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Armistice by Phoenix_Flames

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Format: Novel
Chapters: 20
Word Count: 94,263
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Strong Language, Strong Violence, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Substance Use or Abuse, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme

Genres: Romance, Action/Adventure, AU
Characters: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Sirius, Lily, James, Voldemort, Ginny, OtherCanon
Pairings: Harry/Ginny, James/Lily, Ron/Hermione, Sirius/Lily, James/OC

First Published: 02/18/2009
Last Chapter: 12/02/2010
Last Updated: 05/21/2011

Summary:
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Even though life is at its end, Harry must learn to forgive the very people who were betraying him his entire life, the life that was nothing more than a cover up to save himself.

Master of Death Trilogy: Vol. I

Best Alternate Universe
Story Most Likely to Make the Big Screen
2011 Best Completed Fic Runner-Up
at the golden snitches



Chapter 1: The Protectors
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I've generated a casting list to make all the OCs click better. Characters from the movie have the same actors playing them. ;)


Claire Potter -- Reese Witherspoon
James Potter -- Christian Bale
Ethan Courtenay -- Milo Ventimelgia
Mary Jane Swithford -- Kirsten Dunst
Lily Evans -- Cate Blanchett
Carter Hewlett -- Josh Lucas



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Character: Remus Lupin
Chapter Graphic by Jeanie at The Dark Arts


Major thanks to Alicia, Tinkerbell01, for beta'ing this chapter!

*****



His alarm clock buzzed at 6:43 that morning. Just like it did every morning.

He set his alarm with just enough time to shower, dress, gather his things, and sit down for breakfast like his father demanded of him every day before leaving for school. Sleep was precious to him, and receiving quite the workload from his professors, he didn't have time to waste. His A Levels were approaching and his mother was pressuring the importance of continuing onto University, despite his protests and refusal to go when the time came.

His new motto? Every second mattered.

The shrill, vexatious sound erupted through his bedroom, and he slumped over to cease the ringing, only to shove the clock onto the floor. It hit the wooden floor with a loud clatter. He cursed and jumped from the bed, gathering the clock in his arms and shutting it off. Setting it down, Harry sat on his bed.

He shivered slightly and rubbed his brow, having gained a head rush from rising so quickly. He murmured nonsense under his breath.

Harry showered and changed quickly. He threw his books into his bag and rushed down the stairs, shaking water from his hair.

Like any other morning, his parents were sitting at the kitchen table. His father was reading the morning news, and his mother paused mid-way with her tea, her pinky finger pointed mannerly. Harry smiled at his parents and swooped down to give his mother's head a kiss. He smoothed back her blond curls. She jumped with a laugh. "Oh, sweetheart, don't please. You'll mess up my hair."

"Because that's all you care about, Mum," Harry smiled with sarcastic laughter. He sat between his parents and grabbed a piece of toast from the platter. He buttered it diligently.

Claire Potter's thin lips curved up into her crooked smile. She brushed back Harry's stray hairs from his eyes. Phone ringing, Claire rose to take her mobile phone from her purse. She answered, head inclined with a sour look across her face. "But you said the Prime Minister wouldn't arrive until eight?...It's seven o'clock!...Yes, I will be in shortly."

She hung up and dropped her phone back into her purse, already in mid-sentence. "I'm sorry. I have to go."

His father's fork clattered. Harry's head shot towards James. James Potter's hazel eyes were sad and distraught. He said quietly as Claire came around to him. "But, darling, you said you wouldn't have to go until eight."

"I'm sorry, James. I thought so too," Claire said sadly as bent down to kiss her husband. Their lips met briefly and James turned away from her as she straightened up. She sighed, displeased, and ran her fingers through his unruly hair. Claire's pale, narrow face pulled down into a frown. She ran a long, fine-boned finger over his jaw. "James, please. I'm sorry."

"This is important to me. I like to see your face before you disappear off to work," protested James.

His protest was too late though; Claire was already exiting the kitchen. James sighed and picked up his fork again. Harry eyed his father intensely. Subtly, he turned back towards his breakfast.

It wasn't unusual for his father to pitch a fit when either he or his mother couldn't make it to a meal. For a reason Harry did not yet understand, James was particular about his family attending meals and spending the proper amount of time together. Harry wasn't allowed to flee from the house without a word, disappearing from mind, and nor was he allowed to skip a meal with his father.

Harry eyed his father's displeased expression. "She will be home for dinner, Dad."

"Maybe," James sighed, rising with his plate in his hands. He took it to the sink and rinsed it off before placing it in the dishwasher. He slowly walked back to the table, watching his son eat his breakfast. James smiled gently and kissed his son's head, rumpling his raven hair affectionately. "To each his own though, right? I like to have you here. For everything."

Harry nodded under his dad's touch and cleaned up his mess after shoveling the last bits of food into his mouth. "I get it, but take a deep breath, Dad. No one's going anywhere."

James sighed and leaned against the door frame as he watched his son hurry from the kitchen and down the hall. Harry called back to his father as he exited. "See you after school!"

Harry closed the door behind himself and hurried down the sidewalk.

The morning was bright, crisp. There was a freshness about it that Harry couldn't quite place. He breathed in the sweet, heavy scent of rain and his mother's garden. The sun was shining, and the sky was crystal clear, not a cloud in sight. The birds chirped, pecking at the trees and ground for their breakfast and retreating back to their nests with happy songs.

Harry smiled and inhaled. He breathed heavily before strolling down the street and to the corner. His friend, Ethan Courtenay, was dancing around impatiently at the crosswalk with his girl friend, Mary Swithford. Harry clapped his friend on the back. "Ethan, Mary. Good morning. How are you?"

"Fantastic," Ethan said in a breezy voice. His fingers interlocked with Mary's as the three strolled down the street and their feet splashed in the puddles of fresh rain. "Mary here called me early this morning. We've been out in the rain since. It's a shame it's cleared up. You should have joined us."

Harry knew the adoring couple liked rain. Many people did. For an unexplained reason to Harry, they liked to stroll in it, sing and shout in it, or even contemplate their lives over in it. Harry, however, despised it.

Well, despise was a rather harsh word. Harry didn't despise it. He disliked it. Whenever Harry found himself caught in the midst of a storm, or even light rain shower, Harry always found himself running over his life and questioning all the secrecy he knew was within his household, and sometimes questioning Harry's own sanity.

"No," Harry chuckled. He could only imagine his best mate Ethan, with his divine brown curls and piercing blue eyes, kissing the beautiful Mary. "I'm glad I didn't. I'm sure you weren't laughing and splashing around like five-year-olds."

Mary giggled. One of her pale, delicate hands covered her mouth with a snicker. "Well, we did a little. After."

"Mary..." Ethan scoffed. Despite the harsh look on his face, he draped an arm around her body and drew her in closely, kissing her brow. Harry laughed and pointed. "Exactly. See, I'm glad I passed."

"You're sour this morning, Harry," said Mary from beneath Ethan's crushing embrace. She shoved him off with a grunt. "Did your dad throw a fit again? Did Claire leave?"

"You must be able to read minds, Mary. That's exactly it," huffed Harry. He gritted his teeth. "I don't get his issues. I'm always home. Mum is almost always home. She's been faltering lately. I guess it could explain why Dad's a little put out."

"Well, you know," Ethan shrugged as they casually crossed the street and into a small coffee shop where Ethan and Mary could grab breakfast. Ethan said their order nonchalantly and continued on with Harry. "Everyone has their priorities. Some things are higher for one person than they are for another. Hell, family is the last on my father's. It's work, work, work for my parents."

"Mine too," Mary agreed. She shuffled back and forth on her feet, bored.

They received their food and sat down casually in their normal corner. Harry put his feet up on the coffee table, stretching out on the couch. "I just don't like it, you know? It's...It's like he's got this dark past where he made some huge mistake and had a change of heart, if you will."

"I get what you mean," said Mary subtly as she sipped at her juice. "But you will never know if you never get over your fear of asking him."

"Yeah, yeah," Harry sighed, and he snagged Ethan's biscuit. Ethan yelped and groped at the air. Harry snorted and shoved it into his mouth, chewing in an all-mighty manner. He laughed and pointed at Ethan's distressed face. "You're funny. Come on, guys. We'll be late."

"You owe me breakfast," glowered Ethan.

"All right, I will buy you breakfast tomorrow."

"We don't have school tomorrow."

"Monday then."

"Yes. Monday," Ethan agreed.

Harry laughed and smiled as they made their way down the street again. He looked to his smiling friends. Everything had been the same for a while. It was the same life over and over again. A dull life. But when he looked at his friends, the friends he loved...

He loved his life. And he wouldn't trade it for anything.





"I'm tired of risking everything. I'm tired of lying to him. Of everything. Everything," James sighed heavily to her in the kitchen. He held her tightly in his lap and had his head buried into her neck. He breathed in her sweet scent and found himself lost in her. "His whole life has been a lie, and I can't bear it."

"It hurts me too, love," she whispered kindly. She brushed his shaggy hair out of his eyes and turned his neck sweetly. Her lips swung down to stroll across his neck. She let her hot breath run over his collar bone, all over him. He grunted underneath her and swallowed. She ignored his gasping, knowing she could work wonders on him. "Please, darling. We don't have much time together. We take what little we can."

"But just thinking of it makes everything so hard," James grunted, rubbing his head in distress. He pried her body off of his and set her down in the chair to stride about the kitchen. "I'm tired of lying to him. Lying to Claire. I'm tired of going behind their back..."

"Well, you can't go in front of their back either, James," she argued. She rose and walked to him, front and center. Her finger was pointed at him like a daring threat. Her eyes curved together seductively, drawing together her hiss. "Not now. Not after everything we've done. You - don't - ruin - this."

"I wasn't going to," muttered James, and he turned to her. He clasped her menacing hands together and brought them to his lips. He kissed each of the knuckles, each tip of the finger. He whispered into them. "It's worth it. Anything is to keep him safe and to stay with you."

His arms enveloped around her, washing over her like a wave from the ocean. She melted against him as if dripping wax from a candle. And all was needed was a satisfied groan.

She toyed with the button of his shirt. "You're so different now, James. Everything has changed you so much. Where is my joking Prongs? Where has he gone?"

"He's gone," James murmured into her hair, doing his best to remain of happy cheer. He smoothed back her silky, enticing waves of hair. "He left a long time ago. He went away from danger, away from his wand, away from the truth, away from magic."

"Away from me?" she asked feebly.

"No," James whispered. His lips traced over her ear, and he kissed it gently. His lips kissed a concupiscent trail along her jaw, her collar bone, her long, thin neck. "Never away from you. Never you."

He touched her chest gently, his hand resting over her heart, and he listened carefully to each beat. He sighed and waited until the sound of their heart beats melted together, until they sounded like nothing more than one heart, one body, one soul. "I can only move closer and closer to you."

Her round lips tugged up into a generous smile. She touched his cheek and pressed herself to him. She wanted to feel James closely, every inch of him against her. She pressed until James caught her meaning and held her to him, holding on as if for dear life. And then, when their eyes caught and they fell into their deep ocean of love, James took her shoulder and pressed her against the wall of the kitchen.

He kissed her neck first, and then moved up and up to her lips. There, he kissed her deeply and drank in every ounce of her he could possibly receive. He kissed her deeper and deeper until she was gasping for breath, pushing against his dismissive chest. He grabbed her hips, lascivious and yet gentle, and lifted her into the back window sill.

James yanked the drapes closed as her legs wrapped lovingly around him. He moved to her neck, kissing her hotly. She gasped and scratched at his arms. They were suddenly quick and vehement in their doing.

He kissed her once more, cupping her head in his large hands like it was a diamond itself, and they did what she had come every morning for years to do. In their doing, James' heedless hands knocked the pictures out of the way, and he grabbed on for support. Something crunched under his feet. He didn't even bother to look down at the broken picture of Claire.

James was leaning against the wall of his bathroom hours later, his arms folded in acrimony across his chest. His nose was wrinkled in his thoughts, but his adoration for the woman before him possessed him more greatly. He watched her relaxing in the bath. She stood, and dripping wet, she came to embrace him.

As she leaned back absently and rested against his chest, she turned in his arms and whispered, "I just don't understand why things have to be like this."

"You know perfectly well why they must, my love," soothed James. He stroked her damp waves and kissed them. She didn't smell like her sweet scent of honey and flowers anymore. She smelt of him. He kissed her neck once. Twice. Three times. Until she pulled away and gave him a half-smile. "I love you, sweetheart."

"I love you too, Lily," James murmured. "I wish we could have gotten the proper life we wanted."




"Remus," Cory Parshall snapped. "Will you not look at me?"

"Oh," Remus Lupin murmured. "I'm sorry." He turned his attention away from the football field, away from the college football team. Remus placed his feet on the bleachers and let his elbows rest against his knees. He kept a keen eye on one particular raven haired boy as he turned his head towards Cory. "I'm listening."

Cory, however, had also lost his train of thought. His line of sight had fallen on the boy Remus was watching. Cory rubbed his chin, inspecting. "He's a great boy, Professor Lupin. Talented. He's strong, quick-witted, fast. No one can catch him."

Remus watched the raven haired boy kick the ball away from the shirts-team. The boy raced down the field, losing those on his tail, and scored the next point of their scrimmage. "I know he is. I always thought he'd be better at baseball..."

His thoughts went to James. To Quidditch.

"Poor kid though," Cory shook his head.

Remus eyed Cory, his fellow co-worker. Occasionally, professors at the college could gather to inspect the progress of the college's sports. Remus always dropped by to watch the football team. Today, Cory had joined him. Remus pushed back his matted, brown hair. "Why is he that, Professor Parshall?"

"I hear the boy's mum, that Claire Potter, is having an affair with the Prime Minster's best man, and that his father is having an affair too."

Remus turned away from him, idle and extremely cognizant of everything around him. Everything about Harry Potter.

Harry's voice threw Remus into his on-aware's. His ears perked and he strained to listen. Harry's voice was full of booming laughter. "Ethan! How about ice cream? I could use something sweet."

Good, Remus sighed inwardly. He just wants ice cream.

Ethan, shirts-team and standing at the other end of the field, was fuming. He wiped his face of sweat with his shirt and mumbled under his breath. Remus chuckled as he watched the boy. Ethan jerked his head in a nod. "All right...You bloody speeding, unstoppable bullet."

Harry laughed and jumped, grabbing his bag and jacket from the bleachers as their coach dismissed them. As Harry walked off the field, Remus jumped to his feet. Cory quickly snatched his stuff and followed Remus with a stumble. "You're in a hurry."

"I'm sorry," Remus apologized quickly. "I suddenly remembered I must make dinner for my wife tonight."

That was a lie.

He wasn't in a hurry to go anywhere at all. He didn't have to make dinner. He didn't even have a wife. He had dedicated his life to being a protector.

Cory shrugged and followed along. The two boys were many yards ahead of them, talking happily. At the corner, Remus parted ways with Cory, and Remus began to saunter back. He took on the stealthy mode in which he had been trained in. He walked as just another passerby, his head hung low to the ground. Remus walked and walked, keeping just far enough away to stay in hearing range.

While Ethan and Harry waited outside an ice cream parlor, Remus absorbed himself in window shopping at the bookstore across the street. He picked up an abandoned magazine and shuffled through it, his eyes glancing up to the door of the ice cream parlor with the ringing bell when Mary pounced excitedly into view. For the next fifteen minutes, Remus leaned against the wall of the book store, reading casually, his eyes flickering occasionally to the trio sitting in the parlor window.

Eventually, they came out and headed down the street again.

Soon enough, Ethan and Mary bid good-bye to Harry and he was on his own. Harry walked solemnly with his hands in his pockets, his head bent low as to mind his steps on the white pavement. Remus walked silently, briskly, creating his own agenda as he followed. He had become a chameleon. He had been trained this way, and after nearly eighteen years of practicing it, he had entered perfection.

Remus caught sight of a man across the street in wizarding robes. Remus bit the inside of his cheek and looked down, excusing himself when he bumped shoulders with the man. The man muttered an apology and raced on towards Harry.

Remus was too fast.

He sprang forward, at the ready like a watching cat, and grabbed the man's robes. Yelping quickly, the man was drug along into an alleyway. Remus shoved him against the dark corridor and spat in the spy's face. "Who are you working for?"

The man swallowed, his face hidden beneath the black hood. He remained silent. The only sound was his rattled breathing and Remus' uneasy panting. Remus hissed again. The sun was beginning to set and it was the perfect angle to hide them from view. Remus yanked out his wand and held it to his throat. "I said who hired you!"

A harsh grumble of laughter raised in his throat. Remus let a growl rise in his throat, and he murmured under his breath. "Stupefy. Obliviate."

The man slumped to the ground in a heap, unconscious. Remus rubbed his mouth in annoyance and jumped from the alleyway, leaving the spy to wallow in his questions once he awoke.

Remus kept his head held down, acting as if coming from the alleyway was a part of his daily routine. He nodded with a brief smile to passersby and continued on his way.

Harry was slightly out of sight, having involuntarily gained extra ground from Remus' slight encounter. Remus lifted his head as they passed the park. And there, sitting as scheduled, Remus nodded to his partner.

A man with shaggy, cropped brown hair sat on a swing, rocking back and forth while humming. He nodded curtly. In this world, they were nothing more than strangers to each other. "Remus."

Remus smiled kindly to him and went on his way.

They had finally reached sight of the Potter's home.

There, a ways down the street, a recognizable woman was making their way towards him. Remus held the smile from his face. Again, no one in this world could be nothing more to him than a stranger. Remus gave a brusque nod to the beautiful woman and touched her hand gently as they passed. She whipped her head over her shoulder and gave a harsh and cryptic frown. She mouthed a "not here," and was on her way once more, down the street, out of sight, out of mind.

Remus looked to his partner, shaking his head in disapproval. Sirius Black mouthed. "Too dangerous."

She was nothing more than a friend he could no longer know. Only from a distance. Just like everyone else.

















Chapter 2: Arcane
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Character: Claire Potter
Chapter Graphic by Jeanie at The Dark Arts


Massive thank you to Alicia, Tinkerbell01, for another superb beta'ed chapter!

*****


"Why did you touch me today, Remus? What made you so compelled to take that step of idiocy?" Lily Evans hissed in Sirius Black's home that night just after apparating into Sirius' kitchen, seeing the two men at the table drinking fire whiskey. As Lily ran forward and snagged Remus' mug from the table, she hurtled it against a window of Grimmauld Place.

The window made a disgusting crunching noise, and Kreacher idled from his cupboard to inspect the source of commotion. At seeing the raving red headed woman, Kreacher shrank back with a grumble. It was typical of the hot-headed woman to pitch a fit in his master's home these days.

Remus grumbled at his loss.

Lily continued to shout. "Are you completely out of your mind? Mad, insane, completely and utterly stupid!"

"No, Lily," Remus sighed. He stood and grasped Lily by the shoulders, hoping to calm her down. "No. I'm sorry. All right? I'm sorry; I made a mistake."

"Mistake?!" Lily roared. She shuddered from his grasp and kicked a chair. "Yes; you made a mistake! You may as well have blown our cover completely."

"Lily, he didn't blow our cover. Moony wouldn't have done it if he was certain," Sirius coaxed. Both of the men were now trying to calm the raging Lily. She fought out of their grasp and roamed the kitchen.

She rounded on them, her finger once again pointed like a raging threat. "That doesn't matter. You two were both trained under the same circumstances as me. Deception, lies, avaricious mercenaries, and assassins! The three of us know nothing and no one can be trusted out there, and I won't have you blowing my cover!"

"Your cover?" Remus whispered. He took on a soft and worrisome disposition. He urged Lily towards them with his hands. "It's our cover. You're not the only one who cares for them."

"You're not tied to them like I am," Lily whispered solemnly. She fell hopelessly into a chair and sighed, taking her head into her hands. She moaned and groaned, murmuring under her breath.

Sirius went up behind her and squeezed her shoulders. He continued to massage them until Lily was breathing an easy trail of relaxed, warm breaths. "There, there," Sirius knew how to avert Lily's thoughts. He chuckled and teased. "Now, how was James? Did you have a good day with him?"

"Yes," whispered Lily. She glanced to Sirius over her shoulders, her green eyes insightful and loving. "I always do. Although Claire upset him this morning, so he wasn't as cheerful, but he certainly was by the time I left."

"Good," Sirius smiled. The men sat down with their friend at the table, coaxing her into calm tranquility once more.

Soon enough, Lily was breathing back tears against Sirius' shoulder. Remus gave her a thoughtful smile before rising with a disapproving sigh. "Well, I'm on guard for Harry tomorrow morning. I should be heading home. Take it easy, Lils. Please don't stress yourself like this. And you will be with James again soon enough."

Lily nodded sadly. After years of living a life full of danger and depression, Lily relied on James. He was her one happy place. She had nearly lost all sanity when she wasn't with him. He and Harry were in her every thought. A single second didn't go by when they weren't in her head. They were her last strands of hope, her life support. She was a complete mess, incompetent and empty without them.

Lily looked forward to when she could apparate into James' arms every week day at 10:00 a.m. And then, after a long, perfect day of loving and intimacy, she had to leave him by 4:00 p.m. When weekends came, she longed for them to pass just so she could be in his arms again.

"Wait a minute, Remus," Sirius said quietly as to not disturb Lily. It wasn't rare that Lily fell asleep at the table with Remus and Sirius. With her previous out burst, Sirius could predict that, any minute now, Lily would be snoring ever so gently.

Remus nodded and sat down quietly. It wasn't even five minutes before Lily's snore erupted. Sirius whispered quietly, adjusting Lily's head kindly on his shoulder. "I've been pressuring her about taking some sort of anxiety remedy. Her poor body just can't handle this, Moony."

"I know, Pads," whispered Remus sadly. He inclined his head to inspect Lily's features. She was so tiny and fragile these days. Remus wondered if she ever did anything besides worry, work, and spend her day with James. Lily generally patrolled at night and during the day, when she should otherwise be asleep, she romanticized with James.

Remus went on. "She's only making herself sick by doing this. She cares too much for them."

"I know," Sirius whispered, stroking her hair sweetly. He gave a pleading look to Remus. "But we love her too - like our sister - and I can't bare to watch her do this to herself. She hasn't the energy, nor the emotions to spare anymore."

"I know, I know," Remus agreed with a defeated sigh. "You should keep her here for the night and, when she wakes up, confront her again. We're worried for her well-being. Take her to bed, Sirius. Merlin, she needs it."

Sirius nodded and Remus left with a curt nod. Sirius scooped his friend up in his arms and climbed the landing of stairs up to Sirius' bedroom. He slipped her under the covers, as light as a feather, and tucked her in gently. He watched her involuntarily curl into a ball with a satisfied groan. Sirius chuckled and was pleased to see her sleepy contentment.

Tired and with his own early morning coming, Sirius kicked off his shoes and lay on the opposite side of the bed, giving Lily as much space as he could muster. He was used to sharing his bed with Lily. There was nothing inappropriate about it in the least.

He watched her back, the way her body curved with her hips, the flow of her hair all around her head. He had the futile longing to reach out his hand and just touch the warm skin of her arm, the silk of her hair.

Sirius grunted, hating himself, and turned the other way to face the wall. He folded his arms across his chest and huffed. Every day, every waking moment of his life he reminded himself how happy James and Lily made each other.

So, caring more for his friends than his own happiness, Sirius resisted the temptation to engulf the woman, whom he had loved for twenty-one years now, into his arms and hold her until the ends of time.




As James cupped her face in his hands, he gave her a long, beseeching look. His eyes were hollow, full of their emotion and sadness. She tugged, almost refusing, on his arm. James ignored her. "Claire, please."

"All right, James," she sighed. Claire Potter tilted her head down so her husband could kiss her forehead so lovingly. "I promise."

James smiled sweetly, pleased. "There, there. Good, love. I want to hear about every moment of it."

"I will call you every night. Every chance I get," Claire smiled again. Her white teeth were blazing with eagerness behind her seductive smile. With that flirtatious turn of her lips, James was longing for her. He chuckled and stroked her jaw, her cheek, her neck. "You know I love you."

"Of course I know," said Claire in a witty voice. Then James' lips were on hers, hot and hungry. She gasped into his mouth at his sudden enthusiasm and giggled. Her arms snaked around his neck, an admission of defeat. When he stopped, she broke away gasping. Claire ran her fingers over his jaw. He shivered joyously and murmured. She gasped. "Um - Mmmm - Wow."

"Ha," James laughed sweetly. He toyed with one of her curls. He then gave in with the frown of a five-year-old. "I don't want you to go."

"I'm sorry, love," Claire said with a new longing for her husband. "I have to. I will be home in a few days."

"All right," sighed James sadly. "Be safe. I love you."

"I love you too. Keep Harry out of trouble."

"Isn't he always?" James said defensively with a chuckle. And with one last kiss, she was in her car and driving away. James sighed and grabbed onto his head.

Claire.

Lily.

They were both amazing.

He loved them both. He loved them both more than anything in the whole world. Both made him so incredibly happy. When he was with each of them, the flying sensation erupted throughout his body and it couldn't be stopped. He loved them equally. He could never decide between one or the other if he had to. He felt horrible for betraying Claire, for having an affair with Lily on the side. But then he also felt miserable for Lily's knowledge that Claire was James' wife and James loved her as well and treated Claire just as he treated Lily.

It wasn't fair to them...

But it wasn't fair to him either. This was never the life he would have chosen. He would never had taken this path and lived through so many lies.

It upset him at times. It made him loathe himself.

James gripped at his hair. He let a growl rip through his throat and, standing in his front yard, he reached down and grabbed the abandoned garden shears. He hurtled them through the front window of his home with a scream.

He felt his muscles rip with the force of his throw and the screeching shatter of the glass to his home satisfied his distress, his anger, his hatred.

Oh, how he hated himself.

Oh, how he hated his life.

He hadn't heard Lily apparate to the front door, so he was surprised when he saw her there to duck at his blow. He had forgotten she was coming so soon. She yelped. "James! What in Merlin's - "

"Lily!" James gasped. "Lily, I'm sorry!"

She grabbed at her chest and slowed her frightened breathing. "I-It's okay, dear. It's okay. Um, what were you doing?"

"I was just a little - " He cleared his throat with a cough. " - angry. That's all."

"Oh," Lily sighed. She tried to give him the room he needed and she left it at that, moving on. "Are you ready to go?"

James smiled. A weekend. Just himself and Lily. "Yes."

He ran up to her, his anger flooding from his body like a breaking dam, and kissed her sweetly. Lily smiled at seeing what she could do to her love. She smiled at seeing how happy she could make him. James opened the front door to grab his bag, closing it again quickly.

Lily asked as she took his hand. "Now, Harry believes you have gone where?"

"A business trip. He is staying at his friend's house this weekend, Ethan."

"Good," Lily sighed inwardly. She did not approve of the idea of Harry being alone. Especially during these times. She asked, just to double check. "He won't be coming home to an empty house?"

"No, not at all," James chuckled. "I will be home before he is."

"All right," Lily said. That was enough for her. She wouldn't let Harry be on his own.

"Lily," James attempted to soothe her. "What are you so worried about? He will be fine."

Lily cleared her throat absently. "I know." She hated lying to James. Yet, still when he asked her if she was still auroring for the Ministry, she lied and said yes. James was oblivious to the fact that a new department had been made when Harry was born. The Guardians. But James couldn't know. James didn't even know Lily was still on such good terms with their old friends, Remus and Sirius. James didn't know his son was always in danger. James didn't know anything.

He couldn't. It would break him even more. He was a distraught, uneasy man in everything. Lily couldn't handle to see him become anything worse than what he already was. It would be too difficult. For her. For James. For Harry. Even Claire.

"Let's go," he smiled.

Lily nodded. "Will you apparate this time, James?"

James looked to the ground and held himself together. He thought long and hard for a moment before shaking his head. "No. I hate magic. I won't use it. You may only take me along."

James thought one last time on what he was about to do. A weekend affair with Lily. Nothing but himself and Lily. James sighed, wanting to rip himself limb from limb again.

Claire and Lily. What was he to do?

It was the most complicated love story he had ever heard.

She offered him her hand and he unwillingly took it. In the next second, they were gone.





Harry had called Ethan. Ethan knew he was running late and needed to pick a few things up from home before heading to his friend's house for the weekend that Friday night.

He broke his promise to his father.

Harry didn't care though. What difference could one trip to the house make?

Harry dashed inside and up to his bedroom. He shuffled through his cabinets, throwing random things into his bag. He ran down the stairs and shut off the lights.

The house was now in complete darkness.

Harry heard the tinkle of his cat's collar bell. He bent over to scratch the kitten behind the ears. Harry chuckled and checked to make sure the cat had enough food to last the weekend and that the kitty-flap into the backyard was open. He smiled as the cat rubbed lovingly against Harry's legs with a satisfied purr rumbling from his belly. "Hello, there, Jazz."

A shatter. A bang and many pops. The cat skittered from Harry's side and dashed into hiding. Harry's eyes went wide, frantic. He panicked and peered around the corner of his kitchen and into the living room. He swallowed and saw hooded men gliding into the Potter's entrance to their home. Harry pressed himself against the wall, sucking in his fear.

He listened intently. One man's voice was low and hoarse. "Who woulda thought Potter would take on the muggle life style?" It was more rhetorical than anything else.

The next voice was cold, dreary, and dominating over the others. "Shut up. Idiots. Look for anything that stands out."

There was rustle and bustle as the Potter's living room was torn apart. Harry breathed heavily, picking at his jeans in anticipation. Worry and panic washed over him. What was he to do?

White blasts emerged and ignited the room in flashes like a strobe light. Harry murmured a strand of curse words. He ducked to the ground, crawling along the cold tile. Its cold hardness sent shivers down his spine. He froze on the ground as he heard another speak.

"Look," his voice was raspy and barbarous. "Here. A letter to the half-blood. Harry. In case you come home, remember to make sure Jazz has enough food. Have a good time at Ethan's this weekend, and I will see you on Monday. I'm sorry your mother and I both had business trips this weekend. Love, Dad."

"Aww, look at that," snickered their leader. "Daddy James has turned into a little softy."

"Who's Ethan?"

"Ethan Courtenay. Remember him? Brown haired boy. He plays football with the young Potter; they're best friends, and his girlfriend, Mary Jane Swithford."

Ethan and Mary! Harry's mind boggled. He skittered along the floor as the people continued to rip things apart. He crawled to the kitty door and, as quietly as he could muster, squeezed himself through the hole in the door. He bit his lip until he tasted blood to quiet himself at the pain when he pulled his hips through. He reached back inside to grab his bag, and then he was off.

He was sprinting down the street, not thinking, not caring. Only his friend mattered.

He didn't have money on him. He didn't know what to do. Ethan lived ten miles away. He only walked to school with Ethan because his mother dropped him off at the corner on her way into work. He could never make it in time. Ethan's cell had been revoked by his parents for the weekend and Harry didn't have their home phone number. Harry had no way to contact him.

He didn't know who was in danger. He didn't know if there was any danger at all. He didn't know what those people had meant, what they wanted, or who they were after.

Harry ran and ran until his lungs were scratching at his chest for air, until his heart was pounding in his ears, and until he felt like his calves had ripped into tiny shreds. It would be nightfall before he reached Ethan. Harry came to a stop, ignoring the looks he had been receiving from pedestrians for at least a half hour.

Three more miles. Only three! Finding a new will power, Harry surged forward, running across London in a mad blaze. The sun was setting when Harry reached his destination. Ethan's white house looked purple in the sun's glorifying colors.

But Harry had no time to admire the pretty scene. The front door was hanging by its hinges. Harry ran forward and pushed it aside, letting it clatter to the floor. Harry could hear sobbing from within the house. He called out hopelessly. "Ethan! Mary! Hello! Ethan?"

"Harry."

He heard his name called out weakly. He followed the voice and source of the sobs and came to Ethan's bedroom. He found Mary clutching Ethan's hand for dear life, tears streaking down her cheeks. She hiccuped and looked to him. Mary desperately shook her head as she cradled Ethan, dead. "What happened? Why? I don't understand."

"Oh, no," Harry whispered. He bit his lip again, his teeth sinking into the cut that had already begun to scab over. "Mary..."

Harry sank to the floor and wrapped an arm around her. Harry looked to Ethan's empty eyes, staring at his ceiling blankly. Harry reached forward and gently closed them. He tried to smile. "There. There, Mary, he's only resting."

"I don't want him to rest," Mary sobbed against Harry's chest. Harry engulfed her into his arms and hid his tears in her mass of blond hair. "I know. Me neither. But he's sleeping now. He's just sleeping."

"I don't understand, Harry."

He didn't even understand either.

Harry nodded, a silent agreement.

In truth, he didn't understand either. He knew it was his fault. He knew he was the one to blame. He didn't know why, but it somehow was. Harry couldn't bear to tell Mary this. He kept quiet and held onto his remaining best friend. He whispered positive things to her over her cries. He let her soak his shirt with her tears until it was sopping. Together, they held their dearest, limp friend in their arms until Ethan's parents would come home...

Home to find out that their only son was dead...





Claire stood next to the prime minister's left side. Carter Hewlett stood on his right. The prime minister was giving his speech. The crowd was roaring into thunderous applause. The town square was full of roaring people, screams, cheers, and joy. It was like a parade, a celebration.

Claire smiled and blushed as Carter winked at her from the opposite side of the stage. They both stood simultaneously with their hands clasped before them, an absent and careful look on their face. She lifted a hand carefully and pressed the talk button on her headset. She murmured into the microphone next to her ear. "See anything?"

"No," Carter's voice was low and lustful. "I only see you."

"Be quiet," Claire hissed. "We're doing a job here."

"You're right. But we won't be tonight. You're in room 412 at the hotel?"

"Shut up, Carter," Claire sibilated. She then giggled and felt the color rise to her cheeks. "But yes."

She saw Carter's smile of approval from across the stage. He winked to her and then resumed to inspect their surroundings.

Claire let out a happy sigh as the crowd erupted into another woot of joy as the prime Minster said another something worth of cheer. Claire had completely missed it.

She glanced up to the windows of the surrounding buildings. She looked for anything out of place, anything glaring. Everything was clear. Every window was full with cheering on-lookers. Except for one window.

Claire smiled proudly and looked back to her boss, the minister. When she looked back to that empty window, a black barrel was emerging from it discreetly. Claire's eyes widened. She hissed into her microphone to Carter. She was gasping, hyperventilating. "We have an infiltrator. Carter, code 09. Carter, Intruder."

Carter looked about wildly.

But everything happened so quickly. The black barrel had emerged far enough to see a head peering out over the end of it, an eye closed against the scope to focus on the target. An arm moved to the gun and a finger wrapped around the trigger.

Claire looked back and forth. Her legs shook, trembling with what little weight she had. With nothing else to do, she burst forward with a shout. "Prime minister!"

The prime minister's head shot towards Claire and her out burst. The crowd silenced and she screamed. "Get down!"

*****


"Hurry, slow poke!" James jeered excitedly. He waved an arm over his head, motioning for Lily to hurry.

She giggled and began skipping down the hallway of the hotel. He chuckled erratically and ran towards her. He engulfed her into his arms and sprinted down the hallway with her cradled in his arms like newlyweds crossing the threshold. James threw the door of their hotel room open and tossed the bags inside. He jumped into the room and slammed the door shut.

In one quick moment, James had her pressed against the door. His lips were on her neck, biting her affectionately. His hands, excited and eager, were all over her. Lily wrapped her legs around his waist and gasped loudly. "Oh!"

James maneuvered through their room and into the bedroom. He was on top of her in the next moment. His large hands were up her shirt and she giggled beneath him. Lily began clawing at the fabric of James' shirt, impatiently ripping it over his head as he kissed every inch of her skin.

She moaned loudly. They were all that mattered. His weight and warmth sent happy memories rushing through her body. She remembered all the times when there was nothing in their lives but a new found love. As James' hands slipped up her shirt, around her waist to her back to unclasp her bra, Lily kissed him. She kissed him as if it were their last kiss in the world, as if he belonged completely to her.

She shoved out all worries of Harry, all jealously of Claire, any sadness, any anger. Anything. Anything except for the man on top of her.

*****


Claire shoved him out of the way. The minister fell with a confused grunt, and then there was a loud, deafening whistle. Two more blasts followed. Claire looked to the window as her body jerked back. "Ah!"

"The window, the window!" Police shouted. A mad flurry began as the police raced to the assassin's window. "Get the prime minister out of here!"

A horrible pain pierced her body. It started in her rib cage and spread throughout every inch of her flesh. She gasped and choked. Claire looked down to her stomach, her own blood seeping through her white dress suit. Three large holes were gushing blood and her own flesh. She whimpered. Claire hopelessly clamped her hands over her wounds and coughed. Blood spurted from her lips.

She sank down to the floor of the stage as the crowd, thousands upon thousands, murmured in horror. All Claire could hear was Carter.

"Oh god. God, no. Claire! Someone get help!" Carter was at her side in an instant.

Everything went blurry. Everything faded. The sun in her sight swirled into a yellow splatter. The English flag warped into a mesh of color, mixing with the sun. Everything was hazy, a fading rainbow in Claire's eyes. And then Carter was there, clear as day.

He took her into his arms, her blood rubbing off against his suit. Claire could see tears in his eyes and she tried to reach up and wipe them from his eye lashes. Her hand bobbed around uselessly. The pain was too much. She could feel the bullet lodged inside her gut. She let out a painful groan.

"Claire, hold on. Hold on, help is coming," Carter said gently, brushing curls out of her eyes.

Claire nodded and swallowed an uneasy lump in her throat. She closed her eyes briefly and Carter shook her refusing. "No, Claire. No. Keep your eyes open. Keep your gorgeous eyes open. Stay with me."

"Carter..."

"No, Claire," Carter shook in anger. He screamed to the rest of his crew. "FIND THAT GUNMAN!" He stroked Claire's hair as paramedics rolled a stretcher on the stage. "Claire. Claire, dear, everything will be fine."

"You're sure?" Claire whispered. She tried not to look at the holes in her stomach. She winched as her vision blackened. She groaned to herself. "No. No; I want to see you."

"I'm right here, love. I'm right here," Carter breathed. He resisted the strong temptation to kiss her then and there in front of all of England. "Look at me. Stay with me. I'm not going anywhere. Keep your eyes open, I'm right here."

*****


He was all over her. His skin burned everywhere they touched. He groaned from above her and then kissed her again to silence her. Lily clawed lovingly at his back and bit at his shoulder in attempt to muffle her scream. It didn't work well; her rumble erupted throughout her throat. James gasped into her ear, "I love you. I love you so much. I love you my only perfect flower. My heart. I will give you the world."

James' phone rang from somewhere within his abandoned pants. James swore loudly and yet ignored the call. When a second call came, James stopped moving on top of her and Lily grumbled in displeasure. "I'm sure it's your wife. Why don't you answer her."

"She can wait," James said seductively. He nipped at her neck and let his hot breath wisp against her ear. "Nothing can stop me when it comes to you."

James reached to his jeans, hanging off the bed, and found his phone. "He huffed in disapproval as he read the name flashing across the screen."

Claire.

James hit ignore and then shut his phone off. He threw it across the room, and then his lips were back on Lily. She giggled, surprised at his sudden return. James chuckled zealously. "I love you. You're the only thing that matters to me. I love you, I love you; only you. Forever."

*****


Claire was rushed to the nearest hospital. Carter sat by her side, holding her hand generously. He turned to Claire's pale face in the back of the ambulance. "His phone is off."

"Call again," Claire choked. "Leave a voice mail."

Carter squeezed her hand tightly and unwillingly did her bidding. He pressed the 1 again, and it started calling James. As it had done before, twice now, it went straight to voice mail. Carter listened to James Potter's voice mail for the third time. He rolled his eyes to himself as he had to listen to the bastard who was married to the woman he loved. "Hello, it's James. Must have missed your call, but I'll get back to you. Thanks. Bye."

The tone came and Carter was able to record his message. Carter spoke quickly and solemnly, holding back his secret hatred for James Potter. "James? It's Carter Hewlett. Um, I work with your wife, Claire. We're partners. Um, I hate to tell you that there's been an accident. I'm with Claire right now; we're on our way to the hospital. There was an assassination attempt on the prime minister and Claire took it. Three gun-shot wounds. You should call back as soon as you get this message and come as quickly as you can. Thanks."

Carter hung up and turned towards Claire, his eyes swimming with tears. She bit her lip. "I'm sorry."

"He doesn't even have the decency to keep his phone on to receive an update from you. What an arse."

"Carter..." Claire protested.

"Fucking ass hole," emphasized Carter again. He turned away from her and let his hand slip out of Claire's grasp. He took his head into his hands, let his tears fall with his embarrassment, and sighed. "I wish you weren't married. If you were. To no one but me."

















Chapter 3: Birth Mother
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Characters: James Potter, Lily Evans, Harry Potter
Chapter Graphic by my favorite Jeanie at The Dark Arts


A thanks to my beta, Tinkerbell01, for another great chapter.

*****



As Claire was wheeled into the Emergency Room, she caught the attention of the doctors and nurses she passed. They took her stretcher and immediately wheeled her into a private, intensive care ward. Carter didn't leave her side once. However, Claire was more anxious about her dormant husband rather than the bullets in her gut. Doctors had ripped her tops off and were beginning to work on her wounds, while Carter tried not to look at her mutilated body. Claire was persistent with trying to grab a hold of James as she coughed to Carter. "He's staying at the Galway Bay Hotel in Galway, Ireland. Please call them."

Carter nodded and was ushered from the room by the doctors. He caught one last look at her face, alarmed and petrified. He blew a kiss to her as the door slammed on his face. Carter sighed, slid into one of the waiting chairs, and called the Galway Bay Hotel on Claire's mobile.

He called three times. Each time an employer of the hotel couldn't bring up any record of James Potter staying at their hotel. Carter gave up and assumed James had never gone in the first place.

So, he sat and waited until he could hear news of Claire.

*****


He gently trailed a strawberry all over her. She lay with the white sheet wrapped around her body, her back exposed. The fruit, being trailed seductively all over her back, sent tremors all throughout her body.

She shuddered and giggled, kicking her legs. "That tickles."

"Mmmm," James groaned enticingly. He bent down over her and began kissing a trail up her back. His body hovered over hers and he trailed his lips, hot breath, and tongue all over her skin. She shuddered once more in pleasure. He then popped the strawberry into his mouth.

Lily turned over and yanked James to her side. He laughed and gathered her fragile form into his arms, holding her tightly. He kissed her deeply. "I'm going to shower."

Lily nodded and let him rise from the bed. She watched him, drenched in sweat and as naked as he could be, fade into the bathroom. She let out a loud sigh of satisfaction as she sprawled out along the bed's satin covers. She buried herself in them. The smooth touch of the covers made her skin feel so relaxed and...dreamy.

She giggled and dove for the bucket of strawberries at the end of their bed. She kicked her feet in the air as she popped them into her mouth, chewing in delight.

James and Lily's hotel suite was filled with previously ordered room service. She had the sudden craving for the one thing she believed was missing for their room. She reached for the telephone and dialed for room service. The attendant at the front desk asked, "Calling again are you? I believe the only thing from our menu that you haven't ordered is the - "

"The molten chocolate cake. Yes," Lily smiled.

The attendant sighed. "All right. It will be delivered to your room shortly."

Lily hung up and lay back once more against the bed. She lost herself in the whiteness of the covers. Her hair was strewn about her face, matted with sweat from her love-making with James, and she pulled it out of her line of vision. Propping herself up on an elbow, she looked up into the mirror across the room. She gazed at the tiny emerald orbs that were her eyes. She wrinkled her nose and imagined her very own green, lively eyes on someone else's face.

It wasn't long before James emerged from the shower in naught but a towel. He snickered as he saw Lily's form. One of her legs, the curve of her bum, her arms, and back were peeking out from the covers. She kicked her legs excitedly as she saw James. He laughed and went to kiss her once. "I love you."

"I love you too," Lily whispered, lost in his low, bonafide voice. She breathed him in, his cologne, his shampoo, his own very smell. She then inhaled deeply and sighed in wonder. "A cake is coming."

James laughed. "Really? More food?"

As if on cue, a knock came from the door. James glared at Lily and pointed with a domineering sense. "You put a robe on this instant."

"You too, Mr. Potter," Lily scoffed. "I don't want anyone but me seeing that ass of yours. It's mine."

James laughed as he dropped his towel and slipped a robe on instead. He answered the door just as Lily tied her own robe in place. The boy outside the door, who had come to their room a total of five times now, shook his head in annoyance. The boy, whose name tag read Thomas, seemed to be particularly open and comfortable with his ambiance around James and Lily. "You two are the only ones who seem to be living in an alternate universe."

"What do you mean?" James asked kindly, running his hands through his wet hair. He flicked his fingers, sending any water droplets crashing to the ground. He shook his head like a dog and murmured a "better."

"Have you not heard?" The boy who looked to be eighteen years of age asked, pushing the cart with the chocolate cake into their room. He let it rest next to the strawberries, champagne, fruit, and other luxury foods. He folded his arms and stared at the television.

"Oh," Lily jumped for the remote. She switched it to the national news channel. The broadcast Thomas was referring to did not take long to appear on the screen. James lowered himself onto the bed as he began to watch with interest.

The reporter on screen was standing at the Prime Minister's debate in London. She was speaking rapidly while the now empty square stood as a beacon in the background. "A horrible event has just occurred during the Prime Minister's debate here in London. An...assassination attempt...has just occurred here at the debate. The Prime Minister is safe and secure. However, one of his advisers is not. Claire Potter spotted the assassin and acted as quickly as she could. She received three shots to the stomach and is currently being taken to the nearest hospital with her fellow adviser, Carter Hewlett. Further news involving Mrs. Potter is being awaited. The police attempted to catch this assassin but were, regrettably, unable to. Her Majesty and the Prime Minister have ordered to catch this assassin at all costs."

The footage switched to a play back of the speech. James watched, his eyes glistening with tears and shock.

The Prime Minister stood at center stage, his wife off to one side and Carter Hewlett on the other. Claire discreetly spoke into her ear piece and then she looked about wildly. She jumped, her head whipped from side to side, and she was leaping with a shout. "Prime Minister! Get down!"

There was a loud commotion and three, horrendously loud bangs. Claire flew back and sunk to the ground, three holes in her stomach.

James' lips quivered. He jumped to the phone on the night stand, dialing his wife's cell number. He anxiously twirled the phone cord around his finger. The room service boy watched James with curiosity as Lily looked into her lap, an empty, lonely, sad, and desolate look spread across her face. She tucked a curl behind her ear and sniffed to focus her thoughts elsewhere, rather than on the man who held her heart, the man who was busy worrying about another woman whom he loved.

James spoke frantically as Claire didn't pick up her cell phone. He left a voice mail. "Claire! Claire, darling, are you all right? Oh my god, baby, please. Please answer! I'm calling again." He hung up and dialed again.

The room service boy looked from Lily to James in confusion. James called again and this time Carter Hewlett answered her phone in a hushed tone. "H-Hello?"

"It's James. Who is this?! Where's my wife?!"

"It's...This is Carter Hewlett. I'm at the hospital with Claire, James," Carter said in a reserved voice.

James wrapped the cord around his finger, bouncing his leg in anticipation. "Is she all right? Let me talk to her! I love her; let me tell her I love her. Let me speak to her!"

"WOAH!" The room service boy yelled, looking from James to Lily. He finally put two and two together. He started laughing, yelling. "You two? Claire Potter's husband is having an affair?"

Lily whipped her head towards the boy. James waved a hand around to silence him, worried that Carter would hear the boy on the other line and James would be found out.

Cater, thankfully, didn't seem to have heard. "You can't speak to her right now. She's in surgery. They think she will be fine. It doesn't look good. Where are you? The Galway Bay Hotel doesn't have you in any records."

"Umm, ermm," James stuttered. He swallowed and blinked, forming a lie on the tip of his tongue as fast as possible. James had lied to Claire. He had told her he was going away on his business trip to Galway, Ireland and that he was staying at the Galway Bay. He was in Galway, but he wasn't staying at the Galway Bay. There was no harm in telling the truth now. "I-It got changed at the last minute. We're staying at the Clayton Hotel instead."

"Oh. Will you be able to leave your business trip to visit Claire?"

"O-Of course. For something like this, yes," sighed James breathlessly. He coughed and ran his hands through his wet hair to soothe his worries.

The service boy yelled again. "You're James Potter? You're married to Claire Potter? Dude, an affair!"

James grabbed the alarm clock from the nightstand and chunked it at the boy in aggravation. The boy ducked and laughed. James murmured, covering the mouth piece of the phone. "Sweetheart, my wallet. It's in my jeans. Give him one of the bills. That should be enough."

Lily scrambled across the room to James' discarded jeans and ripped out the money. She forced it into the guy's hands and his eyes lit up at the amount. "Thanks!"

"Get out," Lily hissed. "And keep your mouth shut!"

The boy stood in the doorway with a snicker at James, appraising his looks, his tall, broad form with tapered shoulders, the six pack that was abnormal for a man to have at the near age of forty, and dark shaggy hair, all the while confirming that James did look like the kind of guy who would be a backstabbing two-timer. Thomas laughed. James whipped around and screamed. "GET OUT!"

The boy whimpered and was gone, skittering off down the hall like a scared cat. James sighed heavily into the phone, gripping his head.

His mind was a muddled swarm of clouds. Everything had been perfect and then came crashing down in a single instant. He wondered if Harry had heard the news yet and how he had reacted. James was making himself feel miserable for how Lily was suddenly put aside for James' higher worry for Claire. There was so much wrong so suddenly. He sighed and gripped his head as Carter spoke. "Someone bothering you?"

"J-Just my assistant," James grimaced through his lie once more. "I'm coming home. I will be at the hospital whenever I can." Then he hung up. James turned to Lily, holding herself together on a corner of the bed.

Her chin was resting on her knee, and she looked to be deep within thought. Her eyes swam with tears, and she blinked them back when James was gazing into her eyes. He wiped her eye lashes clean of the salty tears. "My love, what is it? Tell me."

"A half hour ago I was your 'only love forever.' That's not true, James. It's not. You're lying to me; you're lying to me all the time. I'm tired of it, and I'm tired of sharing you. I need you and all of you. I can't share you anymore, but I can't be selfish enough to ask for that."

They entered a long and disturbing silence. James picked his words carefully and spoke after several minutes. "I-I'm sorry, my flower. I-I'm married, and I love Claire as well. I'm sorry. Do you know what it is like to love two people? Do you know how it feels to sit in the middle, being torn apart, and not being able to choose? I'm sorry, Lily."

"Well, you have to choose now," Lily hiccuped. She swallowed the hard lump in her throat, surprised at her sudden courage. She had always loved him so much and had been too afraid to upset him in any way. All she wanted was his happiness. When you loved someone as much as she loved James, it became impossible to care for your own happiness. Your loved one came first. But Lily was tired of handing James over to Claire every single day. It tore her apart when she lay in bed at night and could only think of how James had to be making love to Claire or holding her so close. It was inevitable.

She wiped away her tears. "I can't stand aside and watch you fly back into Claire's arms every day. You have to choose."

"Lily..." James whispered, distraught. His eyes shook in their sockets, his mind raced, and his heart thumped painfully in his chest. He wondered how he would ever survive without the both of them. "You cannot be asking this of me..."

"I'm not saying you have to decide right now," said Lily as she busied herself while she gathered her things. "But I am saying that you must decide. Soon. I can't handle this anymore, James. I still love you. I always will, but I just can't tear myself apart for you anymore."

She shoved spare clothes into her bag and dropped her robe. She was in a mad flurry as she glided across the room naked. She replaced her black, lace thong and the matching bra, clothing herself with a pair of torn jeans and her favorite yellow blouse with pink, tropical flowers, placing her wand in her pocket. She ran her brush through her hair, and the wavy locks frizzed about her head with the static. She roared in frustration at the mess she had created and whipped her wand out of her back pocket to style her hair.

James looked to his lap in silence, digging his nails into the palm of his hand until he felt the blood flow under his nails.

"James," Lily sounding irritated. "Do you understand me?"

"Yes," whispered James. "How can you ask this of me...?"

She walked to him, her bag over her shoulder, and touched his shoulder lightly. She smiled feebly. "How can I not ask it? I'm going home to think things over. You go run home to Claire. No, I don't know what it's like to love two different people, but I do know what it's like to have your heart broken for twenty years. I love you, James. You know that."

She kissed him unwillingly, and James held her there. He savored her sweet smell, the smooth skin of her satin lips, the warmth of her body surrounding his. He cried out into her mouth as he pushed deeper and deeper inside. He stopped and breathed, holding her tightly as she tried to scramble from him. "Please. Stay with me. I will choose you. You, Lily."

Lily knew that couldn't be true. James lived on a out of sight, out of mind basis. She knew that, once she was gone, she would be gone from his mind. She also knew that, when James was in her presence, Claire was gone from James' mind. As long as Claire was there, Lily could never, completely, be there.

"Imagine if we were both in the same room, inviting you to stay with one of us. Forever. No turning back, no changing minds, no second chances. Who would you choose? Think about it."

"You, Lily. Always and forever you."

"Your wife is lying in a hospital with three gunshot wounds. Think it over," Lily commanded. Willingly this time, she let her lips descend upon his and she kissed him lustfully. She held onto everything she knew about him, everything she loved about him. She squeezed his neck, looping his long mane around her fingers as she dove into his mouth. She swallowed him whole, a taste for remembrance.

But then she pulled away, and there was a loud crack. She was gone in an instant, leaving James holding onto nothing more than thin air and a fading heart.

James breathed heavily, trying his best to keep his composure. He sighed and felt the greatest pain swelling up from his body. Then he forced all thoughts of Lily from his mind and focused on the crisis at hand. He dressed in a hurry. Wanting to be in Claire's presence as soon as he could, James did something he hadn't done in eighteen years.

He remembered his life before Harry, before Claire. He remembered what came first and how to do it, he remembered his wand, his school books, his broom, shoved under the floor boards of his bedroom, he remembered how to apparate.

Then he did the very thing he swore eighteen years ago never to do again.

He used magic.

He was gone in an instant with that familiar crack.




Carter murmured a "bye" before James Potter could hang up. After dropping Claire's phone into the pocket of his dress pants, he went back to sulking in his seat. He rubbed his head as he fretted over Claire's well-being.

The door to Claire's surgery room slowly creaked open. Carter lifted his head to the doctor. She came forward, a feeble look on her face. She gave him a half-hearted smile as Carter anxiously jumped to his feet. He ringed his hands together. "How is she, Doctor?"

"She will be fine. She was very lucky though," the doctor shook her head disapprovingly. "The third bullet struck just a centimeter higher than her uterus. Had the bullet struck any lower, the fetus would have died."

"Fetus...?" Carter asked, hoping the doctor had mistaken. A fetus? In Claire? Was she referring to the right patient?

"Yes. A fetus. A growing baby."

"I know what a fetus is!" spat Carter. He rubbed his head and walked in circles. The doctor jumped at his snap. Carter rubbed the back of his neck painfully, wishing the news wasn't true. He couldn't believe it. How was it possible? There was another question that seemed greater still, but Carter didn't dare ask it. He didn't dare even to think it.

The doctor watched him for many agonizing minutes. Carter was nearly ripping out his hair. "She's pregnant...?"

"I'm sorry," the doctor said discreetly. "Mrs. Potter is pregnant; she's approximately five weeks along. If the bullet had lodged itself any lower, the fetus would have died. But she was very lucky. The child remains healthy, but we must act fast if we want to keep it that way. I'm afraid both of Claire's kidneys have been damaged. She needs at least one and must go through a transplant for this to happen. Does she have any direct descendants?"

Carter scratched his head, trying to keep up with the doctor. He was able to realize the doctor needed a correct, matching kidney for Claire. Finding such a thing was very hard when it didn't come from a blood relative. "Um, yes. She has a son. He's seventeen."

"Good. He can decide for himself, then. Has her son been notified of his mother's condition? We need to bring him in immediately to speak with him. His mother needs that kidney."

"Can I see her?"

"Yes. She's awake now, awaiting surgery. You can visit her until it's time."

"Oh, speak of the devil," Carter muttered and pointed down the hall. A panic-stricken Harry raced down the hall. His eyes were full of fright and worry. Carter could see that his mother's incident wasn't the only thing wrong. Carter had only met the boy once before but was comfortable enough to speak as if he were his god-son. "Son, what's wrong? Something else has happened. What is it?"

"I-I..." Harry coughed and swallowed. He looked to the floor and sniffed. Carter felt great respect for the seventeen-year-old as Harry tried to hold his emotions together. "M-My friend. Ethan. Um, I was waiting with my friend, Mary Jane, for his parents to get home. Mary found Ethan dead. We don't know why."

Carter's eyes went wide and he swallowed the uneasy lump in his throat. He blinked twice, thrice, and then found his voice. "Dead?"

"Y-Yes," nodded Harry solemnly.

"I'm so sorry, and your mother on top of it."

"I'm sorry, dear," the doctor broke in. "I can see you are in mourning for your friend. I give you my condolences, but I need your help this instant if I want to refrain from having to give you condolences for yet another person. Claire Potter is your mother, yes?"

"Yes."

"She needs a kidney, and I understand that you are seventeen. This makes you responsible for your own medical decisions here. You have the right to say yes or no on your own. We, of course, have to run the correct matching tests before hand, but would you agree?"

"Yes, anything for her," Harry nodded.

"Good. Come on then."

The doctor led him into a separate room and Carter was once again on his own. Still shaken, Carter shuddered. He pushed forward and into Claire's ward.

She was lying hopelessly on the bed, her freshly exposed wounds bandaged with thick gauze. Her chest was covered with her bra due to her uncoverable stomach. Carter walked forward, shaken at the site of his lover. She blinked at him quickly, her lips pursing themselves into a thin line. She blinked back tears. "Doctor Haas told you then, didn't she?"

Carter nodded, lowering himself onto her bed. He took her hand into his own and stroked it. He grimaced at the scratches on the smooth back of her hand. He hated seeing her hurt. Even if she poked her finger with a pen and let out the smallest gasp, Carter would disapprove. He was overly protective. However, he didn't care. Not one bit.

He choked. "D-Did you know?"

"I've known for two weeks," Claire murmured. She looked down sadly, wondering what Carter was thinking. Claire's mind was a flurry of frets. She had no idea what to do, how to handle this.

Carter had a horrible, painful moment of realization. "Claire, I have to stop seeing you. I'm just getting in the way. You're married, a-and now this. I won't get in the way of your family."

"But I want my family with you," Claire swallowed.

"It doesn't matter. You love James too. I know it. I see the light in your eyes whenever you hear his name. You can't throw away what you have so good because of me...You have a son with James, a marriage, a good home."

Claire closed her eyes and seemed to shrink back into the safety of the bed. She pulled the cotton sheets up to her lips, turning her head into the pillow. She seemed to be burying her fright and worry into the pillow as she went. She didn't want to say it out loud, but she didn't want to repeat herself. She couldn't believe she would say it. It was admitting her horrible truth.

She mumbled. "Carter, the baby isn't his."

Carter turned his head towards her. All happy thoughts flooded from his mind, and gut-wrenching, self-loathing thoughts replaced themselves. He dropped her hand, feeling as if he had been burned. "What?"

"I-It's not his," Claire cried in despair. She held her head in agony. "I-It's yours, Carter. It's your child."





"I don't understand," wondered Harry. He lifted his hands in questioning, completely lost by Dr. Haas. "I'm her son. What do you mean there is no match what-so-ever?"

"I'm sorry, Harry," Dr. Haas shook her head in amazement. "Your tests don't match your mother's. You can't give her your kidney."

"I'm her son though!" Harry shouted. He was lost. He wanted to do anything for Claire. He wanted to help her, and he didn't like being told that he couldn't help after all.

"I'm sorry, Harry," said Dr. Haas again. "There is no way you are her son. Your blood samples do not match and you have no gene relation at all. Have your parents ever told you that, maybe, you could be adopted?"

"No," Harry argued. "No. I'm not adopted. I'm the spitting image of my father. There is no way."

"Well, then maybe Claire is not your mother."

"Impossible," murmured Harry. He sighed and looked down to his hands, staring at the tiny pinch in his finger. Everything had gone wrong so quickly. Ethan was gone, his mother hurt, lying hopelessly awaiting her kidney, and Harry showed no signs of relation to her.

He wiped away the tears that swarmed around his emerald eyes.




James came rushing down the hall just as Harry left his ward, released from the hospital. He shoved at his father's chest, angry and impatient. "You! Tell me! Tell me everything now. I should have known something was fishy! Something has always been wrong. I do weird things that I can find no explanation for. You bottle up everything and don't tell. I look nothing like Mum; I never have."

"Harry," stuttered James. "Harry, calm down. What are you talking about?"

"Mum is lying in there," he pointed abruptly to her door in the empty corridor, "awaiting her kidney and I can't give it to her! Why? Because I have no relation to her. She's not my mother, is she? If she's not my mother, then who is?! What happened? Why was I never told?"

James looked to the floor. He lost his breath and wondered how long it would be before he collapsed to the floor. He lowered himself onto a seat and waited until he found his breath. The look he was receiving from Harry sent excruciating pain all through his body, emitting from his heart. Lily left him, and now this?

Harry stood, furious, with his hands on his hips. "Well? Tell me!"

James took his head into his hands, unable to look his son in his swimming, emerald eyes. He spoke in an uneasy voice, waiting for the tears to come. "You're right. Claire is not your mother. There are so many things I haven't told you, Harry. I knew I should have. I only meant to protect you."

"Protect me from what?" demanded Harry.

"There's so much you don't know."

"Tell me!"

"There's a separate world from what you know. Magic is real. It's not just fairy tales and stories. I'm a wizard, you're a wizard. There are good ones and dark ones. A prophecy, a foretelling of the certain future, was made about the darkest wizard ever and another wizard; that they would kill one another. That other wizard was predicted to be born at the end of July. This wizard was narrowed down to two; you were one of them. We wouldn't let you be raised in a world like that, we wouldn't allow you to be given the task forced upon you before you were born. So, when you were born, I took you, and my wife and I divorced, going our separate ways. I made myself leave everything behind and started a new life. I met Claire."

Harry stared at his father for many minutes. Harry then laughed. "You're joking."

"You may think I'm insane, but I'm not," James whispered.

Harry's smile faded and it turned into a worried expression. "You're serious...?"

James nodded. "His name was Voldemort and he wanted to come after you. We didn't know what to do."

"They're still after me, aren't they?"

"I don't know," groaned James truthfully. His thoughts focused elsewhere. On Lily. "But your mother. Oh, your mother. She's beautiful, kind, sweet, fierce tempered. Her name is Lily. And you have her eyes."



















Chapter 4: Let Him Know
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Character: Claire Potter
Chapter Graphic by Jeanie at The Dark Arts


Huge thanks to Tinkerbell01 for being a fantastic beta! :D

*****


Carter let go of Claire's hand as soon as Dr. Haas entered the room. The doctor gave a sad smile, oblivious to the couple's hidden romance. She touched Claire's shoulder lightly. "Your son is here. He came to give you a kidney and was surprised to find himself unable to."

Claire's eyes widened, and she thrashed on the bed in her panic. "No! What did you tell him?"

Dr. Haas retreated, scared at Claire's outburst. Claire's blue eyes swelled with tears, and her IV covered hands clamped over her eyes. Carter pried them away as the mascara streaked down her pale, perfect cheeks. "No! Everything will be ruined. Doesn't he need my consent?!"

"No," Dr. Haas said solemnly. Her tan cheeks were burning with her embarrassment. To Rachel Haas, it was clear that Claire Potter did not wish for her son to know that he was adopted. "He is seventeen. At seventeen he has become medically emancipated from you. Medically, he is a legal adult and, therefore, can make his own decisions."

"Claire," soothed Carter. He hid his temptation to hold her, to kiss her, and take care of her. Their relationship had to be as secret as possible. "It's okay."

"It's not okay," Claire hissed. "Everything James and I have ever worked for is ruined now. Now he will know everything, and all these years will mean nothing."

"What are you talking about?"

"Urgh. I don't even know! I don't know the story," groaned Claire. She turned onto her side, letting out an aching hiss of pain through her teeth. "Nothing. Go away, Carter."

"No," Carter refused. He stayed there on the edge of the bed, right by Claire's side. He did, however, avert his attention to Rachel Haas instead. Carter asked her, worrying once again for Claire's well-being. "You said Harry is unable to give the kidney. Why?"

"He has no relation to Claire at all. The kidney is not a match."

Carter blinked, looking at Claire's agonizing face from the corner of his eye. "Then where will she get the kidney?"

"I don't know. It has to be soon; we have no time to waste," sighed Rachel.

Carter swallowed and pulled on his courage from within his gut. He reminded himself how much he loved her. He wanted to help her in every way he could. Claire looked at him, knowing what he was thinking. She then muttered, "Cater, no. No, please. Not you."

Carter shushed her with his hand, and he turned to the realizing doctor. "I will do it."

"I doubt you are a match, Mr. Hewlett," Rachel said as she shook her head.

"It's worth a try," Carter demanded. "Take me in right now."

Rachel pursed her lips and then hauled Carter from the room, leaving Claire sobbing in her defeat.

James came in five minutes later, and Claire cleared up her appearance to hide the fact she had been crying. Her attempt was of no good. James knew her too well. He crawled into the bed next to her. "Sweetheart, you shouldn't even bother with trying. I can see that you've been crying."

"I can't help it," whispered Claire into her husband's chest.

James gathered her weak form into his arms. He buried his head into the crook of her neck. She smelt of worried tears, anxious sweat, and burning, sweet cinnamon. He kissed her neck, lost in her feel, in her touch. In her. "I'm sorry about this. I should have been there."

"You couldn't have stopped it," whispered Claire. She found herself looking into her husband's eyes, searching deep inside them for his emotions. She felt all of her feelings come rushing forward like a riptide, and any thoughts of Carter flew from her mind. She looked down and toyed with the buttons of his shirt, running her fingers around the circles. She swallowed uneasily. "James, I think it's time to share the truth."

James looked down, his face set in a hard, worried expression. He hid his worry behind his white, shining teeth. "The truth?"

"About Harry," Claire murmured. "Your secrets. My secrets."

James nodded in agreement. "I think it's time too."

Claire's eyes swam with tears. It wasn't hard to gather the feeling from her husband that the truth wouldn't be a happy one. She didn't know why she had gone her whole relationship with James, her whole time of knowing Harry, being his mother, and had never asked. She assumed it was because James had a troubled life before she came along. She had just never really pried him for information. She had always respected his privacy, his emotions.

James pushed back her curls and exposed her forehead; her smooth, perfect, flawless forehead. He brought his lips down on her cool skin and let his lips rest there for one long minute. He whispered next. "No judging until we both have the full story."

She nodded in approval.

"Can I just say one thing before I begin?"

"Of course, love," Claire whispered. Her voice shook in her throat. Her composure betrayed her thoughts. She was scared beyond imagination.

"Claire Lucy Anne Mason-Potter, I love you. I love you so much. Do you know how much?" James whispered, his voice full of...

What was it that made Claire so anxious...? Pain.

"Yes, I know how much, James." Her voice quivered.

"It's more than my heart can take. I look at you, and I still the get butterflies of a teenager. My heart races, my breathing accelerates, and I think I would fall if you weren't there to catch me. I know that I will love you forever, even if you didn't feel the same way about me, but my Claire, I - love - you. Love doesn't even cut it," James finished in a long, exhausting breath.

Claire's eyes filled with tears, and James kissed them away. She sobbed out a thank you and buried herself into his embrace.

James sighed against her ear. His breath tickled her skin, and she shivered slightly. James worked up the courage to tell her what he had to say. "I don't know where to start."

"From the beginning."

"Right." He played with one of her blond curls as an excuse to not see her face. He was too afraid to see the painful expression he knew he would place upon her fragile, beautiful face. "Remember how you lost your memory after the accident?"

Claire nodded, recalled being in this very same hospital, being told that she had Amnesia, and had been in a bad car accident - hit by a drunk driver months after Harry's birth.

She had never questioned it. She had always kept her accident in the back of her mind. It pained her every time to remember how she had to relearn her past, relearn her own child, her own boyfriend who later became her husband.

"There was no accident, Claire," confessed James. He held her head in the palm of his hand so she could not retreat in her horror. He didn't dare look at her face. Her shaking shoulders confirmed her angered, sad sobs. "All right, there was. But it wasn't by a drunk driver, and it wasn't an accident. It...It was planned. See; there's a whole separate world. Magical things. There are such things as broomsticks and cauldrons, wands and giants, potions and spells. It's all real. People like you - who don't possess magic - are called Muggles. I'm a wizard. I know it sounds mad, but it's the truth. I know this is a lot to inform you of, but you have to hear it all if you want the full story."

Claire was silent, but James continued on.

"You see. Within this world, just like in every world, there are the good guys and bad guys. The bad guys. They call themselves Death Eaters, and a man named Voldemort leads them. A prophecy was made about this Voldemort and another wizard. This unknown wizard was predicted to be born at the end of July. There were two possible births set at this time. Harry was one of them. See, I was...married. I had been for two years. Her name was Lily. Lily was pregnant. We were thrilled; we couldn't want anything more in the world, but then this horrible, terrible prophecy ruined everything. Another was the child of my old friends. We didn't know who the prophecy referred to, but the very good, close friend, mentor, and teacher who warned us suggested we both take extreme safety measures. At first, we did as he instructed. Then something went wrong. I was forewarned of a friend's betrayal. He had turned me and my wife over to Voldemort, and he chose to come after us. We were told when he planned to attack. Lily and I..."

James sighed and caught his breath. He held back the tears in his eyes. He hadn't even realized she had shrank away from him, curling into the sheets of her bed. She had her head buried in her tears and the clean, crisp, cotton sheets.

He continued on. "Lily and I. We decided Harry was better off away from all this. We wouldn't let him take on the life set out for him. He hadn't even been born yet, for God's sakes. We devised a plan, impossible to overcome. We divorced, and we went our separate ways. I was left with Harry. I don't know why, but mainly because he is the spitting image of me and would never have been safe with Lily. I had thought she would take him. I guess she saw something different in me; maybe she knew I could never dedicate myself to what Dumbledore advised. Maybe she knew I could start over. She knew I could love you. She told me she would keep watch over us. So, I took Harry. I abandoned all magic and began raising Harry as a Muggle on my own. It was the safest way. He would be away from all the murder, the torture...The horrible life...Maybe I saved myself in the process. I will never know. But. Then I met you. When Harry was five months old, I was a wreck, a hopeless wreck. A single father who couldn't even tell whether his son was crying because he needed a diaper change or he needed his bottle. I didn't know whether he needed to be burped or, perhaps, he had swallowed a button hidden somewhere in his crib."

"Oh, god," coughed Claire.

James kissed her forehead. Next, was happy. He knew he could build her up, make her strong again. He would build the bridge, strengthen the foundation. Then, once it was complete and beautiful, he would suicide it, drop a bomb on his own creation. He knew he would ruin her after his story.

"But then I found you, Claire. I didn't think I would ever love again. I knew that my Lily was still out there, holding my heart, and I didn't want it back. But then I saw you. You were standing in line at the check out counter of the local grocery store. You had a cart full of sappy love movies, ice cream, cookie dough, and chick magazines. You peeked into my cart and pointed out the infant necessities as I stood next to you. You said, 'Wife's making you do all the shopping, huh?' I laughed, something I hadn't done in a half year, and smiled. I said, 'There is no wife. I'm a single parent.' And then you apologized and your face flushed red as a rose, but your embarrassment didn't matter because I knew why you were buying all those things; cookie dough, movies, and magazines are the ultimate break-up recovery for girls. So, I asked you, 'Did you break up with him, or he with you?' He broke up with you, and I called him an idiot.

I already knew my story by then. I told you my wife died during birth, that I was raising my son on my own. I ran into you three days later at a coffee shop. We had coffee with Harry in his stroller beside us. You cuddled with him, and we were dating a week later. As I fell further and further in love with you, I hated myself for betraying Lily, but I also knew that this was what she wanted. I knew she wanted me to move on. Maybe this was why she chose me to take Harry, to start over. When I realized I never wanted to part with you, I knew I couldn't keep this lie. You were bound to become suspicious. I didn't want Harry being raised knowing he had a different mother, that there was something more to his life. I only wanted him to know that what he saw was his family. There couldn't be anything more - I wouldn't let that become a possibility. I would get rid of all loop holes. Including you. I didn't want Harry to know that there was a whole life behind me before I met you, I didn't want him to know I had become a changed, more dull person because my wife had 'died.' I didn't want him coming to me years later and asking me about his birth mother, and, most of all, I wouldn't let you cave when he would come to you with questions about the truth. You had to keep strong too. So I set up a plan. I couldn't just wipe your memory; everyone would become suspicious. So I made a set up."

And so he told his story...

*****

February 20th, 1990


Dating Claire for months now, James was free during the day while Claire was at work. He had busied himself for the day by taking Harry to the park and letting his little feet pad at the water of the pond. He let Harry toss his ice cream cone at a near by bird.

James dropped by his father's home that afternoon with Harry strapped to his hip. The child was gurgling in his sleep, his tiny head bouncing around. His father raced out the door. "James!"

"Dad," James cheered with a chuckle as his father scooped Harry from his arms. Andrew Potter was an elderly man whose jet black hair was whitening at the top. His face was still cheerful, appearing much younger than he actually was. Andrew cooed gently to his grandson. "My favorite grandson. How are you, my little boy?"

"You're favorite grandson? Dad, he's your only grandson." James jumped up the stairs of his father's home. He glanced to the drive way with the new silver BMW in it. "Dad? You gotta car?"

"Oh," Andrew laughed, not bothering to look away from his grandson as Harry reached for Andrew's nose. "Yes. The Ministry moved me to Muggle Relations. I have to travel occasionally with the Muggle government now, so I decided I had better get one of those car things."

"Really?" James asked, wondering how his father would ever manage to drive a car. Legally, nonetheless. "Do you even know how to drive a car, Dad? Do you have a license?"

"Naw. You have to have a license to drive a piece of metal on a street? Geez, silly Muggles are really paranoid these days. It can't be that hard to learn anyways, Jamie."

James grimaced, sticking out his tongue at his father's nickname for him. He never liked it when his father called him that. Andrew scoffed. "Come on, James. You let your mother call you that all the time. Why not me?"

"You make me sound like a kid," whined James. They stood on his father's porch, hovering around before entering Andrew's home. The thought of Elayne Potter lingered over the both of them. "Mum at least called me that with this loving sound in her voice. Like I'm perfect."

"That's because, in our eyes, you are perfect, James, but you're right. Your mother did manage to have an uncommonly sweet sound to her voice, didn't she?" Andrew's smile didn't reach his eyes.

James shuffled around on his feet as Andrew tottered his grandson on his hip. James glanced back to the shiny BMW sitting in the drive way. James had been looking for a plan for two weeks now, and now it finally came to him. James' smile was demonic, painful. He knew he shouldn't have been smiling. "What are you doing tonight, Dad?"

"What's an old man to do when he's all on his own? Nothing, of course."

"Would you mind watching Harry?"

Andrew's face grew a thousand times brighter with his excitement. "No, not at all! I would love to watch the little tyke."

James smiled. It was becoming all too easy. "And the BMW."

"What about it, son?"

His plan was coming into its full effect. "Can I borrow it?"




James sat in his father's BMW. His hands gripped the gray leather of the steering wheel. It slipped through his hands, and they fell limp into his lap. James shuddered, whipping the sweat from his brow. He glanced to his watch, he checked his surroundings, he dabbed his brow once again and kept his eyes hard on the magical map of Claire.

She had a late conference in the city and she had called, informing James it would be late before she returned to her country home that night. It was 10:17 on a cold Tuesday night, and the dark of the night left a chilled, eerie setting over the county road on which James sat. His father's BMW was parked in the brush of the old, dirt road. His headlights were off, making the silver BMW invisible in the eerie blackness.

James' eyes followed the red dot, representing Claire, on the golden grid of a map. The magical map was imprinted on the dashboard of the car and Claire was getting closer and closer.

James closed his eyes, reaching for the shift. He had only mastered the craft of a stick-shift months ago. He had found automatic cars a hell within itself entirely. A stick-shift had been an even harder task to overcome, but James knew he would have to master all those muggle objects.

He had calculated the time, her speed, and his speed. He had calculated when he needed to accelerate. Everything. He had mapped it all out down to the exact second. Claire only had one more mile to go until it was time for James.

James squeezed his eyes shut. He tapped his thumb impatiently against the leather of the steering wheel once more, placing his hands.

He wasn't completely sure he was taking the most least extreme measures possible, which he knew was quite the oxymoron. But then again, he knew this was the only plausible way his new Muggle friends and Claire's friend would believe it without questioning the formation of Claire's mind.

James checked his pocket and felt the thin, cool wood of his wand. He tapped it once, reminding himself he James only had two more spells inside him. After that, he was done. He was done with magic, he was done with it all.

James opened his eyes right as Claire's red dot hit the marker on the map. James pushed in the clutched, the gas. It reached 2 x 1000 RPM and then he soared into gear. He was speeding down the country road, kicking up dust in his wake.

He closed his eyes, waiting for the impact. He knew he would go in a straight line, he would hit Claire exactly, he didn't need to see where he was going.

It came sooner than he thought.

Claire's small, yellow car caved with grotesque squeals from the silver BMW. The colliding cars skid to the left on the street and soared into a ditch. The yellow car spun and spun as the BMW hydroplaned in the other direction. James hyperventilated, covering his head with his arms to protect his head from the swaying of his body. He felt the BMW come to a stop and James let out a sigh. He was unhurt.

He un-clicked his seat belt and burst from the driver's seat. He ran the 100 yards down the road. He paused in the process, forgetting one very important fact. James couldn't be found out; it couldn't be realized that he was the one who hit Claire.

He pulled out his wand, looking over his shoulder at his father's new, now mangled, BMW. "Wingardium Leviosa!"

The car rose and rose in the air. A tire fell to the ground with a few thunks and rolled into a ditch. James wrinkled his nose at the disobedient tire and flung the demolished car into the nearby coy pond. The car sank with gurgles and bubbles, and James continued down the long stretch to Claire's smoking car. The unnoticeable clump of yellow metal gave off hisses as oil leaked to the ground, steam erupted from the crushed engine. It was lying on its side, and the windows were smashed in, glass littering the interior.

James had calculated the collision in his head to know that Claire's car would come out on top with the most damage. James' math hadn't failed him. Claire's car was, certainly, totaled and unrepairable. He would buy her a new one.

He ran down the abandoned, unlit street, shouting impatiently. He was worried for her, shocked at what he had done. There was always a part of him that thought he wouldn't go through with his plan. "Claire! Claire! Merlin, Claire..."

He dropped to his knees and crawled along the length of the car's front. His hands scraped against the glass as he crawled. He saw Claire's mangled form, slumped against the door, pressed against the ground. Her blue eyes fluttered under her eye lids and she seemed surprised to see him. "J-James? W-What...?"

"Shhh," James whispered, reaching inside. His knees crunched against the broken glass. He felt the glass rip though his jeans and embed themselves into his knees. He could feel his blood oozing from every angle of the glass running along the ground. He lifted up one of his bloodied hands and pushed her long, dirt covered curls from her eyes. He wiped her blood from her cheek, only to replace it with his own.

His lips quivered at the mess he had caused her, how much pain he had inflicted upon her. He unclipped her seat belt and Claire's body fell from the security of the car and her shoulder crunched against the glassy dirt. "AH!"

"I'm sorry, Claire!" James cried out. He felt tears in his eyes. He officially hated himself. Hurting Claire was - and had been for a long time - the last thing he wanted to do in his life. It killed him to see her with a single tear in her eye, a single worry on her mind; it killed him to see the knife slip from her hand and cut the smallest of cuts on her finger while she sliced the vegetables for supper. He couldn't stand it.

He knew why though. He always became this way. However, he had only been this way with one other woman. He forced her name from his mind and focused on Claire. She was what mattered, she needed his help. He loved her. He echoed her name through his head. Claire, Claire, Claire...

"Claire," James coughed, his voice mixed with screams and tears all at once. "I'm sorry."

"You hit me. You hit me."

"Yes," he confessed. There was no harm in telling here. She would forget soon enough. "I'm so sorry, my love."

He picked up her tiny form and dragged her crumpled body from within the car's depths. She screamed harshly as the glass cut through her dress and scrapped her back, down her thighs, her legs, and her feet; one foot was bare, James noted.

James whimpered and then shrank into the ground, into nothing but his sorrow. "There, there. I'm sorry. It's all over now. It's all over. I won't let anything hurt you anymore."

"You hit me!" Claire wailed, trying to wipe the blood from her mouth.

"Shhh," whispered James in a panic. He pressed his lips against Claire's bloody ones as she shrieked in pain. She realized the pain wasn't coming from the thousand cuts all along her body. The pain wasn't coming from her bleeding head, nose, and mouth; the pain wasn't coming from the bruises of being slapped back and forth against the surfaces in her car; the pain wasn't coming from her head smacking the steering wheel. It was coming from her heart.

"I can't believe you."

James wiped the bloody curls from her face, the fresh dirt that covered her forehead and cheeks. One of his tears dropped against Claire's lips, seeping into her mouth. He engulfed her into his arms and found the peacefulness that he always found. He knew he needed her, he knew he was safe and loved in her arms, he knew he could start over with her.

"I only did it... I only did it - because I love you," confessed James. He kissed her lips again; the taste of her blood was filled with his guilt and shame as he drank her in. Claire couldn't help herself when he kissed her. She reached for the arm of his shirt anyway, despite her anger and disbelief at him. She found herself too battered, too useless, and weak to reject him.

She let his lips melt against hers. He kissed her so sweetly, so hard and full of longing. Claire couldn't ever remember a time when he had kissed her like this. He broke from her lips and trailed down her neck, seeming to kiss away his apologies.

He kissed her forehead, her nose, her cheeks, then, lastly, her lips. He drank her in, knowing in a mere minute she would forget him and learn him all over again.

"Forgive me," moaned James. But this time he spoke of what was to come, not what had come to pass. "It's only because I love you." He pulled out his wand, and Claire panicked in his arms. She thrashed, smearing her blood along James' forearms and chest as he held her to him. She was bewildered, confused, and hopeless. "What are you doing?! What is that?! What are you, really?"

"A wizard..." he whispered. "Obliviate!"

The white flash was quick to shoot from James' wand and into Claire's forehead. She blinked as the most recent events, all knowings of James, all knowings of Harry rushed from her mind. She shook her head and looked up at the man who was now a stranger to her. "What are you doing? Let go of me!"

James quickly tossed his wand aside. "Claire, Claire, hush. It's okay. I'm here to help you."

Her breathing grew unsteady, racing as her heart continued to thump loudly in her chest. Her eyes quaked in their sockets and she quieted, allowing the stranger to hold her. "Who are you?"

"My name is James," he cried out. It took all of his courage to not be too friendly with her. He knew he would scare her if he made any kind of romantic move. No, he was only a stranger to her now. He had to act as if he was meeting her all over again. "I-I was in the car with you. I'm your boyfriend. We were hit by a car, a drunk hit-and-run. I pulled you out."

"I-Is help on the way?"

James, unable to answer any more of her questions, reached for his wand a few feet away. He pointed it at the back of her head, knowing she couldn't see what he was doing. He mouthed. "Dormite."

Claire's eyes rolled into the back of her head, her eye lids fluttered shut, and her body slumped in James' arms. She entered unconsciousness.

*****


"I called the police and they came out to the sight within an hour. You slept under the spell I put on you until we reached the hospital and you were put in Critical Care. You were diagnosed with Short-Term Amnesia and the doctors said you would never regain you memory. You know the story form there. I jogged your memory with pictures I conjured from magic. I showed you Harry's birth certificate and told you that you had adopted him already. I took care of you night and day, you fell in love with me again quickly, and I proposed soon enough."

"You're a liar. You've been a liar all these years..."

James ignored her and pushed onward. He wasn't done telling his story. "But after that night, while you were asleep, I went back to the site of the accident. I told the police it was a hit-and-run and they didn't even search for the supposed drunk driver. They said he would be far gone by then, and the only fact they knew was that the driver was in a silver car due to the paint that had rubbed off onto your car. They also said to not worry about the damage, that insurance would pay for the repairs, and health care would pay for your damages. But after everything, I went back to the lake and fished my dad's BMW from the pond with magic. I repaired it with my wand and drove it back to my father. It was late, and he could tell something had happened. Harry was asleep in his arms, and I told him the false story of what had happened. I said goodbye to my father. That was the last time I saw him alive. When I got home, I thought over what I had done to you, what I had done to myself, and what I had done to help our family. I made my decision to leave magic behind completely. I had been living as a Muggle the past few months, yes, but I was still performing magic inside my home. But I was done with it. I didn't want it anymore. I gathered all my things and shoved them under the floor boards of my bedroom. I haven't touched my wand since. That was the last time I used magic. Until today..."

Claire's eyes, hollow of her love for James and her resentment, swam with tears, and she hid them behind her tired eyelids. "I can't believe you..."

"I only did what was best for us. For you. I was trying to protect you. Me. Harry."

"You shouldn't have though. You took away so much of my life."

"I know, and I'm sorry. I dropped contact with all of my friends, except for one person." James hid the fact that the one person happened to be his ex-wife. His Lily. "My best friends, who had been with me every step of the way for everything imaginable. I made myself drop contact with them. I haven't spoken to them since. I get updates sometimes. I hear things about them, but I don't allow myself to be near anything magical. I won't let myself. I'm too afraid it will harm you or Harry."

"What have you heard about them?"

"All I know," James began unsteadily, "is that one of my friends works at Harry's school. Remus. I don't know why. He must have done what I did - so angry and demolished by magic that he abandoned it completely. But even though he may have dropped magic, I don't speak with him. I don't speak with anyone. I only know that he works at Harry's school because I recognized his name on Harry's schedule at the beginning of the year. I could be wrong about my thoughts on him, but the one person I do keep contact with doesn't tell me. I don't let them tell me simply because I do not want to hear it. I don't think I could handle hearing it. Sometimes I think I see my old friends sitting at a park, or a parlour, or strolling on the streets, and I look back, but they are gone. I think it is just my head playing tricks on me. I tell myself that it is only because I miss them - I miss what I used to be so much. I wasn't always like this: protective, on-edge. I used to be wild. I broke the rules and I partied. I laughed and I made jokes, I laughed at jokes. But all of this has ruined me, changed me so much, that I don't even know if I can anymore."

Claire remained silent.

James looked at her, memorizing every little thing about her. He memorized the way her blond eyebrows curved fiercely, the way her nose turned up at the end. He touched it with one finger, ignoring her flinch under his touch. With that single touch, with that single flinch, he knew who he had to choose, who he must choose. He couldn't go on with Lily, despite his love for her. Claire was clearly the better choice. He had a home with her, he had a strong marriage with Claire. And he loved Claire. He had been with Claire for seventeen years and he had everything with Claire. He spoke, knowing he had made his final decision. "But what matters is that I love you and I always will. I choose you and I choose you forever. No matter what happens we can push through it. We can get through this."

Claire found herself staring at the crevice of James' neck. She didn't dare look him in his hazel eyes. She swallowed, knowing James could break her in a second with the wrong answer to her next question. "And the one you are still in contact with. Who is it?"

James looked down, ashamed of himself. "It was the one person I didn't know I could ever let go of until today. My ex-wife."

"Oh, god..." Claire sobbed in a horrid, embarrassed voice. She clutched at her head and screamed. A nurse came rushing in and she fussed at James. James tried to rescue himself. "It's okay. I just told her something."

"You're disturbing my patient, Mr. Potter. Please leave," the nurse ordered.

James stood his ground, his filled chest rising with his prideful breath. "No. I will not leave. She is my wife. I am helping her."

"I am not your wife, you filthy traitor! I don't want to be anymore! Get out of my sight! I don't want to hear you, I don't want to see you! LEAVE!" Claire roared. She rose to her knees on the hospital bed, her gown bunching up on her knees.

James cowered backwards. He had never known this anger to be in Claire. The nurse rushed forward and gripped Claire's wrists. She pushed Claire onto the bed, her voice clearly in control. "Mrs. Potter, you must calm yourself. This stage is critical. With a pregnancy of five weeks, the fetus needs the mother to be calm and relaxed. You are already older than the majority of pregnant women! You must calm down and sleep if you want your baby to be okay! And Mr. Hewlett. Mr. Hewlett had a match for you. We must move you down to Surgery because Carter's kidney will be ready for you shortly."

James threw himself backwards at the wall. He now found himself as angry as Claire had been. Claire's eyes flashed from across the room as she sank down in horror. She cowered into her bed and pulled the covers over her head. The nurse looked from husband to wife. James hyperventilated. He grabbed onto his chest, and his tears poured harder and harder. He bit his lip, unable to contain his anger. He calculated it in his head.

Claire was pregnant...

James did sleep with his wife on, just about, a daily basis, but five weeks...

Five weeks ago she had been gone for the week in Germany for work...

That meant...

James shouted, his heart broken beyond repair. "You're pregnant?! You were FUCKING your CO-WORKER?!"

Claire sobbed louder as James shouted. "You were in fucking Germany. Oh, and well look at that! You were fucking him, weren't you?! And now he's got you knocked up with his kid! How could you do this to me?!" James let out a scream and grabbed a vase from a nearby table. He hurtled it at the ground and stormed from the room, leaving a rolling thunderstorm of anger in his quake, leaving Claire sobbing to herself, cowering into her body in her sorrow.

The hall was empty when James retreated into his shelter, and he was thankful for that. He didn't know where Harry had run off to, but he was grateful.

James found it quite clear who the father of Claire's child was.

It was Carter Hewlett.

It all made sense now. He was always answering Claire's phone when he called, they were always together. Why hadn't he noticed it before?

James pulled at his hair and cursed loudly. "That son of a mother fucking bitch!"

He kicked a nearby chair and stormed down the hall, loosing himself with every step, moving farther and farther away from Claire.




Harry didn't even know how he had put everything together. He had remembered standing outside his mother's ward, listening to the lies of his life. He had heard it all. Every last word. His father's words rang over and over in his head.

"All I know is that one of my friends works at Harry's school. Remus. I don't know why. He must have done what I did - so angry and demolished by magic that he abandoned it completely. But even though he may have dropped magic, I don't speak with him. I don't speak with anyone. I only know that he works at Harry's school because I recognized his name on Harry's schedule at the beginning of the year."

Harry had known immediately who his father was referring to. Remus J. Lupin. Harry's History Professor. Before Harry could hear more of his father's story, Harry found himself rushing from the hospital in the blue truck he had driven. He stopped at a pharmacy to buy a local phone book and found his professor and his address. Harry pulled up in front of the flat in an old, dingy town outside of the main city. People walked about in funny clothing and tipped their hats to Harry along the streets. Some whispered.

Harry swallowed and pushed back the people in dresses and other sorts of odd clothing. He found the old, gray house. Light was emitting from the windows, and Harry could see movement within the home. He jumped up the front steps before he lost his courage completely.

Professor Remus Lupin had to have answers for Harry. If Professor Lupin was one of Harry's father's old friends, then he would know the whole story.

Every little detail from the very beginning.

Why hadn't it struck him before? Yes, Harry had always like his professor, but Lupin had always been particularly kind to him. He came to observe every football practice, every game. Anytime Harry was at the school, Lupin was too.

Harry knocked, his knuckles rasping against the faded blue door. His professor stood there in a matter of seconds, Remus Lupin's smile fading completely. He stuttered. "H-Harry...What are you doing here? How did you find me?"

"I...I-I."

Oh, great. He hadn't really thought about what he was going to say. He grabbed his head, tremors reverberating all throughout his body. "Things are going wrong. E-Ethan Courtenay was found dead this afternoon. An autopsy is scheduled to find out the cause of his death. A-And my mother. You must have seen the news. She was shot - three times! She's in the hospital and her co-worker is giving her a kidney. I over heard my parents talking, a-and...My father! He told her everything! He told her everything I had always questioned. And now I know. I know. H-He mentioned you, and I just came here. I need answers!"

"Harry, I don't think now's the best - "

Harry pushed inside his professor's home and down the hall. He threw his back against the wall and hissed. "My body. It hurts. It hurts from everything I've heard. All these lies! My heart...It feels like its being torn, you know? Like everything I have ever been brought up upon is crumbling down into nothing. Please, you have to help me. Tell me what you know."

"Your father wouldn't - "

"I don't give a damn about what my father thinks anymore!" Harry turned the corner of his professor's home, finding himself winding into the kitchen.

Harry was taken aback when he realized his professor had company. There were two people sitting at Remus' kitchen table. There was a man with shaggy brown hair. His hair slashed across his face diagonally, covering one of his eyes from Harry. Harry blinked and his eyes turned towards the woman.

Harry stumbled backwards into Remus, who stood panicking behind Harry. Harry gasped as his eyes landed on her.

She was beautiful. That was for sure. Even beneath her horror struck face, she was beautiful, perfect. Her red hair was flowing like steady fire to her hips. Her eyes flashed, and Harry took in their color.

Emerald.

He found himself staring into his own eyes.

Harry gasped. "Oh, my god...It's you..."

"Harry..." she squeaked.

"Leave," Remus said. Harry looked to Remus and realized he was speaking to the woman.

She rose quickly and stepped forward. She was almost...excited.

"No. I'm not leaving. Let him know all the wants. I knew this day would come."

"You're her..." whispered Harry again.

Lily Evans bit her lip to stop her pleased crys from coming. She covered her mouth and stared into the eyes of her own son.

















Chapter 5: Solace
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Character: Mary Jane Swithford
Chapter Graphic by Jeanie at The Dark Arts


Another huge thanks to Alicia for the beta'ed chapter!

*****


"Harry, I don't think you should be here," Remus whispered in a hushed tone. His worried expression gave away his true, inner feelings. He ran about his kitchen, closing the drapes. The shaggy haired man at the table gave a flick of his wand, rising from his seat, and the rest of the drapes yanked themselves shut. Remus scoffed at him. "Sirius! Not in front of Harry!"

Sirius merely shrugged. "Come on. Get over it. He knows about it, and he will study it soon enough. Seeing it won't harm him."

Remus grunted as he strolled to his kitchen counter. Sirius turned to Harry as he stepped in front of him. "Hi, I'm Sirius."

"Oh," Harry smiled. He laughed, if ever so slightly. "Your name is really Sirius? I thought Professor Lupin was just aggravated with you."

"Ha," Sirius laughed. It was suddenly so easy to loose his train of thought with Harry. All he could think about were his times with James. Sirius snorted. "Ha-ha, Professor Lupin. Moony would make a great teacher. Smart little prick."

"Hey!" Remus almost laughed.

"He actually is," Harry complimented his teacher. Remus flashed Harry a quick smile.

Sirius, having never truly been in Harry's presence before, found himself in awe at the feel of having his godson next to him. Sirius wondered how Lily must have felt...

Sirius clutched at Harry's neck. He gazed at Harry's features, beginning to see how much Harry and James looked a like. Remus warned from the counter. He was at the ready, prepared to pounce the moment Sirius did something wrong. "Sirius..."

Harry squirmed in Sirius' grasp. Sirius had lost himself in his thoughts. There, looking at Harry and remembering his long, lost, dear friend, Sirius forgot about all his duties and what was right and wrong, what he should have done and shouldn't have. Lily shuffled from foot to foot, uneasy. She didn't want anything upsetting Harry. "Sirius, stop."

At the sound of her voice, Harry's eyes flashed at her. He still couldn't quite place the remarkable feeling. He couldn't help but to look at her with wonder, admire her beauty, and let his thoughts wonder to Harry's origin, his beginning.

Sirius didn't hear. Harry even had James' nose and long, narrow jaw. Harry had his father's broad forehead and straight eyebrows. "My, my. You really do look just like your father."

Harry jumped out of Sirius' grasp. He sprang against the wall, his palms spread out against the wood. "You know my father?"

"I don't know if know is the right word anymore." Sirius smiled sympathetically.

"Sirius, stop!" Remus yelled. He had left the safety of the counter and was now pulling Sirius away from Harry. Remus stepped in between them and whispered to him. "We don't know all we can tell him. My home is not safe. We can't reveal everything."

Sirius rolled his eyes, yet gave in.

Lily stepped forward towards Harry. Despite her desperate urge to hold her son, who already towered above her, a full-grown man, she knew Harry did not think of her this way. Maybe, in time, he could. Lily sent him a smile; she did her best to win his acceptance. "Ignore them; they do this a lot. I guess I need to introduce myself. I think you know who I am though."

Harry nodded. "You're Lily Evans."

Lily pursed her lips and nodded. Harry didn't seem to be angry or enthusiastically happy. She was rather disappointed. But what was Lily expecting? A huge, welcoming hug from her long lost son? Of course not. Lily looked to the ground and hid her tears. She didn't even know what to say to her own son.

Harry didn't seem to want to talk either. Lily stepped away and slouched towards the table. She slumped into a chair and grabbed the open bottle of fire whiskey. Without bothering to pour it into her glass, she took a large swig from the bottle. Remus narrowed his eye brows and yanked the bottle from her hands. "No, Lily."

Lily glowered disapprovingly at her friend. Sirius turned on him. "Oh, come on, Moony. Look, you can't be everyone's father."

Remus glowered at Sirius for a few moments before they remembered their company. Harry stood, uncomfortable, against the wall and blinked. He turned away. "I guess I shouldn't have come..."

"Harry, wait," Lily had jumped up and dashed to her son's exit. She grabbed onto his hand and held him back. Before she could realize what she had done, Harry jumped at the feel of her skin. He let his arm slide out of her grasp. Her skin was warm and smooth. It had a tingle to it when it touched Harry. He would have thought it awkward, but he found himself utterly surprised, more than anything. He was astounded to realize the one thought that had flown though his mind at their touch: Mother...

"I'm sorry," Lily gasped. She yanked her hand away. "I'm not trying to win you over; I'm not trying to steal you or become you mother, because I know you believe differently. I...I," Lily faltered and held onto her head.

"It's okay, Lily," Harry reassured her. He smiled and touched her shoulder lightly. At first, his touch was faint. He was barely touching there, and then he let his hand rest fully over the curve of her shoulder. Lily let her son's large hand form the shape of her shoulder; she even let her body turn into it. Oh, how she had always imagined holding her son...

She had missed that part of his life. He had grown up before he ever knew who she was, and now here they were. The opposite. He was comforting her.

He smiled gently, ignoring Remus and Sirius who were quite awed at the situation. He spoke with growing faith. "It's okay. I understand that. Thank you. I don't want to push you away from me, but I can't accept you for who you are. Not now, at least."

"Thanks..." whispered Lily feebly.

Awkwardly, he embraced Lily quickly and murmured, "I'll go now."

"No," Lily stopped him again. This time she didn't bother to let go of his arm. His warm skin, the same shade as James', sent Lily sliding into her few memories she shared with Harry while he was an infant. She smiled to herself and then pulled herself out before she could forget why she stopped him. She turned to Remus and Sirius. "He can't go home."

"Why not?" Sirius asked; Remus looked at her in questioning.

Lily looked to Harry, placing the puzzle pieces together. "You said your friend, Ethan, died, yes?" Harry nodded solemnly. Lily went on, "He died from an unknown cause?"

Another nod.

"Where did he die?"

"At his home."

"Did you have any relation to his home?"

"Well," Harry began awkwardly. He shrugged, finding Lily's questions painful. "I was staying the night there while my mother and father were on business trips."

"That's it," Remus gasped. He pointed a finger at Harry, plugging together what Lily had already realized. "Ethan's death wasn't by fault. They were looking for Harry, only he wasn't there, and they killed whoever got in their way." Remus turned back to Harry. "Did anything odd happen before that?"

"Well," Harry began uneasily. "There were people in my house."

"Merlin..." Lily gasped.

"Tell us everything, Harry." Sirius jumped forward. A fright Harry did not understand was pulsing through the three adults. Their tension made him even less comfortable. Almost scared.

"I promised my dad I wouldn't go home before I went over to Ethan's, but I forgot my things. So, I went home and packed my bag. I was feeding the cat when I heard the front door unlock. I thought this was odd; I had locked it when I came in out of habit. The lights were off. I was making sure the house was good to go to be abandoned for two or three days. And then I heard them come inside. I heard their voices. They messed with everything and I saw flashes of light. I guess I understand that they were using magic to destroy my home. I realized I had to get out; I crawled out through the cat flap and ran the ten miles to Ethan's home; I had left my truck at his house."

"Ten miles," Remus muttered. "That's plenty of time for them to apparate to the Courtenay's and kill Ethan. You were the first to find Ethan?"

"No," swallowed Harry. He rubbed his neck. It knotted with kinks as Harry felt the tension shoot up his back. These people were suggesting Ethan had been murdered. Harry couldn't believe it. Could that possibly be right? "Mary. Mary Jane. She found him first."

"Mary Jane?" Sirius asked. "Your blonde friend."

Harry nodded.

"Well," began Remus, "that's plenty of time for them to apparate to the Courtenays, kill Ethan, and still leave a space for Mary to show up."

"Mary?" Lily's voice was quicker than the others had been, cautious and worried. "Where is she now?"

"I'm not sure. Maybe the Courtenays with Ethan's parents or at her own home," shrugged Harry as horror washed over him. "Why?! She's not in trouble is she? She won't die too, will she?!"

"Sirius." Remus looked to Sirius, who had already stepped away from them. Sirius was already one step ahead of them. "Don't worry, Remus. I'm on it." And, with that, he vanished on the spot. Harry jumped at the crack and stared at the spot where Sirius Black had stood a mere two seconds ago. Harry gaped. "H-How...? What the hell?!"

"You'll get used to it," Lily ushered. She took Harry's forearm and guided him to the table. She set down the surprised boy and began asking him questions again. Harry felt like he was being interrogated for information on terrorists.

Oh, if only he knew...

Remus sat down on Harry's opposite side and asked, "The people who broke into your home. Did you see them at all? Did they say anything?"

"Erm," Harry racked his memory. He had trouble remembering it. He had gone through so much in such a small amount of time. "Yes; I saw them and heard them. They...Um, they were hooded. I didn't see their faces."

"What color hoods?"

"I don't know! It was dark!" shouted Harry.

"Harry, come on," Lily pressed. She gave his hand a squeeze and let emerald meet emerald. Harry looked feebly into her eyes and saw his own fright reflected in them. He nodded and continued on, "Black. They were wearing black. Long, big, black cloaks that made me feel like...they were death; something eerie."

Lily and Remus met eyes across the table - something had, apparently, been placed together too. Harry didn't notice; his eyes were catatonically fixed on a gouged hole in the table. "More, Harry. We need more," said Remus.

"Um, they spoke," Harry squeezed his eyes shut, as if it would help his memory. "There were four different voices, maybe? One made me feel...cold. He spoke like he was higher than the others; it was raspy and low. Almost like he was trying to talk fake. I can't remember the others."

"What did they say?"

"They said something about 'the Potter's taking on a smuggle lifestyle.'"

"Muggle, yes. Go on," Remus corrected.

"The leader - the cold voice - he called them idiots and said, 'Look for anything that stands out.' Someone read out the letter from my father that, I guess, I had missed on the kitchen table. Someone made a comment about my father having turned into a softy. Someone asked who Ethan was, and another person described him. That really freaked me out...They knew who my friends were, what they looked like! He also spoke of Mary Jane. That was when I left."

"You were right to leave, Harry. They have unimaginable ways of finding you," Lily whispered.

"You're not safe there anymore. You're not even safe here," Remus murmured.

"Please," Harry choked out. He looked to Remus and bit his lip, desperate for answers. Harry wasn't able to say what he had next. There was another crack and Sirius was back in the room, along with a shaken Mary Jane by his side. Quivering, the blonde spotted Harry and made a run for him. Harry jumped to his feet and took her sobbing form into his arms. She croaked into the warmth of his neck. "You're here too. Thank God! What's going on?"

"I don't know, I don't know," soothed Harry. He pressed his large hand at the back of her head and held her there. He could feel the eyes of Lily, Remus, and Sirius on him, but he didn't care. He pried Mary off of him and set her into the chair next to his. Mary inched her chair to Harry until their thighs were touching. Harry was grateful for her presence; he needed his friend.

"You said I'm not safe at home or here. Is Mary safe?" Harry asked, his voice hard and demanding.

"Not anymore, she isn't." Remus' voice was shaking.

"Well, then where can we be safe? I'm not going to leave her. We need each other right now," Harry said. Mary gave a sniff of agreement and dabbed at her swollen eyes.

"He can't go home," Remus thought out loud. "And my house is yet to be plotted, so they can't stay here. Grimmauld Place is definitely not suited for them either. Lily, what about your flat?"

"Oh," Lily looked to the table. Sirius squeezed her shoulder. His eyes flashed with his hidden feelings for here and he asked with more love than intended. "What happened, Lily? Are you not safe either?"

"No," Lily gasped. "They found my home two days ago. It was torn apart. I don't know what they were looking for."

"Lily!" the men gasped together. Lily shouted an apology as Sirius and Remus each tried to talk over each other.

"Where have you been staying?!"

"Why didn't you tell me?!"

Smacking her hand on the table, Lily roared, "Because I didn't want anyone to worry! I handled it myself perfectly fine."

"Lily, we need to know these things," Remus' voice grew dark and unyielding. "Everything is turning around. From bad to worse. Everything we worked for is ruined now, and what we never thought would happen is coming."

"I know..."

Remus watched Lily hold her head, the eyes of the two teenagers resting upon her in confusion, and Remus turned back to Harry. "We're not done asking questions yet."

"We may not be, but we have to get them to safety first," Sirius intruded. Remus pursed his lips and considered. After a moment, he decided that Sirius, for once, had the better action in mind. "We have to find where they will stay. And we must contact James."

Harry's head shot up at the mention of his father. He began to pay more attention to Remus and Sirius instead of Lily. However, Lily immediately piped. "I will apparate to Molly and Arthur's. We need someone from the Order and, with their children at Hogwarts, they have open bedrooms."

Lily disappeared. Mary jumped at her sudden disappearance, and Harry placed a hand on her back to comfort her. She calmed down, but her breathing did not.

Remus turned to the two. "You two, if Molly obliges, which she most certainly will, will be staying at the Weasley's. They are generous people, and their home is safe. Arthur and Molly Weasley. They have seven children. Two remain at a school, Hogwarts. Ron is your age. Harry, you can borrow some of Ron's things, although they might be a tad big. Mary, I'm sure you could fit into Ginny's; one year younger than the two of you. Don't be scared of them; they aren't even on your list of worries."

"No need," Sirius said. "Mary packed her things quickly. They are shrunken in my pocket."

"And what should be on our list of worries?" pressed Harry.

Sirius bit his lip and glanced to Remus. Sirius shook his head. "A list of things that you couldn't ever possibly imagine."

"Don't scare them," Remus scoffed.

Harry glowered and muttered sarcastically. "I think you're a tad late for that, don't you think?"

Sirius actually chuckled. "Probably. You're right."

"I don't think that's funny," sniffed Mary disapprovingly. Sirius clamped his mouth shut and his eyes met Harry's. Harry could see his hidden smile in his eyes, and Harry smiled back. He liked Sirius. He asked kindly. "How did you know my father?"

Sirius smiled and kicked back, his feet propped up on the table. "I've known him since we were eleven. We were sorted into the same house - at Hogwarts there are four houses, and upon arrival, you are sorted into one of the four. James, Remus, and I, along with another pesky little twit, were sorted into Gryffindor and we made quick friends. Best friends ever since. Well, until your parents split and James became too noble to continue contact with us."

Mary looked from Sirius to Harry. "Your parents are together though."

"Yes," agreed Harry, "but my mother isn't my birth mother. She's only my adoptive mother. The woman who was just here is my birth mother."

Mary's eyes went wide, confused and bewildered by Harry's screwed up family. She decided to play it sweet. She didn't want to hurt or offend him during this time. "She's beautiful!"

Harry chuckled. "I know."

"You have her eyes."

"I know," he said again with a smile. Harry opened his mouth to speak, but Lily was already back. She ushered everyone from the table quickly. "They easily agreed and are happy to take you in. Harry and Mary, you need to get out of here. Sirius and Remus, take them to Molly and Arthur. I will find James and tell him where they have gone."

Harry looked to his birth mother at that comment. He began to wonder if his father was still in contact with Lily. Did they still communicate? If they did, did they still share loving feelings for each other...? This question sent Harry into a mixed plague of emotions. He bit his lip to push back his thoughts. It was so hard to compare and contrast Claire and Lily. Harry had been raised thinking Claire was his mother. He loved her like his mother.

And now this new woman came into his life, taking Claire's place.

He didn't know what to think of that. He would be even more lost if he learned his father was still in love with Lily. He would be lost to an even greater extent if his father was having an affair...

"Hold on, kids," Sirius said. Harry touched Sirius' outstretched hand, and Mary looked uneasily towards Remus. She looked from Remus to Harry. Harry nodded, urging her to take Remus' hand. "It's okay, Mary. I know you don't know what's going on and we don't know these people, but they are helping us. They'll keep us safe."

She swallowed and nodded before latching onto Remus' arm for dear life, and in an instant they were gone.

Lily spun about the room, lost in her own dilemma. Before she could think anymore, she was gone and apparated into the women's bathroom inside the hospital at which Claire was staying. She didn't know where James would be, but she knew he had to be there somewhere. She roamed the halls until she found him slumped in a chair.

He appeared to be asleep, but as she approached, his head slowly lifted at the sound of her stride. He jumped from the chair and Lily blinked, confused at his appearance. He looked distraught, broken. James tried to engulf her into his arms, but she refused. She pushed against his chest. "I've only come here to tell you that Harry found Remus. Don't worry about him. Your home was broken into by Death Eaters and Ethan Courtenay was killed by them. I leave you to do what you wish with that information. Harry and Mary Jane are staying at Molly and Arthur Weasley's until it's safe again. I won't let my son be harmed, and you seem to be too busy here to take care of him now."

"Don't hurt him," was all James could muster.

"Listen, James," Lily shook her head in disapproval. "Harry will be fine. He will be safe with Molly and Arthur. You don't know what's been going on all these years. After you left and dropped contact, refusing information from me, Dumbledore organized a rank of Order members. We were trained under worse circumstances you could have imagined. We were trained to lose our feelings, we were trained to be constantly aware, know your enemies, know your friends. We formed the Guardians and we've been watching you all these years. Stationed outside your home, outside Harry's school, even your work, Claire's work. We are everywhere. We are awake night and day, protecting you from harm and from Voldemort. We watch every move you make. It's time you accept where you were born to stand and join the fight with us. Voldemort's out for Harry. You can't act like you're normal anymore, neither can Harry. He was born to be what we are. He was born to stop Voldemort, despite our attempt to change fate. He will be trained to kill Voldemort."

"What?" James was taken aback. With Lily's harsh words, everything James had ever imagined protecting Harry from now meant nothing. "You can't do that! He doesn't even know about you, about wizards. Anything! You can't just throw this upon him."

"I didn't throw it upon him. Neither did your old friends, Sirius and Remus," Lily glowered. Her gaze was set on James, strong and fierce. "You threw it upon him yourself. He heard every word you said to Claire. And I have just as much right to protect him as you do. He knows I am his mother."

James didn't say anything. He slumped into a chair and cried into his hands. "Everything...Everything has gone wrong so fast."

Lily stared at him and waited for him to continue. The wait wasn't that long. "Lily, Claire is pregnant. But not with my child. It's Carter Hewlett's. I should have known that bastard was sleeping with my wife."

"If you think about it, you've betrayed Claire as much as she's betrayed you."

"But you're not pregnant!"

"You're right," Lily murmured. "I'm not. But I am sick. Our relationship, all my worries, are tearing me apart. Remus and Sirius want me to see a healer."

James rose and strode to Lily. He cupped her face in his hands. He coughed and swallowed. "I won't tear you apart anymore. But I don't want her to know of us. I swore I would stay away from magic. Look what it's done to me, to my family, to my son now. Even my wife. Lily, I've made my decision. If Claire will still accept me after everything I've shared with her, then I will stay with her. I have to make my marriage work, my flower. I have to."

"Does she know that you've been sleeping with me?" Lily asked. Her heart had ripped into pieces. She knew James would, eventually, make a choice. She just hadn't ever thought about what she would do if James didn't pick her...

"No," James whispered. "And I know it's wrong, but I wish to keep it that way. Claire...I need her."

Lily knew she had told James to decide, but with Claire pregnant with Carter Hewlett's child, Lily couldn't believe his decision. With Claire pregnant, they could divorce and Claire could move on and start her family with Cater; Lily and James could have the family they had torn apart nearly two decades ago.

She shook her head. "Whatever you want. I want what's best for you."

"Thank you," whispered James.

With a light peck to her cheek, James disappeared into his wife's ward. Lily stood in the middle of the hall, standing as straight as a board to keep herself together. She sighed to herself. He'll come back to me. He has to...

He had said he wouldn't tear her apart anymore. But as she watched him fade out of her sight and into Claire's, she realized that he had already torn her into a million unrepairable pieces.




Upon arrival, Molly Weasley greeted Harry and Mary into her home. Molly was stunned; so, the rumors were true. Harry Potter looked everything like his father. "Harry, dear. I'm Mrs. Weasley. It's a pleasure to have you here."

"Thank you, Mrs. Weasley." Harry shook her hand and looked around the homily place. He liked it. It was small and comfortable with interesting, clearly magical, trinkets everywhere. A clock made of wood and spoons caught his attention the most. But what surprised him even more was that he found his own name. Molly caught his line of sight. She chuckled. "Oh, that old thing. It's not really a clock. It tells us where everyone is, and since you and Mary will be staying with us, we've added you to the clock. Welcome to the family."

"Er," Harry laughed lightly. "Thank you."

He wasn't accustomed to such generosity. Mrs. Weasley moved on to greet Mary, and Harry was introduced to Arthur Weasley. The red haired and balding man had an ecstatic look on his face. He shook Harry's hand enthusiastically. "Harry, my boy. Welcome. It's such an honor. My, you look like James. Say, you've been raised as a Muggle? Perhaps you would enjoy explaining to me exactly how microwaves work, yes?"

Harry laughed at him and nodded. "Another time, sure."

Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, with their kind welcoming and light-hearted smiles, Harry found it easy to forget his troubles. Even if it was for the smallest increments of time.

"Come," Mrs. Weasley urged, bustling forward. "It's late. You should be headed to bed. I will show you to your rooms."

Mrs. Weasley settled them in and left them for the night. Harry changed and climbed into the bed Mrs. Weasley had said was not her son Ron's. A knock came from the door and he muttered, "Come in."

Expecting Sirius or Remus, Harry was surprised to see Mary. Harry smiled and sat up and ushered her in. "Mary Jane," he whispered.

She closed the door behind her. Her blond hair was rippling down her back in waves from the braid she had released the locks from. She was wearing her white tank top and orange sleeping pants. She slipped towards him with a cry. "What are we doing here?"

"They're helping us."

"Why do we need help?" Mary questioned as she slipped into the bed with her friend. She let Harry envelope his arms around her. She shrank back into his warmth and sought solace in him.

"I'm not even sure."

"Well," Mary sniffed. "I'm scared. I'm scared of losing you like I lost Ethan. You won't leave me either, will you?"

Harry held onto her tighter and pulled her against his body until he could feel her everywhere. He blinked and thought to himself, Is this okay? Would Ethan hate me if he saw us like this...? Harry told himself it was merely being in the situation where they needed each other. In the most drastic moments, you sought solace in each other. Harry remembered from stories, half the time that solace turned into something more.

But Harry pushed the thoughts out of his head. He felt like Ethan was speaking to him. Take care of her.

Harry smiled and drew her back against his chest until he could make her laugh. "Careful, Harry. You're crushing me."

"Sorry," he laughed into her neck. He kissed the back of her head like a friend. "Stay in here tonight, Mary. I need my best friend."

"I wasn't planning on leaving this room tonight," Mary confessed. "I need you too; I didn't feel safe by myself."

"Well, you can always feel safe with me, Mary," Harry comforted her. As he ran his hand up and down her shoulder, he wondered to himself if he was speaking the truth. She was only at the Weasley's because she was associated with Harry.

Harry continued to trace the circles on her back, copying what he had seen Ethan do multiple times. She shivered into his body, and Harry heard her croak beneath her tears. He soothed her and continued on.

He came to the conclusion that, as long as she was with him, Mary was not safe. Nor was Harry, or anyone else who was currently associating themselves with him. His father wasn't; Claire wasn't. Remus and Sirius weren't even. Neither was Lily, Mrs. Weasley, or Mr. Weasley.

Harry cursed himself. What was going on? What was the horrible matter that was causing everything to turn upside down? What was it, this horrible secret, that no one was telling him?

Why did it seem like, if Harry were found, the world would turn upside down and go to the dogs?

He held onto Mary tighter. He didn't want anything to happen to her. In this time of lies, Harry didn't know who he could trust. He didn't know who anyone was anymore. But he did know who Mary was. He squeezed her and buried his head into her neck until he forced his head clean of all worry. "I will never let anything happen to you."
















Chapter 6: Treason
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Alicia, my lovely beta, thank you for doing this! She is an astounding beta who completed 4 chapters worth in one night.

*****


When Harry awoke, it took him several moments to realize how tightly he was clutching Mary. He wondered how she had gone the night without suffocating. "Whoops," muttered Harry to himself. He let go of her and did his best to climb over her like a cat and jump out of the bed without waking her. Harry pulled on a shirt and nervously began creeping down the hall.

He heard voices from the lower landing and decided to follow them. Upon hearing his name, he listened silently, intently. "He doesn't even know why he's here. We can't throw all that upon him at once."

"He needs it all at once though. Sooner or later, he will have to learn it all."

Harry did not recognize the voices, but he found it quite obvious that they were talking about him. Laughter sounded from two very familiar sounding voices. They almost seemed planned, in synchronization. "The poor boy."

"Little You-Know-Who wants to kill him - "

" - Oi, maybe he'll let us test our new - "

"Yes, the - "

"Boys! You're a distraction. Get out," Harry recognized the voice of Mrs. Weasley.

Harry began jumping up the flight of stairs as he heard rumbles of footsteps coming his way, but it was too late. Two boys looking of nineteen jumped into the hallway and up the stairs. They were identical with long chins and noses with flaming, red hair to their shoulders. They smirked. "Looky, here, Fred. He was spying."

"You know, we can help you spy better," the boy named Fred said. Harry felt his lips turn up into a grin. He had thought he would get in trouble for listening in, but it was clear that these boys were of pure fun.

"That's all right," Harry said to Fred. "If you could tell me what you know. That would suffice for now."

"Big words, Harry," Fred snorted. He stuck out his hand. "Fred Weasley. Nice to meet you."

Harry shook his hand before the other boy reached out his own. "And I'm George. Mum and Dad are thrilled to have you here. Surprised Mum hasn't tried to stuff you full of food until your gut explodes."

"Yeah. George, how do you suppose we aren't a bunch of bloated elephants yet?"

"No idea, Fred," George cheered. The boys ushered Harry down the hall and they said in unison. "Follow us. Gred and Forge at your service. We'll tell you what we know."

Harry followed them and slipped into the bedroom across from Ron's. The room was larger, and all sorts of candy wrappers littered the floor and their beds. A corner of their room seemed to be filled of fire works, and the walls were covered in moving pictures in the sky with their capes billowing behind them. Harry gaped at the pictures as Fred and George jumped onto each of their beds, placing their hands behind their head. "The pictures are moving..."

"Way to go, Merlin," one of the boys laughed.

"Merlin?" Harry asked. He turned to them briefly before returning his gaze upon a particular picture with a man in navy-blue robes blocking a set of three large hoops. The man in the picture caught a brown ball, while hanging upside down on his broom, and sent it hurtling down the field. "There are actually brooms? Broomsticks?"

"He's just like a Muggle. Clueless," one commented. The other began to explain. "Yes, broomsticks, and there's a game made out of it. Called Quidditch. Three different kinds of balls: a quaffle, two bludgers, and a snitch. Each team is made up of seven players: three chasers, two beaters, one keeper, and one seeker. Fred and I played in school; we were the beaters. That man in the picture, there," George motioned to the man in navy-blue playing keeper, "is Oliver Wood. Two years older than us. Good friend from our days at Hogwarts. He went on to play professional while Fred and I found a new source of entertainment."

"And what do you do now?" Harry asked as he watched Oliver Wood's proud smile.

"Us?" Fred snickered. "We are pranksters. Own a shop down in Diagon Alley. Not too popular yet, but it's getting there. We make our own fireworks, prank items. Even candies that will make you vomit to get out of class."

"Nice," laughed Harry. "What house were you in? Sirius explained to me last night that there were four."

"The houses are Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin," George answered. "And any brave-hearted, proud soul is sorted into Gryffindor. Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff are the little, annoying, brainy twits, and Slytherin is full of the old, dark nasties. No good, poor wizarding soul is placed into Slytherin. Fred and I - Gryffindor, of course!"

"Of course," smiled Harry as he settled himself into a chair on the corner. He accidentally stepped on what looked to be a cat. Harry gasped. "Oh my god, I stepped on your cat!"

"Naw, don't worry, Harry," George smiled. "It's not a cat. Even if it were Hermione's bloody twit, Crookshanks, it would have been fine by us! Wait; stand back."

Harry took two giant leaps back before large cracks began to pop about the room and the plush cat burst into sparks, each spark evolving into a thousand more with little birds flying of them. The assortment of birds went flying out the window. Harry smiled, amazed. "Wow."

"Thanks," the boys said in unison. George went on, clasping his hands together. "Maybe we can have a game of Quidditch today; it'd be interesting to see you on a broom, Harry. But you have questions, yes?"

Harry nodded, remembering why he had followed Fred and George so intently to begin with. "Why am I here?"

"Well, we arrived a little late this morning. Came as soon as we found out you were staying here. We don't know everything. We're members of the Order, but our mum still doesn't inform us of everything. But, anyways," Fred answered for Harry, "you're here because there are good and bad. The bad is led by a wizard, we don't speak his name, You-Know-Who."

"Voldemort, isn't it?" Harry asked.

Fred and George blinked and shuddered. George asked, "How do you know that name?"

"Sirius and Lily. I heard them say it."

"Right. Well, that's the one," George shuddered again and took over for Fred. "Basically, he's after you. He wants you dead, and you're not safe anywhere, except for the special houses that have become unplottable. Ours is one."

"Unplottable?"

"Meaning unable to be found by any outsiders."

"And he wants me dead?" Harry asked. All of this new information was muddled in his brain. After learning of witches, wizards, and magic, he had prepared himself for any more information that was coming. But this he hadn't been quite ready for. "Why me?"

"There was some prophecy generated about you and Neville Longbottom. Your parents chose to act to save you and took you away from the magic world. People have been protecting you ever since - just in case; as a precaution. When You-Know-Who, couldn't find you anymore, he chose Neville instead of you. As time's passed, You-Know-Who's tried multiple times to kill poor Neville, but there just isn't that connection needed between them. He's realized that he went after the wrong boy. It's you he's needed all along."

Harry blinked and looked to the ground. What was he supposed to do with this information? He shook his head and swallowed. "It doesn't make any sense though. What is so special about me?"

Fred and George looked at each other. They shrugged. "We don't know. You look like just another trouble maker to us."

Harry tried to smile, but found his impending death weighing too heavily upon his shoulders. "So, I'm here because everyone is looking after me, watching over me?" They nodded. Harry asked again, exasperated. "Well, what's next?"

"They're going to train - "

"Fred! George!" Mrs. Weasley shot into the room like a bullet from a gun. Her plump face was red with anger, and her hands were poised on her hips. "You...You boys!"

"You never said we couldn't tell him!" George cried.

"You should know better though. The poor boy knows nothing of it! He doesn't need everything dumped on his shoulders," Mrs. Weasley stood, furious. Fuming, she shook a quivering hand at them. "Out. I want you out of the house and out of my sight for the rest of the day."

They scurried from the room with snickers and a wink to Harry. Harry rose quickly and tried to apologize to Mrs. Weasley. "I'm sorry, Mrs. Weasley. I wasn't meaning to get them into trouble. I didn't know they would. I just wanted answers."

Mrs. Weasley pursed her lips and sighed, exhaling her anger. "That's understandable. I'm sure you have plenty of questions."

"Yes, and no one is giving me answers. I was relieved to find someone who would."

"All of your questions will be answered in good time."

"Will you answer one for me right now?"

Mrs. Weasley watched Harry, confused, for several moments. She finally decided on saying, "It depends on the question."

"What am I being trained for?" Harry asked.




As Mrs. Weasley had shoved her mischievous twins out of the house for the day, Fred and George had drug Harry with them. While passing a roomful of unfamiliar faces, Mrs. Weasley asked quickly. "The sweet dear, Mary Jane. She wouldn't want to be awoken?"

Harry shook his head. "No, please. She's going through a lot; she needs her sleep. Please let her."

Mrs. Weasley nodded before Fred and George took Harry out to the backyard. Fred scrambled off to a shed across the yard and George began to speak quickly and excitedly. "You're going to play Quidditch with us."

"Did I hear Quidditch?" another man's voice followed. George looked up and smiled. "Bill! Charlie!"

Two men strode forward. Harry saw the resemblance between them and the twins. Harry automatically realized that these two were apart of the seven Weasley children as well. One of them reached out his hand. He had long, red hair pulled back in a pony tail and a braid off to the side. His appearance reminded Harry an awful lot of a jedi from the Star Wars films. Harry shook his hand as the jedi-looking man grinned. "You must be Harry. Pleasure. I hope Fred and George haven't gotten you into too much trouble already. I'm Bill, and this is Charlie."

Charlie, despite his older brother, looked natural. He had chocolate brown eyes and his red hair was cut short, a tad falling into his eyes. His cheeks were high and his jaw round. Harry shook his hand with a smile. "Charlie. Nice to meet you."

"You too, Harry," Charlie smiled. The man turned to his younger brothers, allowing them to ask the question that was clearly plastered across their faces. "What boys?"

"Why are you home?" Fred asked excitedly.

"Charlie, I thought you were training a Short Snout for Ireland, and, well, Bill's been fleeing off to France so much. We had no idea you were coming in! Why are you here?" asked George.

Bill smiled. "As soon as we found out things were going down hill for the Order, I asked Fleur to take some time off from Gringotts and we came down as soon as we could."

Fred and George nodded, surprised at how easily their older brother and sister-in-law had been given time off. But Charlie interrupted their thoughts with a call. "Quidditch! How about a three-on-three? One beater, seeker, and chaser. No keepers."

"In!" Fred and George shouted spontaneously. Harry looked to Fred as he noticed the six brooms in his hand, dragging a wooden box behind him. Bill looked around. "Oh, but we only have five."

"No worries," Harry recognized Sirius' voice. He turned around and smiled at him. "Count me in!"

Harry smiled and listened to Bill as he began to explain the game. After Harry had a good feeling of the game, all the boys gave him claps on the back and mounted their brooms. Charlie remained on the ground to toss up the quaffle. The teams of three - paired as Harry, Charlie, Fred on one team and Bill, George, and Sirius on the other - made a line. Harry watched four players kick off of the ground.

Harry, uneasy and nervous, mounted his broom. The warm wood felt strange beneath his skin. It was odd to even consider that a piece of wood would take him soaring into the air. But then again, everything was changing. Nothing seemed believable to Harry, and yet it was. So, Harry kicked off the ground, mimicking the others, and found himself hovering in the air. He grabbed onto the broom, surprised, for support. "Oh, God!"

Fred and George laughed together. Charlie called from the ground, and Harry looked down at him, his eyes wide in wonder. "You got a hang of it, Harry?"

"Y-Yeah." His voice was uneasy, giving away his anxiety. "I think so."

"Good." Charlie smiled and tossed up the quaffle. "Then we begin!"

As the quaffle went up, so did Charlie. Having an advantage with his placement, he reached it first and began speeding down the field. Harry, as new to the game like a newborn child to life, watched in confusion. He thought he had a hang of it, he thought he would be able to act quickly, but he just found himself dumbfounded. Fred swooped by Harry before speeding off to chase a bludger. "You're the seeker, Harry! Find the snitch, the wickedly fast, golden ball first; don't let Sirius beat you to it!"

Harry nodded and swallowed. He kicked off higher and smiled. As he rose higher and higher, the more accommodated to his surroundings he seemed. Soon enough, a fierce game of three-on-three Quidditch had erupted in the midst of the Burrow's backyard. The score was 40-50 to Bill, George, and Sirius. Fred and George had shown no mercy to each other. They were both bloodied and beaten up from the bludgers. Bill and Charlie had quite a few welts as well, while Sirius and Harry had remained fairly unhurt. The damage seemed to be remaining within the Weasley brothers.

All of them watched Harry in a fantastic sense of horror. Harry was superb. He was one with his broom; he could make the Weasley's old Comet 2000 push faster than it had ever gone. While dangerously close to the snitch's tail, Harry had impressed the other five with skillful loops, sharp turns, dives, and swerves. Not only had Harry slipped into the sport of Quidditch with ease, but he was laughing. As Harry come within inches to the ground, he abruptly followed the snitch upwards once more with a loud roar of laughter and a shout of "yes" until the snitch lost him.

An hour into the game, Bill was speeding down the yard with the quaffle tucked into his arm. Out of no where, Charlie swooped down and punched the quaffle from the round hole in Bill's arm. Charlie continued down his course with the quaffle and freely shot through the goal posts made of trees. Charlie whooped and Harry hi-fived him as he soared by. Harry sat high up in the sky, watching the game with continuing interest, his sight still seeking the snitch, and then, at an impossible speed, the snitch whizzed by his ear.

Harry's head shot towards the buzzing sound, and within an instant, he was speeding towards the ground again. Harry, determined, stretched out his hand, feeling the wings flutter in his grasp. He closed his fist around nothing but air as the snitch picked up speed. Harry pressed his body closer to the broom, urging the Comet 2000 to power through for a minute more. Then, suddenly, a crash ran into Harry.

Harry looked to find Sirius beside him, snickering. Sirius yelled through the wind. "Oi, you don't think I would let you beat me?!"

"Try me!" Harry laughed, pushing harder. He followed the snitch around the Burrow and straight through a gap in a tree. He shot out the other end into wide open space. By then, the snitch was a roller coaster of speed and excitement.

Sirius bumped into Harry, and Harry bumped back. They laughed as they followed the snitch in unison, matching the snitch's dives and swerves. Soon, the snitch was returning to the Burrow and aiming straight for the ground. Harry looked to Sirius, who was driven with adventure, then back to the desperately fluttering ball.

The snitch wasn't going up again, and Sirius wasn't giving in. Harry had to reach it before him. Harry let his tongue curve up in the corner of his mouth, his eyes fixed on the snitch. He stretched out his hand as they came closer to the ground, and he leaped from the broom. Sirius pulled back, halting in the air, stunned. Harry fell through the air, cat-like, and came down on the snitch. His fist closed around the ball just as he hit the ground. He laughed and held it in the air. "I got it! We win!"

The game above stopped, and Sirius cursed in playful frustration. Bill jumped from his broom and clapped Harry on the back. "No way, mate. That was bloody brilliant!"

"Really," Charlie agreed. His hair was a mess, flying all around his face. "Truly excellent. You've got talent, Harry."

"Thanks," Harry smiled. He looked to the porch and found the girl he hadn't known had been there all along. She didn't look pleased. Harry jogged over to Mary. "Mary! Did you see that?!"

"Yes," said Mary. Harry couldn't tell whether she was stunned, happy, or angry. However, it was obvious she had no words. "I...Wow. Broomsticks? I - I can't believe this."

"I know," Harry said, and his voice followed his feelings. "It's amazing! You should try it, Mary!"

Mary bit her lip and shook her head.

The Weasley boys congratulated Harry once more before submerging into conversation. Bill pressed. "Come on, Fred, George, Charlie. Let's clean ourselves up. Mum will kill us if she sees us this way. Not to mention Fleur will be furious."

"Oh, Fleur came?" Fred asked.

"Fleur?" Harry asked quietly to Sirius as the Weasley boys submerged into the home. "Bill's wife. They've been married for nearly a year now." Harry nodded and gave Sirius a curious glance when he found him staring intently at Harry. "What is it?"

"Nothing," Sirius smiled proudly. "I just never thought I would get to share these moments with you. And now that I can...It's hard to place feelings with, but I'm glad I've been given the opportunity. You're an excellent flyer, Harry. Just like your father."

"My dad was a good flyer?"

"Better than good. He was the best."

Harry grinned, proud, as Sirius gave him a hug and sauntered away with a silly wave. "Don't be too long. Molly will downright claw anyone's eyes out who misses dinner."

Harry turned to his friend and found her staring at the setting sun. The sky was a hazy mix of purple and pink. The scenery looked as if it belonged on canvas. Harry touched her back lightly, and she jumped at the touch. Harry blushed. "I'm sorry. Didn't mean to scare you."

"Oh," she murmured absently. "I know."

"Come on, Mary," Harry persuaded her after several moments. She gave him a confusing look, not understanding what he wanted. "Flying is truly great. If you won't go up alone, at least let me take you."

She uneasily eyed the broomsticks strewn about the ground. After staring for a long moment, she nodded. Harry let out a cheer and took her hand, pulling her towards the Comet 2000. He helped her mount it and slid on behind her. His arm wrapped protectively about her waist as he kicked off. She yelped as they sky-rocketed into the air. "Are you sure you know what you're doing?!"

"Yes," Harry chuckled. "Don't you trust me?"

"I don't know about that." She looked the ground. Her blue eyes were wide in horror and she clung to the broom for dear life. Harry ran a hand up and down her back, calming her. "Come on, Mary. Calm down. I'm right here; I've got you."

They gracefully flew around the Burrow and towards the setting sun. They skimmed over the wide plains and tree tops. As the sun disappeared and the night grew cold, Harry was thankful for the one thing with him. The girl in his arms. He held her closer and couldn't have wished for a more perfect moment.

His hand slid up and down her back until it wrapped around her again. Up her body it went until it settled on her neck. She leaned her head against the warm back of his hand. Harry adored the smooth skin on his hand. He sighed and swore he felt her lips flutter over his hand.

Harry's eyes shot wide open, pulling him out of his moment. He looked to her blond hair, billowing behind her head like an ocean of gold, and blinked. This was Mary Jane. Ethan's girlfriend. A dead Ethan's girlfriend.

He swallowed and cursed himself for the undeniable feelings pulsing through his heart.

Ethan had been his best friend. Mary had been his girlfriend. Ethan had been dead for two days. They had all been so close, cared for each other so much. Harry would have never done anything to hurt Ethan or Mary, and he had, most definitely, never had the thoughts that were currently racing through his mind. He couldn't have Mary.

No.

He just couldn't. She was off limits. It would be a crime, a sin. The ultimate sin. Harry felt hatred towards himself. Oh, how he hated him for what he felt, for what he was doing, for how he was touching her. But, oh, how he wanted to...

His respect for Ethan pulled over him. Mary was Ethan's. Dead or alive; she would always be. Harry couldn't have her. If he did, having Mary would be surrendering his life over to his allegiance, to Ethan. Having Mary would make him guilty of high treason.














Chapter 7: Unfaithful Companion
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Chapter Graphic by Jeanie at The Dark Arts

Another huge thanks to Alicia for beta'ing!

*****


A week passed and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley did their best to make sure that their guests felt at home before taking necessary actions. Harry and Mary had grown close within the week, relying on each other. A life support. Despite that the house was constantly thriving of their new friends and family, no one was yet to give any answers.

The two seventeen-year-olds were sitting at the antique table in the kitchen as Molly filled their plates high with sausage, eggs, bacon, and toast. Harry laughed and took a sip of the pumpkin juice he had come to enjoy. "Thank you, Mrs. Weasley. That's plenty for me."

She chuckled before piling Mary's plate even higher. The table had quickly filled up with the herd of people who would pop - literally - in and out of the house all day. Harry waved excitedly to Sirius before yanking on a piece of bacon. "There you go, Harry," Sirius grinned as he ripped into his sausage like a dog. "Dig in like a man."

Harry laughed and wiped his chin, hi-fiving Fred and George a "good morning" as they passed. Mary received a noogie from the boys as they passed her. "Oi, little miss Mary!" they chimed together. She grumbled at how they had messed up her hair. Harry murmured to her as the boys shoveled food onto their plate. "It looks perfect, Mary."

She blushed and sipped her pumpkin juice. Harry gave her hand a reassuring squeeze under the table before returning to his food. Mr. Weasley passed by the table and dropped a brown bag into Sirius' lap. Mr. Weasley had a serious, stern look on his face as he spoke, "Sirius, now, be careful. There's a lot of money in there; you don't want to lose that. It's quite a large amount the Order has pooled together for Harry and what James and Lily set aside a long time ago."

"Money?" asked Harry as his plate cleared. "What do we need money for?"

Sirius scarfed down the rest of his breakfast. "I'm taking you to a wizard shopping center. If you're gonna be one of us, you've gotta have the supplies."

Harry smiled and continued eating. Mary whispered from next to him, "Will I be coming with you?"

"I don't know," whispered Harry. "I want you to. I suppose so, but Remus and Mr. Weasley have gone over the fact that you aren't magical."

Mary nodded. She didn't mind that she wasn't magical; actually, after finding out about this wizarding world she had been entrusted with, she preferred to not be magical. Harry was being given so much to do, so much to worry about. His shoulders were being loaded with pounds upon pounds of worries. She didn't want those. Harry had strong shoulders; hers were weak and unsupportive. Harry was quite the opposite. Harry could handle it. So, Mary would be the caring supporter.

Remus left a few minutes later, having to apparate to his home before driving his car to the school. Remus had brought Harry the news of the rumors that were floating about Harry and Mary's old school. With Ethan dead and the two left of the trio having dropped out, the school was in befuddled thoughts. No one knew where they were. Mary Jane's parent refused to answer questions, and no one dared ask James or Claire, with Claire recovering in the hospital. No one knew what was going on, but their support went out to them in whatever they were doing.




"Are you kidding me! This place is amazing," beamed Harry as they strolled down Diagon Alley. Witches and wizards, dressed in an assortment of robes, roamed the crowded streets. Even goblins and other kinds of creatures filled them that Harry didn't recognize. Owls sat in the windows of some stores. Others had broomsticks, magical contraptions, wizarding robes, wands, or books. "Where first?" Harry asked Sirius.

Sirius pointed to a shop down the street on the left. A dingy, faded sign hung above the door with a golden wand on the sign. Above the picture of the wand was the name Ollivanders. Harry jerked his head in surprise. This busy, magical place was still hard to become accustomed to. "There? A wand shop?"

"Yes," said Sirius. He led them down the street and to the door. Looking back over his shoulder, Sirius ushered them inside. He chuckled to Mary as she passed. "Sorry, dear. I think you'll just have to observe during the majority of our visit at Diagon Alley."

"That's fine." Mary smiled. And, really, it was. She didn't care if she had to observe. She didn't want to be a part of this strange, weird, new world.

Harry idly looked about the dusty, old place. There were aisles upon aisles. All were lined with different colored boxes coated in dust. A man emerged from one of the dark, shadowy aisles, and a knowing smile spread across his face. "Harry Potter. I was wondering when you'd come to me."

Sirius stepped forward and said in a low, respective, and discrete manner. "Arcus, let's keep this on the down low please. Dumbledore wants as little publicity as possible."

"Okay," Arcus Ollivander agreed. He nodded. "Well, you're lucky the store is empty right now, Sirius. And Diagon Alley? If you're going for less publicity, this is the worst place to bring the boy."

"Dumbledore O.K'ed it. So, it must be fine," Sirius shrugged. Mr. Ollivander stared at Sirius before rolling his eyes and then speaking to Harry. "All right, Harry, my boy. Come on. I think what you may be looking for is towards the back."

Harry followed the old man to the back as he began shuffling through boxes upon boxes. He muttered under his breath, casting out wands that would, apparently, not work for Harry. Harry asked gingerly, inclining his head. "How do you know when a wand will not work for someone?"

"A fine wandmaker always knows. It is not what the wizard wants; it is who the wand chooses," Mr. Ollivander said sophisticatedly as he pulled out a thin, blue box. He pulled out the black wand from its box and offered it to Harry as Harry asked. "Wands can choose?"

"Yes," nodded Mr. Ollivander. "Take it, give it a wave."

Harry reached out uneasily as Arcus told him the makings of the wand. "Black ash, thestral hair, 11 inches." Harry made an easy flick of the wrist, and gold sparks shot out the end to strip the back shelf of their wands. Harry jumped and forced it out to Mr. Ollivander, who was already holding out his hands in panic. "Clearly, clearly not that one! Let's try another."

He busied himself and pulled out two more, offering them both. "The first, there, is elm, dragon heartstring, 9 inches, and the second, there, is cherry, unicorn hair, 13 inches."

Harry blinked rapidly at the interesting names of the wand. He was curious if the wands were composed of things such as unicorn hairs, dragon heartstrings, and thestral hairs, whatever those were. He asked this as he waved the wand containing the dragon heartstring. The lamps in the far corner burst into flames. Mr. Ollivander yanked yet another wand away from Harry. "Y-Yes, the items taken from the creatures are rather interesting. Others consist of veela hair and phoenix feathers."

"All these things exist?" Harry asked as a blast of smoke emerged from the tip of the cherry wand. He gave it back to Mr. Ollivander; clearly the wands he had chosen for Harry to try had not chosen him in return. "Things like thestrals and veela. What are they?"

"Thestrals," Arcus began, answering Harry's question, "are creatures that can only be seen by those who have seen death, and veela. Well, veela are women. But strikingly beautiful women it should be prohibited to have such stunning women."

Mr. Ollivander had roamed down the aisle to a dark corner. He shuffled through the wand that had, clearly, been forgotten over the years. Harry watched him with curiosity, peering over the shelf of wands. Harry heard him mutter. "It can't be. I doubt it..."

Mr. Ollivander emerged a minute later, holding a gold box with great care. He opened the box and offered the exposed wand to Harry. Anxiously, Harry reached for it as Mr. Ollivander spoke once again. "Holly, phoenix feather, 11 inches."

Harry didn't have to wave it once. As soon as he closed his hand around the cool, Holly wand, gold sparks emitted from the wand and circled his head. Harry looked about him and smiled. Mr. Ollivander chuckled uneasily; Harry could see the worry in his eyes. "And there is your wand, Mr. Potter."

Harry followed in Arcus' wake as they returned to the front. Sirius approached the desk, a bag of coins at the ready. He beamed at his godson, holding the newly given wand. "Find the right one, Harry? Well, tell me! What is it?"

"Holly, phoenix feather, and 11 inches," repeated Harry. Sirius nodded in approval as Harry shrank back against the windows of the store, entering a subdued conversation with Mary. Sirius turned to Arcus protectively. "Why weren't you at the meeting last week? We wished to have purchased Harry's wand in more private quarters, but we couldn't reach you."

"I'm sorry," Arcus apologized. "Old age; it's getting to me."

"Well, Moody advises to not let it happen again," Sirius warned. He poured out a number of gold galleons. "How much was it then?"

"47 galleons," he replied. "But Sirius, I do advise you to speak with Albus on this subject. If the boy was brought to the Weasley's for the sole purpose Dumbledore told me a few nights ago, then I would have reason to be nervous."

"Why is this?"

"The boy's wand," Arcus shook his head, his eyes full of mystery and half-hints, "will not help him for long."

Sirius shot his head towards Harry, turning the smooth wand over in his hand and waving it so more gold sparks appeared. Sirius looked back towards Arcus, his eyes narrowed in worry. "You're sure? It is that wand. Dumbledore told us of the brothered wand, but it fell off the map for Dumbledore ages ago. Then, this wand will not suit him."

"It has been in the back of my store for so long. I stored it back there because I would not release it. It is, after all, his wand's brother," Arcus insisted.

Sirius hissed, agitated at the older man. "Then why the bloody hell are you selling it to the boy who is supposed to murder the owner of the wand's brother!?"

"I cannot say," Mr. Ollivander shook his head. "It is not my doing; it is the wand's. Clearly, there is a clear cut future for this boy. And if it involves Prior Incantatem, then there is nothing we can do about it."

"I must talk with Dumbledore about this," Sirius groaned. "For now, this wand will suit him." Sirius paid the 47 galleons and backed away from the counter. Harry and Mary headed for the door, seeing their departure was about to take place.

Arcus nodded, speaking loudly enough for the three of his customers to hear. "But when the time comes, I would check Albus' pocket. It may be time for him to obtain a new wand and pass on his current."

Sirius' eyes narrowed, and he backed away from Ollivander in confusion.

Arcus said again before the door to his shop swung shut, "That wand of his will not be a faithful companion for long."

Sirius muttered his muddled thoughts as they left the store, unable to dissolve Harry and Mary's curious thoughts.





That night, the Weasley boys were crawling all over Harry's new broom. Harry himself was also quite amused in his new wizarding supplies. At the dinner table, Harry's companions had been shouting random, awkward sounding words for Harry to say. Harry would repeat them and watch whatever funny things his wand made happen.

Bill laughed, clapping his hands together on the opposite end of the table. "It's all right, Harry. You may be a poor stunner now, but you'll get better."

"AH!" Fred laughed, pointing with a jeer. "Hex him, Harry! Try the bat bogey hex! The incantation is - "

"Nooo!" Bill yelped, scampering away from the table with his hand clamped over his nose. He dashed into the backyard, screeching like a child would of the monster under their bed. Fleur giggled at her husband's foolishness.

"Ahh." Fred tossed away the idea. "You will get him another time."

Just then, the door bell rang, and Sirius rose with a smile and happy obligation. He trudged to the door, rumpling his shoulder length hair. When he opened the door, he wasn't prepared for what was awaiting him. His jaw dropped, his eyes grew wide, he gaped, and a mix of anger and joy filled his thoughts. Sirius murmured, "James?"

James smiled to his old friend feebly. He shrugged his shoulders, opening up his arms in a unknown way. "Hey, mate."

Sirius looked over his shoulder as an uproar of laughter emerged from within the Burrow. "What are you doing here?"

"Is a father not allowed to drop in for a visit with is son? Is a man not allowed to chat with his old friend?" James chuckled.

The corners of Sirius' lips tugged up into a smile. He laughed once, only half-heartedly. "A father is allowed to drop in for his son, yes, but you. You would never in a million years check up on your old, magical friends."

"People change," whispered James in resentment.

"You changed," Sirius emphasized yet again. He shrugged his shoulders in questioning. "I still haven't understood you to this day. You wanted nothing to do with magic, nothing to do with the Order, nothing to do with Voldemort, with the prophecy, with all of us. Me. So, what are you doing now?"

"With Harry knowing, there is no point to it now," James said. His eyes met Sirius' chocolate ones, and James found the same youth, the same excitement, immaturity, and bliss still inside them. Knowing Sirius could not see the same in his own eyes, James wished his hazel ones could match Sirius' - just the way they had been eighteen years ago.

Sirius appraised his friend's appearance - his youthful face, his wise and protective eyes, his calm maturity. Sirius asked in a mere whisper. "What happened to you, James? Where's Prongs?"

James engulfed Sirius into his arms with a regretful voice. "He's still here. Somewhere, he's still here."

"Dad?"

The men peered over their shoulders to see Harry's silhouette reflected from the light within the Burrow. James blinked at his son, surprised to see him standing there. Sirius let go of their brotherly embrace and made way for Harry. James opened up his arms, the happiest grin spreading across his face, and the said with joy, "Harry!"

"Dad!" Harry laughed with enthusiasm. He bounded forward and wrapped his arms around his father. James pressed him tightly into his chest, holding on for dear life. "Don't you ever run out on me like that again, Harry, you hear? I was so worried. I'm sorry I just now got to you."

"Fine," Harry gave in without a fight. "I won't do it again. I needed answers, and I found them, Dad. I found what I've needed to know all along. Where have you been? Why did it take you so long? How's Mum?"

"Enough with the questions," James chuckled, patting his son's head. He let go of Harry and held him at arms length. "I've been at the hospital; I've been too afraid to leave your mother's side. She had her transplant, and she's in recovery. She will be released from the hospital soon. She's going to be just fine, son."

"Oh, thank God," sighed Harry. Harry realized that Sirius had faded into the house, leaving the father and son to talk. James placed his hand on Harry's back and led him around the yard. "Walk with me, Harry. I have many things to tell you."

Harry looked to his father uneasily, and nodded for him to begin. James pursed his lips. "Well, not yet. In a minute. First, tell me. How have you been? Have they been treating you all right?"

"They're the best. It's been fantastic. Fred and George are hilarious. They are all so welcoming."

"Fred and George," James chuckled. "Oh, those two were pranksters from the very beginning."

"You've met them?"

"Just once," James laughed, "when they were two. They were always trying to bring the gnomes into the house and hide them somewhere. Molly always caught them though."

"That sounds like them," Harry grinned. Harry silenced and looked at his father. He could sense his father's worry, his shaking body. He asked. "Dad, what's wrong? You came for more than just a visit; I know you all too well."

James sighed and slid down into the grass. He braced his arms against his knees and took in the sunset. He felt its warmth. It kissed his cheeks and seeped through his skin; it reached his very heart. "I have something we need to talk about."

"What's happened?" Fright washed over Harry, and he dropped onto the grass next to his father.

James turned to him, wrapped an arm around his son's broad shoulders, and began, "I never thought our family would come to this. It's become the very thing I've always been fighting so hard to prevent. You have to understand that what I have done, I have done for the benefit of our family."

"Dad," Harry shook his head in distress, a warning. "No riddles. Just tell me."

"Your mother's pregnant," sighed James. He ran his hands through his hair and turned to his son to read his exp​ression.

Harry beamed. "Well, I have to admit it's quite a big difference in age, but that's wonderful. Why aren't you happy?"

"I..." James sighed and couldn't muster the strength within him. "Perhaps that is a conversation for another time, but tell me. What movements has everyone made you do?"

"Movements?"

"Yes, things to move you closer to the magical world."

"We went to Diagon Alley today. I got my wand, a broom, and a lot of books. They want me to start some sort of training tomorrow!"

"T-Training?" James stuttered. He blinked twice, as if trying to wipe his memory, forget that Harry had said that simple sentence. "They are training you? No, no. Have they told you what they are training you for?"

"No," Harry shrugged, "but it can't be too much. Just making up for the years of wizarding schooling I missed, right?"

James cursed, shook his head, and rose to his feet in a mad rush. He whipped out his wand and sprinted into the house. Harry, stunned, watched his angered father before following in his wake. James burst into the Burrow and into the kitchen where everyone was still eating happily. At his angry face, the table silenced, and the tip of his wand found Mad Eye Moody. He blasted the old bat out of his chair, Moody rolled over onto his back. "Blasts, Potter! Dirty little bleeder. Hello after eighteen years to you too!"

"You're training him?! Without tell me? And my son has no idea what he's up against! Thinking it's schooling and happy levitating charms! Well, fuck that! He will not be trained! I will not allow it!" James roared.

Moody limped to his feet, leaning on his mangled staff. "You don't have a say in the matter anymore, Potter."

James, his angered eyes too fixated on Moody, didn't even notice a certain red-haired woman at the table. Her fork dropped to her plate with a clatter, and she burst from the room, her eyes wide. James paid no heed to Lily as he caught her red blur. She's not there, she's not there. He told himself. Just like he promised Claire. She was gone from him. She would always be. She had to be.

"Bite me! I do have a say in it! He is my son!"

"The boy is seventeen. He is of age. He can make the decision," Moody turned to Harry, staring in horror at the two of them. Harry's mouth opened, and then shut again. He blinked unknowingly. Red sparks from his father's wand turned his attention back to the uncomfortable sight. James hissed, ignoring the gazes of his friends he had missed, the children he had missed the childhoods of. "He will not make the decision!"

"Dad," Harry piped, "calm down. Please. It's okay; whatever it is they need me to do I will do."

"You don't know what you're getting yourself into," James groaned, shaking his head in disapproval. "You don't know a thing, Harry James Potter!"

Harry roared. "I don't give a shit, Dad! Calm down, and let me make my own god damn decision! I am legal in this world, and there is nothing you can do about it! You don't get it, Dad. These people," Harry sighed and motioned to Mr. and Mrs. Weasley. Fred and George. Bill, Fleur, and Charlie. Sirius. "They've been so brilliant to me, welcoming and caring. I love them, and I want to help them. No matter the price."

James blinked and lowered the wand, a threat, pointed at Moody's chest. He turned back to Moody, his chest heaving with the anger towards Moody and his son. James had assumed automatically that, if any training was involved, Moody would be the one to do it. James came within inches of Moody's face. His magical eye swirled about in its socket, moving from Harry to James.

With one cool hiss, he murmured. "He may enter training, but - I - will - train - him," and with that, James apparated away, leaving a kitchen full of aghast people. Moody straightened out his coat, rolling out the kinks in his neck. "Wow, well, at least Potter hasn't lost his edge."

"I'm so sorry," Harry apologized, groping at his face. He pulled at his cheeks. "He over reacts. A lot. I'm so sorry about him."

"Don't worry about it, Harry." Mr. Weasley shrugged. "James has always had an edge when he doesn't get his way. But my, my. He looks exactly the same."

Sirius sighed, slipping into his seat in a trance. He nodded, and Moody grunted as he slid into his chair again. "Acts the same too. Although a bit more protective and grown up these days."

Molly whispered kindly, respectful of James. "I'm sure these past years have really changed him. He will be more subdued due to everything he's been through. Give him some slack, boys."

Harry sank into a chair. "Was he always this paranoid? Protective?"

"No," a voice sounded. All heads turned towards the stairs at the entrance to the kitchen. A woman, forgotten, rose from the steps and sauntered forward sadly. Lily whispered, tracing her finger along her arm. "He smiled bigger and brighter than anyone ever smiled. He laughed like no one could. He got himself in trouble on purpose sometimes. He lived for danger and thrills. The father you know is hardly the James we knew."

Harry pursed his lips and nodded sadly to her. Somehow, he could understand what Lily was saying. Perhaps, living this life of lies had warped his mind. Living in danger, worry, and fear could change a man. And, so it had changed his father. Harry said softly to Lily. "You know, he used to get a little upset when my mum or I would miss a family meal. He always said family time was important. That we took it for granted and should spend more time together. He always wanted to be my best friend, and eventually, I let him. Now, I understand. He, out of all people, really does know what it's like and how much we do take it for granted because, before we know it, things are going to go wrong again."

















Chapter 8: Dead and Gone
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*****


Sirius and Arthur stood in the kitchen. Sirius, with his hands braced against a pane of glass, gazed out at Harry and Moody in the midst of training. Sirius smiled. "He's really coming along."

Arthur nodded. After three months the boy had become a natural with magic. "He's got quite the talent."

"Does Molly know what Mad Eye is teaching him today?" Sirius snickered.

Arthur pursed his lips and shrugged. "No, what is it? Why hasn't James been training him the past few weeks? He was so dead set on being the one to train him?"

"He's going back to Claire. Spending more time with her. He is determined not to lose her. Mad Eye's teaching him the Unforgiveables."

"What?" Arthur whispered. "But he's only seventeen."

"Moody says it doesn't matter his age. The battle could be coming at any day. As soon as Voldemort makes his move on Neville, we will throw Harry in there. Harry is our secret weapon. I'm glad James is showing up around here less often. He's teaching him pure defensive spells. How does he expect to confront Voldemort in combat if he only knows the defensive spells?"

"I guess you're right," sighed Arthur. "Best not tell Molly, though."




"I've had it!" Harry shouted. He threw down his wand and stomped off from the field in which they were training. Harry spat, "I'm tired of this! I want to go home! I don't want to do this anymore."

"It doesn't matter what you want, Potter. You do what we tell you now," Moody growled in his low, threatening voice. "I haven't even began our lesson for today. I was just warming you up, Potter."

"Urgh," Harry groaned, kicking a pebble. "I don't want to."

"It doesn't matter." Moody snickered. From the very beginning, Harry had been giving into every opportunity for Moody's lesson. Harry was falling into his trap, making Moody's task much easier. Moody taunted him. "All right, Harry. I know you're angry. You've been cooped up here for three months. You haven't talked to anyone but us and Mary. We don't let you go out. We baby you. Yes, we do."

"Will you talk about something else, please?" Harry hissed. "You're not helping."

I'm not helping you, but I'm sure helping myself, his thoughts sneered. He urged Harry forward, tossing him his wand. "I know I'm not helping. So, why don't we get some practicing in? I'll be your punching bag. Come on, let's duel."

"My dad doesn't want me dueling with anyone," Harry murmured like the goody-good he was.

"Well, your dad isn't here right now, is he?"

Harry rolled his eyes and raised his wand. "Stupefy!"

Moody deflected it and sent Harry flying off his feet. He groaned and limped back to a standing position, rubbing his bum. "That hurt!"

"No one will spare you in battle. Come on, Potter. Try this one. Crucio, say it."

Harry lowered his wand. "What will it do?"

"It's just a dueling spell," Mad Eye lied. "Come on, Harry. Say it, but be angry. You have to feel that anger inside of you. Use it! You're trapped here under house arrest, you can't do anything about it."

"I don't trust you. I won't say it."

Mad Eye ran forward and sent his fist flying across Harry's face. He yelped and cowered backwards, holding his bloodied nose. He shouted, "What the fuck was that for?!"

"You're angry. Good." Moody punched him again. "It's just some bruises. I'll fix you up after we're done here. Now say it!"

"No!" Harry roared. Another punch. Furious and with blood spurting from his mouth and nose, he raised his wand and howled. "Crucio!"

Writhing and thrashing, Moody dropped to the ground. Silent, his body yanked about violently. His eyes fixated with fury on Alastor, Harry had to blink twice before he realized what he was doing. His eyes went wide and, ashamed of himself, Harry rushed forward and helped the man to his feet. "Mad Eye, I'm sorry! I didn't know what that would do to you!"

"No, it's good, Potter. It's good. And that was very nicely done," Moody sighed, wiping the dirt from his coat.

"Why did you make me do that?"

"Because dueling is more than just creating pixie dust and fairy tale princesses. Things get violent, Potter. What you just did is called the Cruciatus Curse. It's called one of the three Unforgivables. Any use of them will land you without trial in Azkaban for a lifetime," Catching his face, Moody reassured him, "but in this case, you are in training, and soon enough you will have to use these curses free of charge."

Curious, Harry pried. "What are the other two?"

"The other is the Imperius curse. Interested?"

Interested, Harry thought on it. He nodded, "I guess."

"Now resist as best you can. I won't hurt you with it, but just resist," and with that, Moody shouted, "Imperio!"

At first Harry felt nothing, and he wondered what was supposed to happen. Then he felt a push inside his head, and he wanted to groan, but found himself unable to. Instead, his feet began to dance around like a talented tap dancer. His mind raced, wanting to stop. As he resisted, a battle raged on inside his head. He could hear a voice commanding him to dance, to sing. But Harry protested. No, I don't want to.

Moody's voice responded, "Good, Potter! You're resisting! Jump!"

No! He felt his knees buckle, and Moody lifted the curse. "Impressive, Potter. This curse can make you do anything to the caster's will. You must learn to refuse it. You did well. We won't continue with that right now, for there is one more I would like to show you."

Harry had to admit, he preferred Moody teaching him to his father. His father was careful of what he showed Harry and barely let him practice them in return. Moody was teaching him all he could, using Harry as the guinea pig. Harry was intrigued. He urged Moody forward. "What is it? I want to learn!"

Moody whipped out his wand, searched for any living thing, and found a bird in the sky. He pointed it at the bird's small body and growled. "Avada Kedavra!" Dead, the bird dropped to the ground.

"Y-You...You killed that bird!"

"It's only a bird, Potter."

"So, a killing curse..." Harry murmured.

"That's right. A killing curse. Beware it. It is inescapable, unlike another spell. No one has ever survived, and surely, no one ever will," said Moody.

"But why do I need to learn it?"

"You really have no idea what you're doing here, don't you?" Moody snickered.

Harry sat down in the grass, his happiness fading. He had, once again, been reminded of his annoying curiosity and impatience with his stay at the Burrow. "Not really. At first, I thought I was just being introduced to this world, but now I think it's something so much more. But no one will tell me."

Moody knelt down in front of Potter and said quietly in his etchy growl. "I know it, Potter, and I'm going to tell you. You're not here to conjure fluffy bunny rabbits and enjoy yourself. We wouldn't have dragged you into this world if there wasn't a good enough reason. We wouldn't have destroyed all your father's work for nothing."

"Mad Eye, don't tell me riddles. Tell me what's going on," hissed Harry. He finally took in that he was the ploy in their plan.

Mad Eye looked Harry in his emerald eyes, his glass eye seeming to take in every last bit of Harry and his confusion. "Has anyone told you about Voldemort or Neville Longbottom?" Harry nodded. "Well, Voldemort is the darkest wizard there's ever been. When you were a child, there was a prophecy - "

"My father's told me about this," Harry ushered. "There was a prophecy about either me or Neville Longbottom. To protect me, my parents divorced, and my father took me into safety. I know what happened in my world, but not in this one. That's what I need to know."

"Okay, so, with you off the map, Voldemort had no choice but to go for the Longbottom child. Neville's parents went insane from the Cruciatus cursed placed on them by a Death Eater, one of Voldemort's followers. Her name is Bellatrix Lestrange, an unyieldingly cruel woman. She was locked up in Azkaban for a while with her husband, but she broke out a year or two ago. But Neville. After his parents went insane, Neville went to live with his grandmother. During his childhood years, he was safe. The Order kept a close eye on him, but when Neville entered Hogwarts a series of obstacles set up by Voldemort were awaiting him. Ever year, he's gone through some sort of trauma. He's had such a sad life. The thing is - the poor boy lacks nearly all magical talent. We have reason to believe that Voldemort does not feel the draw he needs to feel between himself and Neville. Neville does not give him any threat. So, Neville has been ruled out as the "Chosen One," and he is now on the move for you. The prophecy clearly states 'neither can live while the other survives.' If Neville is not the one he's after, this makes you the one he's trying to kill. We have Order members stationed everywhere. We have eyes and ears everywhere. We know the Second War is coming soon, and we won't allow a third one to come. We need this to be over once and for all. Voldemort cannot live any longer."

"So..." Harry sighed heavily, feeling his heart throttle in his chest. He groaned. "So, I'm being trained...I'm being trained to go into battle. I'm being trained to kill someone..."

Harry rose to his feet and stormed off. Moody chased after him, hobbling on his wooden leg and staff. "Harry Potter, come back here. We need you to do this. The safety of the entire wizarding world is in your hands. We need you to do this."

"You're just using me! All of your are just tricking me into being the king in your little chess game! No! I won't do it. What if I don't kill him? What if he kills me first?" Harry sighed heavily. He ran his fingers through his tangled hair. It stood on end, highlighting his distress.

"He won't kill you, Harry." Moody, the most unlikely guy to be reassuring, grasped Harry by the shoulder and squeezed them tightly. "We aren't going to let that happen. We are going to train you with every tactic we know. We will not let you fail."

"I don't..." sighed Harry. "I can't...I...How can I? I can't kill someone."

Moody let his voice rumble. "Voldemort isn't a someone, Potter. He's a horrible soul that should never have been born, and you're going to send him right back to hell where he came from."




Mary ran her fingers through his hair as he groaned, tossed, and turned in her lap. He groaned, biting his fist to muffle his complaints. "I'm sick of this fucking place! I want out! No one is letting us do anything, and now I find out that they are only training me for my death."

"That's not true," Mary argued as Harry jumped to his feet stormed about the tiny room. "That's not true, Harry. You're going to save all of them. They're making a hero out of you."

"But what if I don't want to be a hero?" Harry hissed, spitting into her face as he came within inches from her panic stricken eyes. Harry retreated, sighing. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry, Mary. I didn't mean to scare you. Well, I don't know about you, but I'm getting the fuck out of here. I need - a drink - or something! Are you coming with me?"

"Yes," Mary rose to her feet, smoothing out her skirt. "But how will we get out of here without being seen? This place is like a prison. They can see and hear everything we do."

"Don't worry. I've got that settled," and he reached for her hand. He entwined their fingers and remembered what Moody had taught him three days previous, and then they were gone with nothing but a crack.

They plummeted quite ungracefully into the ground at a bar in London. Mary's eyes went wide and she squealed, opening her arms up to the warm, night air. "Finally! We're back in the city! I was getting tired of hearing nothing but crickets at night."

"Of course you were," Harry teased. Mary was quite the city girl, a girl who went shopping every weekend and chatted with her friends in a Starbucks on evenings. The sound of taxis, cars, pedestrians, and other noises sent them into peace. The contrast of the lights and the night sky made everything sparkle like stars. Mary sighed. "Thank God."

Harry dragged her into the bar. "I always heard that Matt Bueno kid talking about this place. They serve to minors, thank God."

Mary put on her most seductive smile, sliding into one of the stools at the bar, lit up with neon lights beneath the counter. The bar was crowded and thriving with minors and adults. There were numbers of people on the dance floor, dancing in quite raunchy ways. "I didn't know you drank, Harry."

Harry cast her an awry glance. "I don't actually. I'm just stressed, and for one moment I need to forget this war."

As the bartender appeared on the other side of the counter, Mary batted her eye lashes and grinned. "Tequila, please." The bartender turned to Harry, and he waved an absent hand around. "I'll have whatever she's having."

"All right," the bartender grinned. He began preparing their drinks. He winked and clicked his tongue at Mary. "This first round's on the house, love."

Mary nodded in thanks and turned to Harry. She rolled her eyes. "Come on, Harry. Relax."

"I will," Harry moaned, "Once I get that tequila in my system."

"Well, here you go, man. Get it in your system." The bartender slid his drink across the counter to Harry. The alcohol was in a tiny shot glass. Harry looked at it curiously before he grabbed it and chugged it down. He hissed and made a sour face. "That's gross. More."

In another second, his second round slipping its way down Harry's throat. Mary laughed and swallowed her first. "It's bad at first, but then it gets better, huh?"

"Yeah," Harry winced. His face turned up as if he had been sucking on a lemon. He waved his hand around. Already, he could feel the alcohol kicking in. "Another, pwease."

Mary looked around the loud bar. The lights had dimmed, and they were flashing everywhere. On the dance floor, a heated group of teenagers were dancing about. Mary beamed and bounced. "Oh my gosh! It's Felicity from school! And Tracy! And Jedidiah! Harry, come on!"

She grabbed his hand and pulled him onto the dance floor. Harry, at the beginning stages of being drunk, groaned and waved lazily. "Jedidiah!"

The three teenagers looked up and beamed, bounding forward. Jed, tall and blond with a dazzling smile, grinned with his arm around Tracy Jones. "Mary! Harry! Where have you two been? Everyone's been wondering about you! Sorry about Ethan, guys. That was really horrible."

Mary smiled sadly. "Yeah, it was. We're staying with some friends a fair ways outside the city. It's been miserable, keeping us on a leash. We were able to sneak out tonight."

Felicity danced up to them, sweat gracing her beautiful forehead from dancing. "Mary!" She hugged her friend excitedly and then laughed at Harry, leaning on Mary dependently. "Well, what a surprise! Harry Potter too! Harry, the goody boy. Already drunk."

"Ehe," Harry giggled. He slapped a hand on Felicity's shoulder. He gurgled, "Felicity! You look like - a cheetah in that dress! TEQUILIA!"

"All right, Harry," Felicity laughed. Jedidiah took Mary's place from under Harry's arm and led him to the floor. Jed yelled over the blaring music. "Can you stand?"

"Shut up, Jeddy! I ain't deaf or retarded!" Harry slurred. He shoved Jed off, and Harry began dancing on the floor. His fellow peers watching him in hilarious outbursts of laughter. Jed took Mary's hand and led her next to Harry. "Well, if this is your one night out, you better make it worth it!"

Mary grinned and began dancing closely with Jed. Felicity and Tracy resumed themselves as well.

For hours, the two of them drank and danced until they were completely wasted. Mary hung all over Jed and Harry. One of her hands grazed Jed's hip as her other went up and distorted her board straight, blond hair. Jed whispered huskily into her ear. "I see you've forgotten all about, Ethan."

"And I see you've had about seven too many shots of alcohol," Mary hissed back. Jed's hands grazed Mary's hips as the other girls and Harry ran over to the bar. Mary drew herself in closer as his hands went down and searched new places. They cupped around her bum and went up her back, around to her breasts. She pressed her lips against his, hot and hungry. Jed groaned and drew out of the sweaty mix of people, pulling Mary into a dark corner.

Harry laughed hysterically at the counter and slapped Tracy's back. "Tha's...Tat's funny, Tracy!"

"Harry, you've had enough," Tracy eyed him.

"Noooo," Harry giggled. "Just one more! Eh, waiter dude! One more!"

"All right," the bartender groaned, sliding it over to Harry, "but that's your last one. I'm cutting you off after that. You do realized that that is your eighteenth?"

"Whatever," Harry slurred as he chugged it. Harry rose and took two steps before crashing into the ground. He laughed and then looked to Felicity and Tracy, staring at him in confusion. Harry asked, "Woah, woah. You okay?"

"Are you?" Felicity pushed. "We're not the ones who just fell, Harry!"

"Oh, I thought that was you..."

They helped him to his feet and the girls set out to look for Mary. Harry stumbled into the corner and found them wrapped around each other. He laughed and pulled Mary off of Jed. "Ehe, hey. D'er you are, Maaaary."

"Oh God, Harry," Mary sighed. She wiped her lips with the back of her hand, glad that Harry seemed completely oblivious to what she was just doing. Jed straightened his shirt as Harry peeled into him. Mary straightened him up and asked, "Harry! How many have you had?"

"Those t-ings are delll-shoush! I've had eighty-one! No one can beat me!"

"Eighty-one?" Mary asked in horror. "I doubt you've had eighty-one, Harry. Do you mean eighteen?"

"Oh," Harry stopped. He held one finger up on each hand and waved his hands back and forth, acting to switch the numbers. "Eighteen, yes. Eighteen. That's the one!"

"Fuck, Harry. How do you expect us to get home now?" Mary cursed. She twirled an end of her blond hair. Harry waved his hands around in an excited motion and spluttered out, "Why, just the way we got here, Mary dear! It's magic!"

Jed laughed, thinking Harry was just drunk out of his mind. Mary, however, panicked. She turned to Jed. "I'll take him home. Bye." And she ran out of the club and into the street. She rounded on him, furious. "Harry, apparate us out of here."

"Alllllllll righttttttt," chuckled Harry, and they left with a crack.

They landed in a heap in the middle of a field, Harry sprawled out on top of her. The night sky was a black blanket over them, the star twinkling from above. He grunted into her chest, "Big boobies, you have."

Mary chuckled and grabbed Harry's neck, prying his face off of her front. His drunken, lazy eyes met hers, and he kissed her hard. Mary squealed under him, taken aback, but she didn't stop him. She licked his alcohol marinated lips. When he pulled away with a laugh, Mary asked, "Why did you do that?"

"Well, it looked like a good idea," Harry slurred once again. Mary was quiet for a moment, allowing Harry to remain firmly planted on top of her, and then she asked, "And was it?"

"Mmmmm," he murmured. Mary, unable to make out an answer, snuck her hands up his shirt, ripping it above his head. Harry, the alcohol dizzying his mind, was able to grunt out. "N-No, never mind!"

"Too late," Mary groaned in a husky, turned on voice. She pulled Harry onto his knees, her hands up his back, and kissed him hard on the mouth once more. Her teeth sunk into his lip, her tongue roaming inside. Harry gasped against her, "No, no! Ethan."

"Ethan's not here. You are. I want you, Harry," she moaned against him. She went to his neck, inhaling his sweet smell, so much sweeter than Ethan had ever smelt. Harry fell back, but Mary climbed on top before he could scramble away. "You won't remember it tomorrow anyways."

"Hmphhh," Harry groaned, ignoring Mary's hand as they found the buckle of his belt.

"I want you," sighed Mary against his ear. That was all she had to say before Harry caved, before he gladly let her undo his belt. Drunk on too many shots to count, Harry cursed himself inwardly. His mind ranted over and over You traitor, you traitor.

But it was all the little bitch of a whore had to say before Harry gave in. That was the last time he said no.





















Chapter 9: The Weapon
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Chapter Graphic by Jeanie at The Dark Arts

Alicia beta'ed! Thank you, my dear!

*****


Oddly enough, Harry awoke the next morning in the same bed he had been sleeping in for the past three months. Groaning and with a pounding headache, Harry rubbed his eyes, snatched his glasses as he shoved them onto his face, and looked about the tossed room. He moaned loudly and took in the cold spot beside his body.

Where was Mary? If he could recall correctly, she had fallen asleep next to him just like she had every night upon arrival at the Burrow, but what he couldn't recall was last nights events? He couldn't recall how he had somehow managed to fall asleep at the Burrow? How did he even manage to get home from his long night out in the city? What he did remember was drinking himself away at a bar with...Jed, Felicity, and Tracy? Was that right? But he hadn't seen them in months...

No, he told himself. That's right, and he put his bare feet against the cool wood of the floor. Feeling as if his head were being beaten with a sledge hammer, Harry slowly rose, careful to make sure he had his full bearings before entrusting himself to carry his own weight. He stumbled and grabbed onto his hammering head, wondering what could have possibly made it hurt so much.

Then he remembered the previous night.

Apparating away. London. A bar. Jed, Felicity, and Tracy. Drinking. Oh, the impossible amounts of alcohol. The field...Mary...

"Shit!" he cursed himself. He slammed his fists against the old, crickety nightstand next to his bed and howled. "Shit, shit!"

Had he really slept with Mary? Why would he ever do that in a million years? Mary was Ethan's, Mary was a whore, Mary had to have some man to fill her needy heart, but as Harry thought this, he realized she had something else that she wanted to be filled...

Had he really given his virginity away to such a whore? He was ashamed to admit it. Yes...

Why didn‘t he have the power to stop it?! He didn't want it! He could never want that. He had always - always, always - wanted to save up for that one special person, and - surely - Mary Jane was not that person.

If he also recalled correctly, he had fallen asleep with Mary in his arms. Where was she now?

Harry pulled on a t-shirt before setting off down the dimly lit hallway. The rising sun spilled rays of orange and yellow down the wooden hallway. Peering down to the right, the side leading to the floor below, Harry veered left and into the room designated for Mary.

The bed was neatly made, her absence and belongings gone. Harry blinked before bursting down the stairs with a shout, the first thought that entered his mind being shouted loudly. "She's gone, she's gone! Mary! She's gone!"

In the kitchen, silence fell over the people within it like a blanket of sleep. There was an uneasy tension. Lily spoke first in a rather calm voice, a voice Harry found impossible to use within this sort of situation. "What do you mean, Harry?"

Harry drew in a sigh and said quickly in a rapid voice, "Mary! She's gone. I was - she was... We were - She fell asleep in her room last night and now she's not there! Have you seen her?"

Moody - always the serious, down-to-business one - jumped to his feet and limped against his cane. He ran out the door. His grunt floated into the tense kitchen. "She couldn't have gone far. All of you, spread out and search. If that little tosser reveals us..."

"Alastor!" Molly hissed.

"She is though," Moody insisted.

Lily rose, touched Harry's shoulder, and whispered for his ears only, "We need to look for her. If anyone, well, if the wrong person discovers her, we could be in trouble. I need you to stay here."

Molly bustled towards Harry. "We will all go out to look for her. If we aren't back by eleven, I need you, Fred, and George to do me a favor." The twins at the table looked up from their breakfast and groaned. "Why can't we go look for her!"

Molly rounded on her sons and snapped irritably. "You two will be helpful gentlemen and do as I say. I need you to pick up your brother and sister from King's Cross this morning."

"But finding the pretty blonde girl would be much more fun!" George contemplated. Fred sighed and shrugged hopelessly. "Eh, what's the use, George? Let's just pick up Ickle Ronnikins and Ginny like good little sons with Harry."

"Ickle Ronnikins?" Harry laughed lightly. He found himself able to loosen up as the adults slowly filtered out of the Burrow and into the nearby world in search of Mary. There was nothing Harry could do, so why linger on something you can't help? Being sure to hide his hangover, Harry slid into a chair and piled toast onto his plate, selecting a fresh banana from the bunch.

George slurped through his porridge. "Yeah, Ron is your age, and Ginny is a year younger. Terrific fun to pester them both to death. Ginny just about hexed us to Saturn last summer."

Fred jeered. "Oh yeah! I remember that! Brilliant bat bogey hex she has, Harry. You'll never want to get on her bad side."

Harry smiled and turned to his breakfast.




Harry, Fred, and George raced through the crowded train station with much enthusiasm. Upon entering the station, George had called triumphantly, "Race you to the platform!" Then he was off, peeling through a family with four kids each licking their own candied sucker. Harry bolted forward as he yelled out to Fred before they distanced themselves any further, "Which platform is it again?"

"Nine and three-quarters," Fred grinned from ear to ear, his feet picking up in speed. A security guard called after them as they ran and ran. There were shouts and grumbles at their disruption, but neither seemed to care. Harry had surpassed Fred, and George was a mere ten feet in front of him, but as they ran, the platforms increased in whole numbers only. There were no half numbers, or quarter numbers for that matter.

But then suddenly George ran at full speed into the brick wall. Harry, expecting for George to shout and fall to the ground unconscious, was met with a horrific surprise. George didn't show any signs of pain at all, but rather enthusiasm as he disappeared within the brick wall. Looking at the hundreds of surrounding muggles, none seemed to notice the teenager who had just disappeared into a completely solid wall.

Harry put his faith in George, in the brick wall, and his faith in magic as well as he turned his head down and picked up his pace before he rammed into the wall himself. Braced for a horribly painful impact, Harry was met with a pleasant surprise. He came to a stop as he found a completely alternate platform before his eyes, and above the tracks awaiting the Hogwarts Express, a sign reading Platform 9 3/4.

Harry laughed at the amazement of it all and clapped Fred on the back as he came into view where the wall between platforms nine and ten used to be. Harry snickered, "Better luck next time, Fred. We beat you by a long shot."

"Maybe so, but I still won!" George exclaimed excitedly.

For the next five minutes, Fred and George elaborated on magic and it's many wanders, such as the wall they had just run through to reach the platform. It was after George had excitedly informed Harry of dragons, three headed dogs, puking pasties, and dementors when a red, steaming train pulled into the station.

Parents began herding the children climbing down from the train like cattle. They engulfed them into their arms until the children begged them to stop. Some were happy to see their parents while others rolled their eyes in protest. Lanky seventeen-year-olds patted their father on the back awkwardly, but Fred, George, and Harry remained on their own, awaiting the other two Weasley children.

Harry, assuming two bright red heads belonged to the Weasley family, pointed as they dismounted the train. "Over there! Is that them?"

Fred and George pushed through plump fathers and erratic mothers to reach their brother and sister. The boy, a frightfully tall boy at that, with flaming hair to his shoulders was saying his farewells to a gang of boys in trashy robes. Their ties were hanging loosely about their neck, and their shirts hung half-way out of their dress pants. One boy even lacked a shoe on his second foot; he was waving it about in his hand.

The three of them began making their way over to the bustle of students in gold and red ties. Next to the red haired boy Harry assumed as Ron was a strikingly beautiful girl. Her nose perked up gently at the end, and her hair fell in mesmerizing locks to her waist like a ripple of fire. Her smile was genuine and her teeth white. Her smooth, pale skin reminded Harry of a princess. She looked sweet and kind until you reached her eyes. Her chocolate eyes were swimming with and energy no woman possessed in them. Her eyebrows curved up in a powerful way. Harry was lost in her beauty.

The twins engulfed the two into their arms, hugging them tightly until they grunted with their embarrassment. Ron groaned into Fred's shoulder, his voice muffled, "Urrr! Gerrr off me, Fred!"

Fred let go and the four Weasley’s were all smiles. A brown headed girl bounced up next to Ron. Her chocolate eyes were ecstatic. "Oh! You must be Harry! Mrs. Weasley has been owling Ron non-stop about you. We've been dying to meet you."

Ginny flashed a smile of agreement while Ron muttered under his breath. "Way to be casual, Hermione."

"Shut up, Ronald," Hermione hissed in a suddenly bossy tone, more controlling than her previous and kind one, "and be polite! You're making a horrible first impression."

"He's fine," Harry laughed, appraising Ron's unsatisfied look. Harry out-stretched a hand, ignoring Ginny and Hermione's approving look at Harry's manners, "I'm Harry. It's nice to meet you."

"You too," Ron said, a smile slowly coming into play. His grip was firm, his large hand cold, yet welcoming. Harry grinned back, and another boy trudged towards them. A boy with freckles splattered about his cheeks and matted brown hair offered his hand to Harry. "Hiya, Harry. I'm Seamus. Nice to meet you."

"You too, Seamus," Harry said kindly, trying to register all the new people he was meeting. "You're friends with these three?"

Seamus beamed. "Yeah, been through a lot those seven years at Hogwarts. It's a shame their over now and that you didn't get to join us."

"Yeah," Harry agreed quietly. He, obviously, hadn't experienced the wonders of Hogwarts and never would. "A shame."

Hermione bounced enthusiastically. "Mrs. Weasley's been explaining in her letters that Mad-Eye has been teaching you. Has he been too harsh? Oh, I have loads that I would absolutely love to show you!"

"I would love that," Harry nodded along with Hermione's enthusiasm. That wasn't a lie. He truthfully did want to learn more magic. It was such an interesting subject, and there were thousands of countless spells, jinxes, and tricks to learn.

"Mad-Eye's quite the lunatic, isn't he?" Ron chuckled. "He hasn't tried to strap you to an anchor and toss you in a lake yet?"

Harry's lips tugged up into a smile. These people were nice - surprisingly easy to get a long with. Harry could be himself. He didn't feel like some kind of freak of whom everyone could stare and gawk at. "Ha, no. He does have plenty of interesting tactics. He tricked me into using the Cruciatus Curse on him."

Ron blinked twice, and then his mouth fell down. Seamus, Hermione, and Ginny all quieted, and their stance became tight and insecure. Harry could see the confusion erupting from their very bodies. Perhaps he had said the wrong thing.

Ron then stuttered, "Why would he make you use that curse?"

"Yeah," Seamus agreed. "You just earned yourself a seat in Azkaban."

Harry swallowed. He had blown it. No one else was supposed to know his meaning here, clearly. He coughed and lied, playing a false smile across his lips. "Well, it's Moody, right? I don't know. He's a crazy old bat."

"Sure," Ron laughed sourly, unconvinced.

Fred bounced, and Harry knew he was itching to scream out the truth. George smacked his head, remaining rightfully calm in the situation, and said with much ease, "Well, let's go home!"

"Yeah, me mum's waiting for me over there. Have a nice summer, guys! See you around!" Seamus sauntered off. Hermione, Ron, and Ginny waved briefly before a boy came running, panting into view.

"Oh." Hermione smiled, but her eyes gave away her laughter. "What's wrong now, Neville?"

Harry's ears perked at the sound of his name. Neville... The one Harry was being trained to "replace."

The boy was lanky and looked like had had lost a lot of weight recently. His front teeth pushed out slightly, and his hair was cropped unevenly. His brown eyes held youthful worry.

"Trevor. Have you seen Trevor?" Neville panted, groping his cropped hair. Harry now understood why the ends of his hair were so frayed and torn. It had to be from Neville's constant worrying and pulling on his hair the way he was.

Harry did not understand how Neville could so easily lose a person, but Ron's next comment confused him even further. In a snarky tone, Ron snickered. "Probably under the train right now, just waiting to be squished."

Neville's eyes went wide as house elves', and he ran to the edge of the train, shouting to the tracks below the train. "Trevor! Trevor, come out!"

"I'm sure he's fine, Neville," Hermione soothed.

"Really, Neville," Ginny tsked, "It's been seven years since you've gotten that toad, and yet you still haven't realized that he can't stay still for less than a minute. So, you continue to lose him!"

Neville huffed and ceased looking for the toad. He straightened up, exposing his immense height, and tossed his hair to the side. On his forehead, a scar the shape of a lightning bolt seared Harry's vision. Harry pursed his lips, thought What a funny scar..., and then thought nothing more of the matter.

George shuffled his feet as the group silenced. He was clearly trying to force the meaning of Harry's place in the wizarding world out of everyone's mind. "Well, we best be getting back. Neville, nice to see you again! Don't let that toad wander too far!"

Neville waved with a small smile before slouching off to a woman wearing a green dress suit, and a hat with a vulture on top, with a red handbag. Harry snickered at her appearance, holding back his laughter. Harry asked Hermione, "You're coming as well?"

"Yes," she answered with a weak laugh. "So don't hold any grudges against me for a while. You won't be getting rid of me for a month or two."

Harry smiled. That was fine. He didn't have a problem with her, and he saw great potential with becoming a friend of Hermione's. Everything would be fine. So, Ginny took hold of George's arm, and they all apparated back to the Burrow.

When the six of them cracked in, appearing out of thin air, they were met with a flurry of a ruckus. Sirius and Remus held a kicking and screaming Mary Jane while Lily and Kingsley stood in front of her, their expressions harsh and controlling.

Sirius shouted, angry. Apparently, none of the adults had taken notice of the teens who had just entered the room. "You do not leave the Burrow! You will not leave this place!"

Mary kicked, her legs flailing about in the air. Sirius lost grip of her arm for once second, and she made an attempt to bolt across the room, but Remus held her still while Sirius regained possession of her right limb. "Who are you to tell me what and what not to do?! I'm sick of this place, and I want out!"

"You cannot leave unless you wish to die," Lily said, her voice having more anger than Harry thought her sweet persona could contain.

"That's not true!" Mary hissed. She kicked again, and shouted angrily. "I was gone last night! Nothing happened!"

Lily's eyes went wide, her expression angry and scared all together. Her voice grew in crescendo with her increasing anger. "What! You little twit! You left?! It doesn't matter if you weren't found during the time you were out! They could have found you, and you would have led them directly to us! Do you not have any care at all of any of us? Molly has been nothing but kind to you, you rude, insolent, little girl! She has given you a roof over your head, food, clothing! You had to come with us because you would be dead if it weren't for us! And you go and throw away all of our hard work!"

"What does it matter!" Mary yelled once more. "What are we hiding from?"

The room silenced. No one said anything. The Weasley children and Hermione stood in utter shock. All eyes focused on Harry when he let out the smallest whisper. "You bitch..."

Mary pursed her lips and then spat. "Don't you dare call me that, Harry Potter! You were there too. You left as well."

The anger split between the two teenagers who had snuck out. Every adult focused their attention on Harry and all began screaming at once.

"You could have died!"

"We could have been found!"

"Everything will mean nothing!"

"SHUT UP!" Harry shouted. Silence fell over them. Harry clenched his fists together, his chest heaving with his anger, and he sighed heavily. He calmed himself. His audience was astounded at the capacity of anger Harry held within himself. "Yes, we left. I realize it was dangerous, and I'm sorry. We're just...We're teenagers. We can't be locked up like this. Could we have a little more free time? Please? I won't do it again. I swear."

"Well, fuck that! I'm not swearing! Let me go! I want out of here!" Mary roared.

The adults turned to one another, Mary's protest impossible. Lily said softly. "We can't let you leave. Not now."

"Then at least explain why we can't," Mary ordered.

Mrs. Weasley rounded on her children. "Out. Get out, children. All except for Harry."

Ron scoffed before sauntering out. Fred and George followed, then Hermione. Ginny paused by Harry's side and whispered the question that frightened her the most. "Who are you?"

Harry eyed her in a nervous way, and his shoulders shook. Ginny stood by his side, facing the opposite way, her eyes averted towards Harry's feet. Harry touched her hand softly to lessen her worry, and then he whispered. "I'm the replacement. I'm the weapon."

*****


"Stop, James," Claire groaned. She repositioned her husband and grunted. "Damn, you're pushing the baby into my bladder. Now I have to pee."

James rolled off of her and sighed, running his fingers through his hair to stifle his irritation. He murmured an apology, "Sorry. It's difficult to remember."

"How is it so difficult?" she called from the bathroom. Her voice was swamped by the flush of the toilet and the running water as she washed her hands. "I'm swelling like a balloon."

"You're still beautiful. As always," James called as she reappeared in the doorway. James smiled weakly at her, and Claire sighed in a confused manner. She situated herself on their bed once more and looked up at the ceiling. She questioned. "Why are you doing this?"

James knew he had this conversation coming. He should have known. However, he played the fool. "Doing what?"

"Acting like nothing has changed. Like our son isn't a wizard and is being trained for war, like our marriage isn't crumbling, like I'm not carrying Carter's child. How are you doing it? Why?"

"Because I love you, Claire," was all he could manage. He laid back next to her, but instead of facing her, he turned his back to her.

"That isn't enough. After what we've both done to one another, I would imagine that we would have been living under quite different circumstances." She turned towards him and etched as close as she could. Her nearly five month pregnant belly pressed into James' back, a reminder of Carter.

James turned towards her and cupped her hands around the child growing beneath her skin. "You may think that, but I can't. I've made my decision. I told you about Lily. How I still, after all these years..." He choked. "...loved Lily, but I don't want her. I want you."

"But I'm not strong like you. I can't make a decision like that. I love you both, but don't choose me. Carter is clearly the better choice for me. I'm carrying his child..."

"Urgh, shut up," James groaned. "I know that. His child is pressed against me right now! I don't need the reminder every second I'm awake."

"I'm sorry..." Claire stuttered.

James swallowed, closed his eyes, and rested his forehead against Claire's. "No, I am. I'm sorry. That was unreasonable of me. I will still love the baby, Claire. I will love him or her with all my heart still. Just because the baby will be yours. Please, choose me..."

"I'm not making a decision," she mumbled sternly.

James sat up and leaned over her. He kissed her softly and rose without protest. "Fine, but I will be here. You are the only one for me." He strolled from his bedroom and into the hallway. As he exited, Carter strolled down the hallway.

Carter asked quietly. "Is she awake?"

"Yeah," James rubbed his eyes. "She's awake. Go on in."

"Thanks..." Carter mumbled awkwardly before slipping into the master bedroom that only belonged only to Claire these days.

James waited outside the door, sliding down to the floor in his sorrow. With Harry out of the house and Carter in, James was staying in Harry's room, and Carter was now living out of the guest room. James and Carter had come to an awkward truce for the time being. Both wanted to be with Claire all the time now that their situation had been exposed and Claire's pregnancy was going further and further. So, Carter had been living in the Potter residence for the past month and a half, yet neither men stayed with Claire at night.

James knew it was awkward, but he had become - somewhat - used to it. Each of them had free reign within the house. It was almost a "you snooze, you lose" situation. If one man wanted to make breakfast for Claire, a competition arose between James and Carter to see who could arise the earliest and prepare the meal, and whoever couldn't remember the newest addition to the long list of foods that made Claire sick, then it was your turn to be inwardly laughed at. It was a silent competition though. Neither acknowledged their resentment for one another. They kept their agreement and acted as if the other wasn't in love with the same woman as himself.

James listened in on his wife and her second love. Carter asked in a sweet voice that made James want to rip out his heart even more. "How are you feeling?"

"Fine, thank you," Claire returned in a voice sounding just the same, so full of love and care.

James heard the rustle of the covers on their bed, and he knew that Carter had laid down next to his lover. James then heard the long, melting sound of their kiss. James shuddered and waited for the voices to continue. It took awhile, and it did not please him to know that their silence represented their kissing.

Carter finally chuckled. "Mmmm, that was very nice. No nausea today?"

"Not yet, thankfully."

Carter sighed and continued on, "Listen, Claire, I know I told you I wouldn't press you about it, but I'm curious. When are you going to give the papers to James? Does he have any clue at all?"

"He has no idea what's coming at him," Claire confessed. "I-I haven't found the courage to tell him, much less to give them the 50% completed papers."

"He needs to know," Carter pushed. Claire whimpered under his tone. "I know he does, but I can't do it just yet, Carter. I still love him!"

"You love me too."

"Of course I do. Don't talk to me as if I'm stupid and don't know my own feelings for you!" Claire demanded.

Carter laughed lightly, and the sound of a sweet, apologetic kiss emerged. "I know, dear, I know. I'm sorry. Maybe this will help you get the courage."

"What?"

A rustling sound, anxious breathing, and a small pop followed within the next minute. James held his breath for what came next. Claire gasped, and James knew she was crying. "Oh my god, oh my god..."

"It was my mother's," Carter explained softly, "and before it was hers, it was my grandmother's. I'm giving it to you now, if you will let me."

"Carter..."

"Claire," his voice nearly sang with his love, "divorce James. Divorce him. Marry me, Claire."

Within his chest, James could feel his heart stop. His breath rattled, and tears filled his eyes. He bit his knee abruptly to stifle his loud sob. He didn't want to hear anymore. He couldn't take anymore.

It made sense. The papers. Divorce papers. 50% complete, containing all of the appropriate signatures from Claire and lacking James' half. James moaned into his hands. "Oh, God. Oh, Merlin, no. Say no..."

Claire sniffed, the sound of their kiss, and then she happily said the one word that tore James' heart apart. "Yes!"

















Chapter 10: Broken Heart
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Characters: Lily & Sirius
Chapter Graphic by Jeanie at The Dark Arts


Thank you, Alicia, for the splendid job of beta'ing!

*****


"Lily." Sirius gave her a start as she sat beneath the stars in the backyard of Grimmauld Place. She looked over her shoulder as she sat on the cobbled stone path and sighed with her hand braced over her heart. "Oh, Sirius," she sighed. "You scared me."

Sirius chuckled and sat next to her, draping an arm around her shoulder. She snuggled into his warmth and leaned her head against his shoulder. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to. I was just wondering where you ran off to."

"Oh," Lily said again. "I like it out here. It's peaceful."

Sirius picked up on the silent reason, the main reason Lily was out as it neared midnight, gazing up at the dazzling stars. It relaxed her. He smiled. "Yes, and it's just beautiful out."

"Yes," Lily said with a groan as she rubbed her chest. She coughed and looked away, burying her ashamed face into her shoulder. Sirius paid no heed to her actions, but refocused on her when she began to rub her left shoulder once more. He asked, furrowing his brow. "What's wrong?"

"It's nothing," Lily murmured. She glanced once in his direction before returning to the stars. Sirius followed suit, putting it behind him. Sirius asked after many minutes of silence. "How are you holding up, Lils?"

"Fine, I guess you could say. I mean, how am I supposed to be holding up?" Lily nearly growled. Her anger and distress was easily mixed into her words.

Sirius nodded. He pulled his knees up to his chest and wrapped his arms around them. He would have made a joke, he would have made an attempt to make her laugh, but he could see that this wasn't the time. Instead, he rubbed her back and reassured her. "I know, I know, but everything will be all right.

"How, Sirius?" Lily cried out, grabbing onto her head. "How can it be all right? I made him choose someone! I made him choose. I never thought he would choose her. Granted, she is the better choice. Or maybe she isn't...I don't know. Everything is so complicated."

"I know, Lils," Sirius reassured her again. He didn't know what else to say. There wasn't much to say. "We're here for you though. We always will be." Lily nodded and wiped away her tears.

"I've just given everything up for him, you know? I really thought he would choose me," Lily sniffed. "I thought I made him happier, I thought he loved me more..." Sirius looked down at the ground, his own feelings for Lily pulsing within his chest. Lily shook her head in her resentment. She slapped the stone ground in her frustration. "God damn it! After everything...! Everything that I've put myself through..."

"What exactly is that?" Sirius questioned, for he couldn't imagine much more than what he and all his friends had done as well.

Lily sniffed, wiped her nose on her shirt, and shook her head. "No, never mind."

Sensing Lily's secrets, he pressured. "Lily, tell me. What's happened?"

Lily fell into Sirius' open, friendly embrace and wiped her eyes on his jeans. He touched the back of her head, ran his hands across her hair as a sign of propulsion. She toyed with a fray on her jeans, something to avert her attention as she confessed. "I have CHF."

"And that is?"

"Congestive Heart Failure."

Sirius blinked. She had to be joking. She was joking, right? Sirius blinked again and then swallowed. "You have to be kidding..."

"I was diagnosed three years ago," Lily admitted. She continued on. "It has been a result from my fatigue and stress. My stress increased my blood pressure. I tried to control it, I tried to get help, but five years ago I was diagnosed with CAD, Coronary Artery Disease, as a result from my high blood pressure. I didn't treat it. I kept going with it in hopes that it would go away. I now realize that I shouldn't have kept it quiet because now I have a Congestive Heart Failure. My heart is giving out, and there is nothing they can do about it now."

Sirius was silent. He blinked back tears. He pried Lily from his lap and gazed into her eyes. The orbs of emerald absorbed the moon's light and cast a glassy glow on Sirius' cheeks. A tear rolled down his cheek, and he whispered. "Please tell me you're lying. If you are, it's mean. It's mean, it's not funny."

"I'm not kidding. I wish I was," Lily sighed.

Sirius pressed one of his large hands against her cheek. He found himself unable to control his emotions, his feelings for Lily. She was dying in his arms, dying all the time, and he hadn't known until now. Mulling over that fact, he became angry. He bit his lip and growled. "Why did you tell me!"

Lily blinked and pulled away at his ferocity. She murmured. "I didn't want anyone to worry. We have enough on our plates. I didn't think you would be this angry either..."

"I - " Sirius groped at his hair and yanked at the ends until Lily grabbed his tan hands and pried them away from the brown roots. Sirius growled again. "I...I won't let you be hurt! Why didn't you tell me? Why didn't you tell me when I could have done something about it! I won't let anything harm you..."

"That's very kind of you, Sirius, but - "

"No." Sirius grasped her wrists and held them together. His eyes were pleading, his expression horrified. He moaned. "You don't understand. You can't feel any pain! No pain, Lily, do you understand?"

"I..."

"I won't let you!"

"You're too late for that, Sirius," Her voice quivered and betrayed her confusion and fright. "I've been in the most pain I have ever been in for the past eighteen years. Divorced from the one I love, watching my son grow up without him giving me the love his true mother should receive, watching him trained to become some kind of weapon. It breaks me, and it's all added up over the years. The stress and the anxiety...It's all built up to this, my heart failure."

"You don't understand!" He wanted to tell her everything, and he would. He would tell her everything he had kept quiet for so long. She had to know now. "Don't think that you're the only one in pain! Yes, you're his mother, but I'm his godfather! It's painful to watch you wallow in your sadness when you can't be with James! It's heart breaking to watch you moan and groan about your love for James and how he won't fully return it, when all I want to do is confess my love for you!"

There was silence except for the chirp of the crickets and the gusts of the wind. The wind tossed Lily's red locks across her shoulder, draping her face to cover her glassy, shocked eyes. She said in less than a mere whisper. "What?"

"Oh," Sirius gasped. He rose and strode away from her. He went to lean against a tree, his forearm braced between his forehead and the bark. "I should have held my tongue. I'm sorry."

Lily followed in his wake. Realization dawned across her face. The over-protective caring for the past twenty years, holding her at night... It all fit. She asked, "You love me?"

Sirius whipped around, his eyes blurred from his tears. He was fast and fierce with his movements. His large hands cupped over her cheeks; another smoothed back her curls so he could see those beautiful emerald orbs. He nodded his head in his distress and moaned in pity. "Yes. Yes, I do. Of course I do. I've loved you for twenty years. I always will, Lily."

His emotions took over his actions. He massaged her cheek into the palm of his hand. The hand at the back of her head slid down to her neck and drew her in. Before he could realize what he was doing, before he could think, before he could consider how she might react, he kissed her. He kissed her fully and longingly.

Lily didn't kiss back, but she also didn't refuse. She simply stood there in his embrace, stunned. When Sirius stopped, he only pulled away for a second. He kissed her lightly again, a plead forming on his loose lips. "Kiss me. Kiss me, Lily."

Unsure, she did so. Slowly she began to kiss the unfamiliar lips, study the curve of them. She analyzed how different they were from James'. She knew she was horrible for kissing Sirius and thinking only of James, but she couldn't stop herself. James' lips were thin and straight. Sirius', however, were round and big, loose and well practiced. James was always fierce and passionate about his kissing, and Sirius kissed her with a sweet tenderness James only gave when he felt guilty or he knew he had done something wrong. The worst feeling about the difference, she recognized, was that Sirius' sweet tenderness felt better...

She abruptly stopped and pulled away. Lily found herself unable to look at him, ashamed of herself, and therefore angled her gaze at the ground. "I'm sorry. I - "

"No," Sirius swallowed. You would have to be completely oblivious to miss the painful tone in his voice. Lily easily registered that she had just given Sirius the best minute of his life. Sirius shuffled his feet awkwardly. "I'm sorry. I lost control, I shouldn't have."

"Don't worry about it..." Lily sighed. She wiped her wet lips, smelling Sirius' sweet scent of amber and citrus, and sat in the grass once more. She swallowed and bit her forearm. She felt...guilty... Like she had just performed the worst crime imaginable. She tried to calm herself by thinking, He's not mine anymore. He chose Claire. We were never exclusive anyway. Why do I feel this way...?

Sirius, awkward and ashamed, lowered himself into the grass a good five feet from Lily's side. He crossed his legs and peered at her quiet, subtle form. He thought it best to change the subject, make her completely forget the moment Sirius wanted to hold onto forever and always. "Tell me more about your...condition, please."

Lily looked up, her eyes weak. She spoke easily about it, as if she had come to accept the fact. "Like I said, it all originated from my stress, my anger, and my anxiety. It resulted in high blood pressure, thus higher heart rate and the clogging of my arteries. Five years ago, when my neighbor found me unconscious, I was taken to a Muggle hospital, and there I was diagnosed with CAD, Coronary Artery Disease. This is a disease by the clogging or blocking of the arteries, making the heart work harder to pump blood throughout the body. I didn't think anything of it. Since I gave her my eating habits and that I am in fit shape, she could not deem the cause of diagnosis to obesity or high cholesterol. It was my stress. I refused care, and because I was not in a life-threatening situation at the time, I was allowed to refuse the care. I told myself I would stress less, worry less. Well, you know me; that never happened. I worried more than ever. My condition worsened until I went in for a check up, and my CAD had morphed into my CHF, Congestive Heart Failure. By then it was too late. There was nothing to reverse the diagnosis and nothing to do but let myself die."

"Has anything...life-threatening, I guess, happened?"

"Other than being diagnosed, not really," Lily shrugged. She was strong and easy going about her disease. "Shortness of breath, fatigue. I keep waiting for my first heart attack, but I've been lucky. Right now, I have no set time. I can live as I live. I keep waiting for the day when I go in for my next check up and I find out I have less than a year to live or something."

Sirius cradled his head and sniffed. He couldn't imagine losing Lily. Granted she had only played his best friend for the past twenty years, but that didn't subside his greater feelings for her. The need to protect her, the need for her to be happy, the need for her to be healthy. The need for her to be alive. He moaned. "I can't imagine living without you, Lily."

Lily whispered. "I can't imagine dying either, but it will happen sooner than I would like."

"Does James know?"

"No. You're the only one," Lily said.

"What about donors?"

Lily shuddered and pulled her knees in towards her chest. The idea scared her. "I don't want to think about that just yet. I still have faith in my own heart. If I didn't, I would be worrying about finding the right match for myself. For now, my heart will last me."

Sirius inched his way towards her and touched her cheek once more. "I'm scared for you. You're so brave."

Lily turned her cheek away from him, gazing at the grass that almost seemed blue from the moon. "Hmmm, bravery. It's an acquired trait when facing things like this. I've had twenty years to become brave. I think I'm pretty good at it."

"You are," Sirius chuckled. "Bravest woman I know." He lent in to kiss her again, but Lily pulled away.

She mumbled in a low and apologetic voice. "Sirius..."

"Come on, Lily," he suddenly protested. He growled, his voice low and domineering. "James didn't choose you! He's moved on. He was cheating on you all of these years with this snotty little wife! He's put you aside and isn't looking back. Can't you see that? Let him go. He won't love you like he loves Claire, but I will love you more than he loves Claire! I already do."

"It just doesn't feel right," said Lily. Sirius withdrew in defeat and sulked in his embarrassment. He apologized once more. "I'm sorry for what I said."

"It's okay," Lily sighed heavily. "You're right though."

"Well," Sirius caved. After all these years, he had only wanted Lily's happiness. He had wanted to see her smile, see her being as happy as she could be. Loving James and James loving her in return made her the bright and shining person she was. With James refusing to let his love for Lily break free from his barrier, Lily was broken, a sad and hopeless creature. "I want whatever you want. That's why I've been able to listen to you when you speak of your day with James, how you long to be back with him the next day. It made you happy. Happier than I could ever dream of making you. I want what is best for you, and I want you to be happy. So, I will go on acting as if I didn't make a fool of myself tonight, and you can continue to find your happiness. If you can't find it yourself, I will help you find it, no matter the damage to myself."

"Sirius - " Lily began to plead. She wasn't sure if it was intentional, but Sirius' extremely mature speech made her even more guilty. She watched him rise and fade back into the narrow house of Grimmauld Place. She laid back against the grass and gazed up at the sky. Stars filled it, their lights twinkling and igniting the sky. She caught two shooting stars. Lacing her fingers and placing them at the back of her head, Lily watched the night sky with a satisfied smile on her face.

It faded when she wondered when she would see such a beautiful night again.




"Congratulations, Potter," Moody complimented Harry with a crooked grin as he gave Harry a slap on the back. "That was the last simulation."

"What do you mean?" Harry questioned. He lowered his wand from the dueling simulator he had just completed. Magical test dummies lay on the ground with their status flashing about their heads in gold. Some read "Unconscious." Others read "Petrified," "Unarmed," or anything of the sort.

"I mean that was the last simulation. Your training is done. You've passed," Moody said as he limped towards one of the dummies. Moody growled the killing curse until the gold writing, stating "Petrified" turned green and said "Dead." Moody turned back towards Harry as he flinched. "It's just a dummy, Potter, and you need to overcome your fear. My only criticism. You're too afraid to kill. Well, I'm telling you not to be. This battle will be a situation of life and death. Others will be around to help the ones you are trying to defeat. An unconscious or petrified person can be revived. An unarmed person can easily snatch their wand right back. The only way you are assured complete safety from that person is in death. Now, you'll do this simulation once more, and at least five of these dummies will be marked as dead. Got it?"

Harry nodded and pulled up the sleeves of his shirt. He wiped the sweat from his brow and Moody apparated from the room and the lights switched off. Harry backed up until he felt the door of the simulator room against his back. The metal door was cool and soothed his skin. He turned around and pressed his forehead to it, enjoying the cold metal. He could hear the dummies and destroyed obstacles being put back into place.

When Moody's voice echoed across the room, Harry whipped around, his wand at the ready, ready to kill.

*****


The teenagers sat amongst each other in the grass that evening as a heated meeting between the Order emerged. Ginny was trying to peak into the kitchen through a window, but Remus had long ago seen Ginny and cast a shielding charm. Ginny huffed and slid into the grass, her arms folded across her chest.

Ron grunted. "What do you suppose they’re talking about?"

With a blade of grass twisting between his fingers, Harry said absent-mindedly, his other hand resting under his chin. "The war."

They entered silence, and he could suddenly feel all eyes on him. Harry cleared his throat and murmured. "Sorry."

"How can you talk about it in such an empty tone?" Hermione wrinkled her nose.

Harry ripped the blade in half and shrugged. "I dunno. I've been introduced to such a different world these past few months. I'm open to anything."

"Why are you just now introduced to it? Normal wizards with wizarding parents are raised in wizard ways, and they get their Hogwarts acceptance letter when they are eleven. What is your role in this world? Why now?" Ginny asked in an almost angry voice.

Harry murmured an apology and leaned back in the grass. He couldn't see the harm in telling them. It had been two weeks since the other Weasley’s and Hermione had arrived at the Burrow, and Harry was getting along quite well with them. Ron had become a semi-friend, and Hermione was close to it. Ginny was different though. Harry not only saw the friend potential, but also something more. He shrugged that off as he watched her toss back her fiery hair over her shoulder. "I'm not quite sure. You guys know all the secrecy that goes on around here. Truthfully, I don't understand how you can live with it."

Ron laughed and tossed a quaffle in the air. "It gets pretty damn annoying."

The others murmured in their agreement, and Ginny said roughly, "Spit it out."

"Honestly, I can't say much. If you tell me more about Neville, I may understand my situation better," Harry proposed. He took the opportunity to get to know his placing. Who was Neville, truly? They would know.

"Err," Ron thought.

"That's difficult to explain," Ginny smiled.

Hermione took the question. "It all starts with a prophecy, you see. Neville was the boy the prophecy was made about, and the other was about a dark wizard, You-Know-Who. The prophecy states that neither can live while the other survives, that one of these two will bring balance to the wizarding world. Either the bad will perish, or the good will. Neville is vouching for the good. Every good wizard is putting their lives in his hands. Over the wizards, they have come across each other. Each time Neville was faced with a different task, another attempt to kill him. Neville has survived each time. We keep waiting for the day when one of them will fail."

"Also," Ginny put in, "when Neville was a baby, his parents died trying to protect him. Aurors got a notice and were there before they could reach Neville. Neville has always lived with his grandmother."

"What about the scar? The scar on his forehead," Harry inquired.

Ron laughed at the memory. "Neville's such a doofus. That happened in first year when one of his potions went wrong."

"All of his potions go wrong," Ginny giggled.

Harry smiled lightly, amused at the thought, yet horrified at Neville's past. "So it's nothing special?"

"No," Hermione said. "Nothing special. I've had the thought that what if Neville isn't the right person? Even after Voldemort is gone, Neville does not have enough guts within his body to have every Death Eater quaking in their shoes with fear. How in the world could Neville bring a balance?"

"Agreed," Ginny sighed. "We're all doomed."

Ron looked at the ground and made a funny noise with his tongue. The twins sat absent-mindedly, poking one another. Typical Fred and George, Harry thought. They always lived away from the fear and the war, making life as happy, cheerful, and carefree as possible. Harry held his chest when he stated, announcing his identity. "That's just it. Neville won't bring balance then. The prophecy - there were two people born as the seventh month died that year."

"How did you know it was the seventh month? I never said anything about the seventh month," Hermione said, horrified.

Harry rose and turned his back to them. He wondered if he was walking straight towards his death in the midst of this mess. "I only needed the end of your information. I've heard it all before. The one to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born to those who have thrice defied him as the seventh month dies. Neville isn't the one to bring balance. My birthday is July 31st. I'm being trained to kill Voldemort. Neville is a cover-up; I am the Chosen One."




Claire was at her OBGYN that afternoon, the day her pregnancy hit five months. Carter had gone with her. Unable to handle the situation, James had remained behind. For the past weeks, ever since he had heard the two in his bedroom, James had ignored Carter completely. He was merely a fly on the wall, a fly James wanted to smash into the ground with a fly swatter and step on 5,000 times. He made no attempt to sleep with Claire at night. He had taken to Harry's bed, missing him dearly. He also didn't kiss Claire anymore, or try an exceedingly impressive amount to. Once or twice a day his lips felt his wife's. Claire had also made no movement whatsoever to tell James of the divorce papers or her engagement to Carter.

He was lonely. Lonely and crumbling under his stupid decision. He lay on the couch, his arms spread wide, as his stared blankly at the green wall. The television was on, but James couldn't hear it. His ears were tuned out, as if listening and mulling over all his thoughts. The flashes of yellow, green, and blue from the TV reflected on the plane of wall at which James was staring.

"I made the wrong choice," he murmured. "But I'm married to her. She was the right choice from the start..."

He entered silence, and his mind strolled to Lily. He bent over, wailed, and took his face into his hands. "I miss my Lily! She will never forgive me now!" He thought on it. He thought about the love she held for him, and he knew she had to take him back. Of course she would. Their love was unconditional, stronger than anything.

He then realized he also wanted Claire's happiness. Clearly, that happiness lied with Carter, with Carter and her unborn child. With James out of their way, they could live a proper life the way they wanted it.

James sighed and reached for his wand lying on the coffee table. He gave it a wave and murmured with every ounce of strength inside of him. "Lily, take me back. Accio divorce papers."




There was something strange about lying with him with the moonlight spilling in from the window, illuminating his red bed sheets. There was something strange about lying naked with him.

Lily lay on her side, her eyes staring up at the moon, as Sirius faced her back. He was propped up on an elbow, his long, cropped hair trailing over her bare shoulder. He slowly leaned forward and gave her pale, smooth skin a gentle kiss. "Thank you."

Turning around to face him, Sirius settled his chest on top of hers. His eyes pooled with his happy tears, and he pushed back Lily's sweaty curls. She whispered under him, "What for?"

"For this," Sirius whispered sweetly. He went to kiss her lips again. He was aware that she wasn't kissing him fully, but that didn't matter. She was letting him. She had given him the best night he could ever ask for. He kissed her anyway. "For tonight, for giving me a chance."

"Well," Lily almost chuckled. She tucked a lock of his hair beneath his ear and kissed him back. She wasn't about to ruin the moment with Sirius, she wasn't about to say that she had given up on James, that he had chosen Claire and he would have to live with that now. She was not tied to any man in any way. She hadn't done anything wrong. And the night, after all, hadn't been completely un-meaningful.

With her apartment destroyed, raided by Death Eaters, she had been staying at Sirius' for a matter of months. Because of their encounter two weeks ago, she couldn't just disappear from Grimmauld Place at night. Lily played their night over and over in her head. She had just finished dinner and was walking to her room when Sirius exited the bathroom wearing naught but a towel. Now, Lily had never thought Sirius attractive in the least until the night Sirius had confessed his true feelings for her. He had always been the brotherly type. Then, after hearing the words "I love you" seep from his lips, he was all she could think about.

With his chest inches from her face, his clean, sweet scent intoxicating her smell, she had stumbled backwards. Sirius caught her with his fast reflexes, his large hands braced on each of her upper arms. Looking up into his eyes, she was entranced. He had merely smiled, his white teeth glistening happily. She knew he had seen her amazement within her eyes. It had gone from there. From a slow kiss, to picking her up and carrying her into his bedroom. Hours later they were laying in his bed, happily entwining their fingers together, laying in each others' arms.
Sirius twiddled with her hand, kissing her knuckles. He kissed a trail down each finger to the palm of her hand, down her wrist and her arm. She giggled and kicked. Sirius looked her in the eye and sighed. "Lily, I love you."

She pursed her lips and smiled. What was she supposed to say to that? It felt horrible to have someone confess their love for you and be unable to return the feeling without lying to them. She nodded and whispered a thank you. Sirius said, kissing her forehead, "I know you don't love me, but I would like to give you the chance. It's okay."

Lily sighed, relieved. Sirius was so kind. He made her feel good, and he didn't make her feel guilty about her fading love for James. He gave her the space she needed. Lily played with his hair and cupped his cheek. "Thank you for that."

Sirius nodded and looked down to her chest. He placed a hand over her heart, resting his cheek against her warm skin. He listened to each and every beat until he knew her own special rhythm by heart. Sirius held her tighter, squeezing as much as he could. "I'll save you," he said. "I'll find you a heart." Even if I have to give you my own...

A crack emerged from downstairs, disturbing their tranquil moment. Lily jumped as they both recognized James' voice. "Sirius? Lily?"

"Oh God..." Lily mumbled. "I don't want him to see me! Not here in bed with you!"

She held her head and gasped. James' calls came again. Sirius said quickly, waving his hands around like a mad man, "Then hide! Hide!"

Lily jumped from the bed, wrapping the blanket they had long ago kicked to the floor around her waist. She ran into the bathroom and shut the door behind her. Sirius tossed onto his stomach, pulling the covers up just enough to cover his bottom. He lay casually and called, "Up here, James!"

James came in less than a second later. His face was full of mixed expressions, happy, worried, confused. He gave one look at Sirius and his eyebrows cocked up. James snorted. "Long day or what?"

Sirius turned onto his side and sat up slowly, careful that the covers not fall too low. He remembered the days as a teenager when it didn't matter if they saw each other, but if your butt was exposed long enough, then you had the misfortune of receiving a towel whip. Now, however, was another time. "Yeah, long day dueling with Harry. Quite fun though. He's doing excellent, James."

"That's good, that's good," James chimed. He sat in the arm chair next to the bed, regaining his breath. "I miss him. I should come duel with him some day. I still don't approve of what's being done with him, but I guess it's unstoppable."

"There you go," Sirius smiled. "You're finally going along with it. I know it must be tough, but you've gotta let him go some day."

"I've held him so close all these years, kept him so safe, living in the fear of what could have happened. It's the hardest thing to let him go."

"Well, all right," Sirius sighed. He placed his feet on the cool wood and rubbed at his head. James groaned, shielding his eyes, "Ah, man! You're naked? I don't need to see that, Pads. Why are you sleeping anyway? You know a guy should only sleep naked when he's got a girl in the bed!"

Sirius thought sourly, Well, I did have a girl in the bed, no thanks to you. He them murmured, readjusting the covers. "I know the rule, mate."

"Well," James changed the subject and moved to the reason he was here. "Where's Lily? I would like to speak with her. I just talked to Molly; I assumed she was staying there with Harry, but she said to try here. Is she here?"

"No, she's not," Sirius lied absently. "Must have stayed at a motel tonight. Maybe at Petunia's. Why are you looking for her?"

"Claire wants a divorce. I just signed all the papers. It's official, I'm officially not married anymore, and I was just going to tell Lily. I was hoping she could take me back. I would never take myself back. After what I did to her..." He groaned and shivered, continuing on, "I can't believe I did that to her. Has she said anything about me to you? I wouldn't be surprised if she was off sleeping with hundreds of men just to get back at me. I was a horrible son of a bitch to her."

"Woah, woah," Sirius coached, holding up a hand in defense. "Slow down, James. First off, you know Lily isn't that type of girl. She is a one-manned woman. You made the most logical choice. I'm sure she understands. As for forgiveness..."

James looked up in his self-pity, his eyes swimming with the hatred he held for himself. He bit his tongue and cursed loudly, "Fuck! She won't ever forgive me. Why did I do that, Sirius?! What I have with Lily is so fantastic!"

"Had..." Sirius corrected. He then clamped his mouth shut, surprised at what had risen from his mouth so quickly. He began apologizing rapidly.

James whispered sadly, running his fingers through his hair. He sighed and slipped down in the chair. "No, don't apologize. You're right. I've blown it. I have no more chances with her."

"You never know..." Sirius whispered, unable to believe the words leaving his mouth.

"Well," James rose. Sirius could see he couldn't take anymore conversation. He needed to be alone. "First time you see Lily, let her know I'd like to talk to her."

"Will do, James. Get some rest."

"You too, Padfoot, and put some bloody pants on," James chuckled. Sirius laughed and waved a hand at James. A second later, he was gone. Sirius sighed and fell back against the bed in relief. He snagged a second to regain his composure. With every ounce of courage in his heart, he rose and entered the bathroom that contained Lily.

He found her sitting in the corner, her knees pulled up to her chest and wrapped snugly in the blanket. She was biting her finger nails, and her eyes looked up at Sirius as he sauntered towards her, bare and comforting. He sat down next to her, enveloping her into his arms. She shivered in them. Sirius voice was weak, quavering, "Any chance you didn't happen to hear that?"

She shook her head. "No, I heard every word."

Sirius sighed and wiped at his eyes. He didn't want to lose Lily. She had, after all, just given him a chance. "Any chance you will forgive him?"

"I already have, Sirius. It's inevitable."

"I understand," he whispered.

"Sirius, I'm sorry. If I had known...I wouldn't have teased you with tonight. I, I... I feel so horrible."

"No, Lily," he cooed softly. He cradled her head. "Shhh, it's okay. Shh, don't feel bad. You couldn't have known. Haha, you weren't just trying to get back at him, were you?"

"No! Of course no!" she almost laughed. She dabbed at her eyes and then joked. "You see, I kinda like you."
















Chapter 11: Forgive Me
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Thanks to Alicia for being such an awesome beta!

*****


"Haha, you weren't just trying to get back at him, were you?"

"No! Of course not!" she almost laughed. She dabbed at her eyes and then joked. "You see, I kinda like you."

Sirius kissed her head with a crooked grin. "I kinda like you too."

Lily waited to see if Sirius had anymore to say, but nothing came. He simply rocked her back and forth in his arms. She resisted from looking at his face. She could imagine what it looked like: contorted with his pain. Sirius sighed moments later. "You will go back to James, won't you?"

She didn't want to admit the true answer to Sirius' question. It would only break him. She nodded, murmuring, "Yes. Deep down, I still love him, Sirius."

Sirius shivered, held her tighter, and let a sniff escape. "It's all right. I understand. You belong with him, and he makes you happy. As long as you're happy."

"I'm so sorry, Sirius."

"Lily," Sirius said in a hard tone. He took her head into his hands and gazed at her eyes until he could feel his grey burning into the fine emerald. He could see Lily blinking back her tears. He knew this decision wasn't easy for her. "There's no need to apologize."

"I never meant to do this to you. I feel like a slut," Lily gagged.

"You're not a slut, and I know you weren't just trying to shag me for the heck of it. Lily, it's okay. It makes sense to be with James now. Don't hurt yourself over it. Just promise me one thing," Sirius begged.

Lily nodded, rising up into his arms and letting Sirius engulf her into his warmth. "Anything, Sirius. Anything, just tell me."

He turned his head into her matted waves of red. Their scent was a mixture of her own cinnamon scent, sweat, and his own smell. Inhaling his own strong citrus scent sent shivers down his spine. It reminded him of the best hours of his life. His voice was heavy with his assertive tone. "You swear to me that you will tell him what he has done to you. Tomorrow. Will you do that?"

"It's not his fault..."

"It is too his fault!" Sirius raged. He rose and stormed about the small bathroom. He lowered himself onto the cool plaster of the bath tub and cradled his head. He moaned and groaned, then began screaming. "It is too his fault! It's all his fault! The fucking bastard is killing you! I won't let you die, Lily... I won't let you die."

"Sirius..." Lily cooed. She went to sit in his lap and kissed his forehead, soothing his temper. "We will all die someday. I will just leave sooner than the rest of you."

"You can't leave me. I just got you."

Lily smiled gently and touched his warm chest. Her hand folded around his left side, cupping his heart. "I won't leave you. No matter where I'll be - I will always be in here."

Sirius rose, forcing Lily to fall out of his lap and to the ground. Sirius kicked the white shelves that held all the bath towels. He threw his fist through the wall, and Lily whimpered in fright. She scooted into a corner, holding the blanket tightly about her body. He punched the wall once more. "The fucking bastard! How can you go back to him? After what he's done to you! He will only continue to do the same! He is tied to Claire! He can't love you the same way anymore! Why not stay with me! Please, Lily. Be with me and I will show you the love James could never give you!"

Sirius quieted. His chest heaved with the rage of his sudden outburst. He caught sight of Lily, suddenly sobbing quietly in the corner of his bathroom. She looked frail and scared. The green blanket was wrapped tightly about her body, enveloping her head like a shield. Her shoulders heaved, and her crying emerged. He blinked as he took in Lily's scared appearance. Sirius bolted forward, falling to the ground next to her quivering body. She slinked away from him, turning her head towards the wall. "Don't. Go away."

"I didn't mean it," Sirius gasped. He crawled further towards her, touching her cheek gently. She cringed under his touch, and she let her cries out. "I love him, Sirius. I love him!"

"I know," Sirius said softly. He took her head into his embrace and rocked her back and forth. "Forgive me. That was horrible of me. I understand. I understand." He said that over and over, but Lily had no clue who it was meant to convince. Lily or himself.

He brushed back her hair as to see her face, and Sirius hated himself even more for the horrified look she possessed. "I'm sorry, Lily. I didn't mean to scare your or make you cry. I just...I just got carried away, but Lily, dear, I understand. All right? I do. I want you to be with James. He will make you happy."

Lily nodded and sniffed, brushing away her tears. She let Sirius cradle her, and after many moments of stopping her tears and regaining her composure, she looked up into his eyes.

Sirius. Oh, he was a different man than she had ever imagined. She had always imagined him so rough uncaring when it came to women. But he was quite the opposite. He was sweet and caring, delicate with Lily. She wondered if it had anything to do with the particular feelings he held for her. Her muddled thoughts sent her into a race of confusion. Sirius was right - in multiple ways.

First off, James didn't deserve her. There was no doubt about that after the way he treated her, after the sickness he had caused her. Secondly, Lily would always be his second choice. How could she return to James, knowing that he only settled with her because she was only second best. And third...

Oh, how she felt when she was with Sirius. He made her feel special. With him, she knew she would always be the best. Never second like James had put her. When he gave her a simple flash of a smile, or his eyes came to rest upon her for even a second, she felt like a queen. Sirius kissed her like she was a prize to be kissed. He held her like she was something that would break if you let her slip. He embraced her like he would die if she didn't...

She found it ironic how James had used loving two women as an argument months ago at the hotel. She had replied, saying she did not know what it was like to love two men. Now, she didn't. Well, she didn't love Sirius, but she would have liked the opportunity to.

She pushed it aside. She smiled, studying his every feature. His nose was long and pointed up at the end. His hair was brown, graying at the top, and the lines under his eyes held his years of wisdom, worry, and anger. His eyes, his beautiful grey eyes, still swam with the immaturity of his youth. His lips were large and parted with a sentence forming on them. Lily pressed her finger to his lips and pulled herself into his embrace.

His large hands slipped under the blanket, curving around her bare body and pulling her as close as possible. He waited for her to speak, his breath trailing closely by her ear. For the first time, she was the one to initiate the kiss. Lily held her breath and leaned in. When their lips touched, she wondered if she would ever find the strength to pull away from their splendor.

They both gasped from the kiss, and Lily was free of her tears. She cupped his cheek, wrapping her legs about his waist, and pulled herself up and around his hips. He caught her, setting her on the counter of the bathroom. The blanket, draped about her back, fluttered to the stone counter.

Sirius' voice interrupted the sound of their heated breathing. "I'm all right having just the one night. That makes it special."

Lily kissed him once more, her fingers drawing a trail down his stomach, to the triangular curve around his hip. "Well, the night isn't over."

"Damn right," Sirius moaned before he was on her neck with passion like fire.




"Do they know you've told us?" Ginny questioned. "I mean, you've explained everything to us. It's frustrating how they still won't let us in on anything. Treating us like we're kids."

"They don't know," Harry replied. The teenagers resided in Fred and George's bedroom late one summer night. They were sitting on the floor, playing a game of Exploding Snap, aside from Harry and Ginny.

Fred and George's room was an assortment of colors and posters. Two twin sized beds were pressed again one wall, the heads facing each other with a nightstand in between the two. The rest of the space was filled with two chairs and an assortment of dirty clothes, clean clothes, candies, experiments, broomsticks, and a wide variety of items. The room was dark, save for the moonlight and the one lamp on the nightstand between beds.

Harry and Ginny relaxed on Fred's bed, both their backs pressed against the wall, their knees brought up to their chest. Ginny had her arms gingerly wrapped around her bare legs, her shorts coming barely below her thighs, while Harry laid back in his jeans and t-shirt. He didn't know how he and Ginny had come to be the only ones to refrain from playing the enjoyable game of Exploding Snap, but Harry couldn't argue. He was quite enjoying the time with Ginny. Besides, the six kids could laugh loosely and enjoy without the harsh stares from Mary, who had retired to her bed hours previous.

Ginny tucked a curl behind her hear and let her head fall against the wall. "It's just frustrating, you know? Being babied like this. We are fully capable of what they are planning, and it's not like they're going to lock us in a cage when the time of battle comes."

"True," Harry had to agree. With Ron, Hermione, and Ginny around, the house had been much more uptight. When it was only Harry and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley's of age children, words, plans, and strategies were thrown about loosely. Now the area had to be observed before anything could be said.

Ginny went on to speak. Over his time with Ginny, he had learned a multitude of things about her. She talked and talked, completely at ease with whatever and whomever she was speaking to. She could go on for hours, never get bored, never loose ideas of what to talk about, and she always enjoyed herself. Harry had to admit, he quite enjoyed himself as well. Listening to Ginny made him happy. It entertained him. She was fascinating in a way.

Not to mention, she was beautiful. A joy to listen to and to look at.

"You know, you confused me when you told me you were the replacement, the weapon. I didn't know what you meant. I thought you were kidding. Now, it makes so much sense, and I honestly can't believe it. After all these years, after everything Neville has been through, he's going to be put aside."

"I'm sorry," Harry volunteered his sincerest apologies. "I didn't know what I was here for until around the time you knew yourself. Trust me, I was being trained for war and I was completely oblivious."

Ginny smiled. Harry bumped her shoulder, urging her to release the information he was about to ask for. "It seems as if all of you have been through some really difficult times?"

"Yes," Ginny nodded. "We all have. It's easier though - easier than some. We all have each other. We're all going through this together, so we all have shoulders to lean on. But it sounds like you've been through enough too, yet you still have most of your journey ahead of you."

"True," Harry agreed once more. He began to spill the information of his recent past that hadn't come to the surface just yet. "Four months ago I thought my life was perfect. I thought I was so lucky. Then it got all fucked up on the afternoon I made the decision to go back home when I promised my father I wouldn't. That one little decision almost cost me my life. It cost my best friend's, Ethan's, life. Same day my mother got three gun shot wounds. I don't believe it had anything to do with me, I've learned there are more effective ways to kill people than guns, but I still feel guilty for it. Then I learn my whole life is a lie. I learn I have another mother, I learn the woman I have called Mum for so many years isn't my mother. I learn I'm some wizard, I learn I'm supposed to lead all these people to a war I'm not ready for. I learn my adoptive mother is pregnant with another man's child. I learn everything to fuck my life up."

Ginny blinked. She was at loss for words. All the information she just heard had not been disclosed to her. She whispered, touching Harry's knee gently to comfort him, "I've known Lily for a long time. Ever since I was a baby actually. I saw the way she looked at us, with such envy. I always heard her and the Order speaking of her child, her child. I kept holding out for the day I would meet that child, I needed a new friend to play Pretend-House with. All I've heard all my life were little slips, accidents. Enough to confuse me until I finally gave up, and now you're giving me all the answers, and it makes perfect sense. You're the one the Order would come here and plan to protect. You're the one who has caused Lily so much pain."

Harry swallowed and stared at a fray in the thread of Fred's quilt. He picked at it and swallowed. "I didn't know I was causing her pain. How was I supposed to know? I don't think it was me so much either. It was my father. He hasn't told me that he's been continuing his relationship with her over the years, but I can see the way they both brighten when their names are spoken. They both love each other. It wasn't me. It must have been my father, with Lily knowing my father was married to my mother, loving my mother. There's no doubt my father doesn't love my mother... He's making their marriage work while she is carrying someone else's child."

"How does that work?" Ginny asked seriously, but there was almost a sense of lunatic laughter in it. Harry laughed out loud and shook his head. He was propelled by absolute insanity and anger. "I have no idea!"

"Does it not bother you?"

"I don't know what to think anymore. I'm locked up here, I have two mothers, my father is in love with both of them, I'm supposed to bring the evil in a whole separate world to an end. I don't know. Everything bothers me really. Except for easy times like these. With you," Harry smiled.

"I'm glad I can relax you," Ginny cheered. Her smile was beaming, her teeth bright, and Harry was astounded at her beauty. He was jolted from his thoughts when she bounced from the bed and waved a hand excitedly. "Come on."

Inclining his head, Harry followed. They slipped past the kitchen and went out the backdoor, into the backyard. The crickets were chirping, and the moon was at its full. Ginny looked up at pouted her lips. "Oh, poor Remus."

"Why?" Harry asked, looking up as well. He couldn't think of anything to darken the night or feel bad for anything or anyone. Being with Ginny under the sparkling night sky sucked out his fears, his worries. The sky was a brilliant dark navy, the stars white and everywhere. The moon held its normal shine, and it illuminated all of the backyard. A pond under a tree reflected its branches.

"Maybe that's the one thing you don't know yet," Ginny joked. She gave Harry's hand a push and began to walk towards the pond.

"What's that?"

"Remus is a werewolf. He changes at the full moon. He's very tamed. He takes some kind of potion to keep himself in control," Ginny told.

Harry's eyebrows rose and he shook his head in near disbelief. An absent thought made the idea seem more realistic. Anything's possible. He shrugged his shoulders. "I guess it's not too hard to believe. I can understand why they would keep it quiet, out of respect for him. It makes sense though, sick once every month."

"Exactly," Ginny agreed.

They were in silence when they both sat near the pond. Ginny kicked off her sandals and let her feet pad at the water. Harry followed suit and lay back against the grass. The moonlight made his cheeks a pale blue, empty and sullen beneath the illumination. His face held his happiness inside him though. The water was cool, rushing between his toes. He jumped when he felt a warm, solid item stroll across his foot. Harry sat up, surprised, only to find Ginny giving him a feeble smile.

She giggled and teased. "Scared you."

Harry nodded and returned the smile as her warm, smooth foot found his once more. Her toes trailed all along the top of his foot, tickling his skin. After many moments of this, Ginny admitted, "You're not like the other boys."

"How is that?" Harry asked.

Ginny touched his thigh and picked at a frayed thread on his shorts. "You're nice. You're so sweet. Most boys are rude and don't give a shit about anyone else, but you're so different. You care as much as the world."

"Thanks," Harry said softly. His eyes met hers, and he noted the twinkle within Ginny's chocolate eyes. Her face was ecstatic, her smile wide. Harry chuckled as they entered a comfortable silence once more.

He turned back towards the water, splashing playfully at it. He felt Ginny's eyes on every inch of his body. At that thought, shivers rushed down his spine. He turned back towards her and caught one look at her face. His heart jumped, accelerating the speed of his heart beats. He swallowed.

Harry blinked twice when her hand came to cup his cheek. He turned his head into it, enjoying her warmth. Her skin like an electrical current down to his heart, warming every inch of his flesh. He closed his eyes, swaying under her touch, and sighed. When he opened them again, he saw Ginny close hers and begin to lean in.

Harry leaned back quickly and braced her on the shoulder with his hands. Ginny's eyes flashed open, her anger erupting. She gasped. "What?"

"I don't..." Harry stuttered, at loss for words, "I'm not ready...I didn't - "

Ginny rose and stormed from Harry. "Well, maybe you are like the other boys then after all. What was that? Were you just leading me on? Couldn't you tell that I like you?!"

"Of course I can," Harry raced to his feet. Ginny ran off, but Harry quickly caught up to her. He grabbed her by the wrist and yanked her body towards his. She broke free once more, and Harry chased her down in the yard, calling after her. He finally caught her once more, and he pinned her against the oak tree before she could escape him once more.

With his chest pressed against hers and his hands tightly clamped about her wrists, pressed against the tree next to her head, Ginny refused to look at him. Harry raised her wrists and held them with one hand as she continued to squirm. He used his other hand to grab hold of her chin. He held it in place and Ginny grumbled, "Let go of me."

"No, look at me, Ginny. Please look at me," Harry whispered sweetly. When her eyes refused to met his, he gave her his genuine smile. She blinked, and Harry knew she couldn't resist his charm anymore. Harry let his fingers trail over her jaw, and he whispered again, "Of course I can tell that you like me. I thought you could tell that I like you too. I wasn't trying to lead you on; you're right, I'm not like those guys. Although, I'm not ready to kiss you."

Ginny squeezed her eyes shut in her embarrassment and gave off a whimper.

Harry soothed once more, tucking back a strand of her hair. "Hey, hey, hey. It's all right. Don't do that, Gin. Look at me. I want to kiss you, but you already mean so much to me. I want to wait. I feel like you will be someone so important to me, and I don't want to rush into things. Won't it feel so much better after we wait for it, wanting it so much?"

Ginny pursed her lips and looked towards the ground. She gave a defeated sigh. Harry pressed. "Aren't I right?"

"Sort of," Ginny admitted. "It's one kiss though. What can it hurt! One kiss isn't rushing into things."

"But," Harry began again. He had released her hands and was now cupping her face. Her hands had wrapped around his waist willingly. Harry said, "I want this kiss to be more than just any other kiss, Gin. Don't you? You won't be like any other girl I've ever liked. You want to be the most important to me, don't you?"

"Yes..." Ginny sighed.

"Then please understand my reasoning," Harry begged.

"Fine," Ginny huffed. She broke free and began to sulk away, her arms folded across her chest. Harry stood rooted to the spot. A corner of his mouth pulled up into a smile at Ginny's stubbornness. He chuckled, "Ginny. Come back here, beautiful."

She turned back around and flew into his arms. Harry caught her willingly and held her tightly. He realized she was the perfect height on him, the top of her head reaching just barely beneath his chin. He held her until he had memorized every curve of her body, every strand of her red, blazing hair, the sound of her breathing, her very scent.

Ginny pulled away just the slightest, her eyes rising to meet Harry's. She gave him a bright smile. "I will be waiting for it."

"Good," Harry whispered. He kissed her forehead and let his lips rest against her skin for minutes. He wanted to give her a peek at their feel, their shape. While his lips were there, he felt Ginny quiver in his arms. He slowly felt her sink down and down until Harry held her up, saving her from melting into the ground. He laughed when he pulled away.

Ginny's fingers trailed across his lips, feeling them once more. Harry stared into her eyes, fixated on his lips. He whispered as her long, fine index finger studied his bottom lip, "I won't make you wait forever. That's a promise."




"More tea, Lily?" she asked. Lily nodded and rubbed her head as she filled her glass with warm tea. Bringing the cupped glass in her hands to her lips, Lily groaned. "Another stressful day in the life of Lily Evans. That's not new."

"And why is today stressful?" Petunia Dursley asked. Tall and thin, Petunia Dursley had a round and wise face. She always held a rather smug look, but her kind voice denied her sour attitude and reaffirmed her kind soul.

"I don't know where my head is. James wants to be back with me, but I shouldn't let him back into my heart. Harry is...Harry isn't acknowledging me as his mother. There's everything wrong," Lily sighed. She took a large gulp of her tea and leaned back in the lawn chair.

Lily's sister, Petunia Dursley, was married to a plump man. They lived in a perfectly beautiful and friendly neighborhood called Little Whinging. The homes were small and cramped, but Petunia had her way of making every little detail perfect with her obsessive behavior. Lily was relaxing in a cushioned lounge chair on the back patio of the Dursley's home. The afternoon was warm, and the sun was high.

Lily bit into a cookie her sister made. She rarely visited her sister, but when she did, her day was relaxing. Petunia always soothed her these days. Lily had to admit, they had fallen out ever since Lily was eleven and had received her letter for Hogwarts, but for the past five years they had been on the best of terms.

"That's awful," Petunia said as she laid back in her own chair. She pulled her sunglasses down from atop her head and placed them on her nose, leaning back and letting the sun add its glow to her plastic-looking, stretched skin. "But I sense more than just that, Lils."

"Like what?" Lily growled.

"You said James wants you back. So, why shouldn't he? There's another man somewhere in the story. You're leaving a major gap," Petunia coached. Lily cursed inwardly. Her sister knew her well, being able to read exactly. Lily thought, even if she was miles away, Petunia would always know if she was telling the whole story or not.

"Kind of," Lily admitted. "I don't love him like I love James, but he's just as charming, and I do like him. I am attracted to him. I see our potential; I just don't know what to do."

"Are you able to forgive James, sissy?"

"Yes. In a way, I already have."

"Then James is the right choice," Petunia said sternly. She didn't even need a second to think it over, to decide. Her answer was firm and adamant. It was settled and unchanging.

"But it isn't that simple!" Lily pleaded. She gripped her head. For some reason, she didn't want to settle with James, but Petunia was right. Lily wasn't giving her sister the full story, nor did she want to. Petunia knew of Sirius and had met him twice. Petunia had learned his teenage reputation from the stories Lily had told her sister. Petunia did not like him, nor would she approve of Lily's thoughts towards him.

Petunia sipped at her tea gingerly and huffed. "I'm only trying to help you, sissy."

"I know," Lily grumbled. She leaned back, but settled her arms across her chest in a stubborn manner. She wanted her sister to cave. She wanted her to tell her to flee to this mystery man, but she knew that would never come.

Instead, Petunia said absently, as if it were every day conversation. "Have you seen your doctor lately? And I don't mean the kind that practices in magical medicine. I mean the only kind that can help you in your condition."

Lily sighed. She should have known the topic would come up during her visit. Lily rubbed her chest, her heart throbbing at the simple thought of her failure. She was extremely let down. She had gone the whole day without giving it a single thought. Waking up in Sirius' arms had set her in the best of moods, but Lily hissed, her day crumbling. "No, I don't need a doctor. It's not like anything will change."

"Lily, you need to see your doctor," Petunia insisted. Lily rolled her eyes, and she continued to urge. "When was the last time you saw Dr. Breen?"

"Calm down," Lily tusked. "Two weeks ago. I'm not due for another check up for two weeks. Dr. Breen is being fairly lenient. He knows there's nothing to do, so I don't have many restrictions."

"What about the pains? On a scale from one to ten. You're still heart attack free, yes? Have you been keeping your stress down? That will only increase your chances," Petunia said rapidly.

"Shush!" Lily blinked. She waved her hand around. She rubbed her temples and then her heart as it beat rapidly inside her chest. She listened to the heightened beating. Thump thump, thump thump. She listed until it became a delicate beat. Thump-thump...thump-thump... "You watching me like a hawk is not lowering my stress one bit, Petunia. I'm still heart attack free, but I won't be after my visit here..."

"Don't talk like that," Petunia said in a disapproving tone. Lily grumbled and turned back to her tea. She tried to lose herself in her slow, small sips. She studied the curve of the mug with her lips, the smooth plaster on her tongue. She did anything to divert her attention from her sister.

The sound of a sliding door emerged and the women looked over their shoulder. Their faces brightened at the brown haired boy who stood in the middle of the way. Petunia squealed. "My Dudders! How did the tryouts go?"

"They gave me the position," Dudley Dursley said.

Petunia was thrilled, her face ecstatic. "That's fantastic! It's cause for celebration. We'll dine out tonight; your pick."

Dudley was a tall boy whose body mass made him seem like a giant. It was obvious he had been chunky in his early days, but he had recently lost weight. At seventeen years of age, Dudley's face was long and narrow, the loose skin drooping under his chin. He was spoiled rotten by his mother and father, and Lily was ashamed to admit her nephew had inherited most of Petunia's horse of a man husband's outlook and disposition instead of her fine boned sister's.

Dudley caught sight of his aunt and beamed. "Aunt Lily! How are you?"

"Fine, Dudley," Lily smiled. "Thanks."

Dudley nodded and retreated back inside with an absent wave. Lily sipped at her tea once more, asking her sister. "What position was he going for?"

"Rugby," Petunia answered with a sigh. She twiddled with one of the threads from the cushions of the lawn chairs. "The school coach just decided to let him try out for the team; apparently Dudley used to give off a frightening exterior."

Lily laughed. She could see why. Lily also believed Petunia's use of used to was extremely incorrect. Dudley always had a frightening exterior. Sometimes the interior emerged with it.

A crack interrupted their casual talk. Petunia jumped with a squeal, splashing coffee all along her sundress, and Lily blinked rapidly at the familiar noise. Who could be apparating into Little Whinging? Into the Dursley's backyard, nonetheless?

James appeared before their eyes. Petunia, outraged, jumped from her seat and raised an angered finger. "You! Twenty years I haven't seen you and yet I still have to tell you the same thing! There will be no use of magic around this house. You scared the living daylights out of me!"

"Sorry, Petunia," James said quickly. As he dashed across the backyard, he continued to call to her. "Nice to see you too. Look at you, the cow didn't fatten you up. Love what you've done to the place, hasn't changed one bit."

"Oh," Petunia grumbled. She wiped down her dress with her sour, smug face. Her nose turned up, resembling a pig - oddly enough. "Poppycock."

"I need to talk to Lily. Could you give me a minute?" James asked in a rush. He ran to Lily and grabbed her elbows. He helped an alarmed Lily to her feet with his eyes on Petunia, begging for privacy. Petunia tapped her foot stubbornly. "No, I don't think so, Potter. Not after you barge into my house like that."

"Fine then," James agreed. "I'll use the door next time. Lily," He turned to her and held her face. He caressed her cheek with his forehead pressed to hers. He lost his breath, his eyes fluttered. Lily stumbled, scared and completely lost. However, with his arms snaking about her frail waist and his hands pulling her in, Lily couldn't do much but sigh and give in.

Once he had inhaled her scent, breathed his first breath since reemerging from the deep depths of hell, he spoke quickly and lovingly, painfully. "Lily, please forgive me for everything I did to you. It was wrong of me. I have always known from the beginning that you are the one for me. We've always been meant to be! Since the first time I saw you on that train and you thought you hated me."

"I did hate you," Lily sighed. She ignored her sister, watching them intently, and she focused on James. For at that moment, once more - disbelievingly - she was James', and she was all that mattered.

"You didn't hate me," James chuckled. Stubbornly, Lily fought back. "Yes, I did."

James laughed and gave in. He kissed her forehead and grasped her cheeks. He was about to go in for a kiss, but pulled away as more words rushed from his mouth. "Please. Please do forgive me. I was horrible. I was foolish and stupid. I don't know what I was thinking! I love you, Lily. I do. Be with me. Come back to me. Let's have the family and the life we've always wanted."

He was suddenly offering her everything. He was giving her everything she had always wanted, and yet...

She didn't want it.

"James..." she whispered. Not out of amazement, not out of her love for him, but out of pure horror and confusion.

It didn't feel right.

"What, Lily?" he sighed. He spoke in a rush. Lily hadn't seen him this rushed, this nervous since...

He reached into his pocket and knelt down quickly. Lily drew in a sharp breath and tried to run away. James grabbed her wrist and held her firmly planted as she covered her mouth in utter horror. James popped the velvet box open. He spoke quickly, out of breath, "Now, I know it isn't diamond. But I thought emerald and ruby would do. They're your favorite. There's a rose there, sitting on the gold ring that I want to give to you."

"James, you're making a mistake!" she burst. Lily felt tears in her eyes. Her heart beat rapidly. She felt her face flushing a deep red with her loss. She was stuck in the midst of a battle and she was the prize to be won. Give yourself to one side, and the other will suffer. She couldn't hand herself to either side. She didn't want either to suffer.

James chuckled. "This is the only thing in my life that isn't a mistake, Lily!"

"No, no," Lily pleaded. "Out of everything this is the biggest."

James laughed, ignoring her. She could only be joking. He continued to speak with his love, his determination and dedication. "Lily, I love you. I will give you everything I haven't and more. Forgive me and be mine again. All mine and only mine, for I am already and only yours. Lily, marry me. Please marry me."

"N-No," Lily found herself stuttering. She coughed out a sob and yanked her hand from James' grasp. Horrified, James followed her rushed wake. He touched her shoulders gently. She whipped around fiercely, stung by his touch. "What?"

"Why won't you marry me? Don't you love me?"

Lily cradled her head, staring at the luscious, green grass. She was merely in a world of grass. A world of grass, that's all. There was no James proposing there. There was no James period. He held her shoulders firmly. Suddenly, he knew she was serious. He blinked before he shook her shoulders lightly. "Lily, you love me, don't you? Why won't you marry me?"

"I..."

"What's wrong, Lily?"

"I - I -"

"Lily, tell me. You're scaring me," James whispered fast. He tried to engulf her into his arms. "I'm worried about you. What's going on? I lov - "

"I slept with Sirius!"















Chapter 12: Ablaze
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*****


"You what?" James yelped. He was suddenly furious, all attempts to woo Lily gone. He raced forward and attempted to seize Lily's wrists. She jerked free of his grasp. "I slept with Sirius!"

"I heard you!" he roared, malicious in his fury.

"Then why did you ask me again?" Lily roared. She shrank away from him, holding her arms to her chest. James was furious. She knew he had a temper, but she hadn't seen it released in years. Not since the night eighteen years ago when they found out about the prophecy. He spat, ignoring Petunia's wide and cautious eyes. "What the hell were you thinking? Why would you do this to me?"

"What the hell are you talking about, James?" Lily screamed. She didn't know why she was so angry, but she did know James had no right to talk to her that way - and that threw her over the edge. She knew he had absolutely no right, but hell, she sure did. "We've been divorced for eighteen years! I've been sleeping with you on the side for seventeen while you're married! We've never been exclusive! You have no right to judge me by who else I may be sleeping with! You've been sleeping with Claire!"

"That is not the same thing!" James argued. He ran up to her, and he was suddenly in her face. His pale cheeks were alive with his angry blood, pulsing about his head. His temple throbbed, and a bead of sweat ran down his jaw. "I was married to Claire! I had to sleep with her!"

"Bull shit!" Lily cursed. "Absolute bull shit! You love her! You didn't have to! You slept with her because you loved her!"

"That doesn't matter! Why Sirius? Don't go fucking other men, Lily!" James shouted.

"You have no control over me! You left me; even if you hadn't left me, you would still have no power over me! How much do you care about me, James, really? You put me aside for another woman, you left me! I've done my best to put you from my mind! You have no place in my heart anymore," she said coolly.

James was not brought down by her words. He inhaled, only growing stronger with his anger. "I don't want a place in your slutty heart! It doesn't matter if there were strings or not! You love me! You don't go betraying the one you love by fucking their best friend!"

"We were over! Besides, what makes you think I still love you? After everything you've done to me. You don't know me at all!"

"That's fucking shit!" James grasped her by the shoulders. When their eyes met, his hazel eyes were swimming with tears, but Lily knew they were of anger. She bit her lip in her frustration. This was no longer the James she loved. "Fucking shit, and you know it! I know you better than anyone!"

"You - do - not!" Lily shouted. "My sister and Sirius know me better than anyone in the whole world! And you don't know shit about me! Nor do you give a flying pixie's god damn ass! You abandoned me for some whore who was sleeping with her co-worker! You left me, you weren't there for me. Ever! Never! Everyone else was here for me when the one I wanted most wouldn't turn his head in my direction! What am I supposed to do, James?! I heard you that night at Sirius'. I loved you then, I wanted to take you back. But not after this. You're too cold hearted to realize that you're bringing this upon yourself! Your loneliness is only your fault!"

"This is not my fault. You think this is my fault? YES, OF COURSE IT IS! Fine, I'm the bloody seer who decided to make our child some saviour! Fuck it! And fuck you, Lily Potter."

Lily gasped. Not only had James' words hurt her, but she was offended at the name. Lily knew he must have forgotten somewhere in the midst of their fight. She glared and hissed as Petunia let in a squeak. Lily spat crudely with an evil spirit she didn't know she possessed. "I - am - not - a - Potter! Nor will I ever be! I am ashamed to admit that I owned the name for a small amount of time, but never will I ever let it back into my heart! You will never come near me!"

"You're saying all this fucking bull shit! Get your head straight, Lily! You know you can't keep me away. You love me!" James shouted with his tears and fury.

Lily's shoulders heaved with her heavy breathing. She glowered at him and shook her head, disagreeing. James then shouted once more. "Fuck you!"

"Get out." Petunia's voice was clear, and it held much determination. James stood his ground, rounded on her with his hands on his hips, and hissed. "Excuse me?"

"This my house, and I will not tolerate anyone talking to my sister in such a manner. Now, I said get out." Petunia's shoulders were firm and her breathing heavy and loud.

James roared. "No, you little bitch! I'm gonna do whatever the hell I want! And I need to talk to Lily!"

"You do not need to talk to my sister. Nor will you speak to her in such a way again. No, I said out! Get off my property before I call the police."

James exhaled and turned in a circle. He reached into his pocket for the tiny box once more. James' head rattled as he tried to contain his anger. He said much softer, but his malice was still contained. "You're ruining your life, you know. I was going to give you everything."

"I don't need everything. Especially from you."

James bit his lip and let a growl emerged before he whipped around and chunked the box at the wooden fence along the border of the yard. James let out a roar as he strode towards the fence, "I'll kill Sirius!"

Lily's eyes went wide, and she raced forward. "No! Don't hurt him!" But it was too late. James had already apparated away, leaving his anger behind.




James descended into the kitchen of Grimmauld place with a crack like thunder. He caught one sight of Sirius at the kitchen table as he stumbled out of his chair and onto the floor, and he rushed at him with his anger. "You mother fucker! How dare you?"

"James," Sirius swallowed. He held up his hands in his defense, crawling back along the wooden floor. Sirius slinked into a corner, his hands up as protection. He didn't need to think twice as to why James looked to be on a murderous rampage. Sirius hadn't seen him like that since...

Since James knew his son was the only one to bring down an evil wizard.

"What the hell do you think you were doing!?" he roared. He grabbed the collar of his shirt and yanked him to his feet. Sirius stumbled backwards as he up-righted. His eyes were scared by the anger in his friend. James looked deranged, out of control - he wiped his mouth on the back of his hand, his eyes flashed with their hazel sparks, his mouth was parted with a grimace. Sirius wondered if he had fangs hiding beneath that growl.

Sirius spoke in a rush. "I never meant to hurt her. I wouldn't have made any move at all if I thought she would refuse."

"You. Don't. Touch. Her." James gave him a shove.

Sirius inhaled sharply through his nose and shoved back. "I'll touch her however I want, Potter!"

"She's mine!"

"You don't own her." Sirius' eyes narrowed, and he drew in a sharp hiss. He was propelled by the revenge he wanted for Lily. The revenge he wanted to satisfy by destroying James. "She is not something written in contract! You left her. She doesn't belong to you, James. She belongs to no one and makes her own decisions!"

"You were my best friend! Yet you slept with Lily!" James shouted. He picked up the glass of pumpkin juice that had been sitting so peacefully on the table and chunked it at the wall. The glass shattered, and the orange substance leaked down the old wood.

Sirius cringed, but rose again. "You treated her like shit, James! You never deserved her, you son of a bitch! Besides, did you ever think of anyone but yourself?"

"Don't talk to me like that!"

"No, I'm gonna talk to you the way I wanna talk, and you better shut the fuck up and listen," Sirius ordered. He gave James a shove, and he suddenly had him pinned against the wall by the neck. James groped at the forearm pinning his neck in place. Sirius hissed. "You've been living in your own god damn fairy tale dream land for eighteen years and I'm tired of your fucking shit. You've been married, you love two women. You have no right to either. What makes you think you're so high and mighty? My night with Lily wasn't just meaningless sex. If you'd had a heart the past twenty years, you would have realized how much you don't know me. You don't know either of us, James. While you took the chicken-out card, you set yourself above us. If you hadn't been so goddamn conceited, it wouldn't have taken you twenty-one years to make you realize your best friend has been in love with his best friend's fucking girl friend!"

Sirius gave his neck a shove before he ripped away. He whipped around, his hand braced on his hips for support. He closed his eyes, yet jumped with they reopened. Lily was standing in the door way, her hand clasped over her mouth and heart. She stifled her sobs.

Sirius ran to her and touched her shoulders lightly. He kissed her forehead. "I'm sorry, Lily. I didn't mean for you to hear all of that."

"It's o-okay," Lily hiccupped. She kept her hands firmly positioned on herself as she fell into Sirius' open embrace. James remained firmly planted against the wall, his hand sprawled out. His chest heaved with his rattled breathing, and his eyes bulged. He opened his mouth to speak, but Sirius beat him to it. "I was going to let her walk straight into your arms today, but someone who treats the one they love this way doesn't deserve that privilege. I won't let her be hurt. That includes by you. All you have done these days is cause her pain, and I'm done with sitting back to watch."

James took two quick steps forward, and suddenly Sirius entered defensive mode. His stance became aware and ready. He glowered. "Don't even think about it. It's about time Lily is given what she deserves, and I will give that to her - love, protection, care. And I think it's about time you leave."

James sighed in defeat. He didn't know what to say. He felt his furry subside, and it was replaced with the most retched feeling of guilt. He completed the long strides towards the couple. Sirius pulled Lily behind his back, and James put his hand up as a surrender. He then reached for one of Lily's curls. He wrapped it round and round his finger, even as Lily cringed under his touch. James ignored her reaction and tried to focus on the smooth feel of her hair, the thin, fiery threads. He turned to Sirius, his voice caught in his throat.

"You know you're my best friend, Sirius. Give her everything I can't. It's the best she deserves."

Then he stepped away from the couple. Lily slipped back into Sirius' arms in relief. He glanced down to her briefly as James backed further and further away. James dug his nails into the palms of his hands as he watched Sirius tip his head to hers, and their lips met slowly, longingly, so relieved.

James stifled a sob before he apparated out.

Lily pulled away from his lips and collapsed into his arms. She gasped and then whispered hoarsely. "What a son of a bitch. Sirius, I was going to! I was going to go back to him, but I thought he had the right to know our story. And he just... I thought he would hurt me, I thought he would hurt you. He scared me so much, Sirius."

"Shhh," Sirius soothed her. He kissed her curls. "You remember his temper. He's only ever let it out once before like that. I remember laughing - trying to imagine how it would be if I were put on the receiving end of it. Looks like I got to experience that today. You were right to not forgive him, Lily."

"He'll hate me. He'll hate me forever, Sirius," Lily cried. She slipped from his arms and into a chair.

"Does that matter?" Sirius asked as he sat next to her. He ran his hands up and down her back, his compassion erupting.

"I don't k-know..."




"What happened?" Harry asked her. She turned him around and gave him a curious glance. Harry shrugged as he let his body sink into the couch. "You just...For a week or so now you've been different. Now I don't know you well, but I can tell that you're on edge about something."

Lily sighed and dropped onto the couched next to her son. She let her elbow rest against the arm of the soft, red couch. Her hand came up and pressed her cheek up against her face. She groaned. "I am."

"What about?" Harry asked. He pulled his legs up onto the couch and turned towards her. Around noon on a beautiful Thursday afternoon the adults had faded to their duties. Either it be the Ministry or elsewhere, Harry and his friends were left with Lily in charge. The Weasley children and Hermione were outside basking in the sunlight while Harry had been peeking at a book of Mr. Weasley's, Mary cowering in her bedroom. Lily had been guiltlessly cleaning the Burrow.

"Lots of things."

"You can tell me," Harry smiled. He only then realized this was the first time was actually alone with his birth mother. He blushed and looked away, uneasy about his thoughts. Lily grunted. "A whole mess of things, Harry, dear."

"Am I one of them?" Harry shamelessly asked. He and Lily faced each other on the couch, their toes touching, meeting in the middle. Lily smiled, at ease, and she reached forward to squeeze his knee. "Of course you are, but you definitely aren't my only worry. Believe me; I have a lot of other things going on in my head too."

"Like what?"

"You like to ask questions," Lily noted, laughing lightly.

"Well," Harry shrugged. "I'm curious about you. Can I be blamed? I'm sorry. I guess I'm just realizing how little I know about you."

Lily's eyes narrowed, seeming to inspect every inch of Harry's soul. She said with a happy sigh, "And yet I know everything there is to know about you."

Harry's face flushed a deep red. Lily then laughed, repeating her words in her head. "Not in a bad way, I mean. I meant that I know your personality, whereas you don't know mine."

"Oh," Harry laughed. Fumbling with his fingers, he looked down at them, his preoccupation, and whispered. "I feel bad. You didn't deserve this life. It's all my fault. I took you away from my father."

"Harry," Lily narrowed her eyebrows. They pulled together in a worried and horror struck way. Her voice held all the compassion and love she could manage. "Don't you dare blame yourself. This was no one's doing. I didn't have to leave your father. It was our choice; never yours."

"But I look at you and see how sad you are. I can see your loneliness and what you want. I can see it all, and I feel so horrible. You don't do anything for yourself."

"That's not true," Lily tried to persuade him. "Besides, I understand where you're coming from. You've grown up with Claire all your life. She cared for you...a-and gave you love. She was - is - your mother."

Lily buried her head between her knees to stifle her cries. She sniffed. Harry's lips trembled with his sorrow and he slid forward on the couch. He gathered her form and pulled her into his willing arms. She buried her head against his neck and sniffed. "Harry."

"Shhh, I'm sorry, Lily," Harry whispered.




That night was a peaceful one. Harry and Ginny had managed to slip away from unwanted eyes and ears as it neared midnight. Harry had left a confused Ron in his room when Harry excused himself to go for a "walk," only to meet Ginny in the backyard of the Burrow.

With the wind blowing and the half moon setting a peaceful scene, the two sat in the oak three, shielded by its branches. Their feet dangled as they sat in silence, stealing glances at the other. Harry toyed with her hand, tracing his fingers all along her fine skin. He brought her hand to his lips and kissed the cold, pale plane of her skin. She giggled beneath his kiss and pulled her hand away. "Why don't you try that somewhere else on my body? Maybe somewhere, I don't know, on my lips."

Harry chuckled and felt the need to tease. He braced a hand on the branch beneath him and leaned forward. His hand cupped her cheek, slid down, and entwined in her hair. Ginny drew in a sharp breath when Harry leaned forward, his mouth slightly parted. He let a seductive smile escape before he lent in, but he stopped before his lips could reach hers. He chuckled and moved down to her neck. He pressed his lips against her throat, breathing in her scent, his lips pressing onto her skin. He left a wonderful, searing mark on her skin, sending shivers all down her body.

Ginny whined, her shoulders falling in defeat. "Uh! Harry..."

Harry drew her body in as she squirmed in annoyance, yet Harry continued to kiss her neck. Her protests faded when Harry drew away. He was laughing, a genuine smile on his wonderful face. "You didn't really think I was going to kiss you, did you?"

"Of course I did," Ginny said in defeat. She placed her hands on her hips, grunting. Harry pulled her into his arms and held her there. Her annoyance faded the instant she settled against his chest. "Are you ever going to kiss me, Harry?"

"Of course, beautiful," whispered Harry. He kissed her forehead and smiled. He knew, in the end, Ginny would understand. Harry would kiss her - that was a promise. Every second he was with her he was planning the moment out to perfection. There was something special about Ginny. Something special that made him not want to treat her like any other girl. She was unique, she was special, and Harry knew she was supposed to be more than just someone you're attracted to.

Every moment with Ginny had to be perfect.

He entwined their fingers and captured her arms around her body, holding her to him. He urged her against his form, and she was asleep within a matter of minutes. Harry chuckled at her brief snoring before Harry embraced the moment, taking in the night sky, the shining stars, her sweet smell and warm body, and most of all - the feeling she sent throughout his heart.

Harry jolted away before he knew it. He didn't know how much time had passed, but his shaking had awoken Ginny as well. Harry smiled and tugged on her arm. "Come on, sweetheart. I would carry you, but I don't trust myself with that in a tree."

Ginny smiled, yawning after her nap. Their surroundings were peaceful, and there was nothing to hear but the creaking of the oak tree as they climbed down and the chirps of the crickets. They strolled into the darkened Burrow and silently crept up the stairs. Ginny giggled as Harry toyed with her hand from behind, and she led him to her bedroom. They stopped outside the door, and Ginny wrapped her arms around his neck once more. She whispered, "Will we meet again tomorrow night?"

"Of course," Harry nodded. He kissed her forehead. "Now get to bed, Gin."

"I will." Ginny smiled. She was overjoyed by Harry's actions - the way he held her, the way he kissed her forehead like she was the most valuable thing in the world. The sweet things he said, the loveable names he called her.

"Sweet dreams, darling."

"You too, Harry," and she slipped into her bedroom, closing the door behind her.

Harry sighed, stumbling back a few steps. He lost his breathing, his heart beating rapidly. He spun around before he drifted into Ron's bedroom, kicking off his shoes and climbing into bed. He snuggled himself into the bed and lost himself in the warmth of the covers, imagining the fine cotton was her smooth skin. Her face flashed before his eyes, and he was asleep in an instant.

That instant didn't seem to last long. Harry's eyes show open and his vision was filled with a red and black blur. He groped around for his glasses, shoving them onto his face. He jolted forward in a panic, breathing heavily at the sight around him. A horrible burning smell was erupting around him, and orange flames licked at the windows of the Burrow. The heat suffocated Harry, and he coughed, smoke clouding his air.

Harry ran forward and shook a snoring Ron to his senses. Harry said before bursting from the room. "The house is on fire! Get out of here!"

Harry burst down the corridor. The house was too quiet for everyone to be awake, and everyone was already at risk for their life. Harry shouted, cupping his hands over his mouth to filter his air, holding back a strangled cough. "Wake up! Everyone wake up! The house is on fire!"

Fred and George burst out of their bedrooms, coughing with made intensity. The sleeve of Fred's shirt burst into a fiery blaze. He yelped as he dropped to the ground and George began damping out the fire. When Fred was put out, they jumped to their feet again. Their vision was a swamp of burning orange and red, lost in the cloudy sea. Harry said in a fast tone as Mr. and Mrs. Weasley burst from their bedrooms in their dressing gowns. "Fred and George, you two find a way out of here. I'll wake the others."

"Smart idea, Harry," Mr. Weasley said as he joined the three as Ron stumbled from his bedroom with a coughing fit. Mrs. Weasley helped him back to his feet in a panicky way. Arthur continued, rushing his sons and Harry down the hall, "I doubt finding away out of here will be easy. This isn't your normal house fire. We've been ambushed."

"What do you mean?" Harry panicked. He wasn't sure what this meant. Did this mean it was his time? Was it time for Harry to do what he was meant to do? He surely wasn't ready. Harry hyperventilated, and Molly came to his aide, holding him at his side.

"I mean the Death Eaters have found us. Don't worry, Harry - now isn't the time. The Order won't let tonight be the time." Arthur rushed his boys down the hall, and Harry parted the other way to wake the girls.

He burst into Bill's old bedroom and shouted, shaking Mary's shoulders. "Mary! Mary, get up! Follow Mr. Weasley; we have to get out of here." He moved to Ginny's room next. The girls were sleeping peacefully even though fire was creeping at the doorway, begging to be given entrance. Harry leaped over the flames surrounding the doorway and ran to Hermione first. He gave her a harsh jolt and moved to Ginny as Hermione took in the surrounding scene with a scream.

Harry fell to Ginny's bedside as Hermione rushed from the room. "Ginny! Ginny, wake up! Come on, sweetie!" Ginny blinked before she sniffed, inhaling the strong scent of smoke. She jumped from the bed, shouting. "What's happened?"

"We've been attacked. Come on!" Harry grabbed her hand and pulled her from the bed. She protested about her shoes, but Harry wouldn't waste a single second. "There's not time to lose!"

Through the fire and the flames, they ran. The doorway to Ginny's bedroom collapsed behind their bodies, and Ginny leapt against Harry with a scared howl. Harry took her hand, pulling her forward. "Come on!" They halted at the top of the stairs, every inch of the staircase ablaze with fire. Ginny panted. Her body was drenched in sweat, and she moaned, the fire crackling and hissing behind them. "I can't! I can't walk through fire!"

"Just do it fast," Harry coached. He didn't know if it would work, but it was their only chance. As soon as his hand had touched Ginny's shoulder, he could feel the anti-apparating barrier surrounding them. "Run through it, and we won't feel a thing!"

"Why can't we apparate!" she pleaded.

"I've already tried. They've set up anti-apparating charms. Take my hand and everything will be fine," Harry instructed as the flames rose higher. Ginny took a sharp breath and reached for his hand before they raced down the stairs. Harry could feel the heat eating his body whole. He winced and ignored it. As they came to the bottom landing, they didn't have time to stop, for the flames had beat them to the door.

The door was locked, sealed shut. He attempted to unlock it with magic, but to no avail. Harry ran forward, and his shoulder slammed into the door. He heard it crunch, creaking beneath its weight as the wood began to snap. Ginny watched in a panic, her arms shaking by her side as she took in her burning home. Harry rammed into it once more, and the wood caved under the ashes and his weight. He fell through the hole and Ginny leaped through behind him.

In the yard, fire was blazing around them. Hooded figures were racing forward, their wands at the ready as they continued to ignite the Burrow and took on any Weasley as they ran near them. Ron was dueling a man without a hood. His hair was long and silver with a face full of hatred. Ron shouted before sending a jinx in the man's direction. "Die! Go to hell, Malfoy!"

Ron's attention was diverted as he saw his sister and Harry leap from the fiery pit of wood. "Ginny! Harry, run!"

A Death Eater suddenly leapt in front of Harry's vision. He gasped, stumbled backwards, and forced Ginny behind his back. Harry raised his wand and shouted. "Stupefy!"

He dropped to the ground, unconscious. There were too many. Each Weasley was absorbed in their own duel. Some were dueling more than one. Every Death Eater was pulled into battle except for one. Ginny's eyes fell on the lonesome man as well. "Oh Merlin. It's him. That's You-Know-Who."

Harry took a step back and grasped Ginny once more. The man wore a black cloak, and his head was slick with his pale skin. His eyes were red and pulled back, his nose warped to resemble a snake. Harry felt his insides twist and turn - as if he were meeting his death. His wand shook in his grip as Lord Voldemort smirked, taking a long stride forward with his bare feet.

The stretch of scorched fire was a long one, but time seemed to speed up as Harry felt his death approach him. His lips trembled and he forgot everything he had been trained to do. Mrs. Weasley's horrified screams brought him back to earth, forcing his back into his body. "No! Harry and Ginny, run!"

"H-Harry," Ginny stuttered. She tugged his shirt from behind. Her lips quivered with her scared cries as Voldemort approached them, a ring of fire surrounding them. "Harry, come on! It doesn't have to happen tonight."

Harry yanked on Ginny's hand and he sprinted away, towing Ginny behind. Voldemort hissed, but made no sudden move to over run them. The duels proceeded and Harry tried to tune out the fact that his friends, his new family, was being attacked and hurt. He knew there was nothing he could do about it. He had to save himself and Ginny while he could. Harry panted, "If we keep running, we will cross the apparating barrier."

"We can't just leave my family!" Ginny protested.

"Yes, we can! They will be fine," Harry said quickly.

"No!"

"Look, Ginny," Harry hissed. He didn't stop running, but he yanked Ginny into his arms as she attempted to leave him, to go back to her family. "I'm the one they want, got it?! If I'm not here, they will be fine. This has happened because of me, and I'm not going to drag you into this. I'm not going to let you get hurt. We are getting out of here."

"No! We're going back," Ginny jerked back, running towards her family.

"Ginny!" Harry shouted. It only took him a mere second before his arms wrapped around her. He hauled her up into his arms and began running with her pounding on his back with her screams. The fire did not fade as they ran. Harry weaved his way through the blazing quilt, sewing itself together. He could feel his shirt clinging to his body with his sweat. He smelt of smoke and was fighting for every breath he inhaled.

Every once and a while he pulled on that sucking apparating feeling to see if they had ran through the barrier. The barrier seemed to drag on and on as Harry sprinted through the fire. Dodging curses as they went, the fire only seemed to extend further and further as they ran. Finally, a blockade of fire erupted before them. Harry came to a hault and inhaled sharply. Harry whispered, getting ready to lunge. "Don't look back, Gin."

"What?! What are you doing? You're not invincible! You'll get us killed," Ginny roared as Harry leaped forward. The heat scorched their skin, but they were too fast for the fire to make contact. When Harry broke through the other side, Ginny was howling. Harry calmed her. "Shh, Ginny. Be quiet."

"Oh, my legs!" she cried out again.

Harry ran another ten meters before stopping, his heart pulsing with a new hope. "We can apparate now!"

"My family is back there!" Ginny kicked in his arms.

"Help will come. We can't go back there, Ginny," Harry said sternly, yet his voice still held his fondness for her. "Now hold on. We're getting out of here."

Ginny sniffed before nodding, finally understanding. She took Harry's hand and entwined their fingers as he continued to hold her. Then they were suddenly gone from the blazing destruction.









Chapter 13: Home
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Chapter Graphic by Jeanie at The Dark Arts

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Important Poll:
James or Sirius?

*****


They appeared in a dark room, falling to the floor in a heap with their coughs. Harry helped Ginny onto the couch as she asked, dusting the soot off her clothes. "Where are we?"

"My home," Harry replied in a sorrowful voice.

Ginny attempted to rise to her feet, grimaced, and allowed herself to relax on the floor. She looked about the hazy room. "This is where you live?"

"Yes," Harry said, but he didn't pay much mind to his words. He focused all his attention on Ginny, on her pain. "What hurts?"

Ginny swallowed while tucking a strand of her blazing hair behind her ear. "My legs."

Harry switched on a nearby lamp and lowered himself next to Ginny, pulling her scorched legs into his lap. Harry bit his lip, wanting to kill whoever caused this pain to Ginny. Her pale, smooth legs were a bright pink. Skin was blistering and swelling. Harry pulled out his wand and gave her a quick warning. "I hope this doesn't hurt."

Ginny looked away as Harry muttered the healing charm. When nothing happened, he cursed loudly. Ginny whispered after a second, realizing her legs wouldn't heal with magic. "Black fire. Unstoppable and unrepairable."

"Black fire?"

"It's not called black due to its color. It still looks like normal fire. It's just enchanted - magic can't stop it, magic can't heal the damage it's created. It's dark stuff, illegal." Ginny sounded okay with it. She didn't seem to mind that her legs were burnt, leaving her skin blistered and scarred. Harry inspected the indentions Ginny's melted skin had left on her legs. The skin was thinner on certain parts and thicker where the skin had molded together, forming vine like lines up and down her calves.

"Here," Harry said quickly. He rose and went to the kitchen, making two bags of ice and retrieving gauze from the medicine cabinet. He came back and propped her legs in his lap, putting the bags of ice between his thighs and Ginny's calves, beginning to wrap them loosely with gauze. Ginny realized he was trembling as he delicately wrapped up her legs. She touched his arm lightly, and he jumped from the contact with a sharp inhale.

Ginny withdrew her hand quickly. "I'm sorry, but Harry, what's that matter?"

"L-look at your legs! What it did to you!"

"I know," Ginny murmured. Harry finished treating her legs and then let his hand rest on her safe, unburnt thigh. She enveloped his hand in her own and squeezed it gently. She murmured again after a few moments. "Thanks for getting me out of there."

"I'm sorry we left your family. I wouldn't bear to let you be hurt."

"You're too bold," Ginny actually laughed. They entered silence, and Ginny tugged on his hand. She whispered seductively, "Kiss me, Harry."

Harry eyed her shyly and smiled. He touched her cheek and refused once more. "Just a little longer, Gin."

"Ugh," she grumbled in distaste. She didn't approve of Harry wanting to wait as she folded her arms across her chest. She slapped her hands on the ground and said harshly. "We had our lives at stake, you possibly saved my own, my house is gone, and you've whisked me away into safety, and now it's just us! How does it get more meant to be than that? I believe this would qualify for a kissing moment!"

"Ginny," Harry said quietly. He touched her cheek, and she turned her head with a pout. "You want it, see? You want it more as time goes by. Just a little longer and there will be nothing better than our kiss."

"You're so..." Her voice trailed off as she became unable to complete her sentence.

"Who are you? Get out of here!" A voice suddenly emerged from the top of the stairs. Harry gently pushed Ginny's legs out of his lap, and he jumped to his feet. At the voice, he knew it wasn't his father, but he was just as eager to encounter someone staying within his home.

It was Carter. He didn't look too friendly or thrilled either. His blonde hair was a matted mess, and his face was drooping with sleep. He had a robe hanging over his bare shoulders, and it was loosely tied about his waist, exposing his red pajama bottoms. He held an umbrella in his grasp, attempting to make it as menacing looking as possible. The grimace on his face helped with that matter.

Harry beamed. "Mr. Hewlett!"

Carter blinked twice as he realized it was only Harry. He lowered the umbrella and said in a relieved voice. "Oh, Harry. It's just you. Thank God, and I'm not Mr. Hewlett. It's Carter."

"Right, sorry," Harry smiled. Carter strolled down the stairs, half happy to see Harry and half confused at his sudden intrusion into his home. Harry asked as Carter reached the landing at the stairs. "What are you doing here, Carter?"

Carter waved a hand in the direction of the upstairs portion of the house. "I'm living here now with your mother."

"And what of my father?" Harry asked, inclining his head. This was news to him -- odd news, but Harry only then realized the circumstances with his parents were changing drastically everyday. It was impossible to keep up.

"Eh," Carter shrugged. Carter liked James, he did, but when it came to Claire, James' location didn't matter to him as long as it was away from Claire. "I think he's living at a hotel these days."

"Oh," Harry murmured. He shuffled his feet, and Carter caught sight of the confused girl sitting on the ground. Carter took a few steps towards her, noticed her legs, and gasped. "Sweetie, what happened to you? Is there anything I can do?"

"No," Ginny smiled. "I think Harry's done everything that can be done. I'm Ginny, by the way."

"I'm Carter Hewlett. Harry's mother's fiancé," Carter bent down to give Ginny his hand. Ginny shook it with an excellent mask, a smile plastered to her face even though she didn't know what to think.

Carter averted his attention back towards Harry. "What are you doing here? Not that I don't want you here! Believe me, it's excellent to see you, but I'm worried. This place isn't safe for you anymore."

"You're right," Harry said quickly. He sat down behind Ginny and let her lean against his legs. Carter fell into an arm chair with comfortable ease. "I'm not supposed to be here, it isn't safe, but it was the only place I could think of on short notice. The Burrow, the place I have been staying, was attacked by the people who are trying to kill me. Ginny and I got out of there as fast was we could."

"Wow, attacked?" Carter leaned forward with worried interest.

"Yes, which doesn't make any sense because the Burrow had a secret keeper, the only one who can disclose a place's location. This has to mean someone betrayed us," Harry nearly growled. He glanced down to Ginny. She swallowed and nodded in fear as her mind began to scan her friends and family, wondering who their traitor was.

"Gosh..." Carter sighed, leaning back and running his hands through his hair.

Footsteps emerged from the landing above and Claire stood there in her satin, maternity gown. Harry blinked and swallowed as he took in the sight of his mother. Her hair was luscious with her blonde curls as always, and her face held an abnormally cheerful glow. She looked beautiful, as always, and her stomach was swelling with the child inside her. "Carter?" she asked as she peered over the railing to peak downstairs.

She caught one sight of the jet black hair and squealed before waddling down the stairs. "Harry, my baby! You're home!"

"Mum!" Harry smiled. He jumped from his seat and ran to help his mother down the remaining two steps. Claire placed a hand over her belly and gave Harry a gentle smile. He swallowed and blinked awkwardly as he looked to her belly. It was odd seeing her pregnant, her tummy so big.

He asked awkwardly. "Five and a half months, right?"

"Yes," Claire smiled enthusiastically. She engulfed him into her arms and gave him a squeeze. "But enough! My son, you're home!"

Harry smiled kindly and whispered. "Thanks."

Ginny attempted to limp to her feet with wishes to properly introduce herself to Harry's adoptive mother. Harry held her down with a scold. "No, sit, Ginny." Ginny pouted and Claire did her best to waddle to the ground next to Ginny.

As soon as Claire was sitting by her side, Ginny felt an awkward feeling pulse through her, like this situation was very wrong. Ginny had known Lily her whole life, and she disapproved of Claire playing Harry's mother. But Harry loved Claire and was used to her love and care, so Ginny did her best to cope with it. Claire smiled lovingly and said softly. "Ginny? What a pretty name. I'm Claire. I'm sure Harry's been having too much fun to mention me."

"No," Ginny smiled. Despite her automatic want to hate Claire, Ginny couldn't help but give into her kindness. She was an incredibly sweet woman. "He's told me a lot about you. It's great to meet you."

They shook hands briefly, and Ginny flashed her a quick smile before Claire asked why they had showed up at such a late hour of the night. Harry answered the question quickly. "We were attacked. This was the only place I could think of."

"Attacked?" Claire blinked.

"By the people who are after me, yes," Harry answered again. Claire covered her mouth and stifled a gasp. She went to engulf Harry and she began ranting about Harry's safety. "Mum, calm down," Harry urged.

She swallowed and nodded. "Well, I won't let you leave here until its safe, and its late. So, despite how happy I may be to see you home once again, you should get straight to bed."

"But, Mum!" Harry protested. For that one second, Harry felt like nothing had been wrong. Like his life was still perfect, was still a lie. Hearing his mother speak to him in that tone sent him to simpler times when all he had to worry about was school and football and his mother would always send him to bed at a decent hour. It felt...nice.

"Don't you "but, Mum" me! Off to bed," Claire scoffed. Carter actually laughed, and Claire gave him a quick slap on the knee to shut up him. Carter clamped his mouth shut and flushed at his fiancé’s reaction. Harry said once more as he rose to his feet. "But I want to talk to you! I miss you!"

Claire's bossy face went back to smooth and relaxed. Her shoulders dropped, at ease, and she smiled. "I miss you too, Harry. We'll talk tomorrow as long as you get some sleep. You'll be safe here for the rest of the night."

Harry smiled, a small amount of protest remaining in his eyes. It faded, and he nodded, his defeat. "Fine. Goodnight, Mum. You get some sleep too."

"Don't worry about me," Claire cooed. She turned to Ginny, still leaning against the couch in her pain. "Is there nothing more I can give you? Not even pain killers?"

"No, I'll be fine. Thanks," Ginny responded. She did her absolute best to hold back her grimace. Harry paused at the landing on the stairs to glance back at the three in the living room. They all gave him reassuring looks, and Harry pursed his lips. Claire gave a quick wave with her hand, ushering him up the stairs. "To your bedroom, Harry. We'll get Ginny situated, don't worry."

"I'd like to get her situated myself, if I could." Harry waited. He wanted to be the one to tuck Ginny into one of the beds within his home. He pressed his mother with a hopeful smile, but she refused. "No, Harry. You've had quite a difficult day. You get to sleep, and we will take care of Ginny."

Harry gave Ginny an absent wave before he retreated up the stairs. Claire giggled after her son had faded from the room, and she asked her new acquaintance with an excited smile. "How are you and Harry? Only friends?"

"Well," Ginny blushed. She looked down to her lap, and Claire gave a squeal of delight. "I knew it. It's the way he jumps at the sound of your name. It's like it keeps him going, but why didn't he tell me you are his girlfriend?"

Ginny shrugged and suggested. "Well, I don't know, but it might have something to do with the fact that I don't know if I'm his girlfriend or not. He never really asked me. We just...like each other."

"I understand," Claire said. She turned quickly to Carter and asked. "Carter, carry her, will you?"

"Sure, Claire," he replied. He bent over and scooped Ginny easily into his arms. She clung to his neck like a child as sleep washed over her. She let Carter carry her up the stairs in Claire's wake. Her eyes drifted shut, enjoying the rocking of Carter's swaying arms. She felt someone slide off her shoes, and she was laid down on a soft bed. The sheets creased beneath her weight and felt cool on her skin. A blanket was draped lightly over her body.

She wished to curl up on her side and snuggle in her own warmth, but she refused to do so, avoiding any possible pain from her legs. So she lay flat on her back, her eyes closed and a pleased smile easing its way across her face. She felt her hair being brushed back, and then she felt a pair of cool lips on her forehead, lips she didn't recognize. Ginny heard Claire's voice by her ear. "Get some sleep, Ginny."

Ginny nodded, letting a faint mumble rise in her throat, and she began to drift off, lost in her sleep. Her eyes seemed to glue themselves shut. A satisfying sting filled her eyes. The sting faded the longer her eyes were closed until there was nothing but the relaxing feel. She heard Claire and Carter fade from the room, and she was about to enter sleep when Ginny heard that unmistakable voice. "Are you awake?"

"Harry!" Ginny gasped in a mere whisper. She gathered all her might to pry her eyes open. When she did, she was grateful she found the strength. As she struggled, she hadn't even realized Harry crawling into the bed with her. Her face flushed a deep red at his bare chest and plaid pajama pants. His front was pressed against her side, holding her as close as he could possibly manage. Ginny found her chocolate eyes meeting the swimming moonlit, emerald orbs.

They looked to be the happiest eyes in the world. Ginny giggled and stroked his cheek. She turned onto her side to face him and let Harry wrap himself around her. He became her blanket, her warmth. He did his best to avoid touching the gauze lightly wrapped around her legs. It was difficult, but Harry managed.

Ginny sighed heavily against him and lost her breath. She shuddered at his warmth, feeling strangely, oddly, perfect. She sighed into his neck and closed her eyes before she knew she was finally safe. Before she knew she was always safe with him.




The Weasley’s were gathering in that one final safe spot. After the Death Eaters realized their intended target had already disappeared, they faded from the site, leaving the house to its ashes. A distraught Molly Weasley had gathered her children and family, and now they were falling about the kitchen of Grimmauld Place.

She was shaking uncontrollably in the kitchen. Arthur set her down in a chair and fixed himself at home, putting on a pot of tea for Molly's well being while sending Ron up the stairs to awaken Sirius, and Fred to owl James.

The two came down soon enough, Sirius in a mad mess. He was shirtless, and he had clearly been naked, as his pants were on askew. Lily tumbled down the stairs a few moments later, tying her robe about her waist. Ron's face was a flushed red as they flew into the kitchen. Fred, George, and Hermione tugged him into their corner and asked why the horror struck face. Ron slithered down on the ground. "They were in bed together."

"What?" Hermione whispered quickly. She was trying to make the scene oblivious to the adults as they became absorbed in their own. "Sirius and Lily were in bed together? Like naked together?"

"Um yeah," Ron swallowed. He squeezed his eyes shut, as if trying to shut out the memory. He stuck out his tongue and made a wrenching noise. "Covers everywhere. They were asleep, but I saw way more than I would have liked to see."

Fred and George did their best to stifle their laughs, and Hermione seemed horrified, yet intrigued.

Sirius floated into the room, alive with his confusion and worry. "What's happened?"

Lily followed suit, tying her satin robe extra tight as she came to stand by Sirius' side, her arms folded across her chest. She noticed the soot on everyone's face and clothing, and her eyes did not shield her worry. "What's going on?"

Arthur tried to liven it up. "Ah, Lily. I didn't know you were staying here."

"Well," Lily swallowed and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, a habit she did when she was anxious or felt uncomfortable. "My house was raided awhile back, you know. So I either stay here or with Petunia these days. Where's Harry?"

"Ah," Arthur said in response. Molly was too worked up to speak, so Arthur continued playing the role of the barer of bad news. "The Burrow had an attack. They used black fire and set up anti-apparating charms. We held them off for quite some time, but the pulled back first."

Lily's face went hard and she ground her jaw in her anger. She shook uncontrollably. "A-And where is Harry?"

Everyone remained quiet, not wanting to be the one to inform Lily that her son was missing. This quiet frustrated her even more until she shouted. "Where's my son!"

"Lily, calm down," Arthur pressed. He lifted his hands and pushed them towards the floor in a way to soothe Lily. She trembled next to Sirius, and he put a comforting hand on her back. She flashed him and uneasy face before Arthur went on. "Ginny is missing too. We don't know where they went, but we saw them running from the house together and away from the fire. I'm assuming they realized what was going on and set out for the barrier to apparate away. Where to, we don't know, but we are sure they were successful."

"How do you know for sure? Are you telling my baby is out there, in danger?!" Lily asked in a horrified voice. She dropped into a chair and held her head with a loud moan. Molly sniffed and reassured her. "Lily, look at us. We are handling this situation all right. Ginny is missing too. If we believed they were in actual trouble still to this moment, I would be acting the same as you, but we aren't. We're sure they're fine. They are smart children."

"Promise me, Molly."

"I promise, Lily," Molly said kindly.

Lily nodded and sniffed, doing her best to hold back her scared tears. Sirius came to stand behind her chair and he squeezed her shoulders, massaging them. Molly and Arthur watched them with new interest before their situation clicked. They kept quiet though, but exchanged knowing looks.

A crack interrupted the new silence, and James appeared. His eyes were wide and anxious, just as Lily's had been. His voice was scared. "What happened to Harry?"

"He's missing James. He and Ginny were either caught or escaped from the attack at home, but we're sure it was the second option. They will be fine," Arthur explained once more.

James drew in a sharp hiss, his worry and fury exploding into one. He glanced at Lily's exterior before looking back to Molly and Arthur. Lily held her chest absently and let a small sharp of breath flow into her lungs. Lily jerked the chair back and rose to her feet as James and the Weasley’s entered a heated conversation.

Sirius was put on edge at Lily's sudden rise and he questioned. "Lily, are you all right?"

"I-I'm fine, Sirius," she answered in a reassuring voice. However, her eyes betrayed her positivity. "I-I'm fine. I just need some fresh air, that's all."

Sirius watched her fade from the narrow, cramped kitchen and into the dingy hall. He peered into the room and watched her lean against the banister of the stairs for support. She was bent over, her mouth open for air, and she was holding her heart and arm. She coughed once. Sirius turned back towards James, wondering if Lily was just trying to cope with the situation.

For a minute, he paid her no mind, but her shrill voice full of horror ruined his hopes. "Sirius!"

At the sound of the pure pain and destruction in her voice, James and Sirius both leapt from the room and fled into the hall. Hermione and the Weasley’s each went to the door to watch in curiosity.

Sirius reached her first, and he grabbed her shoulders. She was leaning against the wall, her hand braced on one of the end tables next to the stairs. The vase full of flowers that had been sitting there was now broken on the floor. The tapestry of the Slytherin emblem, which had hung on the wall for so long now, lay in a heap on the ground. Lily was gasping for breath, her eyes shaking in their sockets.

Sirius squeezed her shoulders and pleaded desperately for her to look him in the eye. Lily mustered all her strength to do so. James turned the corner and reached out his arms to her. Sirius hissed at seeing him do so. He was actually offended at him. "No! She asked for me, not you. I'm not letting you touch her, not after what you did!"

"Lily, what's wrong?" James whispered.

Lily ignored him and swallowed. She kept her eyes locked with Sirius. She gasped before sliding to the ground, moaning loudly and holding the area between her heart and left arm. She called out. "I-I. Nothing, just dizzy."

"You aren't just dizzy." James panicked.

She rose from them and pushed away. She walked towards the kitchen again, but leaned against the wall before collapsing to the ground. On the ground, she moaned rolled onto her side, holding her arms to her body.

Sirius fell to his knees by her side. His mind was racing with his worry for her, and his heart was pulsing at an unsteady pace. "Lily," he pleaded. "Tell me what's wrong."

"Take me...to the hospital," was all she could say.

Sirius scooped her into his arms. James, a look of defeat on his face, muttered in his sorrow. "I will meet you at St. Mungo's."

"No," Lily said quickly. "Not St. Mungo's. I need my doctor, the doctor who knows my condition and history."

"Your condition?"

"What condition?"

"What are you talking about?"

Everyone spoke quickly.

Sirius eyes went ablaze and he swallowed. He panicked and did his best not to drop the woman in his arms with his horror. "Does this have to do with your h-heart?"

The room was silent, full of worry, confusion, and anxiety. James was obviously trying to help Lily and put Sirius aside. Everyone else, however, was looking on in worry. Lily gave him a sweet and confident smile. She touched his face lightly, stroking his cheek. His breath was rattled as he kissed the palm of her hand. Her breathing was heavy, and speaking became difficult. "S-Sirius, b-baby, I'm having a-a...heart a-attack."





In general, who is your favorite?
James or Sirius?


















Chapter 14: Reconciliation
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Author's Note:
Here's the next chapter, guys!
I want to thank those who have followed this story from the very beginning, and especially those amazing members who have nominated Armistice for the Dobby's. Thank you. It's an honor.
Due to the closing queue, the next chapter won't be up until September! I'm sorry!
Enjoy!


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Chapter Graphic by Jeanie at The Dark Arts

Beta'ed by Tinkerbell01

*****


Lily was rushed to the hospital by Sirius. They apparated far enough into Surrey to catch a taxi and take Lily to the Emergency Room of her hospital. Her doctor, Dr. Breen, was the one to see her there, clutching her heart in pain. She had been rushed to critical care and taken care of. James, Arthur, Remus, and others apparated outside the hospital and had come to check on Lily.

Sirius was in her room, Lily asleep in her bed. She looked worn and tired, but her condition was more important. The doctor said, for the moment, she was fine. Arthur and Remus had gone to relay the news to the Order and the rest of the Weasley’s, anxiously awaiting further news at Grimmauld Place. James had been pacing the halls of the hospital for hours, finally returning to Lily's ward.

James eyed Sirius, his teeth exposing themselves in a grimace. Sirius rolled his eyes and glanced away. He braced his chin with his hands, glancing to Lily every five seconds to see if she had awoken. James sat in the chair next to Sirius without a word. Sirius, disappointed, couldn't think of a time when they had been on such worse terms. They had been on even better terms during the seventeen years when contact between the two was non-existent. It pained Sirius to see it this way.

James had always been his best friend.

Sirius sighed and felt his eyes drooping with heavy sleep. He forced away the feeling, waking himself up with a quick jolt. The door creaked open, and both men were on their feet in a matter of seconds. They raced toward the doctor.

Dr. Breen, overwhelmed at their sudden anxiety, blinked before he glanced to his clipboard. Dr. Breen was a man of fair age, aging every day. His brown hair was turning gray along his ears. He wore wide glasses that made him look sophisticated and added even more wisdom to his exterior. Dr. Breen shoved one hand into the pocket of his white overcoat and rocked forward and backward on his heels.

He cleared his throat. "We have a diagnosis. It was a heart attack. Ms. Evans needs to lay off the stress. I suggest remaining in bed for the majority of the time and minimizing labourious tasks. Your relationships to Ms. Evans are...?"

James said in a fast voice, pushing Sirius in front of him. "Ex-husband."

"Bo - " Sirius' voice faded. He was about to say boyfriend, but he wasn't even sure if that term was correct. He and Lily weren't dating, they weren't anything. They were lovers, people who were clearly showing signs of strong feelings. Sirius cleared his throat. "Her intimate."

"Interesting," Dr. Breen nodded. He didn't bother for the two men to elaborate on their status with Lily. Lily snored in her sleep. Each man gave a little tweak in their smile at that.

"Well," Dr. Breen continued on. He pushed his crimson glasses further up the bridge of his nose. "I suggest grabbing a chair. This news will not be easy."

Sirius immediately fell into the chair beside Lily's bed. James had made a quick run for it, but was beaten by his friend. Sirius stuck out his tongue, and James gave him a very particular finger before sitting in one of the chairs by the door of the ward. Dr. Been joined James in the chair next to him. He eyed both of them with great seriousness. Sirius had reached for Lily's limp hand and had entwined their fingers together, stroking the back of her hand.

Despite James' cruel, harsh glare, Sirius felt at home by her side.

Dr. Breen spoke once more. "Lily's diagnosis is not an easy one. I have never given information of my patient's condition to anyone besides Petunia Dursley, but it seems that Ms. Evans has finally come out of her shell. To recap, Lily was diagnosed with Coronary Heart Failure a year ago. Her death is coming, her heart failing. We have no medicine for this, and we have no way to change the effects or outcome of this. Lily's state wasn't critical as long as no sudden effects took place. Lily had been heart attack free, it was really only a matter of time until she had her first one."

"Her first one?" James asked. He leaned forward, an elbow braced on the knee while the other squeezed Lily's hand fiercely. His grudge towards Sirius was gone, if only for the moment. His mind was focused on Lily, his darling Lily who could never forgive him.

Dr. Breen nodded. "Yes, these sorts of things will not happen just once. Not with a condition like Lily's. Heart attacks, however great or small, will come in series. I have many precautions to go over with you, but for now, I suggest Lily staying here."

"N-No," Sirius stuttered. "Her place isn't here. She should be at home with the ones who love her."

"She needs treatment, Sirius," James said softly. He turned his head towards Sirius, but his face and tone held no sign of anger. It was sad, desolate. "Besides, it is best that she remains here. That way we can minimize the information coming in for her."

Sirius sighed, shook in his chair. He shuddered, glanced at Lily's form, and left with a sniff. When Sirius was gone, the door closed securely behind him, James turned to Dr. Breen once more. "Are you suggesting she live here?"

"Not completely," Dr. Breen said, but after a moment he nodded. "Not for the time being. However, as time progresses and her condition worsens, as it most certainly will, we will need to relocate her. Permanently. So she can be given the medicines and treatment she needs. We can prolong the effects for only a short period of time."

"So," James swallowed. He wouldn't dare say it, he wouldn't dare think it or ask it, but he had to know. "This is it. Lily is dying?"

"Ms. Evans has been dying for quite some time. The length of time left within her life was unknown till now."

"How much time can you guarantee?" James choked. The words were hard to squeeze through his refusing lips. His heart was breaking second by second, his love for Lily growing stronger.

"No more than six months."

"Six months?!" howled James.

"Yes, Mr. Potter. I'm so sorry," whispered Dr. Breen.

"B-But there has to be a way! What is the situation with a heart transplant?"

Dr. Breen looked to his charts to gather his complete answer on the matter. The look on his face did not give James any hope. "A heart transplant is our only hope for Miss Lily. However, Lily has O negative blood type, an extremely rare blood type. It will be even more difficult to find a heart to match Lily's body size and needs. The odds are slim."

"But there's still a chance?"

Dr. Breen nodded.

"How small are the odds?"

Dr. Breen pursed his lips, gave it thought, and suggested with a weak shoulder roll. "One to five-hundred. Mr. Potter, my advice to you would be to start letting go. Give Lily the best out of her last months. It will make the progress much easier. I would also suggest collecting her essentials and relocating them here."

"I - " James faltered. He held back a sniff and wiped at his nose with the back of his hand. He coughed, hid his face from the doctor. "What about treatment from home? I've known it‘s been done. Terminally ill patients can be treated from home and can go about their daily lives."

"Yes," Dr. Breen answered. "Treatment from home is an option. The home will not provide the full care the hospital can, but normally the patient will choose the home over the hospital, as the home contains the memories, the family. Definitely an option, although the costs are quite expensive. She could also not be by herself, and you would have to be educated in her medicine."

"Give me the numbers," James whispered after a moment's hesitation. "Lily will be taking treatment from home. Send the bill to my address. I will pay."

"Very well, Mr. Potter. I will leave you with Lily." Dr. Breen rose and left silently.

When left to nothing but Lily's weak body and the quiet beeping of Lily's heart monitor, James sniffed. He inhaled, then exhaled heavily. He felt exhausted from this news.

Lily.

She was perfect, she was sweet, and he had always loved her from the very beginning. Even through all those years of Hogwarts when she hated him so much. Now she was dying, and so young.

He glanced to her sleeping form. Her eyes had bags under them, their sockets and her lips a pale blue. The veins along her arm, neck, and face were more than visible. They were large and noticeable, making her figure look even more washed out than normal. The only thing that seemed to keep Lily's exterior looking alive was the blazing color of her hair, always thriving with life. Her body, small and weak under the massive pile of comforters, tossed every now and then from within her sleep. The IV connected to her inner arm twisted around her arm as she did so. James lifted her arm and untangled the fluids.

He set it back down, laying it softly against the fluffy, cotton sheets of the bed, but when he did, she stirred and blinked. "James?"

"Oh, Lily," James jumped up. He leaned over her and stroked her distraught face. She rubbed her eyes and yawned. Pulling herself up weakly, she looked around. "Where's Dr. Breen?"

"He just left actually," James whispered. His voice was cool, despite his anger at how he had learned Lily's dreadful secret. He wanted to yell, but taking one look at Lily, he couldn't do such a thing to her. Never again. "We're all so worried about you."

Lily shrugged off his last comment and went on immediately. "Did he give you the lay-down of my condition as of now?"

"Yes," James whispered. He sat on the bed and stroked her cheek. She cringed and shivered into the pillow, but James grasped her face and turned it towards him. She whimpered when their eyes locked, and his lips trembled with his sadness. It was horrible to see her reacting this way to him, and he hated himself for bringing those exact actions onto her. "Lily, why didn't you tell anyone of your sickness? Why didn't you tell anyone?"

"I didn't want anyone to worry. There's always been enough going on. I didn't need to bring this upon all of you," Lily shrugged away from him. He shook her shoulders in a harsh manner, and Lily cringed. At the sight of her, he softened and made sure his voice showed his warmth and care. "Lily, this is important. You're...dying...and you've chosen not to tell us, and this is how we find out. You had a heart attack."

"James, I - "

"No, Lily," he interrupted.

"Please understand my reasoning, James!" Lily pleaded.

He sighed, looked down, but then gingerly and uneasily kissed her forehead. He was half expecting her to refuse or pull away, but she stayed perfectly still. She gave a grim smile as his lips pressed lightly against her forehead, and he pulled away, letting it rest against her cool, clammy skin. "Fine, I will try to understand, but when it comes to your health...It's painful to hear when it is nothing but perfect."

"I understand," Lily sighed. James pulled away and sat up straight. "What did Dr. Breen have to say?"

"He said..." James found his strength and looked to his lap in sadness. Lily touched his hand lightly and urged him, "It's okay, James. It's okay. Tell me."

He cleared his throat and tried again. "He said that this won't be your only one, that they will come in series, and that your treatment will be heavy. He said, eventually, you will have to remain here, but I wouldn't have that."

"You didn't get in a fight with the doctor, did you, James? Please tell me no," Lily tried to laugh. Her throat caught and she rubbed her chest absently, shrinking back into her pillow at the first sign of life within her. James squeezed her shoulder lightly and actually smiled. He chuckled, shaking his head. It faded after a simple moment. "No, of course not, Lily. When the time comes, you will be home bound instead of hospital bound."

"Where is the money coming from?" Lily gasped.

James shook his head and pat her hand lightly. He answered. "The money is coming from me. Don't worry about it, sweetheart. I have plenty, you know that, and I won't have it for you to be living in a hospital."

"James..."

"Enough, Lily," he pressed. He enveloped her hand into his own and urged gently. "Don't you give me anything about it. It's perfectly fine, Lily."

She sighed and gave in, then asked. "Is that all Dr. Breen had to say?"

"Not quite," he sighed. He rubbed the back of his neck and moaned. "He gave you a...time limit."

"Oh," Lily whispered. She looked sad, horrible, but she kept her head held high and did her best to smile. "Well, I knew it was coming, really. It's just sooner than I ever thought it would be. How much time do I have?"

James looked at her. She held a strong look on her pale face. He could tell by the willing smile on her face and the pride in her eyes that she had been preparing for this day for years. James felt his own eyes swell with tears and he sniffed. Taking in the beauty of her face, its perfection and wonder, James relived all the stupidity he had ever experienced with Lily. He realized how horribly he had wasted his time. The woman he loved was leaving him in a mere six months and there was no way to save her, to ever have her come back to him. He wanted to apologize for every last mistake he did. For yelling at her, for cursing her out and losing his temper with her, for ever leaving her and moving to Claire, for arguing with Lily about what to do with Harry and the prophecy, for how he had worn the wrong tie to his wedding with Lily and she refused to let her fury decrease for hours, even for all the times they had ever had the smallest disagreement.

He needed to have her in his life, and he needed her to be in his life on right terms. No more stupid actions, no more yelling, no more mistakes. He was through. He had to make the best of what he had with Lily, and he wasn't going to just give up. Even if he continued to apologize to Lily until her dying day.

He leaned forward and let his tears fall. Lily sniffed and cooed. "Don't cry, James. Look at me; I'm the dying girl and I can still hold a smile on - "

He was kissing her. His hands were on her cheek, on her neck, in her hair. His lips were lustful and seemed to be soaking up every last memory those thin lips held with him. Lily sighed into his mouth, her kisses growing. Then they weakened and she pulled away. "James, I can't. You can't just kiss me and expect me to forgive you of everything you've done to me."

"I'm not excepting you to forgive me. I don't understand how you could ever forgive me," James stuttered. He looked down to his lap in shame and he held back his angered, self-loathing cries. "But I need you in my life, Lily. We've worked so hard the past twenty years. We've worked so hard, and I know I lashed out and I shouldn't have, but we can't let one fight ruin what we've worked so hard to build and maintain."

"What about Sirius...?" Her voice was weak.

James did his best to control himself. He covered his hand with his mouth when he asked, "Do you love him?"

The wait was agonizing. He felt as if time was slowing down, he could hear every beat of his heart as Lily took the time to answer this question, clearly looking over every point with detail of her relationship with Sirius. "No, I don't love him. He loves me."

"Then he will let you be happy. Whatever you choose, Lily," James urged. Then he was sliding towards her again. He let his fingers trail over her cheek, persuading her with every movement he made. He kissed her gently. "If he loves you, then that is what he will do. Just like I am doing now; letting you decide."




Harry blinked when he awoke. His vision was filled of red, and his face as if feathers were gently dusting all over his face. They tickled. He grinned and drew away, smoothing back Ginny's mass of hair. She was sleeping peacefully, completely submerged in her happy dreams, Harry assumed from the happy smile on her face. He yawned, stretched, and climbed out from beneath the covers.

He sprawled out on the top of his warm duvet. Oh, he hadn't realized how badly he had missed his bedroom! He had missed the bed that knew he shape so well, his body frame indented in the mattress. He missed the warm, tranquil comfort of his oceanic bedroom. The navy and brown duvet was warm, soaking up the sun that had been spilling in from the window above for hours, no doubt.

He grinned and thought happily, home.Straightening up, he rumpled his hair and bent over to kiss Ginny softly. He trailed his lips across her forehead, her smile widening, before trudging to his bathroom. The cool wood felt comforting on the bottoms of his feet. The mahogany wood seemed to wash across his feet, spreading between his toes, up his legs. Up, up, up until it reached his heart, washing away his worries and helping him stand his ground.

Harry brushed his teeth and let the water begin to run in the shower as he did so. He stepped out of his pajamas and climbed into the shower. The water washed over him. It beat gently at the top of his head as he tilted it back, running his fingers through his dampening hair as the water rushed over his head, down his chest and back. He could finally feel the smell of fire and smoke escaping from the pores of his skin.

With the feel of dirt still lodged in his skin, he began viciously scrubbing at his body with the bar of soap until he felt impossibly clean. Satisfied, he stepped from the shower and tied a towel about his waist, shaking his head in a mad manner. The water droplets flew from the locks of thick raven hair. He tied a towel loosely about his waist before stepping over the threshold between his bathroom and bedroom.

He glanced briefly at Ginny, searching for her sleeping figure, before returning to make his way over to his wardrobe. He dug through his drawers until he found a pair of boxers. Dropping the towel, he began to step into them when he heard a soft groan of inclination. Surprised and utterly horrified, Harry spun around and covered his abdomen.

He swallowed as his face flushed a deep crimson. Ginny was sitting up in the bed, giggling softly at the sight of him. Harry cursed himself; a mere five seconds ago she had been asleep. He must have awoken her with his shuffling through drawers, Harry presumed. Harry swore. "poo, Ginny. What are you doing? You could have told me you were awake!"

Ginny giggled. Her smile widened, and she innocently tucked one of her wild curls behind her ear. "I'm sorry, Harry. Honestly I wasn't quite expecting you to drop your towel."

Harry pursed his lips and held back the urge to swear. He stood with his bottom pressed against the cool wood of his wardrobe, while holding the cotton towel against his front, hunched over in an embarrassing manner. His face was a deep red. He was mortified, completely embarrassed, and despite how badly he wished to scold Ginny, he couldn't manage maintaining a harsh enough tone. "Ginny..."

"There's nothing to be ashamed about. You have a very nice body," she giggled again. Her exterior looked very sweet and innocent, despite how dirty Harry knew her mind was at the moment.

"Well," Harry swallowed. "Er, thanks, Gin." He turned around and let the towel flop onto the ground once more. Ginny admired her view, biting down on her tongue and keeping the color from rising to her cheeks. She only had a mere second to take in Harry's well-built form, especially his bare ass, before Harry yanked on a pair of solid red boxers. Ginny's view was suddenly covered with the red material, and she pouted.

Harry blushed again and whispered softly, almost ashamed. "I'm sorry, Gin. I haven't even kissed you."

"What does that have to do with anything?" Ginny scolded. She tossed back the covers, exposing her bandaged legs, and hissed at the sight of them. Immediately Harry put the conversation aside and rushed to help Ginny, finding a new comfort in his red underwear. Harry cooed, kissing a spot of disfigured skin gently. "How does it feel? Are you all right? Can you walk?"

"Yes, Harry," Ginny gave him a quick shove and pushed to her feet. Harry had to remind himself Ginny was a strong girl. Harry doubted she hardly ever needed help, and if she did, she would refuse due to her pride. Ginny walked to the door of the bathroom from which Harry had emerged a few minutes ago. She turned to Harry before disappearing into the room. "I just need another change of clothes, if your mum wouldn't mind."

"Of course not," replied Harry. He scurried from the room and into the hall. On the top landing, he could smell his mother's cooking from below. The hunger in his stomach suddenly became noticeable to himself. It was gurgling loudly, craving food. Reminding himself the faster he moved, the faster he would eat, Harry picked up his face to his mother's bedroom.

He entered the homey room comfortably. His parent's bedroom had never been the place Harry was "forbidden" from. Many nights, Harry and his parents would actually watch TV together before James and Claire sent Harry off to his room. Thinking back on it, Harry missed those nights. More importantly, he missed when his family was still a family.

The bedroom of his parents, now the bedroom of his mother and Carter, was decorated in an assortment of reds, greens, and golds. The duvet of their bed was green with gold trimming, the pillows red, and the wood of the headboard a deep red. The rest of the room followed suit with the coordination of colors. Harry found it quite obvious that Claire had decorated the room even though this room hadn't been re-made since before Harry could remember.

Harry maneuvered into his mother's large bathroom and then her walk-in closet. Harry shuffled through an assortment of tops and bottoms hanging from the racks, from suit jackets and button-down business tops to tank tops and sweatshirts, from sweat pants to dress pants and skirts. Amused by a woman's need to dress to impress and accessorize, Harry continued to look for something he believed to suit Ginny.

He finally found a pair of small white shorts and picked them out carelessly; he had no idea how girls decided to dress. He then picked out a tan top with violet flours bordering the bottom of the blouse. It was see through, so Harry also snagged a violet tank top from a hangar. He greatly hoped that Ginny could stick to her own bra and underwear. Harry didn't want to, nor could he possibly imagine, putting the girl he was strongly infatuated with into his mother's panties and bra. So, he headed back to his bedroom, sticking out his tongue in disgust. Slipping into the bathroom with a small knock, he found Ginny sitting on the edge of the sink, slowly peeling the gauze from her burnt skin. She hissed as she unwrapped it and tossed the gauze into the trash bin.

Harry blinked and bit his lip, telling himself that the urge to suddenly find a cure to black fire was being powered by a non-human source. The feelings emitting from his very heart were too great, too impossible, and yet they were there, filling his very soul. He touched her knee again. "Are you sure you don't need help?"

"Yes," Ginny said with a strong, heavy tone. She clearly wanted to show she wasn't belittled by her new disfiguration. Harry rose with a sigh and said as his actions followed his words. "There are fresh towels in here. The water is always awfully cold at first, so if you like it warm, you may have to wait a minute. Take your time. Would you like me to wait for you or go on downstairs? My mother has cooked breakfast."

Harry placed the towels onto the counter, placing a hand on the small of Ginny's back. Ginny spoke absently as she gazed at herself in the mirror, yanking at her hair with the brush she had found on the counter. "Really, Harry, don't you worry about me. You can go on down. I don't think I will get lost."

"Sure, beautiful," Harry agreed. He kissed her flaming hair before disappearing from the bathroom, leaving her to her business. He knew his mother would disapprove of him wearing nothing but boxers to breakfast with a young girl as their guest, so he pulled on a pair of sweats and one of his old football t-shirts before jogging down the stairs.

Through the living room and into the kitchen, the smell of sausages, juices, and fresh fruit wafted to him. He inhaled deeply and sighed as he entered the kitchen. There, sitting at the table, was his mother and Carter. Harry had to look twice to make sure it wasn't his own father; the sight of the two of them was so familiar, like his past four months of adventure had not occurred.

Carter was reading the paper while Claire was sipping gingerly at her coffee, stroking her robed stomach diligently. Claire tucked her blonde curl behind her ear and smiled. "Harry, you're awake."

Harry kissed her head lightly with a weak smile. "Hey, Mum. Yes, I am."

"I was half expecting you to sleep into the evening. You and Ginny were so tired," said Claire. She patted her son's arm as it looped around her neck to lightly hug her. She smiled gently and kissed his fine, sinewy arm. "It's nice to have you home, Harry."

"It's great to be home," Harry said as he slid into the chair next to his mother. He eagerly began loading an assortment of biscuits, sausages, and fruit onto his plate. He poured himself a glass of orange juice and went on. "Although we can't stay long. This house isn't protected, and Ginny and I won't be staying here any longer than we must. I'm not putting you two in any more danger than you already are."

"You're not putting us in danger," said Claire sternly. She refused to believer her son was such a threat to her own life and to many other people's. It just wasn't possible. Harry was such a kind, loving, and caring boy who would never put anyone through such conditions, even if it was his destiny. Harry rolled his eyes, but began eating without protest. Carter dropped the newspaper and folded it, laying it lightly on the table. He asked, rumpling his messy, blond hair, "Now, I'm still very confused by all of this. An evil wizard is after you, trying to kill you, because you are some ultimate threat to their world?"

"I guess you could put it that way." Harry did his best to smile. Having come to terms with the truth months ago, he was able to put on a smile easily, and he hid his dread behind his deceptive smile. Claire fussed though. "Please don't talk about it like that, Carter. In such an immoral way."

Carter lightly touched her arm and squeezed it, reassuring her with a gentle nod. "I wasn't meaning to speak immorally. It was the easiest way to put it, honey."

Claire sniffed and nodded. Harry blinked before looking at her in an odd manner. Harry placed a hand on her back and rubbed gently, he pouted, "Mum, are you worried about me?"

"Well, of course I'm worried about you!"

"I'm going to be fine. He won't kill me; I won't let him win." Harry was strong with his confidence. It was unwavering, adamant, firm, and Harry could actually give a true smile. With that little confidence, Claire was able to wiggle a smile onto her face. Harry leaned back in his seat, hoping the moment had passed, but Claire sighed again. Harry pursed his lips before attempting once more to stifle his mother's worries. He urged, "Mum, I know this is hard to handle in such a short amount of time. Trust me; it is for me too. I'm a wizard, I'm not only a wizard, but I was born to fight this man to determine the wizarding world's way. It's a lot to take in, but honestly I didn't know how much you knew, how much you were involved."

"We're not involved," Claire began. She twirled her fork so her gaze was averted on something besides Carter or Harry. Harry stuttered, confused, "But you know so much."

"We've actually been asked to stay out of it," Claire confessed. She eyed Harry expectantly, as if expecting a massive outbreak from Harry, just like his father would have done. Harry only blinked. He pursed his lips and pressed. "You've been asked to stay out of it? Why? By who?"

"The guy with the funny eye and the fake leg," Carter said bluntly. Claire shot him a crude look for being so forward..

Carter gave a laughable snicker before sipping at his coffee in innocence. Claire whispered. "There's no need to be so rude."

"What? He's a creepy guy."

"Mad-Eye? Mad-Eye was here?" Harry asked inquisitively.

Carter laughed, "Name sure suits him." Claire gave him another incredulous look before turning back to Harry. Carter winked at Harry while his mood remained raised for the moment. Claire spoke again, "He came by a long time ago; about a week after you fully transferred to the Weasley's. Because we're not magical like you, for our own safety, he asked us to stay as far out of the matter as possible. It's a sad explanation for why we haven't come to visit you, but it's the truth. What information we know is the information you passed onto your father during his visits or training sessions with you. Also, the less we are involved, the safer we are from the evil of your kind."

"I guess it make sense," Harry said softly. Expecting him to say more, Claire watched him until he began eating again, a little more put out. Claire bit her lip and then put on a more cheerful voice. She rumpled his hair, and Harry grumbled. "Your birthday's in a week. What would you like?"

Harry merely shrugged with a growl before shutting everything out completely, letting only his food enter his thoughts.




After passing out on various items, such as couches, the floor, and chairs due to the lack of beds, everyone at Grimmauld Place awoke to a delicious smelling breakfast the next morning, courtesy of Molly Weasley. Everyone had scarfed down their meal quickly. No one spoke of anything, and if they did, they only spoke of their destroyed home. It was clear how everyone was trying not to think about James and Sirius, sitting by Lily's side in the hospital. Molly had promised Arthur and her children that they could visit Lily later in the day, but for now, they had to return home and clean up the mess.

So once everyone had eaten, showered, and conjured up a spare pair of clothes, they apparated back to the Burrow. Expecting the withered and blackened Burrow, they were met with a splendid surprise. Having to double check they had apparated to the right house, they came to stand in front of a marvelous white manor in the midst of the river and luscious plains on which they lived.

Molly blinked and stumbled, grabbing onto her heart. She stuttered in a fast and almost non-understandable tone. Arthur caught her before she fell. "Sweet Merlin of all that is good!"

The white, wooden door, decorated with a pane of glass opened, and a man in light blue dress robes stood there. His hands were folded in his lap, as if awaiting someone. Glasses sat on the tip of his long and withered nose. His blue eyes complemented his robes. He was fairly tall, but his weight was obviously diminishing with his age, and he had silver hair to his waist. Some of his hair and beard were either braided or tied back with silver tassels.

Despite his old exterior, the man walked with ease towards them. His hands outstretched, and his voice came forward, as calm as a creek in the forest. "Ah, Arthur! I had hoped you would return home today, but I did not expect it to be this early. You found solace in Grimmauld Place I presume, yes?"

"Albus," Arthur walked forward and shook hands with Albus Dumbledore.

"How are you, Arthur?" Albus asked calmly. Arthur Weasley, still grasping Dumbledore's hand quite firmly, shook it faster and nodded. "Better, sir. Better. A little shaken about last time, but fine all the same."

"I can imagine so," Albus said. "I am sure you are wondering what you are looking at. This is your home, Arthur, a well over-due token of thanks from the Order of the Phoenix for all your hospitality."






















Chapter 15: Kissing You
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*****


It was a relief when, a few hours later, Harry and Ginny apparated to Grimmauld Place. They were re-directed by Kreacher to return to the Burrow. So, they did so. Anxiously they made their way up to the unfamiliar steps and to the white manor. Before either of them could knock, the door flew open. For a moment Harry believed it had been blown off its hinges, and they were met by an irrevocably ecstatic Molly Weasley.

She flung herself into her daughters arms and then enveloped Harry into their bear hug. Harry chuckled as he accepted this loving act. Mrs. Weasley began to rant things so fast; Harry couldn't even keep up. He gave up listening after trying to piece together her first sentence. "I was - Thank Merlin! You were...Scared me to death! Safe and sound...Dangerous!"

"Mum, calm down." Ginny smiled and patted her mother's back gently. Mrs. Weasley gave another tight squeeze before subjecting to letting go of the both of them. Mrs. Weasley took an anxious step back, a beaming smile on her face and tears cascading down her face, but Harry and Ginny were only met with more explosive hugs. Mr. Weasley came next, then Ron hugged his sister and tackled Harry to the ground.

Harry laughed as he tumbled to the ground, Ron launching himself on top of him, and they boys playfully punched one another on the ground as Hermione and Ginny hugged. Ron laughed out, "You're bloody invincible! Thank Merlin you're all right, mate."

Harry smiled and smoothed out his khaki shorts as he stood up. "Thanks, Ron. Glad you're all right too." Harry continued to chuckle as he helped Ron to his feet, receiving a friendly pat on the back from Ron and a happy smile. Harry hadn't been aware of how close he and Ron had become during his stay with the Weasleys. Perhaps he had been too absorbed in his emotions for Ginny to realize, but as they walked back up the steps, arms around each other's shoulders like team mates, Harry realized what kind of friend he had in Ron. He smiled.

Harry asked as the greetings ceased. "What happened? We were expecting to come back to a pile of ash."

Mr. Weasley smiled and offered kindly. "Why don't you come inside our new home, Harry? There's someone we would like you to meet inside."

Harry beamed and nodded, following Mr. Weasley in as the others followed behind. Ginny, gaping, stuck by her mother's side and asked question after question. Molly pat her head gently and urged her to be quiet, saying things would be explained shortly.

They weaved through the open halls. Inside, they were greeted with a calm sitting room. The walls were a homey, deep yellow. A family portrait of the nine Weasleys hung on the wall nearest a mahogany staircase. Harry and Ginny recognized some furniture. The rest was new, but still had the Burrow feel about it all. Through the sitting room they went, and they came into the main family room. It was full of more couches, bookshelves, and dazzling wizarding objects. Against the back wall, sitting perfectly between two oval windows was the infamous Weasley clock. It was newer and improved. The hands were no longer of spoons, and a face had been added into the circle of Weasleys. Harry was astonished to see a moving picture of himself.

Having no idea what to say, Harry acted as if he had not seen his own beaming name on the clock. They moved quickly through the family room and veered right into the kitchen. The kitchen was painted in a mix of blues and greens. It gave off an oceanic feel and calmed everyone to the bone. At the white, wooden table, an elderly man sat, sipping at a glass of water. He looked up and let a generous smile consume his face. He rose and offered his hand to Harry. "Ah, Mr. Potter. Heard so much about you, watched you from afar, but never actually met you. It is a pleasure to meet you. I am Professor Albus Dumbledore."

"Oh, Professor Dumbledore! I've heard so much about you as well. The pleasure is all mine," Harry said quickly. He gave Dumbledore's hand a firm, steady shake.

Dumbledore sat down once more, and the others sat down at the large table. When Ron took the chair to Harry's left and Dumbledore on his right, Ginny pursed her lips and absently fell back to sit at the very end of the table. Gazing at Harry from the other end, she found it hard to keep their feelings for each other quite much longer. She could only imagine what Ron would do to Harry when he found out. He had nearly punched in Dean Thomas' face in her fifth year.

Dumbledore turned to all of them with an awaiting smile. When they were all situated, he began speaking to Harry, "I'm sure you've heard of me throughout your stay here and during your training. I am the Headmaster at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I also lead the organization of the Order of the Phoenix. Every action made within our secret society has been approved by me. When you were nothing but a fetus in your mother's womb, I was the one who informed Lily and your father of the prophecy. When you were born and your parents decided to separate, I took on a new organization to protect you. As you know, they are called the Protectors and consist of many witches and wizards you love. They've watched you your entire life, kept you safe. I have led them through their failure and triumph, and I am sorry it has taken me so long to introduce myself to you. I must seem like a horrible man, indeed. Meeting you as soon as you learned of your future was the first on my list, but unfortunately other complications arose, complications that we will get into later on. Before I begin speaking to you of more important matters, I believe you have some questions, yes?"

"Well, only a few," Harry said quickly. He looked about. "How were we found? I thought the Burrow was protected by charms. Wasn't there a secret keeper? And this house - where did it come from?"

"You were found because of a traitor. When it became necessary for the Burrow to be placed under protection, I placed an unlikely candidate for secret keeper. Even Alastor Moody can be bested by Voldemort. It is not his fault the secret was betrayed. That is how you were found. While Alastor was at the Ministry yesterday, he was intercepted by a Death Eater who also works at the Ministry. He was briefly captured and forced Veritaserum and was then left petrified in a broom cupboard and found this morning. This catastrophe has led us to this very moment, and it's sad to say we have had one casualty. I never met Mary Jane, but I am sure she was a kind girl. Her body was found and returned to her parents. The funeral shall be next week for muggles only. The secret has been broken and reconnected. This location is safe once more. As for the home, well, Arthur and Molly have always been taking in Order members, feeding them, giving them a place to stay when needed. It is simply a well over-due gift to them from me."

"That's so kind of you," Harry said. "But who is secret keeper now? Mad-Eye surely can't keep doing it."

"You're right, Harry," Dumbledore said. He took another sip of his water. Harry watched the cold beads of sweat slide down the glass, sinking into the skin of Albus' long fingers. "You are as bright as everyone says you are. Alastor cannot keep serving the Weasley's as their secret keeper. He is too suspected. That is why I am now the secret keeper."

Harry pursed his lips, then nodded. He found himself without any words; he didn't know what to say. So, he merely nodded again. Dumbledore gave a weak smile upon seeing Harry's silence. He then said to the Weasley's, rising and pushing back his chair, "Now, if you would all excuse Harry and I for a moment. I should fancy a walk with him."

Harry looked up, confused, but rose in his chair as well. The room was silent except for Harry's shuffling feet and Molly's small squeak. "Of course, Albus. You will be staying for tea, won't you?"

"As much as I would love to indulge myself in your splendid cooking, Molly, I am afraid not," said Albus. He took Harry's arm and led him through the door in the kitchen. Out back, they stepped onto a wooden patio. Albus led Harry down the steps and strolled through the yard.

Harry did not feel as if he were at the Weasley's anymore. He felt as if he were at the Prime Minister's manor. The yard was lined with a fine stone path, flower bushes bordering it. A small quidditch pitch rested on the left, a fine improvement from Arthur Weasley's home-fashioned pitch with trees as goal posts, and the same pond remained on the right. Albus took Harry in the direction of the pond.

Harry inspected Professor Dumbledore closely. He seemed to be a man always in deep thought. His lips were pressed tightly, and his eyes were thoughtful. Harry asked gingerly, wondering if Albus really did fancy a stroll in the yard or if he had other important matters to talk to Harry about. "Professor, was there anything you wished to tell me away from them?"

"Let's see," Albus came back to his senses. He hesitated for many moments. It became quite clear that the elderly Professor did not want to dive right into the situation. He started with asking simple questions. "You have completed your training, yes?"

"Yes, Professor."

"Very good, Harry. You finished much sooner than I expected you too. Although I never expected your father to train you either. Your father is a marvelous wizard; no one could have taught you better, not even I. How was the training for you? Easy, difficult?"

"Some things were easier than the rest. Not too much was difficult."

"That is because you are a very talented wizard, Harry." Dumbledore said in a grateful voice. "You haven't attended a day at school and yet you would surpass everyone in your year. Tell me, Harry. How much do you know of Voldemort?"

"I..." Harry's voice stumbled. His voice faltered, and he had to think. He was taken aback at how easily Dumbledore said his name. Everyone else was scared out of their wits to speak of him, much less say his name. "Not much, sir. Hardly anything. I only know what he has done to this world."

"Voldemort is not like any other man, Harry. He is hardly human at all. To a certain extent, he is human. Voldemort hates anyone who isn't a pureblood, even though he is a half-blood himself. He was raised in an orphanage. I recruited him to Hogwarts when he was almost eleven. If I had known who he would become...Let's just say I would have made different arrangements. Before he became the dark wizard that he is today, his name was Tom Riddle. During his years at Hogwarts, he seemed to be just like any other student. He was sorted into Slytherin and had an excellent ambition for the dark arts. He befriended many teachers in his day; one of the more important professors he befriended was an old friend of mine, Horace Slughorn. While Tom was at Hogwarts, Horace divulged information to Tom that I now truly resent Horace for. Have you heard of horcruxes, Harry?"

"No, sir," Harry grimaced at the name. "What are they?"

"A horcrux, Harry," Dumbledore whispered, "is an object into which one may place a piece of their soul, and as a result, you cannot die. Despite how inhumane it sounds, it can be done."

"Do you mean to say that Voldemort has split his soul?" Harry asked. Dumbledore was right. It did sound inhumane. It seemed to be a violation to the meaning of life. Harry was disgusted, horrified. "But how does that happen? How does one split their soul, I mean?"

"Killing rips the soul apart. Voldemort succeeded in splitting his soul, and not just once either. I am aware of six different horcruxes to witch Voldemort has split himself to."

Harry gaped, even more astounded. "You're saying that Voldemort has split his soul six different times?"

"Yes, I am saying exactly that, Harry. I have been in pursuit of these horcruxes for an exceptional amount of time. I have destroyed two, and I am in possession of a fake horcrux. Someone beat me to the original and replaced it with a decoy. I am hoping that the original has already been ridded of, but I am searching for the real one too. I actually need to talk to Sirius about that matter. You will remind me to speak to him, won't you?"

"Yes, sir. I will. Do you know where he is? I was surprised to not see him here," Harry pondered.

"Yes, Harry, I do know where he is. However, I shall not speak to you of that matter at this very moment. For now, the circumstances are safe, and I am not done with my previous topic."

"Oh." Harry's face flushed. He glanced to the ground and urged the professor. "I'm sorry, sir. Go on."

"It's quite all right," said Albus. "I have suspicions of the other three, but I am not certain. I am in pursuit of the remaining horcruxes at the fastest pace I can."

"May I join you? If you find one, can I come along?"

"If the situation requires so, yes. I hate to put you in so much danger at such a young age, but the fate of our kind is already in your hands. We mustn't let you fail, and Tom could strike at any minute. That is why it is essential that we destroy the remaining horcruxes immediately."

"But how do you destroy a horcrux exactly, sir?" Harry questioned.

"That's an excellent question. To destroy a horcrux, you must damage it so it is completely beyond magical repair, so the little piece of soul may not return to it's horcrux. If that is the last of your questions, Harry, then I fear I must be off. I must speak with Sirius, and I have absorbed much of your day. You are young and thriving - do not fret over this new information. Let me handle it until you have received further notice from me."

"Yes, sir." Harry nodded sternly. Truthfully, he was relieved Albus didn't want him thinking too hard about it. "I just have one more question though, Professor."

"Ask away, Harry."

"What will happen if I do fail? If I do die..." Harry's voice trailed off. However comfortable he may have become with the subject of war, the speaking of his death still haunted him. He placed a cold, eerie feel of his body. It made his voice feel as if it were made of ice. He shivered, suddenly longing for Ginny's warm embrace.

Dumbledore turned to him. He peered at him over the tips of his half-moon spectacles. His eyes twinkled, making Dumbledore's mysterious tone difficult to take seriously. "You mustn't. If you do, we will be lost. You won't fail." With his last final words, Dumbledore apparated with that loud crack. He left Harry to stand in the midst of the yard, gazing at his feet in despair.

Despite what every said, Harry wondered: what if he did fail? He had only known magic for five months. He was inexperienced, and he was only seventeen. How could he possibly be expected to have so much responsibility, such a big destiny to fulfill. Harry trembled and bit his lip.

He felt himself quaking in his very shoes. It rose up through his legs, into his core, and to his shoulders. He covered his mouth with his hands to stifle his horrified cries. Everything was finally catching up with him. He had been able to put it aside for so long. He thought himself able to cope with every situation thrown at him these days.

Now he just couldn't.

The whole world was relying on him to kill the most powerful, unstoppable man in the world who was living in more than one three places. He was young, foolish, and unprepared. His parents were divorced, he had two mothers, one mother was pregnant with another man's child already, his father was in love with both his mothers.

Harry felt tears welling in his eyes. He didn't cry; not that often at least, but unstoppable tears wedged themselves into Harry's vision, and they seeped down his contorted cheeks. He gasped and inhaled sharply. Icy daggers were stabbing into his chest, filling his body with pain and more cries and gasps for breath.

To mortify himself further, he heard footsteps behind him. They stopped a few feet away from him, and then Ginny's voice erupted. It was calmer than normal, more worried and upset than normal. "Harry, a-are you crying?"

Harry pried his hands away from his mouth. He coughed, swallowed, and then stuttered with a long sniff. "No. I'm not crying."

Ginny jumped in front of him, and Harry whipped to face the house once more to hide his face from Ginny. She lept in front of him once more and this time caught his shoulders, prepared. Ginny's lips turned down into a sad frown. "It's okay, Harry. It's okay to cry. Come here."

Harry slipped into Ginny's willing arms and inhaled sharply with another audible cry. Ginny hid her smile, feeling awful for the current situation, but loving how tightly Harry was holding her. She could feel his hands against her back, pulling her as close as possible against him. She could feel his hands leaving imprints on her back. She cooed. "It's okay. I'm right here, Harry. Everything will be fine; she will be okay."

Harry hesitated and froze. His hand slipped from Ginny's back and he wiped his nose quickly. "W-What? Who will be okay?"

"O-Oh," Ginny stuttered. Her eyes flashed and she stroked Harry's cheek before he could run away from her once more. "I just found out inside. Mum told me about Lily. I assumed that was why Dumbledore pulled you away from us, to tell you himself."

"N-No!" Harry gasped. He panicked even more. His mind raced, and he suddenly wanted to cry a thousand times harder. He was surprised when Ginny didn't run away from the horrid sight of his contorted face. "What's happened to her? That wasn't at all what we talked about!"

"Oh, gosh, Harry. I'm so sorry," said Ginny quickly. She flung her arms around his neck and squeezed her to him. "Would you like to visit her? She's at a muggle hospital. She's been diagnosed with a heart failure. Harry, she had a heart attack last night. Mary is dead as well."

His mind pulsed with this news. Frankly, he didn't care all that much that Mary was dead. Not for the moment, at least; he knew he would later. Harry stuttered. "A h-heart attack?"

"Yes. I'm sorry, Harry," Ginny whispered.

Harry nodded and pried himself from her body. He looked down at the ground and wiped his nose where the salty tears had gathered. "S'okay...God, my life sucks!"

"It's okay, Harry," she urged again. She pressed herself against him and stroked his face. Ginny let her fingers trail all through his hair, across his forehead, nose, cheek, and lips. She touched him gently until his eyes fluttered shut and he sighed. Ginny smiled, amazed at what she could do to him, and she continued on. "I'm here. I don't make it suck more, do I?"

"N-No," hiccuped Harry. "You make it perfect; you make me the luckiest person in the whole world even though everything else is crumbling around me."

"It will get better. Just a little bit longer of this, and then we can put it all behind us." She stopped touching him, and Harry came back to his senses. When the summer breeze graced his cheeks instead of her cool, soft skin, he shivered. Ginny stood straight and let her hands drop to her sides. "Now, what was Dumbledore talking to you about?"

"He was telling me about Voldemort, about how difficult it will be to kill him." Harry shivered again. He squeezed his eyes shut to hold back his swelling tears, but in the process, he was met with a horrible sight. A man stood before his imagination. He wore black robes; Harry couldn't see his face, but six different streaks of grey mist were erupting from his body, flowing outward. Harry shuddered and pried his eyes open. He couldn't imagine what it would be like to split one's soul.

"I see," Ginny nodded. She didn't ask further. When she had approached Harry, it had clearly upset him greatly. So, she did her best to rid of her curiosity, as she didn't want to upset him further. She touched his arm gently and asked again. "We're having lunch and then going to visit with Lily. Will you come?"

Harry nodded. "Of course," he sniffed. Ginny took his arm and led him through the garden again, taking him back to the house. Ginny giggled, ever the one of cheer. "Can you believe that Dumbledore has given us this place without a price? It's fantastic, really. Marvelous; there are eight bedrooms for us Weasleys and three guest bedrooms! How amazing is that? It's enough to house on holidays any future children us Weasleys may have!"

Harry forced a smile onto his face as they stepped into the kitchen once more. It was empty now, voices erupting from somewhere else deep within the house, except for Ron. Catching her brother in the corner of the room, Ginny flashed Harry a quick wink before gliding from the room with a brusque turn. Harry watched her go, arms folded across his chest, with an adoring smirk on his face.

When Ginny was long gone, Harry heard a crack and saw a hand fly across his vision. Harry jumped and blinked, coming to his senses. He blurted out quick questions, but Ron's anger was quick to dissolve them. Ron roared. "What the hell was that?"

"What was what, Ron?" Harry asked quickly, turning to him quickly.

"Out back in the garden! When you were groping my sister!" Ron hissed.

Harry's eyes went wide and he put up his hands quickly. "Woah, Ron, please. Lower your voice."

"I will not lower my voice!"

"Well then, to start off, I wasn't groping her," Harry defended himself quickly. "We were only hugging."

Ron wrinkled his nose and made a funny motion with his hand that reminded Harry oddly of a blossoming flower. "You were all feeling her hair; she was all touching your face."

"Okay, Ron," Harry said sharply. "So, I like your sister. I'm sorry. I like her a lot."

"Keep your hands to yourself," Ron warned.

"We haven't done anything!" Harry protested. "What you saw was the most we have done. I haven't even kissed her - even though she sure as hell wants me to."

Ron shuddered and put up a hand to shush Harry. Harry suppressed his laugh, realizing Ron was probably the last person he should have revealed that to. Ron said quickly, "You better not be doing anything with her. It's all right that you like my sister - I guess. Just don't touch her, okay?"

"Sure, Ron," Harry agreed to stifle a foreseeable fight. Ron huffed, shaking his head in disapproval, and stalked off out of the kitchen. Harry sighed, his back slinking against the wall of the kitchen, and he laughed.




The Weasley Manor was full of beaming faces on the day of July 31st. Harry awoke to a splendor of happy faces, voices, and a large assortment of presents. Guests had come and gone, yet some had stayed throughout the day. Around noon, even Claire and Carter arrived at Weasley Manor for the festivities. Even Lily, after harping at her doctor, begging to let her go to her son's eighteenth birthday party and after arranging a deal with him, he allowed her to visit for the day as long as she was back in her hospital bed by seven PM.

As dinner progressed and the tummies of Harry's birthday well-wishers were full, Lily rose from her spot at the table. She touched Harry's shoulder gently and said softly to him, for his ear's only, "Harry, do you want to take a walk with me outside?"

Harry nodded, quietly and politely agreed, and excused himself from the table. James smiled at the two of them and followed them out back. They left the Weasleys, Remus, Sirius, Hermione, and everyone else at the dinner table. Strolling through the garden of the manor, now decorated with well-wishing banners and bright, dazzling lights, and enchanted trees, bushes, flowers, and more decor, the small family made their way to the pond.

Lily sat on the bench nearest the edge of the pond. She slipped off her sandals and let her feet slip into the cool water. She sighed with a gentle smile as she pat the seat next to her. Harry sat down quickly, James following and sitting on his other side. James rubbed his back slowly, and awkwardly Harry waited to see what his parents had to say. Lily seemed absorbed in the water of the pond, kicking it gently, allowing the waves to ripple across the surface, disrupting the calm lily pads. James pat his back again, his voice disrupting the silence. "How has your day been, Harry?"

"It's been great, Dad," Harry smiled. "Thanks."

Lily, looking solemn and full of despair, straightened up and reached into the pocket of her shorts. She pulled out a tiny box, wrapped neatly with paper decorated with golden snitches. She handed it to him, setting it neatly in his open hands. "It was my father's. It's not much; it's just tradition that you give one on the seventeenth birthday, and since I happened to miss that one, I'm giving it to you now."

Harry tore carefully at the paper and let it fall in his lap. Beneath the paper, there was a small, wooden box. There was a name engraved into it, and bringing it close to his face as to read the tiny writing, he was able to make out the name; Paul Evans. He opened the box, and laying neatly wrapped on a black cushion was a silver watch. Harry pulled it out and smiled. He didn't quite know what to say; it was a nice, expensive watch, and Harry appreciated it. As he spoke, he hoped he didn't give Lily the wrong impression. "It's nice. Thank you so much, Lily."

"You're welcome. I know it's not as fun as the prank stuff Fred and George gave you, or the VeloFury broom your father gave you, or anything else you got today, but...you know."

"Lily," Harry said quickly. He glanced to her and caught her eye. He could see the pain she held in them when she heard him say that name and not a different one. Harry winced, but did his best to give her an encouraging smile. "I love it." He unclasped the watch and slipped it around his wrist. The metal felt cool against his skin, cupping his wrist loosely.

Harry gave her a half hug as Lily looked down once more. She said weakly. "Happy birthday."

Harry smiled again as his hug relaxed, yet he kept his arm about her shoulder. After a few quiet moments, she tugged on his arm and peeked at the time. She groaned and rose reluctantly. "It's six. I should be heading back to the hospital."

James said quickly after her as she began to retreat back towards the manner. "I'll take you, sweetie. I will be inside in a minute."

Harry glanced at his father briefly before jumping up and striding towards Lily. He was by her side quickly, his steps long and fast. Lily looked up at him curiously, but Harry only smiled and wrapped his arms around his mother. He hugged her tightly and whispered to her, "Thank you for a great birthday. I love you, Mum."

Lily stumbled and wondered if Harry could hear her startled breathing, her thumping heart, and see her heated cheeks. She flushed quickly and whispered back. "I love you too." She drew away and her hand flew to her neck, rubbing it awkwardly to give herself something to do. Harry resisted a laugh as he watched her embarrassed actions. Despite the unnecessary awkward feeling she was emitting, Harry knew how happy she had made her. It was the first time he had ever called her that. She smiled again and then continued her way back inside.

Harry, proud, returned to his father's side. As he thought about it, calling Lily Mum hadn't been as hard as he thought it would be. It felt...nice. It felt good and right to call her that. Harry sat next to his father and asked him, having enough of himself for one day. "How have things been for you, Dad?"

"Fine. You know, a little awkward here and there, but fine," James tried to chuckle. He rubbed Harry's neck briefly before letting both of his arms fall into his lap.

Harry laughed, trying to turn the situation into a laughable one. He commented, "I can agree there. It's not for me, I mean; but it must be for you. Both my mums here, both of which you love, then throw Carter in here. It's awkward central, really."

"Damn right about that," James laughed. Truthfully, he didn't find the situation with Claire, Carter, and Lily awkward anymore. He was actually referring to his most recent dilemma: Lily's brief relationship with Sirius. However, James didn't mention that. Harry didn't know, and as far as James knew, neither did anyone else. So, it was easiest to leave that small chapter of their lives out of the story.

With the vision of Sirius heart-broken face at St. Mungo's two weeks ago flashing across his mind, James' eyes flickered. He held back tears. He loved Lily so much, and with the Sirius' importance to James returning with a mad fury, James felt horribly guilty. He wanted Sirius to be happy, and he felt down right horrible for the new divide implanted into their relationship, but it wasn't his fault. James reminded himself that he had given Lily the choice, and she had chosen James. It was no longer his fault.

James sighed and rose. He and Harry returned to the house, side by side. Entering, they came to a lively party inside. The teenagers were absorbed in one of Harry's new presents on one side of the room while the adults on the other side chatted with their wine and fire whiskey. In the midst of it, Carter and Sirius were extremely noticeable. They were animatedly and playfully punching one another. For knowing each other for a few simple hours, Carter and Sirius had become quite good friends. They were laughing together, acting as if they were old friends united.

Claire sat at the center of attention on the couch. Fleur, Mrs. Weasley, and Remus crowded around Claire's now six-month pregnant belly. They were asking her questions, shoving their hand onto her belly to feel the baby kick, and asking questions with great amounts of enthusiasm.

Harry gave his father one last hug, and James wished him happy eighteenth once more, before Harry slipped into the corner with the newest generation. Setting himself in between Fred and Hermione, he gave them all a big smile. They invited him into their conversation willing voices; however, Harry was only half-ears. As he did his best to stay with them, he watched his Lily and his father tell everyone goodbye. When the two had been dismissed by everyone but Sirius, Carter, and Claire, half of the room was silent. Lily weakly hugged Claire, kindly telling her it was nice to officially meet her, and she shook hands with Carter, then kissed Sirius' cheek. James followed oppositely, kissing Claire's cheek and wishing the baby well, shaking Carter's hand with the solid armistice they had formed, and giving Sirius an awkward pat on the back.

As Sirius said goodbye to James, he looked contemplative, almost understanding. James could only hope that Sirius could understand that who Lily sided with was her choice alone. They met eyes briefly, and they seemed to share a silent, invisible pact. Sirius smiled weakly and nodded before bear-hugging James like they used to when they were seventeen. James whispered to him, his heart pounding, "Thanks, mate."

"Take care of her. She's special," Sirius replied back. When they realized all eyes were on them, their arms dropped to their sides. Sirius tossed his head to shake his hair out of his eyes and James cleared his throat, voicing softly. "I know."

James and Lily left slowly, waving once more to everyone and calling out to Harry before they were gone.

As the evening went on, visitors slowly started to fade, weeding off one by one into the night. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley had retired and shooed their children off to bed, however, leaving Harry to do as he wished on his birthday. So, he sat on the couch in the living room, running over his birthday and the events it held, as well as his past month here with the Weasleys. Life was hectic, that much he knew, but the one day of bliss had been enough to calm the boil of events that had recently occurred.

He had received many gifts, and according to Fred, George, and Ron, his father had given him the fastest broom yet. But Harry didn't care, at least not at the moment. The one person he wanted a present from, the one person who meant the most to him, hadn't even given him anything. He felt horrible for thinking it, he felt cocky and self-centered, but he couldn't help but feeling worthless that Ginny hadn't done anything for him or given him anything for his birthday. Other than a cheerful "happy birthday" that morning.

Harry's eyebrows pulled together in a frown. He pushed against the couch and rose fiercely. Being the only one left awake, he gave his wand a wave, distinguishing the lights and retreating up the stairs. The hallway upstairs was long and seemed to never end. It was magically enchanted, expanding and expanding as Harry went, more doors appearing on the walls.

He passed his designated bedroom and continued on as the hall expanded, until he came to the blue door. He knocked once before pushing the door open. He didn't bother to wait for a response. He found Ginny laying on her bed, tossing her wand up and down, rose petals shooting out the end at every toss. She was waiting, bored, and hopelessly waiting. She jumped up from her position, a burst of roses spurting out at her abrupt toss of the wand, and she groaned. "Finally!"

"Finally what?" Harry questioned as he looked about the room. He had never been inside Ginny's room, new or old. The walls were a light shade of purple and the furniture inside was a clashed mess of color and items. However, Harry couldn't seem to focus much on anything that wasn't Ginny's bed or her astounding figure. She was wearing cloth shorts and a loose green tank top. Her hair was released from its pony tail, and it tumbled about her shoulders in a lively display of curls. Her legs were folded under her body, and she leaned forward with a tease. "You finally came to see me. I was wondering if I was gonna have to bring you in here myself."

"You've been waiting for me?"

"Of course I have," Ginny said in a husky voice as she crawled forward on her bed. Harry's face flushed and he tore his eyes away from the large gape made between the skin of her chest and her tank top, exposing much of her skin. Harry swallowed. Ginny could be many things. She was a friend, a comforter, someone Harry found himself very attracted to, and now she was a temptress. Harry said nervously. "Ginny, I can see...a lot."

"I don't mind," she said in an even more husky voice. As she reached the edge of her bed, in one quick, fluid, and enticing movement, she put her foot on the floor and reached out a hand. She pulled on the collar of Harry's shirt the moment she had her hold, and she brought her other foot to the floor. Her hands ran up an down his shirt, toying with his collar and the skin on his neck and the hair resting upon it. Harry shivered, and Ginny giggled at her success. Harry swallowed and stuttered as Ginny pressed herself against him. "W-Why have you been waiting for me?"

"You honestly didn't think I would let you go to bed without your birthday present, do you?" Ginny grinned.

A spark ignited within Harry's chest, and that spark grew into a lustful fire. He placed his hands upon her hips and asked again, a part of him suspiciously wondering was was concocting in Ginny's mind. "I guess I did. I thought I wasn't going to get anything from you. I didn't want anything else, just something from you."

"I'm good at teasing," Ginny smiled. She stroked Harry's cheek, and his eyes closed once more. Her hips stopped swaying again and she brought herself on tip toe. She raised herself to him and let her lips rest in front of Harry's. She breathed into his mouth. "I'm tired of waiting."

Then she kissed him. Brushing gently at first, Ginny exhaled heavily the moment Harry's warm, smooth lips were upon her own. She was kissing him slowly, yearning for every last bit of his touch. For many moments, he froze on the spot, but then his hands crept up her back, working wonders on her skin as they slipped up the back of her tank top. He inhaled sharply and met Ginny's rhythmic lips with his strong ones. He pressed them hard against hers, his heart pounding loudly within his chest. That fire spread through out every inch of his skin; he suddenly wanted to feel her everywhere.

With a loving passion, Harry's lips urged her's open. He drank in her sweet taste, savoring the feel of her mouth upon his; his hands ran to the front of her stomach. He traced the smooth plane of her skin and crept up. When his hands cupped around her warm skin, Ginny gasped. Whether it be in horror, surprise, or pleasure, Harry didn't know, but he yanked his hands out from beneath her shirt.

He cursed himself for ruining such a beautiful moment, but Ginny didn't seem to mind. She held him tighter as Harry's hands returned to her waist, squeezing her hips, massaging his passion into her side. Their lips broke briefly, and Ginny murmured, breathless, "Oh, God. Harry..."

"I know," Harry sighed back before he pushed his lips upon her's once more. His hands found her cheeks and cupped them, holding her head like a precious gem.

He knew why she spoke so breathlessly, so astounded. Harry was right, and she knew it. The wait had only made it more exhilarating.

Knowing that Harry had not upset her, he continued further. With that strong fire ablaze once more, he pushed her back until she fell upon the bed now littered with thorn-less roses. As Harry progressed, his body following her movements, her kisses became more urgent and demanding.

Harry wanted this moment to be as perfect as he could. Because he had never cared for any other girl so much, because he had never wanted to embed this mark into someone's mind for the rest of their lives, because he had never wanted to make a girl feel so special and loved, he felt unskilled. He felt foolish and clumsy as he pushed her down and let his body rest on top of her's. But Ginny's new fiery passion reassured Harry that his every move was perfect. He was overwhelmed with the magnificence of their kiss, the feel of her, knowing he was making the small, quick gasps for air erupt from her throat.

His hands were everywhere, that fire surging beyond imagination. His hands were on her hips, his fingers toying with the fringe of her tank top and slipping under. When their lips broke apart briefly, Ginny murmured. "It's okay, Harry. Don't be nervous."

With her reassurance, his hands eagerly went up her thin, flimsy tank top. The feel of her small, round breasts aroused him even further. His lips trembled between Ginny's as he massaged them into his palm, fitting perfectly. When Harry moved down to her neck, Ginny pulled him closer, holding his head against her neck, and she whispered out, "Oh, Harry, you were so right. It feels so good, so much better than anyone has ever kissed me."

"I know," Harry said in a husky voice against her neck. He felt his voice crack with his anxiety as his body came to a rest on top of her, his hand resting against her skin. "I've kissed girls before, but oh, God. It's never been like this. Not once -- ever. Do you think it...means something?"

Ginny's body paused, and her face contorted into an odd mix of confusion and happiness. Her lips pushed together and twisted as she looked at the ceiling. Harry rolled off of her and let his hand slide down to her stomach, still resting on her skin. He traced circles into the smooth plane. Harry smiled happily as he saw goosebumps rise on her arms. She said in a calm, thoughtful voice, "I want to think it does. I don't want to scare you, I've never really believed in the whole soul-mate thing, but shouldn't it be more amazing with the one who you feel...more strongly about?"

"I know what you mean," Harry whispered back as he pulled her into his arms.

Ginny giggled, "Waiting was horrible, but this...Wow, this was amazing. Kissing you."

Harry laughed chuckled back, pulling her beneath his body once more. He pushed open her legs so he could better fit on top of her, and she accepted this motion willingly. Harry cupped her neck in his hands, trailing his breath along her skin, allowing those goosebumps to rise higher. He said in an enticing voice as he kissed her ear seductively, "And you're so damn good at it."





















Chapter 16: The Bringer of Fate
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Author's Note:
Thanks to Alicia for the beta! She's amazing!
Oh my goodness! SO SO sorry for the long wait!
Thanks for being patient, everyone! :D
Sequel is in the planning.
Chapter 17: 50% complete

Enjoy!


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Chapter Graphic by Jeanie at The Dark Arts

*****


Harry felt rather guilty for allowing Dumbledore to place such trust upon him. So, when Harry told Ron, Hermione, and Ginny of the horcruxes a week later, Harry felt ashamed and lowly. He felt as if he had sunk into a pool of mud, grabbing him, snatching him and dragging him to the very depths of no return. However, Harry did not find understanding in keeping the horcrux secret to himself. Harry knew, in the end, it would benefit himself and everyone to know what was really going on in Voldemort's mind.

When Harry relayed the news to them, they were just as shocked and disgusted as he had been. As the week progressed further, the four of them were able to meet and discuss this secret alone. Hermione had even managed to snag a few books Sirius' small library at Grimmauld Place. With such a small number of books accessible to them, they found no help in the books from Grimmauld Places. That was why, when Fred and George went off to Weasley Wizard Wheezes for work one day, Ron, and Hermione tagged along for a simple hour. In that hour, Ron had bought new, amusing joke products, and they had managed to slip out of Weasley Wizard Wheezes. Down Diagon Alley they went, and they slipped into Nocturn Alley.

While the one man working was lazily eating a messy sandwich behind the register, Ron and Hermione were able to slip inside and grab the book they were looking for. Hermione shrank the book, slipped it into her bag, and they were out of the store in a second, unnoticed.

After such events, Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny now found themselves whispering in intense voices in Ron's bedroom. After an intense talk, Harry found all three of them angry at him in a moment.

"What?" Harry questioned. He threw his hands up and said in an exasperated whisper. "It's a legitimate option, and I think it's what Dumbledore meant."

"Harry," Ginny hissed. She was sitting closest to him. Harry and Ginny sat next to each other on Ron's bed while Hermione was sprawled about with the book, Secrets of the Darkest Art, in front of her. Ron sat next to her, listening intensely to his sister's heated voice. "Dumbledore did not mean what you are thinking. He would never ask you to do such a thing."

"And why not? You weren't there. You don't know how greatly he stressed that I mustn't fail. What if he had this hidden meaning to it? What if I do fail, Ginny? Then the whole world will be ruined forever. If I do this, then at least I can get a second chance." Harry emphasized.

Hermione paused, watching the two, and then she asked weakly. "Harry, what is it about our world that makes you want to save us so much?"

"Your world is a part of my life too now," Harry answered after long thought. "I don't know what it is, but it's my duty to help, and I must in any way I can."

"Maybe you're right, Harry," Hermione began, "but I think Ginny's right. Dumbledore didn't mean for you to consider this. Besides, we don't even know if you can handle this sort of magic. This is dark magic, Harry. Really dark."

"I've got that, Hermione," Harry sighed. "Look. Maybe Dumbledore didn't mean what I'm interpreting, but he didn't say no to it either. All right; I want to help what I've been pulled into. It's my responsibility and no one else's, I have to make sure I get the job done."

"There's no need to be so thick, mate," Ron murmured before the retorts could begin once more. Harry pursed his lips and thought on his comment before Hermione spoke again. "I know it's a horrible thing to do and the most inhumane thing possible, but you have to agree. It's the only way."

"But we've only read how to do this! What if you attempt it and it goes horribly wrong?" Hermione questioned in a fast voice, her breathing rattled and in sharp gasps. "Besides, you know what has to be done in order to be able to do this! How could you decide what person to kill?"

"Life is all about chance, isn't it? Whoever happened to be there at the time, I suppose."

It was Ginny's turn. "Harry, you can't murder someone."

"Everyone just wait a second!" Harry said sharply. "Hear me out, all right? I know it's a horrible decision, but we have to look at the pros first and then the cons. If I do this, it will give me a second chance if need be, I will be immortal, it could help me save this world. Yes; in the process, I would have to kill someone and do something wretched to myself, but don't think about me for one moment, and think about the rest of the world instead. It's wrong, we all know it, but sometimes the right decision isn't always the most logical or right way to do something!"

"He's kind of right..." Ron murmured after many moments of thoughtful silence.

Ginny was panting in frustration next to Harry, and Hermione was fuming. Her head was nearly exploding with her confusion and perplexity with Harry. Hermione snapped, "Ron! You dare say such a thing?"

"But he's right, Hermione," Ron repeated weakly, waving a hand around as if it would assuage her.

Harry sighed, his last attempt to convince the girls, "It's the only idea I've got. Everyone else may disapprove, but I think it's what must be done, and I'm willing to do it. It will hurt, it's inhumane, it's wrong, but I can save everyone by doing it. Sacrifices have to be made; sometimes one person has to die to save thousands."

Hermione sighed, her shoulders relaxing, as she nodded. Ginny, the only one still in refusal, rose to her feet and stormed to the door. She was muttering furiously under her breath. Harry rose form the bed and began to chase after her. He said quickly as she paused at the door, "Put my well-being aside for five minutes and consider yourself, your family, the entire wizarding world, Ginny!"

"I won't let you do this!" Ginny roared in ferocity. She rounded on him, and Harry was astounded by her fascinating, angry features. Her beautiful eyebrows were curved down and moved with the changes of pitch in her weakened voice. "You have to be in once piece all the time! I won't let you rip your soul apart for no damn good reason."

Harry, uneasy, turned towards Ron and Hermione. Ron knew why Ginny was reacting in such away - he knew she had feelings for his friend, but Hermione was still figuring things out. Harry excused themselves quickly, embarrassed and the color rising to his cheeks. He took hold of Ginny's hand and raced her towards his room. He tossed her inside and slammed the door shut. In an instant, Harry had his hands on her cheeks and he was shoving her against the door, his lips upon her with uncontrollable passion.

"Stop it," Ginny panted with fury. She shoved at his chest until her lips broke free of his strong grasp, and he stumbled back. Ginny shook her head, wiping at her lips, and spoke with an aggravated tone. "It doesn't work like that! You can't just kiss me and expect everything to go away! It doesn't work like that."

Harry nodded, his silent agreement; making Ginny agree by kissing her was never quite his full intention, but he let her have her way for the moment. He sighed heavily, his breath still rattled with the passionate way in which he had kissed her. He approached her with soft ease this time, one of his hands stretching out to wrap around her throat. Ginny turned her head away from him, only to have him stroke her neck sweetly. Harry whispered, his body angled against hers, creating a cage all around her. His breath made her quake beneath him. "Please, Ginny. Understand what I feel like I must do. I have no other option."

"You won't fail," Ginny pressed. She raised her eyes to him, and Harry was surprised to see the white's of her eyes red, bloodshot with her worry. She sniffed. "You won't fail; therefore there will be no point to it!"

"How do you know, Ginny? Besides, if I fail without doing this, I will be gone forever. If I do this and I do fail, then I can come back. Or I will still be here. I don't know what would happen, but I would still be alive. Would you rather me not take the risk and die...?"




"We've gone over this a thousand times," Harry chided. He rolled his eyes in an exasperated manner, completely fed up with Hermione's nonstop worrying.

"I know what to do," he said again. "I get there, get the job done, and come back here immediately. I must be quick, and I mustn't be seen."

"You're really going through with this, aren't you?" Hermione didn't like the idea one bit, and she made her opinion quite clear to the other three who still believed otherwise.

Harry sighed. She had forced him to give his plan two days more of thought. After thinking it over for another meaningless 48 hours, Harry's thoughts hadn't staggered one bit.Despite all the risks and the natural violation to all things right, Harry was still dead-set on what he believed was his only option.

He wrinkled his nose. "Yes, Hermione. All right? I am."

"I think this is a bad idea, but it's your choice, I guess, and I'm not going to stop you." She sank into the chair of Ron's room. She made a light plop, and Ron, who had been lightly snoring on his bed since their early gathering, gave a grunt, jerking into consciousness once more. Hermione fussed at his languid ambiance. "Ronald! Pay attention; don't you care at all that your friend is ripping his soul apart in a matter of minutes?"

"Don't throw a fit, 'Mione," Ron grunted while pulling himself into a sitting position. "It's not like he's dying. He'll still have his soul with him; he'll just be in two pieces."

"That may be," Hermione's bushy brows pulled together into a displeased scowl, "but honestly, Ron. How can you be so nonchalant about it? Harry's going to kill a man."

"Hermione, calm down," Harry eased.

Hermione sighed; her shoulders fell in her defeat. She decided to move on, finally accepting what had to be done. "Harry, what object will you place your other half in?"

"Something special," Harry replied quickly. He knew exactly what he would be placing part of his soul in, but he didn't want to expose that yet. Or rather he didn't want to expose what would be done with that part of him. He wanted to discuss that with Ginny first.

"Well, all right then. You will bring it after you're finished?" Hermione asked again.

Harry twitched anxiously. It was early; they had awoken at the early hours of morning to finalize their last decisions and to get the job done while it was still night where Harry would apparate to. New York City in the United States was a city full of people and a high crime rate; it was also full of bad neighborhoods and dark alleys, a place where someone could easily go missing or turn up dead. They needed to get moving, so Harry could be in and out of the manor before Molly and Arthur awoke or realized something was going on.

Harry was done with listening to Hermione's anxious talking. "Yes, Hermione. I know what to do."

Ron asked, finally speaking up and voicing his curiosity. "We're coming with you, right?"

Hermione looked from Ron to Harry, awaiting the answer to the only question to which she did not know the answer. Next to Harry, Ginny glimpsed nervously at him. Harry looked at her from the corner of his eye before he focused back on Ron and Hermione. He spoke quickly, thinking fast yet truthfully. "I don't think so. I think the more people, the more risk we make. It's best if I go alone."

Hermione pursed her lips, yet nodded in agreement. Harry's answer was, after all, quite logical. Ron sighed in disappointment. Harry chuckled lightly. "Sorry, mate. I know you wanted to come, but you know it's best."

"Yeah," Ron agreed.

Hermione spoke quickly. "Everything's ready and settled then. Harry, you need to go."

"I know," Harry rose quickly. "I'll be back as soon as I can. If I'm not back in half an hour, well..." His voice trailed off, but he pushed the matter aside. He would always hope for the best. "Anyways, I am going to grab my cloak from my room, and then I will go."

"I'll help you," Ginny said in a rushed voice all too quickly. Hermione's thick eye brows pulled together at the peculiar tone in Ginny's voice and the actions she made quickly. However, Harry and Ginny were gone from the room in an instant. With her queries unanswered, she turned to Ron and asked for an explanation. Ron grunted and reluctantly told her of the events he witnessed in his back yard between Harry and his sister a week and a half ago and the conversation he had with Harry after. Hermione, pleased, giggled and squealed in delight.

In the hall, Harry was rushing quickly towards his room. He had a hold of Ginny's hand, their fingers interlocked passionately, and he squeezed all his emotions into her small hand. She nearly winced when Harry towed her quickly into the depths of his room and shut the door quickly. Harry paused, Ginny standing curiously, panting, in the middle of his room, and he watched her form, soaking in every inch of her exterior. Harry, dazed and hesitant, murmured, "You're beautiful."

"Harry," Ginny began to question.

He took a quick step forward and grasped her throat in his lose embrace and engulfed her into his arms. His lips were upon her own once more, and he was pushing her onto his bed. She laid back against it willingly and allowed him to climb on top of her, his lips beginning to kiss her lasciviously. His hands ran through her combed waves, untamed and lively. Her hair was generally shoulder lenght, but she had been lacking a hair cut, and her smooth, ginger hair was now reaching the middle of her back. Harry adored it, loving how much he could wrap into his grasp.

He kissed her sweetly, tenderly, and then pulled away. He hesitated, breathing lightly on top of her, and watching her with amazed intensity. The window next to his bed was allowing the soft light of the rising sun to spill into the room. It cast a warm, gold glow to her skin and hair. It may have been Harry's imagination, but she herself seemed to sparkle with her perfection. Her chocolate eyes glistened with fascination she held for Harry's kisses.

She cupped his neck and pulled his lips to hers once more. She kissed him for one long, ever lasting minute before she allowed him to pull away and sit up. She asked nervously, "I don't like the idea of you going completely by yourself. You'll let me come with you, yes?"

"Yes, Ginny," Harry said softly. He rose and went to his dresser. Knowing what he was searching for, he opened the bottom cabinet in a hasty manner and whipped out his cloak, tying it about his neck and pulling up the cape. Ginny giggled from his bed; she covered her mouth girlishly, a flirtatious smile hiding behind that hand. "You look so dark and...sexy."

Harry chuckled. "That's nice to hear, but don't you try to seduce me right now. Come on, sweetheart. We have to go."

Ginny pouted, but rose as commanded. She slipped out from the room and returned a moment later, sweeping her violet cloak over her shoulders. She tied the gold string about her neck and pulled up the hood. "I'm ready."

"Good. Take my hand," Harry commanded, reaching it out, exposing his palm to her. She latched on, her fingers tracing over his own and interlocking their hands. Ginny took an uneasy step towards him. A layer of worry and fright now washing over her at the sudden realization of what Harry was about to do.

He cooed softly, pulling her abruptly into his embrace and kissing her gently. "Don't worry. You're not doing anything wrong."

"I know I'm not; it's you who is. That's why I'm scared."

Harry chuckled softly, the rumble rising within his chest pressed against Ginny's. He kissed her again, his voice a soft, relaxing whisper. "Don't be." And then they were gone with the regular ear-screeching crack.

After the everlasting, suffocating sensation, cool air filled their lungs. The air was foreign, full of pollution and other odd materials. It felt different compared to the air around the Weasley manor, so crisp and clear. The alley was dark and gloomy, quiet in the dead of the night. Harry could hardly see Ginny's silhouette if it weren't for her lavender cape and the tips of her ginger hair exposed from beneath it.

Harry breathed in sharply, the reality of this mess dawning over him. He realized, here in a lowly subdivision in New York City, that he was not protected. He was not protected by the order and Dumbledore's charms and jinxes. If any Death Eaters or even Voldemort himself had been keeping an extremely close watch on him, they could find him in an instant. Harry shivered, even though the atmosphere was quite warm in the moist alley. He felt sweat begin to mat his hair together on his forehead. He stuttered uneasily. "I need to get this d-done."

"R-right," Ginny swallowed. She pressed her back against the damp wall, shuddering at the eerie feel to the wholes situation. She let Harry talk off towards the right, in the direction of which the small amount of light available at the dead of night was available. His shoes let claps echo on the asphalt. She decided she was best if she acted as an innocent bystander; she was doing nothing but observing.

Harry, however, was set to be in and out of New York as quickly as possible. He walked until he reached the corner of the alley way, his body hid in the shadows. The main street was damply lit by street lights, and the occasional light from apartment buildings flooded into the street, illuminating it further. It was empty of all people, the only sound of the passing cars one block over.

Harry waited.

He waited until someone turned either corner, coming down this lonely street. It happened faster than he had anticipated, and when the woman turned the corner, Harry's heart sank, feeling like the murderer he was about to become, but he had to keep his plan. At the first person he saw, he was to place the Imperius Curse upon them. No exceptions. He couldn't make exceptions or bend the rules, otherwise Harry could be found out or let his heart, set on always doing the right thing, over come him in this matter.

He knew his heart was against him.

However, as if Harry felt no pain for the blond haired woman walking across the street, head held low, he pulled out his wand and whispered, "Imperio."

The woman in the red knee-length sweater paused abruptly. Her head lifted and she immediately made a 90 degree turn, walking straight for Harry in the alley. As she came closer, Harry noticed the glazed over look in her blue eyes. Her young, skin-kissed face was empty of all emotion, as if she weren't even there.

Harry felt his heart rise in his throat, and he swallowed as the woman came to a stop in front of him, staring at him blankly. He closed his eyes against her pretty face, shutting out all thoughts of the life she might have. Her white heeled shoes remained firmly on the ground as Harry forced himself to look her over. Truthfully, she was beautiful. She was young, no older than twenty-five years of age, and she was wearing a nice, white dress, the red sweater over laying it, and pearls sat gently on her neck.

Harry groaned, an aching feeling rising in his chest, and he gave his wand a sharp jerk. The woman's shoulders relaxed, falling easily, and she blinked quickly. At the sight of the hooded man in front of her, she let out a horrified squeal, beginning to bolt in the direction of which she had come. She whispered, "How did I get here!"

Harry jumped forward, grabbing her arms and forcing her against the damp wall. She hit the wall with a harder thud than Harry had meant to, and he winced at the pain he may have caused her. Harry whispered harshly as the woman began to scream. He clamped a hand over her mouth to silence her. "Please! Be quiet. I didn't mean to scare you; I mean you no harm."

He heard footsteps, quick and determined on the asphalt, and Ginny's shadow came into view. She was terrified, asking furiously. "What are you doing?! This is not what was supposed to happen!"

"Shush, Ginny!" Harry hissed. He turned towards the woman who was now attempting to bite Harry's hand. He yelped when she successfully sank her teeth into and raised her knee into his groin. Harry let out a sharp yelp, quickly covering between his legs, but jumped after the girl now beginning to run away. Harry hissed after her as he grabbed her once more; she could not get far in those tall heels, and this time Harry was satisfied when he heard the slam of her back against the stone. She whined, furiously, "Please! Take my wallet, take it all! I don't care!"

Harry huffed. "If I can't have children, I'm gonna blame you; thanks."

Ginny let out a growl.

"What do you want!" The woman pleaded.

Harry's eyes met her terrified blue ones. They were shining with her horror struck ones, truly worried of what Harry might do to her. Harry sighed, "I'm not going to hurt you. W-What's your name?"

"Why should I tell you!" Her accent was different, hard to understand. After a long minute of Harry's emerald eyes boring into her frightened blue ones, she stopped struggling. She breathed heavily and wailed into a nonexistent voice. "Annaleise!"

"Annaleise," Harry sighed gently. He touched her shoulder sweetly. She flinched, but when Harry squeezed her shoulder affectionately, she sniffed and sighed. Her eyes pried open to gaze at the man before her once more. Harry gave her a warm smile and asked again, his voice soothing and persuading. "Where you you coming from when you walked down the street?"

"D-dinner...W-with my fiance," she cried out. Harry only then spotted the diamond on her left hand as she chewed at her nails. Harry took that hand and squeezed it gently, tearing it away from her destructive mouth. Harry smiled again, asking sweetly. "Ahh, and how was that? When is the big day? Been engaged long?"

"W-We haven't set a date yet. We've been engaged for three months. I was just stopping by my office at Ralph Lauren before going to his apartment."

"I see," Harry said again. He touched her hair lightly, doing his best to work the fright out of her. After many sad attempts, they seemed to be working. Annaleise was no longer panicking, now only suffering from rattled breathing. "Are you excited to be married? Do you want a big family and everything? Children?"

She trembled and nodded. "I-I'm thrilled. W-We're having a big wedding at the plaza, but we want to move to Montana s-soon. W-Where we can raise children..."

Harry smiled. "Look, Annaleise, my running into you was a bad happen of chance, and I'm sorry. I didn't mean to scare you or hurt you. If you promise to go without a word of this to anyone ever, I will be gone without hurting a hair on your head."

"Y-Yes," Annaleise panicked again. She now struggled to break free of Harry once more. She wanted to be gone from him, into safety. Harry gripped her harshly and she whimpered, "Please! Let me go."

"Do you promise?" Harry hissed.

"Yes!" she squealed in desperation, fighting Harry once more. "Yes, I swear! Just please let me go see Evan!"

"Fine," Harry said at last. He let go of her shoulders, and she was running down the alley way with panicked sobs. After a long moment, Ginny's voice finally broke the uneasy tension, only making the situation worse. "And just what the fuck was that about?!"

"I couldn't do it," Harry sighed, defeated. "I mean, not do it in general. I still have faith in myself, I have to do this; I just couldn't do it to her. She was so young, she was engaged, she wants children. She has a good life ahead of her, and I didn't want to take it away from her. When I saw the ring, all I could think about was you and how I would feel if you never came home to me."

"Oh," Ginny whispered. She glided to him, seeming to fly through the steps towards him, and she was in his arms. "That's sweet of you, but you can't back out of this. Not now."

"I know," he admitted. "That's why I will wait for the right person."

"And how are you to decide who dies?"

















Chapter 17: Safe Keeping
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*****


When the next person emerged down the alley way, a lowly looking man who stunk of mildew and trash, Harry did not hesitate. Harry reassured himself that it wasn't just the man's appearance, even though he was shuffling through a large coach purse, an item that clearly did not fit his ambiance. Harry placed the Imperius curse on him, and this time, did not remove it. The man, with a scruffy beard and a menacing stare, walked over simultaneously and Harry had him dead in an instant.

When the words left his mouth and the man flew back against the wall, Harry winced and did his best not to feel guilty for his actions. However, it was inevitable. Ginny rushed forward and grabbed one of the man's arms, clothed by a jacket that could hardly be considered a jacket. They hauled his body into the nearest dumpster and covered it with another trash bag. Harry then pointed to the brown purse. "Should we return it?"

"That's risky," Ginny said quickly. Out of worry, she looked over both her shoulders to make sure the coast was clear. She rubbed her arms, goosebumps erupting all down them. She shook her head. "No. We could risk exposing ourselves. Leave it with the body. Let's get out of here; please. This place is giving me the creeps."

"Fine," Harry said quickly. Using his cloak, he picked up the purse and tossed it into the garbage bin, along with the body and the stench. He offered Ginny his arm. "Come on. We're leaving."

Ginny eagerly grabbed hold, but before Harry could pull them away from the site, she touched his cheek and gently urged. "Don't stress yourself, Harry. You did good. Don't feel bad; you're doing this for a good cause."

"I know," he swallowed, and then he kissed her with all the passion he could bring forth. When their lips broke away, wet, parted, and longing for more, Ginny let out a soft giggle. She linked her arms around Harry's neck and titled her head to him. She let her breath trail across his neck. "I would totally tell you to screw getting back right now because we still have fifteen more minutes before Ron and Hermione would start to worry. But I'm a little grossed out right now."

Harry laughed, a low and satisfied rumble. "I know." He took her hand and let his thumb run over the smooth skin on the back of it. He turned her hand over in his, examining it carefully. He spoke slowly, thoughtfully. "I have something I want to show you before we go back."

"What is it?" Ginny asked, mildly perplexed.

Harry let her hand drop to her side as he reached into his pocket. Ginny caught sight of a glint in his hand as he withdrew in from his pocket. With the light of the moon, Ginny could see a fine gold chain in his hand. It twinkled with light every time Harry's hand moved a centimeter. He held it up. Hanging from the chain was a gold locket surrounded by diamonds. Ginny blinked, wondering if this locket was for her.

Harry answered her question sooner than she anticipated.

"It's a locket. It opens. I want you to have it. To wear it," Harry said gently. He took Ginny's hand once more and spread her fingers with ease. He dropped the locket into her palm. It made a nice clink, and Ginny stared at it blankly. Intimately, Harry closed her fingers over locket and brought them to his lips. He kissed them softly. "Will you wear it?"

"I-I," Ginny stuttered. She was bedazzled, but most of all she was confused. "Of course, Harry. It's beautiful; thank you. But what's the catch?"

Harry looked down to his feet, holding back his awkward grin. He let a low chuckle escape. "I knew you would suspect that...This locket is where I want to put my soul. I would like for you to keep it safe."

"O-Oh," Ginny gasped this time. She unfolded her hand and gazed at the beautiful piece of gold in awe. She blinked, wondering what it would feel like to wear a part of someone's soul around their neck. However deranged or sweet this thought sounded, she nodded. "I will wear it."

"And keep it safe?"

"With all my heart," she agreed thoughtfully.

Cupping her face in his hands, Harry smiled and kissed her gently. "Thank you." And then they were gone from New York City and back in the warm, cozy environment of Weasley Manor. When Harry and Ginny erupted into the manor with that loud crack, entwined about each other, Ron's cheeks turned a brilliant shade of red and Hermione, out of the loop, blinked curiously. She shook her head, shoving aside her assumptions of the two, and went straight down to business. She lept to her feet. "Did everything go all right? Did you do it?"

"Yes, I did," Harry said.

Hermione's question was just as fast to come forth. "And the body. Did you dispose of it?"

"Yes."

"Did anyone see you?"

"No, Hermione," Harry pressed. "Quickly. Let's get this done. We only have a half hour before my soul becomes one again."

"Right," Hermione swallowed. She left the couples side and threw herself down on the ground before an old, battered book. Ron knelt next to her, looking up uneasily at Harry. Harry, unwilling, slid to the ground opposite of Hermione. Hermione's eyes lifted towards his frightened ones. "Are you ready, Harry?"

Harry rocked back, hitting the floor softly. Ginny fluttered down to the ground next to him and placed a hand on his back, patting reassuringly. Harry urged, "Yes, Hermione. Just
get it over with."

"All right. Where's the object?" Hermione asked. Ginny gingerly lay the golden locket out before them, opening the brace slowly to expose the inside of the locket. Ginny only then caught the engraving inside. Always with you. Ron and Hermione absently forced out this small note of affection from Harry. Hermione brushed off her smile and begin to speak, breathing in heavily. "Okay, okay. You have to say it, Harry." Then she read him the chant.

Hermione pushed the book to him, and Harry did his best to recite the words Hermione had just proclaimed. Harry drew in a breath before he began. "Take thy res of contemno thy res of sin, quod planto thee an immortalis animus." Harry finished the first sentence and his body was already thrashing in unstoppable contractions. He whimpered on the floor as Ginny grasped him quickly. Herminoe snatched the book and said sharply as Harry's voice let gurgling noises erupted, his body continuing to act as if it were epileptic. "Harry, you have to read! You have to repeat after me!" Rip mihi, tear mihi, effrego mihi."

"Rip mihi," Harry choked out. His body gave another harsh jerk and he let out a scream. Ron quickly silenced the room, and Harry continued to scream. Both girls were crying at the sight of him now, and Ron looked utterly horrified. Harry was choking, his body moving in volient thrashes with no say in it. Hermione held her composure as Ginny stroked his cheek. "Harry, keep saying it! Almost there! Tear mihi, effrego mihi!"

"Tear mihi...eff-effrego mihi!" He gulped, his eyes round and wide, unblinking, as his body continued to toss and turn on the wooden floor. Ginny, unable to control him, sobbed for help. Ron came to her rescue and pinned him down as Hermione recited the last phrases. "Meh mos non sentio, meh mos non pereo. Meh mos non intereo. Come on, Harry!"

With all their might, the two Weasleys held down the thrashing, screaming Potter. No matter the lack of control Harry had over his body, or the pain he was feeling, he could still hear, think, and speak properly. Harry knew that. It was as if being under the Cruciatus Curse, he thought. He did his best to break it. He thought back to his training, how Moody had made him fight back. Harry screamed, once in pain and then once in determination. "Meh mos non sentio, meh mos non p-p-pereo! I can't do it! I can't do it, Hermione! Make it STOP!"

"Hermione!!" Ginny cried out, collapsing on top of his chest and whimpering greatly. Hermione spluttered out, in panic that Harry and Ginny were both turning to her. "What?! There is nothing I can do. There is no turning back. He must complete it!"

"I CAN'T!" He wailed. With no control and perhaps not even the slightest clue that he was doing it, tears streaked down his face. "It h-hurts so muchhhhh!"

"Say it, Harry!" Hermione demanded. "Meh mos non in inereo!"

"I don't want to do it!"

"There's no reversing it, Harry!"

"Meh...M-M-Meh...m-mos..non in...iner...inereo!" Harry cried. At the end of the recital, Harry's body calmed. The thrashes stopped, but it still shook in fast qualms every now and then. He shivered and blinked, his eyes going in and out of focus. Ron asked, beginning to release his hold on Harry's legs. "Is that it? Nothing happened!"

Just then Harry went still. His eyes rolled up into the back of his head, and his breath faded. He made no sound, he made no move. His chest fell and didn't rise again, one long breath escaping through his lips. Shocked, Ron and Hermione stared at one another. Ginny's lips quivered, and she violently shook Harry's limp form, but to no avail. She cried out. "Harry! Harry, no!"

Ginny pressed her cheek to his still warm and now unmoving chest. Panic pulsed through her veins, and she pleaded again.

Then, despite her brother's and best friend's confused gazes, she pressed her lips to his. No air escaped his parted lips. They didn't move. Ginny ignored Ron and Hermione's earnest gasps and continued to kiss his limp lips. Her tears ran down her cheeks and meshed with their lips. Then, beneath her mouth, she felt a cold wisp of air erupting from his.

Hermione shook her shoulders quickly, urging for Ginny to pull away. With a judgmental sob to Hermione, she did so, but a whimsical feeling replaced her longing to feel Harry beneath her. Coming from underneath his weakly separated lips, a faint, iridescent glow was pushing forth.

Ginny covered her mouth in awe as the inside of Harry's mouth grew brighter. The white-blue glow continued to grow brighter and brighter. Finally the source of the glow came forth from his parted lips. It was a long, thick, fanciful glow. As it left its host, it floated in the air, spinning about a majestically and seeking its purchase.

Hermione murmured as she stared at the piece of soul, the wisp of life. "Ginny, grab the locket."

She did so quickly and pried the golden heart open. Holding it obediently over Harry's body, Ginny let the soul seek out its future host. The room was silent, all eyes wide open as the soul weaved around the gold chain, searching for a place to settle. Her breath quivered as it stretched, one end wrapping around the chain. The other found her fingers, and the soul seemed to like the surface it was now weaving its self around.

It was cold at the first touch, but as the glowing thread latched onto more skin, it grew comfortably warm. it twisted around her fingers, her hand and palm, her wrist.

She could feel it wrap tightly about her. She could feel its warmth and tender love. Her eyes fluttered as she suddenly wished to gather the piece of Harry and hold it to her heart for the rest of time. It was like the soul knew her, cared for her, and was secretly expressing its love for her.

After it finished caressing her skin, the silver thread weaved through the chain once more and slipped into the heart of the locket. Snapping out of her fascination, she clipped it shut. Taking it into her grasp, the metal grew warm and a faint heartbeat began to beat beneath the gold.

Just then Harry's body began to stir. His eyes flew open and his heaving gulps of breath were the only sounds in the room. Tears filled his eyes, and he choked. "Oh, God. Oh, God, my chest...It hurts. Did it work?"

"Merlin, mate," Ron huffed, falling back against the wood of his bed. He ran one hand quickly through his hair. "Your heart just stopped beating, and all you care about is if you successfully ripped your soul apart or not."

Harry weakly sat up. With the help of Ginny, he was able to conserve the minimal amount of energy he had left. Harry smiled at Ron and murmured apologetically. "Sorry. I'm fine...I just hurt, and I feel weird. Empty almost."

"Well, that makes sense," Ginny admitted. She did her best to smile, but found herself failing miserably. She was doing her best to conceal the fact that she had cried her eyes out over him. She dabbed at them gently and went on talking. "You're missing half of yourself."

"But you have it, don't you?"

"Yes," Ginny answered. She slipped it over her head and allowed the locket to fall against her chest. She patted it gently. "It's right here."

Harry reached forward and took the locket into his hands. Ginny leaned forward so he could reach better, and he ran his fingers over it, staring at it in confusion. He blinked and sighed. "Wow. It's odd thinking that half of myself is in that little locket."

"Yes, it is," Hermione agreed. She sighed and fell back. "But it looks like this went successfully."

"Yeah, it does," Ron admitted. He rumpled his hair, a sign of relief, and Mrs. Weasley announced breakfast from below. Ron was on his feet in and instant and Hermione followed slowly.

Harry groaned, fairly aggravated. "Are you shitting me? It's still the bloody morning? Urgh, I'm so tired. I want to sleep!"

Hermione and Ginny helped pull him to his feet. Hermione chuckled. "Well, come on then, Harry. Let's eat breakfast and see what Molly has for us to do today, then you can take a nap."

Harry, almost completely out of it and fairly delusional, admitted with a jovial sigh. "That sounds splendid..."




When Dumbledore came by for a visit that afternoon, Harry and the Weasleys were in for a pleasant surprise. Molly offered him a cup of tea, and he obliged, but when the majority of the household realized Dumbledore did not have much urgent information to share, the children dispersed.

When Ginny was about to exit the room, he beckoned for her to return, and Harry, uneasy, backed slowly into the room. He tried to act nonchalant as he poured himself a glass of tea and sat at the chair farthest from Albus. His care for Ginny was still not widely known, Ron and Hermione the only ones knowing Harry and Ginny's secret affection for one another.

A little reluctantly, Ginny positioned herself opposite of Dumbledore, and Molly sat at the head of the table, also curious as to why Albus would need to speak to Ginny personally. Just then James, Lily, and Sirius strolled into the kitchen. With beaming and unknowing smiles they joined Harry's side of the table. Dumbledore, however, focused his attention on Ginny once more and began to speak. "Ginny, I come to talk to you, knowing that you are the only in your family who is returning to Hogwarts this year."

Ginny inclined her head in a knowing manner. Her eyes pressed shut for the smallest amount of time, and opened again to gaze at Albus with an awaiting quirk in her lips. Albus went on. "You know well of the pursuit Lord Voldemort has on our friend Harry. Every home of the an Order member is being protected by the charm, but and I am sure he knows that Harry has been staying with a generous member. Your father is a well-known member who is dedicated to the Order of the Phoenix and it's purpose, which is why I fear, if you return to Hogwarts, Voldemort would then pursue you by means to reach Harry."

Ginny nodded as silence engulfed the room. Harry, his cup pressed lightly to his lips, froze on the spot. Out of the corner of his eye, he glanced down the table at Ginny's face. James, Sirius, and Lily all stopped their conversation and turned their heads. Molly let out an urgent squeak. She murmured. "I didn't even think of that, Albus."

Dumbledore nodded curtly and focused on Ginny once more. "I feared that may have been the case, Molly, as it only occurred to me the other day. But the students are due back at Hogwarts in a number of days, and the safety of Hogwarts, yourself, everyone else, and especially Harry will be put at risk by your returning. Do you understand, Ginny?"

"Yes, Professor," Ginny squeaked. "I understand completely. So you are saying that I can't return to Hogwarts?"

"I am not saying that you may not. I am suggesting it. The decision is up to you and your parents, but I do encourage for you not to return. If you wish to continue studies, perhaps we can arrange something so you may study and test from home," Dumbledore said kindly. "I hope you do not find this offensive or degrading, Miss Weasley. I am only trying to think of the most logical paths."

"Oh, no," Ginny said quickly. She shook her head furiously. "Not at all. I won't go back. You're right. Too many people would be put into danger."

"Good decision, dear," Dumbledore commented. Molly sighed a breath or relief and the tension in the other half of the kitchen seemed to let up slightly. "I know this decision may effect your careers in the future, so I will pull a few strings and say that you graduated early, however bizzare the circumstances for that generally are. However, I do suggest once more that you take your N.E.W.T.s for submission."

"Sure, Professor," Ginny nodded. "Thank you so much."

Just then, the restored family clock struck. It rang out until Molly finally murmured quizzically. "It was two o'clock a half hour ago. It shouldn't ring for another thirty minutes..."

James, suddenly well alert of the situation, rose from the table. He snagged his cloak and tossed it over his shoulders. "It's not striking the hour. That's the alarm to my house. Claire and Carter need help."

Lily and Sirius were equally as quick to their feet. Sirius said brusquely, "I will help you."

"Me too," Lily agreed.

James placed a gentle hand on Lily's shoulder and pushed her back into the chair. Her eyes suddenly flashed, but James gave her a stern look. "No, Lily. Dr. Breen said your attacks would come in series. You've only had one. We're waiting for you next at any moment. I'm not going to put in you a situation like this. Come on, Sirius." Then, without an opportunity to glance at Lily's reaction, James and Sirius had apparated from Weasley Manor right into Claire's upturned home.

They had Carter Hewlett by the hair, and when a man with shockingly silver-blond hair screamed out "Crucio," James and Sirius were both as quick. Their wands were already out and at the ready, James yelled "Expelliarmus!"

Sirius shouted with equal might, "Stupefy!"

Carter jerked on the ground in pain, screaming as loudly as he could, for a short period of time. Lucius Malfoy's wand went flying from his hand, and he went tumbling to the ground. The other Death Eaters, their masks covering the majority of their face, turned to the two new comers. James and Sirius, the perfect duo, had the other three Death Eaters unconscious in an instant while Malfoy was attempting to scramble back to his feet, grey eyes flaring with hatred.

James ran forward, anger pulsing through him more than ever, his own wand and Lucius's in his grasp. Instead of using his wand to knock the hated man into unconsciousness, James began using his knee. He rammed it against his nose, and blood poured down his face. Lucius Malfoy snarled and pulled at James' thighs until the two men were rolling along the carpet, staining it with blood, beating at one another with hisses and iniquitous snarls.

Sirius lept into the brawl, trying to pull the men off one another. When he had Lucius pinned between the floor and his legs, Sirius pulled out the wand and shouted, "Petrificus Tatolus!"

James wiped the blood from his mouth and chin. He looked furious, and he said in a vitriolic tone to Sirius. "I had him, Pads! I had him. You just had to take him down, didn't you?"

"I know you had him, James, but think logical. Yeah, I want to beat the shit out of Malfoy too, but you'll save yourself a lot of pain if you stun him first," Sirius said in a bitter tone. He turned to Carter and helped him to his feet. James asked as he spat the blood from his mouth onto the unmoving Lucius. "Suck on that, dick face. Carter, is Claire here? Is she all right?"

"No," Carter answered as he shrugged to his feet with the help of Sirius. He limped towards James. "Luckily enough she was with Maureen, trying to make a finalize a few things for the wedding."

"Oh, thank God," James sighed. He let go of his chest, a great burden released. Carter looked at James uneasily, but pursed his lips and murmured. "Thanks for saving my life."

Sirius nodded with a smile, and James resisted the urge to be rude to the man. James jerked his head abruptly and said with true sincerity. "You're welcome. It looks like here is no longer safe. Maybe Molly can house two more people."














Chapter 18: I Love You
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Author's Note:
The sequel will be titled: The Beating Locket
And I will release the summary in some future chapters.


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Chapter Graphic by Jeanie at The Dark Arts


*****


The following night, lying in her bed, Ginny turned the locket over and over in her palm. It beat gently in her grasp, the gold metal warming her skin. Her thoughts were roaming many places. Claire and Carter now staying within their house, the fact that a piece of Harry was living between her hands, the war, Harry again, what would happen to him. Her mind was filled with worries about Harry. It was Harry this, Harry that.

And yet shes didn't mind.

She gave a start when her door creaked open and the devil himself stuck his head in the open doorway. His silhouette was barely seen due to the darkness of the room. Ginny sat and turned on the light next to her bed. Harry, slipping inside and closing the door behind him, questioned gently. "Ginny? Is everything okay? I thought we were going to meet outside like we normally do. That was thirty minutes ago and you didn't come. I was afraid you had fallen asleep."

"Oh," Ginny paused briefly before sweeping a hand through her hair and looking around. "I'm sorry. I lost track of time. I - "

Harry's lips cut her off before she could squeeze out another word. With his lips on hers and without knowing how he had moved so fast, she grasped his neck. She clinged to him, pulled him closer than ever until he fell on top of her. An arm wrapped around her waist, drawing her hips to his as he pressed her to the bed. He fell between her legs and one of his large hands massaged her high against his hip. He whispered against her now red lips. "Shhh, it's all right, love. Are you okay? You're awfully...out of it today."

"Yes," Ginny kissed him once gently. "I'm sorry. I'm just thinking so hard about everything. About you, Carter and Claire, the war, the horcrux. And I just...I'm having so much difficultly with it all, worrying about you all the time, and I know I shouldn't. Because I'm not even the one who has to defeat him. That's you, and yet you're seeming stronger than ever."

Harry froze on top of her and rolled off. He gathered her form into his arms, and she willingly buried her head into the crook of his neck, inhaling quickly. Harry kissed her forehead before speaking. "I know. It's all right for you to worry about it all. I like that you worry about me, and I am scared, Gin. I'm scared about the war, of what might happen, but I'm doing my best not to think about it. I'm as prepared as I will ever be. Now, all I can do is wait. I'm not afraid. I'm not afraid of dying. I'm only afraid of losing you."

"You won't lose me. Ever," Ginny said quickly. She held the locket to her heart and felt the throb of it in her palm. Harry took the heart from her grasp and held it, feeling his own heartbeat. He shivered. "It's so odd to feel this. What was it like? When it happened?"
Ginny sighed and wrinkled her nose as she stared at the piece of gold. She squeezed it gently, the warmth of the gold overwhelmingly comforting. "It was such a whimsical feeling. Your soul...It was like a silver strand, and it sort of...floated about before it went into the locket. It wrapped around my hand, and it felt like it hugged me. Like it knew me. It made me feel protected."

"My soul knew you?" Harry asked, fairly intrigued as he sat up. He dragged Ginny into his arms as he did so.

"Well," Ginny smiled as she considered, "it was definitely more affectionate of me than Ron or Hermione. It sort of danced around my wrist and squeezed it, and it was so warm. It's hard to think that your soul didn't know me. It felt so much like it was at home."

Harry chuckled and grinned. "I like that."

"I do too," Ginny giggled. She didn't know how Harry did it, but he always did. He always succeeded at pushing her worries out of her mind, making them the least of her thoughts. She turned onto her stomach and toyed with the button of Harry's shirt. She undid one, then let her fingers tip toe to the next button. She released that one and continued down the line of his shirt.

Harry froze beneath her as Ginny slipped the shirt off his chest and crawled on top of him. Harry's voice, torn between confusion and complete lust, was shaking. "Gin-n-n, what are you doing?"

"Don't get your wand all up in a knot. I just wanted to feel you like this," she commented, settling on top of him. Harry sighed, and his body released its tension as she did so. Ginny wrinkled her nose. "Relax, Harry, I wasn't going to do anything. It took you ages to kiss me; I'm not expecting to move on any time soon, really."

"Good," Harry said quickly.

At his sudden statement, Ginny gasped, her mouth dropping. Harry was quick to recover his fumble. "I'm sorry! I didn't mean it like that. No, Gin, no. Not like that. I mean...I want to, Ginny. So deeply, really badly. But I just want to wait a long time for that. Don't get me wrong; you're so damn beautiful and you light this burning fire inside me, and God, I want it, Gin. But I want to wait."

"I want to wait too," Ginny agreed slowly. She kissed his nose and then laughed. "I might not want to wait as long as you, but I definitely want to wait."

Harry laughed and ran his hands through her hair. She sighed, turning her head as he did so, enjoying his fingers running through her curls. However, Harry's hands slowed and dropped from the red waves at her next question. "You're still a virgin, aren't you, Harry?"

When Ginny realized Harry had been frozen for many moments and he hadn't said anything, Ginny pried one of her eyes open to peak at his expression. His eyes were squeezed shut, as if trying to block out a bad memory, and he was biting his lip in regret. Ginny's other eye flew open and she was off of him in an instant. She ran her hands all over her front, as if wiping off Harry's touch in disgust.

Her mouth dropped in horror and she shouted. "No! Harry, no! Are you kidding me?!"

"Ginny, I didn't want to do it!" Harry cried quickly, bolting from the bed. He stretched his hands out to her, asking for forgiveness, as he approached her. Her body backed into a corner of her room, and she shot across the room when Harry became too close. His lip trembled at the sight of her. "I'm sorry, Ginny! I-I...I was drunk, I didn't know what I was doing!"

"What?!" Ginny shouted. "You were drunk?! Harry, I could never imagine you drinking at such an amount! You're a good person, Harry, and you're telling me you've had sex and you did it while you were drunk? Drunk?! Harry Fucking Potter!"

"Ginny, I'm so sorry! It was an accident! I regret it so much, and I would do anything in the world to take it back right now. I'm so ashamed of myself for it. I didn't want to do it, and I feel so disgraced that my first time was with someone who wasn't you. I'm so sorry, Ginny!"

"Oh!" Her expression suddenly changed. Her hand ran up to her heart and she patted it lightly. "Wow! Oh, how very sweet of you! Wishing your first time had been with me!"

Harry froze, his arms dropping to the side as he realized she was sarcastic. He whimpered as Ginny folded her arms across her chest in a glower and dropped onto her bed. She froze, her jaw set in a determined expression. She wouldn't give into him, no matter what he said or did. Harry sat by her side and took her hand, saying in the weakest of voices. "Ginny, I'm sorry. So very sorry."

"Who was it with...?" she questioned. Her voice cool, but lacked all emotion or personality.

Harry glanced to his lap. "I'm not going to tell you."

"Tell me right now!"

"Ginny, why? You'll only be more angry with me," Harry whispered in defeat.

"Well, I'm already pretty pissed. I don't think I could be more angry," she hissed.

Harry rolled his eyes as he turned his head from her, yet he squeezed her hand. "Trust me, you can."

"Harry, tell me!" Ginny demanded harshly.

"Mary..." he whispered.

After many moments he wondered if she had even heard him, but when Harry turned his head towards her, her expression was enough to confirm that she had heard him. Her eyes were wide, and her lips pursed together. Her teeth were grinding, and the muscles within her jaw were flexed in anger. She went from perfectly still to running across the room in an instant, her voice loud and full of anger. "You did not! You are not telling me that you had sex with that dirty tramp of a hoe, Mary Jane! That bloody whore!"

"Ginny, I'm sorry! Please, there's nothing I can do about it now and I wish I could take it all back! I do wish that, Gin!" Harry said softly. He approached her, his hands out stretched in a plea. He slowly placed them on either side of her face, ignoring the flinch she made at his touch. "Ginny, I'm sorry. I would take it all back in a heart beat."

"Just don't..." She did her best to voice her compromise. She grimaced and continued on. "Just please do your best to...to stick with me. Don't two-time me, Harry, or I will kick your ass."

"Ginny!" Harry gaped. He was astounded. He backed away from her for a small instant. "I would never. Don't ever think that I would do that to you. I'm...I'm not my father."

"Well, good," she agreed, and then she pulled him into her arms.

With Ginny's head resting under his chin, Harry sighed. He didn't think he had a chance at winning that battle. But luck was on his side.

He smiled.




"Check mate!"

"You..." Ginny wrinkled her nose and threw a piece of her demolished knight at Carter one breezy afternoon. They were playing chess, and Ginny had totally missed Carter's swift move. She wasn't astounding like her brother, but she was a fair player.

Carter chuckled as his queen smote Ginny's king. "You put up a good fight, Ginny. Good game."

Yeah, but..." Her voice trailed off. She huffed and tried to replay the moves in her head to catch when Carter had gained such a lead. She waved a hand of dismissal when Carter began toying with he broken king. "Fascinating. I'm still amazed at wizard chess. Our version is so boring."

"You muggles in general are boring," Ginny grinned as the pieced the set back together and put it in its rightful cabinet.

"Well," Carter smiled. "I can give you that."

Ginny returned the smile as Carter gave her a pat on the back and then dropped onto the couch next to Claire, was was still, after two weeks, bewildered by the wizard's newspaper. Ginny watched them in their peace, Claire reading the paper in Carter's arms as he rubbed the stomach of his fiance.

Ginny giggled to herself, adoring the picture and wishing that for herself someday. But then she grimaced and turned her head from them. After years of hearing all this talk about James and Claire from Lily, when Ginny had finally met the two she hardly liked either. Her first impression of Claire was that she was a stuck-up whore and Carter just the same, and James an ungrateful coward.

But she had been wrong.

She knew she couldn't ever completely understand it, but she felt for the love-triangle, and she knew she had no right to judge them. They were in the midst of the most difficult decisions one could make, falling into the traps of different loved ones.

And here they were. Two very respectable people who didn't deserve such a dramatic turn of events, but Ginny hoped the best for them. Everything seemed to be in the right place. James was with Lily for good now, and Claire and Carter were the same, their wedding set in the coming December after the birth of their baby. Sirius was more put out all the time, but he seemed to be okay with it. Ginny didn't know what completely went down, but she felt bad for Sirius. He was apparently receiving the bad end on everything.

Ginny smiled one last time as Carter kissed Claire's head, and she rose to join the boys in the back for some Quidditch. However, upon entering the backyard, Quidditch was obviously the least of their entertainments. Fred and George were sitting on the ground, Hermione reading a book in her corner, as Harry and Ron each did their damnedest to balance a broom on their nose.

Ginny laughed at the sight and burst into another fit of giggles when Ron received his epic failure. She commented, "Yes, very productive."

"Well," Harry replied as he skittered back and forth, his head facing the sky, as he did his best to maintain the balance within the broom, "then you sit around here all day with nothing to do. You'll come up with some entertaining things yourself. Besides, I bet you're worse than George."

George scoffed, but went quickly back to his discussion of Weasley Wizard Wheezes and their new product with Fred. Harry laughed, and Ginny swiped her hand in the air above Harry's head and the broom went tumbling off. He gasped quickly. "Hey! I had that going for about five minutes!"

She shrugged and laughed, taking his hand as Fred wolf whistled and George made a cat call. Ginny stuck her tongue out at the boys and turned to Harry. "Come on, let's go for a walk."

The color rose into his cheeks, and Harry smiled. "I'm up for that."

So they left the company of the boys and wondered the fields at Weasley Manor for the longest of times, until they were out of sight from the rest of the crew outside and the sun was beginning to set off in the distance. It's rays painted a colorful scene against the weak, green grass. Their surroundings were washed with yellow and the glow from the sun. When they reached a small grouping of trees, Ginny led him deep within their depths.

When the lay of the air around them turned from a light golden yellow to a deep navy, adjusting to the sudden absence of light, Ginny pressed him up against a tree and grabbed him quickly. Harry was surprised by her actions, but was just as equally driven by a new excitement running through his veins.

His arms went around her body and pulled her in. The wrapped around the curve of her bottom and he pulled her off of her feet so she could wrap them around his waist. In a flash they had changed position, her back against the tree and gasping for breath when Harry's mouth came down on hers.

The hands that wanted to take their time with Ginny were suddenly gone and were replaced with a new want, a new need. They ran down the length of her arms, then legs, and then they were up her shirt quickly unclasping her bra so his hands could seek purchase on the round curve of her chest. Ginny's hands were doing the same before Harry even realized they had moved from his hair.

Next his shirt was on the ground beneath them, and Harry felt a new rush of joy run through him. The skin of his chest against her own. Oh, it was exhilarating. He sighed and pulled away. "Ginny." She continued to kiss him. "Ginny, stop for just a moment."

She groaned, but unlatched her lips from his neck. Harry touched her curls gently and went on. "I...We can just...fool around for today. I'm not going to have sex with you right here, right now."

She tossed her head back with a horrible moan of annoyance. "Why do you have to do things like this?!"

"Like what, Ginny?" Harry asked in awe as he released her from the tree. When he stepped away from her, he took in her disheveled form. Her hair was a tangled mess from moving against the tree, and her bra had somehow slid to the ground, so her shirt was a rolled up mess just below her breasts.

Ginny pushed back her untamed hair. "Stop us right in the middle of something...sexual. It's a total turn off, Harry."

"Ginny, I'm sorry. I just..." Harry sighed. He sat down on the grass and ran a hand through his hair. "I don't want to give you the wrong impression in the middle of things. We've gone over this. I want to sleep with you. But not at this time of day, this place, these circumstances. I want it to be special."

"Says the guy who lost his virginity to a whore while he was drunk in the middle of a field. I get it," she groaned. She snatched her bra from the ground and began to stalk off.

Harry raced after her and took hold of her arm. "Ginny, I didn't mean it like that! You're just so much more important, and I want to make it right!"

"Harry, I know," Ginny turned to face him. She touched his cheek. "Okay? I understand, and I didn't want to do that with you at the exact moment either, but that doesn't mean you have to stop us and keep us from doing other stuff. Right...?"

Harry nodded. "Right. I just...You understand that I'm being clear that I won't do that for awhile?"

"Yes," Ginny replied. She took his hand and pulled him to the ground, laying within the grass. Harry, shirt still a few meters off, lay down next to her and enveloped her into his arms. He turned her to face him and let his fingers grace every curve of her face. He whispered. "You're just too special to me, and I won't let myself mess up a single moment with you. Not even one like this. So that's why I have to tell you this right now."

"Tell me what?"

"That, even more than life itself, I love you."










Chapter 19: Ambushed
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Chapter Graphic by Jeanie at The Dark Arts

*****


After a long time of returning confessions of love and laying in each others arms, Harry and Ginny finally gathered their disposed items of clothing and decided it was time to return to the manor. With the sun far off in the distance and a navy light replacing the sun's yellow rays, they skipped hand-in-hand towards the manor. Laughing all the way, Ginny soon burst from his arms and they were chasing each other with beaming smiles on their faces.

The sun set, until the sky was a deep blue, and Ginny ran towards the taller grass and crouched down. She covered her mouth to stifle her giggles. Harry, some distance off, turned his head back and forth quickly, his brow furrowing as he sought Ginny. She giggled as she watched him turn about the small stream running through the field.

She began to rise to her feet, to expose her position, when a hand slammed into her back, forcing her into the ground and clamping over her mouth to stop her cries of pain and fear before they could even rise from her throat. She whimpered, her tears suddenly filling up her vision. She rolled onto her back to gaze up at the one who had captured her.

She looked up into the demented face of Fenrir Greyback. Her eyes flew open further and she tried to let out a scream, but the werewolf's hand was so tightly clamped over her mouth that she couldn't do anything but cough. Fenrir grabbed her small form and yanked her into his arms, turning her so she could face the scene before them. His hand remained over her mouth, so no sound escaped her. Even as her tears seeped between her cheeks and Fenrir's dirt covered hand, even as she did her best to scream, fight, kick, and punch. It was to no avail.

Instead, she had to watch Harry begin to worry and turn about, his feet sloshing through the river water. He began calling out her name, frantically pacing, and Ginny whimpered and tried to choke out another cry when Fenrir let out a low, demented chuckle. "Now you hush and be a good child now, and we might let you live. I don't know though. You could be quite the toy for awhile..."

She sobbed with his hand clasped over her mouth. Fenrir continued to speak. "We have one job to do and then we'll be out of here. We just have to wait for the Dark Lord to arrive."

Just then, there was a simultaneous pop and two people materialized out of thin air. One of them was Sirius, and the other was a man who Ginny knew to be Anthony Dolohov. Sirius was weak, on his knees and coughing into the ground. Dolohov gave him a quick shove in the back, and Sirius collapsed into the ground. He was able to choke out as Harry whipped around to face the scene before his eyes. "Harry...Harry, run!"

Harry had his wand out in an instant. He gasped quickly, "Sirius!" He then remembered Remus, before going to monitor his post outside the Weasley perimeter, had commented about how Sirius had not reported back from his post. But Harry didn't linger any longer. He pointed his wand at Dolohov and shouted, "Expelliarmus!"

Dolohov's wand went flying into the river, submerging in the water, and in another heart beat, Harry was remember every ounce of his training, and the Death Eater was unconscious on the ground. Harry began to bolt towards Sirius, but just then Ginny, still watching from a distance, was able to bite into Fenrir's fingers. He let out a yelp, but did not lose hold of Ginny.

Harry and Sirius's heads shot towards the commotion. Harry shouted, relieved at the sight of her, yet worried beyond imagination. He was running towards them, fury absorbing his face. And he jumped on them, pulling them to the ground. He knew when he first saw them that the possibility of successfully knocking the werewolf out and not harming Ginny was small, and he didn't trust it. So he turned to his physicality to gain his adventure. Ginny made a gasp as they made their impact with the ground, but successfully rolled away from the brawl.

Fenrir, the much bigger man, punched Harry once in the stomach and forced him to roll into the ground. Harry gasped, giving Fenrir that one second to gain the lead, and then Fenrir was straddling him, pinning him down to the ground. He beat at his face twice, but then his already wolf-like features seemed to enhance, and then he sunk his teeth into the nape of Harry's neck.

Yanking on his hair, Harry screamed as Fenrir bit him several times. He kicked at him, but nothing happened, not until Fenrir's body was suddenly thrown off of him. Harry looked to his rescuer and was please to see Sirius with the wand he recovered from the river. He was panting, weak, and holding his bloody side, but Sirius and Ginny both rushed towards Harry's bloody body and his screams.

Sirius said quickly to Ginny, frightened and panting heavily, "Help me, Ginny! Let's get him to the house. Quickly now! There's more coming!"

"I'm fine! I can walk!" Harry shouted as Sirius tried to pull him over his shoulders. Harry limped to his feet, but slung either arm around their shoulders and allowed them to help him back to the manor at a rapidly fast pace.

They burst through the back door and into the kitchen. James and Lily had arrived sometime during the afternoon, and they, as well as Claire, all jumped to their feet at the sight of them.

Claire gasped, "Harry! What happened to you?"

Lily bolted to her feet and ran forward to him, touching his bloodied cheek and immediately snatching a napkin to tend to him. James blinked, stunned. "Sirius, what happened? You went missing from your post. And look at you...And look at Harry. What's going on?"

"They attacked me, James," Sirius said quickly as Claire and Lily set Harry down into one of the chairs and Molly came bustling in with a bowl of warm water and a damp cloth. Harry was shaking, Ginny backing off into a corner as the adults went into heated conversations and tended to injuries. Sirius continued to speak. "They attacked me and apparated out with me and forced the location out of me. I'm sorry! They gave me Veritaserum. I-I...I couldn't help it! But they're coming...James, they're all coming. It's happening. It's tonight."

Lily froze, her wand pointed at the bite on Harry's neck and she squeezed her eyes shut, a whimper escaping. Harry took her hand and squeezed it. "It's okay, Lily. I've been preparing myself for this. I'm ready. I'll be fine."

Sirius turned to Molly as James rushed to Lily's side as she began gasping, falling back from Harry. She clutched her chest. There was so much chaos in the room, everyone had to focus on a separate matter. Sirius told Molly, "Molly, inform Albus. Assemble the Order. The aurors. Everyone. We need all the help we can get."

Molly fled from the room, Claire continued to nurse on Harry, and James was coaching Lily to breathe steadily, to not worry to prevent a coming heart attack. Once Sirius had told Molly what to do, he told Lily and James. "Those are werewolf bites. They won't heal with magic."

Claire pursed her lips and held Harry to her. She whispered to him. "You're such a strong man, sweetheart. You can do this. I just wish you didn't have to."

Harry squeezed her shoulders and whispered to her and only her. "I know. I don't want to do it, but I have to. Everyone needs me. I love you, Mum."

"I love you too, Harry."

Claire in his arms, he tried to ignore the desperate look he was receiving from Lily, and he turned to Sirius. "What do you need me to do?"

Sirius looked from Claire, to James, to Lily. All had a desperate look on their faces for their son's safety. Sirius didn't know how he seemed to find himself as coordinator for the battle, but he didn't like it one bit. He rattled his mind for what he thought was the best solution. "Harry, we need to keep you safe. Keep you hidden. At least until You-Know-Who arrives. You should stay inside."

Lily swallowed and nodded. "Yes, I agree. He must face as little battle as possible."

Harry jumped to his feet, astounded. "What?! No! I'm going to fight! You need me! You can't win this thing without me! You can't just lock me away."

"Well, we're going to," Sirius said. He caught Harry's shoulders before he could protest further. "And I suggest Carter and Claire join you."

"He's right," Harry's father agreed. Harry's eyes widened, furious, but James said quickly to the rest of them. Aurors were beginning to apparate into the small kitchen. "Harry, who's to say this prophecy could be wrong? I won't let these years of protecting your life go down the drain! You don't have to be the one to kill him."

"Yes, I do!" Harry fought back. Sirius was restraining him from jumping into his father's face. "The prophecy says so! Only I can do it. I'm the Chosen One!"

"Maybe you are," James sald solemnly, "but you will be our last resort. I will try first."

"Dad - " Harry said quickly, but Carter had taken his arm and pulled him away from the kitchen. They were going down the far right hall, darkened by the absence of light, and a door appeared at the end of the hall. Carter quickly opened the door, and a stairwell into the ground appeared. Harry pushed away from Carter as he shoved him down the stairwell, into the basement. Harry screamed over Carter's reassurances. "Dad! You idiot! I've been trained for this! You're not going to lock me away! I'm not a coward! Le'mme fight!"

"Harry, get in here! We're all trying to protect you!" Carter argued.

"No!" Harry fought back, but his voices was drowning into the basement. No one was helping him. "Ginny! Ginny, stop him!"

Ginny came running into view, appearing at the top of the stairs. Harry's wild eyes gave her a pleading look, but she refused. She shook her head. "No, Harry. I don't want you to get hurt either."

"Ginny!" Harry cried. "This is ridiculous!"

She came down the stairs quickly and, despite Carter restraining him, she cupped his face in her hands and gave him a look of reassurance. "Look," she tried to make him see reason. "Yes, it's stupid because we will need you out there anyways, but Voldemort is behind the rest of his crew. The others who will arrive before him will try to do you in before he even gets here. We can hold him off until at least then. Please let them do this."

Harry had stopped struggling and was gazing into her eyes. Her chocolate eyes were full of so much worry, and Harry could see her parents and his own standing at the top of the stairs. They were all watching the two with renowned interest. Harry hesitated for a moment and then blurted. "B-But...Then you stay here with me!"

"What...?"

"Stay here with me! Please! I won't let you be hurt. Please, Ginny."

She gave him a feeble look and ran her fingers through his hair. There were loud pops and cracks sounding nonstop now from everywhere around them. A war was definitely beginning. She shook her head. "No, Harry. You know I'm not one to sit back and watch. I'm going to fight."

"Ginny, no," he wailed. "Please! I won't let you die, I won't let you die!"

She gave him a long kiss, gasps of surprise sounding from above. Harry felt himself quiver beneath her lips and he pressed them as hard as he could, wishing his shoulders, being restrained by Carter, could wrap around her. What if this was their last time...?

Just when he began to worry once more, she drew away and he panicked further. She began backing up and away from him. "Okay. Take him down, Carter."

Carter gave a quick shove down the steps when Harry began to fight back. He was screaming as they reached the bottom and Carter swung the door open. "No! Ginny, no! I love you! Please, don't let them do this!"

But then Harry was in the basement and the door was locking behind them both, and Carter stole Harry's wand before he could even think about it.

He was completely trapped.




On the landing above, the parents of the two teens were stunned beyond imagination. Molly squeaked. "I had no idea they held a love interest in each other."

Ginny came to the top of the landing and looked up at her mother. She said quietly. "Yes. I love him..."

Molly began to give her daughter a sympathetic look when a loud blast emerged from outside the house. The aurors and Order members pulled their wands out and raced outside. It was time for battle, and they were ready. Claire trembled on the spot, sobbing, clutching her seven month pregnant belly. The house had emptied of those ready to fight and James was able to catch a glimpse of Lily and Sirius running off into the library. James stopped dead in his tracks, his eyes wide, and his body tensed.

But Claire grabbing onto his arm brought him back to his senses. Her eyes went wide and she let out a loud howl of frustration. "Shit!"

James glanced to the back door, blown open, the pre-war beginning within the back yard, but James turned back to Claire. She let out a quick sob, grabbing onto her face. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry!"

"What's happened, Claire?" James panicked.

Claire looked down to her legs, and only then did James notice. The right leg of her jeans were wet. Her water had just broken.

*****


"Sirius, what are you doing?" Lily questioned in a furious voice as Sirius quietly shut the door to the library. He took Lily's hand and pressed her body against the door. His other hand freely traveled the length of her neck, stroking her skin.

Lily quivered, her feelings for Sirius returning with the strongest force ever known. It took all of her strength to stutter out. "Sirius! I chose James. Please, we have to get out there and fight. I can't do this now."

"This will only take a moment, and I know you have chosen James, but please hear me out," Sirius begged. He pressed his body against hers and took one of her curls and wrapped it around her finger.

Lily swallowed, intoxicated by the feel of his body against hers, and nodded. "I'm listening."

"All right," and he began. "I know you've chosen James, and I don't mind being second best as long as it makes you happy, but I can't let you walk out to what might be both of our deaths without making sure you know how much you mean to me. Lily, you're so god damn perfect and I can't believe I went my whole life without letting you know. All because of stupid James, but you have to know now right in this instant that I love you. Seeing you become hurt is the last thing I want, and if we go out there, and I see you're in trouble, I will take that curse for you. Because you are my everything."

"Sirius..." she whispered. She touched his neck, squeezed it gently, and in that instant she didn't give a damn if she belonged to James and only James. She kissed Sirius with all her might, and he responded just as equally. His body slammed against hers with so much force that she cried out as his lips absorbed her own and he entered her mouth without further ado. He took it as a gasp of pleasure and proceeded further. His hands explored the plain of her body, and he pulled away when he found himself running out of air.

He exhaled, "Lily, I love you."

She gave him a smile, and he rubbed her head, held between his hands, "I know you can't say that you feel the same about me, but I love you."

"Thank you, Sirius," she whispered.

He gave her a soft kiss before he reached behind her and opened the door, leaving her clutching her heart for what could be the very last time.

*****


"But you're not due for another two months!" James shouted.

Claire cried, clutching her face. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I'm just so overwhelmed. It must be the stress. I'm so sorry, James! This couldn't be worse."

"It's all right, Claire," James turned around and grabbed hold of her hand. "We have to get you to the hospital."

"What about Carter?!"

She made way for the basement but stopped her. "Carter can't come. Someone has to make sure Harry doesn't break out. He can meet us at St. Mungos when the time comes, but you're delivering premature. You have to get to the hospital."

Claire nodded and allowed James to take her hand once more, and then he apparated out of sight, and safe from the death of war.

*****


Outside, the aurors and Order members formed a line in the field. The sun had set and a storm was rolling in. There was a crash of lightning, and it illuminated a line of enemies across the hills. There were hundreds. Death Eater upon Death Eater stood on top of the hill, their wands at the ready, their cloaks billowing in the wind, and their demonic faces growing with bright smiles.

They were waiting.

Sirius and Lily burst from the house and joined the line of their allies. They pulled their wands out and held them up to the opposing side, wondering when they would strike. Ron murmured from next Sirius as they joined them. "What are they waiting for? Why won't they just start attacking?"

Sirius whispered. He knew the Death Eaters were a near 500 meters off, but he felt as if they could hear and see his every move. The rain began to pour and thunder struck once more."They're waiting for him. For Voldemort."

Just then a Death Eater stepped forward and raised their wand to the sky. The Dark Mark slithered into sight through the clouds, and another whip of the wand and a ring of fire encircled them all into the battle.

Sirius called out as their line shifted in worry as the fire erupted behind their backs. "Steady! Stand your ground!"

Across the field, some Death Eaters could be seen taking off their cloaks and dropping to their knees. Through the darkness, their actions were not visible, but howls emerged from them.

Lily quavered on her spot and turned to Remus on her opposite side. "Remus! It's not the full moon, and they have werewolves with them. I didn't think that was possible!"

The color left Remus' face and he shook his head. They were doomed now. Remus swallowed. "It is through the aide of a potion."

Sirius looked left and right. His fellow friends were frightened, worried for their lives and their loved ones. As the skull in the sky began to erupt into life, a snake slithering from its mouth, Sirius stepped forward and called to their attention. "Friends! Allies! Be not be worried! We have gone through years waiting for this very moment, and it has finally come! Do not be afraid. We are outnumbered, and we are outskilled, and we are caught in the attack of surprise! But - do - not - back - down! We will not run away. We will not vanish into the night, and we will not go without a fight! Remember why you are doing this, for you are all brave souls! We may very will face our death tonight, but remember why we are here! We could make history, we could become legends! As long as you help that boy inside that house make it to Voldemort, you are a hero! Do not be afraid of death and what is to come! Be afraid of what will happen to mankind and humanity if we are to fail tonight! We mustn't lose! We will stand together until the very end, until we have our justice, and fight as one!"

A roar of cheers erupted from them, their wands rose higher with pride, and then they were done waiting for the arrival of Voldemort to start the war. They charged forward with mighty screams. Their feet let the ground quake beneath them, and the werewolves from the opposing end of the field charged forward with barks.

Then Voldemort landed amongst them, and chaos engulfed them all into the night.





Chapter 20: Priori Incantatem
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*****




"Harry," Carter's voice said to him after nearly an hour of solitude in silence in the basement.

Harry raised his head from his knees and gave him half of his attention unwillingly. "What?"

Carter sighed, knowing the boy wished to be out there in the fight, was worried about his loved ones. "There's something I want you to know. You can - uh - realize that I'm practically useless in this and I am exceedingly out-skilled by all of you, but you should know that I'll protect you. You mean a lot to your mother, and you've come to mean a lot to me too. But I'm not trying to get all sappy on you."

"Then what are you trying to do?"

"I'm trying to tell you something before it dies with me," Carter whispered. He rose from the chair in the corner and sat beside Harry. When their shoulders touched, Harry had the distant urge to steal his wand back from his soon-to-be step-father, but Harry found himself able to listen to Carter for the moment.

He didn't know what was going on upstairs, who was safe, who was struggling, already dead or hurt, but he had come to understand that he had a role to play. A part that had to be fulfilled. He had to kill Voldemort, and his father would retrieve him from the basement the second he was needed. He knew.

"You're not going to die," said Harry sternly. He gave him a reproachful look and sighed. "You want to know something too?"

"Sure," shrugged Carter.

Harry leaned forwards, his eyes swelling with hate towards Voldemort, and whispered. "I can't kill him."

"What are you talking about?" blurted Carter. "Harry, you can do anything you put your mind to. You just have to think positive. You can do this, and we're all going to be here to help you along the way."

"It's not like that! I physically can't kill him. Not today at least. See, Voldemort made these things called horcruxes in which you split your soul and, therefore, live forever until they are destroyed. Voldemort made six horcruxes. Only three have been destroyed; a locket, a diary, and a ring. There are three more out there, undestroyed. Which means right now Voldemort is invincible and he cannot die. Tonight will be just a waste of time, just lives going down the drain for nothing because I can't stop him."

"So we're all doomed, huh?" Carter tried to laugh. He raised a hand and squeezed Harry's neck in support. After a moment, Carter chuckled and reached into his pocket. He pulled out a silver gun and turned it over in his hands.

Harry's eyes went wide.

"At least I have this."

"You have a gun?"

"Mmmhmmm," Carter nodded. "That way, when I go, I will at least take one son of a bitch with me."

Harry smiled, then moved back to what Carter had to tell him. Carter slipped the gun back into his pocket for the time being.

"What were you going to say before?" asked Harry.

Carter scratched his head, and Harry quickly dipped his hand into his pocket. He retrieved his wand and hid it in his own jeans. "It's about Lily."


*****



James apparated into an empty street in the midst of London with a hyperventilating Claire on his arm. They were face to face with an old, shabby building with a dummy in the window. James looked at the dummy and muttered a strange slur of words before he began walking straight at the glass. Claire panicked, unwilling to follow his lead any further, as James dragged her along.

"Trust me," James said calmly as they approached the glass and then walked right through it. When they resurfaced, they faced an old room with wooden tables, chairs, and old Witch Weeklys. St. Mungo's was surprisingly empty. However, it was also nearing midnight. He ran forward, having to drag Claire along with him, and reached the receptionist with a loud sigh. "This woman is in labor."

The receptionist with an old school styled up-do looked at Claire and took in her confused expression as she looked around the hospital in awe. The receptionist's eyebrows raised and she tapped her wand against her head. "That woman is a muggle."

"Yes, she is, but she is having a baby."

"We are not supposed to tend to muggles unless they are having a near death experience," the receptionist said in a sour voice, giving Claire a revolting look.

"Oh, pull your wand out of your ass!" James shouted in outrage. Claire breathed heavily and released a moan as another contraction hit. James spoke quickly. "We don't have time to take her to a muggle hospital, and I know your policies. If you would like, I will let Albus Dumbledore take up this matter with you. Now will you let her have a room or not?"

At the mention of Albus Dumbledore, the woman's eyes flashed and she nodded quickly, pointing down the hall. "Elevator. Sixth floor. Someone will be there to help you."

James stalked off with a mutter of thanks, and then they were in the elevator on their way up. On the sixth floor, James and Claire were greeted by two healers in obscene, lime green colored robes. Seeing the matter, they led Claire to an empty room and got her situated in the bed. Magically they began disposing of any clothing that was in the way and placing a hospital gown on her body. Claire reached out for James' hand and said quietly, "James, will Carter come?"

"Carter has to watch Harry. I'm sorry."

He didn't know what his reply was supposed to provide Claire with, but he did not know how to answer her question. He wanted the father to be present at the time of birth, but he wanted his own son to be protected as well. However, Carter was hidden in a basement where contact would be too dangerous to attempt and nothing could be done for the time being.

Once Claire was situated into the bed, a healer introduced herself and immediately began taking over in a more polite way than that of the receptionist's.

"You're going to have a very short labor, Ms. Mason. You're dilated seven centimeters. A few more and you'll be ready to push. I can give you a potion to numb the waist down and soothe the pain, but you're handling this very well. I'll check on you again in five minutes after you drink this potion."

The healer handed her a cup with an odd blue liquid in it, but Claire drowned it in a few seconds. When she gave the cup back to the healer, she hissed in distaste and stuck out her tongue. "Gross, it's disgusting."

"I know, but trust me, you'll be glad you took it," the healer winked and let them be.

Claire gave her a small smile and turned to James when the door shut lightly. He stepped forward slowly and took her hand. Claire was hesitant in letting James entwine their fingers together, but she held on tight and listened, her gaze fixed on his troubled face.

He wrinkled his nose and shook his head in disappointment. "I always wanted children with you. I always imagined this very moment perfectly. Only the child was mine. It's...unusual."

"I love Carter," she whispered in pain as another contraction hit. She bit her lip and winced, James quickly grabbing her back and squeezing gently while she waited it out. James touched her hair sweetly after her words.

"I know you do, and I love Lily. But I still love you, and I want you to be happy. I'm glad that you're having this baby...and with Carter. You're finally able to start from the very beginning with memory of it all."

Claire's eyes sparkled at that, glistening ever so slightly with her thin layer of tears. She looked down to her belly and rubbed it softly. "Thank you," she eventually exhaled. James gave her a questioning look, and she answered his silent queries. "For letting me be with him. For being so great about all of this. James, you will...You will be the baby's godfather, won't you?"

He smiled and squeezed her hand. "As long as you want me."

The door swung back open and the healer returned. She took another analysis of Claire's progress and looked up to her with a smile. "You're just about there. It's time to try pushing."




The scene at the Weasley's had gone from bad to worse. Wizards of all kinds had arrived to participate in the fight. Death Eaters battled aurors and Order of the Phoenix members as Voldemort scanned the crowd for that one special being. It had not taken him long to realize that the Potter boy was not present at the fight.

Voldemort waved over Dolohov as he killed Emmeline Vance, and he spoke to him with a cool voice. "Harry Potter is not here. Where is the red head you spoke of? She will know where he is, and we shall make her speak."

Voldemort and Dolohov made their way through the battle field. His cloak trailing behind him on the lush, green grass, they came upon Ginny dueling Draco Malfoy. Ginny's expression was that of hatred and rage. She was furious and tough in her dueling, but as the two dark wizards approached her she began to panic. Draco Malfoy, upon seeing his master approach their duel, paused and turned to him with a bow.

"Kill someone else, Draco. I have a score to settle with this one," Voldemort whispered. Then Draco whipped around and began dueling Fred a small distance away.

Ginny stood rooted to the spot, her arms brought in towards her side, her wand pointed in a useless manner towards the ground. Dolohov bounced forward before she could act and bound her arms together from behind. He held onto her shoulders tightly, making her cry out in pain, and forced her onto her knees.

Pale with red eyes and a bony face, Voldemort pulled his cloak down and strode forward as flashes of light soared over their heads. Ginny whimpered as he grasped her chin and inspected her features. "Such a pretty face for a muggle lover. You could do so much better than that weak half-blood. Tell us where he is."

"I don't know who you're talking about," Ginny hissed sharply. Her eyes pulled together, unafraid and gaining courage.

Dolohov forced his knee into her back, and she let out a scream, but did not give in.

Voldemort pressed harder. "Oh, don't play childish games with me. Harry Potter. You've been romanticizing with him. Now I want you to tell me where he is."

"Why should I tell you?"

"Because I can kill your entire family in a single instant and leave you all alone if you wish," he said in an empty voice.

Ginny gave him a hard look and did not let her courage waver. Voldemort looked at Dolohov briefly and gave him a curt nod. That was when he forced Ginny onto the ground and she began to kick and scream, fighting to get away. She looked around for help, but no one could come to her aide. Everyone was too busy trying to save themselves. Ron screamed from some distance away and knocked out his Death Eater, but only came to face a deranged woman in another duel.

Dolohov turned her body around and held her arms pinned to the ground. She kicked and screamed, wailed, but everyone else had their own battle to fight. She pleaded for Harry to somehow magically appear and save the day. Where was her hero?

Dolohov pulled a knife out of his pocket when Fenrir Greyback stepped forward in the midst of the battle. "Let me do the honors, Master."

"Gladly, Fenrir. But slowly now. Painful, her death shall be. Let her watch while her loved ones die." Dolohov's hands were replaced with Fenrir Greyback's, and the man was crushing her into the ground. She felt mud clump in her hair, and her tears mixed with the rain until she could not tell the difference. He hissed while he breathed along her neck. "Such a pretty ginger. For a pure blood."

She struggled, but she knew it would not make any difference. He was massive and disgusting, and she felt him go to lick her neck. When she felt him open his mouth against her throat, she panicked and shoved at the immovable blockade on top of her. But to no avail. She screamed horribly when his teeth sunk into her. She could feel her blood seep from the wound as he gnawed on her skin. She could feel the heat pulse through her veins, warm her blood until she felt like she was boiling full of poison to the brim. She knew what she would become if he didn't kill her now.

Then, out of nowhere, Fenrir went limp with his body on top of her's. She felt someone else's blood pool around her, and she shoved the heavy body off of her's to look at Fenrir's body. A hole had formed in his head, and she looked about wildly for the one who had saved her. Voldemort looked just as surprised as she was, and then they found the one who had prolonged her death for only a moment.

Cater Hewlett stood at the edge of the scene with a silver .44 Magnum revolver in his hand. Both his hands were clasped on the gun, and he looked at the scene in fright. Dolohov let out a yell and began to approach, but Carter gave a quick jerk of the gun and in the next second a bullet had lodged itself into Dolohov's skull as well.

Voldemort let out a howl as he faced Carter. He gave a flick of the wand and the gun soared across the sky, landing near his feet. "You fool!" He waved his wand dramatically and Carter was on his ground, screaming and thrashing. Ginny panicked as she finally freed her body completely of Greyback's weight and she searched around wildly for her wand.

Everything began to move so fast. Voldemort's wand was removed from his hand, and Carter was freed of the pain. Then Harry's screams sounded from somewhere, and Ginny and Carter's attention were directed towards the newcomer. Voldemort's gaze followed the voice, and Carter took the opportunity to snatch the gun once more from the ground. Harry approached them with his wand raised, both his own wand and Voldemort's in his hand.

"Your next move will be your last," threatened Harry.

Voldemort's lips twitched, and he gave a cruel laugh. Ginny looked back and forth between the two as she tied her shirt together, her other hand clamped over the punctures in her neck. She could feel the heat spreading, causing a change within her entire body.

"I told you to stay inside, Harry!" Carter screamed at the boy.

"Yeah, well, I didn't feel like listening," Harry grunted quietly as he pointed his own wand at Voldemort.

"Harry, remember what you told me," Carter begged. He cared for the boy so much; he couldn't bare it if Harry was hurt. Or worse. "You can't do this. Walk away, fight another day."

"Oh, no," Voldemort strode forward with a cruel grin on his face. "Only cowards would turn their backs. Fight me in this instant, Harry. Right here, right now. Let's end this for good, and we'll show them what it means to be a true wizard."

Harry inhaled sharply. He knew the dark wizard was only trying to egg him on, but he was right. However, Carter was right as well. How was he to kill a man who couldn't be killed? If he were to strike him with the killing curse in that moment, what would happen? He held two wands within his grasp, and there Voldemort was, defenseless against him and Harry hadn't even tried to bring him down yet.

"Give me my wand, Mr. Potter," sneered Voldemort with a demonic glance, "and duel me like a real man. Or you could strike me down right now."

Harry looked at him for many moments, knowing that others around the scene had stopped to watch while others continued their fight. Carter had crawled to Ginny and was holding her tightly in his embrace beside the two wizards. Harry met Voldemort's eye and dropped into the bow he had learned from Moody, signaling the beginning of their duel. Harry tossed Voldemort his wand and held his at the ready.

Ginny covered her mouth, horrified, and Carter screamed bloody murder to Harry. "What are you doing?!"

"Silence your friends before I kill them," warned Voldemort in a calm voice. He dropped into his own bow, and before Harry could glance to the ones on the side lines, Voldemort had sent the first curse, a jet of red light in Harry's direction.

He deflected it quickly, and then things moved too fast for him to even comprehend. Quick blasts of light were flying by, some over his head, some right at him that he deflected. He couldn't even tell whose were whose anymore.

"Reducto!" Harry shouted at a mound of rock that was soaring towards him. It was obliterated into thousands of tiny pieces, and Harry dropped down to his kneels and shielded his eyes from the tiny specks of dust that rained down upon him. When he rose, he was ready. He screamed. "Incendio!"

Fire erupted from the tiny tip of his wand and fanned out like a twisting cyclone. It grew larger and was hurtled towards Voldemort, but Voldemort merely spent the fire flying in all directions, creating a sphere about his body until it evaporated into nothing. Within the next second, he heard an Unfogiveable emerge from Voldemort, and Harry was on the ground, writhing and screaming in pain. He heard Ginny yell, and from the corner of his eye, he could see her fighting to break free of Carter's grasp. But he held her firm.

When the curse was lifted, Harry lay panting. He felt as if his limbs had given up on him, and half of his will power wished to simply let go of everything. He could hear the soft rustle of the grass upon which he was laying. It rustled gently, and Harry closed his eyes. In the middle of everything, he envisioned a different place. A place of crisp, springtime air where none of this existed. When he opened his eyes, Voldemort stood over him, hovering with a snicker.

That evil face flashed across every peaceful memory he held, and then he was enraged about what the world would come to if they lost. Harry gritted his teeth and raised his wand. "Impedimenta!"

Voldemort was tossed backwards, and Harry took his only chance. He rose from the ground and sprinted to where Voldemort lay, temporarily immobile. Harry raised his wand and let his anger flare. "Crucio!"

He thrashed silently, his body writhing about in quick, painful convulsions, and Harry only snickered as he watched. He let Voldemort endure the pain for minutes, every second that passed only pleasing him further. "Fucking asshole..." fumed Harry.

But then his morals got to him, and he flinched at himself. How he enjoyed watching him go through the pain. What was wrong with him...?

But this was a war; he had to inflict pain on others! Harry trembled and the curse flickered away from Voldemort's body. The pale, narrow-faced man only laughed weakly. He spoke in a scratchy voice from the ground. "You have to mean it, Harry."

Harry flinched at his words and stumbled back. Voldemort jumped to his feet in one quick, fluid motion and landed upright with a cruel smirk. "You can't handle it, Harry Potter.You have to want it; you have to enjoy it!"

Then Voldemort's wand was directed elsewhere. To Ginny. Harry's eyes went wide, and before he could do anything, Voldemort had sent the torture curse onto Ginny. She thrashed violently, her screams ear piercing as the mud matted her hair together and she wailed. "See," sneered Voldemort to Harry as he strolled towards the girl, "you have to want it; feed off of it! I don't think you understand how satisfied I am by seeing your muggle-loving whore in such pain."

"You let her go!" shouted Harry. "RIGHT NOW! Let her go."

"As you wish," said Voldemort coolly. And as easy as that, he lifted the curse. Ginny scrambled away from him, holding onto her chest. Carter began to crawl towards her to reassure her.

Harry threatened. He felt his brow pull down, his nose scrunch, the most demonic look he had ever possessed. "You lay one more finger on her, I swear I'll kick your ass. I will have your blood on my hands!!"

"Oh, she rests in quite the touchy spot, I see." Voldemort grinned, and the direction of his wand changed once again. "And what about the muggle Wanna-Be-Father, yes? Avada Kedavra!"

The green jet of light emerged from the wand and spiraled towards Carter. It hit his body with great impact, and he was tossed into the air. His limp figure came to land in the marsh just away from them, his limbs grotesquely twisted about his body.

"NO!" howled Harry at the top of his lungs. Ginny let out a screech and bolted from the scene. She ran to Carter's limp body and shook him desperately, screaming at him as if he were only in a deep sleep, as if he would wake at any moment.

"You didn't need to kill him!!" Harry cried out. "He was a defenseless muggle! He had nothing to do with this! This is you and me!"

But Voldemort didn't listen. Didn't even try. On top of everything else, Harry heard those fateful words leave Voldemort's mouth, and this time his wand was raised at him. It was time. So, in a battle for the wits Harry cried out in tandem with his enemy, "Avada Kedavra!"

The green lights erupted in synchronization and met in the middle with a cataclysmic bang. Harry did not know what he should have expected from the colliding curse. A massive explosion, the curse to be canceled out? Not a connection. They met in the middle with an orb of light in the center, trying to push itself in each direction of light. From the orb, the green turned to the deepest of golds and it shot through the cytoplasmic strand that connected the two wands.

In fascination, the two wizards looked at what they had created in horror. Harry felt his wand shaking in his grasp, acting of its own accord, as if struggling against him, but Harry held it firm in his grasp and watched the orb slither towards him. Harry gave a push of the wand, not knowing what he was doing, and it slid towards Voldemort. Then, a bang erupted from between them and light poured out of their connection. It created a transparent dome about their fight, draping its silhouette over them, and then something quivered from the center once more. And there was Carter standing before them with a somber expression, transparent to the eye.

Harry choked on his own shock. "Carter!"

"Harry, do what I told you," he spoke. But it was different. His voice wasn't low and thick with life. It was empty and reserved as his ghostly figure floated in the air beside him. Others began to emerge that Harry didn't recognize, poor, innocent people who shouldn't have died at all, murdered at Voldemort's hand. "Harry, do as I say. Take my body; you must."

Harry swallowed his cries and nodded as tears brimmed on the corners. "I will."

"And Claire and the baby," Carter's was almost as transparent as his body appeared. "Tell them I love them. This isn't your fault, Harry. Be brave."

"I'm sorry!" cried out Harry as he fell to his knees with the difficult task of maintaining the connection and keeping the fearsome orb away from his side of the curse. Voldemort howled with refusal to let the appearance of the ones he had murdered continue.

"It's not your fault, Harry. Do not take the burden of the blame. Fight him, Harry. Let go!" Carter urged, and then the spirits of all who had died for his cause at Voldemort's wand, swam towards the center. When they reached it, the air before him was turned into a silver mist, and Harry abruptly jerked his wand free. With a loud and deafening bang, the connection was gone.

Harry believed that the next few things that went through his mind added up to the fastest thinking he had ever done. Something had occurred between his wand and Voldemort's. He didn't know what exactly, but it had deliberately kept them from killing one another. It was Harry's assumption that it would happen again, so Harry opened up his hand as he looked around for Ginny cradling Carter's body. He found her, still crying heavily, but she was just as fascinated by the recent events as Harry had been.

"Accio wand!" shouted Harry, and Ginny's wand soared from her grasp and entered Harry's own. He turned around to face Voldemort once more, raising his wand for the kill as he dropped his own wand the mud. He looked upon his enemy to see that Voldemort's wand was pointed directly at his chest. Harry panicked, and the words erupted from Voldemort's throat in an instant.

"Avada Kedavra!"

That time the jet of green light wasn't met by another; that time there was no Priori Incantatem. Horrified and only a moment too late, Harry began to scream back the killing curse. But he was cut off, for the curse hit in directly in the heart and he was knocked off his feet. His body rose and twirled about in the air, but there was no impact sound to be heard. In fact, Harry's body seemed to disappear entirely, leaving only a trace of mist behind in collaboration with the green light. His heart stopped beating, and everything went black. Then Harry was lost to the abyss.







The sequel has been posted.

The Beating Locket
Summary:
She refused to believe that he had died. He had to be out there somewhere, yet no one believed her.
Everyone saw Harry Potter murdered that night, and all but Ginny Weasley have said their farewells. But demented and with no one to trust, Ginny sets out to discover the truth and bring him back from the dead. He had to be alive.
The locket, thumping ever so adamantly against her chest, was proof of that.

 


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