Chapter 18 : Epilogue — Blood, Sweat and Tears
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It is a dark, dark day.
The days are becoming shorter, the nights longer: the permanently grey clouds merely enhance the darkness and gloominess. Despite this, the jubilance, the rejoicing is still going on, up and down the country, amongst the Wizarding community, at the downfall of a man whose name, even now, most people are scared to say.
The temperature has dropped considerably as November arrives. The rain is falling relentlessly against the roofs of the houses; the raindrops falling against the grey-tinged skins of those men unlucky enough not to have an umbrella, dampening and darkening the hair of the unfortunate women who had only just taken their rollers out and received with delight by Muggle children, who splash through the puddles with their parents as they rush through the frigid downpour, trying to reach their destination as soon as they can.
The residence of Mr and Mrs Potter in Godric’s Hollow, which was once upon a time a beautiful, majestic house, is finally in view again to the magical community after disappearing for several months (this goes unnoticed by the Muggles, who were unable to see the house in the first place). However, the dwelling is now destroyed to those wizards and witches who can see it — the roof is now caved in — although that doesn't stop them from visiting it. The Muggles obviously can’t see what the fuss is about — they are thinking: don't those funny cloaked people know what coats are? And what on earth would make them want to go out, in the rain, to go anywhere, unless they absolutely have to?
You appear, to Muggles, apparently from nowhere, a cloaked figure, immediately getting showered by a fresh burst of rain. You silently curse as you non-verbally cast an Impervius charm as well as a drying spell on yourself. Straightening up, you do not lower your hood — despite stares from nearby children — but take in your surroundings.
“Halloween was yesterday!” the ten-year-old shouts. “What are you supposed to be, a demon?”
Ignoring the boy, you ascertain that you are not being watched before marching towards the very shack the Dark Lord had been defeated in mere hours ago — and by a one-year-old, at that. Your black eyes glitter as you watch from afar: someone, a witch, no doubt, has braved the rain to write a message...a message for him. You quickly cast a Disillusionment Charm in case the woman will recognise you.
You shouldn’t have come. You know you shouldn’t have come. It isn’t as if you’ve come for the boy. You don't care about the boy. Only Lily.
At last, the witch leaves, and you increase your pace, opening the broken gate — already half-covered with inscriptions of some sort — with a creaking sound. You push open the door.
The door opens, again with a creaking noise. There is dust on the carpet; you see that the kitchen has been completely blown apart, presumably by the force of the Killing Curse backfiring.
Turning left, you reach the sitting room, which has remained intact. A few vases are tipped over here and there, but on the whole, you know that it is pretty much the same as it was less than twenty-four hours ago.
One of the mahogany glass-fronted cabinets is still full of Wizarding photographs — Potter and Lily, several of the boy playing, and of course, their various friends, who are everything from purebloods to Muggleborns to half-bloods, like yourself. A large, framed painting of Lily is on the wall, and you reach up, wanting to take it with you, as a memento — but it won’t budge. No doubt a Permanent Sticking Charm is placed upon it.
You look around further. A familiar-looking vial which sits atop the other mahogany cabinet catches your eye, and picking it up, you realise that you are looking at the potion you sent Lily. That seems like a million years ago. You wonder if she knew it was you who sent it...but you doubt it. After all, she didn't want anything to do with you, did she?
Listlessly, you open a random drawer, wondering what you are looking for. At first, you dismiss the parchment, thinking that they are merely spare rolls of parchment, but a closer look tells you that they are...it can’t be...Cervellica Scrolls?
Shaking your head in disbelief, you can’t help but be fascinated, despite the cloud of gloom that seems to permanently hover over you. You have always wanted one, since you were a child, but your mother refused to buy you anything of the sort, declaring it to be expensive and pointless.
Sifting through them, you see that one seems to be in a dark place, and looks uninteresting; the next is clearly on their wedding day, and the third one is — to your shock — of you.
You bring the scroll closer to your face to see the date: 17th October 1979. Your beady eyes are watching yourself curiously, your nose less than an inch away from the silvery mist of Lily’s thoughts. In the memory, you are accompanied by other people, clearly; your wand is out and you are slashing it furiously in an unseen person’s direction. Frowning, your head seems to move of its own accord as you sink into the swirling depths of silver vapour in the scroll.
As you tumble weightlessly through time, it takes you several seconds to regain your footing and recognise your surroundings. You are in Knockturn Alley, where half the shops are boarded up, and no one seems to be visiting them anyway.
Almost immediately, you spot Lily, along with Black, Potter and Lupin, who are all sprinting from behind an alleyway, their wands drawn, eyes focused on their opponents — you see yourself, Dolohov, Crabbe, Bellatrix, the Lestrange brothers, Macnair and Nott shooting jets of light at the four Order members, who are either narrowly missing them or being forced to conjure temporary shields with their wands. You watch as Lily pauses for a second to send a Patronus; an ethereally beautiful doe appears briefly from the end of her wand before disappearing again, no doubt on its way to Dumbledore and other Order members. There is a flash of electric blue light and you see a spurt of scarlet appear as Potter dives in front of Lily, taking the curse for her. He falls backwards, bleeding heavily.
Lily immediately drops to her knees, frantically trying to staunch the blood with her wand. While Black and Lupin continue to fight off four Death Eaters each, more members of the Order Apparate into Knockturn Alley — you recognise Alice and Frank Longbottom, Marlene McKinnon and Mad-Eye Moody — and they don't spare a second, casting an array of defensive spells instantaneously. Dumbledore appears with a crack a moment later, and at the sight of him, you and the other Death Eaters scatter; turning on the spot as one, you watch as the group Disapparate.
Panting, the newcomers finally turn their attention to Potter, whose entire belly is covered in blood. Even you flinch as Dumbledore conjures a stretcher and Apparates him to St. Mungo’s (the Order members follow a moment later). The scene fades...
Upon arrival at the hospital, Potter is levitated onto a stretcher and to the nearest room by a Healer. Lily runs after him, and you can see that her hair is soaked, not with rain, but perspiration; there are tears on her face which she tries to wipe away — and this only makes things worse as her hands are covered in blood. The tears on the skin around the corners of her eyes slowly become crimson, but you doubt she is paying any attention as she pushes her hair away from her face.
The memory fades for several seconds, and then comes into focus again. Several minutes seem to have passed and Lily is now talking to the Healer. You can tell time has elapsed since because Lily’s reddened tears have now dried on her face.
“He’s lost a lot of blood,” the Healer tells her gently.
“But he’ll live, won’t he?” Lily asks. When the woman doesn't say anything, Lily grabs the front of her white robes, seemingly forgetting all etiquette or sense, surprising you, as you have never seen Lily lose her composure to this extent. “Won’t he?” she urges, but in a much smaller voice. As she realises what she is doing, she slowly lets go of the Healer.
The Healer does not seem perturbed or offended by Lily’s actions. Instead, she puts her hand on Lily’s shoulder and says softly, “There’s no easy way to say this, but...the chances of Mr Potter surviving are very low. He is awake, but for how long, we do not know. You see, multiple spells were used on him and we have not ascertained as to whether or not it is Dark Magic, but if that is the case...” She trails off, clearly hoping Lily will understand.
Lily shakes her head in disbelief.
“Miss Evans...” the Healer begins, but Lily has already opened the door of the room Potter is in. You follow her warily, knowing you are intruding, but not caring, really, because in the real world, they are gone; they have nothing to be embarrassed about, surely...
You watch as Lily kneels in front of the bed, lightly touching Potter’s cheek. His eyes flicker open at once.
“James,” she murmurs, her hand moving to his hair.
“Lily,” he manages to whisper back, taking her other hand into his. You clench your fists in anger at this small sign of affection; you know you should leave, that you shouldn’t be watching, but you can’t help yourself, even though you know it’ll do you no good.
“Lily,” Potter says again, his voice stronger, “what’s going to happen to me?”
“Wha-what you mean?” Lily splutters.
“Am I going to die, or what?”
“James! Don't say that!” Lily is clearly distraught, and the stupid bastard isn’t making her feel any better, you think furiously. If it was you...
“Tell me, Lily,” he insists. “I can handle it...it’s not as if we joined the Order for fun, you know. I knew it’d happen one day. I'm ready to die, Lily.”
“You're — you’re — you won’t die,” Lily whispers, fresh tears welling in those green eyes you love so much.
“Liar,” Potter tells her softly. You grit your teeth in anger; who is he, to tease your Lily, to goad your Lily, to mock your Lily like that? “Lily...what’s that stuff on your face?”
“Blood,” she tells him, half-laughing shakily at his change of subject. “Your blood.”
“Brings a whole new meaning to blood, sweat and tears, doesn’t it?” Potter smiles at his own joke. “So. Lily. Darling. You didn't answer my question. Am I going to die?”
She shakes her head, terrified of saying anything. At the look Potter gives her, though, she resigns herself to the worst.
“The Healer said,” Lily begins carefully, all traces of laughter disappearing from her face as she covers it with her hands, “that you’ve lost a lot of blood.”
“And...” Potter prompts, gently tugging her hands away from her face.
“And,” she continues tearfully, “there’s not much ch-chance of y-you l-living, James. Oh, God, sorry — I'm bloody blubbing all over you.” It is true; her tears are falling on the bedsheets and some land on Potter’s face. He reaches out and carefully wipes a tear from the corner of her eye.
“If I'm going to die, Lily,” he says seriously, as Lily takes his hand and presses her lips against it (again, you have to stop yourself from swearing out loud), “I just want you to know...I love you.”
“Oh, James,” Lily says, and the same words seem to be on her lips too, but Potter interrupts her.
“And I want you to promise me something. Just one thing.”
“Anything,” she replies immediately. “You name it.”
“Don't mope. Don't be sad. This is a war. Death happens, and it happens a lot. I want you to promise that when I die — if I die — that you're going to forget about me and find someone else. That you're not going to be alone. Promise me that and I’ll die a happy man.”
“I—I can’t,” Lily says. “Anything else but that.”
“Lily, even if it’s sodding Snivellus, I’ll be happy. I don't want you to be alone.” Your head jerks upwards as you realised they are talking about you.
“I can’t do that. I’ll never be able to forget you. I love you,” Lily says to him tenderly. She leans forwards and kisses him for several long moments. You close your eyes and look away, your expression one of revulsion and jealousy and regret. You only open your eyes when you hear her speak again. “Only you, James, would ask for that as your dying wish. But I can’t.”
“You wouldn’t pick Snape?” Potter asks. “Don’t you love him?”
“I did,” Lily admits. “Once upon a time. And...OK, I still do love Severus, even to this day. But not like that. I loved him — I mean, I love him — but as a friend. I never saw him like that. It was never him. It was never anyone else, either. It was you. It’s always been you, James.”
There’s no point in watching the rest of the memory. You’ve got your answers. You don't want to waste any more time seeing Lily — your Lily — with that arrogant scum.
You know, as surely as you know your own name, that your heart belongs to Lily. Lily’s belongs to Potter’s and Potter’s belongs to Lily. Everything begins and ends with her, you realise.
As you surface from the painful depths of the memory, your eyes seek the beautiful portrait of the girl you are still deeply in love with.
Staring into the painted green eyes, knowing you will never again see in them the stubbornness, the fire, the kind-heartedness that you have never had the good fortune to possess — you say aloud to the portrait, your voice breaking with emotion: “I put my life on the line for you. All the blood, sweat and tears — it’s for you. All for you. I tried to protect you. I couldn’t, though, could I?” you say shakily, tears now dripping freely from your eyes as you look at Lily. Your Lily. “Even though I took every single fucking burden for you, Lily, despite the fact that my shoulders were ripping with the weight of protecting you, in the end, he got you and all that lying and cover was wasted. Even so, I love you, Lily. Far more than that arrogant, cocky husband of yours ever did.”
You're so sorry, you're drowning in it. One word. That’s all it took to drive the two of you apart. If it wasn’t for you, who knows what could’ve happened.
Would’ve, could’ve, should’ve, but fucking well didn’t, you say to yourself bitterly. Still, you realise with a jolt that you would put your life at risk again for her, if you were given another chance. You’d do it again and again until you died.
In the end, you don't know why you do it. All you know is that you can’t let the last spell performed in this house be the Killing Curse.
“Expecto patronum,” you murmur, concentrating on your one remaining happy memory: Lily’s smile. You remember the way her eyes would light up beneath her long lashes; the way her lips would form in a perfect curve and how her entire face seemed even more beautiful than you could ever imagine when she smiled at you. But then you realise that the last time she smiled at you was so long ago.
Suddenly, you realise that you are not alone: a silvery creature bounds from the end of your wand, stronger than ever before, and you realise your Patronus is no longer a fox; it is now the twin of Lily’s. You are nearly hypnotised by the wraithlike, ghostly beauty of the silver doe as it dances around you.
Lily’s words seem to echo from the doe’s silvery form: “I still do love Severus, even to this day...”
You reach out to touch it, but it glides through you like a ghost. You feel the presence of its beautiful head as it goes directly through your rapidly beating heart and is gone. And as the final hot teardrops falls from your eyes and smack against the cold, dusty floorboards, and you yourself fall to your knees, palms up, at last, you understand that, just like your Patronus, Lily, your Lily, is gone. But, just like your beautiful silver doe, she’ll be in your heart forever.
Chapter End Notes:
If you don’t want to read what will end up being another novel titled End Notes, I’d like to just ask for one final review. What did you like, what didn't you like, why, what twist you thought was the most interesting, all of that. If you’ve stuck with this story from the beginning, the middle or even the last chapter but haven’t reviewed and are saving it for the end, now’s your time to shine. If you reviewed just the one chapter, or two, or three, I'm pleading for one final review, for the end chapter, as it really will make my day. Reviews are my best friend and they are what have kept me going in writing this entire story which has ended up far longer than I expected it to be.
I probably won’t be writing anything multi-chaptered ever again. It’s been a fabulous rollercoaster ride but I'm afraid it’ll have to end. I have school and real life and exams and...and...yeah. I’ll be lucky to write a one-shot. (OK, so I have a multi-chaptered Rose/Scorpius going on in my head but...)The main purpose of this story, however, was to test my writing style to a bigger audience because I've already written my first novel. I was just curious about what other people thought, especially since I started posting this before my novel was finished. Plus, it is a nice change, writing about romance and angst and violence and darkness instead of...angst and friendship and other girly issues — that’s in my OF novel, by the way. OK, it’s not nice writing the gore, but I did sort of enjoy it! And after reading Gone With The Wind, I've always wanted to write a war novel. I just didn't expect it to be HP-centric, that’s all.
I’d like to thank Jenn for beta’ing the prologue and showing me that age is most certainly no guarantee of grammar. Thanks to Stacey for taking over the reins from chapter one onwards and Alex for being a second, equally wonderful beta from chapter five onwards, and especially for making those much-needed comments that made my story a little less crap than it is.
Just to add to my above pleas — that is, if you made it through that verbose drivel of mine — I’d like to once again request one final review from you, my favourite reader (yes, just you). Trust me when I say I’d love to know. This story has averaged more than 500 reads per chapter, excluding the prologue, so I'm hoping for more reviews for the epilogue. So thanks so much for sticking with my story — Checkmate would be nothing without its readers and reviewers. I'm truly grateful. I’d like to thank my mum, my dad...*Shut it, Soraya!!*