James Potter blinked, his body so light he thought he’d turned into air. He saw that he touched nothing, not even the ground. He was…flying? No, he was hovering.
He was hovering?!
Below he saw himself, lying spread-eagled on his back, his mouth slightly open, his glasses askew. It was then he also perceived that not only was he still perceiving, but even though he was still wearing his clothes, he no longer had his glasses.
He also no longer needed them.
He didn’t need them to see his wife, Lily, racing up the stairs with their son, Harry, in her arms. Nor did he need them to see Voldemort laugh cruelly and glide like a dementor to the second floor…then force the door of Harry’s room open…. Then Lily dropped Harry into the crib behind her and threw her arms wide, facing Voldemort as he advanced on her, raising his wand....
"Not Harry, not Harry, please not Harry!"
Lily's voice echoed in James’ ears as if it came from afar…as if he was hearing it through a window….
“This is my last warning—”
“Not Harry! Please…have mercy…have mercy…. Not Harry! Not Harry! Please—I’ll do anything—”
There was the flash of green light and his wife dropped like a stone to the ground.
Now the fiend was about to bring Harry to the same fate. It was all happening so fast…. Harry stood in his crib…he was crying…. There was another flash of green light and Voldemort dropped and disappeared, giving a scream of pain, as the house collapsed in one fell swoop.
Harry…he was okay…. James saw him now, crying, waving his fists and legs in the air amid the rubble around him.
Then Rubeus Hagrid appeared, and James watched him dig Harry out of the wreckage and wrap him up in a white bundle of blankets.
There was the roar of an engine and James whipped around and looked up to see—
Sirius Black! It was Sirius on that flying motorcycle of his!
James watched him land in the front yard, skidding to a stop across the freshly cut grass. He killed the engine and staggered off the motorcycle, and appeared to be shaking all over. In the gloom of the waxing gibbous Halloween moon above them, James could see that his face had gone white.
“’Oo goes there?” Hagrid called out thunderously. “Show yerself, if yeh know what’s good for yeh!”
Sirius stopped at the front gate, which was miraculously still intact. Holding up his hands he formally revealed his identity to Hagrid. “It is I, Sirius Black, best friend of James Potter, Peter Pettigrew, werewolf Remus Lupin, as well as James Potter’s wife, Lily, nee Evans, godfather of James and Lily Potter’s only son, Harry, who is a year old, best man at James and Lily Potter’s wedding, and formerly the fiancé of the late Auror, Aurelia Vega.”
Hagrid peered at him a moment, and then he relaxed. “It is yeh, Sirius! Sorry ‘bout tha’, but I couldn’ be too careful after…er…well….” His voice broke.
Sirius proceeded through the gate, and his eyes landed on James’ body lying in the rubble. “No…” he moaned.
James came to his side, and while Sirius stared transfixed at James’ remains, James stared transfixed at Sirius. He could see the mingled shock and grief swimming in his gray eyes, and he looked up at Hagrid, who still held Harry in his arms. “Who was—How did—What—Why—?” he stammered.
“It was You-Know-‘Oo, Sirius,” Hagrid replied mournfully, stepping closer to Sirius. “He—He gotter them….”
James heard him sniffling and weeping. He looked down at his own dead body, and saw that two planks of wood were lying parallel across his legs. Everything seemed so surreal at the moment: here he was, dead, staring at his own lifeless body. He considered trying to get back inside of it—maybe it would bring him back to life.
He gingerly reached out to his dead arm with his foot, but found he could not touch it, as if there was a force field of sorts around it, keeping him locked out of his own body…forever.
James sighed. He should have known it would be hopeless. Death simply could not be reversed.
He heard Sirius speak again, breathlessly, as if he’d been running. “But…how… ? They were…protected…. The Fidelius Charm—”
“Well, ‘ooever was Secret-Keeper must’ve squealed on ‘em then!” Hagrid cut in fiercely.
James fixed his gaze on Sirius again, and saw him squeeze his eyes shut as they filled with tears. He could see the disgust and guilt etched upon his features, and James knew what was racing through his mind: boundless fury for the man who had betrayed them—Peter Pettigrew, that rat—and not only that, but he was also feeling guilty, because it had been his idea to switch the position of Secret-Keeper from him to Peter, and in doing so it had cost James and Lily their lives….
“No…it’s not your fault, Padfoot,” he said miserably. “It’s Wormtail’s…he’s the one who skipped off to tell Voldemort where we were once we’d made him the new Secret-Keeper, the bastard…. And it wasn’t Moony either…like you’d thought….”
Yet Sirius remained where he was, obviously not thinking of himself. “Where’s Lily?” he asked.
Hagrid could only gesture mournfully at another area of the wreckage.
James followed Sirius as he stumbled in picking his way through. They both groaned when they laid eyes on Lily’s body, her beautiful red hair spread like a fan beneath her head. Even in the obscurity of night they could see that her green, almond-shaped eyes—wide with shock, like James’—had lost their fire…. And like James, her mouth was slightly open too.
And then James wondered where Lily was. If he was here, why wasn’t she here too…?
He was jerked from his thoughts when he heard Sirius quickly turn to Hagrid again. “And….And Harry?”
“I’ve—I’ve got ‘im, righ’ ‘ere,” said Hagrid. “Dumbledore ‘ad me come ter fetch ‘im, soon as ‘e got word o’ the attack.”
James saw the relief wash over Sirius’ face. Sirius…his son’s godfather….
Sirius crossed to Hagrid and peered at Harry. James went over to peer at Harry too, and saw with a paternal swelling in his stilled heart that his son was sleeping.
Sirius looked desperately around at the wreckage again, and James could see that his best friend was fighting back a wave of sobs. His eyes filled with more tears, and his breathing grew shallow. “Why did this have to happen?” he asked Hagrid, his voice cracking as he spoke.
“Come on mate…” James said earnestly. “Don’t cry for me and Lily…come on….” He tried to reach out to his friend, but when he got too close, Sirius cried even harder, as if the presence of James’ soul so close to him was causing him physical pain. James withdrew at once, wishing he didn’t have to.
“He can’t hear you…” said a woman’s disembodied voice.
“What? Who is—?” He knew that voice…but he couldn’t think to whom it belonged….
Sirius smiled shakily, and James watched him look at Harry again, and then glance up at Hagrid, almost pleaded with him, “Give Harry to me, Hagrid, I’m his godfather, I’ll look after him—”
But Hagrid cut him off with what sounded like a wistful chuckle. “No, I’m afraid I can’ do tha’, Sirius. I know yeh mean well, but I got me orders from Dumbledore.”
Sirius’ incredulity was matched—in fact, it was exceeded—by James, who was grateful when Sirius said, “Dumbledore wants him? What for?”
“Yeah, what for?” James asked with even greater indignation. This was his son, after all! How dare Dumbledore go against what James had wanted for his son! Who died and made Dumbledore Harry’s social worker? Well, he’d died…and Lily too…but he certainly hadn’t put Dumbledore in charge of Harry’s future!
“Er…I can’ say, Sirius,” said Hagrid apologetically. “Sorry.”
“But I’m his godfather! And—And James and Lily asked me to take care of Harry if anything ever happened to them!”
“Well…tha’ migh’ be, Sirius, but I think Dumbledore’s got a place in mind that’ll be really safe for Harry.”
“Oh yeah? And where’s that?”
“Lily’s sister’s ‘ouse, I think.”
James and Sirius both incredulously exclaimed with sincere outrage, “Petunia?” though of course only Sirius’ exclamation was heard. Obviously, Dumbledore had his reasons…he always had his reasons….
But then James saw his best friend’s demeanor change after he paced restlessly a bit…and he saw grim vengeance stir in his eyes…. And he realized with dread what he was thinking….
“Sirius! No! Don’t do it!” James yelled.
“He can’t hear you…” said that same familiar voice whose face James couldn’t recall.
“Shut up, you!” he shouted angrily at it.
Facing Hagrid, Sirius said, “Alright then. Go on, take him. I’m sure Dumbledore knows what he’s doing. Here—take my motorcycle. It’ll get you there fast enough.”
Hagrid crinkled his brow. “You…? Are you sure, Sirius? I mean yeh’re in love with tha’ thing!”
Sirius gave an encouraging smile that James could plainly see was forced as he clapped Hagrid on the elbow. “There are more important things right now, Hagrid. It’s just a motorbike. Besides…I won’t need it anymore.”
“Well, alrigh’…. Er, thanks.”
“No problem,” said Sirius. He took one last look at Harry, still sleeping, unaware of the tragedy that had befallen him so early in his life, and then turned on his heel, his studded, black dragon skin robes swirling behind him as he did so, and strode over to the front gate, his black dragon skin boots crunching as he walked.
“Where are yeh goin’ ter go, then, Sirius?” Hagrid called.
Sirius stopped, but did not face Hagrid. He looked over his shoulder at James’ and Lily’s bodies, and said, “Make sure Harry doesn’t fall off that bike,” he said.
“Sirius! No!” James cried desperately as Sirius lifted the latch on the gate and went through it, closed it behind him, walked out onto the lawn, pulled up the collar of his robes, drew his wand, and turned on the spot. “You idiot!” James’ mind followed Sirius to the deserted Diagon Alley, where he was squaring off with his cousin, Death Eater Bellatrix Lestrange.
“What do you want, Sirius?” Bellatrix spat. “Have a death wish? Because only someone with a death wish would dare come here!”
“I’m looking for someone. I’m looking for the man who brought your beloved master to his downfall tonight.”
“Man? What man?”
James felt a pang in his heart at the sound of the horrible, mirthless laughter that his friend—no, his brother—made at the sight of Bellatrix’s gawking expression. He knew the laugh was mirthless—Sirius was hurting—James knew that his own death, as well as Lily’s, was unhinging him, and he couldn’t bear to see him like that….
“Him? That little weakling?”
“He had information on the Potters. He was their Secret-Keeper for the Fidelius Charm under which they were being protected. He handed them to your master, and then your master met his downfall where the Potters were hiding. I’d say the double-crosser double-crossed you, my dear Bella.”
“And what do you plan to do, once you get to him?”
“He was just here. He was looking for a place to hide. We told him that we could not hide him: we had more important things to do now that the Dark Lord has fallen. But we told him where he could hide, and I can only assume that that is where he fled.”
“And where did you tell him to go?”
“We sent him to a warehouse on the docks of the River Thames. The warehouse smells of dead fish, and on the river side of it, the words, ‘Charlie was here’ can be found written in a Muggle substance called graffiti….”
James’ mind flashed again as he followed Sirius to the location his cousin had given him. The duel that ensued between Sirius and Peter in the Muggle warehouse full of crates of dead fish was like a dream…a nightmare….
“Wormtail! You filthy rat, show yourself! I know you’re in here!”
James followed him as he strode into the warehouse, surveying the stacks of crates all around him.
“Petrificus Totalus!” shouted Peter’s frightened voice from somewhere amongst the stacks of crates.
“Protego!” Sirius had managed to block the spell just in time. He shot another spell in the same direction from which Peter’s voice had come, and several crates of dead fish exploded, revealing the trembling Peter Pettigrew behind them, one hand tucked into his robes and the other holding his wand.
Peter made to Disapparate, but Sirius hurled an Impediment Jinx at him powerful enough to send Peter flying clear through one stack of crates before crashing into the wall behind it. It was a miracle his body hadn’t been broken. James had an inkling that the spell had been so particular forceful because it had been fueled by Sirius’ increasing rage and anguish.
Sirius advanced on Peter, but Peter was surprisingly quick. From the ground he pointed his wand at Sirius and shouted, “Crucio!”
James felt relief fill up inside him when Sirius managed to dive behind a stack of crates and dodge it. The curse hit another stack of crates that exploded upon impact, releasing the dead fish within them. Struggling to his feet, he shouted, “You back-stabbing—!” Ropes burst from the end of his wand and went for Peter.
Peter attempted to dodge them by diving behind yet another pile of crates full of dead fish, but the ropes managed to catch him by his ankles and he fell to the floor with a thud and a cry of pain.
Sirius struggled to his feet and ran over to him, where he unceremoniously dragged him up by his collar. “Please, have mercy, Sirius!”
“WHY IN HELL SHOULD I DO THAT? YOU DIDN’T SHOW JAMES AND LILY AND HARRY ANY MERCY WHEN YOU SOLD THEM TO VOLDEMORT!”
Peter flinched at the sound of his master’s name.
Sirius made to take Peter’s wand, when he and James both noticed that the hand tucked inside his robes was causing his robes to get soaked with a dark stain. Sirius grabbed Peter’s wrist and yanked. He and James both saw with disgust that Peter had cut off his own index finger, and he now clutched it in the hand off of which he’d cut it.
Then Peter took advantage of the fact that Sirius hadn’t yet taken his wand, and hurled a Cleaning Spell at Sirius’ mouth.
“You little—!” James shrieked as the spell caused Sirius to gag, while bubbles frothed over his lips. Impulsively he released Peter, and Peter undid the ropes binding his ankles. However, just before he Disapparated, Sirius threw himself on top of him, and they both entered the squeezing darkness together—James following in spirit—and came back out of it in the middle of a Muggle street where a crowd of Muggles was already out, all of them taking care of their usual daily morning business. Many of them screamed when Sirius and Peter appeared as if out of nowhere.
Sirius coughed the last of his soap bubbles deliberately onto Peter’s face.
Peter screamed as the soap burned his eyes.
Sirius rolled off of him and staggered to his feet with his wand aimed at Peter’s chest.
Peter scrambled to his feet as well. The tears streaming down his face caused by the soap could have been mistaken for tears of anguish. James was almost sure that Peter knew that too, for the next thing out of his mouth was a wail of, “Lily and James, Sirius! How could you?”
James seethed. Sirius was obviously seething too, for when Peter had said those words, Sirius, his wand raise, exclaimed: “AVADA—!”
James staggered as Sirius was knocked backwards off of his feet, along with a lot of the Muggles standing behind him. He saw, where Peter had been, a severed finger, a pile of bloodstained robes, a few brown hairs…and a rat. Then the rat that was actually Peter disappeared into the sewers, which had been blown open by Peter’s exceptionally powerful Killing Curse, to join the sewer rats down below, probably never to be found, again.
He’s faked his own death! James thought with rage. That coward! He looked around at Sirius and saw that he stared numbly at the manhole. After a minute or two he slowly rose to his feet. His wand fell from his slackened grip on it.
Dazedly, James took his eyes away from where Peter had vanished, and saw without really seeing the rest of the smoking crater Peter had created in the street, and the bodies of the twelve or so Muggles who had been gawking behind Peter before he’d killed them, and the hundreds of surviving Muggle witnesses running around like decapitated chickens.
He had gotten away…Wormtail had gotten away…he’d killed all those poor, uninvolved, unsuspecting, defenseless Muggles with a single Killing Curse…had he always been this powerful, and just never had the finesse to show it off like he and Sirius had during school…?
He watched as Sirius gazed at the scene of panic and mayhem with numbness.
There’s nothing he can do….
“There’s nothing I can do,” Sirius said quietly to himself, lowering his eyes to the bodies on the ground.
“Sirius…” James said mournfully, taking a step towards him.
“There’s nothing I can do!” Sirius exclaimed, his mouth spreading into a twisted, creepy smile, devoid of any joy whatsoever. “Ha-ha! There is nothing I cando! Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!” More mirthless laughter tumbled out of him, until he was standing there in the emotional throes of the uncontrollable, maniacal laughter of a madman.
It pained James so much to see his best friend in this state….
And then he saw them…hit wizards from the Magical Law Enforcement Squad…descending upon Sirius, surrounding him….
“No...” said James, his eyes widening as they pointed their wands at Sirius. “No! It wasn’t him! He didn’t do anything!”
“None of them can hear you, James!”
“Will you shut up?!” James shouted at that stupid, annoying voice whose identity he still couldn’t remember. He watched, his eyes wild, as Sirius was sentenced and then escorted to an alleyway where they would Apparate him to Azkaban. “No! Get your hands off of him! He’s innocent!”
“James! James! Please, let him go!”
That voice was different. That voice sounded like—
“Yes, James, it’s me! I’ve been looking everywhere—What's going—?”
“Wait! Wait! Stay right there! I want to see Harry first!”
“Harry? What do you mean? Where is he?”
“Dumbledore has him at your sister’s!”
“You mean he’s alive? James! James…!”
James’ mind however was already traveling to Number 4 Privet Drive in a flash of white light. He felt like his whole world was collapsing around him and he was barely able to keep it together, but he was struggling to do it nevertheless.
He saw Albus Dumbledore, Minerva McGonagall, and Hagrid all gathered before the Dursleys’. Hagrid was handing Harry to Dumbledore, who then took Harry and turned towards the house. As James watched, he kept his eyes fixed on his son, unable to take them off of him.
Hagrid was asking through tears if he could say good-bye to Harry, and McGonagall was straining to keep her voice low as she hissed at him to keep his voice down....
James remained frozen, his gaze still resting on Harry as Dumbledore gently set him down on the front stoop, and then pulled out a letter from within his cloak and tucked it inside Harry’s blankets. Then, as Dumbledore, McGonagall, and Hagrid all stood in silence a moment and stared down at Harry, who was still fast asleep—bless him—James tore his eyes away from him to look at them. He remembered all three of them from his days at Hogwarts. He had to admit that usually when he and his friends were in Hagrid’s company, it was under better circumstances than if he was alone with McGonagall or Dumbledore, because that usually meant they were all in trouble.
Those days seemed so far away now….
He watched them go their separate ways—Hagrid back on Sirius’ bike, McGonagall transforming back into her Animagus form of a tabby cat, and Dumbledore, who put all the streetlamps back on and then Disapparated.
He laid eyes on Harry again, and knelt down beside him, gazing at him as if hypnotized. He never wanted to leave him. If he was going to be stuck with these people, he wasn’t going to abandon him if he could at least be with him like this.
Yet the closer he came to Harry, he noticed that Harry became more and more inexplicably distressed in his sleep. Just as Sirius had seemed to become more distressed when James had attempted to pat him on the shoulder a little earlier. He also noticed something on his forehead that he hadn’t noticed before either, and peered over to see that it was a scar in the shape of a lightning bolt.
Harry…my son…survives Avada Kedavra…miraculously…and this is what he gets: marked….
He reached out a hand, as if to touch the scar, and Harry gave a sudden, involuntary whimper, his face wrinkling in discomfort and affliction.
James instinctively recoiled, sadly realizing that being close to Harry like this would bring Harry anguish, for some indefinable reason, just as it had seemed to bring Sirius nothing but more anguish.
“Let him go, James…” said the woman’s voice that he recognized but even now could not recall to whom it belonged. All he knew was that it was a woman’s. “Let him go….”
James sighed and rose to his feet, gazing upon his son for what was most likely the last time that he ever would. It took all of his resolution to turn around and walk towards the street. When he stepped out onto the curb, his mind flashed white, and James opened his eyes to find himself standing in a sunshine-filled sea of rippling, tall green grass. The skies above were blue, and it was warm and wonderful everywhere. Though he was nothing more than ectoplasm, he felt the warmth of the sun’s rays on his cheek as if he were alive….
James looked down from the skies, and right in front of him, some twenty feet away, stood Lily, her almond-shaped eyes as green as the grass, a pearly corona shimmering in her dark red hair…her face filled with sadness.
Lily Evans Potter saw her dead body on the ground….
Everything she saw was all in her mind, now that her soul had been freed from her body…for the mind and the soul really go hand in hand….
All she saw was the flash of green light from Voldemort’s wand aimed at her son, Harry.
Without thinking, she made her mind travel in search of help…death was making her feel like such a child all over again….
What the hell is going on?
She heard James' voice, and found herself in a Muggle street full of dead Muggles' bodies...and there was Sirius—Harry's godfather—laughing maniacally as he was being arrested. She heard James' voice again, but still she could not see him.
"No! Get your hands off of him! He's innocent!"
Lily deduced that her husband was referring to Sirius. Sure he was innocent: innocent of betraying her and James to Voldemort—that had been Peter’s doing obviously. They’d been perfectly safe until Sirius had talked them into switching their Secret-Keeper from him to that—that rat. But…was he innocent of killing all of these Muggles she saw dead and lying in the street?
And did it matter, anyway? There was nothing that James could do for Sirius, wherever James was at the moment, and she had to let him know. “James! James! Please, let him go!”
Ha! It worked!
“Yes, James, it’s me!” Lily went on. “I’ve been looking everywhere—What’s going—?”
“Wait! Wait! Stay right there! I want to see Harry first!”
“Harry? What do you mean? Where is he?”
“Dumbledore has him at your sister’s!”
“You mean he’s alive? James! James!”
Argh! Men! What is it with them? They’re always so…bloody…impulsive…! Desperately she searched the universe with her mind to try and find him.
But in the darkness, she heard a sound that reminded her of a wounded animal. Her mind was drawn to it, and in a whirling haze of color, she found herself—of all places—in Dumbledore’s office. She saw the man himself, of course, but slumped forward in a chair was a man with his head in his hands, his face hidden by curtains of dark greasy hair—
Lily gasped, knowing who it was even as he raised his anguished face to look up at Dumbledore, who was standing over him.
Severus…. Sev…. Her old childhood friend—Severus Snape…a Slytherin at school, and…since she’d last heard, a Death Eater…. But now…?
He seemed to have just gotten over a fit of sobbing, for through shaky breaths, he claimed to have believed that Dumbledore was going to keep someone safe. Yet, who was that someone?
A woman, and Lily thought she knew. Dumbledore confirmed it, as he told Severus how she and James had put their faith in the wrong person.
Yes, indeed they had.
And it seemed that Severus had made the same mistake: he'd had faith that his master, Lord Voldemort, might have the decency to spare Lily, for his sake.
Lily covered her mouth with her hand. He'd only been thinking of her? What about James and Harry? Did he still hate them so that he would not care if they died, just so long as she lived...did he really think she would have him then after losing her husband and son...? Just how obsessed with her had he been?
In the silence that followed, Dumbledore added that Lily's son had survived the attack.
Lily’s heart leapt. Her son was alive! Oh, thank God…though how, she couldn’t fathom…but still…thank God!
She saw however that Severus seemed to take this news with a different sentiment, bordering on annoyance. Perhaps he sensed that Harry, because he was a boy, would be the spitting image of his father…and knowing Severus, she knew all too well what that kind of assumption would mean for him.
Yet when Dumbledore began to describe how Harry had the very same eyes as Lily, Severus lashed out at him.
And then he wished...that he were dead.
An ache went through Lily’s heart, and she drew closer to Severus, gazing upon him feeling something terribly close to pity. “Oh, Sev, don’t…please…” she said mournfully,though of course Severus could not hear her. She reached out a hand as if to touch her old friend’s shoulder, but it only seemed to heighten his anguish, as he gave an involuntary whimper, and Lily recoiled warily.
Dumbledore reminded him coldly that his death would be no use to anyone. If he truly loved Lily, then the road he must take now ought to be clear to him.
As Severus looked up at him, Lily found that she was not surprised to learn this piece of information. She’d always had a feeling that Severus had had a thing for her…still…she hadn’t realized that he’d still felt it…not ever since that day back in their fifth year, when he’d accidentally called her the unforgivable “M” word. She had forgotten how much it’d hurt to have their friendship fall to shambles like that...she hadn’t wanted it to turn out that way…she’d thought she could change him…. She had to admit to herself that her only comfort that night was Remus Lupin in the common room after she’d talked to Severus outside Gryffindor tower…. Oh that day seemed so long ago now….
Yet as she was losing herself in that memory of her and Remus alone together, she heard Severus speak again. He asked Dumbledore what he meant by saying his way ought to be clear to him now. Dumbledore explained to him that if he loved Lily, still loved her, then he would do whatever he could to help Dumbledore protect her son.
During the long pause that Severus was mulling these words over, Lily was mulling them over too. So he’s gone...Voldemort’s gone…but not forever…he’ll come back…. And Harry….
She was jerked out of her musings once more by Severus’ voice.
At last he relented, but he also made Dumbledore swear not to tell anyone, not even Harry, whom he referred to as, "Potter's son". There was no doubt in Lily's mind that when Harry grew, if Severus ever set eyes on him again, he would only see James, his schoolboy rival, and never see her. Not unless he willed himself to look closer...into Harry's eyes perhaps...her eyes....
She had seen enough. She turned away from them, and allowed her mind to travel to the current headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix, which happened to be the home of Order member Elphias Doge (even though dear old Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody continued to preach that it was dangerous to use a member’s house as a place for headquarters, at the time they’d had nowhere else to go that was safe).
In the quaint little sitting room, she saw one lone person asleep on the sofa, the Wizarding Wireless crackling on a side table—one lone person who seemed to feel he’d be facing yet another bad full moon.
Remus Lupin twitched in his sleep and Lily stood over him, watching him. She remembered loving him…she remembered him loving her…she remembered him turning her down, telling her that James was the better man for her…. She knew that he had concluded that he would never marry, that no woman—besides her—would ever fancy him, and he had given up perhaps his one chance at happiness, because he’d been too concerned with hers….
And even still, he loved her…. She knew this because she remembered James telling her about the row that had occurred between them about a week or so ago. They hadn’t seen each other since then. She wondered if he knew yet that she and James were both dead….
She reached down to brush a few bangs out of his face, in a motherly sort of way—the poor bloke had lost his own when they’d only been in their sixth year. As her hand brushed at them, however, he jerked awake, his eyes wide, giving a little yelp that made Lily take an instinctive step back.
Remus blinked and then sat up, running his hand through his hair.
Lily seated herself in an empty chair on the other side of the side table where the Wireless sat.
Remus looked over at the crackling Wireless, sighed with weary frustration, pulled out his wand, and gave the Wireless a tap. The reception cleared up at once, and it seemed he’d caught the broadcast in the middle of a flash news bulletin.
“…Who-Must-Not-Be-Named has fallen—yes, witches and wizards, he has fallen—at the hands of none other than a little one-year old baby by the name of Harry Potter!”
Remus sucked in his breath and turned towards the Wireless, no longer groggy now but completely wide awake, his wide-eyed stare fixed solidly on the broadcasting device as the bulletin continued.
“…how he did it, but he did! The little tyke did it!” The wizarding newscaster’s voice went from cheery to solemn. “Unfortunately, it is my deepest regret to also bear the news that before little Harry Potter saved the day, it all came at a terrible price: in He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’s attack on the Potters’ cottage in Godric’s Hollow last night on Halloween, Harry’s father, James Potter, and his wife, Lily, were both murdered, most likely in their effort to protect their son—”
Lily heard a pained cry, and saw Remus’ pale face drain of what little color it had, as it broke into an expression of anguish. She watched him helplessly as he slid off of the sofa and onto the floor, on his knees before the Wireless, clenching the arm of the sofa so tight that his nails were digging into the fabric.
“No!” he gasped. “No…Sirius! Sirius! You—You—You traitor! How could you—? James…Lily…dead…? No! I never even…got to tell him—No! It’s not true! It’s not true, dammit!”
Lily was aghast. She’d never seen Remus like this. He was always what she liked to call the, non-"feeling-revealing” sort. He revealed feelings of course, but he usual kept them under control in front of other people. He wasn’t one to particularly enjoy drawing attention to himself…not like that….
She rose from the chair and knelt down beside Remus. She reached out to him, just to touch him on the shoulder, but this only seemed to make him sob even harder, even give a loud, involuntary whimper, as if the presence of her soul so close to him was causing him physical pain, and so she withdrew. But she stayed near him as the broadcast continued with more shocking news, after asking for a moment of silence for her and James’ deaths.
“This just in, fellow witches and wizards: I’m afraid to say that even after the fall of You-Know-Who, more mass tragedy has occurred in his name. Sirius Black was taken into custody today and sentenced to life in Azkaban. Shortly after the attack on the Potters’ residence, Black decided the time had come to show his true colors as a Death Eater of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, and went on a Muggle killing spree. Reports indicate that Black, shortly after the attack, was unhinged by his master’s unexpected downfall, and so came upon the closest Muggle street filled with Muggles heading off to work, where he planned to kill as many Muggles as possible. One wizard by the name of Peter Pettigrew allegedly tried to stop Black, but of course he was no match for He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’s most loyal servant. With a single curse, Black murdered Pettigrew, along with twelve, horrified, Muggle bystanders. The damage includes a crater caused by the force of the curse, cracking down to the sewers below. All that was found of Pettigrew were a few fragments of hair, bloody robes, and one whole index finger. Black was thereafter taken into custody and sentenced without trial to life in Azkaban prison.” The wizard newscaster asked for another moment of silence, but Lily only had ears—and eyes—for Remus, whose cries of anguish tore at her no-longer-beating heart.
“Sirius! Sirius! You—! How could you! James? He was your best mate! Your best mate! And Peter! Wormy…oh Wormy…you stupid little idiot…what were you doing? What were you thinking? Oh, how could you, Sirius? You could never give that poor little bloke a break, could you? And…and Lily…. Oh God…. No…. Not her…. Why her…? If only…if only…. I loved her so much…I should’ve…. No…!”
Lily stayed with him as he cried and cried until he’d cried himself dry. She wished she could tell him that he oughtn’t grieve for Peter…for he was the traitor…not Sirius…. But after that row that Remus and James had had, Sirius must’ve suspected Remus as the alleged spy of Voldemort’s who was close to her, James, and Harry, and had therefore not allowed James to tell Remus of their plan to switch their Secret-Keeper from him to Peter…so now Remus was left to believe that Sirius had betrayed them, because he was still under the impression that Sirius was their Secret-Keeper. Oh if he only knew….
It was then she heard the front door of the house open.
Remus heard it too, and he gulped and wiped at his reddened eyes as he rose to his feet, sniffling.
Lily saw Elphias Doge walk in, followed by Moody.
“Remus!” Doge exclaimed, his hands fluttering wildly. “Remus! We heard! We heard everything!”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” Remus said curtly, his eyes flashing like steel. He grabbed his cloak from over the back of another nearby chair and threw it around his shoulders.
“Where’re you off to then, young Lupin?” growled Moody.
“Nowhere,” Remus growled in reply.
Lily watched him leave. She knew where he was going—to their cottage in Godric’s Hollow—and she didn’t want to see anymore of his pain—not when there was nothing she could do for him. She turned her mind to Number 4, Privet Drive, finding that she wanted to see Harry too and someone else who lived there, for that matter.
She wondered if she might find James there. According to him, her sister’s house was where Harry had been taken, most likely by Dumbledore—this thought reassured her.
When her mind had reached Number 4, Privet Drive, she saw that dawn was just on the horizon. She approached the house, and on the stoop she made out the shape of a small white bundle of blankets with a note tucked inside of them, a bottle of fresh milk from the milkman sitting nearby, as well as a fresh copy of the daily Muggle newspaper. She stopped before the stoop, and gazed upon her son with proud adoration, but with sadness as well: sadness that she had to leave him so soon, that he would never know her, or his father.
She looked around, and did not see James anywhere. She looked back down at Harry and knelt beside him. She noticed the lightning bolt scar on Harry’s forehead, the trace that the non-trace-leaving Avada Kedavra had left upon him for surviving that which was unsurvivable. She reached out a hand to caress him—just one more time—and saw that drawing near to him, he gave—like Severus and Remus had—an involuntary whimper of an inexplicable little whimpering cry, and she drew back.
It was time to let him go.
He will understand….
The front door opened, and Lily impulsively rose to her feet, to come face to face with her estranged sister, Petunia Evans Dursley, dressed in a frilly nightgown trimmed with lace.
For a moment, Lily thought Petunia was looking at her. But it was just that Petunia was momentarily distracted by something—a tabby cat perhaps—directly across the street from her. She did not see her dead sister at all. She saw right through her.
At last she looked down—and screamed.
Lily closed her eyes. It’s only Harry, Petunia…please…. She opened her eyes and saw her sister covering her mouth with one hand and clutching her heart with the other.
Behind her, she heard her sister’s husband thundering down the stairs, and the wail of their son—Dudley, right? Yes, that was his name…Dudley.
“Petunia, dear, what’s all this fussing about?” Vernon Dursley asked, coming to stand behind Petunia in his bathrobe.
Petunia, too petrified, could only point at baby Harry in his blankets on their front stoop.
“My God! What is that?” Vernon gasped.
Lily flashed her green eyes dangerously in Vernon’s direction, even though Vernon was quite oblivious to her presence.
How dare he talk about her boy like that?
Petunia knelt down beside Harry and gingerly pulled back the blankets. She gasped. “It’s Harry!”
“It’s Lily’s—This is Harry, Vernon!” Petunia stammered, clutching her face now with both hands.
“How do you know? How can you tell?”
Lily knelt down so that she was at eyelevel with her sister, and saw her mutter under her breath, so that Vernon didn’t hear, “He has her eyes….”
“I’m ringing up that child services hotline they were discussing last night on the news,” said Vernon, turning back into the house. “No brat dumped on my doorstep is going to be made my responsibility! No sir!”
Lily continued to watch her sister, who was still agog at the sight of Harry. “Tuney?” she whispered, using the old nickname she’d coined for her when they were young girls. “Please take him…you’re all he has….”
She knew her sister could not hear her, but she had to try.
Petunia looked up, as if she’d heard something. She pressed her lips together. And then she looked straight through Lily again. But then her brow crinkled, and her mouth fell open a little, her watery, pale gray eyes searching…. Was her own mind…maybe…open just enough…to sense her dead sister’s presence…?
She blinked, shaking her head, and looked down at her nephew again, and spotted the letter. Almost automatically, she took it out and broke the seal.
Lily watched her read it, repeating over and over, “Take him in, Tuney. Please…please…. For me…. I’m sorry we’ve gotten this way…we used to be so close…. Remember, Tuney?” She gave a shaky laugh. “Remember how we’d both go swing together on the swings in the little park in our neighborhood…and talk about...that ‘creepy Snape boy’…?” It was funny how that same boy had become her best friend later on…for a while, anyway….
Petunia looked up from the letter, having finished reading it. She was wiping at her eyes. Was she…she wasn’t…crying…? Was she…?
“Stupid…stupid…” she was muttering angrily. “I knew that magic stuff was dangerous…. Silly that I wanted it…so much…like you…Lily….” She traced a part of the letter with her bony finger, and Lily imagined that she was tracing her name, which was probably written in the letter’s contents. She heaved a sigh, seeming to fight to compose herself, furiously wiping away more tears forming in her eyes that were now evident to Lily.
Lily could not help but smile a little when she watched her sister gather Harry up into her arms and turn back into the house, completely forgetting the milk and the newspaper. She turned to face the street of Privet Drive, knowing for certain that her son would be alright now. Or taken care of, anyway. She closed her eyes and spread her arms like a bird about to take flight, and everything around her flashed white.
She opened her eyes to find herself in a sea of tall green grass that stretched for eternity in all directions. It was warm and sunny, and she felt the warmth of the solar rays against her face as vividly as if she were alive….
She looked around, at the stunning blue sky, and the white clouds. She felt the breeze—it was so calming and warm. It evoked happiness inside of her.
And straight ahead of her, some twenty feet away, she saw James appear and open his eyes. He looked up at the sky.
“James,” she said.
She watched him take his eyes from the sky and look at her, noticing her presence there for the first time. She gazed at him sadly, and his own expression changed to match hers.
They walked towards each other and pulled each other into a fierce embrace. They gently pressed their foreheads together, and cupped each other’s faces in each other’s hands. They told each other all that they had seen and heard before they’d arrived here—wherever “here” was.
Lily rolled her eyes at the jealousy that flashed in James’ when she told him about Severus’ feelings for her, long-held-onto since their childhood.
“First Remus, and now him?”
“Come on, James. What can he do now? We’re dead!”
“And who did I marry?”
James looked down at his toes. “Me,” he mumbled.
“So, can we put all of this behind us?” Lily asked almost desperately. “Besides, it turns out he’s on our side now. He’s exchanged his loyalties with Dumbledore. Because he loves me so much, he’s agreed to do whatever it takes to protect Harry.”
James glanced up at her. “Sirius can do that, Lily! And Remus too, if he’d like. I’d trust them both with Harry’s life. But not—not Snivellus.”
“Don’t you call him that!” Lily snapped, pulling away from her husband. “I’m sick of you calling him that!”
“Alright fine! I won’t!”
“And anyway, Sirius is in Azkaban now, he can’t very well be of any use protecting Harry, can he? And Remus won’t do much either, not because he doesn’t care, but because right now he’s probably going to have enough on his plate—you do realize that now that the war’s over, he’s going to have to deal with the werewolf-prejudiced world alone now, don’t you?”
“Yeah, yeah. Alright. But…how do you know…Severus…isn’t lying through his teeth?”
“Well, you can watch his every move if you’d like, now that you’re dead,” said the voice of that same woman whose identity had been so difficult to place.
James and Lily both turned around and to their amazement saw that three rocks had appeared, and on each of them sat a person.
On the highest one sat a blonde girl no older than fourteen or fifteen, wearing a white summer dress with short, puffed sleeves, and tall white stockings and white buckle shoes on her feet. In her face was an expression of a kind of vacant sweetness. Lily and James had never seen her before, but they did have an idea as to who she might be, from what little had been said ages ago in a couple of low conversations between Dumbledore and his brother, Aberforth.
On the second highest rock sat a slightly scowling young wizard no older than sixteen or seventeen, who strongly resembled Sirius, except that he was not quite as handsome, and he was clad in the black robes worn by Voldemort’s Death Eaters. James and Lily both silently agreed that this had to be Sirius’ brother Regulus, allegedly killed on Voldemort’s orders for getting “cold feet” and trying to back out of his commitment to helping carry out Voldemort’s plans.
Then they looked to the third highest rock, and there they saw someone they recognized at once, and it was realized that she was the owner of the mysterious disembodied voice. She was a gorgeous, slender young witch about twenty-six or twenty-seven years of age roughly, with long, smooth, golden-blonde hair that tumbled over her shoulders. She too wore the clothes she had died in, and her engagement ring still glittered on her polished finger. She was none other than Sirius’ dead fiancée, Aurelia Vega.
She smiled warmly at them both. “Hello you two! Long time no see, eh?”
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