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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 14: Start Again




Chapter Fourteen
Start Again




Lily did not know what possessed her to remain at home until the last day before term started. Petunia had taken it upon herself to one-up Scrooge when it came to post-Christmas cheer, mostly because their parents had rescinded their offer to help her pay for a place in London. Petunia was the queen of temper tantrums, and had been ever since they were young. When she was seven, she had thrown a saucepan through the kitchen window because their mother wouldn’t let her have cake for dinner. With surprising force, too.

Every remaining day of the holidays included Petunia whining and screaming at the top of her lungs. Lily could only escape the noise if she used Muffliato on her bedroom door; even then some of the shriller shrieks made it through. Leave it to Petunia to defy the laws of magic.

The truth was, even with Petunia Grinching things up, being at home was less stressful than being at Hogwarts. At home, she could actually relax without feeling like her N.E.W.T.s were going to jump out at her from behind the next corner. The scary stories in the Daily Prophet were non-existent at home, Snape was never lurking around trying to talk to her (or at least not that she knew of), and James—well, there was technically nothing to worry about when it came to him anymore. At least, not beyond the tricky task of maintaining enough distance so he wouldn’t think that she wanted to go out with him, but how difficult could that be? She'd had years of practice at it.

Petunia’s yells served as her alarm clock on the day of her departure. Lily decided to leave before noon, hoping to avoid the danger of becoming collateral damage in her sister’s war. She said good-bye to her parents (Petunia had already stomped up the stairs and slammed her door, denting one of the steps and cracking the frame of her door in the process) and took her trunk into the backyard. She focused her mind on Hogsmeade, and moments later, Lily felt her feet hit the ground and gazed upon the winged boars that were perched on the gates into Hogwarts. She felt very relieved to be back at Hogwarts as she ploughed through the snow up to the castle with her trunk floating along behind her.

As she approached the castle, she saw a group of students standing at the foot of one of the towers preparing for a snowball fight. She was debating whether to go straight to kitchens and ask for some hot cocoa when one of the entrance doors opened and someone familiar came outside.

James was not at all dressed for the weather, and he was striding off in the direction of the snowball-fighters. He did not spot her, but he seemed to be very upset with the group of students. She was too far away to hear what he was yelling, so she walked over, intrigued.

“...filled the entire room with snow, you idiots! You’re lucky I don’t bury all of you up to your necks in a snowdrift!”

“Like you could!” one of the offenders spat. He looked to be about thirteen; Lily could see a green-and-silver scarf coiled around his neck.

“Don’t tempt me, you scummy little berk,” James said, and Lily had to stop herself from laughing. “Detention for all of you, first day of term. Now get back inside!”

The group of students shuffled past Lily and James turned around. He looked completely taken aback, and she tried to conceal the look of amusement on her face.

“That was very intimidating,” Lily said, still on the verge of laughter.

“Ha, ha,” James said, shoving his hands in his pockets self-consciously.

“No, really, I could feel you exercising your authority from all the way over here,” Lily said, and she was pleased to see a grin tugging at the corner of his mouth.

“Well, if you must know, that was the first time I’ve ever given anyone a detention,” James said. Lily finally let her laugh escape.

“I never would have known,” she said sarcastically.

“I don’t think I’m ever going to give one again, now that you’ve destroyed my self-esteem.”

“Destroy your self-esteem? Impossible,” Lily stated. “You’ve got too much of it.”

“I’m going to choose to take that as a compliment,” James said. “Shall we go inside? I’m freezing.”

They walked up the stairs and into the Entrance Hall. Lily used her wand to dry off the hem of her robes.

“So, how was your Christmas?” James asked as they started up the main staircase.

“Oh, all right,” Lily said. “Yours?”

“I think ‘all right’ is probably a fitting description of mine too,” James replied. Lily thought this was a bit odd; she had always heard him brag about Christmases at home in years past and assumed that he thoroughly enjoyed them, but she did not feel comfortable questioning any further.

They made small talk about Christmas gifts until they reached the stretch of second-floor corridor where the tapestry-concealed staircase was. The silence that fell was slightly uncomfortable. Lily tried to search for something amusing and self-deprecating to say about her infamous fall through the stairs, but ended up staring nervously at a portrait of a heavily made-up woman.

“What’re you staring at, red?” the woman asked in a hoarse voice, giving Lily a look of deep disgust.

James laughed and pulled aside the tapestry. “After you,” he said, sweeping his arm towards the stairs.

Well, Lily thought, if he can be so calm and collected about this, then so can I. She strode through the opening and James followed.

“Careful,” James said, as she approached the false stair. Lily sighed in frustration. “Ah, don’t be embarrassed, Lily. If you hadn’t fallen, where would we be now?”

“Not talking about me making a fool of myself, I expect,” Lily muttered.

“Well, if it makes you feel any better, you make a cute fool of yourself,” James said. Lily didn’t need to turn around to see the smirk that was spread across his face. She did, however, turn around and cross her arms, intending to put a stop to comments like that. James looked up at her innocently. Why was he carrying her trunk?

“What?” he asked.

“James,” Lily said. “Really? You can’t even go ten minutes?”

James smiled and shrugged. “Sorry. I just have a natural tendency towards flirtation.”

“It’s not funny!” Lily said, but she could not help herself from laughing.

“But you’re laughing!”

“We’re friends, James. You can’t say things like that.”

“Why not?”

“Would you say something like that to Sirius?”

“Sirius is dead ugly; why would I want to flirt with him?”

Lily laughed again. “Fine. Don’t listen to me, but I reserve the right to put a Silencing Charm on you.”

“I’d like to see you try,” James mocked. “I’ve got a pretty mean Shield Charm, you know.”

“You’re very odd,” Lily said. She felt like she was in first year, telling James he was weird for saying that his favourite food was frog spawn, or something like that. Having successfully thrown an eleven-year-old’s insult at him, she continued walking up the stairs until they reached the fourth floor.

“So,” James said, once they had walked up another floor without really talking.

“Have you seen Mary or Anna yet?” Lily asked.

“Anna’s been here for a couple days; I think she got back the same day I did,” James replied. “I haven’t seen Mary, though. You could try asking Remus, if he were here.”

There was something strange about his tone.

“Did I miss a joke in that sentence?” she asked.

“Nope,” James replied. Yes, there was something strange about his face, too. Well, more than usual, she corrected herself. She was about to try and wheedle it out of him when she heard another voice call her name.

“Lily!”

Anna was walking along the corridor towards them.

“Hi, James,” she said. “Did you just get back, Lily?”

“Yeah,” Lily replied. Anna was looking between her and James with an expression of mingled amusement and confusion.

“Well, Miss Evans,” James said, setting down her trunk on the stone floor. “I’ll see you around. You too, Anna.”

“That’s ‘Miss Richards’ to you!” Anna called as he walked away, before turning back to Lily with the same look on her face.

“So, is Mary back yet?” Lily asked, picking up her trunk.

“What’s with you and James?” Anna asked.

“Nothing,” Lily said, waving her hand as if to swat away the accusation.

“I thought you two weren’t talking to each other.”

“We realized that it was a bit immature,” Lily said, starting to walk towards Gryffindor Tower, her trunk bumping off her knee.

“James revels in immaturity,” Anna replied. Lily bit her lip.

“He doesn’t, really,” Lily said. It seemed it would be more credible to contradict Anna than change her story entirely.

“Oh, so it must have been his mature side that helped Sirius set off a bunch of fireworks in the Great Hall in the middle of the night?”

“When did he do that?” Lily asked.

“Midnight on New Year’s,” Anna said. “It was kind of funny. McGonagall must have got a new dressing gown for Christmas from someone who really hates her.”

“Why?”

“It’s the most horrifying thing I’ve ever seen. Don’t change the subject, though.”

“We’re just friends again, Anna,” Lily said wearily.

“Why?” Anna asked. Merlin, she was nosy.

“I don’t know,” Lily said. She was starting to feel slightly annoyed.

“You should probably figure that out.”



..........




The return to school could not have started out better, in James’ opinion. Lily did not seem to be entirely averse to him flirting with her, which he thought was a very good sign. As an added bonus to the beginning of term, Ursula seemed to be ignoring James at every opportunity, which was much easier than having to tell her that he really didn’t like her. He was even avoiding scheduling a Quidditch practice for that very reason.

The fresh feeling of enthusiasm was soon overshadowed, however: not by N.E.W.T.s, but by alarming Daily Prophet headlines and the resurgence of an old rumour that was no longer speculation.

It was only the second week of term when an owl dropped Remus’ Daily Prophet in front of him. Sirius and Peter were debating the chances they had at successfully making breakfast sausages sprout out of Snape’s ears and James was distracted (only momentarily, of course) watching Lily when Remus said, “I think you guys should see this.”

The front page of the newspaper was splashed with not one but two large headlines. The first, whose following article was rather short, read, Assassination Attempt: Death Eaters Suspected, while the second, Crouch: Another Disappearing Act?

“Who’d they try to kill?” Peter asked.

“How do they know it was Death Eaters?” Sirius added.

“Did they catch them?” James said. Peter tried to pull the paper towards him. “Wormtail, I can’t even see it now!”

Remus picked the Prophet up and turned it toward himself again. “Calm down, children,” he muttered.

“What does it say, Moonster?” Sirius asked. Remus glared at him.

“Don’t call me stupid names, or I won’t tell you,” he replied. Remus had seemed irritable ever since he had returned to school, which kept bringing back the memory of their last full moon to James. He really didn’t need any further reminders, since he usually found it very easy to relive it when he was trying to fall asleep every night.

They had not really discussed the last full moon with Remus at all—he had returned to the castle the very last night of their holidays, and they had been apart for just long enough to make the subject seem irrelevant. Besides, Remus seemed to want to forget about it, and James thought it was always best to follow his lead in these situations.

“They tried to assassinate the Muggle Prime Minister,” Remus said after a few moments, “and Crouch isn’t happy about it. Here, you can read it. Try not to fight over it.”

James leaned over to read the articles.

Death Eaters are being named the prime suspects in an attempt on the life of Muggle Prime Minister Alfred Stephenson. The attack took place late last night at a Muggle hotel in Exeter, where the Prime Minister was staying for the duration of a conference. Remnants of an Erumpent horn were found in the adjacent room, leading Muggle authorities to blame the event on a bomb (a Muggle weapon that explodes with great force).

Magical Law Enforcement Officers at the scene stated that they are working with the Muggle authorities in order to uncover the identities of the Death Eaters responsible. They had no leads at press time.


“They should probably start with getting some proof on the identities of any Death Eaters, shouldn’t they?” Sirius said. James moved on to the second article.

The most recent Death Eater attack and appalling lack of justice subsequent to it have sparked another round of criticisms slamming newly-appointed Head of Magical Law Enforcement, Bartemius Crouch. Crouch has not yet made himself available for comment on the attack, in keeping with his habit of blatantly disregarding public opinion. Many are already calling for his resignation, zeroing in on promises of progress and harsh punishments in the fight against Voldemort and his supporters. So far, Crouch has delivered on none of these assurances, and has given the public reason to believe that he is nothing more than a weak and ineffectual “leader” who has been playing a game of Hot Gurdyroot with his responsibilities.

“Harsh,” James said, glancing at the by-line, which confirmed his suspicion that it had been written by Anna’s sister. He wondered how many Howlers she got every morning. If she was anything like Anna, she would probably find them all hilarious.

“She sounds like my mum talking about me,” Sirius said. “Nah, never mind. She’s nicer than my mum.”

Someone else had been assigned to profiling Crouch, it seemed, for a few days later, a considerably less acidic article appeared on the front page summarizing a press conference he had called. The reporter’s commentary was fairly bland, and it was the quotes from Crouch’s statement that seemed to be the most telling:

“As I have promised you all, a new era is beginning; an era where failure to act is unacceptable. Those who do not aid the fight against He Who Must Not Be Named perpetrate his evils just as his Death Eaters do. We will fight them with our own brand of intolerance, match their intensity regardless of the cost, and spare no mercy for known enemies or their accomplices. Changes will be made; changes which I know some will find strange or discomfiting, and I ask those who would resist these alterations to keep in mind that all we do is for the greater good. All that we do is to reach the goal that we all share: to finally defeat those who seek hegemony over our world.”

It was usually easy to spend a half-hour discussing bad news and then put it out of your mind, but it soon transpired that these “changes” were going to have a living, breathing presence within Hogwarts. When Professor McGonagall asked him and Lily to stay after Transfiguration one afternoon, James found that part of being Head Boy meant that he was told bad news that the other students weren’t.

“The information I am about to divulge is not information that I am interested in hearing other students discussing in the Great Hall,” she said briskly. “Can I trust you to keep it to yourselves?”

James glanced at Lily anxiously.

“Of course,” Lily answered for them.

“Good. Well, then, starting next week, the Ministry will be placing a group of Aurors at Hogwarts for protection,” Professor McGonagall said, remarkably casual.

“Why would they do that?” Lily asked.

“Because, Miss Evans, they feel the students of this school require greater protection than we can provide alone,” McGonagall answered. This time, there was a slight edge to her voice. Whether she was annoyed with Lily or the Ministry, it was hard to tell.

“But—there’s Professor Dumbledore, and you, and all the rest of the teachers,” Lily continued. “We’ve got a bunch of highly-skilled adult wizards here already.”

“Is that supposed to be news to me, Miss Evans?”

Lily, whose mouth had been opened to respond, snapped shut. It was not often that Lily was remonstrated by any of their professors.

“I only tell you two,” Professor McGonagall said, placing her hands authoritatively on the back of her desk chair, “because we—that is to say, Professor Dumbledore and the rest of the Heads of House—expect these Aurors to be treated with the same respect that all staff members are. It would be unacceptable for any student of this school to be distracting them from their duties, or otherwise making them feel unwelcome.”

Why did McGonagall always point her gaze in his direction when she said these things?

“We understand,” James said, trying to show her that he could be mature, despite what everyone else on the planet seemed to think.

“Good. I won’t keep you from lunch any longer,” Professor McGonagall said, effectively shooing them from the classroom.

Lily looked preoccupied as they walked to the Great Hall; James noticed that she kept fiddling with the strap on her bag and biting her lower lip. They were practically in the Entrance Hall before James decided he should ask her what was wrong.

“Something bothering you?” he asked.

“No,” she said, with a tight smile.

“Don’t let McGonagall get to you,” James said, thinking that maybe she was still stinging over the way their Transfiguration had snapped at her.

“Oh, it’s not that. I don’t care about that,” Lily said. “I just...I don’t understand why we need more protection. It doesn’t make sense.”

Something seemed very familiar about this conversation, but James could not put his finger on it.

“Well, you’ve seen the Prophet, right?” he asked. “The Ministry probably just wants to seem like they’re toughening things up, even in places they don’t need to.”

“Think so?” Lily asked as they reached the Great Hall.

“Yeah,” he said. “No need to worry.”

“Right. Well, I’ll see you later,” she said, rolling her eyes and walking off to sit with Anna and Mary.

Once James was able to pull away his concentration from her moving figure, he realized that, even though they were friends, they only seemed to act like it when it was just the two of them. Lily never ate meals with him or sat with him in classes and the common room. They always went their separate ways, which was making it difficult for him to work towards his goal of making her fall in love with him. Well, that was a bit dramatic—he just wanted her to agree to go on one date with him.

He sat down with Remus, Sirius, and Peter to eat lunch and was soon visited by Gareth, who wanted to know when the next Quidditch practice would be.

“Erm...not sure,” James replied. Gareth raised his eyebrows.

“Ravenclaw and Slytherin are playing this Saturday, and our next match is only five weeks away!” the fourth-year said.

“Is it?” James asked—surely time could not have gone by that fast?

“What about all those plays we were going to run through after holidays? Just because we’re playing Hufflepuff doesn’t mean we should slack off; I heard they’re playing way better than they did against Ravenclaw,” Gareth continued.

James grinned. He felt like he was almost certainly looking at a future Gryffindor Quidditch captain.

“Okay, we’ll do it tonight, then. Seven o’clock,” James said. “Why don’t you let everyone else know?”

“Oh—well,” Gareth said, clearly trying to hide his surprise, “all right. Sounds good.”

The rest of the team was already at the pitch when James arrived, his new Nimbus in hand. As he had expected, everyone wanted to try it out (except Ursula, who was ominously ignoring the fact that James existed), and it was at least a half-hour before they got around to a real practice.

Everything was going well: no one seemed to have made any major regressions over the holidays, and some people had even improved quite a bit. The only problem was that James felt like he was wearing his Invisibility Cloak. Ursula was blatantly refusing to pass to him when they ran plays or listen to most of his directions. Usually James was glad that she was such a good player, but now it was just frustrating, for she could easily control the Quaffle and refuse to cooperate with him.

He could feel everyone else staring at him expectantly, waiting for him to yell at her or call a time-out, but it wasn’t that simple. Ursula was obviously still upset about him ignoring her on their “date” to Slughorn’s party, and he hardly wanted to provoke her into shouting at him about that in front of the entire team. On the other hand, she was making him look like a laughingstock.

“Okay,” he called, as Ursula put the Chaser through the hoop yet again, leaving him yards behind, “let’s all start halfway down the pitch. Alison, you get a head start, then Ursula, I want you to reverse pass to me, and I’ll throw it to her. Hufflepuff has a lot of forward momentum, and I think we can throw them off if we break that.”

There’s no way she can ignore me now, James thought as he swooped back to the middle of the pitch. Alison shot off towards the goalposts, and Ursula did not even look at James as she sped off in the same direction. Well, she was still being difficult, but surely she wasn’t going to completely disregard him. Yet they kept drawing closer and closer to the end of the pitch, and Ursula still had the Quaffle tucked firmly under her right arm.

He took advantage of the fact that his broom was much faster than hers and put on a burst of speed, drawing even with her, passing her, and then turning sharply. He heard Alison squeak, “Watch out!”, but he wasn’t really sure if he cared whether Ursula crashed into him or not. She swerved out of the way just in time and dropped the Quaffle.

“What was that?” she yelled.

“Who’s the captain of this team?” he asked, keeping his voice considerably lower than hers.

“You almost made me fall off my broom to ask a stupid question?” she said.

“If you’re not going to listen to me, you can’t be on this team,” he told her. Her face twisted unpleasantly.

“Fine, Captain. Let’s run it again.”

They did, and Ursula followed his instructions, although she was throwing the Quaffle rather hard, James thought. The team seemed broken for the rest of the practice, clearly put off by the rift between their captain and one of their Chasers. By the time he returned to Gryffindor Tower, James was wondering whether it would just be better to replace her after all.

Glumbumble,” James said to the Fat Lady, but the portrait stayed shut.

“Incorrect,” she said, folding her hands and placing them in her lap.

“What d’you mean, ‘incorrect’?” James asked.

“I should think that it's perfectly clear. The password has been changed.”

“Wha—? Oh, come on,” James groaned. “I’ve been coming in and out of this common room for seven years! You’re seriously not going to let me in?”

“No entry without the correct password,” she said, a satisfied expression on her face.

“I’m the Head Boy!” James said.

“It’s nettle wine,” a voice said from behind him. He turned around and saw Sirius, who had his book bag slung over his shoulder. The Fat Lady swung forward to let them in. “How was practice?”

“Rubbish,” James replied once they had made it through the portrait hole. “What have you been up to?”

“Detention,” Sirius said casually. “Pete’s still doing his from with McGonagall.”

“Why are you back so early?” James asked.

“I had mine with Sprout,” Sirius said, shrugging. James nodded; there were certain teachers, including Professor Sprout, who seemed to have trouble with enforcing harsh punishments. It had been routine practice since their third year to simply leave early from detentions when these professors weren’t looking.

He pushed open the door to their dormitory and Sirius threw his bag onto his bed unceremoniously. James kicked his Quidditch boots underneath his bed and placed his Nimbus (rather more carefully) underneath Trevor’s abandoned four-post frame.

“You finish that Potions assignment?” he asked Sirius.

“I did indeed, Prongs,” Sirius replied. “Need to copy it?”

“Yeah, unfortunately,” James said. Sometimes he wondered why he had spent countless hours studying for an O.W.L. in Potions, and had then continued at N.E.W.T.-level. Where he had summoned the motivation from, he had no idea. He really pitied the fifth years sometimes; they were naively under the impression (as he had been) that completing his O.W.L.s would be some sort of major moment, the peak of the academic mountain. If only they knew that their hours of review and near-breakdowns were only the beginning.

“Hey,” James said, suddenly remembering a conversation he had had months previously; he had such a good idea that it made him stop in the middle of the common room.

“What?” Sirius asked.

“I just thought of something,” James replied. “Have you seen Lily?”

“Yeah, she’s sitting on that pedestal you put her on years ago,” Sirius said, smirking. “Hasn’t moved since, actually.”

“Hilarious, Padfoot,” James said.

“You set yourself up for that one.”

“You just wait. One day you’re going to like a girl for more than three days and then it’s going to be open season for me, Moony, and Wormtail,” James said.

Sirius laughed. “I’m shaking at the very thought. Anyway, what did you need to find Evans for?”

“Nothing important. Just some Head Boy stuff.”

“Merlin’s arse, Prongs,” Sirius muttered, rolling his eyes. “If you weren’t my best friend, I’d have to jinx you for that sentence, purely on principle. In fact...”

James looked at Sirius, who was grinning gleefully, his wand in hand. He thought he had an idea of what was coming.

“Padfoot, don’t.”

“Prongs, the Marauders have terrorized six consecutive Head Boys—”

James stepped back towards the door apprehensively. He knew Sirius was only joking, but he still didn’t fancy having his limbs turned into jelly, or having a swarm of bats attack his head.

“Bugger off.”

“Oh, come on. You have to let me hex you at least once. If I don’t, it’s like going undefeated six matches straight and then forfeiting the championship,” Sirius said.

“Don’t even try pointing that wand at me. I’ll curse you right back; you know I will.”

Sirius shrugged. “Fair point.”

James sighed and went to pull out a change of clothes from his trunk. As he was sifting through a mass of unfolded, wrinkled shirts, he saw Sirius taking aim at him. He jumped backwards and narrowly missed a jet of turquoise-blue light, which left a dent near the bottom of one of his bedposts.

“Sirius!"

“Sorry, mate, but I can’t help it. Just let me have one go, then I’ll let you alone,” Sirius said, laughing again.

“You know, you’ve really asked for it,” James said, taking out his own wand. “I wasn’t going to curse you, but now—”

He ducked underneath another jet of light and sliced his wand through the air towards Sirius. Somehow, in the ten minutes of duelling that ensued, they managed to set fire to Sirius’ bed, break one of the windows, blow apart Peter’s nightstand, send the contents of Remus’ trunks flying across the room, upright James’ bed, and put a hole in the door, but neither of them had a scratch on them.

“All right,” James said finally, from where he was ducked behind his bed. “Let’s call a truce before we destroy the entire dormitory, shall we?”

“Yeah, and besides, I don’t want you to end up getting hurt,” Sirius replied. They stood up and surveyed the damage. A moment later the door opened and Peter and Remus walked in, their laughter and conversation stopping dead.

“Not again,” Peter said.

“You two,” Remus said, “need to find a better way of relieving stress.”

James looked at Sirius, who was grinning.

“Terrible attitudes, don’t you think, Prongs?”

“Quite, Padfoot. Shall we?”

The room was filled with more spells and loud curses as both Remus and Peter tried to dive behind the nearest piece of furniture.

 


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