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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 32: Shadows in the Dark



Chapter Thirty-Two
Shadows in the Dark




James felt himself hit ground again, flung out of the grip of Apparition and of his attacker. He still felt extremely disoriented, and had to concentrate with all his might on pushing himself up from the ground without falling back over again.

He knew what had made them land so unceremoniously, but until he saw Lily a few feet away, he had still held onto some hope that she had not tagged along. He had been trying to get away from her, and now it was for nothing; they were—well, he didn’t quite know where they were. That didn't matter, though. What did matter was getting away away as fast as they could.

Imperio!”

James had not taken a single step, nor could he now: the possibility of free movement had left him.

“Bloody kids,” their attacker cursed, spitting on the ground.

It was almost a blessing, this feeling. The concern and fear that had been in the forefront of his mind was wiped away, and he felt relaxed, like he had just woken up after a pleasant dream.

The man in the robes had been straightening himself out, it seemed, but now he spoke again.

“Come with me,” he grunted.

James was aware of the magic making him move forward, and it annoyed him for a moment. He had felt just fine standing where he was, after all. But giving into the movement, following the command—it felt better than when he tried not to.

Freed from all other thought, James gazed upon their surroundings with detached interest. They were next to a very large stone manor, set in the expanse of a large field. It seemed like a nice place—undisturbed and picturesque.

He followed the robed man around the side of the house, toward the imposing front doors. They passed by a fountain, and the sound of the water falling seemed to barely wash up on his consciousness. Everything came to him slower and duller than usual, like all the sharp edges of the world had been smoothed out.

They went inside, stopping in a dimly lit entrance hall. There was someone else with them now, a pale woman—and suddenly James remembered Lily. She wasn’t supposed to be here, he knew that, but even thinking about something other than what he was supposed to felt abnormal, like an effort. But something was wrong. He had to tell her that—but tell her what? Now he couldn’t remember at all—

“—enough.”

Everything seemed to bloom back to life in one moment: someone had lifted the curse.

James looked around. Somehow, he had lost of track of what was happening, and they had moved out of the front hall into another room. His first thought was Lily; he found himself equally horrified and reassured that she was still standing next to him. Her face was white, but beyond that, she was not showing any signs of terror or worry. She was looking back at him almost as if to say that everything would be fine, which didn’t seem right: he was the one who had gotten them into this mess in the first place.

“What is this, Avery?”

Another masked figure was in the room with them, his voice masculine as well. James wondered what had happened to the woman with light hair, or if he had hallucinated her presence.

“Wasn’t intentional,” the other man, the one who had captured them, replied. James assumed he must be related to the Avery they went to school with, and a wild thought occurred to him: was this something to do with the Slytherins? Had they set this up as some sort of payback?

“You could not bring an adolescent boy here without issue,” the other voice said, dripping with accusation.

“Wasn’t my fault,” Avery repeated. “Besides, we can get rid of the girl easily enough.”

“Let her go,” James said, his power of speech suddenly jumping back to life.

The two masked faces turned in his direction.

“Sit down,” the newer man said, his voice silky but forceful. When neither James nor Lily moved, he took out his wand.

Before James could even think to duck or move, he felt that strange placid state descend on him again. His feet once again moved of their own volition, but this time he only took a few steps before he was conscious of what was happening, and tried to free himself from the curse. His struggle was in vain, however; regardless of how much effort he put into fighting against it, he ended up sitting down on the settee a few moments later.

“We need to work quickly,” the man said to Avery, “the Dark Lord wants this finished tonight.”

So they were Death Eaters, then. James could not imagine anyone but Voldemort being referred to as the “Dark Lord”, after all, but the knowledge of what they were really involved in did not make him feel any better. The situation had just grown decidedly worse.

“Should I take the girl?”

James’ muscles tensed; he was ready to fight them off if anyone made a move towards Lily.

“No,” the silky-voiced man said, “leave her, for now. We may be able to hand two to the Dark Lord rather than just one.”

Though they were certainly in a bad situation, James felt it must be a good sign that they were both still alive. If they had wanted to kill him, Avery could have accomplished that easily back at the park.

“You look familiar,” the second man said. It was hard to tell through the mask, but he seemed to be looking at Lily. “What is your name?”

She seemed insistent on staying silent, but James knew they would eventually force her to talk. What would happen if they realized she was Muggle-born?

“Her name’s Lily—Longbottom,” he answered for her, praying that the two men didn't know any better.

“I see,” the man said. He did not seem to be questioning the lie. “We did not intend to bring you here, girl, but given the purity of your blood...I hardly think that the Dark Lord shall be displeased.”

“What do you want with us?” James asked, trying to sound defiant and intimidating.

“The Dark Lord has commanded that you join his ranks.”

Even in the midst of how terrified he was feeling, the statement almost made James laugh.

“Commanded? Is that so?” he asked, trying to sound much braver than he felt. “Well, you’re wasting your time. Not going to happen.”

“No? Not even if the alternative is death?”

“If you were going to kill us, you already would have,” James retorted, clinging to the belief.

“You’ll find you’re quite wrong there. My orders are to communicate the Dark Lord’s orders, and to kill you if you refuse.”

His words hung in the air.

“What do you want with us? We’re a couple of teenagers; you can’t honestly care whether we join you or not,” James challenged them, determined to find a way out of this.

“He’s right,” Avery said. “We should just kill them if their answer is no.”

“Not yet,” the other man snapped. “I sincerely doubt that the Dark Lord does care one way or another, Potter.”

“Then let us go!”

“What for? So you can run off to Albus Dumbledore and join his band of Mudblood supporters?”

Silence fell in the room.

“Oh, yes, Potter, we know who you were meeting this evening, and why. We’ve known for weeks what was being planned for you,” he continued. James felt the bottom of his stomach disappearing. “Does that make you feel safe, Potter?”

“Just because you’ve been spying on—”

“You think Dumbledore was unaware of the danger?” the man said, interrupting James’ protest. “You think that he did not know that, by singling you out, he in turn made you the Dark Lord’s next target? Dumbledore is aware that we work against him, that we target his recruits. He threw you carelessly into the line of fire and abandoned you to certain death.”

It’s not true, James told himself. It couldn’t be true. Dumbledore would never do that to two of his students, nor would Dearborn.

“We’re not going to join you,” Lily spoke up, her voice thin. “Just let us go. We’ll never tell anyone about this, we promise.”

“That’s what they all say,” Avery said harshly, before turning to his partner. “We’re running out of time.”

James knew he and Lily were running out of time as well. Putting aside all of the questions and uncertainties flying around in his head, he started trying to think of how they were going to get out. They only had two adversaries, which meant that there was at least some small chance that they could manage an escape, if only luck was on their side. But James was still lacking a wand, which posed a major problem.

“Very well,” the man said. “It’s time for you both to answer. Make your choice wisely, however: refusing on principle is useless when the champions of those principles have no care for you. Only the Dark Lord has the power to save you now.”

James was still thinking wildly, his heart racing a thousand miles a minute. They were going to get out of this, they had to, they were only eighteen years old, and things couldn’t possibly end this way—not on some ordinary Saturday evening, out-of-the-blue. James simply could not accept that he was going to die tonight. They would be fine, if only James could get his wand back...

“I won’t,” Lily answered, shaking her head. Her eyes were wide, and James could see that she was afraid. He wished he could tell her that he knew everything would be fine, that at the last minute someone would arrive and save them, because he knew someone would. Someone would come—Dearborn, James' parents, or Dumbledore, or maybe even Sirius, Remus, or Peter. Without thinking, he reached out and took her hand in his, trying to reassure her.

“Fine. And you, Potter?”

“Go to hell,” James said.

“Let’s take them downstairs and finish it, then,” Avery said.

“Not so fast,” the other man said, sounding almost amused. “I’ve just seen what a dilemma Potter is in.”

“Bloody hell, Malfoy, enough with the theatrics. We’ve got places to be.”

Malfoy. Now James knew exactly who it was standing before them, threatening their lives. He had seen Lucius Malfoy as a sixteen-year-old at school, and if he remembered correctly, the idiot had spent more time looking in a mirror than practicing deadly curses. And if they really were going to kill him, why were they still discussing it?

“We don’t have to return to the Dark Lord empty-handed after all,” Malfoy said.

“Didn’t you hear us? We’re not going with you,” James said. “By the way, didn’t my friends and I turn your Quidditch robes pink once?”

The next moment, James was hit with a Stinging Hex, pain spreading across his chest. It almost made him feel like laughing—Snape had done worse to him while they were still at school. Malfoy was a joke; he wasn't all that much older than James and Lily themselves.

“No, stop!” Lily yelled, standing up. “Please, let us go!”

“You didn’t even want her here in the first place,” James said, also getting his feet. “What difference will it make if you act like she was never here, if you go back and say that it was just me?”

“Take the girl,” Malfoy said to Avery. James immediately moved to stand in front of her, but was hit with an Impediment Jinx, holding him in place. He could only watch as Avery grabbed a struggling Lily by her upper arm and dragged her back to where he had stood before.

“Let her go,” James said; he had never meant words more in his life.

“You see, Potter, this is what happens to fools who think that martyrdom will make the world a better place,” Malfoy said, raising his wand and pointing it at Lily. “Join us, and we let the girl go. Stick to your principles, and we kill her.”

James could feel the effects of the jinx wearing off, but he still could not move. They had him. They had put him in one of the few positions that would make him sign his soul away. He wouldn’t let Lily die, no matter what it meant for him.

He looked at her with the selfish hope that there might be some sort of reassurance in her eyes, something that would make him feel right about what he was choosing. She was nearly crying, he could see, but she would not look at him. He felt a grim feeling settle in him, for he could tell what she was feeling. She was not prepared to die; she was not about to make some grand declaration of sacrifice for his benefit. She wanted to be allowed to walk away, even knowing that it would mean she never saw him again.

Now that he knew he was willing to grant her that, he knew beyond all doubt that he really and truly loved her. And he finally found himself realizing that she might never feel the same way.

“Fine,” he said, his voice faltering. “I’ll do it, just let her leave.”

“Good, Potter,” Malfoy said. “You’re finally beginning to understand the way the world works. See her out, Avery.”

James looked down at the floor, knowing it would be too hurtful to watch her go. He knew he was doing the right thing, but it didn’t feel right at all. He wished he had his wand to direct some of the anger he was feeling at the two people who had just ruined his life. The door clicked shut and looked up: she was gone. Now he finally understood that no one was going to come to their rescue.

“Now, Potter, you shall meet your new master,” Malfoy said, using his wand to unbutton the cuff of his right sleeve. James caught a glimpse of some bizarre, faded tattoo there, and almost smiled a little at the thought of a Voldemort tattoo that wiggled around when Malfoy flexed his arm...

There was a yell from outside the room, a man’s voice. Malfoy hesitated and then flew toward the door; James stood still for a few moments longer before he realized he was not longer being watched. His chance to escape had come. Their chance to escape. He darted around the settee, picking up a heavy brass clock sitting on a sidetable.

Malfoy had just wrenched open the door, his wand raised. James lifted the clock and tried to imagine it was just a Quaffle as he hurled it across the room. It hit Malfoy square on the back of the head, causing him to fall out into the entrance hall face-first. James sprinted to the door, jumping over his unconscious figure, and saw Avery writhing on the ground noiselessly. His robes were drawn around his neck like a vise, and Lily was standing, her wand pointed at him and a sick look on her face.

“What do I do?” she asked, looking at James. He didn’t know what to say. As much as he hated both Avery and Malfoy right now, he wasn’t sure if he was prepared to be part of killing one of them. How could he have threatened it just minutes ago, and now feel so afraid?

“James, I can’t,” Lily said, shaking her head. “I don’t know what to do.”

He could hear voices ringing around the cavernous hallways of the manor—someone had heard the commotion and knew something was wrong.

“We have to run,” he said. “Stop.”

Lily pulled her wand away, looking relieved.

“Get my wand from him,” James told her.

Accio James’ wand,” she said, and a moment it flew out from under Avery’s heaving form.

“Let’s go,” James said, pulling her toward the front doors.

With every step that took him out of the manor, James expected someone to come running after them, but no one did. It seemed impossible that they had made it out alive, both of them, together. Everywhere around, James saw shadows that looked like new people come to attack them.

“James, we can Apparate,” Lily said. “I can take us—”

“No,” James said swiftly. “We can’t go anywhere near your house right now.”

“But—”

“Just take my arm,” he said. “Don’t argue, we don’t have time.”

“I wasn’t—” she started, but before she could finish, James turned on the spot and her words, along with them, were nothing.

 

.........




When Lily next opened her eyes, she was standing in the dark.

Lumos,” she heard James say, and light flared between them. As her eyes adjusted, she saw they were in a small, dingy room with torn wallpaper, rough floors, and several broken pieces of furniture strewn about.

“Where are we?” Lily said. She wanted to be somewhere reassuring, like her bedroom at home, not in some strange place.

“Shrieking Shack,” James said, his face lit by the wand in a spooky way.

“What? Why did you bring us here? It’s haunted!”

“Calm down,” James dismissed her. “It’s not true, remember?”

“Oh—right,” Lily replied. “I'm sorry. I can’t think straight right now.”

“Let’s go,” was all James said. He was being very short with her, and Lily couldn’t blame him. He saw right through her, knew what she had felt in those worst moments: the desperation to avoid death. She had wanted to be like him, to be brave and tell him no, tell him that she would rather die than force him to make that choice. She knew he would have, had their positions been reversed, but she just couldn’t face the idea of dying. And the worst of it was that it had all been for nothing; Avery had hissed at her as he dragged her from the room that she was never going to see the light of day again. It had been the anger over the lie which had given her the ability to fight away enough to get a curse aimed at him.

“Wait—James,” she said. “Are you all right? You’re not hurt?”

She realized the irony only after she had spoken.

“I’m fine,” James replied.

“But—that Stinging Hex—”

“It’s nothing,” James said. “Now’s not the time. We have to go to see Dumbledore and tell him what happened.”

“James...” she said, trying to find the right words. He stopped, but did not look at her. “I—thank you. And I’m so—” she stopped. He had visibly bristled at the impending apology. Her tears were now forcing themselves forward, determined not to be keep in any longer. “How did this happen to us? I don’t understand why—we never did anything!”

She wiped the moisture from her cheek with her sleeve. James seemed to be pretending for the time being that he had not realized she was crying.

“You heard what they said,” he replied. “They knew Dearborn was meeting us, and they wanted to get to us first. Well, to me.”

“Do you—you don’t think the rest of what they said was true, do you?” Lily asked, sniffing pathetically.

She heard him sigh. “I don’t know.” There was a pause. “No, it can’t have been. They were just trying to taunt us.”

“Maybe—I mean, maybe we shouldn’t go to Dumbledore,” Lily suggested. “If that’s what got us into trouble in the first place—”

“Don’t you see?” James asked. “We don’t have any choice, not now. If we don’t go to Dumbledore and get his help, we won’t live to see next week.”

She took a deep breath, trying to calm herself. “What about the Ministry? We could go to the Aurors.”

“Do you trust them as much as you trust Dumbledore?”

“I—no, I suppose I don’t,” Lily said, thinking of all the times she had sat listening to Anna read off the names of Aurors that had been killed by Death Eaters. “I’m just...I can’t understand any of this.”

James exhaled, and she finally saw emotion pass over his face as he muttered, “You shouldn’t have come after me.”

“What are you talking about?” she asked. “You couldn’t expect me to just walk away.”

“No, I didn’t,” he said, almost too quietly to hear.

Her stomach twisted. She had gone after him, when she had seen the strange lights flashing in the darkness that she knew could only be spells, but she had never expected to find what she had. At the time, she had assumed that it was Snape, that he had seen them and decided to carry on his tradition of cursing James at every opportunity. But instead—she couldn’t even think about it now, what she’d come face-to-face with instead.

She would have never believed herself to be so cowardly that the mere thought of something could frighten her. She never had been this cowardly before. The Sorting Hat had put her in Gryffindor, after all, and Lily was feeling like it had made a mistake all those years ago.

“James, please just look at me,” she pleaded. When he did, she wished that she had never asked him, for he was looking at her with a kind of detachment she had never seen in his eyes, not when looking at her. “I don’t know—I’m not sure what I should say, but I’m so sorry for what I did, and I wish I could take it back, more than anything.”

“It’s fine,” he said, looking away again. “You were scared, I understand.”

“That’s not an excuse,” she replied. “I shouldn’t have—”

“Lily, I really don’t want to talk about this.”

“I’m just supposed to accept the fact that you hate me, and not say a word about it?” Lily asked. She very much wished she was not suddenly crying again.

“I hate you?” James asked. “That’s what you think that was back there, showing how much I hate you?”

“No—not—I mean, now,” she said.

“I don't hate you,” he said, frustrated, “You know that I love you.”

The relief that came with him saying that made her feel weak, but not any better. How could he still feel that way after she had been so selfish? He should hate her; he had every right to. Why did he have to be so good? It only made her feel worse about herself.

“Let’s not worry about any of this right now,” James said. “We just have to get to Dumbledore; I expect the quicker we can get to him, the better. Maybe they can send people to go arrest them.”

Lily was not comforted but his suggestion of not worrying right now, as it implied there would be something to worry about later, but James had a point. It would be better to move as quickly as they could, much as she did not want to leave the safety of this unknown hideaway.

With James in front, they reached the end of the low corridor outside the room. There was an earthen opening above them, and Lily caught a glimpse of the sky

“Do you think it’s safe to go out there?” she asked.

“I doubt anyone would come here to look for us,” James replied. “Even if they did, at least Dumbledore and some of the teachers are nearby. And we have our wands.”

Lily nodded, though not entirely reassured. They had, after all, just been in Hogsmeade a little over an hour ago—and if was true, if there were people following them, this might be one of the very first places they looked.

“Wait here for a minute,” James told her, conjuring a ladder that led up to the opening and scampering up it.

She did not like standing there in the dark by herself, even for a few moments. The Shrieking Shack might not be haunted, but it was still undeniably spooky, especially after the night she had just had. She didn't waste any time hauling herself up the ladder when she heard James call for her to come up.

There was something about Hogwarts that made her feel safe, and she longed for the not-so-far-off days when that safety had surrounded her all the time. It seemed like everything had gone wrong since she had left school, and she found herself desperately wondering whether returning back here, even if only temporarily, would somehow repair it all.

Her heart sank when they finally reached the doors and found them to be locked shut. James swore under his breath and pushed the door several times, but Lily knew they must be enchanted and immune to physical force.

“Do you know another way in?” Lily asked him.

“Not unless we go back to Hogsmeade,” he said crossly, “and there’s no way we’re doing that. We’d have to break into Honeydukes even if we did.”

“Maybe—I mean—we could knock?” she said, shrugging. “Someone might hear.”

“I suppose so,” he said, and used his fist to pound on the door several times. They seemed to be thick as cement, however, and Lily doubted that anyone would hear them knocking. James was raking his hands through his hair.

“It’s fine,” she said, determined to keep a level head. “We know Dearborn’s here, don’t we? We’ll just go find his window and get him to let us—”

The sound of locks sliding made her stop mid-sentence, and a moment later, the doors began to open for them.

“Or...that could work,” James said, as Lily stood next to him in surprise. “Let’s go.”

Had it been any other time, Lily might have wondered at how the doors had miraculously opened for them—perhaps even considered it suspicious—but now, all she could think to do was continue on.

Finally, after scaling seven floors, they reached the statue of the gargoyle that concealed the entrance to Dumbledore’s office. Though James said the password (“wine gums”), the gargoyle remained stationary, and Lily felt her stomach sink even further.

“The password changed,” she said, stating the obvious. She rested against the wall next to the gargoyle. James was staring fixedly at the gargoyle, perhaps hoping that it would open for them in the same way that the front doors.

“This is some horrible dream, isn’t it?” she asked. Her resolve was being worn away with every passing moment. “What are we going to do? Just sit out here until Dumbledore leaves for breakfast?”

James looked as if he had been pulled out of a trance. “No,” he said, shaking his head, “Dearborn’s here; we’ll go find him instead.”

All Lily could think was that it meant more traipsing around the castle, and it was starting to feel like this was all a continuation of their encounter with the Death Eaters...maybe both Dearborn and Dumbledore had been sent off somewhere so they would be unable to assist Lily and James.

For the third time that night, they found themselves in front of a door—the first time, fate had been kind to them and allowed them entry; the second had remained shut to them. Now, Lily just prayed that this door would open and bring them some relief, if only so this entire ordeal could finally come to a close.

Thankfully, after a few minutes, the door opened and Dearborn stood there, looking at the two of them in shock.

“Made up your minds so quickly, have you?” he asked. “You know, there really wasn’t any rush.”

“No.” Lily shook her head. “It—there were Death Eaters.”

It sounded so ludicrous out loud that she could not imagine Dearborn believing her at all, but his brows immediately contracted in a frown.

“What?”

“After we left Hogsmeade,” James said. “We were near Lily’s house.”

“Are you all right?” he asked them, stepping out into the corridor.

Lily felt such a feeling of relief to have someone else there to take care of them; both she and James spoke at the same time, making a rush of reassurances. It felt like the first time either of them had actually been happy to speak since they had escaped.

“We’re going to see Dumbledore,” Dearborn stated, even as he was already sweeping off in the direction that they had just come from.

She followed again. This time, it finally felt like there was an end in sight, especially because she felt James take her hand as they walked. Lily felt her heart lift just slightly, and with it came a rush of confidence and hope.

When they finally reached Dumbledore’s office, the gargoyle moved aside for Dearborn as it not had for her and James. Lily had rarely been in the Headmaster’s office in the past, but she was glad that her memory served her right about the staircase ascending of its own accord—after running around the castle, she was in sore need of a moment’s rest before they had to explain to Dumbledore everything that had happened.

With its large windows, being inside the office almost made Lily feel like she was back outside, but there was hardly any comparison—being here did not make her jump at small noises or strange shadows. Instead, it was like a feeling of true calm settled itself at her core, and she knew that everything was going to be all right.




Author's Note: JKR said in an interview in December 2007 that Lily and James were indeed asked to join Voldemort and declined (just in case this chapter has you feeling sceptical).

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