“Lils!” James grasped the edge of the stairwell railing, his fingers curling around the white painted wood. “Lils, have you put Harry to bed?”
Up the stairs and through the first door on the left, Lily Potter was sitting in a rocking chair with a small toddler on her lap. His thumb was in his mouth and his eyes were closed. She was almost asleep herself, the soothing rocking chair was welcoming after such a hard week.
She raised a weary hand to her face and brushed her long red hair from her face. “I’ll be down in a moment James,” she called in as much of a loud voice as she could manage without waking up her young son. She stood slowly, her baby’s head against her chest. She stopped as she caught sight of her bedraggled appearance in the nursery mirror and sighed heavily as she marveled at the course her life had taken over the past years.
Mrs. James Potter.
She looked down at the toddler in her arms and allowed the warm feeling to wash over her. He had James’s nose… James’s hair too. The edge of her mouth tilted up in a grin. But those eyes were hers.
She leant over the crib, gently setting him amongst the child-like sheets and then stood by the cradle, unable to tear her eyes from him. She felt two strong arms wrap around her from behind and she smiled to herself. “You have a meeting to be getting to,” she reminded him over her shoulder. But the last thing she wanted was him to leave her and the baby alone. But she would never disclose her feeling of dread to him.
“You know I have to go Lily,” he said softly in her ear. “If we don’t make Sirius the secret keeper tonight, Voldemort may find us .We have Harry to think about now.”
Her breath caught in her throat and her eyes closed. She allowed her body to lean entirely against him, sagging into him and sapping strength from him. At the momentary lapse, James turned her around abruptly and claimed her lips with his.
“Lily I fought for six years to make you realize you and I were meant to be together. Nothing is going to take you away from me now.”
She smiled through the urge to collapse in tears and as he went to turn away , finding she was grasping his arm tightly. She was so very frightened.
“Lily,” he murmured as he pulled her to him once again.
“I love you, James,” she whispered into his neck.
He fought the overwhelming emotions that surfaced at her words and pulled away. “I love you, Stubborn Lily Potter.” It still, even after years of being married, brought a joy to him to hear his last name so closely linked to her first.
With a final kiss he turned to make his way to the door, and before Lily could react he was already three fourths down the stairs and heading towards the front door.
“James!” she cried after him, momentarily not caring she may wake the baby. “James wait!” she came hurtling down the stairs and practically leapt into his arms. “James,” she said into his ear as he held her close. “Make Peter the Secret Keeper.”
An overwhelming doubt came over him at her words. “Peter?”
She nodded. “Sirius is too obvious, James,” she insisted. “Please, I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, and I really think it’s the best decision. The entire wizarding world would suspect that we named your Best Man our secret keeper, it would only put our child’s godfather in danger.”
James saw the honesty and the obvious truth in her words, but he didn’t follow his wife’s all-too-trusting course of thought. He was leery of trusting Peter, and it wasn’t just his life he was placing in the secret keeper’s hands, it was his wife and his son. Their lives.
But he trusted her, and that was enough for him.
“Alright,” he gave in. “We’ll make the secret keeper Peter. But you’ll have to explain to my best mate,” he tried to get her to smile but failed miserably. After a moment of longful staring, with so many words fighting to the surface that he couldn’t say, he turned and left.
“Gin!” Harry called up the stairs with a tad note of annoyance in his voice. She was positively ridiculous when it came to leaving on time. They never got anywhere punctually. “Gin we’re going to miss the service! You look beautiful!”
“You haven’t seen me yet!” she cried back down.
He rolled his eyes and grabbed the railing with both hands, not able to keep the smile from cracking on his face. That fiery red head tried his patience sometimes.
“Ginevra I am positive you look beautiful!” he called back up the stairs. After a moment of silence he put one foot on the first stair. “Ginevra Potter if you don’t come down here I’m coming up to get you! Ron and Hermione are saving us seats!”
She appeared at the top of the stairs, a compact held before her and very pregnant. “Merlin, Harry I hate how all my clothes fit now!” she grumbled as she made her way carefully down the stairs. “It’s ridiculous! At the rate I’m going by tomorrow I will have nothing to put on my body!”
She descended the last stair and Harry’s arms went around her with a smile. “You look beautiful,” he said.
She smiled sweetly up at him. “Thank you.”
“Can we go to the service now?” he whined.
“Alright alright.” she laughed.
“James!” A voice called from the darkness. “Over here mate!”
Recognizing Sirius’s voice anywhere he changed course and carefully picked his way towards the source of the sound. Upon entering the clearing he was ambushed by Sirius and grabbed in a tight hug. They hadn’t seen each other in almost a week because of the secret plotting, per Albus Dumbeldore’s advice. He grinned boyishly up at his best mate and James was stunned at the youthful vitality that he had never noticed radiated so greatly from his friend. He was like a child locked in an adult’s body. More often than not he behaved accordingly. “Sirius,” he said warmly, returning the hug. Remus appeared on the left and he enveloped him in a large hug as well. “Remus, how are you?”
Remus laughed bitterly and pointed to the sky, which showed a waning crescent. “I dare to say I’m fine now, but two nights ago I was positively monstrous.”
His mates cracked two large smiles and there was a moment where they all almost forgot that James and his wife were in danger. That Voldemort was tearing up the wizarding world searching for them. They were reminded all too soon as Peter stumbled into the clearing, his expression crazed.
“Peter!” Sirius said in a startled tone.
Peter sputtered and jumped back as if stung by the outcry. His eyes darted around the clearing and then from each face to the next. A bubble of doubt erupted in James’s mind. Peter? Why would Lily wish it to be Peter? Why not Remus? Anyone but Peter.
“Well can we get this done and over with?” Peter pulled his cloak around him. “I have somewhere to be getting to you know.”
Sirius’s fists balled and he grabbed Peter’s cloak front. “This is serious, Wormtail.” He hissed the childhood nickname they no longer used, clearly meaning it as an insult. Remus stepped forward and placed a calm hand on Sirius’s shoulder who in turn shrugged it off and headed towards the other side of the clearing, mumbling to himself the entire time.
James cleared his throat. “Lily . . . Lily requested something of me before I left,” he started.
Sirius stepped forward, thinking it was his time and James was overwhelmed with the sense of dread he had felt all week. This was not the right decision.
“She wishes to make Peter the secret keeper,” he said softly.
Sirius exploded instantly. “Him!?” James looked away. “He missed your wedding for Merlin sake! Damnit what does she mean by that!? I’m your child’s God Father!”
Thinking to calm him down James set a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “And if something were to happen to Lily and I, and you were secret keeper, who would care for Harry?”
Calmed by his words and the obvious truth in them he accepted that and then looked at Peter suspiciously. “But why Peter?”
“Sirius, Peter explained why he missed the wedding. And that was years ago.” Remus, ever the peace keeper, input.
“Visiting his sick mum my arse,” Sirius grumbled.
They’re on to me. He wriggled under the harsh stares. Perhaps they suspect what’s coming. He glanced nervously over his shoulder but admonished himself quickly. There was no way they knew what lurked in the trees and as the secret keeper he could lead his master straight to the Potter’s home. “My mum was sick,” he nodded.
Sirius threw his hands in the air, realizing by the look in James’s eyes that he had lost entirely. He stepped back, Remus stepping back with him. James strode forward and extended his hand to Peter.
There was a moment as Peter stared at the whiteness of his hand against the darkness, and then he reached out and grasped it tightly .As James said the incantation softly, he though of the address of his home and images of Lily surface in his mind. Dear Merlin please let this be the right choice. Don’t let Lily have been the trusting fool.
A dark red light creeped down James’s arm and through his clasped hand and up Peter’s arm, it spread until it was swirling around them both, encompassing both of their arms.
72 Greenhurst Avenue
As soon as it was complete Peter recoiled, an odd glint in his eyes.
“You’ve made the right decision,” Peter assured him before cracking an uncharacteristic grin and turning on his heel, changing into his animagus as he ran and disappearing in the brush.
“Shit!” Sirius spat as he too took his animagus form and followed the scurrying rat. Albus Dumbledore had been right in choosing Sirius.
James’s body froze as horror overcame him. “Lily,” he turned in the opposite direction and took off at a run towards home.
Sad, soft, lilting music was echoing around the small clearing where they were all gathering this day, the first anniversary of the end of the Final Battle. Gratitude he could not begin to explain overwhelmed him as Hermione flew into his arms and Ron embraced his sister. How they had all gotten through this unscathed was a miracle.
As Ron clapped him on the back and he turned to face the altar, framed by weeping willows, a slight breeze rustling their leaves and causing a few flower buds to fall to the ground, he realized unscathed was not the word .For that was in no way what they were.
He turned, slowly, allowing his gaze to sweep the already weeping crowd. Not one person in this peaceful forest this day was unscathed. Not one.
The death toll was high, and today was their memoriam. The day they pushed from their minds the ever looming threat of Draco Malfoy, the High Lord, and allowed themselves to honor their departed loved ones. The very many departed loved ones.
His eyes fell on Hermione, whose parents had been murdered by death eaters searching for her and then on Ron who lost all four of his older brothers, all except Percy who this day sat next to the High Lord.
Then there was himself. Dumbledore. Sirius. His father and mother. And most recently the Dursley’s . Technically Malfoy had done him a favor in killing them off, but they were his family, his flesh and blood, and no matter the betrayal his aunt had committed to his sister, they had were his only family.
As his eyes fell on his radiant wife he knew he was instantly wrong. This was his family. His only family. Tears came to his eyes and Hermione took his hand. “It’s going to be alright Harry,” she assured him.
He bit his lip, and looked up to the alter where pictures of all the departed sat, and he found it hard to believe that. So many had died, and when Voldemort had finally killed himself in his own greed for power, and Draco Malfoy had suddenly become a frightening force to be reckoned with and at twenty three rose to hold the command over all of Voldemort’s former allies, no., hope was a distant memory now.
The truth was he and his wife were endangering everyone here today, because he had just learned last night what Draco Malfoy’s intentions were. And he knew that sooner or later, he was coming for them.
Sleep my child, sleep a peaceful sleep.
Your dreams are of clouds, and your sighs of apple blossoms
And when you wake perhaps you may find that your dreams are nigh
And here I will be, by your side.
As the lullaby died on her lips, Lily smoothed her baby’s hair from his face and kissed his forehead. He hadn’t been sleeping well the past few nights and neither had she. She wasn’t going to sleep tonight, not until James was home once again.
She heard a sound outside and her body froze. She instantly scolded herself and then flew down the stairs. It must be James. As she descended the final stair, the front door swung open and she froze on the spot. The wind was blowing in to the house, her hair whipping behind her, her eyes locked with his.
“Tom,“ she whispered in disbelief, retreating backwards up the stairs as he took steps closer to her and the door swung shut behind him.
He cracked a dazzling grin at her. “Dear Lily,” he said in reply.
Tom Riddle was as handsome as they came. His hair was dark, his eyes were dark. His intentions were dark.
“Tell me, Dear Lily,” He said as he paced to the other side of the room, an air of confidence emanating off of him. “How is little Harry? And the beloved James?”
At that exact moment James rushed through the door and froze at the sight of his wife and the Dark Lord in his living room.
“James,” She turned desperate eyes to him and the Dark Lord wheeled around, surprised that James was in fact standing there.
Without a second thought James raised his wand on the other man, a grave mistake that caught cost him his life.
“Avade Kedavra!” Voldemort cried and James’s body was picked clear off the ground, a sickly green light enveloping him as he hurtled into the wall and fell to the ground with a sharp thud.
“JAMES!” Lily cried, wanting to run to him but far too scared and cornered to do so. She knew she’d never make it to his side, and she knew he was dead. She had to protect Harry now. She would not bare this staircase.
He laughed, a deep rich laugh, and then turned to face her with glittering eyes. “You know why I’ve come,” he moved so quickly that she was caught by surprise when the couch was no longer between them and he was a mere three feet from her .
A startled cry escaped her lips and she fell backwards .
He smiled at her. “I want the baby, Lily.”
Lily’s body went cold. “Why?” She shot back with a bravado she did not feel, tears cascading down her pale cheeks.
“That is none of your business, Dear Lily,” he said in a dark voice. “Give me the child and maybe I won’t hurt you.”
It was a blatant lie, and they both knew it.
“No!” Lily cried as she hurtled desperately up the stairs, launching into the baby’s room and slamming the door shut behind her. She scooped the baby into her arms as Tom burst threw the door.
“You can’t have him!” she cried as his wand raised.
“Avada Kedavra!” he yelled, his wand directed at her chest.
A startled cry escaped her lips as she fell to the ground, young Harry still in her arms.
There was a moment of silence as the room went deathly quiet, it was now Tom and this small baby who was supposedly his downfall.
He regarded the child with half contained amusement. “You’re supposed to be my weakness?” he scoffed as the child raised large eyes to him. He looked so very much like his damn parents. The child’s head tilted to the side as if sizing him up as well.
“Look well, brat,” Tom said as he stepped into the room. “For I am the last thing you will ever see.”
He raised his wand and to his amazement the child laughed. The small laughter bubbled from the tiny lips and enraged him all the more.
“Avada Kedavra!” He said in a low angry voice, only everything somehow went wrong, and the next thing he knew, he was plummeting into darkness.
“We are gathered here this beautiful day to honor those of our comrades who have fallen.”
Ginny was tightly gripping Harry’s hand as she fought the tears that were streaming down her cheeks. Harry was encompassed in numbness. He felt nothing.
“-selfless sacrifices and bravery that knew no bounds. They were our friends, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, cousins, wives and husbands.”
Her grip tightened all the more and he knew her thoughts. Next to them Hermione was sobbing into Ron’s shoulder.
“They are our heroes, and we are the ones left behind, forced to have watched them die. To struggle on alone.”
He sensed in the woods that something was not right. But he chalked it up to his distraught nerves. The sense of unease he always had when remembering the war.
“But we are not alone,” the voice continued. “We have each other.”
There. That was not his imagination. He stood abruptly, pulling his wand from his robe as he commanded over his shoulder. “Ron! Get Hermione and Ginny somewhere safe! Out of the open!”
At that same moment there was a loud crashing as dark robed figures emerged from all around them, completely encircling the group of mourners.
And at their head, having just slew the man who had been speaking at the alter, smiling triumphantly from beneath his hood, was Draco Malfoy.
The years had not been kind to Draco, and there were haggard angles to his face that had not been present in his youth. Harry was overcome with such a wretched gut twisting feeling of hate, that he couldn’t respond for a moment.
His mind hurtled back to years before, when they had been ten, and standing lost and scared in the midst of a grand and overwhelming hall and the blonde had come to him, with an outstretched hand. And he had not shaken it. Now here they were, ready to battle out that first indignation.
It wasn’t until Draco’s wand raised in the opposite direction from where he stood, following his eyes to the retreating back of Hermione, was he able to snap into action.
“Hermione!” he cried in anguish, but he was too late, and Draco’s spell was well aimed.
Tears bit his eyes as he pushed the horrible thoughts from his mind and completely blocked out the images of his dead friend and focused on the task at hand. He must win this for them, Ginny and Ron and their unnamed baby, for if Draco Malfoy walked away from this today, it would only be to murder the baby his wife was carrying. That baby was what the High Lord wanted.
“Draco!” He yelled so loudly, in such an anger filled voice that all activity in the field stopped. No one dared move. No one dared breath.
Draco stepped off the alter and a pathway cleared as he made his way to where Harry stood.
“You called, Potter?” he smirked.
“Sectusempra!” Draco beat him to it and Harry was thrown backwards, his strength draining from him almost as quickly.
Draco strode forward calmly, purposefully stepping on Harry’s hand as he went.
“You’re scum Potter,” he said. “You’re a fool. Like you’re father,” his eyes were hard .” If you hadn’t been so besotted with that red haired wench, you would have had a clear mind. You would have known I was coming.” He smiled at him as Harry’s eyes closed of their own volition and with an air of finality Harry raised his wand almost reverently. “Avada Kedavra.” He hissed.
The High Lord was caught by surprise, for the first time in a very long time, and the spell hit him squarely in the chest. He sank to his knees, his eyes locked with Harry’s. “Potter,” he sputtered as a trickle of blood crept over his lip and down his chin in a steady stream. A bubble of blood popped in his mouth. “That won’t kill me,” his voice was weak.
Harry made his way to the altar where Draco was slowly losing the ability to hold his body upright. “You may think it won’t,” he said, “but I promise you it will. You’re the last of your kind. You’re a dying breed. You have no one to carry on for you and neither do I. It ends today, Malfoy. The cycle completes today.”
Malfoy shook his head bitterly. “The cycle, Potter,” he sputtered as his body gave out beneath him and he lay immobile on his back. Harry too had found the spell Malfoy had laid on him was draining him as well. His head was swimming and the world was dimming. “The cycle will never end,” Malfoy said in a hoarse whisper as a smile came over his face. “You and I are opposite ends of the spectrum, as your father and the Dark Lord were, there must be both dark and light for things to go on as they do. The cycle, Potter, will never end.”