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Chapter 32 : Heart Of Gold
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“I want to live, I want to give. I've been a miner for a heart of gold.” – Neil Young, 1972
Hours later, James Potter climbed the last few steps and popped open the discrete rooftop hatch of the Defense Against the Dark Arts Tower. The inky, starry sky provided him little light, but he still managed to go up onto the top of the semi-circular building. Yet, his agitation continued to drive him mad. Still dressed in his Quidditch robes, the captain let out a small grunt of dissatisfaction as he started to pace back and forth, his boots angrily stomping across on the stone roof.
He maintained his sour mood and completely ignored the fantastic view of the emerging sunrise just beyond the Suspension Bridge. But once the sky turned a variety of pinks and yellows, James finally caught the sun’s blinding force and shielded his eyes. He stumbled downwards, his hand still pressed against his forehead, and sighed when he settled on the stones and leaned against the nearest wall. James then adjusted his glasses and gently blinked away his sun-induced sightlessness.
Suddenly, the wooden hatch thrust open and James snapped to attention when he saw Professor McGonagall step up to join him on the roof. Her practiced frown was fierce - signaling that she not there for petty small talk - and she quickly announced the reason for her arrival.
“Potter,” McGonagall said, “you are to report to the Headmaster’s office. At once.”
Her sharp tone jumpstarted the Head Boy’s sense of responsibility; he quickly rose above his melancholy.
“What is it?” he asked. “What’s happened?”
“Headmaster Dumbledore will inform you of the details,” she answered. “Now go.”
James curtly nodded his head as a sign of respect and moved towards the hatch. McGonagall, however, stopped him and placed a hand on his upper arm.
“Potter,” she said in a soft tone, “you are one of the best Quidditch players I have ever seen. Yesterday’s result does not change that.”
The captain couldn’t help but freeze; McGongall had never spoken so highly of him. Yet, she quickly reverted back to her usual, stern demeanor.
“But the next time you decide to brood on top of this Tower, remember that my office is at the bottom of it - your incessant stomping interrupted my peace and quiet!”
James cracked a charming smile just before descending down the opening and his Transfiguration Professor followed after him. As McGonagall made her way back to the First Floor, the Head Boy sprinted down the Tower and traversed the Castle towards the Headmaster’s office. Once he ran down the Gargoyle Corridor, he took a second to catch his breath and uttered the password.
The Gargoyle statue leapt aside and James lunged up the emerging staircase. When he entered the circular room, he took another moment to catch his breath.
“Ah, Mr. Potter, you’re here,” Dumbledore greeted. The Headmaster’s wrinkled right hand gestured towards the vacant chair in front of his claw-foot desk. “Would you please take a seat next to Miss Evans?”
James’ eyes widened. Dumbledore’s tired tone and Lily’s presence only meant one thing: something terribly wrong had happened.
He lowered himself onto the spindle-legged chair and threw a remorseful look over at his girlfriend. Yet instead of giving him the cold shoulder, the Head Girl reached out and grabbed his hand. James immediately felt stronger, and despite their earlier fight, the dire situation quickly mended the two lovers back together again.
“I have called you both to my office to inform you,” the Headmaster began, “that there was an attack, earlier this morning.”
“Where?” James asked, yearning to know more.
“Please don’t say Cokeworth,” Lily muttered under her breath.
“I’m afraid it was here,” Dumbledore responded, “at Hogwarts.”
Both Heads glanced at each other, their faces draining of color. Lily’s bottom lip began to quiver and James squeezed her hand.
“Who was involved?” he asked for the both of them.
Dumbledore took a deep breath and folded his long fingers together behind his back as he made his way over towards his ornate desk chair. Once he sat down, he hesitated before answering.
“Gemma Rawnsley and Luciana Rosier.”
The information shocked the two Heads even more.
“Gemma attacked Luciana? Or - or the other way around?” James stammered.
“Miss Rawnsley was assaulted by Miss Rosier,” Dumbledore clarified, “just after midnight. She was forced to drink an experimental potion that enabled her to make a prophecy.”
James exhaled with awe as he slumped in his chair. Why had Luciana forced Gemma to drink a potion? What had Gemma seen? And more importantly, what was he going to tell Sirius? The last question gave him pause and he pushed his glasses up his nose, trying not to think of his best mate’s eventual reaction.
“Where is she now?” the Head Boy beseeched.
“Madame Pomfrey kept her in the Hospital Wing for a few hours, but I am afraid Miss Rawnsley had to be transported to St. Mungo’s for further monitoring.”
“St. Mungo’s?” Lily gasped.
James stared down at his shoes, still unable to process the Headmaster’s jarring words. His mind wandered back to Sirius’ reaction, and as he ran his hands through his messy hair, the Marauder began to dread passing on the terrible news.
“What did she see, Headmaster?” Lily asked timidly.
“I do not know for certain,” he said. “She came to my office for safety and tried to communicate her visions to me … but alas, she was too bewitched to make any sense. She named her attacker, but not much else.”
James shook his head and tugged at his hair once more. However, when he looked up from the floor, he noticed Dumbledore’s hand slide over a piece of parchment on his desk; it seemed to have a list of seven things scribbled across it.
“Headmaster,” Lily said again, but with a little more confidence, “Gemma didn’t happen to foresee anything involving an … overthrow, did she?”
The Head Boy’s eyebrows popped up in surprise, but his girlfriend remorsefully avoided his gaze.
“She did not,” Dumbledore remarked. “But may I ask why you are so interested in this particular piece of information?”
Lily gulped and let go of James’ hand.
“Someone warned me,” she admitted, “that there is going to be an overthrow here at Hogwarts. At first I thought the information was just a weak excuse to get my attention, but after hearing about Gemma … Headmaster, I think someone wants to perform a coup to take your job.”
“I can assure you, Miss Evans, that my post as Headmaster is quite secure,” the old wizard explained, a small smile tugging at his lips. “A chief administrator can only be removed against their will by obtaining 7 Ministry Department Head signatures of approval… which is not an easy task. But I will not take this threat lightly, for we are currently living in very dark times. Very dark, indeed.”
Silence fell over the office and James’ thoughts continued to whir. Who had told Lily about the potential overthrow? Why hadn’t she mentioned it before? And how was Gemma? Was she ok? Was she going to return to Hogwarts? Sirius – oh Sirius, how was he going to take all of this without breaking down completely?
But ultimately, one question rose above the others.
“What can we do?” he begged.
“James -” Lily began, but was quickly cut off.
“Headmaster,” he implored, looking Dumbledore directly in the eyes. “The attacks in Aberdeen, Rosier’s assault, this overthrow … they all sound avoidable. So what can we do to stop events like these from happening? Tell us – tell us what we can do to help stop Voldemort!”
James’ hand slammed against his chair with a whack! and Lily flinched. Dumbledore, however, remained cool, calm, and collected. He adjusted his half-moon spectacles and folded his hands together on the surface of his desk.
“Mr. Potter,” he said, “while your enthusiasm shows your dedication, I must caution you against taking it upon yourself to stop Lord Voldemort. He is a very powerful wizard and would easily destroy you if he had the chance.”
James hung his head in shame, feeling slightly daft for bringing up the subject.
“But if you are serious about fighting him along side other like-minded individuals,” Dumbledore interjected, “then I have one question for you and Miss Evans … are you able to cast a patronus?”
Both of them nodded their heads and signaled that they could; Dumbledore’s smile grew into an eccentric grin as he pulled out his wand from beneath his robes. He closed his eyes, and without uttering a single word, cast a full corporeal patronus. The Headmaster’s phoenix burst across the room and James couldn’t believe how strong and fully developed it was. He automatically reached for his wand to demonstrate his own mastery of the spell, but Dumbledore held out his hand to stop him.
“That will not be necessary, Mr. Potter, I believe you,” he said. “Miss Evans, you may also put your wand away.” James glanced over at Lily to see that she was also mid-cantation. “I only asked because we pass along information through our patronuses – to keep things secret.”
“We?” James asked.
“Secret?” Lily added.
Dumbledore smiled again.
“I would like to extend an invitation to the both of you,” he explained as his phoenix settled onto his shoulder and slowly disintegrated, “to join the Order of the Phoenix. We are a secret society dedicated to combating Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters.”
James couldn’t help but let out a yelp of joy.
“I knew we weren’t the only ones who wanted to stop him! Oh Lily, wait ‘till I tell the boys -”
“James,” she said quietly as she glanced at Dumbledore, “I don’t know if they’ve formally been invited to join …”
“If you are referring to Messrs. Black, Lupin, and Pettigrew,” the wizard said in return, “then you would be correct. They have not been formally invited, but only because they have never asked to be, as you have just done.”
“I know they would if they had the chance,” James urged. “Please, Headmaster …”
“I will meet with them on a separate occasion then, Mr. Potter,” Dumbledore answered. Both wizards pushed their glasses up their nose and smiled at each other appreciatively. “But now, we still have the matter of the attack … Gemma will remain at St. Mungo’s until the potion’s effects wear off - she may need to stay longer, but it is unclear at this time. Professors Sprout and Slughorn have been notified of the situation and will alert the other staff.”
“And Luciana?” Lily interrupted.
“Miss Rosier has been expelled,” Dumbledore answered curtly.
Even though he thought she deserved the expulsion, James couldn’t help but gulp; Dumbledore had never kicked someone out of Hogwarts during his entire tenure as Headmaster. Luciana was a vile witch – that went without saying – but she was also a Seventh Year who was just about to take her NEWTs … so why would he decide to expel her instead of giving her detention until the end of the term?
And that’s when James fully understood Dumbledore’s logic. If Luciana was expelled before she could take her NEWTs, then she could never go into the Ministry because it required several passing scores to serve as an employee. She would most likely become a Death Eater, but at least she would not be able to abuse a position of power to spread Voldemort’s ideals. James smiled. Dumbledore’s wisdom still continued to surprise him year after year, and since he was planning on joining the Order, he supposed it would continue to surprise him in the upcoming ones.
“I will not make an official announcement, but as Head Girl and Boy,” Dumbledore continued, “it is your duty to inform all interested parties about the circumstances that occurred earlier this morning. Miss Evans, I believe that will require a trip to the Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw common rooms and Mr. Potter …” The wizard paused and the normal twinkle in his eyes dimmed slightly. “I believe you will only need to return to the Gryffindor male dormitories.”
“Yes, Headmaster,” Lily confirmed as she rose from her seat. James quickly joined her.
“Very well then,” Dumbledore said. “I will leave you to your business. You will be hearing from the Order soon.”
Just before the pair left the elaborately decorated office, they locked eyes with their mentor and nodded as a sign of respect. Dumbledore smiled tenderly and gave them a nod in return. Shortly afterwards, the two Heads somberly trudged down the Headmaster’s staircase, but once they reached the Gargoyle Corridor, they flew into each other’s arms.
“Oh James, I’m so sorry -”
“No Lily, I’m sorry -”
“I should have told you about Severus’ warning -”
“I never should have yelled at you -”
Before they could interrupt each other again, James lowered his lips onto hers; the kiss began with a passionate force, yet once their tongues intertwined, their fear began to dissipate and things slowed down. Both students forgot they were snogging in the middle of a public corridor, but they were not disturbed due to the early hour.
“My love,” James said delicately in her ear when they finally broke their kiss and hugged with each other with solace. “My Lily flower.”
After he pulled away, he noticed that his girlfriend was trying to hold back tears.
“I should have been honest with you,” she cooed. “When Snape cornered me during the Slug Club meeting, I thought I could handle things by myself … which lead me to not take anything he said seriously. I thought he was trying to get a rise out of me – I should have been more careful. Merlin.” She took a moment to sniffle. “He always brings out my vindictive side. My friendship with him is something I’ve actively been trying to erase from my mind, but that is easier said than done.”
“Well knowing all that, he probably was trying to bother you.”
“He blamed you, you know. For ending our friendship.”
“Naturally,” James spat under his breath.
“And I told him you’re absolutely everything to me,” Lily admitted. “That if there was going to be an overthrow, I would be by your side to fight it. But I didn’t expect his threat to actually be true.”
They both looked down in remorse, reliving their earlier conversation with the Headmaster.
“Thank you for being honest,” James finally said.
Lily smiled in return.
“But you’re not the only one with the vindictive side, I’m afraid. It’s just – I wanted to win the Cup so bloody badly since it’s my final year of eligibility … I’m sorry for taking out my anger on you.”
“That might be my fault as well,” she said. “Sirius warned me about going to see you and I completely ignored him.”
“Ah,” James remarked. “Yes, well he learned that lesson just after Third Year when I made the team. I take Quidditch losses way too personally. I have to let off some steam before I can have a civil conversation with anyone.”
“Thank you for being honest, then,” Lily echoed with a smile.
Their lips met again, but this time, their physical affection was rather chaste.
“I’ll go alert the band,” his girlfriend said just after giving him one more peck.
“I’ll - ” James began, his voice beginning to crack, “find Sirius, then.”
Lily placed a loving, supportive hand on his shoulder before meandering down to the Castle basement; James made the long trip back to Gryffindor Tower. He dragged his feet the entire way - trying to think of the best way to tell his best mate that his ex-girlfriend was currently in St. Mungo’s - and once he reached the male dormitory, he opened the door and gulped deeply.
“Prongs!” Remus called from his bed.
“Told you he’d only need 24 hours, give or take,” Peter muttered.
“What’s wrong,” Sirius said coolly from the other side of the room. He’d read James’ face quite easily.
James looked up from the floor and tried to say the speech that had been forming in his head, but even though his lips moved back and forth, no coherent sounds came out of his mouth. Instead, he gasped for air and clutched his chest as his heart began to race. His panic attack continued to accelerate and Sirius flew across the room to let him lean against him as he carried his best mate over to his bed.
“Don’t faint!” Peter said in a panic.
James did his best not to.
“Chocolate?” Remus offered as he put a bar of Honeyduke’s. Once he went back to his regular breathing pattern, James wrenched the chocolate out of his hand and stuffed it in his mouth.
“I’ve got some Frogs if you want ‘em,” Peter suggested. James nodded – quickly finding that chocolate was the only real definition of happiness – and shoved the sweets down his throat. He finally swallowed, but felt his throat tighten when he caught Sirius’ protective stare.
“Prongs,” he said again, “what’s wrong.”
James looked at him forlornly before deciding that the only way to tell Sirius was to speak the honest truth.
“Gemma’s been attacked by Luciana Rosier.”
Peter squeaked nervously; Remus gasped in awe; Sirius did nothing.
“She was forced to drink an experimental potion that induces a Seer to make a prophecy and now she’s in St. Mungo’s for further monitoring. Rosier’s been expelled.”
He could only look at Sirius. The pureblood’s face started to blanch but he swallowed with determination and tried to keep an even keel.
“Dumbledore doesn’t know when Gemma’s coming back to Hogwarts,” James finished softly.
“I – I can’t believe it!” Peter whimpered. Remus was still speechless, but let out an aloof sigh.
“Padfoot,” James implored as the pureblood continued to mask his pain with an unreadable poker face. “We’re here for you.”
Sirius looked up from the floor, his features stern and harsh; his grey eyes turned cloudy and tormented. He quickly rose from James’ bed and took several strides across the room to find his Beater’s bat. Once he retrieved the object, Sirius flung it over his shoulder and angrily raced towards the door.
“Padfoot!” Remus called and James stood up to stop him. The two boys locked eyes, neither willing to budge. Finally, Sirius growled as he lost the staring contest by rolling his eyes.
“Prongs,” he said bluntly. “I’ve had a hellish past 24 hours – we lost the Cup and now you’re telling me that the girl I’m still in love with is in St. Mungo’s and you don’t know when she’s coming back.”
Sirius held up his bat dramatically.
“So instead of pranking Snivellus or shagging some bird, I’m going to express my anger by smashing some Bludgers into oblivion.”
James’ eyebrows popped up in surprise but he finally let his best mate storm by him.
“Well, I never thought I’d see the day,” he said, completely bewildered.
“It seems Padfoot has finally matured,” Remus remarked with a slight smile. James laughed and set his attention on Peter, who was shaking in his bed across the room. He cocked a brow, but started laughing even more when he realized that the other Marauder was sitting in a puddle of urine.
“Ha!” he exclaimed. “Wormtail got so scared he pissed himself!”
Remus snorted with laughter; Peter’s face reddened with embarrassment and he wrapped his arms around his legs, pulling them towards his chest. James continued to howl with glee as he fell back onto his bed and didn’t stop for several more seconds. His anxiety and stress left his body with every laugh and finally, he felt whole again.
“Thanks mate,” James grinned. “I needed that.”
He was so tickled that he didn’t notice Peter rocking back and forth, muttering obscenities under his breath.
Author’s note: so yeah, another chapter. Things are evolving!
I’m sorry if there were a lot of typos in this one, but today was complete hell at work and I’m knackered. But I wanted to get this chapter out ASAP so it’s possible I may go back and edit it.
Thanks to everyone who reviewed with their thoughts last chapter, I really appreciate it!
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