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Chapter 10 : Aftermath
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Disclaimer: The story title is a song originally recorded (under that title) by Bob Dylan. The world, characters and canon events belong to J. K. Rowling. Everything else belongs to me. It is illegal to publish and distribute fanfiction without J.K. Rowling's permission. You may not copy, post elsewhere, change or edit any part of this story. You may not claim it as your own.
Lily felt a hard shove as the spell slammed against her protective charm, but she was left untouched and in her own mind. The boss seemed suddenly light-headed; he held a hand to his forehead as if in pain and he seemed slightly flustered.
"Miss Evans?" he asked after a second, still pressing his palm against his forehead. He seemed completely dazed and the look he gave Lily was one of confusion and panic. Whatever spell he had been under appeared to be broken, though she couldn't be sure. She definitely wasn't sticking around to find out, not after the man had attacked her.
Lily didn't even have time to breathe a sigh of relief before she took the opportunity to run. She bolted from the office, snatched her bag from her desk, and left, sparing only a glance of concern for Harry. She prayed nothing would happen to him, though she knew now that he was already under the Imperius Curse.
Harry merely gave her a blank look, and he seemed about to call out to her when she passed, but she avoided his gaze and pushed through the door.
Why would her boss try to use an Unforgivable on her? On all of them?
Once she was outside, she wrung her hands for a moment, trying to decide what to do. Normally, after being attacked in the Muggle word, she would run straight to her parents and then they'd probably go to the police. But her parents weren't even a part of this world. She didn't want to act like a damsel in distress, but she couldn't think of a single other person to go to than her boyfriend, James.
Having never been to James's house before, Apparating there would be difficult. She didn't even know where it was, other than in the town of Godric's Hollow. But Sirius knew, and she knew exactly where he lived - it was only about two blocks away, James had insisted on showing her when she moved in case of emergency, and now she was glad he'd thought of it. Without another thought, she quickly turned and Disapparated.
She could trust Sirius, she knew, with almost anything. He knew her; he'd easily read her like a book while at school. He saw through everything she tried to portray. While she played with tadpoles and giggled with friends in first year, he'd seen in her the same look of rejection that was often in his own eyes. And it wasn't long before she'd confided in him about her sister, Petunia. He'd watched her fall in love with Severus Snape, watched as she was crushed by his choices, but never said a word.
And though she'd always found James atrocious and irritating throughout their school years, she'd always left Sirius out when telling his best friend off. And for his part, Sirius hadn't defended James to her, hadn't tried to get them together, hadn't ever gotten angry when she'd snapped.
(Sirius knew better than anyone how James could be, and never faulted Lily for her impatience with him. Lily, however, was certain that Sirius never let anyone but herself talk to James as she had.
James never let anyone but her get away with talking to him like that, either.)
She appeared again in a narrow, vacant alley in London. Leaning against a brick wall underneath the emergency staircase was Sirius’s familiar vintage motorcycle. It was hidden well with a concealment charm, though she was close enough to be able to see the vague outline - it was only noticeable to those who were looking for it. To her left, beyond rubbish bins and more emergency staircases, the alley opened up into the busy street.
Perhaps James was here, anyway. He'd been spending most of his time in Sirius's flat ever since telling his parents about the Order.
Lily hurried towards the crowds, walking around to the front of the building - the entrance. The flat was above a dry cleaners and a narrow door nestled between the shop and it’s neighbour led up a narrow staircase to the top floor. Lily wrenched it open without knocking and hurried up it. She did, at least, have the decency to stop and rap loudly on the door to his actual flat before bursting inside.
She didn't see him right away - he was sitting at a small table in the kitchen, in the dim corner. He stood up immediately when she entered, and the sudden noise and movement was what drew her attention to him. He had been smoking, and he quickly rested the cigarette in an ashtray.
"Evans," he uttered, surprised to see her. His voice was flooded with relief, as if he'd been expecting to be attacked when she'd burst in, as if he were paranoid of Death Eaters coming after him. She couldn't blame him; he was certainly related to at least one. "Lily, I meant," he added apologetically.
"Is James here?" she asked him urgently, and she wrung her hands nervously, torn between a sickening feeling of hope at seeing her boyfriend, and her terror over what had happened at work. She looked around expectantly, but James was nowhere to be seen. Her hands dropped to her sides.
Sirius sat back down slowly, almost cautiously as he eyed her. "He was, he left about an hour ago..."
"Where did he go?"
Sirius shrugged and picked his cigarette up again. He leaned back in his chair and surveyed her as he took a long drag. "Home, I expect."
"Can you Floo me there? I've never been there, I don't know where to go!"
It dawned on him then that she was distraught and anxious - he had, at first, wondered if this was really Lily, or if it was a disguise. She'd never been one to simply burst into somebody's flat unannounced, and he'd never seen her acting so uncomfortable around him. But there was clearly something wrong here. He agreeably stood up again, stuck the cigarette back in his mouth, and manoeuvred around the table.
"Are you all right?" he asked as he led her towards the fireplace.
"No," she answered truthfully, and to her embarrassment her voice shook a little.
Sirius stopped, turned and glanced at her, grey eyes narrowed and cigarette hanging from his mouth. He reached a hand up, plucked it from his lips and flicked ashes to the floor before demanding, "What do you mean?"
Lily immediately crossed her arms protectively over her chest, though one hand flew to her face. She covered her mouth, and even her nose, and closed her eyes for a moment, inhaling deeply - she hadn't meant to lay her burdens on him, and his rough concern overwhelmed her and threatened to crumble her wall. She was hardly hanging onto it in her frightened, shocked state, but she swallowed and insisted.
"I'm fine, I mean, nothing happened."
Sirius huffed indignantly, smoke escaping from his mouth. He could read her like a book, and she knew it. She must have thought he was stupid to deny she was troubled to his face. He reached over and pulled her hand down so that she couldn't cover her weak expression anymore.
"Liar," he snarled, leaning in so his face was close to hers. A challenge - an attempt at intimidating her into telling him what had happened.
It was the first time any of them had given any indication that something was wrong in the war, and it scared him, and he didn't know how to deal with it - he was practically crawling out of his skin with the fact that something was wrong and she wouldn't relieve his anxieties and tell him what.
She stared at him icily, standing her ground. She knew how he could get when he was worried or angry or upset - he was reckless and dangerous, but she wasn't afraid. "I just want to see James," she insisted firmly, holding his icy grey glare. "And don't blow your cancer smoke in my face!"
After a moment in which each was too stubborn to back down, he finally grunted and flung his cigarette to the floor, grinding his foot over it to put it out. Annoyed, he impatiently grabbed her arm and dragged her over to the fireplace. When she was in, he snatched a handful of Floo powder and threw it at her feet. Green flame immediately flared all around her. He leaned his head in and firmly announced James's address before pulling out again just before she disappeared. He took a moment to calm himself, resting his forehead against the cool bricks, before stepping in with a handful of Floo powder himself.
When he arrived in the Potters' sitting room, it was to find the house in chaos. James's mother was standing in the distance near the foyer, pacing slightly with tears in her eyes. Mr Potter was standing with his wand out, and it was aimed at Lily, who was petrified on the floor.
Sirius immediately bent over and dragged her upright. Her green eyes, the only part of her body able to move, were filled with panic. "It's just Lily!" he quickly threw at James's parents. At that, Mrs Potter broke down in relief, leaning against the wall for support. Mr Potter quickly removed the curse and placed one hand over his wildly beating heart, and Lily went limp in Sirius's arms.
He struggled to support her slight frame, and uttered a curse as he attempted to pat her back in what he hoped was a comforting manner. He looked towards Mr Potter, mildly annoyed at how things were happening. "James is here?"
"He's in his room," said the elderly man, shuffling back to his chair and looking bewildered at the sudden excitement.
"Thanks," said Sirius as he dragged Lily towards the foyer and staircase, although he glanced over his shoulder at Mr Potter as he went, almost worried it had all been too much for the old man to handle.
Mrs Potter suddenly caught hold of Lily's arm as they passed, drawing Sirius up short. "I'm so sorry, dear," she said. "You gave us a fright - you never know who you can trust these days, and a stranger just stepped out of our fireplace..."
"It was my fault," interrupted Sirius, who was feeling distinctively uncomfortable surrounded by crying women, in a guilty tone. "I should have gone through first, or at least used the Floo to call."
"Nevertheless," insisted Eve, more or less ignoring him and addressing Lily. "It is lovely to meet you finally, dear; please, join our family for tea in a couple hours, once everyone has calmed down?"
Lily's eyes were still watery, and she wiped them impatiently, embarrassed at her breakdown and slightly ashamed that her first meeting with James's parents turned out this way, with both her and James's mother crying and shaken. "Yes, that would be lovely. I'm sorry I frightened you."
Sirius smiled reassuringly at James's mother, and then grabbed Lily's arm and continued to lead her up the stairs. "You're not having a good day," he observed cheerfully; he shot her a devious grin.
She smiled in spite of herself, which had been his intention all along. "Shut up, Sirius."
"Oi, Prongs!" Sirius called as they walked down the hallway. James's door, the first on the right, immediately opened.
"Padfoot?" he asked incredulously as he stepped out - it had, after all, only been a couple hours since he saw his friend. "All right?" he started to ask, but stopped when he stepped into the hallway and saw Lily. "Lily?" he said hesitantly instead.
Lily darted around Sirius and into James's arms. James shot Sirius a look of confusion over her shoulder.
Sirius shrugged. "Well, she won't tell me what’s the matter with her," he muttered indignantly as he stepped around the couple and into the room. He collapsed on James's bed and lounged with his arms behind his head, waiting for them to join him.
James followed, leading Lily into the room and shutting the door. "What are you talking about?" he responded to Sirius's statement, though it was obvious the question was meant for Lily.
Lily sat on the edge of the bed and James sat beside her. "I was attacked at work today," she told them. "It was an Unforgivable," she added, and all three of them shuddered as the weight of it pressed down upon them.
After a moment, "You're kidding," said Sirius. He was no longer lounging on the bed - he'd sat up alertly at her words and his eyes had darkened. He glanced at James, who looked dumbfounded and lost.
All at once, her eyes began to water - the adrenaline rush was gone, as was the overbearing thought of getting away, getting to safety, getting to James. All that was left now was the realization of what had actually happened and the time to be afraid of it. "I'm not," she half whispered. "The boss was calling all of us interns into the office. I noticed that something wasn't right when the others came out, but I didn't know... I mean. He - the boss - called me into his office and cast the spell... It was the Imperius Curse..."
James raised an eyebrow at the name of the spell. "And yet you're here," he observed in a light tone, trying to keep all of them from panicking. "So he obviously didn't get it off, or I doubt you'd be telling us about it. He wouldn't want that. Right?"
Sirius ignored the question; instead he stared at Lily in amazement, unsure of how she had gotten away. "Did you resist it?"
"No," admitted Lily, hugging her arms around herself. "But like I said, I had noticed something was off. I was on my guard. I only just got up the shield charm in time, and then I ran."
"No," said Sirius dismissively, shaking his head. "No way can a simple shield charm ward off an Unforgivable. No way, Lily."
Lily looked at Sirius in alarm, and then her face fell again, not because of his denial, but because she knew he was right. She was confused as to what happened, and vaguely wondered if something wasn't quite right after all.
James punched Sirius's shoulder, a silent command to shut him up. "Well, something worked," he insisted as Sirius scowled. "You are here, and as far as I can tell, not cursed."
"I don't know," Lily moaned, resting her forehead in her hand. "It did something. I don't know! Ollivander told me my wand was excellent for charms, maybe that was something to do with it! But that was seven years ago, I'd forgotten until now..."
"You were always rather good at charms," admitted Sirius after thinking back. He, too, attempted to lighten the mood by adding, "Even if your transfiguration was lacking slightly..."
James knew what he was trying to do and played along, grinning affectionately at his friend and playfully punching his leg behind Lily's back. "You can go home now, Pads, you tosser," he said firmly, though both knew he wasn't serious.
Sirius smiled guiltily at James and rubbed his leg. "I'm sorry, Lily. I'll just keep my mouth shut, then."
James's grin lingered for a moment before he wrapped an arm around Lily's neck and dragged her closer. "Why would the boss at the paper be Imperiusing his employees?" he wondered aloud.
"That's what I want to know," agreed Lily thoughtfully, settling into his frame. Now that she had been reassured that she was not in fact, under the curse, and that she wouldn't suddenly begin performing horrible actions against her control, she wasn't quite as frightened.
"Ah," groaned Sirius suddenly. He bowed his head and ran his hands through his hair, feeling suddenly more guilty than he had over anything in a long time. "Fuck."
"What?" asked James immediately, and a look of suspicion crossed his features at Sirius's actions. "Padfoot!"
Sirius's expression darkened before their eyes and he glared angrily at the blankets for a moment. He wondered whether he could have changed anything, prevented it from happening to Lily, if he'd only just said something. When he finally looked up, his ash coloured eyes looked tortured, his nose was wrinkled as if disgusted by his own self.
A shaky sigh escaped him, and then he spoke. He couldn't meet their eyes; he felt like he was giving a confession, and he blurted it all at once to get it over with.
"I... er... Remus and Peter and I... we were talking. I had told them about the giant movement that Lily mentioned when we were helping her move. I had told them, because we were talking about the Dementor attack that day. It wasn't reported in the Prophet. It was on the Muggle news, but Remus saw it for what it was. And I had brought up the giants, how that wasn't reported either... and we were... we were wondering why the paper wasn't reporting. And we thought maybe Voldemort had control... fuck, Lily, I'm sorry, I'd brushed it off. I never really thought it was true..."
"You never said anything?" demanded James in disbelief. "None of you? When you knew she worked there!"
Sirius looked miserable. "I'm sorry," he insisted again, half begging. He felt horrible, almost as guilty as he had when he'd betrayed Remus in sixth year and almost killed Snape. The thought made him slightly desperate. "Nothing happened yet, so we didn't think there was any danger. I swear, Prongs. We brushed off the Voldemort theory and decided the Ministry was probably telling them what not to report... Voldemort controlling the paper... it seemed so far-fetched!"
"And you never said anything," repeated James, hurt and frustrated as he ignored the last few sentences. He shook his head as he eyed Sirius, as if disappointed in him. How could Sirius keep such a thing to himself? Theory or not, it could have made a difference. Sirius looked away, sickened at how things were turning out.
"Stop, James," said Lily evenly, eyeing Sirius. "You're on the same team, remember?"
James glanced from her to Sirius. "All right," he admitted, feeling guilty. He looked at Sirius, who was appearing properly ashamed on the corner of the bed and still avoiding his gaze. "It's all right, Sirius," he repeated, and then he too ran his hands through his hair and stared broodingly at the blankets.
Nobody spoke; the war was suddenly weighing heavily upon them all. This was the first time any of them had turned against each other, even if it was only barely, and they dreaded when it would happen again. They all knew it wouldn't be the last time.
"I'm not going back to the Prophet," said Lily after a moment, breaking them from their thoughts.
James glanced up alertly. "Of course not," he quickly agreed.
"I'm not going to hide, though, either. It isn't me. It isn't any of us."
James narrowed his eyes at her - he knew exactly what she was getting at before she even said it. She was a Gryffindor, just as he was, just as they all were - she was just like them, and she was right - she was a fighter.
It didn't matter, not to James. Brave Gryffindor and all, she was also Lily, his Lily, and he couldn't bear it if anything happened to her.
"You are not joining the Order," he said firmly, voicing his suspicion, but his heart sank; he knew right away that he would be fighting a losing battle over the issue.
"Yes, I am. You can't stop me, I'll go to Dumbledore."
There was an awkward silent moment while James decided how to respond to that - he was livid at the idea. "You are utterly infuriating sometimes," he finally said in a low voice as he glared at her.
The look Lily's face suddenly took on resembled the same one she used to wear when she caught them bullying somebody in the corridors at Hogwarts. Not surprisingly, Sirius took this as a bad sign.
"Er," said he with a cough, scooting off the bed. "I'm going to go... somewhere..."
Tea with Mr and Mrs Potter was excellent and enjoyable as always. Sirius made small talk with his adopted parents. Everyone was careful not to mention the war, or Voldemort, or the Order. For once, James's father didn't tell a story about the good old days, when he'd been in his prime, when he'd put many Dark witches and wizards in Azkaban. And for once Sirius didn't ask.
Instead he complimented the truffle, proudly made by James's mother herself. John Potter told a handful of terrible jokes, each one worse than the one before, but Sirius laughed anyway.
They all stubbornly ignored the shouting match going on upstairs, even though it carried through the house's ventilation systems.
"Lily seems like a nice girl," observed Mrs Potter tactfully.
Sirius managed to keep a straight face as he said, "James brings out the best in her."
It was strange, thought Remus, having Lily in the Order with them.
Her reception had gone much smoother than his own had, smoother than Sirius's had. She was as charming as could be, and everyone was immediately smitten with her, even the rock hard Alastor Moody. Alice Longbottom was particularly thrilled to have her, and the two girls immediately resumed the close friendship they'd had as students at school.
Dumbledore had, of course, been accepting of Lily joining the Order. He couldn't fairly turn her away after he'd let the four Marauders join, not even with James loudly arguing against the case the entire time she talked to him.
Now Lily smiled and laughed and talked. The Prewetts flirted shamelessly, though Remus knew it was only to get a reaction out of James.
And James sat in the corner with his arms crossed, shooting resentful looks at his girlfriend, but being too soft to really be angry with her. Sirius, ever faithful, sat casually beside him, but he met Remus's eye from across the room and shook his head disdainfully.
"Oh dear," said Peter from beside Remus. "Prongs isn't happy at all, is he?"
Remus snorted. "You try to do something good, Wormtail, and look where it gets you." He indicated James. "Your girlfriend decides to follow you in and risk her life, too. Blast it, I think we've all gone mad."
"Fools, the lot of us."
"Indeed." The voice that spoke wasn't Remus's.
Both he and Peter turned suddenly to find Dumbledore standing behind them, smiling proudly. His voice was kind and his eyes twinkled merrily as he spoke. "But the first step towards wisdom is admitting you are a fool."
Peter was trying to determine whether to be offended or not, when Dumbledore said, "Please excuse us, Peter; I have an important matter that I wish to discuss with Mr Lupin."
After a quick shrug at Remus, the shortest Marauder sauntered over to James and Sirius (the latter of whom welcomed his arrival quite exuberantly after sitting in James's bitter company for the past hour.)
“Remus,” said Dumbledore when Peter was out of earshot. “As you’ve learned, Voldemort has been employing the help of creatures that are generally unacceptable to society by the Ministry’s standards.”
Remus nodded warily. He was one of those creatures and the words 'unacceptable to society' stung slightly. In fact, even in the middle of conversation with Dumbledore, it occurred to him that Lily didn't know what he was yet.
She didn't know, and the rest of the Order did, and she was bound to hear about it. The thought made him blush horribly. He would have to tell her himself. He didn't want her to hear it from somebody else.
“Voldemort offers them a future, whereas the Ministry offers nothing,” continued Dumbledore, ignoring Remus's suddenly red face. He seemed to want to make sure Remus knew why Voldemort had the support of Dark creatures.
“Yes,” Remus agreed a little too quickly, and tried to push his worries about Lily Evans from his mind for the moment.
He did, in fact, understand the meaning of Dumbledore's words all too well. And while he would never follow Voldemort himself, no matter what the Dark wizard had to offer, he could hardly blame others like him for not resisting. He had been given a chance, given opportunities, that most like him had never been fortunate enough to receive. Most of them had been shunned by society - most of them had nothing to lose in following Voldemort.
“If you are up for it, I would like you to try to live amongst them,” Dumbledore said quietly now. “I think you could manage to fit in, and perhaps they will know things of Voldemort’s plans. Perhaps they will know his next moves and you can become aware of them as well.”
Remus considered this and shuddered. He would have to do it. He was the only one who could, and anyway, how many opportunities came up where your worst possible trait was actually very useful? How could he deny this man who had given him so much? Barely a few seconds had passed as he pondered before he had his answer.
“When do I start?”
Do you find it odd that Lily has never been to James's house yet? I thought people might, and I wanted to say this:
Lily and James only just got together in 7th year. And as they live at the school and not at home, there really hasn't been opportunity for Lily to drop by and visit James's parents. Now this chapter is set in September. So they've had a few months out of school, and now was a good time to introduce them. I know some think she could have met them sooner, like right after school. But hey, she's a busy girl, working a full time job. And James has quite been busy himself, with getting into the Order and the meetings and all. And, given the threats that surround them, nobody really wants to go out at night.
Well, except for James, who still sneaks out for a visit on his free nights :) Also, back in 1978, I don't think you met your boyfriend/girlfriend's parents as quickly as you do these days.
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