer.
“That’s my cue to leave.”
“Okaaay,” James whined, sitting up and pulling me into a kiss. I pulled away two minutes later when a pair of boxers landed on my head. I wasn’t going to ask whether or not they were clean, because I wasn’t entirely sure whether I could handle the answer.
“You’re all disgusting,” I said, pulling on my slippers, “enjoy having a pillow fight in your underwear, you prats. And if you’re late, James, I might kill you.”
“Half twelve!” James said, offering me a salute before sending a pillow-missile in Peter’s direction.
I decided it probably wasn’t worth arguing the twelve, half twelve point.
“So,” Alice grinned as we walked up to the Three Broomsticks, “what you’re saying is… after all the crap you gave me, you’re going to move in with James at the end of the Seventh Year?”
“Yes,” I admitted, grudgingly. Alice laughed at me, “but things are really good right now. They shouldn’t be, because You-Know-Who is attacking more and more Muggles every day, and they’re saying the Ministry probably won’t hold up for much longer… and I’m not entirely sure they’re reporting everything right in the Prophet, but I feel…”
“Right,” I said, glancing at the Three Broomsticks. This time last year, I’d been at home mourning the death of my father. Now, I was barely welcome at home… was about to move in with my boyfriend (almost entirely because it was the only safe option), I was part of a resistance movement and Sirius Black was probably my best friend. The world was absolutely crazy. “Frank’s probably going to be on time, right?” I said, glancing at the Three Broomsticks. “Because I don’t think James is going to turn up till one.”
“The great Lily Evans,” Alice beamed, “fallen from grace.”
“Waiting around for a boy.”
“It’s James,” I said, feeling slightly self-conscious, “he’s definitely got a monopoly on the waiting around.”
“True,” Alice said. “How is everything?”
Honestly? It was all brilliant. Somehow, crossing over all those final steps – the I love yous, sleeping together, starting to plan a future – had short circuited my brain away from all the things I’d been worried about previously. I was still scared of losing James, but that seemed pretty natural.
Especially after the conversation I’d had with Carolyn. Now, the idea of James fighting in a war was utterly paralysing and made me feel all the more guilty about the getting-myself-tortured thing. Not because I didn’t think I shouldn’t have done it to myself, but because I couldn’t imagine how I’d feel if James had done that.
“You look positively gooey,” Alice said, smiling, “it’s adorable.”
“Shut up,” I said as we stepped through the entrance to the Three Broomsticks. To my great surprise, the Marauders were already there (James Potter hadn’t been early to anything but a Quidditch match in his life. It used to really irritate me back before all of this stuff happened, now I’d just come to factor it into our plans). They were crowed round one of the tables in the far corner, gathering around something that James seemed to be showing them.
“Lily!” Peter said, loudly, and suddenly whatever-it-was James had been showing them was stashed in a pocket, and the four of them were drawing back looking marginally guilty. James looked slightly more flustered than normal, a hand going up to his hair without his permission.
“Er, hi Lilykins.”
“I won’t ask,” I said, “only because you’re early. It better not be dangerous.”
“Dangerous,” Sirius said with a bark of laughter, “positively deadly.”
“Shut up, Padfoot.”
“Girls,” I said, sliding into the seat next to James, “stop bickering.”
“Sirius has been bullying me,” James said, “never leave me unprotected again, Lily.”
“That’s good advice for life. Protection is important, children.”
“The sex jokes aren’t funny anymore, Sirius,” I said, nodding at Alice to sit down and join us. Frank was sure to turn up in a few minutes.
“Ignore him,” Remus said, “he’s only teasing you because he’s not getting any.”
Watching the expression on Sirius’ face shift was positively hilarious.
“Too many things are changing round here,” Sirius said, moodily, “Remus is growing a back bone, James and Lily are having sex, and Peter’s busying studying for NEWTS like they actually matter. What happened to the good old status quo, huh?”
“Would it help if I gave you all permission to use whatever-it-is James has in his pocket to prank, Snape?”
James glanced at Sirius, then at Remus and then to Peter in turn. Remus had a small smile pulling at the corner of his lips. Sirius’ moody expression dissolved slightly. Peter’s watery eyes widened in amusement. James was slightly flushed again.
“Brilliant idea,” Sirius grinned, “God, can we?”
“No,” James said.
“I don’t think you’d say that if you knew what it was,” Remus said, still smiling.
“I think I know what it is,” Alice said, eyes widening, “oh my God.”
“Please, just don’t kill anyone,” I said, glancing between them.
“The only person who might wind up dead is James, here,” Sirius said, clapping him on the back. “Who doesn’t want a butterbeer? James is paying.”
James rolled his eyes but dropped a few galleons into Sirius’s hand all the same. I curved into his side and allowed him to curl an arm around my waist. I liked the feeling of James’ feeling splayed out across my hip as if it was natural and normal for us to be in this position.
“About what Sirius said – ” I said, quietly.
“ – ignore Sirius,” James interrupted, “I always do.”
“No,” I frowned, “I mean… about you winding up dead. Your Mum was talking to me about… some stuff and I wanted to talk about the Order a bit.”
A quiet conversation at the corner of the Three Broomsticks had turned into a full blown argument by the time we’d eaten, drank a couple of Butterbeers and left the pub.
“Do you even realise how hypocritical you’re being?” James demanded. “I’m not the one who likes to get myself hurt for some stupid experiment –”
“– can you stop bringing that up?” I demanded. “I’m not saying don’t fight, James, I’m just saying that maybe we should have priorities.”
“I’m sorry,” James said, expression twisting, “I didn’t realise there could be a higher priority than some maniac trying to kill hundreds of people.” His voice dropped, because this wasn’t the kind of conversation you were supposed to have in public these days.
Still, there wasn’t much chance of us being overheard. The advice issued by the school for this weekends Hogsmeade trip was to travel in groups where possible, and since meeting up for lunch the plan was to all stick together. Unfortunately, that meant all the Marauders and Alice and Frank were baring witness to our stupid argument.
“I don’t want you to get yourself killed!”
“It’s not the top of my to do list,” James hissed back, “but if that’s what it takes…”
“This is what I’m talking about!” I said, grabbing his sleeve and forcing him to look at me. “I’m not saying I’m any better, but your Mum’s right. We’re… we’re building a life together.” James’ expression softened slightly.
“Lily, can we talk about this later?”
“If you promise me you’re not going to be a martyr.”
“We’re all going to be sodding martyrs,” James said, “If I can die so you don’t have to, you bet that I’m going to do it.”
“James,” I hissed, tears springing up to my eyes without my permission. He was telling the truth, I could tell that. He was scowling and his hair was messy and his glasses had slipped down his nose slightly. He was James Potter and I loved him and he was right… the chances were, we were all going to die. I hadn’t cared and then suddenly James made me care and I was suddenly struggling to work out whether it was all worth it.
Of course, I didn’t have a choice. I was a mudblood. James, though, he was a pureblood and he could just take a step back and survive but, no, he was always going to throw himself in front of a curse because he was a stupid, brave, noble, Gryffindor. “Don’t say that.”
“This is the world we live in.”
“Well, it sucks,” I said, blinking at him as I took a step forward, “can you just promise me that you’ll be careful?”
“You wouldn’t make that promise to me.”
“I could,” I said, “I could do it. If you asked me to.”
The moment, hung, suspended as James seemed to consider whether or not he wanted to ask. My heart was thudding in my chest… maybe he would. Maybe we could run away. We could live abroad, away from You-Know-Who and the Death Eaters and the Muggle attacks… it would be difficult to persuade Sirius to come, but maybe it would be possible. Remus wouldn’t stay behind without us. Peter would follow them everywhere. We could all just get out and be a family somewhere. A safe, messed up little family circle...
Then someone screamed.
We all seemed to step forward in unison. I pushed past a group of fourth years, stumbling off the pavement.
My heart stopped.
They were wearing masks. I’d heard them described in the Prophet, but that didn’t compare to seeing them in practice; the skeletal masks and the dark black robes. They looked like grim reapers. They brought death. Death Eaters.
And they were sending flashes of light at a bunch of kids, and my heart was in my mouth, and I couldn’t breathe… and I knew that Carolyn Potter was right, because I couldn’t walk away from this anymore than James could. I couldn’t have that safety when things like this were happening. I just couldn’t do it.
“I’m a Mudblood!” I yelled, running out onto the pavement as I pulled out my wand. “I’m a Mudblood you bastards!”
James was going to be so mad at me.
“I’m a Black,” Sirius said, right behind me, “Sirius Black.”
I could almost hear him winking.
“Pureblood Blood traitor,” James said. I wanted to take a moment to look behind him and smile, but there wasn’t time. We’d certainly successfully got their attention, but that came at the price of thirty or so hooded figures turning to look at us.
And holy shit that…
That was Lord Voldemort.
Sirius stood in the centre of the Hospital wing, re-enacting the moment Remus was hit with a stunner for the seventh time. He, once again, brandished his wand stupidly before letting out an ‘oh’ of exaggerated surprise and slipping to the floor again.
I was trying very hard not to laugh.
“Sod off,” Remus said, now conscious once again, throwing one of his pillows feebly in Sirius’ direction. “What did you expect me to do? Fall with grace and dignity?”
“Always, Moony,” Sirius grinned.
“You weren’t quite so bloody arrogant when you broke your arm, prat.”
“Shattered,” Sirius corrected, nodding to him seriously, “the curse shattered my arm.”
“Isn’t that your job?” Sirius grinned, picking the pillow off the floor and throwing it back in Remus’s direction with a bark of laughter.
The hospital wing was nearly full and every conscious person was watching Sirius’display, smiling as though Hogsmeade hadn’t just been attacked by a bunch of Death Eaters; as much as I half wanted to protest against his behaviour, it seemed to be honestly distracting those who’d been hurt. And I had to admit, the aftermath of nearly dying and left me finding everything a little bit too funny.
If this raw feeling meant laughing or crying, it was probably better to laugh.
“Leave it out,” I said, pulling myself into more of a sitting position and nearly bursting into tears as I did so. The pain shot throw my stomach and I caught a breath of air, tensing my shoulders until I found a position I could stay in once again, “I can’t even say how inappropriate this is.”
“I’ll stop when you stop laughing,” Sirius grinned, “and you’re right, Evans. Your downfall was a thing of beauty. One minute, you’re having ago at James for wanting to be a martyr… and the next second you’re throwing yourself at a bunch of Death Eaters as a willing bit of meat. God, the timing.”
I let out another huff of laughter.
“Bloody stupid,” Remus said, fixing a stern glare at me for a moment.
“Oh, don’t you start,” I grinned, “I’m sure I’m going to have this argument with James plenty.”
“I’m a Mudblood!” Sirius mimicked, his voice taking on absurdly high proportions. “How long was it before you went down after that? Thirty seconds? Twenty?”
“It was at least five minutes,” I protested.
“Two,” Remus interjected. “I’d say two minutes before you were hit. Another ten before you passed out.”
“How would you know?” I asked, grinning. “Didn’t you only last seven in total?”
“You sent a stunning spell at Lord sodding Voldemort,” Sirius beamed, half laughing as he turned to me. “A stunning spell!”
“Yeah,” Sirius said, “but the sheer audacity. All right, everyone… round of applause for Evans, possibly the dumbest person you’ll ever meet. Peter,” Sirius said, pausing over Peter’s bed and poking him with his wand, “join in the applause, Peter.”
Peter had lost consciousness a few minutes after reaching the Hospital Wing. All I remembered after being hit in the stomach (and I wasn’t sure what with or who by, but the Matron had described it as ‘nasty’ and suggested I didn’t try to move much for the next few days), was light and adrenaline and pain; there were wands flashing and spells flying, anger and panic.
Next thing I knew, Sirius was reviving me. He looked scared for a moment, before the grin stretched out across his features and he told me my collapse had been ridiculous. James had carried me back to the hospital wing, his grip slightly too tight, but Dumbledore had pulled him away to his office before we’d had a chance to talk.
Peter was bleeding from the head the first time I saw him and it had permeated Sirius’ default setting of amusement, resulting in an angry silence until the matron declared that he’d be fine and would wake up in the hour. Remus had just passed out. Sirius had shattered the bone in his arm Frank was swimming in and out of consciousness, occasionally adding a few breathless words to the conversation before he was back under. Alice was shook up but unharmed. I was hit with something ‘nasty.’ James had a bloody arm, but nothing more.
No one died. There would be no lasting injuries.
So, although the Hospital Wing was full to the brimming point and the mood should have been sombre, Sirius was acting the clown and loudly debating what colour to jinks Peter’s hair whilst he was ‘having a lie in.’
“Pink?” Sirius said, “it’s always a classic.”
I couldn’t help myself. A giggle un-lodged itself from my chest and burst out into the room, sending a ripple of pain through my gut.
“Sirius...” I said, biting my lip, unable to finish my reprimand.
“Stop making me laugh, idiot, it hurts too much.”
“Budge up,” Sirius said, stepping away from the centre of the room and towards my bed, still with that bloody smirk.
Sirius had given up his bed the second his arm was fixed, grimly insisting it go to someone who needed it more. That had been one of the few moments of seriousness that had snuck through and it reminded me, once again, that beyond Sirius’ series of personas, he took this war more seriously than anyone.
“Fine,” I said, shuffling to one side of my bed, wincing as I did so, to give Sirius enough room to sit down next to me. Sirius acting like such a colossal idiot was keeping me grounded whilst James was still absent, no doubt going over what had happened with Dumbledore (who’d arrived in the last few minutes, effectively ending the battle with what I’d be told was an ‘awesome display’). “But stick to your side of the bed, prat.”
“The bickering. God, you’re like –”
“– if you say an old married couple, Remus, I swear I will smite you,” I interrupted.
“I was going to say siblings,” Remus said.
“Gross,” Sirius said, “there’s no way I could ever be related to something so orange.”
“Right,” I laughed, “ginger jokes, Sirius. Is this really the time?”
“Well, screw you. Wait…”
“– you say one more word, Black, you’ll regret it.”
“Please,” Sirius grinned, “you can barely sit up. Whatcha gonna do?”
“I’ll set my big bad boyfriend on you.”
“You must be talking about your other boyfriend,” Sirius smirked, “because the last time I was scared of James was… oh, never. Show us your battle scars, Evans.”
“Fine,” I conceded, balling up the material of my shirt and lifting it upwards. My stomach was a black mess, highlighted with hues of green and purple and eventually fading out to yellow. I winced looking at it. It certainly wasn’t pretty.
“Evan’s is stripping!” Sirius declared. I elbowed him, our shoulders pressing together for a moment as I tried very hard not to laugh. “Can I see your tattoo?”
“So,” Sirius said, glancing at Remus, “first impressions on bauldy-Voldie?”
“Sirius,” I said, meaning to be stern but dissolving into hopeless giggles again, “you can’t just – ”
“ – he looks worse than last time,” Alice said, quietly.
“Right,” Sirius said, “I forgot you already had the pleasure of meeting his Lordship.”
“Sirius,” I said, “stop it. You’re killing me.”
“No,” Sirius said, “that’s Voldemort, the one killing you.”
“Sirius,” I said, laughing. The movement sent another wave of pain through my stomach, leaving me blinking back the tears. I shut my eyes for a second, trying to regulate my breathing… but with Sirius still cracking jokes and making those comments it was hard to take anything seriously.
“It’s not… s’not funny.”
“Face it, Lilykins,” Sirius muttered, “it’s god damn hilarious.”
“James not back yet?” Alice asked. She was clutching Frank’s hand, worry etched onto her forehead (Sirius’ magic hadn’t worked on her, but I think if James was unconscious I wouldn’t have found anything very funny either… and, besides, Alice never did find Sirius that funny).
“No,” I said, glancing at the door.
“He’ll be back soon, Lily,” Sirius said, “everything’s fine… ignoring, of course, the fact that you’ve just printed a bull’s eye on your forehead and that little thing where we’re probably all going to die. Also, James is going to be pissed.”
“Are you?” I asked, curiously. “It was stupid.”
“It was a thing of beauty,” Sirius grinned, “I’m a Mudblood’ And, I think Evans, you probably saved those third years lives… James knows that too.”
“Sure, why not? If it makes you feel better,” Sirius grinned, “now, do you think Peter would wake up if I put Ingleton’s irritating itching powder down his knickers?”
“Is this just an excuse to get in Peter’s pants?” Remus asked, and then I was laughing all over again.
The laugher died in my throat when I saw James and Dumbledore stood in the entry to the hospital wing, giving way to sheer relief. I’d wanted to wrap my finger’s around James’s wrist since the first hooded figures showed up, wanted to fall into the feeling of safety that only James seemed able to conjure (although Sirius was a second best, obviously); I wanted one of his smiles and his arms and that gaze of his.
I let out a breath I didn’t realise I’d been holding, before the tension started to rebuild again.
Dumbledore looked grave and serious, which made sense… but James didn’t look right. Before he’d left, he’d look stoic and angry… but it had been different from this.
There was something round about the lines of his shoulders, because I found myself unconsciously trying to rise to greet him. I barely felt the stabbing pain in my stomach, but I couldn’t move past it, instead falling back into my sitting position with a grimace.
“James,” I questioned, as he walked towards us.
He stopped at my bed and sat down. Except, it seemed more like he was no longer capable of standing; he just dropped onto the bed with this steely expression that made me blink.
“Lily,” He said, and his voice sounded so broken and wrong that it nearly winded me. I reached out and folded my fingers through his, all traces of the humour that had accompanied us before vanished.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, my throat suddenly tight. “What’s happened?”
“There…” James stopped short, swallowed, “there was a fire… at…at my house.”
I could feel the sharp way his throat constricted around the words and the pure concentration involved in getting the words out. I could see the Potter’s mansion at the forefront of my mind, burning and ash; a lifetime of memories, turned to dust. I tightened my grip on his hand.
“The House Elf… he was old and… there was a candle and…it… it got to the potions ingredients and… it’s gone. All of it.”
My belongs were there, I thought absently, and all of James’s things… a whole life time of memories burnt out and gone. I glanced towards Sirius, but his expression had frozen… I knew that Sirius had spent most of the last few summers at the Potter Mansion, but there was something wrong with his expression too. Maybe it was his home, but he seemed a little to pale and –
“Your parents,” Sirius said.
My head snapped round to face James again, heart beginning to thump in my chest
James didn’t answer.
Oh god oh god oh god.
“Carolyn and Magnus,” Sirius repeated, forcefully.
“Mum’s… in St Mungos,” James managed.
“Dad,” Sirius demanded.
And oh god he said ‘Dad’ not ‘your Dad’ and I could feel the pain already bubbling up in my chest, threatening to spill over. No, don’t not James, we’ve lost too much we’re too broken no you can’t… I closed my eyes.
Except it wasn’t my right to block this out. James deserved more than that.
I opened my eyes just in time to see the slight shake of James’ head, and it hurt like a stab wound.
Um, yeah. As a warning, if you're looking for any kind of happy ending LOOK AWAY NOW. Actually, there's a little bit of happy in the next chapter... but then we're done with happy.
And also surviving.
Sometimes, I really hate JK for making me write this ending, but it has to be done. Next chapter is half written so should be up very soon. Thanks to all who are still reading! I can't believe how quickly we're heading towards the ending now. It's been an age since I started writing TAOB... well, I'll save the emotional A/N for a few more chapters.
This chapter has now been beta'd by the lovely Mutt N Feathers! Isn't she wonderful?
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