A/N: So sorry it took me so long to get this chapter up! I've been writing this concurrently with another story but since chapters for this story are twice as long and much more complicated, it's been slower to finish things.
Thank you again for all your support! To the readers and reviewers, you guys are amazing, and I really appreciate all the kind words you've given me over the years.
Matters of the Heart
"I gather you've all properly recovered from your first attack," Moody growled. "As you've seen, learning spells in training is very different from defending against a group of Death Eaters."
The recruits nodded sleepily. It was early in the morning once more, and training had just commenced. Lily rubbed her eyes tiredly.
"You all know the basics thoroughly by now," Moody continued. "Yes, even you, Pettigrew. But that won't be enough."
He paced around the room, eyes narrowed. "As you all know, Voldemort and his followers have been using the Unforgivable Curses without abandon. Of course, this is making things more difficult for us, but I'm not here to talk about that."
Suddenly, he halted to a stop. "Mr. Black. Stand up."
Startled, Sirius stared, and slowly obeyed. Before he had time to even process anything, Moody pointed his wand at him and shouted "Imperio!"
Instantly a sensation of pure joy floated over him, and his mind went blank. He had never felt so happy, so serene. Is this what heaven feels like?
And from far away, he heard a distant voice call out to him. Leap onto the table, the voice sang, beautiful and ethereal in his head. Sirius felt happier than he had his entire life, as if his life desire was to leap onto the table. Why not? he told himself. It sounds like such a good idea…he felt his knees bend…
Suddenly, the sensation was gone, and he found himself crouched on top of the dining table as James and Peter roared with laughter and Lily fervently giggled.
"Think it's funny, do you?" Moody snapped, whipping around, wand now pointed directly at James. "Get down, Mr. Black. We'll see how this one does."
The smile was wiped immediately from James's face and he now looked uncertain.
"UP!" Moody roared, and James quickly obeyed. "Imperio!"
And within seconds, James was doing cartwheels around the living room, shouting Remus's name non-stop. It took all of the recruits' control not to burst into laughter.
When Moody finally lifted the curse on James, James looked thoroughly confused. Sirius couldn't help it- he let out a snicker.
"Sit down, Potter," said Moody, and James quickly returned to his seat. "Right, now as you can see, the Imperius Curse is powerful. It gives you total control, and I'm sure you all are smart enough to recognize the consequences."
"Are you going to be teaching us how to use the curse?" squeaked Peter stupidly.
Moody's eyes narrowed. "No, Mr. Pettigrew. I'm going to teach you how to fight it." Abruptly, he turned to Sirius. "Up again you get, Mr. Black. Try and fight off the curse."
Sirius opened his mouth to protest, but with one look at Moody grudgingly stood. Before he had any time to gather his thoughts Moody yelled "Imperio!" and his mind went blank again.
This time, when the curse was lifted, he found himself beneath the dining table, crouched in fetal position. Moody's eyes were full of cold laughter.
"That wasn't fair," Sirius snarled. "You didn't give me any time to prepare."
"And the Death Eaters will?" snapped Moody, eyes blazing. "Again, Mr. Black, up!"
Hating Moody with every fiber of his being, Sirius dragged himself out from under the table and steadied himself. This time, he was prepared. For the third time, Moody shouted "Imperio!" and Sirius's mind went blank.
Go to James Potter, walk to Potter, the serene voice was saying in his head. Instantly, Sirius felt his body lumber towards where James was sitting. There was no resistance, walking to his best friend was the right thing to do…
But the voice, angelic and ethereal, did not stop. Punch James Potter, it said, punch him across the face. A small alarm went off in the back of Sirius's mind. Punch James? Suddenly, the voice didn't feel so right…
No, maybe I shouldn't, that doesn't seem right, Sirius's thoughts argued. His brain felt scrambled. He felt his arm lift and could barely make out James's apprehensive face, not two feet away…
Hit him, the voice echoed.
I don't think I should, Sirius responded.
Do it now, now!
There was a scream; Sirius snapped out of the curse and instantly felt agonizing pain in his knuckles; he had instead swung at a wall, and punched it full-force, leaving a dent in the plaster.
"Bloody hell!" cursed Sirius, teeth clenched. His hand throbbed; it felt broken.
Moody pointed his wand at Sirius's hand. Instantly, some of the pain subsided, though the part of his skin that had made contact with the wall was still peeled and bloody.
"YOU!" Sirius roared at Moody, losing his temper completely. "What if I had actually hit James? You can't do this! You can't pit us against each other for target practice, you'll have nobody left by the end!"
Chest heaving, Sirius stood defiantly, expecting Moody to give him an earful for his outburst.
Astonishingly, Moody smiled.
"That was well done, Mr. Black," said Moody, ignoring what Sirius just said. "You damn near beat it. I think that's enough for today. We will continue with this tomorrow." Without another word, Moody swept out of headquarters, leaving Sirius looking stricken.
Most of the recruits let out a sign of relief. Everyone groggily stood up and slowly disbanded. "Are you alright?" James asked, standing up to examine his friend's hand.
"Yeah," Sirius muttered. "Crazy old codger…"
There was a look in James's eyes, one that Sirius couldn't place. "Mate, are you okay?" Sirius asked, frowning.
"That curse is scary," spoke Marcella, making both boys jump. "It really seemed like you were going to hit James."
"But that wasn't me!" Sirius protested. "It was the curse-"
"Yes, I know," said Marcella patiently. "But you see, that's what makes it so powerful. With it you have total control. Someone could turn your best friend against you."
Sirius fell silent. He turned to look at James, and finally understood the look on his face. It was one of apprehension, as if he couldn't believe that Sirius would actually hurt him, even under the curse, and that Moody's demonstration had given him a bit of shock.
"I for one am glad Moody's teaching us how to fight it," Remus spoke up. "It takes lots of practice, and you can be sure the Death Eaters are using it even now to control important people."
"Why me, then?" said Sirius, teeth clenched. "What if I had seriously hurt James?"
"You think it was smart of him!" said Sirius loudly, rounding on him.
"No, Sirius, we know it was smart," interjected Lily, frowning. "Moody knew that the most resistance you would put up would be when he asked you to hit a friend. And he was right."
"You nearly beat it," said Remus evenly.
Sirius glared at all of them, but couldn't seem to find a proper retort. His hand was still bleeding. Instead, he turned and walked briskly out the front door, slamming it forcefully behind him.
"So full of joy, that one," Marcella said breezily.
James arrived at his parent's house in the late afternoon. He had been going to visit them every weekend since he found out they were sick. He knew he couldn't do anything – he was no healer. But it seemed even the healers couldn't do anything for them these days.
He always wanted to talk about their condition with them, but Mr. and Mrs. Potter were not fond of that topic.
"It's inevitable," his father would say. "Let's not linger on the future, let's just enjoy today." After a while James never brought it up, but their illness was always lodged in the back of his mind.
But today, he went to visit them with another topic in mind.
"Hi mum, dad!" His parents were in the living room, smiling up at him as he entered.
"It's great to see you," Mr. Potter said. He was looking paler and paler with each passing week. Both he and his wife rarely left the house now, partially due to lack of strength and partially due to James's fear that Voldemort supporters would kill them for information on the Order. The lines of age across both their faces were branching, expanding and deepening.
"Where's Lily, dear?" asked his mother.
"She's in training right now, for the ministry. She got the job," said James proudly.
"Oh that's fantastic!" said Mrs. Potter. "The one at the Department of Magical Law Enforcement?"
"Yes, that one." James paused, and sat down in an armchair. "Mum, dad, I want to talk to you about something."
His parents looked at each other. "What is it?" asked his father.
James took a deep breath. "I'm going to ask Lily to marry me."
He wasn't quite sure what reaction he was expecting, so he was only a little surprised when both his parent smiled wearily.
When they didn't say anything, he plowed on. "I know we're young, but Voldemort is getting stronger and stronger, and this war is getting worse. I love her and I want her by my side, always."
"James, you don't have to defend your decision to us," his mother said. "We'll always support you, and you know we love Lily."
"Really?" James said, surprised.
His mother smiled. "I could say you're too young, but this war has matured you, all of you. I could say that you haven't experienced enough of the toughness of life, that you're not ready to commit, but that would be a lie." She paused. "You've been through already what many don't experience in a lifetime."
"What your mother is saying is that we have no excuses, no reason you two shouldn't get married," his dad spoke. "We'll be behind you, everything you do. You're sure you want this?"
"I love her," James said simply.
"Then you're ready," said Mrs. Potter, smiling warmly at her son.
Relieved, James reached over to hug them both. "Thanks," he said quietly.
The next morning, Moody took turns putting the Imperius Curse on all of them in turn. By the end of the day, Sirius and James were the only ones that made progress in trying to fight it, though most of their attempts ended up in them crashing into a piece of furniture.
"Good, good!" Moody called as James, refusing to tackle Remus, had instead thrown himself into a table. "Progress Potter, very good! You can see it in his eyes, the rest of you, take notice!"
"He's mad!" hissed Sirius after training was over. His arm was bleeding and his head, which had rammed into the arms of a couch, was throbbing.
"How are you two able to fight it?" Peter asked, frowning. "I can't do it! The moment he puts the curse on me I slip into oblivion and I can't remember anything…"
"I don't know," James said truthfully, siphoning blood off his leg with his wand. "You really do have to focus."
"Plus, we have an advantage," Remus spoke. His last attempt at fighting the spell had been the only mildly successful one. "We know exactly what's coming, we can prepare for it. If you're just hit with the curse without being prepared it's a lot harder to fight off."
"You mean it gets harder than this?" Peter moaned. "I can't do it, I've tried, it's just not working…"
"You're not the only one," said Sirius. His eyes were slits. "Why d'you think Crouch is so suspicious? It takes a lot of time and skill to fight off a powerful curse like this, I'll bet you anything there are people in the ministry under the spell-"
"Don't say that!" interrupted Lily. Her green eyes were wide. James knew exactly what she was thinking – that she was now working at the ministry, and that she couldn't bear the thought of those under the curse around her.
Sirius opened his mouth to protest, but stopped at a warning look from James, and promptly shut it instead.
Suddenly, two people burst into the living room, and the recruits turned to see a very rosy-faced Alice Longbottom and an extremely pleased-looking Frank.
"We're engaged!"Alice shouted gleefully.
Instantly, the girls in the room gasped and erupted into cheers. Lily, Marcella and Faye rushed over to examine Alice's new ring, while Sirius, James, Remus and Peter congratulated Frank.
"Oh, it's beautiful!" Faye gasped, beaming. "Alice, this is wonderful news!"
"Isn't it though?"Alice laughed. There was a light in her eyes that James had never seen before. "He proposed in Hogsmeade, where we had our first date! Very quaint and romantic."
As the girls chattered, James grinned, along with everyone else. He couldn't help but notice how young Alice suddenly looked, as a bride-to-be…Alice's beaming smile lit up the room. Sometimes he forgot that she was not much older than they were.
He supposed that war aged people quickly.
It was Saturday, and after a long week of having their minds controlled by Moody, James and Sirius were looking forward to having some downtime in their flat.
"This is fantastic," Sirius said, grinning as he flipped on an old muggle television that Remus had given them for their new place. "Brilliant, really brilliant!"
James laughed. "Enjoying the muggle life?"
"Now that you mention it…" Sirius stopped on a channel with bikini-clad muggle girls strolling on a beach. A wolfish grin came to his face. "Absolutely."
Laughing, James got up to go grab a cold drink from the kitchen. As soon as he stood up, he heard a rapport of knocks on the front door. Frowning, he walked over and threw it open to find a completely enraged-looking Lily.
"What happened?" he asked, as she flew into the room, her face as red as her hair.
"I just got a call from my mother – OH SIRIUS BLACK WILL YOU TURN THAT DOWN?" she shrieked, as muggle girls on the television program giggled loudly.
"Alright, alright!" Sirius shouted, throwing his hands up. He grabbed the remote control and examined it with a look of utmost confusion. "How do I turn this off?"
James roared with laughter as Lily stomped over, snatched the remote from his hand, and clicked off the TV with the press of a button.
"You're a genius!" Sirius said cheekily.
"Shut it," snarled Lily, throwing the remote down on the ground. "James Potter, this isn't funny!"
"You haven't even told me what's the matter!" James protested, trying his hardest to suppress his laughter.
This effectively wiped all the laughter from James's face. "Wait, what?"
Lily paced quickly around the house. Sirius was now looking at her apprehensively from the couch, a gaping look on his face.
"I got a call from my mother," said Lily. Her whole body seemed to shake. "She asked me whether or not I was going to the wedding. When I asked her what wedding – she - "
She couldn't seem to finish her sentence, and instead plopped down on the couch next to Sirius, her head in her hands. Gingerly, Sirius put a protective arm around her shoulders. She lifted her head to look at him, surprised but pleased.
"Go on," said Sirius encouragingly.
"When I asked her what wedding, she said, 'Petunia didn't tell you? I thought she did! She's engaged to Vernon,'" Lily repeated, biting her lip. "My own sister, didn't even tell me that she's getting married… I knew we weren't on good terms, but it hasn't always been that way, and I always thought that when it came to something as important as this…"
James sat down on the other side of her, and held her hand in his. He knew she was trying very hard not to cry by avoiding his gaze, but her green eyes glittered with tears.
"And to that absolute pig!" Lily shook her head vigorously. "I loathe that Vernon guy, he's horrible! What she sees in him, I can't fathom…"
"At least you don't have to see his fat bottom waddling down the aisle-" Sirius started, but quickly fell silent at the stricken look on Lily's face.
"That's the thing," she whispered hollowly. "I don't even know if I'm invited to the wedding…"
"Well of course you would be!" James said, incensed. "How could she not invite you?"
"She didn't seem to find it important to tell me." Lily shook her head. "I had to find out from my mother, two weeks after it happened."
Hiding her face from James and Sirius, she buried her head in her hands again, relapsing into silent sobs. James squeezed her hands, and Sirius patted her on the back. Neither man knew what to say.
"What did Marcella say about all this?" asked James after a long silence.
Lily lifted her head; her eyes were puffy. "Oh, I don't know," she said. "She's been with Dan this entire morning, she said she had something important to discuss with him. Where are Remus and Peter?"
"Peter's working," James said. "Remus should be coming over any moment, I think he spent the morning with Faye."
"Those two should stop pretending like they can't be together," Lily said, letting out a shaky laugh. "They're only fooling themselves."
"That's what I told him!" Sirius said. "Blimey, he never listens to me…"
At that moment, there was another rapport of knocks on the door.
"Ah, must be Moony," Sirius said, springing up from the couch. Grinning, he threw the door wide open, to find himself face to face with Marcella.
"Hi!" he said loudly.
She laughed at the expression on his face. "Hi Sirius. Is Lily here?"
"I'm here," came Lily's voice from the couch.
"I thought you might be here, after I couldn't find you at Headquarters." Marcella stepped into the room, and gazed over at Lily on the couch, James's hands over hers. "Are you alright?" she asked concernedly.
"Petunia's getting married," said Lily in a constricted voice. "And she didn't tell me."
"Oh Merlin," sighed Marcella, sitting down next to Lily and giving her a huge hug. "Are you alright?"
"No, I'm very upset!" Lily said angrily. "I can't believe she wouldn't tell me about this, I thought she would finally be mature enough, after all these years, to accept me! Lord knows I've tried, you know I have!"
"I know," Marcella said patiently. "Petunia's not worth getting upset about, she'll never let go of her petty jealousy."
Lily sighed, and lapsed into silence. James gave her a quick kiss on the cheek, and Sirius had sat back down on the couch.
"I broke up with Dan," Marcella said conversationally.
"What?" Lily gasped, whipping around to face her friend. "You kept that quiet! Why did you let me babble on about Petunia?"
Marcella laughed. James quickly glanced over at Sirius, who was now two shades paler, and determinedly not looking in Marcella's direction.
"Are you okay?" Lily asked.
"I'm fine," Marcella said. "It just wasn't working for us. He's a great person, but I always felt like something was missing."
"Wow," Lily said, gaping at her. "You seem so – so fine."
Marcella laughed at the look on Lily's face. "I think it's been coming on for a while now. We're still friends. Don't worry about me, Lily."
Lily shot her a wobbly smile. "I really admire you sometimes," she said. "You're not shaken by anything."
"Not true," Marcella grinned. "But thanks all the same."
The girls stayed for a while to chat with the guys, and soon Remus, Faye and Peter had showed up as well. James and Lily made dinner for everyone, while Sirius and Marcella flipped through the channels of the television set, laughing and joking with each other.
"Look at those two," Lily whispered, nudging James as he chopped vegetables. "They're totally still in love with each other."
James glanced over to see Sirius playfully tackle Marcella onto the couch as she shrieked with laugher. He couldn't help but grin. "And you'd be okay if they got back together?" he whispered back.
Lily looked thoughtful for a moment. "Yes," she said finally.
"I thought you couldn't stand the idea," James said, mouth twitching.
She scowled playfully at him. "That was before." Smiling, she glanced over at Marcella and Sirius, who were now arguing about whether Remus should get a haircut. "I learned a couple months ago when Sirius and I had our talk by the lake just how much he loves her."
"He's scared," James said.
Lily shot him a small smile. "Aren't we all?"
Laughing, James pulled her in by the waist and placed a kiss on her lips.
"Oy!" came Sirius's voice. "You two! Stop snogging, our dinner's going to burn!"
Flushing, Lily broke away from James long enough to shout back, "stop complaining, you lazy arse! If you actually tried helping us, for once-"
"Then the dinner would burn faster," Sirius yelled back cheekily.
"Don't worry, Lily, I'll get him back for that one," Marcella grinned, now chasing Sirius around the living room as Remus, Faye and Peter roared with laughter.
When they all had settled down enough to eat, Lily and James brought out the food, and everybody dug in, famished. Lily had forgotten all about Petunia andVernonby this point. But as she glanced over at her best friend, she noticed a hint of sadness in Marcella's eyes, one that her laughter couldn't mask.
"Thanks for dinner," Peter squeaked after everyone was done eating. "I have to get back to Diagon Alley, I have the night shift too."
"Blimey, mate, they're working you to death!" James said, frowning.
Peter shook his head. "I'm alright, I promise."
"Take care, Wormtail."
As Peter walked out the door and disapparated, Lily and Marcella stood up to leave as well. Lily gave James a quick kiss, then the two girls headed out and towards Headquarters.
"Marci, are you positive you're alright?" Lily asked quietly as they walked along the cobbled streets. The flat was not a very far walk from Headquarters, and the stars were bright in the summer night sky.
Marcella grinned ruefully. "You know me too well Lily. The breakup with Dan was actually pretty difficult. I really did love the guy, you know."
"I know," Lily said softly. "So why?"
Sighing, Marcella turned to look at her. "Lily, you're going to hate me, but here goes. I still have feelings for Sirius."
To her surprise, Lily smiled. "I know."
"And you don't hate me?"
"Never," Lily laughed. "I just don't want to see you get hurt again…"
"I'm not looking to start something with him," said Marcella quickly. "I just didn't think I was being fair to Dan." She paused. "It was clear to me he wasn't the one."
They walked along in silence for a while, each marveling at the quiet streets ofLondonat nighttime.
"I do have to tell you something though," Marcella said presently. "Remus told me something that I'm probably not supposed to be telling you. The only reason I am is because I'm not sure you're entirely prepared or ready for this."
"What is it?" asked Lily apprehensively.
Marcella took a deep breath. "James is going to ask you to marry him."
Lily was thunderstruck. A thousand different emotions seemed to shoot through her body at once, and her breathing became shallow.
"Oh my god," she gasped. "Oh Merlin… Are you sure?"
"Just relaying what I heard."
"No, no I'm not ready for this," Lily said, beginning to panic. "We just graduated, I'm only eighteen years old! I'm not ready to get married – I – Marci, what do I do?"
Marcella shook her head, now looking like she regretted her decision. "I don't know… Maybe I shouldn't have told you - "
"I'm glad you did," Lily said, nodding so quickly she resembled a bobblehead. "Yes, because now I can prepare, now I can tell him-" Suddenly, she fell silent.
"Lily? Are you alright?" Marcella asked concernedly.
"I don't know," Lily sighed.
Marcella turned and grabbed Lily by the shoulders, eyes locked on hers. There was a glimmer of anger in them and Lily wanted to back away, but the next second it had disappeared. "Lily, listen to me," Marcella said quietly. "You love him, don't you?"
"Yes, of course!"
"There's no saying when he'll ask you. Maybe it's a week from now, maybe it's a year from now. All I'm saying is, don't panic. Don't overthink it. Just – let things be. He loves you, so much so that he wants to live his life with you."
Lily stared at her for a moment, then gave a wobbly smile. "You're right, Marci," she sighed. "I was being stupid. I really do love him."
Marcella laughed. "I know. And trust me Lily, you're very very lucky."
And in that moment Lily knew that her best friend was thinking about Sirius, and she truly realized just how lucky she was.