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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 33: Decisions



Chapter Thirty-Three
Decisions




Dumbledore was wearing the same expression of confused surprise that Dearborn had upon seeing Lily and James outside of his office.

“Ah, Caradoc,” he said, closing the leather-bound book in his hands and placing it on his desk, “I thought your meeting with Miss Evans and Mr Potter had concluded.”

“It had,” Dearborn replied. He conjured two chairs and gestured for Lily and James to sit down.

“Is there some matter that I can help with?” Dumbledore asked, his tone still pleasant.

“Seems that I wasn’t the only one who wanted to see our young friends this evening,” Dearborn said ominously. He paused for a moment. “They say that they ran into Death Eaters after they left the village.”

Dumbledore started out of his chair, now standing behind his desk. “Were either of you injured?”

“No,” James replied before amending, “no lasting damage.”

The two professors shared a look, and Dearborn said, “I wanted to see what you made of it.”

“You haven’t checked?” Dumbledore asked him.

“You think we need to, then?”

“Sorry,” said James, interrupting what was becoming an incomprehensible conversation from where Lily was sitting, “but what’s going on? What are you talking about?”

Dumbledore did not respond, but instead took out his wand and pointed it at James.

“What are you doing?” Lily asked in horror.

“Tell me, please, how someone would enter the Shrieking Shack,” Dumbledore asked, still looking at James.

“What does this have to do with us being attacked?” James asked, eyeing Dumbledore warily.

“We need to ensure that both of you are who you appear to be,” Dearborn explained. “Answer the question.”

James looked furious. “Tunnel underneath the Whomping Willow. Freeze the knot on the trunk and there’s an opening in the roots. Happy?”

Dumbledore seemed satisfied, but turned his wand toward Lily.

“No, that’s enough,” James said, standing up from his chair. “We came to you for help, not an interrogation!”

“Sit down,” Dearborn said. “We have to take precautions.”

“You think I wouldn’t know if she were someone else?” James asked, ignoring Dearborn’s command.

“Potter, I’m sure that was the last living thought of more than few people,” Dearborn said.

“Caradoc,” Dumbledore said, “please. James, I apologize, but this will only take a moment. Now, Lily, tell me who it was that visited your home to deliver the news of your enrolment at Hogwarts.”

She had been worried that he would ask her something difficult to remember, but that day stood out very memorably in her mind.

“It was Professor McGonagall,” Lily replied, and finally Dumbledore put his wand away.

He sat down behind his desk again. “I apologize again, but instances of Death Eaters impersonating people have become exceedingly common in past months.”

“It’s all right,” Lily said, cutting off the diatribe she sensed coming from James next to her. “It’s fine.”

Silence fell in the room for a few moments; Dearborn began to pace back and forth and Dumbledore glanced at him before speaking again.

“Now, please tell us what happened,” he asked Lily and James. Lily looked at James; she could see that his jaw was still set in frustration and thought it best to begin the story herself.

“We left the Hog’s Head,” she explained. “Everything was fine.”

“You did not notice anyone following you, or watching you?” Dumbledore asked.

“No,” Lily said. “I suppose someone could have been—”

“No one was in the Hog’s Head; I’d be willing to bet my wand on it,” Dearborn said. “I spoke to Aberforth when I got there. He said all the customers were regulars, and seemed to be acting normally when he spoke to them.”

“Someone could have been using an Invisibility Cloak,” James pointed out.

“Unlikely,” Dumbledore replied. “Aberforth, the innkeeper at the Hog’s Head, is my brother.” Lily’s eyebrows rose in surprise. It seemed strange to have never learned this in her time at school. “He is friendly to our cause, and he also caters to a clientele that appreciates being protected from unknown eavesdroppers. For that reason, he puts some effort into monitoring who walks through his door, visible or otherwise. What happened after you left the Hog’s Head?”

“We Apparated to a park at the end of my street,” Lily said. “I didn’t notice anything strange until I was nearly at my door. James had stayed back, and I saw strange flashes of light coming from the end of the street...” Her explanation faltered for a moment. “I’m not really sure what happened.”

“This attack occurred near your home?” Dumbledore asked, sounding concerned.

“Yes,” Lily replied. “In the park. At the end of my street.”

The two professors exchanged glances again.

“What? What’s wrong?” Lily asked. Dumbledore stood up again.

“Nothing to worry about,” he said. “I’m going to send someone to your neighbourhood, to make sure the area is safe.”

She felt a jolt in the bottom of her stomach. “My family—I have to go back—”

“You need to stay here,” Dearborn said.

“No, I have to go to them,” she said frantically. Her mind was racing back to her inability to stand up for James, and the thought of doing the same thing to someone else made her feel sick.

“If there are Death Eaters there, it’s odds-on that they’re waiting for you or Potter to show up again,” Dearborn said. “Going back will make things worse, so you need to stay here.”

Lily did not feel comforted at all, but it was enough to make her remain sitting while Dumbledore sent the painted image of a silver-haired witch to the Ministry and conjured something silver that streaked off into the night.

“I’m sending another of our friends to check on your home,” he said.

“But they won’t even know where to go—”

“Like many of those who work in the organization that Caradoc told you about this evening,” Dumbledore said, interrupting Lily’s panic, “Marlene has connections that work to our advantage. She works for the Floo Network Authority, and therefore has easy access to information about the residences of wizards and witches. She can also use the Floo Network to listen in on the connected buildings.”

“The Ministry can do that?” James asked.

“It’s not something they broadcast,” Dearborn said. “People don’t like the idea of being watched. But what I want to know right now is what happened after this Death Eater came after you.”

Together, Lily and James explained all that had occurred—the kidnapping, the Imperius Curse, their eventual escape. At certain points, Dearborn and Dumbledore interjected with questions or explanations. They looked grim when they found out that someone had been keeping tabs on their recruiting efforts, though not overly shocked, and Dumbledore sent the silver-haired witch off again to get someone to check James’ house as well.

“Malfoy, you said?” Dearborn asked, when James named their attackers. “Lucius Malfoy?”

“Yeah,” James answered, “I think I recognized his voice from when he was at Hogwarts—not that I ever had much contact with him.”

“Did you get his wand?” Dearborn interrupted.

“His—? No,” James stammered. Lily could tell that he too was confused as to why Dearborn was looking so crestfallen. “Why?”

“We’ve suspected for some time that Lucius Malfoy might be working with Voldemort,” Dearborn said. “He’s very closely connected to high-up members of the Ministry, and an association with the Death Eaters is—well, it’s worrisome for us, to say the very least. We’ve never been able to confirm it, and with someone as connected and wealthy as Malfoy, we need solid proof of involvement...like his wand.”

“We saw him there, and heard him called by name,” James stated.

“But you say you never saw his face,” Dearborn countered, “and you don’t understand how people like Lucius Malfoy manage to spin these things...”

Lily sat silently as the weight of what he was saying sunk in: nothing was going to happen to the people who had done this to them. She could now understand exactly how James had felt on the occasion that they had gone to Dumbledore to try and get the Slytherins punished. It didn’t matter to her that the explanations they were receiving were logical—how could someone get away with this? Where were the people who were willing to make them pay?

“What about the other Death Eater, Avery?” she asked. “Can’t the Aurors investigate him?”

“They have,” Dearborn replied. “There are a few people, including Avery, which we have no doubt are part of Voldemort’s inner circle; they were friends to him since his time at Hogwarts. They’ve all been put under investigation, and even surveillance, in the past, but nothing incriminating was uncovered.”

“So...they’re just cleared of all suspicion?” Lily asked indignantly.

None of this made any sense; it seemed to her that all the people who should have been jumping on this opportunity to get two Death Eaters arrested were sitting back and letting it pass them by, Dumbledore and Dearborn included. If they weren’t going to do something about it, Lily felt like the least they could do was try to make her and James feel better after the ordeal they had been through—but there they were, shooting down every suggestion they made, acting disappointed that they hadn’t thought to get Malfoy’s wand, offering them no assurances of safety. She clasped her hands, which had been resting in her lap, together tightly in frustration and helplessness.

One thing was clearer now, at least: sitting here and putting all her faith in other people to solve her problems wasn’t going to get anything done.

“I had reservations about asking both of you to join our organization,” Dumbledore said, speaking for the first time in a while. He looked weary and slightly grim. “You are both as true Gryffindors as I have ever seen come through this castle, and the events of tonight only prove that. My concern was always your age, and whether it was fair to ask this of you when you had barely left school.”

James tensed in his chair next to her, and Lily did not particularly like the way Dumbledore was going, either.

“Since we have not received a signal back from Marlene,” he continued, “I think we can assume that both of your families are safe. For now, I think it would be best if you two were to remain here in the Hospital Wing overnight, and then return home tomorrow, once we can establish some protective enchantments.”

“Hold on a minute,” James said. “That’s it? You’ve decided now, after all that, that we’re too young? You single us out, put us in danger, and now—”

“The fact that your meeting with Caradoc put you in danger is the very reason that I think it best for you not to be a part of our work,” Dumbledore said. “You have already attracted a great deal of attention, and allowing you to throw yourselves into the line of danger again and again would be reckless.”

“It’s too late,” James said. “We’re already in the middle of this. You can’t honestly expect us to go home with happy smiles knowing that we’re not going to be in further danger—that isn’t true at all, and you know it!”

Several beats of silence followed. Dumbledore did not look happy, and seemed to be on the verge of making his final statement on the matter, before Lily said, “James is right,” With everyone looking at her, she felt her determination strengthen. “You can’t do this. We’ve both nearly been killed for the same cause you’re supporting, and you tell us that it’s our age that defines whether we can join or not?”

“Lily,” Dumbledore said, kindly, “I think you misunderstand my intention. I certainly do not mean to insult either of your abilities.”

“Well, it is an insult,” she said. “There’s no going back for James or for me. They’ll want us dead now, if they can manage it, so keeping us locked away isn’t keeping us from danger. It’s just forcing us to sit and wait for it to come to us. Let us help you, so we can give ourselves and other people a fighting chance!”

It took a few moments before anyone replied.

“You can’t understand what it’s like, to do what we do,” Dearborn said. He was eyeing her curiously, almost as if he was trying to challenge her, and Lily got the impression that perhaps he was not as adamant about the idea as Dumbledore was.

“Stop saying we don’t understand,” James said. “We understand the things that matter. Everything else, you can explain to us.”

She felt a swell of pride and happiness at being in complete solidarity with James. It felt infinitely better to be connected with him like this, than to be oddly out-of-sync like they had been since the Shrieking Shack.

“I simply cannot ask you to do this,” Dumbledore said, sounding extremely weary.

“We’re asking you,” Lily said. “Let us help.”

Dumbledore sighed and frowned slightly. “Now is not the time to discuss this,” he said, after much hesitation. “You have both been through a great deal, and you need time to rest before making a decision.”

Lily saw James open his mouth to object, but Dearborn spoke first. “You can’t argue with that, Potter. We could all use some sleep.”

Lily felt a sense of calm as she rose from her chair. As disconcerting as her evening had been, and as daunting as tomorrow seemed, she felt clarity and confidence in this particular moment. She had been uncertain before about whether accepting Dearborn’s offer was a good idea, but now there was no alternative in her mind. The thought of looking for purpose in newspaper clippings seemed silly to now, and she was no longer making half-hearted agreements simply because of James’ influence. This was real motivation.

When she thought of all the time she had seen others judged for their blood status, all the times she had felt that sting herself, the fact that she had lost one of her closest friends over something so petty, and the fact that there were indeed people willing to kill over it—well, it was true, what James had said, that she understood what really mattered. Whatever happened now, it was a comfort to be moving forward with a sense of conviction. If no one else would, she could make herself feel better, stronger, and safer. She still had that within her control.

 

.........




James had stayed overnight in the Hospital Wing four times while he was at Hogwarts, and tonight would be his fifth. Or would it be his first as a graduated student? If that were the case, he could not help but wonder if there would be a second or third time, or whether this would be the last.

This was just one of many confusing, conflicting, and often irrelevant thoughts that were flying through his mind as Professor Dearborn left him and Lily in the long, moonlit Hospital Wing. It looked untouched by time. He wasn’t sure why he expected the world around him to have changed so much. It had always been the same; he had just seen a different side of it now.

“I don’t think I could sleep if I tried,” Lily said, resting her hand on the iron footboard of one of the beds.

James silently agreed with her, but he did not want to say it out loud and invite hours of conversation, going over every detail of what they had been through. Though he couldn’t sleep, he was too exhausted to do anything but lie down and stare at the dark ceiling.

“I can barely keep my eyes open,” he told her. He could tell that she was stung and feeling rejected again, and though it was not his intention to make her feel that way, he couldn’t bring himself to try and sort out whatever mess was left between them at the moment. Lily was a constant in his mind: she would be there next to him tomorrow. With all the uncertainty he was feeling, trying to hash out relationship issues was the last thing on his mind.

So he made a show of going to bed, taking his shoes off, removing his glasses, and getting underneath the quilt of one of the beds. He assumed Lily was doing the same in the bed next to him, but with his eyes closed, he couldn’t be sure. Silence continued for several minutes before he opened his eyes again.

It was something like déjà vu, he supposed, lying there. The last time he had been here was in sixth year, after a particularly gruesome Quidditch match against Hufflepuff. He had not been seriously injured often during games—Chasers generally did not bear the brunt of the violence, as the Seekers did—but on this particular day, the footholds of his and one of the Hufflepuff Chasers’ brooms had gotten entangled as he made a drive toward the goalpost, and separating had flung him forwards, where he had crashed into one of the goal hoops and fallen to the ground. He couldn’t remember anything from when he fell to the ground to waking up in the Hospital Wing much later that evening, which was probably a blessing considering all the injuries he had sustained.

When he had woken up, Sirius, Remus, and Peter had been there, playing Wizard’s Chess and eating Chocolate Frogs left over from the previous month’s Hogsmeade visit. He had, of course, still been in a fair amount of pain, especially from the ribs he’d broken, but he had forgotten about it completely until Madam Pomfrey had finally succeeded at shooing his friends from the room at half past ten.

James felt a jolt. They had been worried about Death Eaters going after his or Lily’s family, but what if they knew about his friends? Could they have gone looking for him at Sirius’ flat in London, Peter’s house near Birmingham, or Remus’ outside of Norwich? His muscles tensed with the intention of jumping up from the bed and leaving the castle to find out for himself if his friends were all right, but he could hear Dearborn’s voice echoing in his head...what might once have seemed like the right, the only thing to do, was now surrounded by uncertainty. He felt like everything he knew about the world had been wrong, and now he had to second-guess all of his instincts.

He forced himself to remain in bed, determined to believe that the three of them would be fine. After all, if the Death Eaters hadn’t even bothered to find out what his girlfriend’s name was during their surveillance, they could hardly have paid any more attention to who his group of friends included. And Sirius, who would be the most obvious target, was at least a Black, which might afford him some protection.

He still had to make an effort to breathe calmly and drive out all the new anxiety from his mind. If he were going to have a difficult time falling asleep before, that was nothing compared to now. He had a feeling he was going to see the sun again before he got any sleep.

Looking for something else to focus on, he returned to thoughts of previous stays in the Hospital Wing. The time before sixth year, there had been that night in the first few weeks of their fifth year, after getting in a duel with Snape. That was the first time that James had truly seen the extent of how detestable Snivellus truly was—making up dangerous dark spells and using them on other students was not something he had expected from him before that night. He still remembered what a horrible feeling that curse was; how it had felt like poison was spreading from where it had hit him towards his heart. Luckily, it had not caused any permanent harm. Ironically, it was James who had done that, by not speaking up and telling McGonagall who had done it. What idiotic sense of pride had stopped him from getting rid of Snape right then and there? He had suspected that the Slytherins had made good use of that curse on other people over their fifth year, after Snape had shared it with all of them.

That incident had fallen during one of the heights in his determined crush on Lily. There had been times where he had felt more discouraged, and his affections had waned, but something about the beginning of that school year had made him feel optimistic. For whatever reason, he had spent his time in the Hospital Wing on that occasion cultivating some silly hope that she would find out about what had happened from Snape and come to see that he was all right—it was the sort of thing she would have done, even then. She would not have been gracious about it, but she would have shown up under some other pretence to confirm that his and Snape’s feud had not done any lasting damage. Her kindness had never known any bounds, extending to the two people most unlikely to be deserving of it.

She hadn’t come, not even the next morning when he had stayed until close to lunchtime. He had been disappointed, but took it in stride, still optimistic that she was going to change her mind one day. It was strange looking back at those days, for it felt that his former self had somehow known that things really would change. In the face of all the evidence to the contrary, he had continued to hold out hope.

Now, here he was, in the same room as that girl who had finally decided to give him a chance, and for some reason he was avoiding talking to her. Nothing made sense about that scenario, and he turned on his side and put his glasses back on, feeling that he would like nothing more than to have a conversation about whatever she liked.

“Lily?”

Her eyes were closed, and her mouth was hanging open just an inch. Part of him thought for a moment that she might be ignoring him like he had done to her, but she was not vindictive like that—she would have spoken to him if she were still awake. She looked as if she had simply sat down on the bed and fallen asleep; her shoes were still on her feet, and James smiled a little at what Madam Pomfrey would say if she could see someone’s feet dirtying up her perfect linens.

He almost got up to put a quilt over her, or take off her shoes, but he knew that he would not be able to do either of those things without waking her. She had said she was not tired just a little while ago, and he didn’t feel right about ruining whatever sleep she managed to get. Perhaps part of him also realized that whatever conversation they might have, were she not asleep, would not have been like the pleasant ones they had shared for most of this past year. It was better to enjoy the peace of being in her company for right now, so he returned back to lying down and thinking, starting to feel slightly sleepy himself.

James had always been determined in everything he’d done. He’d been determined to win Lily over, determined to best Snape at every opportunity, determined to win at Quidditch, and now here he was in the Hospital Wing again, determined about something very different. With the exception of Lily, none of those things seemed to matter, at least not as anything more than products of nostalgia. Determination, in its truest sense, was working towards a goal no matter how much hardship it caused you in your struggle. James was certain that the struggle he was now facing was going to be the most difficult he had ever encountered, but if there was one thing that his persistence had taught him over the years, it was that some things were worth fighting for.




Small to greater matters must give way. –William Shakespeare





Author’s Note: We are, finally, after 33 chapters and about a year of writing, at the end. Endings are so very difficult to get right, but that's what I came up with, for better or worse.

Well...I think that’s it, besides saying that I’m so thankful for all of the support I’ve received throughout this story. I loved writing this, and I loved knowing that other people were enjoying it as well.

If you'd like to read more of me writing about James & Lily, there is a sequel to this story called
Twice Defied.

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