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Chapter 5 : If Ye Break Faith
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Lily awoke on her sixteenth birthday in the warm comfort of her Hogwarts bed. The scarlet curtains surrounding her were the same that had greeted her on her very first morning here, and since then, they had become rather more welcoming than the room she shared with her sister back at home. Petunia had moved in with their grandparents the very last week of winter hols, which left Lily rather relieved, though not nearly as content as when she had arrived back at Hogwarts.
Lily stretched and yawned deeply before rising and rubbing the sleep from her eyes. She rose to her knees and pulled the curtain open around her. As usual, she was the first of the girls in her dorm to wake, and the other curtains remained tightly closed around the four poster beds. A small pile of gifts graced the foot of her bed. She giggled to herself, crawled to the foot of her bed and began opening them carefully. There were several small trinkets from the girls in her dorm, a lovely set of earrings in particular from Mary, the standard box of chocolates from Sev (she had told him he needn't get her anything at all), and three boxes from home. The first was signed Mum, Dad, and Tuney (though she doubted very much that Petunia had anything at all to do with that gift), and contained a beautiful necklace that she was certain her mother had picked out. The second was rather large, and Lily knew immediately it was from her grandparents. She opened it and, unsurprisingly, found a purple dress wrapped in white tissue paper. She pulled it from the box and looked it over. Her grandfather had made it, she knew, and it was all the more beautiful for it. And surprisingly in-style, given his age. Perhaps he had employed some help with it, though she couldn't imagine who he could possibly ask. The third box was puzzling. The label read "To Lily, Love Dad," but why would her father send her a gift in addition to the necklace? It was strange. She opened it with caution, removing the brown paper with the care it had not received in wrapping. A medium sized wooden box was revealed - a jewelry box, perhaps? She opened it to reveal another letter.
Happy Birthday! I figure you're sixteen now, which is plenty old enough for this. It's the time I started smoking, after all, and I know you'll do it anyway, so I might as well know you're doing it right. It's not a fancy one, it's actually the one I had in the war, and your granddad too. I thought you might appreciate that. It's old but it still smokes alright. I'm sure you've seen me do it enough to figure it out. If not, write me, I'll send directions. Just, make sure your mom won't read it? You have a way, I'm sure. She says tobacco is unhealthy, and she doesn't want either of you doing it. I figure this is better than your fags, at any rate, so you can knock that shit right off. Don't think I don't know about it.
Anyway, enjoy the pipe. It's treated me well.
Lily smirked to herself as she put the letter down, and examined the pipe that lay inside the box. It was made of a deep mahogany, simple in design but well made. Her father had cleaned it for her, but the inside remained a deep black from years of usage. There was a small silver pipe tool that lay in the box alongside of it, and two bags of tobacco underneath.
She heavily debated packing it to smoke right there, but decided that might not be the best idea just yet. Instead, she packed it away neatly into the box from which had come, and stowed it in her trunk.
"Happy birthday, Lily," a groggy voice came from across the room.
"Thanks, Mary," Lily called back softly. The other girl lay back on her bed, obviously not quite ready to rise for the day yet. Lily took the opportunity to ready herself. She washed and slipped into the dress her grandfather had made for her. She really did quite like it, and it wasn't too fancy for wearing on a Saturday about the school. The necklace her mother had sent fit nicely around her neck, and the silver of the chain went quite well with the dress. She wondered if her mother had coordinated with Granddad. Maybe she had been the one to choose the style of the dress.
"Are you going to come down to breakfast?" Lily asked Mary.
Mary yawned. "Don't wait for me," she said. "I'll meet you down there in a bit."
"Alright," she said. She found a pair of shoes, and made her way down to the Common Room. Several people greeted her with birthday wishes, and she smiled and thanked them cordially. The corridors on the way to the Great Hall were not deserted, which Lily, at this point, was quite thankful for. She found that quite a few students were headed to the Great Hall for breakfast, but not many had finished and were returning.
When she arrived in the hall, she found about a quarter of the school's population awake and eating. There was a cheerful buzz of noise-- morning conversations, laughter, the occasional sleepy yawn. Lily smiled and made her way to Gryffindor table. None of her dormmates had risen yet, so she made her way to where the boys of her year sat. "G'morning," she said as she sat down.
"Morning," they said in a chorus.
"Sure you want to sit here?" Potter asked. "Wouldn't want to put you off your eggs."
Lily rolled her eyes. "Maybe if you didn't do stupid things, we wouldn't have this problem."
"I wouldn't say the things I do are stupid," he said. "Funny. Fun. Good-natured."
"Sometimes. But sometimes stupid as well." The other boys stifled chuckles. Lily raised a glass of pumpkin juice to her lips to take a drink.
"Happy birthday, by the way, Lily," Remus said, looking up from his toast.
"Thank you, Remus." She offered him a genuine smile.
"It's your birthday?" Peter asked.
"No, you dolt, Remus has only said that for shits and giggles," Potter said.
Lily smiled, trying not to laugh.
"Happy birthday," Peter said, a bit shyly.
"Happy birthday," Potter and Black said in unison.
"Thank you," she said.
"You know," Potter said to Black. "We should do something to commemorate the occasion."
"Like what?" Lily asked, her eyes widening.
"Well..." Potter began.
But he was interrupted by the loud screech of the owls as they entered the hall to deliver the mail. Lily had already received her gifts, but was pleased to see another card in the post, and her copy of the Prophet. She opened the card to find that it was from Sev's mother, and she smiled, glad to think she had remembered.
She put it away and went to the Prophet. She thought that Dorcas was meant to have an article printed today, and she was excited to see what her role model had to say. The boys had already torn into Potter's copy, and were blabbering about Quidditch scores. She gathered that Potter's team had lost quite badly, and smirked at his bad reaction.
Her eyes fell to her own front page, found nothing of the ordinary, and opened it up, scanning for Dorcas's article. On the next page, a headline caught her eye. "Several Muggles killed in London attack."
"What?" she mouthed quietly.
She went on to read the very short article. "Several Muggles were killed yesterday in an attack on London. The attack is believed to be the work of the followers of He Who Must Not Be Named, though the reasoning behind the attack is as of yet unclear. No Witches or Wizards were harmed."
"Oh, you have got to be kidding me," she whispered more to herself than anyone within earshot of her.
"What is it?"
"Several Muggles killed in a magical attack yesterday," she said, "and it doesn't even make the bloody front page."
The boys at the table stared at her, not knowing quite what to say.
"They don't know why, or who did it, but the important thing here is that no magical people were harmed," she said.
"Well that's good, isn't it?"
"Sure. I'm glad no one else was hurt, but this is ridiculous."
The boys didn't respond, and Lily was glad. If she thought any more about it she thought she might burst. "What's new in the world of Quidditch?" she asked.
"Puddlemere lost," James lamented.
"And now he owes me two galleons," Sirius said gleefully.
Lily chuckled. "How fare the Harpies?"
"Oh, don't tell me you're a Harpies fan!" James said.
"I am absolutely a Harpies fan."
"What a disappointment."
Lily shrugged. "What's not to like about the Harpies?"
James looked as if he was about to go on a rather long tangent about everything there was not to like about the Harpies, but thought better of it.
"They beat Puddlemere the last time they played," Remus filled her in.
"The last ten or so times they've played," Sirius added.
Lily grinned. "Well that's lovely news. But they weren't playing Puddlemere this week, were they?"
"No," James said. "They played the Cannons."
"Oh, so they won then?"
"That's not saying much against the Cannons."
"Fared better than Puddlemere, I think."
James narrowed his eyes at her. Lily smiled in return, then went back to her newspaper. With any luck, there would be no more bad news to discover on her birthday. She wasn't hopeful for good news, but she could realistically wish for no more bad. A few pages in she discovered Dorcas's article, and read it over, smiling. She had half hoped that she would have written about the Muggles that were killed yesterday, but figured there probably hadn't been enough time to cover it. Maybe next week she would be appeased.
"What are you reading now?" James asked.
"Dorcas Meadowes's article," she replied.
"It always is," she responded.
"I've never followed her, really."
"You should," she said. "Dorcas is brilliant. Very intelligent and practical and she sees what is actually happening in the world. Isn't afraid to say it, either, which really says a lot. The Ministry isn't too fond of her, I think."
"That says even more," James responded.
"You'd like her, I think," Lily said. "And you might learn something, too."
"Well I wouldn't want that."
"What wouldn't you want, James?" Mary asked as she approached the table.
"You're in the wrong place, then, mate," she responded.
"Don't I know it?"
"It was a stupid fucking decision."
"No one is arguing that point."
"Because it was a stupid fucking decision."
"But not our commander's. Blame Winston Churchill if you want to blame anyone."
"I doubt Churchill decided that he was gonna make us stop in that village at all when this super-secret operation was already being planned."
"Ya never know."
Jack rolled his eyes at the men arguing. "Who fucking cares whose idea it was? Nothing to be done now."
"What do you know, kid?"
"I know that we can't magically go back in time to leave earlier, so what's the point in arguing about it?"
"I want to fucking argue about it," the man said.
"Bottle up the urge and use the energy for marching," Jack replied. "You'll be thankful for it."
"Watch your fucking mouth, kid."
Jack didn't respond. They kept marching.
"How much farther?" someone else shouted. No one really knew.
The commanders had shown them the maps; they had shown them the route they were to take to Dunkirk, but had only vaguely mentioned how far it was. By the pace they were keeping, Jack could only guess that they had quite a ways to go.
"Shut up!" someone else called to the man questioning. He did as he was told.
Jack wondered what the wisdom was of running the soldiers ragged trying to get to the battle. Wouldn't be much use when the time came if they were sleeping in their boots. Maybe they'd have a day or so of rest before they went in. Jack was hopeful; it had been a while since he'd tasted whiskey, and he was anxious to try it again.
"Are you ready?" Johns asked as he walked up behind him.
Jack grinned. "I was born ready for this."
"I thought so."
"About fucking time we got around to it," Jack replied. "We've been at war for what, five months? And I haven't seen a fucking battle yet."
"What was that at the village then?"
Johns laughed. "Damn right."
"How long do you think it'll take before we beat them so badly they go crawling back to Germany?"
"About five minutes, give or take," Johns said.
"As long as it's enough for me to kill a couple," Jack said.
"I'm sure you won't be disappointed."
The sky had begun to darken; grey clouds formed in the sky and slowly worked their way in front of the sun.
"Think it'll rain?" Jack asked Johns.
"Don't fucking care," Johns said.
Jack didn't either. If it rained, all the better, really. He'd march through anything to get to battle.
They were not disappointed. Half an hour later they started to feel droplets falling from the sky, and after an hour, it was a full on downpour. He heard some men complain and wish they'd stop marching. They didn't slow their pace.
"Quit your whining!" Johns hollered. "You're English, ain't ya? What's a little rain gonna do?"
Jack couldn't help but laugh.
The rain was refreshing, and he embraced it. He hadn't showered in a while, and the rain was almost as good. It ran down his face and neck and Jack couldn’t think of anything that would feel better.
Phil leaned his head against the window, the wool of his hat shielding his head from the cool glass. Rain slid down upon it and drenched the world outside. Phil couldn’t help but smile; some things just never changed, and he was grateful for the consistency, especially now.
“Excuse me,” a female voice broke him from his reverie. He looked up to see a tall, thin woman in a nurse’s uniform looking at him. Her bright red hair was done in the same simple coif as all the others. “May I sit here?”
She was asking, he knew, out of politeness and not actual curiosity, so he nodded and removed his pack from the seat beside him.
“Where are you headed?” she asked as she sat down.
“Manchester,” he answered.
“I’m off in Birmingham,” she said. “How long are you on leave?”
“A week,” he said. “But two days travelling each way.”
“That’s a long way,” the woman said. “Are you at the Front?”
“Yeah,” Phil said.
“Oh gosh,” she said, her voice full of terror. Her pretty round face was contorted with an expression of disgust. “I’ve seen what happens out there.”
“I very much doubt that, Miss,” he replied sadly.
She looked appalled at what she had heard herself say. “Oh, of course not. I suppose I couldn’t even imagine it, really, but I’ve seen how the men come back and it seems as if they’ve come back from Hell.”
“That I’ll agree with,” Phil said.
“Oh goodness, I suppose this is the last thing you want to talk about, isn’t it? How terribly rude of me.”
“It’s alright,” Phil responded. “I’m sure you won’t be the only one, it’s good to practice.”
“If you’re sure.”
“I am,” he said. “You are completely forgiven.”
“I shall rest easy now.”
“I’m very glad for it.”
She smiled at him, a true smile, he realized, the first she had worn during their meeting. It lit up her face and her blue eyes shined.
“I’m Fiona Bradshaw,” she said finally, extending her hand towards him.
“Phil Evans,” he countered.
“It’s very nice to meet you, Phil,” she said.
“You as well, Fiona.”
“Rubbish weather though, isn’t it?”
“Just a bit,” he said. “But I don’t mind it.”
“You like rain?”
“Not usually,” Phil said. “But I like it now.”
“It feels like home.”
Fiona smiled at him, and Phil couldn’t think of a more beautiful sight.
“Have you been gone for long?”
“Just a few months.”
“And you have leave already?”
“Oh, are you alright?”
“Just fine,” he said. “But the doctor said I needed some rest, so home I’m going.”
“I’m sure your family is very excited.”
“My mother is very happy, yes. She said she’d make all my favorite foods for me.”
“Well that’s the best part about going home, isn’t it?”
Phil laughed. “I think it might be.”
“It’s certainly my favorite. It’s a much better part than sharing a bed with my sisters again.”
“How many sisters do you have?”
“Seven. And four brothers. But I only share the bed with two.”
“Oh my, your parents really have a handful, don’t they?”
“Aye, Mum cried when I left for London, but I think she was a little relieved.”
“Are you the first to leave?”
"No, not quite. Florence and Margaret are gone, maids at the big house. Beatrice is married, Eleanor is training to be a nurse as well, and the rest are still in school. But with twelve children, four gone hardly makes a difference."
"I'm sure your family would disagree."
"They do enjoy the wages I send them."
"See? I'm sure it makes quite the difference."
She laughed. "Perhaps. What about you? Any siblings at home?"
"Just me and Mum," he said.
"How lonely," she said. "I'm not sure what I would do without a large family. Sleep alone, maybe. But I do that now that I've gone anyway. And it was always so nice to share the bed with Vera and Samantha and Nellie."
"I thought you didn't like it?"
"Well, they're much bigger now," she said.
Phil laughed. "I suppose that makes quite the difference."
Fiona nodded. "Very much so."
"What about your brothers?"
"Henry and Winston are off in France," she said, a bit sadly. "And Gerald is just waiting the day he gets called up. Mum and Dad won’t let him enlist before then. Haskell is far too young for that."
"Tell him not to wait too anxiously," he said.
"I don't think it'll do much good. Apparently some nasty woman handed him a feather in the park a few weeks ago. He was none too pleased."
"He shouldn't mind them. They're a bunch of bloody cowards, if you ask me."
"I tried telling him. If they saw what I saw, what you saw… maybe they wouldn't be so eager for all the men to go off. They haven't any idea what they're encouraging their brothers and sons to do, have they?"
"No, I can't say they do."
"Maybe they wouldn't be so arrogant about it if they had."
"Do you think?"
"Nursing changed my ideas about it."
"Were you a member of the Order?"
"No. Seemed a bit silly to me. I thought I could be of more use to the war this way. I'd say I was right."
"What did you think about it?"
"I thought it was absolutely foolish of them," he said shortly. "Who are they to say I'm a coward when they'll never have to face the Front?"
"Did they hand you one?"
"Oh," she said. "I'm so sorry."
"It wasn't you," he said.
He didn't respond, and she remained silent for a few moments. "You're rather shy, aren't you?" she asked, finally.
"And you're not shy at all."
She blushed a little. "Father always said it was unbecoming for a woman to speak as much as I do. I can't say I care terribly much."
Phil smiled at her. "I don't think you should mind it. I'm rather enjoying the conversation."
She blushed a deeper shade of red and grinned.
Phil returned her smile, but remained quiet.
"Do you enjoy reading, Phil?" she asked.
"I do, but I can't say I have much time for it."
"Oh, I dare say you don't. I know I never seem to have any time for anything pleasurable at all. But if you get the chance, you absolutely have to read this book..."
And the conversation continued. Fiona paved the way, and Phil followed happily along. They laughed often, and Phil was sure he had never learned so much about a stranger before. There were men in his unit he didn't know so much about. He didn't mind it at all. Somewhere between London and Birmingham, the rain had stopped, and the sun began shining. Phil didn't notice until the train began to slow.
"It certainly cleared up," he said.
"Does it feel less like home for it?" Fiona asked.
"No, no, it feels like it even more, now."
"I'm very glad."
She began to pack up her things, buttoning her coat and placing her hat upon her head.
"Are you going?" he asked.
"It's Birmingham," she said.
"It's been three hours," she replied.
"Oh," he said. He thought for a moment. "Well, it was lovely to meet you. You've provided a ray of sunlight in a terribly grey day."
Fiona blushed deeply. "I'm glad to have brightened it, if only for a few hours."
"I'm glad for it, too."
The train halted to a stop, and the door to the compartment they shared opened. She turned to move toward the door, and made the short journey rather slowly. As she began the descent to the platform, she turned back to look at Phil. She smiled widely at him. "It was really ever so nice to meet you, Phil."
He gave a small smile back to her. "Indeed it was."
She turned back and finished descending the stairs. She paused for a moment at the opening of the door, then walked quickly away. Phil moved closer to the window and stared out of it, watching her as she moved throughout the crowd and out of his life forever. He was surprised to find that he was quite sad to watch her go.
And then he saw her stop. A man in a suit handed her something, and she moved close to a wall, leaning against it, though Phil couldn't see what she was doing. After a few moments, she returned to the man, grinning at him, and mouthing words Phil couldn't make out. Then she took off in a run, back toward the train. She pushed and shoved and dodged the people that she had weaved through just moments before, and Phil was utterly bewildered.
The train blew its horn, signaling that it would soon begin its journey once again. Phil stood from his seat, and stepped down on the step toward the platform. Fiona was running closer, and waving at him now.
The engineers were beginning to close the doors. He prayed Fiona would run just a bit faster. He stepped down onto the platform.
"Phil!" she shouted.
He took a few steps toward her. The engineer was moving closer to his compartment. He turned toward him, and shouted, "Give me a few minutes, can ya?"
The engineer seemed to pause, evaluating the situation for a moment before saying, "Just a few, I suppose, wouldn't hurt."
"Thanks, mate," he said.
And the moment the engineer had taken to pause had given Fiona just enough time to make it to him.
"Phil," she said, breathless.
"Fiona," he replied.
"I have to go," she said.
"Me too," he said.
"But it was so nice talking to you," she said.
"It was," he said.
"I don't suppose you have anyone to write to, while you’re at the Front?" she asked.
"No," he said. "I don't."
"Then write to me," she said. "Please." She handed him a piece of paper.
"Of course," he said.
She grinned at him.
He grinned back.
The engineer hollered that they had to move on.
"I have to go," Phil said.
"I know," Fiona said.
"I'll write," he said.
"I know," she said.
He smiled at her again, and turned and walked back to his compartment, climbed up the steps and into it without looking back. He couldn't look back. He might change his mind and follow her home. Only when he had been safely locked in the compartment did he dare to turn back around. She still stood there, grinning at him, and waving now. He smiled just as widely and waved back at her. And they kept at it, as the train lurched into motion, smiling and waving at each other until Phil had moved too far out of sight to continue.
Only when he could no longer see her, and the platform had become but a speck in the distance, did Phil finally move back to his seat.
The relief of sitting was almost unbearably pleasurable. After walking for days on end, to finally rest his legs was sweeter than Jack could ever have imagined. It did not matter that he was on the ground and not in a chair. It might have been better that way, actually. He contemplated lying down and letting the ground support his entire body, but held off the impulse, for now at least. He had only a few more minutes before he would be called to stand at attention again, and he wasn't sure he would be able to stand again if he lay down now.
"Smell the ocean breeze, boys!" Jeremiah Johns called as he walked over to where Jack sat.
Jack took a deep breath in through his nose. "Smells like winning," Jack said, grinning.
"Ain't it sweet?" Johns said as he sat down next to Jack.
"Aye, it is."
Johns reached into his pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. "Nothing like the smell of fresh sea air to smoke to, eh?" he said, half the words muttered with a cigarette between his teeth.
Jack grinned. "Absolutely." He pulled out his own, and Johns held up his flame for Jack to light it off of. "Thanks," he said.
"No problem, mate."
"What a fucking week it's been," Johns said as he exhaled his first drag.
"You can say that again," Jack replied.
"What a fucking week it's been."
"We get bloody attacked by the Krauts, then we get marched off to the bloody North Pole, and now they tell us we'll be fighting Jerry again in the morning. Think we'll ever get a day off?"
"We got five months off," Jack said. "We didn't even start moving until this month, ya lazy sod."
Johns laughed. "Don't blame me for being tired."
"I suppose that'd make me a hypocrite," Jack said. "But I can't say I'm not excited for this."
"Me too, mate."
They grinned at each other, then noticed the men moving to where their commander had told them they would meet.
"Think it's time?" Jack asked.
"Oh, probably," Johns said.
Jack stood up from the ground, and both the men took one last, long drag of their cigarettes before putting them out and following the men as they moved toward the commander.
They arrived and lined up, just as they always did, and waited for the briefing. Jack listened to what exactly was going to happen. When they were to advance, and what each company was expected to do. He internalized the directions for his company, and made mental notes about what exactly that meant for him, as a soldier.
"What's this bullshit?" Johns whispered out of the side of his mouth.
"Bullshit that'll save your life," Jack whispered back.
Johns chuckled. Jack continued to pay rapt attention.
When they were finally free to leave, Johns burst out into laughter. "Bullshit that'll save me life?" Johns said. "That's fucking rich. Did Rivers teach you that?"
"It does sound like Rivers, don't it?" Jack laughed.
"What the fuck even happened to Rivers?"
"I think he got separated. I dunno, really."
"All the better."
Johns didn’t answer. He had pulled out another fag and was smoking it slowly.
“Do you think he’s dead?” Jack finally asked.
“I don’t fucking care,” Johns said simply.
"That's not fair, Lily!" Severus pleaded.
"Who says I have to be fair?" Lily said. "Avery and Mulciber are just plain nasty, and I will not, absolutely not, be civil to them."
"But, Lily, they're my friends," he said.
"Well that is a piss poor decision you made, really. They're awful."
"What have they ever done to you?"
Lily laughed a soft, mocking chuckle. "Lots. And right in front of your face, sometimes, but it's not like you ever see it happening."
"I don't see what isn't there."
"Oh, that's rich."
"You know what I do see, Lily? I see you getting awfully friendly with Potter"—he spat the name—"and his mates."
"What, because I sat with them at breakfast on my birthday? That was three months ago! I've hardly talked to any of them since!"
"But you sat with them on your birthday."
"And so what if I did?" Her face was quickly turning red with anger. "What does that matter at all?"
"It matters because you're my friend, you're my best friend, and you're off fraternizing with the enemy!"
"I'm not fraternizing, and they are not the enemy here."
"I'd sure say they are."
"Well, they're not my enemy, at any rate."
"They should be."
"And who would be my friends then? Mulciber and Avery?"
"If you gave them a chance, maybe."
"Are you kidding me? They'd have me dead in a heartbeat, if they had their way! I'd only be giving them a chance to hurt me without defending myself."
"And how do you know that, Lily, if you don't try?"
Her eyes narrowed at her friend. "If you don't know that by now, you're just not paying attention."
"Of course I'm paying attention," he snapped. "I always pay attention."
"Perhaps to what you want to see, but apparently nothing else."
"It's a hopeless battle with you, isn't it?" he whispered. "Trying to convince you my friends are decent."
"It's an impossible one," she said. "And a rather pointless one as well. You're trying to convince me of lies, and I won't have it."
"It's not a lie!"
"Do you know what they've done? Do you know what they do when you're not around them? Although I'm not sure why they wait until you're gone at all, it seems they don't care about you at all."
"Apparently they do! More even than you! They're not off gallivanting with Potter! They know what a vile person he is!"
"And you think I don't?!" Lily shouted. "How dare you!? I am perfectly aware of how vile Potter is, and you'd be keen to know he is much better than those utter arses you call friends."
"Do not insult my friends."
"Don't insult me, then!"
"You were! It's the same, isn't it? You're insulting my judgment. Though really, I suppose it does have a tendency to be rather clouded."
"I'm glad you're seeing it my way," he said.
"That's not what I meant at all," she said in a whisper.
He pretended not to hear. Severus continued to eat, chewing rather loudly but not talking. Lily played with the food on her plate a bit.
"I think I should go," she said, finally. "I'm not feeling very hungry."
"You're leaving already?"
"Yes, I think I will," she said.
She rose from the table.
"Wait, stay and eat, please."
"I just told you I wasn't feeling very hungry."
"Let me walk to you back to Gryffindor tower, then, at least."
"Aren't you worried about being seen with your little Mudblood friend?"
"Stop calling yourself that," he said.
"I won't until they won't."
"Who is they? You’re convincing yourself of something that just isn't true."
"And you're turning a blind eye to what's staring you in the face."
She removed herself from the confines of the bench were she had been sitting, and turned away from the table.
"Don't go, Lily."
She ignored him.
"We don't have to fight," he said.
She continued to walk.
"Fine then!" he shouted. "Go off and see Potter, then!"
"Why are you so paranoid about that?" She turned around, her kind face suddenly very sad. "Why are you so worried that I'm anywhere near Potter? He's just a person."
"He's a horrible person."
"He's not, really. Not completely horrible."
"Stop defending him! You've seen what he's done!"
Lily rolled her eyes. "I'm not. I know what he's done. But I've seen far worse things from other people," she said. "He's not the worst bloke in the world."
"So not being the worst bloke in the world suddenly makes him a suitable companion?"
"What are you on about, Sev? He's not my companion. He's not my friend. I'm not going off to go see him. And I still don't see why it matters, anyway."
"And you said I was the one ignoring what's staring me in the face."
"What is that supposed to mean?"
"Don't you know?"
"No, I don't, Sev. Please, do tell."
"If you don't know already it's all for the better I suppose."
Lily narrowed her eyes, and tilted her head forward. "So you're not going to tell me then?"
"Fine," she said. And without another word, she traveled the space to the door and walked out of it, leaving Severus alone to finish his snack.
Again. She'd left him like that again. These spats were becoming more and more frequent. Nearly every time they spoke they ended up fighting about something or another. Sometimes over Potter, which was just ridiculous, because Lily wasn't even friends with him, really, and Severus was going on like she was about to marry the bloke! It wasn't like she fancied him. She didn't. Not at all. Not even a little. That was ridiculous.
Lily walked through the corridors, not quite sure where she was going. It was still a bit too chilly to go outside, though she really would have liked the fresh air. Perhaps a trip to the Owlery would suffice. And she hadn't written to Dorcas in a while. Though Severus was never too pleased about her writing to Dorcas. They fought about that quite a bit, too. And about what was printed in the newspaper. Severus tried telling her again and again and again that it was really nothing, that she was in no danger, that none of this was a big deal and she should stop worrying so much about it. No one really thought that she was any less than a Pureblooded witch. And he said it with such conviction that Lily might have believed him at one point. In fact, she had believed him until it became too painfully obvious that he was lying to her.
It wasn't the only time he lied. Lily had frequently caught him lying. It was amazing, really; she never had any idea he was lying until the truth was right there in front of her. For a while, she was suspicious of everything he said to her, but soon, she decided it was better if she pretended to ignore the lies.
Lily turned the corner and began mounting the final staircase that would take her to Gryffindor Tower. Yes, a letter to Dorcas was certainly necessary. She climbed the stairs two at a time, and gave the password to the Fat Lady without any greeting. The Fat Lady huffed about rude children, but opened the door for her anyway. The Common Room was fairly empty for this time of day. She supposed a lot of her house mates had gone down to the Great Hall to eat lunch normally, instead of in the kitchens as she and Sev had done.
She was thankful for the thin crowd as she didn't particularly want to speak to anyone after her encounter with Sev.
She moved directly to the spiral staircase that led to her dorm, and hoped that her dormmates would not be in to disturb her. She was not completely disappointed to find Peggy sitting on her bed reading a book. The two ignored each other, and Lily moved to her bed, pulled out a piece of parchment and a bottle of ink, and began to compose her letter.
I feel like it's been such a long time since I've last written. How have things been lately? I hope all is well for you personally, at least. I've been keeping up with The Prophet, and it seems that I'd be disappointed in your news on other matters. I enjoyed your latest piece, by the way. It was certainly thought provoking, even for me.
It seems that news of the war is only getting worse. I can tell that from the Prophet alone, and that is certainly a distressing thought. Do you suppose I'm better off not knowing? It seems it may be that way sometimes. I suppose you'll tell me that it is always better to know. Knowledge is power. You're very much a Ravenclaw that way, Dorcas. I'm not sure I entirely agree with the sentiment. Ignorance is bliss, after all, is it not? Well, perhaps not on this matter.
Do you remember the friend I've told you so much about? Severus? The Slytherin bloke with the horrid friends? I'm writing about him again. I'm sure you're a bit tired about hearing of him, aren't you? But I'm not sure who else to turn to, Dorcas. My family can't understand this. They haven't the slightest idea about what is going on in this other world of mine. And my other friends don't get it, either. Of course, they're just as prejudiced toward him as his friends are toward me, if only because of his House. They are certainly less violent, less vocal about it, even, but it's still there. It goes both ways, really.
Anyway, I met with him for lunch today. He seemed dead set on convincing me that his friends are not as horrible as I've made them out to be. He doesn't seem to realize that they frequently attack me and other people like me in the hallways between classes. If he does know, he thinks it's something silly. The Gryffindor/Slytherin rivalry or something equally as harmless. He doesn't realize, and worse, he doesn't even seem to care that their motives are much more sinister. We rowed about it, obviously, and he got very upset that I've been slightly friendly with his arch-nemesis. But Potter is in my house and while he certainly can be a rather vile bully, he's also quite funny and he's very much of the same mind as I concerning politics and the like. I enjoy talking to him when he's not being an arsehole. That, unfortunately, is not as frequently as I would like it to be, so more often than not, I end up not speaking to him at all or else we shout at each other. And Severus seems to think I'm great friends with him or something. I'm not sure. It doesn't make much sense to me.
I wrote to ask your advice. Or maybe just to let it out. I'm not sure. I'm sorry to bother you with this. I'm sure you have far more important things to do that deal with the silly problems of a schoolgirl, but you've been such a great mentor to me thus far, and I'm not sure who else to turn to. I appreciate your guidance more than I think you could understand.
So I suppose I should wrap this up, now that I've blathered on as long as I have. I hope to hear from you soon.
She folded the letter over and sealed it, then addressed it. She had felt a bit foolish writing to Dorcas as she had, but as she wrote the address she smiled. Dorcas had given her her home address, with the instruction that she could write whenever she wished, about anything she may need help with. Lily had thus far remained mostly professional, or at least on the topic of their original conversation. Dorcas had given Lily advice before about how to deal with her friends who were not Muggle-born, and who didn't seem to understand the struggles she went through. It had been helpful for most of her dormmates, but Severus was quite another story all together. Dorcas had yet to advise her on a suitable method for dealing with him.
She sighed. Perhaps it was because her friendship with Severus was stupid. How could anyone really have expected the two of them to maintain a friendship? They were in opposite Houses, and Lily could sense that they may very well be on opposite sides of a war sooner than either of them would like to admit. But she couldn't just give him up. Dorcas had suggested that at first. Lily had dismissed it immediately. She could not and she would not just give up on her friendship with Severus. Not yet, not while she could still see the boy who had told her she was a witch and taught her about Hogwarts and introduced her to the magical world. Not while he was still Sev.
She wasn't sure how much longer that would be.
She waved a farewell to Peggy as she crossed the dormitory and headed back down the spiral stairs. She carried a cloak this time. Perhaps after the Owlery she would take a walk outside. The window in her dorm had shown it to be sunny, if it was not yet warm. Yes, that did sound rather lovely.
The corridors were more crowded now. She had to do a bit of dodging as she made her way out of the portrait hole. After she had walked a short distance away from the entrance, she found the corridors once again fairly secluded, and she was glad to put her guard down, if only a little. These days she could never afford to be caught off guard-- Avery had proven that time and time again. Instead of letting her mind wander freely, she spent the trip trying hard not to think too much about anything. It would really only upset her, she was sure of it.
The cool air of the Owlery greeted her as she ascended the stairs to the large circular room. She stood for a moment and took a deep breath. She had hoped for fresh air, but was sorely disappointed. She grimaced as the smell invaded her nostrils.
A laugh from across the room snapped her eyes open in a panic. She scanned the room around her until her eyes finally fell upon Potter.
"Really, Evans, what were you expecting? A fresh spring meadow?"
She rolled her eyes at him, and began to select an owl for the journey. She did not have her own, though she frequently thought that investing in one was probably a wise decision. Unfortunately, she had yet to settle on one. Perhaps next time she was in London.
"Oh, don't be cross, Evans, I was only joking."
"I'm not cross," she said.
"But you're not laughing either."
"It wasn't funny," she said simply.
"Sure it was."
"For you, maybe, but you see, I did not actually get to witness my face as I inhaled, so I'm sure that I missed out on the best part."
"You do have a pretty great face," he said.
"It's expressive," he said quickly. "It makes all kinds of funny shapes."
"Oh, erm, thanks?"
James brought his hand to his hair to ruffle it. "You're welcome," he said.
Lily chuckled a bit and continued to search for a messenger for her letter.
"Do you need an owl?" he asked.
"That is why I'm here, yes," she said.
"You can use mine."
"Oh, thank you," she said. "But you don't have to do that."
"It's alright. Hercules wants an excuse to fly out anyway."
"You named your owl Hercules?"
"I was eleven."
Lily laughed again. "Well, alright then, if you're sure."
James called for his owl and a beautiful black bird came swooping down to his arm. He held it out to her, which allowed her access to tie the letter onto the owl's leg.
"This goes to Dorcas Meadowes," Lily said. "At home." The owl took off in flight.
"Dorcas Meadowes, eh?" he said. "At home, even."
"Yes," she said.
"How'd you manage that?"
Lily blushed a bit. "I sent her a lot of fan mail. She started writing back. She invited me to meet her in London this summer. She's sort of taken me under her wing, so to speak."
"Do you want to be a journalist?"
"No, not at all, actually."
"Then why do you have Dorcas Meadowes as a mentor?"
"We have other similarities, and very similar beliefs, as it happens."
"Thank you for letting me use Hercules," she said.
"No problem. He'd be happy to help anytime you need him."
"Well, thank you," she said. She motioned to move and begin her trek out into one of the court yards, but James began speaking first.
"Where are you headed?" he asked.
"I was about to go for a walk," she said.
"Do you mind if I join you? I could use some fresh air."
She pondered for a moment. Hadn't she just fought with Severus about this very thing? Severus would be furious with her if she accepted. She shouldn't, really. But Potter was being rather pleasant today, and she did enjoy his company when he was like this and she wanted to continue her walk with him, so why should she care what Severus thought?
"Sure," she said.
The pair turned together and made their way out into the open air.
Jack couldn't breathe. The air was cloudy with smoke and he wasn't sure what direction was up. Bullets were whizzing past him. He had to keep moving, he had to keep moving, he had to keep moving. But where? He choked on rancid air. He couldn't see either. He tripped over something and tumbled to the ground. He didn't care to look and see what it had been. His head hit the ground with a bang and he did not even have the presence of mind to thank Paddy Rivers for insisting his helmet was fastened correctly before the world was encased in darkness.
The sky was filled with orange light as Phil looked upon the small home he shared with his mother. The garden was in need of some tending, and one of the shutters looked like it was about to come loose. He'd have to work on it while he was here; his mother didn't have anyone else. Despite the faults, Phil couldn't help but smile. Home. He was home. Finally.
He picked up his suitcase and began up the walk toward the door. He didn't have a key with him, so he knocked. It took a few moments for his mother to finally answer, and when she did, it took less than a second for Anita Evans to jump from her home and into her son's arms.
Phil breathed in her familiar scent: the perfume she wore, the smell of new fabrics, and of cooking meat from the kitchen. "Hello, Mum," he said into her shoulder. "It's good to see you, too."
When she finally pulled away from him, she held onto his hands and looked at him. It was as if she hadn't seen him in years, like he had changed infinitely from when she had seen him last, like she might not ever see him again, like she could never look at him enough. "Are you alright?" she asked. "They told me you'd been injured. Is everything okay?"
"Yes, Mum. Just a bump on the head, really."
"But enough to send you home?"
"But enough to send me home."
She dropped one of his hands and brought her palm to his cheek. He was aware that he hadn't been able to shave in the past few days, and she hoped that his stubble didn't scratch her.
"Look at you," she said. There were tears forming in her eyes. "You're all grown now. A soldier."
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