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In My Time of Dying by Stag Night
Chapter 30 : The Letter
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 14


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In My Time of Dying
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.


C H A P T E R . T H I R T Y
The Letter




They all sat silently downstairs in the basement of the Hog’s Head. Aberforth Dumbledore sombrely served coffee that was too strong; the members of the Order sipped it without fully tasting it, which was, perhaps, a good thing. There was one thing at the front of all of their minds in this moment: while it had been somewhat easy (though no less painful) to ignore the one empty chair belonging to Marlene, it was much harder to ignore three that were empty now.


One for Marlene, one for Edgar and one for Moody - who knew when the fearless Auror would return to them? Those who were left found their eyes slipping towards the empty chairs, unable to resist, only to look away again in agony. Their numbers were slowly dwindling, and when the attacks were coming so unexpectedly and catching them off guard, it felt as if there was little they could do to stop it from happening again.


Alice Longbottom’s eyes were rimmed in red, and every now and then she sniffed still. Dorcas’s face was set, looking stony as she stared at the ground. Out of all of them, she was the only one who had the will to resist looking at the empty chairs.


The Prewett brothers both looked dazed. They clutched coffee cups, but didn’t drink. Elphias Doge paced at the back of the room. Benjy and Caradoc sat with their chairs facing each other, both leaning forward, both whispering.


Sirius looked around at them all warily, wondering which would die next as he tipped his chair back and balanced it on two legs. Peter anxiously chewed his fingernails while Remus’s eyes followed Aberforth around the room.


James had one arm around Lily, and she rested her head on his shoulder while he spoke softly in her ear. Sirius couldn’t hear what he was saying, and felt it was none of his business, anyway.


“Would you knock it off, Black?” snapped Benjy suddenly.


Sirius hadn’t realised the sound of his chair dropping back onto all four legs, over and over, was bothering anyone. He stared at Benjy in stunned silence, but didn’t tip the chair back again.


“Don’t talk to him like that, Fenwick,” said James, rather suddenly. His eyes were narrowed as he focused on Benjy. It was easy to notice how he pulled his arm away from Lily’s shoulders, how he suddenly grabbed his wand and clenched it tight in his fist instead; James didn't try to hide it.


The sides of Benjy’s nose wrinkled in a small sneer at the challenge. “Sod off, Potter,” he grumbled. He didn't see Peter suddenly fumble for his own wand in an attempt to back his friend up, but Frank Longbottom did.


“All right, that’s quite enough,” demanded Frank suddenly, glaring at them all. Peter blushed and dropped his wand; James's eyes only tightened as he watched Benjy like a hawk. Benjy begrudgingly eyed Frank, who was rather much larger than he was, and then turned away in disgust.


“Do you ever wonder how they know?” he mused aloud after a moment. He fiddled with his own wand, trying to appear nonchalant, but beneath his brow his eyes flicked carefully in Sirius’s direction. Had anyone but him noticed the look on Sirius's face, how his expression had changed when he'd read the note left with Edgar?


“How they know what,” spat James, already knowing what was coming and looking rather livid about it.


“How they know who’s in the Order?” finished Benjy, as if it were obvious. “How they know where some of us live, how they know when some of us are standing guard? Or when we don’t come to a meeting because of a sick child. Do you ever wonder how they know…”


“If you’re implying you think somebody is passing them information, Fenwick, then you’d better think again,” growled James, raising his wand arm slightly and leaning forward in a challenging stance. He looked ready to leap out of his chair at any moment.


Benjy only shrugged and turned away.


“Benjy,” scolded Dorcas, her voice nary a whisper. She sounded utterly disappointed in her old friend. Benjy turned to look at her, hardly able to meet her eye. “What is the matter with you,” she demanded softly.


Shaking his head, Benjy moaned, to nobody in particular, “How did they know he was there?” His voice broke, and he covered his face in his hands. He was the first on the scene, aside from Moody. He would never forget walking alone through that dark atrium towards the body of a friend. “Oh, Edgar…”


Caradoc looked rather uncomfortable, being the one sitting closest to Benjy. He took his cap off and worked it through his hands a moment. Then he reached over and squeezed Benjy’s shoulder. “Hey,” he said. Benjy glanced at him, and they seemed to communicate something between their eyes, and then Benjy suddenly seemed fine again. He heaved a sigh and stretched his legs out in front of him, regaining his composure.


“Did it never occur to you that the Dark side has spies?” Frank reminded him in a low voice. “People like Malfoy, whom we know is working for Voldemort after the whole Minister ordeal. Merlin only knows how many others there are, passing information. It wouldn’t have been hard to know that Edgar often stays at the Ministry after hours… All they would have to do is watch.”


“Maybe it wasn’t an attack on the Order,” agreed Caradoc. “Maybe the Order has nothing to do with this. Maybe it was an attack of desperation, because so far, the Dark side has failed to capture the Ministry. It’s not falling easily, and maybe they thought killing somebody from such a well known family would send a message, or scare people…”


He trailed away, looking hopeful, clearly not ready to accept that the Order members might be in danger. “Maybe it was just a coincidence that Edgar happens to be in the Order, too,” he finished. “And maybe that note that was left was meant for the Ministry to find and publish for all to see, and not for us. That’s what my first thought was when I read it, anyway. Maybe… Just maybe you’re putting too much into it, Benjy.”


Benjy frowned thoughtfully. “Maybe,” he finally sighed. It was logical. It could be just a coincidence. Maybe he was overreacting. He scratched the side of his face and stole a glance at Sirius.


But Sirius stared at the floor. He knew what Benjy had been thinking. That perhaps he had passed something along to his family. Perhaps he was a double agent; he’d been in very close to them when rescuing the Minister, after all. The opportunity was there, if he’d wanted it. He knew it crossed all of their minds now and then. None of them fully trusted him yet, and he couldn’t blame them. Though he hadn’t said anything, he recognised the handwriting on that note as belonging to his cousin. He wondered how many others have died to her wand so far.


James settled back into his chair again, seemingly appeased by the fact that Benjy was no longer displaying an attitude, and he absentmindedly played with a strand of Lily’s hair as they continued to wait.


At last, footsteps on the stairs alerted them to Dumbledore’s arrival. The old man entered through the stairwell and crossed the room wearily to stand in front. His face was gaunt.


“At the moment, Edgar’s body is resting peacefully at Hogwarts,” he began. Frank began to object, and Dumbledore raised a hand to halt him. “I know the murder is something the Ministry should deal with, particularly as it happened within the building itself, Frank,” he said quickly. “However, I fear awkward questions might arise, such as what Edgar was doing in the Ministry so late in the first place.”


“He’s always there late,” said Frank.


“But they do not know he often stays all night,” Dumbledore responded wisely. “It would risk putting the Order out in the open, particularly as Bartemius has seen Edgar with us in the past.”


Frank seemed to teeter on the edge of indecision; he knew that what Dumbledore said made sense. But he stared at the old man, trying to think of something to say. Finally he sighed in resignation, but added, “They’re going to ask questions. Edgar wasn’t just anybody.”


“No,” Dumbledore forced a smile. “He was a member of the Order of the Phoenix. And we are going to do whatever it takes to keep that fact a secret, and we are going to protect his family. Which reminds me, I need somebody to go and check on his wife and children, and inform them of the news.”


“I’ll do it,” said Sirius automatically, rising halfway to his feet quickly. There was nothing he wouldn't do in that moment to get out of the room and away from the tension. But then he seemed to suddenly realise what he'd just volunteered himself for, and he rose the rest of the way with more hesitance, the expression of resolve draining quickly from his face.


“Very well,” said Dumbledore, trying not to sound surprised. He knew Sirius Black didn't do this sort of thing.


“I’ll go with him,” Remus blurted, standing as well, for he understood that this wasn’t going to be something Sirius would be particularly good at. The Bones family at least deserved to have the news broken by somebody who could be sympathetic.


(It was nothing against Sirius. He just wasn’t that way, not unless it involved his closest friends. If there was anyone else involved, Sirius tended to be selfish and closed off, guarded. He didn’t reach out to people, and he was more likely to stand in uncomfortable silence than offer any sort of relief to Edgar’s family.)


Sirius could only cast his gentler friend a grateful look. Remus offered a tiny smile, but it was half hearted in the wake of the death. And in anticipation of what they were about to do. They were going to ruin a family’s life, and though he had volunteered to help Sirius, he wasn’t sure he was ready for that.


“If you wish, Remus, I am certain it would be most helpful,” agreed Dumbledore. “I must go and tend to Alastor, but please inform the family that I will be by in due time to speak with them.”


The two Marauders only nodded and sat down again. Dumbledore gravely dismissed them all for the time being, and he strode quickly from the front of the room. He hesitated in the doorway to the stairwell, turning back to face them. “To the Bones family immediately, boys, if that is all right with you,” he said.


Sirius nodded, and Dumbledore left.








II.

It felt wrong to be walking down this deserted street so late at night (or perhaps so early in the morning). Remus felt ill, nauseous, at the thought of knocking on that door and ruining the family’s lives. He had never met the Bones family before, but he knew that Edgar had two teenage children at Hogwarts. A boy and a girl - a Gryffindor and a Hufflepuff. The two students had just arrived home on the train hours before for a week long vacation for Easter - something many students went home for, though the Marauders never did. Sirius never wanted to while he still lived with the Blacks, and the other three couldn’t bring themselves to leave him.


Remus shut his eyes against the way his heart ached for the family. He remembered last night's Order meeting - Edgar had been cheerfully speaking of going to pick them up from King’s Cross. His eyes had shown with excitement. Perhaps the family had gone out to dinner before Edgar had had to leave to guard the Ministry. It was supposed to be a happy night.


The timing, thought Remus, was terribly ironic.


And his mind was on this as they walked down the street towards Edgar’s house. Sirius was silent beside him, but Remus looked up when his friend suddenly inhaled sharply.


“All right, Padfoot?”


But Sirius’s eyes were wide and he stared at something in the distance. Remus’s gaze lingered on Sirius’s suddenly pale face, and then, with hesitance, he turned his head to see what Sirius saw. There was nothing to draw his attention right away, but after a moment of surveying the sky, he became aware of a green glow over the rooftops and obscured by trees, their spring leaves still small and growing as the winter snow slowly melted.


Remus could have sworn his heart stopped in that moment. His throat went suddenly dry, and when he tried to speak, he nearly choked over his own words.


They both stopped walking.


“Do you think we should go back,” whispered Sirius then. “And get a few more people to go with us?”


Remus understood the need for getting more; it was the same reason Sirius spoke so softly. They couldn’t know if Death Eaters still lingered around the house. For there was no denying now what neither of them wanted to say aloud - that that was a Dark Mark, and that the house it hovered over was most likely Edgar’s. And if it was Edgar's, then important Ministry people would soon be all over it. And to have important Ministry people there, vulnerable and unsuspecting, might be exactly what the Dark side would want.


Remus didn’t answer; he was still trying to assess the situation.


He took so long that, beside him, Sirius took a deep breath. “Moony, I've got something I have to get off my chest.” His voice seemed strained, forced and somewhat angry, and it took Remus by surprise when he was still pondering the idea of back up and safety in numbers. Sirius wouldn't look at him; he kept his eyes trained on the green glow in the distance.


“Er... Okay, Sirius. Go on.”


At the sound of Remus's hesitance, Sirius stole a quick glance at his friend. Then he sighed and looked at the ground, the hardness of his expression and tone of voice suddenly gone for the moment. “You know that note that was left with Edgar’s body?”


“Yeah.”


“Bellatrix wrote that note.”


Remus looked sharply to Sirius then. Sirius didn’t return the gaze; he kept his head down. Remus could think of no response to that, however. There was nothing he could say. He knew that it bothered his friend to be related to such people, and that every reminder of that threw him into one of his brooding episodes. So he merely turned his attention back to the eerie green glow in the distance.


“What do you want to do, Padfoot?” he finally asked after several long moments.


Sirius glanced at him and lifted the corner of his mouth in a sarcastic smirk. “I don’t know about you, Moony, but I’m going up there.”


“You don’t want to get anyone else to come with us?”


Sirius seemed determined as he looked at the green sky. “No,” he responded firmly. There was no reason to bring others into danger, after all. “If she’s in there, Remus, I’ll kill her. She is mine.” He took a step forward.


Remus was silent for a moment, but he walked behind his friend. “What if there’s more than just her?” he finally asked, trying to ignore the desperate thumping of his heart.


“I don’t care,” Sirius threw over his shoulder. His pace quickened with determination. “As long as I get her, Moony, I don’t care. Maybe you should go get the rest of the Order, though.” It would be good to get Remus away from the area, perhaps.


“Sirius, stop being so daft...”


Sirius stopped suddenly, so that Remus almost walked right into him, and turned to glare. “If she was your family, Remus, you’d want to do the same,” he snarled.


Remus remained calm as he met Sirius’s eye. “She’s not your family,” he said simply. “We are.”


Sirius only glared at him and then furiously turned and stalked into the darkness once more. How many times had he heard that before? It didn't matter, he reasoned; it didn't change things, and people still looked at him warily at times. Every halfway noble person he knew - Dumbledore, James's father, his friends - all of them insisted that it was choices that make a person. But Sirius's choices didn't seem to matter, sometimes. Prejudices ran deeper. He ground his teeth as he heard Remus's footsteps behind him.


Remus, perhaps, could relate to him the best out of anyone, having received similar attitudes in the past for being a werewolf. But at least the fact that he was a werewolf was hidden from most people. At least Remus had that. He, on the other hand, could never hide where he came from. What he was, no matter how far he tried to run from it. His last name would forever give him away; even the way he looked gave him away.


Remus couldn’t understand how it felt to be on the receiving end of Benjy’s suspicious gaze, even after all these months. Remus couldn’t understand how it felt to pour everything he is into the Order, only to still face people’s doubts. Remus couldn’t understand his determination.


“She’s probably not still there, anyway,” said Remus quickly, trying to comfort himself as much as Sirius with that suggestion.


Sirius only grunted, because the fury in him still hoped she would be there. By now, the green glow was no longer obscured. It was just as they'd suspected - the Dark Mark. Sirius stared at it as he stalked forward, his determination only growing.


The house was coming into view, now. It was large, even bigger than James’s house, and nearly as big as Twelve Grimmauld Place, but given the Bones’ status in the wizarding world, that wasn’t surprising. Remus was glad that it was only three in the morning. If this had happened during the day or evening hours, there would likely be a massive crowd around the house right now.


They turned up the walkway.


The front door was still cracked open; one hinge had been broken. As Sirius pressed his hand to it and carefully swung it open, Remus felt terror grip him, nearly strangle him. He half expected to see a figure shrouded in black waiting there, ready to strike as soon as that door was out of the way.


But there was nobody; the entrance hall was empty. Sirius started forward. Remus grabbed his arm to halt him.


Homenum revelio,” he whispered. Sirius seemed impatient, but waited for the spell to come back.


When it did, it revealed that nobody was in the house, and only then did Remus release Sirius’s arm.


(Sirius yanked his arm away, not bothering to hide his disappointment that he wouldn’t get to throw his life away to kill Bellatrix; at least not tonight. But this didn’t bother Remus, who felt only a sense of relief.)


“Hallo?” called Remus then, lighting his wand with a simple Lumos.


There was no answer. He wasn't expecting one; his spell had already told him nobody was here, at least nobody alive. He tried to convince himself that there was still a chance that the family wasn't home. They could just be out for a midnight stroll. He bit his lip in desperation.


Sirius immediately headed for the stairs and the bedrooms, the likely place where the family would be at this hour. Remus, slightly grateful that Sirius had chosen to explore upstairs, made his way into the living room. It was empty, of course. And the dining room was, too. He was in the middle of the kitchen when Sirius’s voice behind him nearly startled him out of his own skin. Only Sirius could slip so quickly and silently through a house.


“They’re all dead,” he said in a flat tone.


“Oh,” whispered Remus, not surprised. He'd already known. They both had known.


“Let’s go.”


The thought of leaving three dead people in the house bothered Remus greatly. He hesitated, but then followed his friend back towards the front door. It had to be done this way, he knew. Dumbledore would bring Edgar’s body here. They couldn’t have people find the man dead on the Ministry floor, after all. It would raise questions about what he had been doing there. Simple magic would tell them what time he was killed. People knew Edgar often stayed late, but the fact that he stayed all night was a secret known only to the Order.


The Order still needed to be kept secret, for their own safety.


At least this way, it would look like what it was - an attack on the Bones family. With Edgar here, where he should have been, and not sneaking around the Ministry.


“Come on,” said Sirius. Remus hadn’t realised he’d hesitated in the doorway. He started to drag the door shut, but then realised he might as well leave it open, just as they’d found it.







III.

The news that Edgar’s entire family was dead brought fresh sobs from the female Order members, and looks of determination from the males. Dumbledore had brought Edgar’s body to his house. When the neighbours woke in the morning and stepped outside to retrieve their newspapers, they found the green skull still hovering in the sky.


And when the Ministry officials responded to the scene, they found all four members of the Bones family dead in their beds, with the handwritten note of warning left behind.


Sirius told nobody else but James that it was Bellatrix’s handwriting on that letter. James didn’t say anything. He understood Sirius’s need for revenge on his cousin, even if he didn’t agree with it. He wouldn’t try to stop Sirius if the opportunity to go after Bellatrix came up, but he did ask that Sirius let him come, too. At least then, it might be two against one.


Sirius had reluctantly agreed, but then, he never could say no to James.


(Neither of them told Lily. There was no reason to scare her, after all.)


But things were relatively calm after everything was said and done. There were no more attacks for the time being. Even the Dementors seemed to have retreated slightly. And Sirius never got the chance to find Bellatrix. After a few days, he didn’t think about her quite so much, and James was relieved when his friend's eyes lost the hardened look of hatred and anger.


The funeral for the Bones family was massive. It was held in the Ministry’s Atrium, which was rather ironic, considering that was where he died. Nobody but the Order knew that, however, and with all of the security measures (and the repaired telephone box, although the hook to hold the phone was still broken), it was the safest place for a large gathering. It was the only place, in fact, that could even accommodate as many people as what wanted to attend.


(The safest and only place aside from Hogwarts, anyway, but Dumbledore refused to allow so many people into the school, especially when there was still no way of knowing who could be trusted and who couldn’t be.)


Every Auror the Ministry had stood on duty that day to make sure the Ministry couldn’t be penetrated. And, unbeknownst to them, an additional, smaller army in the Order sat clutching their wands in their seats.


In all, it was an honourable ceremony for Edgar Bones and his family. It was only a shame that most of the people there had no idea how much Edgar had really given and sacrificed for the magical community.


Moody returned to the Order after Edgar had been laid to rest. Everyone was careful around him, but he seemed to be just the same as he had been before Edgar’s death. He didn’t mention Edgar, however, and stubbornly kept himself constantly busy.


Hogwarts Castle was a gloomy place the week after, when classes resumed after Easter break. Only two other students had died in the past several years, but the Bones children made it four, and both of them were rather popular and well known. Out of everyone who might have suffered at the hands of the Dark Side, the Bones children were never considered to be in any danger. They were well known purebloods, after all. They were good stock - they, of all people, should have been safe from attack.


As for the Daily Prophet, the surviving Bones family was on the front page nearly every day. It was the equivalent of if a celebrity had been murdered - and in their world, the Bones family were celebrities - as much so as the Black family, or the Malfoy family, the Prewetts or the Potters.


It certainly didn't help that the violence and attacks had suddenly withdrawn. Trees waved innocently in the gentle wind these days; there was suddenly no wildly rocking bridges, or dead farm fields, or massive vehicular accidents. Previous talk among Muggles of Armageddon died out, albeit shakily and with a reluctance to believe what was too good to be true.


So instead, the newspaper filled it’s pages with interviews from other members of the Bones family, and small biographies of those who had died, and family photographs. The Bones family got nearly as much attention as the attack on the Underground several months before, although they didn't seem happy about all the attention.


In the end, nobody in the Order could even stand to look at the paper anymore. It was especially hard when it seemed as if the remaining Bones relatives couldn't even walk out their front doors without having cameras and journalists in their faces. Nobody deserved that, thought Remus, as he frowned at the photograph of Edgar's sister, Amelia, trying to hide her face as she entered the Ministry.


As April turned into May, and the flowers began to bloom and the skies became more cheerful, it was easy for all of them to let their guards down slightly. The Order had been on edge for weeks, waiting for something more, but it never came. They could almost dare, now, to hope that they were winning the war. They suddenly had time to focus on Gideon and Fabian’s reports on the Giant movement.


Slowly they became more upbeat about how things were going. They felt that their plan to defeat the giants was flawless; it was a battle they knew they could win with a little help from nature. And so they would wait until the giants had crossed France and moved towards the English channel. It wouldn’t be long until they were there. And then they could fight the massive creatures with magic and water. They could mould massive waves to drive the giants back. Perhaps magic could not penetrate their thick skin, but the force of a tidal wave could wipe them out.


Outside of the Order meetings, which were becoming somewhat scarce, things were going rather well. Having more time on his hands, Peter found a job working in one of the shops in Diagon Alley - the life insurance money he'd received last August was now beginning to run out. Remus joined him in looking for work, but didn’t have quite so much luck. Instead he felt as if he had just graduated Hogwarts all over again, and he could remember sitting in his parents’ cabin and filling out stacks upon stacks of applications.


(And then he painfully remembered that back then, his father was still alive, and that though things seemed easier and better for now, many things had changed in the last year, and many things would never be the same again.)


Lily took to planting a vegetable patch and landscaping her garden. She chose to do it all by hand, for if she used magic, she would be finished with it in mere seconds, and as she told James, “There’s no fun in that.”


(Although James couldn't figure out what, exactly, was so fun about doing it by hand - every night Lily complained of an aching back and knees. Every night, as they lay in bed, he would massage her back, pressing his knuckles into the tight muscles and savouring her warm skin.


Every night, as his hands drifted vaguely south after a while, Lily would suddenly turn and smack him.


“I said a back rub, James!” she would snap while he snickered.)


They had all of the Marauders over nearly every night for dinner and tea in the cheerful backyard. The sun shone more often now. The flowers and vegetables thrived. Peter excitedly talked about his new job, and Remus told them of his struggles with finding one for himself.


“You don’t have to work, Moony,” James reassured him as he chewed on a chicken leg. “I’d imagine it’d be rather hard for you to hold a job anyway when you’d have to disappear once a month.”


Remus shifted uncomfortably. He was well aware of that fact, and he’d figured he might just have to suffer through the aches and pains surrounding the full moon. He couldn’t expect James to support him for the rest of his life, after all. The one thing that was keeping him from finding work was never going to change, never going to go away.


He stared out over the sunny garden, at the bees buzzing around the flowers and the bright green grass against the blue sky. He glanced around at his friends; Sirius was leaning back in his chair with his hands folded behind his head and his eyes closed, and Peter was eagerly spooning seconds of everything onto his plate, and Lily was dabbing at her mouth with her napkin, and James simply watched him right back as he took another bite of chicken.


It was so easy to forget his problems when he was around his friends.


Remus did something he hadn’t done just for pleasure in quite a while; he smiled. In return, the corner of James's mouth twitched upwards into a crooked grin of his own - as if they both now shared some secret knowledge of something; the meaning of life, or something equally content.






IV.

It was late one night when James received an owl tapping urgently at his bedroom window. It took him a moment to wake up and fully understand what the noise was, and by then, Lily had already beaten him to the source of the sound. She shoved the window open and the unfamiliar owl swooped into the room, dropped a note on James’s head, and then flew out again.


“Hm,” huffed Lily. She had barely gotten the window fully open before she had to close it again.


“Really,” said James irritably, propping himself on his elbow. He grabbed his glasses from the bedside table, shoved them onto his face, and then held up the parchment and reached for his wand. He grumbled, as he lit the wand, that it was arse o’clock, and this better not be one of Peter’s jokes. But the first thing he noticed in the soft light was the logo in the upper corner of the letter - he recognised the crossed bone and wand as being the mark of St. Mungo’s.


“Oh, no,” he murmured automatically, suddenly sitting up straight. He couldn’t help but wonder which of the people he loved and cared about was currently in St. Mungo’s, so terribly injured or sick that it would warrant a message in the middle of the night.


James closed his eyes, tight. Lily noticed his sudden expression, and stepped towards him in concern, laying her hand against the back of his head. James hardly noticed, and after taking a moment to compose himself, as well as a deep breath of dread, he read on.


Dear Mister James Potter,

It is with our utmost regret to inform you that your father, Mister Jonathan James Potter, has suffered a stroke at approximately one o’clock in the morning.

Your presence is urgently requested.

Sincerely,

Edward H. F. Bonham, Jr.
Head Healer
St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries



James almost felt his heart stop. He grabbed his watch off the bedside table and peered at it. It was thirteen minutes after one. It dropped back onto the table with a loud clatter.


“Fuck,” he said, getting out of bed and scanning the letter again and again.


“What is it?” asked Lily, rather alarmed at his reaction. She watched him as he tossed the parchment on the bed and turned to scan the room - or, rather, the discarded clothing on the floor.


“My dad’s had a stroke,” said James in a strained voice as he yanked yesterday’s jeans on.


Lily’s jaw dropped.


“They want me at the Hospital,” he continued, trying not to let his voice shake. He stopped to look at her. “Immediately. What do you suppose that means? Does that mean it’s really bad? Do they think he’s going to die?”


Lily only stared at him. After a moment, James turned and pulled a shirt over his head, not sure if he wanted to hear the answer to that, anyway. He ran his hand through his hair wildly, and paced about, looking for his shoes. When he located them, he sat on the bed to shove them onto his feet, not even bothering to tie the laces. He stood up and grabbed his wand again. But he stopped at Lily, kissing her mouth, which was still hanging open.


“Hey,” he said gently, using his finger to lift her chin and shut her mouth. “Do me a favour, Lily, and go and get Sirius.”


She nodded, feeling ill at the thought of James losing his father. She hated hospitals. She hated that he was about to go through the same pain that she had just gone through months before. James left, then, and she was quite alone.


She angrily brushed the tears from her cheeks as she pulled her clothes on.


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