Summary: Begins at the start of the Marauders' last year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and continues on until that fateful Halloween night. James Potter finds out more than one secret that was hidden from him and also discovers that his feelings toward a certain Lily Evans are changing from spiteful rivalry to something...more.

Author's Notes: I know, I know. You all want to shoot me. But look how freakin' long this freakin' chapter is (over 13,000 words)! I tell you, this was not an easy thing to write! Constantly being distracted and such by my other fanfics and originals! Plus school! School was actually hectic this past Spring! I hope that while during school, my writing this won't dwindle this bad again! I'll post against this summer! You can count on that! -grins-

Actually, I had planned to get this out May 28th, but then I just never got to it. Then I decided, why not post on this thing's second B-day June 6th...didn't work either. But now, I have finally got this part out and this fic is officially two years old! Imagine...wasting two years reading this thing...must drive a lot of you nuts...why would anyone read a fanfic for that long? O.o? Anyway, on with the dedication, the disclaimer, and then the fic! WHOO! -cheers-

Dedicated to: Living In A Nightmare! Thank you for saying that this fic wasn't clichéd--even if it really is! It really does mean a lot that you think it's an original idea and love it so much, so this chapter is for you!

Disclaimer: Pfft! Quit annoying me about this! I haven't been sued yet, have I?! (that's a no to the people who don't know me -.-').



Of Hidden Truths
(Unexpected Surprise)

Almost a day after what could have been considered a romantic disaster by some, the cold feeling in James' hand had yet to leave. The memory of Lily's anger and disappointment continued to eat at him, never relenting and always reminding him of the promise that had been made. The promise that said he would tell her everything...

Everything?

No matter how many times he went over these thoughts in his mind, nothing seemed to line up. If he left out the one crucial part of why he left, then it would seem only half-told. If he told her...well, that wasn't a reaction he was looking forward to.

That was what he had been doing the whole day while Sirius, Remus, and Peter were at another meeting. Letting his thoughts chase themselves in circles until he was almost certain that the room he was sitting in was also round in shape, rather than rectangular.

Shaking his head, he rubbed at his face to try to clear his thoughts. It might have worked if he hadn't been interrupted, but then again, things never turned out that way.

"Well..." said Remus' voice from the doorway, "you put yourself in a right situation."

James looked up to him, confusion apparent in his features. "What do you mean?"

Remus leaned back out of the doorway to look down the hall before looking back to his friend, appearing slightly afraid for James' sake. "Lily was upset at the meeting, and Sirius talked to her," he said seriously. "I got here before he did to warn you--"

"James!" came the angry bellow.

"--that he gets right mad whenever someone upsets Lily," finished Remus before he quickly backed out of view, almost immediately followed by the next bellow, "James William Potter!"

"Over here, Sirius," said James, knowing he was just around the corner and doubted he would ever really be ready to face whatever Sirius had planned to say.

He was proven correct when Sirius soon appeared in the doorway, a large frown on his face and an angry look in his eyes. "You--" he started to rant before quickly halting, noticing James' demeanor, "Why are you so depressed?"

There was an urge to laugh at Sirius' expression, conflicting between anger, confusion, and concern. However, James merely sighed and leaned back in his chair, gazing at the ceiling as he dully answered, "Because I couldn't tell her."

There was a long pause.

"You--I--?" stammered Sirius for a moment or two before he burst out, "You take the pleasure out of yelling at you!"

James looked over to him with a frown. "Why are you yelling at me anyway?" he asked, a spark of anger flaring up within him. "Are you Lily's big brother now?"

Sirius snorted. "I was going to stop you from being stupid," he stated firmly before he abandoned that train of conversation and asked, "Why didn't you--"

"It complicates things!" exclaimed James, sitting up in his seat. "I've told you that he threatened your lives if I didn't join him! He knows I'm back now and if I act against him--!"

If anything, this only served to increase Sirius' anger. "Oh, this is nothing but excuses--" he began to say as Remus once again stepped into view, preparing to keep one of the two of them from doing anything they would regret later on.

James, however, barely realized his presence, focused entirely on Sirius for the moment. "I don't want Lily to have feelings for me if they'll get her killed--!" he began to shout. After an entire day of just thinking about it, he was finally letting it all out.

"Why should that matter?" asked Sirius harshly, almost sneering at James, who scowled at him. "Why would it matter that she cares about you if you don't return those feelings--"

"Shut up!" shouted James, infuriated by his friend's assumptions and accusations. "You don't know what you're talking about!"

Sirius, however, ignored this statement as it didn't appear to have the answer he wanted and merely demanded, "Why do you care what happens to her?"

Why did he care? James felt frozen in time, just hearing Sirius' question resonate through the air. How could Sirius ask him that? Why would anyone care about what happens to their mother or father? Why would anyone care about their closest childhood friends? Why would anyone care about any of them? But was that the reason why he cared? No, he knew. This was different because...

"Because I love her!"

He froze, realizing he had said the last part aloud. Sirius was staring at him with a blank expression, as if this was the confession he had been pushing to get out of James. Remus, however, seemed supremely shocked that such a confession would escape James so quickly.

"James..." he said in a helpless manner as James gritted his teeth, standing from his seat to glare at Sirius.

"Damn you, Sirius," he growled lowly. "You did that on purpose!"

Sirius crossed his arms, hardly affected by his friend's anger. "So what if I did?" he questioned in a challenging manner.

"You idiot!" shouted James. "Someone could have heard! He has his spies everywhere!"

The other man rolled his eyes in exasperation at this behavior, having seen it more times than he would like to admit. "Don't tell me you're afraid to say his name!" he cried, tossing his arms up in the air before stomping a foot for emphasis as he then shouted, "Voldemort!"

"Sirius!" exclaimed James, appalled by what his friend had just done, fearing the consequences.

"What are you so afraid of?" demanded Sirius, finally growing tired of the fight that he had began no less than thirty seconds ago.

"Of everyone dying because of me!" was the already-known answer.

"We can take care of ourselves--" Sirius began to say through teeth gritted in pained annoyance.

"But Lily--"

Sirius quickly cut him of by taking two long strides and placing himself in front of his friend, letting James know how serious he really was. "If you really care for her, James," said Sirius lowly, "you'd protect her. Not push her away and hope Voldemort never gets the idea that you're in love with her!"

James felt a sudden chill with those words and immediately denied in panic, "I'm not!"

"You are," stated Sirius firmly, driving home the real reason he had suddenly attacked his friend. "Face facts, James. You admitted it yourself."

"Sirius." Remus quietly approached him and placed a hand on his shoulder to signal that his work had been done before looking to an apparently angered, distraught, and hurt James. "James..." he began slowly, "I know you're afraid. I know you want nothing to happen to us...but I also know that no one here wants to know the reason you're unhappy and miserable is because you kept yourself from being happy for them."

James looked to him for a moment before shaking his head. "You don't understand," he said painfully. "Even if I...even if I could risk her life...she wants to know...know why I left, why I couldn't--can't--"

Realization dawned on Sirius. "She made you promise. Damn," he muttered before softening his expression to that of an apologetic one, having not wanting to force the truth out of James yet again. "Look, James. I'm telling you now that that won't effect anything. If you both feel the same way about each other--"

James shook his head again, halting his words. "I-I can't," he said, looking to Remus and then to Sirius again. "Sirius. If I can't even tell...how can I tell her?"

There was a slight pause here. "If you want," offered Sirius kindly, "I can--"

"Don't you dare," said James sharply.

Sirius' right eye ticked slightly. "Well, you're being a--" he began to say with an angry tone.

"A coward?" supplied James. "A slimy snake crawling away when danger comes?"

Sirius took a step forward but was restrained from going farther by Remus' grip on his arm. Instead, he pointed a finger at James while gritting out, "Don't put words in my mouth. Don't EVER compare yourself with him!"

"It was what you were going to say, though, wasn't it?" asked James with a sneer. "That's why you're so angry about it."

Sirius' eyes widened and then narrowed at this. "Don't you dare say that," he said lowly. "Don't you ever say that!"

James crossed his arms with a heavy frown. "You could have at least told me you would hold it against me," he said much to the surprise of his friends and himself. "If you hate people that have a history with Slytherin so much, do you hate yourself?"

Sirius stared at him for a long moment before turning away, shoving Remus aside so that he could leave the room. Remus continued to watch the two of them with shock and dismay. Where had all of that come from? Just a moment before, it had seemed like they were back to being the old friends they had once been. What had brought on James' sudden attack on Sirius?

"James," said Remus slowly, still watching the doorway as if hoping Sirius would come back in to work out whatever problem James had brought up to make him so angry, "that was uncalled for."

"He was the one who started it," said James heatedly, his arms still crossed.

Remus looked to him with a frown. "James..." he started to say, but trailed off as a thought came to mind. "Why did you bring Slytherin into this?"

Now James' own anger seemed to falter, almost falling to a borderline 'deer-caught-in-headlights' look. He managed, however, to keep it up a moment longer as he replied, "Because Gryffindor isn't the one wanting to kill Muggles, is he?"

"I don't..." began Remus skeptically before another thought came to mind. "Wait...James...are you--do you have a history with Slytherin?"

James quickly looked away, signaling that the werewolf was right on track. "I don't."

Remus put a hand in his pocket, holding onto an object that had begun to go off. "You're not being truthful," he said bluntly, making James look up at him in surprise. Remus then pulled out a whistling Sneakoscope, a sadden expression on his face. "I carry this everywhere now-a-days, especially around people I know."

James looked wounded. "Why?"

"I suspect," said Remus as he began to tuck the no-longer whistling Sneakoscope into his pocket, "there's someone leaking information in the Order, but it's just a suspicion. Now, the matter at hand--"

"I don't have anything to do with Slytherin!" shouted James, desperately hoping for a different result from the last time.

The Sneakoscope began to whistle again.

"Care to try again?" inquired Remus, gaining a tired look.

James stared at the Sneakoscope, wanting it to stop saying he was untrustworthy, wanting it to agree with what he said for once. When it never happened, he looked up to Remus, quietly asking, "You're interrogating me?"

"No," said Remus, finally tucking the horrid object into his pocket, "because I know you wouldn't side with Voldemort."

"I have a reason not to," muttered James sourly, wishing it was back before Sirius had come in. Even he himself was confused about why he had said the things he said. Was it because Sirius had seemed so sure of himself, seemed so sure he knew what was going on? Had he just wanted to see Sirius off-balanced, just once? Even during that incident in Sixth Year, Sirius had never seemed unsure.

Why did he want to hurt Sirius so badly?

"Just one?" asked Remus, bringing James' thoughts back to what was happening right then. "Or the things I know?"

James hesitated. "...about four reasons."

"Ah, yes," said Remus with a nod. "Your mother, you being Gryffindor's Heir, he threatened us, and...?"

He watched James expectantly.

"Remus," said James painfully, "I don't want to--"

"If you need to tell Lily this," reasoned Remus, "you can start by telling me. James...if you can't trust your friends, who can you trust?"

James shook his head. "This isn't about trust," he said tiredly, having already been on this topic with Sirius once before.

"Oh? Prove it then." James looked up to Remus in surprise. Remus looked very stern, much like how McGonagall would have looked like when she knew that James was hiding something. "I didn't want to have to push--" Remus started to say before he stopped himself, wilting. "No. I won't press you anymore. You've had enough of that from Sirius. I ask you, James...as a concerned friend."

James felt a lump in his throat at this. He wanted to tell his friend everything, but it just seemed so hard.

"...Remus," he said instead, "I don't want you to know. I don't..." He grimaced at what he was about to say. "I don't want you to turn me away."

Remus' expression lightened somewhat, a small smile coming to his face. "James...that would be a bit hypocritical of me if I did," he said, amused.

James hesitated, realizing for the second time since he had come home that Remus was one person who completely deserved to know what was going on with him. Hadn't he, after all, given up his very own secret in Third Year? Was he really being selfish for not wanting to tell?

Only about as selfish as Remus had been about his own secret, he reasoned. That was the reasoning that made him slump in defeat, that made the words slowly and painfully slide from his hold.

"...I do have a history with Slytherin," said James quietly, looking to his hands as Remus' partially-knowing, partially-curious expression became too much, "...a recent history."

There was a long pause before Remus asked the deadly question, "How recent?"

The dark-haired wizard shut his eyes, pushing away the memories that began to rise with this confession. "...I saw him Sixth and Seventh Year."

Again there was a long pause, but this time it was more because of the shock that had been created by this statement.

"...dear Lord..." said Remus in a whisper, at long last. "James...Voldemort is--?"

James shook his head before looking up to his friend again, feeling crushed at his reaction before the entire truth became known. "It's more than what you think," he said quietly. "I'm afraid of him because..." Here he had to pause to swallow, his mouth and throat feeling suddenly dry. "...if-if he could...be the reason I'm alive...he has the power to be the reason I could..."

He didn't dare look at Remus again.

"...oh, Merlin..." said the werewolf, stunned. "This...how can this be possible? Dear Lord...if the Ministry were to know this--"

James muttered sourly, "As far as anyone--not including Voldemort, Sirius, Dumbledore, my dad, you, and myself--knows, I'm a Potter--"

"But, James," said Remus with great concern, "if the Ministry ever does find out--"

"I know!" shouted James as he looked up to his friend again, a sudden feeling of hysteria clouding his thoughts. "That's another thing I've been afraid of! That's why I asked if the Order was a part of the Ministry!"

This didn't shake Remus out of his stunned and shock state, however. "I can't believe--" he began to say before suddenly cutting himself off, trying to focus. "Is this what you're afraid to tell Lily?"

James eyed him darkly. "No," he answered sarcastically, "I have another horribly, dark secret."

Distracted, his friend muttered, "No sarcasm," before shaking his head. "Honestly, I wasn't expecting something so..."

"Horrifying?" supplied James with raised eyebrows before becoming serious. "Now you see why I left? Remus, I'm almost certain he has people in the Ministry--"

"They wouldn't try anything at the workplace," said Remus with a heavy frown as he appeared to be in deep thought.

The other wizard cocked his head with a cynical look. "Are you so sure?" he asked before pausing and adding, "And the reason I've avoided his name...the letter I got from that raven, it said, 'Speak my name and I shall come.'"

"They're just words, James."

He stared at Remus for a moment, not sure of what to say. He wanted to believe what his friend said--truly, he did--but he had the unsettling feeling that he was, in fact, mistaken. "What if it's a spell?" he asked for argument and fear's sake. "What if, because I said his name, he can hear us--see us?"

Remus frowned. "That's a powerful curse."

"He's studied dark magic extensively," said James, catching Remus' attention. "That's why my mum married my dad." He looked down to his hands. "She left him while he was gone. He thought she was dead..."

"Sixth Year..." breathed Remus with understanding.

He closed his eyes again, quickly pushing away the thought of that year. What a horrible year that had been. "Remus," he said after a while. "I don't want anyone else to know about this. I want you to not breathe a word about this to anyone besides myself."

Remus' voice became confused as he began to say, "Sirius--"

"Not even Sirius," said James, opening his eyes and looking to his friend. He had to be sure this secret stayed secret, and by keeping the fact that another person knew from other people who knew, the chance of the secret coming out into the open became slimmer. With a deadly serious expression, James finished, his voice quiet, "Take it to the grave if you have to. Please, I am begging you."

Remus watched him for a long while before sighing and nodding, closing his eyes for but a moment as agreed, "All right, James...I swear I won't. Not a word."

---

"So you have a dilemma."

James looked to his father with a irritated expression on his face. "Nice to know you can take this lightly," he said darkly, not at all caring if it was slightly rude..

Edward Potter shook his head. " A dark subject can't be taken lightly," he stated calmly before adding after a moment of thought, "Your situation, at best, is not good."

His son muttered, mildly sarcastic, "You're setting a record on understatements."

"Mm..." murmured the elder man with a slight smile, though it wasn't at all cheerful. "So what do you plan to do?"

James sat quietly, pondering over that question for a long while. He had, after all, sought help from his father for this very reason. It was, after all, quite late at night. James wouldn't have been able to have this conversation with Edward at any other time after that night, for there was much to be done at work and in his spare time. That was why he had determinedly made his way to Demmin's Grove.

Finally, with a sigh, he slouched back into his seat, answering quietly, "With only two days left...I don't have a clue."

Again he sighed as he looked up at the ceiling of the house, pursing his lips together while Edward waited patiently. "...it shouldn't be this hard," murmured the younger wizard distantly before his eyes narrowed and he demanded with a firmer tone, "Why is it so hard?"

"I can't answer that for you."

James lowered his head to look to his father, who watched him carefully, gauging his every movement almost. Only a moment paused until James shook his head and then laughed a little. "Now you sound like a Buddhist monk answering the question, 'What is the meaning of life?'"

"Honestly, James," said Edward with a slight sigh, knowing that his son was attempting to cheer himself up, "it's only because I don't know the answer. Unlike you, I didn't have to go through what you're going through. But that doesn't mean that I want you to go through it."

Depression seemed to settle upon the younger man with these words, his shoulders slumping along with his already slouched figure. Tiredly he rubbed his face. "I just don't know what to do," he practically moaned into his hands.

Edward chuckled slightly, somehow finding some grim humor within the young man's actions. "All I can offer," he said lightly, "is this: Follow your heart. Mind you" --he rose a hand, index finger pointed into the air-- "though your mind may seem more logical" --he tapped his temple lightly-- "it's more deceiving and can be easily mislead."

He lowered his hand slowly, a somber expression crossing his features. "It was something your mum was fond of saying," he said quietly.

"I know," replied James just as quietly before he went silent for a moment. "Dad?"

"Mm?"

James looked up to his father with a worried expression. "You'll be safe, right? You'll be careful?"

Edward smiled a little before chuckling. "Of course I will," he said lightly to keep the atmosphere cheerful. "You know me, a regular old Potter."

His son shook his head, amused. "That's what worries me," he stated.

"Why are you so worried?" said the elder man with a furrowed brow. "Voldemort has no reason to come after me."

James looked dubious at that. "If you're sure..." he said hesitantly, not sure whether or not to believe the man who then gave him a light smile.

"I'm sure," said Edward, his voice soft. "I'm not a threat to him. Even if I were--" He paused, thinking for a moment before relaxing into his seat more. "Well...let's just say I have ways of avoiding confrontations."

To that, all James could say was, "Good."

---

"Lazy." Mad-Eye pushed his index finger against the side of James' head, only to watch it roll back into place when he took it away again. The younger wizard barely noticed and merely opened his eyes for a moment before shifting to where his arms cradled his head on the desk and blocked out all of the light.

"'m not..." he stated as a convincing argument.

Sirius found all of this amusing and informed Mad-Eye, "He visited his dad in Demmin's Grove."

The old Auror snorted at that. "That won't matter if you're facing a group of Death Eaters, now will it?" he demanded as he took out his wand and flicked it, waking James some. James sat up, frowning and rubbing at his eyes, giving Mad-Eye dirty looks whenever he could focus.

"Up you get, Potter," said the elder wizard roughly, pulling at James to stand, which he reluctantly did. "I don't want you sitting on your rear when you get killed at least." He then stood in front of James and forced the younger man's shoulders back, looking quite ridiculous as he was shorter than James. "Stand up straight."

"Very ominous of you, Mad-Eye," said James tiredly, a quizzical frown now over-taking his annoyed one. "Why do I have to stand, anyway? We're not doing anything."

Mad-Eye grunted, his false eye turning to the back of his head to look to where Sirius was reclining in his seat, his hands folded behind his head as he watched the scene in amusement. "Black and I aren't," he eventually stated, "but you are."

He narrowed his eyes at the younger wizard standing before him. "You're standing because you need to learn to be proud. Stare your enemy in the eye. Don't let him win."

James sighed, looking over the shorter man's head. "Whatever you say--"

A woman interrupted him by sticking her head into the doorway. "Alastor. Professor Dumbledore wishes to speak with you."

Mad-Eye's false eye swiveled over to eye James while he turned to face the young woman to acknowledge her message, then he turned to Sirius. "You two, follow me," he said, giving James the idea that his false eye was still trained on him even after Sirius stood and stretched before following the Auror over to a fireplace.

There sat the head of the Hogwarts Headmaster.

"Albus," said Mad-Eye suspiciously. "Is all well?"

Dumbledore looked more serious than normal, making James focus on the meeting at hand. "I'm afraid to say all is not well," said the headmaster gravely. "A member's family has been attacked at Demmin's Grove--"

James pushed Mad-Eye out of the way, startling everyone in the room except Dumbledore. "Is he all right?" he demanded of the wizard whose head sat in the fireplace. Urgently and fearfully, he asked, "Is he--does he--?"

Somehow, Dumbledore managed to cease his words with merely a lowered brow. "For the moment, he is fine," he said, calming the anxiety that had been growing in the pit of James' stomach. "Only a pair of Death Eaters attacked, and they did him no harm with curses or otherwise."

James could have fallen over in relief, but as soon as he felt the comforting weight of Sirius' hand on his shoulder, he asked the headmaster, "Where is he?"

"St. Mungo's, if I'm not--"

James didn't give him enough time to finish his statement as he turned, brushing away from Sirius and racing by Mad-Eye, only to shout back, "Sign me out, Mad-Eye!"

---

"Sir--Sir!" shouted a healer as James looked anxiously around the lobby of St. Mungo's. He turned to the healer, panting slightly as he had practically raced to get there, though he knew he could have simply Apparated if he had thought of it. "Can I help you? You--"

"Edward Potter," James managed to get out, startling the healer as he aggressively moved closer. "Where is he?"

"This way, if you please." The healer then gestured for him to follow, walking at a quicker pace than normal, knowing that the young wizard would not be patient. "Headmaster Dumbledore had informed me you are a member--"

"Yes, yes," said James impatiently, knowing that the healer would be asking if he was a relative or not. "Where are we going?"

"A new ward," said the healer grimly as they passed a room filled a man's shout. James tuned it out the best as he could as the healer continued, "It was opened for situations like this."

James looked to him, startled. "Is he all right? What's his condition?"

The healer paused before a door, making James come to a sharp halt. "External injuries were minimum," informed the healer with a mask of utmost seriousness. "The Death Eaters didn't harm him. However..."

James' stomach plummeted with that word.

The healer looked at the young man in the eye with a frown. "I hope you know that your father has a weak heart. What the Death Eaters intent seems to have been was to cause it to fail and to leave him there as if it had happened naturally."

This news shocked James more than anything, but he shook his head and asked, "What about now?"

The healer could only shake his head apologetically. "...magic these days cannot make a heart anymore healthy than it is. Potions have been given to him, but..." He paused, looking very sympathetic to James' pain and worry. "I don't know how long his health will stay."

James removed his glasses to rub at his eyes. After a moment of taking deep breaths, he then replaced them on his face and gestured to the door behind the healer. "...is this it?"

The healer nodded. "Yes," he answered before adding as James brushed passed him, "I'm afraid you only have a few minutes--"

James had already entered and shut the door.

Edward looked over and grimaced from his position on the hospital bed. "I told Dumbledore it wasn't serious," he grumbled, pushing himself up into a sitting position.

James felt his heart clench at the sight of his father barely managing to sit himself up. "Dad..."

"I'm all right--" Edward began to insist before James walked over to his bedside, shaking his head as he put his hands on the elder man's shoulders and pushed him back to the bed gently.

"You shouldn't sit up," he said quietly before taking his hands away when his father didn't respond. James bit his lower lip and lowered his eyes. "Dad, the healer told me about your condition..."

"I'll be fine, James," said Edward, stubbornly sitting himself slightly. His expression hardened. "I'm not about to go like this--"

"Dad!" shouted James with a reprimanding tone, catching the elder man off-guard and making him stare at his son in astonishment. James sighed and quietly requested, "Lie back, please..."

Edward frowned, but complied. "It wouldn't be right," he continued as though he hadn't just been scolded like a five-year-old, his voice at a murmur. "Not at all. I hadn't done anything, those bastards--"

James cut him off with a sharp look. "They don't care, Dad!" he exclaimed, his anger at what had happened to his father making him shout, "They attack Muggles--men, women, and children--and they don't know anything! He's not targeting you, he's targeting me--!"

Edward frowned heavily. "Don't make me get Sirius to come here," he warned, cutting off James' rant.

"You can't say it's not true, though, can you?" There wasn't a reply, and James deflated, feeling his anger burn out just as quickly as it had come. "Dad...I wanted you to be safe--"

"I am safe," said Edward with a huff. "Voldemort wouldn't come here just to finish me off." There was so much confidence in those words, James felt as though he could believe him.

---

The rest of the day passed with a lot more anxiety and shouting. Most of the shouting, however, had come from James and Sirius as they argued about whether or not James should stay at St. Mungo's. No matter how much James had insisted he should be there with his father, Sirius countered all his reasonings by pointing out that he had another big thing coming up the next day and should be able to get some rest. It wasn't likely, but Sirius had finally talked him into heading back to Remus' with the promise that he would stay with Edward.

James was still uncertain of his decision the next morning when he had gotten out of his bed feeling as tired as when he had got into it.

The rest of that day was spent with his thoughts.

"So," said Remus, entering the kitchen, where James had been sitting for the past six hours. The werewolf busied himself by setting a kettle on the stove and getting out some tea. "Today's the last day, isn't it?"

James looked over to him, looking pained. "Yes, it is," he muttered before sighing and looking at the ceiling, stretching his stiff back. "Merlin, I can't do this..."

"James," said Remus, making James look backward to see a now-upside-down wizard watching him seriously. "You can."

James sat up straight and shook his head, not looking to Remus again as he stood. "I'll have to go soon...takes a bit to get back to London, and I..." He paused before quietly finishing, "need to think..."

He was only slightly surprised when he felt a hand on his shoulder, a comforting gesture he had been receiving a lot lately. "Don't worry, James," said the werewolf standing behind him with a quiet voice before he removed his hand and turned back to his tea. "I'll tell Sirius where you went."

James nodded, thankful for Remus' help, before he took a deep breath and then started to head out of the small cabin.

---

After Apparating and then catching a train, James was finally at Lily's apartment's door. Actually standing there and realizing how close it was to being time to confess his reasons for leaving did absolutely nothing for him besides making him feel even more ill than he had during the train ride.

"Calm down, Potter," he murmured to himself in a scolding manner. "You're acting like you're about to face a Horntailed Greenback or something. Deep breath." He followed his own instructions and inhaled and exhaled only to pause and realize-- "...I can't..."

He would have left--he could have left, but somehow Lily had seemed to know he was there and opened the door, sticking her head out into the night. "James?" she asked, her voice slightly firm. "Is that you?"

James took one last breath before turning to face her and answering, "...yes, it is."

Lily frowned at him. "Isn't it a bit late?"

James stared at her, feeling suddenly like a fish out of water--in other words: completely confused. He then regained his composure enough to frown slightly and say, "You made me promise. In" --he looked at his watch-- "...twenty minutes, it'll be exactly seven days."

Lily seemed stunned that he had actually remembered. "I see."

There was a silence between them, and James shifted slightly. "...invite me in?" he asked hopefully, not wanting to have to say his confession outside in the night like that.

She blinked at him before starting. "Oh. Right," she said as if she had just realized what she was supposed to do. She stepped to the side. "Come in."

"Thank you," said James politely, feeling awfully awkward as he stepped into the apartment. At first, he was rather surprised at how Muggle it looked before the door closing snapped him out of those thoughts and reminded him that Lily was, after all, Muggle-born. "Nice place."

"Been here for almost a year," said Lily as she walked briskly passed him to head into the kitchen. James watched her go before following at a subdued pace. The witch continued her explanation from the other room, "Once my sister--"

"Sister?" he asked, never knowing she ever had one.

"Petunia," said Lily stiffly, as if it wasn't a topic that she really liked to talk about. "Once she got married to that oaf Dursley, I was able to move out."

"I see," said James as he stood in the middle of the room, feeling as if he shouldn't touch anything. When something caught his eye, however, he couldn't help but to go over to the mantle with several pictures sitting on them. One of them was a still picture of three young teenagers racing down a hall with a fourth one lagging behind.

He frowned slightly, not remembering a picture being taken then. He heard Lily exit the kitchen before he asked, "Where'd you get this?"

The red-headed young woman put the two cups of tea down before going over there to stand beside him. When she saw which picture he was looking at, she snatched it from view. "I took it...at Christmas," she said, giving him a narrowed-eyed, suspicious look. "My mum sent me a camera and it works at Hogwarts because it runs on batteries."

James blinked, the frown still heavy on his face. "I see..." he said slowly before backing away from the mantle, which Lily replaced the picture on.

She stayed there for a long moment before she finally sighed and said, "...James, you--"

"You should..." began James, interrupting her, knowing he should get on with the reason he was there for, "...sit down."

Lily looked to him with a slightly furrowed brow that made her emerald eyes seem to glisten with an odd emotion that he didn't quite catch as she started towards her small couch. "All right," she said before turning around and sitting herself on the couch, leaving him standing as the focus point of the room now.

James removed his glasses to rub at his eyes, sighing and muttering to himself, "Where to begin..."

Finally, though, he lowered his hand and replaced his glasses, ready to start, "...in our Sixth Year...my mum was killed by Voldemort." He gave Lily a quick glance before looking away again. "You know that already," he said with a sigh. "What you don't know is that...Voldemort is...the Heir of Slytherin, and my mum...was the descendant of Gryffindor."

Lily stared at him. "You're...?" was all that she could manage to get out.

James closed his eyes, mustering the strength to continue. Could he really do this? Could he tell her that one dark and terrible secret?

"...in Seventh Year," he continued, his voice now rough as it became harder and harder to get the words to come out, "I tried to keep my friends from knowing, but Remus spied this--" He pulled out the amulet on the golden chain, the one thing he hadn't been able to part with when he had left everything behind two years before. "--and got it right off the bat a short time after Sirius and I had that row. So they all know what I am...then..."

He had to keep going. He couldn't stop there. He couldn't leave anything out. He had to tell her.

He continued with some hesitancy, still refusing to look at Lily to see her reaction, "...in the end of the year...at the day of the Ceremony...Voldemort sent his Death Eaters to get me." He had to swallow, his mouth had become so dry. "They tricked me into thinking I was going to meet Sirius at the edge of the Forbidden Forest. They surrounded me, blinded me, and bound my hands."

The time was almost there, but he still didn't know if he could go through with it or not.

"They used a portkey," he said, his words coming at a quicker pace than the last, "to take me to him...it was then..."

Merlin, this was it...

"...he revealed that..."

No, he finally released as he ran a hand through his hair and closed his eyes. He couldn't do it...

"...he wanted me," he said instead of the actual truth, his voice dull, feeling sickened by the thought that no matter how much he trusted Lily, he couldn't allow her to know that one secret, "to join him...to save my friends..."

He finally managed to look at her, seeing her wide eyes staring at him with some surprise. "...to save you," he finished quietly.

Things were silent for a moment before Lily finally said, her voice just as quiet as his had been, "So you left."

James winced and looked away again, seeing the hurt look on her face though it mingled with understanding. "I thought that if I couldn't be found..." he explained tiredly, feeling as though he had said this so many times already--which he had, "...he wouldn't do anything, and he didn't...not until I came back..."

He trailed off, remembering where Sirius and his dad were.

"Did something happen?" asked Lily, her voice concerned and snapping James out of his thoughts.

Again he winced, thinking of the possibility that she was only concerned because she thought Remus or Sirius or Peter had been hurt. "He attacked my dad," he replied, refusing to see her reaction to that. "My dad's at St. Mungo's with what could have been just a heart attack."

Lily was quiet for a moment. "I'm sorry," she finally said, her voice sympathetic.

James sighed. "So am I..." he admitted, finally managing to look over to her to see her watchful gaze following his movements, a saddened yet understanding expression on her face. "That's why I ran. That's--"

"Not the reason you should push me away," she interrupted, the firmness in her voice returning only slightly. All that James saw, however, was the hurt of what he had been doing to her.

He rushed to explain, "I don't know what else I can do to protect you--"

"Why do you want to protect me?" she asked boldly, stopping him from saying any other excuses.

He stared at her for a long moment, studying the proud way she held herself, but seeing the pain and hurt beyond that. Pain that he was causing just by speaking. "...I can't..." he quietly said, wishing she really knew why he couldn't, wishing he had been brave enough to confess the other half of the story...

Perhaps...all he really was...was a snake crawling away when danger came...

Lily bowed her head. "I see," she said before standing to walk to another room.

James caught her hand before she could leave, a motion he had done once before. This time, however, he knew she wouldn't look at him, didn't want him to see what she was feeling. She stayed there, though, waiting for him to say something--anything. All he could say, however, was, "Have you read what I wrote?"

He felt her tense under his touch at the question. "No," she answered, making his heart sink before she then said quietly, "but I've kept it."

James hesitated. "Let me see it," he requested softly, releasing her arm to let her go and get what he had written. She didn't move, however, and merely pulled out the folded parchment from her pants' pocket.

This would have surprised James, but once she handed it over to him, he didn't have time to say anything about it. Instead, he unfolded the parchment and looked at the writing, a somewhat amused and reflective expression on his face. Then without preamble, he read it aloud:

When winter comes
The air chills,
Digging into my flesh,
Numbing me from what I feel...

Then as I stumbled
Into a drift,
You were there to catch me,
Help me out with a lift.

Unused to the warmth
you seemed to give,
I tried to push away,
Tried to find another way to live,

But you refused to go,
Clung onto me
So that I wouldn't leave.
Then you told me softly,

"'When winter comes
the air chill.'
That is how you believe,
That is how you choose to feel.

That isn't what I believe,
But I will continued you round:
'Though the cold is harsh,
Warmth can be found.'"

I was lost and confused
Of what you had said,
But then as I wondered,
I understood where this round led.

You did not mean
That the cold could go,
That it was real,
And all it could be was snow.

When winter comes
The air chills.
That is what I said,
That is what I feel;

But that did not mean
That the ice couldn't melt,
That warmth wouldn't stop the chill,
And the cold stopped me from what I felt.

I understand now,
What you have said,
But that doesn't mean
That the winter is dead.

I am still lost in the winter,
In the snow...
I can't returned to you, yet
I can never let you go.

When the winter comes
The air chills.
It is all I have known,
It is all I feel.

Perhaps I will feel more again.
For now, I can only say:
"It is too dark at Night to see you,
But I hope to find you one Spring Day."

The silence that came after the reading made James afraid to see how Lily had reacted to that. In all honesty, he had written the poem after talking with Jess that one time during the winter and wasn't sure what kind of reaction the witch before him would have.

After a moment, however, he dared to look away from the parchment to see Lily watching him with her hand to her mouth and her emerald eyes sparkling with some unshed tears. "That was beautiful..." she barely whispered.

James felt his cheeks warm at that, but didn't say anything about her words as he then turned to place the parchment on the coffee table next to the two now-cold cups of tea. "I wrote it...hoping you'd understand what I'm going through...that...I'm trying to do the right thing," he said before looking back to her. "Do you see what I'm saying?"

Lily nodded slowly, lowering her hand and holding that hand with her other. "Yes," she answered, looking less like she was going to cry and stronger than she was before. "I supposed I do..."

He gave her a small smile before looking down at the ground and rubbing the back of his neck, uncomfortable with the new silence that had fallen on them. That was it...it was over. There wasn't anything left for him to say. "...I guess," he said slowly, "I'll be going then--"

Before he could move, however, she grabbed his hand--the same one she had jerked away from a week ago. He looked up to see her eyes narrowed in determination. "You think it's that easy?" she demanded, not angrily but still firm. "I've waitd two years, James. I can wait longer if I need to."

"Lily--" he tried to object, not wanting her to have to wait anymore. She didn't deserve that at all.

She closed her eyes. "Don't," she said, stopping him once again before opening her verdant eyes, which were glistening again with what he suspected to be tears she was suppressing. "James, I don't care what you are. I care about who you are."

She paused, looking straight into his own gray eyes, letting him see all that he needed to see. "We used to...resent each other," she said, reliving those memories with him. Memories of their Hogwarts days...before anything had happened. "And then you want to go out with me at the end Fifth year." She laughed a little at that. "I didn't--couldn't stand you then, and since I turned you down, we became rivals.

"You've--we've changed since then, James," she continued, bringing a hand up to brush s stray strand of hair from his eyes. He knew she wanted nothing to block her from him, even if he himself tried to keep her at a distance. He wished he didn't have to, wish there wasn't anything tying them down.

"I know I'm not the same I used to be," whispered Lily, making him unconsciously move closer to hear her words, "because I'm not afraid of my feelings. You're not the same because--"

"I grew cold?" supplied James quietly, seriously.

Lily shook her head. "You grew up. You're more sensible, you listen, you think ahead of time, you're open-minded, you're responsible, you're--you're different." She put her hand on his cheek, leaving her other in his hand. He didn't want such a simple touch like that, no matter how much it made his heart flutter. He wished he could actually embrace her, but he felt as thought he didn't deserve to for keeping her in the dark, for being what he was...

Still, she continued, "You changed Sixth Year. You've become a better person, but..." She hesitated here, taking a deep breath and closing her eyes before she finally said it, "I care for you. Both the good...and the bad. How you are now, and how you were make up who you are."

James stared at her for a long moment before raising his other hand to touch the hand than sat against his cheek. "Why?" he asked, making her look up at him again. It pained him to see her say this to him, and yet, she knew he wouldn't say anything in return. "Why, if you understand, are you doing this?"

"Just because something is keep you from saying the words," she answered with a smile, "it doesn't mean that it isn't true, that you don't feel it."

Then, she surprised him by taking her hands away and bringing them up to his glasses, which she carefully removed. "Even with these on," she said quietly, never looking away from his eyes as she spoke, "you can't hide that look. James...in our last year at Hogwarts, we became close, didn't we? Real good friends, I would say...what made you have that look?"

"Time," was the only thing James could think of to answer her question. He then sighed, lowering his eyes. "I'm sorry, I just..."

He trailed off before deciding to go with a different track. He might never have a chance to say the right words, but he wanted her to know...that it was true, no matter what. "When I was away," he said quietly, "I had a friend. He tried to get me together with some other girls, but...I felt sick at the idea. All of the time...I felt as though I was ill...each time there was snow...I just stood there, feeling colder and colder."

He looked up to meet her eyes again. "I tried to ignore it, but..." He stopped himself, shaking his head, not able to bring himself to doom her with his words. "I'm sorry. I should go."

He broke away from her, not caring that he was leaving behind his glasses. She stopped him before he had reached the door by asking, "What was the secret? The foundation of all things great...and evil?"

He hesitated, his hand hovering just above the door. He lowered his hand, however, and looked back to her. "Just what you think it is," he answered, barely seeing the saddened look on her face as she watched him.. "And where is yours now? Do you still fear it coming back?"

"It is where it has been..." she said quietly, her voice sounded as though she was about to cry, which pained James more than anything. "Every day, I am afraid..."

James looked away. "That is what I was afraid of," he said, just loud enough to be hear by him as he then opened the door.

"Will you return again, Sir Knight?"

He looked over to her again and gave her a small, barely felt smile as he then replied, playing along with the old titles. "Perhaps at an earlier hour, my Lady," he said before turning back around and exiting the apartment, feeling worse than when he had first entered it.

---

Even in his nearly blinded state, he managed to get as far as two streets from her apartment before the painful feeling that came from leaving her gave him became too much. "Maybe I should--" he said quietly to himself, turning to look at the building just as a crack! filled the air and Sirius appeared before him, panting.

"Sirius!" he exclaimed, hurrying over to his friend's side, looking around for any sign of Muggles. "What are you doing popping out of nowhere--?"

"James," interrupted Sirius, who had to put a hand on the other man's shoulder to keep himself standing, "it's an emergency--Edward--"

"Dad?" asked James in alarmed, realizing why Sirius would be so out of breath. "What happened? What's wrong?"

Sirius looked up at him with a deadly serious expression that only came when it was a life-or-death situation. "Aurors are need at St. Mungo's. Voldemort's somewhere in the building."

---

It was pandemonium.

"Dear Merlin! We'll all be killed!" shouted a healer hysterically. "We'll all be killed!"

James didn't stay to hear what else that healer had to say, but he could hear Sirius shout from behind him, "Get these people out of here! Frank! Portkey them to the Ministry!"

"Right!" responded Frank before he and a large clump of witches and wizards disappeared out of sight. The portkeys were necessary to use in a situation like this because with the people being too scared to think straight, Apparation would be too dangerous and someone would get spliced. That and the fact that the Apparation Ward was in place to prevent any Death Eaters or the Dark Lord himself from disappearing too soon.

James spun to Sirius, who just managed to catch up to him. "Where is he?" demanded the frantic wizard, who hardly cared if his vision wasn't at its best. "Where's my dad?"

"Hold on, everyone!" shouted Mad-Eye from a far corner before Sirius could say anything. The old Auror disappeared with the group he was surrounded by, only to be replaced by Frank appearing again with a portkey in hand just as James started to take off again.

"James!" shouted the slightly elder man, getting in his path. "What are you--?"

"I'm not letting him get my dad!" shouted James, trying to shove by Frank, but only managing to be pulled away from the other Auror by Sirius, who then shouted, "Frank, you take charge!"

Frank's pale face nodded before he hurried over to another area of mass confusion. "Move it, everyone! Quickly now--"

"James!" shouted Sirius as his friend tried to shove him away. "James!"

"Let me go, Sirius!" shouted James, still trying to get away.

Sirius grunted as his foot was stepped on by the struggling young man he held. "Calm down! Think for a moment!" He somehow managed to slam James into a wall, keeping him from breaking away from his grasp. "Voldemort will take advantage of your fear and anger! Calm down and think!"

James stopped struggling, and Sirius reluctantly released him, not sure whether or not to trust him in this chaos. James looked back to his friend, panting. "I--" he began to say before he saw something move over Sirius' shoulder. Then he blanched. "Oh, Merlin..."

"James?" asked Sirius, not sure what was wrong. "What--?" He stopped himself as soon as he looked behind him. All the Aurors and healers were rushing to get out of the room as black-cloaked figures entered the large room. Curses flew, but several Death Eaters continued on a straight path toward James and Sirius.

"Potter and Black," said one Death Eater when they all reached the two Aurors, his face hidden by a mask. "The inseparable duo...the Dark Lord is coming."

The screams had stopped, so James could only assume that those that hadn't managed to portkey out had been killed. The thought left him feeling sick as the Death Eaters' wands remained solely on he and Sirius.

"He's in a good mood," commented a second Death Eater, on the right side of the center one who had first spoken. "You might make it out alive."

They were mocking him, he knew. Mocking him because they knew the only reason that James was still alive.

"Have you made your choice, Potter?" asked a third, his voice sounding familiar to James, but the mask made it seem muffled and more raspy, whosever it was. "You...or the dog?" The Death Eater trained his wand on Sirius, who scowled.

"Bunch of cowards," he snapped angrily, hating that they were out-numbered, "hiding behind cloaks and hoods."

The second Death Eater snapped back, "You'd think so, wouldn't you, Traitor?"

"At least I'm on the right side!" shouted Sirius, only being stopped from doing something stupid by the one wand aimed at him.

Then, the one voice James dreaded to hear came, "But where is the line that determines that?" The Death Eaters parted down the middle, stepping to the side and keeping the two young men against the wall, to permit Lord Voldemort entrance. "Hello, James."

James felt as if he was about to burst with the odd combination of fear, hatred, and disgust he felt toward the Dark Lord. "What are you doing here?" he demanded, glaring at the dark wizard. "Leave my dad alone!"

Though his face was hidden by a hood this time, James knew there was a sneer on his face when he heard those words. "I see you refuse to acknowledge your heritage," said Voldemort quietly. "Does that mean you refuse to join me?"

James could have sworn his heart skipped a beat at that question, and he looked to Sirius, eyes wide with realization. Then he turned Voldemort, shouting, "I'm not joining you or Dumbledore!"

"Ah," said the Dark Lord, anger lacing his words like a malevolent presence, haunting his words and making James begin to tremble, knowing the consequences, "but I have information contradicting that." Voldemort stepped closer, causing James to back away. "You are very clever to have known what I have done. 'Speak my name and I shall come.' My, my. Your Order uses my name so freely."

"What's to be afraid of?" challenged the forgotten Sirius smartly, catching the wizard's attention. The younger man smirked. "Something Muggles use to clean their toilets with?"

James felt himself go cold as Voldemort's attention focused onto Sirius. "Sirius Black," said the Dark Lord with a his in his voice. "Such a sad disappointment. I had high hopes for you when you were younger." Sirius bristled at this but refused to take the bait. "Sad that you became a Gryffindor."

"If you knew my mum, you would, too. Trust me," was the smart reply.

Lord Voldemort then turned to James again, just in time to see the look of horror on his face at his friend's words. "What is the matter, James?" he asked kindly, though the tone betrayed his words. "No witty remark like your friend? Ah..." He looked between the two younger wizards, now seeming amused. "I've noticed the two of you get into quite a few arguments.

"I especially enjoyed," he continued darkly, "the one where your dear friend told you to...'face facts.'"

Sirius tried to pounce on the Dark Lord, but was held off by two Death Eaters. "You bastard--!" he shouted before being punched in the gut by a third servant of the evil wizard.

"A Mudblood, James?" asked Voldemort as if he hadn't noticed the attempt. James looked away from what was happening to Sirius to see how close the Dark Lord was now. "Surely not the same one you had once detested? Ah...it is, I see."

Dear God...Merlin...he knew...somehow Voldemort could tell when he wasn't being truthful...

"Yes, I remember now," said Voldemort calmly with a wicked grin in his voice, "...that last conversation you had with her. Rather careless of you to use my name."

James felt sick. "No..." he said in denial, shaking his head. "I didn't...I didn't!"

"Awfully pathetic, really," said the Dark Lord with a disgusted tone. "A Mudblood. As if our blood isn't soiled enough. It would be best to be rid of her troublesome self before--"

Suddenly, James found himself lunging at the other wizard, only being stopped by a Death Eater that had happened to be standing close by. Fury over-took some of the fear, allowing James the courage to shout, "You leave her alone! Don't come near her! Don't even think of her!"

"Struck a chord, have I?" asked Voldemort, amused before he backed away slightly to allow a Death Eater to pass near him. "Well..."

James froze when he saw who the Death Eater had. It felt as though his heart was in a vice grip as he stared at the captive, his eyes widening. "Lily--!" he shouted but cut himself off as Voldemort stepped closer to the young woman, afraid of what the other wizard would do.

"Lovely creature she is," said the Dark Lord, bringing a hand close to Lily's face before he seemed to change him mind and dropped it away, a digusted tone in his voice as he continued, "but...she is of Muggle blood--"

He rose his wand and aimed it at the witch, making James leap forward in the restraining grasp of the Death Eater behind him. "Stop! Leave her alone!"

Voldemort ignored his shouts and continued to stare at Lily, who continued to say nothing as her captives had wands pressed against her. "You wish you had listened to him before when he tried to keep you away, don't you, Mudblood?" he hissed in her face, making her turn away, but he reached for her face and turned it to face James. "See him there? He is in pain--"

"No!" shouted James loudly as he watched the pained look enter Lily's features. "This is his doing, Lily! It was never yours!"

This must have been what the Dark Lord was waiting for, for he then turned to James, jerking Lily closer. "Then you look here, boy," he said darkly with some amusement. "She is the one in pain!"

"Stop it!" shouted James again, struggling to be released from the Death Eater's hold.

"James!" exclaimed the forgotten Sirius from the side. "James, listen! That isn't Lily!" This barely caught the other young man's attention, but he looked to Sirius with wide eyes as his friend continued to urgently shout, "She's with Dumbledore! I took her to Dumbledore before I got you!"

"An illusion, indeed," said Voldemort darkly, turning James' head back to him just before he flicked his wand and the faux-Lily's head fell off of the illusion's shoulders as if it had been cut off. The illusion's head rolled until it stopped before James' feet, where he watched it, wide-eyed, cackle at him before collapsing into ash with acid green smoke rising.

Sirius grimly said, "Bloody bastard's playing with your mind, James."

He was, James knew as he numbly stared at the pile of ash at his feet. What would he have done if he had continued to believe that the illusion was real? If Voldemort had asked him there...if he would deny him yet again...would he have gone with him? The thought of that possibility both chilled and sickened James at the same time.

Then he heard Voldemort chuckle lowly. "Solving a riddle," he said with a light tone, amused at James' reaction, "is easier when you know the truth of the matter, isn't it?"

James looked up to him, knowing he still looked shocked and stunned. "I see your pain at the thought of this happening to your precious Mudblood," the Dark Lord continued, approaching him slightly. "But you need not worry. There is no reason for me to kill her.

"Edward Potter on the other hand..."

Again, he stepped away to reveal a pair of Death Eaters holding a captive. This time, James knew it was no illusion. "Dad!" he shouted, this time knowing the threat of death would be carried out.

Voldemort turned to Edward and said with a mild tone, "A weak heart, I hear, Edward..." He pressed his wand against the other man's chest, against his heart. "What would cause that heart to give?"

Even with the Dark Lord so close and Death so near, Edward Potter still managed to look prideful and defiant. "What reason is there to kill me?" he was bold enough to ask.

"Simple enough," answered Voldemort coolly because hissing sharply, "You stole was was and is mine.

"Crucio!"

There was only a grunt of pain from the captive before he went limp in the Death Eaters arm.

"DAD!" yelled James, not believing what he was seeing. Just at this time, however, the curses started to fly again. The hexing started by none other than Sirius Black.

"Expelliarmus!" The Death Eater that had had a hold on James was suddenly knocked across the room, losing his wand. Before James had a chance to move, Sirius was rushing passed, grabbing his arm and pulling him along. "Come on, James!"

"Stupefy--!" shouted a Death Eater before the two running wizards ducked behind a corner, the spell hitting the wall instead of either of them.

That was when James snapped out of whatever stupor he had fallen into and started to try to get back to his father. Sirius wouldn't allow him to move, however, shouting quickly, "James! James, we have too--!"

"I'm not going to abandon him like I did Mum!" exclaimed James just as a curse hit the wall opposite of them, showing that the Death Eaters were close.

"There isn't time!" objected Sirius, now having to wrap his arms around his friend and drag him away from the corner as it was becoming too dangerous to stay there. James continued to struggle, however, even as his friend shouted, "James! He's--"

"No!" denied James loudly. "Shut up!" He tried to use one large shove against Sirius, but all his friend did was grunt and continue to hold on to him before he turned toward their escape route and shoved James away, aiming his wand at him, panting from restraining the other man.

James realized how serious he was and froze as Sirius then shouted over the curses that were hitting the walls just behind him, "Frank, Mad-Eye, and the Order will be here soon! There's nothing we can do!"

James didn't respond, still trying to process what he had seen. He didn't have very long before Sirius was pulling at his arm again, getting him to run just as another curse came close to hitting. As they ran down corridor after corridor, James' mind could only process the fact that no matter what hall they went down, the walls were always white.

Eventually, the sounds of curses being thrown and of footsteps other than their own faded and then disappeared. By this time, Sirius was extremely out of breath, and James felt as though he would fall over. They rested near a receptionist's desk, bent over slightly to both hide themselves and to catch their breaths.

"Where..." panted James shakily, "did they...go?"

Sirius responded, "I don't--"

He never had a chance to finish as someone shouted, "Sirius!" which startled the both of them so badly that they had sparks shoot randomly from their wands, mostly aimed at the one who had shouted.

Sirius scowled when he saw who it was. "Damn it, Remus!" he exclaimed, suddenly not out of breath any longer as the werewolf cautiously approached them ."Don't sneak up on us!"

"What happened?" asked Remus, not listening to what Sirius had just said. "You all right?"

Sirius took a deep breath and heaved a heavy sigh. "James was right," he said grimly. "There's a curse on his name."

The werewolf looked puzzled. "Who?"

"Ugh," said the other man with an irritated eye twitched. "This is a pain. You know--'Lord Chuckles.'"

Remus' only response to that was his eyes widening slightly which James barely noticed, being able to only just barely focus on the conversation itself. "Dumbledore's on his way. Frank and Mad-Eye are working on the Auror end."

Sirius nodded. "All right."

Remus then turned his attention to James, who was more distant then than he had been during the Ceremony before he left the Wizarding World. This may have been the reason why the werewolf then asked in a worried tone, "James?"

It was as if that was the trigger. The one the thing that brought the truth to his mind. "I left him..." he barely said in reply, catching Sirius' attention as he heard the trembling sound to his voice. "He was Crucioed, and I left him..."

Without even being there to witness it, Remus was still able to figure out what had happened. "James..."

James leaned against the desk and slowly slid himself down to sit on the ground. His two friends then knelt next to him as he drew his knees up and covered his face with his hands, shaking terribly and breathing harshly, not able to control the turbulent emotions crashing around inside of him. "That bastard..." he managed to say painfully. "He tricked me into thinking he'd gotten Lily...and then..."

He felt both of his friends place an arm around his shoulders in an attempt to console him. It didn't help much, but still even Sirius had to say, "I'm sorry, James..."

---

"Frank Longbottom has just informed me that Edward Potter has been found. It grives me to say...that he has passed on..."

James slammed a fist down on the table, shouting angrily, "He was killed! He was cursed with Crucio!"

"Mr. Potter, please," responded Dumbledore, seeming weary as though he had been expecting an outburst of some kind from the man for his euphemisms. After a moment, though James continued to mutter to himself, the headmaster continued, "It does not appear that this was Lord V--"

"Excuse me, Albus," said Sirius, standing with a serious look on his face, "but we have a bit of a situation with that name."

"What is it, Sirius?" asked Dumbledore calmly.

Sirius placed his hands behind his back and stood just a little straighter, giving the impression that he was extremely serious about this topic--a rarity for the young man. "Simply put, Sir," he said with a dark undertone, "James has been cursed to whenever that name is said, it somehow allows him to hear and see what's happening."

There was a long pause before Dumbledore replied, "This is no curse, Sirius." He glanced to James for just a second before he faced Sirius again, making James frown. "It is an ability one can have. The ability to enter his enemy's mind to hear and see what his enemy hears and sees. A form of Legilimency."

"Interesting," said Mad-Eye, his false eye swiveling over to James. "So the Dark Lord considers you and enemy?"

James snorted, slouching very low in his seat to avoid any other odd looks. "More of a nuisance," he muttered darkly.

"In any case," said Dumbledore calmly, "it is an ability that cannot be used very often. Only at times when the person it is aimed at knows of it. There are ways to counter it--"

"I don't think it matters," said James harshly with a heavy frown as he crossed his arms. "I don't want to hear that name used around me."

"If not countered," said Dumbedore seriously, "whether or not the name is said will not matter--"

James abruptly sat up and uncrossed his arms to lay his hands on top of the table with a loud slap. "I don't care," he declared sharply, glaring at the elder wizard. "I don't want to care. I just want my life back. Do you have any inkling if how I feel about this? My father just died for Merlin's sake!"

Sirius, who had sat down a while before, pulled James back into his seat, luckily being seated on the other man's left. "Calm down, James," he said in a soft voice to which James furiously ignored, and he continued to fume while Sirius looked back at Dumbledore and said, "In any case, Albus, I think the name should be used...not as freely."

Mad-Eye snorted. "Not that it hadn't been that way before," he said, looking to Sirius while swiveling his false eye to look at the silent Lily, Remus, Frank, and Alice, who also sat at the large table. "When this new group came in, it was different. You're just doing what he wants now. Giving into the fear that name is creating--"

James bit out furiously, "Just because he's won this battle, doesn't mean he's won the war!"

"Battle?" asked the old Auror curiously. "Is that what you call it?"

"Anything," said James sharply, "no matter how small, in this war against him is a battle. The casualty in this battle is the freedom to use his name."

Dumbledore appeared to look thought, the twinkling in his blue eyes shining brightly. "It sounds as though," he said, catching James' attention, "you wish to play a part in this war, Mr. Potter."

The younger wizard stared at him for a minute before sighing and rubbing his brow, his hand barely touching the frame of the glasses Lily had silently returned to him once he had gotten to this room. "Well," he said tiredly, "standing aside didn't help any. People were still hurt." His expression then hardened as he determined stated, "I won't let him do it any longer."

The headmaster allowed a small, hopeful smile to appear on his elder face. 'Then I suppose it is safe to assume that you will full join the Order?"

James found this question to be amusing and shook his head, a slight smirk on his face. "Dumbledore..." he said slowly, "at this moment...I could care less if I was either way."

"Well, then..." said Dumbledore with a more serious air, "this meeting is finished." He gave James a slight nod. "Welcome to the Order of the Phoenix, James Potter."


Author's Notes: ...finished? Finished...Finished. Finished! FINISHED! MWAHAHA! FINALLY! I AM FINISHED WITH THIS CHAPTER! -falls over, laughing her head off- Almost seven months and I'm done! -laughs her head off- Sorry! Sorry! But you have to be just as crazy about me actually having this out as I am! Finally! I am done with this crazy chapter! Yes! Finally! The plotline will finally get to MOVE! YES! -celebrates before reading over it- Gah! -falls over- Please don't tell me the poem sucked! I had my little sis read it and she said it was decent enough (not direct quote. If you want a direct quote, it would be: "Awwww, it was sweet 'nd cute 'nd...I need to wash my hands..." The last bit was her joking around -grins-)...CHEESINESS!

But I have to say...this is the best Lily/James scene I've written so far -sobs- So beautiful! -bawls-

Okay, enough of all of that (I actually FINISHED!)...reponses!

-------

inu lover: Wow! I made someone almost cry! Go me! I feel special! And thanks for going over to my FP.C account and reviewing! Means a lot!

Tears of a Fairy Queen: -sweatdrops- Please mind the caps. Caps is used to make people yell online and yelling hurts my ears (eyes). Other then that, I'm glad you like it so much! I hope you're still reading!

limbo-gal: Wow. Thanks for telling me why you like it so much. So many people forget to put that in their reviews and it's a bit disappointing. Well, as I said in the opening Author's Notes, there will be at least 22-23 in this story and this is Chapter 15. So that means there's approximately 8 more chapters. And you're right that this story is different from the others. I am a bit concerned, however, about how I've gotten Lily and James to get together. Tell me how you think it went?

Mythology: Well, I didn't really hurry, but you can't really rush genius. Here's your update!

justarandomperson: Long name. Don't worry about Lily not having a special part. I assure you that I have it all planned out. It may not be explained in this fic, but I am planning at least 3 other fics after this one. So just been patient. I'm glad you really like Sirius. He's my favorite to write, obviously. Kind of sad when I think about my sequels. He's going to be so different, it's a bit sad...thanks for the review!

kittygirl220: Don't worry about me stopping. I may put it off for a long time, but I do pick it back up. I plan to run with it this time! -sweatdrops-...so no worries! I'll have the next chapter out a lot sooner than this one. I'll try looking at them, but I haven't really read other people's fics in a while. -sweatdrops- NOOOOOOO! I've turned into the thing that I've always hated! A fanfiction writer who says their time is being taken up! -sobs- ...sorry, that wasn't supposed to happen... Thanks for the review!

ByeByeBirdie: Oh, don't say that! I don't need another person complaining that I kept them up all night! Lol! Eh...Peter didn't really start interacting very much in this one until like Chapter Seven. -sweatdrops- But I do plan to go back and fix that up a bit. Oh, that's a wonderful thing to say! I was a bit worried about how that went with Lily. Let's just hope I can blend mad-at-James-yet-obviously-really-falling-for-him to totally-in-love. Oh, wait...I started some here. What do you think?

wiccen-vampire: :P Wasting review space! You know you're not supposed to do that! Just kidding! Thanks for the review, Kendra. Think of it: one more chapter after this one before your chapter!

Itnikki: Heh. I like being the original person. Even if it takes combining thousands of clichés to make something totally different. Oh...your favorite? I don't know if it will stay that way though. I think the last chapter may be everyone's favorite -evil cackle- Hope I didn't keep you waiting until you just gave up on this fic and that you enjoyed this chapter! And yes! The sequel! -insert evil cackle here-

pingpong5: Cute name. Got that right. And it's taken me ages to get this one out too! Well, it's updated! Hope you enjoy!

Leigh: Always glad to hear that you didn't forget about it. Well, it's updated again. Hope you enjoyed!

Living In A Nightmare: Not cliché? Let's count the amount of clichés--later. There's so many responses! Lol! Meh. James is an idiot. Plain and simple. But he's characterized that way for a reason (the ending chapter will have everything that will let you know why I have some characters the way they are; no explanation means it will be explained in the sequel...or at least one of them). Yes, he saw Lily again. And he saw her again here, too! Meh. Not sure I did too good. What do you think? Oh, please don't say you'll die on me because that'll make my conscience feel really guilty and he doesn't need anymore stress (Jeva's Conscience: -huddled in a corner, rocking back and forth, singing "Amazing Grace"-) -sweatdrops- Right...thanks for the review!

Reluxi: Wait, wait...I need to take a breather (finger-rester). -long pause- Yes, favorite reviewer! How could you not be! Now if you really are the best reviewer around, then you will read and respond to this review! Otherwise my Conscience will be severely...er...well, he's already damaged -sweatdrops- Yes, band and swimming did take a lot of time out of my schedule, and I thought it would get better this semester (like last year), but instead, English kept me just as busy (plus the fact that I actually have a social life...I should be shot . a fanfiction writer with a life...I'm so ashamed...)! Actually 8 chapters left now. Plus up to at least 3 sequels, so don't you cry when the end comes (well, if you do, there's nothing wrong with it). Lily is very much a contradiction. It's part of who she is really. She kind of reminds me of me in that aspect. I don't know why men are such idiots. -shrugs- Maybe it was just destined to be that way -shrugs- Lol! Yes, I think you've said enough because I've responded quite a bit and now I need to move onto someone else before I get lazy and decide that I will totally not do the responding part. Lol. My fault, not yours, of course! Hope you enjoyed! Ja!

Y. Kuang: Ah. I get dramatic climax music and it isn't even close to the climax yet -sweatdrops- Yeah, it was a bit more dialogue-y but I couldn't really help that. Hopefully this chapter will make up for it, but I'm not sure. -shrugs- Old Gel? I think you mean gal. -grins- Did it really seem that way? Well, I guess that since this is from James' POV, it will affect that, but it might also be my doing and I'm just making excuses. Hopefully I did better here. I'm not sure if I meant it to come out that way, and don't be fooled, Lily can be a very timid person. She just tends to have a strong front and guess who is about to break through her front -nods- Yeah, you got it -anime face-fault- Gah! You had to say that didn't you! -grimaces- I don't want to be one of those writers, but apparently I am. I think I checked out that fic, but I'm not sure. I'll go back and check it out though! And I do live in the US, so I did have a very Happy Thanksgiving (heh...lots of food...). Sugar is my frrrrriend....

LJstagflower4e/JCtigerwolf4e: Long name there, my friend. And I did keep going.

Rainy Day Parade: Yes! LJ action! -cheers-

welshlili: Yes, long chappie, and I hope this one is a good size (not counting the author's notes -sweatdrops-) Gah! I don't need to hear I nearly killed you! Guilty conscience! -sobs- I'm sorry! Oh, wait...I saved you? Yay! O.o "Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope" -taps head, frowning, knowing she has said that before- Yep. Wales was mentioned again. I'm very good at that, ne? -sweatdrops- Hope I didn't kill ya this go around...-sweatdrops-

lena-jade: Very different? Crrrrrrrrrap. I need to reread that chapter because I barely remember it! Lol! Heh. You deserved the dedication! More quotes? Wow...do you collect these and put them on a website? If you do, I'm curious to see which quotes you took! Lol! The Test of Teamwork was inspired by some crazy thing my sister and I did at my grandmother's one time. Guess who's idea it was. -raises hand, grinning- It was so much fun that I had to put it in somehow. Yes! Sequel good! There is going to be a sequel! Wow...that really is a great and wonderful compliment. Thing is, I do know him personally. It happens when characters move into your head, right? (Spike from BtVS: Where am I?) Oops, wrong character... (Spike: Bloody hell, woman! Save it for the Free Topics, will ya?) Sorry! (Spike: You sure are) -.-' Anyway, thanks for the review!

Kel6: Final one! -throws confetti- Sorry, couldn't help that. I'm not sure if you do or not -sweatdrops- Doesn't matter really -wipes sweat away- James still in good characterization. Thank you. That's a big relief. Don't worry. When they actually do, you'll have a few laughs (as well as cheers) That's two chapters from now, though (sorry to say). Of course you're not weird. I've done things like that for over 6 years now (good God! 6 years of my life on FF.N! What kind of maniac am I?) -coughs- Believe me. Around these times, it would be like if admitted to be a Nazi around the WWII era. This secret isn't one he can just share with just anyone and he questions their loyalty to him as well as his own loyalty to them. Which is why Sirius is the first to find out. And I bet you hate James for lying to Lily here, but like I said, it's not that easy. Maybe he'll admit to it later? -snickers when thinking about the later chapters- Anyway, glad to see you review (the last one to reply to! -cheers-) and I hope you enjoyed this chapter as well! Ja!