Chapter 24 : The Logical Song
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Also, I am very tired right now. Please excuse all typos/mistakes.
Chapter image by me.
“There are times when all the world's asleep, the questions run too deep for such a simple man. Won't you please, please tell me what we've learned? I know it sounds absurd but please tell me who I am. ” - Supertramp, 1979
The atmosphere inside the Seventh Year Gryffindor male dormitory was heavy and damp. Someone opened a window and an icy gust of wind snapped through the room … but James Potter barely noticed the change in temperature. He hung his head dimly and shortly afterwards, began to rub the back of his neck; he refused to look at the ominous Daily Prophet headline sitting on the bedside table next to him.
PEACEFUL DEMONSTRATION IN SCOTLAND TURNS VIOLENT
Peter let out a large sigh as he rolled over to the other side of his four-poster bed while Sirius yawned and stretched his arms. Remus returned from the window and resumed his earlier position as he scribbled across a piece of parchment with his feather quill … and shortly after she turned off the sink, Gemma emerged from the bathroom, wearing a very thin white tank top and printed harem pants, and scampered towards Sirius’ bed. James averted his eyes when he realized she wasn’t wearing a bra.
“Why the long faces, mates?” the Seer asked with a large grin as she playfully wrapped her arms around her boyfriend.
An awkward silence hung in the air as the Marauders relived the dark news.
“Oh, right,” she muttered.
James huffed and ran a hand through his hair as he flopped back onto his bed. The fall jostled his glasses and as the Head Boy moved to steady them, he felt a large cloud of melancholy form over him.
“Well! Let’s play a game," Gemma blurted.
“A game?” Peter asked with a raised brow.
“Come on,” she cried as she clapped her hands, “let’s have a go. I’m sick of all this moping about - we need fun!”
“Gemma, I don’t think anyone’s up for that,” Sirius muttered and she sighed with annoyance as she deflated. James scrunched his eyes shut and ran his hand through his messy hair again; he began to dread the fact that he was due to patrol the Castle in 15 minutes.
“What about a prank, eh?” the Hufflepuff asked with a knowing smirk as she elbowed her boyfriend. “Would that cheer you up?”
“It’s almost two o’clock in the morning,” Sirius muttered as he pulled the covers over them. “Sorry dear, my genius is only accessible after a full night’s sleep.” Gemma yelped as he dragged her into a tight embrace.
“Sirius, I’m not tired!”
“Suit yourself,” he grumbled as he released her.
A welcomed silence finally settled over the room … but it was very short lived.
“Remus!” Gemma called as she leapt off Sirius’ bed towards the werewolf, her every move beginning to shimmer with excitement. The Head Boy rubbed his temples, still trying to avoid the newspaper next to him, and heard them begin to converse. “What are you writing, hmmmm?”
“Nothing,” Remus said softly. He stuck his tongue out determinedly as he finished his sentence.
“I know that tone,” Gemma teased as she mischievously looked over his shoulder to see his work. “You aren’t writing your Potions essay, are you?”
“You’re inquisitive this evening,” the former Prefect remarked under his breath. Although James felt completely hollow and emotionally spent, a small smile tugged at his lips as he continued to eavesdrop on their conversation from across the room.
“I’m bored,” she grinned back. “So is it a short story? Novel? Oh – wait – look! You’re quoting poetry in a letter to Marianne, how romantic! Sirius, why don’t you ever do that?”
“I don’t think he knows how to!” Peter chuckled from his bed.
“Not true,” Sirius grumbled as he pushed back the covers and leaned against his pillows. James remained silent, but his smile continued to grow. “And I’ve never done it because you’ve never asked me to. Are you saying you want -”
“No,” the Hufflepuff cut in with a laugh and then lightheartedly put her head on Remus’ shoulder. “So who are you citing? Frost? Whitman? Shakespeare? ‘Though she be but little, she is fierce!’”
“I’d say that describes Marianne pretty accurately,” Peter muttered.
“If you must know,” Remus smirked as he turned to face Gemma, ‘”I’m not quoting anyone.”
“Original work!” the girl cried as she lifted her head. “I love it! Can I read -”
“I’m not finished yet,” the werewolf growled as he protectively put his arm over the letter. The Seer frowned but respected his wishes as her eyes began to flit around the room; suddenly, her gaze locked onto James’ bed and he gulped as she vaulted away from Remus.
“James!” she buzzed. “You’re awfully quiet.”
He felt the right words form on his lips but he couldn’t bring himself to say them; he could only think about the bloody descriptions, terrifying photographs, and innocent casualties featured in the Daily Prophet’s morning report of the Aberdeen assault. His breath caught in his throat and he began to cough anxiously as she continued to stare at him.
“Gemma,” Sirius warned from across the room, “leave Prongs alone. He’s about to patrol.”
“No,” James heaved with a sigh, “it’s alright.” He frowned as he caught her gaze once more. “It’s just been a long day.”
Gemma grimaced slightly and turned towards Sirius … but immediately reversed her position so she could aim her pointer finger back at James.
“Aren’t you turning 18 this month?” she questioned.
“Yeah, March 27th,” he answered, extremely confused.
“We should throw you a party!” the Hufflepuff exclaimed as she threw her hands in the air. “My word, why didn’t I think of it before? Oooo, Lily could help me with this. We … we should make it a fancy dress party! That way everyone could have costumes and -”
“Gemma,” Sirius growled.
“Ughhhh,” she groaned. “Fine. I’m going out for a smoke. Pete? Care to join?”
“No thanks,” Peter gulped as she grabbed her pack and slipped on her snow boots. “I’m trying to quit.”
“Aren’t you forgetting your cloak?” Remus asked just before she ran out the door.
“Heating charms, mate,” Gemma winked. One of her straps fell down her shoulder and James saw her playful demeanor quickly turn saucy and sexual. “I’ll deal with you, Sirius Black, when I get back.”
As the door slammed shut behind her, the room’s energy dimmed significantly.
“How is she so bloody cheery?” Peter exclaimed, echoing James’ inner thoughts. “Padfoot, are you sure she’s just smoking gillyweed?”
“I’m sure,” Sirius grumbled as he put his hands over his face in desperation. “She’s been draining her Gringotts account to make sure she has the purest stuff.”
The boy dropped his arms to his sides.
“Merlin, I dunno what’s going on with her. After the Hogsmeade attack, she was jittery as all hell but her nerves morphed into this … perpetual happiness. For the last two weeks, she’s been ecstatic about life and never slows down. I’ve tried my best to keep up with her and always be by her side, but it’s exhausting! She has a huge skip in her step, she seems to do all her homework as soon as she gets it, and man, she wants to shag all the time. She does this thing with her tongue -”
“Ah, ah, ah!” Peter said as he placed his hands over his ears. “Too much information! Don’t need to know that!”
“I asked her about it,” Remus softly admitted from the other side of the room. “At first, she said it was just nerves and nothing to worry about. I asked her again last Thursday and she said she had a huge breakthrough – that she was in the process of ‘figuring it all out’ … whatever that means.”
“She told me the same thing on Monday,” James confessed.
“Thing is,” Sirius began, “I can’t tell if I should be concerned or if this is normal Gemma behavior.”
“I honestly don’t know,” Remus conceded with extreme guilt. “She’s always a bit mental, no matter the circumstances.”
“Well she seems extremely happy,” Peter said with a satisfied smile. “So there’s that.”
“Yes,” Sirius agreed with a sigh, “there’s that.”
Silence, again. The other Marauders began to get ready for bed as they processed their conversation and James felt his eyelids sluggishly begin to close … but he shook his head briskly and tried to keep himself awake. With a slight moan, he slumped off his bed and prepared himself for his nocturnal obligation.
“See you in the morning, Prongs!” Peter called and James waved to the rest of his friends before exiting the room and jogging down the stairs. He stopped on the last step, however, when he spied something long and slender lying on the ground. After crouching down to inspect the object, he smiled and picked up a cigarette that had apparently fallen out of Gemma’s pack. James stood up, pocketed the item, and went back to his task.
After patrolling for about 15 minutes, the Head Boy began to roam listlessly as another cloud of sadness formed over him. His movements lacked alertness and he barely missed a sharp corner as he followed the winding hallway. James passively continued his predetermined route until he reached the top of a twisting staircase that led to the Ravenclaw Tower.
He looked out one of the windows indifferently and blankly stared at the snowy scenery through the low fog. He finally groaned and continued his patrol up the Ravenclaw Tower. His spine hunched forward; his feet felt heavier with every step.
When James eventually traversed the last staircase and reached the highest echelon, he stopped for a moment to catch his breath. As his heart pounded, his gaze lazily panned towards another window, but this time he saw the clear night sky instead of a frenzy of grey and white; the twinkling stars beckoned him to come outside and James felt his mind switch to autopilot as he stumbled past the Ravenclaw common room entrance towards one of the rooftop patios.
As the cool night air brushed across his face, the Gryffindor took a deep breath and closed his eyes. He desperately tried to clear his mind, but seconds after he felt total relaxation, his earlier despair crept back into his thoughts.
They were all dead. All 13 of them. And there was nothing he could do about it.
“Why did they have to die?” he pondered aloud as he finally began to deal with his gloominess. “Merlin, they were only trying to show their support for Muggles and their culture, they didn’t ask to be murdered!”
His frustrated words slowly faded into the freezing March air. After a large heave, he felt his fingers slowly retrieve Gemma’s lost cigarette out of his pocket; although he didn’t smoke regularly, the Head Boy suddenly craved nicotine. He quickly put the object in his mouth and lit the end.
“Why?” he asked blankly as he expelled a large stream of smoke. “Why did someone decide that the protestors weren’t fit enough to live? Who does that? Who goes around thinking they’re judge, jury, and executioner? Who’s that selfish?”
James returned the cigarette to his lips and his eyebrows furrowed determinedly as he tried to answer his earlier questions. He unknowingly began to pace and failed to hear the wooden door creak open as someone joined him on the terrace.
“Why are they dead?” he asked again. “… It’s not fair!”
James looked down at his shoes for several seconds as small tears of frustration formed in his eyes. Suddenly, the wooden door slammed shut and officially signaled the arrival of another person. The Head Boy instantly whipped around with his wand at the ready … but he quickly lowered it when he recognized Lily’s shadowy figure.
After crossing over towards him, the Head Girl extended her hand.
“Give it here,” she demanded, motioning to his cigarette. Shame flooded his cheeks and he lethargically raised the burning object towards her. Yet, instead of punishing him for his bad behavior, Lily plucked the cigarette from his fingers and placed it to her lips before taking a very long drag. James couldn’t help but let a ridiculous grin burst across his face.
“How did you find me?” he asked, his spirits beginning to rise as he put an arm around his girlfriend.
“I always know where you are when you’re on patrol,” she muttered playfully as she handed him the smoking cigarette. “I make all the routes and timetables, remember? ... And, well, you were yelling. That always makes it a lot easier to find you.”
The Head Boy snickered softly, took a drag, and exhaled. The two passed the cigarette back and forth two more times before anyone said anything.
“James,” Lily said, her tone turning serious and attentive, “did you know someone who died yesterday? Is that why you’re taking this attack so personally?”
“No,” he muttered with a hint of embarrassment as he kicked a small rock.
“Why are you so upset then? You weren’t this worried after the attack in Vienna two weeks ago,” she pleaded. “Tell me, please.”
“It was so close to us!” James finally cried. “It’s one thing to read the Prophet and learn that this Lord Voldemort fellow is rampaging across continental Europe … but to hear that Death Eaters are in Scotland! Right near Hogwarts!”
“Death Eaters attacked Hogsmeade last month, James,” Lily stated, clearly confused as she took the cigarette from him.
“Yeah, but we had no idea that was going to happen,” he countered.
“We had no idea the Aberdeen protest was going to turn into a riot, either.”
“But we should have!” James cried as he threw his hands in the air. “We knew he attacked Hogsmeade and we should have figured out that he was going to incite violence near Hogwarts again. He’s sending warning messages to Dumbledore, don’t you see? We should have planned – we should have prepared!”
“James,” Lily assured as she grabbed his hand. “Calm down.”
“We could have saved them,” he said mournfully. “I could have saved them.”
“Is that what this is then?” the girl questioned with a soft snort. “A hero complex?”
“No,” James mumbled as he ran a hand through his messy hair and took back the cigarette. “It’s just – well -”
As he took another drag, he glanced back at her with a slight grimace.
“Every time there’s an attack on Muggles or Muggleborns,” he admitted, “I always scan the Prophet to make sure your name isn’t listed on the obituary page. Even if I know you’re in the Castle, I have to check … because I know you could be on that list. The people we’re up against, they’re targeting citizens like you, your parents – even people like Sirius. They don’t care who dies, they just want to wipe out the entire opposition.”
His grimace grew as he took one last drag from the cigarette.
“I don’t get it,” he continued. “How can you kill and not realize you’re taking someone’s life?”
“Because fear always trumps reason,” Lily said with a sigh. She quickly took back the cigarette, inhaled deeply, and then exhaled as she threw the burning object to the ground and stomped it out.
“These people,” she frowned, “they’re scared. Well most of them anyways. Some of them just want to expand their power … but ultimately they all know that the Wizarding World is becoming more tolerant and accepting of Muggles and they can’t handle it.”
She exhaled noisily and continued.
“Right now, the Ministry has so many deep divisions that it can’t cope with the sudden wave of social unrest. There is no clear leader … so the radicals and outcasts turned to someone they thought could best perpetuate their ideas: Lord Voldemort.
“The Death Eaters are nothing but a semi-religious political cult, James. They worship things like death, violence, the mysticism of pure blood, shared mass rituals, collective strength, and of course, their charismatic and persuasive leader who spouts off about honor, duty, and the former glory of the pureblood nation. They follow Lord Voldemort because they know he will best represent their interests. They follow him because they want their pride and strength rewarded.
“And in turn, he uses them to physically carry out his will; they are the secret police to his totalitarian state. Voldemort is a dark wizard and he is predatory. He wants everything to be under his control and he is collecting as many supporters as he can, from all walks of life, to make sure that happens. He’s gathering support – like a bundle of rods tied together with an axe - because he needs it. Because a bundle of wood is stronger than an individual twig.”
“But he doesn’t control the Ministry,” James interrupted.
“Yet,” Lily answered ominously.
“… How do you know all of this?” the Gryffindor questioned skeptically after they stood in silence for another minute or two. “How do you know that much detail?”
“Because,” she huffed as she stared up at the stars, “Muggles and Wizards are more alike than you think.”
The couple squeezed each other’s hands tightly as they quietly hung their heads; James gulped and tried not to acknowledge how accurate his girlfriend’s explanation actually was.
“So,” Lily cut in, breaking the tension, “what else happened today? Did Peter challenge Remus to that eating contest? Did Sirius break his beater’s bat in practice today? You said he needed a new one.”
“No,” James laughed, “none of that happened. It was a rather quiet day – although Gemma was bouncing around our dormitory just before I left. She suggested that you two should throw me a huge fancy dress party for my birthday.”
“Well isn’t that a fun idea!” the Head Girl exclaimed.
“I don’t know, Lily,” he said. “We Marauders don’t really do public birthdays.”
“What are you talking about?” she laughed. “Everyone knows when you lot are getting older. Didn’t Sirius put up banners in the Slytherin common room when he turned 18 in October?”
“He did,” James chuckled, “but on the day of a Marauder’s actual birthday, we usually steal away to the Room of Requirement to eat cake and drink firewhiskey for a couple of hours. Just the four of us.”
“Well,” Lily said with a snort as she rolled her eyes, “I’m sorry I didn’t know about your little ritual.”
The couple sat in silence one more as they strained their necks to look up at the night sky. James knew that he should get back to patrolling the Tower but in that moment, he wanted nothing more than to sit with Lily, watch the stars, and get away from everything, if only for a couple minutes.
“Maybe Gemma was right,” she softly cut in.
“What d’ya mean?”
“Maybe a fancy dress party is just what we need,” Lily said with a smile. “I think it would lift everyone’s spirits.”
“I suppose you’re right,” James answered with a lighthearted smirk. He almost started to laugh when he saw Lily begin to go into planning mode; he’d opened Pandora’s Box and knew he was never going to be able to close it.
“Everyone could dress up as something that starts with the same letter as their first name. Your name is James -”
“Is it?” he said with mock horror.
“Shut up,” she growled playfully. “Your name starts with J, so you’d have to dress up as something else that starts with J … A Jarvey! A journalist!”
Lily crossed her arms over her chest and shot him a look that said, “That’s not funny in the slightest.”
“I like the Jarvey idea,” James said with a smirk. “I’d get to spout off rude phrases and insult everyone all night. If only your name started with G – then you could be a gnome and I could chase you around the entire party!”
“I like the letter L, thank you very much,” she beamed. “And you’ve chased me enough in your lifetime!”
When their lively conversation evaporated into the night air, the Head Girl touched him on the shoulder lovingly.
“Alright, time to get back to patrolling,” she mocked with a stern voice. “As Head Girl, I order you to give me a kiss and be on your way.” James immediately wrapped his arms around her and placed on ostentatious kiss on her lips as he carefully dipped her towards the ground.
“Goodnight Lily. I love you.”
“I love you too, dear,” she smiled as she touched his cheek. “Goodnight James.”
The lioness turned towards the door to resume her own patrol route, but as she started to walk away, James felt one last question bubble up from deep inside him.
“Lily,” he said, “when you spoke about the Death Eaters, it was almost as if you knew history was going to repeat itself … so did the right people win? Did freedom and equality eventually prevail?”
“Yes,” Lily answered mournfully just before she closed the large wooden door. “But at great personal cost.”
Author’s Note: so kind of a filler chapter, but important information nonetheless – major brownie points to anyone who can identify Lily’s bundle of rods reference. And as you can probably tell, the group chapter will be James’ birthday party.
My schedule is starting to get exponentially busier but I’m still trying to hit the one chapter every two weeks deadline. I’m also going to try and go back through the chapters to fix all my grammar/typos.
And a huge thank you to everyone who reviewed, especially those who reviewed multiple times! I love you all!
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