The next chapter.
The weather was terrible, windows rattling loudly from the force of the wind shaking them, rain pounding on the roof- a dark, wet and thoroughly miserable day. Jo Gilles felt suitably awful this particular day, sitting on the couch of her shared flat, feeling grumpy. The flat itself was dark, but for a candle suspended above her head so she could read her book.
Jo wasn't entirely sure what the title of the book was, and she couldn't quite remember who the characters were and what they had been doing over the past few hundred pages. She was just sitting, flipping idly through the pages and scanning them.
Well, it didn't really suck. She knew that. She knew it was just her grumpiness that made life so incredibly sucky today, but even so. Jo didn't even know why she was grumpy- there were reasons tucked away at the back of her mind, but the back of your mind can be a very difficult place to access and so they were only vague reasons to her.
She sniffled. Some people have all the good luck, her mind grumbled to itself. Some people get boyfriends who want to marry them and buy them flowers occasionally, even if in between they act rather weird and bizarre but that is not the point. Some people are lucky, Jo thought, and it was obvious she was not one of those people.
That week had actually been an unusually good week. It made it so annoying she was feeling pathetic now, in contrast to her happiness. Nothing interesting happened at work, which soothed her and made her feel calm, Lily and she had stayed up late one night making cakes for the sole reason that they felt like making cakes, Voldemort had not done anything at all for ages and that in itself was a reason for celebrating.
Actually she really felt like cake, but Sirius had been over earlier and now there was no cake left, damn him to hell. What a stupid, stupid day she thought. Why did Sirius have to eat all the cake?
Jo placed her book down harder than what was actually necessary, and stomped off towards the kitchen. She needed corn chips. If there was no cake, she needed chips. Jo reached the kitchen and flicked on the light, blinking as her eyes struggled to get used to the change.
On the table she saw a little rose that was different shades of pink and strangely enough green. There was a note attached to it, and scribbled on the parchment in dark green ink was written greetings, jo-jo. Have a nice day.
Aww. What a lovely day it was.
The underground meeting room was filled with people, the atmosphere far more subdued and quiet than it had been during that very first meeting which felt like so long ago. The sound of the rain outside was muffled but could easily be heard over the dull murmur of people. Professor Dumbledore was late, though this was a fairly normal occurrence, and some people, namely Sirius, were becoming restless.
'I'm bored,' he whined. He was sitting on the edge of an armchair in a slightly uncomfortable position. Remus, who was seated [comfortably] in the armchair, glanced up at him. 'You sounded suspiciously like a two year old then, Padfoot.'
'It's the truth. Dumbledore has been late for the last three meetings, for goodness sake. That is ridiculous. Right now I could be doing something very important.'
'I could!' Sirius protested. 'I'm working on a new motor for my bike, thankyou very much.'
'Ah yes, the sole reason for living.'
Before Sirius could argue that no, this was not the sole reason he existed [though it was pretty darn important] Professor Dumbledore swept in, his long purple robes flowing behind him.
'Good evening,' he said gravely, and the room fell silent. 'I have some very important matters to discuss. Firstly- a student at Hogwarts as been murdered.'
A whisper swept through the room.
'I cannot be sure how this came about, nor the reasons for it ['that's because Voldemort is insane,' Sirius whispered to James] but it makes it clear that more protection is needed on the castle. I have already placed some people on this job, and the attack is currently being investigated. I suspect he may have attacked at a time when our defences became weak.'
'On another note, I was recently speaking with Mr Crouch- who works for the Ministry- and he would like to ask our assistance in a few matters. I told him I would speak with you.' Professor Dumbledore paused for a moment, his blue eyes staring at the floor as he thought.
'He would like some of you to work with the Aurors- not alongside them, but for us to pass information and therefore help catch the Death Eaters with a combined effort.'
Mundungus Fletcher growled. 'Thought they din't need our help,' he growled, waving his wand about. 'Thought they had everything under control? What it says in the papers, innit?'
Professor Dumbledore silenced him with a look. 'I understand you may not agree. Personally I find that working alongside them may help us a great deal, and place more trust in us within the Ministry. Possibly, they will now help us if we are caught in a difficult situation.
'I will give you all a moment to think this through.'
The small group gathered around the armchair didn't say anything for a few seconds, until Sirius came around. 'How'd they get in at Hogwarts?' He hissed. 'I thought that was meant to be safe?'
'It is. Someone must have…somehow…got in.' Lily said uncomfortably.
'Then it's not safe, is it? No where's safe. We may as well go out into the street and drink cups of tea and wait for them to kill us all.'
'Shut up, Sirius. You're being an idiot. I agree with Dumbledore. We work with them. We've got nothing to lose.' James looked at the rest of them. Jo nodded. Remus, deep in thought, slowly gave a nod of agreement, and Sirius sighed and said 'I s'pose.'
'Okay then,' James said firmly. 'We all agree. Good.'
'Some day, you'll become Minister for Magic, Prongs, and we'll all have to bow down to you. I can see it. And Lily'll be our Queen. I shall be your messenger and Remus will be the pageboy, and Jo here can cook for us. Or something. We will all live on a little castle on the hill where I can ride my motor bike along the clouds while you rule over everyone. When all this is over, of course. Until then we'll be Superman's and fight the bad guys…' Sirius sighed, while Lily gave him an affectionate punch. 'Sirius, you are insane.'
'Thankyou, my dear.'
Professor Dumbledore called them back to order. It was unanimous, and when Dumbledore left it was to tell the Ministry they would help.
Rowena and Joey, both dressed in robes and cloaks and scarfs and mittens and extra pairs of socks, walked slowly across the school grounds, both feeling rather dull. The passed Hagrid's hut, which was empty, passed the vegetable patch which was currently frozen over, and came to a tree whose branches were nice and close to the fallen snow on the ground.
They sat down, after brushing the snow off the tree. Rowena stared at her mittens for a moment. They were really quite pretty, with little snowmen dancing across them smiling with cheerful raisin smiles.
'What do you want to be when you grow up?' she said abruptly to Joey, who jumped, startled.
'Oh. You know. Something.'
'That's fascinating… Really, what d'you want to do?' Rowena pressed, rocking backwards and forwards on the branch, shivering a bit with cold.
'I dunno. I want to travel. You know, see the world and stuff. Once I can apparate I'll go everywhere… how 'bout you?'
Rowena shrugged. 'Do you ever get the feeling that nothing really matters?'
'Um.' Joey didn't quite grasp the change of direction in the conversation.
'Like one day it'll all be over anyway, and no one will remember you and you won't even be able to think and none of what we did matters.'
Rowena sighed, exasperated. 'But what is the point?'
'The point to what, exactly?'
'Everything!' Rowena gestured around her. 'Why are we right now sitting on this tree? Is there any reason, or is it just… because?'
'It is just because,' Joey said with an air of knowledge that annoyed his friend further. 'Why do you ask?'
She stared at the snow silently for a moment. 'I don't know. It's just- when I lie in bed at night it feels like there are all these thoughts pressing in on my head, and I can't help wondering why we're here and where we'll go when it's all over. Because you can't just stop existing, can you?' She twisted her fingers together and looked at him hopefully, but Joey's eyes were completely blank.
'Perhaps you should ask Trelawney. She might be of use.'
Rowena snorted, stood up, brushed the snow of her robes and started back to the castle. Winter was such a stupid time of year.
Lily stared at the clock on the wall. It was not straight. The number twelve should have been at the very top of the circle, but it was in fact tilted a bit to the left so that one was at the head of the clock.
This most certainly would not do, and clearly she could not leave it be. She peered under the cushion, looking for her wand. As Lily was not the most tidy person in the world it never occurred to her to look in the normal places first- the wand would have to be somewhere completely unreasonable, unless she looked in the unreasonable places first, in which case the wand would most likely be sitting on the table where it should have been.
Of course, it was on the table, for that is the way things work.
She picked it up and toyed with it for a moment, wiped off a smudge at the end, then flicked it at the clock, and it righted itself promptly. Lily frowned. It was not nearly as satisfying, using your wand for work like that. It did make it seem rather…boring.
She flicked the wand a second time, and the clock tipped back to the way it had been, and Lily smiled, pleased. She then stood up, put her wand down, dragged a stool over to the clock, and stood on it. Unfortunately, Jo, who was much taller than Lily, had placed it up there and Lily could not reach it without standing on her tip toes, and even then it was a hard struggle to actually touch it, let alone be able to move it without falling to the ground.
She decided to do a few little jumps. Hopefully, at the peak of a jump she could just quickly move it round a little bit so that twelve would be at the top. It was important for her to achieve this, for obvious reasons.
On about the third jump, there was a loud knock at the door, so Lily jumped a few feet higher than what was actually necessary. Not only did she manage to move the clock over, she knocked it right down and onto the floor, where it smashed with a loud crash. And if the clock hadn't already been too broken, Lily landed on it as she came down, missing the little stool altogether.
'Typical,' she muttered. 'Just typical.'
After kicking the pieces of clock to one side, Lily stomped to the front door, and peeped through the spy hole at the front.
She couldn't see anybody for a moment, which seemed a little suspicious, until she looked down and saw a head of dark hair standing in front of the door. She assumed there was a body along with the head, but she could not see that much of the figure as of yet.
After deciding someone that short couldn't possibly be dangerous, but it still would be useful to have her wand, she grabbed her wand, and rushed back to the door. Lily opened it slowly.
Standing on the purple 'welcome' mat on the doorstep stood Rowena, looking decidedly nervous.
'Oh! Hallo,' Lily said, dropped her wand down to her side, smiling.
'Come in,' Lily said, remembering people did not like standing out in the freezing cold [except for sales people. They like that.] and would prefer coming inside to talk.
Rowena nodded, and looked back over her shoulder as she entered. There was a strange prickling sensation upon her neck, as though someone was watching her. She shrugged the feeling off, looking around the rather messy flat. On the floor was what looked like pieces of a clock.
Lily scowled at the now useless clock, pointed her wand at it, muttering a spell, and it sprang back together again. The clock floated up to the wall and hung itself upon the nail hammered in, the number one seated carefully at the top.
'You bloody clock,' Lily muttered.
Turning back to Rowena, she pointed the clock. 'You can sit down, if you want.'
Rowena sank down onto the cushions gratefully- her feet were aching from the long walk from the train station.
'You snuck out again, didn't you?' Lily said, guessing the answer.
'Well. Yeah. Joey was useless to talk to and there's no one else. Anyway, I needed to talk to you.'
'Me?' Lily blinked, and then something in her brain registered a conversation they'd had a few weeks back, around Christmas. 'You've been having more of those dreams?'
'Not really. Some. They're just so weird, and I don't even know why I'm having them. Like I said, Joey's an idiot, and you can't talk to teachers, except maybe Professor Trelawney, and can you imagine her? She'd come up with another reason I'm not going to make it to fifteen.'
'I feel your pain.' Lily thought for a moment, but she wasn't exactly sure of what to say next. 'Um.'
Rowena didn't notice. 'I did have an idea, but it's kind of stupid.'
'Tell me anyway.'
'D'you promise you won't laugh?'
'Cross my heart.'
'Well…the boy in my dreams, right? You know how I said he was your son, maybe?'
'I see him as a baby and as an older boy-'
'How d'you know he's not James when he's older?' Lily interrupted.
'He's got green eyes, like yours. Anyway, so that must mean I can see the future!' Rowena's dark eyes gleamed at this prospect. She'd always vaguely known it- after all, Lily having a baby must be sometimes in future- she glanced at Lily, who was looking at the lopsided clock on the wall with a very dissatisfied expression on her face, and decided she could not see her with a child anytime in the near future- but to be able to see eleven or twelve years into the future- she liked the sound of that.
Lily came out of a trance. 'D'you know what his name was?' she asked curiously.
Rowena racked her brains. Her dreams generally didn't have sound in them, but somehow, as it is in dreams, she knew who everyone was and everything made sense, it was just when she woke up that the details became fuzzy.
'Harry,' she said firmly, not knowing how she knew but she was sure all the same. 'His name was Harry.'
Lily turned the name over in head, trying it out. 'Harry Potter,' she muttered. 'I like that. '
'So d'you think I am a seer?' Rowena said tentatively, leaning forward on her seat.
'I would say that it is a distinct possibility,' Lily said, nodding her head. 'Of course, I'm no expert on the matter. I can't remember a thing of Divination, except for the lesson Trelawney's hat caught fire. That was amusing.'
Rowena's face broke out into a grin, excited about possibly being able to tell the future [or at least one boys future] and imagining Professor Trelawney leaping about, her hat alive with flames. 'Wait till I tell Joey, he'll be so jealous. He can't see a thing in his crystal ball, apart from fogginess.'
The clock struck 4, and Lily glanced at of the window. 'You'd probably better be getting back to school. It's almost dark.'
Rowena nodded her head, standing up. 'Thanks. I mean, I know you didn't exactly do much, but thanks for not laughing at me or anything.'
'You're very welcome. Thankyou for not telling me my child could possibly be called Gertrude.' As Lily said this, she opened the front door, her wand in front of her. She squinted out into the dark coldness. 'I'll walk you part way to the station, if you want.'
'Thankyou,' Rowena said, stamping her feet in the cold. Lily rushed inside to grab her cloak, and she wrapped it around herself, shivering. Locking the door behind them, they started off down the footpath silently.
'Do you think there's a reason we're all here?' Rowena asked, thinking of her rather pointless conversation with Joey.
Lily shrugged. 'I don't know. There must be, mustn't there?'
'I don't know,' Rowena answered, feeling a little helpless, and wishing she could just be happy with that.
They were nearing the station, Lily could see the lights of the platform glittering in the distance. 'Would you like to come to my wedding? I have no idea when it will be, but you're invited, if you'd like.'
Rowena blinked. 'You're getting married?'
'Er- one day. I mean, we're engaged. James and I. It could be for ages, but some day there'll be a wedding. At least. I hope.'
'Well, I would be honoured to come,' Rowena said, smiling up at her companion.
'Good. Now, you'd better be off to school. Or McGonagall will whip you.'
'Erm- yes. Goodbye!' Rowena saw the train pull up by the platform, and she started running, her robes flying up around her legs. The train's whistle blew, and Rowena dashed past a dark alleyway, leading towards the train, taking off about fifty metres of her run. She didn't think, her mind only told her that she did not want to wait an hour for the next train, and she sprinted down the cobblestone lane.
Lily was walking quickly home, her face aching from the cold. She sniffed, rubbing her nose with her glove, and she was just beginning to think that maybe she should apparate back home, when a loud piercing scream echoed through the crisp night air.
Lily spun around, all thoughts of the cold pushed out of her mind. She scanned the area for Rowena's slim figure, but only saw the train, chugging away loudly. It's okay, she told herself. She would have made the train. She would have made the train. It can't- it can't have been her.
Her legs were moving before she told them to, and she almost ran right past the alley, but out of the corner of her eye she saw a short figure dart around the corner at the end of the alley, and she rushed into, her wand held out in front of her.
Lying on the ground in a heap, dark robes rippling in the breeze, was a Rowena.
Lily let out a cry and fell to the ground next to her, wand ready. She felt for a pulse, but the young girl's body was entirely still. Lily's hands shook, one thought running through her mind. This is all your fault.
She sat there for what seemed like hours, cradling the dark head to her chest, stroking the hair that tumbled down in a mess. It was too cold to cry, but her eyes hurt her.
The congregation at the church were not quiet- students from Hogwarts sat with their parents, some crying, some just numb and unsure of what to do.
In the front pew sat Rowena's parents, dressed formally in black. Her father's arm was around her mother's shoulders, which were shaking violently. The father was white and stone still, but for the hand that stroked his wife's back, steadily, because that was all he could do.
Lily and James entered from the back and took a seat towards the entrance. James squeezed Lily's hand reassuringly. She didn't look at him. She stared at the coffin in front of the altar with wide green eyes. Her face was a sickly pale colour, and dark rings circled her eyes. Her dreams had been haunted by dark alleyways and screams when she did sleep, but most of her time was spent staring lifelessly out of the window, except for when she had to be at work- that time was best, because she didn't have to think.
People dying at Voldemort's hand had always made her feel sick, as though a rock had dropped into her stomach, but in time she learnt to push the boulders aside and move on. It's different when someone you know has died- you are actually hit by it and rocked and terrified, because it's not just a name, not just a face that is gone forever. It's an actual person, with thoughts and feelings and suddenly, just like that, they're gone.
And it was all her fault. Lily couldn't remember why she didn't walk Rowena to the train station, she couldn't remember why she had let her run all that way in the dark alone.
She ran through the events of that night time and time again, but whenever she tried to clearly think about what had happened, the only thing that came to light was a scream, and a cobblestone lane with a figure sprawled across it.
A boy with brown hair entered the church, long strands of it falling into his eyes, which she saw, looking at him closer, were red. His eyes met hers for a second, but he looked away and walked off to sit towards the front of the church.
2 years later
Lily lay on her back on the couch, her legs kicking at the air. She was off in a daydream, mainly about James dinking her on a bike all the way to Paris, but Hippogriffs sometimes pedalled besides them on the narrow path lines with daffodils.
Jo bounced in, her hair in a towel and her face quizzical- she didn’t know why Lily was pedalling at the air. When Lily didn't notice her expression, Jo decided it was obviously not important, and plopped down next to her with a loud sigh.
Lily snapped out of her trance, dropped her legs down to a normal height, and sat up.
'How far away is Paris?' She said, her forehead furrowed in thought.
'Er- I've never been there,' Jo answered. 'But I imagine it's not too far. Just over there.' At this, Jo waved her hand around in a vague motion.
'Do you think it would be possible to ride a bike there?'
'Well, it's over water, isn't it, so no. Unless you did something to the bike but then if it broke down you'd be in a lot of trouble. You'd also be very wet. Are you going to ride a bike to Paris?' She asked interestedly. 'Can I come?'
'You don't have a bike,' Lily said.
Jo shrugged. 'Neither do you.'
'Oh. Yes. Anyway, it was a stupid idea… I was thinking, what flavour cake should we have at the wedding? Because I really like chocolate, but sometimes it's really dry and that's not so nice, it makes it taste a little like coffee or something. Either way it's not nice. And then vanilla, well, vanilla's nice but it's so plain, don't you think?'
'Yeah,' Jo nodded agreeably.
'And then strawberry.' Lily cocked her head to one side, puzzling over the many wonders of strawberry cake. 'It's pink. It's nice too, but it's pink. And strawberry cake always makes me want strawberries.'
'But strawberry cake is practically the same as strawberries anyway, isn't it?'
'No.' Lily shook her head vigorously. 'Strawberry cake just tastes like strawberries, but it's not juicy- because it couldn't be juicy, could it, because it's a cake.'
'Oh. Then have mudcake. I love mudcake.'
'A really big mudcake, or a little mudcake?'
'A big mudcake. Because otherwise people can't have big pieces and they think we're being greedy, keeping all the cake for ourselves.' Jo seemed to understand a lot about mudcake, even if she wasn't quite so up to date on strawberry matters.
'Well, do you think we could have a mudcake, a vanilla cake- because James likes it, you see- a normal chocolate cake for people who like that, a strawberry cake and real strawberries in case I really need some. That would be good, wouldn't it? And no one could complain about it because they'd all have something nice.'
'What about people who don't like cake?' Jo said after a moments thought.
Lily stared at her blankly.
now you have no choice.