First posted: May 17, 2006
Suggested music: “Alive with the Glory of Love” by Say Anything
The Foolish One
Lily stared, mesmerized, at the moon.
Focusing on the far away light helped soften the feeling of a drill spiraling into her brain over and over again. Maybe…maybe if she stared at the moon long enough, it would go away completely…
“STOP! TAKE IT OFF HER!”
The scream resonated through her body and echoed into the night. Lily carefully lifted her head. She squinted to focus on James, who was wrestling with the man—his father—in a thick cloud of dust. He was trying to rip the man’s wand out of his hands.
Sirius scrambled over and he too threw himself at the man. But the next second, he was tossed back to the ground. With a yell, the man flung his fist into James’s face. Lily tried to scream as he flew backward and landed next to Sirius but she could not get enough air into her lungs.
The Death Eater got to his feet and stood over the two boys with his wand directed at them. He laughed as he straightened his robes.
“Nice try, boys. Brave, but not so smart, in the true Gryffindor way,” he said slickly.
He pointed his wand down at Sirius, then brought it up with a jerk of his arm. Sirius soared into the air, where he hung, suspended, high above them. He kicked his legs and waved his arms, trying to propel himself back to the ground but his fierce efforts were useless.
James, his face red with anger, raised his wand at his father. “Expelliarmus!”
James screamed. Sirius screamed. The man laughed. Lily’s muscles were on fire but she fought with everything in her to move them. Her head seemed to be too beaten up to give them proper commands; her limbs lay still, as though detached from her body. All she could do was watch James writhe and cry in agony at his father’s feet.
When the man finally let up the curse, he bent close to his son, who was twitching and gasping.
“How did that feel, son?” he asked happily, as though asking him if he had enjoyed a good Quidditch match. “How does it feel to know that you are going to die, slowly and painfully, at the hands of your very own father? Huh, James? How does that feel?”
James’s chest rose and fell so quickly, that the lining of moonlight along his silhouette smeared into a blur. He could not speak.
“ANSWER ME, BOY! Let’s see that famous Potter family courage!” The man’s voice had filled with hatred. The endless sky swallowed it up as the stars looked on in silence. He lifted his wand again. “But of course, you let me down—yet again. Crucio!”
Again, James’s whole body convulsed. Remembrance of the pain surged through Lily’s body as she watched. His wrenching scream faded; he was losing strength.
“STOP! STOP! LEAVE HIM ALONE!” screamed Sirius from above.
James’s father let down his wand once more and the curse ceased. He glanced briefly up at Sirius. “Silencio,” he said before turning back to his son.
“How does it feel, James?” he asked again, slowly and softly this time. “Do you know why I’m doing this?” He bent over James. “DO YOU?” he bellowed, raising his wand again.
James’s head moved slightly as though he was trying to shake his head.
“It’s because I, your dear old dad, decided to lock eight Death Eaters in Azkaban. But the Dark Lord brought me to see what a stupid, righteous fool I was. And now I’ve come to make sure you never make the same mistake.”
Recalling what he had done seemed to send a powerful jolt of rage through him. Again, he stabbed his wand in the direction of his son’s helpless body. “Crucio!”
This time, James’s mouth opened wide but nothing came out. He could not scream. Lily could practically see the strength evaporating from him as he jerked and shuddered on the ground, sending swirls of dirt rippling into the air, like ashes leaving a fire.
It felt like years before the man lifted the curse. When he finally did, James lay so still, all the oxygen inside of Lily left her lungs, replaced by dark fear. Please hold on, James. Please, please, hold on.
“Tell me, James…Do you think what I did was worth the pain you feel now?” the man sneered. “Was it worth your life?”
His wand rose again. Lily knew it would be the last time.
The curse trailed off into a weak gasp. His eyes rolled and he began to sway. After a moment, he fell to his knees, panting and holding his wand to his chest with both hands.
“James…James….” he said softly between sharp inhales of breath. Still gripping his wand and muttering under his breath, he fell to the ground next to his son, who did not move.
After a moment, he fell silent and grew still.
“AARGH!” Sirius toppled out of the air, landing in the road a few feet away. He hastened to his feet and rushed over to them, collapsing on his knees at James’s side.
“He’s breathing!” yelped Sirius. Then he examined James’s father. “And he’s unconscious…”
Lily seemed to fill with air. She felt inflated, stronger. She pushed herself off the ground and sat up. Instantly, her head began to whirl once again. As her vision and hearing dwindled, she dug her fingers into the dirt, determined to keep her balance. After a few moments, she could hear the wind rustle the branches of the trees and if she really squinted, she could see Sirius kneeling near James and Mr. Potter.
She still felt as though there were earthquake-sized cracks in her head, but her thoughts were slowly beginning to straighten out and she knew that from the look of James, it was a very good sign that he was breathing. But she also knew he needed help. Quickly.
“Go get Dumbledore,” she tried to call to Sirius but the words that left her mouth were barely above a whisper.
Lily took a deep breath and gently let her eyes close, trying to summon all her strength. “Dumbledore!” she cried.
“I can’t leave you alone!”
Lily tried to stay calm because getting upset would take energy she didn’t have. But impatient anger was bubbling up inside her, quickly rising to a boil. Why wouldn’t Sirius just shut up and go?! Couldn’t he see the life seeping out of James with each wasted second? Didn’t he understand that she was not alone, and never would be, as long as James was still alive?
“Go…now!” she gasped, putting as much force into the words as possible.
“But, Lily, look at you. There are still Death Eaters in the village and you’re in no shape to—”
Sirius shot her one last look before jumping to his feet. He turned and tore up the lane, flying at a pace that satisfied even Lily.
Lily fell onto her back, breathing hard from the effort of yelling at Sirius. She lay there for a minute, her face turned sideways so that she could see James and his chest moving up and down. His face was pale and unearthly in the light of the moon.
She heaved herself onto her stomach, keeping her eyes on that face. It took her a moment to recover from the exertion: her head and muscles were screaming in protest. All they wanted to do was lie still forever. However, she forced her arms to stretch out toward James. Getting a firm grip by burying her fingertips into the lane, she slowly dragged her body closer to him. After a minute of catching her breath, she reached out and pulled herself a few more feet. It took her several more pulls before she could reach out and touch him. She placed her hand on his forehead and felt beads of cold sweat. Her hand shook as she wiped them away.
Lily took another deep breath and inched closer. She rested her head in the nook of James’s neck and shoulder and gently held his head to hers. Fiery tears burned deep inside of her as the sound of his heartbeat hummed in her ears. Her body felt so heavy, like it would never move on its own again, but, she thought, as her eyes slid shut, she would happily settle for that as long as James stayed right here with her, where his heartbeat could lull her into a peaceful sleep.
Suddenly, the sound of a whip snapping splintered the silence. Lily froze and carefully cracked open an eye, looking in the direction of the noise.
A tall, thin man stood several feet away, facing the distant shadow of a castle. Like James’s father, his head was draped with the hood of his flowing black cloak. Lily watched him turn and approach the three of them lying in the middle of the lane. She saw slices of gleaming red pupils looking out from a colorless, skull-like face, studying each of their bodies. He stopped and stood over James’s father for a moment. Lily didn’t dare let herself breathe.
The man brought his foot back and swung it into Mr. Potter, who rolled to the side and then flopped back onto his stomach. Then he shot a jet of light at the unconscious man from his wand. He kicked him again and this time, James’s father let out a grunt.
“Why isn’t your son dead, Potter?” demanded the tall man in a high voice that was so cold Lily actually shivered. She tensed up, praying the man hadn’t noticed.
“I’m…s-so-sorry…” James’s father gasped. He sounded as though he was partly underwater. Lily could feel the vibrations of his shuddering body.
“You’re sorry what?” said the man quietly. The voice was calmly dangerous, like a snake slowly circling its prey before lunging in for the kill.
“Get up. I’m going to watch you kill your son. Then you can take the girl for practice if I see it fitting to keep you around.”
Lily couldn’t see James’s father, but she heard a lot of shuffling and panting, saw the dust rise. He was trying to get up and trying not to at the same time. Finally, he rose to his feet, shaking uncontrollably from head to toe, and into Lily’s view. He wobbled for half a second before collapsing back onto his knees.
“You can fight this if you want, Potter, but it won’t do either one of you any good. GET UP!”
Mr. Potter staggered to his feet. He had stopped shaking. Lily had a strange feeling that this wasn’t a good sign.
She reached for her wand and jerked herself upward. “Stupefy!”
The red light rocketed from the tip of her wand and collided with Mr. Potter’s back. He tipped over and fell, once more, to the ground.
Lily, her wand raised and needles of pain jabbing through her entire arm, looked at the other man just in time to see him hastily blanket his shock with sneering amusement. He stared at her with his scarlet eyes and smiled.
“Well, well, well, you’re not as dead as you look, are you?” he said dryly. One long bony finger caressed his wand. “My mistake. May I ask who you are?”
Lily felt every muscle in her face harden. The force she put into her glare was painful. She waited a moment before answering. Since he didn’t seem to be in any hurry to kill her, she would use anything within her power to stall him from using that wand to murder James.
“My name is Lily Evans.”
“Hello, Lily. My name is Lord Voldemort,” he smiled, watching her closely, as though waiting for her to crumble with terror upon hearing his name. But Lily did not flinch, inside or out. She felt no surprise, nor terror. Fear had been strangled her so many times that night that she had grown immune to it. She had left it behind her on the road, where she had lain listening to James’s fading screams as his father tortured him.
She stared up at him without so much as a blink.
Voldemort paused. Lily was glad to see that he seemed taken aback by her stoniness. That was something. If she could do nothing to stop him from killing James, at least she had thrown him off a little. At least she had let him see that she was not afraid.
“Nice to meet you,” he continued silkily. “I suppose you are a friend of this boy?”
Lily moved her head faintly up and down. She could not quite believe she was still alive, talking to Voldemort. It was as though the need to protect James had unlocked a secret chamber inside of her, releasing strength and courage that had been hiding away there.
“And you thought you could stop his father from murdering him?”
Lily did not answer.
Voldemort shook his head. “Tut, tut. Bravery is fine and well to a certain extent, my dear, but where will it get you in the end? Dead, right alongside the Potters. Do you see the uselessness? Instead of saving a life, you waste two.”
“At least when I die I’ll know I did everything I could to save James.”
He smiled sinisterly. “Ah yes, I do hope that is comforting.”
“You could never understand,” hissed Lily, tilting up her chin.
“Oh, couldn’t I?” His amusement seemed to grow. “I don’t know…I understand a great deal more than you might think. But please, do explain it to me,” he gestured with one spidery hand.
Lily slowly inhaled. Confusion was now edging into her. Why was he keeping this up? He wanted them both dead and, with two quick slashes of his wand, he could have his wish. There was nothing stopping him. Why, why then was he taking the time to carry on a conversation with her—some girl, just another victim—in the middle of the street? And asking her to explain the concept of love? Like she had said, he would never grasp it, this quiet explosion of feeling she had for the boy lying next to her.
Well, the longer they talked the longer James could keep breathing. More time for help to come.
She looked straight into the fiery red eyes, burning coldly into her.
“Let’s hear it,” he said. “Tell me why you would choose to throw away your own life for another, knowing that he will die anyway?”
“Sometimes you have no choice.”
“I beg your pardon.”
“Because you couldn’t live,” said Lily steadily, “if he was gone.”
Voldemort snickered disdainfully. “Ridiculous. No matter how much you may think you love this boy, people do not need other people to survive.”
Lily continued to pierce him with her hard stare. “I didn’t say I couldn’t survive. I said I couldn’t live.”
There was a pause, then he began to laugh. The laugh—if you could call it that, for it did not have a note of joy—was high and jagged, like shards of ice. When he finished, he looked down at her and sighed. “Pity. You are nothing but a foolish, pathetic girl. From what I have heard of you—and yes, I have heard of you, Lily—I hoped you would be much cleverer but you disappoint me with your romantic whims.”
Lily grew hot. The blood in her face was rising, pumping loudly, not from shame, but from anger. It was clearing her thoughts and she knew—there was to be no more stalling: this was it. This was it. She was not afraid, she was ready.
I am not the foolish one, she thought, and she looked down at James, once more, and an easy, warm calm settled over her.
She clenched her fingers around her wand. Voldemort was talking again, probably telling her about how he was going to kill her, but his words could not reach her.
“Expelliarmus!” she screamed, throwing out her wand arm. With all her strength focused on moving, she scrambled in front of James’s body and knelt before him, her arm raised.
Voldemort stopped talking immediately and watched the spell hit him. He smiled as his wand did nothing but quiver in his grasp.
“So you want to fight? How admirable. Futile, but admirable all the same.”
“Petrificus totalus!” cried Lily, deaf to his mocking. “Rotallus!”
This time, Voldemort, busy blocking her first spell, was hit by the second. He was flung spinning into the air and, his cloak whipping around him, landed heavily on his back a few feet away. When his ghostly face appeared over the heap of robes, it was contorted with rage.
He lifted his wand. “Crucio!”
Lily, expecting it, ducked the curse as she sent another spell toward Voldemort, who was trying to get to his feet. “Locomotor mortis!”
But before the curse could reach him, Voldemort vanished. There was a long moment of stillness where nothing moved, and the only sound was the beating of her own heart, which seemed to have grown until it filled her entire body. It throbbed just under her skin, inside her head and all the way down to her toes. Then, with a crack! he reappeared several feet behind Lily, so that James was between them once again.
“I must admit, I am impressed. It’s a shame there is no sense behind all that talent,” he sneered.
Lily twisted around, her whole body shuddering from the force of all the rage, all the determination, and all the tenacity that pulsed through her veins.
“Well, that was fun, wasn’t it?” continued Voldemort. “So that’s that. Like you said, you did what you could and now you will watch your friend here die with an easy mind. That’s how it goes, right?” In a flash, his wand extended toward James. “Avada kedavra!”
Lily saw his wand spit out the stripe of blinding green light and everything got quiet. Everything slowed down. Everything became something she was watching, as a spectator, from a nearby perch above. She watched herself dive across James’s body. She saw the dust rise like smoke as her hands shoved into the street, cushioning the impact as her head and torso followed. She saw herself freeze in that position, curled over James with her face in the dirt, as she waited for the curse to hit and end it all.
Suddenly, the silence that squeezed her brain broke. She heard something—or she thought she was—something that shut out every other sound and feeling. It was music…wasn’t it? And it was coming from inside her own body. It melted the heavy weakness that had seized her muscles, lifting the strangling sensation that had gripped her heart all night until she relaxed completely, feeling like a puddle of hot creamy butter. The melody drifted through her like a warm breeze and she felt like she could get up and dance to it. She could do anything. It was strength, flowing through her, disguised as music.
Was this the sound of heaven?
Then time quickened to its normal pace and she could feel the cold hard pebbles pressing into her face. She was still clenching her eyelids shut. The music continued to blow through the air but she knew—she was still alive.
And the heaving chest beneath her made it clear that James was too.
Please tell me what you think....Thanks! Love you all!
A/N: I consider this chapter the ultimate climax of this whole fic.
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