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Chapter 4 : Finding Understanding
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“Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die.”
- G.K. Chesterston
Lily stood with Sirius in the doorway of Dumbledore’s office, shock and relief flooding through her. James. She looked across the room at him; at his tattered robes and unusually long wild hair. His eyes widened at the sight of her as he stared at her pregnant bulge.
Without another thought, Lily sprinted across the room with surprising speed for a woman so late in her pregnancy. Sirius quickly followed to embrace the brother he thought he had lost.
James held on to both of them for a moment, so tightly that his arms shook. He then gently pulled away, his eyes focusing on Lily’s stomach. “Lils, is that...? Are you...? When did this happen...?
Lily smiled widely, still embelishing in the relief of seeing James alive. “He’s due in a month James.” She said excitedly. “...our son.”
She felt elated that she had finally told him, that the father of her son was here, that he was safe. She had dreamed about this moment since she had first discovered her pregnancy. She had fantasized that he would smile widely and spin her around in joy and excitement. He didn’t.
She really had not expected the look he gave her now. He backed away from her quickly and his eyes reflected fear; a deep overwhelming fear. Lily’s heart stopped a moment and she stumbled back. She didn’t know what to think.
Sirius had put a supporting arm around her instinctively. “Yours?” James stammered, as he looked disbelievingly from Sirius to Lily. The question hung in the air as it took Lily a few moments to understand what was going on.
Sirius had already caught on. He gave James a strong reassuring look, his grey eyes clearly reflecting his sincerity. They stared at eachother for several moments, until finally James broke into a small smile.
Lily had always admired how James and Sirius could say so much to eachother without actually speaking a word. She was glad for it now. As her shock at his reaction settled, however, she realized the implications of his fears. It stung. How could James even think that the child wasn’t his?
“I’m sorry Lily. “ James said as if reading her mind. “I just feel like I’ve been gone a lot longer than I actually was.” He sighed and looked down at the ground.
It was then that Lily noticed how thin and pale he was, and how dark the circles under his eyes were. She also didn’t like the way he was looking down at the ground nervously. James was not like that. He was always strong and confident.
“What happened to you?” she asked gently concern sparkling from her deep green eyes.
“It’s a long story Lils...” James still would not meet her eyes.
“Prongs,” Sirius broke in gently, his voice taking on the same soothing tone he used when Lily was scared or hurt “We’ve looked everywhere for you. There’s was no trace of you anywhere. Nothing. You just disappeared. Where were you?”
James sighed again, shuffling his feet. “Azkaban.” He said simply.
The word resounded in Lily’s mind. There was a hollow feeling in her gut at the very thought of it. Years ago, James had told her about Azkaban...a place where everything good, every happy memory was sucked out of you so that all you were left with was your worst experiences. Had James spent the last eight months is that awful place? She shuddered.
Sirius took a step towards James. “Azkaban?! How the hell did you end up there?!” He asked incredulously.
“Severus Snape” James said venomously.
“Snivellus? I thought we’d seen the last of him when the Ministry put him in Azkaban last year! So he’s escaped? I’m going to kill that greasy git!” Sirius balled his fists, a determined look marking his smooth face.
James looked back at him dully. “They put him in Azkaban about eight months ago actually.” he said sarcastically.
James went on bitterly. “Polyjuice potion! The bastard along with five of Voldemort’s cronies blasted me with some sort of wonky spell and somehow got me to drink Polyjuice potion. Do you know how disgusting it felt to LOOK like Snivellus?”
Lily’s eyes widened as realization dawned on her. Severus had never gone to Azkaban. James had gone in his stead.
He continued. “They had Ministry officials waiting for me, death eaters as it happens. I was sent to Azkaban without a trial before the potion could wear off. Apparently that’s the new Ministry policy on the treatment of known death eaters.” His bitterness towards the Ministry was clearly evident in his voice.
Lily couldn’t help but throw her arms around him again. It was slightly awkward given her particularly large bulge, but she managed all the same. She brushed back his messy black hair with her hand and whispered to him softly in a soothing voice. His eyes watered as he fought back tears.
Sirius still stood a few paces away, his previous anger at Snape slowly fading from his dark eyes. After a moment he asked “How did you finally get out?”
It was Dumbledore who answered. He had been watching the entire exchange from the doorway. “The dementors have officially defected.” He announced solemnly. “I went along with the Minister to Azkaban as soon as I discovered it to get more information and help strengthen security. I happened on James’ cell while putting up protective charms.”
He paused for a moment, with disappointment in his blue eyes. “You can imagine how much of an embarrassment this was for the Minister, having one of his own aurors in Azkaban unjustly. The Minister will stop at nothing to keep this information from the public.” There was a clear warning in his tone.
Dumbledore walked over to his desk and picked up a strange looking silver instrument. After murmuring a few spells, he handed it to Lily.
“You have all been through a terrible ordeal. I imagine you need your rest. James and Lily, you can stay at Headquarters until the child is born. By then I will have had a chance to make safer arrangements for you. Sirius, it is probably best if you join them for now. I doubt your home is safe at the moment, and I have a feeling you will be needed at Headquarters. I will arrange for the rest of the Order to salvage what they can of your personal possessions.”
Sirius nodded and shifted towards James to put his hand on the portkey. Lily bent over to kiss Dumbledore, murmuring her thanks. Dumbledore’s blue eyes twinkled as he gave her a small smile.
Suddenly, the three felt the completely gentle and almost soothing effects of the modified portkey as it activated.
It was the end of July, although the warmth of it was dampened by a cold mist that had settled over most of the country. The dementors were breeding, Lily thought darkly as she stared into the distance.
She was sitting on the veranda at Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix with her notebook on her lap. The place was an old manor belonging to Godric Griffindor’s eldest living relative, Dumbledore. It was very well protected, many of the spells of which had been in place long before the founders’ time. It was also very beautiful. The stone veranda surrounded the entire second story and there were large windows in every room. It was surrounded by lush old forests and mountains could be seen in the distance.
Lily shifted uncomfortably. The pain in her lower back was excruciating and she felt as though her stomach was going to explode. She was so tired of being pregnant. She wanted it to be over; she wanted to finally have her son.
She pushed those feelings back. No. She couldn’t. Not today. Today was July 31st. If she could hold it off one more day, they would be saved; or at least her son would no longer be a direct target. Harry could live a normal life. He would grow up happy and go to Hogwarts and not have to worry about death eaters kidnapping him or Voldemort finding him in the night...as long as he wasn’t born today. She wished it with every fiber of her soul.
Her thoughts were interrupted when Sirius stepped out beside her, looking out at the surrounding forests in the mist. He seemed to be momentarily lost in them, as he didn’t say a word.
Lily’s brow furrowed. She knew what was bothering Sirius. James had been unusually quiet and solemn since his return from Azkaban. They were both worried about him; very worried.
She missed the old James; the James who would pull hilarious pranks on Mad-Eye with Sirius to lift the spirits in the auror office; the James who would cuddle up to her and whisper things in her ear that would make her giggle; the James who would make even the worst of problems seem promising somehow with his confidence and cunning; the James she loved.
Although he was slowly readjusting to his freedom, discovering the many horrible deaths that had happened in his absence wasn’t helpful; particularly that of Dorcas as they had been mates since Hogwarts. He had an air of hopelessness about him that seemed impenetrable.
Sirius had tried a few rather interesting stunts in an attempt to get him back into good spirits, but nothing worked for long. James had managed a laugh when McGonagall suddenly found herself in “punk rock” muggle clothing after an Order meeting (nose ring included), but he had quickly retreated to his room afterwards, solemn as ever.
Sirius held on to the stone railing as Lily watched him. Although she had been in denial for ages, she couldn’t help but appreciate how beautiful he was. The way his dark hair fell over his fathomless grey eyes simply melted her at times.
Lily really didn’t know what she would have done without him this past year. Although he was reckless and emotional at times, he was also unfalteringly loyal, and he had a gentleness about him that had surprised her at first. Although he would sometimes pull a fit at the most ridiculus things, he seemed to be the only one in control when everyone around him fell apart. She cared about him very much. She loved him in a way that was very different from the way she loved James.
As if sensing her staring, he turned to face her with a questioning look. “What is it Lils?” he asked her, his dark eyes looking into her green ones.
Lily hesitated, not knowing what to say. This was not the time for honesty.
Luckily, they were interrupted by James as he joined them. Lily was surprised by the slight smile on his thin face, as it was so unlike the solemn pout he usually wore these days.
“The Longbottom child was born yesterday.” He announced cheerfully. “A boy. They called him Neville.”
Hope rose in Lily’s chest. The Longbottom’s son had been born the previous day, she thought to herself. As long as she could last the day without giving birth; Neville would be the child of the prophecy, not her son.
James returned her hopeful look. His reaction to the prophecy when she had told him a few weeks ago had not been what she had expected. She had thought that he would WANT it to be their son, that he would be proud at the prospect of it being Harry. Instead, he instantly reacted the same as she had, hoping against hope that it would be the Longbottom child.
She felt slightly guilty for underestimating him. After all, despite his current state, James had always had very good values and was one of the most loving people she knew. It’s why she had fallen in love with him in the first place.
Just as she was about to tell him how relieved she was at the news, she felt a harsh pain in her stomach.
“Argh!” she yelped. Her surprise had prevented her from holding back a whimper. No! she thought to herself. Not now! Please not now! The pain left her as quickly as it had come.
Both James and Sirius had jumped to her side. “Lily!” Sirius cried “Are you alright? Is it the baby?”
“No,” she lied quickly “I’m just sore from sitting here so long.”
James nodded, although his hopeful look had vanished. Sirius didn’t look convinced and gave James a significant look.
“Really, I’m okay. I think I just need to go lay down.” she persisted.
Both men helped her out of her chair. “I’ll take her.” James announced and led her to the large bedroom they shared across from the sitting room.
Just as they had reached the doorway, Lily felt another sharp pain in her gut, harder this time. “Argh!” She yelped again as she doubled over.
James struggled to hold her up. Sirius, who had been watching from the veranda, quickly came to help.
As the pain subsided, Lily persisted her denial. “It’s just the baby kicking.” She attempted a smile. “He’s just getting really strong...”
James interrupted “Lily, if it’s time than we should...”
“No!” She said loudly. “It’s not time yet! Not now!” Her words were forceful, but tears fell down her face all the same.
“Lily,” Sirius whispered gently “I’ve read that it’s normal for women to get contractions long before their child is actually born.” He gave her an encouraging look.
James seemed relieved at his words. “See, it’s alright Lily.” he said comfortingly “We’ll just wait until...” He was interrupted by another small cry from Lily. His relief quickly faded.
After a few more contractions, her water broke, splashing onto the wooden floor. “Not now!” she pleaded. “Please not now!” She was crying.
James and Sirius gave eachother a significant look. It was time and there was nothing either could do to stop it now.
They arrived at the maternity ward of St-Mugos a short while later. As Lily was settled in the delivery room, the healer looked from James to Sirius and asked “Which one of you is the father?”
“I am.” James replied nervously.
The healer nodded and addressed a curly haired aide. “Maria, can you guide this gentleman back to the waiting room?” He guided Sirius to the door as the aide nodded.
“No! Stay.” Lily shouted before she could stop herself. Guilt rose in her chest instantly. James was the father of her child, the man she loved. Why did she feel she needed Sirius there so badly?
James’ face was expressionless as he looked from Lily to Sirius, the latter of which looked slightly shocked by Lily’s sudden outburst.
James was unusually calm as he addressed the healer. “We want him here.” He announced, nodding towards Sirius. “He’s the godfather and part of this family.”
The healer gave James an odd look, but nodded. “Let’s get on with it then.”
At the beginning, Lily had protested to wait, that she would have her baby the next day. These protests didn’t last long. As the labor progressed, she found she just wanted it to be over.
James and Sirius were on either side of her the whole time. James stroked her long red hair, keeping it off her neck and Sirius squeezed her hand reassuringly. Both whispered soothing words and encouraged her. She felt strengthened by them. It helped.
With one final push, a baby’s cry filled the room. Lily lay back on the bed, her whole body trembling with exhaustion.
Wrapping the child in a tiny bundle, the healer announced “Harry James Potter, born on July 31st at 11:50pm.”
The words of the prophecy resounded in her head “...born as the seventh month dies.” Sirius gave her a significant look that told her he was thinking the exact same thing.
James only had eyes for his son as the healer laid Harry into his father’s arms for the first time. Lily’s heart melted as watched him. He wore an ear-to-ear grin and his brown eyes sparkled with such deep devotion that Lily was reminded of why she loved James so much.
He rocked the baby gently, speaking soothing words until Harry’s crying subsided. The healer left the room for a few moments to give them their privacy. James locked eyes with Lily and laid the tiny bundle in her arms, still smiling widely.
As she looked on her son, her own emerald green eyes stared back at her under a tuft of messy black hair.
Lily was suddenly overwhelmed. She hadn’t been prepared for this. She hadn’t known that it was possible to love someone so much the first time you ever meet them. It was the most fulfilling feeling in the world.
“He looks just like you James.” Sirius announced enthusiastically, just as mesmerized with Harry as they all were.
“But with Lily’s eyes,” James proclaimed “Lily’s big beautiful green eyes!”
They all stared down at Harry adoringly for a few moments. Eventually, James suggested “Do you want to hold your godson Sirius?”
Sirius looked slightly afraid, though smiled warmly. “Don’t worry Sirius.” Lily told him smiling “You just have to be careful to hold his head. He can’t hold it up on his own yet.”
James placed Harry into Sirius’ arms. Both parents smiled at him widely as he held Harry as though he were made of glass. “Hey there little guy.” He said in a sweet voice so unlike his own.
After a few moments, Sirius’ brow furrowed as he stared down at his godson.
“I know.” James replied sadly as though Sirius’ concern had been spoken aloud. “He’s only just been born and he may have more responsibility on his shoulders than we’ll ever have in our entire lives.”
“We have just as much responsibility as he does James.” Lily announced determinately “We have to protect him.”
Suddenly protecting her child felt more possible than it ever had. She remembered the words from the old charms text Dumbledore had given her:
The most powerful of protective magics are bound in love
She knew they stood a chance, for there was no stronger love than the love she felt for Harry.
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