Chapter 1 - Midnight Meetings

Lily felt her body go rigid as her eyes flew open. The sudden shock of being thrown from sleep, even by her own mind, caused a current of fear to wash through her.

She took a slow breath, then released it from her lungs and inched up in bed, moving as quietly as possible. After giving her vision a few seconds to adjust to the dark, she glanced to the man laying a foot or so from her.

The silhouette of James’s face was visible, his head nestled on the white pillowcase. Dark locks fell haphazardly over his forehead and curled up at his ears. Lily couldn’t see it just then, but she knew those small waves danced over the base of his neck, as well. She had to resist the urge to run a hand through, to lean closer and take in the fresh scent of his shampoo and rest her head in the warm curve of his neck.

His breathing was heavy and even, a clear sign that he was still sound asleep...just like the rest of the world at that hour. It wasn’t uncommon for Lily to wake in the dead of night, though. Not only in the last two weeks following Belle’s death, but for the better part of a year.

She thought about how different it was to wake beside someone else, to have her body launch adrenaline through her blood and force her eyes to shoot open, then realize the person beside her had been deaf to the thundering of a wild heartbeat. It was almost calming to know that, despite what was raging inside of her, it hadn’t been strong enough to break out and intrude on James’s peace. Not that he hadn’t been struggling with is own sleepless nights and anxiety filled days. He was just better at handling the concoction of emotions. He could move something that he didn’t want to think about to the very back of his mind, a skill Lily was envious of.

Last August, when she’d lost both her parents, Lily had begun doubting she’d ever get a full night’s sleep again. Then somehow, the deepest of the gashes that sliced her soul started to heal. With the help of her friends, she’d made tremendous progress.

Now here she was again, lying awake in a pitch black room, trying to hold herself together as she imagined the face of her best friend. If she’d only known how little time she had left with Belle...

She pressed the heels of her hands into her eyes, pushing against them to force the tears back. For a moment she considered waking James, but he looked so peaceful. She didn’t want to be the cause of drawing him from that peace into the center of her turmoil.

Her movements were as fluid as water as she slipped over the side of the bed, her feet hitting carpet without making a sound. The air was a sticky sort of hot, and even the light camisole she wore and the thin tracksuit bottoms felt like too much. She was half surprised James had yet to make a joke about her being welcome to sleep naked if she’d like. If they kept sharing a room for long enough, she was sure -- almost hoped -- that joke would come.

But they hadn’t brought up living arrangements, really. Nothing more than Remus and Peter offering to sleep in Lily and Belle’s flat so Lily wasn’t forced to face it yet. That was something they’d need to discuss soon, she supposed. How was she even supposed to broach the topic? She’d be happier staying with James, having him to fall asleep with, his body just inches from her. Knowing she could reach out and touch him if she woke from the middle of a nightmare was a relief like no other.

The blanket he gave her for Christmas still worked perfectly, producing the happiest of memories anytime darkness crept into her mind. But sometimes she’d accidentally kick it off in the night and be left with images of Bellatrix circling Belle, unknown horrors occurring in that time when it had been just the blonde and the monster set on murdering her.

A tremor ran through Lily’s body as she tiptoed from the bedroom. She felt her fingers shake, the flesh on them colder than the doorknob she grabbed. A small creak escaped the hinges as she shut the door, but she didn’t think it was loud enough to wake the boy inside. Lily turned back toward the short corridor, taking a few steps and passing one of the two bathrooms and the door to another bedroom. The third-- the one on the opposite end of the hall, behind Lily--was the master bedroom. It had been intended for Remus and Peter to share, being the largest of the three.

She’d tried to sleep in there on her first night staying with James; cuddling up with her boyfriend and letting his comfort wash over her felt like it would be wrong in the wake of Belle’s death. But halfway through a night of tossing and turning, she’d crept into James’s room only to find him still awake and practically waiting for her.

Now that room just sat empty, waiting for either someone to inhibit it or go through and wipe off the dust that gathered.

When Lily reached the widening of where corridor became living and dining room, she could see the glow of the moon slipping in through a large window. She and James kept their curtains closed tightly against the world, partly to stop the sun from assaulting them, partly to create a feeling of security that was probably far from real. Because of that, she hadn’t noticed the picturesque night hanging above her. Her feet curled into themselves as she stepped onto the living room's wood floor -- no matter how hot the house was, it seemed that was always cold -- and she quickened her pace to reach the sofa that rested under the large pane of glass.

The wand work she’d done on what had been a second hand item impressed even her. No rips, no musty smell... she was able to lean her elbows against the back of it and prop herself up so she could stare at the world in front of her without bringing any clouds of dust puffing out.

What was it about the specks of stars dashed around the moon -- almost half full -- that made her feel so different? It was like the Lily Evans she knew slipped back into her mind, and she became this girl who wanted to sit there and gaze, sit there and dream about all these things that she probably didn’t even want in the light of day. Maybe that’s why moonlight was always center stage in a romantic story... because it really did create an almost unearthly feel to those looking out at it.

These were the moods that usually prodded Lily into pulling out her art supplies and setting to work. Her thoughts flashed to the picture of the stag Patronus she’d painted for James last Christmas... she hadn’t done one since. What would she do now, if she had her brushes in front of her and a clean canvas?

Blue eyes and a curtain of blonde hair immediately flashed into her mind. It was so sudden and powerful that Lily wasn’t able to hold back the tears.

“Damnit,” she muttered to herself as the prickling formed in her eyes, her face screwing itself up to accommodate the flood of emotion. “God damnit, Belle. I miss you so much.”

“Me too.” Lily’s heart gave a quick lurch of shock at the deep voice. She knew it was Sirius, but hadn’t heard him behind her. He must’ve listened as she crept past the door to his room, probably lying awake just as she’d been.

Lily turned her body so that she sat the correct way on the sofa as he crossed into the kitchen. She couldn’t see what he pulled from the cupboard, but had a pretty good idea. She also suspected that, from the obvious difficulty he had balancing, whatever he was grabbing would be far from his first drink of the night.

He spoke as he made his way over to her. His words weren’t slurred, but there was a heaviness to them. “I keep waiting for it to get easier, you know? Keep thinking she’ll become less real, more memory...”

“Doesn’t work that way,” Lily mumbled, thinking of how painful dwelling on her parents still was sometimes. “Do you think...” she paused for a second, not knowing how to word what was next. “Do you think she’s up there?

Sirius unscrewed the bottle of whatever alcohol he’d grabbed, then tipped it back and took a long swig before bringing it down and giving his head a quick shake. “Shit, this is rubbish. Terrible,” he said, but brought it to his lips a second time. With this one, the drink seemed to last even longer.

Lily thought idly about lecturing him on using alcohol to dull his feelings, and was about to turn down the bottle as he passed it over, then changed her mind. The last time she’d drank it had been at the Swansea Inn, when they were celebrating Sirius knocking Christophe out. Maybe they could both do to get tipsy and forget all the rubbish they went through in the span of a year.

She gripped the neck of the bottle then let a small gulp run down her. She didn’t know what she’d expected, but the burning taste, similar to nail polish remover, hadn’t been it.

“What is this?” she half said, half choked.

“Don’t really know. I got it at that corner shop down the block. The stuff in my room is better, but not by much.”

“It’s positively terrible,” she said, her stomach churning as she set the bottle on the floor out of both her and Sirius’s reach. “I tried to be quiet when I came out here... did I wake you?”

“No, I’ve been awake. I was thinking of getting my bike out of the car park downstairs and taking it for a-” Sirius cut himself off, and Lily assumed the disapproval was written clearly on her face.

This side of Sirius always terrified her. He couldn’t handle when things inside him didn’t feel right, couldn’t handle when his emotions got so strong that nothing could fix them. And that usually resulted in his carefree attitude spiraling right down into recklessness. She’d already lost Belle, she couldn’t handle losing anyone else.

“What’s the matter?” Sirius asked, his voice almost teasing as Lily continued to furrow her eyebrows. “You heard what Dumbledore said at last night’s Order meeting.”

“He said he thinks they’re laying low. But he also said that he could very well be mistaken. Besides, it’s not even the Death Eaters I’m worried about. It’s you going out like this.”

“Not worried about the Death Eaters because you know it's a right joke watching them try to catch me?” Sirius teased, but that joke was followed almost immediately by a darkening of his grey eyes. Because they both knew the Death Eaters could catch him, just like they’d caught Belle. And just like that, playful Sirius slipped back into barely there Sirius, his glance flat and dulled.

Lily knew she’d never hate another person the way she despised Bellatrix Lestrange. No matter how long she lived, how many years passed, she would always loathe the woman who took her friend’s life away and left them all to try and pick up the pieces.

The sound of footsteps distracted both of them and Lily’s hands tensed around the cushion of the sofa. She barely had time to feel the fear though, James’s face appearing from around the corner too quickly.

“Oh, brilliant,” he said, his eyes glancing at the bottle that stood on the floor, “trying to get my girlfriend sloshed the second I fall asleep.”

By the easy tone of his voice, almost forcing humor into it, Lily suspected James must’ve heard parts of their conversation and realized Sirius needed a bit of joking.

“She’s a lightweight, too. Took one swig and she’s already asked me to run away with her. Wants to go get married on some tropical beach.”

Lily rolled her eyes at them both, but there was no real annoyance behind the gesture. As they continued to talk, her mind went back to the question she’d asked Sirius... if he thought Belle was up there looking down on them. She’d never been so desperate to believe in Heaven, to believe that her best friend was just smiling at them, annoyed at being left out of the fun, than she was right that minute.

James came and sat beside them, he and Sirius still going on about something, and it brought a rare feeling of lightheartedness to Lily. She wished for a moment that she could slip out of the room and to the flat across the hall, wake up Peter and Remus then send a Patronus to Alice and Frank... they could all be gathered in the living room, joking and teasing the same way they had so many times in the Heads’ Quarters.

Lily’s attention turned back toward the two boys as she heard one of them say her name.

“What was that?” she asked, both sets of eyes on her.

“Sirius and I were trying to remember when that girl thing is that you and Alice are doing.”

That girl thing?

“Oh!” she said, more to herself than James. “The dresses. Next weekend. After the second Order meeting Friday night Alice wanted me to stay over at her and Frank’s house so we can get an early start the next morning.”

Lily realized how excited she was to watch Alice slip into gown after gown, and wondered if Augusta would be going along with them. The wedding was scheduled for the end of August, a small one, but it would still be lovely nonetheless. A reminder of all the happy things that could occur, despite the terrible ones.

“So,” James prodded, “you’ll be with Frank and Alice Friday night?”

“And maybe Margaret. She might be coming over after the Order meeting.”

“It was odd, wasn’t it,” James began, “being at the first meeting with so many... important people. Especially when they called McGonagall and Dumbledore Albus and Minerva.”

Lily couldn’t help but laugh. “Well, those are their names. But yes, it was strange. I’m glad Dumbledore just wanted us to sit back for this meeting and listen.” She looked at Sirius to see if he would comment, but his gaze just flickered between their faces. The moonlight fell on one side of his face and made it appear as if a shadow was trying to swallow him, to take him under.

When it was apparent that he had nothing to add, James continued. “Did either of you expect Dorcas or Marlene to be there? I didn’t recognize Dorcas at first... she’s at least three years older than us.” James looked like he was doing a quick mental calculation. “Yeah, three or four.”

“I don’t know what I’d expected,” Lily answered truthfully. “When Dumbledore gave us the address to the cottage, I sort of thought it’d be just the seven of us, him and McGonagall.”

Sirius reached for the bottle and Lily was too slow to stop him. He threw back another swig, passing it to James who did the same -- neither taking into account Lily’s glare -- then cleared his throat before speaking.

“It feels right, at least. Being with all those people, talking about all the shit the Death Eaters are pulling and how to stop it...Makes me think that at least we’re doing something to get back at the people that killed her.”

Silence followed Sirius’s words, and Lily could hear the wind picking up outside. The sky still looked clear, but that could break apart and buckets of rain could pour at any minute. The fact that it was July meant nothing to England. Their country would do whatever it pleased with its weather, and anyone that didn’t like it...well, Lily thought, they’d just have to go on complaining about it like everyone else.

She glanced from the window back to the boys. “Now that we’ve been to one meeting, I bet the next won’t be as nerve wracking. I noticed McGonagall had biscuits...I’m thinking of baking some for Friday so she doesn’t have to do it all.”

At the look of instant pleading on both faces, Lily let out a comical sigh. “And you trouble makers can test taste them. Remus and Peter, too.”

“I’m glad you can cook,” Sirius said with a nod.

Lily laughed, her first real one of the night, at the simple way he delivered the statement. “I’m fairly pleased I can, as well. Belle and I talked about that before, how we were certain to starve to death if I had the same level of culinary skills that she possessed.”

At just the mention of her name, Sirius’s face took on a pained expression. Lily wanted to be able to talk about her, to laugh about her and remember her together, but it was clear Sirius wasn’t able to do that yet. She’d give him a few more weeks before she started making him talk about Isabelle, because ignoring the way he felt wasn’t going to do any good. They all lost her, and Lily was certain she hurt just as intensely as Sirius. But they still had to talk about her.

“Let’s get some sleep,” James suggested, twisting the lid back on the bottle and reaching for Lily’s hand. She nodded and the three rose, stepping from the moonlight back into the dark corridor. When they got to the door of James’s room they said a soft goodnight to Sirius and slipped inside.

Her eyes flickered around the darkened space. It was mostly empty so far. A mattress propped up on a bed frame, the dresser from James’s room and both his and Lily’s trunks sitting off to the side with few pictures of the group framed and placed on the night table.

“Why were you two wanting to know about my plans with Alice?” Lily asked, suddenly remembering their curiosity.

James was silent, and without the added light of the moon Lily was unable to make out his expression. She took a step toward the table and grabbed her wand, bringing to life the lanterns hanging on the wall. There were only two, so while the flames didn’t exactly illuminate the entire room, they were enough to make out the half smile James held.

He’d plopped down on the side of the bed, feet touching the ground as he watched her. Lily knew he was gauging her, preparing to see how she’d reacted to what would come next.

“Sirius needs to do something. Go cause trouble, something like that.” Lily started to argue, to say how causing trouble was far from an okay way to handle pain, but James cut her off and continued.

“You saw him, Lily, saw what he’s been like for the last two weeks. Either he’s acting like a ghost, half here and half dead, or he’s too drunk to know how to act. He’s going to go off the deep end soon enough. It’d be better for him to do it when I’m at least there so he doesn’t get himself killed.”

“He’s allowed to be upset, he just lost his girlfriend!” She crossed her arms tightly, annoyed at how relaxed James looked as he continued to sit on the side of the bed.

“We all lost Belle,” James said, a hint of anger radiating in his tone. “But we’re dealing with it. How often do you and I talk about her? At least a few times a day. We all talk about her together, and you and Alice went to her grave last week. We’re dealing with it, Lily. Sirius isn’t. He’s shutting it all off and soon, when it’s no longer able to build up inside him, he’ll snap. This is how he’s always been.”

“And what would going out and causing trouble do? Just making him feel like he has a reason pick fights and drink? How would that help him start-”

“C’mon. You think anyone knows more than I do about what Sirius needs? This is it. He doesn’t need to be told it’s okay or anything like that. He knows full and well that it’s far from being okay. He needs to be able to let loose, get pissed and act like a git after drinking too much, and I’m not going to let that happen without being there. Either we can try and get him to talk and that rubbish, and he’ll just take off one night and end up making things worse, or we can do it my way.”

A clumsy knock came at the door and James was on his feet in a split second. He pointed his wand at the barrier of wood, other arm stretched out in front of Lily. She realized her own wand was raised, a reaction that came as readily as breathing.

The door opened a crack, and Sirius’s face became clear. Lily lowered her wand as she took a deep breath, wondering if her adrenaline was forever destined to be bounced back and forth, high and low, like one of those rubber balls children are so amused by.

“Mummy, daddy, if you two are done fighting about me...” Sirius began, making Lily release an involuntary laugh.

“Piss off,” James ordered good-naturedly, then bent down and threw a shoe at the door just as Sirius closed it. They listened, hearing his footsteps as he walked back down the hall, then the click of his own door shutting.

“Children, always interrupting,” James said, smiling as he walked back over to the bed, motioning for Lily. “I don’t want you to be upset with me, but I know what Sirius needs. And it’s better that I be there to make sure things don’t get out of hand.”

“And Remus and Peter?” Lily asked, stepping closer to James and standing between his legs as he resumed his position on the edge of the bed.

“Course. So, see, Remus will be there. There’s your responsible one. But that’s why we were asking about Alice. Wanted to make sure, if we did all go out, you wouldn’t be here alone.”

Lily felt her heartbeat grow more pronounced as James’s hazel eyes glanced up and locked with hers, the flicking of the lantern causing shadows to move through them.

“We’re not coming to bail you out when some Muggle cop arrests you and throws you in jail,” Lily said as she raised her eyebrows. Not that they’d need it... she was certain neither James nor Sirius was against Obliviating a Muggle.

“Guess we’ll just have to use our good looks to get out of any situation then,” James said, laughing as Lily leaned forward and kissed him.

“That was only to hush you up,” she said, pulling away and climbing over him, back to her spot under the thin duvet.

She sat against the wall and yanked out the tie that was holding her hair in a bun. Her fingers began to work through with the intention of smoothing it out before putting it back up, but James reached forward and snagged the tie out of her hand, tossing it across the room.

“I like it down,” he said with a shrug as he crawled in beside her. “And I meant what I said before... we all lost Belle. I know I wasn’t as close to her as you, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t affect me just as much.”

Lily glanced down as James nuzzled his head onto her chest. She lifted her fingers then raked them through his thick, ebony hair. She bent down and kissed the top of his head, a rush of warmth running through her. The idea of the four of them being out when there was no telling who was watching them made her uneasy. Then there was a tiny part of her that she attempted to ignore conjuring up images of girls in short skirts scooting up to her boyfriend, but if James thought this was best for Sirius, she’d trust his judgement.

“I know you cared about her, James. We all did,” she said in a whisper as she continued to run her slender fingers through his hair, down his neck and over his shoulders. There were times when she felt like James was so much more experienced than her in just about every walk of life; they hadn’t even slept together, how much more inexperienced could Lily get? But then other instances, like that moment when he was cuddled against her, she felt like it was up to her to keep anything from ever hurting the precious man who she’d somehow ended up being head over heels in love with.

Moonlight spilled over the rows of stone, the shabby rock glowing in the night hair. Bellatrix would have preferred it darker, wanting to take away the most vital of the future Death Eaters’ senses, but her Lord had chosen this night; Master always chose what was right, knew all and would be questioned by none.

Each time she stepped through the rows of headstones, her boots digging into the dirt of the Muggle graves, a small thrill would shiver up her. Even in death she was still walking over the filthy creatures, their decaying bodies no safer than they’d been in life.

When she reached the center of the cemetery, Burgess and Avery trailing close behind, she nearly wept with pleasure. Her Master stood with his hood shadowing his sharp face, his back to one of the taller headstones. She heard Lucius crunching over dirt next to her, his footsteps mixing with those of the Rosier and Snape -- the two recruits he’d trained for this very moment. The six of them and her Master were the only ones she could identify without doubt.

Flanking her lord on either side were five masked Death Eaters. She knew out of the total ten, half were the First Five: Dolohov, Mulciber Sr., Nott, Avery Sr., and Rosier Sr. Their names were legend, those who had stood by her Master’s side since the beginning of his rise to power. Bellatrix would overshadow them, though. She would prove herself again and again, show her Lord that her loyalties, her desire to carry out his demands and demonstrate her value, were above all others.

She knew Rodolphus and Rabastan were absent, collecting information about the Bones family. While they were off skulking in the dark, spying on meetings that may never even happen, Bellatrix got to be there, face to face with the most powerful wizard of all time.

She stuck her tongue out, running it along her teeth as the other ten moved around her and Lucius to close the circle. In the few minutes before an initiation ritual her mouth would instinctively fill with the metal-like taste of blood, sealing her with a high that could only be felt at the sounds of a blood curdling scream. She turned around and glanced at the two recent Hogwarts graduates behind her. With one look, they understood and moved to the center of the now formed circle.

Master ordered neither her nor Lucius to don their mask, which gave her a clinging hope that it would be her who would be administering the torture for the two she had been responsible for training.

Malfoy also sent his recruits into the center, now all four boys standing tall as they faced only the Dark Lord. Bellatrix knew Mulciber and Avery would withstand what came next, Mulciber because of his sheer determination to be one of them, Avery because the blood of a Death Eater beat strong and true through him. She suspected Rosier would also make it through for the same reasons. But with Snape, she wasn’t sure. It wouldn’t affect her if he buckled under the torture. On the contrary, it might even please her. Something about the dark eyed boy grated against Bellatrix. The tell-tale signs of fear and anxiety never flickered across his stony countenance. His eyes never grew wide, his lower lip never trembled to betray his nerves -- the anger that caused her was unexplainable.

“The four of you are here for one purpose,” The Dark Lord began, the silky, forceful tone of his voice causing Bellatrix’s heart to speed at an alarming rate. “That purpose is of no secret to you, and if I do not deem you worthy to serve your purpose, your remains will forever rest beside those of these creatures.” He gestured his arms out toward the acres of Muggle graves.

“If you prove loyal, resilient, and deserving enough to stand beside me and fight for the cleansing of our world, your rewards will be everlasting. Your power will be whispered of, spoken in the dead of night by crying children, pleading mothers, terrified men. You will have the chance to extinguish the lives of those who are destroying our world, a cause more noble than mere words can express.

“These are the people you will dedicate your life to destroying,” he held his arms out wide as he spoke, “the filthy Muggles whose death hardly merited a tombstone. It is with your help I wish to fill this dirt, and hundreds more like it, with the bodies of those who oppose us. With your help we will take back the world we created, the world that their kind is destroying.” He paused, and Bellatrix wished desperately she could take a step closer, to feel his words radiating off of her cheek.

“But first, you must prove yourself deserving. Bellatrix,” he whispered, glancing over to her. “You will begin. Prove to me that your recruits are worthy of my Mark.”

She felt her lips curve into a smile, her wand already warming in her fingertips with the excitement of what curse it would get to assist her in.

As the wind picked up, whistling encouragements into her ears and trailing through her hair, it brought a welcomed chill to her body. She raised her wand.

It was time to initiate the new Death Eaters.
Chapter 1 of the new book! What did you guys think?? I've been so excited to get started!

Thank you so much to CambAngst, my awesome beta reader, for being willing to take on a whole new book with me! Thank you also to my lovely Sarah for spending HOURS helping me with titles and summaries ♥

I'm so excited to be working on the next phase of their lives, and I really hope you guys like how it started off!!

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