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Chasing Fire

By GoldenWolf365

Drama / Romance

Changes

It's recounted as a great love story. Fierce hatred turned to passionate love. But the path to great love is hardly smooth. When a marriage proposal fails and the world is on the brink of war, how can love shine through? Read, Review, and Enjoy!

"Will you marry me?"

To this day, the words bounced around in her head, jarring just as much as they had when James first uttered them. What had he been thinking?

It was easy to rationalize the thoughts of James Potter because he simply didn't think. He lived life based on instinct and feeling. He wasn't afraid of commitment. He just hadn't realized quick enough how much she ran from it.

Lily Evans had never been one to claim perfection. She had just as many flaws as the next person, and quite possibly more than most. But she'd always feared commitment—it was part of the reason she turned Potter down for so many years before finally giving in to his persistence. Fear of commitment and the fact that he was a prat. Lily smiled to herself, imagining the smirk he would have shot at her if he knew her thoughts. James Potter was proud, reckless, and loyal to a fault. She had every reason in the world to love him. She did love him to a certain extent.

But she wasn't ready for marriage; not with a war brewing on the horizon. A war that James Potter must know about.

His father was across the room from her now.

She'd never met him in the context of being his son's girlfriend. She'd never actually spoken to him. Moody had introduced her when they'd first entered; but she'd just smiled and shook his hand, waiting for a flash of recognition to cross his face. His expression hadn't changed a bit, though James must have told his parents about her. Lily had unobtrusively made her way over to the far side of the room.

Seeing Howard Potter brought back all the memories she'd been suppressing. Lily desperately tried to focus on the conversation happening beside her, but it wasn't working.

"Will you marry me?"

Would he come? Lily hadn't expected to run into James Potter here. To her knowledge, she was the only one of her year in Hogwarts that knew of this meeting. She was probably the only one that knew Dumbledore was gathering a select group of individuals to combat the growing threat.

"Quit looking like you've seen a ghost." Moody growled in her ear, a scowl permanently etched into his features.

"It's similar enough." She hissed back. It was true that James was the spitting image of his father. Her eyes never left Howard Potter, but she was aware of Moody's every move. He might just make her prove her worth in some dramatic fashion in the middle of this meeting.

"He's not coming." Now she did look at Moody, finding a hint of sympathy in his eyes. "Howard doesn't want his son involved."

"James won't be happy." Lily spoke before remembering that she was back to calling him 'Potter'.

"He was accepted for auror training." Moody shrugged. "He'll get here soon enough whether Howard likes it or not. Dumbledore won't let that talent go to waste." He paused pointedly. "I trust it won't be an issue."

"Never, sir." Her temper flared at the implication, but Lily bit her tongue and turned her scowl towards the room. She wasn't a child anymore. She had no excuse to start shouting at Moody.

Quiet spread abruptly through the small gathering. Albus Dumbledore wandered in through the doorway, looking no more perturbed than ever. This could have been a holiday gathering to him for all his face said. Everyone else was looking very serious. Lily watched her former Headmaster, wondering what he thought of her standing amongst so many elite aurors.

"How serious is all of this?" Someone asked, sounding dubious. "This was all very secretive, Dumbledore. I don't like it."

"If you don't like it, Mr. Hodge, then you are free to leave." Dumbledore said, settling with graceful ease in the chair they'd all been avoiding at the head of the long table. Lily stayed standing in the corner with Moody. Mr. Hodge fidgeted for a moment, flushing deep red.

"Is this to truly be behind the Ministry's back?" He asked.

"Have we any more information on this guy?" Howard demanded, shooting a scowl at Mr. Hodge.

"His name is Tom Riddle." Dumbledore answered, surveying them again. "He chooses to be called Voldemort."

"'Flight of death'?" Someone beside her whispered scornfully, accent French. "Pretentious snob."

"He gathers allies among pureblood families. His stance is undeniably muggle-hatred." Why was Dumbledore staring at her? Was Lily the only muggle born witch in the room? She kept from shifting in discomfort by force of will alone.

"They like him; even call him 'Lord'." Fabian Prewett stated, eyes on the table rather than on the room. "He's…intimidating."

"You've met him?" Howard's voice was incredulous.

"Don't be surprised if they show up on your doorstep, Potter!" Fabian barked, leaping to his feet. "Your blood's as pure as mine! Purer! Why would he not recruit among your family?"

"How dare you?" Howard hissed, eyes flashing.

"Oh not you, you stupid old bat. But that son of yours? He's rash—"

"No." Her denial was harsh, striking an odd note in the brewing fight. Both men looked at her. "James wouldn't." The strength of her conviction turned her voice into a whip. "He would be here, ready to fight this, if he knew. Him and his friends." Lily glared beyond Prewett to Dumbledore. Why had he not invited the Marauders to this meeting? Why was it just her?

"His girlfriend, are you?" Fabian sneered.

"I was." She said shortly, feeling her face heat in a blush. Now there was recognition in Howard, as well as a faint bit of surprise. Displeasure? She wasn't sure. "But I don't see what my love life has to do with this meeting."

"The ink is still drying on her diploma! What do you really expect she can do?" He looked to the others for support and found it. Lily's blush deepened.

"She's worth more than six of you." Moody's declaration silenced them. He wasn't known for being overly generous with praise. Lily hadn't known him for long, but this was the first time he'd ever complimented her. Dumbledore let the silence linger, regarding the room with a fond smile.

"What do we know?" Dedalus Diggle asked finally.

"There have been disappearances."

"Coincidence?"

"There's no such thing." Lily spoke at the same time Moody did. It caused a second moment of silence, though this time it didn't linger. Lily vowed not to open her mouth again.

"Too many for coincidence anyway. And it's getting worse. It used to just be the occasional person missing, but now it's almost daily."

"How many followers does he have?" No one knew.

"Where do they operate from?" No one knew that either, though a few had guesses.

From what Lily could tell, all they had was a name and record of many disappearances and some unexplained deaths. Too many to call chance. Her chest tightened with fear and anticipation. She wanted to turn to James—to tell him that this was exactly why marriage was a bad idea. She wished he hadn't asked, because she wanted to be able to curl up in his arms after this. Even if she couldn't tell him about the meeting, she could voice her fears.

And what are you afraid of? Lily shifted to lean against the wall, wondering if she was going mad. She could hear his voice as easily as if he were standing beside her. You were the top of your class.

Only because you didn't bother with books. She snorted at the voice in her head. He could have beaten her out with a sneeze of effort, but James never cared for tests and structured learning. She admired his dedication for learning things that meant something.

You and I, Lils; there's nothing we can't beat. He would say with his signature grin in place. She would roll her eyes at his overconfidence, but be glad for it at the same time.

The meeting ran smoothly around her. As different people started to contribute, more details began to emerge. Someone drew a sketch of his followers—they all wore the same dark robes; the same silver masks. The auror department had been tracking their movements over the last few months. They did not have an exact location of Voldemort's headquarters, but there were several guesses. The men in cloaks did nothing to hide the pattern of their movements. Short-sighted, several of them snorted, Lily among them. It was decided that teams would be sent out to each location. For now, they would focus on gathering as much information as possible.

Howard Potter and Moody walked out together with Lily trailing along behind. They were old friends—or were as close to it as Moody's sensibilities would allow—and Lily was to follow Moody until she'd convinced them all she could stand on her own two feet.

They went out to a crowded pub, using the deafening chatter to their advantage. Lily and Howard ordered beers. Moody drank from his own flask.

"I trust this won't be an issue?" Howard asked, looking at her with one eyebrow cocked. He was so much like his son it was amazing.

"I'm not some weeping bitch to get caught up over a boy." She snapped, flushing again. "No, it won't be an issue!"

"He did say you have a temper." Howard shrugged off her shout, lifting his glass to her and Moody before drinking. Lily rolled her eyes at him. "I'm too old to go chasing after youngsters, friend."

"Look spritely enough to me." She muttered under her breath. Both men pretended not to hear.

"Evans can pull her weight." In a hushed whisper, Moody told him about the incident at Christmas. Lily closed her eyes, remembering both the good and the bad.


"Are you sure you have to go?" James whined, fingers entwined through hers still.

"I'm very sure." Lily said, trying to sound stern. She failed utterly. The more he begged and teased her about staying, the more she didn't want to leave. "I should have cut my hair." She muttered, using her free hand to try to tame her wild red locks.

"But I like it." He pouted, burying his free hand in the hair at the nape of her neck. Warmth ran through her in stark contrast to the freezing winds.

"We've had this conversation before, haven't we?" She grinned up at him. She'd mentioned cutting her hair as she'd dressed this morning after catching sight of herself in his mirror. She caught the wicked gleam in his eye seconds before he kissed her. Lily molded herself to him, arms twining around his neck. Why hadn't she given in sooner? Why did she insist on leaving?

Right. It was because of this right here. This all-consuming desire; the need to be close to him; to never let go. She was losing control of herself and her emotions.

Lily drug herself back, weaseling out of his arms before it occurred to him to haul her off to some dark corner. She grinned, tossing her hair over her shoulder. James pouted, but it was playful and she knew he didn't want to keep her from her family. She gave him one last, lingering kiss before boarding the train. There were still a few minutes left before it would leave, but she would do something stupid if she stayed near James—like invite him home with her. She hadn't asked, and he'd been nice enough to not assume he was going with her. He hadn't even asked to come; though she'd heard him asking Remus if he should ask her. Lily hadn't heard the answer, but it clearly ended with the right advice.

She closed her eyes, relaxing in her lone compartment. Most people were staying at school this year. Parents were afraid of their children coming home, there had been so many unexplained disappearances recently. Safety was near Albus Dumbledore. Those who weren't afraid were on the train with her, but Lily had locked her door and dropped the curtain over the window so no one could see her in here alone. She was safe and comfortable for the long ride ahead. She had a book for company, and her thoughts were swimming with James Potter.


"Lily! Oh, sweetie, I've missed you so much." Her mother enveloped her in a hug as soon as Lily walked through the door.

"I've missed you too, mum."

"I'm so sorry we couldn't be there at the station." She drew back, apologetic. "So much to do for tonight! Lily, you really ought to cut your hair. Don't they have hairdressers at your school?" Lily flushed, trying to flatten her hair subconsciously.

"I'll just put my stuff in my room." She muttered.

"You'll put make-up on too? Vernon is coming over for supper, and it isn't seemly to go without." Her mother smiled brightly, touching her cheek softly. "I've missed you so much."

"I'll go do that." Lily said through her teeth, wondering if her smile looked as forced as it felt. She went upstairs, tossing her bag on the bed before she noticed the owl in the window. It was James' midnight black Orion. She rolled her eyes, but took the letter and read it, holding off the desire to shred it for sheer spite.

Lily,

I promise I won't be a pest, but in your haste to run off I didn't get a chance to wish you happy holidays. Have fun with your family. Miss you already

— James

p.s. I still think your hair is beautiful just the way it is.

Oh how she hated that boy! Lily pressed her hand to her mouth, holding back tears with a will. How could he get her stomach fluttering with just a stupid letter? She sat on her bed for a long minute, clutching his letter and wondering at the effort of obtaining a broom to get herself back to Hogwarts. 'In your haste to run off'. So he saw right through her. Lily couldn't help but smile. Was this what love felt like? She didn't want to love him…not yet. But she was warm and fuzzy inside from his letter. James would love her no matter what her hair looked like. He wouldn't care if she wore make-up or not.

Lily rose eventually, knowing that she should write back but not knowing what to say. So she put it off, giving Orion a treat before finding make-up and fixing herself up to please her mother.

"Lily-pad!"

"Dad." She turned with a warm smile, hugging him tightly.

"Your mother said you'd arrived. Was the cabbie nice?"

"Yes, it wasn't a big deal." Lily held off from saying that she'd almost not been able to pay the man. Muggles would not understand wizarding money.

"I'm so sorry we couldn't pick you up. It's just crazy with all the family coming here for the holidays this year." He smiled, pushing her back to arms' length. "You look wonderful, Lils; but you really should get your hair cut. Do you want me to make you an appointment with David?"

"No, it's fine." Lily waved him off, jaw clenched against the desire to scream. "I've just been on a train for several hours. I'll tame it down."

"Just let me know if you change your mind." His smile was very genuine. "It's so good to have you home. We miss you so much."

"I know." She thought of James' letter and smiled for real. He liked her hair. "I'll be down in a bit." She turned as he left, fetching a bit of paper.

James,

I did not run off, thank you very much. I simply knew that if I lingered you'd get it in your head to find a dark closet and then I'd miss the train or leave you to suffer. I wouldn't want you to suffer. I'll be back sooner than you think.

— Lily

p.s. my parents disagree with your assessment of my hair.

She gave the letter to Orion, leaning out the window to watch the owl fly away. Was it wrong of her to wish she could follow when she'd only just arrived?

Lily changed into one of the dresses housed in her closet, knowing that her parents would want her to dress nice. It would paint a picture of perfection. She strapped her wand to her calf, unwilling to go without it even at home, before walking back downstairs. Petunia was hanging off her fiancée, laughing politely at a joke he was finishing. Lily wondered what it was about Vernon that Petunia found so attractive. He was a big, beefy man with a proud mustache who always seemed to drink too much and talk too loud. But he was normal. So normal it was painful.

Lily was not permitted to mention magic in front of him. Vernon was never to know that she was a freak. Between him and Petunia, Lily hardly had to contribute to the dinner conversation. Vernon went on and on about a drill company he was starting with and all of his plans to make it bigger and better. Petunia was a-flutter over the upcoming wedding, chatting all about colors and table settings. Lily nodded and smiled as much as she could. She thought of James when she couldn't manage a smile anymore. There would be time enough later to tell her parents about him.

Vernon, it seemed, was something of a fixture in the house these days. Petunia hadn't moved out, and they were both very proud to not be living together before being married. It was a perfectly normal thing to do. They boasted about waiting for marriage—Petunia must have mentioned her virginity at least four times a day. A handful of times, comments had been aimed at Lily concerning her purity. She'd blushed and stammered each time, which was enough to make her parents believe she wasn't fooling around with anyone. But she'd been sleeping with James since they started dating—sharing the Heads' dorm made it very convenient—and the whole relationship had started with one drunk night. She couldn't imagine not sleeping with him. She couldn't fathom Petunia's pride.

As Christmas approached, Lily fretted and worried over her gift for James. She was afraid of over-doing it. But she thought that he would be extravagant with his gift to her, so she didn't want to fall utterly short either. His gifts through the years had varied in extremes, and she had no reason to think this year would be any different. Her first instinct had been to get him something quidditch related, but it seemed shallow and easy. A book would be silly, because he hardly read anyway.

Finally, she'd settled on making something herself and giving it to him; similar to the charm work she'd done as a gift to Slughorn last year. She'd done all the work at Hogwarts, and had the finished sculpture sitting on her desk. Was it good? Was it too much? Four figures chased each other around a swaying tree—a wolf, a dog, a stag, and a rat. They were charmed to turn into figures of each of the four Marauders based on the phases they'd keyed into the Map.

Lily wondered if she ought to hold onto the piece for now since she hadn't openly admitted to her knowledge of their secrets. She'd known for years that they were trying to become animagus—and doing so very illegally—and had watched the grounds every full moon. They were crazy and foolish, but Lily had to admire the depth of their friendship.

It's safe. She told herself, wrapping the statue carefully. He'll know that I know, and he can come to terms with it while I'm not there. Short of returning to Hogwarts early, Lily couldn't think of a better gift for him. She sent it off with Orion, nervous still. She really should look into purchasing her own owl. In the handful of letters they'd exchanged, Lily had mentioned needing to borrow Orion to deliver his gift. James had send her gift early but added that unspeakable horrors would happen if she tried to open it early. She believed him capable of setting a time-sensitive prank on her gift. So the modest package stayed on her desk, taunting her.

She left the package, wandering down the stairs to the loud complaints of Vernon Dursley. He abhorred Christmas carolers—he seemed to dislike anything remotely joyful—and was not taking to their tradition of going out and singing carols gracefully. This year, Petunia was complaining about it too. But their parents would have none of the refusal. If Vernon didn't want to go, that was his business. The family would go enjoy their tradition. Lily said nothing against the idea, half-thinking this would be her last year spending Christmas Eve with her muggle family.

Vernon came along, though he sulked and didn't sing. It was just as well in Lily's opinion. Surely a voice that rough wouldn't sing sweetly. They were at the far end of the neighborhood, aiming for the last house of the block that was at least half a mile from the rest of the houses. Vernon's complaints were loud, but her parents were quite fond of the old widow who lived alone in that house. And truthfully, Lily loved her too. She'd spent many a day in summers past making this trek to laze away the afternoon with Mrs. Tilly.

She was lagging behind, hoping distance would make Vernon's voice more bearable. She caught the faint sound of snickering before a flash of bright red light flew in front of her face, missing her nose by inches. Lily yelped, jumping back. A second spell hit her, throwing her four feet. She landed painfully, scraping her elbow and knee raw. She heard Petunia scream.

Through eyes streaming tears, Lily saw four cloaked figures approaching her family. A fifth was coming at her. Instinct screamed at her to move. She rolled, ripping her wand from her leg in the process.

"Stupefy!" She shouted, nailing the guy in the chest. Petunia was dangling in the air, screaming and trying to keep her dress from falling. Her father was a lump on the ground; her mother was running, screaming at the top of her lungs. Vernon was thrown back six feet into a tree.

Rage like nothing she'd ever felt consumed her. It erased all sensation of pain and fear at this random attack. She fired off silent spells at the cloaked figures, infuriated by their laughter. As one they turned to face her. Petunia dropped like a stone. Lily caught her with a quick charm, saving her sister from bashing into the ground head-first. Then she was too busy dodging curses to notice what her family was doing.

Masked and cloaked, Lily noted of the attackers. She hadn't the faintest clue who they were, or why they chose to attack muggles. You picked the wrong family. She thought savagely, too angry to care about how badly she was outnumbered. Surprise was the only thing working for her. But years spent fighting James were paying off. She was quick on her feet and had them all stumbling in cursing in minutes.

As she was wondering about taking at least one hostage, they seemed to come to a unanimous decision that the fun was over. They apparated away before Lily realized what was happening. She cursed under her breath, running over to her family with one eye on the quiet street. Had no one noticed that?

A dark figure limped towards them—a rapid limp. Lily whirled around, wand leveled.

"Who are you?" She barked.

"Alastor Moody." Came the answer. He stepped into the light of a street lamp, looking every bit of the man she'd seen in the paper. His face was scarred, and the limp would be the leg he lost recently to a duel with dark wizards.

"The auror?" She scowled at him, nerves strung tight. "How do I know you're not lying?"

"Constant vigilance!" He nodded sharply. "You got a good instinct girl. Are you seventeen?"

"Yes." Lily said warily.

"Good. I hate dealing with Ministry brats over underage magic." He continued his approach, unconcerned with the wand she hadn't lowered. "Who are you?"

"Lily." He stopped a few feet from her, looking her up and down.

"Evans?" Moody guessed, eyebrows raised. "Potter's kid never shuts up about a girl named Lily Evans. Looks a lot like you in pictures."

"You know James?" She faltered, wand tip dropping a few inches.

"I worked with his father before Howard retired."

"None of this means…" Lily stopped herself, blowing out an aggravated breath. What did it matter if this man was Alastor Moody or not? She kept a wary eye on him, though she turned back to her scattered family. She revived her father with a quick spell, checking to make sure he was coherent before going towards Petunia and Vernon.

"Don't touch him!" Petunia shrieked, leaping in front of her unconscious fiancé with her arms spread. "Get away from me, you freak! This is your fault!"

"Petunia—"

"Freak!"

Lily jerked away, throat constricted with a desire to cry. She was acutely aware of Moody's stare. Embarrassment and shame made it hard to breathe.

"Who were those people?" Her father asked. "You really need to think about the crowd you're hanging out with, because those friends—"

"They are not my friends!" Lily exploded, sparks flying from the tip of her wand. "Merlin's beard, dad! Just because they're wizards doesn't mean I know who the fuck they are!"

"Language, Lily." He scolded.

"Dad."

"You shouldn't go back to that school." He persisted, getting to his feet unsteadily. "If that's the kind of thing you people do…"

"It's not." She hissed. "I don't know what that was, dad; but it's not normal."

"You need to leave!" Petunia shouted, stalking towards them. "Dad, make her leave!"

"Pet…" Her dad sighed, pressing a hand to his face. "Lils…" It wasn't fair.

"This isn't my fault." She whispered, noticing too late that Moody had moved closer. She'd forgotten to watch him. Before she had a chance to flinch, he had her elbow in a tight grip. His side-along apparation was possibly the most uncomfortable she'd ever experienced. It felt like her stomach was left behind. She stumbled when he released her and almost threw up.

They were standing outside of Hogs Head. Lily blinked at the rickety building, surprised. Moody strode forward, and she followed against her better judgment. The inside was as dingy as the outside, but it was completely deserted.

"Aberforth!" Moody barked, throwing himself into a chair. A man appeared from the back, white hair tied up and trailing a goat.

"Moody, what brings you down here at this hour?"

"Get the kid a drink." He nodded to her, fishing a flask from beneath his cloak. Lily sat cautiously, wondering if she ought to trust anything from this place. But adrenaline was leaving her, and pain was starting to filter through her awareness. Her elbow was raw and her knee was still bleeding. She had a few other cuts she didn't remember getting. Lily winced as she sat, and accepted the beer gratefully. Aberforth did not linger in the room.

"Why did you bring me here?" Lily asked.

"You have any formal training in dueling?" His gaze was sharp.

"Nothing formal." She hedged.

"Informal?"

"There may or may not be an underground dueling club at Hogwarts." Lily shrugged.

"Follow the news at all?"

"I skim the Prophet." Again, she shrugged slightly. "I don't read in depth, though." James tended to, however; and he'd told her plenty about the dangers outside the walls of Hogwarts.

"There have been disappearances recently." He leaned forward intently. "Too many for sheer chance, and the Ministry's keeping it hushed up. But the reports speak of men in cloaks and masks."

"Like the ones that went after my family?" She frowned. Moody nodded solemnly. "People have talked about it not being very safe anymore, but no one really has anything of substance to say. Just…people vanishing."

"There's people gathering. They've a leader, we think. Don't know who just yet, but it's much more than the Ministry and Prophet would have you think."

"James has hinted at that." Lily said. "But what does it have to do with me? I still don't understand why you brought me here."

"It is going to come to war." Moody spoke very quietly. "Now. There's a legal way to get involved in the fight." He paused deliberately. "Or you slip through the back door and not get caught up in Ministry bullshit. You'll waste years digging out of the paperwork if you go into auror training."

"What's the other way?" She asked, intrigued despite herself.

"Dumbledore is pulling together his own force. Free of the corruption of the Ministry. I'll take you with me; train you on the fly. You have the instinct."

"It's not suicide?" Lily wondered, frowning. "Training on the fly?"

"Evans, you held your own against five at once with not an ounce of training. You tell me." He sat back, arms crossed. She thought about it, frowning. She hadn't really known what she wanted to do after Hogwarts. James had been trying to talk her into auror training, but there was a lot to go through before even thinking about taking assignments. She hadn't been sold on the idea until this moment in the wake of being attacked. If I were better trained, better prepared then it might not have happened. I could have protected them better.

She drummed her fingers on the table. She had been part of the brains behind the dueling club—she and her friends had started it with some Ravenclaw girls. Once the Marauder's caught wind of it, the idea had spread like wildfire. They'd been dueling the last three years, and Lily had consistently been one of the best. Especially towards the end of sixth year when James had started coaching her. When some of the duels became doubles, they fought together. They were undefeated, even when fighting five-on-two.

"I need more training." She said quietly, not wanting to be over-confident. "But I want to fight."

"Watch for my owl." Moody rose, limping out without a backward glance.

"But—wait!" He was gone with a crack. Lily scowled at the empty night air. What had she gotten herself into?

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