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Once Defied by pennyardelle

Format: Novel
Chapters: 33
Word Count: 161,202
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Mild Language, Strong Violence, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Substance Use or Abuse, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme

Genres: Romance, Young Adult
Characters: Lupin, Snape, Sirius, Lily, James, Pettigrew, OC, OtherCanon
Pairings: James/Lily, Other Pairing

First Published: 06/01/2009
Last Chapter: 04/28/2010
Last Updated: 06/10/2014

Summary:
banner by Alora at The Dark Arts

At the beginning of their seventh and final year at Hogwarts, Lily Evans and James Potter find themselves closer to one another than ever before. With darkness taking over the world around them, they discover that love—the mix of fluttering heartbeats, stolen glances, shared smiles, and squirming stomachs—is the most powerful magic of all.

:: 2012 Dobby Awards Winner for Best Canon ::


Chapter 10: A Future Far Beyond Christmas

Chapter Ten
A Future Far Beyond Christmas




Despite his eccentric teaching methods, Professor Dearborn had gradually become the most popular teacher at Hogwarts. James—and the rest of the student body, it seemed—found himself in agreement with Sirius’ statement in Hogsmeade. Dearborn rarely stayed on-topic and apparently found nothing more exciting than the sound of his own voice, but there was something ineffably likable about him.

And as it happened, there was no better way to spend the morning of the seventh years’ career event than concentrating on fatal curses, James thought. It was slightly morbid, but it was also the only way he could distract himself from the uncomfortable feelings of confusion and uncertainty when it came to his future. How was he supposed to sort out the rest of his life when he was seventeen? Learning how to stay alive was simple enough to deal with, but further beyond that made him feel simultaneously listless and frustrated. The previous night it had bothered him so much that he had accidentally caused his own glasses to snap in half as they rested on his nose.

“Now, the thing about curses that you have to remember,” Dearborn said to their class, “is that they come in all different types. What are some of the curses we’re used to hearing about? Well, the Unforgivables, of course, and then there’s a range of less violent ones like the Full-Body Bind Curse and the Babbling Curse, but there’s many others that don’t necessarily have names. Wizards and witches who curse objects are not to be underestimated—just because we don’t agree with their actions or intentions doesn’t mean we should forget their expertise with Dark Magic. And even those who may not have a high level of skill can produce extremely dangerous effects, because botched curses have the added complication of being unpredictable. I knew an Auror who thought he knew everything about curses...”

James could not help but tune out Dearborn’s anecdotes about his Auror acquaintances, they happened so frequently. He glanced to his right, where Sirius and Peter were playing hangman on the side of Sirius’ notes. From the looks of the letters Peter had already guessed, Sirius had invented the name of a curse that would have probably caused Professor McGonagall to keel over in shock. James grinned and continued to watch until Peter had guessed the entire phrase, while Dearborn spent five minutes talking about an Auror who’d lost an arm and a Dark wizard from the nineteenth century named Clous the Clumsy who had been notorious for mistake-ridden curses.

“Learning to recognize and break curses is complicated and certainly not something that can be accomplished within a school year, but there are some general principles that can help keep you out of harm’s way. A good example is the 'Watch, Wand, Wait' practice used by even the most experienced curse-breakers. As a matter of fact, my old friend Manfred has told me...I don’t know how many stories about it saving his life...”

James yawned into the back of his hand and wondered whether Professor Dearborn would care if he put his head down on his desk and took a short nap. There was still over half an hour of class left; James wasn’t sure if he was going to make it.

His attention was recaptured only when Dearborn’s voice stopped; James looked up to see the professor taking two small, identical boxes from the beaten black leather bag he often brought to class.

“Now, we’ll have a little bit of fun, shall we?”

He put the boxes down on his desk and took the lids off. Everybody was sitting up as straight as they could, trying to see whatever was inside. Even Peter and Sirius had been distracted from their game.

“You’ll have to gather round up here to see properly,” Dearborn said. There was a great scraping as everyone pushed back their chairs and shuffled to the front of the class. Despite his best efforts, James ended up standing right behind Lily. He tried to avoid her on most occasions to prove that he had no problem not being friends with her, and that he was far from wanting her to go out with him. (Of course, it wasn’t necessarily true—but she didn’t have to know that.)

It turned out that the two small boxes each held a tarnished silver candlestick.

“Nice tableware, Professor,” Sirius commented. Many of the Gryffindors snickered.

“Yes, thank you, Mr Black,” Dearborn said wryly, “but they’re not mine, actually. They belonged to the Nelsons of Swansea, until they killed the newly-married Mrs Nelson.”

Dearborn paused, apparently for effect, and the room seemed unnaturally still.

“These are cursed?” said Lily’s voice, her shoulder-length ponytail twitching slightly as she spoke.

“Very good, Miss Evans, although only half correct. One of them is cursed,” Dearborn said. “They were a wedding gift, and when Mrs Nelson was unwrapping the gifts, she remarked to her husband that one of the boxes had come without a card. Mr Nelson said he heard her opening the box, a brief clanging of metal, and the sound of his wife falling to the floor. Both were confiscated by Magical Law Enforcement, who are still investigating the case.”

“Snivelly’s practically salivating,” Sirius muttered to James. He glanced over at Snape, who indeed had an expression of great interest on his face. James could not understand why Snape even bothered taking Defence Against the Dark Arts.

“So the question is,” Dearborn said, his voice echoing off the walls, “which of these is the cursed one?”

James couldn't spare half a thought to answer the question, so shocked was he that their teacher had brought a cursed object into the classroom. Where had Dearborn gotten his hands on these, anyway?

“Think about it this way: let’s say you’re the one who receives an unmarked object as a gift. Mrs Nelson never stopped to think that the gift might have been harmful, which is the first place a trained mind should have gone. What would you have done in her place?”

The entire class was silent. James was even further disgusted that Dearborn had not only brought a cursed candlestick, but was now blaming a poor woman who was dead for not having a “trained mind”. It was only times like these that he missed being able to talk to Lily, for she was the only one who seemed to share his feelings of curiosity about Dearborn.

“Oh, come now, I’ve just spent the class talking about this. Any thoughts? Miss Evans?”

Lily’s ponytail twitched again, and she folded her arms across her chest.

“Erm...well, I suppose she shouldn’t have touched it,” Lily said uncertainly.

“And what should she have done instead?”

“Well, she could have used Specialis Revelio or a Secrecy Sensor, if she had one,” Lily replied, “but she was opening her wedding gifts, it’s not as if she expected one of her guests to try to murder her.”

“Yes, well, we should always exercise caution,” Dearborn said shortly. “Although Miss Evans is quite right, what can you do if your wand is not at hand for some reason? Dark Magic emits a certain energy that we can learn to search out...”

They spent the last half hour of class making fruitless attempts to “feel” magic in the air around the candlesticks. Snape managed to correctly identify which one was cursed, and James refused on principle to take part at all. He still thought Professor Dearborn was deranged. One class had made him go from likable to contemptible in James’ mind.

Slowly, most of the class migrated back to their seats, until only Lily, Snape, and a few other Slytherins were left up at the front. James had a strange moment where he felt like he had been sent back in time, watching Lily and Snape standing around as a pair in classes, feeling equal sensations of disgust and hopelessness. He picked at the corner of his textbook, angry at Dearborn and Snape and Lily and the Dark Arts and the fact that he was supposed to figure out the rest of his life in the course of a few months. He had not thought that anything could have made him feel relieved to be heading to the Great Hall for their career event, but it turned out that he did.



..........




Lily was suffering from information overload, and her arms were starting to hurt from all the brochures she was carting around the Great Hall.

“You know,” Mary said, “I can’t understand why people assume that every Muggle-born would be a perfect Muggle Liaisons Officer. Like we’re the only people fit to be in contact with Muggles.”

Lily could sympathize with her. She'd met her fair share of people who had suggested it as a possible career choice because they knew she was Muggle-born.

“And everyone thinks it’s such an easy job, but can you imagine? Having to explain to Muggles about magic, or convince them that what they saw wasn’t actually magic? I can’t think of a more frustrating career,” Mary continued.

“So you’re not going to be a Muggle Liaisons Officer, then?” Anna asked, feigning disappointment. Mary hit her arm with a couple brochures. “Kidding. Anyway, I figure I’m going to set my sights low at first and try to become Minister for Magic.”

Lily laughed, despite the fact that Anna probably felt like the only way to measure up to her siblings was to get a job of this calibre.

“Oh no,” Lily said suddenly, “that dragon-trainer bloke is heading this way again. I refuse to get him another glass of pumpkin juice.”

She had spent most of the afternoon catering to every whim of the career representatives that had arrived, while James had been casually observing the scene. What had happened to all of his passion for being Head Boy now?

“Miss Evens!”

Anna snorted with laughter.

“Miss Evens, I was hoping you wouldn’t mind getting me some more juice,” the heavily-scarred, red-faced man said. Lily wondered if being in the presence of dragons had made him thirstier than a regular person. She tried to remember Professor McGonagall’s words and put a smile on.

“Of course,” she said. “I’ll be there in just a moment.”

“I say you pretend to forget,” Anna said as he walked back to his table. “He doesn’t even know your name.”

“Somebody tell me I’m a role model,” Lily said through gritted teeth. “I need to be reminded.”

“You’re a role model,” Mary acquiesced, and Lily went off to the refreshments table.

As she filled a cup with pumpkin juice, she considered just throwing out all of the brochures she’d picked up. She had thought they might help her figure out some good ideas for a career, but she felt no less confused than before. She wished someone would just tell her what she was supposed to do, especially since she only had a few months to figure it out. Maybe she should talk to Slughorn—he would probably be thrilled to plan out her entire future for her.

Lily walked past James on the way to the dragon trainer’s table (not at all on purpose) and heard them talking about stealing something from the trophy room. What a fantastic Head Boy he was turning out to be.

Speaking of Professor Slughorn, he had been flitting around the Great Hall in between his classes, giving unsolicited advice to all of his Slug Club members. He had made a bee-line for Lily the second he had walked in the Great Hall.

“Lily! How are you enjoying the afternoon?” he asked, dressed up rather fancy for a Friday afternoon.

“Oh, it’s been fine—”

“Yes, well, I’m sure the Head Girl could have her pick of anything in the room!”

In fact, the one person that Lily would have picked clearly wanted nothing to do with her.

“Shame, actually,” Slughorn said quietly, “most of the choices here are beneath you, at least in my opinion.”

Yes, Lily knew she deserved better, but it was very difficult to convince herself of it.

“Have you been introduced to everyone?”

Introductions were not the problem: it was everything that came after.

Right. She was not going to think about James again. In this conversation.

Slughorn had tried his best to get Lily to show some enthusiasm, but all she could muster was a desire to take a nap. She had forced herself not to watch as he made the same attempts with James.

Lily was scared out of her mind for school to end. She had no idea what it would be like to be a Muggle-born in the wizarding world. What would happen if she didn’t find a job? Would she have to take a Muggle one instead? Lily didn’t even know if promotions and paycheques and holidays worked the same in wizarding jobs as they did in Muggle ones. She probably should have taken the opportunity to ask someone, but it was easier to pick up every brochure and pretend that the afternoon had been a productive one.

The thought of leaving Hogwarts filled her with sadness and regret. It had only been last year that Lily had started becoming proper friends with Mary and Anna, something she now realized she should have done from the first day at Hogwarts. The first five years of her time at Hogwarts had been a complete wash, and she had not had enough time to make up for them. She was not even sure that she had become good enough friends with Mary and Anna that they would want to stay in touch with her. They would probably go off to live their own lives, remaining best friends as they always had been and making obligatory plans to catch up with Lily once a year.

Lily could not really expect anything more from them, not when she had been such a half-hearted friend for so many years. They had been her back-up friends when Snape had refused to acknowledge her, and Lily had never made much of an effort to get to know them before sixth year. In some ways, she was surprised that Mary still spoke to her, after all that had happened with Mulciber. Lily had been an awful friend to stick by Snape after that.

She always felt a little bit like an outsider with Mary and Anna, who had been close since their first year. She used to think that she might be able to break into the bond they had with each other, but she knew it was too late now.

“Mary and I have decided that we’re going to spend this entire evening without doing any homework,” Anna said when Lily returned from her errand, “even if we end up regretting it later.  We need a break, don’t you think?”

“I’m going to go to the library,” Lily said.

“Oh, come on, Lily, even you need a break. And besides, it’s a Friday night!”

“We’ve got those end-of-term exams next week,” Lily said. “I really don’t want to fall behind.”

“One night off won’t kill you, Lily,” Mary said. “It’ll be so much more fun if you’re there.”

“No, really,” Lily said, trying to smile blithely. “I really need to get some things done tonight.”

“You’re such a perfect Head Girl,” Anna said.

“Please don’t say that.”



.........




The last week of classes before winter holidays was extremely stressful. All of the seventh-years had to complete practice examinations for their N.E.W.T-level classes. One period was to be devoted to a written exam on theory, and the other was a practical exam in which they performed a brief sequence of spells or tasks.  They were graded according to N.E.W.T standard and were to receive their results the first day back to class.

It seemed that the teachers were taking full advantage of these practice exams by putting them to use as a form of intimidation. Every exam James took, even Transfiguration, could not have been more mind-bogglingly difficult. Many of the theory questions were on topics that James did not remember his teachers mentioning more than once or twice, and the practical exams involved things that they had only talked about but never attempted. Several people went into paroxysms of distress after three or four exams, and even James felt highly anxious about the fact that he would be lucky to pass a single one of them. He felt even worse for Remus, who had to deal with it being full moon in addition to these tests.

“What—the—hell—was—that?” Sirius said as they left their practical exam in Transfiguration on Thursday before lunch.

“That must have been a dream,” Peter said, looking rather like someone had just Stunned him.

“Nightmare, more like,” James added.

“But—it’s—it’s Transfiguration!” Sirius suddenly exploded. “How could that have just happened? To us?”

Professor McGonagall had required them to Transfigure a pig into a rose. Though human Transfiguration was a piece of cake for James, he had less practice with the animal-to-plant variety. It was more difficult than Transfiguring an animal into an inanimate object, or vice versa, since both animals and plants were living things. In addition, Transfiguring a pig into a pansy or a petunia would have been much easier than a rose. He figured he had done better than most people, but he was not expecting anything better than an “A”.

“At least there’s only two more,” Remus said as they entered the Great Hall, “and tonight’s the last night of the full moon.”

“No kidding,” Peter said.

“And don’t forget, tomorrow’s the last day of class,” Sirius added.

“I can’t believe I have Quidditch practice tonight,” James groaned.

The second match of the Quidditch season, between Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw, had been held at the end of November. Ravenclaw had won by quite a large margin, and James had been worried ever since he saw what an excellent team Germaine Aucher, the Ravenclaw captain, had fielded. The Gryffindor team was very good, but so was Ravenclaw, and James desperately wanted to win the Quidditch Cup this year. Gryffindor had not won since his fourth year, and this was his last chance to do so.

“I wouldn’t even go, except I’ve got to get in some new plays before the holidays,” James said, more to himself than his friends.

“Oh dear, it sounds like we’re in for quite a practice tonight,” said Ursula, who had just slid into the seat next to James. “How were today’s exams?”

“Same as all the rest,” James muttered.

“No, today was worse,” Peter piped up. “At least the other days we went in knowing we’d fail...”

“You know, you’re all making me very frightened of coming back next year,” Ursula said.

“Yeah, I’ve been thinking I might not as well,” Sirius said. Ursula laughed.

“Well, I’m sorry it didn’t go well, James,” she continued. “Anyway, I have to get to Arithmancy...but I’ll see you later, at practice?”

James watched her leave the Great Hall, her blond hair swishing back and forth. He had decided that he really quite liked her; she was very easy to be around, and very enthusiastic about Quidditch. He had asked her to Slughorn’s Christmas party the week before, and it was to be their first actual date.

James and his friends returned to Gryffindor Tower after lunch to study for the practical portions of their Herbology and Defence Against the Dark Arts exams, which would take place the next day. None of them really knew why they were bothering to study, as the exam would inevitably turn out to be on a subject only mentioned in the footnotes, or something ridiculous like that. After dinner, James headed down to the Quidditch pitch for practice.

It was very cold out, and with only a day left before holidays, none of the rest of the team seemed very focused. Oliver and Devika had spread apart and were hitting a Bludger back and forth between the two of them. James had been reluctant to release the Snitch because it was so dark out, and had told Gareth to practice flying manoeuvres, but instead he kept sitting inside one of the goal hoops and daring people to take shots at him. Alison threw a Quaffle into his stomach rather hard, and he spent the rest of the practice drifting aimlessly above the team. When she was not injuring her teammates, Alison was busy gossiping with Ursula, and the two of them made very distracted shots. After only forty-five minutes, James ended the practice.

He and Ursula walked up to the castle together, discussing their plans for the holidays.  Ursula was travelling to her grandparents’ house in Germany to celebrate Christmas itself. When they returned to the common room, Ursula went to sit with her friends while James put in an hour’s half-hearted study with Peter and Sirius.

“No more,” Sirius said, slamming his book shut. “I’m just going to do them, and try my best to block it out over holidays.”

“I’ll be traumatized the entire time,” Peter said miserably. “I’m going to bed. At least then I won’t have to think about how badly I’m going to do.”

“Excellent philosophy, Wormtail,” Sirius said, getting up from his chair. “Coming, Prongs?”

James had spotted Ursula walking across the common room towards him, and said, “Yeah, in a bit. Go on without me.”

Sirius and Peter passed by Ursula on their way; Sirius turned around and raised his eyebrows suggestively at James. James closed his books just as she sat down across from him.

“Sorry practice didn’t go so well,” she said.

James shrugged. “It doesn’t really matter, we’ve got lots of time before we play Ravenclaw anyway.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” she replied. “Anyway...I just wanted to, er, come say good night, I suppose.”

“Oh, yeah, well, night,” James stammered, picking up his books and notes.

“I’ll see you before the party tomorrow, then?” She asked, getting up.

“Sure, I’ll meet you here round...eight?”

They went up to their own dormitories. James threw his books down beside his bed and pulled his pyjamas out of his trunk. Sirius and Peter seemed to have been waiting for him, each sitting on their own bed.

“So Peter and I were just wondering whether you’ve gotten off with her yet,” Sirius said casually. James laughed.

“We haven’t even gone out yet. We’re just friends,” he said.

“Yeah, well, you and Evans were friends for a while, too, and don’t try and tell me you didn’t want to snog her,” Sirius said. “The only difference is, Ursula would actually go for it.”

“You know, I’d really like it if every conversation about girls didn’t involve a mention of Lily,” James said hotly. How long did he have to go without talking to Lily before people would lay off of him?

“Well, it would, if you’d move on from her and get with someone else,” Peter said. “You haven’t even looked at another girl since fifth year.”

“That’s not true. Besides, neither of you are exactly Casanovas either. Sirius sticks his nose up at every girl who walks by him.”

“Not my fault Hogwarts girls are substandard,” Sirius said.

“They’re not all bad. There’s a few girls in our house—”

“All of them are too eager. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel. No challenge,” Sirius said, ignoring Peter.

“Yeah, it must be so trying for you,” James said.

“Don’t look at me! Ursula’s exactly the same. She’s been after you since the beginning of the year,” Sirius said, “which is why I don’t understand why nothing’s happened yet. You’ve got to just man up and do it.  Just find the right moment, and take advantage of it. If you don’t, I will kill you. Or perhaps Peter.”

Peter made a noise of indignation and threw a pillow at Sirius. James changed into his pyjamas, took off his glasses, and fell asleep hoping that the right moment would present itself so he could get everyone else off his back.



........




“Well, it’s done.”

Anna had just unfolded her copy of the Daily Prophet on the last day of term. Lily looked at the upside-down front page, which had a large picture and glaring headline on it.

“What’s it say?” Lily asked. Anna picked up the newspaper and turned it to Mary and Lily.

“CROUCH SUCCEEDS”, read the headline. Lily had not read a newspaper in weeks, so she had no idea what it meant.

“Tell us all about it,” she said, taking a sip of pumpkin juice.

“Some people in Magical Law Enforcement finally got their way,” Anna said, “although I don’t think anyone else will be very happy about it.”

“Wait...he wasn’t the Deputy Head,” Lily said, remembering that much from her past readings, “so that means...?”

“Exactly what you’re thinking. New leadership, new era,” Anna said.

Lily was slightly embarrassed by her own apathy, for she was hardly concerned with political manoeuvring. She knew nothing about this Crouch, and as long as he wasn’t planning to ally with Voldemort, she didn’t really care about his policies either.

“Oh, Merlin’s arse,” Anna said, slapping down a page of the Daily Prophet vehemently. “Is she joking?”

Lily took a deep breath to brace herself for the inevitable tirade against Desdemona.

Look at this!” Anna exclaimed. “The conclusion of a months-long political battle and she’s guest-writing in the Styles section about the art of seating arrangements!”

“I’m sure she’s just in a different mindset with the wedding coming up,” Mary said.

“At least she used to sound semi-intelligent! I can’t stand seeing her write loads of tripe like this!”

For all the times that Lily had said vile things about Petunia, there always remained some comfort in the fact that her sister was solidly the same person. She was always taciturn, snobby, and contemptuous of Lily. Here was Anna’s sister, usually so superior and critical, especially of her younger sister, writing articles about weddings and transforming into a different person, yet she still treated Anna the same. There was no justice in being a younger sibling.

 “Can you believe there’s just over a week before winter break?” Mary asked brightly, obviously trying to change the subject.

 “I can’t wait to have a bit of a break from homework,” Lily added.

“Great,” Anna said distractedly, still looking over the Prophet.

“Are you looking forward to going home for a bit, Anna?” Mary asked.

“Yeah, a few weeks making wedding favours sounds bloody fantastic,” Anna said savagely.

“You two must be really excited for Slughorn’s party tonight!” Mary said. “Everyone always says they’re so much fun.”

“I don’t know who you’ve been talking to,” Lily muttered, and she was relieved to see Anna smile.

“I can’t believe neither of you are bringing anyone as a date,” Mary said, as if it were the greatest disappointment of her life.

“Yeah, well, sorry I didn’t take your suggestion that I ask James seriously,” Lily said.

“Oh, well, he’s going with Ursula Zimmerman, anyway,” Mary said. Lily’s eyebrows shot up in surprise; she tried to disguise this by picking up her fork, even though there was no food left on her plate.

“Oh…oops…” Mary said softly.

“I thought everyone knew,” Anna said.

“Who cares?” Lily asked, failing to sound nonchalant. Anna and Mary apparently did not know what to say, and the sounds of other people eating and talking were the only noises for almost a full minute.

“Ursula’s that other Chaser, right?” Lily asked finally, making another attempt to sound coolly detached. “The one with the blonde hair?”

“Yes,” Mary said quietly.

Lily could not decide whether she felt unsettled or relieved that James was dating another girl. It was not the first time it had happened, but she felt much stranger about it this time. She guessed it was just another part of the up-and-down that had happened between her and James this year. On the other hand, at least the prolonged silence had forced him to move on from his weird obsession with Lily, which could only be good. Something about the fact that he was dating a pretty, younger Quidditch player made her cheeks burn uncomfortably, however. More than anything, she wished she had at least known about it before the day of the Christmas party.

“It’s good,” Lily said finally, picking up her bag. “Now he’ll finally leave me alone.”

“Yes, it’ll be good to get a break from all the attention he hasn’t been giving you,” Anna quipped.

Lily stood up from the Gryffindor table, but apparently Anna was not done taking out her frustration on Lily.

“Too bad you didn’t get a date—you could have doubled with them,” Anna continued, grinning evilly. “That would be hilarious, the Head Boy and Head Girl on a double date…”

Lily took a deep breath, trying to remember how angry Petunia could make her and how she would probably lash out at other people too, if they were around during the summer. “Well, I’m off to class. I’ll see you two there,” she said.

I am happy about this, Lily told herself, this is good, better than good, and I am thrilled. Couldn’t be happier. Yes, she was very happy that James had moved on. She just happened to have a completely unrelated desire to throw Ursula Zimmerman out a window. It had nothing to do with James at all.

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