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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 26: Defensive, Offensive


Chapter Twenty-Six
Defensive, Offensive



There was something sinister settling in over the castle. Despite the nice weather, James could feel it as he went from class to class, as he sat in the common room, as he went to Quidditch practice—like something following him around, making him look over his shoulder for fear that it was going to creep up without him realizing. He was not the only one, either. Other students looked anxious, and sometimes downright panicked. Everyone knew that, before long, there was going to be no place and no more time to hide.

Fear of exams had finally set in.

It was around this time of year, particularly before O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s, that people revealed some of their worst and most bizarre traits. Some people dissolved into general despair; others became so irritable that they lashed out if someone sat too close to them. Some pretended as if nothing was wrong with a strangely manic glint in their eyes, others hardly slept at all at night and instead spent entire classes asleep on their desk (which, in turn, led them to panic about missing the material covered, which meant more sleepless nights).

Though James was certainly concerned about N.E.W.T.s, he really was much more focused on his final Quidditch game. He knew he was going to regret that preoccupation, since the match was not until the last Saturday of May, which would not give him much time afterward to prepare for the five most important exams of his school career—but practicing and formulating plays was a very good way to put off studying. And he desperately wanted to win the Quidditch Cup. In fact, he couldn’t say whether he would be more disappointed to lose the match or to fail all his N.E.W.T.s.

At some point, he realized he might run into some problems on the day of the Quidditch final, for it was to fall on the same day as full moon. If Gryffindor won, there was likely to be a party going late into the night, which would make his absence as Quidditch captain highly conspicuous. There was no question that he was going to have to be absent—as responsible as he felt toward the team, it could never outweigh his loyalty to his friends. He just wasn’t sure how he was going to slip away without anyone noticing, especially Lily. In fact, he didn’t really care much if other people thought his disappearance was strange, but since Lily already knew about Remus’ situation, there was more than a small chance that she might end up with some curious questions.

Before he could give much thought on how to avoid this problem, a solution materialized in the form of Lily climbing through the portrait hole

“What’s that?” he asked.

“I was actually coming to see if you knew,” she said, holding it up and surveying it from different angles. “Someone was trying to sell it to a fifth-year, and I suppose it’s to help them with O.W.L.s.”

“That really looks helpful,” James said sarcastically.

“I’ll bring it to Filch later,” she said, sitting down in an armchair. Before James could make another move, her eyes darted to the parchment in front of him, which he had been using to draw out Quidditch plays. “What are you doing?”

“Er—just some Quidditch stuff,” he said. Lily raised her eyebrow.

“You have to stop worrying about that,” she said. “There are other things going on.”

“It’s important to me.”

“I know it is. But whether you win or lose, it’s not going to come back to bite you when you’re trying to get a job.”

James didn’t really think that Lily understood, but he tried to smile patiently.

“I’ll study later,” he said. “Don’t worry.”

“Oh—by the way, what day is the match again?” Lily asked.

“The twenty-fifth,” James replied promptly, and Lily’s expression turned mildly distressed. “What’s wrong?”

“Well, that’s the same day that Anna’s sister is getting married,” Lily said, biting her lip, “and I told her ages ago that I’d go.”

“You should, then,” James said, feeling that this was the right thing to say.

“But I really want to see you play,” Lily said.

“It’s not a big deal,” James said. Of course, he thought it was a big deal, but Lily had never been a big Quidditch fan. She looked at him doubtfully.

“Yes, it is,” she said. “I can’t miss your last Quidditch game.”

James could not help himself from breaking into a grin. “I don’t want you to miss it, either. I just don’t think you have much of a choice.”

Lily sat in silent thought for a moment. “Well, maybe I can go late. I can stay for as much of the match as I can, and then go.”

It occurred to James that this might be the solution to his full moon dilemma. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to tell Lily about being an Animagus ever, he just wanted to tell her at a time where she wouldn’t try to convince him out of sneaking out to join Remus.

“I wish you were going, too,” she said wistfully. James shrugged. “I mean, I know you can’t, because of Quidditch...”

“Well, I wasn’t invited,” James replied. “You’ll have a better time without me there, anyway.”

“Don’t think so,” Lily said, which, it had to be said, gave him a bit of an ego boost.

With that small difficulty resolved, time pressed on towards the Quidditch match and exams. In the third week of May, James and Remus had to fulfill their commitment to helping fifth-year students with their Defence Against the Dark Arts O.W.L. They had not been able (and had not really wanted) to convince Sirius and Peter to stay behind, so all four of them made their way to an empty classroom in the Charms corridor after dinner on a Thursday evening.

“Whoa,” Peter said as they entered the room. What must have been the entire fifth year was sitting and standing in the room.

James had not expected so many people to show up, and suddenly felt unprepared. He looked over at Remus, who appeared to be equally surprised.

“Er—so—where do you think we should start?” James muttered. Some of the fifth-years had noticed them and were staring expectantly.

Remus opened his mouth, but it took a few moments before he spoke. “The Boggart, you think?”

James nodded—it was really the only thing they had properly prepared in advance. He wasn’t sure how they were going to demonstrate, though. Remus, whose Boggart turned into a full moon, did not want to risk suspicion, and James felt equally uncomfortable about doing it himself. On the one encounter he had had with a Boggart, it had not been an experience he would have preferred to have in front of a group of people.

By this time, everyone had quieted down and was waiting for some kind of direction. Sirius and Peter had gone to sit on one of the wide windowsills at the back of the room. James cleared his throat.

“Er, thanks for coming, everyone,” he said. “So, we’re just going to go over some of the stuff that’s likely to be on your Defence exam. Oh, and for everyone who doesn’t know, I’m James, and this is Remus.” He paused. “Right, so, we’re going to start by getting rid of the Boggart that’s in the cupboard over there—anyone want to volunteer?”

No one seemed overly willing, but eventually a Ravenclaw boy with very thick glasses offered to start. James explained how to tackle the Boggart, and got Sirius to open the cabinet. A few moments later, a pale-faced and menacing vampire stood before them. More than a few people took steps backward.

Ridikkulus!” the Ravenclaw boy said, but for all his confidence, nothing happened to the vampire. “Ridikkulus!”

James looked over at Remus, who did not seem to want to step forward any more than he did. The gap between the boy and the Boggart was closing fast, though, and James tugged his arm back.

“Someone else,” he said, as the vampire stopped, confused as to what form to take in the face of such a large group of people. Another boy stepped forward, this time a Slytherin—although James thought it was probably because his friends had shoved him to the front—and the entire room went dark, shrieks echoing off the walls.

James tried to shout at people to calm down and not move, but suddenly fireworks were shooting around the room, and he breathed a sigh of relief—even more so when the boy stepped back and the light returned.

Things went smoother after that. It took quite a while to get through a group of about forty people, some of whom had trouble performing the spell properly, but they did, and everyone’s enthusiasm seemed to be running quite high.

“Good job, everyone,” James said, once the Boggart had been permanently destroyed. “Let’s move on to Disarming, shall we?”

Peter and Sirius had apparently decided that their role was to demonstrate everything, which James didn’t really mind—it was easier to explain and instruct when you weren’t also trying to perform spells.

“The most important thing to remember when you’re Disarming is the wand movement,” he said, and waited for Remus to add in his suggestions.

“You should also—”

There was a loud thud from behind them, and they turned around to see Sirius Stunned on the floor.

“Pete,” James said, while everyone was laughing, “you weren’t supposed to do it yet.”

“You paused,” Peter said. “I thought you were pausing because you wanted me to do it!”

“This is important too, though,” Remus said to the crowd of fifth-years, in an attempt to save face. “You should know how to revive people who have been Stunned.”

“Yeah, that’s right,” James agreed. “Does anyone know the incantation?” When no one offered an answer, he changed tack. “Someone come up here, and we’ll teach you.”

It took a few tries for the blushing girl who volunteered to properly revive Sirius, who looked very eager to get revenge on Peter.

“Right, so, back to Disarming,” James said. “It’s a bit like a Shield Charm—actually, better, if you can time it right.”

“Now, Peter’s going to try to jinx Sirius,” Remus said. He seemed to be instructing the two of them more than any of the fifth-years, and Sirius looked disappointed that their roles were not reversed. “Sirius will try to Disarm him, and watch how he does it.”

Peter hesitated for a moment before raising his wand—but that was all he got the chance to do, and Sirius Disarmed him with such force that he flew backward several feet.

“Right,” James said, turning to the group, “well, you won’t be expected to do it exactly like that. As long as you can get rid of their wand, that’s really good.”

“Why don’t you all get in pairs and practice?” Remus suggested. As all the fifth-years followed his instructions, James turned to talk to his friends.

“Sorry about that, Pete,” Sirius said, though he did not look particularly remorseful.

“S’all right,” Peter replied. “I did Stun you, after all.”

“I wasn’t even ready,” Sirius said, clearly a little irritated.

“All right, you two are even now,” Remus said. “Let’s not demonstrate to them how to kill each other.”

The rest of the time, everyone basically remained in pairs or small groups, which gave them the chance to practice not only defensive but also offensive spells. There were some truly abysmal attempts at Disarming, and later, at Shield Charms. Beyond the obvious disadvantage it was going to put them at for their exams, James could not help feeling like walking around without being able to perform basic defence spells was asking to be attacked. He started to feel responsible for helping every single one of them, and frustrated when there was no improvement. He spent at least ten minutes helping a burly boy with blonde hair perform a Shield Charm, and realized when he was looked up that the two hours was over.

“All right, everyone,” Remus called. “Time’s up.”

There was a chorus of protestations, and James shared the sentiment. He felt like there had not been enough time, and there were a half-dozen other things they could have spent time going over. It was getting late, but despite that, no one left quickly—it was only a half-hour later that the last of the group departed.

“That went well,” Remus said. James thought that he looked more cheerful and confident than he had ever seen him before. “Don’t you think so?”

They discussed the finer points of the past few hours as they walked back to Gryffindor Tower, and James felt excited about practicing for his own Defence exam. It was this exhilarating feeling that made him think that being an Auror was what he wanted to do.

What he really wanted, though, was to find out more about this mysterious organization that had Dumbledore at its head. His conversations with Dearborn had renewed his curiosity, but he was not sure how to go about figuring out more details. Everything he knew so far had come from overheard conversations, and asking either of his professors would entail explaining his eavesdropping—and, when it came to Dearborn, he really didn’t want to confess to more sneaking around and privacy invading.

The more it fermented in his mind, the more he felt that, whatever it was that Dumbledore was doing, he wanted to be a part of it. Dumbledore was the greatest wizard on earth, and the past had shown that Voldemort was not going to be quick to target him—the same could not be said for the Aurors. It was not that James was afraid of being at the center of things; he simply thought that whatever Dumbledore was doing was likely to be much more successful.

He didn’t know, of course, if Dumbledore’s organization was linked to the Aurors, and for that reason he started to feel a newfound determination to do well on his N.E.W.T.s. It was going to take high marks in all of his exams to give him the opportunity to become an Auror—and, as it stood, it was the only opportunity he really wanted to have.



..........




Lily’s experience in the past with people from Slytherin had been decidedly bad, which was why she was not looking forward to tutoring fifth years alongside Diana Greengrass. She was prepared for it to be an uncomfortable two hours, but found herself pleasantly surprised when she finally came face-to-face with Diana, a tall, skinny girl with dirty blonde hair and a spattering of freckles across her face. Though she was very quiet and not exactly friendly, she was not openly rude to Lily or any of the younger students.

Sometime in the course of helping the fifth years in the dungeons, Lily fully realized what a good idea it had been on James’ part. She wished someone had thought to do this when she was on the brink of taking her O.W.L.s. After hearing all the mishaps that had happened with James and Remus, Lily felt like her two hours in the dungeons were fairly tame. Of course, the ingredients needed for any of the advanced potions they might have to make during their exam were expensive, so they were not able to make anything. She felt a little like she was boring them all, but hoped that some of the suggestions she made would help them. They were very picky little things—how to set up your supplies so you could use them quickest, or ways to make common steps faster—but then, Potions was very particular in itself.

Diana only seemed to speak when someone else spoke to her, but when everyone was leaving at the end, she actually struck up a conversation with Lily.

“You’re going out with James Potter, right?” Diana asked. Lily would have thought that after a month (and it had indeed been over a month by now), people would have stopped asking her this question.

“Yes,” Lily said, thinking that maybe she had been wrong, and she was about to get a repeat of what some of the other girls from Slytherin had said to her.

All Diana did was nod. She spoke so quietly, almost like she was afraid of being overheard.

“Was it you who turned Astrid Nott’s hair green?”

“No, that was my friend, actually,” Lily replied.

“Well, tell her good job,” Diana said, with a faint smile. Lily could not have been more surprised.

“Really?”

Diana nodded again. “Astrid and her friends are horrid. No one in my year likes them.”

This was an interesting revelation for Lily, and she was forcibly reminded of something she had once believed in very strongly—that Slytherins were not all the same, that she could very easily be friends with some of them. After the way things had worked out between her and Snape, and the event of the past few months, she had almost completely lost sight of that.

“She actually made fun of me, too, because my cousin’s a Potter,” Diana said. Lily felt her eyebrows shoot up.

“What? I didn’t know that.”

“Well, she’s married to—erm—I think James’ second cousin,” Diana said, looking a little embarrassed, as if she felt she had shared too much. “I’ve never met James’ family, anyway. I just know my cousin Demetra has the same last name.”

Lily tried to think back to James’ explanation of his family, but she did not remember him mentioning anything about any Greengrasses. Diana folded her arms across her chest.

“Anyway, erm, good luck on your N.E.W.T.s,” she said.

“Thanks,” Lily said. She knew she would probably never get the chance to know Diana very well, and wished there was some way she could tell her how nice she seemed, or how she shouldn’t let other girls in her year bother her. “And thanks so much for offering to help out, Diana. It was really nice of you.”

Diana smiled in response and left the dungeon, heading off towards the Slytherins’ common room. Lily followed her after tidying a few last things, and her heart lifted when she saw James, looking very handsome while he leaned against the stone wall outside the classroom door with his hands in his pockets.

“I didn’t expect you to be here,” she said, embracing him and smiling like a fool.

“I thought I’d surprise you,” he replied. “How was it?”

“It was...really good, actually,” Lily said. “Well, not as interesting as yours, but still good. I have to hand it to you, this was a brilliant idea.”

“Yeah,” James said, “you know, that just sort of happens when you’re a genius.”

She shoved him slightly, but still took his hand as they started to walk back to Gryffindor Tower.

“So, the girl I was working with—Diana—she was really nice,” Lily said. “I was expecting her to be terrible.”

“That is surprising,” James remarked. “I thought hating all Gryffindors was a prerequisite for being in Slytherin.”

“Well, she didn’t seem to,” Lily said, “and what’s more, she said that you two are somehow related.”

James frowned in confusion, but understanding dawned on his face after a few moments.

“Oh, right,” he said. “I never made the connection.”

“You don’t sound very enthused,” Lily said. James merely shrugged.

“I’m probably somehow related to half the people in Slytherin,” he said. “It’s an unfortunate condition.”

“Some people in Slytherin are nice, you know,” Lily said.

“Yes, and some of them aren’t,” James replied. His stubbornness was getting her irritated.

“So you just write them all off, then?” she asked. “You haven’t exactly been nice to any of them.”

James sighed exasperatedly. “You’re not on this kick again, are you?”

“It’s not a kick,” Lily snapped. “Just because I can actually empathize with other people doesn’t make me an idiot.”

“I never said you were an idiot.”

“You implied it.”

“Lily, you’re one of the smartest people I know,” James said. “I wouldn’t say or imply that you were an idiot.”

But...?” Lily said, for she could hear his mind saying it.

“I just can’t completely understand why you defend some people. I never have,” he said. He did not appear to be angry or even frustrated, which only bothered Lily more.

“Because they’re people, James, and—”

“I know that.”

“Obviously, you don’t! Otherwise you would understand why I defend people, and you wouldn’t be so mean to them!”

James sighed again. “I do know, Lily. All I meant is that, after the way you’ve been treated, it’s fairly remarkable that you still have any faith in anyone from Slytherin.”

It almost sounded like a compliment, which made her fall silent for a minute, trying to work out what he was trying to say.

“I do have a heart, you know,” he said, sounding slightly defensive.

Lily could not help feeling guilty at this, and was only able to hold out a minute before she broke the silence. She put her hand in his and momentarily pressed her head his shoulder.

“I know you have a heart,” she said quietly. She felt him squeeze her slightly, his arm around her shoulder. He stopped and looked at her quite seriously.

“I really do get it, you know,” he said. “I mean, I’m not going to be best mates with any of the Slytherins, but I think I’ve learned not to judge them so harshly.”

Lily smiled at him reassuringly. “Well, I’m glad. And I think you’re wonderful, anyway.” There was slight pause. “Is everything all right? You’ve seemed a little...down lately.”

“I don’t know,” he said. Lily could tell from his expression that there was something wrong.

“You can tell me, whatever it is,” she said.

“I just—thinking about my family doesn’t put me in a good mood,” he mumbled.

“Why not?” Lily asked. It had always seemed to her that James’ parents were quite nice people, or at least that was the way he and Sirius spoke of them.

“My...my dad’s been kind of sick for a while,” he explained, his cheeks high with colour. “It just bothers me to think about it.”

“Oh,” she said, wishing she could think of the right thing to say, “I’m sorry. I had no idea.”

“It’s okay,” he said, shrugging. “It’s not really a big deal, or anything.”

“James, don’t say that. If it’s upsetting you, then it is a big deal.”

He simply shrugged again.

“We don’t have to talk about it right now, if you don’t want to,” she said, drawing him into a hug, “but we can, if you do. Whenever you do.”

He embraced her tightly, and seemed slightly cheered when she looked at him next.

He cleared his throat. “So, tell me—did anyone blow up their cauldron?”

Lily smiled, willing to move on to another subject if that was what he preferred. She said the password to the Fat Lady and told him more about her evening with the fifth-years answer until they came upon a very unpleasant scene: Anna seemed to be in some sort of argument with Sirius, towering over the back of his chair. He was glaring at her with disgust, Remus and Peter sitting near him.

“What’s going on?” she asked, and James shrugged. The two of them walked over to their friends, just in time for Lily to hear Anna something about it being his fault.

“This is none of your business,” Sirius shot back.

“What’s wrong?” James asked, sitting down with his friends. Sirius turned as if Anna no longer existed.

“She’s mental,” he said. Anna looked livid and about ready to draw her wand.

“Anna, let’s go upstairs,” Lily said.

“You go ahead,” Anna said, folding her arms across her chest. “I still haven’t had my question answered.”

“There’s nothing to say,” Sirius said. “How many times do we have to tell you that?”

Anna,” Lily said. “Let’s go.”

She did not know what it was that made her friend listen, but for some reason she turned on her heel, leaving Lily to follow her to the spiral staircase. She cast an apologetic look back at James, who smiled at her comfortingly.

Anna stopped in the middle of the staircase, and Lily almost crashed into her.

“All right—what is going on?” she asked.

“I’m trying to find out what’s wrong with Mary,” Anna said.

“So you’re interrogating Sirius?”

“No! I was trying to ask Remus, and of course Sirius jumped all over me,” Anna spat.

Lily sighed, feeling guilty. “I don’t think Remus has anything to do with it.” Anna laughed derisively. “No, I mean it. They haven’t even spoken to each other in ages.”

“That’s not true,” Anna said. “Mary has a half-dozen little notes written to her from him stuck in her Charms book, asking her why she’s mad at him, why she doesn’t want to talk to him anymore—”

What?” Lily asked, bewildered. “When did you find out about this?”

“Yesterday,” Anna said. “She let me borrow her book and I guess she forgot to take them out. I said something to her about it, and she was furious with me—she started saying things about me betraying her trust and not being her real friend.”

“Are—are you sure they weren’t from a long time ago?”

“Wouldn’t she have just said so, if they were?” Anna asked.

Lily was still reeling slightly—this made no sense, and completely contradicted all the impressions that Mary had been giving her for the past few weeks.

“He’s jerking her around like he did before—”

“No,” Lily interrupted. “I don’t think it’s him. Or—I don’t know.”

Anna sighed angrily. “Well, you’re going to have to ask Mary yourself, because I don’t know if she’ll speak to me for a while.”

“Is she upstairs?”

“No. She stormed off about twenty minutes ago.”

Lily knew she could have explained to Anna what was really bothering Mary, but she wasn’t even sure if was true anymore. She did not think anything would come of interrogating Remus, but she couldn’t say that she didn’t sympathize with Anna’s confusion and frustration. This had all turned out to be such a mess that she wished she could just walk away from it all. Now that she had such a strong and honest relationship with James, everything seemed unnecessarily difficult with her friends. She now wished that she had never agreed to go to Anna’s sister’s wedding, because it was setting up to be a very uncomfortable weekend.



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