We reach the end of Is Just To Love today, my friends. I've written and deleted this chapter many a time. I couldn't remember what I wrote for it four months ago if I tried. It was crap, that's all I know. What I've got here is a good ending to the second instalment of my three-part series.
I hope you all enjoy this and, if you'd be so kind, leave a review to tell me what you think, what you liked and didn't like.
Back and forth, back and forth… back and forth she went again.
It was making James dizzy.
Lily hadn't stopped pacing and muttering to herself for the better part of five minutes. Though not necessarily a long time, it felt like ages to the observer.
To Lily, it only felt like mere seconds.
Her speech wasn't as refined as she would have liked, but with all the studying she did for her NEWTs she barely fit in enough time to write a good, solid speech. From the look of her boyfriend, slouched with his legs parted widely on a seat and looking haughtily bored, she knew he was just going to make it up as he went.
James picked at a speck of dirt from under one of his nails and sighed. He didn't really write much of a speech, just a few key notes of what to mention. He had practiced it in the shower, during breaks in classes and between NEWT studies. He didn't need to memorize the entire thing. It was all in his head.
Lily had to get this right. If she somehow forgot a point or… or misspoke a word… She closed her eyes for a moment and stilled her pacing. It would be catastrophic. Her pacing resumed, eyes open. … into a broad new world that we have strived so hard to belong to and now finally, it will accept us as fully fledged wizards and witches, ready to take it on.
"From what I heard, it sounds good," James said casually.
Lily looked at him, stilled once again. "Pardon?" she asked. His chin was resting on his knuckles, which rested on one arm of the seat he currently sat on. She frowned. She wasn't saying it out loud.
"You're speaking aloud," he said easily. "I didn't hear most of it, but it sounded good from what I caught."
Lily was speechless for a moment. "I… I wasn't-"
"'Broad new world… accept us…' You were speaking aloud." His blue eyes probed hers from a few feet away. He casually took out his wand, slowly sitting upright, and waved it once. An ottoman scraped and bumped across the stone floor and rested behind her legs.
Lily sat mechanically. "I didn't know I was," she said. They were silent for a moment. Her eyes raked over James' robes. He looked quite good in them, was her upside of the day. The male graduates were made to wear beautiful black robes with a sash of their main house colour across their chest and back. The girls wore similar robes, but the sash was tied about their waists. All wore tall peaked black hats. Lily stretched her arms out, elbows on knees, and played with her hands. "I think I've gone barmy."
"It's alright," James told her softly, but with a hint of mischief. "I still love you."
She sent him a shrewd look. "I don't know why you're so calm about all of this. Can't you hear them out there?"
"Of course I can."
And he could, too. All the graduates, most of the professors and multiple parents and close family members were seated in the Great Hall or being seated at that moment. All that stood between them and the masses was a simple wooden door to the side of the staff table – or where it usually stood, since now there was a small stage in its place – and their courage. The small room they sat in was comfortable enough: a small fireplace, a couple paintings and a few old seats were plenty to facilitate the two before they took the stage and gave their graduate speeches.
"What if I mess up?" Lily asked quietly.
James watched her stare at and twist her hands. "Either nobody notices and you continue on or everybody notices and has a good laugh. Either way you're still alive and I still love you."
The final bit caused a huff of a laugh to escape her lungs. The sound of another scraping chair caught her attention and she looked up.
James was dragging his chair the few feet to hers. He stopped before her hands and took them in his. Her turned her palms upward, rested the backs on his palms and ran his thumbs over the sensitive skin. He ran them over her Life Line, Mount of Venus, Mars Negative and Positive and slowly across her Destiny Line.
"Going to tell me my fortune?" Lily asked once again in a quiet voice.
James shook his head. "Just trying to help calm your nerves." He lifted a hand to his mouth and kissed the palm.
Lily's heart started to race with the question she was about to ask him. Her fingers closed over his thumbs and she took a breath. "James?" she asked.
"Yes, love?" he responded.
A knock on the door interrupted. McGonagall opened the door and poked inside. "Just a couple of minutes now," she said briskly. "Make sure you're both presentable. Potter, fix your sash. Evans, straighten your hat. Headmaster Dumbledore will call you both up; be waiting at the door for when it opens. Evans, you first and Potter behind." She was about to leave, but stopped short. "And try not to fall." McGonagall left and closed the door.
James blinked. "I'm sorry Lily, what were you going to say?"
"I think you should wait at the door," said a voice from one of the paintings.
"Thank you, Violet," James said with a bit of impatience.
Lily was already heading to the door and fixing her hat. James walked up behind her and she turned around to fix his sash.
James took her hands once again. "What is it you wanted to ask me?" he asked.
It was silent outside their room, meaning one thing: Dumbledore had taken the stage.
"Nothing important," Lily said immediately. "Just a bit of silliness."
"It's nothing," she repeated.
"I want to know."
Lily took a breath. "Don't jump to conclusions or anything but I was just wondering if you'd ever… had you ever… Well, that is to say-"
"He'll be calling you any second."
"Thank you, Violet!" James snapped.
"I was just wondering if you'd ever consider marrying me." There. She had said it.
The silence seemed to stretch between them.
James had to collect his thoughts quickly.
"See?" Lily said. "Just a bit of silliness brought on by the stress of the graduation ceremony-"
"… tradition, the Head Students have both written speeches to sign off yet another year at Hogwarts…"
"I've thought of it a million times," James blurted.
"Me too," Lily said breathlessly.
They both took a second to look at each other before laughing. Lily put a hand to her mouth. James took it off just as fast and placed a quick kiss on her lips.
"I think he's already called you up," Violet said.
"Someday," James said, his eyes alight.
Lily nodded quickly; her grin and light-headedness betrayed her earlier feelings of doubt and worry. She spun around just as the door opened and stepped out to a cheering crowd. She felt James behind her and was immediately reassured. 'One out of the way,' she thought, 'and one more to go today…' She climbed up two steps and onto the stage. James took her hand and they stood side by side, facing the crowd. He bowed and she curtsied.
Dumbledore ushered her first to the podium.
James gave her hand a squeeze and went to take a seat a couple feet back. Lily walked to the centre of the stage and composed herself. One deep breath; in and out, in and out. The cheering died down.
She put a brilliant smile on her face and addressed her audience:
"Hogwarts students, professors, witches and wizards: today has been a day seven years in the making."
"You go, Evans!" Sirius cheered from her left.
Lily didn't have to look at him to know that Jen would hit him or behind her to know that James was grinning. This wouldn't be so bad after all.
"All of us have made it to this point in our lives differently. We all entered Hogwarts with different dreams, different ideas of what to expect while attending and of course, different ideals on how to complete seven years and come out as our best.
"We all had one dream, though. Today is that day; it is that dream…"
The cheering quieted down when James waved a hand. He leaned on the podium, elbows spaced apart and hands clasped.
"But enough about Gryffindor winning the Cup this year…" He cast a cheeky grin to Janna Rosado who in turn sent him a very bad hand gesture. Oddly enough, she was seated next to Slytherin's Captain, Leo Rockshoot, who must have thought the look was for him; his hand signal was much more aggressive.
"As my lovely partner already said, we've all worked hard to get past these seven years. Some of us came from Wizard families; we knew what was ahead of us and to come. Some came from Muggle families and knew no more than what they read in fairy tales.
"Though wherever we came from, we've made it to our Graduation as fully fledged Wizards and Witches and I believe we can all agree that this is something we all saw coming the moment we first loaded the boats at Hogsmeade."
James stood straight again and raked his eyes across the audience. "I'm sure there were times where today seemed impossible, but it's here and it's reality." He threw in his arms out and exclaimed, "We've graduated, guys. Can you believe it?"
Many of the graduates stood and cheered. A few sparks and fireworks were shot high from wands.
James turned to have a seat and saw McGonagall stand imposingly to calm the crowd.
He passed her with a large grin on his face and slid easily into his seat next to Lily. He took her hand and kissed her quickly on the cheek. "That wasn't so difficult," he whispered.
Lily raised a humoured eyebrow. "I could see your legs shaking from back here," she whispered back.
"You wouldn't have seen that, Lily," James said matter-of-factly. He closed his mouth when McGonagall, already seated, silenced him with a look. He leaned towards Lily's ear. "My robes would have hidden it."
Lily grinned and put a finger to her lips. She nodded to where Dumbledore was walking toward the podium.
James leaned back and took a deep breath. The Headmaster was bound to talk about Voldemort, Dark Times and other such things.
"Yes, thank you Ms Evans and Mr Potter," Dumbledore said and half-turned to glance at them. "How about another round of applause?"
The students, professors and parents clapped politely.
"I believe I shall end these speeches on a, ah, different note than that of our Head Boy's." He cast a twinkling eye in James direction. James grinned. "We all know of the terror that awaits us outside these protective walls, I need not have to explain it to you. It litters our newspapers daily and affects each of our lives. There are many choices you, our Graduates, will have to make once you leave this school. Will you continue your schooling elsewhere? Will you move out or even travel great distances? Will you succumb to the evil that knocks on our front door? Will you work against it to help eradicate ourselves of its presence?" Dumbledore gazed upon his audience.
Lily noted that some of the students and many of the parents looked somewhat uncomfortable with the topic of conversation. Dumbledore was being quite obvious with what he was saying and not his usual cryptic self. Perhaps these times called for a more shrewd approach.
"In saying that," the Headmaster continued, "I hope you all think very wisely of the choices you will have to make and their outcome.
"Congratulations on a fine seven years at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and I wish you all the very best of luck in all of your endeavours!"
There was some polite applause to his short speech and even it only lasted a short while.
"Now," Dumbledore continued, "we have some delicious snacks and drinks at the back tables if you all would like to stay and mingle with each other and your children. Thank you for coming!"
The echo of wooden chairs scraping on stone floor reverberated off the stone walls and wooden rafters above that could not be seen; the sky was full of large white clouds and stopped the sun from shining too heavily upon the Great Hall.
James jumped up, eager to get to his friends, but Lily held him back. She nodded to the professors.
"What?" James mouthed.
"We have to thank them," Lily mouthed back.
James gave her an incredulous look. Finally speaking he said, "I didn't understand any of that."
Lily gave him an impatient look and said, "We have to thank them, James, for all they've done for us these years."
Sighing dramatically, James agreed and together they moved towards the throng of teachers.
Lily led him to McGonagall first. "Professor?" she said.
Stopping her conversation with Sprout, the Professor turned. "Yes, Evans?" she asked.
"James and I," she gestured the two of them, "would like to thank you for all you've done for us these seven years."
"For putting up with so much, especially," James added.
"Your year always kept me on my toes, that's for sure," McGonagall replied with an eyebrow raised.
"You'll miss us, though, won't you?" James asked.
"You know," she said, "I just might." A small smile cracked through her lips.
"This will be one of the last times we see each other, possibly," Lily said. "Unless we ever run into each other in Diagon Alley or the like."
McGonagall narrowed her eyes slightly. "Oh I'm not sure those will be the only places we'll meet up," she said. In a very Dumbledore-cryptic way, she quietly added, "I have a feeling we'll be seeing more of each other than you think."
Lily was confused and James looked worried. "What does that mean?" he asked.
"Nothing for you to worry about, Potter. Thank you both for seven exciting years. I'll be sure to say goodbye to the others as well-"
"Minerva!" shouted Sirius happily. "Seeing as we're graduated, we can drop all formalities, hm?"
"Not until you're out of this school, Mr Black."
Lily and James manoeuvred through the crowd and now had to search for the other professors they felt it was necessary to talk to.
"I think the person most likely to become Minister For Magic is…" Mel put a finger to her lips and thought for a moment. "Oh! Patrick Boot. Definitely Patrick Boot."
Remus chuckled. "I think that's been his goal since he got accepted into Hogwarts," he said. "And if someone were to oust him?"
Mel continued to think about the answer, but Jen already thought of someone. "Severus Snape, wands down," she said immediately and with a serious face.
They all laughed.
Snape sauntered by, brooding like usual, and they stopped laughing. Through a few strands of greasy black hair, he sneered at them and continued on his way.
They burst out laughing again.
Many of the parents had left by sundown, though some still lingered, much to their children's annoyance. Mr Potter and Mrs Black were still chatting with the professors and Sirius kept throwing them uneasy looks.
"Why are you so worried, Sirius?" Lily asked.
"Hm? Oh, I'm not worried," he said distractedly. Lily looked disbelieving, so he added, "I'm just wondering what they could be talking about."
"Adult stuff," Lily said.
"Voldemort," James said, getting uneasy looks and flinch from Mel and Peter.
"You," Arabella threw in as she entered the group.
Sirius glared at her. "How nice of you to drop by, Figg," he said.
Ara shrugged. "I could only talk to Professor Adams – I mean, Carl – so long before it began looking suspicious." She shrugged again. "Besides, my aunt kept sending me looks."
"Is Janine still here?" Lily asked.
"Nah, left fifteen minutes ago, I think." Arabella toed the stone floor and looked down. "She… she said I got some post back home. From a job-like. An offer."
Every pair of eyes widened.
"A job offer already?" James exclaimed. "From where?"
"There's an old building in Aberdeen for a Wizarding magazine that's just getting started." Arabella took out the parchment from a pocket. She unfolded it and handed it to Mel. "It'll feature interviews with celebrities, Ministry officials and will have articles about new issues in the Wizarding world and such things," she said. "It sounds like a good place to start."
"The Pensieve?" Mel read aloud. She skimmed the letter.
"So you're going to do it, then?" Lily asked. "Aberdeen's even more North Scotland than Hogwarts, isn't it?"
James nodded and Ara said, "I'll be close to Carl, too, which will be nice."
"Do you think you two will get back-"
"We hope to," Ara interrupted and gave a significant look that meant the conversation was not to be had until safe in their dormitory from prying ears.
"I don't know how you did it Ara," Lily said. "All year without seeing him outside of, well, you know…"
"I wouldn't have been able to keep my hands off Lily if our situation was like yours," James admitted easily.
Ara's face turned wicked and some colour graced to her cheeks. "What makes you think I did?"
"You didn't!" Mel shouted. Lily and Jen shushed her. "When?" the blonde whispered.
"During the New Year's Ball."
Collective gasps. "There were so many people around that night!"
"You could have gotten caught!"
"You didn't get caught?"
James response evoked a proud smile from Ara. "No we didn't and I just couldn't help myself – did you see how good he looked?" she said.
"Did you see how you looked?" Mel intercepted. "I'm sure it was the other way around."
Ara shrugged once again during the conversation. "Whether I started or he did is moot," she said. "The point is we've talked about it-"
Arabella laughed, her face still tinged with pink. Remus and Jen were still awaiting responses. "A week or so ago," she told them.
The girl's mouths dropped. "We didn't know that. You've been so sneaky this year, haven't you?" Mel laughed.
"What you're telling us then," Sirius said, "is that you're moving even more north of Hogwarts because of a job offer you received, technically, before graduating and will be resuming your relationship with your professor?"
If he hadn't said it in low tones, Ara was sure she would have throttled him. After she punched him. And that after she poisoned him. Through gritted teeth pretending to be a smile, she said, "Yes."
"Excuse us," Jen said, grabbing Arabella's arm. Her other hand leeched onto Lily's. "We have some girl talk to do." Lily grabbed Mel's arm and they were off, stopping only to bid goodbye to Mr Potter and Mrs Black.
"Do you think everyone was surprised we didn't try to blow something up during any part of the evening?" Sirius asked casually.
"I think they were more surprised that we didn't spike the punch, actually," Remus added dryly.
"I think McGonagall still suspects us of something." James nodded in her direction.
While chatting with a few parents, the Transfiguration teacher was subtly examining objects within her vicinity.
"I think we've made her paranoid," Remus said.
"About time," Sirius grumbled. "It's been my goal since I stepped foot in this castle; to think the fruits of my labour took seven years is appalling."
"Your labour?" James repeated. "I believe we all had a part to play."
"Yes, but she's much more nervous of me."
"I wouldn't say Professor McGonagall is nervous of any student particularly, least of all you, Sirius," Remus commented.
"Well, if not nervous than… at least a bit wary of," he said, properly fixing his sash. "That and besides I'm devilishly handsome in this robe."
"I would say you're devilishly something, Sirius," Mr Potter said as he seamlessly joined their conversation.
"My son is very handsome," Mrs Black said as she came up and fixed his hair from behind.
Sirius ducked and fixed it himself. He glared and it was obvious he was wondering why they were still there. "Heading home after a long chat with Minerva?" he asked.
Mr Potter raised his eyebrows humorously at Sirius' tone and said, "I learned many a thing of which I did not receive in the post." He left it at that. Well, actually, he couldn't leave it at that. It wasn't his way. "I am just happy that it wasn't James who recited an absurd love poem to old Rosebud." When the boys flushed, Mr Potter continued, "I still remember when she taught us in school, don't you Celica?" He turned to Mrs Black.
She was smiling. "Oh yes, she was quite a nutter." She winked at her son. "Didn't know you fancied her, Sirius."
"Isn't it rather unfair that Peter isn't here to share in our memorable embarrassment?" Remus muttered.
"Yes, where is the boy?" Mr Potter asked. He frowned and looked about. "I was rather hoping to congratulate him, but it seems he scampered off after the ceremony."
"He's been scampering about since fifth year," Sirius said offhandedly with a wave of his hand.
"Perhaps he's gone to show his mother around the grounds," James suggested with a shrug. "They don't talk much; maybe they've actually gotten around to doing so."
"Tell him of my congratulations, will you son?"
"Of course, father," James replied.
Mr Potter clapped him on the shoulder. "See you soon, then."
Mrs Black kissed Sirius on the cheek. "In a few days, Jennifer and you will be helping the House-elves clean out the attic. Come home prepared," she said.
"That is a completely unfair way to start the summer, mum!" Sirius whined.
She raised her eyebrows. "I am enlisting the aid of the elves, Sirius," she said diplomatically. "Would you rather me not?"
"No," he mumbled.
"No, mother," he said louder.
She grinned. "I still have it," she said proudly. With a nod to Remus and James, she left with Mr Potter behind her.
The minute they left through the large doors, James shoved Sirius and exclaimed, "Mama's boy!"
"Shove off," he sneered. Quickly, though, the sneer became a grin. "Did you see the way she kept glancing at Moony?" he laughed.
"I did," Remus said.
"I think she has it in for you," James joked. "You've been dating her daughter for nearly two years, I think it's about time the two of you had a sit down."
Though his composure stayed calm and his face impassive, the colour of his face paled. "Have you had a sit down with Lily's father?" he asked.
"Somewhat," James replied cryptically.
"That means no," Sirius laughed. "And honestly, her father is much worse than my mother any day. Good luck, mate."
They started heading out of the Great Hall and decided to take a quick look for Peter on the Map. Sirius took it from his pocket and James brought out his wand and opened his mouth to speak the ten golden words…
But a wrinkled and calloused hand clamped on the length of his wand. Accompanying it was a gruff voice that said, "Gotchya, sonny."
The three boys jerked their heads in the direction of the arm and voice and saw Filch glowering at them smugly.
Their hearts sank for only a fleeting moment.
"Would you mind letting go of my wand?" James asked in a superior voice.
Filch sneered, his yellow teeth crooked, and released it. Before Sirius could pocket the Map fast enough, the caretaker's other hand shot out and grabbed it.
The three boys lunged for it.
"What do we have 'ere?" Filch asked. It was easy to see he was immensely enjoying his time.
"Scrap parchment," Sirius said immediately as James spoke, "Just rubbish."
Remus stayed quiet and tried to look as though their seven years of hard work, blood, sweat and tears was really just scrap parchment that should be thrown in the rubbish bin.
He felt his resolve fail when Filch said easily, "I'll just give it a toss for you then, eh?" He eyed their wary faces.
Usually they were much better at being convincing… but it was their Map… their baby.
Sirius let out the breath he was holding as a laugh. "You needn't do that, Filch, really. Just… just hand it here and we'll toss it ourselves."
"You've been working awfully hard these past seven years, what with chasing us around and all," James added. "We'll take this small burden from your shoulders-"
Filch's eyes narrowed. "No. No I'll make sure this finds a good, flaming rubbish bin," he said. And with that, he pocketed the Map, turned and limped down the corridor. Mrs. Norris trailed after him, her scruffy tail held high.
The three boys stared after him.
Sirius' mouth was trying to speak, but only helped him look like a fish out of water. Remus' eyes cast about them for a way to get it back and James…
Well, James was the first to speak.
"What in bleeding hell… I mean, did we just – and he honestly took… He took our…" He shook his head. "He can't take some random sheet of parchment from us!" he exclaimed suddenly. His eyebrows were drawn together and his face angry. "We weren't doing anything wrong!"
"Technically, I'd say the Map would be considered illegal," Remus said quietly, speaking for the first time.
His two friends rounded on him.
"I don't care what you'd say!" Sirius exclaimed.
Remus gave him a stern look. "What's lost is lost; we're finished school anyway. We'll be gone in a couple of days," he said evenly.
"How can you be so… unemotional?" James asked.
"It'll take time to sink in," Remus replied with a shrug.
"But it was our Map!" Sirius said.
"I was going to give it to my kids," James said sadly.
"I was going to give it to James' kids!" Sirius cried out.
Remus laughed. "What makes you think either of you would have gotten it after school?" he asked.
The other two frowned.
James said, "Well, I always assumed that I-"
"You thought you'd have gotten it?" Sirius asked incredulously.
"Well, yes. I am sort of the leader-"
His friend's mouths dropped.
"You thought you were what?"
James bristled. "I am Head Boy, so naturally I am meant to lead."
Remus burst out laughing and Sirius shook his head slowly. "Who found half of those passages during a midnight doggy romp?" he asked.
"Who found the other half during a rat's midday scampering?" Remus countered for Peter since the boy wasn't there himself. He paused. Weren't they supposed to be looking for him?
"What'd you do, Thongs?" Sirius asked.
"Other than come up with the whole thing?"
"You did no such thing," Remus interjected quickly. Before to two could respond he added, "Besides, we still need to find Peter." After a moment's pause, when Sirius and James seemed to settle some, he added, "And my name appears first; it would be rightfully mine." As he set off, the other two began the argument again, but followed him anyway.
They had found Peter – in time – beneath a pair of birch trees by the shallow side of the lake. He hadn't heard them coming and was terribly startled when they plopped down around him.
After his heart rate had slowed, Peter welcomed them with a weary smile and shrug to their questions of why he was here and when did he scuttle off?
"I've buggered up my life," he told them morosely.
Sirius barked out a laugh, while James sniggered appreciatively.
Remus grinned and said, "I believe what they meant to say was, How could you achieve that so soon after graduation?" He cast a glance to the two black-haired boys across from them.
Peter chewed on his lip. "It's just been a long time coming, that's all," he said slowly.
"Have you seen it coming?" James asked, still with a great deal of mirth attached to his voice.
"Oh Merlin, yes."
"Did you do much to prevent it from happening?" Sirius asked while he stretched out languidly.
Peter thought for a moment. "There were times," he began slowly, choosing his words carefully, "that I was steeled enough to put a stop to it, but it just kept on coming. I lost my resolve more than once."
Remus was frowning, though mostly to himself, with what Peter was saying.
James and Sirius shared a significant look.
"Did you actually cheat on Laura back in your relationship?" Sirius asked. James had to hide his laugh behind a hand. "Is that what this is about?"
James shook his head and said, "Doubt it, Padfoot. Wormtail doesn't seem to want to come right out and tell us, anyways."
Three pairs of eyes watched and waited for Peter to either deny or agree to the accusations. He cast his to the dark grass and blew upwards. The fringe of his hair flitted momentarily. "No," he whispered. "I don't."
James clapped him on the back. "Well, if you're not up to talking about it and we've not a damn clue as to what it is, let's agree to disagree on whatever it is that's irrevocably buggered up your life and get on with tonight's celebrations!" He stood suddenly, hands on hips. "I've got a bottle of firewhiskey with our names on it, lads. It calls to us like the moon calls to, well, Moony here." He gestured to Remus who raised his eyebrows in surprise. "Or Moony to the moon, whichever you prefer."
"Subtly in poetry was never your best suit, James," Remus said dryly.
"No kind of poetry is James' best," Sirius added, but stood anyway and nudged Peter with his shoe. "Bad poetry and all, the man is right."
"Let's make sure to lock our dorm, then," Remus said carefully as he too stood.
"I feel like wasting myself away tonight with my friends and a few good shots of firewhiskey," Peter agreed. It took him a moment to look around the starlit grounds until he stood along with his friends.
While they made their way back to the front doors, James shouted, "Onwards to our morning of hangovers!"
"I swear I never brought this much junk with me to school," Arabella grumbled the morning of the day before they were to leave Hogwarts for good. "I mean, honestly now. Whose is this?" She held up a hot pink tube of magical colour changing lipstick: "Good to let your wizard know when to back off or lay it on!"
"I wouldn't put my gold anywhere near that atrocity," Lily said with a disgusted face and tone.
Jen shook her head and shrugged, too immersed in a letter Remus had sent her during Christmas break. It was the sweetest thing she had ever read and hadn't truly thanked him for his concern.
Mel stepped forward; her face flushed, she took it from the brunette's hand. "It was a gift from Gus in sixth year," she said quietly. Ara raised her eyebrows, suggesting that the gift was probably the least romantic thing ever invented in magical territory. "He couldn't tell my moods easily in the beginning, alright? It was a bit of a joke between us," she mumbled.
Lily glanced at the two of them and repressed a smirk.
"You've been in a snippy mood all morning," Arabella observed.
"Sorry if we're not all flying high like you, Bella," Mel shot back.
All movement in the room came to a halt.
"Didn't I say that nickname was never allowed-?"
"Don't get snarky with me, alright?" Mel said evenly. She forcefully dropped the lipstick into her trunk and set about looking for more of her items that lay about the room.
The three other girls shared a worried look.
"Does this have to do with the letter you received this morning?" Lily asked tenderly. She slowly put down a long skirt into her trunk and stepped towards her friend.
"Does what have to do with the letter?" Mel had tried to sound uninterested and upset that Lily had suggested such a thing, but her voice cracked and throat constricted. She slumped onto her bed, leaned back against a post and covered her eyes.
Immediately Lily was at her side with Ara there a second after. Lily knelt on the floor.
"What was in the letter?" Lily asked softly.
"A c-contact that my mum knew offered me a j-job," she sobbed.
Jen stood slowly from her bed and made her way to the others. "How is that bad?" she asked.
Mel heeled her eyes to try and stop them from crying, but it seemed to be no use. "We're all going to move apart," she cried. "Ara will be coming back to Scotland and I'll probably take my job offer because it's so bloody good!" She continued to cry into her hands.
"We'll still correspond regularly and visit each other as often as allowed, Mel," Lily said. "You knew this would happen."
"Where is your job offer?" Jen asked.
"Far," Mel said in a defeated tone.
Her voice came out strained, like it was the first time she had said the place out loud, which it probably was. "Moscow."
"Oh sweet Merlin," Ara said before she could stop herself. She clamped a hand over her mouth.
Mel, finally releasing her eyes, waved to Ara and said, "See? I'll be in Russia and nowhere near you three!"
"How close are you to this contact?" Ara asked.
"She was my mum's best friend at Hogwarts, her Maid of Honour, my Godmother-"
"Alright, we get the point," Arabella interrupted.
"You're going to do it, then?" Jen whispered.
Eyes still filled with tears, her fists before her mouth, she nodded.
"Well," Lily said, finding her voice again, "I'm proud of you, Melissa. Don't let us keep you in the way of your dreams."
Her comment evoked sad looks from the others, started new tears from Mel and began some in the other two and herself. Lily stood up and wrapped her arms around the blonde.
"I hate this part of growing up," Ara said sadly. She rubbed Mel's back. "Really, you don't so much grow up as you do apart."
Jen gave her a sad smile and said, "You couldn't really ask a child what they'd want to be when they grew apart, though, could you?"
Mel rubbed her eyes once more with the back of her hands and used a tissue Lily had Summoned for her to blow her nose. "I'll give that a try in Moscow and tell you how it goes," she said, taking a stab at being uplifting. "We still have a month together, though," she added. "I needn't be there until the middle of July."
"Well, let's not worry about that now. We have more worrisome things at the moment."
"Such as?" Jen asked.
Lily glanced around to find something that should be worrying them. She picked up a tie that she had found under her bed earlier and smelled it. "It this your tie with the lavender scent or mine?" The question was posed at Mel.
"Yours," she said softly. "Mine smells of lilac."
"Is this your bag of dungbombs or mine?" Sirius asked to James who was emptying the bathroom of the few belongings he kept in it.
"Probably mine," he called back. "Yours expired a month ago and Wormtail and I had to use them with haste."
"Oh, right." Sirius made sure to lay them carefully on James' bed, lest they explode.
Remus was reclining on his bed, book in hand. He glanced up when Peter approached him. "Yes?"
Peter handed him a comb silently.
Remus frowned. "That isn't mine," he said.
Peter shrugged sheepishly and dropped it onto his bed. "I borrowed it in first year, lost it, found it in fourth year, took it home, lost it, brought it back in sixth year and forgot about it until now," he said.
Remus blinked once, twice. "You can keep it, Peter," he said. He went back to reading.
"Just thought I'd return it," Peter mumbled, but picked it back up anyways.
"Thank you." Remus lifted his eyes momentarily to Peter's retreating back and shook his head.
Dennis Loquart stifled a laugh. "Doubt I'd take it back, either," he said. He ran a hand over his recently shaven head. "I'm heading to the library to check the lost and found," he said to the room. "Anything specific you want me to ask about?"
"Nothing you could find there," Sirius said distractedly. The others knew he meant the Map.
Dennis shrugged and closed his trunk. Moments later he left.
James exited the bathroom with a bottle of shampoo and a couple other items in his arms. He dropped them into his trunk and then added the bag of dungbombs atop with no thought to doing it gently.
Sirius winced and waited for the appropriate explosions and stink to accompany, but neither happened. "You find everything of yours?" he asked, trying not to look at the discord that was his best friend's trunk.
"Pretty much," James replied absently.
"Remus?" The reading boy nodded. "Peter?"
"I have all my things from the bathroom," he said.
"Excellent," said Sirius. "That means the rest is mine by default."
"Wait-" James took out his wand, "I want to make sure." He swished his wand and said, "Accio anything I've forgotten."
"That's not going to-"
But it did work, and it silenced Sirius.
A piece of parchment shot out and stopped neatly before James' wand tip. He took it and unfolded the watermarked letter. His face went pale.
"Who's it from?" Peter asked.
Remus lifted his eyes briefly, but immediately brought them back up when he saw the look on his friend's face.
James held it out to Sirius. "It's for you, mate." When Sirius took his time getting across the room, James added more emphasis on his words. "From a long time ago."
Sirius took the parchment, but kept his confused eyes on James until he unfolded it. What he saw stopped his breath.
Remus' eyes flickered from one friend to the other. He daren't ask what it was.
"I can't believe you found it using such a shadily spoken spell…" Sirius walked mechanically back to his neat bed and sat down slowly. He took in a shuddering breath and skimmed the last letter his father had ever sent him. The letter he had searched for on returning from Christmas holiday. The letter he had destroyed their dorm over.
James cast a wary eye to his friends, not knowing what else to say.
Sirius folded it on its deeply set folding lines and put it in his pant pocket. "I'm going to go for a bit of a walk," he said, his voice a tone heavier.
They knew he meant to read it over in solitude.
They didn't stop him as he hurried from the dorm and didn't reprimand him slamming the door open or not closing it after he left.
Lily smiled as she read over the letter again.
Honestly! I didn't know these flats could come so small…
Janine has been a great help, along with you lot. Thank you again, Lily. That nifty (did I just use the word nifty?) box you gave me held so much. I'd have gone mad if I couldn't have brought everything in one box like that!
Carl's pretty much decided to move in here as well. It's a horribly big step; you don't need to owl back and tell me about it. But he's only around for these two months before school starts back up and he's left many of his things back at Hogwarts, so it's not like I'm more crowded than I would have been on my own.
And he keeps my bed warm.
And yes, you may take that any way you please.
Lily began laughing again. Arabella was very coy with her relationship with Carl Adams. Lily was happy that she'd found someone that suited her well. Her thoughts drifted back to someone Lily always assumed Ara fancied in an on again, off again fashion. She shook her head. Obviously she was over him and was getting on well.
I think one of you may have taken my favourite quill. I had barely thought of it as we packed, but it's not here, so unless one of the cats
Here there were a couple of scribbles; hand writing Lily didn't recognise took over.
Lily Evans, Carl Adams here. It's not just "one of the cats", it's one of the MANY cats. You could have warned me. Blimey, ANYBODY could have warned me!
There seemed to be a bit more of a struggle and a few nicks on the parchment before Ara's writing came back.
He loves them. Don't bother with a word he's said.
Anyway, Carl's made some sort of supper before interrupting our correspondence and he apparently feels that I should make an appearance after his recent assault, so I must be going.
Much love and many hugs,
More sign of a struggle and a hastily written,
Lily shook her head and put the post down. She leaned back on the headboard of her bed and looked around her cream-painted room. She had sent out a handful of resumes and had only heard back from one so far. They had requested a few Wizarding references, so she had forwarded it and a letter to Hogwarts, asking McGonagall for help, along with Flitwick. She knew they wouldn't be there, but perhaps whoever stayed all year – Hagrid most likely – would be able to send it on to them.
Melissa was leaving in a few short days to Moscow. Ara had been up on the weekend to help pack and would be back the following weekend to accompany them to Mel's new house. She was to take up residence with her godmother, in an upstairs flat of sorts in the woman's house.
Lily knew there would be no reason to try to stop her tears. They would come and she would not be able to do anything about it. The upside to all the moving was that they were able to use magic now and Apparate from one place to another, though they used the Floo to travel long distances they hadn't been before.
Remus was still looking for work, as far as Lily knew. He was staying at his brother's place still and Romulus had gone back to Australia after a short stint back in the London flat. Troy was gone most of the days and some of the nights, so she got letters every few days from Remus, requesting a time for tea or the like. She obliged every time.
Jen and Sirius had spent most of their first few days at home cleaning, the rest relaxing. Neither had sent out much in terms of job applications. By the sounds of it, Mrs Black was hinting at a job search, but the two seemed otherwise oblivious to the idea.
Peter, surprisingly, had found a good job quickly. A contact or a friend of a person who knew his father or mother or something. He was the Junior of a Chief of Something in Some Department in the Ministry. He hadn't explained it well to James and so James' broken explanation was hard to understand. She was happy for him, however. And she was proud.
James had entered Auror training right off the bat. Having worked with his father the summer previously and having his father an Auror, it got him a great deal ahead of the others who were to begin their training as well. He was able to skip a few units and was being tutored by an ex-Auror on the rest of the first year. He would be finished it by September, when he would start his "second year" of Auror training.
Lily still didn't understand how it all worked, but James had grown up with Aurors all his life and knew the basics, at least. He probably knew more than he let on, but it was probably how the Auror business was, so she let it be.
Lily had gotten up to turn off her light when a rather startling crack sounded from behind her. Lily let out a quick scream, thankful Petunia had moved out during her school year and wasn't in the next room, and spun around to face the intruder.
"James!" she hissed.
James grinned sloppily at her. "I think that may have been louder than usual," he stage whispered, indicating his Apparition.
"You think?" she snapped back in a whisper. She listened for her parents, but they must have been fast asleep. "What are you doing here?"
He spread his arms. "I came to tell you I love you," he said easily.
Lily narrowed her eyes and took in his appearance and slight swaying. "You've been drinking, haven't you?" she asked grudgingly. Then it hit her. "This is the Boy's Night Out, isn't it?"
"I haven't been drinking, Lily," he said. "I've had a couple of drinks, yes, but not…" He thought for a moment.
Lily waited patiently, her arms crossed. Her foot began to tap and she knew she was losing her cool.
He seemed to be doing some sort of calculation. "Well," he chuckled, "I guess I have been drinking."
Lily rolled her eyes at his great revelation. "Any reason you stopped by?" she asked.
"They dared me to come visit you "at this time of night" and to collect something of yours to prove that I did it," he recited carefully.
Lily stared at him. Even her foot stopped tapping. What?
"So I'll just be taking a pair of your knickers and be on my way-" He burst out laughing as he turned to her chest of drawers.
Lily ran to him to stop him from grabbing anything of hers she desperately wouldn't want the others to see. "No," she said, "I'll grab you something."
Anything to get his drunken self out before her father found them.
She searched her desk for something, then ripped off a piece of parchment, bent over and scribbled, You great sacks of firewhiskey-induced gits. He came, he stumbled, he laughed, he left. Happy? – Lily.
As she was writing, James' hand found her bottom and he read aloud as she wrote. "I didn't stumble," he corrected.
Lily turned, handed him the note – thought better of it and put in it pocket – and pat his arm. "Don't splinch yourself on your way back," she said.
"You could always come with me," he said in what should have been a sexy, husky voice. He leaned forwards, his hand on her bottom pulling her closer.
"I'm in my night clothes, James," she said reasonably, looking away from his suggesting face.
"We don't have to go back to The Leaky Cauldron," he whispered into her hair.
She swallowed and slowly pushed him away. "It's Boy's Night Out," she said with difficulty. "It'd be against the rules or something."
He planted a kiss on her cheek, which, despite her wishes, caused her to smile, and said a quick, "Love you," before Disapparating.
James didn't splinch, he was happy to say. And he did say it; loudly. As he re-entered the Cauldron.
There was some cheering on his behalf from a booth in the far corner. He weaved his way around the other patrons and tables before his found his three best mates in the whole world.
"You are my three best mates in the whole world," he told them as he collapsed into a seat beside Remus.
"No James," Remus said, his head being supported by his hands, which were in turn being supported by the table. "You three are my best mates in the whole world. You've done… you've done so much for me, I can't begin to explain…"
"Then don't, Moony!" Sirius exclaimed. He nearly knocked over their pitched of Butterbeer that they used to sooth the aftertaste of the firewhiskey.
Peter collapsed into a fit of laughter.
"Where is the proof, Thongs?" Sirius asked. He focused his eyes – albeit with a bit of difficult – on his friend. "The knickers!"
James opened his hands before him, looked long and hard at his palms and then frowned. Slowly he said, "She didn't trust me…" He thought for a moment. "I think."
"You are a bloody liar," Sirius said.
"No, I'm a liar," Peter mumbled pityingly to himself.
"We all lie." Remus waved the comment off and hit a gentleman behind him. He apologised immediately.
Peter laughed again.
"Wait…" James fished through his pockets. "Aha!" He extracted the folded parchment and handed it to Remus.
Remus waved it off, saying his vision wasn't allowing him to read much at the moment and Peter was wiping the tears from his eyes at the latest thing he found amusing.
Sirius took it, read it over and laughed. "You stumbled?"
"You did!" he exclaimed. "It says so right here." He pointed needlessly to the scrap of parchment.
"I don't remember," James said dismissively. "Maybe I did, maybe I didn't…" His red-rimmed eyes sparkled. "That means you lot have to take another shot. I completed my dare."
Remus grabbed his arm as he began to hold up three fingers to Tom, the bartender. "If I have to take one more shot, I might be sick all over you, James," he said slowly.
Tom headed over to their table. "Maybe you four should call it a night," he said. "It is a Wednesday after all."
"And a fine one at that!" Sirius exclaimed.
"I'll hail the Knight Bus, if you want," Tom offered understandingly. "I'd rather not have you lot trying to Apparate again."
James looked at Remus' half-sleeping face on the table and nodded.
Tom left and they each put some gold and silver on the table. Sirius and James helped hold up Remus and the four boys left The Leaky Cauldron to find the violent purple Knight Bus awaiting them.
The man waiting for them – So And So with Alliterating Initials – gave them a couple beds and brown paper bags. "Just in case," he had said.
After two drop offs of other passengers and one use of the paper bags, Remus was let off the bus at his brother's London flat.
James was passed out on one of the beds and Peter and Sirius each sat cross-legged on the other bed they had gotten. It rolled across the floor, bumped into the walls and nearly tipped once, but they held on easily enough.
The bus slowed once more and the doors opened. So And So with Alliterating Initials said the street name and Peter got up.
"It was a blast," he said groggily.
Sirius waved him off and flopped back onto what he now considered his bed.
Peter stepped off into the cool, damp night air. The bus shot off with a bang and disappeared around the street corner. The blond boy shuffled up his driveway and then slowly onto the un-kept walkway. Leaves and dried grass crunched under his heavy footfalls as he made his way to the door.
He took out his wand and pointed it at his door. He frowned. Slowly Peter turned to look at the decrepit umbrella tree by the front window.
Sat perched atop the leafless branches was an inky black raven, made to look more sinister by the streetlamp glow reflecting off its dark eyes and shiny feathers.
"Whaddyou want?" he asked it tiredly. He felt as though he might pass out into a long sleep any moment.
The raven merely cocked his head. It held a small letter in its beak.
Peter heaved a sigh and shuffled towards the bird. He reached out a hand, but it dropped it before he could grab it and took off. Its flight blew the parchment from the branches onto the chipped stone steps.
Peter sighed again and bent over to retrieve it. He felt bile rise – he was glad he kept his mouth shut – and grasped the letter tightly. He fought the urge to spit on it and toss it away in the fire.
With slightly trembling fingers, he opened it and read,
It is time. Your powers shall be refined. You will be marked.
A sweat broke out on his forehead and he felt hot and damp in the brisk night. His body itched of something not pure. Something not right. He read it again and a shudder ran down his spine and across his limbs, speckling him with goose bumps. He swallowed, folded the parchment and carefully placed it in his pocket.
With an unsteady hand – partially from the letter, partially from the alcohol – he opened the door and stepped inside his mother's house. He turned, stared out at the darkness and felt it begin to fill him up. He closed it eyes and shut the door.
End Chapter Eighteen. End Is Just To Love.
Witch of the West: I think you have your answer to the Ara/Sirius ship. Well, all may not be over… Or I'm just messing with you. Thank you for reviewing, as usual!
-mystikalolo-: Oh wow, I updated again! Of course there's a third series to my fan fiction story. The titles have to add up, don't they? ;) And besides, I couldn't have wrapped everything up in a couple chapters if I tried. Thank you for reviewing so faithfully.
Star19: Lol, it's a good thing you didn't hold your breath, eh? I hope you enjoyed reading and thank you, as always, for reviewing.
lissy: Thank for reviewing and reminding me of Voldemort's deeds sneaky letter. I had to go back and read it then to make sure I had it right!
HeirOfSnake: 'Fantabulous' is a good compliment any day. Thank you for reviewing
Beaver Buddy: I love that you mentioned Harry Potter Puppet Pals. "Bother! Bother! Bother!" That part always sends me into fits of laughter. And Exhibitionist!Dumbledore. He will forever be in my heart. Thank you for reviewing and for your usual random thoughts!
MelodyManorPP: Well thank you for coming out and reviewing! It's good to know that there're people still here from the beginning.
oobergoober: Please don't make me explain my reasons behind the NEWTS and how I laid it out. It all sounded great in my head at the time – that's all I can remember. I read back now and yes, it's confusing. Perhaps I'll change it in time. Thank you for pointing it out, though. And thank you for always reading and reviewing!
Lily Smith: And thank you for the review!
Seriously Sirius: I believe you ended the compliments at 'P'. Continue on. And why couldn't Sirius hug you…? –taps finger on mouth- Because I knew that was what you wanted! Muahaha! Thank you, Janna.
Lady Arwen: I am happy I asked to hear about the "sleeping in a hayloft" story. It is quite funny and reminds me of my friends and I when we used to go camping. "No forks are clean… I'll eat my KD with a knife!" Thank you for your review and lovely comments.
Kat44: Hm… James propose to Lily? Don't know when that's going to happen. ;) Thank you for reviewing!
Kool Aid: Oh I'll miss Cecil (Puofleur) as well. He's a fun annoyance to write. Perhaps we'll see him again. You gave a lovely long review and I thank you very much for it!
swizzlestix: Thank you for reviewing. I'm glad I could keep you through the chapters, even with the long wait between updates.
Tracey: Lmao, and I quote: I think I am about to check out your LJ. Am I? –asks self- Yes. Yes, I am. End quote. And to think, here we are now… Thank you for all your lovely comments, m'dear. You know they're appreciated!
Mary-Jane Black: Thank you for review so kindly!
Snowflake Prongsette: It's ok. I never remember what I reply to people in the thank you's, just as you guys never remember what you say in your reviews. It's just an ongoing cycle! Thank you for reviewing.
Princess Pixie Ice: Thank you very, very much for always reading and taking the time to review!
running out of ink: I'm glad to know that Cecil is being enjoyed by my readers. Thank you for reviewing :)
everblue3: I'll answer your questions; though I'm sure you don't remember asking them and already know the answers. 1. Yes, I'm still at the Bakery. 2. Yes I am recovered from surgery. 3. Life is still treating me with humour, yes. Would you rather me not try to combine so much into one chapter? ;) I believe I did the same thing for this chapter. I much prefer them this way. This'll pretty much be how the third instalment will turn out. It won't be thirty chapters, I swear. Thank you for coming back, m'love! I love seeing your reviews again.
Fiery Ace: Oh there will definitely be a sequel! I couldn't leave all those strings untied, could I? Longer? No, probably not. I have a feeling that the third instalment will be shorter than IJTL. Thank you for reviewing!
keyann: Yes, you used to spell it "rawk". Did you used to spell it "kewl", as well? Thankfully, I never went down that path of righteousness. :P I'm happy you approve how I implemented you into your character. It's all your doing, I swear. Thank you for reading, amusing me with stories on LJ and as always – reviewing.
always-blond: Thank you for the commitment to read the two stories over three hours! I hope my lack of updating hasn't chased you away. I'm glad you enjoy Sirius so much. He's a blast. Thank you for the, um, random review! Lol. It was fun to read.
Steph: Thank you for the lovely review!
Phelpstwins2hot: Thank you for your compliments on TGTYEL. Lol, don't know if I'll ever publish anything, but I may at some point in my life. Thanks for reviewing!
lilmissmolly: Thank you for the lovely review and hm… Sirius and Arabella? Not looking too bright now, eh?
And thank you to those who read and reviewed TGTYEL: weboflies, Lilyisme, starbird290, Some Random Reviewer and katiegal.
So now we've reached the end of Is Just To Love and will be moving on to And Be Loved In Return, which will be the end of our Lily and James ride. You could put me up on Author Alerts if you want to find out when I post the first chapter, or leave me your e-mail address and a quick note saying that you'd like to be on my mailing list to be informed when I update. I'll also post little notes in my Bio about when to expect the first chapter, so if either of the above options you do not like, you can always check there.
Thank you all, once again (lurkers and reviewers alike), from the bottom of my heart for staying with me, reading and letting me know when I've done something incorrectly and what not. It means a lot to me to have each of you here and I hope that you will all join me in the last and final instalment.
Have wonderful summers and I shall see you guys when I post the first chapter of And Be Loved In Return…