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    Class ended after eight hours with only two breaks in between. Surprisingly, we spent the entire time dueling while Moody barked insults at us and we slowly tired, our spells coming out rather half-heartedly. Sirius was my partner, and was deflecting my curses with a bored nonchalance. Finally, Moody released us, but to my utter horror, he instructed me to stay for he wished to talk to me.

    Sirius looked just as perplexed as I. “I’ll wait for you—” he started, but was interrupted when Moody stated that he wished for him to remain as well.

    I waved goodbye to Alice, the youngest student there and the only other girl—someone I had taken a liking to in our eight hours spent together. She was the last one out, shutting the door behind her.

    Sirius and I unnervingly faced Moody, who was leaning back against the desk behind him, draining the rest of the liquid that remained in his hip flask. His electric blue eye stopped rolling and fixed on me, then Sirius, then back to me.

    “You’re friends of James Potter,” he stated bluntly.

    I nodded. “Yes, sir,” said Sirius.

    “I knew his parents,” said Moody, shaking his head. “Good people. A shame what happened. Despicable. I assume you know all the details by now?”

    “We know that it was Death Eaters,” hissed Sirius, looking vicious. “But we don’t know who.”

    “It doesn’t matter who, boy,” said Moody, and for a moment he looked almost emphatic. “They’re all the same. And they all lead to the same person.”

    “You-Know-Who,” I said.

    “Yes.”

    “So this is why you two wish to be Aurors? And James as well, I assume, if he ever comes back?”

    We had both expressed an interest in such a career back in Hogwarts, but only now did we have a passion and a determination for it. I nodded.

    Moody grinned without mirth and finally turned away from us. I still had a feeling that his blue eye was watching me, though. “Tell Potter that he can come back whenever he likes, but he’ll have to work his arse off to keep up with the rest of the class.” It was the closest he would come to sympathy, I knew.

    Sirius looked relieved. Apparently he had thought that James had missed out on his chance. “Thank you, sir.”

    “Now get out.”

    We did, closing the door behind us. Sirius and I made our way through the crowded cubicles, silent until we reached the lift.

    “Crazy, isn’t it?” he said, looking at the Auror office one last time before the bars closed in front of us. “We could be working there in five weeks.”

    “Five weeks,” I repeated, shaking my head. “It’s insane. Is that even enough time?”

    “Does it matter?” said Sirius grimly. “As long as I’m blasting those bastards apart I don’t care.”

    “The matter must be worse than we thought,” I said, more to myself than to anyone else. “They’re really desperate to recruit new people.”

    Sirius nodded. Then after contemplating something, said, “James asked where you were.”

    We had reached the Atrium. “Oh?” I said at a poor attempt at nonchalance. I was unable to remain silent however. “What did he say?”

    “He asked for you, and then Remus told him you left. He looked disappointed, I think.”

    I was horrified. “Didn’t you tell him I left because Remus told me to?”

    “I didn’t know,” said Sirius, looking genuinely surprised. “I thought…”

    “What?” I replied testily. “That I bailed out again?”

    “Well, yes.”

    “I was going to stay,” I said, defending myself. “But Remus told me it would be better if I didn’t.”

    Sirius scowled. “Remus said that?”

    “Yes.”

    He did not say anything, but I could tell from his pensive expression that he was beginning to agree with Remus’ line of thinking. I did not try to defend myself any longer. “Is James better?” I asked softly.

    Sirius shrugged. “He’s not attempting to drink himself half to death anymore. Although I suspect that’s because Remus and I won’t let him.” He looked at me. “Are you heading back to your flat? Mind if I join you?”

    “No,” I said, then simultaneously the two of us turned on our heel and Apparated in our living room.

    The first thing I heard was Gaby shriek. She had been on the couch, watching television and we had appeared right in front of her.

    “Don’t do that!” she said, clutching at her heaving chest. “Didn’t we say ‘no’ to Apparating?”

    “None of us follow that rule,” I said somewhat distractedly, since Grace was heading towards me, looking anxious with an owl that I recognized as Henn’s on her shoulder. “What is it?”

    “Henn just wrote me,” she said. “Apparently the news was everywhere, even in Sweden. She said she’s coming here as soon as she can, you know, for the funeral.”

    For some reason, I had not thought about the funeral. “Funeral?” I repeated, turning to Sirius. “When is it?”

    “Tomorrow morning. Remus and I arranged for it.”

    “Should I come?”

    Grace and Gaby exchanged exasperated looks. Sirius, however, looked uneasy. “I suppose,” he said eventually. He looked at Gaby. “Want to go for a walk?”

    “Sure,” said Gaby immediately, and then the two of them headed out.

    I threw myself on the couch, Grace in tow. “They seem to be getting along well,” I said finally.

    “Yes,” said Grace, a little sadly. “But she’s leaving soon.”

    “Another thing to be depressed about,” I sighed. I watched as Jinx eyed the owl that was now perched on the couch ruffling his feathers. I picked up my cat and kept him at a distance, just to be safe.

    “Another funeral,” said Grace. “So soon.”

    I thought about Jeremy’s funeral and my reaction to it. I had broken up with James right after that. “Yeah.”

    “How was Auror training?”

    “Miserably hard work. But it’s worth it.” I turned to her, frowning. “Did you know there were only about six kids there? You’d think with the country in turmoil there’d be more willing volunteers.”

    “They’re scared,” stated Grace simply. “Some don’t even know half of what’s going on. We’re in war, and many are oblivious to it.”

    “War?” I repeated. “That’s a bit harsh, isn’t it?”

    “Is it?” said Grace skeptically. “A month ago Hogwarts was attacked, and since then there have been multiple other murders of prominent Wizarding families, including the Potters. But are they just murders? Or are they casualties of war?”

    What she said made sense, although it frightened me. “Do you think James will be offended if I go to the funeral?” I said finally without looking at her.

    “Of course not,” said Grace immediately.

    “You weren’t there, though,” I said. “Yesterday, I mean. He was…it just seemed like he hated me so much.”

    “‘The line between love and hate is very thin,’” recited Grace.

    “You don’t understand. You didn’t see him.”

    Grace scrutinized me. “Well, you’re right about that. But often, when we lose a loved one, we take it out on others that we love as well.”

    “So you think I should go?”

    “I think that it will show enormous strength on your part if you do. And that’s what James needs right now.”

    “I didn’t do well at the last funeral I went to.”

    “Well, none of us did,” admitted Grace. “It’s almost like…we’re getting used to death. It’s sad.”

    “Yes,” I said quietly, “it is.”

    ***

    Henn arrived that night, sooner than any of us expected. She showed up in the middle of our living room as we were eating dinner. Her hair was longer and she was a bit tanner, and once again I was stunned at these small differences which I would’ve never noticed before when we were used to seeing each other every day.

    The three of us stood up and embraced her; I took her suitcase and set it in my room. It was rather heavier than last time. “How long are you staying?” I said.

    She grinned. “Until the end of the month. I wanted to be here for Gaby’s going away party.”

    Gaby’s own smile faded. “Oh. I had forgotten. Maybe we should cancel.”

    “Certainly not!” Grace said. “And besides, it’s for your birthday too.”

    “But it’ll be so soon after the funeral. I wouldn’t want to offend James.”

    “He won’t be offended,” I said. “He’ll want to be distracted. We shouldn’t cancel.”

    “Right. Okay.”

    “So, I’ll be staying for a week!” exclaimed Henn, absolutely ecstatic. She looked at us a little uncertainly. “You won’t mind, will you?”

    “Don’t be stupid,” said Grace. “You want some food?”

    Henn laughed. “Always.” We then all sat at the kitchen table, and for the first time in two days, things were looking up.


    But the feeling of melancholy soon returned.

    Many people had showed up to the funeral. There were several Ministry officials there, some of which I recognized from the Auror office. The Adams family was there as well, still looking drawn and exhausted from the last funeral we had all been to where we had buried their son. Crystal was crying alongside some of the Hogwarts students that had gone to school with us. Several students were there, including Kat and Leah, who after greeting us sadly did not say anything else. However, most of them were there for common courtesy; James had been quite popular after all and well liked.

    I stood by James, who did not object. Sirius and Remus stood by on his other side. Remus had brought Caroline, and for once Grace seemed to be unperturbed by her presence. However, if she decided to sanitize something, I would definitely jinx her.

    Henn was crying as she leaned against Aaron’s shoulder. Gaby stood by Sirius and held his hand, silent tears streaming down her cheeks. It was a beautiful day, like it had been for Jeremy’s funeral. Yet it did not matter as we stood there on the grass, facing the two caskets that lay on the ground with flowers on top of them.

    James was the first to make a speech. He struggled with it, and it seemed that most of it he said with a strange detachment. Then came Sirius, who told everyone that the Potters were the only family he had ever had, and how they had done so much for him. Another man from the Ministry then made a speech, but by then I was tuning him out and looking to James, who was solemnly staring at the casket. Sirius grasped his shoulder briefly and James nodded.

    Lynn was there, alone. She looked different from when I last saw her—taller and lovelier. She looked very much like James then. I thought about the two people we were burying and realized that they were her parents too, although she hardly had enough time to know them.

    James, Sirius, Remus, and Peter all helped carry the caskets along with four other Ministry officials. Mad Eye was one of them, although he respectfully didn’t say anything to James about the Auror training. He would come whenever he was ready, whenever that would be.

    The rest of us followed them as they made their way to the cemetery’s mausoleum, where they would lie down in a combined tomb. They set them inside, and then slowly, one by one we left the place, until only James and our friends remained, standing solemnly by. Then Sirius, with a nod to each of us, motioned for us to leave him alone. James did not move as we made our way out. While the others sat on a hill nearby to wait I stood just outside the mausoleum. Finally after about ten minutes I decided to peek inside and saw James crouched on the floor, his head resting on his knees with his arms in front of his face. He was shaking.

    I did not have to think about it; I was there before I knew it, touching his arm. To my utter shock, he grabbed at my hand, and leaned against me while his body shook with uncontrolled sobs. I looked to the tomb, where the caskets had already been encased with magic and realized that we would never see them again. It still seemed like an unreal concept to me.

    “It’s normal to cry,” I said soothingly as I stroked his hair. “In fact, it’s best if you do.”

    I hugged him to my chest so tightly that I shook with him whenever he would cry. His face was wet with tears which soaked me as well. We sat there on the cold marble floor for quite a while.

    “I never forgave him,” he said finally. He had stopped crying but his voice was hoarse against my neck. “I treated my father terribly after I found out about Lynn and what he had done to my mother. And I never forgave him.” He laughed, but it was a hollow sound as he pulled away from me and faced the tomb again. “I thought—I thought I would have more time.”

    “We always do.”

    He looked at me. His eyes were red and his glasses all foggy, and still he looked wonderful to me. “I thought we had more time.”

    “I know,” I said. “I know.”


    Sirius and I made it to Auror training on time, but we still wore our black clothes and solemn expressions on our faces.

    Mad Eye looked up from his desk, then both of his mismatched eyes widened as we parted and let James through as well. His electric blue eye followed James as he walked to the front and sat between Sirius and I. He stared at Mad Eye defiantly.

    The rest of the students were curious and all staring at us. All of them knew about what had happened to the Potters, and they looked stunned to see us there, especially James. Mad Eye scrutinized James, who stared unwaveringly back. Then, he nodded grimly.

    “Let’s start,” he said.


    Eight hours later, we were at James and Sirius’ flat. I had never been there before now. It was rather messy as I knew it would be, but otherwise rather spacious and clean. Remus was in the kitchen, talking to Peter as two lasagnas cooked in the oven. It warmed my heart to see James’ friends so close at hand and waiting for him when they didn’t even live with him. Remus looked surprised to see me, but said nothing.

    James sat at the counter. None of us said anything as we all hovered around anxiously. Then, “I’m selling the house,” said James. “It’s already in the market. Hopefully a Muggle family who knows nothing of what happened there will buy it.”

    “We’ll help you clean it out,” said Sirius immediately. Remus, Peter and I nodded.

    “No,” said James, shaking his head. “I want to do it by myself.”

    None of us replied.

    “I’ll miss that house,” Sirius said eventually. Then I remembered that he had spent years in that house as well when he lived with James. Remus and Peter made noncommittal sounds of agreement.

    James left the counter. “I’ll be in my room.”

    “Don’t you want lasagna?” said Remus.

    “No,” he said. Then almost inaudibly, “Thanks guys.”

    The door of his room closed just as the oven timer went off. Remus donned a pair of mittens on and took the lasagnas out, letting them cool on the counter. “He’ll want to eat eventually,” he said with a shrug.

    The three of them sat at the couch, without eating. “Maybe he’ll want to be alone,” I said. “You could come over to our place.”

    “He is alone,” said Sirius stubbornly, pointing to James’ shut door. “We’re not giving him more space than this.”

    “I’d like to catch up with Henn,” said Peter quietly; he looked very uncomfortable in the present situation. Sirius and Remus shot him a sharp look. “But…we should stay here,” he added reluctantly.

    “I’m off then,” I said. “Keep me posted.”

    Remus smiled sadly. “We will.”

    I left, leaving them to their vigil.


    Henn, Grace, and Gaby had left a note written on the counter. They had gone to the Leaky Cauldron with Aaron, and wanted me to join them. I decided to pass, and instead went into my room to slump down on my bed. As I wiped my forehead with my hand, I noticed that Ray’s number was still etched into it. It was rather odd, since I had washed my hands several times since then. In the light I could barely make out the numbers.

    I looked out at the window. It was already dark; he probably already had plans. Perhaps that was why I considered it okay to call—there would be no harm done, since he probably wasn’t even home.

    The ink on my hand was very faded, and the first time I mistook an eight to be a three, thus calling the wrong number. The second time I got it right though, and to my utter horror someone picked up.

    “Hello?” said Ray.

    I thought of hanging up, but I seemed to be frozen.

    “Hello?” repeated Ray. Then after a brief chuckle, “Lily? Is that you?”

    It had been a passing fancy, really, to decide to call. Now I seemed to be in trouble. Instead of hanging up, however, I cleared my throat and said, “Uh, hi Ray.”

    “Hi,” he replied amusedly. “You called.”

    “Surprised?”

    “Not really.”

    I grimaced. “I’m sorry if I’m bothering you.”

    “You’re not,” he said. “I just got home actually. I was working at the store.”

    “Oh,” I said, dreading the phone call more and more by the minute. “I thought that perhaps you’d be out.”

    He laughed. “So why did you call?”

    I flushed, crushing my forehead to my palm. “I saw that your number was still on my hand, and I thought—I don’t know.”

    “Lily,” he said seriously. “Do you want to go out with me?”

    The sensible thing would be to refuse. But somehow I found myself saying, “That’d be great.”


    Later I found myself tiptoeing to our flat, my sense of guilt steadily increasing by the minute. I unlocked the door and stepped inside, and was relieved to find everything dark and untouched. They had not come back yet. I realized that I had been holding my breath, which I now let go in a sigh.

    I had barely crossed the threshold however, when the three of them Apparated into the living room.

    I jumped into the air. “Ah!” I screamed, even more edgy than usual.

    Henn smiled at me. The three of them were all dressed up, and giggling rather incessantly; they had obviously been drinking a bit. “What’s wrong?”

    “Nothing,” I said a little too quickly. “You’re just…early that’s all.”

    Grace was clearly the most sober of the three, which was hardly surprising. She gave me a skeptical look. “It’s eleven,” she said, as if I hadn’t been checking my watch constantly the entire time I had been with Ray. She scrutinized me. “You’ve changed.”

    Henn and Gaby both looked at my clothes. I wasn’t wearing anything fancy—just a pair of jeans and a top. Nothing provocative or encouraging; I made sure of that. I tried to look nonchalant. “Yeah, I did.”

    “Did you go out without us?” Henn said with a fake pout.

    It would’ve been easy to tell the truth, but given my friends’ reaction yesterday, I opted for a lie. “No,” I replied, attempting a casual shrug that looked more like my shoulder had gotten spasms.

    I knew that the only thing that saved me was the couple of shots Grace had taken earlier. Her attention quickly waned and then she smiled at something Gaby said. Once again I found that my breath was being held. I exhaled slowly.

    “We should do this more often,” sighed Henn as she threw herself onto the couch.

    “We would, if you hadn’t moved to Sweden,” said Gaby, stumbling a little as she sat on the floor.

    The two of them looked at each other. Then all of a sudden, the three of them burst out laughing. Apparently this statement had been infinitely funny.

    I smiled uneasily.

    Later that night Henn and I changed into our pajamas and each lay down; me in my bed and she in the cot I had once again conjured. For a while I lay wide awake, wishing to confess to at least one person that I had lied earlier when they had asked if I had gone out. The most sensible person to tell would’ve been Henn; not just because of my infinite trust in her but also because she had not been living in such close accommodations with us, which meant that she judged us less harshly. But for some reason I hesitated. And for the longest time I couldn’t figure out why. Henn certainly wouldn’t have rebuked me—she was the most complacent out of all of us and the most forgiving as well. Before I could contemplate further if I wished to talk, I heard Henn’s steady breathing. She was asleep.

    Then, all of a sudden, I felt like I wanted to cry.

    It was very unusual, especially since I had developed an inability to cry. It was almost comforting that finally, my heart seemed to be melting, and for a few moments I encouraged and welcomed the tears, waiting for them to finally stream down my face.

    They didn’t. Something happened and suddenly, as quickly as it had come, the feeling went away. I blinked, staring up at the canvas of my bed. I waited, but knew that I wouldn’t cry, not then.

    I rolled onto my side and looked at Henn. She looked very peaceful. I found that I missed hearing another person breathing in the same room with me; it had always been so at Hogwarts, after all. I wondered why I hadn’t said anything to her about Ray. Although a bit tipsy, Henn would’ve gladly listened to me, as she always did. Perhaps I was getting accustomed to our parting. That thought scared me beyond comprehension. But the longer I thought about it, the more I felt that I was right; I was used to Henn’s absence, and now felt almost uncomfortable about talking to her.

    I found that looking at her just made me sad, so I rolled away from her and stared at the wall instead. A strange feeling of loneliness overcame me; I had lost James, and now Henn was quickly slipping away from my grasp. Gaby too, would soon be out of my life. I had not talked to my own father in almost two months. My mother I had not seen for even longer.

    “There’s something wrong with me,” I whispered softly to myself; not that Henn would’ve heard me in her profound sleep. And then, inexplicably, I laughed. A voice inside my head seemed to chuckling too. Well, duh, it said. Didn’t you know?


    A/N: *GASP!!!!!!!!!*

    I know right? But don't worry, I assure you that you are not hallucinating. Yes, this is a new chapter. Yes, I updated twice in one month.

    *GASP!*

    Some of you might be wondering what insanity could've possibly overtook me. Well, I would have to say that it was inspiration. Corny, I know. But it works. And hopefully, it makes my readers happy. :-D

    Let's see how long this lasts. But at least for now, you can read two chapters in March.

    See ya,

    - Katie.

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